October 2009 Archives

Tender Morsels

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Margo Lanagan
David Fickling Books
9780385613231
July 2009
At the start of this book (the first I have read by Lanagan) I was totally under its spell, immediately gripped by the bawdy and earthy lyricism used to describe the abuse suffered by Liga at the hands of her father, an appalling and horribly believable character. But at the halfway point (it is a book of roughly 500 pages) I realised my interest in Liga and her daughters had been fatally undermined both by the way the plot takes sudden trips into an alternative reality and the way Lanagan's wordiness begins to grate. So I closed the book, unfinished, recognising that this was largely the result of personal taste (I have seen Lanagan compared with Angela Carter, another writer I have never been able to settle into) rather than any reflection on the quality of the book and its likely appeal to readers who relish lushness of style and structure rather than spareness.




edited by Julia Eccleshare
Hodder
9781844036714
October 2009
This lovely whopper of a reference book weighs in at just under 1000 pages. The first thing to be said about it is that has been splendidly designed and presented, as well as printed to a high quality. The typeface is sharp and easy on the eye. The page layouts are straightforward and uniform throughout the book. For the most part the illustrations used are the book jackets from a title's first edition. Indeed, much pleasure can be derived from 1001 Children's Books without reading a single entry; just admiring the book jacket designs and (for an older consumer such as I am) taking a trip down memory lane is delight enough. Of course there are omissions. That goes without saying. Each of us might have found room for titles not included here if we had been the book's editor. I would have wanted a place for Robert O'Brien's Z for Zachariah (in addition to his Mrs Frisby and the Rats Of Nimh, which IS included here), for Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff, for at least one book by Joan Bauer. But to be honest a couple of dozen changes out of the 1001 would probably be sufficient to bring the selection closer into line with my own editorial preferences, and I daresay the same would be true for everyone. Achieving a 98% satisfaction level should more than please Julia Eccleshare. A fine book currently available at a cutdown price.


Caryl Hart
Orchard Books
9781408304976
October 2009
When I first picked up this picture book and flipped through its pages I was ready to dismiss it as a blatant Lauren Child ripoff, but then I realised the illustrator is Leigh Hodgkinson, creative director of the first Charlie and Lola animation and the stylistic presentation of Caryl Hart's rhyming story about table manners made sense. I like Hodgkinson's 'Colin' titles, but here the ambivalent storyline strikes a rather strange note with Hart's verse being neither funny nor rhythmically assured enough to carry conviction. Worth looking out for if you want a picture book about table manners.


This Is My Book

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Mick Inkpen
Hodder
9780340989623
September 2009
The Snapdragon does something very impish and rude at the beginning of this picture book. He swoops down, bites off the 'k' from the word book, and then takes away the lower part of the letter 'B', leaving behind the word 'Poo'. I can't wait to read this picture book to a group of 5/6 year olds, but I know just as surely as Mick Inkpen obviously does that that opening is going to have them squealing with glee. They won't laugh quite as loudly on any other page in the but the story of how Bookmouse manages to retrieve the missing parts of the word 'Book' is entertaining enough, and Snapdragon as illustrated by Inkpen is a very endearing rogue.


Where Giants Hide

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Mij Kelly and Ross Collina
Hodder
9780340959992
September 2009
A very pleasingly designed and presented picture book to read aloud to pre-school children. Ross Collins' large full-coloured double-spread illustrations are really easy for young children to 'read' as they listen to Mij Kelly rhyming words being read to them. A book about using the imagination "to make me go 'WOW' ". I love the end papers, with rows of red silhouetted imaginary creatures.


Ella Bella Ballerina and Cinderella

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James MAyhew
Scholastic
9781846169267
September 2009
The Cinderella story as revealed in a musical reverie... Ella Bella has gone to her ballet lesson with only one ballet shoe. The teacher lends her a pair from a trunk filled with beautiful old shoes. "You remind me of Cinderella," says the dancing instructor. "She also lost a shoe." The children dance to a musical box. While the rest of the class go and get changed Ella starts the musical box again and imagines herself into the Cinderella story, where all the familiar elements are mostly present, except for the glass slippers, which here are replaced by silver dancing shoes that Ella finds in the trunk. Mayhew's illustrations are, as always, beautifully fluent. The final page explains that in Prokofiev's ballet of Cinderalla there is also no glass slipper, but instead a pair of dancing shoes. This picture book would make a delightful present for any young girl just beginning to take an interest in dance and music.