Luna Loves Library Day

Luna Loves Library Day
Joseph Coelho and Fiona Lumbers
Andersen Press

As a young child, Saturdays were always my favourite days; they were the days my Dad would take me to the local library to choose a bagful of books that we’d share together during the week. Much has changed since then; there certainly weren’t comfy chairs to relax in, nor were books checked in and out electronically; but libraries were still exciting places to visit and it’s thanks in no small way to those visits, that I have become a life-long reader.

Poet Joseph Coehlo has penned a wonderful picture book text – his first – extolling the virtues of libraries; magical places that he has described as ‘gateways into reading, into writing, into discovering a world beyond that in which we find ourselves.’
For Luna, library day is special; it’s the day she spends with her dad sharing in the delights their library offers. There are books of all kinds – mysteries,

magic, minibeasts and history …

several of which find their way into Luna’s book bag.
There’s one very special book though, one that seems as though it’s been written just for Luna and her Dad.

This is a fairytale for children whose parents, like Luna’s, have divorced or separated. It’s inherent message is that although family situations change, the parents’ love for their child remains the same.
Fiona Lumbers too has done a terrific job. Right from the cover picture, you’re drawn into Luna’s world and Luna herself is a delight. So too are the other characters who frequent the library, not least the little girl who pops into several spreads – peering round bookshelves or sprawling slantwise across an armchair.

Fiona’s illustrations really do complement the text and every spread is a joy with much to make you smile: you know just how the characters are feeling as you turn the pages.

Emmanuelle immersed in the story

From cover to cover, a winsome enterprise. Don’t miss the end-papers!

The Children Who Loved Books

The Children Who Loved Books
Peter Carnavas
New Frontier Publishing

The title alone made my heart sing: a story about book-loving children. What more can a book-mad reviewer of children’s books ask? Perhaps just that the book is as good as one hopes, and this one definitely lives up to my expectations.
It features a family of book lovers that have replaced almost everything else with books. There’s no car, no television, and they live in a caravan: no matter: everything they really need can be supplied by books.

There comes a day however, that their home just can’t accommodate any more books: it’s time to take things in hand …

Needless to say, things are NOT the same thereafter: the table is a tad unbalanced; Angus can’t see out of the window and the family, with so much space between them, begin to grow apart.
One day Lucy brings home a library book in her school bag and the magical experience of reading, with its power to enrich and unite, is rekindled, and with it comes a realisation that although it is wonderful to own books – lots of them – libraries have much to offer too.

The undisguised message at the heart of this is two-fold: the first concerns the powerful effects books and reading can have on a family; the second – one we adults need to keep reminding ourselves – is that a lot of material things are unnecessary for happiness.
With visual touches of Bob Graham, and a nod to Anthony Powell’s Books Do Furnish a Room …

Peter Carnavas has created a wonderful celebration of the power of sharing books and of libraries with plenty to think about and discuss with both children and adults.
I’m delighted to see New Frontier Publishing making his enchanting picture books available in the UK.

I’ve signed the charter  

Otto the Book Bear in the Snow

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Otto the Book Bear in the Snow
Katie Cleminson
Jonathan Cape
If you didn’t meet library book residents Otto and his pal Ernest in their first adventure, then take the opportunity to do so now in this wintry one. Otto and all his library friends are getting ready for their annual winter party, an occasion Otto eagerly anticipates. But then Otto’s book is borrowed and the family doesn’t seem very eager to return it – worrying because that party date is looming ever closer. Even worse is to come though: the family departs for a holiday leaving Otto and Ernest all alone in the house, a house that’s right across the city from their library home –and a great distance for the two book bears to carry their book. Another strategy must be found and fast. All it needs is an envelope, some stamps and …

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That WAS the plan but things don’t quite go as they’d hoped. The postman drops the sack as he cycles along the snowy road and CRASH! The friends find themselves hurtling into the path of an on-coming car. Phew!

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Narrow escape but the library’s still a long, long walk away. Can they ever make it home, let alone in time for that party?
A real treat for lovers of books, reading, libraries and of course, bears. Katie Cleminson’s scenes, executed in pen and ink, watercolour and pencil, have something of a vintage feel to them.

