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Best Books This Month – November 2018

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November 2018 - Books of the Month

It’s easy to feel lost in the flood of so many new children’s books available. Each month, we pick five of our recently published favourites.

Check out our Review Panel’s top picks for you to read in November 2018…

Ben Miller
 & Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini
Chapter book

The Night I Met Father Christmas is a new story with the feel of a Christmas classic, written by comedian Ben Miller. Take A Christmas Carol and mix it with ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and you might be somewhere close to the plot of this enjoyable tale that will prove popular with readers in the 7-10 age bracket.

It’s Christmas Eve and everyone in Jackson’s family is busy getting ready for the big day. Jackson thinks he knows all the old stories about Father Christmas, including the secrets of flying reindeer and the physics-defying magic of delivering presents all around the world in just one night. But when Father Christmas reaches Jackson’s house in the middle of the night and has a bit of a mishap, Jackson embarks upon a thrilling adventure that allows him to see a whole new side to the jolly man with the red suit.

As Father Christmas opens up to Jackson about his personal history, an exciting story unfolds that will take readers on a festive adventure laced with the perfect balance of humour and tenderness. For a chapter book, it’s not a long read (you could easily read it in one or two sittings) but it is a very enjoyable one. Coupled with detailed illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini, this is a charming story that will bring the spirit of Christmas to readers young and old alike.

Hélène Druvert & Emmanuelle Grundmann

This is a beautiful large-format hardback with laser-cut pages, all about the world of the ocean. It is the kind of book that makes you gasp as you open it up to find delicately cut illustrations shaping the pages like intricate coral reefs or underwater creatures.

From shoreline habitats to the deepest depths of the ocean, this book explores the fascinating array of life to be found in the sea. The pages are striking in their beautiful design – but the book at its heart is an information text designed to take the reader on a journey through the huge variety of habitats under the waves. As well as wildlife, the book also looks at movements of waves, the water cycle, oceanic volcanoes and global warming, offering a comprehensive tour of what you might find if you were to dive into the ocean and travel its depth.

The laser-cut pullouts are cleverly designed to demonstrate the hidden depths to what appears as you look at the ocean – there are ways many more layers beneath what the human eye first sees. Move a reef and there is a whole ecosystem beneath it; lift a pebble and you see crabs and winkles; open up a shark’s body and you see the food chain to which it belongs; pull down the iceberg and see the huge depths revealed at its underwater base. The ocean is full of marvels and here is a book designed to reveal some of its wonders to young readers. The laser-cuts are sumptuously intricate and at times theatrical – just make sure little hands are gentle with them!

A stunning hardback that will delight and inform, highly recommended for curious minds interested in learning about the ocean.

Matilda Woods
 & Anuska Allepuz
Chapter book

A magical adventure with a strong female lead and a real fairytale feel to the writing style. Talented storyteller Matilda Woods spins an enchanting new tale that brings together elements of mythology, fantasy and magical realism.

Brave young Oona feels shunned by her father and mother, who were hoping that their youngest child would be a boy after a prediction made by a travelling fortune teller. Besides, Oona has never fitted in with the other girls in her family – her nature is to be adventurous and bold and she is quite unwilling (unlike her sisters) to accept a fate of being married off to a rich prince at the first available opportunity.

Oona dreams of sailing the Great Northern Seas with her father and his crew, but in her world girls don’t belong on ships or adventures. Oona seizes the only real opportunity to join her father’s sea expedition aboard The Plucky Leopard by stowing away on board and hoping to find a way to win over the crew. The journey is perilous, the crew unwelcoming and her Northern Sea full of surprises.

Readers will enjoy recognising the fairytale tropes woven through the story. Anuska Allepuz’s illustrations also perfectly capture the warmth of the magical atmosphere. A joy to read, this is this is highly recommended for readers in upper KS2.

Nominated for Favourite Books of 2018 by: Justine Laismith (@Justinelaismith), Children’s Author

The story is set in a fictional Scandinavian-like place. On one hand there is folklore, superstition and fortune-telling. On another hand, there are constellations, explorations and naval adventure. The main character addresses today’s call for female leads. The cat, as any animal would in a middle grade book, has great appeal. It’s got swagger, talent, and nine lives. I’ve always been told cats do not like water, yet here cats are mascots for ships. Creative. Furthermore, the childless old couple is a masterstroke. There are many children’s stories with a kind old couple who want nothing more than a child. Incorporating this into the story, together with the folklore and animal, is a winning combination to take on middle grade readers.

Mark Sperring
 & Sophie Corrigan

Mince Pies become action heroes in this laugh-out-loud new picture book from Mark Sperring and Sophie Corrigan. Following in the footsteps of The Day the Crayons Quit, Traction Man and Supertato, the book brings plenty of hilarity and a festive twist on the popular theme of everyday objects brought to life and getting into all kinds of unlikely mishaps.

Christmas is almost here but all is not calm and bright in the world of the Mince Spies. Somebody or something has been visiting all the supermarkets in town and smashing up the Christmas treats. Soon, every delicious cake, iced biscuit and Christmas pudding is under threat as festive goodies are reported to have been thrown from the shelves and destroyed into a mixed-up sugary mess.

Is there anybody who can track down the culprit? This is clearly a job for the Mince Spies, who are sent on a mission to keep watch over the supermarket shelves and catch whoever is responsible for trying to ruin Christmas. With a little help from puff-pastry jetpacks, shortcrust walkie-talkies and Santa Claus himself, the Mince Spies set to work and find a way to restore Christmas cheer.

A whimsical and enjoyable festive read that will guarantee giggles from young children. Set in rhyme and brought to life with bright and bold illustrations by Sophie Corrigan, this is a super book to share with EYFS and KS1 in the run-up to Christmas.

Jamie Smith
Chapter book

The mountain had murder in mind’. Jamie Smith’s debut middle-grade novel starts with these words and maintains the same deeply dramatic mood throughout the story.

Frostfire is a highly original fantasy story set in icy mountains with magical, sentient glaciers at their heart.

Sabira lives in an ancient mountain settlement and is chosen for the special task of making the perilous pilgrimage to the top of the mountain to bond with a magical glacier fragment called a ‘frostsliver’.

Despite reaching the top and finding the frostsliver, Sabira soon becomes trapped when a mighty avalanche blocks the pass back home. In a bid to survive the dangers housed by the mysterious mountain, which seems to have a mind of its own, Sabira must demonstrate determination and quick-thinking in order to overcome a host of perils from fire and ice to monsters and villains.

Thrilling throughout and packed with the spirit of adventure, Frostfire is an unusual story full of twists and turns. I enjoyed the magic of the impressive mountain setting, the stream of surprises unravelled in the plot and the strength of Sabira’s character that is the driving force behind her journey.

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