Friday, 26 April 2019

Reviews extra – Spring 2019

Picture Books
Sonam and the Silence
Eddie Ayres, illustrated by Ronak Taher 
Allen and Unwin   £11.99
ISBN: 978-1760634872   
 Sonam lives with her family in Kabul. When she reaches seven, she has to cover her hair and work in the market. All the noise there is too much for her. Running away from this, Sonam follows a sound she hears and finds an old man making music. Music, which is forbidden by the Taliban. He gives her own instrument, a rubab. Music helps her overcome her fears and block out the sounds of fighting. But this feeling is taken away when her brother discovers her humming. How will Sonam regain those feelings of joy and recapture her own music in a world where music is forbidden? Sonam and the Silence is a powerful story about courage and the power of music. Rooted in truth, it explores the devastating effects of depriving people of creative forms of expression and the joy and beauty they bring. The author's note at the end of the story explores this and asks the reader to think how it would be to live without something so precious, encouraging empathy. The story allows the reader to consider the lives of others, their cultures and traditions and to be grateful for the freedoms they have to express themselves. Beautifully written, the language used is lyrical and evocative, reminding the reader of the power of music. The illustrations are wonderful, full of soft tones with splashes of vibrant colour. The cover and pages are beautifully textured, making the book a delight to touch as well as look at. This is a story for readers of all ages.    
 Sue Wisher
Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: The Missing Masterpiece,
Written by Tracey Corderoy, 
Illustrated by Steven Lenton
Nosy Crow    £6.99
ISBN:  978-0857639752

Paris is the setting for this lively picture book and its rhyming adventure story. It’s one of a series of stories of Shifty and Sam, reformed robber dogs who have taken up baking instead of thieving. Here they are commissioned to bake a masterpiece of confectionery for an art gallery show and end up witnessing the theft of a painting. Lively illustrations take us through the fast-paced story. Cartoon like characters are painted in bold colours against pale backgrounds of the Paris cityscape and the art gallery interior. There are lively jokes in the background too – the portraits in the gallery are doggy versions of famous paintings, including ‘The pug with the pearl earring’. After a chase involving road and river, the two dogs catch up with the thief and bring him to justice. The expressions on the animals are wonderfully evocative of their moods, and the text bounces along with real rhythm and a great sense of fun and dramatic tension. This is a very successful picture book which is recommended for children aged 3 – 6, both as a read-aloud and for independent enjoyment of the pictures. 
Liz Dubber

A Dog with Nice Ears
Written and Illustrated by Lauren Child  
Orchard Books   £6.99
 ISBN: 9781408346143   
Lola is absolutely desperate for a dog, but there’s something not quite right when Charlie asks her to describe her perfect pet. It seems that her ideal dog sounds suspiciously like… a rabbit! Packed with all the charm and wit that you’d expect from any Lauren Child book, A Dog with Nice Ears is entertaining, funny and especially perfect for those who can laugh along knowingly at how Charlie handles his younger sister. Child’s characteristic humour shines through in this new addition to the series. It is an absolute delight to read.   
   Rebecca Watt
Everybody’s Welcome
Written by Patricia Hegarty  
Illustrated by Greg Abbott
Caterpillar Books   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1848577459                                                                
This gorgeous book is about a little mouse who wants to build somewhere to live, and in doing so, meets lots of other creatures who all need somewhere to live too. The kind-hearted mouse asks everybody to stick together and build a house that they can all live in. With its lovely illustrations and clever changes of page sizes, this is a wonderful book for reading together, for talking about how the various animals and people, have much more in common than differences. An empathetic read, with plenty of opportunity for discussion. 
 Julia Wills.
What Does the Crocodile Say?
Written by Eva Montanari 
Book Island  £10.99 
ISBN 978-1911496113

A delightful book about a little crocodile who is not looking forward to nursery. We follow him through his first day. The crocodile encounters many new sounds and noises, and the onomatopoeia invites audience participation. This makes the book great fun and diminishes the crocodile’s fears. Soon he is reunited with his mum and is keen to go to nursery tomorrow. There are lessons here about being apprehensive of the unknown and realising that school can be daunting, but new experiences and friendships can also be fun. The pencil illustrations are charming.
Brenda Marshall

Worzel says hello! Will you be my friend?  
Written by Catherine Pickles
Illustrated by Chantal Bourgonje
Hubble and Hattie  £6.99
ISBN 978-1787111608
In this excellent book, Catherine uses her Lurcher, Worzel, to show children how to behave around dogs so everyone is happy and safe. The book gives an insight into how dogs think and feel. Children are encouraged to observe, to respect boundaries, and to interpret the world from Worzel’s point of view. Patience and trust are needed for a positive relationship. The language is simple, and the gentle rhythm of the text makes it fun to read aloud. Beautiful, delicate illustrations enhance the text. A delightful and important picture storybook. 
Brenda Marshall

The Truth About Old People
Written and illustrated by Elina Ellis
Two Hoots   £11.99
ISBN: 978-1509882267
An extremely funny look at ‘old people’ through the eyes of a child whose grandparents are ‘old’. Old people are supposed to be not much fun, slow, clumsy, not bendy and scared of new things. They don’t dance, don’t care for romance, are quiet and not at all adventurous. The illustrations that just burst from the pages, show exactly the opposite and lead the child to reflect that the truth is, that old people are in fact AMAZING! This is going to be a big hit with children and adults alike. It challenges our perceptions of age in a delightful, warm and humorous way. Elina Ellis is the winner of the 2018 Golden Pinwheel Young Illustrators Award and the 2017 Macmillan Prixe for Illustration.
Annie Everall
Hey, Who’s in the Loo?                                                                                                                                  
Written and illustrated by Harmen van Straaten
Translated by Laura Wilkinson
Red Robin Books   £6.99
 ISBN: 978-1908762289
What do you do if you need the loo, but the door is locked? What do you do when not only you, but a lot of others too, also need the loo? With witty, energetic and expressive illustrations, Dutch writer and illustrator Harmen van Straaten introduces a succession of increasingly desperate animals, all of them about to burst. At last, they hear the gurgle of the loo being flushed. Phew! Laura Wilkinson’s sprightly rhyming translation is terrific, as is the graphic design of this hilarious picture book. Do you want to know who is in the loo? Well, you had better buy the book! You will definitely laugh out loud.      
Tessa Strickland

Time for Bed, Miyuki 
Written by Roxane Marie Galliez                                                                                                                                    
Illustrated by Seng Soun Ratanavanh
Princeton Architectural Press    £12.99
ISBN: 978-1616897055
Miyuki’s grandfather tries desperately to get his grand-daughter to go to sleep, while finding himself drawn into her desire to prepare for the coming of the Dragonfly Queen. Miyuki cannot go to bed because there is just too much to do. She must make sure that everything is ready for the arrival of her royal guest who is visiting their garden in the morning. That means making a canopy with a poppy, watering the vegetable garden, gathering the snails, covering the cat, dancing the last dance and having a bath. The old man and the girl dance on mushrooms, ride on snails and carefully complete each task as the sun slowly hides to make way for the moon. Eventually she feels tired enough to sleep but remembers that her grandfather hasn’t read her a bedtime story. This charming picture book is a perfect combination of lyrical prose and beautifully imagined, delicate, pastel coloured illustrations. A clever twist at the end adds another layer of meaning.
Richard Monte
The Best Sound in the World                                                                                                            
Written and Illustrated by Cindy Wume 
Lincoln Children’s Books    £11.99
ISBN: 978-1786031693
What is the most beautiful sound in the world? Roy the lion is determined to find out. He plays the violin and wants to be a famous musician, so he decides to bottle noises. His friend Jemmy, the lemur, tries to help, but she is distracting. When Roy tries to play the sounds on his violin none of them sound beautiful enough, so he decides to travel the world in search of this illusive treasure. He collects raindrops in the forest and the twitter of the birds in the mountains. He listens to the wind in the desert and the tide at the seaside. But the more he travels the more difficult it becomes to find what he is looking for. When Roy returns home, he finds a sound which, although it might not be the most beautiful, is certainly the best sound in the world. This charming story with its sketchy colourful illustrations shows us that sometimes the things we search the world for, are right there beside us all the time. 
Richard Monte
The Pooka Party                                                                                                                                      
Written and Illustrated by Shona Shirley Macdonald
O’Brien Press   £13.99
ISBN: 978-1788490009
The Pooka, a strange shapeshifting creature bearing an uncanny resemblance to a goat, lives alone in the mountains. Fixing things, painting, singing, dancing and gardening keep it busy, until one day it discovers how lonely it really is. The Pooka invites all fellow beings to a huge party. The cakes are baked, and the decorations go up. Everyone comes, even the goblins, but when they steal all the cake a great cake battle ensues. This zany story with its magical, ethereal illustrations conjures up a world on the edge of the earth, in a place where the moon keeps the peace. Original and captivating, this is a story which will captivate young imaginations. 
Richard Monte
Three Little Monkeys                                                                                                                     
Written by Quentin Blake
Illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark
Harper Collins   £6.99
ISBN: 978-0008164485
This delightful combination of skilful, text and colourful illustrations tells the story of Hilda Snubbs who adores her pets. Instead of the usual cat or dog, Hilda has three very mischievous monkeys who take great delight in making a mess of her beautiful home. The richly detailed illustrations accompany the humour of the clever text and show just how three naughty monkeys can create havoc when they are bored. Eventually, Hilda loses her patience with them all, but discovers that perhaps a quiet tidy house isn’t quite as lovely as it might seem. 
Louise Stothard
What Can a Citizen Do?
Written by Dave Eggers
Illustrated by Shawn Harris
Chronicle Books   £12.99
ISBN: 978-1-452173139
“What in the world can a citizen do? Who can a citizen be? A citizen is just like you. A citizen can plant a tree.” Dynamic, direct and straight-shooting, this picture book is a clarion call to children from every walk of life. It doesn’t matter who or where or what you are, the message is clear: ‘A citizen is what you do’. Eye-catching collage illustrations by Shawn Harris help to deliver an empowering message for youngsters and plenty of talking points both for teachers and families.    
 Tessa Strickland
First Steps

Up the Mountain
Written and Illustrated by Marianne Dubuc 
Book Island £11.99
ISBN: 978-1911496090
Mrs Badger takes a walk up the mountain every Sunday, just like clockwork. One day she is joined by a young friend and so begins a friendship that will move through the seasons, exploring the passage of time. A gentle, beautifully illustrated picture book, with understated text and a subtle humour that will certainly bring smiles to the reader. It shows a blossoming friendship between a young boy and an elderly woman. Up the Mountain contains an important message about caring for older people and finding friendships in unlikely places.         
Rebecca Watts

I Really want that Unicorn
Written and illustrated by Fabi Santiago
Hachette Children’s   £12.99
ISBN: 978-1408336908
Tapping into the current trend for anything ‘unicorn’, this bold and bright offering tells the tale of a number of animals, all desperate to win a competition whose prize is a ‘Mellow Yellow Unicorn’. The characters prepare for the competition by baking a rainbow cake, making a magic castle and other challenges. Finally, the big day arrives. There is fierce competition between the key protagonists and some spectacular creations, which will delight young readers. Tension builds as they wait for the winner to be announced, and the surprising outcome of the competition leads to another surprising outcome for the characters, who realise that friendship is the most important thing of all. Generous use of bold colour and black line brings the characters to life and will engage the eyes of young readers.
Lucy Russell

