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BfK 10-14 Middle/Secondary A Child of Books HHHH


Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston, Walker Books, 40pp, 978 1 4063 5831 5, £12.99 hbk


This is what might be called,


recall an old American expression, a ‘motherhood and apple pie’ book. The sentiments that it expresses about the value of books to children and the power of the imagination are likely to be heartily endorsed by anyone in the children’s book world. And it’s certainly a cleverly conceived, ingeniously illustrated and beautifully designed


book. Passages of text from ‘classic children’s books’ are used to form a landscape of adventure ‘made from stories’ – a sea of words, a mountain of make believe, a forest of fairy tales - in which a boy and a girl discover ‘a home of invention where anyone at all can come.’ A list of the many ‘classic’ books from which chunks of text are extracted forms the endpapers of the book. It’s the kind of book that you and I might buy to give one another for Christmas and that would reflect well on both of us. Really it’s a book for adults and, of course, a very special group of adults. The ‘classics’ (sorry, but I do need the quotation marks) that are chosen as the gateways to a child’s imagination are mainly nineteenth century, and also include some, like Moby Dick, Robinson Crusoe, The Three Musketeers, Great Expectations and Gulliver’s Travels, that were not


and produced picture to


to terms with losing her Great-Gran Beatrix, who had lived in the nearby Rise and Shine Happy Care Home. Bee – real name Beatrix Daffodil Tulip Chrysanthemum Rose Edwards – is a wonderful creation of a character, with her love of famous actors from old musicals, and of dressing in hats, scarves and stripy socks. She has an intense fear of water, and she feels she has to perform superstitious rituals (hopping over a bridge each time she crosses it) to keep her safe. She also has asthma and has to manage her condition with her inhaler. When a new boy arrives at school with the equally unusual name of Moon Star, they strike up an instant friendship, and their adventures see them each helping the other to achieve important steps forward in their lives. Moon Star learns how to read and write, and Bee learns to swim, so that she can take part in a sponsored swim to raise money for the care home. Moon Star is from a travelling family, and his grandmother is fighting against the prejudice of the local community who treat her with distrust and seek to move her on. We find out about the life of bees, and how to care for them, about the special relationship between a boy and a horse, and how you can overcome fears and other people’s negative attitudes, through sheer determination and belief


children. There are many, too, that few children would read in the original but are more likely to know from abridgements or film adaptations. They are the kind of titles that might have still been recommended to bookish children in the middle of the last century but, with some exceptions like The Secret Garden, Wind in the Willows and the Alice titles, have long since disappeared from most children’s shelves. The creators of the book claim that these were the books they enjoyed in their childhoods. If so, born in the late 1970s, they missed an awful lot of good stuff, including some outstanding picture books. But then, so it says on his website, Sam Winston has a history of ‘data mining’ ‘classic nineteenth century children’s literature


narratives and visual assumptions’. And these are, I imagine, conveniently out of copyright This is a book that ‘salutes the flag’ but says little about many of the books that have fired children’s imaginations in the last half century or that are likely to do so in the future.


CB Swimming to the Moon HHHH


Jane Elson, Hodder Children’s Books, 306pp, 978 1 444 92775 7, £6.99 pbk


There are many fascinating themes to explore in this heart-warming story. Bee is in the last year of primary school, and she’s struggling to come


to playfully reveal meta written for


yourself. A rich and beautiful story, with memorable characters who stay with you, and a strong message about acceptance and friendship.


LT Born Scared HHHH


Kevin Brooks, Electric Monkey, 246pp, 978 1 4052 7619 1, £7.99, hbk


For Elliot, ‘Moloxetine helps to keep the beast at bay’. He’s fearful


anything and everyone. Except for Mum, Auntie Shirley and The Doc. He’s tried school just twice – no use. Always, the overwhelming terror of that beast. He tells us he was born scared – at 26 weeks, weighing just under a pound. His twin sister didn’t make it out of intensive care. Except she did. In thirteen year old Elliot’s head,


there, a calming, more rational and even humorous companion. They talk often, especially at pressured moments, which is just as well since as the book opens, Elliot is facing several hours of acute crisis. He’s down to his last tablet


