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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.
August 2020 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2020 | When best friends Betty and Maud have a sleepover in a teeny weeny pop up tent in the garden, Duck and Penguin have to go too. But while the girls are expecting to have loads of fun, Duck and Penguin are not! They don’t like each other, they don’t like sleepovers, they don’t like the onesies the girls dress them in and they especially don’t like sleeping in a teeny weeny tent. When the girls hurry back to the house, Duck and Penguin are left alone to face the scary dark and the creatures in it. How will they manage? Luckily, all ends happily and Duck and Penguin are even converted to camping – almost! Lovely illustrations of this atmospheric night time adventure which blends reality and make believe in a most engaging way.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2020 | Penny, the notorious dog-napper, has a host of dogs already but there is one very special dog she is determined to get her hands on. Quick, clever, a master of disguise and very good at problem solving, he is the dog she wants. And he is covered in spots so should be easy to find. Penny’s assistant Pat sets out to find the dog. Can the dog-nappers catch their prize or will they be outwitted by the super-smart dog? Emma Lazell’s energetic and vivid illustrations inject this simple story with great energy.
August 2020 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2020 | Positive feelings that make you smile; Feelings that can make you cry – these and all the emotions that lie between them are explored in the words and pictures of It’s OK to Cry. Sarah Jennings’s attractive illustrations capture how someone may look while experiencing SAD, HURT, SURPRISED, HOPEFUL and much more while Molly Potter uses a reassuringly matter of fact tone to explain a wide range of the feelings that we all have everyday. An excellent book which can open up good conversations when shared while also being useful for a child to browse through on their own.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2020 | Noah and Hatty are thrilled when they discover their Uncle Lofty owns a zoo. But Uncle Lofty is no longer able to look after the animals and has decided he needs to get them back to their own homes. Although he has a boat, he has a boat but he needs helpers! Soon Noah and Hatty, together with their Aunt Smiley who looks after them while their parents do their special work far from home, and a lively group of animals including the very lively Monkey Robertson, are off round the world finding out a lot about animals as they do so!
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2020 | August 2020 Debut/Book of the Month | Warm-hearted and mysterious The Unadoptables is a wonderfully entertaining adventure with a cast of fascinating characters set in a brilliantly evoked old-world Amsterdam and the surrounding countryside. Following the clues from the only possessions she was left with when she was abandoned as a baby and guided by her ‘Book of Theories’, the imaginative Milou leads her four friends – the least adoptable children in the very horrible Little Tulip Orphanage – to her family home where she is sure she will find her parents. Travelling through a freezing night the children arrive at their destination. But there is not the welcome they had expected. Where are Milou’s parents? And what is the mystery they need to solve? The creative ways in which the five children manage first to escape from the evil clutches of their matron and her evil accomplice Rotman and then to make a new life for themselves bamboozling neighbours and unravelling the mystery is vivid and captivating.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2020 | When Abi’s newly forged family moves to an eccentric new home which is totally covered in ivy, strange things begin to happen to her and to her step-brothers Louis and Max. With their parents either away or too busy to notice, Abi finds herself falling into the books she is reading – she can feel the damp of the sea and taste the salt on her fingers - while Louie tempts an unusual and dangerous animal companion into his bedroom from the ivy. Can Abi and Max help Louie get rid of his dangerous new friend and will things get back to normal when their parents come home? Hilary McKay’s storytelling is vivid; she makes magic seem real while also showing why believing in it is so important.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2020 | Meesha loves making things. And she is good at it too. But the one thing she doesn’t know how to make is friends. It seems to be easy but for Meesha it isn’t! When Meesha tries to share her ideas with other children they are just confused or uninterested. So instead of playing with other children, Meesha makes some wonderful friends of her own. Snipping and sticking she soon has a lovely crowd of chums she can enjoy being with. But a real friend would be nice and when Meesha meets Josh she finds exactly the friend she has been looking for. Soon Meesha and Josh are busy making more friends together. In both words and pictures Tom Percival tells a gentle and touching story about the importance of friendship and how to develop it.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2020 | A class trip to the art gallery inspires Luna and her friends in all kinds of ways. Seeing the amazing pictures by Cezanne, Matisse, Van Gogh and many more they are transported into other worlds and given the opportunity to savour the colours and textures of some of the world’s greatest paintings. They are also encouraged to create their own pictures inspired by the range of images they see and the stories they tell. Luna loves the art - and loves sharing it with her mum who is a helper on the trip. But for some, the experience is more challenging. Can Luna help Finn engage with what he sees and find a way of expressing his feelings? She can and the day ends happily for all. Readers will love this introduction to art as enjoyed by Luna and her classmates.
