BfK 5 – 8 Infant/Junior continued
lightning during an electrical storm, Harry was given super powers, which he uses to solve mysteries, as well as to score goals for the Middletown Mini-Stars. In this story, chemicals from a disused factory have caused mutations in surrounding plant life, which threatens to take over the town. The plants start to attack people, who then turn green and start behaving very strangely – taking root in parks, gardens, and even plant pots.
This book is nicely-paced for young readers. With plenty of action and witty illustrations that really add to the story, as well as three sections presented in comic book style, there is plenty here to hold children’s interest.
Super Soccer Boy is a rather suburban superhero, and so much the better for it, although he seems to lack the personal challenges that usually undercut a hero’s strength. An irritating sister or an unfair teacher might have stood in nicely for an arch nemesis.
LF The Snow Bear HHH
Holly Webb, Stripes Publishing, 978 1 84715 255 8, £7.99
Sara is visiting Grandad, who lives deep in the countryside. Their intention is to drive to Sara’s parents in the next day or two so that they can all be together for Christmas. But the snow starts to fall and soon they’re cut off from the world. Grandad keeps Sara entertained with stories of his Arctic childhood, especially of a young polar bear. The next day, she builds her own snow bear and then, as the snowstorm worsens, together they build an igloo. Soon their travel plans become precarious and Sara misses home. Desperate to ward off her homesickness, Grandad agrees to a midnight feast in the igloo. There, they contemplate the twinkling night sky – and Sara sets off on her own magical adventure involving a bear cub, the Northern Lights and Inuit culture.
The story is charming and beautifully written. It is realistic enough for us to empathise with Sara and to make her fantasy adventure all the more credible. Short descriptive passages capture the coldness of the landscape while facts about the Arctic, its people and animals bring the story alive. Though Sara encounters many a danger on her journey – and needs to show tremendous courage –the story is at all times gentle and reassuring. Organised into short chapters and interspersed with delicate pencil drawings, the book is perfect for young children developing their reading stamina.
AF My Happy Life HHH
Rose Lagercrantz ill Eva Eriksson Gecko Press, 144pp, 978-1-877467-80-6 £7.99, pbk
A gentle story of Dani and her ‘happy life’, written by the award winning Rose Lagercrantz and smoothly translated from Swedish into a flowing story of the ups and downs of life for a young child.
Dani has been longing to start school for ‘her whole life’ and when she does, she meets Ella, who becomes the very best of best friends. Dani’s happiness is challenged when Ella moves away but a satisfying resolution is presented and happiness returns for Dani and the reader. The mild observations of a 6 year old (‘They always ate the same number of sandwiches for lunch. Dani ate triangles and Ella ate rectangles’) paints a warm picture of the friendship and Dani’s day to day life, which is also given depth as Dani’s emotions are portrayed. Although font size is smaller than some ‘early readers’, the layout, with illustrations on almost every page and only a couple of lines of text, means that younger readers will be able to grow in confidence, and should be able to enjoy reading an attractively produced, ‘grown-up’ looking book. Eva Eriksson’s black and white line drawings develop the story and supplement the text throughout. One small note: Dani’s mother has passed away, which is dealt with briefly and sympathetically but may cause sensitive readers to be momentarily unsettled.
LR Monkey Nut HHHHH
Simon Rickerty, Simon and Schuster, 32pp, 978-0-85707-576-5, £5.99 pbk
Two little characters see an object. They are not sure what it is, but each is quite sure ‘It’s mine!’ Finding difficulty in sharing is probably universal in the very young. So children will relate to this theme which is explored here in a hugely entertaining way. The book encourages children’s creativity by inviting them to think of different uses for a monkey nut and offering imaginative suggestions: a chair, a telephone, a rattle, a drum, a boat and a skateboard. The story takes a dramatic turn when a giant spider tries to seize the nut. It flies from its grasp and is caught by an elephant. The elephant breaks the shell in two to eat the nut and the book ends with the two characters holding hands, each wearing half the shell as a hat – sharing at last!
The design is exciting, with simple and effective use of colour. Written text is minimal but there is varied size and orientation of print and an interesting use of space linking with children’s experience of screen based texts. It occurred to me that looking at the different expressions on the faces of the characters might be helpful to children who have difficulty in understanding the feelings and emotions of others. But, actually, I think anyone would find looking at this book an exhilarating experience. MM
Poo Bum HHH
Stephanie Blake, Gecko Press, 32pp, 978 1877467 96 7, £10.99, hbk
It’s all in the title. This is a story that is about the glee of young children in repeating words that they know adults would rather they didn’t say. It’s a simple tale told in fifteen bright illustrations, whose sense of clarity, colour and design
24 Books for Keeps No.198 January 2013
I Have the Right to be a Child
Alain Serres, Aurelia Fronty illus. Sarah Ardizzone trans., Phoenix Yard, 40pp, 978 1 907912 11 5, pbk, £7.99
Imagine the challenge of creating a picturebook from the 54 articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: putting the articles into a language that can be understood by younger children, and, through words and pictures, encouraging your readers to think about the implications of the Convention. It’s easy to see how the result might be worthy (how could it be otherwise) but dull; or perhaps shocking in showing children whose rights were not respected. This book confounds such expectations. It is the work of a French author and illustrator, and put into English by prize-winning translator, Sarah Ardizzone. While the book’s images are positive, showing children enjoying rights that they may even take for granted rather than children who live in poverty or are abused, it asks questions that invite
children to imagine what it might mean, for instance, not to have a name, a family or a country to call one’s own. The text is a clever mix of such questions with small assertions of individuality. A question about the right to grow up healthy is followed by the statement “Oranges are my favourite food: you can drink them and you can eat them.” So general rights are linked back to individual children with unique personalities, although the children who speak are never identified and could be any of those who appear in the illustrations. The illustrations are perhaps the book’s greatest triumph. They have the quality of a child’s own art-work and show children of all complexions and cultural backgrounds, indicated by the clothing, toys and animals that are pictured. Colourful and vibrant, they express complex ideas in a simple form. The question, “Do I have the right to a roof over my head?” is accompanied by the illustration of a girl sleeping peacefully in a blanket which has a design of the map of her community with its buildings, roads and woodland. Gradually, through the book, the illustrations build up a picture of the interdependence of individuals, communities and the natural world, through which all our lives are realised. This is a brilliant piece of work from author, illustrator and translator and congratulations and thanks are due to Phoenix Yard, its British publisher. CB
are reminiscent of Dick Bruna, although this rabbit is nothing like Miffy. At the beginning of the story all he says when spoken to is “Poo Bum”. He is eaten by a wolf, who is also consequently restricted to this two word response, until a doctor, also a rabbit and incidentally Poo Bum’s father, bravely plucks his child from the wolf’s jaws. Now his son, who reveals himself to be called Simon, speaks in an exaggeratedly polite and precise manner, apparently cured of his scatological urges, until finding a new taboo word on the last page: “Fart!” The story plays with both the conventions of the moral tale and those of language and manners. The
work of an American author and illustrator whose work is usually published in France (this book in 2002), it is translated by Linda Burgess and was first published in English in New Zealand. It will please children, both its use of rude words and its sly endorsement of children’s resistance to and manipulation of adults. Adults who are brave enough to share it with their children can take comfort in the similar courage of the rabbit father and Simon’s comic formal eloquence when he is not being provocative. Both children and adults should enjoy the boldness of colour, design and pictorial characterisation.
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