BOOKS MONTHLY May 2017

This month's pick of the new children's books...

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E Nesbit: Five Children and It

Published by Alma Books 23rd February 2017

 

When Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane and their baby brother start exploring a gravel pit not far from their new countryside home, they make an unexpected and very curious discovery. The gravel pit is home to a Psammead, a sand fairy. This ugly creature has eyes like a snail, ears like a bat and the body of a spider, and is very grumpy indeed. He grants the children one wish every day, and though they are excited to have all their desires fulfilled, they soon realize that having one's wishes come true can have unexpected consequences...E. Nesbit's much loved children's tale has enchanted generations of readers, and has been adapted for the screen numerous times - most notably by the BBC in a hugely popular 1990s series. It remains one of the most cherished children's classics ever written, and an indispensable part of every young reader's library.

 

I can't fault this new edition of E Nesbit's Five Children and It...

 

Andy Seed: The Anti-boredom Book of Brilliant Things To Do

Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books 4th May 2017

 

Say goodbye to boredom with this fantastic outdoor boredom buster book! From the hilarious Andy Seed, Winner of the Blue Peter Book Award 2015 for Best Books with Facts comes the fantastically busy Anti-boredom Book of Brilliant Outdoor Things to do. The outdoors are boring right? Wrong! Not when you've got Andy Seed's Anti-boredom Book of Brilliant Outdoor Things to do! Suitable for all seasons, find out how to set bug traps, create a rainbow, construct an amazing summer slide and much, much more! But what about those rainy summer days we hear you cry? Not a problem! This book also includes awesome indoor activities about the outdoors for rainy days. Design your own mini parachute, create the worlds most amazing frisbee, or create a bird feeder to keep your feathered friends well fed! A brilliant book bursting with amazing outdoor activities that will have you running for the door! Packed full of hilarious illustrations from the wonderful Scott Garrett, this book will keep you entertained for hours on end! Andy Seed's laugh-out-loud 'Anti-boredom' series has something for everyone! A seemingly endless car journey to visit your long lost aunty? Andy's got an activity for that! A boring rainy afternoon stuck indoors? Andy's got a joke for that! A dull holiday with no one to play with? Andy's got a game for that! Say goodbye to your boredom blues with Andy Seed's fantastic range of Anti-boredom books!

 

Stuck for something to do with the children? No need with Andy Seed's amazing book to guide you through the process of how to entertain them! Absolutely brilliant!

 

Lydia Monks: Mouse's Big Day

Published by Bloomsbury 4th May 2017

 

Welcome to Twit Twoo School! In this first story meet Mouse, Mole, Owl, Frog, Rabbit and their teacher Miss Hoot at their fun-filled treetop school. It's Mouse's first day, and she's feeling a little nervous - in fact, she doesn't want to go to school at all! But with a little help from her new friends, she finds that perhaps school isn't so bad after all . . . Mouse's Big Day is a warm and funny story about friendship that is perfect for any child who is starting school or nursery. With a cast of adorable animal characters and bright, bold, distinctive illustrations from the award-winning Lydia Monks, illustrator of the bestselling What the Ladybird Heard and What the Ladybird Heard Next, the Twit Twoo School series is sure to delight young children.

 

This is, quite frankly, one of the very best of the new readalong stories for young children - brilliant characters, beautiful illustrations...

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sarah Tolcser: Song Of The Current

Published by Bloomsbury 8th June 2017

 

Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. Her father is a wherryman, as was her grandmother. All Caro needs is for the river god to whisper her name, and her fate is sealed. But at seventeen, Caro may be too late. So when pirates burn ships and her father is arrested, Caro volunteers to transport mysterious cargo in exchange for his release. Secretly, Caro hopes that by piloting her own wherry, the river god will finally speak her name. But when the cargo becomes more than Caro expected, she finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies. With much more than her father's life at stake, Caro must choose between the future she knows, and the one she could have never imagined.

 

Spectacular children's adventure with a touch and fell of mythology about it. Older kids will love the atmosphere of this splendid adventure, and Caro is a superb character...