Reading with Confidence

Star Friends Night Shade
Written by Linda Chapman
Illustrated by Lucy Fleming
Little Tiger     £5.99
ISBN: 978-1847159472 
Star Friends Night Shade, is the fifth book in this series about Maia and her friends, who meet the Star Animals and enter a world of magical adventures. About three months have passed since the girls prevented Auntie Mabel from using dark magic, but more evil is heading to Westcombe. Whilst playing in the woods, they notice that the flowers are shrivelling and dying. Then the adults start behaving strangely and the girls realise they will have to use all their Star Magic skills to defeat this new dark magic threat. Perfect for children looking for a longer independent read, the Star Friends stories are well written adventures which will appeal to those who love animals and enjoy a touch of magic. Friendship is important in these stories and each girl in the group has their strengths, enabling them to work as a team to defeat the Shades. The book is illustrated with lovely black and white images throughout the story as full pages and inserted into the body of the text. These are delightful and support the text perfectly, engaging the reader. 
Sue Wilsher

Bee Boy: Attack of the Zombees 
Written and illustrated by Tony De Saulles
OUP  £6.99
ISBN: 978-0192763891
Bee Boy is just that – half bee and half boy. This hugely imaginative tale is full of action and dilemma from start to finish, with parallels to sinister present-day practices i.e. chemicals used in farming which affect honey production. Here, Bee Boy is Melvin Meadly, who uncovers the ‘zombees’ and the actions of Sir Crispin Crump. He is ultimately responsible for the strange and dangerous yellow sickness bug which affects all who consume the honey sourced from his hives and chemically treated crops. Humour, action, font and fabulous predominantly yellow illustrations will ensure De Saulles’ creation is a resounding success and that Bee Boy becomes a firm favourite!  
Gill Roberts

Moving On

Written by Eithne Massey
O’Brien Press   £8.99
ISBN: 978-1847179753

This is the true holocaust survival story of Tomi Reichental, a Slovakian boy from a small village, who at nine years old was transported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. It is not an easy read, but nor is it an impossible one for young readers to take on. Eithne Massey, a children’s author, who is steeped in Irish legend and history, tells Tomi’s story with a gentle, lyrical quality. She lets the authentic voice of young Tomi shine through as he witnesses things he cannot understand or process. The book does not flinch from recording the awful truths of Tomi’s experience but doesn’t pile on the horror, either. The story is the thing, and the reader is left to picture the scene or - shy away from it. The final pages of the book, and a powerful foreword from Tomi himself, now an old man, reassuringly confirm that he is alive and well, and successfully rebuilt his life.                                                                                                 
Yvonne Coppard

Written by Charli Howard
Nosy Crow   £6.99                                                                                                                                
ISBN 978-1788001700

Swimming is Molly’s great love. She is good at it and, as she is tall with strong limbs, everyone says she is built for swimming stardom. But Molly is in year 6 and all her friends seem to be dainty and petite. They are becoming interested in clothes and boys and looking forward to moving on to secondary school. Her best friend Chloe declares that swimming is just not cool, so Molly decides she will have to keep her swimming practice a secret to avoid Chloe’s displeasure. This debut novel, from model and body positivity ambassador Charli Howard, strongly promotes the message that there is not just one perfect body shape. Young people, boys as well as girls, should celebrate their individuality and their disparate skills and qualities. It also points out that we all have issues to face, even Molly’s friend, the pretty and super-cool (but sometimes very nasty) Chloe, is coping with family problems. There simply cannot be too many stories like this one, encouraging young people to be positive and to have the courage to be themselves.
Jan Lennon
Younger Teen Reads

Written by Scott Westerfeld
Scholastic   £7.99                                                                                                                                               
ISBN: 978-1407188225

Frey and Rafi are the identical twin daughters of the ruler of the city of Shreve. Everyone in the city knows and loves Rafi. She is beautiful and has great charm. In contrast, nobody knows that Frey even exists, and she has been kept hidden and taught to fight and kill. She is her sister’s constant body guard and her stand-in when things get dangerous. Frey is expendable. Thus, when a neighbouring city demand a hostage until a deal between the two cities is completed, Frey is sent in Rafi’s place. Col, the rival city’s heir, starts to get close to Rafi/Frey and then the problems really begin, and the action hots up even further. This is the first book in a new series that revisits the futuristic world of the ‘Uglies’ series. Everything has moved on a few years, so all the characters are new, although Tally Youngblood is definitely not forgotten. This is an action-packed adventure story with a teenage romance, some sci fi and even political intrigue mixed in. There is also a real cliff hanger ending, so readers will be waiting for the next in the series to appear.
Jan Lennon

What Girls Are Made of  
Written by Elana K. Arnold
Andersen   £7.99
ISBN: 978-1783447718  
Set in a bland town in contemporary California, this far-from-bland novel follows Nina’s coming of age as she tries to make sense of her first sexual relationship and the grief that follows when it falls apart. Although the setting is precise, the narrative artfully embraces far more than a ‘first love’ boy-girl drama. It also tracks the mother-daughter relationship and the objectification of women in the Renaissance art of Catholic Italy, as Nina tries to make sense of what she is feeling and who she is becoming. No wonder this brilliant, brave and often poetic piece of writing was shortlisted in the US for the National Book Award. “The basket was heavy”, Nina says of the laundry basket her mother passes her.     
Tessa Strickland

Kerb Stain Boys
Written by Alex Wheatle                                                                                                                                                                  Barrington Stoke  £7.99
ISBN: 978-1781128091 
Terror wants to impress tough-girl Caldonia. Briggy gets drawn into his best mates plans to rob a Post Office. Neither being criminal masterminds, they get swept up in Caldonia’s enthusiasm and soon it’s hard for any of them to back down from what seems like an increasingly bad idea. After spray painting some toy guns to look real, they find themselves outside the Post Office not wanting to lose face. The writing bounces off the page with real swagger and verve, backed up with an inventive use of language that feels fresh and authentic, as well as infinitely readable and enjoyable. Kerb Stain Boys looks at the issue of belonging and the difference between defining yourself by where you live and defining yourself by how you choose to live your life. This theme naturally develops into an exploration of learning to trust who you really are and to stop pretending to be who you’re not. 
Benjamin Scott
Information Books

Peek and Seek
Written by Violet Peto
Illustrated by Charlotte Milner
DK   £9.99
ISBN 978-0241313046
A charming board book for young children. Each double-page spread is about different creatures including birds, monkeys, wolves, ants, fish and rabbits. The interactive element of the book engages children, with flaps to lift, things to find and fold over pages, as well as animal facts to learn. Attractive artwork enhances the book’s appeal, especially the silvery sardines in the coral reef, and the pack of wolves in the forest. A delightful introduction to animals for young children, which encourages close observation and counting. (3+) 
Brenda Marshall

Wonders of the World                                                                                                                   
Written by Isabel Otter and Margaux Carpenter.
360 Degrees  £14.99
ISBN: 978-1848577251  
This colourful hardback, with bold illustrations, contains board pages which share information about both Ancient and Modern Wonders of the World. The pages need to be board to carry flaps, a wheel and a pop-up which add to the sense of discovery for a young reader and means that this book needs to be saved for when a child is careful enough to manipulate the flaps with damaging them. The emphasis is on facts as opposed to stories, so I now know that the word ‘mausoleum’ comes from King Mausolus, who was buried in a magnificent above ground tomb in Halicarnassus in 353 BC. The final double-page spread chooses seven natural wonders for a short write up of their own, which could encourage readers to go elsewhere to find out more information. Overall, a book that will be appreciated by any fact loving child who can enjoy searching the page for flaps, then prising them up to discover a wealth of information. (7+)    
Annalise Taylor

The Clue is in the Poo
Written by Andy Seed
Illustrated by Claire Almon
QED   £12.99
ISBN: 978-1784935733
A guide to encouraging children to become nature detectives, who can track different kinds of wildlife from the clues they leave behind – their poo and footprints. It also explores animal and bird homes, eggs, skills, fur and feathers. Double-page spreads are also interspersed with fun quizzes and information on for instance things that are dangerous to track. The very subject matter of this book is one that is definitely going to appeal to children, particularly boys. When it comes wrapped up in the humour of poet and fun fact king, Andy Seed, it is going to prove irresistible (7+)
Annie Everall

Everyday Journeys of Ordinary Things 
Written by Libby Deutsch
Illustrated by Valpuri Kertulla
Ivy Kids   £12.99
ISBN: 978-1782406358 
The book starts from the premise of 15 minutes of ordinary things, a child getting up and starting the day. It goes on to explain how all the ordinary things and services we are surrounded by every day, have made extraordinary journeys to reach us. Through colourful double-page spreads, the rest of the book explores some of them, answering questions that children ask, such as, How does the post reach me?, Where do clothes come from?, Where does water in the tap come from?, Where does my luggage go when I catch a plane?, What happens when I flush? and, How does the internet work? I really liked this, as it has taken a fresh approach and presented a lot of information, in a readable and accessible way. It is a clever idea and will really encourage children and adults to think about the objects and services that we take for granted. Its quirkiness will have a lot of appeal and the book will be useful in schools, libraries and as gifts for individual children (7+)
Annie Everall
Written by Raman Prinja
Illustrated by Chris Wormell
Big Picture Press £20
ISBN: 978-1787411679
On the cover of the Planetarium is a ticket to a museum of astronomy that’s thankfully always open. Dividing the heavens into seven galleries, Planetarium takes readers on a journey from how we look into space, how our solar system is organised, and all the way through to where our universe might be going. A UCL Professor of Astrophysics, Prinja delivers precise, articulate explanations that are brought to life by woodblock-style illustrations of richly-coloured stars and planets. The authors, or self-styled ‘curators,’ never fail to bring clarity to each topic. A good example is the map of our place in the universe, which makes the vastness of the universe easier to grasp, while still clearly locating earth, not just within the Solar System and the Milky Way but including the larger Laniakea Supercluster and beyond. This easy to read and exciting glimpse of the stars is delivered in a handsome, over-sized, hardback book printed on thick, crisp paper, that gives the subject both gravity and beauty. Perfect to share with inquisitive young minds at home or in the classroom. (7+)
Benjamin Scott
Lift the Flap Engineering                                                                                                                    
Written by Rose Hall 
Illustrated by Lee Cosgrove
Usborne £12.99
ISBN: 978-1474943659
Engineering is a vast field which is fundamental in shaping the modern world. The nature and complexity of the subject often makes it difficult for young children to grasp. This excellent book, published to coincide with the 2018 Year of Engineering, sets out to explain what engineering is and what engineers do, in a way which is accessible to primary school readers. Aerospace Engineers, Electronic and Software Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, Robotics Engineers, Civil Engineers, Biomedical and Structural Engineers, are all covered. The diagrams of space rockets, bicycles, robots and bridges are clearly annotated, and flaps add to the excitement of discovering more about each category. An activity booklet and internet links are provided for anyone who wants to explore the subject further. (7+)
Richard Monte
Cook’s Cook 
Written and Illustrated by Gavin Bishop
Gecko Press £11.99
ISBN: 978-1776572045 
Everyone’s heard of Captain Cook and his journey to the South Pacific, but what of John Thompson, the one-handed cook who also sailed on Cook’s ship, HMS Endeavour. This was a dangerous voyage of exploration to observe the transit of Venus and search for the great unknown continent of Terra Australis. On board were famous men like Joseph Banks the Naturalist, John Green the Astronomer and the Artist, Alexander Buchan. The Gentlemen and the Servants had to be fed and it was the cook’s job to keep them satisfied. Full of interesting facts about the voyage, set out with detailed illustrations of fauna, flora and geographical locations, this book is the perfect introduction to the Endeavour’s passage. But it’s the cook’s meals which steal the show. As well as the traditional fare of Pease Porridge for breakfast and Roast Beef for dinner, there were other more exotic dishes. Imagine eating Seared Sharks, Albatross, Dog and Breadfruit Stew or Stingray Soup. Perhaps the most amazing thing of all was that these meals were prepared by a man with one hand. (7+)
Richard Monte
100 screen-free ways to beat boredom
Written by Kris Hirschmann
QED   £9.99
ISBN: 978-1784932640

