Monday, 25 November 2019

Reviews extra Autumn/Winter 2019

Babies and toddlers

B is for Baby

Written by Atinuke

Illustrated by Angela Brooksbank

Walker Books   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1406371086

The large format and bold colourful illustrations add to the pleasure of this delightful book. Baby’s brother is getting ready to take a basket of bananas to Baba’s bungalow. Set in Africa there are baboons, beads, beautiful birds and butterflies as well as bumpy bicycle rides and baobab trees. A refreshing and unusual approach to things beginning with ‘b’, lots to look for and talk about, a real favourite with young readers.

Bev Archer


 Who’s Hiding in the Woods?

Written and illustrated by Katherine McEwen

Nosy Crow (in collaboration with the National Trust)   £7.99

ISBN: 978-1788001410

The book begins with “It’s a busy spring morning in the woods! There are animals hiding everywhere.” From there the journey covers the creatures you might typically find in woodland during the different seasons and at different times of day. The pictures offer lots to talk about and the many flaps on each page are lifted to reveal a woodland creature such as mice, bees or deer. When children are ready there is also information on the flaps “Mice nibble on nuts and berries” helping to develop an understanding and what clues to look for on a walk in the woods.

Bev Archer

Picture Books

Arty, the first artist in space

Written & illustrated by William Bee

Pavilion £6.99

ISBN: 978-1843654124

Arty Farty is a Frog, but not just any frog, he is a frog artist and the first frog to be sent into space.  One of my favourite pages is the one of the famous artists who have declined the invitation to go into space and we are left with their pictures and their initials. We can’t move on with this book until we have worked out who they are, genius.  This quite unique story kept me laughing throughout.  The illustrations are exceptional in themselves and I love the fact that the arts and science are once again in competition.  Mr. Grimaldi, Arty’s agent, just wants the money.  I just want a sequel.

Sue Bussey


The Great Dog Bottom Swap

Written by Peter Bently

Illustrated by Mei Matsuoka

Andersen Press   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1842709887

I am delighted that the 10-year anniversary provides the opportunity for new generations to encounter this book which answers the question – why do dogs smell each other’s bottoms? It is the Dogs’ Summer Ball. The affair is so posh that each dog has to remove its bottom before being allowed entry. Then there is an emergency, and the dogs have to leave quickly, some without their bottoms. The book is hysterically funny. The text is easy to read, and the rhyme helps create pace. Illustrations match and enhance the story. My favourites pictures are the dogs queuing at the hall, the feast table, the poodles clearing the food, and the dancing!  A brilliant favourite.

Brenda Marshall



Written by Galia Bernstein

Illustrated by Abrams  £11.99

ISBN: 978-1419735431

Leyla is a small, very engaging young baboon with a mother, father, nine aunts and twenty-three cousins. ‘And that’s too many,’ she thinks. This family troop is captured amusingly in extremely expressive illustrations. They are always busy, fussy and noisy, even she is trying to take a nap. Leyla sets off boldly, determined to be alone, but finds that there is no one to kiss you better when you hurt yourself, and a self – obsessed lizard is not the most communicative company. How Leyla learns to deal with her life and to celebrate its warmth and inclusiveness is artfully conveyed in a minimum of words, much of the story conveyed in the fresh, unexpectedly varied and funny pictures. Lovely to share, to find pictures for feelings and to begin reading oneself. Warmly recommended.

Tina Massey


Meet the Penguins

Written and Illustrated by Mike Brownlow

OUP   £6.99

ISBN: 978-0192768674

Two penguins arrive looking for a new friend to play with them but are turned away by everyone they meet. Will they ever find someone to join in with the fun?

If you’re expecting a formulaic rhyming scheme as per Brownlow’s Ten Little series, you won’t find it here. In a departure from his bestselling series, he has created an open-ended story that encourages discussion about friendship, sharing and being kind, as well as having engaging, funny pictures to delight the very youngest readers. This combination makes Meet the Penguins perfect for sharing a story time with siblings of different ages.

Rebecca Watts


Stella and the Wishing Star

Written by Suzanne Chiew  

Illustrated by Rosie Butcher

Little Tiger Press   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1788810968

Stella, a cute little rabbit with long floppy ears, rescues a fallen star from the branches of an oak tree and sets off for home hoping the star will henceforth make all her wishes come true. As she cycles along, she meets other animals who need help, so kind-hearted Stella asks her wonderful star to solve their various problems. Little by little the star’s power is diminished until there is only enough stardust left for one last wish.  This magical story is perfect for bedtime reading. The illustrations cover each page with warm, comforting nighttime colours and the textured star twinkles reassuringly, even though, with the skillful use of cutout shapes, it gradually gets smaller. Stella is generous and unselfish throughout, even when it is clear the magic won’t last much longer and she hasn’t yet made a wish of her own. Kindness really can be its own reward.

