BfK 5 – 8 Infant/Junior continued
who experiences gentle, everyday adventures rooted in the world around him. In Arthur and the Mystery of the Egg, Arthur finds a white egg that has unexpectedly appeared in the garden. This is greeted with near hysteria and then great seriousness by the rest of the family, although it is not always clear why. The egg is investigated and then monitored as it approaches hatching point, with TV crews coming to film as everyone thinks the big question of ‘which came first’ is about to be answered. The story ends with a little disappointment for the characters involved, but we can be sure that Arthur will bounce back for another story-there are
four more planned for publication in 2013.
In Arthur and the Earthworms, our young protagonist decides, with help from his grandfather, to start selling worms. When one customer places a huge order, the pressure is on to meet the deadline and supply the 450 worms required. With Arthur and his team working through the night it looks like success, until another disappointment strikes for Arthur and his pet duck gets a very large treat.
These are two enjoyable stories, which have been proficiently translated and illustrated on most pages with amusing black and white illustrations.
LR Tim, Ted and the Pirates HHH
Ian Whybrow illus. Russell Ayto, HarperCollins Children’s Books, 32pp, 978-0-00-713124-2, £6.99 pbk
Using the time-honored conceit of the imaginary world taking over from the everyday, Ian Whybrow wields a playful tale of derring-do.
Tim is so captivated by story-time that a whole wet world of sea, sharks and swashbuckling pirates floats into being and carries him off him with his ted. Adrift on the high seas, the two encounter a bad pirate crew and their mad captain. But it’s all fun and fierceness as Tim and Ted strut
8 – 10 Junior/Middle
An Illustrated Treasury of Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Illus Daniela Drescher, Floris, 208pp, 978-086315-947-3, £14.99, hbk
Versions of the Grimms’ fairy tales appear very frequently on the children’s book market, while stories from other traditions are relatively neglected, so it takes a distinctive approach to make an impression. This collection from the Edinburgh based Floris Books is exceptional. The publishers’ commitment to high quality production values is realized in a robust, large format book with clear text setting. Drescher’s delicate but vivid illustrations consist of full and half page paintings for each of the 30 selected stories, punctuated by pencil sketches and silhouette motifs. The paintings are in the magical romantic tradition, depicting vulnerable women and children, for the most part, confronting natural and supernatural terrors. Many of the classic stories appear, but the uncredited translator and editor have nobly avoided any Disneyfication or Bowdlerization of the plots. Thus, we read a version of Cinderella in which help comes not from a fairy godmother but from birds and trees, and in which the ugly sisters’ eyes are pecked out by pigeons. In two of the stories, evildoers are punished by being rolled to death in nail-studded barrels. Beauty is unapologetically conflated with virtue, and disfigurement with evil. Less familiar stories, such as the Two Kings’ Children, provide fascinatingly rambling plots with surreal little twists suggesting their deep pagan origins. Traces of the oral tradition are preserved in sign off lines like ‘And the mouth of the person who last told all this is still warm’, while happily ever after is accompanied by such grimmer conclusions as Rumpelstiltskin ripping himself in half. This is an invaluable collection, which re-imbues these seminal narratives with much of their thought-provoking and talk-provoking vividness.
GH Goblins vs Dwarves HHHH
Philip Reeve, Scholastic, 320pp, 9781407134802, £6.99 pbk
They are back; Skarper, Henwyn, Princess Ned and all their friends living in
Clovenstone Castle. After their adventures which were recounted in Goblins, everyone has settled down and life is pleasant - if a bit boring for some. Not for long. The arrival of the Dwarves intent on taking the precious slowsilver presents a threat to the survival of all who live in the castle; it is war.
Here is a sequel that proves to be as lively as its predecessor. Skarper and Henwyn are attractive anti-heroes, and Reeve clearly enjoys confounding the expectations of readers well used to the conventions of fantasy; Princess Ned is no beautiful, young girl rather a comfortable elderly lady, Garvon Hael a very unheroic hero. However, other characters are more recognisable; the dwarves are very much the traditional hard working dour race familiar from Tolkien. The juxtaposition allows plenty of scope for humour, both the slapstick that young readers will enjoy, but also more subtle - it is the slowsilver, the fuel for the Head, that is also its destruction. However, the humour never overwhelms the reader. It enlivens an exciting tale, adding a little irreverence to the fantasy. For there is a serious side. Within a traditional narrative, Reeve introduces themes of tolerance, ecology, friendship, loyalty, loss and truth. However, these are so skilfully handled that there is no sense that the author is preaching. Rather they enrich a fast paced, lively adventure adding depth to a familiar landscape. The result is a thoroughly satisfying read for any young reader with a lively imagination and a sense of humour. FH
No Return – Captain Scott’s Race to the Pole
Peter Goldthorpe Franklin Watts, 32pp, 978 0 7344 1279 9, £7.99pbk
If you are looking for history, geography, mapping, timelines and a gripping true story of adventure, determination, danger and endurance to the point of death all within one wrapper, then this non-fiction rendering of Scott’s final journey is a book for you.
