books monthly july 2017

This month's pick of the new children's books... some terrific new books but the illustrations don't always suit my tastes... I must be getting old!

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Gillian Shields: When The World Is Full of Friends

Published by Bloomsbury 1st June 2017

 

When the world
is full of friends,
the fun and laughter
never ends.

Albert, Tom, Flossie and Pipkin love to play, and when a family of squirrels move in to the house across the river they are so excited! Now they have friends to play with ... But how will they cross the stream? A warm and touching story about friendship and working together, from the author/illustrator pairing behind When the World Is Ready for Bed and When the World Was Waiting for You.

 

Simply charming. I can't fault it!

 

Robin Whitcomb & Bryony Hill: Sillybilly

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

 

Set in the fishing village of Craster, Northumberland, Billy is by far the naughtiest boy around. Sillybilly: The Naughtiest Boy with a Heart of Gold is an ideal read for children aged 7-9 years old and has beautiful watercolour illustrations throughout. Sillybilly is the heartfelt tale of young Billy's heroic actions as he battles against the sea in search of fish with his uncle Jim. Billy's mother Meg has had to bring up Billy on her own following Billy's father's death at sea. At school Billy is a complete nightmare - his headmistress has reached breaking point, but secretly she has always believed that there is something truly special about Billy. Uncle Jim is Craster's most legendary fisherman. Determined to fight against the worst storms the village has ever experienced, Jim and his faithful crew set sail out into the tempestuous sea in search of a big catch. Billy already knows their plan and has secretly hidden at the bottom of the boat with his dog Jasper. Against the momentous waves, Uncle Jim and his crew run this boat aground on the rocks outside the harbour and the fishing nets tangled themselves. Without any consider for his own safety, Billy jumps out of the boat to untangle the netting entwined o the rocks. With great success, Uncle Jim, his crew, and Billy make it back to Craster safely and word soon spreads of Billy's heroics. Sillybilly is a moral tale that demonstrates the importance of caring for others and going above and beyond for those you love. This book will appeal to children with a love of adventure stories, particularly those with an interest in the sea and fishing.

 

 

 

 

 

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Chris Riddell: Goth Girl And The Ghost Of A Mouse

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 4th May 2017

 

Chris Riddell's Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse is the beautifully illustrated winner of the Costa Children's Book Award. Ada Goth is the only child of Lord Goth. The two live together in the enormous Ghastly-Gorm Hall. Lord Goth believes that children should be heard and not seen, so Ada has to wear large clumpy boots so that he can always hear her coming. This makes it hard for her to make friends and, if she's honest, she's rather lonely. Then one day William and Emily Cabbage come to stay at the house and, together with a ghostly mouse called Ishmael, the three children begin to unravel a dastardly plot that Maltravers, the mysterious indoor gamekeeper, is hatching. Ada and her friends must work together to foil Maltravers before it's too late!

 

A total delight from former Children's Laureate Chris Riddell, whose drawings enhance this wonderful book to a degree that it is quite utterly magical. Each of his characters have their own traits and features, and his talents are overflowing in this superb tale in his Goth Girl series.

 

Chris Hadfield: The Darkest Dark

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 1st June 2017

 

Young Chris is an astronaut. A very busy astronaut. Saving the planet from aliens is much more important than taking baths or going to bed. Because at bedtime the worst sort of alien appears - darkness. But when Chris watches the first moon landing on TV, he discovers that there is a dark out in Space that is much darker than he's used to. It's the darkest dark ever, and he realises that the unknown can be . . . exciting! The Darkest Dark is the debut picture book by Commander Chris Hadfield, international bestselling author of An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth and You Are Here, with spectacular illustrations by illustration team The Fan Brothers. Inspired by Chris's decision to become an astronaut after watching the Apollo 11 moon landing at age nine, The Darkest Dark is an inspiring story about facing your fears and following your dreams.

 

The message in this book is that anyone can do anything (career-wise) is they put their mind to it. A worthy message, but somewhat oversimplifying the chances of success in my opinion. Ignore the message and you have a superb story about a boy who wants to be an astronaut - so ignore the message...

 

Bethan Woollvin: Rapunzel

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 15th June 2017

 

Golden-haired princess Rapunzel is kept trapped in her lofty tower by a wicked witch, who lops off locks of her beautiful hair and sells them for her own profit. Can Rapunzel ever figure out a way to escape? From creator of Little Red, a New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book 2016, comes another witty twist on a favourite fairy tale. This bold and funny story removes the handsome prince altogether, making Rapunzel the mistress of her own destiny. Printed with stunning pantone inks, Bethan Woollvin's unique and striking art style and drily comic voice make this the perfect gift for fairy tale fans of all ages.

