Nicola Skinner
Harper Collins Children’s Books

Nicola Skinner’s latest book is quite simply gargantuan. Actually though, nothing is simple about this utterly brilliant story.

Eleven year old Minnie Wadlow lives on an island in Quake Quarter, the gated walled city to be more precise: there’s not much wrong with said island if you can ignore the earthquakes that regularly strike, causing buildings to crumble and schools and houses to collapse. Fortunately the island’s inhabitants have come up with the perfect way to fix their crumbling walls: they use giants (one of the two kinds living in the island). These servant giants act as minders for the human children including Minnie: her giant is Speck; but when the girl turns twelve years old, she’ll have to kiss Speck goodbye thus turning her to stone forever. The stone is then used for repairs: all perfectly normal and fair – so Minnie and the other human children have been led to believe; it stands to reason they must never, ever develop any warm feelings towards their giant; nor must there be any secrets between child and giant.

Minnie and her family live in Quake Avenue, at number twelve, the least up market of all the twelve mansions, each of which belongs to an employee of the Giant Management Company and Mr Wadlow is endeavouring (unsuccessfully), to invent something that can stop the earthquakes for good. Minnie is forced by one Mr Straw, to take twice daily doses of medication – painkillers and muscle strengthener so she believes.

Not long after the Goodbye ceremony of Florin and his giant a violent earthquake strikes the island. Minnie quickly realises that despite what she’s been told, she isn’t ready to bid farewell to her giant forever. So, she runs away, thus betraying not only her parents but everyone she knows. She doesn’t remain entirely alone for she encounters first a jackal and then Robin Scragg whom she’d met at Florin’s ceremony..

Her journey becomes a race against time during which she has to face the truth about her island, Speck the giant and crucially, herself and who she really is.

With Flavia Sorrentino’s fantastic illustrations, this is a spectacular tale of letting go of all you thought right and genuine in order to remain true to yourself and your loved ones.

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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