School is out and the long summer has begun. For some of us, it means travels and time off; for others the traveling will have to be done from the comforts of home or the library. Whatever your destination, keeping reading in your kids’ summer schedule can be a challenge. You may have to face lack of time (camp! trips! off to Grandad’s! crèche!), lack of enthusiasm (reading? sounds like homework!) or lack of inspiration. But help is at hand!
First stop is your local library. Most branches run a summer reading campaign, encouraging kids to borrow and read books throughout July and August. There are little rewards along the way, a big party at the end and the whole thing is free. Check out the Summer Stars page for more info: http://www.librariesireland.ie/summer-stars/
If you’re going away, why not try and find children’s books set in the place you’re visiting, or written by authors who come from there? The website Outside in World (http://www.outsideinworld.org.uk/mapindex.asp) can help you do just that! And of course, you don’t need to have booked tickets to anywhere to use it and travel virtually around the globe.
For lack of inspiration, the Book Doctors have the solution. These experts in kids’ books give young readers of all ages tailored recommendations of what books to try next. Try and meet them at one of Children’s Books Ireland’s Book Clinics. These take place up and down the country at various festivals and venues. Find out where and when here: http://childrensbooksireland.ie/events/
Our reviews this month are all about great journeys of the safest kind. Through them, young readers can experience the thrill of adventure with none of the discomforts, a plus when it comes to being marooned on a desert island (as in Peter Sís’s clever Robinson) or stranded on a muddy, sinking bog (as in Natasha Farrant’s The Children of Castle Rock). Babies and toddlers can have their own quests too, sailing the seas with Pirate Pete (by Nick Sharratt) or visiting all sorts of animals in their very strange homes with Mr Postmouse (by Marianne Dubuc). In those, they even get the chance to make up their own stories, which will give them fuel for extra role-play: another kind of adventure all in itself!
Pirate Pete by Nick Sharratt
Ahoy there! Here comes the friendly and youthful Pirate Pete who sails his ship looking for treasure (maybe)! The very simple story is brilliantly served by Sharratt’s instantly recognisable style, combining friendly characters and bold colours. But the genius of this book is that it comes with cut-out figures that the young reader can choose from to tell the story. What does One-Eyed Wanda wear on her head? A hat? A seagull? A cake? You choose! A great way to give little ones ownership of the story and create a very special bond with books. (Age 0–2)
Mr Postmouse Goes on Holidays by Marianne Dubuc Translated by Greet Pauwelijn
Book Island 2017
Meet Mr Postmouse and his family as they close up the post office for the summer and go off on their holidays. But a postmouse’s rounds are never done and the diligent rodents bring a few parcels to deliver on the way. You will follow them as they visit a dragon friend in a volcano, watch opera on a cruise ship, climb up into Miss Sloth’s tree and more. The pictures are bright and airy and packed full of quirky detail to spot and comment on. And there are plenty of ‘secret’ stories hidden within the images for young listeners to work out, guaranteeing multiple visits to the world of Mr Postmouse and co. (Age 2–4)
Robinson by Peter Sís
Thames & Hudson 2018
Peter loves Robinson Crusoe and he loves playing pirates with his friends. But a crushing disappointment at the school costume competition sends our hero running home to bed. In a fevered state, he dreams of a desert island where he has to make a new life for himself figuring out what to eat, where to live, what to wear and so on. Sís digs deep into a childhood memory here to give us this stunning tale of friendship and adventure where reality and imagination play off each other. The bright and deliciously detailed illustrations will have young readers exploring straight away and might inspire some to take out their art material … or their binoculars. (Age 5–8)
The Children of Castle Rock by Natasha Farrant
Faber & Faber 2018
Since Alice’s mum died years ago, she has been a more quiet and withdrawn version of her old self, only living for her memories of her mother, the antics of her father and the fantastical stories she makes up. Aunt Patience becomes worried enough that she takes the drastic step of sending her to a boarding school in deepest, wildest Scotland. It’s not punishment, it’s a fresh start. Alice must navigate the very lax rules of her new school, learn to make new friends and decide how she can hijack the annual Orienteering Challenge to keep a very mysterious appointment with her dad. Expect friendships and betrayals, bogs and lochs, bandits and mysteries, and also kittens in this romp of a tale! (Age 9–12)
Juliette Saumande is a children’s book writer who likes to turn each book she reads with her kids (or not) into an adventure. (http://juliettesaumande.blogspot.com)
For more reviews check out Inis magazine which is published by Children’s Books Ireland, the national children’s books organisation whose vision is an Ireland in which books are central to every child’s life.