BfK 8 – 10 Junior/Middle continued

Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver, this would be an excellent addition to the bookshelf. Although Sky Song was written as a stand-alone adventure, the snowy world created is so rich that it provides a wonderful opportunity to imagine the further adventures that might take place. JBid

The Travels of Ermine: Trouble in New York


Jennifer Gray, illus Elisa Paganelli, Usborne, 978-1-4749-2725-3, 160pp, £5.99pbk

A very determined young lady is coming to stay with the Megabucks in New York. This is going to be fun. However, the young lady turns out to be Ermine, a stoat of character and style. When the little case holding her smart feathered hat is taken by mistake by thieves, her visit becomes action packed. Can Ermine bring the robbers to justice? Here is a lively new character to

enchant young readers who will enjoy Ermine’s escapades most of which play upon the misunderstandings that will arise when your main protagonist is animal in a human world. There is plenty to raise a smile – Ermine attempts to make breakfast for Mr Megabucks (chilli sauce features) or Mike Junior’s well aimed ice cream cones – and Ermine is both quick and clever, her opponents suitably stupid. Gray’s storytelling is brisk and enjoyable, while the illustrations by Elisa Paganelli add life and character enhancing both the action and the humour. Ermine is a welcome addition to the pantheon of feisty animal heroes and heroines. FH

The Story of Paintings:

A History of Art for Children HHHHH

Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom, Franklin Watts, 88pp, 978-1-4451-5004-8, £14.99 hdbk

The award-winning partnership that is Mick Manning and Brita Grandstrom produces books that are well known and

respected in children’s non-

fiction, and this is another outstanding book. Taking the story of art from cave painting in Lascaux, with a caveman explaining in speech bubbles that the paintings make the cave a scared space, that they paint the animals they hunt for food, and what they use for the pictures, the story begins with a brief introduction to the art of ancient civilisations

with the

emphasis on gods and heroes in their tombs, then classical civilisations displaying wealth and power in their houses, then early Christian

art like

icons, before moving on to what the authors admit was the difficult choice of their favourite 39 paintings. Both are illustrators as well as authors, so this must indeed have involved a great deal of discussion. Each work is portrayed in a double-page spread,

with the painting reproduced, then a short piece of information and a cartoon of the artist, with a comment in a speech bubble. Children may especially enjoy the beady-eyed young Giotto, as an apprentice, painting a fly so lifelike on his master Cimabue’s canvas that Cimabue tried several times to brush it off! Words like ‘lamenting’ are explained in a natural way. Some spreads give items to look for, like the dog in the Arnolfini portrait, or particular groupings in L.S Lowry’s ‘Fun Fair at Daisy Nook’, (which is a bit like a ‘Where’s Wally’ picture.) The artists covered include


well-known artists like Shen Zhou, Mir Kalan Khan and Anders Zorn as well as Leonardo da Vinci (Mona Lisa), Monet and van Gogh. Female artists are definitely included- Dame Laura Knight, Tamara de Lempicka, Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keefe are all there, and a rare female artist of the 17th century, Rachel Ruysch, new to this reviewer. Roy Lichtenstein’s comic-book

style and Jean-Michel

Basquiat’s work inspired by graffiti bring us almost up to date, and we come full circle with Picasso admiring the Lascaux paintings. Some children may know the mask of ‘The Scream’, and here is the picture. They may also have fun thinking about the way Jackson Pollock painted (the authors explain that throwing paint around with style is not as easy as one might think) and may want to copy Arcimboldo and his vegetable paintings that look like faces. There is a comprehensive Glossary as well as a complete index of paintings, artists and terms used. This is a really fun way of finding out about paintings, education without realising it, and a masterly book to treasure. DB

Witchfairy HHHHH

Brigitte Minne, ill. Carll Cneut, Book Island, 40pp, 978 1 911496 07 6, £12.99 hbk

The story of this wordless picturebook Meet Rosemary, a young fairy who lives with her traditional mum in a golden-turreted

castle. Rosemary in Rosemary’s

however, is not your traditional fairy, she’s a divergent young miss who is decidedly disappointed with her birthday present of a ‘stupid magic wand’ and would have much rather had a pair of roller skates. This isn’t the only disappointment life though:


she is unhappy with her clean-living, deadly dull life as a fairy and would far rather be a witch. Her mum is horrified at the mere thought but Rosemary is a determined child. She ignores the advice of her fellow fairies, packs her bags and flies away. She’ll soon be back, thinks her mum, but life in witches’ wood suits Rosemary all too well. She fashions for herself a treehouse and a boat and forages for nuts and berries. The other witches

