Picture Book Picks – If I Had a Unicorn

We were lucky enough to request and receive a free copy of this from the publishers. All views and opinions are my own.

If I Had a Unicorn by Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow

Those of you who have been reading for a while will know how much we loved both If I Had a Dinosaur and If I Had a Sleepy Sloth from this duo (and if you don’t, you can read our thoughts here!) so I was very excited to hear there was a new one due and even more thrilled to get a copy sent to us from Thames and Hudson.

As soon as Peapod opened the post with this one in he was straight up to his bookshelf asking for the others and all three were brought in for bedtime!

Unicorn has since been read every night and usually at least once a day too – “yoo-corn!”

It’s just as much fun as the previous books, with our protagonist imagining all the fun and magic things possible with a unicorn for a pet – from granted wishes to unlimited candyfloss to cakes and cookies at every meal!

Of course as a unicorn book, there’s plenty of magic and glitter, but there’s also a visual humour which will appeal to parents just as much as children – the unicorn’s flight or – one of my favourite spreads – its effect on her sibling and their room for example!

In a similar vein, one of the initial spreads shows the littke girl’s unicorn coming out of a picture she’s looking at on a trip to a gallery. I love the magic and imagination if this, as well as the way it immediately brings galleries, art and museums into the realm of children.

The images on the gallery spread had a familiar feel and I’m wondering if they’re based on real pieces. After a little googling, I’d hazard a guess at The Unicorn Hunt tapestries but I’d be interested to find out for real!

As for Peapod, well, no-one with a small child will be surprised to learn that one of his favourite pages is the one with the rainbow poo on it! (From fine art to toilet humour in a matter of pages – there really is something for everyone!)

We love the way each of these books has a mischievous, funny or, in the case of the dinosaur, downright enormous poo or wee in them! The page in If I Had a Sleepy Sloth with the lifeguard getting his comeuppance for being a grumpy old spoil sport is still returned to, talked about (“Wee. Head. Grrrrr!”) and laughed at frequently!

He also loves the spread of the little girl’s birthday party in which everyone is eating ice creams (or as they are known in our house “Bear Snacks!”) He is ice cream mad so was delighted by this page and often now will just turn straight to this page to point out the ice creams and the astronaut who hasn’t got one yet and the little girl’s dad with his spoon and…

I think you can tell we love this just as much as its predecessors! It’s been an instant hit and will almost certainly be in the repeated reads and regular requests for some time yet!

Scavengers

I requested and received a copy of this free from the publishers, in exchange for an honest review. All views are my own.

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Scavengers by Darren Simpson, illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole

Landfill enjoys his life in the Hinterland – running free with dogs, foxes, goats and cats; swimming with turtles and chasing squirrels. He is happy in his wild, junk-yard home with old Babagoo taking care of him, as long as he follows the rules and sticks to the routine.

The rules are Babagoo’s way of keeping them safe from Outsiders. So is the wall inlaid with glass shards which must be checked for cracks, disrepair or infiltration every day. So is the need for cover whenever the Eye passes over. So is the fact that Landfill cannot yet accompany Babagoo to the Spit Pit to rummage for useful ‘treasures’ and catch gulls to eat.

And it is this last point, along with a couple of other seemingly, but emphatically not, insignificant events that plants a seed of doubt in Landfill’s mind about Babagoo’s rules and what he has always known to be true. And it is this seed of doubt combined with a chance meeting, that gradually triggers the events which will see Landfill and Babagoo’s world turned on its head.

The world-building in this is fantastic. While very much sticking to show not tell and avoiding being at all laboriously descriptive, Darren Simpson manages to describe in intricate detail this world made up of discarded, broken and ‘good for nothing’ objects in a way which has you clambering around it, climbing over it and chasing through it with Landfill.

The thick, sweet scent of rubbish and the acrid, sour smells of living unwashed, along with a multitude of others infiltrate the pages. The swarms of butterflies we see taking flight, the joy of splashing about in a sunlit pool of water (albeit, rather dirty water!), the absolute abandon with which Landfill lives as he lopes along on all fours with the dogs – all of it is described in a way which not only makes this place incredibly easy to picture,  but in a way which makes it easy to understand both how and why Landfill is so content in this place you couldn’t imagine being a home.

The use of a combination of altered, made up or old versions of words add to the sense of Landfill and Babagoo being a world apart, as do the scenes in the latter half of the book in which Landfill is slowly introduced to ‘Outside’ concepts, inventions and life. The way these are shown and described really hammer home how isolated from ‘normal’ life Landfill has been. Likewise, his innocence and naivety about the world only highlight his separation from it.

