April '24 Literature Review

Posted on: 02/04/2024

Written byPippa McGeoch

Senior Consultant

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What if some things in life – things that appear to be ‘set’; a ‘given’ weren’t really so? The whimsical nature of fairy tales, whilst possibly rooted in some truth are riddled with plot-holes where the science just doesn't add up. The ability to walk upon glass-slipper encased feet can be debunked as an impossibility and so too can the notion that a wolf could huff and puff enough to blow down houses (ignoring the fact that the three pigs probably couldn't manage the architectural feats of straw, stick or brick construction anyway).   But then again, once upon a time nobody thought it possible to travel by air. Nor was it thought possible to have instant light in houses until electricity and then Edison’s inception (which to this day is hotly disputed as several scientists were behind the technological development in the lead up to the lightbulb being patented) of the incandescent lightbulb. The ability to capture live pictures and then transmit these via cinema screens and then television sets was also seemingly an impossibility until that was achieved and then continued to advance. There is – it seems – so much to be thankful for when it comes to those people who made the impossible an actuality and who have added to the human experience in terms of practicality, safety, convenience, connection and entertainment. And whilst some inventions may not have been wholly positive additions to our lives (environmental impact; devices intended to connect detracting from valuable, in-person contact…) our review theme for this month is ingenuity and artistry in recognition of not just inventors, scientists, musicians and actors but also writers and illustrators of children’s books.


Picture book for children in EYFS

Pink Trucks by Sam Clarke and Cory Reid

(Five Quills, 18th April 2024)

This is such a delightful book about a child who cannot get enough TRUCKS! Stink loves trucks. There are trucks everywhere and although Stink has so many trucks in so many colours, as does friend, Ned, there is one truck missing: a pink truck.  Stink’s mum suggests that there are enough trucks at home (and sister Tess seems to agree) but they set off to the toy shop nonetheless. And do they find a pink truck there? No they do not. Stink’s friends, Matt and Pat, explain why:

“There are rules,” said Matt. 

“Colour rules,” said Pat. 

“Well,” said Stink. “What things are pink?” 

“Flamingos!” said Matt.
“And pigs!” said Pat.
“Pink cakes, pink shells, and look at our pink gums!” 

Pink worms, pink crabs, and monkeys have pink . . . ” ‘But Tess devises the perfect solution and together they build a pink truck. Clever! 

With really sweet and quirky illustrations by Cory Reid, this is a gorgeous book for any pre-schooler – truck-afficionado or not – that broaches the subject of gender stereotypes around toys.



Illustrated non-fiction book for children in Key Stage 1


Little People, Big Dreams: Beyoncé by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, Illustrated by Jade Orlando

(Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 4th April 2024)

For fans of the Little People, Big Dreams illustrated autobiographical series and/or of Beyoncé herself, this is a gorgeous new addition to the series. Find out through full-page spreads, triptychs and creative use of colour, how one of the world’s top-selling artists rose to fame through a love of singing and performing that was nurtured from a young age. The pathway to success demonstrates ‘Queen Bey’s’ fearlessness from the first moment she fell in love with performing to singing in her mother’s hair salon (much to the chagrin of some of the clients, according to the illustration!); through to beating students twice her age in a school talent show and then earning her place as lead singer in a girl’s hip-hop band called ‘Girls Tyme’ – the band that became ‘Destiny’s Child’ many iterations later. We see in Beyoncé’s story not just talent but someone who has not abandoned her roots: ‘All of her albums were admired by fans and applauded by critics. Yet her sixth, Lemonade, was praised as a work of art. It was a celebration of her roots and a wonderful tribute to Black grandmothers, mothers, daughters and sisters alike.’ And it is on this page that Jade Orlando’s dynamic illustrations shift from vibrantly colourful with such movement to a muted pastel composition depicting Black women dressed in clothing of old to show the passing of time. They sit in a tree - perhaps symbolic of a family tree? Utterly beautiful.
A brilliant book to add to your collection in school libraries or class reading corners.