Jan Lennon


The Worry Box

Written by Suzanne Chiew

Illustrated by Sean Julian

Little Tiger   £7.99

ISBN: 978-1848698307

A lovely gentle story that leaves me wondering how many children will use the idea of putting their worries into a box rather than allowing those worries to stop them taking part in life’s adventures.  The soft, almost tactile illustrations give a feeling of warmth and support to the activities that the small bears and their rabbit friends undertake.  Suzanne has managed to show that even the boldest have their worries and friends can help them overcome them.

Sue Bussey


The Green Giant

Written & illustrated by Katie Cottle

Pavilion Books   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1843654001

Bea and her sausage dog Iris are staying in the country with Bea’s Grandad. When Iris chases a cat and Bea follows, she discovers an abandoned greenhouse in the next-door garden – and meets the Green Giant! But what will happen when she has to return to the city? Elegant design, clear language and charming illustrations make this a touching and timely story, and one that will provoke interesting conversations about green living.

Tessa Strickland


The Big Stink

Written & illustrated by Lucy Freegard

Pavilion £6.99

ISBN: 978-1843654131

Charlie is a very obsessed Mouse who wants cheese that he cannot afford but feels he must have. He wants to steal a cheese sculpture, ‘The Stinker’ by Auguste Rodent. Lucy leads us through a step by step account of how Charlie plans this heist and how it could all go terribly wrong. Linking cheese to the art world and famous paintings and artists could be a great way to introduce young people to the world of art. From Rita the cat detective, to the bear security guards, you are kept in suspense about what will happen to Charlie and his obsession. Read it and find out.

Sue Bussey

Written by Lorna Gutierrez
Illustrated by Polly Noakes
Tiny Owl
ISBN: 978-1910328422

“Dare to dream, dare to aspire. Dare to trust, dare to inspire.”
This is a book about empowerment, having the courage to be different, and daring to be true to yourself. Bright freestyle bold images fill the pages with movement whilst the text is simple but powerful. This book could be used to reassure a young child lacking in self-confidence or as a starting point for discussions about each statement, all of which send powerful messages. The characters shown are culturally diverse whilst the illustrations reflect and add to the text which is in a range of fonts for interest.

Barbara Band

Loved to Bits

Written by Teresa Heapy

Illustrated by Katie Cleminson

David Fickling Books   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1910989333

This is a beautiful story with gorgeous chalky illustrations about a boy’s love for Stripy Ted.  Their imaginative adventures are told through rhyme and snapshot drawings - their sailings on rafts, their travels on camels – during which time Ted steadily loses bits of himself – ears, eyes, paws … until he is just a head and body. But their friendship and the love behind it continues even more strongly. This is an utterly charming tale, with lots of opportunities to talk about imaginative adventures, what friendship means and how real love doesn’t falter. A joy to read for adults and children, this is one to return to again and again.


Julia Wills.


When a Dragon Comes to Stay

Written by Caryl Hart

Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

Nosy Crow   £6.99

ISBN: 9781-78800197

‘A dragon knows she must play fair/and wait her turn and always share’. Here be a dragon with a difference – an adorable, smiley girl dragon who is almost always well behaved. When she gets tired, she just needs a good cuddle to restore her spirits. Warm, witty and perfect for reading aloud, this picture book is an enchanting way to coax small dragons into having good manners.

Tessa Strickland



Alphonse, There’s Mud on the Ceiling

Written and illustrated by Daisy Hirst

Walker Books   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1406374759

The third title in the Alphonse and Natalie series, the two very friendly monster siblings want nothing more than to have a camping adventure, but how can they do that when they live in a seventh floor flat? With bold pictures and text, Alphonse and Natalie’s adventures are adorably relatable and gently humourous, and many parents will be able to relate to the dad in the story too. It’s guaranteed that young readers will especially love shouting SHFLUMP along with the monsters’ mishaps!

Rebecca Watts


Big Cat

Written & illustrated by Emma Lazell

Pavilion   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1843654018

As I started this book, I was already thinking about ‘The Tiger who came for Tea’ and there it was in the illustrations. I am a self-confessed ‘cat person’ but this book is for everybody as there are so many interesting things hidden in the pictures. The change in text, the very orange colours and the humour that is evident throughout, make this book an instant favourite of mine and also of everybody I have shared it with. Would Grandma have taken in the lost tiger if she had known that he was in fact a Tiger and not a cat?  I certainly think she would. 

