Why Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson's life story is among our 6 good reads for kids
Surveys on what people read – and when – are often fascinating, writes children's book reviewer CAROLINE FRANKLIN. A recent survey listed what adults most like to read while on a journey and it was somehow reassuring, if surprising, to see that among the adult titles was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Browsing among the various facts and figures, I learned that the Bible is the bestselling book of all time, with more than 3.5 billion copies sold, that the sale of bread cookery books soared during lockdown and that Bill Gates reads about 50 books a year.
All of which got me nowhere so I started writing this column instead.
But wait – you may like to know that yet another survey showed that children who read 1,000,000 words a year are said to be in the top two per cent of reading achievement. Well they would be, wouldn’t they? Anyway, time to start with this month’s book selection.
First, the delightful Mole’s Spectacles, one of the Tales From Acorn Wood series. In the Franklin household spectacles are constantly going missing, so I could sympathise with Mole whose specs have disappeared just when he wanted to read the paper.
The sturdy pages picture the various places he searches and the flaps he – and the small person listening to the story – can lift to try and find where on earth they have gone. In the end he gives up and decides to have a cup of tea – and guess where those missing specs are! Mole’s Spectacles by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is a total joy to share with the very young.
Published by Macmillan at £6.99 (HB)
Recently, a celebrity was asked what she most wished for and replied that she would like all women’s clothing to have pockets. So when Lucy and her Aunt Augusta go shopping for a new dress in A Dress With Pockets by Lily Murray it seems Lucy has the same idea as the celeb.
She turns down a myriad beautiful and quirky dresses for that very reason and when her aunt asks her why she wants pockets, she gives some obvious answers, such as ‘for worms that wriggle and spiders that jiggle’. Well, of course. Eventually the rather surprised shopkeeper finds the dress of Lucy’s dreams – and it’s so good they buy two! Fun, colourful illustrations by Jenny Lovlie, of all those frocks make this a good story for children aged three or so.
Published by Macmillan at £7.99
Some books have titles which make you want to read the story inside so how could you resist Jeremy Strong’s Armadillo and Hare and the VERY NOISY BEAR!
The two chums, Armadillo and Hare, live a peaceful life in the forest with their friends solving the odd problem such as Mouse gnawing through an electric flex just when they are having a party. Then along comes A NOISE! It is quite the noisiest noise they have ever heard and the source of it is a bear (of the polar variety) who has come to live in the forest. Soon the bear is one of the forest friends, everything settles down and the only sound is that of Elephant, who is learning to skip. The gentle stories of how all the animals of the forest spend their days is full of fun and friendships and is a sheer delight for young readers aged eight or so.
Published by David Fickling Books at £6.99
The size of Wild Child by Dara McAnulty at first makes it seem as though it is simply a picture book, but in fact this ‘journey through nature’ is a mix of wonderfully descriptive paragraphs about what can be seen in the world around us and information about the birds, insects and creatures which inhabit it.
You may know that a group of rooks is called a parliament, but did you know that it is a banditry of coal tits, a quarrel of sparrows or, best of all, an asylum of cuckoos? The many names for woodlice are here too, although not ‘billybuttons’, the one I was always taught. Interspersed with such facts and those beautifully written descriptions is practical information about how to make such things as a bird feeder or a terrarium. The book moves from the garden to the forest and then on to the river. For a bookworm aged eight and upwards who appreciates words and loves the countryside, this book is a must.
Published by Macmillan at £14.99
Not all lads who go astray in their early years manage to get back on the right path and go on to glory. Yet that is exactly what the boy in Lisa Williamson’s true story of Dwayne, footballer, wrestler and eventually acclaimed film star achieved.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson was born in California in 1972. The family had little money and when Dwayne came home one day to find his mother in tears because they had been evicted, it was a light bulb moment. He thought about the big strong men he admired and decided to work hard and make the most of his strength – and so he did. How Dwayne went on from that moment to wrestle in Madison Square Garden and become a Hollywood mega-star makes fascinating reading. It wasn’t always easy, but he did it and in doing so became an inspiration for young people. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is an inspiring story of courage, effort and never giving up, for children aged nine and upwards.
Published by David Fickling Books at £6.99
Shades of Scarlet by Anne Fine is the story of a girl caught in the middle of her parents’ marriage breaking up. Scarlet and her mum have had to move to a house which Scarlet discovers belongs to her mum’s new boyfriend. That’s one thing. Then there’s Laura at the paint store who seems to be making a play for her father.
How’s a girl to deal with all this when her family is torn apart? Should she stay with her mum or live with her father? Fortunately Scarlet has good friends to confide in. Anne Fine cleverly gives this difficult situation a slightly lighthearted heart-warming twist making it a story for our times and a good read. It’s no surprise to know that it has been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Award 2022. Age range: 13+
Published by David Fickling Books at £7.99 (PB)