 

The age-old fairy story of Rapunzel - the only thing that lets it down is the illustrations, which are not that good - sorry!

 

Nadine Brun Cosme and Aurélie Guillery: Daddy Long Legs

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 18th May 2017

 

The car had trouble starting this morning. It gets Matty to nursery, but what if later it won't start at all... how will Dad pick him up? Matty is very worried. But Dad soon puts Matty's fears to rest with a series of increasingly imaginative suggestions for alternative modes of transport - from a tractor to a dragon, a polar bear to a rowing boat. But, if all else fails, he'll come on foot... because to come and pick up Matty, Dad's legs will never be too tired. Daddy Long Legs is a joyous book with bright, fresh and funny artwork, full of retro charm. With its warm, reassuring feel and the adorably drawn relationship between a father and his child, this makes the perfect book for Father's Day and beyond.

 

The illustrations are, once again, I'm afraid, naive and childlike - in this book they don't detract from the story, luckily, and as I'm not a child, I can't really say that children won't like them either. It's just a personal opinion, from someone who's used to children's book illustrations from the Golden Age... Great story, though!

 

Kim Ventrella: Skeleton Tree

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 21st September 2017

 

When Stanley Stanwright finds a bone poking out of the earth in his back garden, he is determined to take a picture of it and send it to the Young Discoverer's Competition, thinking it will help bring his dad back home. But the bone begins to grow, reaching up out of the ground until it turns into a skeleton - a skeleton with an unusual interest in his unwell younger sister Miren As time wears on, Miren's condition worsens, and the only time she is truly at peace is when she is playing with the skeleton. But Stanley is wary of him, especially when he finally manages to get a picture, and spots a scythe at the skeleton's feet. . . A whimsical, heartfelt story about a boy who finds a friend in Death with the help of an unusual tree growing in his back garden. With black line illustrations throughout by Victoria Assanelli.

 

Sparkling fantasy from Kim Ventrella - this is terrific, if a little scary, but then through the ages, children have always loved scary stories. A real winner, this one!

 

Laura Powell: The Last Duchess

Published by Macillan Children's Books 15th July 2017

 

Pattern is only thirteen, but is already rising through the ranks at Mrs Minchin's Academy of Domestic Servitude and seems destined for a life below stairs. But fate intervenes when she is packed off to the small and secretive Duchy of Elffinberg, to serve as lady's maid to the lately orphaned Grand Duchess. Pattern's young new mistress is excitable and paranoid, yet despite their differences the two girls forge an unlikely friendship that quickly turns into a battle for survival. For picture-perfect Elffinberg hides an extremely dark and deadly secret . . . Armed only with her trusty sewing basket, a bottle of smelling salts and J. Bulcock's inestimable guide, The Duties of a Lady's Maid, Pattern will need all her wits and resourcefulness when dealing with above-stairs conspiracies and below-stairs intrigue. Darning stockings has never been so dangerous.

 

This is an absolutely brilliant story about Pattern, and is told from her viewpoint, that of a domestic servant in a made-up land. Full of smark, canny observations about the people she lives with and works for, it's a timeless classic of working-girl oppression. Superb.

 

Kieran Crowley: The Misfits Club

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 1st June 2017

 

When Brian, Hannah, and twins Chris and Sam start their summer holidays, they know it's going to be the end of an era. The Misfits Club is disbanding and they still haven't managed to solve any real mysteries. But when they persuade new club member, Amelia, to go and investigate a spooky old house, they unexpectedly discover some stolen goods. Could this be The Misfits' chance for one last adventure as they try to track down the crooks behind the theft . . .? A funny, warm-hearted mystery adventure from Kieran Crowley, author of The Mighty Dynamo

 

Present-day version of the Famous Five, except they weren't really misfits, were they? Great fun, and a really eye-catching front cover as the Misfits Club solve a few mysteries. Great stuff!