Sue Bussey


Doodle Cat Wears a Cape

Written by Kat Patrick

Illustrated by Lauren Farrell

Scribble   £10.99

ISBN: 978-1911617891

Even if you have amazing superpowers, will they help when your best friend is not feeling very good?  Lauren’s use of primary colours helps to enhance this story and adds to the simplicity of a tale that shows that one of the best superpowers is love and empathy.  We all would like to wear a cape and be able to do superhuman things, but Cat shows us that sometimes being human is ‘super’ enough.  A lovely story from Kat Patrick.  I wonder what my superpower is?

Sue Bussey


 Here Comes Stinkbug!

Written & illustrated by Tohby Riddle

Allen and Unwin   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1911631163

Stinkbug does as his name suggests, he stinks. But this doesn’t always go down well with his insect friends. This very amusing story suggests that it is not always a good idea to go against your nature and in Stinkbug’s case, not particularly safe. The characterisation in the pictures is delightful and the comical spider had my young friends roaring with laughter. A joy to read with little people.

Sue Bussey


Somebody Swallowed Stanley

Written by Sarah Roberts

Illustrated by Hannah Peck

Scholastic   £6.99

ISBN: 978–1407195100

Stanley is no ordinary jellyfish, with his too straight orange and white stripes and too few tentacles. In fact, Stanley, isn’t a jellyfish at all – he’s a plastic bag, swept into the sea. As he floats along, he encounters a number of sea creatures, and something terrible happens each time. Somebody swallows Stanley! Luckily, each time, they are able to cough and splutter, to set Stanley free until a small boy on a beach finds a better use for a plastic bag. With the current awareness of the perils of plastic pollution in our oceans, this entertaining picture book conveys its message with a light touch. The colourful, naturalistic illustrations will appeal to young children, and the story, with its repeated refrains, invites discussion of the issue. A timely book by an author who is an expert in animal behaviour and a passionate conservationist.

Jayne Gould


Through the Eyes of Us 

Written by Jon Roberts

Illustrated by Hannah Rounding

Graffeg   £7.99

ISBN: 978-1912654803 

A sequel to Through the Eyes of Me published in 2017, this is another beautifully observed picture book following a day in the life of children on the autism spectrum. The first book in the series was written by the author when his 4-year old daughter Kya was first diagnosed with severe autism. In this book, Kya starts school and makes a best friend Martha, who is also on the autistic spectrum, but they are both very different in the way they behave and approach things. A book that has been written with so much love this is a joyous celebration of friendship but also gives a real insight into the life of a child with autism and her family. Sensitively written and beautifully illustrated, it’s a book that could be used very effectively with children and adults to help them learn about autism and to understand that no two children on the autism spectrum are the same. It also includes a very good list of useful links and resources.    

 Annie Everall


The Pawed Piper

Written by Michelle Robinson

Illustrated by Chinlun Lee

Walker   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1406368604

The book opens with a huge spread of ‘Lost Cat’ posters to explore. How are so many missing, you wonder? The small girl at the heart of the book really wants a cat to cuddle. (Unmentioned in the text, but mum and dad are clearly pictured looking after a small baby.) She calls gran for advice, discovering that her cat Hector loves catnip, cardboard boxes and:

‘Helping to read the newspaper.’ She equips her bedroom with all of these, goes to sleep and (ED – see SIXTY SEVEN) wakes to find that Hector has brought 67 friends! Lovely, playful, cuddly cats which she adores, but, taking Hector home, she realises that ‘her’ cats are other people’s beloved, missing pets. Returning them all, she finds that the one hiding in her sock drawer has had kittens, and the little one won’t leave. (ED See NOT EVER at end.)

A mistily, beautifully illustrated book about longing, needing love and realising that what is someone else’s can never truly be yours. A deceptively simple book with a clear message and a really happy ending. Super to share and discuss with very first readers.

Tina Massey

Brian the Brave

Written by Paul Stewart

Illustrated by Jane Porter

Otter-Barry Books £11.99

ISBN: 978-1910959404

Brian is just a normal woolly sheep with a white coat and curly horns. During the book he encounters lots of different kinds of sheep - all different colours, sizes and horns, or lack of them. There is a lot of petty squabbling about not playing with black sheep if you are white; not being friendly with sheep with horns if you have none or even different eye colours. This makes Brian very sad, but in true satisfying picture book style, he saves the day as they all rally together in a crisis. It is a lovely story about differences, acceptance and the importance of teamwork. The illustrations are vibrant and bold with comical sheep expressions.

Ingrid Fox


Willbee the Bumblebee

Written by Craig Smith and Maureen Thomson

Illustrated by Katz Cowley

Scholastic   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1407196619

This is a lovely story about friendship and kindness, full of humour and exquisitely illustrated by Katz Cowley. Willbee, going about his daily business in the garden, snags his black and yellow jersey, which frays and unravels. It’s the jersey his mum knitted him. He is horrified to find it’s all gone, and he is exposing his bottom! Luckily, he has a couple of friends who can rescue him in his dilemma. There’s lots of fun in the pictures, giving adult and children lots to talk about. The spider’s bookcase, in particular, is a delight. Celebrating friendship and nature, this is a book that children will love.


