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BfK Junior continued


can be a pirate too.” These last words alarm the children who, not wishing to become pirates, stay well clear of the bowls of stew. Amazing things continue to happen with the house transforming into a pirate ship taking off and visiting ‘Sally’s Little Donut Shop’ in town followed by a tot of rum before sailing back home in time for mum and dad’s return, who arrive feeing peckish and in the mood for a spot of pirate stew.….! Pirate Stew is a splendid, rollicking


rhyme of a picture book guaranteed to delight young readers. The illustrations are just fabulous, packed with comic characters, detail and pirate fun. Look out for the many pirate references drawn from classics such as Treasure Island and Peter Pan. SMc


Vampire Peter 


Ben Manley, ill. Hannah Peck, Andersen Press, 32pp, 978-1-78344-873-9, £12.99, hbk


When Vampetru Basarab Dracul joins the class, the teacher insists on calling       the other children from his differences. Peter’s cape and fangs are obvious,      hangs upside down from the high bars (‘showing off’, says the teacher), causes trouble in the playground (‘No biting!’) and tells everyone that his family owns a castle. ‘Peter!’ sighs the teacher, head in hand as she cues the other children to dismiss his fantasies. So when the class gerbil goes missing, Peter is naturally blamed.


But did he really do it? A single page-turn is all it takes to change our viewpoint. The narrator of this story is the quiet girl who’s been observing Peter all along. She let the gerbil out and won’t admit it, but knows that Peter shouldn’t take the blame. He was protecting her from bullies in the playground and only messed around to make her laugh. Revisiting previous      she must own up, but the escaped gerbil has been spotted on the roof and Peter’s superpowers are required. Will anyone listen to her confession? Happily, all’s well that ends well,


and Peter spirits his friends away for a Halloween extravaganza of the kind that everyone will want to share! This ever-so-slightly spooky picture book about friendship is easy to enjoy and has bags of child-appeal, but there’s lots here to challenge, extend and satisfy on deeper levels, too. At its heart, this is a story about differences, expectations and perspectives. Moral dilemmas of the kind that children frequently encounter sit centre- stage, but there’s a light touch to the  interchange in Romanian between Peter and his coachman gets a footnote translation (‘Shall I destroy her, your Majesty?’ ‘No, Orlok. She’s      origins are clear for all to see. Hannah Peck’s autumnal palette gives


her expressive illustrations a timeless feel, and although there’s the occasional mildly gruesome detail (a frog in jelly plus eyeballs for lunch…) the macabre is avoided in favour of a more theatrical approach, ensuring this book’s appeal well beyond pumpkin season. Vampire Peter   


appreciative audience in Year One, but will also appeal to younger children familiar with a school setting who enjoy a (gentle) scare. CFH


The Song of the Nightingale 


Junior/Middle Ed’s Choice The Midnight Guardians 


Ross Montgomery, Walker Books, 400pp, 9781406391183, £7.99 pbk


Tanya Landman, illustrated by Laura Carlin, Walker Studio, 978 14063 4939 9, £12.99 hbk


Tanya Landman is best known for her  middle grade adventures and full throttle YA novels. She doesn’t do cosy or comforting, she does earthy and direct. She looks her readers in the eye and challenges them to keep up. This lyrical and witty story inspired by


a well-known creation fable is gentler, but Landman’s forthright narrative challenge remains at its heart. The invitation to pull up a seat, to revel in the spectacle. And what a spectacle! The God of the original fable is recast as ‘the painter’. She has a strong work ethic, and there’s a great deal to be done if she’s going to add colour to the animal kingdom, so she briskly organises her subjects and opens her paintbox. Which is where ‘the painter’ of this gorgeous book plays her part. Illustrator and ceramicist Laura Carlin’s        and tentative until their extraordinary        parrots and mandrill are the architects of  also breath-taking drama. (Take a bow, Laura and the designer of the blue whale double-page spread.) The pacing of both text and artwork is perfect, respectful of both the original fable and the real natural world to which it relates. This is the kind of book that will establish a profound connection with its readers  will last. Your copy of The Song of the Nightingale will move house with you. MMa


26 Books for Keeps No.245 November 2020


Col is miserable. He has been separated from his beloved older sister, evacuated to stay with an aunt who does not welcome him- and treats him accordingly. When,  longed-for Christmas promised by Rose is not going to happen; she will stay in London to face the Blitz, he decides to follow that tickle in his brain and run away to the deserted family cottage to relive happier times alone. There       a call from the Guardians, his three imaginary companions from early childhood. They need his help. And so a desperate quest begins.... Take a sprinkle of magic from The Midnight Folk, a touch of the human warmth from Goodnight Mr Tom and perhaps the cold of the Fimbulwinter from The Weirdstone of Brisingamen the elements that contribute to Ross Montgomery’s latest novel, a real page-turner. It is rooted in tradition        the darkest moments of World War II as the Blitz reaches its climax. It can be tricky to marry the world of the imagination to that of the everyday. Montgomery achieves this


Migrants 


Issa Watanabe, Gecko Press, 40pp, 978-1-776573-13-4, £11.99 hbk


This hauntingly beautiful picturebook depicts a group of creatures making       featureless landscape. The dark background throws their jewel-bright presence into sharp relief, putting them centre-stage and focusing our attention on their predicament. There is no text to tell us who they are or where they’re going, although we immediately start wondering. But answers on these dreamlike pages shift and change, intriguing us by their ambiguity. The diversity of the group is striking. More than thirty species of animals and birds from different habitats and continents are depicted. Every creature walks upright, each is dressed in distinctive items of human clothing and all are portrayed with dignity and respect. Children are cared for by adults who cannot be their parents, and a sense of mutual attention and support is obvious. Carrying pots, babies and bundles, the travellers stop only to share food


with ease. The text is interspersed with exerts from newspapers and             Guardians, each with their distinct characteristics, the Midwinter King a truly terrifying adversary. Both Col and Ruth are very recognisable young people and young readers will want to accompany them as they face both human obstacles and giants from British mythology. The prose includes plenty of dialogue,      accessible, carrying the reader through the adventures and bringing them to life. This is an author whose skills have been steadily developing  a promise of more to come. Highly recommended. FH


in a forest of bare-boned trees, or sleep in a clearing marked by strange red saplings. Trailing them comes Death, in the form of a childlike       Looking small and oddly vulnerable, Death is accompanied by a large blue ibis, but the pair remain peripheral until the travellers board a boat which capsizes in rough seas. A rabbit is washed up, lifeless, on the beach, and is cradled by Death and the ibis in a powerful image that speaks of care and peace, as well as loss. We bring our own experiences to this book, and some readers may  children welcome opportunities to talk about things that matter, and do so with unexpected insight. As one young reader recently observed, ‘Death is kind to the rabbit, because it stops it suffering.’ The rabbit is not the only creature


      migrants have arrived, but where, and at what cost? The nature of this place is uncertain, and only their children are eager to embrace its possibilities. There is hope within this book, but it has been hard-won through courage,


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