Sunday 26 January 2020

The Girl who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana Farook

Published by: 2020, Nosy Crow


If you like feisty female leads then this main character is for you! Wild, daring but incredibly kind-hearted, Chaya is a modern day Robin Hood, robbing the rich to help the suffering poor.
But when a child from the village loses a limb after a crocodile bite, Chaya herself bites off more than she can chew when she tries to help him by stealing the Queen's jewels. Bringing devastation upon those around her, including her most loyal friend, Neelan, she has no choice but to escape into the jungle - taking Neelan and unwanted companion, Nour, with her...oh and not to mention the King's own elephant, Ananda!
Chaya is a charmer - so strong in character you won't be able to stop yourself following her into the jungle either. She steals, she leads and she plots with conviction, her snappy banter with Nour is both amusing and relatable and her friend, Neelan, is truly loveable.
The story itself offers the rich, exoticness of the Sri Lankan jungle, an original and intense plot, a thrilling, fast-paced adventure with a clever twist thrown in for good measure. There is a strong message of girl-power which runs alongside the theme of rich versus poor.
The ending was tense till the final chapter, not going the way I imagined. However, without giving spoilers, I was a little disappointed in the final confrontation. This is my only minor criticism amid what is a compelling and thoroughly enjoyable tale.

Sunday 19 January 2020

I am a Tiger by Karl Newson and Ross Collins

Published by: July 2019, Scholastic Press


Want to make a four year old belly laugh? How about reading Karl Newson's 'I am a Tiger'. Of course, it make not work for every four year old but, I mean tiger...has such an amusing personality that it's definitely worth a meet and greet.
Be careful though! Tigers are fierce and full of GRRRRR! This one in particular...

Mouse is convinced she/he is a tiger. Everyone else is not so sure but mouse is! She knows exactly who everyone is...even tiger...and she can do all things tigers can...

...until she sees her reflection.

Ah! How could mouse have got things so wrong?

This picture book is a perfect example of strong characterisation. Mouse's personality is so strong and memorable, she literally jumps off the page. And, of course, that leaves us wanting more. Fingers crossed because I hear a whisper there may be more to come...

There isn't an awful lot of action in the story but there doesn't need to be. Mouse's muddled musings hold us and all the other characters to attention, keeping us delightfully entertained. The story has a fun, nonsensical feel to it and stands out in originality and imagination.

Both myself and my four year old are very much looking forward to sharing more books by Karl Newson...and definitely to hearing more from mouse.

                  'I am NOT an elephant' will be released on 6th February by PanMacmillan:

Thursday 9 January 2020

Author/Illustrator spotlight: Rachel Bright and Jim Field

An animal lover and lover of rhyme?...Then you'll find these four books by Rachel Bright, illustrated by Jim Field, an absolute delight.
Featuring animals and landscapes from across the globe, Bright has managed to make her books all beautifully similar yet dynamically different. Her cheerful, bouncy rhyme feels fresh and edgy and her spot-on choice of descriptive words vividly brings her landscapes to life.
Quite often I find picture books about animals rather tired - perfectly pleasant but indistinguishable from others we have read. Not these! These four stories have woken me up (in the same way a douse of refreshing iced water would) and brought animal antics back into firm focus.

The Lion Inside
Published: 2015, Orchard Books

Not exactly an original plot, but the way it is told alongside the rich illustrations makes it feel like it is.
A tiny mouse is nothing but an insignificant and ignored creature amongst the larger creatures of the African plain. And whilst the huge, majestic king of the rock has the presence and roar of a God nothing is set to change.
Unless, of course, the mouse can learn to roar as well.
Problem is, the one animal who can teach him is the one who might just turn him into a meal. But, if you don't ask, you don't get...
Whilst mouse summons up courage, it seems he might not need it after all...
But a lion could never be scared of him...could he?
The character of mouse is a delight. He sweeps you up and takes you on the journey with him, making you feel more mouse than man (or woman) and about five inches tall.
Knees a-knocking, will you have the courage to face lion with him?