 

 

 

 

Rachael Jones: The State of Grace

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 6th April 2017

 

Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules for life and mine got lost. Grace has Asperger's and her own way of looking at the world. She's got a horse and a best friend who understand her, and that's pretty much all she needs. But when Grace kisses Gabe and things start to change at home, the world doesn't make much sense to her any more. Suddenly everything threatens to fall apart, and it's up to Grace to fix it on her own. Whip-smart, hilarious and unapologetically honest, The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas is a heart-warming story of one girl trying to work out where she fits in, and whether she even wants to.

 

Full marks to Rachael for tackling the subject of Asperger's - Grace's attempts to find her place in a world that, let's face it, is difficult enough for people without such conditions, is a triumph of sympathetic writing. SHould be up for an award of some sort.

 

Emma Chastain: Confessions of a High School Disaster

Published by Simon and Schuster 20th April 2017

 

Basically all I did in junior high was text, straighten my hair, add to my Benedict Cumberbatch shrine, and worry about how to be more popular. Thinking about it makes me cringe.
            I want to be different in high school. Like a new person.
            And I want to make out with someone. It’s so humiliating that I’m a kissing virgin at this advanced age. The longer I go un-smooched, the more freakish I feel. If I graduate high school without being kissed, I’ll be too embarrassed to kiss anyone during college, and then I’ll most likely die without ever even getting to second base. Something has to change fast. This I vow: I will kiss a guy before New Year’s Eve. (Or maybe it’ll happen ON New Year’s Eve?) OK, this I vow: I will kiss a guy before New Year’s Day. Vow TAKEN.


Fourteen-year-old Chloe Snow is about to start ninth grade when her brilliant, beautiful, artistic mum announces she can't create great art in suburban Massachusetts, and goes to Mexico to work on her novel. Bewildered at being left behind with only her (socially awkward) dad as company, Chloe throws herself into a series of new pursuits, including auditioning for the school a cappella group, making new friends, and landing the lead in the school musical. In the course of these adventures, she attracts the attention of Mac Brody, the cuter half of THE Senior Couple, and Bernadette Sanz, the school’s Meanest Senior Girl. And then things begin to go pretty seriously wrong. Can Chloe recover from a gigantic mess of her own creation? And will her mum's Eat, Pray, Love-fest EVER end? Told in 365 diary entries, one for each day of the most seminal year of Chloe’s life so far, this laugh-out-loud novel is peppered with texts, lists, emails and tweets, making it a modern take on the classic teen coming-of-age story.

 

Brilliantly entertaining diary entries from Chloe make this a must-read for teen girls!

 

Michelle McKenna: The Yellow Bills

Published by Matador 28th April 2017

 

Mya loves planes and wants to be a pilot when she grows up. As luck would have it she comes across a flying school run by lieutenant Drake who awards his pupils splendid pilot hats when they graduate. Mya wants to join the class but there's just one problem. She's not a duck! Could Goose the little duckling with big flying ambitions be the key to Mya getting her pilot's hat? Or will Mr Sour the teacher who never quite made the grade have other ideas...Inspired by authors such as Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl and Angela Sommer-Bodenburg, Michelle weaves a story with the humour and invention of Nick Ward's 'Charlie Small' series meets Dick King Smith's wonder of the animal world.

 

Highly entertaining story about Mya and featuring a whole raft of colourful characters...

 

Teagan White: The Towering Tree Puzzle

Published by Chronicle Books 7th March 2017

 

Join adorable critters as they navigate the seasons and make new friends in their towering tree. Teagan White is an illustrator specialising in intricate drawings of flora and fauna, playful watercolours of animal characters, and illustrated typography, with projects ranging from advertising and editorial to children's books, greeting cards, and textiles. She spends her tiny amounts of free time following tangled animal paths through forest and field, squishing along reedy riverbanks, attempting to befriend gulls on rocky lakeshores, delighting in the routines of local bunnies and squirrels, picking wildflowers and collecting animal bones. Originally from Chicago, she now lives and works in Minnesota.

 

Perfect gift for toddlers - a superb floor puzzle from Chronicle that ends up as a giant tree. Big pieces for little hands - great fun!

