Experts in children's literacy
Each week CLPE librarian Ann Lazim will select a Book of the Week from recently published books.
Click here to see Ann's recommended reading lists on a range of topics
Ernest and Celestine, Gabrielle Vincent
Stories of lost toys are picture book perennials, including Shirley Hughes’ Dogger and the hilarious Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems. In this Belgian picture book, originally published in French and recently issued in a fresh translation, a small and demanding mouse child Celestine is cared for by an avuncular bear called Ernest. On a winter walk through the snow, Celestine mislays her beloved toy penguin Simeon. Ernest ventures out into the night with his lantern and finds poor penguin the worse for wear in the winter weather. How can he save the situation? The text consists entirely of the duo’s dialogue. This perfectly complements the loving guardian and child relationship which is charmingly but unsentimentally shown in the pictures. Use is made of a muted palette which shifts from a bleak grey and white winter landscape to a yellow glow inside Ernest and Celestine’s disordered but cosy home. An animated film is due for release soon and a further picture book about the pair entitled The Picnic is coming in May.
Catnip Publishing £10.99
East of the Sun, West of the Moon, Jackie Morris
This Norwegian folk tale of a quest to regain a lost lover is given a modern slant in this short illustrated novel. A girl who has moved with her refugee family to another land is sought out by a white bear and it seems that their destinies are intertwined. Jackie Morris paints the progress of the girl’s journey to the castle which is East of the Sun, West of the Moon, her figure slight and distant as she strides purposefully across a variety of landscapes. Mystery is maintained and the relative anonymity of folk tale characters preserved by this distancing of characters within the pictures (we never see her lover in human shape) and the use of language. However, this fairy tale heroine breaks the mould and eventually we learn her true name as she asserts her power and makes a life changing decision.
There is a teaching sequence for The Princess and the White Bear King which is a variant of this story in picture book form in the CLPE publication Bookpower Year 2 .
Frances Lincoln £9.99
Stanley’s Stick, John Hegley and Neal Layton
Stanley’s stick is his constant companion, a toy with which he creates ‘game after sticky game.’ The endless uses to which he puts this natural object are wittily and affectionately described in often alliterative and always playful prose, the humour reflected in the collage illustrations. This picture book is a tribute to children’s imagination. It's one of my favourite additions to the recently revised CLPE Core Booklist and I was especially inspired to make it my book of the week by hearing John Hegley read it aloud recently (to an audience of adults!) at my local bookshop Rye Books
Shake A Leg, Boori Monty Pryor and Jan Ormerod
This week’s book of the week is a tribute to Jan Ormerod who sadly died last week. She is best known in the UK for her delightful realistic depictions of babies and young children such as Sunshine (Frances Lincoln) and 101 Things to Do with a Baby (Little Hare). In this comic strip style picture book for older children she collaborated with fellow Australian, storyteller and writer Boori Monty Pryor, to celebrate the continuation of Aboriginal traditional dance in a modern context. The wryly humorous dialogue between Murri fella Bertie and three white boys who enter his pizza parlour challenges stereotypes: ‘A mobile is much better than a smoke signal on a windy day, eh?’. As Bertie and his family give the boys a lesson in shake-a-leg, daubed with pizza making ingredients, Jan Ormerod paints their fluid movement across the pages. Australian flora and fauna are integrated into the illustrations, including a snake weaving across a map linking Australia and Italy. The final spread shows the young people united, dancing together with a star-filled sky as a backdrop.