This is a coming of age story like no other. Landfill begin to question his world and rebel against Babagoo’s rules and ‘facts’. We see doubt creeping in and hurt, anger and confusion taking their turns. But ultimately, we see his love for Babagoo and his want, and need, to trust him and believe him.

However, as the reader, we are also able to see, or at least guess at, Babagoo’s dishonesty and his motives – there is no doubt he loves Landfill and wants to protect him, but his fear of Outsiders and the actions they cause may be pushing him away instead.

While part of me would have loved to know more about Babagoo’s backstory, I also liked that we were left to make up our own minds about Babagoo and his past – where do the lines of right and wrong blur, cross or meet? What should or shouldn’t he have done? Can we excuse him? What led him to his current life? Why does he do what he does? The book comes with discussion questions at the end (great for schools or children’s book groups) but there is so much to discuss from Babagoo’s character alone.

I thought the relationship between Landfill and Babagoo was incredibly well-written – the bickering and rows and the deception and disobedience juxtaposed with really tender moments where we clearly see how much they care for each other. The way this built over the book made the final chapters even more dramatic and emotive.

I did at times find the early chapters a bit slow, but the pace gradually quickens as events unfold, until the final chapters which are punchy and pacey, chaotic and tense, making this slow burning start very effective in the end. These final scenes are frenetic with panic, confusion, and desperation and a stark contrast to the contented tranquillity of their life at the start.

Again, this leaves us with questions that open up a wealth of discussion about personal vs. private lives and when we intervene and how, about mental health, homelessness and support (or lack of), about society, materialism and ‘the norm’.

I started reading this with echoes of Room or Our Endless Numbered Days, but it soon moved into its own, with its unique and detailed language and world-building to thank. There is a feel of David Almond to this, or at least there was for me, though I can’t quite place why, perhaps the coming of age narrative or the fact that the voice of this sits so well in that mid-ground between MG and YA, or perhaps for other reasons entirely! Whatever the reasons, I think if you like Almond, you’d enjoy this.

This book was a slow burner for me, but I’m glad I stuck with it. It’s incredibly moving, heart-breaking at times, and there is much to discuss, pick over and reflect on by the end.

 

Mini Monday 21/1/19

This week’s Mini Monday* features four picture books – two we were kindly sent (thank you, Bounce) and two we bought and read this week.

*I’m only halfway through and it’s turning out to be less mini, more mega – sorry!

First up, our free review copies:

The Lost Horse by Mark Nicholas

At a gallery in the city, the sculpture of a horse has disappeared. Meanwhile, in a village outside the city lives Lyra all alone…until one day a horse appears at her window!

This is a book I wasn’t sure about – little girl dreams of horse isn’t a story I’d normally go for! But the illustrations drew me in, with a unique style and unusual palette, they are detailed and expressive and complement the story well.

I also thought the ‘mystery’ of the missing horse sculpture, the two different starting points and the way the story was resolved (no spoilers here!) gave this extra depth and made it much more than a girl-dreams-of-horse story.

This would be a great book to read and use in primary classes across the curriculum, but especially to link with art/gallery visits and stories.

The Lost Property Office by Emily Rand

A little girl leaves her Teddy on the train. Luckily she and Grandpa come up with a plan to get him back!

I really warmed to the characters in this – they felt like real people, as did all the people in the background. In a similar way to Shirley Hughes’ Alfie books (though very different in style) this conjured very familiar places and faces very naturally and convincingly.

It was also good to see a BAME family as main CHARACTERS without that being a focal point of the book, and to see an urban setting too.

My absolute favourite thing about this though was the illustrations, which I loved. With a collage style, they were full of colour, shape and texture. And on each of the spreads (especially the ‘lost property’ ones), there’s so many different things to spot, find, talk about and notice – it’ll never get boring! One of those books you’ll see something new in every time.

Top marks for this one, we really enjoyed it and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more written or illustrated by Emily Rand.

And onto the books we bought…

Octopants by Suzy Senior and illustrated by Claire Powell

There’s all-in-ones for urchins and slipper socks for eels, but will Octopus ever be able to find a pair of pants?

I hadn’t heard of this one, but it caught my eye on a trip into work last week, so we picked it up straight away – it had an octopus and pants, what’s not to like?!

Delightfully silly, bright and fun, this rhyming story was thoroughly enjoyable, with lots of laughs and a pleasing twist at the end.