Julia Wills.


Malala’s Magic Pencil

Written by Malala Yousafzai

Illustrated by Kerasco√ęt

Puffin  £7.99 

ISBN: 978-1241322574

This is Malala’s autobiographical story in a beautiful picture book format, exquisitely illustrated. Malala’s optimism and determination to realise dreams stems from her ability to marvel at magic, see wonder in simplicity and her deep innate desire to eradicate differences.  The magic pencil of childhood cannot transform adult reality, so she substitutes wishes for hard work and thus develops a voice so strong that attempts to silence it add only to its strength and power. Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala extols “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” And this truly beautiful picture book edition facilitates the ever wider spread of her special story and optimism.

Gill Roberts


Only One of Me: A Love Letter from Dad

Only One of Me: A Love Letter from Mum

Lisa Wells & Michelle Robinson

Illustrated by Tim Budgen

Graffeg   £12.99

ISBN: 978-1912654635



No Longer Alone

Joseph Coelho

Illustrated by Robyn Wilson -Owen

Egmont   £6.99

ISBN: 978-405291293


Mum’s Jumper

Written and Illustrated by Jayde Perkin

Book Island   £12.99

ISBN: 9781911496137

It can be very difficult for adults to help children deal with grief and come to terms with the death of a loved one. Books can play a huge role in helping but it’s not always easy to find them. These four books all deal with this topic in a thoughtful, sensitive and child friendly way. Suitable for children aged 2- 9, they explore a child’s feelings, how they cope in different ways after a loss and how a child uses her mums jumper after she’s gone. They also ask others in the life of a child to step in and help them to go forward following a loss and throughout their lives. All are lovingly illustrated in very different styles and between the four titles they provide some very effective stories as well as tools for those who need them. Lisa Wells, the author of Only One of Me, wrote the books when she was given a terminal cancer diagnosis so that she could leave behind her a legacy of love, laughter and joy for her two daughters. Sadly, she lost her battle in August, but the strength of her words will live on.

Annie Everall


Reading with Confidence


Little Dolphin Rescue

Written by Rachel Delahaye

Stripes Publishing Ltd   £5.99

ISBN: 978-1788950732

Fliss just adores animals and will do anything to save them. It is not surprising then that she often finds herself magically whisked away to different parts of the world so that she can help to save wild animals in danger. In her latest adventure, a school swimming lesson takes an unexpected turn when Fliss suddenly finds herself in the Indian Ocean looking at an actual coral reef, when seconds before she was admiring the new mural in the swimming pool. She quickly discovers that she is there to help a young dolphin who is caught up in discarded fishing nets. Little Dolphin Rescue is the second is the delightful Little Animal Rescue series, which is ideal for young environmentalists. Fliss’ adventures will delight young readers who may also aspire to protect wildlife, and parents sharing this book with their children may use it as an opportunity to introduce them to conservation issues. These concerns are discussed during the storyline, and are at an age appropriate level. The stories contain mild peril which will excite readers as they cheer on Fliss in her bid to help her beloved animal friends.

Jane Hall

The Funny Life of Teachers

Written by James Campbell

Illustrated by Rob Jones

Bloomsbury   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1408898246

The second in this series of mostly inaccurate ‘non-fiction’, Campbell and Jones seek to demystify that most mysterious of creatures – the teacher. Filled with all the thing you ever wondered about teachers, as well as why you should always carry an emergency banana with you, this book is essential reading for anyone who has ever come into contact with a teacher. Disclaimer: may not actually be essential reading. Completely ridiculous, mostly factually incorrect but always hilarious, The Funny Life of Teachers is perfect for any fans of comic strip style novels and would be excellent for reluctant readers. The non-linear way of reading the book, via signposts throughout, is reminiscent of choose your own adventure books, though there is no winning or losing, just lots of laughs.

Rebecca Watts


The Race to Hornswaggle Rock

Written by Ruth Quayle

Illustrated by Philip Davenport

Andersen Press   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1783448289

With a name like McScurvy these larger than life characters can only be pirates, no matter what their age. Vic and Bert should really be at school and their little sister Maud is ‘a menace’ despite being only three years old. The race to Hornswaggle Rock that takes place every four years is vital to win the Treasurescope that will give them access to treasure maps pointing towards hidden pirate treasure. With their ‘landlubber’ friends Arabella and George the children are determined to win the race.  Do they win?  Will Pedro the Parrot find love? A rattling good yarn with sharks, cheating, treasure and sabres. Fabulous illustrations and a quirky layout add to this books’ charm, guaranteed to encourage younger readers to keep going until the end.

