When Flannery O’Connor was a little girl, she came to the considered conclusion that there is something about strangeness that makes people ‘sit up and look.’ Just as well really, as this eccentric child grew up to write singularly unsettling stories that made the entire literary world sit up and propelled her to an enduring fame.The Strange Birds of Flannery O’Connor by Amy Alznauer explores the life and childhood fascinations of the late American writer. A radiant and wonderful portrait, it will captivate free-spirited young readers.
Named one of The New York Times best children’s books of 2020, There Must Be More Than That by Shinsuke Yoshitake provides a welcome antidote to anxiety for our youngest readers, particularly during these Covid dominated days. Fans of Yoshitake’s marvellously offbeat books will know his gift for unpicking knotty issues in a humorously philosophical way, and in this sweet new picture book we meet a young girl beset by fears of a disastrous and doom-laden future.
In need of some chuckles? The Worst Class in the World by Joanna Nadin is the perfect pick-me-up for dark January days. As the exuberant front cover suggests, we’re in for some fun and mayhem with a rather challenging bunch of school kids, in this case, the irrepressible 4B from St Regina’s primary school. Previously on the naughty step for such incidents as trying to tunnel under the playground to Finland, and smuggling a penguin onto the school bus, here we join them as they aspire to become young entrepreneurs and Show and Tell champions.
When did you last make a snow angel? Can you recall the powdery chill of the snow and the sweeping of arms and legs ‘back and forth, back and forth?’ Maybe you witnessed it thaw and dissolve, and mused on the ephemeral nature of snowflakes. Well, Where Snow Angels Go by Maggie O’Farrell holds no truck with temporary magic. In this tender story of salvation, we encounter the notion that an angel made in the snow remains in service to its creator forever.
When Yayoi Kusama was a young girl, she had a close encounter with a pumpkin. In later years, she would describe how it (literally) spoke to her in an animated manner, its radiant energy filling her with love. If you think that’s startling, just wait until you hear how she feels about polka dots! This unusually sensitive girl would grow up to be one of the most famous artists in the world, and in Yayoi Kusama Covered Everything in Dots and Wasn’t Sorry by Fausto Gilberti, we learn about her amazing life.
The lives of millions of children have been turned upside down by the Coronavirus which has left many parents wondering what is the best way to explain it all. To help, children’s publisher Nosy Crow has just published online and free of charge, Coronavirus – A book for children. The book was written by staff at the publisher with advice from Professor Graham Medley of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, two head teachers and a child psychologist and is illustrated by the Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler. Please spread the word about this brilliant idea.
Uncle Andy’s by James Warhola is just the kind of quirky gem we delight in unearthing. It’s written and illustrated by Andy Warhol’s nephew James, who recounts a family pilgrimage to New York City to visit his eccentric relative. The year was 1962, Warhol’s Soup Can paintings were causing a commotion and he was well on the way to becoming one of the most controversial artists of all time. In this warm, anecdotal recollection, Warhol’s home is just as ‘faabbbulous’ as he is. Come inside and meet his 25 cats (yes really).
I Go Quiet by David Ouimet succeeds at that most difficult of literary tasks, how to employ very few words and yet convey issues of great complexity. In this arresting new picture book he tells the story of an unnamed girl and her lonely life as a quiet person in a cacophonous world. Set in an oppressive dystopian cityscape, we join her on her journey to enlightenment. With plaudits from the likes of Philip Pullman and Dave Eggers, this unusual book will linger in your thoughts long after you put it down.
We’re big fans of the fabulous Little People, Big Dreams series. Created to showcase inspirational females of the world, it’s heartening to find history lessons no longer fixated on dead white men. Here, at number 29 in this delightfully burgeoning collection, is Vivienne Westwood by Isabel Sánchez Vegara, a chance to learn about the life and cultural impact of the legendary left field designer, and how she went from suburban teacher to the ‘…most unique and outspoken fashion designer ever.’
Christmas is cancelled at Griselda Bone’s orphanage. No tinsel, no mince pies, and certainly no presents. Instead, algebra is the order of the day, plus extra fractions and a spelling test. This bleak scenario is 7-year-old Phoebe’s reality in The Snow Dragon by Abi Elphinstone & Fiona Woodcock. Seasoned readers of traditional Christmas tales will want to reassure Phoebe that there’s just bound to be a liberal sprinkling of festive magic on the way.