April 3, 2017
Hardback, Penguin Random House, £17.99, out now
This excellent crowdfunded children’s book is flying out of the shop just now – when we were out of stock we were being asked about it every day.
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls features single-page stories about extraordinary women, and each is accompanied by an illustration from one of a range of talented international artists. This means that the book is a pleasure to dip into, and feels fresh and enjoyable to pick up.
The women included are from very diverse backgrounds, and are drawn from history as well as the present day. I was fascinated to read about Ashley Fiolek, a Deaf motocross racer born in the USA in 1990 who says: “I don’t think about vibrations; I don’t think about anything at all. I’m part of the bike now”. I also loved the story of the Cholita climbers of Bolivia, who decided that it need not be only men who got to see they view from the nearby mountain. And so they just set off, wearing their skirts (cholitas). Born around 1968, the group may be climbing something right now. I was also pleased to find the stories of women I was more familiar with, including Amelia Earhart, Maya Angelou, and Malala Yousafzai.
The stories are told in language suitable for primary age children and up. The book is from the US, and UK readers may not agree with every authorial interpretation of history given, but it’s still full of exciting stuff.
Review by Bethan
March 18, 2017
Paperback, Scholastic, £6.99, out now
When a visiting toddler from next door goes missing, 12 year old Matthew tries to solve the case. He has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and spends a lot of time looking out of his window as it’s hard for him to leave his room… but can he start to overcome his illness and find out what has happened?
This is a convincing and engrossing mystery story which I’d recommend for older readers (if the reader is OK with a missing child storyline, I reckon they should be OK with the book). Excellent YA mysteries like Gene Kemp’s Juniper and Rosa Guy’s The Disappearance made me a mystery fan for life, and I think this book will do the same for readers now (another Juniper fan reviews it here – http://awfullybigreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/juniper-by-gene-kemp-reviewed-by-ellen.html). It’s a little slow to start but worth sticking with.
Goldfish Boy is also a kind and creative treatment of OCD, including how treatment works, and has received positive reviews from some people with OCD (see http://www.abeautifulchaos.co.uk/2016/12/the-goldfish-boy-mental-health-book.html). Thompson thanks OCD-UK for their help and the quality of her research and empathy show, particularly in her illustration of how OCD can affect families and the painful and distressing nature of the illness (http://www.ocduk.org/ocd). It has triggered comparisons with Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, and may find some readers in common. I can definitely recommend it anyone, adult or child, in search of an intriguing quick read.
Review by Bethan
January 8, 2017
Hardback, HarperCollins, £19.99, out now
First published in the 1970s, Lobel’s Frog and Toad short stories are remembered with affection by many children of that period, including me. I rediscovered them as an adult and found the kindness and gentle humour of the stories had stayed with me all that time. I have bought the books for early readers, adults, and many ages in between.
The collected stories are now available in a lovely collected hardback edition released last year, with a new foreword by Gruffalo author and huge Lobel fan Julia Donaldson. She notes that the books are “intended for beginner readers but also are great for parents to read aloud at bedtime. They are fables really, about endearing human weaknesses such as greed, self-consciousness, laziness and addiction to routine”.
Frog and Toad are best friends who face life’s small and larger challenges together. The characters are easy to relate to. In The Letter, Toad explains to Frog that the morning is “my sad time of day” when he always waits for the mail to come, even though he never gets any mail. Frog sits with him and they feel sad together. Frog then goes home and writes Toad a letter, which reads: “Dear Toad, I am glad that you are my best friend. Your best friend, Frog”. Toad is very pleased with this letter, although it doesn’t arrive for four days because Frog has given it to a snail to deliver.
The stories are children’s classics, especially in the US, but have a deeper cultural and personal significance as well (see http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/frog-and-toad-an-amphibious-celebration-of-same-sex-love).
We also stock the more portable paperback editions of the individual story collections. The engaging two-tone pictures complete the endearing quality of the book. A book to keep forever.
Review by Bethan
November 30, 2016
By the same author as the classic I Want My Hat Back, this is a spare and beautiful picture book. It manages to be extremely funny and also very thoughtful. It is perfect for reading aloud with young children, but is also an ideal gift for reflective adults.
Even the synopsis on the back of the book is a masterpiece: “Two turtles have found a hat. The hat looks good on both of them. But there are two turtles. And there is only one hat.” The scene is set for a tense drama, involving loyalty and the nature of reality. And a hat.
How many children’s books can you say would be ideal gifts to celebrate friendship, love, weddings and civil partnerships? Buy this book for yourself and read it many times over the rest of your life. An instant classic.
