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  may 2018 - children's books

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Image above copyright Paul Norman "Caterpillar Cocoon" taken 23rd April 2018


Ellie Snowdon: Great Bunny Bakes

Published by Simon and Schuster 8th March 2018


Aprons on, recipes at the ready - it's time for the biggest, bestest, bunniest baking competition. Only - who is this strangely dressed contestant?! Quentin is a wolf with a very unusual hobby. He loves to bake! So when he accidentally receives an invitation to take part in a Great Bunny Baking competition he'll do anything to enter. Masterfully disguised (ahem) as a bunny, Quentin sails through round after round with his peerless pastry and heavenly honeybun tower. But soon he has to contend with a jealous fellow contestant. And when he slips and drops his Showstopping Chocolate Cake it looks like all his work has been in vain . . . But all is not as it seems in this tale of hidden identity, bravura baking and unexpected kindnessAn irresistible picture book from fabulous new talent, Ellie Snowdon, with witty text and stunning classic-yet-contemporary illustrations.


Brilliantly funny story about a wolf who loves to bake - it reminded me of The Great British Bake Off - terrifically funny!




Brian Conaghan: The Weight Of A Thousand Feathers

Published by Bloomsbury 14th June 2018


Angry, stirring and tender, this is a bold, questioning exploration of the lengths to which we'll go for the people we love. From the Costa Children's Book Award winning author of When Mr Dog Bites and The Bombs That Brought Us Together. Bobby Seed has questions. What's another word for 'thesaurus'? How can I tell Bel I want her as my girl friend, not my girlfriend? How much pain is Mum in today? Has she taken her pills? And sometimes, secretly, Why us? Bobby's little brother Danny has questions too. Will Bobby let him have Rice Krispies for dinner? And can he stay up late on the computer? And why won't Mum's stupid illness just GO AWAY? But it's Mum's question for Bobby that could turn everything on its head. It's the Big One. The Unthinkable One. If Bobby agrees, he won't just be soothing her pain. He'll be helping to end it. Would he? Could he?

Perfect for readers of Patrick Ness and Malorie Blackman.


Not really a story as such, but the situations and the dialogue are real, and the emotions are laid bare...


Tiffany Scmidt; Bookish Boyfriends

Published by Amulet 1st May 2018


Boys are so much better in books. At least according to Merrilee Campbell, 15, who thinks real-life chivalry is dead and there'd be nothing more romantic than having a guy woo her like the heroes in classic stories. Then she, her best friend, Eliza, and her younger sister, Rory, transfer to Reginald R. Hero Prep--where all the boys look like they've stepped off the pages of a romance novel. Merri can hardly walk across the quad without running into someone who reminds her of Romeo. 
When the brooding and complicated Monroe Stratford scales Merri's trellis in an effort to make her his, she thinks she might be Juliet incarnate. But as she works her way through her literature curriculum under the guidance of an enigmatic teacher, Merri's tale begins to unfold in ways she couldn't have imagined. Merri soon realizes that only she is in charge of her story. And it is a truth universally acknowledged that first impressions can be deceiving...


Merrilee finds out the hard way that the best boy characters in books are not that much better than the boys in real life. Strange but interesting rite of passage book, that draws heavily on some of the great classics of English literature...


Michelle Robinson & Fred Blunt: Grandmas From Mars

Published by Bloomsbury 5th April 2018


Fred and Nell's grandma is babysitting and the kids couldn't be happier. But hang on, there's something not quite right about her. In fact, she's acting very strangely indeed. And is that a spare eyeball? A tail? A striped tongue? That's NOT their grandma; it's an alien ... RUUUUUUN! Find out how Fred and Nell overcome the invasion by grandmas from Mars (and get their own grandma back!) in this completely crazy and brilliantly bonkers, fun and irreverent picture book from the talented Michelle Robinson, with illustrations by rising star Fred Blunt.


Probably aimed at pre-secondary school children - the story is complete fantasy, of course, and ever so slightly far fetched... full of young schoolboy humour.


Tom Percival & Christine Pym: Goat's Coat

Published by Bloomsbury 5th April 2018


Alfonzo the goat couldn't be happier. He's just got himself a dashing new coat and he feels like a million dollars. But when he discovers some creatures in need of help, will Alfonzo be able to part with his treasured possession to save the day? Let me tell you the tale of Alfonzo the goat,
Who was terribly fond of his lovely new coat ... The perfect picture-book pick-me-up showing that love, kindness and friendship make the best recipe for happiness.


