Simon and Schuster

NSTBA PICTURE BOOK CATEGORY LONG LIST part 4

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The final five books in our Picture Book Long List for 2019!

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Finn has many memories of his grandfather and the stories he used to tell. On the day his grandfather would have been 90, Finn builds a boat in his honour and after falling asleep, finds himself on a wonderful journey in the company of a golden fish where they explore many magical places before the fish floats up to the moon where Finn can’t follow. As his mother calls him, Finn wakes, feeling comforted.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! This is a stunning celebration of love, imagination and special relationships. Perfect for tackling conversations about loss, the book focuses on the joy of having had that person and the legacy of the relationship. The illustrations tell a wealth of untold stories and will be enjoyed again and again. Fabulous!

Ocean Meets Sky The Fan Brothers

Lincoln Children’s Books ISBN: 978-1786032058

You can read another review of this here.

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Beautifully illustrated, ‘The Tide’ uses the imagery of the ebb and flow of the tide to explain Grandad’s dementia. As the little girl plays with her grandfather on the beach, she is puzzled by some of the odd things he does, but with her mother’s help, tries to understand them, using her own experiences to make connections. The thing that scares her the most, however, is that Grandad might forget her, but she knows he loves her no matter what.

A wonderfully comforting book, ‘The Tide’ is full of those special family moments that memories are made from, and sensitively seeks to explain dementia. It is a thing of beauty!

The Tide Clare Helen Welsh, illustrated by Ashling Lindsay

Little Tiger ISBN: 978-1788810852

You can read another review of this written by us here.

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Nothing is ever truly lost if you keep it in your heart

When Sofia loses her precious teddy bear whilst on a day out at the beach, she struggles to come to terms with the loss. But the sea saw what happened and did its best to reunite the two.

Tissues at the ready; this is such a lovely story! Sofia’s teddy has been passed down through the generations. It was her mother’s and we see a picture on the wall of her pregnant mother standing by her father whilst holding teddy, but then she disappears from the story, leading us to believe that Sofia’s mother has died. The personification of the sea is perfect, worrying about the length of time that passes as it takes the bear everywhere it can reach in its bid to bring Sofia and her bear together again.

The pictures are fascinating and there are some YouTube clips showing how Tom used images from the Rijksmuseum to put together pictures in the book. There are humorous details to spot as well- her father’s newspaper is wonderful! This is a real treasure of a book.

The Sea Saw Tom Percival

Simon and Schuster ISBN: 978-1471172434

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The Society of Distinguished Lemmings has many rules which must be followed without question. Members appreciate the finer things in life and abide by the strict etiquette required. However, the Society is not to Bertie’s taste and he leaves the burrow to explore the outside. Here he meets a bear who, much to Bertie’s surprise, does not follow society rules at all! The rest of the society decide that the bear must conform to the rules, but soon conclude that he is not distinguished and will not fit in. Bertie sticks with his friend which is lucky for the rest of the Society who are heading for disaster!

Full of wit and wisdom, ‘The Society of Distinguished Lemmings’ celebrates difference and reminds us that we can all be distinguished in our own way. The illustrations are fabulous- full of details and little asides, they demand close inspection and revisiting. The lemmings come to realise that their failure to inclusive could have led to their demise, a stark warning about dismissing others and failing to value them. Brilliant!

The Society of Distinguished Lemmings Julie Colombet

Templar ISBN: 978-1787410541

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A little boy and his dragon, Zibbo, best friends and enjoy doing everything together. Nothing holds them back and they are amazing! The story is a wonderful celebration of friendship and the importance of being yourself. Throughout the story, the wheelchair shown in the pictures is never mentioned- it doesn’t need to be. Zibbo is very obviously different, but he is accepted completely- when they are together, anything is possible.

The illustrations are delightful and the story a much needed addition to all bookshelves. It is amazing!

Amazing! Steve Antony

Hodder Children’s ISBN: 978-1444944709

So - there they are! All twenty of our Picture Book Long List now reviewed. Which will make the short list on the 7th September?!

NSTBA MOVING ON CATEGORY LONG LIST 2019 part 2

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The second part of our Moving On Category…

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When their art club teacher is found murdered, sisters Nik and Norva are determined to use their detective skills to solve the crime. There are plenty of suspects- including their father- so the girls have to work quickly to uncover the truth, using their knowledge of the Tri- the estate where they live- and the people who live these.

