Books Monthly children's books december 2016

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Una Leavy: Magical Celtic Tales

Published by O'Brien 10th October 2016

 

Storytelling has always been at the heart of Celtic societies. From firesides to books, these tales have been passed from generation to generation. Some are well known, such as the Irish legend of Diarmaid and Gráinne, while those less frequently told, including The Magic Pail from Cornwall, deserve their place in this unique collection. Tales from all celtic lands, including Brittany, The Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales, meet here. Skillfully retold by author and poet Una Leavy and brought to life by Fergal O’Connor’s lively illustrations. Read of giants and dragons, of fairies and princesses: all beautifully illustrated and told for a new generation of children.

 

Superb Brian Froud-type illustrations make this a perfect introduction to Celtic myths and tales in a most handsome volume from O'Brien. Stunning.

 

 

Elizabeth Jane Howard: The Amazing Adventures of Freddie Whitemouse

Published by Mantle 7th November 2016

 

From the much-loved author of the Cazalet Chronicles comes Elizabeth Jane Howard's first children's book, The Amazing Adventures of Freddie Whitemouse, following the magical journey of a mouse who wishes to be anything but himself. The trouble was that Freddie really did not like being a mouse. 'It's just a phase,' his mother said, but it wasn't . . . Little Freddie Whitemouse, of No.16, Skirting Board West, simply hates being a mouse. Mice are terribly small, frightened of everything, and aren't allowed to have any fun at all. Instead, he longs to be a fierce tiger, king of the jungle floor; or someone's treasured dog, able to run and play all day. So when a sorcerer toad hears Freddie's pleas and offers his assistance, there is really little else Freddie could ask for. So as not to make any rash decisions, Freddie agrees to spend a week as each animal. But what will he discover on his amazing adventure? And will he ever want to be just a plain old mouse again?

 

Delightful fantasy tips a nod to Beatrix Potter, who really started it all... the stories are charming and magical.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Classic Nursery Rhymes Illustrated by Dorothy M Wheeler

Published by Bloomsbury 6th October 2016

 

Featuring gorgeous artwork from Enid Blyton's illustrator Dorothy M. Wheeler this book of classic nursery rhymes is the perfect gift. Original artwork from 1916 illustrates nursery favourites including Little Jack Horner, Jack and Jill and Humpty Dumpty. This stunning hardback is a must-have for Christmas. Dorothy M. Wheeler (1891-1966) was an illustrator who worked primarily in watercolours and ink. She illustrated books by authors such as Enid Blyton and Anne MacDonald and the artwork in this book was one of her first published projects. Chris Riddell is a much loved illustrator and acclaimed political cartoonist. He won the 2013 Costa Children's Book Prize for Goth Girl and has won the Nestlé Gold Award and two Kate Greenaway Medals. He is co-creator of the hugely successful New York Times bestseller The Edge Chronicles.

 

Last month it was Chris Riddell's own book series, Ottoline, which got my attention - this month he's written the foreword to this exquisitely illustrated book of cleassic nursery rhymes, the illustrator in question being Dorothy M Wheeler. This is a really handsome book, and for Mums and Dads who ;play, there are pioano accompaniments - absolutely brilliant, delightful and beautiful!

 

Len Vlahos: Life In A Fishbowl

Published by Bloomsbury 12th January 2017

 

Jackie's life wasn't perfect, but at least it was normal. That is, until her dad received a terminal cancer diagnosis. Then he went and did what anyone faced with mountains of medical bills and a family to support would do: he sold his life to the highest bidder. Which turned out to be a TV station. Suddenly everyone from psychotic millionaires to cyber-savvy nuns wants a piece of Jackie's family as they become a reality TV sensation. Jackie's life spirals out of control just as her dad's starts to run out, and meanwhile the whole world is tuning in to watch her family fall apart . Acidly funny and heartbreakingly sad, Life in a Fishbowl is an exploration of the value of life and what memories mean to us. Perfect for fans of Patrick Ness.

 

A little too serious for my tastes - I prefer adventure stories when I put on my children's reading hat - this is very good but a little like something you might be asked to read during school hours and not something to relax with.

 

Cat Mantra: Actual Reallity

Published by The Book Guild 28th September 2016

 

Join Josh Mantra and his ever-faithful digital companion Tate as they travel throughout time and space battling foes, and saving innocents from impending disaster. From the old Wild West, to black holes in space a galaxy away, you won't want to miss a beat! Josh Mantra is a typical 12-year-old kid, living a typical 12-year-old kid’s life – with school, friends, family and video games. On his birthday, he receives a very special gift from his dad, something that is to change his life forever. An Actual Reality crystal, capable of projecting his life force ANYWHERE, and ANYTIME. But this isn't just for fun. He has been chosen by the Inter Dimensional Federation (IDF) as the ONLY being capable of succeeding his dad on life-saving and life-changing missions throughout the multiverse. He has to go through rigorous testing to make sure he is up to the job, and not long after that, his first mission begins, battling a reptilian on a far away world the size and with the appetite of a Tyrannosaurus Rex! A few missions in, Josh discovers that it's not just about saving people in distress. There are some bad guys out there… The Inter Dimensional Empire (IDE) has a VERY different agenda to the federation: Divide and Conquer. The IDE have the same capabilities as the IDF. They are are two incredibly technologically advanced organisations, but only one can emerge victorious…

G H Cawser: The Heroes of Elwhen

Published by Matador 28th October 2016

 

