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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.
Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2019 | August 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2019 | Former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman makes a brilliant return to her best-selling Noughts and Crosses series with an all-guns-blazing story of prejudice, love, ambition, politics and violence. In the series launch title, Sephy, a Cross, and Callum, a Nought, challenged the divisions in their society. They paid a heavy price for doing so but they did make changes; racial and class barriers were brought down and the future would be brighter. Or so they thought. But a generation on, while superficially things look better, the prejudices are never far away and where they are, violence follows. When the first Nought Prime Minister is framed for murder he turns to his old friend Callie Rose, daughter of Sephy and Callum to defend him. But crossing the racial divide is still unpopular and both have ruthless enemies. As corruption spills into violence the next generation, Troy and Liberty, are terrifyingly caught up in the conflict. Malorie Blackman’s scope is huge in terms of characters and time- frames in this hard hitting socio-political commentary which has obvious resonance for today.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2019 | Award winning author Katherine Rundell is as passionate about reading children’s books as she is about writing them. In this brief but and perfectly structured handbook she encourages all readers to think about the particular qualities of children’s books and about the special experience of reading as a child – which she remembers clearly. Drawing on her deep knowledge of children’s stories and supporting her arguments with endorsing quotes from writers of all kinds she sets out her defence of the book’s title in brief sections. She is as much at home in the factual – ‘On how children’s fiction came to be’ and ‘On children’s fiction today’ as the more personal which reflect her own views including ‘On wild hunger and heroic optimism’ and ‘The galvanic kick of children’s books’.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2019 | Rebecca Cobb’s warm and uncluttered illustrations capture the importance of friendships and how they can best be made. Here, an eager little girl expresses her delightful enthusiasm for sharing everything including indoor and outdoor play, packed lunch and more while in pleasing contrast the boy who is the focus of her attentions shows that friendship can also take longer to develop. A sweet story which also provides a lot of scope for thoughtful conversation and reflection.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month August 2019 | Interest Age 5-8 | Pirates ahoy! This is a lively, swashbuckling story with great characters and a pacey story – all vibrantly illustrated in an attractive and easy-to-read, small size book. Barbarous Bertha is a fearsome pirate as well as the guardian of a wide stretch of emerald green sea and the Purple Shell Islands which are home to both people and special animals and birds. It is no surprise therefore that her daughter Molly Rogers is never going to stand for anyone who threatens to invade the islands or destroy their inhabitants. When reports come of Captain Firebird doing damage to Monkey Skull Island, Molly Rogers enlists all of her best animal and bird friends – including Kracken the octopus – to chase down Captain Firebird and to make sure he never does anything so dastardly again.
August 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2019 | Best-selling author and illustrator Judith Kerr tells a wonderfully warm and funny story about the very many things that go wrong when Tommy’s little sister Angie brings home the school rabbit. Snowflake is the star attraction in Angie’s class: he is at the centre of every subject in the curriculum and Angie adores him. But Tommy does not. (And he doesn’t adore Angie very much either…) Tommy recounts the terrible things that go wrong when Snowflake is in the house starting with him peeing on the trouser leg of a visiting famous actor. As far as Tommy is concerned it would be much better if Snowflake went back to school. But luckily for all Snowflake accidently brings Angie and Thomas’s family huge and unexpected good luck! A new family story full of all Judith Kerr’s hallmark good cheer, this will delight readers of all ages.
July 2019 Book of the Month | Winner of the BAMB Reader's Award for Middle Grade Fiction | Shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2019 | A fabulous new adventure for Fionn Boyle, the new Storm Keeper of the windswept and magical island of Arranmore. Fionn has only recently inherited his role and title from his grandfather. He knows his powers are still only fledgling and certainly not strong enough to resist the powerful magic of Morrigan the terrible sorceress who longs to take control. When Fionn sees thousands of the terrifying Soulstalkers arriving on the island by ferry he knows that an almighty battle for control of the island is about to take place. Can he find the lost army? And can he and the islanders hold strong against Morrigan and her power? Catherine Doyle has added a thrilling new chapter to The Storm Keeper's Island, her first story about Fionn and the amazing island of Arranmore.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2019 | Cleverly blending story and information and beautifully illustrated, Hello, Horse captures the best qualities of a horse called Shannon and describes how a very special bond between and animal and a child can be made. Vivian French brief text provides the perfect introduction to the different features of a horse and to details about how a horse should be approached by a child. She explains how to touch and feed a horse and also how to ride one! Catherine Rayner’s illustrations capture the gloss of Shannon’s coat, the sinews of her body and, above all, her characterful expressions which bring her to life perfectly.
July 2019 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month July 2019 | Award-winning Carl Hiaasen has a rare gift for telling very entertaining stories which combine great adventures which have a strong ecological message with touching family stories which tell what really matters in relationships between parents and children. In Squirm, Billy Dickens, a lover of snakes in his home in Florida and a passionate watcher of bald eagles too, takes off to Montana to find his Dad who moved out when he was only small. In a completely new landscape with big mountains and dangerous animals such a grizzly bears, Billy finds his dad’s new family and eventually tracks down his dad who is permanently on some secret trek or another. When the two finally meet, Billy discovers that the mystery surrounding his dad is rooted not in something sinister but in their shared determination to protect animals in the wild. Full of danger, the battle to keep the animals safe is a fast-paced one making this a thrilling read as well as a heart-warming story.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month June 2019 | Best friends Betty and Maud love doing everything together. And they are sure that their favourite toys, Duck and Penguin do too. But Duck and Penguin do NOT! While Betty and Maud share playing in the sandpit, taking turns on the swings, painting and baking, Duck and Penguin push each other off the swings, crush each other’s sandcastles, and cover each other with paint and cake mix. Can they ever be friends? Luckily they can! Julia Woolf conveys this witty story about friendship – or not – most effectively through the venomous scowls and frowns and ferocious looks between the two soft toys in contrast to the brilliant warm smiles of Betty and Maud.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month June 2019 | Award-winning author/ illustrator Emily Gravett explores the fun of being friends but different in this light-hearted and playful picture book. Sad Cyril the squirrel is all alone in the park until he finds a meets Pat. Together Cyril and Pat have a great time playing all kinds of games and making sure each other is safe – especially from the fierce dog Slim. Does it matter that they are different? Everyone else thinks so but Cyril and Pat know that they can be the best of friends come what may. Readers will love knowing the joke, and the point, before Cyril and Pat get it!
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month May 2019 | A deliciously playful fantasy tells how an audacious and ebullient mouse identifies himself as being something very much more than he is. Especially he dreams of being a tiger! But can he convince anyone else? Sadly for mouse, his lack of stripes, size and GRRR! make it pretty clear that he is certainly not a tiger. And, when a real tiger turns up, Mouse knows for sure that he won’t ever be a tiger. Can he be something else? Karl Newson and Ross Collins capture imaginative play 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.