My only beef with this is that the main character on the front cover looks nothing like a goat, more like a rabbit...



Carolyn Mackler: The Earth, My Butt and Other Round Things

Published by Bloomsbury 5th April 2018


Carolyn Mackler's Printz Honor book--starring the unforgettably funny, body-conscious Virginia Shreves--returns in this 15th anniversary edition featuring text updates and never-before-seen material from the author. Fifteen-year-old Virginia feels like a plus-sized black sheep in her family, especially next to her perfect big brother Byron. Not to mention her best friend has moved, leaving Virginia to navigate an awkward relationship with a boy alone. He might like her now . . . but she has her doubts about how he'll react if he ever looks under all her layers of clothes. In order to survive, Virginia decides to follow a "Fat Girl Code of Conduct," which works, until the unthinkable causes her family's façade to crumble. As her world spins out of orbit, she realizes that being true to herself might be the only way back. Told in a perfect blend of humor and heart, this acclaimed Printz Honor winner resonates as much today as it did when it first published, and now features a new author foreword, text updates, and other bonus content.


With obesity levels especially among children worse than ever, this book takes on the thorny subject and throws humour at it like there's no solution...


Karen Gregory: Skylarks

Published by Bloomsbury 3rd May 2018


Karen Gregory's heartfelt, thought-provoking second novel about love against the odds is perfect for readers of Lisa Williamson, Sara Barnard and Sarah Crossan. 

When she was little, Joni used to have dreams that she could fly. But these days her feet are firmly on the ground – they have to be when money's tight and her dad can't work and the whole family has to pull together to keep afloat.

Then she meets Annabel. Annabel is everything Joni isn't, and yet there's a spark between them. Though Joni barely believes it at first, she thinks they might be falling in love. 

But when Annabel's parents find out about the relationship, it's clear they believe there are some differences that are impossible to overcome ...


A difficult subject tackled in a sensitive and mature way, with perfect characters. It is indeed thought-provoking...



Marissa Meyer: Renegades

Published Pan Macmillan 5th April 2018


She wants vengeance. He wants justice. The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies―humans with extraordinary abilities―who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone . . . except the villains they once overthrew. Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice―and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both. From Marissa Meyer, author of the #1 New York Times–bestselling Heartless, comes Renegades a high-stakes world of adventure, passion, danger, and betrayal.


A brilliant post-apocalyptic novel with children at the forefront of society, as one would hope.


Nick Forshaw & William Exley: Explorer: Bugs!

Published by What on Earth Publishing 16th April 2018


Leave no stone unturned with our explorer to uncover the fascinating world of bugs! Our six-foot-long timeline features over 100 bugs from their first appearance about 230 million years-ago through to their living descendants, and how they survived and thrived. Then join our explorer on his quest to find out as much as possible about these amazing creatures in his fascinating journal. Find out why they were so successful, who discovered the first one, how they support our environment, and more!


It seems inevitable that bugs would survive most catastrophic situations - this superb book tells their intimate and fasciating story quite brilliantly.



Harriet Hall: The Tales Of Louis The House Rabbit

Published by Matador 15th April 2018


The Tales of Louis the House Rabbitis a charming story which transports young readers into the world of Louis and his friends. When Louis meets another rabbit called Whiskers in his garden, he is baffled when his new friend won't come and look inside his house because he is afraid of the dangerous humans. Louis decides to see where Whiskers has come from and follows him down into his warren. He is taken to a meadow full of beautiful scented flowers and grass that tastes so sweet and meets many new rabbits.

But then the birds stop singing and a long dark shadow moves towards them. The rabbits run quickly back to the safety of the warren. Louis makes it back in time, but he is shaken by the terrifying and confusing experience and decides to go home. Tired after his adventure and safe in his home, Louis falls fast asleep dreaming of his adventure down the rabbit hole.

Harriet Hall's debut children's book is the first in a series which follows Louis' adventures. Each story examines a different issue and encourages children to exercise kindness and empathy with animals. The Tales of Louis the House Rabbit will be enjoyed by readers aged 3 years and over, especially those who enjoy animal stories.


Perfect YA SF novel that will hook older teens onto the genre.



Bertrand Santini: The Yark

Published by Gecko Press 1st March 2018


A very funny and cheerfully subversive chapter book about a monster who eats children-until one day he makes a friend.


