Friday, 1 October 2010

a range of new reviews

Ways to Trap a Yeti
Written by Annie Dalton
Barrington Stoke £4.99
ISBN: 978-1842997611
Joe wakes each morning in trepidation that this may be the day that he becomes yet another victim of The Countdown Crew and the humiliation such a meeting entails. He tries to keep his worries from Gramps, Gran and his sister Molly but to no avail. To make Joe feel better Gramps lets the children go with him to a sale at the big house that was once the home of Lord Percy who disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Seeing an old wooden chest Joe persuades Gramps to buy it and upon investigation manages to not only solve the mystery but to also instigate the bullies come-uppance! This story addresses the very real problem of cyber-bullying. Though addressing a serious issue it does so with humour. Though other victims may not get the assistance that Joe manages to find, it does contain the basis of a powerful message that bullies are ultimately cowards.
Heather Blackham

Strange Hiding Place
Written by Graham Marks
Bloomsbury £5.99
ISBN: 978-1846470332
Dez is a bored eleven-year old boy on his summer holidays driving through France with his adoptive parents until a catastrophic event turns his life upside down. Everything he has known has gone and he enters a strange world that he has only previously encountered playing on computer games and watching television. Dez finds out that he carries within him part of a vital secret. A secret he shares with two other children. This is a story that reaches across continents and space combining threats, danger and metamorphic aliens that are literally out of this world. All this is nicely juxtaposed by elements recalled from ‘normal’ life that Dez holds on to as an attempt to try and keep a grip on reality. The story also explores the relationship of friends and the gaining of trust. A thrilling read previously published as a trilogy.
Heather Blackham

The Sticky Doll Trap
Written and illustrated by Jessica Souhami
Frances Lincoln £11.99
ISBN: 978-1847800176
This is a wonderful retelling of a much-loved story that appears across many cultures. Hare is the lazy, wilful creature that refuses to help all the other animals dig for much needed water. The animals decide that Hare will not reap the benefits of all their hard work so they take turns in standing guard over the waterhole. But Hare is far too clever for them and so, in turn, tricks each animal. The angry animals trap Hare and, while they ponder how to punish him, he pleads with them to do anything but ‘p-p-p-please don’t throw me into the spiny, thorny bushes’. A repentant Hare or just another trick? The simple but vibrant coloured paper montage illustrations are a wonderful accompaniment to the story.
Heather Blackham

Bedtime Hullabaloo! Written by David Conway Illustrated by Charles Fuge £10.99 ISBN:9780340981252
A mysterious noise is keeping all the inhabitants of the Silly Savannah wide awake. One by one they join the procession to discover the source of the noise until they find it and everyone gets a surprise.
Charles Fuge is a master of characterisation through illustration. The distinctively expressive faces of his savannah creatures are immediately compelling and his young audience will enjoy picking out the different animals as the cast grows page by page.
The story is a familiar idea but that need not be a problem for this age group. What lets the book down from a read aloud point of view is its erratic scanning and rhyme scheme; some sections alliterate, some do not, there are rhyming sections but these are interrupted. As a reader it is difficult to get into a rhythm.
However with such strong visual appeal from cover to cover this book is bound to be chosen by children again and again. It is a beautiful example of the quality of Charles Fuge’s work.
Annalise Taylor

Polly’s Puffin. Written and Illustrated by Sarah Garland. £6.99. ISBN: 9781847800275. Reprint.
Polly generously shares her favourite puffin toy with baby brother Jim whilst out on a shopping trip, only to have him throw it into the hood of a stranger’s jacket. A pursuit ensues through various familiar urban settings until girl and toy are fortuitously reunited.
This is a new edition of a book first published in 1988 but still just as comforting in its familiar situations, settings and characters. As with Garland’s Coming and Doing series, family members are rushed, raucous and rumpled. Mum is trying to manage many things at once, Polly finds her brother hard work, Jim is oblivious and as boisterous as any toddler you might know. Therein lays some of the book’s appeal to younger children. Along with this familiarity are the pleasures of the illustrations; full of things to spot, details to talk about and clues to the whereabouts of Puffin. Young listeners will enjoy spotting the man in the duffel coat before Polly and her mum. Perfect to read curled up with one of your own or to a bigger group.
Annalise Taylor

