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May 2020 Debut of the Month | There have been many versions of the moral tale of the crow and the peacock and this one from debut picture-book artist Jo Fernihough is particularly attractive. The vibrant mixed media and collage images are full of movement and expression and immediately catch the reader’s attention. Crow is living happily and contentedly until he starts to compare his feathers and his song with other birds. From the dove to the nightingale, to the cockerel to the swan, each bird seems more magnificent than the last and crow is sure each one must be the happiest bird alive, but each in turn direct him to a bird they are envious of. But when he finally reaches the magnificent peacock he learns that he himself is the subject of envy. He is free to sing and fly free compared to the caged peacock. Crow and the reader learn the lesson about what is really important in life and that one must count your own blessings. A strong message for the current situation and beautifully conveyed in nicely repetitive text and imaginative use of typography as well glorious colour. A really worthwhile addition to the library.
Translated by Rachel Ward | The world needs a smart, resilient, lucky little hero right now, and Nibbles the mouse fits the bill perfectly. At the opening of the story, Nibbles is living quietly but happily with his family in Munich but redevelopment means they have to move somewhere a lot less comfortable and when Nibbles gets the chance to hop on a train to Switzerland (aka mouse heaven) he takes it. All sorts of adventures follow – he even finds himself performing in a circus – and his travels take him to France and England too before he makes his way home to his family. Nibbles is a great storyteller and his adventures are both comic and thrilling, while he meets some wonderful characters on the way. The telling is enlivened further by Axel Scheffler’s colour illustrations which are a perfect match for Nibbles’ plain but heartfelt narrative. Thoroughly charming, this is a great little book and perfect for shared or solo reading.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | | Jeanne Willis is a latter-day Hilaire Belloc creating cautionary tales for modern youth that are both hilarious and full of sensible advice. Desperate to win more ‘likes’ for her posts, Goldilocks is driven to find ever more daring activities to share, which is why she takes a selfie breaking in to the bears’ cottage, and - #pipinghot! – one of her eating their porridge. It all ends in tears of course, and community service, but what’s worse for Goldilocks is that her posts are there forever, depicting her as a horrid porridge thief and leading to the moral: ‘So please, think twice before you send!’ Tony Ross’s illustrations, sharp and full of life and wit, are the perfect complement to the rhyme. Brilliance all round!
Although the original tale of the wild wolf and proud girl is known to have a sad ending this has been retold for this version giving a hopeful outcome. Wild Wolf is the guardian spirit to his people, wise in knowing that people can be very proud and cruel in their actions. When Proud Girl refuses many suitors one, Bravest Warrior, seeks revenge by making her fall in love with a creature built from ice and scraps.As Proud Girl follows Ice Man, she is separated from all she knows, until Ice Man melts in the sun. Proud Girl might also perish, except for the care of the spirit wolf who helps keep her warm until Bravest Warrior finds her and keeps her alive, ultimately winning her hand, though they had both gone through many changes.A simple but very tough story of revenge, pride and forgiveness told in bold pictures with bright, vibrant colours. Each double spread has few words and big illustrations with bold blocks of colour filling the page. The wolf has an almost hypnotic stare, you could imagine him as a truly great guardian spirit in a harsh natural world. A moral fable for our times.
The latest novel from Newbery medal winning novelist Kelly is inspired by Filipino folktales but is set upon the entirely fictional island of Sangalita where people live under foreboding Mount Kahna and the strict control of the all-powerful menyoro. Generations of men, including twelve-year-old Lalani Sarita’s father, have tried to sail across the Veiled Sea to reach the legendary paradise of Mount Isa but none have returned. Lalani is just an ordinary girl who is desperate to help the drought-stricken islanders. When she ventures up the forbidden mountain to pray for rain, she discovers the pitfalls of magic and trickery of magical creatures and the deluge which follows causes a terrible landslide. Blaming herself for the death and destruction and seeking a remedy for her fatally ill mother she feels that she has no choice but to set off for Mount Isa to seek the flower that could save everyone. Her epic journey is full of danger and mystery, but it is her pure motives and the faith and hope that she carries that just might see her through. Although Lalani is the worthy protagonist, a strong cast of secondary characters, particularly her best friend Veyda and Veyda’s brother Hetsbi, are crucial to the story, making the novel more complex as characters deal with bullying, abuse of power, and other problems which are clearly relevant to the real world too. The story is skilfully constructed with short, beautifully illustrated vignettes allowing readers into the minds of the mythical creatures Lalani encounters, adding yet another layer of depth and fantasy to this triumphant tale about fighting for the people one loves and staying true to oneself.
Whilst Simi's parents are away, she has the opportunity of staying with her Grandmother who lives in Lagos. There she is introduced to the world of traditional animal stories told by her grandmother. When I saw the bright and colourful cover of this book, I was keen to read on and when I read the preface which states: "I hope this book appeals to the child in you," I was enticed even further. The descriptive quality is excellent and I found myself completely engaged visually. Although the book has a traditional ambience, The themes of the benefits of outdoor play, the sense of awe and wonder and family values are increasingly valuable within our modern society. We learn a lot about everyday life in Jalingo and the animal stories which make up the bulk of the text contain messages for life. At the end of the book Simi's grandmother encourages her to go and play outdoors with her new friends in order to "make new memories", and the book concludes with "In the eyes of a child, life is always so beautiful, she thought to herself. It felt good to be reminded of that." Indeed this book made ME feel good and it is perfect for grandmothers to read aloud to their grandchildren. Val Rowe, A LoveReading Ambassador
Winner of the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2016 | Award-winning Neil Gaiman shows all his story telling skills in this gripping fusion of familiar fairy tales told in a dark-hearted version with some original characters. Especially a bold-hearted queen. Not far from where the queen lives, a princess is under the spell of an enchantress who has put a whole country to sleep. Despite it being the eve of her wedding day, the bold queen decides to take action. Slipping into her mail shirt she arms herself with her sword and sets off out of the palace accompanied by the three dwarves who will lead her through the tunnels…The dark magic, great courage and spell-binding imagination that power this story is perfectly realised in Chris Riddell’s awesome illustrations.
