In the parcel of books that Barrington Stoke publishers sent me to review were a few of the Little Gem series of books, which I have already raved about, having found some in my local library a few months back. They sent me some new titles to try, including this one: The Monster From The Blue Planet by Cornelia Funke.
Little Gems are, rather like Beatrix Potter’s original stories, published for smaller hands to hold in a format that manages to be dinky and chunky all at the same time.
Like their books for bigger children, these still have chapter chunks, and all the same features of the other format books. Getting children used to these elements from the get go gives them the familiarity of repetition and helps to build great reading habits. It also gives Barrington Stoke a well deserved reputation for producing fantastic quality books across the board.
As usual it is standard to have:
- Beautifully illustrated end pages and top notch production values throughout
- Flaps on the front and back covers that act as integral book marks.
- High quality, thick, cream paper.
- Easy to read sans serif font
- Clear text spacing and minimal text to a page
- Beautiful illustrations
The story is written by Cornelia Funke, a well established and prolific author. You may already know her from her work for older children, such as the excellent Inkheart trilogy or for her wonderful picture books like The Princess Knight. Funke has a way of looking at the world that gives the reader a new perspective on something they might take for granted, and this is certainly true of The Monster From The Blue Planet.
Zaleb is an alien who dreams of visiting a little blue planet called Earth. Ever since her uncle visited and brought back photographs of the strange landscape and the peculiar monsters that inhabit it, Zaleb has wanted to go there. Her greatest wish is to capture one of the strange monsters and bring it back home to keep as a pet.
One day Zaleb’s dream comes true, and she captures a small girl called Izzy, except that when she captures her, she has no idea that Izzy is a girl, or that she is anything more than a dumb beast.
As Zaleb and Izzy get to know each other they become friends instead of pet and owner, and they begin to learn a great deal about each other.
I rather loved this idea of humans being the aliens. It reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and Billy Pilgrim’s sojourns with the Tralfalmadorians. This is not really a suitable book for the under tens, so enjoy The Monster from the Blue Planet first.
The illustrations are wonderfully and creatively supplied by the excellent Elys Dolan, whose book Weasels I reviewed last week on this blog. Dolan’s work is cropping up a lot at the moment and I predict great things for her. I like the way in this book she managed to capture the otherness of both Izzy to Zaleb and Zaleb to Izzy.
The book is suitable for boys and girls, despite being rather sentimental in places. The more touchy feely aspects are balanced by the space setting, plenty of aliens, and the strangely magical chapter where Izzy gets to ride a space dragon. There is also a fantastically funny chapter where Izzy discovers an evil kind of space boggart living in Zaleb’s fridge and running its disgusting hands through all the jelly. This was my son’s favourite chapter of the whole book.
Barrington Stoke recommend it as having a reading age of 6+ and an interest age from aged 5 to 8.
You can try before you buy by simply following the link and accessing an excerpt from the book from Barrington Stoke’s site.