26 Books for Keeps No.228 January 2018

are welcoming and one loans her a pair of roller skates and in return Rosemary teaches the witches the odd mischievous trick or two. Proud of her prowess on a broomstick, Rosemary flies back to show off her new skill to her mother back at the castle but while there she comes to know that she has made her mother very sad by leaving home. Eventually, after a reciprocal visit, a compromise is made: Rosemary the ‘witchfairy’ is born. Wonderfully

inspiring; hold

determinedly on to your dreams is the abiding message that shines through this meticulously illustrated book. It certainly wowed this reviewer and I’m sure Rosemary, the Witchfairy, will find countless other admirers both young and not so young. JB

Three Cheers For Women! HHHH

Marcia Williams, Walker, 48pp, 978 1 4063 7486 5, £12.99 hbk

Starting with Cleopatra and ending with Malala Yousafzai, Marcia Williams takes a chronological sprint through the lives of over 70 inspirational women with their stories and achievements depicted in her characteristic comic- strip style. This volume of brief biographies, full of facts, dates, quotes and jokes, provides a lively addition to the

a different woman and is cleverly designed

to include information as possible

as much in small

blocks of text whilst the detailed, humorous

bubbles. Each comic-strip illustrations

draw the eye and hold the attention, crammed as they are with action, background detail and light-hearted speech


frame is surrounded by snippets of fascinating fact and the recurring characters of a boy, a girl, a mouse and some birds with their own speech bubbles provides extra commentary and unites the whole work. This style and format ensures accessibility to a wide range of child readers and although each life story is necessarily dealt with fairly briefly there is enough information and detail to spark interest and encourage further investigation. The range of lives covered is wide

and diverse, from many cultures and countries, and for all the familiar figures, Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie, Anne Frank, Joan of Arc, to name a few, there are also less well known lives to discover, from Wangari Maathai, Kenyan

to Mae C. Jemison, the first African- American woman in space. In the final pages Marcia Williams squeezes in more

paragraphs of

information and lists of names so giving the reader an idea of


difficulty of choosing only 70 amazing women. This is a timely, welcome book that will remind child readers that gender, age, background, culture and country need not be barriers to world changing achievements. SR

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense Verse for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown Ups


Chris Harris, ill. Lane Smith, Two Hoots, 220pp, 978-1-5098-8104-8, £14.99 hbk

This is a wonderful playful collection of poetry

with appeal for children

and grown-ups. As the title suggests there is word play and nonsense, with islands where everyone is called Toby, a strange beast called a one eyed orr, a baby dragon who wants his knight on toast without the crust (armour) and what happens when a centipede tries to get his shoes on the right feet. There is plenty of humour with jokes and riddles (some deliberately very unfair) and puzzles, including a poem to read backwards and a duel between the letters d and b. The title belies the range within however, there is so much more than nonsense here. This is also a collection which is full of love and hope, warmly perceptive about being a child and growing up and being a parent observing this happening. There are poems that speak about

recent spate of children’s

book titles celebrating women’s roles throughout history. Each double-page spread features

familiar themes such as how annoying it can be to share a biscuit with a sibling and poems about the struggles of being a parent, such as The Sweetest Lullaby about the getting a child to sleep. There is commentary and wisdom from the writer on the ups and downs of life and how these help to shape you in The Little Hurts and The Valleys Shape the Mountains. You’ll never Feel as Tall as When you’re Ten speaks poignantly of childhood confidence and how easily this can be lost. There is recognition that no matter what excitement the world offers, the most special thing of all is a cuddle between parent and child. The book itself speaks to the reader in Let’s Meet Here in 25 Years – a wonderful poem about memories of childhood, growing up and confidence in the adult the young reader will one day become. There are poems of all shapes and

sizes, poems for readers to finish and dialogues which invite sharing and performing. Some poems are linked or reprised at different points in the book. There are puzzles to spot and solve, including a mysterious page numbering system. There

are many wonderful environmentalist,

illustrations from award winning illustrator Lane Smith. Ongoing banter between writer and illustrator add to the humour. The book design is excellent too, from the hard cover under the fly leaf which has different images including a character asking where his jacket has gone. This is a gem of a debut collection from American writer Chris Harris and in case you are wondering, contrary to the book’s title, he is very good at rhyming! SMc

Sky Chasers HHHH

Emma Carroll, Chicken House, 278pp, 978 1 910655 53 5, £6.99, pbk

This adventure story has an historical setting, in France, in the

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