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The Wind In The Willows

by Kenneth Grahame ill. David Roberts

book jacket

A special new gift edtion with illustrations by the matchless David Roberts.


Gecko Press is a New Zealand publisher specializing in English language versions of books from around the world.

ACHUKA is a great admirer of what they do, and recommends three of the latest Gecko titles.

First off, The Birthday Cake Mystery by The Tjong-Khing, an Indonesian author/illustrator now working in the Netherlands. This is a wordless look-and-find detective story, filled with humorous details and red herrings. Not a word printed anywhere, but bound to evoke lots of questions and conversation.

The Fishing Trip by Beatrice Rodriguez is another wordless book about a seafaring chicken. It's a book that makes good use of its long thin landscape format.

Lastly, The best singer in the world by Ulf Nilsson & Eva Eriksson about someone who is a great showman in front of little brother, but is filled with stagefright when it comes to performing on stage. This one has lots of words (English translation by Julia Marshall) and is infectiously appealing.

Check out our other How About suggestions...

How About: London For Children

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London for Children by Matteo Pericoli is a highly likeable book!

For a start, it's two books in one, bound end to end, so that one side is the North Bank, and the other side the South Bank.

Inspired by the architectural drawings Matteo Pericoli began to make in 2009, and published last year as London Unfurled, Macmillan have put together a fabulous children's guide to the buildings on each river bank, with fascinating snippets of historical detail along the way.

Children will be drawn in by the numbers Pericoli reports at the front of the North Bank volume: He drew 3262 waves, 1343 buildings, 27180 windows, 41 bridges and 58 cranes.

Older children who pick up this book may well be tempted to find out more about the drawing project itself.

London Unfurled is available in both paper and ipad formats.

There are youtube videos that give a taste of its expanse:

This book is aimed at people working with primary-aged children and is an introduction to yoga breathing techniques. The story - a frog who is trying to overcome his anxieties about giving a speech in front of a large audience - is a highly engaging one, told with impeccable pacing by Michael Chissick and very suitably illustrated by Sarah peacock.

Pitching the tone of this type of book is always tricky, but here I think author, illustrator and publisher have pulled it off really well.

A recommended resource.

How About: Changeling

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Historical Fiction fans take note: Philippa Gregory has written a series specifically targeted at young adult readers.
The series title is Order of Darkness and the first title, Changeling (set in the author's favourite period - The Tudors), is out this month.

cover price £12.99 Amazon £6.62

Gregory says, "I am delighted to move into a new area of writing. I know I have many young adult readers already and it will be a pleasure to write a series especially for them. Bringing history alive is a great joy and to bring it to a younger generation doubly so."

Other recently published titles have been added to our Young Adult table:

How About: The DUFF

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How About The Duff by Kody Keplinger?

Kody Keplinger wrote The DUFF when she was 17 and still at high school in America. The book was published in 2010 and was well-reviewed.
From the Press Release:

With a wry and tell-it-like-it-is voice, The DUFF is a witty and poignant story of a teenager struggling with the rules of high school attraction, along with the breaking down of her relationships with family and friends. It is a novel about what it means to be sexy, in a world where we feel we have to be perfect.

How About: When You Were Mine

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Rebecca Serle is a Huffington Post contributor and blogger, with a debut novel out at the end of next month.

Has an interest-grabbing tagline: "What if you were the girl Romeo loved - before he met Juliet?"

As the book's Prologue points out

: "If you read [Romeo & Juliet] closely, you'll realise that there was someone before Juliet ever came into the picture. Someone who Romeo loved very much. Her name was Rosaline. And Romeo went to the party that first night, the night everything began, to see her."

It's a clever hook on which to pin a fairly typical triangular teenage love spat.

Meet Rosaline. She's in love with her best friend Rob and, when they finally kiss, she knows it's meant to be.

But then her cousin Juliet moves back to town. Beautiful, intriguing, and a little bit crazy Juliet - all the boys love her, and Rob doesn't stand a chance.

How About: The 8th Grk Adventure?