A lovely book for any family striving to beat off the zombie syndrome that starts to settle when too many hours have been spent with eyes glued to screens or ears clamped by headphones. It’s also great for long journeys, holidays and gloomy, boring days when the Internet is down, and your head is a grey, fuzzy wasteland of mega-boredom. Rediscover the joy of connecting with flesh and blood humans and having fun without the need for Wi-Fi or a charger. Note to parents and carers; this means you, too! (10+)
Yvonne Coppard

Race to the Frozen North
Written by Catherine Johnson
Barrington Stoke    £6.99
ISBN: 978-1781128404
Matthew Henson was one of the first people to stand at the North Pole, as part of an expedition which achieved this feat in 1909. However, his part in this remarkable achievement was not publicly recognised until 1937, despite every other member of the team being given a medal by the American government after their return. And the sole reason, one which has seen other notable people air-brushed from history, was the colour of his skin. In this riveting account, Catherine Johnson brings to life Matthew’s voice as he recounts his adventures and the prejudice which meant that, despite his capabilities, the only jobs he could find when back at home were as a messenger or parking cars. At the age of eleven, fleeing a violent stepmother, Matthew heads to Washington DC, then to Baltimore, where he is taken on as crew on a trading ship. Sailing the world and seeing far-flung places allows him to acquire an impressive range of skills, from learning languages to carpentry. He goes on to be part of the advance team preparing for the building of the Panama Canal before taking part in numerous Arctic expeditions led by Robert Peary, over a period of nineteen years. He built a mutually respectful bond with the Inuit and learnt new skills from them. Matthew’s place in history is now assured and this book is a great introduction, which I am sure will encourage readers to find out more.  
Jayne Gould
2019 Nature Month-by-Month 
A Children’s Almanac
Nosy Crow / National Trust  £9.99
ISBN: 978-1788003991
This book does exactly what it says on the tin. Month by month, it takes young readers through 2019, giving them all kinds of indoor and outdoor projects along the way and cleverly interweaving significant festivals and activities from different cultures. It even includes the phases of the moon for each month. Always grounded in the turning seasons of the northern hemisphere, Nature Month by Month offers constant companionship and is an absolute delight to dip in and out of. Every page is full of allure, guaranteeing that any child lucky enough to have a copy will learn all kinds of good stuff almost without noticing. Delightful illustrations and page layouts, rounded corners and high production values make this an almanac to treasure.  (7+)
Tessa Strickland

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Extra reviews Autumn/Winter 2018

Picture Books for young children

This Zoo is Not for You

Written and illustrated by Ross Collins

Nosy Crow   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1788002523

When a platypus arrives at the zoo the animals take it in turns to interview him. Sadly, they all, from the panda to the flamingo, the elephant and the monkey, find something wrong. The platypus doesn’t eat bamboo, can’t do monkey tricks and isn’t as elegant as a flamingo. The bright, bold splashes of colour are just right for this amusing tale of misunderstanding. The poor platypus has come to the zoo with a quite different intention, but all is resolved by the end and the animals learn not to judge or jump to conclusions. The expressions of the animals are cleverly conveyed in this enjoyable story and the simple rhyming text works well.

Louise Stothard

The Station Mouse

Written and illustrated by Meg McLaren

Anderson   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1783445639

Maurice is a most conscientious station mouse and is careful to follow the rules - taking care not to be seen and staying in during the daytime. He is in charge of lost property and the bold and detailed illustrations show the wonderful plethora of belongings the passengers leave behind. Maurice wonders whether they miss their possessions until the day when he just cannot help himself and returns a very special lost item to a little boy. It seems that some rules can be changed for the better. The simple text is just right, and the illustrations deserve detailed examination as they add to and extend the tale. A delightful story.

Louise Stothard

The Cook and the King

Written by Julia Donaldson

Illustrated by David Roberts

Macmillan   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1509813773

“There once was a very hungry king / Who needed a cook like anything”.  Kings have a lot of kingly things to do, so they can’t be expected to spend time rustling up their own meals. Still, finding a skilled cook is not all that easy if you know a thing or two about food. Enter Wobbly Bob. He seems to be a complete novice and he is scared, scared, scared, in the way that many of us are when we’re faced with a new challenge. However, the King senses Bob’s potential and shows him what to do - modelling both courage and culinary prowess along the way. Like everything from Julia Donaldson, this story is a joy to read aloud. As for the peerless David Roberts, his illustrations cast a comedic spell that holds all the best ingredients in perfect balance. The Cook and the King is everything you could wish for in a picture book - it’s clever, it’s accessible, it’s instructive and it’s very good fun.

Tessa Strickland

Great Bunny Bakes

Written and illustrated by Ellie Snowdon

Simon & Schuster   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1471166341

Wolf absolutely lives to bake. When he gets a flyer through the door advertising A Great Bunny Bake-Off, he soon decides to undertake an ingenious feat of deception and take part in the competition himself! What could go wrong?! An extremely entertaining read and the illustrations, with their simple colour palette, are hilarious, adding a very funny extra dimension to the story. The animals are absolutely adorable (Though you need to watch out for one particularly bad bunny!) and the extra little asides and details are a real treat for both adults and children alike. Great Bunny Bakes is an absolute treat for anyone who enjoys a spot of baking.

Becca Watts

Rosa Draws

Written and illustrated by Jordan Wray

words & pictures   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1910277492

As the title suggests, Rosa loves to draw. Her colourful imagination bursts out through her drawings, sprawling energetically across pages. From a bear eating a hat, to a giraffe stealing a teapot, young readers will be captivated by Rosa’s imaginative creations. But when Rosa loses her train of thought, will she be able to find it again? As the fantastical story reaches a peak, the reader holds her breath to see what will happen to Rosa’s ‘canvas’; but no fear, it turns out her mum loves to draw too! Dynamic drawings leap off the pages and the rhyming text bounces the reader through the story. A delightful read for pre-schoolers and beyond.

Lucy Russell

Fixer the Robot

Written and illustrated by John Kelly

Faber & Faber   £6.99

ISBN: 978-0571336371

Meet Fixer, a helpful, generous, brave, little space robot who sets out daily to repair other robots working on the planet’s surface. As Fixer does his rounds he is able to help Dug with his broken spade, Bull with his flat battery and Gertie with her smashed gearbox. It’s a satisfying day’s work, but when Fixer heads back to base, disaster suddenly strikes and Fixer himself is left helpless. Will his robot friends realise what’s happened and be able to help in time? John Kelly’s space world is imagined through fabulous colour illustrations packed with energy and expression, which give individuality to his robot characters. The story’s bouncing rhythm and rhyme, an abundance of quirky details and the use of dynamic lettering at moments of tension, all combine with the bold pictures to make this book great fun to look at and read aloud. A wonderful combination of action, rhyme and robots; this book is a warm-hearted story of friends helping one another in need and valuing their different strengths. I hope we’ll see more of Fixer – he’s my tip for a hit character!

Anne Walker

Audrey the Amazing Inventor

Written by Rachel Valentine

Illustrated by Katie Weymouth

words and pictures   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1910277584

Audrey is full of curiosity about how things work, and when she decides she wants to be an inventor, she starts to practice by inventing some amazing machines. Unfortunately, they are not completely successful and her father and her pet cat suffer the consequences. When her automatic cat shampoo machine malfunctions she is mortified and almost gives up. But Dad comforts her saying that inventions are not disasters if she learns from her mistakes. Audrey plans her next invention very carefully and it turns out remarkably well, apart from one final rather amusing detail. Fortunately, Dad can see the funny side and the cat is pleased too, so all ends well. There are lots of visual details in this colourful picture book and children will enjoy studying the inventions and their comic results. Adults may need to add a bit more interpretation than the text offers, but this would make a good read-aloud story for individuals or for groups of children. Two of the illustrations require turning the book through 90 degrees which makes for added interest. It might even prompt some children to try out some zany inventions of their own.

Liz Dubber


 Ruby’s Worry

Written and illustrated by Tom Percival

Bloomsbury   £6.99

ISBN: 978- 1408892152

Ruby is a happy child living in what looks like a tropical paradise. But, when a small worry grows close to her, it gradually gets bigger and bigger until it consumes all her thoughts. It seems Ruby’s happy days are behind her forever. Then one day she meets a small boy at the park, who also has a worry, and realises that other people have their worries too. When she asks him to talk about his worry, a strange thing happens – it gets smaller! Before long Ruby has shared her worry too and both of them find their worries have disappeared. A muted palette of soft blues and yellow makes this story very easy on the eye. The simply drawn characters are full of life and expression and the quiet but growing scribble that denotes the worry is a looming presence that conveys the pressure of a simple anxiety very convincingly. Above all this book promotes a very useful message - that talking about our worries is one of the best ways to deal with them.

Liz Dubber

Sorrel and the Sleepover

Written by Corrinne Averiss

Illustrated by Susan Varley

Anderson   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1783446124

The soft and delicate illustrations of this simple tale describe special friends, Sorrel and Sage, who are alike in every way. They enjoy the same games, sing the same songs and have the same stripe on their tails. But when Sorrel goes to stay at Sage’s home she realises that not everything is the same and makes excuses so that Sage doesn’t discover how Sorrel’s home is very different to hers. But the friends soon discover that differences don’t matter at all when you are best friends. A delightful story to be enjoyed many times.

Louise Stothard


Supertato: Veggies in the Valley of Doom

Written and illustrated by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

Simon & Schuster   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1471171703

When Supertato and his friends begin a game of hide and seek, little do they know it will soon become the greatest treasure hunt ever! Soon, things start to go horribly wrong, and Supertato and the veggies find themselves in a spot of bother. Who can they possibly call on to help? Another great addition to this funny series by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet. Bright and bold illustrations are sure to catch the eye of any little one and the cheeky vegetables will definitely get some delighted laughs.

Becca Watts


Quick, Barney, Run!

Written by Pip Jones

Illustrated by Laura Hughes

Faber & Faber   £6.99

ISBN: 978-0571327522

Wholly delightful! Barney’s big sister takes him on an adventure on one of those days to which everyone can relate when the rain is pouring, Daddy is fast asleep, Mummy is working and everything is so boring. So, they jump in a cardboard box and magic away to an under stairs jungle and go on to meet a tufty-furred gibbon, a colourful bird and a tiger which proves so tempting to poke with a stick … that they return home very quickly! The clever rhymes and fabulously imaginative fun illustrations add to the totally magical, exciting experience.  This, together with other titles involving Ruby Roo, will be a firm favourite.

