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 June 2016 Contents

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Louisa May Alcott: Little Women

Published by Alma Children's Classics, paperback, 26th May 2016

 

The four March sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy live in financial hardship in New England with their mother, while their father has been drafted to fight in the Civil War. The girls embark on a series of adventures and endure a number of unexpected misfortunes experiences that allow their personalities to emerge: Meg sensible and outgoing, Jo literary and boyish, Beth musical and shy, and Amy artistic and selfish but the bonds holding together the March family remain unbroken. Initially written as a novel for girls, Little Women is now regarded as an all-time American classic for all readers, inspiring generations of women writers and giving rise to many adaptations.

 

These wonderful new editions are described as children's classics, but as the publisher points out, LITTLE WOMEN has become recognised as a work of classic literature to be enjoyed by people of all ages. As a boy, I read anything and everything that came my way, including books my sister received or bought for herself. That way I got used to reading books such as What Katy Did, What Katy Did At School, Heidi, etc., etc., and enjoyed them just as much as I enjoyed my own Enid Blytons, Malcolm Savilles, Angus MacVicars, Capt. W E Johns, Anthony Buckeridges etc., etc. But I never read Little Women, possibly because my sister didn't have a copy. Ever since I received advance notification that this title was going to be one of Alma Books' Summer titles, I have been looking forward to receiving it - it arrived last Saturday and it is, quite simply, a joy to look at and hold. I've started reading it, and it is just as good as I knew it would be - a work of fiction that might have inspired E Nesbit to write The Railway Children - a wonderful story, wonderful characters, and this is a superb edition of a timeless classic of English Literature.

 

 

Frances Hodgson Burnett: The Secret Garden

Published by Alma Children's Classics, paperback, 21st April 2016

 

After her parents die of cholera in India, Mary Lennox is sent to live with her uncle in his gloomy house in Yorkshire, where she leads a lonely and neglected life, with nothing to do apart from exploring her surroundings. One day she discovers a walled garden which has been locked up, and becomes determined to enter it and find out its secret and the source of the mysterious crying sound that can be heard nearby. A powerful tale of regeneration and personal transformation, The Secret Garden has become one of the most popular children's classics, and has continued to delight generations of young readers.

 

A superb new version of this most popular children's classic from Alma Books. I'd only ever seen the film before reading this, and the film doesn't really do it justice... Mary is a decidedly spoilt child who can be quite nasty at times, something that's not covered at all well in the films. Alma Books series of classics is probably the best way to collect them right now - beautifully crafted books, and they look lovely on my bookshelves!

 

Rudyard Kipling: The Second Jungle Book

Published by Macmillan March 2016

 

First published by Macmillan in 1895, and now returning to print in this beautiful edition, The Second Jungle Book is a sequel to Rudyard Kipling's classic, The Jungle Book. Mowgli, the boy raised by wolves learns more of life and survival in the Indian jungle in the company of well-loved characters such as Baloo the brown bear and Bagheera the black panther. Including three further stories of life in India, this rich collection of adventure, fable and poetry from the master-storyteller and illustrated by his father, John Lockwood Kipling, is a classic to treasure.

 

Rudyard Kipling: Just So Stories

Published by Macmillan March 2016

 

Born in Bombay in 1865, Rudyard Kipling was taken from the exotic sights and sounds of India just five years later and sent to foster parents in England, where he was by his own admission, utterly miserable. When he had children of his own, Kipling made sure that his offspring's young lives were full of mystery and delight, entertaining them by inventing ingenious and amusing explanations to such important childhood questions as how the elephant got its trunk, or the leopard its spots.

 

Rudyard Kipling: Puck of Pook's Hill

Published by Macmillan March 2016

 

Playing in the gardens of their home, Dan and Una come across Puck, an ancient fairy with a gift for storytelling. Plucking figures from history to weave his magical stories, Puck takes the children from the Norman conquest to the signing of the Magna Carta. Set in the surroundings of his Sussex home, Bateman's, Rudyard Kipling's sparkling storytelling perfectly captures the myth and mystery of the English countryside. Puck of Pook's Hill was first published by Macmillan in 1906 and features the original illustrations by H. R. Millar. This delightful collection of stories and poetry is a classic to treasure.

