BfK Naughty Nina
5 – 8 Infant/Junior continued Beowulf the Hero
Juliet Mickelburgh, ill. AnnaLaura Cantone, Bloomsbury, 32pp, 978 1 4088 0039 3, £5.99 pbk
Labels, spoken or unspoken, have the power to shape a child’s life as people temper their responses when a child is categorised as ‘a bully’ or as ‘an angel’. ‘Naughty’ Nina of the title is tired of being nice all the time and switches from barf-making goodness to extravagant naughtiness in a transition that is a tiny journey of discovery.
The lively illustrations show adult characters treated to some particularly tight lipped and determined expressions as Nina transmogrifies. Pages almost shake with the chaos she wreaks. But being naughty all the time can lose its appeal just as being nice did. What should Nina do? Her dilemma is amusingly resolved in a way that young readers will respond to.
Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School
David Mackintosh, HarperCollins, 32pp, 978 0 00 736141 0, £10.99 hbk
New boy Marshall Armstrong is anything but your average pupil; he is rich, eccentric and a bit of a boffin with his slide rule, protractor and fancy drawing equipment, not to mention his freckles, spots and allergies. Consequently, the little girl narrator is less than impressed when Miss Wright insists he sits beside her at the front of the class. So, as far as she is concerned his birthday party is the last straw; but her mum says she has to go. Much to her surprise however, she finds that inside Marshall’s house, there’s a wealth of opportunities for exciting party play and pastimes.
The detailed cartoon style illustrations and the variation and manipulation of lettering size, styles and layout give added visual appeal to this droll tale of the acceptance of an outsider.
JB Aesop’s Fables HHH
Beverley Naidoo, ill. Piet Grobler, Frances Lincoln, 48pp, 978 1 84780 007 7, £12.99 hbk
Beverley Naidoo places 20 of Aesop’s fables in an African setting and gives them a lyrical retelling that allows the humour to ripple through. She expresses the punch lines of tales in a way that opens up their wisdom rather than their morality. Naidoo’s retelling also has the virtue of total brevity. A world is evoked, a situation unfolded in the space of a page or two. The illustrations are beautiful and reflect Naidoo’s African location of the tales.
about the epic poem on which this adaptation is based. The book is part of a series, ‘greatest adventures in the world’ and if the standard of this book is anything to go by, the other titles will certainly merit attention too.
Mega Mash-Up: Robots v Gorillas in the Desert 978 0 85763 008 7 Mega Mash-Up: Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars 978 0 85763 001 8
Nikalas Catlow and Tim Wesson, Nosy Crow, 96pp, £4.99 each pbk
The innovative ‘Mega Mash-Up’ series of books engage the reader actively in the process of storytelling. In both books, clearly demarcated groups of characters belonging to rival factions attempt to outdo each other. In Robots v Gorillas, two nations trading in bananas and oil respectively settle a spat through a race in the Desert of Doom. In Romans v Dinosaurs, ancient Romans and dinosaurs have a bigger problem than resolving their differences when an asteroid hurtles towards their planet, Mars.
Each book offers just enough madcap storyline and graphics to hook the reader. Every spread has plenty of blank spaces, prompts and instructions for the reader to fill in the plot, add dialogue and create new illustrations.
22 Books for Keeps No.189 July 2011 HHH
Tony Bradman, ill. Tony Ross, Orchard, 48pp, 978 1 40830 574 4, £3.99 pbk
Did you ever wish for a version of Beowulf that younger children could read on their own? Bradman and Ross have provided just that in a book that is shor t enough to hold and keep children’s attention and with illustrations that help children appreciate the characters involved in this story. Two pages at the back of the book provide additional information
Attractively produced, the books should appeal to readers reluctant to read a full story but eager to use their imagination and par ticipate in the storytelling.
AF Polly and the Wolf Again HHH
Catherine Storr, ill. Marjorie-Ann Watts, Jane Nissen Books, 96pp, 978 1 903252 38 3, £6.99 pbk
Catherine Storr was a prolific author, continuing to write books for both children and adults until just before her death in 2001 at the age of 87. A psychotherapist, she also loved writing and her output includes plays and an opera libretto as well as novels. The Polly series was written for her own daughters and was intended for children who have just started reading independently. Many of her books, including her children’s novels, explore the relationship between reality and fantasy. In the case of Polly, the reality of home and family life exists alongside her potentially fatal friendship with the sentient, but usually stupid, Wolf in a reversal of the traditional fairy tale.