The Talent Show. Written and Illustrated by Jo Hodgkinson. Andersen Press. £10.99. ISBN: 9781849390460
When it comes to rhyming picture books what every parent or librarian wants are bright illustrations and lines that scan. That is exactly what The Talent Show delivers. Bear, Lion, Croc and Snake have decided to start up a band in order to enter a talent show. They laugh and turn away a small red bird who wants to join them – he is too small and after all only a bird. The band is sounding great but needs a singer. When a tall stranger auditions they are impressed by his voice and generous enough to admit their mistake when his true, small identity is revealed. The message of judging on talent, not on size, is clearly made but perhaps the most important thing for the young audience will be the rhythm and rhyme of the language, the clear illustrations and the opportunity to guess the truth from pictures before the words reveal all.
Annalise Taylor

George and Flora's Secret Garden Written by Jo Elworthy
Illustrated by Ley Honor Roberts
Random House £5.99
George and Flora's mother is expecting another baby, and although they are excited, it seems such a very long time to wait. Then Grandpa comes up with the idea of making a lovely food garden, as a surprise for their parents and the new baby. Alongside the story of the creation of the garden runs a calendar of gardeners' tips AND updates on how Mum and the growing baby are getting ready for the birth. The illustrations are sumptuous, colourful, and immediately engaging. As I was reading this beautifully produced book, the News was full of the Coalition Government's plans for swingeing financial cuts, and warnings from a former Tory Chancellor about taking care not to alienate what he called 'middle England' - well, if it does exist, this book encapsulates its values. George and Flora have two loving parents, a grandpa who has unlimited time for them, a healthy attitude to food and exercise (not a computer or Nintendo in sight) and a garden big enough to grow food in. If only…
Yvonne Coppard

Frog is Frog Written and Illustrated by Max Velthuijs
Frog Finds a Friend
AndersenPress £5.99 each
With its refreshingly uninhibited existential observations and endearingly illustrated characters, the ever-enduring Frog series never fails to entertain and inspire. Here are two more newly designed and re-released installments, bringing the joys of Frog and friends to a new generation.
In Frog is Frog, Velthuijs explores the theme of identity, imparting the message that it's better to be content with one's lot than wish for things beyond your reach. When Frog stops thinking that “being a frog is the best thing in the world” and starts comparing himself to his peers, he feels inadequate at not having their qualities (flying, cooking, reading). But when a wise friend reminds him that “I can't swim and leap like you do...because I am a hare. And you are a frog, and we all love you”, Frog's confidence is suddenly restored.
Diverting somewhat from the more transparent parables of other Frog books, Frog Finds a Friend veers slightly towards the surreal in its story of unlikely friendship. Despite the scepticism of his friends, Frog decides to take home a toy bear that he finds in the woods and teach it to speak. Surely enough, after much love and attention, the bear comes to life and becomes a good friend to Frog. One day Bear decides to go back to where he came from, leaving Frog distraught. A happy ending ensues when Bear returns, announcing: “You are my dearest friend and I belong here, with you. I know that now”. There are many lessons one could take from this tale, but I like to think it reflects the Confucian notion that “If you love something set it free; if it returns it is yours forever”. Exactly where the toy bear coming to life bit fits into that theory is a bit of a mystery, though I'm sure there is a message there somewhere, too.
Rowan Stanfield

The 10pm Connection Written by Kate de Goldi Templar Publishing £5.99
Things begin badly for Frankie Parsons one February morning - no milk for his cereal, the wrong things for his packed lunch, and no bus money. At the end of the day, as always, a 10 p.m. talk with his sympathetic mother soothes him, but somehow the next day a new set of worries appear. Can his new friend, Sydney help to break this cycle of anxiety? When Sydney asks questions no one else dares to ask, Frankie must face new challenges which almost break him in this sensitive and moving novel from New Zealand.
Marianne Adey

