|SCHOLASTIC CHILDREN'S BOOKS|
the guardian Sat 31 July 2010
Cave Baby, by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Emily Gravett (Macmillan, £10.99). Age: 2+
An exuberant, rhyming text matched by equally lively illustrations makes this a romp of a bedtime story. Having wrecked the walls of his own cave by scribbling on them, the cheeky Cave Baby is threatened by his father with being fed to the big brown bear by the hairy mammoth, so when the hairy mammoth appears, Cave Baby fears the worst. Luckily, the hairy mammoth has other ideas about how to tame the wild baby via a happy moonlit interlude.
Harry & Hopper, by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Freya Blackwood (Scholastic, £6.99). Age: 4+
How a boy deals with grief when his dog dies is delicately and touchingly handled in this poignant picture book, which won a Kate Greenaway award for the illustrator. Harry's love for Hopper is absolute; when Hopper dies, Harry takes time to let him go. Freya Blackwood's energetic illustrations capture the vigour of their partnership and the pathos of the imaginary play that helps him gradually accept the dog's disappearance.
Marvin Redpost: Super Fast, Out of Control! by Louis Sachar, illustrated by Amy Wummer (Bloomsbury, £4.99). Age: 7+
Riding down Suicide Hill is the ultimate test of bravery, and once he's got his new bike, Marvin Redpost knows he is going to have to do it to prove he's a hero. How Marvin psychs himself up, and how his parents try both to support him in taking on the challenge, while discouraging him from feeling the need to do it in the first place, is delicately captured in this gripping and tightly written story.
Iggy & Me on Holiday, by Jenny Valentine, illustrated by Joe Berger (HarperCollins, £4.99). Age 6+
Amid so many books about children doing sometimes outrageous and often disgusting things, these fondly observed stories of the everyday and homely antics of Iggy, a much-loved younger sister, are a delight. Iggy is dreading the summer holidays. She'll miss so many things she loves, and is particularly worried about what will happen to the class pets. But Iggy is given an important job which makes the holidays look much brighter. Her subsequent adventures at the seaside warmly capture the small excitements of young children's lives.
The Runaway Troll, by Matt Haig (Corgi, £6.99). Age: 9+
Most things in the troll world are pretty disgusting, and the family of Troll-Son, who have the misfortune to share an eyeball which is almost always lost, are no exception. Soon the Betterer, a nasty character who preys on parents' anxieties about their badly behaved children and offers to improve them with a spell in Bettering Towers, identifies him as a likely candidate for training. Troll-Son escapes by hiding in the forest and dreaming of Samuel Blink, a human he has befriended. Can the Betterer catch both Troll-Son and Samuel Blink?
Edge of Nowhere, by John Smelcer (Andersen, £5.99). Age: 9+
When Seth and his dog Tucker are flung overboard from his father's boat during a violent storm off Alaska, he knows he has little chance of survival. But luck is on their side and they pitch up on a small island. Seth is not an outdoors boy; he is moody and introverted and, as his father complains, does nothing but play computer games, especially since his mother's death in a car crash. But put in a situation with real risk, he finds unexpected inner resources, drawing deeply on what he remembers of mythology for a greater understanding of the laws of survival. Throughout this hard-edged adventure, the dog provides emotional sustenance.
Infinity: Treasure, by Glenn Murphy (Templar, £12.99). Age: 10+
Stunningly produced and stuffed with information about all sorts of treasure, this book will delight for hours on end. Visual devices such as flaps, pop-outs and cutaways take readers deep into the secrets of treasure lost and found and the book includes a glorious centre fold-out detailing the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. The story of the curse of the Aztec gold is told as a graphic novel, and there's a CD to help the curious delve deeper.
Vamoose! by Meg Rosoff (Puffin, £3.99). Age: 12+
Hugely entertaining for all readers although published for teens, Rosoff's brilliantly observed fable takes on snobbery, prejudice, motherhood and our current obsession with perfect, high-achieving children. When a teenager has a baby, society's disapproval instantly kicks in: her own mother wants rid of it; the social worker sees piercings and a weird tattoo and assumes the girl is hopeless; the parents of the posh boyfriend are kept at arm's length. And when the baby turns out to be a moose, things go from bad to worse. Meg Rosoff gleefully captures it all while never ignoring the wonder of maternal love. A gem of a book.
The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson (Walker, £7.99). Age: 12+
Romance without any vampires makes a welcome change for teen readers. Not that death is entirely absent. When her gorgeous and successful older sister drops dead unexpectedly, Lennie has to learn to live again. Perhaps because of her passion for Wuthering Heights, she finds herself falling in love. How grief and love run side by side is sensitively and intensely explored in this energetic, poetic and warm-blooded novel.