Sue Bussey


Information Books


Sea – A World Beneath the Waves

Written by Patricia Hegarty

Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup

Little Tiger   £11.99

ISBN: 978-1788813129

A charming peep-through picture book that takes us beneath the waves. Hypnotic scenes introduce us to a wide range of sea life including sponges, grasses, sea horses, dolphins, lionfish humpback whales and a manatee. Teckentrup uses colour sensitively to recreate the different moods of sea life. I particularly like the nighttime scene where jellyfish, eels and manta ray create light, the sparkling colourful scene of tropical fish swimming in formation and the grey shadow created by the great white shark. Die-cuts and the recurring clown fish link the scenes. Sinuous lyrical rhyming text suggests the ebb and flow of ocean life. The book closes with an important message about keeping the seas clean and clear and protecting the fragile habitat.  A gem of a book. (4+)

Brenda Marshall



How to be a Butterfly

Written by Laura Knowles

Illustrated by Catell Ronca

Words & Pictures   £12.99

ISBN: 978-1-78603-883-8

This is an information book with a difference as it presents the life cycle of a butterfly in picture book format with a chatty, informal text that addresses young readers directly and includes them in the discussion on what it takes to be a butterfly. The accompanying illustrations are stunning and fill each bright, white double page spread with vividly coloured selections of butterfly species, soaring, landing on branches, feeding, hiding, all intricately detailed, anatomically correct and labelled with their Latin names. Young nature lovers will find fascinating details of butterfly body parts, behaviour and life cycle to pore over in this eye-catching and attractive book. The text is simple enough for very young children to share and the illustrations are complex enough to enable older enthusiasts to hone their identification skills and revisit many times.  The concluding message that there are twenty thousand ways to be a butterfly effectively places the wonders of diversity right in front of young readers’ eyes.  (5+)

Sue Roe


When Planet Earth was New

Written by James Gladstone

Illustrated by Katherine Diement

Wayland   £12.99

ISBN: 978-1526308986

This book takes a complex subject, the evolution of the earth, and presents it in a clear picture book format. The language used is simple with short sentences. Information is clearly expressed on an appropriate level. I liked the repetition of “millions and millions and millions of years” as young children will enjoy joining in, and it stresses the vast timescale involved. We are shown the Earth millions of years ago and how it has changed over time from molten rock to the formation of oceans to the evolution of living things. Gladstone reminds us that, “human life is a speck in time in the history of old Earth”. The illustrations complement the prose and are epic and mysterious. At the back of the book the “Look Again” section contains smaller reprints of the pictures and extra information for more advanced readers. The glossary and website list are useful. An awe-inspiring book that will encourage discussion and further research. (6+)

Brenda Marshall

The Spectacular Journey into Space

Written by Kevin Pettman

Carlton Books   £12.99

ISBN: 978-1783124268

The popularity of space books for children has exploded since the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing. This title takes a different approach, allowing readers to collect their own planets, moons, spacecraft and satellites, by press-out cardboard sections. The cut-outs will no doubt keep young enthusiasts occupied, but the book itself provides a fascinating look at the solar system and beyond. From the Hubble telescope which scans the darkest reaches of the universe and captures amazing pictures of exploding stars and distant galaxies, to the wonder of the international space station and the extraordinary space probes that journey deep into space and collect data on extra-terrestrial worlds. With something new to be discovered on every page, this is a must read for all space buffs.  (7+)

                                                                                                Richard Monte

Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry

Written by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Norton Young Readers   £8.99

ISBN: 978-0393356502

The mysteries of the cosmos are unravelled for younger people in this fun-packed adaptation of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by celebrated astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson. This accessible, lucid and often witty account will serve as a fascinating introduction to a complex subject. The story of the universe after all, concerns us all and offers a sobering perspective on the self-importance of our own little lives. As the author concludes, “The day our knowledge of the cosmos ceases to expand, we risk falling back to the childish view that the universe revolves around us”' Complete with glossary and full colour illustrations, this book would make a valuable addition to any school library. (7+)

Richard Monte


The Little Book of Trees

Written by Caz Buckingham & Andrea Pinnington

Fine Feather press Ltd.   £7.99

ISBN: 978-1908489388

Wonderful photographs and an alphabetical order make this a really useful and beautiful book to have around.  It is small enough to go on family travels and walks.  It covers the most common trees that you will see in Britain and Europe giving you the added bonus of showing the wildlife and plants that are commonly associated with these trees. The small ‘factfile’ boxes make the information really easy to digest and to remember.  A user-friendly Glossary and Index make this a wonderful guide for all of the family. (7+)

