Brian Alderson is founder of the Children’s Books History Society and a former Children’s Books Editor for The Times. Gwynneth Bailey is a freelance education and children’s book consultant. Clive Barnes, formerly Principal Children’s Librarian, Southampton City is a freelance researcher and writer. Diane Barnes, was a librarian for 20 years, mostly as a children’s specialist, working in Kent, Herts, Portsmouth and Hampshire, and Lusaka (Zambia) with the British Council. Jill Bennett is the author of Learning to Read with Picture Books and heads up a nursery unit. Jon Biddle is English Coordinator/ Reading Champion at Moorlands Primary Academy in Norfolk, and co-founder of the Patron of Reading scheme. Tony Bradman is an author, editor and reviewer of children’s books. Annie Brierley has worked in libraries and the related sector all her working life and is currently Library Supervisor in North Devon. Rebecca Butler writes and lectures on children’s literature. Jane Churchill is a children’s book consultant. Stuart Dyer is an Head Teacher of a primary school in East Devon. Kathleen Faloon is a primary school teacher and leads an OU/UKLA Teachers’ Reading Group Janet Fisher is a children’s literature consultant. Geoff Fox is former Co-Editor (UK) of Children’s Literature in Education, but continues to work on the board and as an occasional teller of traditional tales. Sarah Gallagher is a headteacher and director of Ferelith Hordon is a former children’s librarian and editor of Books for Keeps Carey Fluker Hunt is a writer and children’s book consultant. Keranjit Kaur is a primary school teacher and leads an OU/UKLA Teachers’ Reading Group Helen Kelsey is a primary school teacher and leads an OU/UKLA Teachers’ Reading Group Matthew Martin is a primary school teacher.

Sue McGonigle is a Lecturer in Primary Education and Co-Creator of Margaret Pemberton is a school library consultant and blogs at Neil Philip is an author, poet, mythographer and folklorist. Val Randall is Head of English and Literacy Co-ordinator at a Pupil Referral Unit. Andrea Reece is Managing Editor of Books for Keeps. Sue Roe is a children’s librarian. Elizabeth Schlenther is the compiler of Nicholas Tucker is honorary senior lecturer in Cultural and Community Studies at Sussex University. Clare Zinkin is a children’s book consultant, writer and editor.

New talent The Grizzly Itch HHHHH

Victoria Cassanell, Macmillan Children’s Books, 32pp, 978-1529013573, £6.99 pbk

A bear and a beaver star in Victoria Cassanell’s debut picture


which celebrates teamwork, friendship and the great outdoors. Bear wakes up from his long winter sleep with an unBEARable itch, a GRIZZLY itch that’s impossible to reach. He heads out to his favourite tree for a good scratch only to find a queue of itchy bears. When it’s finally his turn, disaster – the tree crashes to the ground thanks not to the bears, but to the beaver at its foot. Together, Bear and Beaver search for another tree, unsuccessfully and at some cost to Bear – a glorious, surprising and very funny sequence of illustration shows him fall from a tree into the river below with an enormous spash.

All ends happily

– of course – as the two friends find a lovely way to scratch that itch. This

A Fox Called Herbert HHHH

Margaret Sturton, Andersen Press, 32pp, 978 1 7834 4870 8, £12.99 hbk

Herbert rabbit absolutely loves foxes, so much so that he wants to become one. To that end he makes himself a pair of red ears but his mummy calls them un-rabbity. The following day with the aid of his little sister, he paints himself red and the two play a game of ‘find-the-fox’. The mess they create displeases mummy and she asks him to promise to be ‘a good rabbit’. A good rabbit – or any other animal

– he certainly isn’t when he fashions himself a splendid new foxy tail that is just the thing for a game of tail chasing fun. This time his mummy is very far from pleased. After a brief respite when Herbert

behaves well, he’s let outdoors to play again. Now how is Mummy rabbit going to react when she sees what he gets up to in the park? Perhaps it’s time to put her right on the rabbit/fox thing once and for all, and just wait and see … This funny celebration of identity

and being true to yourself, is Margaret Sturton’s debut picture book. Her nicely

detailed illustrations show

much more than her words say. She’s most definitely a talent to watch with interest. JB

This vivid picture book


Under 5s Pre – School/Nursery/Infant Birdsong


Written and ill. Julie Flett, Greystone Kids, 32pp, 978-1-77164-473-0, £12.99 hbk

Simply narrated in a child’s voice and illustrated with luminous, pared- back images that depict her growing friendship with a neighbouring artist, Birdsong addresses some big ideas but feels like a quiet hug from someone you love. Katharena and her mother


is an extremely impressive debut, an accomplished and very enjoyable piece of picture book storytelling. Bear and Beaver exude character – even from the back – and the pacing of the story, the variety of image and perspective makes each turn of the page a reward. This will more than stand up to repeated readings, and hopefully there will be more adventures to come for this odd couple. AR

Karate Kid HHHH

Holly Sterling, Walker, 32pp, 978 1 4063 8623 3, £12.99

by Holly

Stirling follows Maya, who wants to be a ‘karate kid’, on her regular trip to karate class. We follow her from her donning her karate suit or “gi”, to meeting her “sensei” and carrying out a wide range of moves before ending with the cool down or “mokuso”. Every page of the book introduces the reader to karate terminology and is highly effective in weaving new technical vocabulary and factual information through the simple story of Maya’s day. Maya’s

lively and and of the diverse

classmates are depicted through the engaging illustrations. The drawings themselves energy

brilliantly express grace

the karate

stances and are sure to capture the attention and imagination of any young child. The final page of the book takes the

form of a note from the author who herself was British Grand Champion and has competed at an international level. This personal note serves as an inspiration to young readers and emphasises the underlying theme of being able to achieve what you want when you put your mind to it. This resonates in Maya’s final words, ‘I really want to be as good as she is when I grow up…and maybe I will be.’ This entertaining and informative

little book will appeal to and inspire any child with an interest in the sport. KF

Books for Keeps No.241 March 2020 19

leaving their city home for a new life in the country. A long drive takes the two of them to a cold and creaky hilltop house. ‘I don’t feel like drawing,’ says Katharena, looking at the desk in her new room. ‘My hands are cold.’ But the house is surrounded by

snowdrops and Katharena’s sense of dislocation doesn’t last. Against a backdrop of the changing seasons and Flett’s paintings of the natural world, Katharena and the


Agnes develop a touching friendship. They are like-minded: both have a deep connection with nature and enjoy creating art, and age is not an issue until the final pages, as winter sends everyone indoors and Agnes’s health begins to fail. By spring, when Agnes can no longer leave her bed, Katharena papers the bedroom walls with drawings to bring the outside in. ‘Agnes says it’s like a poem for her heart,’ says Katharena, in a phrase that could be used to summarise this book. Older readers will sense the coming sadness, but the story is left open for younger readers to reach their own understanding of what is happening. Julie Flett is an award-winning Cree- illustrator and artist

Metis author,

who lives in Vancouver. Birdsong’s cultural and physical setting may be unfamiliar to UK readers – a small number of Cree words occur naturally, and we see coyotes walking along the road. But care has been taken to provide gentle explanations or a visual context, and readers are unlikely to find these elements distracting. Flett’s palette recalls the subtle

colours of antique samplers, evoking a sense of timelessness, and her beautifully

painted and collaged artwork depicts the beauty of the

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