Gill Roberts


 What Does an Anteater Eat?

Written and illustrated by Ross Collins

Nosy Crow   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1788002646

Anteater is not very clever and he is hungry. But, he can’t remember what an anteater really eats, so he sets off through the jungle to find out. Sloth is too lazy to answer, Toucan thinks it could be watermelon, Crocodile hasn’t got any idea, but then he’s too busy eating, and Leopard is unable to offer any advice as he lounges on a tree wondering how good an anteater might taste. Eventually Anteater stumbles on an ants’ nest under a banana plant and when they all run for their lives he suddenly remembers what he is supposed to eat. The matter of fact humour and gently amusing illustrations give the reader the perfect opportunity to have a good old laugh at Anteater’s expense.

Richard Monte


Steve, Terror of the Seas

Written and illustrated by Megan Brewis

OUP   £6.99

ISBN: 978-0192766854

Steve is not a scary looking fish in any way. He’s actually quite small and friendly looking, but all the other sea creatures, and even the people swimming in the sea, flee in terror as he approaches. Steve shows us other sea creatures, like puffer fish, viperfish and blob fish, all of which are much more frightening than he is, so it’s all a mystery! Or is it? Look very carefully on each wonderful double-page spread for the clue is always there. Thankfully, Steve has a very good, and extremely large, friend called George and George isn’t the least bit afraid of him. This simple and delightfully amusing story also illustrates the symbiotic relationship between a pilot fish and a shark and the last spread shows the ways in which Steve and George look after each other. Symbiosis is not a word any toddler needs to worry about, but the idea of friends looking out for each other is heartwarming.

Jan Lennon

Long Dog

Written and illustrated by James Davies

Templar   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1787411098

Long Dog is just that – a very long dog and his small owner loves him. Sometimes the boy’s parents think Long Dog’s length is becoming a problem but the child thinks he is perfect. However, when his friends start saying Long Dog is different and making fun of him, Long Dog and his owner feel sad. It isn’t until all the other dogs fall down a hole and it is Long Dog to the rescue that everyone realises it is good to be different sometimes and Long Dog has skills no one else does. A delightful picture book, full of humour but with a subtle, positive message about celebrating difference. Simple style illustrations in red and yellow fit really well with the story and the end boards, featuring Long Dog in all his glory, are a nice addition to the book.

Annie Everall


Little Owls First Day

Written by Debi Gliori

Illustrated by Alison Brown

Bloomsbury   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1408892213

It is a big day for Little Owl - his first day at school, but he would rather have a small day at home with Mummy & Baby Owl, doing all the things they usually do together. All day he is thinking about them, whilst he learns to build a sandcastle, helps with storytime and best of all, makes a new friend, who helps him to realise that maybe big days can be fun after all. Simple style and language combine with bright, colourful illustrations, making this fun to read aloud or alone. A lovely, reassuring story for children who are about to start nursery or school and who might be anxious about it.

Annie Everall

There’s Room for Everyone

Written and illustrated by Anahita Teymorian

Tiny Owl   £12.99

ISBN: 978-1910328361

A small child reflects on how there is enough room in the house for all his toys and his family, enough room in the sky for all the stars and the moon, enough room in the garden for all the birds and in the library for all the books. When he grows up and becomes a sailor, he realises that there is enough room in the sea for the all the fish and enough room in the world for all the animals. Why then is it that people are the only ones fighting for space and even going to war for it? He thinks that if only people were kinder to each other, they would understand that there is room enough for everyone. A beautiful picture book with a powerful, yet gently told, message and one that is particularly important in the current climate of fear, conflict, the displacement of people and the resulting refugee crisis.  Iranian author/illustrator Anahita Teymorian’s stunning illustrations are rich in colour and quirky in style, working well together with her text to get the message across within an enjoyable story, that can be used very effectively to discuss these issues with children.

Annie Everall

Audrey the Amazing Inventor

Written by Rachel Valentine

Illustrated by Katie Weymouth

words & pictures   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1910277584

Audrey wants to be an inventor, but her inventions don’t seem to be as successful as she planned and she starts to lose heart. Her dad and her pet, Happy Cat, tell her that all the famous inventors had lots of inventions that didn’t work at first and that she should keep persevering. So, she decides to try again. A fun, humorous story with a lively, engaging text and bright colourful illustrations. A strong, feisty heroine with big dreams and a positive underpinning message about going for your dreams and persevering to achieve your goals.

Annie Everall

You’re Safe with Me

Written by Chitra Soundar

Illustrated by Poonam Mistry

Lantana   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1911373292

It is bedtime for the baby animals but, when the night turns dark and stormy, they are fearful and cannot sleep. Only Mama Elephant is able to soothe them, explaining why the stormy winds blow, the thunder roars and the lightning flashes, and reassuring them with her gentle words, “You’re safe with me.” As well as being an author, Chitra Soundar is an accomplished storyteller and her skills as a storyteller are very much evident in the way that the book has been written and reads aloud. The illustrations which reflect the nature and folklore of traditional Indian art are stunning and their interpretation of the lyrical text mesmerises the reader. The design of the book and the production quality is excellent. It is a book that shouts out to be shared and read aloud - an ideal book for bedtime book and one that children and their parents will want to return to again and again. A wonderful addition to our collection of multi-cultural stories and one that deserves to be widely promoted.

Annie Everall

First Steps in reading for young children


Written by Mac Barnett

Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Walker   £12.99

ISBN: 978-1406378658

Every day Square pushes stone blocks to the top of a hill. Circle mistakes one of the blocks as a self-portrait and asks Square to make a sculpture of her. Square works desperately on the commissions and creates a ring of rubble. He falls asleep in the rain. Next morning Circle sees her reflection in the pool of rainwater that accumulated overnight and declares Square a genius. The book ends with the question, "But was he really?" This is an exceptionally clever book that teaches very young children about shapes, and, simultaneously, raises philosophical questions about art, misunderstandings and perceptions. Square is unimaginative and insecure, and Circle is artistic and suave. There is plenty of wry humour in Jon Klassen’s artwork, especially in the picture of an exhausted Square toppling over with a twig dangling from his head. Highly recommended.

Brenda Marshall

Goat’s Coat

Written by Tom Percival

Illustrated by Christine Pym

Bloomsbury   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1408881019

Goat’s Coat is an enchanting new picture book which is sure to delight readers of all ages with its message of kindness and friendship. Alfonzo is thrilled with his new coat - it’s bright, colourful and warm. As Alfonzo is skipping along filled with happiness, he comes across creature after creature that needs his help, and, little by little, his coat disappears as he uses it to assist his friends. Goat’s Coat is the ideal way to introduce young readers to the concept that being kind and helping others can bring more happiness than mere possessions. Children will fall in love with Alfonzo as he selflessly shares his beloved coat with his friends in need. The brightly coloured illustrations are charming and add fun to the delightful tale, as we follow Alfonzo’s continuing generosity. There is also much going on in the background for children to enjoy. The story is told in rhyming couplets, which makes it fun to share and read aloud. At a time when there appears to be a focus on instant gratification, such a generous and heart-warming story is to be celebrated.

Jane Hall

Held in Love

Written by Dawn Casey

Illustrated by Oamul Lu

Frances Lincoln   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1786030672

A most unusual, special book that is heartfelt, meditative and sincere. The cover is attractive with the title picked out in gold. The text is a mother’s blessing, conveying the love between parent and child. The language is gentle, warm and evocative with rhyme and repetition that would read well aloud. The illustrations and colour palette are peaceful and soothing. A truly loving, intimate book with a timeless global message. It would be an ideal gift for new parents.

Brenda Marshall


Sophie Johnson: Unicorn Expert

Written by Morag Hood

Illustrated by Ella Okstad

Simon & Schuster   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1471145629

Sophie is a unicorn expert. She has 17 of them, and the illustrations show that Sophie can transform most things into unicorns by adding horns made from cardboard or a toothbrush. Sophie enjoys teaching them about magic, hunting for food, and the danger of balloons. She is so absorbed with looking after them that she does not notice when a real unicorn joins the group. This is a charming story of a little girl who is happy and totally absorbed in her fantasy world. Text and illustration are well matched. The rainbow colours in the unicorn’s mane and throughout the book are entrancing. The illustrations capture the character of the animals, and the mess and creativity of a young child’s life. Great fun, and highly recommended.

Brenda Marshall


 I Just Ate My Friend

Written and illustrated by Heidi McKinnon

Allen & Unwin   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1760634353

A monster has just eaten his friend and now he is very unhappy and lonely. So, he goes looking for a new friend. Eventually, another monster chooses him as his friend. All seems well until … The ending is excellent and will make you laugh out loud. This book works well as a humorous adventure story, and there are underlying messages about being a friend, keeping and losing friends, impulsivity, self-control, worry and sadness. The illustrations are strong with bright colours and white font. A clever book that will be enjoyed by young children.

Brenda Marshall


 The Society of Distinguished Lemmings

Written and illustrated by Julie Colombet

Templar   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1787410541

Deep in their burrow, The Society of Distinguished Lemmings lead a very busy life, enjoying a varied social calendar bound by a strict set of rules. From musical accomplishments to fine dining, they strive to be distinguished in everything they do. But Bertie decides that there is far too much noise and ventures outside, where he encounters a bear, which despite its size and lack of distinguished accomplishments, is friendly. Bertie soon learns that there is more to life than being distinguished – you can have fun doing different things. And although the other lemmings don’t agree initially, they change their minds when the bear rescues them from a rather wet and dangerous situation. With quirky, expressive illustrations this is a delightful exploration of accepting difference and making friends, perfect for sharing. There is much to discover in the detailed pictures, especially in those depicting the burrow, and each of the multitude of lemmings has an opinion to express!

Jayne Gould


Titles for the young child just beginning to Read Alone


The Dragonsitter’s Surprise

Written by Josh Lacey

Illustrated by Garry Parsons

Andersen   £4.99

ISBN: 978-1783446230

A delightful addition to the series, The Dragonsitter’s Surprise sees Edward dealing with an egg that his Uncle Morton gave him as a birthday present. The egg is supposedly dead, but soon starts rattling and cracking before erupting into something bright and fluffy with claws. It turns out to be the Yellow Phoenix, known to experts as the terror of dragons. Chaos soon ensues as the dragons fly in to protect Edward, though their ‘deposits’ on the patio and Mum’s news are both equally startling. The book ends with a lovely surprise. Lavishly illustrated by Garry Parsons, this funny and heart-warming book will be a huge success with fans of the series and those coming new to it alike.

Julia Wills.

The Knight Who Said “NO!”

Written by Lucy Rowland

Illustrated by Kate Hindley

Nosy Crow   £6.99

ISBN: 978- 1788002080

Ned was a Knight - the most amenable Knight ever. Whatever anyone asks him to do, he always says, “Yes”. Every evening, a fierce dragon flies over the town and Ned is told to go inside and, as always, he says, “Yes”. However, one evening, Ned stayed outside to watch the dragon, and something happened inside him. He heard the dragon groan and sigh and felt sorry for her. To everyone’s surprise, Ned started to use the word “No”, and so the story unfolds and it includes the unhappy dragon. A delightful book - funny, well written and illustrated, with good rhyming text and amusing pictures. A pleasure to read and I am sure children will really enjoy it.