I’ll be buying more copies as presents for friends’ little ones as I know it’ll go down a treat with them too.

We Eat Bananas by Katie Abey

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All the animals are eating their favourite foods in their own hilarious way. We Eat Bananas invites children to choose their favourite foods and how they like to eat them across 12 spreads, packed with animals eating bananas, soup, sandwiches, sausages, ice cream, vegetables, spaghetti and more.

I wrote here about how much I loved Katie Abey’s first offering ‘We Wear Pants’ (yes, I have a thing about pants stories…) so when I spotted this on the table after storytime the other day I positively jumped for joy. We snapped it up!

Just as funny and fun as the first, and filled to bursting with animals doing all manner of unusual things as they cook up their favourite foods. And, as with the previous book, there is SO MUCH to spot, find, match, answer and talk about on each page, with speech bubbles, captions, questions and puns galore (plus a parp-ing penguin!) The cheeky monkey who refuses to do what everyone else is doing is back on each page too!

I also really like that there is both fast food and fruit, pancakes and peas – this is truly a balanced diet of a book, embracing the treats as much as the good for you stuff, making it perfect for fussy eaters to talk about food in a really fun and open way.

Both this and We Wear Pants are books to visit and revisit over and over again, there’ll always be more to find, spot, laugh at and talk about. I absolutely love this series and really hope there’ll be more where these came from.

Peapod hasn’t quite got past the cover yet – he wouldn’t let me open it to look at so fascinated was he!

Have you read any of these with your little ones?

Which picture books have you read recently?

The Afterwards

I’d seen and heard all sorts of good things about this on twitter before I received a copy from Bloomsbury for review (imagine my excitement at finding it was signed too!).

However, as is so often the case, I’d heard how great it was but didn’t actually know anything about it! Normally, I’d find out a bit about it before deciding to read it or not but in this case Emily Gravett decided for me! I’m such a fan of her picture books that I wanted to read this if only for the illustrations!

And I wasn’t wrong to – they are both very like some of her picture book work in some ways and much more detailed and with an older feel in others, which is as it should be for an older children’s book.

Her use of both incredibly detailed pencil sketches and bright colour images not only mirrored and matched the storyline but really enhanced it, adding extra atmosphere and bringing home what was happening.

The illustration felt really fresh and modern, whilst retaining a traditional method and style. The girls and Harry felt expressive and real and the cat in particular was (in my mind) a perfect representation of his character in the story.

Ah yes, the story:

Ember and Ness are best friends. There’s nothing more to say about it. It is what it is. It is what will always be. Ember and Ness. Then Ness dies.
When Ember finds a way into the Afterworld, she determines to bring Ness back. Because that’s what friends do isn’t it? They rescue each other. They help. They never give up.

 

This is ultimately a story about death – loss, grief, letting go and moving on; I can see it being a great book for a lot of children dealing with these things, with many aspects of death (finding out about it, the funeral, getting on with life) tackled head on, but in a very age-appropriate way.

I would say that due to the nature of the story – the mysterious afterworld and the way that works – it would probably be better for slightly more mature readers who’d be able to easily separate the fantasy elements of the story from the more real aspects.

However, this is also what makes it a universally good read with a wider appeal. Sensitively written, it takes an incredibly tough, real situation and everyday life and combines it with fantasy to create a story which is at once familiar and otherworldly. For those who are in, or have been in, Ember (or Graham)’s situation coping with loss, there’s plenty of subtly delivered advice and comfort; for those who (fortunately) have not had to deal with this, there’s a supernatural story firmly rooted in familiar settings, making this ideal for fans of a range of MG fiction – from Lisa Thomson’s ‘The Light Jar’ to Neil Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’, for example.

I thought the relationships in the story were one of its strongest points – very believable and easy to relate to, with characters it was easy to warm to. Both the relationship between Ember and her dad, Harry, and her friendship between Ness and Ember were very well depicted, in both the text and illustrations, with little details giving them added depth and credibility.

Characters such as the cat and Ms Todd gave the book an extra dimension and the fact that their roles are left obscure and undefined I thought was very clever in giving the reader something to ponder and draw their own conclusions from. However, I would have liked a more definite conclusion to Uncle Graham’s role in the story, but that’s just me!

The real world felt, well, real – familiar and relatable in both text and image, while the mysterious, grey afterworld Ember follows Ness to is just that – an eerie place that’s easy to imagine but feels goosebumps-strange. The way it mirrors the real world in a warped sort of way was very clever: similar enough to keep the focus on the characters as they come to terms with their loss without getting lost in fantasy world-building, whilst being strange enough to provide interest, mystery and space away from that reality.

