Summer Book Club: seven new books for children

Summer Book Club: seven new books for children

Solstice: Around the World on the Longest, Shortest Day

By Jen Breach, illustrated by 14 global artists, What on Earth Books

This book is set on the solstice – the summer solstice if you’re in the northern hemisphere, or the winter solstice if you’re in the south. We travel from the southernmost tip in Antarctica, where the sun doesn’t rise, to Svalbard in Norway, where it doesn’t set, with 12 other stops along the way. At each one, a child introduces us to where they live. They tell us about their family, the local environment, their customs and food, and we learn a few words from their language. Nobomi, who lives in Cape Town, is on a boat watching whales migrate along South Africa’s west coast, and Tuta, from Ecuador, is celebrating Inti Raymi, the sun festival that happens on the solstice, the last day of the Incan year. Solstice describes the effect of the Earth’s tilted axis on the seasons in different parts of the world, and gives us an insight into the lives of all the different people across the globe who are touched by the sun’s rays. Each entry is vibrantly illustrated by an artist connected to that region.

Tasty Tales: Facts and Fables About Our Favourite Foods

By Anna Lena Feunekes, UCLan Publishing

Tasty Tales is a fabulous book about the origin of some of our favourite foods. There are short stories about how the croissant got its curve, who inspired the margherita pizza, and why ice cream cones are better for us than penny licks. Each story is a delight and takes us around the world and through history. I loved the story about the sea-captain who invented the ring doughnut. When the middle of Captain Gregory’s doughnuts kept turning out soggy, he “took off the cover of the ship’s tin pepper box and poked it through the centre of his doughnut, creating the first ever doughnut with a hole!” There are bite-size stories of familiar and unfamiliar dishes in this book, accompanied by joyous colour illustrations.

The Boy, The Troll and the Chalk

By Anne Booth, illustrated by David Litchfield, Templar Books

“Leave me alone!” the troll in this story shouts. And so everybody does. Everybody except one boy. With his packet of chalk, the boy makes a brave offering to the troll, leaving half-drawn pictures for him to finish at the mouth of the cave, should he wish to. When the boy returns, the cat he drew now has whiskers, and the dog, a tail. Both the boy and the troll get bolder, and through one of their joint drawings, we realise the boy doesn’t see the troll as everybody else does – or even as the troll sees himself. I love the way art in this story offers the troll a way out of the cave. It’s a testament to the power of creativity and the power of kindness. Sometimes it takes someone reaching out to coax us from a difficult place. We’ve all been the troll in this story, and we can all be the boy. David Litchfield’s illustrations are full of heart.

The Little Books of the Little Brontës

By Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Briony May Smith, Walker Books

This book imagines the life of the Brontë children, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne. It places them in a sad and harsh world, without their mother and two older sisters, on the edge of the windswept moors. Stories are their salvation. They read endlessly, they write poems, and they act out their own plays together. When their father brings home some toy soldiers for Branwell, they decide to create miniature books, just the right size for the soldiers, with handwriting so small, they’re impossible for adults to read. The children in this story band together, offering each other “a world of their own imagining”. The tiny books – fascinating for children – are a lovely way into discovering this remarkable family. There are photographs at the back of the actual tiny books made by the little Brontës. This is a charming and tender history, with evocative illustrations of 19th-century life by Briony May Smith.

Wild Trails to the Sea

By Penelope Jackson, illustrated by Elena Skoreyko Wagner, Nimbus Publishing

Wild Trails to the Sea reads like a long list of wishes from a parent to their child, that they will experience all the glory of nature:

I hope you leap into freezing waves and ride them onto shore over and over until you are an icicle melting on the hot sand. I love the images Penelope Jackson conjures. They are so sensory and full of energy. Reading the story becomes visceral: you can taste, smell, hear, see, touch the different experiences. The book is a journey through the seasons and a reminder of the wonderful things there are to do through the year. It celebrates the richness of a life spent in nature and asks us to pay attention to it. Elena Skoreyko Wagner’s paper-collage illustrations convey texture and movement; they depict the different landscapes beautifully and capture the vitality of the people enjoying them.

The Most Amazing Thing

By Ian Hayward Robinson, illustrated by Matt Shanks, Allen & Unwin

Lost for something to do, Henry is invited by his mother to draw the most amazing thing. Stumped as to what that might be, he seeks out his family to ask them. Each is busy, engaged in a passion that inspires their answers. His sister thinks it’s life. His brother thinks it’s the mind. His father thinks it’s the Universe. Henry is still flummoxed. His mother suggests he looks inside himself; perhaps Henry will find the answer there. I love the variety of answers in this story – how each person can find their own wonder in the world – and the affirming message that we are all uniquely amazing too.


By Claire Saxby, illustrated by Jess Racklyeft, Allen & Unwin

This poetic book captures the life force of a 300-year-old mountain ash. A whole ecosystem thrives because of it: plants, animals and fungi, large and small. There are insects who burrow, nest and dig in its roots; lizards, birds and mammals who find food and shelter among its leaves and branches; moss and lichen that grow in its crevices. Just as these species are protected and fed, each of them contributes to the health and survival of the tree. This is a beautiful book about the delicate balance of nature, the interconnectedness of all species, and the role each plays in maintaining planetary health. There is a wealth of information in this book, imparted through lyrical text.


Reviews by Alice Ellerby

Published in issue 90. Accurate at the time this issue went to print. 

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