The team at Barrington Stoke have been busy and there has been a flurry of new titles published recently or due out very soon. I have gathered together a selection here all suitable for the primary age group but different in style and content to appeal to a variety of tastes.
Sheep School by Ross Montgomery illustrated by Marisa Morea
Although he has written several other books for Barrington Stoke this is Ross Montgomery’s first Little Gem, a series perfectly put together for younger readers aged 5+ in a chunky format with a well designed layout. Ross Montgomery recently wrote about the appeal of funny books and their importance to young readers for Barrington Stoke and in his latest title for this publisher he certainly proves he knows how to make readers giggle. I know I’m not the target audience but this brightened up my day no end!
William the lamb is not exactly a model pupil. He loves to dance and sing and unfortunately is not able to stop himself doing so in the middle of the classroom. This does not go down well with Miss Bleater his teacher. All the other little lambs are being taught to ‘stand still’ but William is physically incapable of doing so. In the end William is expelled from school and cast out of the flock to the shame of his parents. However all is not lost as William witnesses the sheep being captured by the Big Bad Wolf. Can William, resplendent in his rainbow wellies, come to the rescue!
This laugh out loud story does contain a thoughtful message about celebrating those who are different rather than forcing them to conform and also of maximising on your talents. The illustrations are entertaining and allow the eagle eyed young reader to be aware of possible plot twists before they happen. A happy tale and one that will definitely encourage new readers.
Budgie by Joseph Coelho illustrated by David Barrow
Another new title in the Little Gems series and very different in tone to Sheep School, Budgie is a gentle story of family, loss and love told, as one would expect from poet Joseph Coelho, in a beautiful lyrical style. This is an early reader with depth in the story and kindness and understanding in its style. The tender illustrations by David Barrow complement the story perfectly and add another level to the emotional impact.
Miles lives in a flat in a city tower block and loves to climb the nearby trees with his friend Chris. Mr Buxton an elderly neighbour, always appears to be cross and grumpy and shouts at the boys chasing them away. One day when his friend is away on holiday Miles discovers a lost little budgie which he takes home to look after with the help of his mum and his little sister Mary. It is through his new pet that Miles discovers more about Mr Buxton and gradually learns lessons about acceptance, understanding and grief.
This sounds like heavy content for young readers but the subjects are so beautifully conveyed that this book is quite uplifting in tone. With subtlety both author and illustrator combine to show how first impressions may not always be correct and that people are more alike than different in many ways. The loving bond between the family and the blossoming friendship following initial misgivings is depicted with care. This is a beautiful story and one, I think, that would repay sharing with an adult due to the ideas and conversations that it may prompt.
Meg and Merlin: Running Away by Tanya Landman illustrated by Sònia Albert
The third instalment in this popular series by award winning author Tanya Landman is an action packed adventure just perfect for pony loving readers. When Meg’s mum agrees that she may meet up with her new friend Sam Houseman and go for a long picnic ride together Meg is thrilled at the thought of this idea. Everything goes as well as Meg has dreamed until on the way home she takes a wrong turn and things go badly wrong.
There is a lot of excitement in this story which will keep young readers involved until the end and Tanya Landman also conveys the strong bond between the young rider and her pony. Meg has to learn how to cope in a difficult situation and it should be encouraging for children to witness this achievement. Even if young readers never have to control a runaway pony! I would like to mention that the depiction of Meg calmly working out what to do at one stage in the plot is helpful to children and one they may remember. It is a nice touch to include a recap of the story so far so that children new to the series will be able to enjoy reading this book without having read the previous books in the series however I feel sure this has a growing army of regular readers. Produced in an accessible style and with lively illustrations through this has been edited to a reading age of 7.
The Curio Collectors by Eloise Williams illustrated by Anna Shepeta
The Curio Collectors entwines family, history and adventure in a charming story with engaging characters and a satisfying conclusion. Eloise Williams has a bewitching writing style, drawing you in slowly and gently and then building tension and drama as the story unfolds into a historical mystery complete with dastardly villain.
Lily and Tom travel the country with Ma Hawker in their caravan entertaining crowds with tales about their collection of curios. When by chance the two youngster acquire a strange piece of scrimshaw it attracts the attention of a young girl who is looking for a special shell that belonged to her mother. Lily and Tom then join with their new friend to solve the mystery and to avoid the sinister gentleman who will stop at nothing to obtain the shell for his own ends. With subtle references to feminism and honesty this is a captivating mystery which has the feel of a big adventure told in a short and accessible format accompanied by lovely illustrations throughout. Suitable for readers aged 9+ with a reading age of 8.
I should like to thank Barrington Stoke for my review copies and you can purchase these books on their official website.
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