Thursday 18 May 2023

Picture Book Round-Up

It's a while since we had a picture-book round up so one is well overdue. And, with so many amazing releases on their way, families are going to be spoilt for choice...

 Mavis The Bravest by Lu Fraser and Sarah Warburton

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Published by: Simon and Schuster, 11th May 2023


Lu Fraser has fast become one of our favourite rhyming picture book authors. From The Littlest Yak to One Camel Called Doug (her previous collaboration with Sarah Warburton), her texts are always upbeat, fun and full of brilliantly memorable characters. 

Mavis the Bravest is scared of everything. But when Sandra the sheep is stolen from the farm, can Mavis find the bravery she needs to save her friend..?

Feeling scared is such a relatable concept to young readers and with a clever play on the meaning of 'being chicken', Lu Fraser has created Mavis - an actual chicken who is feeling frightened of the big wide world outside her barn. With echoes of What The Ladybird Heard, there's some great action and adventure across the spreads with an empowering message at the end. We particularly loved the link between Sandra the sheep and Mavis' love of knitting and the illustrations by Sarah Warburton bring the whole story to life.

A big thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for allowing us a review copy. 

Snug As A Bug? by Karl Newson and Alex Willmore

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Published by: Quarto, 6th June 2023

"Snug as a bug in a rug" is a particularly nostalgic saying that my grandmother used to say to me a lot. Well, established picture book author, Karl Newson, has made a whole picture book out of it! With a bright, bold colour palette, some nasty pasty villains and a not very snug bug, this is an hilarious chase across the pages. But, will bug escape..?

Bug is all snug until there is a knock at the door. Being a bug is not much fun when all your neighbours want to eat you! As Bug is chased through woodland, caves and even over a waterfall, will he ever be snug again?

This hilarious comic caper is pitched perfectly at young readers who will find both the text and illustrations highly engaging and hilarious - just look at Bug's face! There's a whole cast of predatory characters and a whole range of outdoor settings to explore and Bug's voice is a mix of sing-songy rhyme and humour. Karl Newson is excellent at creating loveable characters and if you enjoyed I am NOT an Elephant, then this is definitely one to read. The ending is particularly brilliant with an important message that small can be mighty!

A big thanks to NetGalley and Quarto for allowing us a review copy. 

Rhinos Don't Cry by Mark Grist and Chris Jevons

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Published by: Bloomsbury, 20th July 2023

Tackling the misconception that it is weak to cry, Rhinos Don't Cry is a fantastic new picture book that speaks to both adults and children alike. With gorgeous illustrations and an original plot, it's a great book for both parents and teachers to use in discussions about emotions. 

Milo loves doing lots of things except crying. His movie-star hero, Spike O'Mcreeee says "rhinos don't cry" and Milo is determined to follow in his footsteps. But when his beloved cat, Pickles, goes missing, Milo certainly feels like he wants to cry. Can he be brave and hold back the tears?

This is a lovely story with a great message that shows it's actually okay for anyone to cry, whether they are young or old. Nick Grist links crying to different emotions and shows readers that we can shed tears when we are happy or scared or sad. Spike O'Mcreee is strong, bold character who allows us to explore what a hero really is and we really liked the characterisation of a movie-star as a role model, rather than a parent. There's a lovely resolution to the story and a surprising gentleness considering the story is about rhinos - busting another myth that they have to be 'big and tough'. This is a book we'd love to see in classrooms, libraries and homes everywhere. 

A big thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for allowing us a review copy. 

More Peas Please by Tom McLaughlin

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Published by: Bloomsbury, 25th May 2023

There are lots of picture books around about kids who don't want to eat their greens but what we love about Tom McLaughlin is the imagination he brings to his stories. How can a story about peas manage to incorporate a dragon and a two-headed robot? You'll just have to read it to find out...

Milo is adament that he is NOT going to eat his peas. Peas are green and disgusting. But will his sister, Molly, be able to change his mind?

The perfect text to support the 'Eat Them To Defeat Them' campaign, Tom McLaughlin centres the story around a relatable sibling relationship and adds in their pet dog who provides another layer of humour. There's plenty of reasons on display showcasing the benefits of eating peas and the illustrations are bright and entertaining. 

A big thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for allowing us a review copy. 

Julia Donaldson's Book Of Names, illustrated by Nila Aye

Told in her infamous rhyme, this new release from Julia Donaldson has a gorgeous sentiment behind it. After years of signing picture books for her fans, she's now made a book dedicated to them...

Are you looking for ideas to name a new baby or a pet or a toy? Well Julia Donaldson has kept a list of all the names she's ever signed and here is a round-up of some of them. Maybe your name is on the list or the name of someone you know or maybe there are names you've never heard of before...why not dive in and take a look?

Focusing on names from nature, names inspired by history, names that rhyme and names that are beautifully unusual, this is simply a celebration of readers and a book full of joy. Nila Aye's stunning pictures reflect the theme of the names on each page - from food to fairies to space - and it's impossible not to read it with a smile. Highlighting that each and every one of us are uniquely different, it brings readers together through their shared love of books. Even my daughter's name is in it, reminding us of the special time we were able to get a signed book. If you're a fan of beautiful names and rhyme then this is a book you won't want to miss. 

A big thanks to NetGalley and Pan MacMillan for allowing us a review copy. 

Victor, The Wolf With Worries by Catherine Rayner

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Published by:Pan Macmillan, 27th July 2023

Who could resist a book with such a gorgeous front cover? We certainly couldn't! Written by the winner of the Kate Greenaway in 2009, Victor the wolf won our hearts before we even opened the front cover...