In this second book of the series, Wolf decides that Polly is the stupid one as he determines to outwit and eat her. Each chapter recounts a different episode in Wolf’s attempts to achieve his objective – each time he is outmanoeuvred by Polly’s quick thinking. His attempt to disguise himself as a fox fails dismally when the dye washes off in a rainstorm, then he fails to answer three of Polly’s riddles and runs away when she turns the tables and promises to eat him. In the final denouement, Polly’s little sister, Lucy, unwittingly outsmarts him during a game of ‘I’m a wolf and I’m going to eat you all up’, in which he forgets that his intention is actually to eat her. The book ends with him pleading with Polly to take her sister away.
Whilst the plot lines may capture interest, there are questions to be asked about the relevance to contemporary readers of a book so firmly contextualised in the 1950s. Polly lives in a bygone age in which hypnotism is described as new and fashionable, her mother stays at home, cooks lunch, shops in Woolworths and teaches her daughter to read cherry stones to work out who her husband is going to be. Polly wears frocks, buys ‘two penn’oth’ of red hair ribbon, sweets by the quarter pound and uses threepenny bits to buy ice creams. Her world is still clearly gender defined with boys requesting guns and girls playing with dolls – not a world that today’s child would readily understand.
Additionally, the language is quite complex – readers will encounter vocabulary such as ‘hypnotism’, ‘dextrously’ and ‘aggrieved’. Are these words which form the staple lexicon of young readers? Much as I enjoyed reading this book for nostalgic reasons, I cannot but wonder whether today’s children expect a more sophisticated treatment of fantasy and a much faster pace of narrative.
Hooey Higgins and the Big Boat Race
Steve Voake, ill. Emma Dodson, Walker, 128pp, 978 1 4063 2240 8, £4.99 pbk
Hooey Higgins and his friends are back again, ready to be involved with whatever mayhem is happening – and if it isn’t happening yet, they will cause it. Unintentionally. Of course. Starting with a search for treasure on the beach, where Twig is attached to too many magnets for his own good, they segue into the Shrimpton-on-Sea Home-Made Boat Race... but not before a class swimming lesson at the local pool has gone thoroughly and chaotically wrong. Does this herald potential calamity at the Boat Race? Absolutely, and existing fans of Hooey will not be disappointed. New fans will welcome the continued slapstick which permeates the book at every twist and turn – and will be rolling around with laughter as things continue in that vein. Reluctant readers will find that this book is worth picking up for a good laugh. A welcome addition to the class library.
RL The Wrong Pong HHH
Steven Butler, ill. Chris Fisher, Puffin, 144pp, 978 0 14 133390 8, £5.99 pbk
One night, Neville Brisket is woken by a sour-smelling finger being stuck up his nose. Minutes later, he stumbles upon a most disgusting creature called Pong, picking its nose and creating messes. Soon after, he finds himself dragged down the toilet and flushed into a foul-smelling world where he comes face to face with a most disgusting troll family. At first, they look upon him as a tasty snack, then as the replacement for their own son Pong gone missing in the upper world. At first, Neville’s disgusted by his new sewer family, but gradually he adapts and takes the place of their missing son. It seems he may never get back to his own world. The story abounds in all things grotty and snotty, and the vividly disgusting imagery and lively dialogue will have children chortling.
AF Nature Adventures HHHHH
Mick Manning and Brita Granström, Frances Lincoln, 48pp, 978 1 84780 088 6, £12.99 hbk
In the house, window-box, garden, street, park, cemetery or along the canal bank, nature is all around us, and, of course, we’re part of it. In this book the author/illustrators take us through various settings – Town, Fresh Water, Woodland, Field and Hedgerow, out into Wild Country and down to the Seashore. Each excursion shows us plants and animals – and other signs – that we might well find, all beautifully and accurately drawn to show (but not over-emphasise)
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