Illustrated non-fiction book for children in Lower Key Stage 2

Big Bad Wolf Investigates Fairy Tales: Fact-checking your favourite stories with science by Catherine Cawthorne and Sara Ogilvie

(Bloomsbury’s Children’s Books, 25th April 2024)

Illustrator Sara Ogilvie, has artistry in abundance. Ogilvie has created so many brilliant books, collaborating with the likes of Julia Donaldson and Phil Earle to name but two authors (and who illustrated Pip Jones’ Izzy Gizmo for which we have a Reception Writing Root.) Her partnership with Catherine Cawthorne is joyous! Wolf sets out to fact-check the veracity of several fairy tales: could it be possible that a working vehicle be made out of a pumpkin? Well, according to this book (and our own fact-check!) whilst a traditional Cinderella- style carriage might be a bit of a stretch, there is such a thing as pumpkin paddling, where participants sit inside a hulled-out squash and launch into a body of water. Then there’s Wolf’s questioning of the plausibility of a gingerbread house, as found in Hansel and Gretel withstanding environmental factors such as the rain, yet a wolf could apparently be accused of huffing and puffing houses down. Readers are set the task of conducting ‘The Gingerbread House Collapsibility Test (An experiment AND a pudding all in one)’ to establish the effect of ‘rain’ (choice of ‘caramel sauce, custard, or melted ice cream or – we suppose – all three…) in terms of how long it takes for the biscuit tower constructed in step 2 of the experiment to collapse!

Scientifically spot-on but with the traditional fairy-tales at its core, this would be a brilliant book for children in lower key stage 2 perhaps to share at home during the holidays!



Novel for Children in Upper Key Stage 2


A Drop of Golden Sun by Kate Saunders

(Faber & Faber, 7th March 2024)

Published posthumously, A Drop of Golden Sun has been hailed as Kate Saunders’ best ever book. Writing this review almost exactly a year after the author died feels very poignant and it’s not hard to see just how cleverly written this book is. Her inspiration came from watching the documentary of the actors who appeared in the 1965 film, ‘The Sound of Music’, an adaptation of Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical of the same name. The plot-line was based on the Salzburg-set memoir written by the real governess Maria von Trapp: a fictional retelling of her experiences. Plucked from obscurity, Jenny is catapulted to fame when she is spotted by a talent-scout when performing in a school-play. Jenny is shy, unsure and not particularly well-treated by the other girls at her school. But when she attends the audition for a new film about a musical family and the chemistry between her and the other successful applicants secure the group their roles as on-screen family, her life changes in unimaginable ways. She feels a sense of acceptance and pride that she’s not experienced until this point and it feels nice! But ‘there was only one member of her instant family she didn’t like’. Having felt accepted by older on-screen brother, John, and filled with admiration for graceful Harriet, cast as Jenny’s older sister, it is Belinda that Jenny dislikes. This, however, proves to be small-fry in comparison to the worry that is caused when there’s the threat of the production’s funding being pulled… can the children save the film and all that they’ve worked for? A brilliant insight into the industry paired with clever characterisation makes for a satisfying, joyful read. Perfect for would-be actors (or not!) in upper key stage 2.


Illustrated non-fiction book for children in Upper Key Stage 2

Aviation: A Visual History of Aircraft by Matt Ralphs, illustrated by Dieter Braun

(Big Picture Press, 14th March 2024)

For Dieter Braun, known for his stunning illustrations of animals and landscapes, A Visual History of Aircraft is a very different project. Using his characteristic geometric print with textural depth, this is a thing of utter beauty, whether aviation is your ‘thing’ or not! Matt Ralphs’ text creates a sense of precision as we are taken from the inception of human flight to the modern day, cutting-edge feats of aeronautical engineering. In his introduction, Ralphs explores the idea that early humans – possessing the artistic skill that they had, having invented cave art – possibly gazed up to the sky at the birds soaring above and wondered what it might feel like to fly. Early flight and the brave aviators in their man-powered gliders paved the way for the ingenuity that followed when the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, ‘changed the world forever’ when they launched their first ever successful flight in a machine that was pilot-controlled rather than at the mercy of the wind speed and direction as gliders and hot-air balloons were. Explore advancements arising through necessity of the role aircraft plays in warfare; craft of varying types such as sea-planes and historic moments in aviation such as the development of Concorde. A beautiful gift for adult or child and a lovely addition to class libraries.


Posted in: Literature Review

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