Review by Bethan
June 3, 2016
Hardback, £9.99, Egmont ‘Classics’
Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 children’s classic The Wind in the Willows was republished last year in a beautiful hardback edition by Egmont ‘Classics’, complete with an appendix of activities for children, a well-conceived glossary (as some of Grahame’s words are challenging) and E. H. Shepherd’s original and unforgettable pen illustrations. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. The recommended reading age is 9 – 11 years but a confident reader of seven or eight could be enthralled either reading it themselves or having it read to them and indeed anyone from a five or six year-old to ninety or more could fall in love with this book and remain in love for life.
The unusual and wonderful thing about The Wind in the Willows is that it has references adults will appreciate (to Ulysses for instance, the politics of Grahame’s day, and other literary allusions), some moments of genuine profundity (the haunting chapter ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ is a case in point) – and abundant humour, warmth and excitement that will entertain children as well. Indeed every aspect of this novel is exceptional. The prose is exquisite, the atmosphere palpable, the descriptions of the natural world amongst some of the best in children’s literature and not a page goes by without some gentle humour. The characterisation deserves special notice and is unusually sophisticated for a children’s book; Mole, in particular, is a peculiar, humorous and endearing little creature but all of Grahame’s cast are marvellously realised.
Children’s classics of this period excel in their delicacy, beauty and strangeness. They seem to possess a quality difficult to describe but feels ‘strange’ to our 21st century ears. This quality might also be called ‘magic’. There is an ‘otherness’ to The Wind in the Willows (and several other bygone treasures such as Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, The Secret Garden, Charlotte’s Web…) that it is virtually non-existent in modern children’s literature and so enchanting that it is impossible not to feel that Grahame has written something resonant and timeless, and that while we are reading we are doing something very worthwhile.
Review by Emily
May 10, 2016
Paperback, Walker Books, £6.99, out now
A deserved winner of the excellent Little Rebels Award for radical children’s books (https://littlerebelsaward.wordpress.com/2016/05/09/alexis-deacon-invites-children-to-come-up-with-an-alternative-to-capitalism/ ), this beautiful picture book made me roar with laughter.
Henry Finch is a small bird who comes to realise that he exists, and thinks, and that he can use his thoughts to tackle THE BEAST. It’s an introduction to philosophy for toddlers and small children… but also just very entertaining, with deceptively simple and funny drawings. Definitely a book for adults as well as children. Superb.
Review by Bethan
July 3, 2014
The Fault in our Stars tells the story of a 16-year-old girl called Hazel who has cancer. While attending a support group in a local church, she meets a handsome boy called Augustus Waters and her story begins to change. This is one of my favourite books of all time as it is not your typical love story. Although classified as Young Adult fiction, it’s a novel that I think is important for everyone to read as it puts your own life into perspective. Another point about this book which is important is that the characters are portrayed as real teenagers with their own interests and not as their illness, which many books and films tend to do with the subject of cancer.
Once you read The Fault in Our Stars you will continue to think about it for months as it poses many different questions about life and death. Some parts are extremely emotional but there’s a lot of humour in between, which makes reading this book rather like a rollercoaster ride. Recently a film adaptation was released and those who love the novel will also love the film, which is sad and inspiring – and a very true portrayal of the book.
Review by Megan Hughes-Gage, age 15
May 24, 2012
It has been said here before and it will doubtless be said again, but it is nice when books look nice, when a real effort is made with their appearance. Penguin, who like their reissues, seem to be keen on this idea too (also as we have said here before), and have of late been sending out to bookshops everywhere some rather smart and dinky Puffin Classics. Its all the old standards – Little Princess, Huckleberry Finn, etc – but beautifully packaged, all pocket-sized and cloth-bound. So far there 12 in the series priced £12.99.
May 11, 2012
It’s filled with colourful pictures.
It’s about all things sport.
What more could you want?
Except for it being only £15.
And also except for the other two wallbooks – The What on Earth? Wallbook (about everything) and The What on Earth? Wallbook of Natural History (about natural history). Also for £15.
October 22, 2011
Hardly a hot new release, and certainly not something that could have been easily missed in the last 15 or so years, but attention must be drawn to an all new Everyman Classic Library edition of everyone’s favourite bestselling atheist-minded fantasy kids epic.
Like everything produced by the Everyman Classic Library it’s a handsome, perfectly proportioned thing, with stitched binding and sewn in bookmark, a special introduction and all the other lovely touches that Everyman do to make their books so covetable. But more exciting than any of that is the price: The Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, all wrapped up nicely, for the ludicrously low price of £15. Too shocking.
January 6, 2011
A pack of pocket-sized cards to help recognise and learn all about 50 of London’s famous landmarks. Each card has a detailed illustration, with information, facts and statistics on reverse.