Monday, 30 April 2012

Retro Books

In Friday's post I recieved an advance copy of 'Leopard Adventure'.  This may sound like a Willard Price adventure but the award-winning Anthony McGowan has written this story, to be published by Puffin in July, inspired by Willard Price and to clebrate the 125th anniversary of his birhtday!  Retro stories are very popular, classic adventure stories are ocming back into vouge and it is with this in mind that Armadillo reviewer Bridget Carrington posts her thoughts on another book, this one from an independent publisher, with a retro feel.

The strapline promises ‘Beasts, Baddies and Bombs’, which is spot on, but we should also add Biggles into this mix. In The Bother in Burmeon by S.P. Moss (Circaidy Gregory Press 2012) the author has created a twenty-first-century retro adventure story very much in the Biggles style, in which the RAF and flying, danger and heroism feature big time. The difference is that Susan Moss has added a timeslip element in which Billy travels back to 1962 and meets his dead grandfather, then an RAF pilot on a secret mission to the imaginary country of Burmeon.

Billy is a fairly lonely boy in his twenty-first-century life, bullied at school and an only child with parents who are absent for much of the time. As a result he spends holidays with his Gran, and it’s then that he is transported back to his Grandpop’s exciting life fifty years before. We see what England was like then (and Moss has images of many of the things from then that inspired her story at, and we experience an old-fashioned adventure in which Billy’s twenty-first-century knowledge and possessions can cause the occasional problem!

Readers may question the portrayal of ‘Radar’, the son of Flight Sergeant Singh, Grandpop’s right-hand man. Radar’s characterization fits well with the Biggles era but less comfortably in a novel written now. Nevertheless Billy’s final discovery about this brave, loyal friend he made in Grandpop’s time is a nice touch. Altogether, although Moss’s story would have benefitted from tighter editing, it could make a welcome modern addition for fans of the classic children’s adventure story.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Books for Easter

Books for Easter Reading is the title of my school suggested reading list at this time of year. We have now broken up for Easter and parents are always keen to find some books to keep the children entertained as well as to stretch them. It is the point of the academic year when reading habits begin to wane - the weather is the main reason - children love to play outside and often have many sporting commitments. However there are so many great books to be read why not listen to the weather men. We are told by these purveyors of weather news that in 2012 the Easter weekend is going to be a wet one, so I for one will have a pile of books at the ready. They don't all require me to sit and read quietly, some are for reading aloud and sharing, others are for craft fun.

Let's start with a selection of books for the youngest readers, or rather listeners. if you have some small children surrounding you this Easter, clamouring for entertainment then these books will be the perfect choice.

A new series, My First Picture Book, published by Random House features four different titles, I have been lucky enough to review three of them. Starting with Bigger Digger by Steve Webb and Ben Mantle in which a big quarry lorry gets rather stuck and so begins a disastrous day in which a lorry, truck and digger each get stuck trying to help one another. Add to this some fabulous rhythm and rhyme in the form of the story text, vibrant pictures and wonderful sounds to be made and you have a recipe for fun. Not a fan of diggers or need another theme? Try A Quiet Day in the Jungle by Andrew Weale & Britta Teckentrup, a clam and peaceful day is being enjoyed by all the animals until a very cheeky monkey unleashes clamour and chaos, can you guess what he did before it is revealed? Boo Boo Baby and the Giraffe by Eileen Browne and Emily Bolam tells the story of a little baby setting off into a dreamy journey of excitement at bedtime, all the animals make a sound but are they all soothing and where have they come from? Find out for yourself in this charming story perfect for bedtime after a long day of Easter egg hunts!

Of course on Easter Day what better activity to indulge in than a traditional Easter Egg hunt which is just what happens in Dawn Richards and Heidi D'hamers Duck's Easter Egg Hunt. Children will love the tile and the glittery pile of eggs on the front cover as much as they will the charming story. Duck is so excited when she organises the village Easter egg hunt that she accidentally hides her own egg! Join Duck, the three bunnies Hoppy, Poppy and Floppy and a host of other characters as they all enjoy the most important Easter egg hunt ever ... can they find the missing egg? Children, you will have to help and see how many eggs you can spot hidden throughout this gorgeous story.

Easter egg hunts are of course just one of the many activities keeping children busy on Easter Day but when they have finished that are are clamouring for more try giving them a copy of My Carry Along Easter, an activity book with stickers from Lion Hudson with crafts by Jocelyn Miller. This book features 15 different activities for children from a spot the difference puzzle to Easter card making and fluffy chick cakes. There is plenty here to keep both adults and children amused and the charming 'carry along' handle means the book is incredibly portable too! If its raining and you are stuck indoors then why not try My Very First Easter Playtime and activity book with stickers, from Lion Publishing, to keep them amused.

A story is required and one that fits the Easter theme? Jez Alborough's Six Little Chicks combines counting experience and a charming story perfectly themed to the time of year. Croc and Bird by Alexis Deacon, published by Random House, is an absolute delight featuring two eggs which hatch into a bird and a croc following their unusual growing up and discovering that a true family is not always what you might expect it to be. Finally for the young children there is Penguin's Hidden Talents by Alex Latimer, published by Corgi, in which a talent show - perhaps another great Easter activity - reveals to Penguin and his friends that talents may certainly be hidden but a little effort will soon bring them out.

All in all a charming selection of stories, some with an Easter theme, others perfect for the time of year, to entertain little ones.

What if you have or are an older child? Well you may not want a vast selection of books to choose from so here are just a couple to tempt you ...

For anyone who finds reading a challenge or just wants a book to make them laugh the new Barrington Stoke title from Jeremy Strong should fit the bill. The Ghost in the Bath is a wet and soggy ghost story with a twist of history for good measure! Luke is in trouble - he hasn't done his history project for Mrs Rubble, he cannot find any inspiration. How does a ghost in his bath connect? Ellie is the ghost if a girl who drowned when the Titanic sunk. Her wish to find her one true loves sends Luke on a mission and inspires his history homework too but will it be enough for Mrs Rubble?

Continuing on a semi-historical theme readers might be interested in Richard Knight's The Court Painter's Apprentice published by Catnip. Almost a version of A Picture of Dorian Grey for children this is the story of Johann, an apprentice painter who finds that his master's advice - to paint what he sees not what he thinks he sees gives him the power to paint a person's soul and even alter it. Talent is not something Johann is short of but his new skill can be both a blessing and a curse. Find out where it takes him and what he learns in this engaging and thought-provoking novel.