Here's 6 rockin' kids reads for March
Hopefully we are getting out of the ‘indoors’ time of the year, says N2 children's book reviewer CAROLINE FRANKLIN. Books – and the occasional jigsaw – have played an important part in keeping us all occupied as the rain rains and the cold wind howls around our houses. Now things are changing – and not just the covid restrictions. Walking the dog will soon become a joy rather than a duty involving muddy boots and a battle with the elements.
So enjoy the new outdoors freedom, but remember to keep an eye open for all those books which have wonderful stories, magical tales and extraordinary facts about our world and make sure that children make the most of them – whether they are sitting by the fire or out in the sunshine.
Hannah Gold’s The Lost Whale has three stories woven together to make a absorbing, brilliant, sometimes moving, whole. Firstly it is the story of Rio, sent from England to California to live with his grandmother while his mother recovers from mental illness,
Secondly it is the story of whales, especially White Beak, a whale Rio’s mother loved when she was a girl and who seems to have a connection with Rio. Rio discovers that, when he goes out with the whale watching trips, he alone is able to hear the small clicks the whales make. When White Beak goes missing and whale watchers up and down the coast have not seen him, Rio is determined the whale should be found and saved and that then his mother will be well again.
Lastly it is the story of the great whales themselves and their battles with the pollution of the ocean. By the end of the book, readers will be determined to do all they can to help keep our seas clean for the sake of the beautiful creatures who live there.
Age range: 9-11. Published by Harper Collins at £12.99 (HB)
Speaking of whales, publishers Macmillan in association with the Natural History Museum has produced the beautifully-illustrated Hope the Whale for younger children. There is much that is similar to the last book, in that a small boy is fascinated by Hope, the blue whale and looks forward each year to seeing her as she swims past his home and migrates to warmer climes.
As with the story of White Beak, one year Hope is missing, but of course all ends happily.
As well as being an enchanting story, at the back of the book is a fold-out non-fiction spread giving information about the real Hope and whales in general. The real blue whale, the largest creature known to have lived on earth, weighed 9000 lbs and was 82 feet long – you can see a reconstruction in the Natural History Museum.
In the 1800s there were an estimated 250,000 blue whales. By 1966 there were fewer than 400, but the good news is that a ban on whaling has increased their numbers to 20,000.
Age range: 5-7. Published by Macmillan at £7.99 (PB)
A Case of Grave Danger by Sophie Cleverly is the first in The Violet Veil Mysteries, a series set to become very popular. Young Violet Veil’s ambition is to be an apprentice to her father who owns Veil and Sons, undertakers and it seems she might be well on the way when, one night, she sees Oliver walking around the graveyard. The last time she saw him he was dead and awaiting burial. Hooray! Violet’s first case – now, can she and Bones, her dog, help Oliver solve his own murder.
If you’re thinking this all sounds a bit grim, think again. This is a book written with a pen dipped in fun and from the very first paragraph the reader will be smiling. Excellent reading – and the good news is that there is a second in the series, A Case of Misfortune.
Age range: 9-11. Published by Harper Collins at £6.99 (PB)
Belated congratulations to the curling ‘lionesses’who brought home Britain’s only gold medal from the Olympic Games! In Swapna Haddow’s My Mum Is A Lioness, however, the lioness in the title is the real deal – or so her young son thinks. She is good at roaring, sometimes hunts in a pride (with the other mums and their pushchairs), teaches her son how to leap and pounce and shows him off to all the aunties. But when he falls over and needs a cuddle, why his lioness of a mum is the best in the world.
A lively, funny story with sly digs at mums, which will please young readers.
Age range: 3-5. Published by Macmillan at £7.99 (PB)
Dougie Poynter’s Dinosaurs Rock! is guaranteed to get any child – or adult – having a look through to discover more about the (usually) enormous creatures which walked the same ground as us so many years ago.
While there is a general opinion that dinosaurs died out because they had very small brains (the size of a small sausage), Mr Poynter believes they may have been smarter than was originally thought.
The jokey fun way he writes about 100 million years of dinosaur history, interspersed with jokes and interviews with dinosaur experts, is jolly and exceptionally child friendly. Evidence of new dinosaurs is still ongoing – almost once a week evidence of yet another is found. Dinosaurs Rock! is a mine of dinosaur information and completely fascinating.
Age range: 8-11. Published by Macmillan at £9.99 (PB)
Another author who knows how to put over facts and history in a way which children will enjoy is the brilliant Kate Pankhurst.
Fantastically Great Women Artists and Their Stories vividly brings the artists featured to life by not just by relating dull facts but by making these talented women real people. An example is Dame Laura Knight, who loved the circus as a child and, when she was established as a brilliant artis,t ended up by spending four months painting life with Bertram Mills Circus. How she must have enjoyed it.
Perhaps my favourite of the six stories is that of Peggy Guggnheim, not an artist herself, but the woman who put modern art on the map. Her story includes mention of her father, Benjamin, who, after helping as many people as he could off the sinking Titanic, dressed in his best clothes, plus a rose in the buttonhole and waited for the ship to sink. His body, along with so many more, was never found.
As if the stories themselves were not enough, the pages are full of small scribbly enjoyable cartoon figures to illustrate the story being told. A wonderful book for bringing these famous women alive for any child.
Age range: 9-11. Published by Bloomsbury at £6.99