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David Baddiel kicks off November children's book reviews

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One of the few encouraging facts to come out of the last year is that reading figures for both adults and children have increased, says @newburytoday children's book reviewer CAROLINE FRANKLIN.

Before lockdown, the figures for children had reached an all-time low, but now there has been a positive boom as the happiness of curling up with a good book is rediscovered. Long may it continue.

So Christmas is on the way and we are told that books are among the many things which may suffer from the problems of transport this year. However, shops will still have good stocks of books which children will enjoy receiving this Christmas. I often mention that my office is piled high with books. Never was that truer than at the moment. So let’s get down to looking at some of them and giving you ideas for your Christmas present shopping list.

The Boy Who Got Accidentally Famous
The Boy Who Got Accidentally Famous

Billy is just an ordinary boy – a very ordinary boy. When a big TV company come to his school to film the pupils, all of them show off and invent exciting lives. Billy doesn’t bother. Nevertheless it is Billy who is chosen to be a star just because of his ordinariness and before long he is on Facebook, etc, etc with hundreds of followers. Then the TV company decide to film Billy’s family – because they are simply ordinary. All this means that Billy could get a chance of meeting Sunshine De Marto, the coolest star around – and, wonder of wonders – he does.

In David Baddiel’s The Boy Who Got Accidentally Famous he asks the question: “What if everyone suddenly knew your name?” and the answer to that is that fame comes at a price – as Billy finds out. A laugh-a-lot book with a message for any young reader who envies what happens to the very ordinary Billy. Age range: 9-11

Published by Harper Collins at £12.99

The Jacket
The Jacket

Amelia has a jacket, snuggly soft and with sparkly buttons down the front. She wears it everywhere - until the day comes when she can no longer squeeze into it and so off it goes to her friend, Lily. Lily loves it and wore it and wore it everywhere until the day came when – you can guess what comes next.

Eventually the jacket, old and worn and shabby is shoved into a corner of the wardrobe and forgotten, but it still has uses and this charming little story ends happily. The Jacket by Sue-Ellen Pashley with illustrations by Thea Barker is a gentle comforting story to read to a small person who may have a jacket of their own.

Age group: 3

Published by Walker Books at £7.99 (PB)

Constance in Peril
Constance in Peril

Constance In Peril is the story of a doll who has an unfortunate habit of putting herself in danger. Whether she’s trapped at the top of a tree, gets left out in the rain, nearly loses an arm or is carried away in the jaws of the family dog, Constance always gets saved. Finally she gets swept away by a river and surely this time she has, as it were, had it! No, of course not, because there has to be a happy ending.

The disasters which befall Constance have child-friendly illustrations and this simple story by Ben Manley and Emma Chichester Clark is one which the very young will enjoy.

Age group: 3-5.

Published by Two Hoots at £12.99 (HB)

A Song in the Mist
A Song in the Mist

The attractive cover of A Song in the Mist is not the only good thing about this captivating story of a small panda, a boy and a flute. Chi, the shy little panda, lives in a forest ‘between conifer tree and bamboo leaves’. She hears a sound, a flute played by a small boy, but runs away when she sees him. It is not until the boy is lost that she summons up the courage to save him and they become friends.

What I particularly like about this story is the use of words which paint a picture – the sound of the flute ‘floats on the breeze, curls around trees, makes a bridge over the water’. Such descriptions conjure up pictures in the young reader’s mind as well as the actual misty, lovely illustrations. A delight to share with a young child.

Age range: 4-6.

Published by Oxford University Press at £11.99 (HB)

Sunday Funday
Sunday Funday

Sunday Funday is a big, brightly-coloured book which has ideas for a nature activity for every weekend of the year. As well as more familiar activities such as growing beans in a jar, springtime activities include sewing a mini wildflower meadow and yoga exercises.

Along comes summer and there are ideas for hosting a mad hatter’s tea party and adopting a pet rock (more interesting than that may sound!) There’s a Splendid Soup recipe to make in the autumn along with a nature memory jar and when winter arrives it’s time to make pomanders, plant a tree and make a pine cone chum. That’s just a few of the many activities to keep children occupied on both rainy and sunny weekends throughout the year.

Some things need a grown up to help out and there is advice on safety, too, but this is a fun book, well illustrated and with good, often innovative, ideas.

Age range: 7 -11.

Published by Nosy Crow at £16.99 (HB)

Polly Pecorino
Polly Pecorino

In Polly Pecorino, The Girl Who Rescues Animals author and illustrator Emma Chichester Clark has produced a story which will surely become a classic. Polly not only rescues animals, but is able to talk to them and understand what they say. Her Uncle Stan works in the local Happy Days Zoo, but the owners, Mr and Mrs Snell, are only interested in making money, not in making sure the animals are well fed and looked after. Stan does his best and often takes Polly with him. Together they do all they can, but still it is a sad place and the animals are miserable.

Then the Snells steal a baby bear thinking they will make a lot of cash from ticket sales – which they do, but Polly knows something must be done to get the unhappy little bear back to his family in the Wild Bear Woods. But is she brave enough – and what about the other animals….. ? This is a book which will become a favourite with its reader, animal lover or not.

Age range: 9-11.

Published by Walker Books at £10.99 (HB)

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