Have you ever travelled around the world in a single day? Spent the morning eating foraged berries in the Alaskan wilderness? Occupied the afternoon in search of snow leopards high on the Tibetan Plateau of the Himalayas? Whiled away the evening at a fireside beneath the snows of Kilimanjaro? I have.
The saying goes, the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page… but for what it’s worth, I would venture that the opposite is just as true. When we have little choice but to stay put, reading gives us a place to go. My hope for this reflective season, as we all spend a little more time at home, is that we can find companionship in characters, be transported through tales, draw on the lessons of literature – and encourage the children to do the same.
Perhaps we can shine a light on the Mowgli’s who inspire alliances with the natural world, the Huck Finn’s who highlight the freedom of living away from society’s demands, and the Peter Pan’s who demonstrate the power of thinking happy thoughts. Maybe we take this time to uplift the Little Prince’s who reveal that life’s real essentials can only ever be felt and not seen, and the Scout Finch’s who reaffirm that one’s greatness stems from their integrity and not their bloodline – in other words, we are all equal. Like Anne of Green Gables, can we remember the serious business of fun? Like Boo Radley, may we realise that sometimes, just sometimes, being inside is the safest place to be.
Below, you will find a collection of stories picked by the children of the Steppes family – our nieces and nephews, sons and daughters. These are their most treasured manuscripts, the ones they will be using to travel around the world (and beyond, even as far as Smockeroon!) while seated at kitchen tables, swinging on garden chairs and burrowed under torch-lit blanket forts. They have reviewed them for us, invited us into their minds and shared their imaginations… and now they would love to know, what are your children reading?
Migration by Mike Unwin & Jenni Desmond
Reviewed by Harry, age 8
This is a book about migration. This is Migration. M-I-G-R-A-T-I-O-N. It’s all about animals that move. Like this bird’s migrating. And look, the person who wrote it actually signed it, how cool! It says, “to Harry and Sophia, I hope you will one day be able to see some of these amazing animals for yourself. Best wishes, Mike” And maybe, if you’re lucky, and you give this book away to a person, he’ll actually write something. And now let’s just go. Ooh, ooh, here, humpback whales. They’re travelling, they’re migrating and there’s a little baby, a calf. Here are some penguins and these ones have toppled over. Here are some caribou migrating through the river. Here are some Arctic terns migrating, and this one’s even caught a little fishy. And here are some butterflies, I think at least a thousand! Oh and look at this, the seals are moving so the shark follows the seals, cause they don’t have anything to eat. And all of my favourites are… here! Turtles! How cool. I think turtles are actually quite cute...
Tiger Wars by Steve Backshall
Reviewed by Rufus, age 10
One of my favourite books is Tiger Wars by Steve Backshall. One of the reasons is because Steve Backshall is my favourite zoologist and I look up to him and this book is written by him so it’s perfect for me and anyone like me who loves animals. So it’s about two people, Saker who is a boy and Sinter who is a girl, and this story is linked into loads of others in a chain. It’s about Saker and Sinter going on adventures in Tibet, India and the Himalayas, and they’re trying to stop poachers hunting tigers because they think they are amazing creatures and they’re really endangered. This book’s just about how they set out on a mission to do that and if you want to find out what happens you’ll have to read the book.
Blown Away by Rob Biddulph
Reviewed by Sophia, age 5
This is Blown Away and its one of my favourite books and it’s very interesting. This is Blue and he gets blown away on a kite and then the friends try to pull him. It’s about clouds and a penguin going in the jungle and then there’s monkeys and you can spot the monkeys if you would like. And my dad always read it to me when I was littler. You will see in this book they brought the monkey to a cold island and now its going home to the jungle again. And the monkey will only be on the forest pages. The funniest bit is at the end when there’s a gorilla like this *pulls grumpy face* with a walking stick with pants on and he’s got a very angry face and he looks like he was the boss and then Blue took over and then the other friends and then the seal and then the washing line and then the bear, and then they all took over! And then he’s like, “I’m the boss of this world, or planet”.
Deadly 60 by Steve Backshall
Reviewed by Arthur, age 8
This book is about 60 different deadly animals and I love it because I like gruesome and deadly things. My favourite page is page 44, which is about the lace monitor. I like this page because it is particularly gruesome. It says, “one of my colleagues in natural history is Dr Bryan Grieg Fry – perhaps the world expert in venom. After surviving years of work with dangerous animals, he was savaged by one of his own pet lace monitors, which ripped through flesh, bone and tendons, and left his arm hanging on by a few threads”!
The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders
Reviewed by Tilly, age 8
It’s about a girl called Emily whose disabled sister died. One night Emily wakes up to find small dolls and teddies alive on the end of her bed. Emily just wanted to speak to Bluey, her sisters teddy, to say that she misses her. Emily finds out there is a whole other world called Smockeroon where the toys of people who have died now live. Then bad forces start to escape from Smockeroon. Emily and her friend Ruth find a potion that takes you to Smockeroon so they can help the toys get rid of the dark toad who is destroying Smockeroon. I like this book because it is quite an adventure and is using lots of imagination.
Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell
Reviewed by Isaac, age 7
The name of this book is called Ottoline and the Yellow Cat. It’s all about a little girl living on her own in a big house that looks like a pepperpot. She lives alone except for her Norwegian pet, who used to live in Norway. They keep on getting presents from their family, ’cause their family are travellers and that’s why they’re always on their own. And in this book it’s all about a cat burglar stealing jewels and necklaces and other precious stuff. And I like this book so much because my favourite animal is a cat.
The Cat Who Wanted To Go Home by Jill Tomlinson
Reviewed by Cora, age 8
This is a great book and is full of different emotions. The book is about a cat named Suzy who goes on a journey from France to England. Whatever happens she won’t give up on her journey home.
The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler
Reviewed by Lucia, age 4
I like The Highway Rat because it’s so funny, because the rat is silly. He takes everyone’s food. So the people go and get it from him. The duck says she’s got a sister that tricks the rat. The rat doesn’t know she’s saying it, he gets lost in a deep cave. The rat shouldn’t be naughty.
A River by Marc Martin
Reviewed by Sophia, age 5
I like it because it has water and I like water and it’s about the human going down a river and a waterfall and then the clouds come and I think she was dreaming. I like the sea. And there’s buildings and she’s in a boat travelling around the world, going down a deep waterfall. And then she went into the jungle, what page mummy likes. This is the one mummy likes, it has a horse and she likes them. And this is the wavy river and she’s right there going into it. There she is going past all the cars and everywhere, you can see all the cars coming and she’s there in the boat. This is smoke going up in the sky and it isn’t healthy.
Ghosts of the Forest by Steve Backshall
Reviewed by Rufus, age 10
One of the reasons why I like this book is that it’s not just a really good story, but embedded inside it is lots of facts about the animals and the place. This particular book is about Saker and Sinter who go off on a mission in Borneo trying to save the orangutans, and they’re trying to stop deforestation which is causing the orangutans to lose their homes. So will they succeed? If you want to find out, you’ve got to read this book.
The Mummy’s Gold by Kristina Stephenson
Reviewed by Isaac, age 7
This is all about travelling. It’s based in Egypt and it’s about these two animals and a knight going to find the mummy’s gold in an ancient temple. And the knight’s called Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the two other things are a good green mare and a cat called Envelope. And I really like this because, again, it has a cat in it and cats are my favourite animal. And also I like it because one of my favourite countries is Egypt.
*Links have been added to purchase books on Amazon as we deem that to be the safest way to do so in this current period of isolation.