Nicola Davies / Fran Shum
Elias Martin is a grumpy, lonesome, hard-faced young man who thinks that nature and the wild are conspiring against him. What with deathly blizzards, harsh winters and cruel terrain the only pleasure he gets in the North is skinning the animals that symbolise nature as enemy. He is fighting a “war against life, driven by a lonely darkness in his soul.” Then one day, a young girl mysteriously enters his life and things begin to change. He hears the birdsong, he notices the sunrise, he feels the fire’s warmth. Is Elias’ heart beginning to thaw?
Nicola Davies expertly paints a callous canvas in this short tale, choosing her words meticulously; within paragraphs the scene is set and we are directly placed into the raw reality of an isolated northern province. The writing is atmospheric, intelligent and compelling. Fran Shum’s black and white etching-style illustrations are perfectly suited to this tale and ideally imitate the naive wood carvings of the little girl.
At under 40 pages, it’s a short book, but it packs a punch: Elias Martin has you feeling the landscapes, worrying for the characters and seriously considering our relationship with the wild.
Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth
Frank Cottrell Boyce / Illustrated by Steven Lenton
MacMillan Children’s Books
Reviewed by Noah Worm (Aged 9)
Sputnik is an alien visible as a dog to everyone except Prez; to Prez he is a boy exploring the universe. Here – Steven Lenton shows it much better than I can explain it…
Frank Cottrell Boyce has produced another great page-turner with this book – ideal for Year 4 and up (but Year 3 will love the funny bits). The really funny bits come mostly when people treat Sputnik like a dog, and he replies with sarcasm or disbelief, but they just hear barking. Sputnik’s mission is to make a list of 10 things that make the Earth special.
A bigger story than Sputnik’s search for ten things, is Prez’s search for his Grandad. There are sad parts to the book when Prez discovers his Grandad but we realise that Grandad doesn’t recognise or know who Prez is.
This is an hilarious, often touching novel, full of the greatest storytelling.
Daddy Worm says: I was in bits! Frank Cottrell uses this comic caper to touch on some “grown-up” ideas. I thought it was brilliant and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Nicola Davies & Cathy Fisher
Reviewed by Nina Worm (aged 8)
A gentle yet sad story about a boy who has a disabled sister. He is upset because his new baby sister cannot run and chase, something he was looking forward to most. However, when a swift drops from the sky, he learned that all it needed was a little help to fly again. So he also helped his little sister and learned to love her.
Nicola Davies does not use many words – it is an easy read – she is very good at animal books and writes expertly about the swifts in this story. Cathy Fisher’s illustration are astonishingly realistic and just ‘perfect’ – so perfect that they have been nominated for this year’s Kate Greenaway Medal.
In my opinion Perfect is a book so beautiful it could make you cry. It is now one of my favourite books by a favourite author – perfect for 7 and 8 year olds.
Daddy Worm says: This is a beautifully produced hardback book – the illustrations and words are in perfect harmony as they work together to reflect the feelings of the brother so well. The result is that the reader can sense the emotion oozing from each lovingly crafted page; children will be able to relate to the boy and be encouraged to empathise with his situation.
Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot
Reviewed by Noah Worm (aged 9)
This is a really adventurous, different kind of book, unlike any other I’ve read; full of amazing ideas and great drawings that keep you wanting to turn the page. The book is about Aubrey, a “rambunctious child”, an adventurer and determined discoverer with a very free upbringing. The Terrible Yoot is the phrase used to describe depression, which is being suffered by Jim (Aubrey’s dad). He becomes sad, pale, confused and rather lost – “Sometimes he seemed so wispy he might have been made of mist.”
If I make it sound like a miserable book, it’s not! It is a funny and hopeful book about the love between a father and son. It’s also full of talking animals (it’s anthropomorphic!) who guide Aubrey to help him help himself and his dad.
This is Horatio Clare’s first children’s book and I enjoyed it a lot – full of magic and wonder. It has jumped into my top 5 books ever! I would highly recommend it for 9-13 year olds. His next book is out soon and is called Aubrey and the Terrible Spiders. I can’t wait to read it!
Daddy Worm says: Very enjoyable with some remarkably adept descriptions. I was initially concerned about how the big D would be portrayed and how Noah would respond – no need; Horatio Clare writes openly and honestly, which is exactly what you want. There is plenty of humour in the book (what with the talking animals and the neighbour who spies on Aubrey’s actions) and plenty of fantasy too (what with the talking animals…) and yet it is a very grounded and relatable story. I loved sharing it with Noah. Highly recommended.