Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A Christmas Round-Up

What a wonderful selection of Christmas books have been made available this year for readers of all ages and whilst for the younger members of our audience many of these have a Christmas theme some are just very good books that Christmas allows the leisure of time to read!

It is with enormous thanks to Macmillan books that I present you with the first part of my selection, a wonderful parcel of goodies that arrived in my office just this week , part two is a pair of books from Hot Key Books and Picacdilly Press' Christmas highlights, then if you head over to Armadillo Magazine you will see a great selection from a variety of publishers to read this Christmas (these are featured as a round-up in the Also Out section but don't forget all the other great books that we feature too!)

Now back to my current selection, sitting next to me on the desk and begging for readers just like you are ...

The Macmillan Alice, Advice for Modern Women: What Would Alice Do? with a foreword by Lauren Laverne.  In this wonderful pocket-sized book are selected quotes from Alice on the themes of Inspiration, what to do when having a bad day or a tough day at work - keep your sense of humour and remember that each day will come to a natural end!.  And so it goes on with plenty of wit and humour these selected quotes will help you get through the day and maybe even encourage you to read Alice all over again, a real treat and beautifully illustrated too.

If getting through the day means having a good colouring in or doodle session then Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: A Colouring Book could be just what you need and in fact is featured in the Winter edition of Armadillo.  Or why try something from our current Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell's Doodle a Day should keep many a doodler happy for an entire year ... packed with Chris' own illustrations and plenty of tips and hints this book could create some master doodlers in a year's time!

Three stories in one slim book make up the very special The Christmas Star: A Festive Story Collection from Eva Ibbotson.  Read and discover how a young Viennese girl discovers the magical meaning behind the family celebrations or how the words of a fortune teller can change the life of a family and finally a heroic fish who, destined for the Christmas dinner plate wins over his would-be eaters!

For comedy at Christmas try William at Christmas by Richmal Compton or for comedy of a non-christmasy but still very funny type why not pick up Mooneboy: The Fish Detective by Chris O'Dowd and Nick V. Murphy, the hardback has a great front cover cut out feature and the story - well it is just a laugh a page!

A Thousand Nights by E. K, Johnston is a classic re-imagining of the famous 1,001 Arabian Nights story and has been reviewd in Armadillo so I won't go into detail again here suffice to say it is an arresting, clever and unusual read.
Another title already mentioned in our main magazine is Julia Donaldson's What the Ladybird Heard Next with its glorious glittery cover this is a must read for fans of the little ladybird and the wonderful creative imagination of Julia Donaldson and her illustrator Lydia Monks.

From Hot Key and Macmillan not only two charming books but they were in a delightful red envelope complete with snowflakes and a mini candy cane, quite charming.  snowball: The Baby Bigfoot is a delightful addition to The Secret Animal Society series by Ruth Symes and illustrated by Tina Marchington.  The story is perfect for younger readers with its mix of fantasy and reality, the delightful characterisation and the warm appealing story.  Lily and the Christmas Wish by Keris Stainton is a magical Christmas story abut how wishes really can come true, in the most unexpected of ways.  This magical story of mix-ups is a delightful read, perfect for sharing at Christmas and ideal for helping to realise that there are many ways in which wishes can come true - not always for the best ...

To conclude this blog two very Christmasy titles, from Macmillan imprint Campbell books Busy Santa a board book introducing the youngest of readers to the busy time that Santa has every Christmas with plenty of options to 'push, pull and slide' keeping little fingers busy... then The Best Christmas Present Ever by Ben Mantle with its glorious glittery snowy cover and wonderful story of love and friendship at Christmas what could be a better way to round off this Blog?

As always your comments welcomed...

Monday, 7 December 2015

Barrington Stoke at its very best

A round-up of titles from Barrington Stoke …

In this week's Blog, reviewer and teacher Simon Barrett rounds-up and reviews a selection of some of Barrington Stoke's excellent titles...

Barrington Stoke's latest publications offer great reads for young people with a reading age of eight.  There are a number of books aimed at young readers from eight to twelve years old.  As ever, it includes new stories by great authors, this time including Jonathan Stroud (The Ghost of Shadow Vale) and Terry Deary (The Hat Trick), not reviewed here but certainly recommended reads. 

