A Hero Like Me
By Angela Joy and Jen Reid, illustrated by Leire Salaberria, Frances Lincoln
On 7 June 2020, a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and thrown into Bristol Harbour during an anti-racism protest. A Hero Like Me recounts those events from the perspective of young girl who witnessed them. When a woman climbs on to the empty plinth and raises her fist above her head – for George Floyd and for the safety and dignity of Black people everywhere – the act has a huge impact on the girl watching, who sees a hero “just like me”. Jen Reid has since been immortalised in a statue herself. The book asks us to think about who our heroes are and how we celebrate them, because the choice of who we place on a pedestal matters to the children, and the adults, who walk beneath them.
Call of the Titanic
By Lindsay Galvin, Chicken House
This novel is completely gripping. It’s told from the point of view of a Clara, a gutsy young girl with a reputation for ‘antics’, who has found herself, quite by accident, a stowaway on the Carpathia, the ship that would come to rescue survivors of the Titanic. While on board, Clara befriends an ownerless Newfoundland, Rigel, who has a sixth sense for dangers at sea. When Titanic collides with an iceberg and Carpathia receives distress calls from the ship, Clara and Rigel become central to the rescue mission. Interspersed with the main narrative are first-hand accounts of a young steward on Titanic. Though these accounts are fictionalised, the author has based them on actual witness statements, and they reveal a dramatic unfolding of the tragic event as reality dawned on those aboard the fated vessel.
By Nathan Bryon, illustrated by Dapo Adeola, Puffin
Small but mighty Rocket reads about Rosa Parks and is inspired by the power of peaceful protest. When she hears that her local library is closing down, she decides to do something about it. She enlists the help of her class to speak up to save it. Rocket is passionate and dynamic, and she shares her love of libraries and their importance as community spaces and in providing equal access to reading. The illustrations are joyful, bold and inclusive. This is a positive story about using our voices to make a difference.
The Fog Catcher’s Daughter
By Marianne McShane, illustrated by Alan Marks, Walker Books
There is a timeless quality to this beautiful book, which draws on the magic of Irish fairy folklore. Eily lives with her father, the Fog Catcher, three fields from the sea. In the first two fields, they keep cows and sheep, and in the third, they grow herbs “sprinkled with magic fog water” that are turned into cures and charms by Wise Annie in her apothecary. Each year, Eily’s father must cross to the enchanted fairy isle of Lisnashee to catch magic beads of mist. But it’s a dangerous endeavour. The fairies are not easily appeased, and when Papa fails to return from his trip, brave Eily must make the perilous crossing to rescue him and bring home the precious liquid. The illustrations are rich and evocative. They capture the lush green grass, the wind in Eily’s hair and the force of the sea in this atmospheric coming-of-age story.
The Parade: A Counting Story from 1 to 100
By Joanna McInerney, illustrated by Jana Glatt, Big Picture Press
This is a bright and joyful counting book for young children that follows the story of a little mouse who wants to party. Every page is jam-packed with exciting things to find – clowns, bicycles, umbrellas, flags, hula-hoops, trumpets, rockets, balloons and more – as the fiesta takes shape. This is a large hardback book, perfect for reading with little ones and talking about what you can see. The bold and busy illustrations are fun and captivating – I particularly love the friendly insects playing 18 tambourines. By the end, exhausted from all the festivities, Mouse falls asleep “beneath 100 shining stars”.
The Planet in a Pickle Jar
By Martin Stanev, Flying Eye Books
The children in this book have the wrong idea about their ‘boring’ grandmother. They are normally too distracted to listen to her long stories or notice the intriguing things she gets up to. But when Grandma suddenly vanishes, the children set out to find her, and they discover the secret world she has been trying to preserve, one pickle jar at a time. This is a story about cherishing the glory that exists all around us. It reminds us that we all can play a part in saving the world so that future generations might enjoy it too. The illustrations are full of wonder and magic; there is so much rich detail to absorb on every page.
The Wall Between Us
By Dan Smith, Chicken House
Set in Germany in 1961, this novel tells the story of best friends Anja and Monika who are separated when the Berlin Wall is built between their apartment blocks. Though a community is divided, Otto, a cat who has always moved freely between the girls’ homes, manages to find a way through, and the girls are able to use Otto to send notes to each other. In the East, Monika’s world is becoming more and more dangerous, but with spies watching their every move, there’s no way out. In the West, Anja misses her friend. She wonders, if Otto can get through, surely there must be a way for her to cross the wall too. So begins an adventure that plunges both girls into danger, with ramifications that reverberate for decades. The novel vividly depicts life in Cold War Berlin, and draws out the intensity of living through such dramatic political events. Tense, atmospheric and emotionally charged, this book is hard to put down.
By Sheryl McFarlane, illustrated by Christine Wei, Greystone Kids
This is a lovely story about a girl and her relationship to the rain. The girl thanks Rain for water to help the plants grow, to run the bath, and for creating muddy puddles to play in. As the seasons roll on, Rain leaves and the girl enjoys warm days in the sun. Soon, though, it’s too hot and the girl looks forward to Rain’s return. I love that the book is written as a conversation in which the girl directly addresses Rain. It makes her connection to weather and the seasons personal and helps us to think about our own relationship with it. “Good night, Rain. You are a bedtime pitter-patter lullaby playing on the roof. You are a drip-drop song of raindrops singing in the trees.” A beautiful, sensory ode to rain.
Reviews by Alice Ellerby
We feature a range of book reviews for adults, teens and children in each issue of JUNO, published bi-monthly.
First published in issue 85 of JUNO. Accurate at the time this issue went to print.