Pat Thompson


Written by Alan MacDonald

Illustrated by David Roberts

Stripes   £4.99

ISBN: 978-1847158116

I think the title probably sums up the main character. He is mucky and scruffy and always in trouble! Part of the Dirty Bertie series, this book contains 3 stories about Bertie - his character, the trouble he gets into and the way that he generally manages to wriggle free. They are all enormous fun to read, moving at a fast pace, mainly because Bertie moves at a fast pace and is always up to something different. I would really recommend this book, as it describes the chaotic situations that Bertie gets himself into and children can empathise with Bertie, whilst appreciating and enjoying the stories.

Pat Thompson

Oh Me, Oh My, A PIE!

Written and illustrated by Jan Fearnley

Nosy Crow   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1788001038

Grandma Bear has made a pie and has left it on a shelf to cool. A fox passes by and steals it, but, he is only the first thief. As runs away with his prize, a whole group of other animals are waiting to steal it, each in their turn. Miraculously, it finds its way back to Grandma Bear and she kindly offers to share it with them all. But, sadly, it doesn’t really work out as the animals have a problem with the idea of sharing. This is a really enchanting book, with a good story, humorous illustrations and a lively rhyming text. I am sure all children will love it, either to read alone or share with others. This story offers a brilliant opportunity to talk about the concept of sharing. Strongly recommended.

Pat Thompson


 Luna and the Moon Rabbit

Written and illustrated by Camille Whitcher

Scribblers   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1912233250

Luna and her granny are looking at the moon. Granny is telling her about the Moon Rabbit, who loves rice cakes. So, having placed a very tempting rice cake on the windowsill, Luna waits. The Moon Rabbit arrives and off they go on a wonderful adventure. A lovely story - very gentle and charming. The relationship between Luna and the Rabbit is perfect, and at the end of her adventure, he leaves her fast asleep with her own toy white rabbit. Was this all a dream, or did it really happen? The story, the text and the illustrations are all delightful.

Pat Thompson

Titles for young children Reading Confidently


Uncle Shawn and Bill and the Almost Entirely Unplanned Adventure

Written by A. L. Kennedy

Illustrated by Gemma Correll

Walker   £8.99

ISBN: 978-1406360493

This story opens with Badger Bill trapped in a dirty, smelly sack. Bill, with a group of four elegant llamas, have been captured by two extremely villainous sisters. Bill is to fight three very nasty dogs, and the llamas will be baked into pies. Thank goodness for tall, lanky, kindly, eccentric Uncle Shawn, who doesn’t wear socks because he had given half his last pair to a young squirrel who wanted to play at camping and use it as a sleeping bag. Uncle Shawn loves dancing, jokes, multi-coloured caravans, having adventures and happy endings. Unexpected ideas and lots of amusing illustrations combine to make this the funniest, kindest, sort of book to read, and then keep under the pillow and dream happily by.

Tina Massey


Uncle Shawn and Bill and the Pajimminy–Crimminy Unusual Adventure

Written by A. L. Kennedy

Illustrated by Gemma Correll

Walker   £8.99

ISBN: 978-1406360509

Just as life is going well for Badger Bill, Uncle Shawn and all their friends, a new doctor appears in the village, noting down all that’s unusual. Unusualness is very suspect, probably criminal, and Uncle Shawn is to be locked up until he can be cured and the unusualness driven out of him. Uncle Shawn needs rescuing and his best friend, Badger Bill, is determined to help, along with four arguing llamas, a pirate girl and lots of spiders. There are lots of happily ridiculous adventures, the quietly determined Shawn tap dancing to Old MacDonald, despite the threats hanging over him, much to the confusion of his captor. Throughout, there is the strongest possible approval for what is, or who is, different, unique or unusual - that is what makes us all special, the author proves, and what a consoling message that is for all children. Much fun, laugh-out-loud events and illustrations, with chapter headings to lead you on, this is a book with kindness at its heart. Unmissable.

Tina Massey


Akissi: Tales of Mischief

Written by Marguerite Abouet

Illustrated by Mathieu Sapin

Flying Eye   £12.99

ISBN: 978-1911171478

For a small girl, Akissi bursts onto the page larger than life. She’s bold, adventurous and precocious, but, at the same time, vulnerable and innocent - all the perfect ingredients for creating her own kind of mischief. Told in a traditional comic style, Akissi: Tales of Mischief is packed with amusing episodes from adopting a mouse as a teddy to discovering the problem with telling tales. Often funny and poignant, these tales reveal stark contrasts with modern western life, like dealing with tapeworms or the terror of having to go outside for a ‘pee’ at night. Based on the Ivory Coast childhood of Abouet, Akissi’s adventures will resonate with a range of young readers, opening a window on a different time, place and culture and yet also sharing some familiar problems, emotions and characters.

Benjamin Scott


Dino Wars: Rise of the Raptors

Written by Dan Metcalf

Illustrated by Aaron Blecha

Maverick Arts   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1848863194

Dino Wars: Rise of the Raptors is the first in an exciting new adventure series for young confident readers. Set in the year 3142, the world is ruled by the genetically engineered dinosaurs who won the Dino Wars. However, humans and dinosaurs live in harmony in the secluded city of Bastion. Here, Adam Caine, his sister Chloe and best friend Dag, a tech-savvy Iguanodon, discover that an old biological weapon has been activated which will destroy all dinosaur life. The group of young friends set out on the adventure of a lifetime to save the world. This is a fun action-packed tale that younger readers will enjoy. There is gentle peril as our young heroes undertake their quest, with evil dinosaurs to battle, as well as peace-loving dinos who help the youngsters on their way. Children will enjoy learning the names of the different dinosaurs as they follow the intrepid team on their journey. The squabbles between Adam and his sister Chloe will be familiar to children with siblings, and the way all the children and dinosaurs work together to get results sends a positive message. The comic black and white cartoon illustrations throughout, bring the book to life.

Jane Hall


 Ade’s Amazing Ade-Ventures: Battle of the Cyborg Cat

Written by Ade Adepitan

Illustrated by David M. Buisán

Studio   £5.99

ISBN: 978-1787413252

Ade Adepitan is a wheelchair basketball star and Paralympian. Young readers interested in sport will have seen him as a presenter and sports commentator during the Olympics and Paralympics. The story is based on the time during the 1980s when Ade moved to London from Nigeria. It was difficult for a young child to assimilate into English society and school, without the added problem facing Ade. He had contracted polio as a baby and, as a result, wore a calliper on his left leg. The story is funny and well-written with black and white illustrations. It gives a good insight into many of the problems and cultural differences Ade had to face.

Ingrid Fox


The Secret of the Night Train

Written by Sylvia Bishop

Illustrated by Marco Guadalupi

Scholastic   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1407184401

Eleven year old Max (short for Maximilienne) is stifled by the lack of stimulation in her conventional Parisian home, so when the chance comes to travel to Istanbul without her family, she is determined to make the most of it. The journey turns out to be an adventure in detection as she and her eccentric companion, a detective nun, find themselves on the trail of a jewel thief. Max uses the quest to bury her anxiety about being so far from home, and grows in confidence as she travels, even when separated from her chaperone, before reaching a satisfying and rather surprising conclusion. A very readable story told with humour and a light imaginative touch. While some of the characters appear like comic book stereotypes, they are none the less real enough in the context of this very lively story. The style and presentation are so positive that the reader is happy to suspend belief to enjoy the far-fetched adventure. As Max travels by train across Europe, we share her suspicions and concerns and admire her detection skills and bravery. This is an easy to read and fast moving adventure story which should be enjoyed by young confident readers.

Liz Dubber


The Artie Conan Doyle Mysteries: The Vanishing Dragon

Written by Robert J. Harris

Kelpies   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1782504832

Even the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a 13 year old schoolboy once, and it’s easy to believe that he was every bit as clever as the fictionalised Artie in this story. We are in Victorian Edinburgh for this, their second adventure - Artie and his pal, Ham, are engaged to investigate the series of strange events interrupting the rehearsals of Professor John Henry Anderson’s magic show and threatening to spoil the great magician’s comeback performance. When a huge dragon, the centrepiece of the whole show, impossibly disappears from a locked room, Artie needs to think even harder and it becomes clear that something else altogether is going on. The story is a glorious mash-up of known facts about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, like his difficult early home life and his interest in the supernatural, and other historical events, along with a great helping of fun. There are flamboyant characters, clues and false leads, moments of hold-your-breath excitement and a clever plot that will keep readers turning the pages. The Gravediggers' Club, the first adventure in the series was reviews in issue 65.

Jan Lennon


The Knights and the Best Quest

Written by Kaye Umansky

Illustrated by Ben Whitehouse

Barrington Stoke   £5.99

ISBN: 978-1781127674

The Knights of the Drop Leaf Table decide it is time for them to go on a quest and King Artie and Queen Gwinny agree to present the winning knight, the one who achieves the most points, with a silver goblet. Sir Percy draws up the rules: 10 points for killing a dragon and stealing its treasure, 9 points for rescuing a damsel in distress, 8 points for finding a sword in a stone, 7 for finding one in a lake, down to 1 point for finding a lost cat. The cook prepares each knight with a sandwich pack as they all set off. But, like all good Arthurian quests, things don’t go exactly to plan! A hilarious twist on the King Arthur stories and full of the wacky humour and wordplay that Kaye Umansky brings to her stories, making them so irresistible to children. Part of the Barrington Stoke Super Readable stories, it has a dyslexia friendly layout, typeface and paper. Hopefully, this is the first in an ongoing series and we will see more adventures of these daft knights.

Annie Everall


Titles for readers Moving On from Primary to High School


The Riddle of the Runes

Written by Janina Ramirez

Illustrated by David Wyatt

OUP   £6.99

ISBN: 978-0192766335

Art historian and TV presenter Dr Janina Ramirez has written her first children’s book and it’s a rollercoaster ride of suspense and adventure set in the world of the Vikings. Her heroine is Alva, a twelve year old girl who proves herself to be a brave and stalwart shield maiden, determined to discover the message behind a series of runes carved on a mysterious bone box. The runes lead her and her wolf, Fenrir, together with her Uncle Magnus and mother Brianna, to another box, a Christian treasure containing the bones of an Anglo-Saxon saint, stolen in the Viking raids on Lindisfarne. This is a gripping and fast-moving story set in a fictional Viking village. The author’s deep knowledge of the period and expertise with Viking runes make the whole an authentic historical experience and bring the period very much to life. Yet, Alva’s feelings are those of a girl of any age and are wholly relevant to readers of today. As the plot develops, Alva’s emotions and motives are explored, making for a thoughtful read alongside the action. David Wyatt’s atmospheric illustrations reflect and enhance the story. This is a rewarding, yet accessible, adventure story for confident readers.

Liz Dubber


The Rose Muddle Mysteries: The Secret Ruby

Written by Imogen White

Usborne   £5.99

ISBN: 978-1474927307

This is the second book in The Rose Muddle Mysteries series but can easily be read as a standalone. Rose Muddle is a feisty and dynamic heroine who with her friend, Rui, attempts to return a ruby to its rightful owner, even though they are up against magic, danger and powerful enemies. The characterisation is terrific, and the book evokes the early 1900s wonderfully. I must confess to having loved the first book in this series, The Amber Pendant, and was delighted to continue Rose’s adventures. A sure-fire hit, filled with twists, turns and sparkling originality. Highly recommended.

