BfK 5 – 8 Infant/Junior continued
animals sometimes talk and wear clothes, but they still show some of the characteristics of the creatures they represent. For example the fear small animals feel when a buzzard, dog or other possible predator approaches comes over well. There is enough action and suspense in the story to keep up children’s interest and concentration.
MM Dirty Bertie: Snow! HHH
Alan MacDonald, ill. David Roberts, Stripes, 96pp, 978 1 8471 5200 8, £4.99 pbk
Everyday life presents many a challenge to Bertie, the hero of these three stories. Ber tie takes to the slopes with his sledge when snow forces the school to close. The only problem is that his sledge, belonging to his gran, is so old-fashioned that it’s more like a pram than a sledge. His embarrassment knows no bounds when smirking, know-all Nick with his brand new Speedster challenges him to a race. In the second story, Bertie insists on accompanying his dad to an historical re-enactment of a skirmish between Royalists and Roundheads. Carried away by his imagination, Bertie takes part in the battle, turning history on its head. In the third story, teacher Miss Skinner’s ambition to set a world record leaves Bertie so underwhelmed that he comes up with his own, more dashing idea involving his dog and a skateboard.
Each of these three short stories is divided into chapters, making them ideal for early readers. Lots of dialogue and humour, large font and lively illustrations add further appeal to these lively, light-hearted tales.
AF Bella Donna: Witchling HHH
Ruth Symes, ill. Marion Lindsay, Piccadilly, 192pp, 978 1 8481 2165 2, £5.99 pbk
Witchling is the third story featuring Bella Donna and her family and friends. Bella Donna is a young witch who lives on Coven Road with Lilith the adult witch who has adopted her. Coven Road
must be kept a secret from non-witches and Bella Donna should not use her magic in the outside world. Sometimes it’s hard to keep such a big secret, especially when it’s your birthday and there’s a broomstick to fly and new spells to try out. Bella Donna learns the dangers of trying spells and magic before she is properly trained, but along the way has lots of fun. Children who already know Bella Donna will enjoy this latest story in the series. It’s pleasant and easy to read with a lively and likeable main character.
The Barefoot Book of Mother and Daughter Tales HHHH
Josephine Everts-Secker, ill. Helen Cann, Barefoot Books, 80pp, 978 1 8468 6571 8, £14.99 hbk with CDs
and library, this book will be a long time favourite, not only for its cleverly woven tales but also for its decorative borders and magical design. It comes with two CDs beautifully narrated by Juliet Stephenson.
Number Rhymes Tens and Teens
Opal Dunn, ill. Hannah Shaw, Frances Lincoln, 32pp, 978 1 8478 0230 9, £6.99 pbk
This large portrait shaped number book is a visual treat from its energetic front cover right through to the dynamic end pages. It takes up a playful approach to numbers with ten jolly rhymes including ‘Five Little Monkeys’ and ‘Twenty Green Bottles’. Often the verses present a new twist to a familiar version of the rhymes and encourage creative thinking about numbers. The illustrations are hugely enjoyable as well as enhancing the meaning. So ‘One and One Are Two’ juxtaposes numbers as abstractions, for example ‘ 5 and 5 are 10’, with groups of objects – in this case two groups of five seafaring men. Then at the end of the rhyme a boy is pictured setting out sums. So we have a sense of moving from the specific (actual objects) to the abstraction: five plus five of anything always makes ten. For some children this move from counting objects to understanding the principle is challenging and this book will help. Children are taken beyond the limits of the usual ‘one to ten’ number book, and helped to practise counting backwards and counting in twos. Help is provided for the sharing adult in a section called ‘Cracking the Codes’. MM
In this richly illustrated book the tales are told with a clear and sensitive energy, always underscoring the strong links to the ethos of their country. There are suspicious stepmothers, barren couples and the quest for husbands, all the usual folk tale legends, but their paths are outlined in a fresh and original voice. There are less familiar heroines too - Persephone, who pushes through the earth in the form of new life every spring, the Chinese girl whose long hair becomes the waterfall which saves her people and Vasilisa who vanquishes the evil Baba Yaga. A boon to the classroom
The Pirates Next Door HHHHH
Jonny Duddle, Templar Publishing, 36pp, 978 1 8487 7219 9, £10.99 hbk novelty
Jonny Duddle explores themes of tolerance and being a good neighbour with gentle humour yet with the pinpoint accuracy of caricature as he describes the reaction of the inhabitants of Dull-on-Sea (twinned with Ennui-sur-Mer) when the Jolly Rogers family moves in. This exceptionally well crafted picture book exploits every feature to the full - the jacket features the Jolly Rogers
8 – 10 Junior/Middle The Sea Swallow HHHHH
Gareth Thompson, ill. Hannah Megee, Foxtail, 64pp, 978 0 9540 8802 6, £9.99 hbk
The Wyre Coast stretches north of Blackpool towards Fleetwood, one of those austerely atmospheric Lancashire littoral zones whose flatness conceals a hoard of mysteries. In the case of the Wyre, these include an undersea petrified forest, a drowned village, a lightning-gutted lighthouse, and a history
of shipwrecks. All of these elements have been brought together in a beautiful and intriguing adventure book, which has been produced in collaboration with a project to develop a ‘mythic’ coastal trail for the area.
