Early Spring Book Club: seven new books for children

Early Spring Book Club: seven new books for children

D is for Dog

By Em Lynas, illustrated by Sara

Ogilvie, Nosy Crow This A to Z of dogs is a delight! Written in playful rhyme, it catalogues an alphabet of dog mischief: “A is for action and B is for bark. C is for catching a ball in the park.” But as well as alphabetising the dogs’ antics, the dogs themselves have been given the same treatment, and on the first three pages, we meet an Afghan hound, a beagle and a collie. This gets quite interesting towards the end of the alphabet, with a xoloitzcuintle (a Mexican hairless dog) and a zwergspitz (another name for a Pomeranian). Every member of the pack is celebrated – smart and scruffy, tall and short – and from nose to tail, each one is drawn with wonderful character. The boundless canine joy is irresistible for dog lovers big and small.

I’m Feeling (a Little Bit) Shy

By Anna Milbourne, illustrated by Åsa Gilland, Usborne

This book captures the nuances of shyness in a way that is useful for children to see. We follow a little girl negotiating situations she finds tricky, such as going to a party and starting a new school. Clever cut-outs on the pages allow the girl to peep through doorways, and hide in a busy playground. The story recognises that people only feel shy in certain situations, and the little girl is full of confidence among good friends and family. It’s important for that to be acknowledged, as when a child is known as shy, it can sometimes be difficult to escape the label. I like the way the book frames shyness as something you just have to find your way through to get to the fun part. And there are other useful things to remember too: everyone feels shy sometimes, even those who never seem scared, like the little girl’s brother; some people just pass through the shy feeling quicker than others.

When We Become Ours: A YA Adoptee Anthology

Edited by Shannon Gibney and Nicole Chung, HarperTeen

These engaging short stories for young adults are written by adoptees, for adoptees. It’s an important anthology, which reclaims the narrative of adoption, recognising the breadth and complexity of experience. As the editors note at the beginning of the book, adoption is often inauthentically represented in literature, where we see “one-dimensional” portrayals, which can “lead many adoptees to feel as if they are alone”. These compelling, entertaining and insightful stories discuss identity and belonging. Many of them consider transracial adoption, such as Oreo by Shannon Gibney, in which the main character, Louie, “a mixed Black girl adopted into a white family” feels “unseen by the white kids and unaccepted by the Black ones”. The characters in each story find their own way to navigate the issues that arise for them as they seek their way in the world.

The Ever-Changing Earth

By Grahame Baker-Smith, Templar Books

This stunning picture book tells the history of the Earth, from a young planet “under siege, pounded by comets and rocks” to the present day, when a boy who loves dinosaurs feeds the birds in his garden, and a girl, far across the globe, “floats in a pool warmed by heat at the centre of the Earth”, gazing at the northern lights. The story is personal and full of wonder for the present moment, while at the same time so vast, it reminds us how fleeting our time on Earth is in the context of our planet’s history. Baker-Smith has pulled off an incredible feat in imparting these powerful ideas simultaneously. Through his sparse poetic text and vivid illustrations, history comes to life, and the book is both moving and informative.

How to Find a Rainbow: A Reena & Rekha Story

By Alom Shaha, illustrated by Sarthak Sinha, Scribble

Reena and Rekha are the most endearing red panda sisters. Reena hates rainy days, as they make all the colours dull when what she wants is something bright to paint. Rekha loves rainy days – the smell of the earth and deep puddles to jump in. When Rekha spots a rainbow, she thinks it’s just the thing to tempt her sister outside, but it’s disappeared. The sisters set off in search of it. The vibrant illustrations, inspired by Sarthak Sinha’s love of the Himalayas, are wonderfully atmospheric. Through the story, we learn the perfect conditions for a rainbow. Reena observes, “I think you can only see it with the sun behind you and the rain in front of you.” This is the first in a series by science communicator Alom Shaha, which aims to entertain and educate through a combination of narrative and non-fiction.

The Puppets of Spelhorst

By Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Julie Morstad, Walker Books

Kate DiCamillo wrote one of my all-time favourite children’s books, Because of Winn-Dixie, so I was excited to read this, the first book in a new short fiction trilogy, The Norendy Tales. The Puppets of Spelhorst is a captivating and magical tale of five puppets – a king, a wolf, a girl with a shepherd’s crook, a boy with a bow and arrow, and an owl. They have been shut up in an old trunk, bickering, boasting, comforting each other in the dark, when fate lands them in the hands of two little girls. They feel sure that now they will discover their story, and just as they’d hoped, an unexpected adventure begins. The book has a fable-like quality, touching on ideas of belonging and destiny. It’s beautifully presented too, with enchanting black and white illustrations throughout.

Flying High

By Cao Wenxuan, illustrated by Yu Rong, translated by Jake Hope and Simone-Davina Monnelly, UCLan Publishing

The child in this story feels too small to fly their kite with the other children in the town. They are picked on and left out. Luckily, they have an imaginary friend – Wawa, a bird – who brings comfort to the child when they’re at their lowest. She leads them on a journey by the river, through the tall trees and along the beach. The child’s eyes and heart are opened to the world, and they find confidence and peace in themselves. With new-found strength, the child joins the town’s kite festival. They feel the wind blowing beneath them, and just like their kite and Wawa, they soar. This is a raw yet beautiful story. The illustrations are interesting and original, and they capture the difficult feelings in the book, just as they do the uplifting moments.


Reviews by Alice Ellerby

We feature a range of book reviews for adults, teens and children in each issue of JUNO, published bi-monthly. 

Published in issue 88 of JUNO. Accurate at the time this issue went to print. 

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