May 2020 Book of the Month | Scary and warm- hearted, this is an action-packed adventure with a great cast of characters and some rocket fuel of magic and mystery. Orphaned when his mother dies, Leander is saved from starvation by the mysterious Madame Pinchbeck. Pinchbeck, a medium who claims she can talk to the dead, offers Leander the chance to speak to his mother if he joins her and sells her his locket. Hungry, cold and afraid, Leander agrees. Frighteningly soon Pinchbeck has terrifying power over Leander who swiftly discovers that he is not the first child that Pinchbeck has ‘stolen’: Charlotte and Felix have both been prisoners for years. Pinchbeck uses them in her dishonest performances as a medium and controls them with magic that enables her to make them vanish into their cabinets when they displease her. Will Charlotte, Felix and Leander ever be able to escape from evil Pinchbeck? With an atmospheric Victorian setting, the twists and turns of this drama unravel at an excitingly fast pace.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2020 | Winner of the Newbery Medal | Shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize | Multi-award winning When I Reach You is a sophisticated and thought-provoking time travelling story that fizzes with excitement and energy as it encourages readers to explore how the future can shape the present. Miranda, a six grader in a New York school, tells a brilliant story that weaves together the details of her everyday school and home life with a series of inexplicable events which create a mystery that it is hard to unravel. Part of the thrill of the story is that Rebecca Stead expects of lot of her readers! With much referencing of Madeline L’Engle’s classic A Wrinkle in Time, the book that Miranda loves best, there are detailed conversations about now and the future about how and whether they come together. With not a word wasted When You Reach me is not only a story to fall in love with but also an irresistible spur to thinking!
April 2020 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2020 | Best-loved TV presenter Lucy Worsley’s version of the background to the author Jane Austen’s life is a delightfully vivid story that effortlessly whirls readers into a very different, long-ago world. There are balls and proposals, carriages and nurseries, rich and poor and even a scene in a debtors prison all of which frame the lives of the young girls who are Jane Austen’s nieces. What an extraordinary existence it is! The wise aunt Jane Austen is a great guide through all of this especially, as Lucy Worsley makes clear, it is one in which the young girls think their only ambition is to find a husband! Hugely good fun to read The Austen Girls is also packed-full of unforgettable historical details.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2020 | Full of bravery, hope, dreams and humour this is a wonderfully doggy adventure as Paolo escapes from his confinement in a hairdressing salon and enjoys everything that is on offer in the stunning city of Rome. Paolo knows that Rome is full of beauty and magic but how will he ever be able to get out and see it? Seizing his moment when the salon door is left open, Paolo embarks on a whirlwind and dangerous adventure full cats, dogs, statues and even opera. Claire Keane’s fabulous illustrations create a glorious evocation of Rome – mostly from a dog’s point of view!
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month April 2020 | Stylish and beautifully conceived, this entertaining new picture book by artist/ designer Marion Deuchars is a visual treat as well as a strong story about artistic competition - and collaboration. Bob loves making art and is very jealous when everyone starts talking about Roy, the amazing new artist in town. His work is apparently fantastic! Who is this new artist and what is so special about his work? Why is he the best in town? Bob does everything he can to compete with Roy until he realises that working together might be more fun!
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2020 | March 2020 Book of the Month | There’s lots of fun in this entertaining story about a little girl who doesn’t want to be quiet until she discovers just what can happen if you are quiet. And how much fun that can be in a different way. “ I don't want to be quiet,/ I’d rather be LOUD!/ I want to be HEARD and/ stand out from the crowd!” But that is not popular in a library! Can she be quiet? Yes she can! There’s a good lesson for all about the value of listening.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2020 | March 2020 Book of the Month | The wonder of nature and in particular the growth cycle of a tiny seed are beautifully captured in Britta Teckentrup’s luminous illustrations and simple text which, more widely, celebrates finding your own way in the world whoever you are. What happens when one tiny seed takes a long time to get growing? It soon discovers that the faster growing seeds have taken all the space and light. Undaunted, and guarded first by ant and ladybird and later by more and more creatures of the woodlands, the tiny seed begins its own journey seeking out spaces that enable it to flourish and fulfil its potential. It’s a joy to dwell on the illustrations and to let message sink in.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2020 | Taking a philosophical approach, this is a comprehensive look at the challenging question: What is Time? Having posed the question, author and illustrator Kathrin Köller and Irmela Schautz take readers through the past and present stories, myths and symbols of time from around the world which help to explain some of the mysteries which we all experience. These set the scene for a detailed look at the realities of how time is recorded and counted before closing with a section on travelling through time as in across time zones and in futuristic fantasies.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2020 | Award-winning author and designer Coralie Bickford-Smith follows up The Fox and the Star with a wonderful new fable celebrating belonging and the importance of understanding those around you. Poetically told, the simple text which is beautifully designed on the page to match the spirit of the words, tells of the importance of shelter and its power to encourage confidence and tolerance as well as empowering development and independence. The interdependence of the bird and the tree in this story is a beautiful telling of a universal theme.
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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