The heroine of the story is Mary, daughter of a drowned trawler man, who meets a sea-sprite while exploring the ruins of the lighthouse against which her father’s vessel was wrecked. He is carrying a shell full of voices, the magical object at the centre of her father’s last, unfinished story. Mary is granted the ability to journey to the
24 Books for Keeps No.192 January 2012
seabed for an encounter with a malevolent sea-ogre, who covets the shell and threatens her village with an inundation. The outcome of their meeting fuses the history of the coast with its contemporary redevelopment as an environmental haven.
This is a strongly made book, with robust, hessian-clad covers vividly illustrated with sea and sky scapes. Thompson’s prose is aptly rhapsodic, while Megee’s illustrations are wonderfully evocative of tidal flats and the teeming mysteries of the deep. Both print and pictures are elegantly set, their
surfaces swept by flocks of billowing seabirds, as if the pages themselves are a par t of the shoreline they celebrate.
How the Olympics Came to Be
Helen East, ill. Mehrdokht Amini, British Museum Press, 48pp, 978 0 7141 3144 3, £6.99 pbk
Teachers will be looking out for books about the Olympics as 2012 gets
family tree full of visual jokes and word-play fun which then opens up to form a poster. Even the book information page has been transformed into the hull of the pirate ship with all the requisite information and a dedication that charms jostling amongst labels for the ‘landsickness tablets’ and ‘finest cutlass polish’! The text flows as it rhymes naturally into patterns of phrasing and speech that demand different ‘voices’ and intonation to match the characters. The illustrations gallop the reader through the narrative yet have a wealth of details that entrance. The gatefolds engage as children try to match the houses with the Jolly Rogers family’s neighbours.
A vital, amusing, brilliant, educational book! Jonny Duddle is a writer/illustrator at the top of his game. JS
Magic Beans: A Handful of Fairy Tales from the Storybag
Adèle Geras et al, David Fickling Books, 448pp, 978 0 8575 6043 8, £9.99 hbk
This book is a compilation of 14 fairy stories, some well known and some less so. Originally produced by Scholastic in 1998 as ‘Everystory’ readers in celebration of the National Year of Reading, they are published together here for the first time. The star-studded author list includes Jacqueline Wilson, Philip Pullman, Tony Mitton and Michael Morpurgo.
The magic and mystery of traditional fairy stories are given a modern lease of life in the hands of such skilled writers. Notable stories from the fine collection include Philip Pullman’s colloquial rendering of ‘Mossycoat’, an old English folk tale recorded in the nineteenth century which bears more than a passing resemblance to Cinderella, and Jacqueline Wilson’s retelling of ‘Rapunzel’. Tony Mitton’s rendering of ‘The Seal Hunter’ in verse is also notable.
It is rare to find 14 such distinctive and varied writers in one volume. For that reason alone it would make a valuable addition to a child’s bookshelf. The re-telling of traditional stories is an extra bonus.
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