To welcome 2017 we have some of the best of available youth literature as well as an introduction to this year’s offerings. It’s an exciting time to be involved with children’s books, as the quality and universality of them has been increasing over the past decade, and from what I’ve previewed so far they will continue thus. If you’ve not ventured near children’s books lately, do come in and let us show you some of our favourites: good (children’s) books transcend all ages!
My Donkey Benjamin by Lies Wiegmann & Hans Limmer (tr) by Elke Wakefield ($25, HB)
My Pig Paulina by Hans Limmer & David Crossley (tr) Elke Wakefield ($25, HB)
Two beautiful books, first published in German in the 1960s, are back in print. My Pig Paulina tells the story, in text and black and white photographs, of a little girl, Angelika, and the pig she names Paulina. My Donkey Benjamin is the story of her sister Susi, and her adopted donkey Benjamin. Both books are set on an idyllic Mediterranean island, full of flowers, insects and gentle animals. These books capture all the innocence and freshness of that time, and are a pleasure to read again. Louise
Magnificent Creatures: Animals on the Move! by Anna Wright ($25, HB)
Anna Wright is a Scottish illustrator who grew up on a farm, surrounded by animals, and this experience is inherent in everything she draws. In Magnificent Creatures: Animals on the Move, she captures all the wonder of migratory animals—from jellyfish to Monarch butterflies, sea turtles to butterflies. She uses ‘colour, fabric and feathers, (my) dipping pen and ink’ to capture all the beauty and movement of all these creatures. Simple but informative text makes this book not only a visual treat, but a great one to read aloud. Louise
Both Louise & I chose Magnificent Creatures for this month’s recommendations, and apart from those aspects already mentioned I love the whimsy of Wright’s patterns and camouflage markings. Also, amidst the realistic depictions of some lesser-known animals is the inclusion of contemporary details in the text—eg. construction of underpasses & a bridge on Christmas Island to facilitate safe passage of the crab migrations. Lynndy
Colossal Creature Count by Daniel Limon ($23, PB)
This over-sized book combines the busy-ness of Where’s Wally? with educational elements. Each double page spread features a different habitat, such as Madagascar, the Galapagos Islands, or (deep underwater) Abyss, populated by its native creatures. Count each sighting of the animals within, note them in a column on the far right, and hope your figures match the grand totals provided. Puzzles + visual discernment + geography + addition = instructive fun. Answers are in the back, and yes, there are some Australian scenes too! Lynndy
In The Land of Stories, fairy tales are real. Things you’ve only dreamed of are what this world are made of… but that’s not all! There are portals from the other world—which they call Earth, to the Land of Stories. Even though all of the classic fairy tales are complete and are history, it doesn’t mean everyone will have a happily ever after. Danger lurks in the shadows, and that’s what Alex and Connor Bailey, the twin children of the fairy godmother can help with. In this series, good clashes with evil, and Alex and Connor, are separated. The series tells you what happens after happily ever after. I highly recommend this series by Chris Colfer. ($15, PB) Gemma (10)
These are also a favourite of Ryan (age 12), one of our most frequent reviewers, who was so enthusiastic I imported the companion audio set The Land of Stories: A Treasury of Classic Fairy Tales, performed by Chris Colfer. ($45, 4 CD’s/4.5 hours) Lynndy
Raising Arcadia by Simon Chesterman
Easily my favourite novel of 2016, with my favourite heroine, this first book of the Arcadia Trilogy centres around 16-year-old Arcadia: prodigiously intelligent, observant, and very much a misfit at her exclusive school. It was intoxicating to have such a strong character use intellect rather than supernatural abilities or weaponry to solve the minor puzzles (where the reader is pitted against Arcadia) and the more sinister mystery twists that ultimately shake Arcadia’s trust in family and identity. Books 2 and 3 can’t come quickly enough for me. Very highly recommended, especially for those who enjoyed the pacy intrigue and thrills of The Mysterious Benedict Society mysteries. Lynndy
The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr
Since brain surgery at the age of ten, Flora Banks has been unable to create new short-term memories. Her first ten years remain vividly in her mind, but she is cosseted and shepherded everywhere, a 17-year-old bereft of even the most basic knowledge of her daily life. She copes partly by writing notes on her hands and arms as prompts to herself, and she has a box of notebooks under her bed to consult about other important facets of her life, with reminders to her future self. Realising at her best friend Paige’s party that she is all wrong: too juvenile in dress and behaviour, Flora heads home, and on the way she is kissed by a boy. As far as she knows this is the first time such a thing has happened to her, and even more momentous is the fact that the next day she can remember everything that happened with this boy—Paige’s boyfriend—who was leaving to work in Norway. When her parents leave to be with Flora’s older brother Jacob in hospital in Paris, they believe Paige is staying with Flora to look after her. Instead, Flora pursues Drake, the boy she is convinced holds the secret to unlocking her memory and curing her. Without disclosing more of the plot, I’ll merely comment on the aptness of the title, and Flora’s determination and heartbreaking uncertainty about who to believe, as she can’t even trust her own memory. Barr writes exquisitely; we engage completely with Flora and her frustration, as well as experiencing with her the poignant repeated actions and observations. Deeply moving and thought-provoking, this novel also prompts compassion not only for Flora but for each member of her family, who relate to her very differently yet with Flora’s optimal life in mind. I hope this first sensitive foray from adult to children’s literature will not be the last by Barr. Lynndy
Arts & Crafts
We have lots of good quality colour pencils, graphite crayons, sharpeners and watercolour paints to get ready for the back to school rush. As well as that we have some really fun card games, flash cards in foreign languages, as well as conversation, and tell-a-story cards, all by the inimitable eeBoo (a very creative American toy company). The ever reliable editors at Klutz are still producing really imaginative, fun craft books, I particularly like the Neon Chalk Lettering book ($23). The latest from Klutz is Make Paper Lantern Animals ($25, PB) There’s tremendous scope in these kits to make a variety of animals—realistic or fantastical—and create functional lanterns from the enclosed concertina paper. Full instructions are included: all you need to do is press out the paper lanterns, decorate them with the shapes, glitter and fancies provided, and you have personalised tiny lights to brighten your room. Creativity, fun, form and function!
We need YOU! We invite you to share your comments about books you’ve enjoyed, so other readers of your age can embark on the series, genres, or authors you recommend – whether recent releases or old favourites. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and include your name and age.