This is an excellent mystery story with plenty of interest and action. The sibling relationship between Nik and Norva is perfectly captured and each of their personalities is fully rounded. Nik is particularly endearing! The book conveys a wonderful sense of community on the Tri- named for its three tower blocks in a triangular formation- and the reader is able to navigate the estate through the eyes of the girls, giving a sense of involvement to the reader as they solve the crime.

Each character’s voice is distinct and the use of plenty of dialogue helps the story move along at a great pace. Nik’s case notes are helpful as the girls unravel this satisfying mystery. An excellent read!

High Rise Mystery Sharna Jackson

Knights Of ISBN: 978-1999642518

You can read another review of this here.

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When starting at her new school, Effie soon realises that changes need to be made. A girl of action, she decides to run for Junior Student President, presenting a surprise challenge to the current one. With the support of her next door neighbour and a wonderful campaign team, Effie launches herself into making the school a better place of everyone with her policies and ideas. But will these be enough to challenge the status quo?

Effie is a wonderful character- full of vim and vigour and a strong sense of justice. Starting a new school and being friendless is really hard and the story follows Efiie as she navigates a new setting and finds those friends. She learns much about herself during the story, about having to compromise sometimes and that first impressions are not always right, Opinionated and sparky, Effie doe not always get things right, but she cares and her determination and resilience have the reader cheering her on every step of the way.

A must read!

Vote for Effie Laura Wood

Scholastic ISBN: 978-1407187723

You can read another review of this here.

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Set in 1922, ‘Secrets of a Sun King’ is a fascinating historical story which cleverly uses the world’s fascination with Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb as its backdrop. The Great War is over, leaving the country relieved, but counting the heavy cost of the conflict. Social traditions and gender roles are being challenged and life will never be the same.

Thirteen year old Lilian, like much of the nation, avidly follows Carter’s search for the Boy King’s tomb, inspired by the fact that her Grandfather used to be an archaeologist. When her grandfather falls ill, Lil intercepts a mysterious parcel addressed to him, sent by a famous Egyptologist, Professor Hanawati - who has been found dead. Lil decides she must fulfil the Professor’s plea and return the contents of the parcel to its tomb on her grandfather’s behalf. A chance encounter at the British Museum leads to the opportunity for a trip to Egypt with Tulip and Oz Mendoza, and their journalist mother and Lil is off on the adventure of a lifetime.

Emma Carroll writes excellent historical fiction, carefully researched and richly written. The discovery of the boy king’s tomb had the world gripped, but there was far more going on than the image presented to the press. The sense of entitlement and ownership felt by the archaeologists plundering Egypt’s tombs is cleverly questioned throughout the story whilst personal scars left by the war are still raw as society and everyone’s place in it changes. Tutankhamun’s own story- that of the child behind the Pharaoh- is also explored through a scroll the children find, questioning how the young king died and the life he led.

Characterisation is strong throughout the story. Lil, the scholarship girl who struggles to fit in, bold and daring Tulip who hides secrets, the sun king himself- each is carefully drawn and filled with life. All the threads are skilfully pulled together, creating a satisfying story to be enjoyed.

An excellent book for those children at the moving on stage, ‘Secrets of a Sun King’ could encourage budding Egyptologists to discover more about Tutankhamun’s life- and death- and the world he lived in.

Secrets of a Sun King Emma Carroll

Faber and Faber ISBN: 978-0571328499

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On a stormy night, a hundred year's ago, a baby gorilla was born deep in the African rain forest. The gorilla elders prophesied that this baby would meet with many misfortunes. So begins the story of Sally Jones.

Kidnapped and smuggled to Istanbul, trained as a thief, abandoned, locked in a small and dirty cage, beaten and treated with great cruelty- these are a few of the misfortunes which poor Sally is subjected to in the course of her life before she finds peace and companionship at last.

Written as the prequel to 'The Murderer's Ape', 'The Legend of Sally Jones' is the story of Sally Jones' life before she met her friend, the Chief, and found a home on board the Hudson Queen. It is a sad story of man's callous attitude to animals and how casually they abuse them for their own ends. Rich white Europeans are shown exploiting the land and its animals. Belgian hunters, a Turkish ivory merchant, a rich widow from Hamburg, zoo keepers- each play their part in Sally's sad life. Only Koskela, a Finnish seaman,shows her the kindness and respect she deserves, nursing her back to health and valuing her.

Each page is beautifully illustrated with one panel, often framed in interesting and unusual ways,
reminiscent of old fashioned travel posters. So much emotion and additional detail is conveyed to the reader through these pictures. Sally's deep despair and dejection are plain for all to see through her eyes and her body language.

