by Phoebe Demeger
Each month CLPE's Librarian, Phoebe Demeger, will reveal some of her favourite books she has recently added to our Literacy Library.
Discover November's below:
In Catch! (Trish Cooke and Ken Wilson-Max, Alanna Max), little Kiona tries to catch things her mum throws to her, but they are all too big, too hard, or too slippery – what's something to catch that Kiona will hold onto forever? A kiss from Mum! Both a warm representation of a mother-child relationship, and a study of different materials and sensations – these, plus the repetitive structure and relatable storyworld, make this an ideal book for the youngest readers.
Officially publishing in early 2024, Measuring Me (Nicola Kent, Little Tiger) is a work of Early Years Information to look forward to; it measures the average child’s body and its actions through comparison with everyday objects, e.g. “I’m as tall as ten tin cans”. With enthusiastic first-person narration and a handy fold-out chart included in the back, encouraging further engagement and self-awareness.
The Happy Hut (Tim Hopgood, Walker) is a tender and joyful book about time spent by the seaside with Grandpa, and how happy memories can endure in a place even after a person has passed on. Hopgood's vibrant illustrations lend themselves perfectly to depicting the changing seasons, with the endpapers a beautiful and moving suggestion of loss.
A charming new graphic novel series by Mika Song, Donut Feed the Squirrels (Pushkin Children’s) stars two plucky and problem-solving squirrels called Norma and Belly, who must work together in their quest to find and eat a delicious doughnut. Told in short chapters, with full-colour watercolour illustrations.
The latest offbeat collaboration by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen is a seasonal treat: How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney? (Walker) raises a series of logistical, rhetorical questions, inviting engagement of the reader’s imagination. The image of a flattened Santa sliding under a door is deliciously creepy, and the overall impact of text and illustrations is one of warm and clever wit.
The Ogre Who Wasn’t (Michael Morpurgo and Emily Gravett, Two Hoots) is a playful interpretation of The Frog Prince, about a little princess who would rather be out exploring nature and befriending the little creatures who live there (including a helpful toad) than being shut up in a stuffy castle. Also features – in a welcome departure from some fairytales – a kindly step-parent.
The Firefly’s Light: The Secret Inventors of Our Natural World (Sarah Horne, Scholastic) spotlights twenty historical and contemporary instances in which human inventors were inspired by the animal world, such as the streamlined flight of a hummingbird leading to the swift and near-silent Bullet Train, and the ‘soft robotics’ movement taking its cues from an elephant’s strong yet flexible trunk. Fully illustrated, with narrative non-fiction, factual asides, speech bubbles and labels all imparting information.
From Sydney Smith, the award-winning artist behind Small in the City, I Talk Like a River and more comes Do You Remember? (Walker), an evocative and moving examination of core memories and the making of new ones following a change in one’s home and family circumstances. Would link excellently to The Comet, and Smith’s use of changing light and colour has to be seen to be believed.
Agent 9: Flood-a-geddon! (James Burks, Piccadilly Press) launches a new adventure-comedy graphic novel series about an enthusiastic, if hapless, secret agent cat, determined to prove themselves on their next big mission against an equally bumbling villain. Packed with wacky inventions, and non-stop jokes and visual humour.
What You Need to be Warm (Neil Gaiman and various illustrators, Bloomsbury) started life as a series of responses to a social media prompt by Gaiman: “What reminds you of warmth?”. These responses were woven into a powerful poem about refuge and welcome, with each spread illustrated in white, grey and orange by a different contemporary artist, including Chris Riddell, Richard Jones and Pam Smy. A foreword from Gaiman and closing notes from the artists bookend the poem and share further insights into the project.
The highly-anticipated sequel to The Wild Robot and The Wild Robot Escapes, The Wild Robot Protects (Peter Brown, Piccadilly) sees Roz the robot living harmoniously on her island home, until a mysterious poison tide threatens to disrupt the ecosystem. A pacey, environmentally-minded, and empowering adventure, with a strong theme of family and home.
Another follow-up, this time from author A.M. Dassu: Kicked Out (Old Barn Books) is set in the same world as the award-winning Boy, Everywhere, but also stands alone as a story in its own right. Alongside its vital narrative of family, identity, allyship, and the threat of deportation, it also perfectly captures friendship between teenage boys, drawing us deep into the world of these characters with a kind of fierce empathy. Closes with a glossary, a powerful Author’s Note, and a What Can We Do segment centred around refugee justice.
Celebrate! Discover 50 Fantastic Festivals from Around the World (Laura Mucha and Hannah Tolson, Nosy Crow) is a large-format compendium of a wide range of festivals and celebrations. It opens with festivals which take place worldwide, then explores specific celebrations by continent, everything from religious rites to city parades and sporting events. An attractive and informative book, co-published with the British Museum.
Weird Sea (Sophie Burrows, Puffin) is a captivating and hilarious collection of weird and wonderful happenings at sea. Narrated by a cartoon prawn, it covers everything from curious underwater creatures and mythological monsters to unexplained phenomena and real-life events. Great for dipping a toe into or diving right in.
Animal Tales from India: Ten Stories from the Panchatantra (Nosy Crow) is a beautifully produced collection of animal fables from the ancient Indian Panchatantra, adapted by Nikita Gill with vibrant illustrations by Chaaya Prabhat. Lessons and morals around loyalty, friendship, kindness and self-belief are communicated with levity in Gill’s warm text; read her blog on the importance of tales in helping us understand the world elsewhere on the CLPE blog.