Winter Book Club: eight new books for children

Winter Book Club: eight new books for children

What Will I Discover?

By Tanya Lloyd Kyi, illustrated by Rachel Qiuqi, Greystone Kids

The child in this book considers all the exciting things scientists have discovered – that otters tangle themselves in kelp so they don’t float away when they sleep, that Mars has a mountain three times taller than Everest, that cells inside our brains send signals to one another. But although there is much we know about the world around us, the book reminds us that there is still so much we don’t know. The child has their own questions they’re seeking answers to – “How do trees learn to talk to one another through their tangled roots?” “How do ideas pop into my head?” This gentle book encourages children to follow their innate curiosity, for who knows where it will lead them and what they will discover.

How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney?

By Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen, Walker Books

All children are mystified by how Santa manages to get down the chimney.

The puzzle is explored with great merriment in this book, with the explanations becoming increasingly fanciful. Does he “stretch out like toffee and step in one leg at a time?” They are just the kind of creative suggestions children conjure up. And once you start down this rabbit hole, other worrying questions arise: “If you don’t have a chimney, what happens then?” Children love being baffled by this timeless Christmas conundrum, and this book plays into that joy with gusto.

Animal Tales from India: Ten Stories from the Panchatantra

By Nikita Gill, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat, Nosy Crow

First written in Sanskrit, the Panchatantra animal fables are thousands of years old. In the ten retold by Nikita Gill in this gorgeous collection, we meet a bird who angers the sea, a jackal who fools a lion, a very talkative tortoise, and many other animals from whom we have something to learn. There is great tension in the stories as the animals’ flaws are exposed, and we are warned of repeating their folly. Gill is a wonderfully evocative writer and the jungle provides a rich a perilous setting. She conjures warmth and wisdom as she shares these precious tales, once told to her by her grandmother. The book is beautifully bound, and the vibrant, full-colour illustrations by Chaaya Prabhat really bring the stories to life.

Tales from Shakespeare

By Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by ten award-winning artists, HarperCollins Children’s Books 

Beloved children’s author Michael Morpurgo believes “every child should have the opportunity to love the plays of Shakespeare” and the stories he has written, based on ten of Shakespeare’s plays, provide the perfect jumping off point. To decipher Elizabethan language for the first time is a challenge, but if you already know and love Shakespeare’s stories, you have the beginnings of a way in. This book opens the door for young readers to discover the plays and to engage with the great complexities of the human condition they grapple with. These are accessible and exciting retellings of some of the most popular works – comedies, tragedies and histories – each with fabulous illustrations by a different artist. 

The Christmas Songbook: Sing Along to Eight Classic Carols

By Katie Cotton, illustrated by Amy Adele, Magic Cat Publishing

This lovely Christmas book features eight traditional Christmas songs – O Christmas Tree, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls, O Holy Night, Silent Night, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Joy to the World. There is simple sheet music for each carol and an irresistible star button, which, when pressed, plays a snippet of the tune. The book is printed on high-quality paper and accompanying each song is a beautifully illustrated Christmas scene of a family of mice preparing for the festivities. This feels like a really special book, the kind you’ll want to bring out year after year, particularly if there’s someone in your family who will enjoy playing along.

Bear and Bird: The Stars and Other Stories

By Jarvis, Walker Books

Bear and Bird are best friends, but they somehow can’t avoid having silly arguments, breaking promises and making mistakes. Each of these stories tells of a different mishap, and yet the friends’ warmth and affection for each other survives them all. I love the first story, The Spoon, about their falling out. Having had an argument the day before, Bear writes a letter seeking a new best friend, folds it into a paper boat and sends it off into the lake. A comic turn of events ensues as Bird finds the letter and replies, and so begins a correspondence with neither knowing the other’s identity. It’s a wonderfully amusing tale with a happy resolution, which reminds us that we can all navigate the ups and downs of friendship.

What’s Hiding Under There?

By Daniela Drescher, Floris Books

This is an enchanting lift-the-flap book that takes readers on a journey through the magical forest. There is so much to discover on every page. The beautiful watercolour illustrations capture the lively woodland wonderfully, home to busy creatures scuttling between the leaves, brambles and branches. We meet bear cubs eating raspberries, a squirrel searching for her nuts, a dormouse looking for her brother. The forest animals are drawn with such detail and there’s real excitement in finding who’s hiding – a hedgehog, a spider, or an owl, or perhaps even a fairy or an elf.

The Panda’s Child

By Jackie Morris, illustrated by Cathy Fisher, Otter-Barry Books

This is an astonishingly beautiful collaboration between writer Jackie Morris and illustrator Cathy Fisher. A baby boy is lost in a faraway forest, and after the rest of the village has given up on his safe return, his mother finds him again in a cave, having been cared for by “a she-bear”. Both boy and bear become special to the villagers – he who returned, and she who kept him safe. Years later, strangers arrive in the village. They capture the panda’s child to take as a present to “the great ruler Alexander”. The villagers are horrified, even more so when the boy begs for the strangers to take him with them. But the boy is brave and resourceful and holds within him the spirit of the forest: he has a plan. This is a powerful and moving story. Together the words and images depict a vital connection between people and wild nature.


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 87 of JUNO. Accurate at the time this issue went to print. 

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