 

Maggi King: Horse-Cow Adventures

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

 

A Collection of Horse-cow Adventures follows the stories of Horse-cow, a mixed-up animal that belongs to a lady called Ella. The book follows Horse-cow as he embarks on small adventures that will encourage and excite young reader's imaginations. Each short story sees Horse-cow facing a challenge. When Ella and Horse-cow try to bake a cake, they drop a bag of flour, creating a huge mess which proves to be challenging to tidy up. During a boat trip, Horse-cow falls into the water and has to be rescued by the fishes. An afternoon walk is interrupted by a naughty orange dog with very short legs. But each story ends happily as Horse-cow drifts off to sleep. Inspired by the author's own experience of being given a soft toy that looked like a horse-cow hybrid, Maggi King's debut children's book is beautifully illustrated with fun and exciting pictures. It will appeal to readers aged 3 years and over, and those who are able to read along. Many of the stories in A Collection of Horse-cow Adventures were inspired by Maggi's experiences of life in a wheelchair and learning how much she could do. The book aims to make young readers more aware of these challenges and to encourage the idea that though there may be difficulties, life in a wheelchair can still be fun.

 

A selection of utterly charming short stories about Horse-cow and friends.

 

Maria McArdle: Dancing Paws of Magic

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

 

Deep in the countryside near Plucker’s Bottom stands Pluckerslea Hall, an English stately home dating back to the thirteenth century. Visiting furless folk are unaware of the secret tunnels that run beneath, and the music rooms, dormitories, dance studios and theatre fitted out for occupants of a much smaller stature. The occupants are cats! Cats wearing tights, tutus, make-up and wigs, and cats performing in ballets like Coppelia and Swan Lake. But when a beautiful gypsy cat warns of impending doom and trouble comes from the ruthless Bruiser Bumfluff, his fiendish crows and the cut-throat Black Treacle Farm Gang, the cats stop dancing, leaving their ballet master, Erico Poochetti the Shih Tzu, in tears. The future looks bleak for the Pusska Moggyinsky Ballet Company as an evil being plots revenge, lurking in the shadows and watching their every move. Can the ghostly presence of a magical Irish Lepremogg restore the cats’ amazing dancing paws of magic? Inspired by the books of Pamela Brown, Noel Streatfield and Gladys Malvern, the second book in Maria McArdle’s Pusska Moggyinsky Ballet Company series tells of a friendship between animals that would otherwise be enemies and their fears and determination to preserve their magical way of life. Dancing Paws of Magic contains a number of Maria’s own beautiful illustrations and will be enjoyed by children aged 9-11 years with a love of dancing, theatre and cats, as well as fans of her first book, Introducing the Pusska Moggyinsky Ballet Company.

 

This one is skewed ever so slightly towards cat lovers... regrettably, I am not among their number...

 

Michael Hearst: Curious Constructions

Published by Chronicle Books 25th April 2017

 

Curious about constructions? Inside this book, you'll come face-to-face with 50 incredible structures.... Michael Hearst is a composer, multi-instrumentalist and writer. He is a founding member of the band One Ring Zero, whose albums include Planets and As Smart As We Are, and his solo works include Songs for Ice Cream Trucks and Songs for Unusual Creatures. He is the author of Chronicle's successful Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of Earth's Strangest Animals and Extraordinary People: A Semi-Comprehensive Guide to Some of the World's Most Fascinating Individuals. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Matt Johnstone is an illustrator who has worked for a wide range of clients around the world. He received a Gold Cannes Lion for his illustration work for Greenpeace's Car Free campaign. He is currently based in London.

 

A brilliant introduction to some of the strangest and most awe-inspiring structures on Earth, superbly illustrated.

 

Timothy Knapman: Rockabye Pirate

Published by Bloomsbury 4th May 2017

 

Rock-a-bye pirate, in the crow's nest
Mummy says bedtime, and Mummy knows best.
You've had your adventures, you've sailed the high seas,
So under the covers and go to sleep, please.

