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 May 2016 Contents

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Eric Knight: Lassie Come-Home

Published by Alma Children's Classics, paperback, 23rd March 2016

 

Everyone in the Yorkshire town of Greenall Bridge knows Lassie, the prize collie of miner Sam Carraclough and his son Joe. But when the family falls on hard times, Sam is forced to sell his dog to the Duke of Rudling, who takes her hundreds of miles away to his estate in Scotland. Undeterred by the distance and driven by instinctive love, Lassie escapes from her new owners and embarks on an epic journey to be reunited with her young master Joe. Will she survive the hardships of the long journey and the various dangers along the way? Based on the author's own childhood memories and filled with adventure and suspense, Lassie Come-Home - Eric Knight's best-loved novel and a huge best-seller, famously adapted into a 1943 Hollywood movie - is a timeless classic and one of the greatest dog stories ever written.

As a fan of the original Lassie film, I was enchanted by the original story, now magnificently published in this superb edition from Alma Books, and with enchanting greyscale illustrations. Dog lovers will love it, and although it is essentially a children's story, just about ayone will love it. Full marks to Alma Books for bringing this one back into the world for all to see and enjoy! Eric Knight's Lassie Come-Home is right up there with Anna Sewell's Black Beauty and Michael Morpurgo's War Horse as a fine example of animal courage and bravery - the story is crammed with excitement and tension from start to finish, this is a real classic, and Alma Books's treatment of it as such marks it as one of the best animal stories to have ever been written. A gem, beautifully illustrated by the brilliant Gary Blythe, this is a real tear-jerker, and will be a story I return to again and again over the coming years. Absolutely brilliant!

 

For younger children:

 

Emily Gravett: Tidy

Published by Two Hoots, hardback,7th April 2016

 

Just From the creator of Meerkat Mail and Dogs, comes a very funny rhyming woodland story about the perils of being too tidy. Pete the badger likes everything to be neat and tidy at all times, but what starts as the collecting of one fallen leaf escalates quickly and ends with the complete destruction of the forest! Will Pete realise the error of his ways and set things right? Lush foliage and delightfully funny characters abound in this dramatic tale of overzealous neatness that delivers its message of environmental preservation with subtlety and humour. The freshness and vibrancy of the illustrations, the endearing charm of the animal characters, and the many deft comic details throughout make this a very special book. With a sumptuous double-sided jacket and a breathtaking series of die-cuts from the cover through to the title page, once you enter this forest, you'll never want to leave. Emily Gravett's engaging woodland creatures will appeal to fans of such classics as The Animals of Farthing Wood and The Wind in the Willows and the rhythmic, rhyming text is perfect for reading aloud.

Absolutely enchanting - beautiful illustrations and a superb story - I immediately thought of the Wombles, and the old Rupert stories (because of the rhyming). This will become a firm favourite in children's literature.

 

 

 

Lane Smith: There Is A Tribe of Kids

Published by Two Hoots, hardback, 5th May 2016

 

Did you ever want to waddle with a colony of penguins? Wriggle with an army of caterpillars? Or march with a troop of monkeys? Legendary illustrator Lane Smith takes us on a colourful adventure through the natural world, following a child as he weaves through the jungle, dives under the ocean and soars into the sky. Along the way he makes friends and causes mischief with a dazzling array of creatures both large and small - but can he find a tribe of his own? Full of warmth and humour, There Is a Tribe of Kids is a sumptuously detailed portrayal of wild childhood to be pored over for hours on end. A witty and playful exploration of curiosity, discovery and what it means to belong, ideal for sharing with children of all ages. With a beautiful jacket glinting with gold foil, this gorgeous book makes the perfect gift for any occasion.

The As a huge fan of Tarzan of the Apes and Mowgli in the Jungle Books, I was totally captivated by this unusual and original story, with Lane Smith's remarkable and striking illustrations...

