GREEN boys, book-stealing rabbits and tiger ticklers all feature in Jane E Sandell’s round-up of the best new children’s books
The Little Girl Who Lost Her Name (www.lostmy.name, £18.99) is that rare thing, a self-published book that delights on all counts. Written by David Cadji-Newby and illustrated by Pedro Serapicos, it tells the story of a little girl (there’s also a version with a little boy) who wakes up one morning to discover her name is missing. The story is enjoyable and the illustrations dynamic but what will please children most is that the lost name is theirs. The high-quality book is produced to order using a selection of components, meaning that any name can be used. This is hugely exciting for children.
Ralfy Rabbit loves books. Most of all he loves getting lost in books. He just can’t get enough of them. He starts sneaking into people’s rooms and reading their books at night – and then he starts stealing them. Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar (Bloomsbury, £6.99) by Emily McKenzie is a real treat, managing to be funny, cute and attention-holding all at the same time. Ralfy is an engaging character and the end of the story will gladden the hearts of right-thinking people everywhere!
My First Scottish Things that Go (Wee Kelpies, £5.99) is an introduction to modes of transport in a cleverly designed Scottish landscape. I particularly like the Edinburgh tram and the Search and Rescue helicopter hovering above a mountain top. The small board book format makes it ideal for young hands still learning to manipulate and it’s sturdy enough to withstand their attempts. Kate McLelland’s illustrations are bold and bright, simple but with enough to keep the interest and attention of wee bairns!
Izzy just can’t keep still. She jiggles the jelly and paints her pigtails and plays with Grandma’s knitting with the kitten. She doesn’t mean to cause trouble but she just can’t stop moving. When her class goes to the zoo, the teacher warns her to take care around the animals and tells her that she should Never Tickle a Tiger (Bloomsbury, £6.99). By lunchtime Izzy is bored and she wonders what would happen if she did… Pamela Butchart’s story is funny, engrossing and superbly brought to life by Marc Boutavant’s dynamic and joyful illustrations.
Tim All Alone (Frances Lincoln, £12.99) was the first winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal for excellence in illustration and, 60 years on, Edward Ardizzone’s drawings are as captivating as ever. The story of a little boy who loses his parents, it is hugely enhanced by Ardizzone’s illustrations, which have lost nothing in the passage of time.
Beautiful Birds (Flying Eye, £14.99) by Jean Roussen and Emmanuelle Walker works on two different levels: as a sophisticated ABC book and as an illustrated guide to birds from around the world. At first glance the book appears very simple but, while the text is written in rhyme in typical ABC fashion, the vocabulary is advanced and offers additional factual information about the birds. The illustrations are bright and colourful, vibrant and dynamic.
It’s all up for Foxy and Alphonso in the latest in the series of Foxy Tales. Jailed for a crime they refuse to admit to, they find themselves locked up and looking for a way to escape. But as each tries to outwit the other and survive on prison gruel, a strange thing happens: Foxy gets thinner but Alphonso gets bigger. Will this affect their escape? Discover all by reading The Great Jail Break (Hodder, £4.99) by Caryl Hart and Alex T Smith. You’ll laugh out loud at their antics.
There’s more entertainment in Violet and the Hidden Treasure (Simon and Schuster, £8.99) – and drama too. Following a holiday in India, Violet is asked to look after the cockatoo of a rich maharajah after his death. But soon Violet realises that someone is trying to steal the maharani, as the bird holds the key to the late ruler’s treasure. There are plenty of laughs as the naïve Violet and her friends try to outwit the thief. Harriet Whitehorn’s story and Becka Moor’s illustrations are enticingly packaged in a smartly designed small hardback .
Alice Beech lies in a coma in hospital. What has shattered her life – and will she ever find her way home? As her story unfolds, the reader must work out who to trust and how to tell fact from fiction. Looking-Glass Girl (Puffin, £12.99), a modern reinvention of Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, is a piece of brilliance from Cathy Cassidy, a novel that captures the reader’s heart and mind.
What do you get if you mix a bright boy, the school bully and an unusual skin condition and then add a penguin? The Astounding Broccoli Boy (Macmillan. £10.99) of course! When Rory turns green and ends up in an isolation ward, he realises that he has turned into a super-hero. Anxious to discover his super-power, he reluctantly involves the only other green person known to medical science, his nemesis Grim Komissky. Mayhem ensues. A new novel from Frank Cottrell Boyce is always an excitement and here he melds humour and insight in a perfectly observed, hilarious story.
The First World War continues to be a popular setting for novels as its commemoration continues. Anzac Boys (Barrington Stoke, £6.99) by Tony Bradman is a story of loss, reunion and parting. Brothers Bert and Frank are sent from a London orphanage to a supposedly better life a world away. Bert promises to look after his younger brother but is powerless to prevent their separation. It takes the Great War to reunite them but how can the horrors of Gallipoli possibly provide a happy ending? Powerful, poignant and punchy, this can stand tall in the ranks of Great War fiction.
I had forgotten just how good Some Other War (£6.99) is. It was the first novel by Linda Newbery I read and I am delighted Catnip has made it available to a new audience. Twins Alice and Jack both work for a wealthy family and live tightly circumscribed lives. The outbreak of war changes everything, however, including the twins’ relationships with their erstwhile employers, as Jack goes to fight and Alice to nurse. This is a powerful story of war, duty and widening horizons written by an author whose ability to create and develop strong characters has been a constant throughout her illustrious career.
GET THE BOOKBUG BUG IN MAY
THE Bookbug programme provides every child in Scotland with four free packs of books between the ages of birth to five and runs free Bookbug Sessions at libraries and community centres. The aim of the programme is to support mums, dads and carers to talk, cuddle, sing, and share stories and rhymes with their children from birth. As well as being fun, this has many long-term benefits, such as building up confidence and social skills and boosting language development.
A week-long, country-wide celebration of the Bookbug programme – which is funded by the Scottish Government and managed by Scottish Book Trust – will take place between 18 and 24 May, with hundreds of free story, song and rhyme events for babies and young children and special appearances from some of the UK’s best-loved children’s authors and illustrators. As well as a flagship event at Rozelle House and Maclaurin Art Gallery in South Ayrshire on 19 May, schools and nurseries across the country will be able to join in a live webcast with award-winning author Chae Strathie on Thursday 21 May, and some fantastic Bookbug prizes will be up for grabs via Bookbug’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BookbugSBT) and Twitter (@Bookbug_SBT) throughout the week.
• Find out more about the Bookbug Week events happening in your area at scottishbooktrust.Com/bookbugweek or ask for information at your local library.