Moloxetine. It’s Christmas Eve in his North Yorkshire village, with the snow blowing in off the moors. He and Mum requested


prescription in good time, but the pharmacist packaged up the wrong pills. Now they are desperate to collect the revised prescription before the pharmacy closes for the holidays, but Mum’s car has given up the ghost and Auntie Shirley, who agreed to fetch the pills for them, has gone missing. So Mum sets off through the snow to tramp the 482 metres (Elliot knows such things) to Shirley’s house


26 Books for Keeps No.220 September 2016 the repeat of Ellamay has always been of in policemen really decide


Gordon’s Corsa, which they know has been careering all over the countryside, by blocking the street with their patrol car and then sit, seat belts fastened, waiting for him to crash into them? Then again, the bank-robbers are violent enough to use a pistol butt on the faces of the captive women, yet their gormless incompetence could belong to a duo of comic baddies from the village panto. Even so Brooks has created a memorable character in Elliot and a plot which winds tensely up to its climax. Elliot’s courage during those terrifying 482 metres and his selfless bravery as he confronts the thieves to save his aunt and his mother – long after the effects of his ‘fear pills’ have worn off – are at once moving and unsentimental. GF


Binny Bewitched


to find out what’s happened. Mum’s anxious about leaving Elliot, but he should be okay – he has his ‘fear-proof room’, quadruple glazing, blackout blinds and the rest. Maybe the 1,762 books on his shelves account for his articulate self-awareness. Meanwhile, Kevin Brooks keeps his readers better


Elliot and Mum about what’s been going on. Thanks to a tip-off from a talkative employee in the local bank, a couple of small-time crooks know that Shirley’s wimpish son Gordon, the bank’s manager, should soon be home. Since it’s Christmas Eve, the bank’s closed early and the staff are partying at the King’s Head. Every year, Gordon goes for


informed than HHHHH


Hilary McKay, Hodder Children’s Books, 244pp, 978-1444925432, £12.99 hbk


Another novel by this author delivers its usual treat. A sequel to the equally brilliant two novels already featuring Binny and her affectionate family, this one sees


thirteen and still preferring reading The Railway Children and A Little Princess to


minutes and then he’s off home to Mother. So now the robbers, unwisely disguised in cheap Santa outfits, have bound and gagged Shirley and dealt with Elliot’s Mum likewise when she arrives. When Gordon gets


the robbers plan to take him straight back to unlock the bank’s vaults – or else his mother gets it. But, Gordon doesn’t come home. His drink’s been spiked with something hallucinogenic and when he does set


there, ten dutiful


media has to offer. She also suffers from the sort of exaggerated sense of guilt that also sometimes used to afflict E.Nesbit’s Bastable family. In this current story her distress is occasioned after taking some much needed money left outside a cash dispensing machine which then gets lost before she has a chance to return it to the bank involved. Meanwhile middle-aged Miss Piper next door is showing some alarming witch-like behaviour; something else that has to be sorted out. So much for a plot which gently


later than usual, he’s hurtling about the streets completely off his head, attracting the attention of the police. That’s the situation which plays out through the rest of the book. Much of the novel stays with Elliot


as he ventures into the night towards Shirley’s house when Mum fails to return.


meets: four men and a dog on their way back from the pub, menacing sheep and cows, and a couple of psycho


jackets, armed with rifle and knife (“You make a sound .... and I’ll cut your throat”). Kevin Brooks deploys a small cast


everyday world. Occasionally Brooks tests credibility. Would two


of our deer hunters in combat


on a small stage, which makes for a strong focus. The incomprehensible images which crowd Elliot’s mind on his journey give readers a disturbing perspective


He’s unlucky in those he off, hours anything the her aged around social to stop


but firmly keeps readers in suspense until the last two pages. But the real joy in all McKay’s stories provided by the passages of dialogue, both inner and as expressed to others. Inconsequential at times, elsewhere embarrassingly honest, there is never a dull moment because in this family you can say pretty well what you like. Except that nothing too negative ever comes over, given that Binny’s mother (father is dead), her big sister and her little brother all hold her in the same amused affection that she feels for them. There is also room for a best girlfriend as well as delightful Gareth, the over-opinionated nerdish adolescent who is always there for Binny when she needs him most, which in this story she often does. Their final, first clumsy embrace just before the end heralds a new start for both of them. If this also betokens the end of this series, so much the worst. But for providing so much wit, insight and unaffected


for so many years now, Hilary McKay deserves all grateful


thanks


enjoyment from


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