This is a simple circular tale, full of drama and threat, as Rider sets out on a quest tasked him by the Ancient One. Throughout the wonderful bold illustrations, the Rider appears small against impossible, scary, huge foes. The story is told in rhyming couplets, in large easy to read text; some couplets are on one double page spread, others have one line on each spread with the rest of the space filled with large, striking black and red images against plain coloured backgrounds. A limited colour palette is used with consummate skill to convey so much. This book is a gem – an artistic tour de force – one which children will love for the adventure and the change in every page turn. An epic tale through a mythical fantasy land that will engage children and adults alike.
Edith Pattou’s epic story is partly inspired by the old Norwegian fairy tale ‘East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon’, though readers will also recognise elements of the more familiar ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Though the story is told from the different perspectives of its main characters, at its heart is a young girl, Rose, the child born facing North and therefore full of dreams of travel and adventure, and who is saved from death by a great white bear. When later Rose betrays of the bear, it is her quest to make good the harm she has caused that drives the plot. Filled with magical scenes and unforgettable characters, this is a rich and rewarding read, filled too with fascinating research into map-making, Viking ships and Inuit life, all of which play an essential part in Rose’s journey to find the land of the Troll Queen and her true love. As spell-binding and mysterious as the best folk-tales always are.
The eleventh instalment of the extensive Tales of Ramion series of fantasy adventures. | Gary is a motor mechanic who’s in love with his next-door neighbour, Sharon. “If only he would clean his fingernails and wash his hair”, Sharon laments. Appearances clearly matter in this story world so when Gary is kissed by a Frog Princess while napping on his lunch break and is himself transformed into a frog, he’s certain Sharon won’t like him at all in his new froggy form. But, easily enchanted by the “husky” voiced Frog Princess, Gary forgets all about Sharon when the Princess suggests going to his place for a drink. Unfortunately for Gary, she’s unimpressed by his humble cottage and hops off, leaving Gary in quite a predicament. He must find the Frog Princess and get her to kiss him again to reverse his amphibian alteration. To this end he enlists the support of three boys and Snuggle, a “Dream Lord sent to protect the boys from the witch Griselda.” Gary, Snuggle and the boys (plus Snuggle’s curious carrot-crunching companion) embark on a quest to find the Kingdom of Frogs, battling high-stakes obstacles in the form of Griselda the witch and a knife-wielding High Priest along the way. The question is, will Gloria the “hen-pecked eagle”, come to the rescue of the male questers, and will Sharon finally accept Gary if he’s cleaned-up his act? (Assuming he remembers who she is!) Bizarre, bold and somewhat befuddled, this blends otherworldliness with ordinary world experiences.
This thirteenth instalment of the extensive Tales of Ramion series of fantasy adventures drags readers deep underwater to the realm of a “cold imperious” mermaid Queen who, among other things, takes sadistic pleasure in the humiliation of mermen. This mystifying adventure begins with witch Griselda declaring to her pet skull Boris that they’re going to holiday in a castle that belongs to her Pembrokeshire-dwelling cousin. But first - for a reason that’s left unexplained – Griselda announces that “before we go I must make a spell to change the holiday plans of some boys we know.” And so it comes to pass that the boys are “sucked down and down to the Kingdom of the Deep, beneath the Seas of Ramion” as a result of Griselda wielding her magic staff. In these watery depths, a higgledy-piggledy quest plays out amidst a muddled mélange of mermen, a mermaid who longs to dance “in the arms of a tall dark stranger” and gang of wine-drinking dwarves.
The fourteenth instalment of the Tales of Ramion fantasy series leaps right into the baffling action of a new adventure: “Now that he was free from the rules of the Land of Lost Hair, Cloud 9 was bored.” Fortunately (for him, at least) while wandering “through Ramion looking for creatures to soak,” Cloud 9 is struck by a tedium-quelling idea. He will suck in the ocean and soak a castle. However, in so doing, Cloud 9 unwittingly releases the Blizzard Wizard (“evil touch, heart of ice”) who’s incarcerated in said castle. With Blizzard Wizard free, the realm turns to ice and it takes a strange assortment of characters to try to put things right, among them the Lion of Icing. And then there’s the sudden involvement of the Venomous Vampires, Globerous Ghosts, Mystic Mummies, Racing Racoons, Hero Hedgehogs, and so on. While the author’s alliteration game is pretty high here with such zany character names, the zigzagging story lacks cohesion.
The nineteenth book in the Tales of Ramion series, penned by a QC. | Sir Tancred Grunch might be dead and “preserved in a special fluid” but, “as with other members of the Grunch family to be dead was not to be completely dead: there was always a chance of coming back to life.” In Sir Tancred’s case, he wants an heir and to that end he claims his soon-to-be-born granddaughter, Griselda, who quickly grows into a petulant child with potential for evil. Regrettably women fare unfavourably in this world. “Girlie” is used as an insult, there’s mention of men being “blinded by a woman’s beauty”, and the tired trope of women with outer beauty belying inner evil looms large too, with child-witch Griselda described as looking like an angel but given to being drawn “towards the path of evil”. And this is all in the context of a story world in which “there was not a single good woman amongst them”, with “them” being all females in the Grunch family line. Still, there are touches of droll humour, a tangled plot stuffed with strange magic, a little light swearing (“Bloody crystal ball!”) and a cast of curious characters.
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