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Queen Elizabeth II and Floella Benjamin top our list of 6 kids books for May



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The much anticipated Jubilee celebrations will soon begin, says @newburytoday children's book reviewer CAROLINE FRANKLIN. Those of us who have lived through several milestones of our Queen’s reign will know that such occasions occur rarely and will be remembered by those who took part. I remember being the anchor woman of a ladies’ tug of war team desperately trying to pull the lads over a river in Ramsbury. It was said we succeeded and we were given the prize, but those men who are still around will never agree they were beaten.

Then there was the fun of seeing a venerable and long-serving doctor in our village, sitting astride a log and trying to bash his opponent with a pillow all as part of the celebratory games held in the village. What were we celebrating? I cannot remember – except that it was a royal event and it was fun. Let’s hope for good weather, no covid and lots of enjoyment for this year’s celebration.

Meanwhile, there are some very good books around for children to read..

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II

‘On 2 June 1953 a young woman named Elizabeth rode through the streets of London in a 200-year-old golden coach.’ So Queen Elizabeth 11 by Sally Morgan begins and continues to reveal the hard work which goes with being the ruler of our land.

As well as the story of her reign, there are fascinating facts sprinkled along the way. I learned that the Imperial State Crown, worn for the State Opening of Parliament contains not only pearls which once belonged to Queen Elizabeth 1, but a sapphire set in a ring believed to have been worn by Edward the Confessor more than a thousand years ago and ‘a strangely shaped ruby which was worn as a ring by King Henry V at the battle of Agincourt.’ Fascinating – and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Excerpts from many of her speeches show the Queen as a practical lady who accepts how things are and who, like all of us, loves her family, whatever mistakes they make. Queen Elizabeth 11 would be an excellent book to help children aged 9 and upwards understand the lady whose dedication to her country lies behind all the jollifications.

Published by Scholastic at £5.99 (PB).

Coming to England
Coming to England

A new word has entered the vocabulary of young children lately. Sadly the word is ‘refugee’ and too many people are having to leave the country they love to keep their family safe.

However, in Floella Benjamin’s Coming to England, a true story, her family were delighted when they received an invitation to leave Trinidad to come here. Her Dardie (father) went first, and one day the letter came which meant it was time for them to leave on ‘a boat like a floating skyscraper’. I found it so touching that, knowing it will be cold and having no warm clothes, the girls pack their prettiest dresses, ready to meet the Queen. It should have been wonderful, but London didn’t feel very welcoming and people were not kind. However, little by little they made friends and it began to feel more like home.

Floella Benjamin was ten years old when her family and many others came to London to follow a dream of a new life and found it wasn’t what they had expected. This book, a true story for children aged five and upwards, brings to life the family, their dreams and the importance of being kind. Happily, many years later, Floella, now Chair of the Windrush Commemoration Committee, did indeed meet the Queen.

Published by Macmillan at £6.99.

Mother Goose's Nursery Rhymes
Mother Goose's Nursery Rhymes

There can be no one better than Axel Scheffler, illustrator of The Gruffalo to bring nursery rhymes to fresh life for today’s children. Of course the old favourites are here – Mary is still looking after her lamb, Jack and Jill are slogging up the hill and poor old Humpty Dumpty still hasn’t learned to sit safely on that wall – but along with these and a myriad other familiar rhymes - as well as a few short stories - there are a few which are less familiar. I had not heard of Chook, Chook, Chook or Grey Goose and Gander.

Scheffler brings a freshness to all the characters with charming illustrations achieved by someone who has humour in his paintbrush, for they are intended to make the reader and the small listener smile. They certainly succeed. Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes is absolutely correctly described on the cover as ‘A First Treasury’ and is a must for a young child’s bookshelf.

Published by Macmillan at £9.99.

You Can Draw
You Can Draw

Liz Pichon’s intention in You Can Draw is all about encouraging anyone and everyone to ‘pick up a pencil, grab some paper and have a go at drawing’. Author of the Tom Gates books, Tom and his relations feature quite a lot in getting children aged five and upwards to have a go and NOT WORRY ABOUT MAKING A MISTAKE!

There are instructions about doodling, making patterns, tracing, as well as drawing things such as dog zombies (don’t forget to add the drool). Zany, fantastic, colourful, full of tips and encouragement, this is a surefire way to get children picking up that pencil and getting going.

Published by Scholastic at £6.99.

No More Peas
No More Peas
I'm The Bus Driver
I'm The Bus Driver

Lastly, two books to entertain the very young.

You have to smile at the horrified face of the young boy on the cover of No More Peas. Young Oliver is not keen on eating vegetables. Pizza, chips, burgers, yes. Carrots, broccoli (I’m with him on that) and especially peas – NO.

However, Oliver’s Dad is clever and gets his young son interested in actually growing the hated vegetables. – it works! But will the lad ever be persuaded to eat peas? YES HE WILL ! Hurray!

Colourful illustrations of Oliver and his dog (who doesn’t have to eat up Oliver’s vegetables any more) make No More Peas by Madeleine Cook and Erika Meza a fun book with, of course, an excellent message for non-vegetable eaters aged three or so.

Published by Oxford University Press at £6.99 (PB).

I’m The Bus Driver, brightly illustrated by David Semple is a simple delight for grown-ups to share with children aged three or so. As well as finding out such important things as what uniform a bus driver has to wear and the number of your bus – which is Number 4 by the way - there is more to do along the route.

As well as entertainment, the main purpose of this book is to teach children about colour, something which it does well. It is one of a jolly series in which the young bus driver can move on to driving a digger, a fire engine or a tractor, all designed to encourage problem solving and early learning skills. Simply fun.

Published by Oxford University Press at £6.99 (PB).



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