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ACHUKA has been a fan of these since the series kicked off with A Dog Called Grk.

We have every confidence that the latest title, Grk And The Phoney Macaroni, will be as good as its seven predecessors.

How About: The Young Inferno

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Just available in paperpack, John Agard's reimagining and modernisation of Dante's Inferno, fabulously illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura.

Extracted from the poet's Introduction:

... it struck me that since Dante was interested in the everyday Italian heard in the street, and since teenagers are so wired to the world of horrror movies, science fiction and video games, then they would feel quite at home with the virtual reality of Hell described by Dante with such magisterial and architectural precision. There you'll find your ascents and descents, your walkways and fortified gates, your spiralling levels not unlike a multi-storey car park....

... though The Young Inferno is told in 13 cantos IDante's Inferno has 34) I hope that 13 sounds about right for a teenager and is in keeping with Dante's regard for the magic of numbers.

I was thinking to myself the other day, Now who is our current Dick King-Smith? And I wasn't able to answer my question.
Then this evening I opened one of today's packages and found this title, just out in paperback.

There was my answer. It should have come to me without prompting.
Even in paperback this is a lovely speicimen of a physical book, with delightful red, grey and brown woodcut style illustrations by Iain McIntosh, whose website is well worth a visit.

A mixed-bag of 30 Gift suggestions...

How About: These Not Just Novelty Titles

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All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome and All Dogs Have ADHD both by Kathy Hoopmann

Two books that use a novel, photographic approach to exploring the characteristic personality traits of ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome.
A novel approach but much much more than novelty books, as evidenced by the fact that the Asperger title was shortlisted by the prestigious Children's Book Council of Australia.
Must-have titles for parents with children diagnosed with either of these conditions, and also for Special Needs co-ordinators and Inclusion Managers...

Both highly recommended...

How About: May Contain Nuts

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May Contain Nuts (The World of Norm) by Jonathan Meres

I was sent this in a very large red-tissue-paper-lined box together with a big packet of Nobby's Nuts which are still in date and will be enjoyed over the Christmas period.

This is the time of year when book piles are sorted and sifted and you feel bad about not finding time to promote various titles at the time of publication, especially when they have been given such lavish promotion as this title.

Confession: I still haven't got round to reading this, but I'd certainly risk it as a light reading present for any child who likes humour, even if the sole review on Amazon is not exactly informative; "The book was delivered in time and was in great condition..."

It's the first of a series.

How About: Some Lost Dr Seuss

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The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories by Dr Seuss

These Dr Seuss stories were 'lost' in the sense of never previously been published in book form.
The seven stories were first published in American magazines between 1950 and 1951, some six or seven years before The Cat and the Hat.

A great gift for Dr Seuss collectors and new child fans alike.

Entertaining rhyming narrative verse for reading aloud between those seasonal feasts. My favourite: 'The Strange Shirt Spot'.

How About: Winnie's Knickers

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Gold-stickered with a claim that this is a "Perfect gift for boys & girls age 5 - 8" ACHUKA wouldn't disagree with.

A finely produced colourful hardback with both paper and hard covers fully illustrated.
Contains eight Misadventures, beginning with Winnie's Knickers.

How About: Making Whoopie

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Whoopie Pie Fun by Claire Ptak of

According to the book's Introduction, "A whoopie is not a cookie or a typical cake, and it's definitely not a pie. IN fact, no one seems to know WHY it's called a pie. A whoopie pie is somewhere between a cupcake and an ice cream sandwich - a cupcake with the icing in the middle."

Mouthwatering photography and clear, unfussy ingredient lists and instructions.

A recipe book for all ages.

How About: The Island Of Thieves

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I was an early fan of the the Grk books, which Josh Lacey writes using the pseudonym Joshua Doder. Half way through the year he published this adventure under his own name.

