Here's our February pick of 6 great books for kids
Resolutions have been made, broken and (occasionally) remade. I wonder if this is the year I will finally learn to play the piano, get rid of some weight and even, perhaps, write a children’s story, a resolution of mine from way back, writes children's book reviewer CAROLINE FRANKLIN.
Anyone who has ever tried will know that all these are difficult to achieve, the first two take dedication and the latter is not as easy as it may appear at first. How can it be difficult to produce a story which children will love, especially when it is for the very young and needs few words? Already I’m doubting I’ll get very far with that particular resolution.
An example of the way in which few words can be used to produce an enjoyable children’s book is Ben Newman’s Rumble Tumble, an excellent way for the very young to get the idea that reading books is fun. It has cutaway pages which are easy to turn and single words such as ‘Eek!’, ‘Howl!’, ‘Buzz!’or ‘Rumble!’ depending on which animal or insect is rolling down the hill on the brightly coloured pages.
Rumble Tumble will encourage the tinies to join in and if it all gets a bit noisy, well, that’s fun, too.
Age range: 2-4.
Published by PanMacmillan at £7.99 (PB)
In Lucy Rowland’s A Hero Called Wolf, the wolf of the title is not the usual sort of snappy, growly and downright unpleasant animal. This Wolf loves reading and is happy to share his books with people who need them.
There’s only one thing which makes him unhappy and that is that the wolves in stories never get to be the good guys - or wolves. They are certainly never the hero – that is until a GIANT comes along and then Wolf gets his wish.
Colourful, exciting and fun, the pre-schoolers will love it.
Age range: 3-5.
Published by Macmillan at £12.99 (HB)
There are more wolves in Ann Jungman’s Sasha and the Wolf which begins with a Russian boy, Sasha, getting lost. It is winter in Russia and the snow lies deep, no time for a small boy to be lost, especially when he comes face to face with a wolf, a member of the pack which the villagers dread.
However, this wolf is only a cub and before long Ferdy and Sasha have become friends. The years go by and the two meet up again, but what will happen to their friendship now, for the people who live in Sasha’s village have always regarded wolves as dangerous?
Set in the 1800s and interspersed with many black and white illustrations from Gaia Bordicchia, the story of what happens next is both gentle, for it deals with friendship, and dramatic as Sasha finds the way to get wolves and villagers enjoying themselves together.
Age range: 8 plus.
Published by Faber at £7.99 (PB)
The 25th anniversary colour edition of The Butterfly Lion splendidly brings to today’s children the much loved story of Michael, who lives in Africa, and the white lion cub he rescues from hyenas It’s the start of a friendship which continues throughout their lives. The first break in that friendship comes when Michael, heartbroken at leaving the lion, is sent back to England to school and the lion has to go to a circus.
What happens in their lives is captivating, poignant and exciting as always from the masterly Michael Morpurgo and it will keep the reader enthralled throughout. The illustrations by Christian Birmingham are quite simply beautiful and are often double spreads which you come across unexpectedly. They add a great deal to a tale which is surely a true classic. A special present for a special child.
Age range: 8-1l.
Published by Harper Collins at £20 (HB)
It is important, when revelling in the multitude of wonderful books which will be coming out this year, not to forget the older classic children’s tales. Amongst these is Rumer Godden’s The Doll’s House and for a child who loves dolls this is a wonder of a book.
Tottie Plantaganet, a small wooden Dutch doll, lives with her family in a shoebox belonging to Emily and Charlotte. Living in a shoebox has its limitations and the Plantaganets wish very much that they could live in a proper dolls’ house. Their wish comes true, the girls are left an old dolls’ house and once it is smartened up and mended, it is a dream come true for the doll family.
Of course there’s a fly in the ointment and in this case it is Marchpane. Who Marchpane is and why it is a problem make this classic story a gently old-fashioned delight.
Age range: 8 plus.
Published by Pan Macmillan at £6.99
The Big Book of Festivals is as bright and colourful as the festivals which take place all over the world. Cultural, religious or just plain fun, many of them go back hundreds, occasionally thousands of years such as the ancient aboriginal Bunya Dreaming gathering held in Australia.
Contrary to its name, the Day of the Dead is one of the most joyous Mexican celebration and I’m all for Gelede which celebrates in West Africa the “power and spiritual role of women as the bearers of life”. A goat is crowned king in the Irish Puck Fair and it would be fun to be at the Whirling Dervishes Festival in Turkey or the Festival of Giants in France and Belgium.
There are many more fascinating details of different, often extraordinary celebrations in all parts of the world making this a book for the whole family to enjoy.
Published by Faber at £12.99 (HB)