Weasels, planes and an African adventure
There are many new books available to help keep your little ones amused thissummer. Jenny Woolf looks at just six of them – and finds a very diverse range of reading matter EVIL WEASEL by Hannah Shaw Jonathan Cape, £10.99 EMILY WINDSNAP S FRIENDSHIP BOOK by Liz Kessler Orion Books £7.99 TAKE A FLIGHT by Peter Kent, Quercus Books, £6.99 THE KRAKEN SNORES by Tanya Landman, Walker Books, £4.99 THE REAL THING by Brian Falkner,
by Hannah Shaw
Jonathan Cape, £10.99
by Liz Kessler
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Orion Books £7.99
TAKE A FLIGHT
by Peter Kent,
Quercus Books, £6.99
THE KRAKEN SNORES
by Tanya Landman,
Walker Books, £4.99
THE REAL THING
by Brian Falkner,
Walker Books, £4.99
by Mary Finn,
Walker Books, £6.99
Evil Weasel is "a bully, a sneak, a nasty measly evilly Weasel." He's fabulously rich through selling Ghastly Greasy Grub at his Weasel Burger outlets and his books are headlined: "Make a Fortune From Other's Misfortune."
One day, he decides to have a party. He writes a load of condescending invitations - "I am very rich and important, so don't be late!" - and then sits back and waits for the crowds. Of course, they don't arrive.
Oh, dear. Evil Weasel must try to be good, so people will like him. And, this being a book for little children, he mostly succeeds. But not quite... Evil Weasel is a terrific debut picture book from Hannah Shaw and the eye-catching pictures are full of amusing details that will keep children happy for ages.
The cover of Emily Windsnap's Friendship Book is likely to attract junior school girls but carefully avoids being soppy - it's not all pink, for a start.
It is a compendium of friendship and it's full of quizzes ("What Sort of Sea Creature Would You Be?") and arty-crafty activities for best friends to do together. There is even some decent poetry - Tennyson's The Mermaid. It is best read with a real friend, but it's also fun for the temporarily friendless.
Boys may prefer Take A Flight, which clearly and accurately presents all the technology associated with travelling by plane, including all those strange vehicles which trundle around airports.
Many cutaway pictures of parts of planes offer just enough information for children to assimilate. The book is written on the assumption that it will be taken along on a plane journey, and that is a highly recommended idea.
Junior age fans of William Popidopolis will welcome The Kraken Snores. A sea monster threatens Britain, but the dauntless lad, with the help of his quarrelsome, unreasonable Greek god friends, comes to the rescue, dressed most of the time in the body of a sea nymph with real boobs. (Ugh! Yuk!)
The book skips along between a procession of mad, scary or colourful encounters and, thank goodness, William gets his own real body back in the end.
Brian Falkner's stories can sometimes be too macho for girls, but The Real Thing will please both sexes. It's a well plotted thriller about the theft of the secret Coca-Cola recipe. As in Falkner's other stories, the lads from Glenfield school, New Zealand, are involved. This time, Fizzer, with his extra-sensitive senses, takes the lead.
Accompanied by his super-strong mate, Tupai, he is whisked off to LA to help the benighted corporation, while the three Coca-Cola executives who are the only living people who know the recipe for Coke, glumly contemplate their futures in a hole in the ground in Papua New Guinea.
Lots of action and quiet humour make this a page turner. And no, it definitely wasn't endorsed by Coca Cola Inc. You won't be that surprised, after you've read it.
Once or twice a year, a really fine book for young people appears. Anila's Journey is such a book. Densely textured, fabulously descriptive, beautifully realised, it tells the story of Anila Tandy, an 18th century Irish-Indian girl fending for herself in Calcutta. Shown in a series of chapters interspersed with flashbacks, it describes how Anila's Irish father seemingly abandoned his Indian "family," leaving her mother with little choice but to pine away as the mistress of a kindly, but unimaginative English banker. Without going into graphic detail, the book makes it clear how vulnerable women were in those days and how dependent they were on the goodwill of the European men who took them on.
Anila never stops believing in her father. After her mother's death, she resolves to stay in Calcutta alone in case he returns. She decides to make her living as a bird painter but when Anila is hired by a curious but likeable Englishman to take a trip to search for rare birds, her life changes.
The book is both readable and poetic. Anila's Calcutta is peopled with real characters, bustling about, sweating, eating, scheming and arguing. It's almost impossible to believe that the author, Mary Finn, was not brought up in India herself.
This book is labelled as a Young Adult title, but it shouldn't be hidden away in this little ghetto: many older adults with a yen for historic India will surely love it too.