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Julia Eccleshare's Picks of the Month
Each month Julia Eccleshare, a leading authority in children's literature, chooses a small selection of her favourites from the month. They will be generally new releases but occasionally she may select a new edition of a firm favourite and we will list them here. All are highly recommended with Julia's seal of approval.
May 2021 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2021 | Alfie’s family have recently moved to the country to help his sister recover from some unpleasant experiences. And it doesn’t take Alfie long to realise that he just doesn’t fit into Folding Ford. But fitting in doesn’t matter so much when there is the mystery of the weather to be resolved. Alfie plunges headlong into trouble when he opens something he shouldn’t and lets out something very fast, very fizzy and very full of electricity. Can he and his new friend Sam whom he enlists as a reluctant partner get to the bottom of what is causing all the trouble? They will certainly do their best to try….Debut author Clare Weze writes with a freshness and energy that sweeps her readers along leaving them exhilarated if a bit confused!
May 2021 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2021 | Wick lives in Harklights Match Factory and Orphanage. Run by the cruel and wicked Old Ma Bogey it is a terrible place of suffering for all the children who live there. When Wick escapes to the dangerous ‘outside’ he is adopted by the Hobs, tiny people who live a green life and devote themselves to looking after the forest and everything that lives in it. But Wick soon discovers that there are great dangers in the forest, too. And Old Ma Bogey has a hand in them. Guided by the Hobs, Wick discovers that he has a special role to play in saving the environment and all who live in it from the forces of evil.
May 2021 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2021 | Imogen’s life at home is not all perfect so it’s no surprise that she follows the strange silver moth that arrives from nowhere – even when it leads her through a door in a tree! And there’s no stopping her little sister Marie from following…Like any magic opening, the door leads the two girls into an extraordinary world where almost anything can – and will – happen! As in the best traditions of children’s stories, Imogen and Marie meet a wealth of larger-than-life characters including a spoiled prince and a dancing bear as they journey through a richly-imagined world of possibilities. Chris Riddell’s illustrations bring the magic to life perfectly.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2021 | Award-winning Jeanne Willis perfectly captures a little girl’s excitement and fear as she works up to taking her first solo bike ride. She knows the freedom and exhilaration it will bring but a part of her remains almost too scared to try. Her daddy is reassuring and encouraging and full of good advice about bumps in the road that goes far beyond just the difficulties of bike riding! At last, with daddy to keep her steady she is off! And she is flying! Now it is daddy who is worried…Will his little girl every come back now she’s got this taste of freedom? Tony Ross’s illustrations match the moments of exhilaration and anxiety perfectly making this a joyful celebration of the importance of letting go that will strike a chord for parents and children alike. Daddy, Don't Let Go was originally published in 2012.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2021 | A beautiful picture book full of fascinating illustrations that repay hours of close looking, this is also an astonishing fact-filled tour of the amazing five oceans on our planet. Using the turtle as a guide, Catherine Barr gives readers an introduction to the importance of all the oceans to everyone and then looks closely at the special features of each of the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic and Southern Oceans. Here, and in all the further spreads which cover How Oceans Work, Ocean Habitats and Ocean Wonders before a final, heartful section on Save Our Seas, Barr presents all the information in brief, carefully written paragraphs which convey enough to be wholly satisfying without overwhelming readers with too much information. The whole is an inspiring and beautiful book which also carries an important conservation message.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2021 | Gaspard the Fox is back for a third wonderful adventure and this time he takes a trip right across London and finds himself on the stage at a concert in Hyde Park! From his hiding place on a number 38 bus, Gaspard gives a wonderful commentary on the sights he sees. There’s the delicious smells of China Town, the bustling crowds of Piccadilly Circus and the beautiful windows of Fortum and Masons. Gaspard loves it all but he can’t let himself be distracted as he has to get off the bus with his friends Honey and Finty. He almost misses the stop but gets off just in time to find himself having a starring role in the Proms in the Park! This foxy fantasy is full of good humour and cheer as well as being a wonderful musical celebration.
In a spare, poetic text, Nicola Davies shows how easy it is to label someone as ‘different’ and how easy it is to treat them badly once that has been done. But she also shows how a new child can turn that hostility round by introducing the special things from her own life. Cathy Fisher’s illustrations capture the powerful but understated point of the story perfectly making this apparently quiet book speak volumes.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Award-winning writers for adults, Zadie Smith and Nick Laird have now created a perfectly crafted picture book that is simple in its telling and strong in its message. When Maud arrives as a surprise for Kit’s birthday she is treated with great suspicion by the pets who are already in residence. Since she is not like them - a cat, a bird or a pug dog - they are swift to deem her to be a weirdo. Briefly, Maud tries to fit in before taking herself on a life-changing adventure in which she soon discovers that being yourself is far, far more important than fitting in. Magenta Fox’s gentle illustrations are the perfect foil to this punchy celebration of individuality.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Until approximately 100 years ago wolves had roamed freely in Yellowstone Park and their existence had shaped the eco-system of that vast expanse of wilderness. But, over the years, hunters killed off the wolves and everything in Yellowstone Park began to change. Elk took over the valleys eating everything they could so many plant species disappeared, bears went hungry and many of the familiar birds flew away. Yellow stone Park was changed! A plan was hatched to put wolves back into the habit making sure that their arrival would only do good. It was complex and daring but, once it had been carried off, fourteen wolves began a new life and the ecology of Yellowstone Park began to change again… Catherine Barr tells most of the story as narrative non-fiction which brings the environment and the animals vividly to life. Further facts are added in an additional, fact-filled section. Jenni Desmond’s illustrations evoke the wild and mysterious background of Yellowstone Park perfectly.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | A wise, funny fable about how we don't need to like the same things to find our perfect pal. Duck is not like other ducks. Duck doesn't like water and is perfectly fine alone, thank you very much. But then, one dark and stormy night, an outgoing, water-loving, and very lost Frog turns up at Duck's door. Can this odd couple find Frog's home? And will they find friendship along the way? This endearing, gorgeously illustrated tale marks the author-illustrator debut for Steve Small, illustrator of the highly acclaimed, I'm Sticking with You.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Ruffles hates his red coat and refuses to put it on when he goes out to play – even when it is raining. His friend Ruby has a blue coat. And she loves to wear it. When the two friends jump and splash in puddles Ruffles gets wet and cold and wants to go home. But Ruby is dry inside her coat and wants to play still. Clever Ruby gets Ruffles his coat. Ruffles love Ruby more than he hates his coat so, after a vigorous struggle to get into it, he proudly joins her for some more play! David Melling’s simple illustrations of the two gorgeous little dogs carry all the emotion of this almost wordless picture book perfectly.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Zaynab arrives in Devon from her home in Somaliland after the death of her mother, a passionate activist trying to improve lives in drought-stricken Somaliland. Unhappy, and lonely in her new environment, Zaynab begins her own campaign against the climate crisis drawing on her first-hand view of its devastating effect on her home country. She quickly finds fellow supporters among her classmates, including particularly Lucas who is equally passionate for different reasons. Challenging their school’s prohibition on campaigning is the first big step and taking part in the national protest is the second. In doing both Zaynab shows her peers that children like them need to be heard. And that they can make a difference. But the stakes are high and, when Zaynab uncovers a big company with a sinister and destructive programme, she has to decide just how hard she will fight. Zaynab’s passionate commitment is infectious – readers will be inspired.