Victor is a little wolf with some BIG worries. In fact, he worries about nearly everything. But, when he is encouraged to share his worries with a friend, he finds that not only do his worries grow smaller, but that he begins to feel more like himself. 

Catherine Rayner's storytelling is classic and traditional in style, which perfectly matches her incredible illustrations. Again, there have been a lot of recent picture books about dealing with worries but maybe not one as adorable as this. Even though the story is about wolves, known for being big, strong and fierce, it's gentle tone is packed full of advice for young readers (and adults too) who are struggling with worries - after all everyone worries, even those who seem big, strong and fierce. I particularly liked the author's handling of 'pretending' and the strong emphasis she places on friendship and talking. Another great text to use in the classroom or to prompt discussion about emotions. 

A big thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for allowing us a review copy. 

The Thing At 52 by Ross Montgomery and Richard Johnson

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Published by: Quarto, 6th July 2023

Reminding me a little of Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are? and one of our favourite picture books, The Queen on Our Corner by Lucy Christopher and Nia Tudor, this is another picture book that has both incredible illustrations and a beautifully moving story. Focusing on the themes of loneliness, kindness, unlikely friendships, community and grief, it has so many layers you'll come away with something new each time you read it. 

When a girl's small act of kindness blossoms into a beautuful friendship, a whole community of Things are brought together. But everyone has to go some time and when their friendship comes to an end, will the girl be able to move on?

This is an example of words and pictures working together in perfect harmony to create a Thing that is quite extraordinary. Told through the curious and kind eyes of a child, it will allow readers to explore topics with a gentle hand, rather than providing answers. 

Everything about this book is beautifully understated. It's a story where what is not said is as important as what is and every word on every page has been crafted. The illustrations reminded me a lot of David Litchfield's work and is rich in both colour and heart. Ross Montgomery and Richard Johnson have created something truly moving here and this is a picture book we have taken to our hearts. 

A big thanks to NetGalley and Quarto for allowing us a review copy. 

Thursday 4 May 2023

NEW RELEASE: TheThief of Farrowfell by Ravena Guron, illustrated by Alessia Trunfio

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Published by: Faber & Faber, 4th May 2023


This debut middle grade novel is rather on the long side but please don't let that put you off. Fantasy lovers and more confident readers are in for an immersive treat of a story where heroes and villains merge in a dark and edgy world...

Jude Ripon is a thief! Desperate to be part of the family business, who steal and sell tamed and edible magic, she is determined to pull off a heist that impressives them. 

But Jude might have bitten off more than she can chew with her latest theft. As she becomes embroiled in curses, lithrum attacks and a search for two people who have mysteriously gone missing, Jude begins to discover the extent of what her family are up to - does she really want to be part of it after all?

This is a fantastic exploration of family, villainy and coming of age set in a high-concept and spellbinding fantasy world.  Ravena Guron's imagination is second-to-none and the complexity of her world-building is phenomenal - full to the brim with 3D imagery and perfect detail. The plot is perfect for fans of Crookhaven and Wednesday and reminded me of a darker version of The Addams Family.

I found the plot enthralling. It's dark, dangerous, twisty and turny and Grandleader is a particular character to watch. The story branches out like a spider's web, ensnaring you inside, and there are revelations throughout that will make you gasp. Yet, what I also loved was that the heart of the story is simple as Jude explores her identity and who her family really are. I loved her character journey and its one that I think will really capture the hearts of the reader. There's a lot of thought-provoking moments, edge of your seat action and a gorgeous blossoming friendship to boot. 

Middle-grade fantasy is definitely on fire this year and I've been lucky enough to review some crackers. For me, The Thief of Farrowfell is right up there with the best and it is worth investing the time in the slightly higher wordcount. It's the first in a series and if book one is this good then I can't wait for the others...

A big thanks to NetGalley and Faber & Faber for allowing me a review copy. The Thief of Farrowfell publishes today, 4th May 2023. 

NEW RELEASE: Lenny Lemmon and the Invincible Rat by Ben Davis, illustrated by James Lancett

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Published by: Nosy Crow, 4th May 2023


Released today, Lenny Lemmon and the Invincible Rat is an hilarious caper and history lesson (sort of) rolled into one. It's perfect for those who love a school setting drama and maybe not so perfect for those - like me - who don't like devilish rodents. But don't worry, you're safe! This unleashed rat is safely contained within the pages of the book in a story so funny that I can't imagine anyone not enjoying it. 

It's Olden Days Day at Lenny Lemmon's school and he's super excited. But when his Olden Day 'Show and Tell' contribution - a wild rat in a box - escapes, pandemonium reigns across the school. Can Lenny, his best mate and new girl, Jessica catch the cunning culprit of chaos before too much damage is done?

With themes of friendship, fitting in and good old fashioned school rivalry, this is an upbeat, action-packed spoof that places humour right at the top of the menu alongside a bowl of gruel, a bag of flour and chunks of cheese. The villainous rat is star of the show, closely followed by a relatable Lenny and an awesome Jessica who's both hilarious and unexpected. Surely this is the worst day at school anyone could ever have?

The simple plot is elevated into something special by Ben Davis' lively writing, spot-on dialogue and genius comic timing. Accompanied by James Lancett's fabulous illustrations - that rat's expression says it all - it is the perfect text for reluctant readers; short, accessible and with lots of white space on the page. If funny books are in demand, and I keep hearing they are, then this is an absolute winner, ratty and all. 

A big thanks to NetGalley and Nosy Crow for allowing me a review copy. Lenny Lemmon and the Invincible Rat is out today, 4th May 2023, in the UK. 


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