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The New Libearian / Goldilocks and The Three Bears

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The New Libearian
Alison Donald and Alex Willmore
Maverick Arts Publishing
It’s storytime at the library; all the children are ready but somebody is missing: Miss Merryweather isn’t there. The children search – they follow the footprints or rather, the tracks …

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and come upon some rather unsettling clues that take them to …

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Several of the children are wary but when the new ursine librarian agrees to read them a story and a scary one at that, they are well and truly won over …
But then who should appear on the scene but Miss Merryweather herself and her story is an old favourite, Goldilocks and the Three Bears; the only trouble is there seems to be a character missing.

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Now where might Baby Bear have got to?
Well of course, we all know the answer to that one, but it’s not quite the end of the story … I won’t spoil that though. Get yourself a copy of this Three Bears-inspired tale of mischief and the magic of story sharing, that is also a celebration of our wonderful libraries and those who work therein.
Alex Willmore’s illustrations are enchanting and that growling, stomping, roaring bear is guaranteed to be a winner with both listeners and readers aloud alike.

On the subject of Goldilocks and the Three Bears it’s great to see Andersen Press have brought out a 40th anniversary celebratory edition of this wonderful rendition by master illustrator, Tony Ross:

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Just look at his unforgettable portrayal of Goldilocks sampling porridge from ‘the largest bowl’ …

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If this super book isn’t in your collection, get it now.

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Operation Bunny / Tally & Squill in a Sticky Situation

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Operation Bunny
Sally Gardner illustrated by David Roberts
Orion Children’s Books
Meet young Emily Vole, nine years old and, having been left abandoned in a hatbox believed to be ‘an explosive device’ at Stansted Airport, adopted by the Dashwoods, who subsequently had their own triplets. Emily is then relegated to the status of a servant and made to sleep on an ironing board in the laundry room. Fortunately for Emily however, kindly neighbour Miss String (a sort of fairy godmother figure) and her huge talking cat, Fidget, step in:

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(I was greatly amused to discover that Fidget liked nothing better than’ ironing while listening to cricket on the radio.’) and within a year, Emily has learned to read, write, do maths and speak both German and French, not to mention Old English. Not only that but her new friends introduce her to a whole new exciting life in a world of magic and danger, a world she’d never even dreamed about. But it’s Emily herself who inadvertently does something that results in her becoming the new Keeper of the Keys.
Subsequently Emily inherits a shop and, aided and abetted by Fidget and a pair of detectives, Buster – a grumpy individual, and James Cardwell – much more equable and sensible, turns detective herself and is determined to solve the mystery of Operation Bunny.
Sally Gardener’s writing style is delightfully quirky and contemporary: Mr Dashwood is a hedge fund manager and his wife has strawberry-blonde hair extensions and ‘trusted in her credit cards: silver, gold and platinum.’
This will make independent readers (not to mention adults) laugh out loud in places and David Roberts’ deliciously spiky illustrations are a real treat adding to the deliciousness of the whole experience. (That Harpella of his is enough to send shivers down your spine.)

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And, with Emily and her friends now running a detective agency, those who enjoy the slightly dark-edged humour in this can look forward to further cases of the magical kind.
The story would also make a great read aloud to share with those not yet confident to read it solo.

A servant girl is also the heroine of another new series, the first of which is:

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Tally & Squill In a Sticky Situation
Abie Longstaff illustrated by James Brown
Little Brown
This story features orphan and kitchen maid Tallulah (aka Tally) and her pet squirrel, Squill. Tally’s home is Mollett Manor, an old mansion; but she’s only to be found below stairs, so to speak in the scullery where she sleeps in a sink. However, Tally’s a very bright young thing and when she discovers first a plethora of spiders, some mysterious ancient carved cubes, an ancient tapestry and then a secret, magical library beneath the manor – a library wherein the books come to life, she’s in her element.
When Mollett Manor is burgled it offers a challenge to Tally who determines to catch the thieves; but can she do it? Well, she has Squill and those magic books …

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plus Lord Mollett’s endorsement, “You’re the most sensible person we have around here.” And what of those flashes of seeming recognition she keeps having: where do they fit in to all this?
Using plenty of short sentences, Abie Longstaff weaves a good tale; and this one’s likely to draw newly independent readers into its web and hold them spellbound throughout. There are touches of humour and James Brown’s illustrations plus the various lists, pages of rules,

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notes and other written items add to the fun of this magical book.