Sue Bussey

Ocean: Secrets of the Deep

Written by Sabrina Weiss

Illustrated by Giulia De Amicis

What on Earth Books   £14.99

ISBN: 978-1999968052

Covering the majority of our world, the vast expanse of the oceans provide many of the elements to sustain life, including food from the fish and other animals as well as much of the oxygen we breathe, which is generated by microscopic organisms and also forms the base of nearly all ocean food chains. As seawater absorbs the heat from the sun and the currents carry it across the world, weather patterns and climate are driven by the ocean. But it is also a world about which we still have much to discover. Using a mix of diagrams, maps, illustrations and infographics, this is an informative and comprehensive exploration of life above and below the waves. The author begins with some of the myths and legends of unusual creatures told by sailors through the ages, before inviting the reader to take a journey to the deep, through the different zones of the ocean, then on to explore the huge range of marine habitats around the world, from beach rock pools to salt marshes, kelp forests, coral reefs and undersea mountain ranges. Examples of some of the incredible variety of species which inhabit these are described, including the largest creature on Earth, the blue whale. Other aspects which are covered include migration, camouflage, animal co-operation and how to protect marine environments. This is a book to be recommended to young nature enthusiasts. Its clear layout is enhanced by stylised but accurate illustrations which are accompanied by detailed captions. (7+)

Jayne Gould


 Biographic Tesla

Written by Brian Clegg

Illustrated by Matt Carr & Robin Shields

Ammonite Press   £9.99

ISBN: 978-1781453537

Biographic books allow readers an amazingly fresh and fascinating way to find out about great inventors and thinkers. By taking topics in turn, rather than run chronologically through either the subject’s life or creations, the series, and this book, continues to surprise and delight. Laid out in bold snapshots across the pages, we find out about Tesla’s world, his childhood, his working with Edison and, intriguingly, his quirkier sorts of behaviour, such as filling his hotel rooms with flocks of pigeons. Complicated concepts are drawn out and made accessible, timelines, diagrams and mind-boggling facts add to the excitement of finding out about this man’s remarkable achievements and the real life of the individual behind them. As an adult I found this a wonderful read and will be looking out for more in the Biographic series. I am sure that older children will find this book, and series, equally irresistible. (9+)

Julia Wills.


Moving On


Me and MR P: Joe’s New World

Written by Maria Farrer

Illustrated by Daniel Rieley

Oxford University Press   £6.99

ISBN: 978-0192766533

An absolutely enchanting story about friendship, resilience and acceptance. Joe’s father gets a new job, so they have to move, not just to another town but another country. Joe’s not happy about this. He’s disabled, in a wheelchair, and knows it’s going to be hard to start at another school and make new friends, especially ones who appreciate his bad jokes. Then Mister P, a large polar bear, turns up at the airport wearing a label with Joe’s name on it. There’s nothing the family can do other than take him home …

Mister P is definitely the star of this book. He’s funny and seems to understand exactly what Joe is thinking and feeling; a real friend in time of need. There are lots of interesting fonts used throughout as well as plenty of delightful drawings. As the tag line says, “there are times when only a polar bear will do”. This is book 4 in the series but can be read as a stand-alone.

Barbara Band


Chester Parsons is Not a Gorilla                            

Written by Martyn Ford

Faber and Faber   £6.99

ISBN: 978-0571332236

When budding child actor, Chester Parsons visits a hypnotherapist in a bid to overcome stage fright, he accidently discovers that he can jump into the minds of others. Encouraged by his sister, Chester agrees to take part in a reality TV programme showcasing his talent. But the show’s gimmickry goes awry when Chester mind-jumps a mountain gorilla, only to find that his own body has vanished, and he can’t jump back. Trapped inside the gorilla, Chester embarks on a quest to recover his own stolen body. This is an entertaining, contemporary fantasy story which moves along quickly and is brimming with mystery, unexpected action and enjoyable eccentricity. Sinister elements give a whiff of danger, but these never quash the underlying humour. Chester is a funny and unswervingly optimistic narrator, despite his circumstances, but equally entertaining are the characters he mind-jumps. Particularly enjoyable are the moments when Chester talks in the voices of the creatures he’s inhabiting and tries to resist behaving in gorilla or rat-like ways! This is a story which will appeal to children who like comedy adventures and offers a light-hearted look at what make us who we are.

Anne Walker

The Garden of Lost Secrets

Written by A.M. Howell

Usborne   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1474959551

A.M. Howell’s debut novel set in 1916 evokes immediate empathy as protagonist Clara is sent from Kent to stay with The Gilberts whose forbidding frostiness is quite unfathomable given that they are her actual paternal aunt and uncle, yet she must address them as ‘Mrs’ and ‘Mr’ Gilbert.  As Clara wrestles with her own secret as well as trying tentatively to forge a role that will keep her mentally and physically active so that her stay may become more bearable, she becomes ever more deeply involved in the mysteries of the household and of The Earl’s estate.  Why is the room locked? Why does her Aunt behave so strangely? Who is the mysterious boy to be seen at night? And why is someone stealing fruit from The Earl’s greenhouses?