 

Rudyard Kipling: Rewards and Fairies

Published by Macmillan March 2016

 

This second collection of stories and poetry featuring Dan and Una and their adventures with the fairy, Puck, is a classic to treasure. Set in the surroundings of his Sussex home, Bateman's, Rudyard Kipling's sparkling storytelling perfectly captures the myth and mystery of the English countryside. Rewards and Fairies was originally published by Macmillan in 1910. The collection includes If, the nation's favourite poem and features original illustrations by Charles E. Brock.

 

 

 

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Rudyard Kipling: The Jungle Books

Published by Macmillan Children's Books March 2016

 

The adventures of Mowgli, the young man raised by wolves in the jungles of Central India, and his friends Baloo the bear, Bagheera the panther and Kaa the python, as they face the arch villain Shere Khan the tiger, have become so popular that they have achieved an almost mythical status throughout the world. They were collected by Kipling in The Jungle Book and its sequel, The Second Jungle Book, which also contain other stories set in India and prominently featuring animals, such as the well-known 'Rikki-Tikki-Tavi', which describes the struggles of a mongoose against venomous cobras.Here presented with brand-new illustrations by Ian Beck, these hugely popular tales, inspired by ancient fables and Kipling's own experiences in India, form a vivid account of the relationship between humans and nature, and will continue to inspire readers young and old.

 

When Last month Alma Books's new version of The Jungle Book (also containing The Second Jungle Book) was my children's book of the month. This month it's the turn of the Macmillan version, published a couple of months ago, but I wanted to make a special feature out of it - Macmillan was Rudyard Kipling's original publisher one hundred years ago, and Macmillan celebrate this with these five superb illustrated paperbacks. I don't need to say a lot about the two Jungle books or the Just So Stories, so I'll move on to Puck of Pook's Hill, set in and around the grounds of Bateman's, Kipling's home, and Rewards and Fairies, Puck's sequel. I don't remember ever reading either of these two books, so these brilliant new editions are a complete surprise and joy to me - one can see immediately where children's authors coming after Kipling, Enid Blyton, for example, got their inspiration for fairies etc. This is a magnificent set of books that will appeal to young and old alike.

 

Alex Scarrow: Remade

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 16th June 2016

 

Join Leon and his younger sister, Grace, have recently moved to London from New York and are struggling to settle into their new school when rumours of an unidentified virus in Africa begin to fill the news. Within a week the virus hits London. The siblings witness people turning to liquid before their eyes, and they run for their lives. A month after touching Earth's atmosphere the virus has assimilated the world's biomass. But the virus isn't their only enemy, and survival is just the first step . . .

 

A superb doomsday thriller for children - this is Stephen King suitably toned down for younger readers - edge of your seat stuff, brilliantly written - and would have been my children's book of the month had it not been for the Kiplings above...

 

Harriet Reuter Hapgood

Published by Macmillan Children's Books, 5th May 2016

 

My heart is a kaleidoscope, and when we kiss it makes my world unravel . . . Last summer, Gottie's life fell apart. Her beloved grandfather Grey died and Jason, the boy to whom she lost her heart wouldn't even hold her hand at the funeral. This summer, still reeling from twin heartbreaks, Gottie is lost and alone and burying herself in equations. Until, after five years absence, Thomas comes home: former boy next door. Former best friend. Former everything. And as life turns upside down again she starts to experience strange blips in time - back to last summer, back to what she should have seen then . . . During one long, hazy summer, Gottie navigates grief, world-stopping kisses and rips in the space-time continuum, as she tries to reconcile her first heartbreak with her last. The Square Root of Summer is an astounding and moving debut from Harriet Reuter Hapgood.

 

At first glance a teen romance, but there are undercurrents of fantasy as Gottie experiences disturbing rifts in time - excellent adventure story by Harriet - I can't fault it!