It tells the story of Captain Robert Scott’s race against the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen to reach the South Pole. Join Scott as he prepares, sails, arrives in Antarctica, sends out search parties and
24 Books for Keeps No.200 May 2013
embarks on his last fatal adventure, only to find a Norwegian flag fluttering at his final destination. Discover how despair, cold, lack of food and a vicious storm defeated him and his team on their run for home. Find out how his scientific approach to collecting samples left rich information about an unknown continent for the search team who found and buried the frozen bodies.
This is a book packed with information which can be appreciated at several levels. The text itself is detailed and requires some stamina on the part of the reader but the rich, retro illustrations tell the story independently of the narrative for younger or less experienced readers. Although we take natural history knowledge for granted in the twenty-first century, readers of this book can embark on a voyage of discovery about a continent that was unknown a hundred years ago, discovering afresh the wonders of the Antarctic and one man’s determination to conquer it.
Charlie’s War Illustrated: Remembering World War One HHHHH
Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom, Franklin Watts, 32pp, 978 1 4451 10334, £11.99 hbk
As a child Mick Manning wondered why his grandfather always wore a poppy in his buttonhole on Remembrance Day. This book, written as if Charlie Manning himself was talking to us, is the answer to that question. He was a fighter in the artillery serving in Egypt, Palestine and France during World War One. His resilience, energy and sense of duty are apparent but the privations and brutalities of the war are not hidden. These author illustrators know how to draw young readers into a fascinating personal story while passing on a great deal of information. The artwork is arresting and includes some fine diagrams of the layout of the trenches and the structure of tanks. Pages are well designed with written text, illustrations, photographs and pictures of memorabilia, for example cigarette cards, all working harmoniously to tell the story. There is a lot of telling dialogue in speech balloons while the language in the main text is often lyrical. We have a dynamic word picture of the soldiers moving into battle: ‘Tough lads, shy lads, mummy’s boys and bullies pushed out of the trenches in their
thousands; going ‘over the top’ into a storm of bullets and explosions’ .
It is the
little human details that make this book so memorable. ‘Some gas smelled like the pear-drop sweets I used to get from my auntie’s shop and I’ve never eaten them since!’ We also learn that messages requesting ‘pen pals’ were sometimes found in boxes of shells from the women who worked in the dangerous ammunitions factories back home. The bravery of the soldiers, the camaraderie in the trenches where soldiers would sing songs, play cards and make trench art from bits of wood and the warm friendships formed thread through the story. But these authors never hide the human cost of a terrible conflict. Near the end of the book we learn that Charlie survived to return to his job in the steelworks and his friend Fred to running a pub near Liverpool. ‘But the things we’d seen and done and the friends we’d left behind haunted us for the rest of our lives’.
The Secrets of Stonehenge HHHHH
Nick Manning and Brita Granstrom, Frances Lincoln, 32pp, 978 1 84780 346 7, £11.99, hbk
Manning and Granstrom have produced some striking and award winning picture book histories for junior school age children. Here they turn their hands to a challenging subject. Challenging in two senses: first, the story of Stonehenge is complicated and more conjecture and dispute than fact; secondly, its story provides little of the contextual visual and documentary evidence that Manning and Granstrom have exploited so well in their histories of more recent times. Nevertheless they make an excellent fist of it: introducing us first to developments in Stone Age life, agriculture and worship that provide the context for the beginning of the monument: then taking us carefully through the various stages of its erection and alteration. They illustrate how the bluestones and sarsens might have been transported from where they occur naturally to Salisbury Plain, and the kind of organisation and society that this implies; and finally place Stonehenge in the context of the sacred prehistoric landscape that surrounds it and the latest archaeological discoveries and thinking. At each stage, without unnecessarily complicating
their stuff, threatening and overwhelming the dastardly crew. It’s only when Tim spills his drink on the story-time rug that reality returns. This account, told in rhyme, fair rollicks along.
There’s a distinctly Japanese feel to Russel Ayto’s strong flat patterns, hard edges and idiosyncratic characters with their open rectangular mouths. The colours too are oriental, dominated by dark blues and greens, juxtaposed with maroon and white with yellow minimal and then only in the classroom scenes. The sophistication of these illustrations along with the violent escapades, make this a great picture book for older kids, especially those who like action.
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