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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.
October 2021 Book of the Month | Michael Morpugo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom is just one of the very many stories for adults and children alike that have been inspired by Daniel Defoe’s classic shipwreck story. Written over 300 years ago, the story of Robinson Crusoe, an impulsive young man who runs away to sea against the best efforts of his parents to stop him, is packed full of gripping action as Crusoe survives the worst the elements throw at him before he is shipwrecked on an apparently uninhabited island. The story of Crusoe’s life on an island is a lyrical study of a place as well as an inspiring story of one man’s resourcefulness. In this adapted edition award-winning illustrator Robert Ingpen’s illustrations bring Daniel Defoe’s classic story to life in timeless images.
October 2021 Book of the Month | When ship’s surgeon Gulliver sets off across the seas in search of adventure he has little idea what he will find. His two greatest discoveries are the countries of Lilliput and Brobdingnag. In Lilliput he finds a population of tiny people to whom he appears as a giant while in Brobdingnag the roles are reversed: Gulliver is tiny and Brobdingnags are giants. Swift uses Gulliver’s descriptions of his experiences in these contrasting countries to write a satirical commentary on his own society. His use of Gulliver’s altered relative size gives great scope for studying everyday events in a new way and makes a fine vantage point for telling the contrasting stories. Gulliver is an iconic figure in literature. Read aloud, this abridged edition with its impressionistic yet detailed illustrations by Robert Ingpen will make an excellent way to introduce the story about him to young readers.
October 2021 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2021 | For all those who are already fans of Roald’s Dahl’s awesome stories and for newcomers to them, this is a splendid introduction to some of the favourite characters and the most dramatic, hilarious, spinechilling and adventuresome stories that are his storytelling legacy. Following a brief account of Roald Dahl’s childhood and his famous writing shed, 15 of his top titles are cleverly explored through their main characters and the key features of the stories. There is James and his extraordinary crew from the awesome travelling peach in James and the Giant Peach; the delightful Charlie Bucket whose winning ticket takes him to Mr Wonka’s astonishing chocolate factory and a heap of adventures with some less lovely children including Veruca Salt and Augustus Gloop; the delightful Danny and his father and some fabulous pheasant poaching plots and the truly horrible Mr and Mrs Twit who have a whole book to themselves. The battle between Matilda and the awful Miss Trunchbull, the BFG’s encounter with the Queen and the utterly terrifying Witches – all of these and more are brought to life in these brief retellings which make clever use of letters, recipes and newspaper clippings. As in the originals, all are fabulously illustrated by Quentin Blake. The inclusion of an activity pack adds an interactive element to the book and enhances enjoyment of it.
October 2021 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2021 | A whirlwind adventure unfolds from the moment that lonely Penny Black helps a mysterious furry creature escape from a mouse trap in her uncle’s post office. But the creature isn’t a mouse…nor is it a rat – as it is quick to tell Penny when it introduces itself as Wishyouwas as a Sorter. Second Class. Soon Penny finds herself swept off on a wild underground adventure following the mystery of missing letters and helping the army of Sorters, Deliverers and the rest return them to their rightful owners. Rich in word play, including the wonderful names of the hidden Post Office team, this is a magical and cleverly created world of make-believe.
October 2021 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2021 | When Boastful Brandon brags that he can count to 10 Million no-one believes him. It sounds absolutely impossible. But once Brandon has started, nothing is going to stop him! He counts all through school – and gets into trouble for doing so. Even when he is sent to the furious head teacher who has never seen such disobedience, he doesn’t stop counting. He counts at home, through meals and all through the night. Soon, his extraordinary feat becomes a money making sensation…Award-winning author Melvin Burgess creates a vivid adventure out of an absurd situation and pokes gentle fun at all kinds of rules as he does so.
The Editor at Nosy Crow says: "This stunning book is packed full of inspirational activities that any family can enjoy. A seasonal structure means that there’s always something to do – from recipes to crafts to gardening – at every time of year, while beautiful illustrations and a vibrant text make this is a book to be treasured for years to come.”
Christmas is coming! First there is the wonder of snow and then there is all the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Christmas. Finally, it is Christmas eve and Mouse and Mole have to wait patiently for Father Christmas to arrive…Three charming short stories all matched with beautiful and warm hearted illustrations make this a perfect book to share at any time and especially in the run up to Christmas!
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2021 | September 2021 Book of the Month | Billy is desperate to make things change at home. Her father disappeared before he was born: he and mum had been ok when they had been alone together but now his mother’s new partner has spoilt everything. Billy is frightened for himself and he is frighted for his mum. To make a point he runs away for a few days hiding in a semi-ruined pill-box in a local graveyard. Cleverly telling the story in two narratives, from Billy’s perspective and his mum’s and interweaving other characters and their experience from whom they can learn, Pam Smy explores a range of complex emotions thrown up by a difficult situation.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2021 | A spoilt, lonely and unhappy child, Mary Lennox’s life in India is brought to an abrupt end when her parents die. Uprooted from everything she knows she is sent to live with an unknown relative in a cold and mysteriously sad house in Yorkshire. Mary cannot unlock the mystery but, with the help of Martha, the cheerful servant who looks after her, she begins to explore outdoors and in particular to discover a secret garden. The power of nature to unlock Mary’s unhappiness, especially when harnessed to the natural goodness of Martha’s brother Dickon is as delightful here as in the original. Equally moving is Mary’s influence on her invalid cousin Colin who she transforms into a happy and healthy son whom his father can love.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2021 | September 2021 Book of the Month | Mysteries pile up on top of one another in Cookie’s latest hilarious adventure. There are numerous secrets to uncover, several codes to crack, a number of unusual occurrences and a very important Nani who arrives from Bangladesh for a visit. Underlying all the gripping mystery and the comedy there is a simple message about the importance of both arts and science in school. Konnie Huq’s fast-paced story is brilliantly brought to life in her witty line illustrations which have a raft of jokes all of their own. With lots of additional information about codes as well as instructions on some of the things Cookie loves to make, this is a book to return to again and again. Konnie Huq is our Guest Editor, September 2021 - find out more about the Cookie series and her top children's book recommendations!