 

Goldy Moldavsky: Kill The Boy Band

Published by Macmillan's Children's, 19th May 2016

 

'We're Fangirls get a bad rap all the time - people say we're weird, hysterical, obsessed, certifiable. But those people don't understand.

Just because we're fangirls, doesn't mean we're crazy.

It's important you know that up front. Because everything I'm about to tell you is going to seem . . . well, crazy.

From thrilling debut author Goldy Moldavsky comes Kill The Boy Band, a pitch-black, hilarious take on modern fandom and the badass girls who have the power to make - or break - the people we call 'celebrities'.

 

The celebrity cult is particularly strong among this age group - who will undoubtedly love this delicious romp through modern band culture...

 

Harmony Jones: Girl vs Boy Band - The Right Track

Published by Bloomsbury 2nd June 2016

 

Talented but painfully shy Lark secretly writes feisty, heartfelt songs about school, crushes on boys, not getting along with her mum and missing her dad who lives in Nashville. But her songwriting becomes harder to keep secret when Lark's mother, a music record executive at her own label, announces that British boy band Abbey Road will be coming to live with them while they make their first album! Sharing her L.A. house with three noisy, mischievous rising stars isn't as glamorous as she expected, especially when things aren't going smoothly with the band members. When one of them plagiarises one of Lark's songs and passes it off as his own, will she gain the courage to step into the spotlight herself? Any pop music fan will LOVE this!

 

It's one thing worshipping a boy band from afar, quite another when your Mum invites them to stay with you as part of her job... Great fun!

 

Clémentine Beauvais: The Very Royal Holiday

Published by Bloomsbury 2nd June 2016

 

Holly, Anna and Pepino are thrilled to finally be going on the amazing intergalactic Holy Moly Holiday! They have been promised scuba diving in volcanoes, followed by a flight to Mars and, most excitingly of all, hot chocolate on tap. But if there's trouble to be had, the three friends will find it. Even on this terrific trip ... This fabulously funny follow-up to The Royal Babysitters, The Royal Wedding Crashers and The Royal Bake Off, with its wonderfully wacky illustrations throughout, will delight fans of Judy Moody and Darcy Burdock.

 

Interest in space has soared with Tim Peake on the International Space Station - this adventure story for young readers takes us far into the future, with hilarious results!

 

Marianne Parry: King Garnet Stories

Published by Matador 28th May 2016

 

King Garnet Stories is a collection of 3 tales about the well-loved and happy King Garnet, as well as his wife Queen Amanda and their friend King Grundle. King Garnet loves everyone in his kingdom and everyone in his kingdom loves him, One morning, he awakes to find his legs have grown in the night, so that his feet hang over the bed. At first, he is pleased to show off his new height but, as the days pass, his legs grow so fast that they reach the bedroom door - and even go half way down the grand staircase! Someone is calling a spell on him, but who can it be? King Garnet is so loved that surely no one would want to cause him harm...And more importantly, will his legs every shrink back to normal? Bored of hearing the story of his ever growing legs, Queen Amanda decides to put a stop to his yabbering. She makes a desperate bid to stop him from talking and magically he stops speaking all together! Last, but not least, we follow the story of King Grundle, King Garnet's oldest and most loyal friend. After a misunderstanding between the two kings, they decide to engage their bored soldiers in a mock battle. The people enjoy it so much that they decide to make it an annual event to unite the two kingdoms. Full of magic and adventure, King Garnet Stories is a fun and exciting collection of short stories for children aged 5 - 7 years old.

 

These amusing and thoroughly entertaining stories would once have been called fairy stories - but there are no fairies to be seen - instead, Marianne Parry weaves her magic around three tales about King Garnet and his family - resulting in a beautifully-told series of tales set in a fantasy kingdom - plenty of laughs along the way - it's super fun!

