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BfK 8 – 10 Junior/Middle The Great Galloon HHHH

Tom Banks, ill. John Kelly, Hot Key Books, 176pp, 978-1471400889, £5.99 pbk

What do you get when you cross a pirate ship with a hot air balloon? A great Galloon, of course. Masterfully manned by Captain Meredith Anstruther, the galloon is an airship the size of a city where the escapades are just as fantastical. The crew may seem a motley bunch, but we soon find that whether they are fighting off marauders or diver ting a swarm of hungry BeheMoths, they take life in their stride. Well, maybe apart from Able Skyman Abel.

Tom Banks is a new talent in children’s books and certainly one to watch. His first book ripples with hilarious anarchy as the feisty young crew members Stanley and Rasmussen solve all kinds of problems while waiting for the real adventure to begin. He has a whole cast of comic characters, each distinct and amusing in his own way, but there is a particular strength in his female leads – Cloudier, the thirteen-year-old poet who shimmies down a pulley line to save the ship from near disaster, and Rasmussen, the future countess whose daring outshines the rest of the crew. ‘Don’t you dare pretend you’re too scared. You’re no more scared than I am, which is a bit but not much,’ she scolds her friend Stanley. ‘If we meet wild elephants, we’ll tame them. If we meet an artillery regiment, we’ll rout it. If we meet another Brunt, we’ll make friends with it, and if that doesn’t work we’ll catch it in a cage and drop it off in the snow. And you know all that perfectly well.’

There is a real joy in the writing, which is circuitous and as interested in comic detail as in the action. If there is any criticism, it is that the cover does little to set the book apart from the glut of pirate stories on the market, which perhaps suggest a younger readership. The Great Galloon is a real cut above – slightly weird, but also wordy and wonderful.


Show Me a Story: 40 Craft Projects and Activities to Spark Children’s Storytelling.


Emily K. Neuburger, Storey Publishing, 145pp, 978-1-60342-988-7, £11.99 pbk

‘Storytelling is the per fect, most nourishing food for growing minds’.

This book helps parents and teachers to promote storytelling by linking it to 40 craft projects. The prompts or starting points include visual ones - story stones with pictures, those that inspire with words such as word tags written on brightly coloured squares, and some which, like bookmaking, lead to children writing and illustrating their

stories and poems. The raw material for the stories is everyday experience in and out of doors. Children are helped to improvise on these experiences by creating characters, plots and settings.

The ideas are imaginative and exciting and show how linking the verbal, the tactile and the visual can inspire creative thinking. Take the story jar prompt: this involves sewing a little felt hillock and placing it in a large jar and then adding things – a tiny bird’s nest perhaps, and trees and small creatures made of material or paper – to make a little scene. A sun or a moon and stars can be made to suggest whether it is night time or daytime. Then children, working on their own or in pairs, can be asked to write a short poem to go with their jar scene. Each child or pair tells their story and reads out the poem to the rest of the group. One of the liveliest outdoor activities is the storytelling walk. Children choose five items while on a supervised walk and make annotated sketches in a notebook as they go. Back indoors they weave a story round the items, tell it to others and then make a little illustrated booklet. It is the collaborative nature of the activities that brings interest and enjoyment whether the shared experience is within a family or as a member of a school group. And, of course, group story telling can help less experienced or shy children gain more confidence.

Preparation for the activities takes between one and three hours. It is important to realise that intensive adult help is needed to carry out the activities, particularly when supporting younger children. However, the resources, once made, can be used again and they can be refined and added to. The author makes it clear there are many ways of telling a story and most of the activities can be adapted for a particular age group and for the time an adult has available. This is a useful resource for the classroom or home bookshelf.


The Naming of Tishkin Silk HHHHH

Glenda Millard, Phoenix Yard Books, 96pp, 978-1907912245, £5.99 pbk

It’s not just his name that makes Griffin Silk unusual. Griffin is uncommon in lots of ways: he’s quiet, prone to cogitation, the only boy in a family of girls. The Silk way of life is unusual too, and none of this makes it easy for him when, after years of being taught at home, Griffin has to go to school. The majority of his classmates regard him with hostility and suspicion, only a girl called Layla has the ability to understand and appreciate the special magic of the Silks.