A book I do want to tell you more about is written by Tony Bradman and tells the story of the legendary king, Harald Hardrada in Harald Hardnut.  Harald had fled Norway when he was fifteen, using his sword to carve out a fierce some reputation.  With his comrades-in-arms Ulf and Haldor, Harald became a bodyguard to the Emperor himself, before winning the hand of a Russian Princess.  Upon becoming King of Norway, Harald eventually became bored of court life.  Then, he accepted one last challenge, to take the throne of England.  Harald couldn’t have been happier than meeting Harold, son of Goodwin in battle at Stamford Bridge in 1066.

In addition there a number of books of interest to teenagers: Dream OnThe Return of Johnny Kemp and The Devil's Angel and The Diary of an (Un) teenager.

In Dream On, Baljit dreams of being a football star.  His teacher thinks he is good enough even to go for trials at Leicester City.  Baljit’s parents however want him to stop dreaming.  They think he should focus on a doing well at school and getting a good job.  Then his cousin Mandip comes up with a brilliant idea of a school trip to fool Baljit’s parents, allowing him to go to the trials.   Baljit however will have to overcome racism off and on the pitch if he is to prove he is the better player.  It also means lying to his parents.

Dan, in The Return of Johnny Kemp, is in deep trouble.  The school bully – Johnny Kemp – is back and Dan is the one who was responsible for him being excluded for two weeks.  The message from the Baxter brothers and all his classmates is that Dan is a dead man.  No one seems to listen and no one is on his side.  So it is up to Dan to face Johnny.  There can only be one winner.  This is a brilliantly written story about school bullying with one surprising twist at the end.
The Devil’s Angel by Kevin Brooks explores the growing friendship between Jack and new bad boy in town, Dean.  In an intense summer, involving drink and drugs, Jack and Dean seem to relish the rock and roll life, until Dean picks a fight with the wrong people.  It is an interesting story of a band nearly making it and an unlikely friendship, beginning and then drifting apart.  This book will interest teenage readers with a reading age of 8.

Spencer is in shock.  His best friend Zac turns thirteen and changes into a skater, complete with a hoodie and a skateboard.  Spencer is thirteen in a few weeks, but vows to not change.  He is going to be an (un) teenager.
Diary of an (Un) teenager by Pete Johnson is the hilarious story of Spencer refusing to change.  His lego and model airplanes are firmly staying in his room.  Neither is he going to buy new trainers, when his old (and slightly smelly) ones are perfectly suitable for a kick about in the park.  Spencer's resolve is however fully tested when he receives an anonymous birthday card and a badly drawn heart in the corner.

Spencer is back in Return of the (Un) teenager.  This time Spencer has to contend with the fact his voice is breaking and that his best friend Zac has made loads of new friends on Facebook, including his new girlfriend Sarah.  Spencer's relationship with Emily is not going very well. Return of the (Un) teenager is another comic story of miscommunication.

The anniversary of WWI has inspired a number of novels from Barrington Stoke.  The two latest books by Alan Gibbons and Tony Bradman fictionalize their own personal, family histories relating to WWI and WWII.

Street Corner Dad by Alan Gibbons tells the story of Jimmy and his sister Molly who are forced to meet their father secretly on a street corner when a family tragedy tears the family apart.  Their Dad’s promise that nothing will keep them apart in this world or the next seems ill-fated as news arrives that his ship has been torpedoed.  This is an excellent story aimed at a reading age of 7 and an interest age of 7-12 years old.

ANZAC Boys by Tony Bradman is based upon the lives of his Grandfather Bert and his brother Frank.  Orphaned, the boys are transported by priests to the otherwise side of the world.  Upon arrival Bert’s promise that he will always look after Frank is quickly broken as Bert is sent to Australia and Frank to New Zealand.  Bert tries with no success to find Frank, until remarkably, they meet up by chance preparing for the WWI battle of Gallipoli.  Sadly the reunion is not the happy one Bert intends.  This is a story for a reading age of 8 and interest age of 9+.

Also published is a new story by Malorie Blackman illustrated by Matthew Griffin entitled Robot Girl.  The author brilliantly subverts the genre as Claire becomes jealous of her father’s new creation.  Once again he is spending hours in his laboratory, working on a new project to create an artificial intelligence, using Claire’s own brain patterns without her permission.  Claire’s new friend Maisie is the only person who seems to understand.  The story is intended for a reading age of 8 and an interest age of 8-12 years old.

Quite a selection so hopefully something for everyone and a great variety too!