Just look at some of the review clips for Island of Thieves

`A modern-day treasure hunt...worth a look for the 9+ audience.'
--The Bookbag

'A thrilling adventure.' --Julia Eccleshare, GUARDIAN

'One of the best children's adventure stories of the year.' --Books for Keeps

'A stunning treasure story . . . fast-paced, exciting and very realistic. Highly recommended.' --Mandy Southgate,

`A cracking thriller packed full of treasure, intrigue, danger and daring.' --Julia Eccleshare, LoveReading4Kids

`A thrilling adventure.'

`A stunning treasure story . . . fast-paced, exciting and very realistic. Highly recommended.' --Mandy Southgate, Addicted

'A cracking thriller packed full of intrigue, danger and daring.' --Observer

How About: Some Sticky Ends

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Twenty-six cautionary verses with sticky ends - written by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross

'26 cautionary verses, all ripe for recitation, with suitably gruesome pictures.' --Country Life, Best Children's Book for Christmas

`These poems are like a modern day Struwwelpeter with a dash of Revolting Rhymes that will have you laughing and groaning at the same time.' --Booktrust Book of the Month

How About: Goldilocks On CCTV

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Not to be missed!
A new collection of poems by John Agard, with illustrations by Satoshi Kitamura.

So how about:

from the dustjacket:
"Here are 29 extraordinary poems that shine a 21st century spotlight on fairy tale characters. Mischievous, satirical, wicked, utterly modern...

How About: Some Helpful Elves

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The Helpful Elves by August Kopish, one of many classic children's book reprints given a fresh existence by the splendid Floris Books

'Based on a well-known poem by Kopisch (1799-1853) and illustrated in muted tones by Braun-Fock (1898-1973), the charm of this tale lies in the tiny elf tabs found at the top of each page. Together in a row, 10 elves are perched expectantly -- each made distinct with a different smile or a long white beard -- forming a miniature audience to watch readers. One can almost hear them gleefully giggling at the comeuppance they know is coming at the end. An enchanting, if abrupt, piece of German lore brought to a new audience. The lesson, curiosity killed the cat, rings true in all cultures.' -- KIRKUS

Iassen Ghiuselev, an award-winning Bulgarian illustrator of children's classics, spent six years working on the illustrations for this very special edition of Alice.

The illustrations use perspective and point of view in a very original way - one which both reflects and enhances the disorienting nature of the narrative.

Present this as a gift and you will be remembered and thanked for a very long time.

How About: Animal Tales

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Dick King-Smith, who died at the beginning of this year, was a children's publisher's dream. With a natural storyteller's fluency, he wrote in a style that was at once exemplary and highly entertaining.

This collection of five of his animal stories is a perfect addition to any young reader's home library.

Highly presentable.

How About: The Boss

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Looking for an alternative to an Annual as a present?

How about this slapstick comic-book-style graphic adventure from The DFC Library

The Boss is the smartest kid in school and with the class heading for a field trip to the castle that very day, it's the perfect chance to find out what the thieves are up to - and just maybe catch them red-handed...

About Patrice Aggs.

John Aggs is Patrice Aggs' son.

How About: Big Book Of My World

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With a strapline "All a toddler needs for early learning fun" you might think, notwithstanding the word 'fun', that this book might be a little too earnest and educational to make it a suitable Christmas gift for the pre-schoolers in your family.

Think again. Kali Stileman's highly colourful illustrations are fabulously stimulating and engaging. The book is extremely well-organised - First Concepts, First Words, Can You Find? etc - and a one-page Introduction identifies 10 themed ways in which the adult might choose the share the title.

The book would also make a useful resource for anyone working with older children with speech & language needs, especially the pages that deal with concepts such as Opposites, Feelings, Manners.

So, How About:

Know a child aged 8-12 who is into space and game-playing but not necessarily into novel reading. This could be for them:

The reader's choices determine the fate of the Red Planet. There are 22 different possible endings but only one leads to success.
A well-produced chunky hardback with embossed redfoil spine, punchy black-and-white comic-book style graphics, with a full-colour planet factfile at the back.

Definitely worth a speculative purchase, if you want to buy that child a book but are worried a regular novel just won't get read.

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