The Prince of Mist Written by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Orion £9.99
Originally published as a book for young adults The Prince of Mist has had hugely successful sales in Spain, spending two years at the top of the best-seller chart. Part of a series this story is set in a small town on the Atlantic coast. Max’s father, a watchmaker, buys a run-down property with a metal-fenced, overgrown garden, dominated by a group of ghostly statues. The discovery of an old film leads to unsettling dreams involving a distant legend, a sunken ship and dangerous explorations.
I once owned a book called Prepare to Shed Them Now, a collection of Victorian ballads. Zafon’s prose (or the translator’s) has the same, slightly overblown, melodramatic feel to it. People throw steely gloves at each other; their faces light up; they eye strangers with mild suspicion; stare at their food unenthusiastically; indulge in inquisitive glances and; occasionally regard someone with piercing eyes. (Is eye piercing a new form of body ornamentation?) The Result of this style of writing was, for me, a turn-off. My high expectations were unfulfilled.
Jack Ousbey

First Words Written by Dawn Sirett
Illustrations by Rachael Parfitt and Victoria Palastanga
Dorling Kindersley £7.99
Brightly coloured, everyday objects abound on every page and young children love finding and naming those they recognise. They also learn about new things and are encouraged to extend their vocabulary in a fun way. Searching for the buzzing bee on every page is a challenge they enjoy and there are many other stimulating surprises throughout. Divided into simple subject areas - In the Garden, Colours, Bathtime, Playschool ... - many conversations are easily initiated and there is a helpful Notes for Parents feature at the beginning of the book.
Jenny Blanch

When I Dream of ABC Created by Mr Henry Fisher
Top That! £6.99
This book does more than just introduce the alphabet. A clear, inviting cover invite young children to dip into the pages and enjoy the quirky illustrations. Each capital letter and short amusing text faces a witty, dreamlike illustration. Plenty of detail in the soothing, pastel coloured illustrations stir the imagination and bring warmth and satisfaction to the reading experience, whilst the final train of letters gently reinforce the awareness of print.
Jenny Blanch

Eyebaby Created by David Salariya
Scribblers £5.99

Striking, high-contrast, black and white pictures encourage a baby’s visual skills to develop - focusing, tracking, scanning are all helped by sharing this book with very young children. Having fun with the animals, making their noises, talking about their names are all actions that will help them to become familiar with speech, listening and conversation. It can never be too soon to talk and share books with them.
Rosemary Grimley

When the World is Ready for Bed Written by Gillian Shields
Illustrated by Anna Currey
Bloomsbury £5.99
A padded jacket and foil star tempt tired children to snuggle down to share this ‘end-of-the-day’ classic story. With echoes of Beatrix Potter, a gently lyrical text tells of the routines families follow as night time approaches, from eating supper and chatting about the day’s activities to cleaning teeth and climbing into bed. Warm water colour illustrations, on strong board pages ,
complement the rhyming words and capture the passing of time, with light fading then returning to herald a new day. Very comforting.
Rosemary Grimley

Errol and his Extraordinary Nose Written by David Conway
Illustrated by Roberta Angaramo
Gullane £10.99
Poor Errol doubts there is anything special about him at all and then when Mr Geoffrey's the Giant Tortoise announces there's to be a talent contest it's almost too much and, by bedtime, the little elephant is in tears. Luckily, Dad comes to the rescue and all is well.
This is a warm and sensitive story with lovely illustrations dealing with the timeless problem of self confidence. The six and seven year olds with whom I read it, really enjoyed it and talked readily about how unkind it is to make fun of others.
Gill Roberts

Rhino? What Rhino? Written and illustrated by Sarah Horne
Hodder £10.99
Rhino What Rhino has a bold cover with instant appeal. The eponymous rhino escapes from the zoo, because he is bored and lonely, leaving a trail of destruction as he finds food, clothes and somewhere to sleep. Confusion abounds as the pig, the cow et al are blamed for the disarray and no one will believe them that a rhino is responsible. Caryl Hart's second picture book will appeal to anyone with a sense of fun and silliness. The writing is large making it ideal for very young readers, with the constant rhyming and repetition e.g. “Rhino what rhino, that cannot be true, there's only one rhino and he's in the zoo” making it fun for sharing. Sarah Horne's imaginative illustrations are wonderful, perfectly complementing the silly story; who could resist the large blue rhino and look out for the little extras on each page. There is also a strong message about being selfish and how better it is to share, which parents may appreciate. A real delight.
Jane Hall

Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie on the Road
Written and illustrated by Joel Stewart
Doubleday £10.99
Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie are too busy hooting to go to sleep. They’re so noisy they get thrown out of town. But their hooting is just the thing to wake a sleeping princess, and before long they are on the road as travelling players with the princess and a dragon. This second adventure for Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie is a gentle, funny take on the theme of the boisterous child who has too much energy to go to bed. The characters are allowed lots of scope for noisy play before they finally tire of hooting. Joel Stewart’s illustrations have a quiet, vintage feel which helps the story wind down to a sleepy conclusion as the characters are lulled to sleep with a song. Just the thing for a bedtime read.
Stella Madden

I Love Bugs! Written and illustrated by Emma Dodds
Orchard Books £10.99
A story for all small children with a fascination for creepy-crawly creatures. The bright and bouncy text leads young entymologists on a foray through a garden. Ladybirds, bees, snails, centipedes, butterflies, moths are introduced in the vibrant artwork - all respectfully observed. The use of shadows in the final pages adds to the surprise!
Rosemary Grimley

Baby Ruby Bawled Written by Malaika Rose Stanley
Illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max
Tamarind Books
Many big brothers and sisters will relate to this book. Many will have a baby in the family who cries incessantly and won’t be comforted.
Baby Ruby is one such infant. Theo loves his sister but nothing stops her from bawling. She is fed, bathed, changed, rocked, walked, driven - nothing stops her. Mum, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle all try to sooth her but when big brother Theo has a try, when all the adults are exhausted, things change for the better. A fun picture books with bold, bright illustrations that are truly engaging for young and old.
Jayne Howarth

My Uncle’s Dunkirk Written by Mick Manning
Illustrated by Brita Granstrom
Franklin Watts £10.99
Writing in a restrained matter-of-fact style Mick Manning tells a true story. There’s a refrain throughout of “But he never spoke about it ...” inviting the question “Why not?”.
The pictures give the answer, showing in detail what happened. Dramatic but never gung ho, they depict the horrors of the retreat and rescue - for some. Though 338,226 soldiers were rescued, thousands died. Facsimiles of contemporary documents help create the atmosphere of the time. Alternate pages contrast the war torn beaches of Dunkirk in 1940 with a peaceful seaside today. A marvellous introduction to young people who want to know more about war and peace - especially for those interested in World War II.
Julia Jarman

When Willy Went to the Wedding Written and illustrated by Judith Kerr
HarperCollins £5.99 (R)
This is a wonderful classic by judith Kerr with a characteristically simple text and pictures which say so much.
Willy’s grown-up sister is getting married and Willy is very disappointed when everyone says his pets are not allowed to come to the wedding. He has the important job of holding his sister’s train and smart blue suit to wear which has the right sized pockets for his hamster and frog. But just bringing two pets doesn’t seem to be enough and to Willy’s delight, and the horror of the other guests, his cat and her three kittens decide to follow him. And, of course, all the pets want to be included in the wedding photo and from then on things just get worse. But none of it is Willy’s fault; he can’t help it if his pets want to be involved! Willy is in disgrace and his Aunt has fainted in shock at the sight of what she thinks is mouse on the wedding cake when Bruce, his new brother-in-law saves the day.
A funny book to savour and enjoy time and time again.
Louise Stothard

A Walk in the Wild Woods Written by Lis Jones
Illustrated by Jim Coplestone
Frances Lincoln £11.99
Or How Foxes Aren’t Really Baddies. Through the vehicle of a fictional walk in the woods for Ruby, Rabby (a toy rabbit) and Daddy, the reader is offered real information about foxes that give a corrective picture of this much-maligned creature. Foxes have to eat rabbits because they can’t get their food from the shops, they don’t attack people, they have fantastic sight, smell and hearing. The Foxy in the story even manages to secretly return Rabby when Ruby drops him. The book intends to demystify the outdoors and encourage children to enjoy willdwood adventures.
Stella Madden