This historical mystery adventure is ideal for children 10+, with secrets galore for brave Clara to unravel with her new friend Will. There are lots of plot twists as the adventure progresses, which will keep young readers guessing. Clara is a great role model with an intense desire to do right and look after those she cares for. At the same time, she acknowledges her fear and doubts, but follows her instincts in pursuit of justice. The supporting characters are also well drawn; specifically, Clara’s aunt whose emotions are so conflicted.  The book is reminiscent of children’s classics and offers an insight into life during the early 20th century.

An absorbing story of mystery, heartache and consequence amidst the sobering, far-reaching effects of The First World War, this is highly recommended.

Gill Roberts & Jane Hall


To Night Owl from Dogfish

Written by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

Egmont   £6.99

ISBN: 978-1405294836

Shy, serious Avery and loud, adventurous Bett have absolutely nothing in common. That is, until their dads start dating, prompting the beginning of a series of email exchanges that blossom into a friendship that neither girl ever saw coming.

Told through alternating emails, this cowritten pre-teen novel is a warm, funny book about friendship, family and facing your fears. Though reminiscent of The Parent Trap with the girls cooking up crazy schemes to push apart or throw together their dads, the relationship between Avery and Bett, and those around them, is beautiful to see develop and the girls are both instantly likeable and relatable. The organic blossoming of their friendship is brilliantly crafted by the two authors and completely believable. A perfect summer read, especially for those transitioning from primary to high school.

Rebecca Watts


The Girl who Thought her Mother was a Mermaid

Written by Tania Unsworth

Illustrated by Helen Crawford-White

Zephyr   £6.99 eB (PB   £6.99)

ISBN: 978-1788541688

A beautifully written story of magical realism with well portrayed characters.  It is a story about family, love and loss.  Stella loses her mum at a young age, but she has bequeathed her a strange necklace.  The “word of the sea” her mum had said.  However, Stella is frightened of the water, has never been to the seaside and yet she is obsessed, in her dreams, by the ocean. Stella believes her mum was once a mermaid from her dreams and the drawings her mum has left behind.  Nobody can give Stella any answers because her Dad is still grieving, and her Gran has early dementia.  Stella confides in her friend, but when she also leaves, Stella decides she must be brave and find out the truth for herself.   A lovely story of adventure, love and hope. 

Ingrid Fox



Super Sons: The Polar Shield Project

Written by Ridley Pearson

Illustrated by Ile Gonzalez

DC Ink   £7.99

ISBN: 978-1401286392

Set in a future alternative world where climate change has led to flooding and chaos, we are introduced to the sons of Batman and Superman. With their fathers off trying to reverse global warming, it is up to the two of them to uncover who is behind the attacks on the flood defences. However, they aren’t exactly friends so have to learn to work together. Plus, there’s the mysterious Candace, is she friend or foe? Is she trying to help them or is she spying on them for the enemy?

This novel introduces the reader to the alternative city of Columbria on the continent of Landis. Presented in traditional graphic novel format with the majority of the text being in speech bubbles, it is action-packed with the illustrations both adding to the storyline and moving it quickly along. A great book for younger fans of the superheroes; the story continues in Book 2.

Barbara Band


 Young Teens


The Middler

Written by Kirsty Applebaum

Nosy Crow   £

ISBN: 978-1788003452

A dystopian novel set in a world where your role is determined by your placement within the family. Fennis Wick is isolated and protected from the dangerous and deceitful Wanderers by the boundaries, beyond which no-one ventures. All first-borns are sent away when they 14 years old to fight in the Quiet War to keep everyone else safe; until that time, they are treated as special, given new clothes and treats, and don't have to do any chores. Maggie is a "middler" - a middle child - who resents this. She's fed up with nobody taking any notice of her, not winning anything, and not having a voice. Then she befriends Una, a Wanderer, and starts questioning the things she's been told. This is a book that pulls you in from the start. The story is told by Maggie and her voice is authentic, her frustrations real. There is an underlying sense of menace, of something happening beneath the surface but never quite touched upon. It is a story about deceitfulness, about adults using children for their own gains but also about friendship, family and the strength to overcome your fears.

Barbara Band


More Mature



Written by Samira Ahmed

Atom   £7.99

ISBN: 978-0349003344

This is one of the most compelling, powerful and chilling novels I have read for ages.  It is set in a horrifying near future in the USA.  Layla Amin and her family have been registered as American Muslims and now the president has declared that “Muslims are now a threat to America”.  They are taken to an internment camp for Muslim American citizens in the middle of the dusty, hot desert.  Layla’s parents try to blend in for fear of punishment and reprisals, but Layla and her friends are determined to fight for freedom and justice.  What ensues is gruesome, upsetting and hard hitting.  It is a thought provoking read as it could so easily become reality.