Julia Wills.


 The Skylarks’ War

Written by Hilary McKay

Macmillan   £12.99

ISBN: 978-1509894949

Clarrie and her older brother, Peter, live, for their summer holidays, with their grandparents in Cornwall, along with their amazing cousin, Rupert. Between these times, their life is very restricted by their dour, remote father. Peter is sent to boarding school but Carrie is left at home with only the barest minimum of an unstimulating education. When the war begins, life changes - Rupert joins the army and life is reduced to worrying about him and his friends who have also volunteered, and about how to get enough food, and coal to heat the house and cook with. However, despite all the worries and shortages caused by the war, life changes for the better for Clarrie and Peter - it becomes more positive and challenging. This is a wonderful, well written story about life before and during the war - both the upsides and the downsides. A very difficult book to put down.

Pat Thompson


The Wild Folk

Written by Sylvia V. Linsteadt

Usborne   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1474934985

Magical, mythical and sweepingly magnificent, this is a new fable for modern times. On the island of Farallone, an environmental disaster has struck. There is division between City and Country - the two groups of humans are separated, each believing the other to be the enemy. When Tin, a City boy, and Comfrey, a Country girl, meet events are set in motion. They encounter challenge, secrecy and danger as they uncover the depths of the land’s disaster. Will they be able to defeat the sinister forces at work and enable restoration before it is too late? Sylvia Linstead’s prose is lyrical as she paints a powerful picture of the land and its inhabitants. Familiar mythical ingredients of menacing enemies, perilous journeys and impossible challenges, achieved only with the assistance of surprising creatures, weave a complex and luscious web of narrative. The two protagonists are appealing characters with believable flaws, and readers will warm to their courage and honesty. Compelling and highly recommended, this first volume in The Stargold Chronicles has a satisfying conclusion which will make readers eager for the next, due for publication in 2019.

Lucy Russell



Written by Alan Durant

Walker   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1406374629

Ever since Dak's dad died, everything has been difficult to deal with. While Mum continues to struggle in her own way, cutting herself off from the world, Dak decides to seek solace in his and Dad's favourite place - the local aquarium. Whilst there, Dak begins to deal with his grief in a most unusual way. A quirky look at dealing with loss, told in an offbeat, yet sensitive, way. Clownfish will appeal to fans of Ross Welford and Lara Williamson. Dak is a likeable protagonist, and his burgeoning friendship with the feisty Violet is funny and charming. A gentle approach to a serious subject.

Becca Watts



The List of Real Things

by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Orion   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1444014815

Grace’s parents have died and she lives with her little sister, Bee, their uncle, Freddy, and his father, Grandad Patrick. The girls are grieving, but Freddy tries to ignore the past and focus on providing them with a happy childhood. Meanwhile Grace worries constantly about Bee’s vivid imagination. When Patrick dies, Bee’s grief comes spilling out. The magical realism reinforces the point that real life and fantasy can sometimes be confused. What emerges is the importance of the grieving process in order to accept the death of our loved ones. The reality of school and its friendship groups helps to balance the focus on the girls’ feelings which dominates the story at home. We identify closely with Grace as she seeks to contain Bee’s wilder imaginings, and when Grace realises that she needs help as much as Bee does, cleverly, we feel the same sense of personal insight. Overall this is a very well written book about a difficult subject, and a great read too.

Liz Dubber



A Good Day for Climbing Trees

Written by Jaco Jacobs

Illustrated by Jim Tierney

Translated by Kobus Geldenhuys

Rock the Boat   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1786073174

Marnus is the middle of three brothers, and often feels invisible to his parents. It’s the Christmas holidays in South Africa and as usual he feels trapped between being bullied by his older brother and being financially exploited by his younger one. Then Leila turns up on the doorstep with a petition to save a tree. Marnus quickly becomes drawn into her campaign and ends up with a starring role. Sadly, the tree cannot be saved, but Marnus certainly emerges stronger and more confident from the experience. This is a simple short story about friendship, direct action, and the value of taking a stand. The text reads smoothly, the characters are lightly drawn and the plot quite slight, in this pleasing read which explores some interesting issues of friendship and trust as well as cross-generational understanding. The campaign to save the tree ends in failure but there’s a much more realistic outcome which celebrates some of the lessons learned along the way.

Liz Dubber


No Fixed Address

Written by Susin Nielsen

Anderson   £12.99

ISBN: 978-1783447213

Felix wants to live a normal life but he and his mother, Astrid, live in a van and are continually on the move. Astrid promises that it is only temporary until she finds a job, but Felix knows that she is good at bending the truth. As he settles in at a new school, Felix is tired of hiding the reality from his new friends and struggling with the difficulties of van life. Written with honesty and humour, we warm to this redoubtable young man as he comes up with an ambitious plan to change their fortunes. Of course, events don’t turn out exactly as Felix had planned, but, thankfully, their friends come to the rescue and Felix and Astrid have the chance to make a new life for themselves.

Louise Stothard


A Darkness of Dragons

Written by S. A. Patrick

Usborne   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1474945677

The first in the Songs of Magic series, this exciting story takes the tale of The Pied Piper of Hamelin and mixes it with dragons, music and three unlikely heroes, creating an unusual adventure. Patch is an apprentice piper who has been imprisoned for playing a forbidden tune. In a world where music has the power to control everything, not only rats, Patch discovers that their songs are being used for good and ill. Helped to escape by Wren, a young girl cursed by a sorcerer, and a fire-breathing dracogriff, Patch is determined to thwart the plans of the evil Piper of Hamelyn. This fast-paced, skillfully written, captivating adventure celebrates magic, bravery, ingenuity and the strength of friendship.

Louise Stothard


Indigo Island

Written by Susan Moore

Nosy Crow   £6.99

ISBN: 978-0857639585

Indigo Island is the third book in the Nat Walker trilogy by Susan Moore. In this final thrilling adventure Nat and her faithful robot dragon, Fizz, are in San Francisco having followed clues from her late parents. They are searching for the ancient sword, Gan Jiang. Nat must find it before her nemesis, Lang Liu, who plans to use its power to animate a robot army enabling him to take over the world. This is a fun and exciting page turner that will have young readers on the edge of their seats. Set in the future, Nat’s world resembles a computer game with hybrid robots, robot pets, and travel by hover-board. There is plenty here to spark young imaginations, especially those readers who are also gamers. There is action throughout, with the two young heroes being brave in the face of peril. There is enough backstory included to be able to read this third title in the series as a stand-alone, but why would you with such a gripping trilogy?

Jane Hall


My Messed-Up Life

Written by Susin Nielsen

Anderson   £7.99

ISBN: 978-1783445523

Pre-teen Violet is not happy because her dad has left his family in Vancouver to start a new life in L.A. with a younger wife and two new babies and her mum seems to have very low standards when it comes to finding a new partner. As an added irritant, Violet and her best friend, Phoebe, are constantly being harassed by the ‘popular’ girls at school. Violet decides to take things into her own hands, and she has the perfect man in mind for her Mum - George Clooney. Violet’s letters to George Clooney and her attempts to thwart her Mum’s potential love interests are comical. This is a funny book but with the tender underlying story of a young girl struggling to accept her parents’ break up. Violet is a feisty girl - some of her escapades are inspired, but they often land her in trouble, such as the cat poo trick, and tracking down George Clooney. Definitely, an entertaining read. Many of the secondary characters are well drawn and play a big role in Violet’s story. There is also a guest appearance from a big Hollywood star.

Jane Hall


The Book Case

Written and illustrated by Dave Shelton

David Fickling   £10.99

ISBN: 978-1910200544

After an unfortunate, unspecified incident at her old school Daphne is offered a place at St Rita’s School for Spirited Girls, an exclusive girl’s boarding school. She is given the task of helping in the school library, a mysterious edifice that has very few books, a terrifying cat and a student librarian, Emily Lime. What follows is a crime-mystery-comedy caper that is totally bizarre and thoroughly entertaining - think St Trinian’s meets Fawlty Towers and you’ll get the idea. Could this be the first in a new series of Emily Lime mysteries?

Yvonne Coppard


Charlie Green and the Knights of the Round Table

Written by Martyn Blunden

Troubador   £8.99

ISBN: 978-1789010268

Charlie Green is boy who knows all about time travel. When an elderly museum guide tells him about a miscarriage of justice at the Court of King Arthur at Camelot, Charlie decides to put it right. In fact, he wants to travel back in time and actually stop it happening. He, and the group of friends who go with him, meet all the main characters from Camelot - Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Galahad, Merlin and, of course, Morgana le Fay, plus a host of other characters, both good and bad. Does he succeed? You will have to read it to find out. It is a book of non-stop action, with a range of weird and wonderful characters - even in those parts of the book that are set in modern times. It is thoroughly enjoyable and will give huge pleasure to readers who enjoy books with a historical slant.

Pat Thompson


The Boy Who Hit Play

Written by Chloe Daykin

Faber & Faber   £6.99

ISBN: 978-0571326785

Elvis Crampton Lucas was found on a bench at a zoo, taken home in a Stetson hat and named after the first three vinyl records his ‘father’ picked off the shelf. On his twelfth birthday, Elvis decides to discover who left him on that bench, and why. All he has is a scrap of Norwegian newspaper, his ‘dad’ and his friend, Lloyd. Their journey to the north of Norway is constantly shadowed and threatened by a seriously scary tweed clad figure who is prepared to kill to prevent them reaching their journey’s end. Lloyd, a seriously flaky, country and western eccentric, sells all his possessions to fund the trip, but increasingly seems to be hiding secrets himself. As unpredictable and menacing as a Sherlock Holmes story, but with constant punctuations of humour, unexpectedly warm family feelings and a precarious trust in the people they meet along the way. The ending is quite unexpected, yet firmly sets in place the loose pieces of the jigsaw puzzle left lying about earlier. Curious, unmissable and deeply satisfying.

Tina Massey


Across the Divide

Written by Anne Booth

Catnip   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1910611111

The island of Lindisfarne may be beautiful and magical, but it’s a very long way from Olivia’s home. She is spending the school holiday with her dad because her mum has been arrested at a demonstration against the army base on the mainland. She really doesn’t want to be there as there are issues to be dealt with back home. Many people in Olivia’s home town, and in her school, have strong connections to the nearby army base and they aren’t particularly tolerant of pacifism. With a peace-campaigner mother and a grandfather who is a retired major, Olivia feels very torn. As she gets to know her father better and as Lindisfarne starts to work its magic, she is able to see her dilemma in a new light and she is helped by her rather surreal friendship with a mysterious and quaintly old fashioned young man called William. There are many examples of division in the book and Olivia’s situation raises many questions about, among other things, the role of the army, the accuracy of news reporting, and family loyalties.