The Squirrels who Squabbled

Published: 2017, Orchard Books

Meet Spontaneous Cyril and Plan Ahead Bruce, two very different squirrels after the exact same thing - the last nuts of the season.
Problem is, Cyril and Bruce know not how to share and so begins a race to the almost bitter end.
Again, the plot is not the most original but the illustrations, full of autumnal, woodland richness and the fast-paced, zip-zap rhyme makes this my favourite of the four. The characterisation of Cyril and Bruce is delightfully funny and their inability to spot what is swooping ahead makes for a super surprise.
The story has charm and the ending, although a rather quick turn-around, is full of warmth. After all, what is better than a laugh with a friend?
A nutty treat for all the family.

The Koala who Could

Published: 2016, Orchard Books

After the speedy sprint of the squirrels, this story of Kevin the Koala feels much more chilled. In fact, where the squirrels are frantic, Kevin is most definitely not. He spends his days clinging to his eucalyptus tree and saying a resounding 'No!' to anything new.
As much as the other animals of the bush try to entice him down, Kevin his having none of it, until his tree is collapses and he hits the ground with an almighty thump.
Being forced out your comfort zone is a frightening thing but it could just be the making of Kevin. In fact, his life may never be the same again.
'The Koala who Could' sends the reassuring message to all of us, young and old, that although the world can seem a scarily daunting place, if you don't get out there and try new things you'll never know quite what you can achieve. And, when you're surrounded by friends who'll catch you when you fall, it makes life a lovelier place to be.

A Way Home for Wolf

Published: 2018, Orchard Books


Across the icy tundra, a pack of wolves are moving home. But the littlest cub, Wilf, not only refuses to accept any kind of help, he wants to be leader of the pack! That is until he gets lost in the dark, snowy night. Unable to find his elders, Wilf is offered help from an unexpected source. But will he accept it?
This story feels like the inverse of the other three. Whereas the mouse, Kevin the Koala and Bruce and Cyril are all learning they can do something (be bold, try new things and share), Wilf is about to learn that there are some things he can't do on his own and that it's okay to accept help from others.
Once again, Bright's lyrical language and captivating rhyme doesn't disappoint. Her voice and style, now firmly established, still leaves me wanting more. After following her character's adventures through the sparse Australian bush, the freshness of the forest, the wintry Arctic and the baking African plains, I think I rather fancy a trip down the Amazon or a trek into the mountains. Who knows who we might meet?...

Happy New Year Breadcrumbers!

Happy New Year to you all!

Welcome to 2020 - a year where I hope to build and extend this blog to include a wider range of book reviews, blog tours, author interviews and just generally be a place which celebrates the power and brilliance of children's literature.

I often wonder whether what I'm doing is needed or relevant. With so many brilliant book blogs out there, how can I ever compete? I have limited time and, sadly, limited reading capacity meaning I will never be able to review or talk about as many books as I'd like.

But I love doing it! I love children's books and I love spreading the word about them...

And then, something kicked off in the New Year that reminded me that, big or small, what I'm doing is very, very relevant and even important...

Frank Cottrell Boyce, award-winning children's author of Millions, The Astounding Broccoli Boy, Sputnik's Guide to Life and who has many other accolades to his name, spoke out publicly about the lack of recognition given to children's literature, particularly in recent years.

Speaking out in anger and frustration, Boyce made the following statements;

'Children's books are important economically...important culturally...but most of all IMPORTANT TO OUR CHILDREN...However, children's books get very little attention in the arts smallest and worst movie got more coverage than all my children's books altogether...this is important because it means that busy parents and teachers default to a few well-known names, brilliant names but not the whole story...'the mid-list' is where you'll fine bold, innotive, diverse work...this is where good critics come the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations...the new needs this is my resolution...I'm going to use my Instagram to post reviews from brand new and beloved older children's books...and events and festivals...please feel free to send links to blogs..I'm hoping over the months it will build into a useful and joyous place to visit.' (For Frank's full thread, please follow the link above.)

And so, reassured that there is still not only a place, but an urgent need for reviews of children's books - old and new- I will continue to do what I love doing and hope you'll enjoy sharing it with me.

Happy reading, Happy sharing, Happy promoting! Children's book rock :)

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