John and Sally-Anne are city born and bred, but enjoy spending their summers on Uncle Ned's farm. They believe they've already experienced thrills aplenty, but there is far more in store for them than they could ever have imagined. With their cousin Gerald, they make one last trip to the top of mysterious Barrow Hill and from there find themselves drawn into a place of enchantment and wonder - the mysterious land of Elwhen. After being captured by a witch named Belldonna, the youngsters become embroiled in a struggle that threatens the very fabric of their newly discovered world. Their overriding wish is to return home, but everything is thrown into turmoil when they are coerced into searching for a magical amulet - the Jewel of the Isle. The situation only worsens for the trio when they discover that the jewel already lies within the witch's grasp, and is adorning the neck of a captive she is holding in her dungeon. Acting on a plan formulated by their wizardly friend, Mr Thurlan, the children agree to undertake a perilous return journey to the witch's lair, but even the best laid plans go wrong...Comparable to the Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, The Heroes of Elwhen is the first in a six book series that explores the world and characters of Alva. Written in a timeless style, the plots thicken and unfold as the tale progresses, drawing the reader through several twists and turns. The Heroes of Elwhen will appeal to children aged between 7 and 11 who enjoy fantasy tales like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

 

A stunning story by someone who knows how to engage and keep children interested. Reminiscent of children's tales from long ago...

 

Bryony Supper: The Inventing Tubes

Published by Matador 28th November 2015

 

'The Pasta Kidz(TM) and Petz Adventures' are humorous, zany, magical and chaotic stories that bring together the pasta-themed Kidz - including Sarah Spaghetti, Ricki Ravioli, Camilla Cannelloni (above) and their creative Petz - Mumbo the Macaroni Dog, Spud the Spaghetti Horse and Val the Vermicelli Snake (above) together in unusual circumstances, engaging with strange magical objects that have a life of their own. The songs, music and humour, told in specially invented pasta language, will engage 4-to-7 year olds in a fantasy world of friendship. The plots and messages reinforce how the Kidz are unique, with different personalities and their own needs. Each tale shows how they help each other, usually with their own individual Petz, and throughout the series we see how their personalities and friendships develop especially when encountering new characters, like the evil and huge Pasta Beasties! In The Inventing Tubes, the first Pasta Kidz(TM) adventure in a series of up to forty books, Sarah and Marc Macaroni try their hand at inventing fun objects - and get a very grumpy PastaBall to play football with. But Sarah proves that the sport is not just for boys and she tries her hand at inventing her own ball! Every highly-branded Pasta Kidz(TM) and Petz story, illustrated in beautiful, full-colour detail, contains a moral message and will both inform and entertain young readers.

 

Angela Fish: Ben And The Spider Lake

Published by The Book Guild 28th October 2016

 

In the summer holidays Ben, his family, his dog Scoot, and his best friend Jess, stay in a cottage near the Dark Mountains. Ben and Jess find out that there's a lake inside the mountain called Spider Lake and the wonder if this is the lake that Ben's Gran has told him about. Scoot gets into trouble when he finds a way through a cave onto the path around the lake where Ben and Jess meet a white owl called Hiboo and a mysterious lady. When Ben arrives home from his holiday, he finds that the lane at the back of his garden is going to be dug up. He worries that the spiders living under the lane will not only lose their home but they could end up getting hurt. Ben tries to find Lox, guardian of the spider kingdom to warn him. Ben and Jess try desperately to think of somewhere that the spiders can live, but with only four weeks until the workmen arrive, can they find somewhere in time?

Barney Saltzberg: Hug This Book! Illustrated by Fred Benaglia

Published by Phaidon 24th October 2016

 

An energetic, heartfelt, and humorous ode to book love. You can spin and twirl and dance with this book.
You can listen while someone else reads it.
You can take your book to lunch.
Just do not try to feed it.

Expertly whimsical illustrations accompany this rhyming celebration of the printed book, and the attachment many of us all feel to our very favourites. The imaginative humour is balanced by earnest devotion, traits to which the young audience will relate. A sure-to-be favourite, this title will draw giggles and snuggles ... with the book itself!

 

Of course, you can hug a book - to your chest - though it's not the same as a cuddly toy. I prefer to read books, and would opnly consider hugging one if it was in danger of being taken away from me...

 

Bill Mevin: Peggy

Published by Matador 28th November 2016

 

Peggy the flying pony - a descendent of Pegasus - is given to a young girl by Zeus himself...Susan is a schoolgirl who loves ponies but doesn't have one of her own because her Father can't afford to buy her one. The day before her birthday, she goes for a country walk and encounters the Greek god Zeus in the woodland. He presents her with a winged pony, called Peggy - a descendant of Pegasus. Her wings can magically be made to disappear and she understands every word spoken to her. Susan is overjoyed but is aware that she needs to keep Peggy's wings secret. Zeus gives her a letter to show to her parents that it's a genuine gift and Susan sets off home with her new friend. Her attempts to hide Peggy's retractable wings produce slapstick-style comedy and she is helped by the local farmer's son Mickey, in whom she confides about Zeus' gift. Unfortunately, her secret is discovered by an eccentric villain who wants Peggy for himself..."Years ago I provided an illustration of a jockey to Horse and Hounds, and reading through the printed magazine was inspired by teenagers' love of ponies. I forgot all about it until I found the issue this year - which led me to write Peggy!" comments Bill, on the catalyst for his novel being born. He also takes inspiration from Enid Bagnold's National Velvet.

 

 


 

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.