Grand Wolf when Wolfgang grieves over the death of his friend, the old wolf. Once again Spider helps by asking Wolfgang to remember the good times and to write Grand Wolf ‘a lovely long letter’. This book reminds me of two other wise books on this difficult theme: Goodbye Mog and Badger’s Parting Gifts. The simple rhyming text and involving illustrations make the Wolfgang books likely to appeal to young children.MM

Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers!


Melanie Walsh, Walker, 32pp, 978-1-4063-4445-5, £11.99 hbk

Explaining autism to quite young children can be very difficult, and this splendid picture book will go a long way to helping classmates and friends understand just what goes on in the brain of a child with Asperger Syndrome. Isaac likes to think of himself as a superhero, and with his unusual talents, he and his friends must learn how to cope with each other’s differences. He loves bouncing on the trampoline, but not football; he likes to tell friends lots of interesting facts, but sometimes they won’t listen; he doesn’t always understand jokes, and in class he is allowed to play with his favourite toy because it helps him concentrate.

really hurt his ears, and when he looks at someone, it scares him if he looks straight into their eyes. He knows he isn’t really a superhero, but he and his brother like to pretend they are in their games, and he tells us that his brother understands and accepts him with all his differences. The hope is that after reading this story, others will understand him too. The pictures are full of large figures on simple, effective backgrounds, and lots of colour and humour add to the fun.

perfect book for schools and explains Asperger Syndrome in terms children will relate to easily. ES

This is the Noises can

5 – 8 Infant/Junior continued Mr Moon Wakes Up


Jemima Sharpe, Child’s Play 32pp, 978-1-8464-3693-2, £5.99pbk

At first, it appears that Mr Moon is a useful bedtime companion, but not a very exciting daytime friend. Whatever fun is going on, he just dozes right through it. Until, that is, night time arrives and Mr Moon wakes up. Then the reader is taken on an ethereal adventure. As the birds on the wallpaper start

to sing, Mr Moon leads the reader into a fantastic other-world garden of mystical creatures, games of chess and badminton, and a giant maze. There’s even some messing about in boats and a Tea Party (hints of Alice in Wonderland?). Mr Moon is anything but sleepy as he climbs back out of the wallpaper and takes his owner back to bed. Although a wallpaper portal may

sound unlikely, the story works well and the dream-like quality

illustrations creates real magic for the reader. It’s a perfect book for bedtime, and its story of gentle dreams in beautiful places is ideal for any child who is frightened of the dark or who suffers from nightmares. GR

The Secret of the Kelpie HHHH

Lari Don, ill. Philip Longson, Floris Books, 32pp, 978-1-7825-0252-4, £5.99 pbk

This evocative re-telling of a folk tale from Scotland tells the story of the kelpie, the mythical beast who lives in the lochs and who can shape-shift into a white horse when on dry land and carry away unwary children for his supper! The soft-focus, beautiful illustrations conjure up all the mystery inherent in folk tales and add greatly to the text. Six children are playing by the loch near their home, when a beautiful white horse suddenly appears. Five of the children are enchanted with the beast and climb on his back for a ride, but Flora, the youngest, holds back

of the

and feels there is something wrong. It is only she who can save her brothers and sisters from their fate as the horse heads for the water, and they fear they will drown. How she does so is part of the legend, and the children are saved from a dramatic death in a very dramatic way. The beauty of the story is in the illustrations, which capture the situation vividly and will keep children enthralled – if, perhaps, a bit frightened too! ES

The Journey HHHH

Francesca Sanna, Flying Eye Books, 48pp, 978-1-9092-6399-4 £12.99hbk


illustrated with constantly changing colour

the poignant story of one fatherless family who flee from war. There is fear, sadness, loneliness and danger a-plenty, but it’s also a book about hope, about love and about freedom. The

darkness to light is subtly portrayed through the images. At the start of the story, the sea beside which the children play is black – a harbinger of what’s to come. At times the family is surrounded by the blackness of both night and fear, but as they progressively

freedom and safety, the openings become light and colourful. There’s

about the narrative, derived from the interactions that the author had with refugees. Told sympathetically from the perspective of a young child, the story is free of political rhetoric or moralising. The moment when the child sees birds flying in a blue sky and realises that they are migrating together is a moving insight into the hopes of people fleeing from fear. It is an ideal book for anyone who

wants to share the issue of migration with young children. For a classroom where refugee children are arriving, it provides a powerful means of giving their classmates a glimpse into the harrowing journeys that have brought them to that point. GR