Despite the warmth and love in Griffin’s home, we quickly realise that something is very wrong. Griffin’s mother is in hospital and he is waiting for her to come home and wondering about his new baby sister. With Layla

24 Books for Keeps No.199 March 2013 Made on Earth HHH

Wolfgang Korn, trans. Jen Calleja, A & C Black, 184pp, 978 1 4081 7391 6, pbk, £6.99

Translated from the German, Made on Earth explores some of the human consequences of global manufacturing, trade and retail, through the life cycle of a red fleece. The fleece is bought by the author from a department store and, when it gets stained, consigned to a recycling bin. It is subsequently spotted by him in a television news repor t, being worn by an African refugee who is rescued from a capsized boat in the Canary Islands. How has it got there? What are the connections between a comfortable journalist in Western Europe and a poor Senegalese, braving the journey across the Atlantic to an imagined better life in

there to help him, Griffin finds the courage he needs to do something very brave, for him and for his family.

This is the first book in a series that has won awards and much acclaim in Australia, and it is every bit as tender and touching as the commendations say. As an author, Millard is as brave as Griffin. The story of the Silks, and their bohemian lifestyle could easily veer into the sentimental yet Millard’s light touch, the cer tainty of her vision, means that it never once feels anything less than completely true. She has a gift for creating families, real, complex and with a proper history, that compares to Hilary McKay’s, or Berlie Doherty’s.

Millard’s descriptions of the Australian countryside are vivid too and will add a touch of exoticism for young readers: Griffin’s five big sisters clamour round their grandma in the kitchen with after school stories ‘like a flock of galahs’; at dusk the sky is ‘watermelon pink, furrowed with apricot’. An uncommonly good book.


Spain? Wolfgang Korn begins with the ordering of the fleece by the German retailer and tracks its journey from raw material in the oil fields of Dubai, through the polyester production and textile factories of Bagladesh, to shops in Europe. And then, back again, from the recycling bin to an African market stall. At each step along the way, we meet someone caught up, usually unhappily, in this global chain, surviving on the edge, working long hours for little pay in dangerous conditions, without legal or union protection; or like Adame,

the African refugee,

unemployed and poor, desperate to better himself. Following the fleece from hour to hour, day to day, the story steadily reveals how the consumer choices of the prosperous West help to determine the lives of the poor in the developing world. For the most part, Korn’s approach is unemotional and matter-of-fact, although it’s clear where his sympathies lie. And, interesting and painstaking as the story is, its blow by blow approach does make for a rather dry, if conscience jolting, read. The final chapter properly exhorts us all to make ethical choices in our purchases. The book comes complete with a glossary, a full index, a short (mostly adult) list of fur ther reading, useful website addresses, and details of two DVDs to further our understanding.

CB Look! Really Smart Art HHHH

Gillian Wolfe Francis Lincoln Children’s Books, 48pp, 978 1 84780 414 3 £8.99 pbk

This intriguing fifth book in the Look! art series is every bit as good as its predecessors. Written by an experienced and award-winning ar t lecturer, this book explores the range of techniques that artists use to fascinate you. Seventeen images by artists such as Escher, Pollock, Magritte, Dali and Van Dyck have been chosen to demonstrate a range of effects, including surrealism, pointillism, use of light, multiple viewpoints and tromp l’oeil. Reading this book will show you new ways of seeing, from high speed movement and 3D effects to portraits whose eyes follow you wherever you go. Each picture is produced as a full-page image, with information about the artist and the construction of the picture on the facing page. The tricks of the trade are explained and suggestions for creating your own ar t work are provided. Ideal for children from the age of seven upwards, this is a title which should be available in every school and public library.

GR The Smug Pug HHHHH

Anna Wilson, ill. Clare Elsom, Macmillan Children’s Books, 224pp, 978-1-4472-0075-8, £5.99 pbk

When Tallulah Foghorn arrives at Crumbly-under-Edge, Pippa Peppercorn thinks she has finally found a best

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