On Sudden Hill Linda Sarah and Benji Davies, Simon and Schuster, 978-1471119293, £6.99 pbk


Birt and Etho spend all their time playing together on Sudden Hill. When a new

boy arrives, Birt feels left out. How Shu and Etho respond to Birt’s withdrawal shows imaginative play at its most powerful, and in making a feature of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of friendship, this wise and warm-hearted picturebook is doing something even more important. Books can’t replace social interactions, but they can help us understand how other people think and feel. Characters like Birt and Shu and Etho are real enough to matter, and that’s the key.

Clean Up!

Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola, Puffin, 978-0241345894, £6.99 pbk

On a family holiday in Jamaica, Rocket

discovers piles of plastic

littering the beach. She’s upset, but responds by mobilising a ‘clean-up crew’ and the plastic is


into useful things. As her Grampy observes, one day Rocket is going to change the world! Worrying can make us all feel powerless, and there’s a lot going on

at the moment to cause anxiety. Watching Rocket take action is a real mood-booster: we can all be agents for change, and even the toughest of tasks begins with the first step.

Little Bear’s Treasures Stella Dreis, Greystone Kids, 978-1771646536, £7.99 hbk

Little Bear is a finder of treasures, a collector of objects and experiences. What could be better than a shiny button, a handy clothespin or a piece of fluff? Sadly, the other animals are unmoved by what they see as junk – until Little Bird turns up. Together, Bear and Bird create

something that neither could have discovered independently, and it’s worth the wait. This gentle story has much to say about joy in small things, and being true to who we are. It may not happen now, but if we keep our enthusiasm alight, and nurture our inner selves, we’ll have something special to bring to a friendship, when it comes.

Looking After Daddy Eve Coy, Andersen Press, 978-1783447107, £6.99 pbk William is always getting himself into scrapes. The supermarket makes him very tired, and he really does create a lot of work…. how lucky he is to have a little girl to look after him! Told from a child’s perspective and starring her daddy, William, this gently humorous and deeply reassuring book encourages recognition of the care

provided by a loving adult. There’s more than a dash of subversive pleasure, too: many children have an acute sense of their own lack of power, so inhabiting a story where the tables are turned and I’m in charge can be satisfyingly cathartic!

Baby Bird

Andrew Gibbs and Zosienka, Frances Lincoln First Editions, 978-1786035929, £6.99 pbk

One of Baby’s wings is bigger than the other. He’s desperate to fly, so the irrepressibly cheerful Cooter tries to help by putting him through a rigorous training programme. But as Baby

discovers, sometimes you really can’t have what you want – and sometimes what you’ve got right now is better, anyway. This lively and beautifully-illustrated story delivers a profound message with kindness, humour and insight. We want children to feel they can do anything, and it can be tough accepting limitations. Discovering the silver lining is empowering, though, as Baby demonstrates.

Mister Magnolia Quentin Blake, Red Fox, 978-1862308077, £6.99 pbk

Mister Magnolia has only one boot. It doesn’t matter how many rooty- tooting trumpets, hooting owls or other rhyming delights present themselves, a pair of boots eludes him – until a marvellous parcel arrives. Could it possibly be… another boot? The expressive eccentricity of Blake’s illustrations and the sheer joy of a text that bowls along at such a pace and in

such style has made Mr Magnolia a favourite for many years. When you find a book like this - one that children beg to hear again and again – you’ll know you’ve found something worth treasuring and keeping close.

Carey Fluker Hunt is a writer, teacher and founder of Cast of Thousands, where she blogs about illustrated books for children and shares creative learning activities inspired by those books. Find her at and on instagram @_castofthousands_

Books for Keeps No.246 January 2021 13

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