Happy World Book Day! Here's our 6 for starters
Designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, today’s World Book Day is marked in more than 100 countries. The charity changes lives through a love of books and reading for pleasure, offering every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own. Children’s book reviewer CAROLINE FRANKLIN has picked her six good reads for March
Firstly, a very happy World Book Day to you all and secondly many congratulations to Melissa Cannioto, born in Thatcham, but now living in Florida. Melissa writes to tell us that her book The Bear and the Hug, reviewed in this column last July, has been awarded the Golden Wizard Book Prize 2023, an award given for excellence in children’s literature. Her story of the small bear, who had to learn that in a world where hugs don’t exist it is sometimes necessary to be brave, was written when Covid first struck. Melissa wanted to help children who were going through a difficult time for whatever reason and, having moved to ACAmerica, she understood very well the sadness of being unable to hug some of those you love. Congratulations Melissa! Keep writing!
Among all his other problems, I was delighted to see that Rishi Sunak has made time to register disapproval of the rewriting of Roald Dahl’s much-loved children’s books saying they should be “preserved not airbrushed”. The French publishers have no plans to follow suit – bien fait la belle France!I have made my own views on making alterations to children’s books before, so won’t bore you with them again. I shall merely say that, on behalf of all of us who have a constant battle with weight, changing the word ‘fat’ to ‘enormous’ doesn’t sit well with us. Not at all. Not a bit. Let’s get back to the wonderful world of children’s books.
Blanksy the Street Cat is the well-meaning friend of Pete, the busker. He turned up one day and having him by his side meant the small tin Pete used for donations for his music filled up much more quickly. Then a day came when people stopped donating. Disaster! Blanksy’s good idea to solve the problem is based on the town being very grey, so he cheers it up with jolly pictures, signed Blanksy, in every town they visit. It works! Er, except people now think Pete is the famous artist.
How Blanksy gets it right, with Pete’s help, is told in rhyme throughout, along with the cartoon illustrations. Gavin Puckett’s tale of Blanksy is just as jolly as the pictures Blanksy the street cat paints and fun from cover to cover for children aged seven or so.
Published by Faber at £7.99 (PB)
In Tom Nicoll and Ross Collins’ There’s Nothing Faster Than a Cheetah, the cheetah in question is pretty pleased with himself with some justification for it’s obvious who is going to win any race. Gloriously funny pictures of all the animals who aren’t faster than the speedy cheetah include a crocodile in a campervan, mice on motorbikes, a camel out of a cannon and many more for surely no one can beat the fastest animal in the world. Or can they? When the slowest of all the animals gets together with his friends, well, let’s just say the cheetah is in for a shock.
A brightly-coloured laugh-a-minute story to enjoy reading to a small person aged three or so.
Published by Macmillan at £7.99 (PB)
Bert and Frank love going for bike rides – or rather they would if Bert could only stop creating chaos when he wibble-wobbles.
In Frank and Bert – The One Where Bert Learns To Ride A Bike there are pictures of big hairy Bert getting into trouble with the wibble-wobbling and feeling sad. Then foxy Frank has a brilliant idea – well he thought it was brilliant at the time. He adds a seat to the back of his bike, but it doesn’t work out for Bert is not a lightweight and Frank is exhausted. Then good old Bert has a bright idea and the problems are solved with only a bit of wibble-wobbling. As well as being a fun story for the tinies, an extra if you’re technically minded, is that there is a QR code to scan on a smartphone for an audio reading.
Published by Nosy Crow at £7.99 (PB)
The village of Spetzia has been flooded and most of the villagers have left except for Reuben whose wife, Celia, lies buried in the cemetery below the waters. The lake gains a reputation for being haunted and all that can be seen of the village is the old clock tower.
PJ Lynch’s gripping, haunting story of The Lake tells of Reuben and his son Jacob who continue to fish there and through this Jacob meets Ellen whom one day, she tells him, will be his wife. However, the ghosts beneath the lake have other ideas and drag Jacob down to live with them. Devastated by his disappearance, Ellen continues to search the lake hoping that she will find him. The wonderful illustrations of the lake are the stars of this eerie, skilfully told tale of the ghosts of Spetzia and those who remain above the black waters. A magnificent story for children aged nine-plus.
Published by Walker Books at £8.99 (PB)
A conversation with two young avid readers reminded me of a book published some time ago that they particularly liked. I make no apology therefore for including Katherine Rundell’s The Explorer which is everything a children’s adventure story should be.
Four children are in a plane flying over dense jungle when the pilot becomes ill and the plane crashes. Fred, Con, Lila and five-year-old Max survive unharmed but are left with no idea how and if they will get home. They learn what to eat – and what to avoid – and build a raft which takes them along a river (populated by piranha and crocodiles). Then they meet an explorer who’s made the jungle his home, but isn’t keen on helping them – until Max becomes ill. The Explorer is a gripping, exhilarating adventure story for children aged 9/10 which thoroughly deserves the many awards it attracted.
Published by Bloomsbury at £7.99
Natasha Farrant’s The Rescue at Ravenwood is another first-rate story, this time about Bea, Raffy and Noa’s fight to save the beautiful house which is their home.
The three friends have found in it a place which has made them welcome when their families have failed them.
Bea is reluctantly taken on a tour of France and Italy by the parents she rarely sees, Raffy, equally reluctantly, is taken to see a grandmother in London he was not aware he had and while they are away comes the dreadful news that Ravenwood is to be sold. Nothing can be done – unless, just unless the children can find a means to save it. The task seems impossible, or is it?
Their fight to succeed makes for an absorbing and captivating read for children of nine-plus.
Published by Faber at £7.99 (PB)