Tall Story Written by Candy Gourlay
David Fickling Books £10.99
Part realistic, part fairy story, this extremely enjoyable novel succeeds at both levels. Its plot describes what happens to a close-knit family after the arrival of Bernardo, an eight-foot son previously living with relations in the Philippines. This was because he was unable to get a visa to join his mother and step-father in Britain. Already legendary in the small mountain area he comes from, Bernardo has to come to terms with his sister Andi and the demands of school life in a new country. United by a common skill in basketball, the pair end happily in a riot of wish-fulfillment, which is only fair considering the way that previous wishes in this story had gone so disastrously wrong. Also due to be published in the Philippines, this totally charming novel deserves to do well.
Nicholas Tucker

The Lambton Curse Written by Malachy Doyle
Illustrated by Dylan Gibson
Barrington Stoke £5.99
978 -1842997574
Young Lambton is a wilful lad, much lacking in manners, and doesn't take kindly to advice from an old man who is genuinely trying to warn him that the creature on the end of his rod is no fish but really The Worm of the Wild. And, sure enough, it does result in the bad day anticipated for when it was landed.
Malachy Doyle brings to life this eighteenth century legend from the North of England so much so that ten and eleven year old Traveller boys were spellbound and had to have the whole book in one sitting despite the distraction around them. What’s more, they needed no prompt to say that Dylan Gibson's illustrations are great.
Gill Roberts

Blood Alchemy Written by Benjamin J Myers
Orion £6.99
This series, The Bad Tuesdays, is a set of fast-moving, sci-fi epics which major in alternative creatures and ferocious action. In this third book, Chess is without her brothers and must face the pursuit of the Twisted Symmetry alone. There are friends out there, however: other street rats and Anna, who can hack into anything. Essentially an archetypal battle between good and evil, this story is also an all-action book which allows girls a central role. Amongst all the excitement, and there is plenty, there is space for a thoughtful reader to consider what life might be like if the gap between rich and poor ever reaches the dimensions depicted. The publicity asks, “Can three children save the Universe against impossible odds?” Of course they can. But not yet. This is a sequence of six books.
Pat Thomson

Lunatics and Luck Written by Marcus Sedgwick
Illustrated by Pete Williamson
Orion £7.99
This is the third volume in the series of Gothis tales by Marcus Sedgwick. Castle Otherhand is no ordinary castle. The books are narrated by a raven who flutters around the stone walls of Otherhand, making the events seem even more bizarre. in this tale, the two children, Solstice and Cudweed, are appointed a mysterious new teacher (who they soon learn to detest) by their crackpot father, Valevine, who is intent on building a machine which will read the future. In the end a seemingly disassociated string of episodes is brought together to make this quirky tale a surprisingly satisfying read. Bit it all feels a lot different from Sedgwick’s sophisticated teen novels set in Russia.
Richard Monte

Rose and the Lost Princess Written by Holly Webb
Orchard Books £5.99
Rose and the Lost Princess is the second in the series of books about a young orphaned trainee magician, Rose. She is now an apprentice to the King's chief magician, Mr. Fountain, while earning her keep as a housemaid in his home. Initially Rose was welcomed by the staff, but lately people have turned against magic, and she feels increasingly uncomfortable. When the King's adored daughter, Princess Jane, mysteriously disappears, more suspicion falls on the magical community and Mr. Fountain and his apprentices are summoned by the King to find the culprits. At the palace Rose finds herself embroiled in more intrigue and danger than she ever believed possible. This is a wonderful series which will capture the imagination of young girls. Rose herself is a good role model, being feisty and able to stand up for herself and others needing help. There is a wide variety of secondary characters who are mysterious, intriguing, or mean, which gives Rose's character chance to develop. The story moves at a swift pace, with twist after twist. Although the book is easy to read, it is not suitable for younger readers as some storylines are quite frightening. Most suitable for girls age 9+.
Jane Hall

