children with disabilities in books. Unfortunately, it is still comparatively rare that one finds excellence in such stories.
ES The Sandwich Swap HH
Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah and Kelly DiPucchio, ill. Tricia Tusa, Hyperion, 32pp, 978 1 4231 2484 9, £11.99 hbk
Best friends Salma and Lily play together and eat lunch together but, being individuals, their tastes differ. Lily’s daily lunch is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich whereas Salma always eats humus in pita bread. Each girl is disgusted by the other’s lunch and one day as they eat together, insults are exchanged and the friends fall out. The following day things escalate and before long it’s not just insults that are flying, there’s a full scale food fight in the lunchroom. The penitent pair are subsequently chastised by the school principal and, by then ashamed of themselves, they realise that there is just one thing to do.
The message is clear: it is all too easy to condemn what we don’t know about rather than attempting to learn about difference and tr y to understand one another. Worthy as it is, I found the whole thing slightly bland; neither the watercolour illustrations nor the rather wordy text are in themselves sufficiently dynamic to excite.
Under 5s Pre-School/Nursery/Infant continued Pirate Gran Goes for Gold
Geraldine Durrant, ill. Rose Forshall, National Maritime Museum, 32pp, 978 1 906367 47 3, £10.99 hbk
This is a welcome sequel to Pirate Gran developed from the winning entry to BBC London/RaW 60-second story- writing competition! Topically Pirate Gran decides to compete in the Olympics and along with her pet crocodile inveigles old pirate shipmates Flint-Hearted Jack, Fingers O’Malley and Cut-Throat Malone into her whacky training programme.
Enterprising Gran needs little encouragement to create mayhem as she pole vaults over the washing line, practises synchronised swimming with her pet crocodile in the local swimming pool, makes cucumber sandwiches as she practises fencing, and sets a new world record for the fastest Gran over 800 metres – having been fired out of a cannon. Ever patient, Grandpa picks up the pieces and provides a satisfying conclusion to the tale that will draw a smile from everyone!
Rose Forshall’s illustrations, while gently mocking, are a joyful celebration of Gran’s joie de vivre making this a delightful picture book for children and adults to enjoy.
JS Goran’s Great Escape HHHH
Astrid Lindgren, trans. Polly Lawson, ill. Marit Törnqvist, Floris, 32pp, 978 0 86315 793 6, £10.99 hbk
A Swedish farm family’s plans for Easter Day are disrupted when Goran, their huge bull, escapes from his stall in the barn. No one can catch Goran until Karl, a seven-year-old boy who happens along, knows what Goran really wants – to be scratched between his horns. Calmed, Goran allows himself to be led back to the barn and Karl goes home richer by two coins and a dozen eggs.
A low key story, in contrast to the lively style of many current picture books, Goran’s Great Escape invites the reader in (‘Let’s find out what happened’) and asks to be shared by child and adult. Originally published in Swedish in 1991 and now appearing for the first time in English, it has the timeless feel common to many of Lindgren’s tales, and is well-served by Törnqvist’s illustrations. The opening and closing endpapers each show a different line of people behind a fence expressing varied emotions as they all look at the adventure which is revealed within the pages as Goran goes on the loose. The watercolour illustrations have a cool Nordic feel, capturing a time and place that is past but not dated. The landscape format of the pages is well-used with events strung over double-page spreads in some instances and in others vignettes on the verso point to what is happening in a larger illustration on the recto. Delightful.
VC A Little Bit of Mischief HHHH
Jenny Sullivan, ill. Graham Howells, Pont, 32pp, 978 1 84851 047 0, £5.99 pbk
One would think that a trip to Techniquest, a terrific hands-on science centre in Cardiff, would be a reason for excitement. Not for Cari. She uses a wheelchair and is quite sure that the school outing will be a disaster for her. She wakes up grumpy
and remains convinced that she will be bossed around by everyone else and unable to do her own thing. When the class gets to Techniquest, she has various offers of help which she refuses, and even her special helper, Elin, doesn’t get a look in. It is only when Cari discovers by herself that there is plenty for her to enjoy that she begins to perk up and the black thundercloud lifts. When she manages to hide from Elin and the others, her joy is complete, and she spends a happy time going up and down in the glass lift. Class bad boy, Darren, finds her, and they share lots of fun among the amazing things to do in the centre. When they finally join their classmates, they are ticked off for having disappeared, and Cari is terribly pleased when the teacher says, ‘I didn’t think you’d be naughty!’ It’s good to see a wheelchair-bound child being grumpy and mischievous and feisty and altogether ‘real’, and the geometric, flat, and rather spiky pictures reflect Cari’s moods well. Cari is not the only heroine of the book: Techniquest is the other centre of attention and its attractions are clear.
5–8 Infant/Junior Dodo doo-doo
Kaye Umansky, ill. Korky Paul, Hodder, 32pp, 978 0 340 95057 9, £10.99 hbk
The story of Fred’s hapless expedition to find a Dodo and its subsequent extinction makes a curious picture book. As a teacher reading it aloud I certainly provoked great hilarity with parts of the story rivalling Dr Seuss as tricky and tor tuous tongue twister reading! What with stumbling over Kaye Umansky’s rhyming text and Korky Paul’s reliably witty illustr- ations, the setting was clearly humorous but the book also provoked quite a lot of concern with younger listeners at the fate of the Mother Dodo and her egg! A tricky subject and consequently it received really mixed reviews from the children – they either loved it or the more literal and vir tuous took great offence! This is not a book to lie gathering dust but one that, rightly or wrongly, doesn’t spare the audience and challenges readers to re- read!
The Fierce Little Woman and the Wicked Pirate
Joy Cowley, ill. Sarah Davis, Gecko Press, 40pp, 978 1 877467 41 7, £10.99 hbk
The peace of a fiercely independent lady, who lives on a jetty, is shattered one night by the invasion of a blustery and demanding pirate. But a wily sea dog is no match for this feisty female, and she refuses to let him in. Despite this, the pirate continues his demands, threatening to climb through the trapdoor that leads from the sea directly into the lady’s house. Kids will thrill to the knockabout sparring of the pair and love the unexpected denouement. For when the strong and noisy pirate exposes his vulnerable side, the woman finally softens – not so much because he is cold and wet but because he’s afraid of the dark, the old softie! Kids with their own worries will find comfort in the idea that a powerful grown-up can have secret fears, and they will be empowered by that knowledge.
The story, written some years ago and newly illustrated with richly painted, stylised images, has a slightly seventies feel though the portrayal of a strong female has equal resonance to young readers today. And the message that the power of love can drive away all fears is well developed. JNH
Mbobo Tree HHHH
Glenda Millard, ill. Annie White, Frances Lincoln, 32pp, 978 1 84780 119 7, £11.99 hbk
In a far off country there is little but sun and sand, although in harvest time there is an abundance of fruit on a single tree that is owned by no one and everyone. The villagers respect this tree and love the baby girl they find there one day, hanging from its branches. She, like the tree, is loved by everyone and owned by no one. This child grows happily amongst the villagers but never speaks until the tree and the village are threatened by a stranger. Then the child’s words and actions save the people and the tree with the result that she becomes part of the bark and trunk of that lone tree.
The language of this book is as rich and colourful as the artwork. There’s a sense of dusty, hot wide open spaces and unyielding sand. There’s a feeling of poverty but deep joy and the message of respect for living things and sharing the tree’s yield with animals is quietly powerful.
A satisfying book that will provoke thought and discussion, in the classroom and at home.
JNH 22 Books for Keeps No.187 March 2011
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