Ingrid Fox


Dread Nation                        

Written by Justina Ireland

Titan Books   £7.99

ISBN: 978-1789090871

This thrilling reimagining of a significant time in American history has been hailed as a YA triumph in the States. The War of Independence has been put on hold, with opposing sides joining forces to fight a common enemy – the undead. For the slave community however, not much has changed; the safety of wealthy white families still depends on their hard work. 17-year-old Jane McKeen is training to become an Attendant, trained in both etiquette and battle to protect wealthy white women. However, as the ‘Shamblers’ threaten US civilisation, Jane becomes caught in a fight for life against some powerful enemies, and they are not always dead! Although this original YA adventure has zombies, much of it is based on historical fact.  Set in the era of slavery, there are unpleasant acts and language which some readers may find difficult. However, Jane is a great role model for young teens; strong and intelligent with a wry sense of humour. She does not let her status stop her trying to do what she thinks is right. Told from Jane’s point of view the plot is fast paced and exhilarating, and her relationships with her friends, and enemies, are well constructed. A great read.

Jane Hall


Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale                     
Written by Lauren Myracle
Illustrated by Isaac Goodhart
DC Ink   £12.99 
ISBN: 978-1401285913

This is the story of Selina Kyle before she became Catwoman. For fifteen years, Selina has put up with both physical and emotional abuse from her mother’s boyfriends and decides she has no choice but to leave home. With nowhere to go, she meets up with a group of street-kids and finds some sort of peace and belonging in their group. But, unbeknown to Selina, they are planning a heist – at the home of Bruce Wayne, one of Selina’s few friends when she was at school.

DC Ink have mixed a YA story with superhero comic book characters. The blue monochromatic artwork is extremely effective adding a lot more detail to the story, and the characters are complex and diverse, but some serious issues are raised within the novel including domestic violence, self-harm, animal cruelty, homophobia, homelessness and cults. This is definitely a novel for more mature readers as it also contains graphic violence and swearing.

Barbara Band


 The New Boy                                    

Written by Paula Rawsthorne

Usborne   £7.99

ISBN: 978-1407180267

Jack, the new boy at college, seems way too good to be true. He’s rich, funny, incredible handsome… What’s the downside? When he turns his attention to Zoe, she soon puts any misgivings to one side and falls for his charm, just like everyone else. That is, until alarm bells begin to ring so loudly Zoe can no longer ignore them and she ends up involved in something much weirder and more sinister than she could imagine.

Paula Rawsthorne has produced another gripping thriller with a hint of sci-fi. As any reader of hers will have come to expect, this is another real page turner that is both a suspenseful, twist driven drama and a thought-provoking exploration of autonomy, identity and todays expanding influencer culture.

Rebecca Watts



Written by Meredith Russo

Usborne Books   £7.99

ISBN: 978-1474967419

During a freak snowstorm two boys are born in the same hospital on the same day.  Although socially very different, their families forge strong ties and Morgan and Eric develop a deep and intuitive friendship. The events of the book take place over six birthdays, beginning as the boys enter their teens. By this time, Morgan’s mother has died, though her latent presence is still felt through the birthday messages she created for him. As the time frame unfolds and each birthday takes place, Eric and Morgan’s friendship is tested and develops in ways neither of them could have foreseen. Birthday is a courageous and thoughtful exploration of teenage mental health and gender identity issues. Author Meredith Russo skilfully evokes the stifling atmosphere and ingrained prejudices of the rundown American town which provides the context for her characters’ struggles. Eric and Morgan are sympathetically portrayed young people gradually coming to understand and embrace who they are and what they mean to one another. The novel contains some hard-hitting events, in particular an attempted suicide, but although the characters’ journeys are psychologically and emotionally tough, the book resolves with optimism and joy. This a thought provoking and satisfying YA read.


Anne Walker


A Girl Called Shameless                  

Written by Laura Steven

Electric Monkey   £7.99

ISBN: 978-1405288620

Izzy is still a girl to be reckoned with and this adventure is no different.  Her ‘Bitches Bite Back’ movement where she attempts to get state laws changed to tackle revenge porn is a force that is on the move.  Can Lizzy deal with this movement that she has started, or will her own personal issues cause problems?  Slut shaming is out there and not just in America where this novel is set. This book has caused me to look very hard at what being judgmental actually means.  The backlash for the young people involved in these issues goes beyond their friendship groups and in Izzy’s case becomes a major news item.  Main protagonists are 18 years old.  Some very believable characters that you warm to as the plot unravels.

Sue Bussey