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2021 | September 2021 Book of the Month | Award-winning author Philip Reeve is gifted at creating alternative worlds which feel both comfortingly familiar and thrillingly new and original. The watery landscape of the Autumn Isles does just that providing the backdrop for a gutsy and gusty story of powerful old magic, new-fangled science and the perennial battle for the critical balance of power between land and the sea. It is the setting for a roller coaster of a story with the survival of orphaned Utterly Dark, one of the most charming and feisty young heroines, at its heart. Washed up on the shore of the Autumn Isles, Utterly is rescued and adopted by Andrew Dark, the Watcher of Wildsea, whose job it is to keep the islands safe from the many dangers forces that threaten the land, in particular, the terrifying Gorm, a fearful sea dwelling creature who threatens the life of the Islanders. When her guardian drowns in curious circumstances, Utterly must maintain the watch until a new Watcher arrives. But the new Watcher is sceptical of the old magic until his rash actions reveal the full power of the Gorm with almost fatal results. Can Utterly set the watery world of her home to rights?
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2021 | An inspiring and original book which encourages all readers to think like an artist and to think what it might be like to be an artist. Fittingly, through very visually creative illustrations and only a brief text, John introduces himself as an artist and then describes what that means. He thinks big about art as he looks at how art may be defined, the many different forms in which it may be created, where ideas for creating it can come from and simply but very perceptively, how difficult it can be to create. A book to inspire and savour.
September 2021 Debut of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2021 | This gripping thriller with a high octane plot and full-on characters takes its readers on an amazing journey across two time frames and in and out of real science and maths while also vividly capturing contemporary teenage life. Esso and Rhia, from different times and, in reality, from different generations, are brought together by chance and, from then on, must work out how best to understand the Upper World and all its secrets. Femi Fadugba’s debut novel will delight and challenge readers.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2021 | The perfect book for everyone to join in! Each of the beautifully illustrated double-page spreads introduces one of 12 animals or birds describing the special noises they make – and the very different reasons they make them. When humpback whales want to call to their whale friends they sing long and low through the water but when a lion roars his fearsome roar he is boasting just how strong his is! When an owl hoots its distinctive hoot he’s telling other owls to stay away from his special tree while a gibbon, swinging through the trees, often calls out loudly to tell his friends to come and share the fruit he has found. Join each of these creatures – and more – by following the fun and engaging illustrations on every spread. Soon readers and listeners will be whooping and whinnying and hissing and squeaking just like the characters in the pictures!
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2021 | Tilda’s life is just as she likes it until, suddenly, everything seems to be difficult. Nothing seems as it should be, everything is just upside down. How can Tilda get her life to turn the right side up again? Watching a ladybird struggle to get off its back gives Tilda a clue: if you want something, you just have to work at it! Slowly but surely she starts to put enjoyment back into her life and soon books are fun to read again and her friends welcome her back to play.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2021 | Ten foolish teachers set out to walk through the dark forest because they missed the bus home…Surely they know who lives in dark forests? All too soon the Monsters start picking off one teacher after another until only the nursery teacher is left. And, being a nursery teacher, she knows all about how to deal with badly-behaved little monsters! Soon she is taming the Monsters from the forest in a brand new monster school with simple lessons in ‘please’ and ‘thanks’ and ‘don’t bite your friends’. It’s a good joke that neatly ends this carefully constructed story that very properly leaves so much of its telling to the pictures. Sarah Warburton’s cuddly monsters dispatch the careless teachers gleefully while remaining delightfully un-frightening!
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2021 | Cat decides that the garden needs work to make it magnificent. It needs planning and digging and planting and weeding and, finally, picking. Puss doesn’t want to do any of the jobs. She just wants to play! Cat sets about the tasks eagerly and repeatedly asks Puss to join in. Her reply is always the same: she just wants to play. But in the illustrations, young readers will see that she gradually takes more and more notice. She can see that work is fun and that the results of the it are very satisfying particularly when it comes to a delicious meal made from everything that has been grown! Luckily, Cat is very forgiving and soon Cat and Puss are sharing the washing up – and playing.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2021 | A giant baby is on the loose and everything in the Kingdom is about to be destroyed! He tramples the forest and flattens houses and bridges, he sits on the train station and shakes the passengers out of a double decker bus. Neither the soldiers or the airforce can stop him. As he approaches the castle, the King and Queen shake in terror and call a meeting of all their best advisors. What is to be done to save the kingdom? Only the Princess has an answer. As she keeps saying, he is only a baby…Young readers will love this playful and imaginary realisation of a familiar family drama which is vividly captured in Bruce Ingman’s large scale illustration which blend real and imaginary worlds perfectly.
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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