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The Detective Dog

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The Detective Dog
Julia Donaldson and Sara Ogilvie
Macmillan Children’s Books
There once was a dog with a keen sense of smell.
She was known far and wide as Detective Dog Nell.
Sniff, sniff, sniff. Time after time,
Nell the Detective solved crime after crime.’

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but this is much more than a crime-solver, which we’ll discover as the story progresses and we meet some of the other characters, in particular her scatty carer, six-year–old Peter and on a particular weekday, (Nell doesn’t do detecting on that day of the week: she devotes Mondays to hearing children read at Peter’s school) his classmates and teacher …

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The smells of the school delight Nell, in particular that of the books. But then, one Monday, the aroma emanating from the school isn’t quite right: something seems to be different. And it is. Mr Jones is distraught: all the books have gone missing.
Immediately Nell is hot on the trail, following her nose out the school, through the town …

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and out into the countryside. And it’s there the thief is unmasked …

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I know I’ve been bad. … I only meant to borrow. I was planning to give all the books back tomorrow.” is his explanation. Can you guess where this one’s going yet? Nell certainly knows … and off everyone races at full pelt right back to town and into …

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Ted cannot believe his eyes at the sight of such wonders, enrols himself immediately and all ends happily with the school books returned to their rightful place just waiting for those regular Monday visits by Detective Dog Nell. And there’s a new story awaiting her there too …
Nell knows best! Long may she continue, but more importantly, long may that particular library and all our libraries continue – what a wonderful ode to our precious libraries this is. It’s also a brilliant new partnership between two amazing talents.

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What Do I Do? What Am I For?

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Blackbird, Blackbird, What Do You Do?
Kate McLelland
Hodder Children’s Books
Young blackbird Pip is yet to identify what makes him special, so off he flies into the big wide world on a mission to find out. It certainly isn’t standing in the river waiting for fish like Heron; Pip’s legs are way too short.

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Nor is it staying up all night looking for mice like Owl, so what about nest building in the sand? Definitely not that with such a tiny beak as Pip has. And seed pecking Pigeon style in a crowded place is a definite ‘No’ too.
Pip’s efforts to be like sand-digging Puffin, seed-pecking Pigeon, the swooping falcons, chattering parrots and waddling ducks are all disastrous

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and it’s a very downcast blackbird that flies back to the nest on the branch.
As he sits despairing of ever finding something at which he can excel, Pip sings to himself – so he thinks. But his song attracts the attention of all the other birds and it’s then that he discovers he had a special talent all along; it was just a matter of finding it.

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New kid on the block, Kate McLelland’s tale of self-discovery is one that needs to be shared and discussed with all young (and perhaps not so young) children). Her beautiful prints make every turn of the page a delight for audiences and adult readers aloud alike.

Finding out about yourself is also part and parcel of this story:

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A Big Surprise for Little Card
Charise Mericle Harper and Anna Raff
Walker Books
Little Card is the unlikely chief protagonist of this picture book and when we first encounter him he’s living with all kinds of other cards: there’s Wide Card – a postcard, price tag Round Card, Tiny Card a ticket for a shiny toy, Giant Card, a folder for important office work, Long Card –yet to be assigned a role, and Little Card, ditto. Then a letter arrives summoning Little Card to birthday card training. At last he’s to ‘be’ something and next day off he goes to learn how.

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One day on his return from school, Long Card greets him with the news that due to a mix up he isn’t to be a birthday card after all and the following morning off goes our Little Card to an imposing building to discover his new identity. He’s to be a library card, something he finds very exciting especially when he meets young Alice, his new owner.

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Thus begins a journey of discovery wherein the two new friends explore the many fascinating activities that the library has to offer – games, story time and snacks as well as all those amazing books-

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and Little Card breaks into song – albeit in his quietest voice – before the two of them head home together. And the best thing of all is that unlike once a year Happy Birthdays, ‘Happy Library Day’ is every day but Sunday.
The mixed media collage scenes capture the exuberance of Little Card and his justifiable excitement about the whole library experience.
A fun introduction to the wonderful possibilities on offer behind the doors of our libraries, those of us who are still fortunate enough to have one that is.

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