Struggling to find the perfect gift for your sailing mad youngster? Yachting Monthly literary reviewer Julia Jones picks the best children's books which have just been released
Best children’s books for Christmas. Yachting Monthly’s literary reviewer, Julia Jones looks through the latest new releases to find the ideal book for children and grandchildren.
Julia and the Shark
Karen Millwood Hargrave
This may be the most beautifully presented children’s novel you’ll read this year.
Award-winning author Karen Millwood-Hargrave has worked together with her illustrator husband Tom de Freston (and a talented design team) to tell a story that combines adventure, insight and the painful discovery that parents have problems.
Julia’s mother is a brilliant marine biologist, dedicated to researching the ancient – possibly mythical – Greenland shark: her father is a computer programmer sent to automate the lighthouse on Unst.
A summer away from their home in Cornwall takes Julia away from her friends and puts the whole family under strain.
Readers who enjoy quirky facts will relish the notes Julia makes in her yellow book about sea creatures; readers who are sensitive to poetry and myth will find their imaginations lit up by her dream-like communication with the shark and those who enjoy the thrill of danger will discover it as Julia puts out to sea.
Both the presentation and content work together to provide a deep, enthralling read.
Recommended 9+ (and all ages)
The Weather Weaver
Eleven-year-old Stella is sent to stay with her Grandpa on one of the outer Shetland islands.
From the moment he comes to collect her in his boat Curlew there’s a sense that all is not well with the natural world.
The cormorants he promises to show her have abandoned their familiar sea stack and when he was fishing for their supper he caught a ‘masroom’, an angler-fish, a creature of the deep ocean. What was it doing so close to the surface?
Things are not well with Grandpa either: his wife – Stella’s beloved Gran – has died and he’s become morose and controlling.
He refuses to let Stella go outside and won’t accept her efforts to be helpful.
One day, however, when Stella has managed an escape, she meets Tamar, the weather witch and is soon discovering the art of controlling a cloud of her own.
Stella’s relationship with Nimbus is delightfully imaginative, perceptive and funny.
Finally, even Grandpa gets involved as Stella, Tamar and their weather-friends battle the evil Haken, the sea-witch and her slaves who are threatening to flood the island.
A lovely mix of magic, fun, family relationships and the fragile spaces between land and sea. Recommended 8+
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The Sea Swallow and the Humpback Whale
Catherine Barr & Gerry Turley
Wren & Rook £6.99
This is the story of two migrations – of the largest and the smallest creatures in earth.
This is the longest regular migration of any creature on earth.
Perhaps the greatest marvel is that when terns return to their Arctic breeding grounds they reunite with their single, lifelong mates.
The author has worked for Greenpeace and the Natural History Museum and acknowledges expert advice from the British Antarctic Survey.
She writes both well and accurately.
Gerry Turley’s strikingly effective illustrations make this a picture book to read together with the youngest children and to build confidence in developing readers.
Adults may also learn from it. Recommended ages 4+
Wide Eyed Editions £14.99
This is the first narrative picture book from Flora Delargy, a young artist from Belfast.
Delargy’s grandfather and great-grandfather both worked in the city’s shipyards.
The central character of her story, however, is not the city’s famous Titanic, but the smaller, less distinguished Carpathia built in England at Wallsend (Liverpool).
Rescuing Titanic tells the story of the Carpathia’s dash through the night after her wireless operator Harold Cottam had, almost accidentally, received a message from the Titanic that she had struck an iceberg and was sinking fast.
The shelves of Titanic literature are full of mistakes made, drills missed, obligations unfulfilled.
It’s a delight to add this warm and positive human document.
Rescuing Titanic is intended for younger readers, with plenty of educational explanations of crew functions, signalling procedures and the practicalities of rescue (eg canvas bags prepared to lift children aboard).
I confidently predict that it will be much appreciated by their older relatives as well.
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