Absolutely Mama rounds up the best children’s books for little readers this April…
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Main Image)
Adapted by Peter Bently
Ian Fleming’s 1960s yarn is brought to life for younger readers in a picture book created by two modern talents – author Peter Bently and illustrator Steve Antony. The narrative is gripping, and with wonderful images that chart the fantastical story of the Pott family’s adventures in their flying car. With a dastardly robber captured and a medal presented by the French president, there’s a wholly satisfying finale. It’s an engaging nostalgia trip that introduces a new audience to the book the James Bond author penned in the early 1960s based on tales he’d dreamed up to entertain his own young son.
David Roberts’ Delightfully Different Fairy Tales
By Lyn Roberts-Maloney
This new edition brings together three reworked fairy stories, with the oldest originally published almost two decades ago. David Roberts’ richly detailed illustrations set them in distinct time periods – the Roaring Twenties for Cinderella, the 1970s for Rapunzel, and the 1950s and 1000 years into the future for Sleeping Beauty. The text created by his sister Lyn Roberts-Maloney goes a fair way to redress the handsome prince v powerless female narrative of old and there’s a rich vein of humour. Happy endings come with a twist; Sleeping Beauty is rescued by a female friend, Rapunzel sets up as a creative wig designer while Cinders makes peace with her dreadful stepsisters and even invites them to the wedding.
by Libby Jackson
Written by space industry insider and physicist Libby Jackson, this is a compilation of real stories about journeys into the unknown. The timeline begins with Sputnik and ends with a final speculative story about the future of space travel as we look to Mars. The most engaging stories centre on the quirks and human possibilities of space, for instance Peter Diamandis’ XPRIZE (where Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic came in), Chris Hadfield’s unforgettable rendition of ‘Space Oddity’ and Izzy and Ed, the Raspberry Pi computers coded by children across Europe as part of ISS’s Astro Pi mission. There’s a useful chapter on what it takes to be an astronaut and also honest accounts of space missions that have gone wrong.
by Matthew Burton
Written by the star of C4’s Educating Yorkshire and head of Thornhill Community Academy, this is an accessible guide to surviving the move to secondary school. Burton manages to avoid mollifying or patronising, instead favouring a light style that doesn’t dodge the key fears – from feeling lost and tackling exams to friendships and fitting in. Inspirational quotes and soundbites from the great and the good pepper the text, which offers dip in facts and ideas to explain key rules (uniforms, tests, disciplinary procedures) and survival tactics (ask questions, get support, don’t be afraid). There are frank and really useful sections on bullying, the transitions and pitfalls of friendships and finding a way to be true to you. Even if a child has no qualms about moving up, it’s confidence-building ballast from a grown-up who has seen it all before and understands how young people tick.
There Are Fish Everywhere
by Britta Teckentrup
Royal College of Art and St Martin’s alumnus Britta Teckentrup has joined forces with author and editor Katie Haworth to create this wonderful picture book – part of a series that looks at more hidden inhabitants of the wild kingdom. The images grab your attention from first to last, but it’s a mine of fascinating bite-size facts, from the epic journeys of Atlantic salmon and tactics fish use to avoid predators to colourful inhabitants of our coral reefs.
Clap When You Land
by Elizabeth Acevedo
Elizabeth Acevedo is a noted poet as well as author and has once again chosen a verse form for this moving novel about grief, identity and, ultimately, love. Camino and Yahaira are sisters, separated for 16 years, who finally find each other after the death of their father on a plane journey from New York to Dominican Republic. The revelations that follow force them to explore who Papi was, the nature of his secret life and also where they fit in. The book tackles challenging and adult themes deftly, in part thanks to its use of twin narrators. There is extra resonance in the original inspiration for the novel – a plane crash in 2001 that continues to have huge resonance for New York’s Dominican community.