After sailing the seven seas and making other pirates walk the plank, Rockabye Pirate is sleepy. There'll be no more yo-ho-hoing and no more 'A-harr me hearties!' It's time for loot-filled lullabies and dreams of buried treasure. Join Rockabye Pirate in this glorious bedtime book - perfect for sleepy pirates everywhere!

 

Stunning illustrations and captivating rhymes make this a must-read for bedtime children!

 

Claire Fayers: The Accidental Pirates - Journey to Dragon Island

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 18th May 2017

 

Since accidentally joining the crew of pirate ship the Onion, the lives of twelve-year-old Brine Seaborne, her magician friend Peter and former-librarian Tom have been turned upside down. Having battled the world's most evil magician, Marfak West, fought off sea monsters and found Magical North, they thought they were prepared for whatever the eight oceans could throw at them . . . until they hatched the world's last-known dragon. Desperate to find a family for their fire-breathing friend and hoping to unravel the secrets of Brine's mysterious past, the Onion and her crew sail into uncharted territory. Their aim, to find the legendary Western Island and its floating castle, where - legend has it - there be dragons . . .

 

Superb combination of Pirates and magic - a sure winner for young children who like to read books for themselves...

 

Scott Allen: Llama United

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 4th May 2017

 

What happens when eleven llamas unknowingly eat the ashes of one of the greatest footballers of all time? They become brilliant at football, of course! Managed by eleven-year-old Tim, his unusual friend Cairo and Scottish World Cup-winner McCloud (yes that *happened* apparently), Llama United goes on an amazing cup run. But who wants to lose to a team of stupid llamas? Nobody, that's who! Rival teams will do anything in their power to stop Llama United in its tracks. When the best cup in the world is at stake, football can be a nasty old business . . . Illustrated throughout by Sarah Horne, it's time to get behind the team with an impossible dream!

 

Football-mad youngsters will laugh out loud at the names and the antics of the characters in this hilarious story!

 

Orlagh Collins: No Filter

Published by Bloomsbury 13th July 2017

 

This is the story of THAT SUMMER . the one when everything changes. Emerald has grown up in a privileged world - the beloved daughter of a wealthy family, friends with all the right people, social media addict. But Emerald's family has secrets - and when Emerald finds her mum unconscious on the bathroom floor, no one can pretend any more. Now she's being packed off to stay with her grandma in Ireland while her mum recuperates and her dad just works and works and works. Grandma's big, lonely house is set back from the beach, and there's no phone signal or wifi. It's going to be a long summer ... Until she meets Liam. When you're falling in love, it's hard to tell someone everything. Even if you've got nothing to hide any more. And when secrets and lies are all you're used to, how do you deal with real love - brave and true - with no filter? The fresh, funny and poignant debut novel from Orlagh Collins, a bright new voice in YA fiction. Authentic, down to earth and sweepingly romantic all at once, No Filter is perfect for fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell and Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

 

I know I'm a seventy-year old man but my guess is that teenaged girls will relate to Emerald readily - plenty of fun and comedy in this superb YA tale...

 

Tim Hopgood: Doodle Dogs

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 5th May 2017

 

'A line is a dot that went for a walk'- Paul Klee. Join award-winning Tim Hopgood and his new creation, Doodle Dog, at the most artistic dog show in town. In this book, inspired by the work of many well-known artists, you'll learn how to create your very own doodle dog using scribbles, shading, texture, pattern, paint, collage and plenty of colour. Then it's up to you to decide who wins the prize for Best in Show! Discover the joy of making marks and creating characters with this vibrant, stylish and utterly unique book. Filled with drawing techniques and playful ideas, this is a fun way for children to explore their artistic side and build creative confidence. A brilliant creative resource and a perfect introduction to the work of many famous artists and their techniques, including Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock and Wassily Kandinsky. A rich and varied beginners guide to the wonderful word of Art! Great for all children, parents and teachers - and budding artists everywhere.

 

I'm not that impressed with these illustrations - but then I guess they are just doodles and scribbles... the four artists mentioned in the blurb - well, I son't actually think they're particularly good either... Sometimes you just have to say what you think! I can see the merits of the book, and I probably couldn't do any better myself, but then I'm not an artist.

 


 

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its sixteenth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.