Lou Kuenzler


All 80 titles for the six categories of our long list have now been reviewed! Each and every one a fantastic book, highly recommended by JAB and the NSTAB team.

The short list will be announced on the 8th September. Votes from the panel are already coming in so here's a little reminder of the twelve fabulous books on the Read Aloud Category Long List.


Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow- Jessica Townsend (Orion)


Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure – Alex T Smith (Hodder)


Fabio The World's Greatest Flamingo Detective: The Case of the Missing Hippo- Laura James, illustrated by Emily Fox (Bloomsbury)


The Chocolate Factory Ghost- David O'Connell and Clare Powell (Bloomsbury)


You Can't Make Me Go to Witch School- Em Lynas, illustrated by Jamie Littler (Nosy Crow)


Yours Sincerely Giraffe-Megumi Iwasa & Jun Takabatake (Gecko Press)


Codebusters- Dan Metcalf, illustrated by Gary Cherrington (Bloomsbury)

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Witch for a Week- Kaye Umansky, illustrated by Ashley King (Simon and Schuster)


Kat Wolfe Investigates- Lauren St John (Macmillan)

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The Book Case - Dave Shelton (David Fickling)

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The Return of the Railway Children- Lou Kuenzler (Scholastic)

Of these twelve terrific titles, which four will become the 2018 NSTBA Read Aloud short list?

Not Yet, Zebra


Annie is determined to paint an alphabet of animals. As animals clutching the initial letter of their name gather, she begins with Aardvark followed by Bear and Crocodile, before over eager Zebra tries to jump the queue. Politely, but firmly, she explains that 'Z comes at the end' and continues splashing paint around as she makes her way through the alphabet one animal at a time. Zebra continues his efforts to sneak in the line by adopting a number of disguises. When he becomes naughty and traps FoX in a box, Annie loses her cool and tells him off. At last, it's his turn, but Zebra is no where to be found...


'Not Yet, Zebra' is a delightful story told in bouncy, rhyming text which is full of humour. Zebra embodies that over enthusiastic child that we all know (and love!) who just cannot take wait and take their turn. Initially, Annie is gentle with him, amused by his antics, but as her frustration builds, her body language changes and she snaps at him. When Zebra can't be found, she is concerned that she has hurt his feelings until she finds him safe and sound. The story is perfect for discussing feelings- ours and those of others.


Fabulous illustrations capture the spirit of the text perfectly. Although Zebra steals the show (and your heart!), the book is full of quirky, characterful animals- each of which deserves a story of their own! Many will be familiar to the reader; however, there are some such as yak and quail which might need further investigation. Children could create- and paint- their own animal alphabet. Each of Annie's paintings are displayed in a  gallery at the end of the book and Julia Woolf treats the reader to end papers showing an acrobatic Zebra balancing, twisting and turning to create the shape of each letter. 

Having read this to my Year 6 class as part of our National Share a Story Month Picture Book celebration, I honestly say that this is a laugh-out-loud, joyous little story which is full of beautiful illustrations. 

Not Yet, Zebra  Lou Kuenzler, illustrated by Julia Woolf

Faber and Faber    ISBN: 978-0571329762


Finding Black Beauty

 'Black Beauty' is one of the best-known, best-loved horse stories ever. Focusing on animal wefare, the book speaks out against the cruel treatment of horses by thoughtless owners and the appalling conditions of the horse drawn taxi-cab trade in Victorian London. Told through the eyes of Black Beautyhimself, among the many characters he meets is a young stable lad named Joe Green.

Joe appears as a stable lad at Squire Gordon's and then again at the end of the book, when he is working for the Blomefield sisters when they buy Black Beauty. In 'Finding Black Beauty', Lou Kuenzler has developed this character and their story.

Joe is not Joseph Green, but Josephine Judith Green, daughter of Sir Charles Green of Summer's Palace. When Sir Charles is killed in a hunting accident, his spirited daughter finds that her home has passed to the male line of the family. The Slug (her cousin Eustace) takes over her home and sells all the horses. Deciding the only thing to do is run away, Josephine becomes Joe and follows her pony, Merrylegs, to Squire Gordon's home where he (she) gets a job as a stable lad. Here she meets Black Beauty and a deep bond forms between them.

Staying true to the sequence of events in the original book, 'Finding Black Beauty' is a great story in its own right. The orginal message of kindness to animals comes shining through and Joe finds out more about her missing mother and what is really important in her life. Perfect for horse-lovers and for those who love the original book, the strong plot and great cast of characters will appeal to anyone. I loved it!

Finding Black Beauty by Lou Kuenzler

Scholastic    ISBN: 978-1407174488