 

 

 

Bathan Woollvin: Little Red

Published by Two Hoots, hardback,

24th March 2016

 

A striking new interpretation of the beloved Little Red Riding Hood story - with a dark and witty twist. Little Red Riding Hood meets a wolf on her way through the woods to visit her sick grandmother. The wolf is hungry, and Red Riding Hood looks tasty, so he hatches a dastardly plan, gobbles up Grandma and lies in wait. So far, so familiar. But this Little Red Riding Hood is not easily fooled, and this big bad wolf better watch his back. In this defiant interpretation of the traditional tale, the cheeky, brave little girl seizes control of her own story (and the wolf gets rather more than he bargained for). The perfect gift for fans of darker fairy tales. Printed using rich pantone colours, the graphic illustrations in Little Red offer a uniquely bold, visually arresting interpretation of the classic story by Bethan Woollvin, the winner of The Macmillan Prize for Illustration 2014.

I'm not sure about the stark, dramatic illustrations - the story is retold with great flair and dynamism...

 

 

 

 

 

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Rudyard Kipling: The Jungle Books

Published by Alma Children's Classics, paperback, 15th April 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 I was five years old, the most thrilling part of every schoolday was the last half hour - not because it was nearly time to go home, but because that was when Miss Page or Mr Rossiter would read to us. There were three class favourites: Brer Rabbit, Milly Molly Mandy, and Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle books. The fact that a new "live action/CGI" version has just been released of The Jungle Book (and it looks terrific, by the way) is significant - I doubt the book has ever been out of print, and there are plenty of versions to choose from in the shops and online. Alma Books continue to publish children's classic literature in a format that will appeal both to children and to adults - and The Jungle Books, complete with exquisite silhouette illustrations by Ian Beck, is the latest. At well over 400 pages long, it's exceptional value, not least because the font they've used is bg enough not to need glasses or holding the book close to your face, as is the case with so many of these very long children's classics. I don't believe I ever had my own copy of The Jungle Books or the Just-So stories, and I don't recall ever reading any of these stories for or to myself, but I remember vividly, sitting enthralled as my two favourite teachers brought these magnificent stories to life. Kipling is a controversial figure, not something I ever knew until recently; but so many or our favourite childhood authors could also have been controversial in ways at which we might raise an eyebrow or a frown had we known. For me, the Jungle Books represent a stepping stone to more sophisticated adventure stories like Tarzan of the Apes (and many people might disagree with me about Tarzan being more sophisticated than Mowgli, but that's my opinion - The Jungle Books are for children, Tarzan of the Apes is for adults), and the joy of at last reading the original stories for myself in a handsome edition such as this one is unconfined. The stories are timeless, carefully crafted classics, and although they're intended for children, there is no doubt in my mind that this terrific book will appeal equally to young and old. Another superb package from Alma!

 

(Editor's note: Kipling's original publisher, Macmillan, have released five superb paperbacks to commemorate The Jungle Book, presumably because of the new film - there will be a special feature in Books Monthly on Macmillan's books in the very next issue of Books Monthly.)

 

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Anne Digby: Boy Trouble at Trebizon

Published by Egmont, paperback, 5th May 2016

 

Join Rebecca and her friends at Trebizon, perfect for fans of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers and St Clare’s. It’s a new year at Trebizon boarding school, and Rebecca is excited about seeing her friends and playing tennis. There’s even a chance that she might  be good enough to get into the county’s junior squad. But then her friend Tish’s brother is accused of stealing a car. The friends are determined to solve the mystery and clear his name, but it turns out that Rebecca’s the only one who can help him – and it might cost her the squad place that she wants so much . . . The fourth exciting book in the classic Trebizon series.

 

The joy of being able to re-read these superb stories is amazing - I read Boy Trouble the afternoon the package arrived from Egmont, and More Trouble the following day - for me, Boy Trouble marks the beginning of a new chapter in school stories - previous series, by Enid Blyton and Elinor Brent-Dyer, steered well clear of boyfriends and hormones - Anne Digby's Trebizon series is as relevant t today's young teenagers as it was when it was first published. A delightful story which sees Rebecca (Becks) still adamant that she has no interest in boys, but still casting furtuive glances in Robbie's direction... Enchanting - quite the most readable school story series of all!

 

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Anne Digby: More Trouble at Trebizon

Published by Egmont, paperback, 5th May 2016

 

Join Rebecca and her friends at Trebizon, perfect for fans of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers and St Clare’s. It’s the beginning of the spring term at Trebizon – with more new freedoms, but not for poor Mara! Her tycoon father, convinced she’s going to be kidnapped, has sent her back to school with a bodyguard. Mara’s furious – but could she really be in danger? When she suddenly disappears, her friends are bewildered. This looks like it could be their most challenging mystery yet. The fifth exciting book in the classic Trebizon series.