Overall, I thought this was an imaginative, personal and touching take on a difficult topic (I especially liked the way the scene was set in the prologue), which strikes a delicate balance between real life and fantasy. Harrold and Gravett have previously collaborated on ‘The Imaginary’, which I’ll be keen to read after this.

Picklewitch and Jack

As part of my quest to read more younger chapter books as well as ‘MG’, I requested a copy of this from Faber (who very kindly obliged – thank you!) and it’s safe to say I’m thrilled I did as it’s become one of my favourite books of the year.

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Picklewitch lives in a tree at the bottom of the garden. She has a nose for naughtiness, a mind for mischief and a weakness for cake. And unluckily for brainbox and all-round-goody-two-shoes Jack (who’s just moved in) she’s about to choose him as her new best friend… Jack is in for a whole lot of trouble!

I can’t tell you how much I love this book. Rather than reminding me of any specific book from when I was little, it brought back the feeling I got from reading the very best of them. The ones I loved. That indescribable buzz of a book that just seems to have got everything spot on.

The language for a start. Not too simple or patronising, nor over the top, it’s just right for younger readers The descriptions are wonderfully atmospheric and lively, conjuring up thunderstorms and wild gardens, trying to sleep in a spooky old house and, of course, delicious cakes. The way in which the blossoming friendship between Jack and Picklewitch is described – its complications, and Jack’s frustration and confusion in particular are depicted brilliantly.

The pace is perfectly matched to Picklewitch’s particular brand of chaos – the rollercoaster-like build and scream of it each time Jack moves from feeling relieved to realising something’s not quite right to…uh-oh! And all the while, cleverly dropping in the growing realisation that Picklewitch might be trouble with a capital T but she’s also desperate to be a friend with a capital F.

Which brings us to the characters. It would be easy to dislike a character like Jack – always well behaved, incredibly clever and something of a perfectionist – he has the potential to be boring at best and irritating at worst. Luckily, he’s neither, and his uncertainty about the not-so-black-and-white world of friendship and his earnest efforts to address it are very endearing too.

And then, of course, there’s Picklewitch. Even her name is fantastic – just say it and try not to smile. A tornado of trouble with an enormous heart, an insatiable appetite for cake and confidence enough for two, she is simply wonderful. Everyone should have a Picklewitch in their life.

The glossary of Picklewitch words, as well as her jokes and spells added in at the end of the story was joyous too!

And if all that wasn’t enough on its own, Teemu Juhani’s busy, fun and full illustrations capture the essence of Picklewitch and the feel of the story splendidly.

There will never be a shortage of witch books, especially for this age group, but this truly stands out from the crowd – a madcap tale of friendship and fun – it really is the kipper’s knickers!

Dragon Post

I’ve mentioned before how much I loved stories about dragons as a child, (ok, both my mum and I still do). I also LOVE post – real, through the letterbox, not a bill type post – my friend and I even started sending each other letters because it’s so nice to receive one!

So when I received this book from. Walker (thank you 😊) I was beyond excited…

With ‘real’ letters to open and read; a warm and funny storyline; characterful, expressive illustrations; and, of course, an incredibly loveable dragon (who just can’t help the trouble he’s causing!) this is such a wonderful book.

The main story and illustrations are simply told and engaging with a visual humour that will appeal to everyone, from the very young up.

Meanwhile the letters are longer, more detailed and contain more sophisticated sentences, word play and humour – ideal for older readers who still love picture books (who doesn’t?!)

There is so much to love about this book and its perfect for poring over together at home, but I suspect will be equally popular in the classroom – there is SO MUCH you can do with this book. From instructions for looking after unusual pets to all kinds of letter writing to editing for mistakes, not to mention the animal welfare/habitat tangent you could take, or the wealth of exciting dragon activities that would tie in with it.

One of my favourite picture books of recent months – I loved it!

The Restless Girls

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When I was younger, Twelve Dancing Princesses was one of my favourite stories. Something about the midnight trips out, the worn out shoes, the boats to magical forests and dancing maybe.

As a huge fan of Jessie Burton’s adult novels ‘The Miniaturist’ and ‘The Muse’, I was very excited to hear she was writing a modern version of this.

Especially since I revisited it myself last year as part of some artwork, and was struck by how little autonomy the Princesses have.

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And it is this lack of autonomy, and the sexism that dominates traditional fairytale kingdoms, that is put right in The Restless Girls.