Captain Pugwash and the Wreckers Written and illustrated by John Ryan
Captain Pugwash and the Pigwig
Frances Lincoln £4.99 each
Lying on the passenger seat of my car, these paperbacks drew the attention of the smart lady of more mature years parked next to me. She commented her approval of my reading material with a wide smile and true fondness. I've since introduced the books to nine and ten year olds who had only previously met the Captain on T.V. They loved the stories too, which proves he still has appeal to everyone! First published in the 1980s these editions are perfect first novels, with Pigwig bearing bigger print for those newly adept at reading independently. They're a 'must have' in every school, library and home- and maybe even car!
Gill Roberts

The Ogre of Oglefort Written by Eva Ibbotson
Macmillan £9.99
This is a queer, quirky and original tale about an apparently terrifying ogre holding an allegedly helpless Princess Mirella, which seems to unroll itself matter-of-factly rather than having been invented. Young readers love the unpredictability that comes from confounded expectations and the deadpan humour.
Young Ivo, together with Hag, Wizard and Troll, sets out to rescue Mirella, along with three Princes and their armies sent by her anxious parents. Imagine their consternation discovering she does not want to be rescued. The Ogre’s having a breakdown, she’s depressed (at the idea of marrying any of the Princes), and there are far too many magical creatures besieging Oglefort for anyone’s comfort. Good sense and making the best of everyone’s abilities saves the day in this satisfyingly funny book.
Tina Massey

Grim Gruesome Viking Villain: Trolls’ Treasure Written by Rosalind Kerven
Talking Stone £5.99 978-0953745456
Grim Gruesome is a peddlar-trickster who can disguise himself, hiding his ugliness and hypnotic oozing finger stump until he lures young victims into his power. Set in the Viking realm of Orkney, fierce Jarl Thorfin Skull-Splitter rules. Life is harsh in this land of wind and storms; people awkward, spiteful, greedy or downright cruel to those who are different.
Young Ragi, descended from a seal shapeshifter, is banished from the island by Jarl when he is coerced into helping the pedlar. Two girls - Unn and Kadlin - soon join him, seduced by the pedlar’s tales of treasure trove. He manipulates their greed to tempt them into dangerous quests where they risk their lives for his benefit.
There’s a real salty tang to this tale of an outcast island, where days are short and sea creatures abound. Straightforward language, credible characters and a clear sense of Viking homes and customs make this fantasy both engaging and memorable.
Tina Massey

Alfie the Werewolf: Birthday Surprise Written by Paul Van Loon
Hodder Children's Books £4.99
When Alfie wakes up excitedly the night before his seventh birthday, he thinks the itching and the sudden urge to howl at the moon is all part of being a year older. However, when he looks at his hands and sees he has grown fur and claws he realises it is not that simple. Initially scared of his new life as a werewolf, Alfie learns that it's not all bad; he is finally good at sports and gets invited to parties, as well as having the confidence to stand up to the school bully. The first in a new series, Alfie the Werewolf is an appealing book for younger children. As well as being enjoyable to read, the book contains several serious messages, which children may benefit from e.g. 'you are never one of a kind' and 'it's good to be different'. The characters are fun, with quirky parents and a great baddie in Mrs.Chalker, the nasty neighbour. The story is written in short sentences, making it easy for younger children to follow, whilst the illustrations throughout add to the enjoyment. The tale is gently amusing; with what cinema censors refer to as 'mild peril' (U).
Jane Hall

Edwin Spencer: Mission Impossible Written by J D Irwin
Catnip Books £6.99
Despite its misleading title Edwin Spencer: Mission Improbable is not another boy spy story, but rather an action-packed, fantasy story, with amusing and endearing characters. Edwin Spencer and his classmate Perpetua Allbright are both outsiders: Perpetua for being too clever, and Edwin for not being clever enough. All this changes when their science teacher takes them through a magical vortex to the kingdom of Hysteria where the King needs Edwin's help. As Edwin and Perpetua help Hysteria with the plans to defeat their enemies, the evil Umbrians, they gain more confidence as, for the first time, they and their opinions are respected and they both get the chance to prove themselves in ways they would never have expected. This was such a refreshing read, with the exciting story moving along swiftly. Edwin and Perpetua are likable characters, and the banter between the two of them is fun and, at times, quite touching. Other characters - all of them credible - range from brave knights and a wise king to trainee wizards and identical twins who look nothing alike!
Jane Hall