April 2021 Debut of the Month - A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | Scooter McLay is a kid to be reckoned with who has a passion for clever inventions. As his parents own and run the very best jam factory, his inventions are to do with jam-making. And, to make sure no one can compete with them he has to keep the family’s special jam-making recipes as top-secret as possible. Working alone, Scooter is pretty good at keeping his inventions well-hidden but when Fizzbee the friendly alien arrives through the factory window it gives the audacious Daffy Dodgy the chance she has long waited for. She slips into the jam factory and steals Scooter’s secret files….How Scooter and Fizzbee see off the danger is a warm-hearted and madcap adventure. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2021 | Poppy Anne Field loves ants and spiders and ladybirds and butterflies and dragonflies. Watching them for hours while deep in the countryside she feels entirely at home in their company. But when she is with people, she is overcome with shyness and does everything she can to blend into the scenery – rather as her beloved insects do to keep themselves safe. How Poppy’s love of nature helps her to overcome her shyness is conveyed gently and in a way that will reassure all those who are equally shy.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2021 | What happens when Mum and Dad can no longer rely on technology to keep them informed? Following a nationwide collapse in everything technical, Stella’s family sets off to visit Grandma on the other side of the country because they can’t reach her on Skype. It’s a road trip with a difference – no phones, no sat nav, no paying for a meal with a credit card. Stella makes a great narrator as she watches her father, shorn of his usual helping tools, navigate this new situation. In doing so she lightly reveals the pitfalls that would beset us all if all the screens went blank while also gently leading readers to see that there could be some benefits.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2021 | Best-selling author/ illustrator David McKee created Mr Benn his iconic character over 50 years ago and he has been a star of books and TV programmes ever since. Mr Benn’s Big Game is a classic David McKee story which quietly but firmly promotes good – this time not shooting wild animals. When Mr Benn goes to his favourite dressing up shop he tries on a khaki uniform and is transported to the jungle where he is in charge of a group of very keen big game hunters. Can Mr Benn stop them shooting the wonderful animals in the jungle? Making use of a very cunning plan – and in the best tradition of children’s stories – he does just that! Fans of Elmer will love this earlier introduction to some familiar loveable elephants.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2021 | Filled with curious and intriguing illustrations and with an original text filled with unusual and fascinating facts, this handsome, large format picture book takes a completely new look at vegetables. Accompanying each vegetable, or sometimes a pair of vegetables as with a carrot and a parsnip which are similar although they are described as ‘an odd couple’, there is an elegant text telling something of the history of how each one comes to be on our tables, something of how each one grows and something about the traditions about how we eat them. The delights in this book are perfect for sharing for all ages.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2021 | Fitting in is hard for most teenagers because it is a time when being the same and therefore accepted seems the most important thing. And Sander has a particular problem because he has Silver-Russell syndrome, a condition which affects one in a hundred thousand, which means he will always be shorter than everyone else. Sander has to work through all the familiar feelings of being an outsider while also dealing with feelings that relate especially to knowing that he will always be so short. But gradually Sander discovers that much about confirming is unimportant and that what matters most to him, friendship in particular, is not affected by his size. Beautifully observed, this captures so much about adolescence from many angles and, in doing so, celebrates the importance of accepting difference. Find more books with Positive Images of Disability.
Julia Eccleshare has spent her working life to date within children’s books as a critic, an editor, an author and a commentator. Apart from her current role with Lovereading4kids as Editor-at-Large and as one of our editorial expert reviewers, she is the children’s editor of the Guardian and Head of Policy at the Public Lending Right.
She has co-edited and is the author of a number of books including the Rough Guide to Teenage Literature, the fascinating and insightful Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter: Portraits of Children’s Writers, which is a celebration of a century of children’s literature, as well as Treasure Islands: the Woman’s Hour Guide to Children’s Books. She also spent some considerable time as a children’s fiction editor in UK publishing.
She has been a selector to the Children’s Books of the Year, a guide to the best books published annually, a member of the advisory board of a children’s book club and for some while was children’s books editor of The Bookseller. In addition, she regularly appears as a judge or Chair of judges on some of the major children’s book prizes.
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