 

Martyn Blunden: Charlie Green and the Underground Railroad

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

 

Charlie Green is the sort of boy any parent would want: handsome, good-natured and bold. He lives his life to the full, as full as any 11-year-old can make it. He, along with his siblings Ben and Olivia, share a special secret: a magical aeroplane named Jenny that can take them anywhere they wish to go - including back in time! Charlie Green and the Underground Railroad takes them to the scene of the American Civil War in 1862, where they attempt to assist a very brave woman named Harriet Tubman free her sister from slavery. Before the war, Harriet had successfully escaped enslavement herself and was a wanted person - with a reward on her head. However, she bravely returned and helped many escape using the secret network of safe houses on the route to a safe northern state of refuge. Suspected of spying for the Union Army, a higher reward is put on Harriet's head, making their journey even more perilous. After successfully locating her they set off on their journey, only to be thwarted by Charlie's friendly nature to a stranger. Harriet gets arrested and they have to come up with a plan to get her free again. They are dealt a second blow when Oliver, their adult travelling companion, gets forcefully enlisted in the Confederate Army. Now it's all down to the kids! How can they outwit senior officers of the Confederate Army of the South before Harriet is shot for spying? The chase to Richmond, the confederate capital, is on! Charlie Green and the Underground Railroad is a thrilling historical novel that will captivate the imaginations of children aged 9+ - as well as any adults who might read it with them!

 

Robert A Brown: William The Hedgehog Boy

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

 

When William, a lonely, young schoolboy with a quick temper, comes across a group of boys hurling sticks at a defenceless hedgehog, he bravely chases them off and takes the injured animal to the vets. After nursing the hedgehog, who he names Lucky, back to health, William is heartbroken when the vet explains that he must release her back into the wild. As Lucky journeys back to her den, she encounters a hideous monster with sharp, jagged teeth and a huge hedgehog. Eventually, battered and bruised, Lucky finds a new den in a large pile of firewood, perfect for hibernation. Meanwhile, William finds himself in trouble, almost being killed by a speeding car, knocking cans of paint over his stepdad's precious car and waking his parents in the dead of night in his efforts to find Lucky. School isn't any better, as the school bully is making William's life miserable. Then a surprise phone call changes everything for William, and in a thrilling climax, he is called into heroic action. Will it be enough to save a young boy and his best friend? Told from the viewpoint of a young boy and a rescued hedgehog, William the Hedgehog Boy contains a useful section with information about how to protect hedgehogs. Through the story, Robert hopes to inform young readers about the dangers faced by hedgehogs, especially on Bonfire Night when they like to make their dens in bonfires in readiness for hibernation. Inspired by the work of Michael Morpurgo and Dick King Smith, William the Hedgehog Boy will be enjoyed by readers aged 9-11 with an interest in wildlife. It will also appeal to organisations that promote hedgehog welfare.

 

Fay Howison: The Rose Girl

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

 

The Rose Girl is Fay Howison's debut children's book. Set in the pre-industrial past, the book follows the story of two families living at opposite ends of an idyllic valley. At one end of the valley is the forbidding Duke of Ashbury, stricken with grief after the death of his wife. He keeps his daughter, Rosalba, a virtual prisoner in their magnificent home, lest harm should come to her too. At the other end of the valley live the cheerful and unconventional Paget family. When the three Paget brothers learn of Rosalba's plight, they each hatch a secret plan to rescue her from her father's clutches. The Paget brothers' efforts to save the young woman lead them into various misadventures, including an encounter with the dark menacing figure of Lord Jasper Culpepper. Then the discovery of a terrible secret from the past means that the brothers must forget their rivalry for Rosalba's heart, and work together to defeat the formidable problems they now face.Will the brothers be able to overcome their differences and save Rosalba? The Rose Girl is the first book in a trilogy that follows the Paget brothers and their friends on their adventures in an imaginary country, not unlike England. Fay's debut book takes inspiration from traditional fairytales, but modernises the genre to make it more accessible and relatable to young girls. Fay's book will be enjoyed by young readers generally, and will appeal specially to girls aged 10-14 who like the romantic-comedy genre.

 

David Evans & Dr Agnes Electra Chlebinska: Academy for Health Superheroes

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

 

Agnes is a young girl with a special gift - she is able to feel when others need help. Together with her friends, Agnes creates the Academy for Health Superheroes, where she teaches humans, animals, organs and food characters how to make the world a healthier and happier place. In the first book of the Academy for Health Superheroes series, The Heart, Jack and his father become good friends with the Junk Food Monster. But then Jack's father becomes very ill with some serious heart problems, which makes his family very sad. Luckily the Health Superheroes are here to help. Will they beat the Junk Food Monster in time to save Jack's father? Agnes and David's debut children's book uses fun characters and quirky illustrations to educate children of the importance of nutrition, exercise and positive psychology. It also contains recipes for nutritious meals and snacks for young readers to try at home. The book will appeal to readers aged 6 years and over, as well as parents and teachers wanting to encourage a healthy lifestyle in young children.

 


 

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.