Springtime in fantasy land
Stories will keep children entertained long after all the chocolate has gone.
FOR BABIES AND TODDLERS
IT'S NEARLY 14 YEARS SINCE Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram's Guess How Much I Love You became a best-seller, so it's good to welcome a new arrival from that award-winning team. Guess How Much I Love You in the Spring (Walker Books, 4.99) is one of a quartet of seasonal stories presented in an attractive, square, board book format. Spring is the right time for a chat with Big Nutbrown Hare about how things grow. But Little Nutbrown Hare is puzzled; acorns, tadpoles, caterpillars and eggs don't resemble their adult selves, so what will he look like when he's big?
There are more big and little matters in Fun on the Farm and Splash in the Sea, two rhyming board books featuring cheerful illustrations by Ana Martn Larraaga (Little Tiger Press, 4.99). What makes these books different is the die-cut pages, which very neatly give two books in one. The child on your lap can turn the pages of the mini-book about the baby chick or baby whale, while you read and turn the "grown-up" pages.
And for a light-hearted look at birth in an entertaining lift-the-flap book, try My Dog, My Cat, My Mum and Me! by Nigel Gray and Bob Graham (Walker Books, 6.99). A fat dog and a fat cat go into a cupboard and come out thin. What's going on? Look in the cupboard to discover two pups and three kittens. So when mum gets fatter and fatter the reason is clear, but she has her four babies in hospital, thank goodness! Children will love the comic illustrations and jolly rhyming text, although youngsters whose mums just happen to be a bit on the chubby side could be in for a disappointment.
There are more babies, feathered ones this time, in Emily Gravett's The Odd Egg (Macmillan Children's Books, 10.99). All the birds have laid eggs except for Duck – well, he is male – but, undeterred, Duck finds a massive white and green-spotted egg and waits patiently. A minimal text and wonderful illustrations in soft cream, green and pink are combined with great skill and humour to reveal each chick as it hatches, until Duck's surprising offspring finally breaks free from its shell …
FOR 4 TO 7-YEAR-OLDS
FOR A zingy celebration of having the confidence to do your own thing, try It's A George Thing by David Bedford and Russell Julian (Egmont Press, 5.99). George the Zebra does his best to join in when his friends play basketball and lift rocks, but when he hears Priscilla the Giraffe singing, he discovers that his thing is dancing. Fizzing with energy and excitement, he dons rainbow-striped leg warmers, overcomes his stage fright and encourages his macho pals to boogie. Best of all is the six-move dance routine on the end papers, as demonstrated by George, Peachy the Gorilla and Moon the Lion – the whole family will be on its feet!
There's exercise of a vocal kind in The Tickle Tree (Meadowside, 5.99), an exuberant nonsense rhyming text by Fife writer Chae Strathie. Amazing creatures inhabit the land where the Tickle Tree grows and Poly Bernatene's rich and fantastical illustrations bring Boomjangles, Poomunkles, Crabbysnaps and more to startling life. Older readers will relish such lines as "perched on the paunch of a blubbalub's belly", while younger ones will enjoy listening to adults getting their tongues in a twist as they read.
Joe Friedman's Boobela, Worm and Potion Power, illustrated in colour by Sam Childs (Orion 6.99), is a breath of fresh air. Boobela, the giant girl, and her friend, Worm, are at the heart of a series of mini-dramas whose tone echoes the easy-going nature of youngsters' banter. Resolutions are warm-hearted without being pat and, despite the surreal nature of the protagonists, all human life is here, and it makes good sense.
Set in "amazing Africa" Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia (Walker Books, 3.99), is a series of lively, captivating tales about the everyday life of Anna Hibiscus and her extended family in modern-day West Africa. Anna's mother is Canadian and her father African, so there are opportunities here for a gentle exploration of cultural differences. When Auntie Comfort returns from America, the older generation is worried she will have forgotten the traditional ways. But Anna's excitement at going on holiday, exasperation with her brothers and love of mischief will be familiar to children wherever they live.
