underway. This one concentrates on the ancient Olympic Games and joins the Greek gods as they gather on Mount Olympus to watch the games taking place on earth below. We hear the story in the ‘voice’ of Tethys, grandmother of the gods. The tone is conversational and gently mocking. The illustrations are inspired by images on vases, statues and pottery on display in the British Museum. They are stylised, some with a muted palette but others vibrantly coloured and, together with the written text, give a sense of the volatile behaviour of the gods. Gesture and facial expression are delightful but sometimes disturbing – for example the image of Ouranos, the Star-Studded Sky god pushing back children ‘he did not like the look of’ when newly delivered by their mother, Gaia, the Earth goddess.
This is a complicated story which involves a huge number of Greek gods as the family tree at the beginning of the book reveals. The book tries to carry readers into an ancient civilisation where the gods were very much part of the reality of the people living at the time. However, I think that considerable teacher intervention would be needed to explain unfamiliar concepts to the older primary children for whom the book is intended and to help them understand how the gods fitted into the Greek belief system. The author is a well known story-teller and I think this book would come alive if it was read out loud and if space were provided for some interaction between teller and audience.
Lolly Luck HHHH
Ellie Daines, Andersen, 192pp, 978 1 8493 9396 6, £5.99 pbk
It is on Lollyanna’s 11th birthday that things start to go wrong. Lolly has always thought of herself, fittingly since her surname is Luck, as a lucky person but even she cannot make everything good when her dad loses his job. Financial problems escalate and the family have to move to a tiny flat on a rundown estate, Lolly’s school work begins to suffer and she risks losing her starring role in the school play. The strain impacts on her parents’ marriage and they start to argue. Then during one of their rows, Lolly hears a secret not intended for her ears and her world is suddenly turned upside down…
This is an assured debut from a writer who is of Afro-Caribbean descent and whose heroine shares this background. Told in the first person by Lolly, the narrative flows easily in a button holing, chatty style that conjures up events at home and at school from the point of view of its lively, likeable heroine. At the same time Daines conveys subtly the powerful emotions provoked by the
Nelson at Sea HHHH
Simon Weston and David Fitzgerald, ill. Jack Jones, Gomer Press, 64pp, 978 1 8485 1315 0, £8.99 pbk
Nelson the horse and his friends are excited. Mike is about to go on holiday and they all like that idea - until they find out that they are not included! It is not long before they come up with their own idea for a holiday, of course, provided they can get there and back without Mike knowing... Off our heroes go on a hilarious slapstick holiday to Tenby,
full of laugh aloud
misadventures which include (among other things) the rescue of a beached whale. The whole book is great fun from start to finish. For 8-10 year olds but could happily be read aloud to Y2 children.
RL Scrum! HHH
Tom Palmer, Barrington Stoke, 64pp, 978 1 8429 9944 8, £5.99 pbk
Steven is in a quandary. He is a talented rugby league player who lives half the time with his father and half with his mother (plus her boyfriend). When he discovers that he is to move down south, he is faced with an additional dilemma because rugby union is played there rather than rugby league. What is he to do? And where do his loyalties lie? How will he resolve this seeming impasse? Boys in
stressful events that occur – although the word is not used, it is clear for example that dad is suffering from depression as his job search comes to nothing. Lolly’s feelings about having to leave her childhood home when the mortgage payments can’t be met and her fear that her parents will divorce are also handled sensitively and with a light touch. The story is also full of excellently observed detail of the things that interest older primary children.
This is a strong contemporary story very well pitched for younger readers. RS
particular will enjoy this story of sport laced with family problems that they too may well encounter. There is much in the book that is ripe for discussion - and the spacing and layout of text along with careful use of language mean that readers who have trouble decoding texts will be helped a lot without necessarily realising it. For 8 -10 year olds or older if used for pupils with special needs.
The Wise Fool: Fables from the Islamic World
Shahrukh Husain, ill. Micha Archer, Barefoot Books, 64pp, 978 1 8468 6225 0, £12.99 hbk
In recent years fewer anthologies have been published so this new collection of traditional tales is par ticularly welcome. Tales about Mulla Nasruddin – the Hodja – are particularly welcome since they are not so well known here. These are not fairy tales full of kings, princesses and magic, they are fables – comments on everyday behaviour. In this volume, Shahrukh Husain has gathered twenty-two of the Hodja stories, some no more than half a page, others a little longer but all demonstrating a dry wit and ironic view of people’s foibles. Some will be recognised from other traditions – ‘The price of steam’, for example; others will be unknown – delicious discoveries. This is a handsome volume illustrated with glowing artwork which reflects the colours found in the textiles, tiles and ceramics of the Middle East; it provides a richly satisfying accompaniment to the text. To help understanding there is a glossary, a pronunciation guide and a brief bibliography. As a collection this could be read, or used with older children, KS3 and even adults. If you are a fan of Yiddish humour (see Adele Geras’s My Grandmother’s Stories), you will appreciate the Hodja.
FH Blood Hound HHH
Tanya Landman, Walker, 112pp, 978 1 4063 2897 4, £4.99 pbk
This is the 9th in the ‘Poppy Fields Murder Mystery’ series featuring Poppy Fields and her friend Graham. Once again the pair find themselves trying to solve two murders. At the beginning of the story the wife of a television presenter is killed and later one of the dog-owners the children meet in the park is murdered. The children quickly discover there is a link between the two events, but how can they find out just what that link might be?
Many children will already know these characters and will enjoy this latest adventure. The book is shor t and moves along at a fast pace with likeable characters.
DF The Sewer Demon HH
Caroline Lawrence, Orion ‘The Roman Mystery Scrolls’ series, 112pp, 978 1 4440 0455 7, £5.99
This title is the first of a spin-off from Caroline Lawrence’s ‘The Roman
Mysteries’ series. According to the blurb it is a ‘ruder, funnier and still historically accurate version of the Roman Mysteries’.
I think I can safely say it is certainly ruder in that most of the story revolves around the Roman Men’s Lavatory system. Threptus, who appeared in the last of the Roman Mysteries, is chased by a group of bullies into the lavatories. There are many graphic descriptions of what goes on in there, no doubt historically accurate. Threptus overhears a conversation while trapped in the sewer system, which enables his mentor, Floridus, to gain his licence to sell various artefacts.
The sentences are short and the story moves along well, although there is little of an historical feel. Threptus is an engaging character, Floridus is a very smooth operator and together they make a good team, but I do wonder if lavatorial humour is the way to get boys to read about Rome. History does not have to be solemn and pompously imparted through fiction of course but neither does it need to talk about toilets and wiping bottoms with sponges!
Penny Dreadful is a Complete Catastrophe
Joanna Nadin, ill. Jess Mikhail, Usborne, 144pp, 978 1 4095 3607 9, £4.99 pbk
Penelope Jones always manages, unwittingly, to complicate everyday life through unbridled enthusiasm and vitality. She’s a magnet for disaster, as her family puts it, always finding herself in extraordinary situations that earn her the nickname of Penny Dreadful. Her brilliant ideas inevitably end in calamity, as these three stories show. In the first, what is intended as a lesson in responsibility and animal care quickly turns into mayhem when she brings home the class pet rat to look after for the weekend. Then, her triumph at finding a rare object in the form of dinosaur bones to present at the show and tell class session quickly unravels – as does her attempt to cheer up her gran, hospitalised after falling into a
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