 

Becca Fitzpatrick: Dangerous Lies

Published by Simon and Schuster 2nd June 2016

 

Another thrilling read from the queen of YA smoulder, Becca Fitzpatrick. If you enjoyed Hush, Hush, you'll love Dangerous Lies...Stella Gordon's life is a lie. She does not belong in Thunder Basin, Nebraska. As the key witness in a murder trial, Stella is under witness protection, living a life she doesn't want. No one can know who she really is. Not even Chet Falconer, her hot, enigmatic neighbour. But against her better judgement, Stella finds herself falling under Chet's spell ...A storm is brewing. Is Stella really safe in Thunder Basin? And will Chet be her shelter, or her downfall ...?

 

A brilliant thriller from the undisputed Queen of YA fiction...

 

Martyn Blunden: Charlie Green and the Pirate's Treasure

Published by Matador, paperback, 28th May 2016

 

Charlie Green is a courageous, good-natured 11-year-old, who lives with his mother, older brother and little sister. After moving to a new house next to a disused airfield, he ignores his mother's strict orders to stay well away and convinces his brother to join him in his exploration. There, in one of the dilapidated hangars, they find a secret aeroplane with magical abilities. The previous owner of their new home, Oliver, mysteriously disappeared many years before and left behind his special transport. Due to a mistake, he is actually stuck in the past, onboard a sailing ship in the 17th century. He is now on a quest to find a treasure map belonging to the infamous pirate Captain William Kidd, but how successful his plans for finding the treasure will be all depends on the ingenuity of the Green siblings...Their new home holds many secrets, but will they discover them in time to rescue Oliver from the clutches of the bloodthirsty pirates?

 

Wonderful fantasy adventure for young teens - I would have lapped this up at that age! I still enjoyed reading it now!

 

Taro Gomi: Growing Together - A Collection of Four Books

Published by Phaidon March 2016

 

A brand-new set of refreshingly off-beat picture books from the best-selling author of Everyone Poops From best-selling children's author Taro Gomi comes a set of four new books: Playing, Imagining, Growing, and Sharing. Each book features a different pair of family members loving and learning from one another...seasoned with the honesty, warmth, and eccentricity that Gomi so beautifully delivers. A little boy imagines the journeys that he and his father go on together; a little girl speculates about her mother's life before she became a mom; an older brother thinks back to when he was the baby; and sisters attempt to halve and share everything in their path. Each humorously narrated story is as messy, unpredictable, and endearing as everyday life with a child! Created for ages 2-5 years

 

Apparently toddlers are fascinated by poo, which is just as well, as there's plenty of it in this highly graphic series of board books. Poo and mess - every parent's nightmare, every toddler's joy, it seems.

 

Kieron Crowley (illus. Marta Kissi): The Mighty Dynamo

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 19th May 2016

 

Noah longs to be a professional footballer - and playing in the Schools' World Cup qualifiers might be just what he needs to get scouted. But when he's banned from his school team for something he didn't do, all his dreams are in doubt. Determined to live up to his Mighty Dynamo nickname, Noah must find his own way to enter the contest - no matter what it takes! With best friend Stevie on tactics, and the skills of some unlikely new teammates, he's soon ready to take on the world - just as long as no one plays foul . . .

 

With the European Championships just a few weeks away, this is a timely reminder that every football player who dreams of playing for his country has to start somewhere. This kind of story would at one time have appeared in Roy of the Rovers - super fun!

 

MATCH! Joke Book

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 21st April 2016

 

Over 400 of the funniest football jokes from the makers of Match! the UK's best football magazine! A hilarious mix of football quips, puns, knock-knock jokes and shaggy-dog stories. You'll laugh your football socks off! THE SWEETEST STARS Sergio Agu-AERO (Manchester City) Lee KIT-KAT-termole (Sunderland) MARS Bender (Bayer Leverkusen) ROLO Toure (Liverpool) John TERRY'S CHOCOLATE ORANGE (Chelsea)

 

And while we're on the subject of youngsters and football, this is a brilliant joke book that will keep everbody, young and old, in stitches in the run-up to the Euros. Superbly funny stuff!

 

 


 

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its eighteenth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.