Literacy Now

Children's & YA Literacy
ILA Membership
ILA Next
ILA Journals
ILA Membership
ILA Next
ILA Journals
  • Student Level
  • Children's & YA Literature
  • ~6 years old (Grade 1)
  • ~5 years old (Grade K)
  • Book Reviews
  • Teacher Educator
  • Librarian
  • Reading Specialist
  • Literacy Education Student
  • Literacy Coach
  • Classroom Teacher
  • Job Functions
  • ~18 years old (Grade 12)
  • ~17 years old (Grade 12)
  • ~16 years old (Grade 11)
  • ~15 years old (Grade 10)
  • ~14 years old (Grade 9)
  • ~13 years old (Grade 8)
  • ~12 years old (Grade 7)
  • ~11 years old (Grade 6)
  • ~10 years old (Grade 5)
  • ~9 years old (Grade 4)
  • ~8 years old (Grade 3)
  • ~7 years old (Grade 2)
  • ~4 years old (Grade Pre-K)

Books From Across the Pond

By Skye Deiter and Carolyn Angus
 | Jul 16, 2019

In this week’s column, we review U.S. editions of books that originated in Great Britain and Ireland. Included are books by authors and illustrators who continue to receive national and international recognition and are popular with readers on both sides of “the pond.” 

Ages 4–8 

The Baby Beast. Chris Judge. 2019. Andersen USA.

The Baby BeastWhen Beast discovers a surprise, an egg, at his door, disaster unfolds as he attempts to look after it (almost losing the egg, dropping it in the bath, and chasing it down a hill). Fortunately, Dr. Yoko helps Beast by giving care instructions. “It all seemed clear except for one thing: ‘What am I waiting for?’ wondered the Beast.” He eagerly purchases necessary items and follows the doctor’s advice—just in time for Baby Beast’s arrival. A combination of colorful spreads and panels depict the ups and downs of parenting as Beast takes care of his precious egg—and soon after, Baby Beast. This sweet, humorous story concludes with one last comical surprise on the Beast family’s doorstep. Chris Judge lives in Ireland.

The Great Gran Plan. Elli Woollard. Ill. Steven Lenton. 2019. Godwin/Henry Holt/Macmillan.

The Great Gran PlanWhen one of the three little pigs discovers the wolf’s next intended victim, he sets out for town to acquire a Superpig cape, spy binoculars, and rope. “Pig to the rescue—SAVE THAT GRAN!” Having to settle for substitutes: a shawl, a pair of big glasses on a pearl chain, and a basket of yarn, he soon finds himself mistaken for Red Riding Hood’s granny and pursued by the hungry wolf. Now it’s Gran to the rescue as she ensnares the wolf in a net, and together they take the wolf to Fairy Tale Jail. As children enjoy repeated readings of this rhyming fractured fairy tale, they can also search for characters from fairy tales and nursery rhymes in the colorful, richly detailed illustration. Elli Woollard and Steven Lenton live in England.

The Grumpy Duck. Joyce Dunbar. Ill. Petr Horáček. 2019. Candlewick.

Grumpy DuckPetr Horáček’s brightly colored, textured illustrations combined with Joyce Dunbar’s lively text, rich with onomatopoeia, will dazzle young readers as they enjoy this story in which animals learn lessons about feelings and friendship. Duck, whose grumpiness about the dry pond causes a little gray cloud to appear above her, encounters animal friends including Dog, who suggests digging together, and Rabbit, who proposes a jumping contest. As Duck finds fault in each new invitation to play, the cloud grows BIGGER. Her negativity eventually produces a large, dark Grumpy Duck cloud, which, in turn, makes the other animals moody, until it bursts. “Suddenly there were . . . MILLIONS OF BIG SHINY WET SPLASHY RAINDROPS!” Duck “splished and splashed and sploshed” and wasn’t grumpy anymore, and the other animals happily joined her. Joyce Dunbar lives in England; Petr Horáček was born in Czechoslovakia and now lives in England.

The Little Rabbit. Nicola Killen. 2019. Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster.

The Little RabbitAfter waiting for the rain to stop, Ollie (dressed in a gray bunny suit) is ready to splash in the puddles with her toy bunny. “Ollie spotted the perfect puddle right away, but before she could jump in…Whooooosh! A sudden breeze whistled past, bringing a cloud of blossoms with it.” One of the blossom petals (illustrated with gold foil embellishments) lands on Bunny’s nose. He comes to life and hops off. Ollie chases after Bunny, and with Ollie’s bravery— and a little help from the magical breeze—the two are reunited and find their way back home. Nicola Killen’s text placement, die-cut pages, and illustrations in limited colors (gray with pops of yellow and green) capture the playful spirit of Ollie and Bunny’s adventure. Nicola Killen lives in England.

What Does an Anteater Eat? Ross Collins. 2019. Nosy Crow/Candlewick.

What Does an Anteater Eat 02Unable to remember what an anteater eats, hungry Anteater queries various animals—from a lazy sloth too busy resting to reply to a cheetah, who doesn’t know but says he looks very tasty. Coming upon a colony of ants busily carrying bits of banana back to their anthill under a banana tree, his “Excuse me, I don’t suppose you happen to know what an—” is met with “Run!” Now Anteater knows what an anteater eats, or does he? The surprising answer he comes up with is revealed on the final double-page spread: “BANANAS!” Ross Collins’ silly story, illustrated with bold cartoon artwork done in watercolor and charcoal and told entirely in dialogue, is perfect for reading aloud. Ross Collins lives in Scotland.

What the Ladybug Heard at the Zoo. Julia Donaldson. Ill. Lydia Monks. 2019. Henry Holt/Macmillan.