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There’s a real energy and spark to both the girls and the story – with some fantastically impossible events (a dance hosted by a lioness and a peacock with a wild animal band for starters) alongside some fantastically important ones – namely the girls being in charge of their own choices and futures, and being a force for change in those around them too.

Rather than just stumbling across the party in the woods, the girls use their skills, talents and knowledge to find it – each demonstrating their unique personality and strengths, from science to languages to sports.

There is an inspiring sense of determination and loyalty in the sisters and their relationship with each other is portrayed with warmth and understanding; youngest sister Agnes is described affectionately as “their little walking popcorn” which I loved!

It is little phrases and details like this which I really enjoyed in the book – adding depth at times (“The dark was simply the beginning of new things. The dark was necessary.”) and humour at others (the excuses they found for the holes in their shoes are brilliant and there’s a perfectly placed “It’s bloody freezing!” which made me smile too.)

Truly a fairytale for modern times, this keeps all the magic of the original, with midnight feasting and dancing in glittering forests, but throws in a large helping of adventure, independence and resourcefulness too.

Wonderfully detailed illustrations from Angela Barrett complete the package and make this a stunning book to give, gift and keep!

The Lost Magician

I was offered a copy of The Lost Magician for review (thanks to Hachette Kids) and how could I resist with a cover like that?! Courtesy of Ben Mantle, it has a wonderfully magical feel and is a perfect match for the story inside.

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An ode to the world of Narnia:

1945. They have survived the Blitz, but when Simon, Patricia, Evelyn and Larry step through a mysterious library door, it is the beginning of their most dangerous adventure yet.

I didn’t know about the connections to Narnia when I got this, but as I started reading I was taken back to the first time I read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and the countless times I stepped into my grandma’s wardrobe (complete with *fake* fur coat) hoping it would lead me through to a snow-covered Narnia (and imagining it had when it invariably didn’t!).

As in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the story centres around four siblings who unwittingly find themselves key to saving the land they’ve stumbled upon.

As with the original four, here too are four very distinct personalities and everyone will have a different favourite. Personally, I loved Larry and Grey Bear. Evelyn will go down well as a female science fanatic, and Simon’s dyslexia (undiagnosed because of the time period) proves an interesting perspective and its nice to see it represented in a book about books.

Cleverly reimagined, this uses the Narnia stories as its base and leaps off into an entirely new world, albeit one with a war raging – mirroring the one the children have left behind and posing some interesting thoughts, ideas and talking points on that theme.

First we meet the Reads (pronounced ‘red’) and Unreads. The Reads are storybook characters, and I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling a little buzz of excitement as some very well-known and well-loved characters were described, introduced and alluded to.

However, trying to destroy the Reads are the Unreads, led by the White Queen inspired Jana (and yes, she is every bit as icy cold and merciless!) The Unreads represent facts, truth, information and data. Brilliantly imagined and described, they turn what could easily have become a nostalgia-fest right into something original and altogether less cosy, with futuristic robots, vehicles and buildings. They provide a great balance to the comforting idea of the Reads.

And ultimately, that is a key theme of the book – balance and compromise; of needing and benefiting from differences – as is the idea that stories are not just entertainment and diversion, but that despite seeming to be the complete opposite of fact, they too teach us things, help us to learn and develop and bring about change and progress.

Books, adventure, battles and magic – it’s an exciting and modern take on ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’ and the perfect homage to libraries, librarians and all things bookish!

The Trouble With Perfect

I read ‘A Place Called Perfect’ when it was shortlisted for Waterstones Children’s Book Prize last year and thought it was brilliant – a real breath of fresh air in the MG (‘middle grade‘) releases; don’t get me wrong, there were many I LOVED but this felt very different in style.

 

I finished the first book already eagerly awaiting the sequel, so when Usborne very kindly sent me a copy of The Trouble With Perfect I couldn’t wait to revisit Violet, Boy and the rest of the citizens of Perfect and find out what was in store for them this time. The cover is once again illustrated by Karl James Mountford and has retained the same bold and quirky print-like style of the first; this suits the books so well, with the eyeball motifs in particular a great touch.

Strange things are happening in the town that used to be Perfect. Things are being stolen…children start going missing too. And everyone is blaming Violet’s best friend, Boy.

Town is in trouble – double trouble – and it’s up to Violet to save it.

I audibly gasped upon reading on the back of the book: “Boy’s not bad – is he?” Surely not?! But what a fantastic twist to start the book with – I was hooked before I’d even opened it!

