Thursday, 27 March 2014

Picture book round-up

Thanks to the good folk at Templar and Hachette for sending me the following:

Thomas Docherty The Driftwood Ball (Templar).

Every year the badgers and the otters hold a Driftwood Ball, but they never mix. Then, one year, otter Celia and badger George meet and fall in love - can the star-crossed dancers overcome the prejudices of their families? This is a lovely tale about differences and the silly reasons we find not to like other people - they're too loud, or they eat the wrong kind of food. At the end, Celia and George are still dancing "but always to their own tune."

Jonny Duddle Gigantosaurus (Templar).

Many children love books on dinosaurs. Here is a glossy addition to the canon. It's in the form of a story and the Gigantosaurus is made up, but all the other dinosaurs are real and there is an information section on them at the end. Add to this fold out pages and a poster jacket with a timeline on the other side and you have a sure-fire hit.

Craig Shuttlewood Who's in the tree that shouldn't be? (Templar).

More paper engineering - this time lots of flaps to lift. Who's in the tree that shouldn't be? Who in the snow just does not go? The rhyme romps along and children will enjoy guessing which "wrong" animal is behind the flap and where that animal should rightly be. I'd rather they had all ended up in their natural habitats at the end though, rather than in the zoo.

Shaun Tan Rules of summer (Hachette).

Shaun Tan's picture books are generally for an older audience than the titles above. This is a dark and surreal tale of two boys and what they learned last summer. Some commandments are quite sensible (never give your keys to a stranger), while others are bizarre (never leave a red sock on the clothesline). All have terrifying consequences - the red sock, for instance, conjures up a horrifically red-eyed giant rabbit. Towards the end, the smaller boy is padlocked into a runaway steam engine and the older boy runs across a dystopian landscape to rescue him with bolt-cutters. If this sounds sinister, it is! Be careful which child you give it to.

As always, I'll be donating these review copies to a local library.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Daughters of Time

One of my favourite blogs is The History Girls, a collaboration by a group of female historical fiction writers who cover different periods and different age-ranges, but are always interesting. I make a point of checking it every day, and never fail to learn something new. Now, some of the writers for younger readers have published a book, Daughters of Time (Templar), in which each imagines a story about a famous woman from the past.  The author also explains why she chose to write about that particular woman, and gives some factual information so that the tale is put into context. Then, if you like her work, there's a section at the back telling you what else she has written. The book's editor is Mary Hoffman, whose Stravaganza series I loved, and she says:
History is about chaps is still all too true a saying. So it's up to the fabulous History Girls to balance this approach with stories of impressive and inspiring women and girls - we were spoilt for choice.
They certainly were. The book ranges in time from Katherine Roberts' Tasca's Secret about a daughter of Queen Boudica (c.30-c.60 AD) to Leslie Wilson's 1980s tale of Greenham Common, which was one of my favourites because I've actually been there (though only for a day, not to stay at the camp). Some of the stories are not for the faint-hearted - the Boudica story and the next one, The Lady of the Mercians by Sue Purkiss, are quite bloodthirsty! But life in those times was like that: nasty, brutal and short for many people.

The book really appealed to me because of the work I do with the Glasgow Women's Library's Women Make History Group, which has a similar aim, so I was delighted when Templar agreed to send me a review copy. It will now find a home in GWL's new children's collection. However, I'm wondering how many of the women Scottish girls will actually connect with, as the list is very England-centric. The Greenham story will have universal appeal and there's a lot of interest in the Suffragettes, so Celia Rees on Emily Davison (Return to Victoria) will be popular - I think that was my overall favourite - but some of the others never figure on the Scottish curriculum. This is by no means a criticism of the book, which I really enjoyed, it just made me wonder if someone could write a Scottish equivalent. Any takers? And who would you put in it? Other than Mary, Queen of Scots who's a tad overdone!

Full list of subjects: Queen Boudicca, Aethelfled, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Julian of Norwich, Lady Jane Grey, Elizabeth Stuart, Aphra Behn, Mary Wollestonecraft, Mary Anning, Mary Seacole, Emily Davison, Amy Johnson and the Greenham Common women.

Full list of authors: Penny Dolan, Adele Geras, Mary Hoffman, Dianne Hofmeyr, Marie-Louise Jensen, Catherine Johnson, Katherine Langrish, Joan Lennon, Sue Purkiss, Celia Rees, Katherine Roberts, Anne Rooney and Leslie Wilson

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Scottish Children's Book Awards 2013 announced today

Chae Strathie, Janis MacKay and Claire McFall have been named as the winners of the 2013 Scottish Children's Book Awards. The announcement was made this afternoon at Glasgow's Mitchell Library with 800 young people from all over Scotland in the audience. The award is voted for exclusively by children and there were record numbers voting this year - over 38000, up 20% on last year. So what were the winning books?

Bookbug Readers (3-7)

Chae Strathie: Jumblebum, illustrated by Ben Cort. (Scholastic).

Johnny thinks that his room has its own special style, but Mum just sees a mess. Johnny doesn't care though - until the chaos attracts the terrible Jumblebum Beast. Will Johnny end up in Jumblebum's tum, or can he save the day with his secret plan?

Read what children themselves think about the book in the many reviews on the Scottish Book Trust site or watch a book trailer made by Bell Baxter High School. SBT also has more information about Chae Strathie on its author pages. The other shortlisted titles were:

Julia Donaldson: Paper dolls, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb. (Macmillan).
Debi Gliori: What's the time, Mr Wolf? (Bloomsbury).

Younger Readers (8-11)

Janis Mackay: The accidental time traveller. Kelpies.

Saul is on his way to the corner shop when he sees a girl appear in front of him in the middle of the road. She doesn't understand traffic or shops and she's wearing a long dress with ruffled sleeves. Her name is Agatha Black - and she's from the year 1812! Saul and his mates, Will and Robbie, try to figure out time travel so that they can help her to get home.

Again, there are lots of reviews and a book trailer, this time from Oban High School. Also check out Janis Mackay's website. The other shortlisted titles were:

Caroline Clough: Black tide. (Floris).
Daniela Sacerdoti: Really Weird (Floris).

Older Readers (12-16)

Claire McFall: Ferryman. Templar.

When Dylan emerges from the wreckage of a train crash onto a bleak Scottish hillside she meets a strange boy who seems to be waiting for her. However, Tristan is no ordinary teenage boy and their journey across the desolate, wraith-infested wasteland together is no ordinary journey. This is a truly original love story from a debut author.

Read the reviews, watch the book trailer (from Craigmount High School) and find out more about Claire on her website. The other shortlisted titles were:

Diana Hendry: The seeing. (Bodley Head).
Barry Hutchison: The book of doom. (Harper Collins).

Congratulations to all nine authors. And - just in! Some photographs of the winners and some excited children. All pictures by Alan Peebles.