Jan Lennon



Written by Charli Howard

Nosy Crow   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1788001700

Negotiating the last year of primary school and the transition to secondary, with friendships in flux and the strong pressure to conform, can be tricky for some children, as Charli Howard adroitly explores in this novel. Molly lives with her grandparents, her mum having left when she was small, and she dreams of becoming a champion swimmer. She is invited to train with the local club, which means early starts and lots of practice. However, her best friend Chloe, determined to be one of the “cool” girls at their new school, decrees that Chloe should give up swimming – it is so not the thing to do. And besides that she makes unkind comments about Molly’s size and shape. But Molly is determined not to give up the sport she loves, which leads to conflict, both within herself and with Chloe and other friends. Add in to the mix the return of her mother which increases the turmoil Molly is feeling and a tricky few months are in store. Learning to accept yourself as you are and following your own dreams is the important message of this heartwarming book.

Jayne Gould


Return to Rome

Written by Caroline Lawrence

Orion   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1510100336

The advantage of setting novels in Roman times is that historians know so much of the detail of daily life and its historical context. They know the character of individual Emperors, the battles fought, the conquests and the crimes committed by those who wanted to acquire and retain power. This all provides enormous inspiration from which the author extracts the known people and places and creates the stories of adventure and romance in this excellent series, Roman Quests. Bouda was orphaned and grew up as a ‘cutpurse’ on the streets of Londinium. It is believed that she was the granddaughter of Boudicca, most famous of the British that resisted the Roman invasions. Having inherited that spirit, courage and defiance, she is befriended by those from Rome that have every reason to want to usurp the evil Emperor Domitian. The idea that a small group of young rebels can find their way to Rome for the sole purpose of ‘removing’ the Emperor may seem outrageous, but that is their quest. How they achieve their purpose is the story that unfolds in this gripping tale of ancient times.

Trevor Thompson


Will You Catch Me?

Written by Jane Elson

Hodder   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1444927788

Nell care for a small menagerie of animals and fish, plus an assortment of bugs and beasts that she keeps in jam jars on her windowsill. But she also cares for her alcoholic mum, and she’s tired - tired of trying to hide it from everyone, tired of being bullied at school, tired of always worrying about her mum and tired because she gets very little sleep. When a new teacher starts teaching the class about King Charles ll and Nell Gwyn, she feels that there are so many similarities that Nell Gwyn must be her honorary ancestor. Chosen to play Nell Gwyn in the school pageant she starts to see visions of Nell. The impact on her life is immense and leads her to hatch a plan to try to change things. Written in the first person this is a moving story, depicting the chaotic homelife of a child in a family with addiction. Jane Elson’s gift is for making the reader walk in Nell’s shoes and really gain some understanding of what a child in her situation could be going through. A thought-provoking reading experience that also celebrates community and friendship, which includes contact information for the National Association for the Children of Alcoholics.

Annie Everall


Aru Shah and the End of Time

Written by Roshani Chokshi

Scholastic   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1407185798

After lighting a cursed lamp in her mother’s museum, Aru Shah is forced into an adventure that takes us into the amazing world of Hindu mythology. Aru and her long-lost half-sister are the soul children of the gods, reincarnated heroes who must save the world from the creature unleased from the lamp. However, they must face many foes and challenges before they are equipped to handle their nemesis. The writing crackles with wit and a fascinating array of mythological places and creatures – all seen with a modern twist, from the night bizarre to the wise-cracking pigeon who mentors the sisters. Roshani Chokshi is doing for Hindu mythology what Rick Riordan has done for Greek mythology, and it won’t be long before Aru Shah is as well-known as Percy Jackson.

Benjamin Scott


Titles for Young Teenage Readers


How to Bee

Written by Bren MacDibble

Old Barn   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1910646441

Peony lives in a future, dystopian Australia where the gulf between the rich and the poor has deepened and where small children are trained to do the pollinating work of bees. This is a job to which Peony aspires, but before she can get there, her mother drags her off to the city, against her will, to earn money working in the house of one of the rich farm owners. There, Peony befriends the daughter of the house and they are able to help each other out of very different, but equally challenging, situations. Initially, I thought that the story would focus on the new agricultural reality of this near future, and on how Peony and her family survive. On one level it does address this, but there is a lot more complexity as Peony has to accept the limitations of her relationship with her mother and recognise the family that she truly values. In that way it is speculative fiction that remains relatable for young people right now and doesn’t lose sight of character development. Some tough ideas but an ultimately hopeful message – both personally and environmentally.

Annalise Taylor


Beyond the Odyssey

Written by Maz Evans

Chicken House   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1910655993

This is the third book in the Who Let the Gods Out? series and things are not improving for Eliot. He's in trouble at school and although his father is now out of prison, this seems to be making things worse at home, rather than better. With his mother’s health deteriorating and the Gods wreaking havoc, trying to keep welfare officers at bay is becoming impossible. Maz Evans cleverly combines mythology and mischief to create a riotous romp. In these books, Greek mythology is brought to life with an introduction to many figures from the ancient stories. The gods are shown as fallible and selfish, yet are redeemed by moments of kindness and vulnerability. However, Elliot is also facing some very real, serious issues; in the midst of all the humour, his role as a young carer is sensitively portrayed with his love for his mother, his anxiety and the realities of bearing great responsibility at such a young age forming a poignant contrast. In addition to this, his father has been in prison. These elements of the story are woven seamlessly into the plot, creating a great read. Well worth reading!

Sue Wilsher


Optimists Die First

Written by Susin Nielsen

Andersen   £7.99

ISBN: 978-1783446223

A sudden tragic bereavement leaves Petula in the grip of overpowering anxiety. Her inability to deal with her grief and guilt has cost her the support of her best friend and she is achingly lonely. Petula sees only the darkest, most terrible possibilities in every situation. So, when Jacob joins the school’s therapy group, she is horrified by his relentless optimism and refusal to let his own devastating experience pull him under - at least on the surface. This is a classic rom-com story of fizzing hormonal attraction simmering beneath initial tension and repulsion. Jacob and Petula’s journey to the inevitable happy ending is warm, humorous and sufficiently ‘twisty’ in the telling to keep you reading.

Yvonne Coppard


Orphan, Monster, Spy

Written by Matt Killeen

Usborne   £7.99

The main character is all that the title claims - she has to be in order to survive.  Opening with a horrific car crash which leaves her orphaned, this book holds the reader in its grip from the very first page. Events unfold in Nazi Germany from August 1939, which, though fictitious, are based on Matt Killeen’s extensive research. The Captain is credible because British spies were in Germany then and because he is depicted credibly as remote, abrupt, quick-thinking and ruthless with just glimmers of humanity. Sarah is credible because we learn of her background, her theatrical upbringing and because tenacity is a true human characteristic when tested to the extreme. The allegiance of the two is successful because it is unlikely and, at first, unwelcomed but for its provision of a shield. Matt Killeen is a brilliant writer, skilled at measuring and mixing the dosage of graphic detail, action and background information and timing its delivery so that reading this is addictive, exhausting and terrifying. An astounding first novel, the sequel to which will be a must next year.

Gill Roberts


The Goat

Written by Anne Fleming

Pushkin   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1782692140

Kid goes to Manhattan for a while, accompanying her mother who is performing in a new show. Having left behind her beloved cat, she is predictably a little homesick, but soon she finds herself looking after her uncle’s dog, named Cat. As she settles into life in New York, visiting museums with her dad, she befriends Will. Together they set out to find out whether there really is a goat living on the roof of the building, as some people seem to think. But ‘Why a goat?’ and ‘How did it get there?’ are just some of the many questions the reader needs answered. Narrated from the viewpoints of a number of eccentric characters, including the goat, the story unfolds, drawing the reader into a world where idiosyncrasies are the norm and where a goat on a rooftop in a city can bring people together and heal the deepest of wounds. Unique, tender and very funny, this quirky story is not to be missed.

 Lucy Russell



Information Titles


10 Reasons to Love a Whale

Written by Catherine Barr

Illustrated by Hanako Clulow

Frances Lincoln   £9.99

ISBN: 978-1786030139

An attractive hardback book with a whale-shaped hole in the cover. Text and illustration are well-matched. We are given ten reasons why we should love whales, and five ways we can show that we love them. Interesting information is presented in an accessible way, such as explaining a whale’s heart is the size of a small car, and that a blue whale’s tongue is as heavy as an elephant.  The section on whales as globetrotters has a clear coloured world map that helps us understand the routes whales follow. The picture of the blue whale’s giant mouth is effective, as is the krill cloud, and the fact that blue whales eat forty million krill every day. An excellent book for children who want to learn more about the natural world, and for promoting environmental awareness and conservation. (3+)

Brenda Marshall

Planet Awesome!

Written by Stacy McAnulty

Illustrated by David Litchfield

Faber & Faber   £6.99

ISBN: 978-0571345441

A charming book in which the text is spoken by Planet Earth herself. This creates an immediacy that makes the information accessible to young children. Facts are clearly presented and fun to read. The illustrations are amusing. Planet Earth introduces her siblings in the solar system, as well as her friend, the moon, and then describes key moments in her first 4.54 billion years. The whole book has light touch, and is a perfect, introduction to Planet Earth for young children. (4+)

Brenda Marshall



One Day on Our Blue Planet: In the Ocean

Written and illustrated by Ella Bailey

Flying Eye   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1911171416

The beauty of this books starts with the endpapers, showing illustrations and the unusual names of such sea creatures as the coconut octopus, the pineapplefish and the harlequin sweetlips. We follow the bottlenose dolphin and its pod as they go on their travels through the Pacific Ocean, encountering various other sea mammals and fish in the beautiful Great Barrier Reef and beyond. Children can try and spot the creatures they have been introduced to in the endpapers, throughout the book, which will lead to many re-readings. With just enough basic facts and stunning illustrations, readers will learn about life under the sea, which is a perfect introduction for those studying the topic in school. Other titles in the same excellent series include In the Rainforest, In the Antarctic and In the Savannah. (4+)

Nicole Jordan

The Awesome Night Sky

Written by Kay Barnham

Illustrated by Maddie Frost

Wayland   £12.99

ISBN: 978-1526305947

This is one of a series of topic books for young children. Bright colourful illustrations illuminate the simple text which introduces the night sky, the solar system, and a selection of objects found in space, including the Hubble telescope and the International Space Station, as well as planets, comets and asteroids. The text is direct and informative, with short sentences, and is set in a clear and readable, slightly informal, font of a generous size. The pictures are clear and full of activity as two children are shown exploring the subjects on each page, accompanied by one interested dog! This is a very accessible and informative introduction to the night sky, and includes additional reading and guidance for extra activities, aimed at parents and teachers. This is a useful book that would read aloud well and should stimulate an interest in astronomy. (5+)

Liz Dubber


Dogs in Space

Written by Vix Southgate

Illustrated by Iris Deppe

Wren & Rook   £12.99

ISBN: 978-1526360571

During the space race of the 1950s and early 1960s, America and the Soviet Union were working on sending living creatures into orbit, to pave the way for the first manned spaceflight. During this time, the Soviet Union launched more than fifty dogs, which had to be a certain size to fit into a spacecraft. These were often strays from the streets of Moscow and other cities, specially selected for their size and temperament. Several of these canine cosmonauts became celebrities, feted around the country, including the two whose story is told in this book, Belka and Strelka. It features bold, colourful illustrations in the style of Soviet propaganda children’s books, with an engaging and informative text. It could be used as an exciting story in its own right or as an introduction to a topic on space travel, with children encouraged to carry out further research. Overall, this is a book I would happily recommend. (6+)

Jayne Gould


What on Earth?: Trees

Written by Kevin Warwick

Illustrated by Paulina Morgan

QED   £8.99

ISBN: 978-1784939311

A colourful, accessible information book, ideal for KS2 topics, that presents a lively mixture of facts and activities for children to explore. Types of trees and leaves, their ages, folklore, photosynthesis and the wildlife they support are just some of the topics covered in this book. Lots of practical activities bring this topic to life with plenty of illustration, colour and bite-size text throughout. It will provide a ready supply of facts and lesson ideas for teachers too. Highly recommended. (6+)

Julia Wills.



