Sophy Henn, readers are introduced to Jeanie and her very large family, including a rather naughty nanny. One of Jeanie’s grandmas is called Bad Nana, as she isn’t exactly the sweet-natured old dear sometimes stereotyped Instead

in children’s she is mischievous

stories. and

menacing and loves causing a little chaos. In this first episode, Bad Nana

takes on a grumpy park keeper and a short-tempered museum guide, both of whom are committed to spoiling people’s fun, and Bad Nana refuses to allow such miserly behaviour. Her methods are far from evil, but she is certainly happy to break the rules, just a little, if something stands in her way. It is clear that Jeanie worries about her nana’s behaviour and is sometimes a little embarrassed by it but, really, she is proud to have such a fierce, independent lady fighting her corner.

The story is simple and funny,

but the most enjoyable element of the book is undoubtedly the bold neon artwork that explodes


every single page. Many jokes and little comic details are hidden in the illustrations, which readers will be happy to return to again and again. This first book of the series really

feels like an appetiser, as the close relationship

between Jeanie and

her nana is only explored to a small extent, and there is a very enjoyable feeling that Bad Nana is holding some mayhem back for future episodes. SD

The Princess Rules HHHHH

Philippa Gregory, illus Chris Chatterton, HarperCollins Children’s Books, 256pp, 978-0008375485, £12.99 hbk

Princess Florizella subverts in the book all

the established conventions of a fairytale princess. Such conventions are specified for her and all other royal princesses


Princess Rules. The key rules are that princesses live largely off air, only occasionally consuming bread and green tea. Princesses must be rescued. They must never be the rescuer. They must of course marry a handsome prince. Florizella violates all these rules. She attends

a ball, along with

several other princesses. Unlike all of them, when the dinner is served Florizella tucks in – to the horror of her fellow princesses. The handsome Prince Bennett

dances with the

other princesses. But when he asks Florizella to dance, she replies that he must be tired so why don’t they sit and talk instead. The upshot of this unusual encounter is that Bennett asks Florizella to become his wife. She refuses. She has her own position and her own possessions and she does not wish to become someone else’s subordinate. She would prefer to become Bennett’s best friend.

5 – 8 Infant/Junior continued There

are two other stories

contained in Gregory’s book. Florizella befriends a pack of wolves. She and her friend Prince Bennett disguise one of the wolves as a domesticated dog so that it can live in her palace. In the last episode Bennett and Florizella have to make spectacles for a giant. There is no end to royal duties. This book depends upon the young

reader’s familiarity with the standard conventions of a royal fairy tale – and then turns those values upside down when the Princess behaves in her own outrageous manner. The narrative emphasises the attributes that distinguish Florizella from her more conventional peer group, her independence and feminist freedom. Yet at the same time Bennett fully shares her adventures. He is no macho sidekick but a full partner in her quest for freedom. Chatterton’s illustrations are full page monochrome creations, mostly subscribing to the conventions of the fairy tale book. RB

Greta and the Giants HHHHH

Zoe Tucker, ill. Zoe Persico, Frances Lincoln, 978 0 7112 5375 9, 32pp, £6-99, pbk

The name Greta Thunberg is of

worldwide renown recently, being a Nobel Peace Prize nominee in 2019. She has talked about global warming to politicians and rulers throughout the planet, with single-mindedness in defending the natural world from human destruction. In this picture book, a small child, Greta, lives in a beautiful forest. When the forest creatures she loves come to her, distressed

at losing their habitat

to the giants, Greta is spurred into action. For these giants, ever busy, are chopping down vast areas of forest,

building towns which grow

into cities, full of factories, shops, cars and planes…until there is hardly any forest left. As a lone voice Greta stands holding a sign entreating STOP. She is ignored by the giants. But soon other children join her, begging that the devastation of the forests stop. The message is NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Optimism presides! Sadly, this is a book of our times, and the time for preventative action is now. The book’s publishers are donating 3% of the cover price to Greenpeace UK for each copy of this book sold. The rich illustrations heighten the impact of this excellent book. Greta’s name should go down in history with such greats as Sir David Attenborough and Dr Jane Goodall. And their messages of hope for preserving our planet, its plants, birds, and beasts as well as people, should shine like a beacon. All schools and libraries should hold multiple copies of this book; and if individual homes did too, what might that achieve? Greta is a child of our times. We should listen…. GB