Allen & Unwin £11.99
My Own Special Way, Mithaa Alkhayyat, retold by Vivian French, translated from Arabic by Fatima Sharafeddini, illustrated by Maya Fidawi
Hamda’s four older sisters won’t let her join in with the games they play with their friends – they all say she is too little. She decides that what makes them big girls is that they wear the veil when they go out therefore she will wear one too. They each advise her differently on the best way to wear it but Hamda eventually works out her own way. A warm family story with comic illustrations for around ages 6-8. This book is on the shortlist for the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation. The winner will be announced on January 23rd. To discover the rest of the 2013 shortlist, see www.esu.org/programmes/professional-development/awards/marsh-childrens-literature-award
Orion (Early Readers) £4.99
My Funny Family/My Funny Family on Holiday, Chris Higgins, illustrated by Lee Wildish
The endearing Butterfield family is viewed through the mind of nine year old Mattie who is an eternal worrier. She is anxious about whether seeds can grow if concealed in a cupboard and her mum’s visits to the doctor. A story which revolves around growing plants is interleaved with lists laid out in a variety of ways. This book is proving popular in the Southwark Book Groups Project, co-ordinated by CLPE and funded by the Siobhan Dowd Trust. In the newly released sequel, the family go camping in Cornwall and Mattie takes her Worry List with her. The same unique voice comes through and the story combines humour with drama and poignancy. A further title My Funny Family Gets Bigger is promised. Interest age from around 6 to 9.
Hodder £4.99 each
Newspaper Boy and Origami Girl, Michael Foreman
A homeless boy who sells newspapers on the streets is robbed by a gang of bullies but in this empowering picture book he does not stay a victim for long. Out of his bag unfolds superheroine Origami Girl and between them they bring to justice the Fagin-like crook behind the thieving operations. Michael Foreman has previously produced picture books with themes about conflict between countries – War and Peas, Moose, A Child’s Garden. Here the underdogs overcome the powerful in a more localised urban setting. Theatre Peckham have expanded this theme in their current winter production inspired by this book in a fast-moving musical which, like Michael Foreman’s book, raises questions as well as entertains. Go & see it if you can! www.theatrepeckham.co.uk
Andersen Press £10.99
Walter Tull’s Scrapbook, Michaela Morgan
A Medal for Leroy, Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Michael Foreman
These two books are inspired by black footballer and World War One soldier Walter Tull. The first is presented as though it were an autobiography written by Walter himself and has an appealing and accessible layout that makes use of contemporary photos and documents. Some spreads are reminiscent of War Boy, Michael Foreman’s account of his World War Two childhood, and it’s interesting to see him using some similar techniques in his illustrations for Michael Morpurgo’s novel. Walter Tull was the inspiration for the character Leroy in this story in which family secrets are unravelled and which involves the lives of three generations affected by the consequences of the two world wars.
Interest age for both around 8 upwards
Frances Lincoln £11.99
Click here for more information
The Winter Sleepwalker, Joan Aiken and Quentin Blake
Following on from the reissues of other great collections by Joan Aiken, A Necklace of Raindrops and The Kingdom Under the Sea, it’s brilliant to see a new edition of this book, especially with Quentin Blake’s magical illustrations reproduced in full colour. The enchantment of these short stories lies in the interweaving of features of fairy tales and legends with modern ingredients. Dynamo Bill, who runs an electrical shop, is turned into a goose for suggesting to Mrs Hatcraft, the witch, that she uses a vacuum cleaner instead of a broom. The title story echoes the legend of King Midas, with wood serving as a substitute for gold, and this tale has no happy ending.
For age 7 upwards and excellent for reading aloud.
Jonathan Cape £12.99
Azzi in Between, Sarah Garland
Sarah Garland uses a comic strip format to tell the story of Azzi who has to flee her own country with her parents, leaving her grandmother behind, and settle as a refugee in a new country. At school she shares her knowledge of growing beans by planting and harvesting some brought from her home country and this helps her to grow into her new life. The two countries involved are not specified, enabling identification with the stories of many refugees and migrants. Suitable for Y2 upwards.
Frances Lincoln £12.99
The Acorn, Edward Gibbs
An acorn falls to the ground and convinces all the creatures (a white mouse, an orange squirrel etc) who want to eat it that it will ‘be even tastier later.’ The acorn survives and grows into ‘a great big green oak tree’, depicted in all its glory in a lift-the-flap spread. A little acorn falls from it and rolls away and the cycle is ready to begin again. A repetitive and strongly patterned text with effective picture cues. A book for the Foundation Stage or Year 1.