FOR 7 TO 10-YEAR-OLDS
WRITTEN and illustrated by US cartoonist, Wiley Miller, The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil (Bloomsbury, 9.99) is the story of young Basil Pepperell, who lives in a lighthouse on the coast of Maine and longs for adventure. Almost immediately he's picked up by a passing airship and whisked away to the astonishing cloud city of Helios, where he meets Louise – who, of course, thinks her life is just as dull. So they set off on her pet pteranodon, encounter the evil Dr von Rttweil and quickly discover that life can be too exciting. A fast-moving, entertaining tale, this will appeal to a wide age range. It's great fun to read aloud – and how good it is to see full-colour illustrations throughout.
For those growing out of Horrid Henry and looking longingly towards Darren Shan, Jamie Rix's Grizzly Tales series provides the perfect next step. Subtitled "Cautionary Tales for Lovers of Squeam", his stories have more than a hint of Roald Dahl in their unflinching approach to the darker sides of human nature. The latest collections, Terror Time Toys and Blubbers and Sicksters (Orion, 5.99 each), are surreal and funny. Talking of surreal, if you believe that "the truth is a lemon meringue" then you're already a fan of Andy Stanton's outrageously silly and enjoyable Mr Gum books. In Mr Gum and the Power Crystals, (Egmont, 4.99) illustrated by David Tazzyman, young Polly, aided by Friday, Old Granny and Alan Taylor the gingerbread man, again strives to save the town of Lamonic Bibber from the evil machinations of the bearded Bad Man. As always, Stanton has a ball with dialogue, detail and devilish plot twists.
Joan Lennon's Wickit Chronicles continue with Ice Road (Andersen Press, 4.99), the third adventure for orphan Pip and resourceful gargoyle Perfect. The East Anglian setting is used to great effect in this wintry story in which the frozen Fens become the ice road of the title – an easy route for a traitorous nobleman. But Pip's immediate concern is for his beloved monks at Wickit Monastery, who are fast falling prey to a nasty bug. Expect ingenious plotting with a terrific cast of characters.
FOR 9 TO 12-YEAR-OLDS
EDINBURGH writer Lari Don's debut novel has the intriguing title First Aid for Fairies and other Fabled Beasts (Floris Books, 5.99). It's a fantasy adventure populated by centaurs, mermaids and fairies, that remains firmly rooted in reality as it whisks the reader from the Borders to Orkney and back to Edinburgh's underground streets. Helen's mother is a vet, but Helen knows too much about the "mud, blood and dung" side of the profession to want to follow in her footsteps. However, when a boy centaur with a nasty leg wound turns up in her garden, her natural curiosity and compassion lead her to help him and his companions in their search for a precious magical book – before it falls into the clutches of the Master of the Maze. Strong characterisation, wry humour and Helen's robustly practical attitude to the fabled creatures she encounters add up to a refreshingly different quest tale.
Deliciously dark, witty and inventive, The Bone Magician (Macmillan Children's Books, 8.99) is FE Higgins's second novel and while not a sequel to The Black Book of Secrets it is set in the same gruesomely gothic world and is an equally compelling tale. Pin Carpue's father has disappeared, suspected of murder, and Pin's lonely vigils as a "corpse-watcher" for the local undertaker (a man so fearful of burying someone alive that he's devised an elaborate series of tests to establish death) give him plenty of time to muse on the mystery. But it's only when he encounters the Bone Magician, who claims to be able to raise the dead, that Pin begins to unravel the truth – and finds himself in grave danger.
Before Green Gables (Puffin Books, 9.99) is the authorised prequel written by veteran Canadian children's author Budge Wilson to celebrate the centenary of LM Montgomery's well-loved tale. The book is packed with heartrending dramatic scenes, as skinny little flame-haired Anne loses parents, foster parents, friends and pets while being made to work like a drudge. Books, school and the occasional kindly teacher or neighbour are the only bright spots in her life, but Anne's unflagging optimism, astonishing intelligence, preternatural maturity and vivid imagination carry her through. This Anne is rather two-dimensional compared with Montgomery's classic creation, but Wilson has written a cracking misery memoir.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West