Boy Zero, Wannabe Hero Written by Peter Millett
Illustrations by Steve May
Faber and Faber £4.99
Budding super hero Charlie Applejack is disappointed when he fails to get into Super School after a letter which tells him quite baldly that his super hero powers simply aren't super enough. But then the evil super-villain and wannabe rap star General Pandemonium ( invades the Super School, taking all the students and staff hostage. His ransom demands are outrageous, but so is his weapon: the Undie-taker-downer. This dastardly device has the capacity to annihilate the elastic in every pair of pants in the country, leaving everyone from the Prime Minister to the local super hero with their pants and trousers down around their ankles. Unthinkable! But can Charlie Applejack take on the evil General, and win? Go on, have a guess…Hugely entertaining, this story has everything for the primary-aged reader. It has action, adventure, the obligatory battle between good and evil and, best of all, rude bits involving bottoms and farts. While the young reader chortles at those, the grown-ups reading along with them will be amply entertained by the spoofs and send-ups of popular culture that have clearly been designed as an in-joke for them.
Yvonne Coppard

Skullduggery Pleasant: Dark Days Written by Derek Landy
HarperCollins £12.99
This latest Skullduggery Pleasant novel focuses more on Stephanie Valkyrie, an ordinary girl with a dark and terrifying other life which she handles with extraordinary equanimity.
Evil Dreylan Scarab has been released from prison, a powerful gang threatens The Sanctuary, Valkyrie’s life is constantly at risk, Skullduggery is missing and the sorcerer Darquess menaces the entire world. Our heroine needs to find Skullduggery’s skull and reunite it with his skeleton in order to restore her closest ally - and partner? But the most sinister creatures and events conspire against her and her friends.
Dark, fantastical and fast-paced, this is action-packed and very, very funny. We are used to earnest and threatening fantasy, but Landy’s laconic wit is an excellent counterbalance. He lives in Dublin and is a figment of the reader’s imagination - just as they are a figment of his.
Tina Massey

Alice to the Rescue Written by Judi Curtin
O’Brien Press £6.99
It’s easy to see why this writer has been described as Ireland’s answer to Jacqueline Wilson.
Pals, relationships and families are key elements to the stories and Judi Curtin captures the same kinds of emotions that trouble young teenage girls all too often.
This is the seventh story in a series and focuses on Megan and Alice’s deteriorating friendship after a writing competition was introduced at school. Winning becomes an issue but the multi-stranded story, although slow to get going, comes together beautifully at the end and restores faith in friendships.
Jayne Howarth

Little Darlings Written by Jacqueline Wilson
Random House £12.99
Once again Jacqueline Wilson skillfully portrays the very different lives of two young girls. Sunset is the daughter of a once famous rock star, Danny Klilman and her Mum a model. She can have anything money can buy but she is not happy. Mean while, Destiny and her Mum struggle to make ends meet but they are happy together except Destiny worries about her Mum who doesn’t seem to be very well. On her eleventh birthday everything changes when Mum announces it is time for her to meet her Dad. And guess who he happens to be? But all does not work out as planned and events go from bad to worse.
The contrasting tales are cleverly woven together, highlighting the drawbacks of celebrity status as well as showing how hard life can be for a single Mum and her daughter. Accompanied by Nick Sharratt’s witty drawings a satisfying conclusion is reached for this story from a very popular writer.
Louise Stothard

Pilot and Huxley Written by Dan McGuiness
A & C Black £4.99
This new graphic novel series of wacky and anarchic adventures won’t disappoint young readers. The eponymous heroes, Pilot and Huxley, are trying to find their way home after being beamed into another dimension by an "inter-dimensional hit man debt collector". The naive cartoon style is filled with irreverent humour (a sea of wasps) as well as disgusting monsters, for example, there’s a bus-like creature called the slobberfink that glides on the trail of its own snot (you don't want to know how you climb aboard!). The second book is already on the market, filled with friendly zombies and evil snowmen. As you can guess, adult readers might not find it as funny, but lots of children (particularly boys) are going to be rolling around laughing.
Benjamin Scott