What on Earth?: Robots

Written by Jenny Fretland VanVoorst

Illustrated by Paulina Morgan

QED   £9.99

ISBN: 978-1784935603

A bright, inventive and informative book for KS2 that will sit well with Design and Technology topics at school. Lively illustrations, lots of practical activities and an accessible prose that taught me some things I didn’t know about robots, too! There are plenty of creative activities for children fuelling projects that will thrive on curiosity. Covering the history of robots, their technology and uses and even some robot poetry, the practical projects include making a robotic hand and robot costume. Huge fun! (6+)

Julia Wills.


Beans to Chocolate

Written by Sarah Ridley

Wayland   £11.99

ISBN: 978-0778751298

This book is the latest addition to Wayland’s Where Food Comes From series, which also features Bees to Honey, Blossom to Apple and Seeds to Bread. Simple text and plenty of bright photographs introduce early primary age children to the complex process of cocoa production, transport and chocolate manufacture. Readers are urged to buy Fairtrade chocolate and shown how paying producers a fair price for their goods enables poor communities to improve their lives. Excellent series. (7+)

Paul Dowswell


Explorers: BUGS!

Written by Nick Forshaw

Illustrated by William Exley

What on Earth   £9.99

ISBN: 978-0995576605

This book is an excellent introduction to the world of insects. Readers accompany Agent Eagle, the Senior Librarian of the Eagle-Eyed Explorer Club, as he undertakes his mission to produce a report on bugs. We look at the history of the creatures, why they are so successful, bug scientists, fossils and how bugs support our environment today. There are beautiful illustrations by William Exley and the pages are attractively designed. A special feature of the book is a removable 1.8-metre-long timeline which features more than a hundred bugs from 520 million years ago to the present day. There are quizzes so readers can check their knowledge. The book is published in co-operation with the Natural History Museum. (7+)

Brenda Marshall


Roald Dahl's James's Giant Bug Book
Written by Barry Hutchinson

Illustrated by Quentin Blake
Puffin   £7.99

ISBN: 978-0241322215

This is a must-have for all Roald Dahl fans and also those with a fascination for all that is minibeasts. Inspired by James and the Giant Peach, readers can learn all about the insects that James got to know and love in the original story. Packed with facts about the insects and lots of ideas such as how to make a bug hotel, this is the perfect companion to the much-loved novel. The activities are well explained with clear instructions and the facts about the insects are comprehensive enough to capture the children’s imagination. With puzzles, an Insectopaedia and fantastic drawings, this is ideal for young pupils learning about minibeasts. (7+)

Nicole Jordan


Emmeline Pankhurst

Written by Haydn Kaye

Illustrated by Michael Cotton -Russell

David Fickling   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1910989616

Part of the First Names series of fun, lively and highly illustrated biographies that introduces some truly amazing individuals who lived incredible lives, to an audience of young readers. This tells the story of Emmeline Pankhurst, the Suffragette Movement and the battle to win the vote for women. Written in a very readable and accessible style and interspersed with humorous cartoon style illustrations and some quotes from Emmeline Pankhurst, it packs in a great deal of information and really gives a good feel for her life and times and the journey to winning the vote. A good index supports its use as an information book but the lovely approach and style of writing makes it a book that can just be read as a story about this period. This will have real appeal for its intended audience and I look forward to seeing future titles in the series. (7+)

Annie Everall


Young, Gifted and Black

Written by Jamia Wilson

Illustrated by Andrea Pippins

Wide Eyed   £14.99

ISBN: 978-1786030887

There is a noticeable lack of black characters in UK children’s books, so this compilation of 52 famous black people is a timely antidote. Nina Simone, the author of the song featured in the title, is one of the many musicians included. There are also explorers (Matthew Henson), humanitarians (Mary Seacole), novelists (Malorie Blackman) and, of course, presidents (Barack Obama – here with his wife Michelle). Athletes and pop singers also feature prominently. Lively illustrations and easy to read potted biographies make this attractive book a fine addition to any primary school library. (7+)

Paul Dowswell

Red Alert

Written by Catherine Barr

Illustrated by Anne Wilson

Otter-Barry   £12.99

ISBN: 978-1910959961

Meet 15 endangered animals fighting to survive who share our planet and are in urgent need of our help if they are to survive. Readers choose a habitat, pick an animal that lives there and then find the story about the dangers these creatures face. Animals are hunted for their meat or their skins or their scales, their living spaces are being polluted or demolished, and insecticides and other chemicals are poisoning their food. Not all the animals featured are sweet and appealing, but they still have a place in the ecosystem and we need them. The book uses beautiful, double-page spreads, and colour illustrations rather than photographs, which makes it accessible to a younger audience. A fact box in each section details the kind and level of threat faced by each of these endangered animals and a section at the end of book highlights ways in which everyone can help to raise awareness. (7+)

Jan Lennon



Written by Isabel Thomas

Illustrated by Daniel Egnéus

Bloomsbury   £12.99

ISBN: 978-1408889756

Described as “An Evolution Story”, this title about the peppered moth is an enriching visual and factual portrayal of how the predominantly light speckled moths of the early 1800s, fifty years later, became mainly charcoal-coloured, having had to adapt to a changing world of steam trains, factories and pollution. Amazingly, it then adapted yet again, in the mid twentieth century, as reduced air pollution laws meant that tree barks became lighter once more. It really is an absolutely fascinating book with marvellous illustrations which perfectly complement the also captivating text. Being an excellent introduction to Darwin’s theories of natural selection and evolution for young children, no school or library should be without it. (8+)

Gill Roberts


The Little Leonardo da Vinci

Written by Catherine de Duve

Kate’Art Editions   £6.99

ISBN: 978-2875750907

Part of an excellent series examining the life and work of great artists, this title takes an accessible and visually ravishing look at Renaissance man extraordinaire, Leonardo da Vinci. Its 32 pages cover the time in which he lived, contemporaries such as Botticelli, Raphael and Michelangelo, and detailed examinations of some of his most famous inventions and paintings. Did you know Leonardo was friends with Sandro Botticelli, creator of that famous painting, The Birth of Venus? The two of them opened a tavern together, but it closed after a few months, inspiring Leonardo to invent various cooking machines and utensils. (8+)

Paul Dowswell


Unlock Your Imagination

Illustrated by Peter Judson

Dorling Kindersley   £16.99

ISBN: 978-0241316597

Designed to encourage children to be creative, to unlock their imaginations and to keep their minds engaged, this contains 250 indoor and outdoor activities to “ boredom busters”. They feature a range of activities including, tag games, drawing games, writing a story, things to do with a piece of paper, making a flick book, chilling out and many more. A good double-page spread at the beginning of the book explains how the book works. Each activity is numbered so children can keep track of the ones they have done, a warning symbol lets children know this is an activity they need an adult to help, a checklist outlines everything they will need before they start and a padlock indicates when they need to unlock their own imagination and creative ideas. Colourfully illustrated with clear instructions. The book also has a pocket at the back which contains a double-sided board with counters and press out dice to enable children to learn to play chess, checkers, draughts and snakes and ladders. Children will really enjoy exploring the book and taking part in the activities. Great for use by families and in classrooms. (8+)

Annie Everall


100 Screen-Free Ways to Beat Boredom

Written by Kris Hirschmann

Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli

QED   £9.99

ISBN: 978-1784932640

The simple message behind this excellent book is, “Pocket your smartphone, put away your tablet and unplug your games console.” It’s packed with activity ideas and step-by-step projects for children to do at home, outside and on car journey’s, without using their technology. From origami puppets, rainbow bubble clouds and travel bingo to number plate checklists, ‘Would you rather?’ and ‘Guess the song!’, it includes something for everyone. Clear instructions, amusing and lively illustrations and a host of great ideas that don’t need lots of special materials make this is a great book for families, classrooms and libraries. (9+)

Annie Everall


Great Voyages

Written by Deborah Patterson

British Library   £14.99

ISBN: 978-0712352857

This book, containing fascinating detail of 15 different adventures, charts an Age of Discovery and Exploration, beginning with the travels of Marco Polo to China in 1271 and ending with the space race to the Moon in 1969. Some are well known - Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage to circumnavigate the earth and Charles Darwin’s study of the natural history of the Galapagos Islands. Maria Sibylla Merian’s entomological studies in the rainforests of South America, Zheng He, the greatest Chinese explorer of his age and Gertrude Bell’s passion for Arab peoples and archaeology, maybe less well known. Maps, charts, drawings and photographs, illustrate the wonders and the excitement, along with the dangers, hardships and exotic locations, that these intrepid men and women encountered on their journeys. (9+)

Richard Monte


Dear Katie

Written by Katie Thistleton

Orion   £7.99

ISBN: 978-1510102132

An ‘agony aunt’ style guide offering advice on real life problems for young people and written by TV and radio presenter Katie Thistleton, who is also a mental health campaigner and an ambassador for the mental health charity Place2Be. 10-16 year olds were asked to email or write to her anonymously about any problems they were having. They included, “I don’t think my mum loves me as much as my sibling.”, “My stepdad calls me chunky as a joke but it upsets me.”, “I think my dad might be racist because of the way he speaks about other people.”, “I’m really struggling at school with the amount of homework.”, “I’m worried about starting a new school.”, “I’m unhappy with the way I look.” The question or concern is outlined and advice is given in a warm, witty, practical way. The advice also includes exercises, ideas, tips and quizzes. The book contains a useful list of other support organisations that young people can turn to if needed. Overall, a really well-designed book that will appeal, containing some thoughtful, excellent advice and written in a style to which young people can easily relate. (10+)

Annie Everall


Making with Sound

Written by Anna Claybourne

Wayland   £12.99

ISBN: 978-1526305466

This Science Makers series aims to make science accessible by encouraging primary children to make their own wonderful machines and devices. Clear step-by-step instructions show the reader how to assemble their own musical instruments, communication devices, and even a real working vinyl record player. Anna Claybourne also includes potted biographies of famous sound scientists such as Thomas Edison, Jean-Baptiste Biot, inventor of the speaking tube, and Delia Derbyshire who created the unworldly sounds used in Ron Grainger’s Dr Who theme. Other titles in the series include Making with Forces and Making with Living Things. (Family)

Paul Dowswell



Written and illustrated by Adrienne Barman

Wide-Eyed   £14.99

ISBN: 978-1786031389

Adrienne Barman has produced something rare, if not unique, in this beautifully produced sequel to her best-selling Creaturepedia. This time she explores the plant world in a fresh, new way that will entertain and inform the whole family. Bright, full colour illustrations group plants into categories, some conventional (sand lovers, garden vegetables), some not so (confused fruits, imposters). Bite-sized snippets of text convey weird and wonderful facts. Think ‘picture book meets botanical encyclopaedia with a handful of comedy thrown in’ - a beautiful reference book for children and adults to share. (Family)
Yvonne Coppard