 

The fifth book in the Trebizon series sees Mara return to school for the Spring term with her own personal bodyguard in tow - mind you, he's staying in town at a hotel, so he's not going to be that difficult to give the slip to! Egmont have done this series proud - it's a complete delight to see these fabulous books on the shelf in uniform editions - it's wonderful to be able to sit and read these remarkable stories again - the illustrations are quite superb and the books are fabulous!

 

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Sam Angus: The House On Hummingbird Island

Published by Macmillan's Children's, paperback, 2nd June 2016

 

'We're going to a fine place,' Idie told Homer to console him, 'with gullies and monkeys and hummingbirds.'  Idie Grace is twelve when she inherits a grand old house on a Caribbean island, and is sent away from grey old England to a place where hummingbirds hover and monkeys clamber from tree to tree. As a lady of property Idie can do as she pleases, so she fills the house with exotic animals, keeps her beloved horse in the hallway, and carries a grumpy, talking cockatoo called Homer on her shoulder. But the island house holds as many secrets as it does animals, and the truth behind Idie's inheritance is the biggest secret of all... Perfect for fans of Eva Ibbotson and Katherine Rundell

 

Reminiscent of The Durrells, based on My Family and Other Animals - this is an enchanting story which adults will find as appealing and well-written as children. Superb.

 

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Mike Dilger: Wildlife In Your Garden

Published by Bloomsbury, paperback, 7th April 2016

 

Discover the amazing wildlife you can find in your own garden with this fascinating guide! Find out all about garden birds, animals, plants and creepy-crawlies. Turn the pages to discover colourful butterflies, friendly robins, shy hedgehogs and much more. You might even get some unexpected visitors! Features stunning photographs, brilliant facts and handy tips on where and when to spot the wildlife that visits your garden. The perfect guide for young nature-lovers everywhere!

 

Mike Dilger's comprehensive and fun look at what creatures you might expect to find in your garden is thrilling, entertaining, and supreme fun! Children with inquisitive minds will be absolutely enchanted...

 

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Sheila Grau & Joe Sutphin: Dr Critchlore's School for Minions

Published by Abrams, Paperback, 14th March 2016

 

The second book in this hilarious, illustrated series cracks the imaginative world of minions wide open, and we meet the other schools and Evil Overlords that surround Dr. Critchlore's. Runt Higgins needs answers, fast. Someone cursed him to die on his sixteenth birthday, but no one seems to know who cursed him or why. Runt decides he must find the Great Library, where all true knowledge is hidden. Unfortunately, the only people who know the location of the Great Library are a covert network of librarian-spies who'd rather die than give up the Library's secrets. And when one of Runt's professors is attacked, it soon becomes clear that others are also out to find the Library at any cost. Meanwhile, Runt's not the only one whose days are numbered. To save the floundering school from an inevitable sale, Dr. Critchlore takes some desperate measures. His master plan to save the school: a fashion show.

 

I wasn't one of those people who were captivated by the other Minions who figured in that recent film, I have to say. Sheila Grau & Joe Sutphin's Minions are a different kettle of fish. This is the kind of story I would have given my eye teeth for to be able to read when I was a young teen, when all we had was Jennings and Enid Blyton (both of whom I adore, by the way). The illustrations are superb and the story is absolutely hilarious - I simply can't fault it.

 

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Smriti Prasadam-Halls & Sarah Ward: I Wish I Were A Pirate

Published by Bloomsbury, Boards, 5th May 2016

 

If I were a pirate, how happy I would be,
I'd heave my anchor up and sail away to sea. Arrrr! Be a pirate for the day and do all the things that pirates love to do, like sailing the seven seas and digging for treasure. With chunky novelties, and lots of fun things to spot, children will love pulling tabs, lifting flaps and moving sliders in this brand-new series of board books that are the perfect size for little hands. Perfect for fans of the Busy series (Campbell).

 

This is one of those ingenious books in which things work if you pull them, slide them etc. Everyone loves pirates, they were a firm children's favourite when I and my wife were working in the public library service in the early 1960s. The colours are eye-catching but the mechanics of this superb book are out of this world!