24 Books for Keeps No.240 January 2020

Beast Feast HHHHH

Emma Yarlett, Walker Books, 32pp, 978 1 4063 8663 9, £10.99 hbk

Beast by name but perhaps not entirely so by nature, for when he catches something tasty for dinner he decides to share the repast – a little boy whom he names Dinner -with his friends. He writes letters to them inviting them to a feast. Dinner however has no desire to be consumed and resolves to try and get Beast to change his menu. Beast’s friends too want changes

made to the meal for each includes instructions for cooking Dinner along with their acceptance of his invitation. One desires a salty meal so Dinner talks Beast into going for a swim in the ocean; another wants slimy food so Dinner’s suggestion is a swamp visit. Over

several days Dinner’s

playful notions have an effect on Beast: he’s actually enjoying the company of the crafty Dinner but has the lad sufficiently beguiled the cook to save himself from the pot? With vibrant illustrations

full of

delicious details, a page turner of a tale (with touches of Scheherazade) that includes five letters, recipes yummy and yucky and lots of tasty wordplay Emma Yarlett has herself cooked up a delectable picture book offering that will most certainly have listeners demanding ‘more please’ whenever you share it. JB

Snow Leopard, Grey Ghost of the Mountain


Justin Anderson, illus. Patrick Benson, Walker, 32pp, 978 1 4063 7828 3, £12-99

Justin Anderson wanted to share

his fascinating insights into the rare and magnificent Snow Leopard, after having produced the episode

Mountains of Planet Earth 2. This remarkable book relates Anderson’s

journey up into the Himalaya to search for them. Called the Grey Ghost, the snow leopard is a rare and fast becoming endangered species, and his descriptions of the journey, the tracking and sighting of one female, and later, her cub, are magical. There is a huge sense of awe and wonder as Anderson and his guide track the cats further up the mountain. Alongside the telling of the adventure, there is more factual information in small italics for absorbing after reading the account. For instance, we are told that snow leopards live as high as 5,400 metres up in the mountains. Their tails are the longest of all the cat family, working both as a scarf when at rest in the snow, and as a balance when jumping between rocks. Their camouflage is such that they can merge totally into the surrounding landscape. Anderson tells of watching the leopard squirting pee over a rock, a message, a pee-mail for other leopards that she is around. As the sun sinks, the leopard climbs higher, terrain and lack of oxygen preventing any hope of them following. His final view is of her, silhouetted on a summit, singing; a long, haunting yowl, echoing round the mountains, before fading on the wind. And then she is gone, swallowed up by the silence. With

brilliant drawings by Patrick

Benson, a highly awarded illustrator for such classics as Owl Babies (Waddell) and the Sea-Thing Child (Hoban), this is a book to be treasured. Benson portrays this creature, her huge furry paws and all-seeing eyes, standing in her environment, merging with the mountainous background, in an animal majesty that could only be evoked by a talented artist. The book closes with a double spread of further information on snow leopards – maybe only 3,920 left in the wild – and links for further research. Finally, a quote from the author: ‘The first time I saw a snow leopard I was so excited I danced a little jig of joy’. A celebratory book. GB

8 – 10 Junior/Middle

The House in Hawthorn Road HHHH

Megan Wynne, O’Brien Press, 304pp, 9781788490900, £7.99 pbk

Beth is angry and lonely; the family have had to leave London to live in Dublin after the death of their Gran. It is not as if it is even a nice house – and the back wall has to be knocked down to make the kitchen bigger. She has no friends and a new school to contend with. It is the last straw when a strange boy invades the home causing mayhem – and disappears. Who is he? Where has he gone? The answers to these questions draw Beth into the strangest situation imaginable... Megan Wynne is no stranger to writing but this is her debut novel for a young readership. She takes her readers on an intriguing time-slip adventure as Beth and Robbie move

between the decades that separate them; nor is it just the children, the adults find themselves involved. A bold move that is handled confidently ensuring the reader is drawn into the fiction. The characters are lively and believable and the time differences interesting. We move between the ‘50s and the 2000s; so close and yet so different – and a subtle lesson in recent history. The narrative is further strengthened by the author’s use of multiple viewpoints which include the adults as well as the children. The whole is told in a direct unpretentious contemporary style long


on dialogue to create immediacy, character

descriptive and

background. The

result is an enjoyable and engaging novel that may be recommended to confident KS2 readers. We must look forward to more from this author. FH


avoids relying

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32