Book review: The long, the short and other tall stories
A Brazilian author’s warm, witty and enchanting story of a rabbit with one ear shorter than the other is taking a giant hop, skip and jump into new territory this month.
The award-winning Fuzz McFlops, which has sold over 200,000 copies in Brazil and has now been translated into English, is amongst an exciting and eclectic selection of new books for children looking for something a bit different.
Oksa Pollock, the star of a magical French-style Harry Potter, returns in a new adventure, a boy with dyslexia finds a four-legged friend and an innovative pocket-sized colouring book provides creativity on the go.
Age 9 plus:
Fuzz McFlops by Eva Furnari
Brazilian writer and illustrator Eva Furnari certainly pulls the rabbit out of the hat with this gorgeous tale of a reclusive rodent with a penchant for pessimistic poems.
Using her magical mix of illustration and storytelling, Furnari conjures up famous rabbit writer Fuzz McFlops whose quirky correspondence with eccentric admirer Charlotte Passe-Partout is a laugh-out-loud delight.
Essentially a funny and heartwarming story about courage, difference and happy endings, Fuzz’s epistolary adventures feature writing in all forms from letters, poems and fairy tales to recipes, songs and postcards.
Fuzz McFlops of Burrow 88 in Briar Road is one of the most famous rabbit writers in the land but, since he was bullied as a child for his different-sized ears, he has led a lonely and reclusive life, writing sad books and poems such as The Withered Carrot, The Unlucky Rabbit’s Foot and Unhappy Easter.
One day, he receives a strange, violet-coloured letter tied with a silk ribbon from one of his fans, Charlotte Passe-Partout, scandalously and outrageously urging him to write happier, more optimistic poems and even daring to rewrite one of his own works.
Furious, Fuzz sends a caustic reply but begins to wonder whether she may have a point. Disconcerting as her letter was, sincerity might actually be a good thing. In fact, it is often easier to trust people who speak their mind.
As their varied and intriguing correspondence continues, Charlotte asks Fuzz to come round to her burrow for tea and carrot cake, but will he be able to overcome his shyness and accept her invitation?
Beautifully and sympathetically translated from the Portuguese by Alison Entrekin, Fuzz McFlops is a highly original and entertaining story which will appeal to anyone aged between nine and ninety with a well-developed sense of fun.
(Pushkin Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)
Age 11 plus:
Oksa Pollock: The Heart of Two Worlds by Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf
Oksa Pollock, the star of a magical French-style Harry Potter series which has captured the hearts and imaginations of children the world over, is ready for her greatest challenge yet.
Schoolgirl extraordinaire and eponymous star of this epic French fantasy series, Oksa has become a global publishing phenomenon.
Her amazing adventures, translated by Sue Rose, have been brought to an English-speaking audience by Pushkin Children’s Books which specialises in tales from different languages and cultures.
They believe firmly that children love to hear about monsters and heroes, romance and death, disaster and rescue, from every place and time. From picture books and adventure stories to fairy tales and classics, and from 50-year-old bestsellers to current huge successes abroad, the books on the Pushkin Children’s list reflect the very best stories from around the world.
And no-one fits the bill better than Oksa, the 13-year-old girl from Paris who thought she was normal until she started a new life in London and discovered she could produce fire from her hands, move objects with her mind and even fly.
The truth was that her family fled Edefia, their magical, hidden home, years ago and Oksa is their queen, a role that throws her into wilder adventures than she could ever have imagined.
In the third instalment, the lives of Oksa and her family change forever as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and torrential rain throw the Earth into turmoil. Fleeing a flooded London, Oksa and the rest of the Pollock family set off in search of the Entrance Portal of Edefia.
It is their only chance of restoring the Earth’s balance and resolving mounting troubles in their homeland. To get there, Oksa is forced to ally herself with the terrible Felons, mortal enemies who could betray her at any moment.
Luckily for Oksa she also has her family and some real friends, armed with invaluable strengths, at her side. There’s Pavel, her shape-shifting father, Gus and Tugdual, the two rivals for her heart, and of course, her formidable grandmother Dragomira accompanied by her menagerie of Edefian creatures.
What Oksa doesn’t yet know is that not only will she have to brave countless dangers to reach the portal, she must also pay a terrible price to enter the hidden world... and what awaits her on the other side?
Oksa’s adventures in fantasy lands make magical reading for children aged ten and over, transporting them to amazing worlds and exciting new horizons.
Heart-stopping danger, fast-paced action and some of the quirkiest and scariest characters you could hope to meet will leave them yearning for more.
(Pushkin Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)
Age 7 plus:
A Dog Called Flow Written by Pippa Goodhart and illustrated by Anthony Lewis
Having dyslexia can make life a lonely place for children… and nobody knows this better than author Pippa Goodhart.
Goodhart’s husband is dyslexic, and her daughter is quite severely dyslexic too, so the family knows all about the despair that it can cause.
A Dog Called Flow, her debut novel first published in 1994 and now making a welcome return, aims to put the challenges of dyslexia in full focus for both sufferers and those who have little understanding of its effects.
At the heart of this powerful and moving little story is a boy isolated by his undiagnosed dyslexia and struggling with both his schoolwork and the bullies who are making his life a misery.
Oliver Pilkington is finding it tough going at school. When he tries to write, he is always stopped by ‘a tight muddle in his head.’ The other children laugh at him, nobody understands his problem and he longs for a dog.
Oliver knows that a dog would be a friend who didn’t care whether or not he was good at work, he would love him loyally, unconditionally and uncritically. A dog would obey his word and never bother about what Oliver could or couldn’t do at school.
Unfortunately, Oliver’s parents say ‘no’ to a dog … so Oliver goes out and gets a puppy in secret. He calls the puppy Flow and soon discovers that his new pet has problems of his own. Flow cannot see or hear properly but he turns out to be the most loyal friend a boy could hope to have.
Just as he starts to fear that he might not be allowed to keep Flow, both boy and dog face a challenge on the fells that shows just what they are really made of…
This is a delightful and thought-provoking story which delivers a resonant message about dyslexia as well as an exciting, action-packed adventure. Bravery, friendship and determination all play their part to make this a memorable and enchanting read.
(Troika Books, paperback, £5.99)
Age 7 plus:
I Heart Colouring: Pretty Pocket Colouring by Felicity French
Small is beautiful when it comes to colouring with this gorgeous, pocket-sized book just made for kids on the move.
I Heart Colouring is part of a new, full colour, Pretty Pocket Colouring range packed with beautiful pictures and scenes to bring to life with colouring pens and pencils. The new small format is ideal for travelling so keen colourers can channel their creative genius wherever they are.
Intricate and beautiful designs, including exotic fish, flowers, frocks, butterflies and reptiles, will keep children busy for hours and its small size means they can carry the book around with them wherever they go.
The beautiful, silver-foiled cover makes this book a wonderful gift for budding artists… young and old!
(Buster Books, paperback, £5.99)