 

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F Compton: The Adventures of Rodney Fluffychops

Published by Matador,  paperback, 28th April 2016

 

An inquisitive cat by nature, Rodney, who is more affectionately known as Rodders and Fluffychops, lives with Mr and Mrs C. Rodney is a very nosy fluffy black cat who spends his days roaming around his local area in search of new things to do. One day on his travels, Rodney notices a pile of leaves moving all by itself. Confused, he heads to the pile of leaves to investigate. He discovers Spike, a litter picking hedgehog who uses his spines to clean up his home. Spike curls up his body into a ball and rolls over any litter he can find. The Adventure of Rodney Fluffychops is a joyful and lighthearted tale of Rodney and Spike's newfound friendship and their adventures. Full of beautifully hand-drawn illustrations, this book will be enjoyed by children aged three to five.

 

Well, Rodney Fluffychops is a cat, don't you know, and being a dog person, etc., etc. Rodney dominates the book in every sense, and the story is cute and engaging, but... he's a cat!

 

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Rachel Valentine & Ed Eaves: Marmaduke The Very Popular Dragon

Published by Bloomsbury, paperback, 5th May 2016

 

Marmaduke and Meg are best friends, and have been forever. They live in a kingdom where everyone does what's expected of them ... everyone except Marmaduke and Meg. They're different, and being different together is what they love doing the most. As word of Marmaduke and Meg spreads across the kingdom, things slowly start to change - princesses, dragons, princes and knights all want to make friends with Marmaduke and Meg, and be different with them. After a while, Marmaduke and Meg are ... popular. Maybe even too popular. Because Marmaduke is so popular that he doesn't seem to have any time for Meg. And Meg starts to feel a little bit left out Will she build up the courage to tell Marmaduke? And will he listen? A story about friendship, fights and finding the person we really want to be. From the team behind Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon.

 

This beautifully illustrated book is about friendships and the strain that can sometimes be put on them if you drop your guard. A lovely story with a message that will enthrall youngsters.

 

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Brian Conaghan: The Bombs That Brought Us Together

Published by Bloomsbury, hardback, 21st April 2016

 

Fourteen-year-old Charlie Law has lived in Little Town, on the border with Old Country, all his life. He knows the rules: no going out after dark; no drinking; no litter; no fighting. You don't want to get on the wrong side of the people who run Little Town. When he meets Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country, the rules start to get broken. Then the bombs come, and the soldiers from Old Country, and Little Town changes for ever. Sometimes, to keep the people you love safe, you have to do bad things. As Little Town's rules crumble, Charlie is sucked into a dangerous game. There's a gun, and a bad man, and his closest friend, and his dearest enemy. Charlie Law wants to keep everyone happy, even if it kills him. And maybe it will ...Perfect for readers of Patrick Ness, John Boyne and Malorie Blackman.

 

A brilliant introduction to what might be considered an alternative universe story set in a dystopian world of science fiction... or fantasy. Thrills and spills, tension and nerve-tingling excitement - brilliant!

 

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Faiz Kermani: The Frog In The Skyscraper

Published by Matador, paperback, 28th March 2016

 

Life at the pond can get pretty boring - even if you're living in the heart of New York. So when Frijibold the Frog hears about the exclusive apartments in trendy Shark Fin Towers, he jumps at the chance to fulfil his secret lifelong dream: living in a skyscraper among those fascinating creatures called humans. But no sooner has Frijibold stepped into his luxurious apartment than he finds himself trapped in an action-packed adventure involving an ambitious property developer, crazy TV hosts, and Mrs. Boggel's spicy fried fly pizza. Humans can be more tricky than they look...The Frog in the Skyscraper is the hilarious tale of one sharp-witted frog's journey to find out where he really belongs - despite a few bumps along the way. It will appeal to children aged 7-9, and fans of Faiz's former books.

 

I think young children might struggle with the name of the principal character, Frijibold, but otherwise I can't fault it.

