What Ever After: Sink or Swim by Sarah Mlynowski
An entertaining read, this would be a good addition to the ‘Fractured Fairy Tales’ genre for those who have grown out of Laurence Anholt’s Seriously Silly Stories series. This one is based on The Little Mermaid, whilst others re-tell Snow White, Cinderella and others.
Through The Cat-Flap by Ian Whybrow, illustrated by Tony Ross
I don’t know why this is under the heading of Books for Boys, because I think is is an excellent story for any gender. It does a brilliant job of creating a non-standard family with wit and warmth, and a plot which was unexpected without being completely unbelievable. I thought it was a really great example of how difficult themes (depression, disability, family conflict) can be covered in a children’s book, without it seeming like an exercise in box-ticking. This description makes it seem rather grim, but it really isn’t! Highly recommended.
Nelly The Monster Sitter by Kes Grey, illustrated by Chris Jones
Kes Grey is a firm favourite of mine, so I was really looking forward to this. The book was nicely bizarre and the monsters were well-imagined without being too grotesque. The story got a bit manic towards the end and I could imagine younger independent readers getting confused about what was happening. I enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t rate it amongst his best (which, for my money, would be ‘Eat Your Peas’ as a picture book and ‘Daisy and The Trouble With Zoos’ as a chapter book).
Katie and the Sunflowers by James Mayhew
This well-established series follows Katie as she has magical adventures and interacts with famous art works from around the world. I was expecting there to be more information about the painting and artist – the picture was more of a springboard for Katie to have some kind of chase adventure which now I can’t recall. There is more information about the artworks in the back of the book so it could be used as a starting point for more investigation – or just enjoyed as a fantasy-based adventure. As you would expect, the illustrations are excellent.
Tilly and the Trouble in the Night by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Kimberley Scott
A surprisingly subversive tale in which Tilly’s brother is repeatedly in danger of being sold on e-bay! A very satisfying story, helpfully illustrated, which will be particularly enjoyed by those who have irritating younger brothers. I don’t know why so many books with a main character called Tilly use the name in the title. Maybe it is something to do with the rhythm of the name? The other name which features more often than not in the title is Henry, which is not dissimilar in sound. Any bright ideas?
Archie and Archie’s Holiday both written and illustrated by Domenica More Gordon
I had never come across this author before, but happily discovered Archie in the library the day after the new royal baby was named. Both books are a total delight, a real classic where the pictures do all the heavy lifting. Archie in particular had a real laugh-aloud ending. My only criticism would be that the minimal text is in either a very unhelpful font, or the author’s own handwriting, which is a bit undisciplined in terms of letter formation, so children who are usually quite able readers would struggle with it. Having said that, it would be a wonderful book to share, even with older children who would appreciate the elegance of the illustrations. Definitely the highlight of my May reading.
All pictures taken by Barbara Thomas.