8 – 10 Junior/Middle

The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily


Dino Buzzati, translator Frances Lobb, Alma Books, 172pp, 978 1 84749 572 3, £6.99 pbk

It is difficult to determine the audience for this English translation of a classic of Italian children’s literature, first published in 1945 and written and illustrated by Dino Buzzati, novelist, journalist, painter and well-known figure of twentieth century Italian literature. It may appeal more to adult readers and students of children’s literature, although the beautiful production, fable-like story and old-fashioned but intriguing and detailed illustrations may hook confident child readers in once they get used to the complicated language and discursive style. The book reads like a folk tale and tells the story of the bears of Sicily who,

starving after a harsh winter, descend from the mountains in search of food. They proceed to invade the valley below, defeating the army of the Grand Duke of Sicily and ruling over the land. There is a plot thread involving the kidnap and rescue of the King of the Bears’ son as well as many complicated and intertwined adventures with battles, intrigue, treachery and encounters with magical characters and monsters. Ultimately this book becomes an allegory on the corruption of power, as the bears begin to lose their true nature, and it deals with themes of war, politics, love, honour, courage, betrayal, vanity and self-knowledge in a philosophical way. The text is broken up by poems, asides, footnotes and a mix of black and white line drawings and detailed full colour illustrations. This book could be read as a fantasy

story, if a rather rambling, disjointed one, or a political allegory, or a mixture of both. It is

26 Books for Keeps No.218 May 2016

fitting that the book ends with a Reader’s Companion written by Lemony Snicket as the witty knowingness and digressions of the author’s narrative voice closely resemble the tone of Lemony Snicket’s stories.

very clever, humorous and helpful, with a summary of each chapter, and a list of interesting questions and activities, and may well act as the best way into this novel for young readers. This intriguing work is best described as a literary curiosity; there is plenty to treasure and discover here but it will probably be of limited appeal to a young audience. SR

Spangles McNasty and the Fish of Gold


Steve Webb & Chris Mould, Andersen Press, 172 pp, 978 1 783 4440 07, £6.99 pbk

This is the start of a new series, featuring Spangles McNasty, one of

This Reader’s Companion is the

hope to meet in a book. He likes to upset babies and old ladies, to let off wind loudly in libraries and to steal sparkly, spangly things from anywhere he can. He and his friend Sausage-face Pete set out to steal all the goldfish in Sandylands and Bitterly Bay, thinking they can wait until the goldfish grow to the size of whales and then melt them down to make gold. And their best-ever plan is to steal the Mayor’s fabulous new Fish of Gold stored in a boat yard in Bitterly Bay. But they are thwarted by a young hero called Freddie Taylor, an ancient pink-haired candy floss seller, and a fortune-teller who can only tell you what’s happened in the past! This partnership between Steve

Webb and Chris Mould is brilliant. The illustrations are just as hilarious as the laugh-out-loud text. Spangles McNasty, with his dastardly

nastiest characters you could a ring of theme of moving from palettes, The Journey in simple language

and tells


Michael Foreman, Andersen Press, 32pp, 978-1-7834-4198-3, £11.99 pbk

We first meet Tufty as he and his family (he’s the youngest duckling) swim in a lake in the grounds of what appears to be Buckingham Palace. Tufty we are told, has trouble keeping up with the others. The Royal residents (Mother Duck calls them the Royal Duck and Duckess) feed the ducks during their morning walk by the lake; but with the advent of colder days and nights, Father Duck tells his offspring that it will soon be time to fly south to warmer climes. Soon after, they’re on their way,

but Tufty, unable to keep pace with the rest, is left behind and worse, his view of his family is blocked by the towering city skyscrapers. Exhausted, the duckling lands on what to him looks like an island amid the traffic and there he meets a homeless man. Leaving the roaring traffic behind, the man takes Tufty to his makeshift home and there cares for him and feeds him all through the

journey towards authenticity

When spring finally comes, Tufty, now much bigger and stronger is ready to make the flight back to the royal lake, so when he spies his family flying overhead, he joins them. Back in the palace gardens he finds a mate and not long after, the two of them return to the lake in the woods and are warmly received by the kindly man once more. This is a thoroughly

tale of warmth and caring: why one wonders is it so often those who have least to give, who are ready to share what little they have. As always Foreman’s eloquent watercolour and pencil illustrations are truly beautiful, offering as they do, a constantly changing vista from expansive cityscape to zoomed-in close up of Tufty and his family as they huddle up together for warmth. JB

satisfying winter.

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