 

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Frank Cottrell Boyce: Sputnik's Guide To Life On Earth

Published by Macmillan's Children's Books, paperback, 7th April 2016

 

Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth by award-winning author Frank Cottrell Boyce, with illustrations by Steven Lenton, will send your imagination into orbit! The Blythes are a big, warm, rambunctious family who live on a small farm and sometimes foster children. Now Prez has come to live with them. But, though he seems cheerful and helpful, he never says a word. Then one day Prez answers the door to someone claiming to be his relative. This small, loud stranger carries a backpack, walks with a swagger and goes by the name of Sputnik. As Prez dithers on the doorstep, Sputnik strolls right past him and introduces himself to everyone in the household. Prez is amazed at the response. The family pat Sputnik on the head, call him a good boy and drop food into his mouth. It seems they all think Sputnik is a dog. It's only Prez who thinks otherwise. But Prez soon finds himself having to defend the family from the chaos and danger unleashed by Sputnik, as household items come to life - like a TV remote that fast-forwards people: 'Anyone can do it, it's just that people don't read the instructions properly'; and a toy lightsaber that entertains guests at a children's party, until one of them is nearly decapitated by it - and Prez is going to have to use his voice to explain himself. It turns out that Sputnik is writing a guidebook to Earth called Ten Things Worth Doing on Earth, and he takes Prez on a journey to discover just those ten things. Each adventure seems to take Prez nearer to the heart of the family he is being fostered by. But they also take him closer to the day that he is due to leave them forever ...

 

Frank Cottrell Boyce's stories are original and different, and guaranteed to make you sit up and take notice - in the 1950s/60s and 70s American TV was peppered with shows about aliens living with human families in smalltown America, causing havoc and mayhem. Frank's story echoes some of those shows, but goes further and deeper and is hugely entertaining on a scale that's off the wall!

 

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Martha Mumford, illus. Ada Grey: The Royal Baby's Big Red Bus Tour of London

Published by Bloomsbury, paperback, 21st April 2016

 

It's a beautiful day, and the Royal Family are sunning themselves in the Palace Gardens. The royal babies' grandad is even having a bit of a snooze - what bliss! When all of a sudden -- BEEP BEEP! BEEP BEEP! It's the Big Red Bus, and it's come to take the Royal Family on a tour of London! With so much to see, the city is their oyster, with the Royal Family hopping off at the Natural History Museum, London Zoo, the London Eye and Tower Bridge. They even ride a water taxi to Greenwich, before it's finally time for - you've guessed it - a spot of shopping! The Royal Baby's Big Red Bus Tour of London is the next installment in the brilliantly bonkers and fabulously funny Royal Baby series that's perfect for fans of London, the Royal Family and crackingly good stories.

 

With the Queen's 90th birthday having just been celebrated, and William and George featuring prominently in the official photographs, this is a timely celebration of a fictional but quite similar Royal Family as they tour London. Inspired.

 

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Elli Woollard & Laura Ellen Anderson: Swashbuckle Lil - The Secret Pirate

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

 

Lil is a pirate, a good sort of pirate, and when there is someone to save,
she'll do what is right (if it takes her all night). Yes, she'll always be bold and be brave. When evil pirate Stinkbeard tries to kidnap Lil's teacher, it's up to schoolgirl and secret pirate, Lil, to come to the rescue. In story two it's sports day, but there's a very hungry croc on the loose. Can Lil and her trusty parrot, Carrot, scare Stinkbeard and his pet croc away? Swashbuckle Lil: The Secret Pirate, by author Elli Woollard and illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson, is the first in an exciting series with two rip-roaringly rhyming, brilliantly illustrated stories in each book which make the perfect transition from parent-led to independent reading.

 

I was reminded of the original Rupert Bear stories, written in whyming couplets, whilst I was reading this super adventure story from Elli and Laura - beautifully illustrated, a lovely story, delightful fun!

 

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Elli Woollard & Laura Ellen Anderson: The Dragon and the Nibblesome Knight

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

 

When a kind young boy helps a strange-looking bird, a beautiful friendship forms. But what these two friends don't realise is that one is a young knight ...and the other a young dragon! What will they do when they discover they are enemies and destined to FIGHT? The Dragon and the Nibblesome Knight is a bold, funny and heartwarming story from a perfect picture book pairing; the uniquely talented Elli Woollard and award-winning Benji Davies. Fairy tale fun from the creators of The Giant of Jum.

 

Enchanting story about a boy who makes friends with a baby dragon - beautifully illustrated and great fun!

 

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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.