The book begins with David Shephard’s map of Town (I love, love, love a book with a map) and a fantastic ‘story map’ of book 1.  I think a visual recap like this is truly inspired! Helena Duggan does a great job at reminding us of events from book 1 in more detail or at key moments as the story goes on too, but this is such an instant way to bring it all back and begin book 2 feeling like you’ve only just finished the first. It also means anyone inadvertently picking up this one first can still enjoy it and understand it.

Trouble builds on the themes book 1 began – segregation vs unity and fearing differences vs embracing them. With questionable ethics in the press, some persuasive public speaking and fighting against the tide of mob mentality,  as an adult reader, it resonates with a familiarity that is almost as sinister as the book’s creepy goings on.

That said, A Place Called Perfect had a lot to live up to, and hand on heart I have to say The Trouble With Perfect didn’t quite manage to knock it off top spot. For me, book one felt just that little bit darker and creepier; Trouble felt even more action-packed, but at times it felt like there was so much going on it was hard to keep up and that there was almost too many ideas, characters and twists to cram in to it.

Nevertheless, it is full of the adventure, mystery and sinister goings on that we’d expect in Perfect/Town. There’s still no sign of the evil Archers, but with robberies, kidnappings and missing eye-plants aplenty, we’re thrust headlong back into a weird and wonderful world of all-seeing eyeballs, secret passages, mutant zombies and chemical clouds that will be a sure-fire hit with younger readers.

Into the Jungle: Stories for Mowgli

First published almost 125 years ago, the combination of the wild world, freedom and adventure in The Jungle Book mean it is just as appealing today as it was then. And that writing a ‘companion’ for it would be no easy task.

Luckily, Katherine Rundell is more than up to the task. Already a huge fan of her writing and the way it captures perfectly a scene, a mood, a character… and knowing from her last book The Explorer how well she can conjure up the jungle, I had no doubts she’d bring The Jungle Book roaring to life in Into the Jungle.

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Charming and compelling origin stories for all Kipling’s best-known characters, from Baloo and Shere Khan to Kaa and Bagheera. As Mowgli travels through the Indian jungle, this brilliantly visual tale will make readers both laugh and cry. 

Firstly, this is going to be an absolutely stunning book. I received an ARC which included samples of Kristjana Williams’ sumptuous illustrations and they are as rich and vivid as Katherine Rundell’s text. Put together in a hardback edition, this is going to be a beautiful gift of a book.

This is a wonderful series of five stories, as told to Mowgli as he makes his way through the jungle (trying to evade Mother Wolf and the telling off he thinks is coming!) Each story is narrated by one of the animals and tells the backstory of one of the others, with the stories giving a brilliant new depth to each of the characters, while at the same time staying true to Kipling’s original depictions of them.

Mother Wolf’s story is one of the reckless invincibility of youth, female ferocity, loyalty and love. Bagheera’s solemn, often solitary nature is perfectly explained by his story – one of loss, freedom and the ways of the wild. Kaa’s story was the most surprising to me, while Baloo’s was without a doubt my absolute favourite of the bunch – a story of intelligence, courage, defying expectations and challenging preconceptions. While Shere Khan doesn’t have his own chapter, his story also threads through the book and, like Baloo’s, is one of the ones that I enjoyed most.

Mowgli’s own character – one of a typical child: selfish, blunt and arrogant at times; carefree, mischievous and friendly at others, but always full of life – is gradually drawn from each of these encounters before the final chapter shows just how much of life, loyalty, courage and respect he has learned from his jungle family.

These individual stories weave together as the book progresses to create the central plot of the book, which has a much more modern feel to it, despite still being rooted in the characters and events of the original. It is an exciting, colourful and cleverly woven tale, in which quick-thinking, creativity and teamwork make for a dramatic and gripping finale. It has all the ingredients needed to be a hit with young readers today, whether they are familiar with the original or not.

Important messages about diversity and celebrating differences, as well as the impact of man on nature, run through the book too and are written into the story in the very best way: it’s not at all shouty, preachy or shoe-horned in, but it makes the points in no uncertain terms that, as Bagheera finds: “To be alive is to be wild and various.”

Full of warmth, humour and life, and perfectly complemented by beautiful, bold illustrations – this is an adventure for all ages. Those familiar with Kipling’s Jungle Book will relish the chance to delve deeper into some of our favourite characters, and for those unfamiliar with the original this is a perfect introduction to whet the appetite or a thoroughly enjoyable stand alone story bursting with jungle life.