What the Ladybug Heard at the ZooOn a visit to the zoo, the ladybug sees Lanky Len and Hefty Hugh. “And she heard them chuckle, “Ho ho ho! / We’re going to kidnap Monkey Joe.” They’re planning to have Joe break into the Queen’s bedroom and steal her crown. The ladybug, however, has a clever plan, which she whispers to Joe before she flies to the palace to enlist the cooperation of the Queen’s corgis, Willow and Holly. “And both the dogs agreed to do / Just what the ladybug told them to.” The thieves end up with a bag full of bones instead of the crown and find themselves pursued by every dog in town. Extend the enjoyment of this Ladybug adventure, presented in playful rhyming couplets and colorful collage illustrations, by reading What the Ladybug Heard (2010) and What the Ladybug Heard Next (2018). Julia Donaldson divides her time between England and Wales; Lydia Monks lives in England.

Ages 9–11

Good Dog, McTavish. Meg Rosoff. Ill. Grace Eaton. 2019. Candlewick.

Good Dog, McTavishChildren will be delighted to read this short, illustrated novel about a disheveled family, who, after Ma Peachey has chosen to resign from her motherly duties, agrees to adopt a rescue dog, a Scottish terrier mix named McTavish. In an ironic twist, McTavish perceives his new family as a rescue family in need of training. “When you took on a rescue family, it often took some weeks for them to settle, but he was glad he’d decided to adopt the Peacheys.” A limited omniscient narrator relays not only McTavish’s thoughts but also those of 8-year-old Betty, the youngest (and most stable, aside from Ma Peachey) member of the family. Together, McTavish and Betty work towards a common goal of making the Peachey family functional again. Meg Rosoff lives in England; Grace Eaton lives in the U.S.

Ocean Emporium: A Compilation of Creatures. Susie Brooks. Ill. Dawn Cooper. 2019. Charlesbridge.

Ocean EmporiumAn introductory “Welcome to the Emporium” invites readers to explore the diversity of life in our planet’s oceans, home to more than a million species. Each double-page spread includes an introductory paragraph, text boxes of related information, and full-color realistic images of representative marine animals, labeled with their common and scientific names. Some spreads focus on the variety of one group of animals such as sea urchins, sea turtles, sharks, whales, and penguins; other spreads examine different habitats (coral reefs and “the deep”) or ocean rivalries (orcas vs. great white sharks or swordfish vs. mackerel). A table of contents makes it easy to find information, and the back matter contains a glossary and an index. Susie Brooks lives in Scotland; Dawn Cooper lives in England.

Ages 12–14

The Afterwards. A. F. Harrold. Ill. Emily Gravett. 2019. Bloomsbury.

The AfterwardsEmber’s best friend and neighbor, Ness, has died after a fall from a swing in the park. Uncle Graham, who’s grieving over the death of his beloved dog, Betty, takes his niece Ember for a walk that ends at a gate opening into a black-and-white world, the place where the recently dead reside for as long as it takes for them to forget that they ever were alive. He’s made a deal to swap her for Betty. Ember finds Ness and wants to take her home from this afterworld. But as the mysterious talking cat that Ember keeps meeting explains, rules about life and death have been broken and that can’t happen. In the end, it will take a sacrifice on the part of the cat to restore the balance between the worlds of the living and the dead needed to get Ember back home. Emily Gravett’s soft watercolor and pencil artwork beautifully complement A. F. Harrold’s eerily disturbing, yet lovely, story of letting go and accepting the death of a loved one. A. F. Harrold and Emily Gravett live in England.

The Book of Unwyse Magic. Claire Fayers. 2019. Henry Holt/Macmillan.

The Book of Unwyse MagicThis fantasy/mystery hybrid centers around “The Book,” an enchanted book responsible fora magical covenant between the Human World and Unworld, in which pairs of magic mirrors form doorways between the two worlds so the requests of humans for magical goods can be supplied by Fair Folk. One day, 12-year-olds Ava (from Wyse in the Human World) and Howell (from Unwyse in the Unworld) accidentally restore an inactive mirror’s magic. Connected in a magical way they don’t understand at first, Ava and Howell form a friendship over their suspicions of Lord Skinner and Mr. Bones, respective “rulers” of their cities. Now, the determined pair must travel between worlds to protect “The Book” as its guardians, or—as the “The Book” alludes to in witty epigraphs—both worlds will be doomed. Claire Fayers lives in Wales.

Ages 15+

Goodbye, Perfect. Sara Barnard. 2019. Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

Goodbye, PerfectOn Saturday just before their GCSEs begin, Eden receives a text from her best friend, Bonnie, that she’s run away with Jack, her secret boyfriend, and has Eden swear that she’ll tell no one that they have been in contact. When the police arrive at her home, she’s surprised to learn that Jack is Mr. Cohn, the music teacher at Kett Academy. As Bonnie continues to keep Eden apprised of their whereabouts, it becomes harder for Eden to continue to keep silent. Continually lying to everyone while faced with Bonnie’s seeming disregard for the feelings of other causes Eden to wonder about everything she thought she knew about her ever-so-perfect friend, her own decidedly not-so-perfect self, and their relationship. What should she do? This compelling novel, told from Eden’s point of view, including “Conversations That Took on a New Meaning after Bonnie Disappeared” sections, is a thought-provoking exploration of issues of perfection, love, family, and friendship. Sarah Barnard lives in England.

Skye Deiter is an elementary classroom teacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and a recent graduate from Pennsylvania State Harrisburg’s Masters in Literacy Education Program. Carolyn Angus is former director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, in Claremont, California.

These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily. 

Back to Top


Recent Posts