'The Legend of Sally Jones' is a stunning graphic novel which allows readers of 'The Murderer's Ape' to discover the early history of Sally Jones, a compelling heroine like no other. It is a book which the reader will return to again and again.

The Legend of Sally Jones Jakob Wegelius

Pushkin Children’s ISBN: 978-1782692331

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Having ADHD makes it hard for him to concentrate, but Felix does his best to focus. His slipping grades are a worry and everyone keeps telling him to try harder. His parents are under great pressure from work and his Granddad hasn't been the same since Grandma died. When mum suggests they spend more time together, Felix is horrified, particularly as Granddad seems determined to teach him to play chess. However, chess seems to be the key to unlocking their relationship and helping Felix discover strengths and talents he never knew he had.

This is a truly remarkable story. Felix's relationship with his grandfather is beautifully portrayed as it blossoms through the understanding and respect that comes from spending time together. In helping his grandson, Granddad comes to terms with his grief at the loss of his wife and also the impact of his past. As Felix gains in confidence, his concentration improves and his school work benefits.

The first person narrative allows the reader to see the thoughts of someone with ADHD and sympathise with how his actions are easily misunderstood, resulting in his frequently being in trouble. It also creates great tension during the chess matches where Felix's nerves and anxiety are brilliantly expressed.

Full of strong characters, 'Check Mates' is an excellent read.

Check Mates Stewart Foster

Simon and Schuster ISBN: 978-1471172236

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Orphan, Matthew Henson, runs away from his violent step-mother to find a new life in New York. Hard working and determined, young Matthew manages to find work in a cafe. Listening to the sea going stories of characters like Baltimore Jack, Matthew embarks on a life at sea as a cabin boy and ends up accompanying Captain Peary on his adventure to ‘discover’ the North Pole. In spite of being the first of the party to reach their goal, Matthew was given no recognition on return to America.

This is a fabulous account of one of the unsung heroes of history. Having battled against the odds, his achievements were unacknowledged during his lifetime and are little known today so this very readable book is an essential addition to libraries and classrooms. The significant contribution made by the Inuit who gave their expertise and support to the exhibition and Matthew’s positive relationship with them are also highlighted in this stunning book.

This book could have taken a place in either our Quality Fiction or our Information categories as it is perfect for use in class; however, this is an extremely satisfying read about a fascinating character with plenty of challenge in terms of content and vocabulary, perfect for moving on those who don’t find reading easy.

Race to the Frozen North Catherine Johnson, illustrated by Katie Hickey

Barrington Stoke ISBN: 978-1-78112-840-4

Witches (Un)Welcome!

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As usual, nothing exciting is happening in Smallbridge. Elsie Pickles is still helping in Pickles’ Emporium, but is finding it very dull. To amuse herself, she has been dabbling with magic she has learned from Magenta Sharp, the Red Witch from Crookfinger Forest.. However, magic is frowned on in Smallbridge and so when Magenta decides to open a magic shop, ‘Sharp Spells the Shop', many of the locals make it clear that witches are not welcome in their town. As Magenta’s shop tempts more and more visitors to Smallbridge, tensions come to a head. But perhaps a little magic is just what everyone needs?!

Great favourites here at JABHQ, I was delighted to find that there is a third to this wonderful series of books which are both fun and funny! For those who haven’t read the others, there is a helpful summary of characters and events at the beginning to set you on the right path.

As usual the story bounces along at a good pace and is full of fabulous characters. Elsie is her usual lovely self, but even she finds it hard to remain cool in the face of some of the intolerance and bigotry displayed by other residents of Smallbridge. Magenta is as irritable and unconventional as ever and leans the hard way that taking shortcuts is not always a wise way of getting what you want!

There is a strong message running through the story about lack of acceptance and people being ‘witchist’. Kaye Umansky exposes the narrow minded ideas of some townspeople which sadly seem to reflect those of a sector of society. However, by the end of the book, most people agree that the introduction of witches to their town has been a positive change and harmony is restored.

Ashley King’s wonderful illustrations appear throughout the book- most pages have a touch of his magic! He manages to capture the characters perfectly, adding to the humour of the story. They really are a winning team!

‘Witches’ (Un)Welcome’ is full of wit, wisdom and wonderful illustrations! A great one to add to your summer reading!

Witches (Un)Welcome Kaye Umansky, illustrated by Ashley King

Simon and Schuster ISBN: 978-1471175602

You can read our review of ‘Witch for a Week’ which was long listed for our Read Aloud Category last year here and ‘A Wish for a Witch’ here.