Shades of the BFG! One would always hope that in a world where giant monsters eat children, one child would find the way to befriend such a monster, after which everything would be all right. Betrand Santini's book owes much to Frankenstein and Roald Dahl but it does have a strong personality of its own which shines through. Exceptional.








Blexbolex: The Holidays

Published by Gecko Press 6th March 2018


The summer holidays were here. I had the garden, the fields, the lake and the sunall to myself! And then Grandfather brought something home that tipped everything out of balance...


Perfect tale for children - atmospheric and olde worlde, reads very much like a Victorian tale.









Sarah & Claude Dubois: The Old Man

Published by Gecko Press 1st April 2018


Day breaks over the town. Get up, everybody! It's time to go to school. For the old man too, it's time to wake up. The night was icy and he's hungry. His name? He doesn't know . . .

This is the story of a person with no job, no family, no home--a nobody, who can't even remember what he was once named. But his day changes when he is noticed by a child.

Drawn in soft, watercolor pencil, this is an important story for our times. This gentle, compelling book will appeal to a child's sense of justice and to every reader's compassion.


The illustrations are exceptional, and the story feeds on the scandalous times in which we live, with Great Britain very much like a third world country when it comes to social mores and homeless people and ordinary working people having to visit food banks. An utterly charming story.





Annie Brocklehurst: The Mra Twins and the Ark of the Coven

Published by The Book Guild 28th February 2018


The Myra twins, Pixie and Angel, are on the most boring holiday ever in a cramped caravan on the Sunnyvale campsite. To add to their misery, Gran is having a whole lot more fun than them, until the messenger arrives. In five days Great Aunt Myrna's fingernails will be pulled out one by one by peace retreat guru, Krista, real name Stan Bogden, and sent to them in the post if they cannot find the missing Ark of the Coven. The message is for the twins because it is family legend that they will inherit special powers on their birthday on Friday 13th. Pixie and Angel think they are potty. They find out that the Ark of the Coven contains a 13th Century spell of enchantment. Pixie is desperate to cast the spell and make Jed fall in love with her. As the roller-coaster search continues, with time running out, they enter a world of witches, seances and ghostly sightings.


Lexie will always have to live with the consequences of the lie she told about the necklace - this poignant novel tells how she deals with the fall-out from a moment of madness.


Morag Hood: Sophie Johnson - Unicorn Expert

Published by Simon and Schuster 5th April 2018


Sophie Johnson is an endearing new picture book character, who is just bursting with information and knowledge that she is keen to pass on. She’s a self-confessed unicorn expert (among other things) and has dressed up her toys and pets with their own unique horns. Strange then, that she doesn’t seem to notice the real unicorn who has come into her house...

A wonderfully humorous story, from a new picture book dream-team, Morag Hood and Ella Okstadabout a unicorn hiding in plain sight and a little girl who is totally oblivious to his presence! 

Ideal for fans of unicorns, rainbows and magic everywhere!


Sophie is a great character but I find it a little strange that she should be so keen to pass on information and knowledge about something that doesn't exist... The illustrations are a little simplistic for my taste, but then the book is not aimed at me...



Tom McLaughlin: Along Came A Different

Published by Bloomsbury 5th April 2018


Reds love being red. Yellows love being yellow. And Blues love being blue. The problem is that they just don't like each other. But one day, along comes a different colour who likes Reds, Yellows and Blues, and suddenly everything starts to change. Maybe being different doesn't mean you can't be friends ... A very special picture book that supports the adage that there is more that unites us than divides us. Along Came a Different just goes to show how much better we can all be when we come together to find common ground as friends. Every bookshelf should have a copy.


A book with a message, based purely on geometrical shapes and colours. I personally don't think the story is strong enough to carry such a message but I could be wrong...


Russell Ayto: The Match

Published by Bloomsbury 3rd May 2018


The perfect gift for all those whose lives revolve around The Beautiful Game ... The man works all week in the factory. The dog waits at home. On the weekend, they both watch THE MATCH on television together. Results aren't good so the dog decides to do something about it ... With a knowing, dry humour perfect for fans of Wallace & Gromit, and a simple domestic setting, THE MATCH is the ideal gift for all football fans. Because if you aren't watching football, then reading about it is the next best thing!


I think that with the vast majority of premiership players now foreign, the ordinary people who used to love football have more or less turned off and found other things to do, which kind of explains poor support for the England football team in recent years. Russell Ayto seeks to redress this balance with a very funny look at the beautiful game, but I think he's harking back to the good old days...




The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its twentieth 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.