Book reviews: Aliens, learned lemmings and a very small duchess

Aliens Invaded My Talent Show by Matt Brown and Paco Sordo
Aliens Invaded My Talent Show by Matt Brown and Paco Sordo
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There’s sunshine and laughter all the way with a fabulous, fun-filled and anarchic selection of books to keep youngsters entertained as summer comes into full bloom.

Age 9 plus:

Aliens Invaded My Talent Show by Matt Brown and Paco Sordo

Aliens and anarchy, magic and mayhem… could there be a more potent and perfect recipe for fun reading!

The award-winning Matt Brown, who has worked as a radio producer, DJ and TV presenter, is back with a hilarious new novel, packed with talent shows, aliens and some totally outrageous antics.

Eric Doomsday loves doing magic tricks. But even though his best friend, Vinnie Mumbles, thinks they are great, they do always seem to go a bit... wrong. When some very important School Inspectors threaten to close down Eric’s school, his headmistress decides to put on the Dreary Inkling Primary School talent show.

It’s a talent show with Eric in it… and Eric’s magic tricks. That might not be such a good idea but when the talent show judges reveal themselves to be hideous aliens who want to destroy the world, the fate of the planet now rests on just one boy. Can Eric’s magic and mayhem save the day?

If your youngsters are addicted to crazy capers and laugh-out-loud humour, then this brilliantly bonkers, irreverent and off-the-wall story is certainly guaranteed to hit all the right comedy buttons.

Fully illustrated throughout by Paco Sordo’s suitably anarchic black-and-white pictures, the adventures of hapless hero Eric Doomsday and the invincible Vinnie are guaranteed to steal the show!

(Usborne, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Houdini and the Five-Cent Circus by Keith Gray

Are you ready for a great escape?

Discover an exciting new take on the famous escape artist and magician Houdini in a new ‘super-readable’ book from Barrington Stoke.

Houdini and the Five-Cent Circus, an exciting and timely account of Houdini’s rags-to-riches life from born storyteller Keith Gray, comes with the publisher’s trademark dyslexia-friendly layout, typeface and Pantone® paper so that even more readers can enjoy it.

The year is 1885 and Erik Weisz, a penniless immigrant, has found himself in trouble again. His uncanny talent for picking locks and his gleeful showboating to match have earned him very few friends and a bad reputation. But this is just the beginning of his story and Erik is destined to become Harry Houdini, the most famous magician of all time. Watch with wonder as he transforms before your eyes into the greatest showman the world has ever seen!

A brilliant story for all young adventurers.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Jason Banks and the Pumpkin of Doom by Gillian Cross and Sarah Horne

Also ideal for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers is this hilarious, school-based comedy from best-selling author Gillian Cross, brought to life by Sarah Horne’s quirky illustrations.

Jason Banks is a bully. No one likes him and even the teachers are scared of him! It’s time that someone taught Jason a lesson and he might just have met his match in the strange pumpkin that keeps appearing on his doorstep. Will Jason ever learn the error of his ways? And can he crack the case of the dreaded Pumpkin of Doom?

Printed on heavy paper in two colours – black for the text and yellow Pantone® for the page background – this book from Barrington Stoke has been specially designed to be dyslexia-friendly by reducing the contrast between text and paper.

Cross, perhaps best known for her Demon Headmaster series and its BBC adaptation, delivers a fun and creative story with important messages about bullying, making this a ‘super readable’ book in every sense.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £5.99)

Age 5 plus:

Mariella Queen of the Skies by Eoin Colfer and Katy Halford

Whether your child is a new, struggling, reluctant or dyslexic reader, publisher Barrington Stoke’s wonderful Little Gem book series could be just what they are looking for.

The Little Gems series brings together top children’s authors and illustrators, and a host of clever design and finishing techniques, to create super readable books in a chunky format ideal for little hands, and with some extra reading and activity fun hiding inside the jacket flaps.

There are three super new books in the series and in Mariella Queen of the Skies, Eoin Colfer, the Irish award-winning best-selling author, introduces young readers to the intricate workings of the mind of the marvellous Mariella who likes nothing more than inventing things.

The smart and imaginative Mariella can’t help but get frustrated because bedtime keeps getting in the way of all her brilliant ideas! So when Mum and Dad won’t take No for an answer, there’s only one thing for it... Mariella has to build a rocket-powered flying suit to zap her round the world faster than the setting sun. If anyone can outsmart sleep, it’s Mariella. But everyone needs sleep and without it, all of Mariella’s brilliant ideas might just disappear!

Mariella is just the latest in Colfer’s long line of bold and independent young girls whose adventures cannot help but inspire other youngsters to aim high in life. With the bright, bold and colourful artwork of rising star illustrator Katy Halford, the vivid imagination of a precocious nine-year-old springs to life with charm, humour… and a few subtle life lessons.

The perfect way to make reading fun for everyone!

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Norman the Norman and the Very Small Duchess by Philip Ardagh and Tom Morgan-Jones

Also in the Little Gems series in this laugh-out-loud follow-up to the much-loved Norman the Norman from Normandy.

Everyone’s favourite author Philip Ardagh and award-winning illustrator Tom Morgan-Jones blend their talents again in this quirky tale which sees a welcome return for the hilariously clueless Norman and a host of other entertaining characters.

Norman the Norman is at it again and this time he has been summoned by none other than William the Conqueror! The Duchess of Normandy is determined that her William should have little Norman helping with this ‘Conquest thingy.’ After all he is Normandy’s bravest broadsword swinging hero. But can Norman and his familiar companions, Toad and Truffle, even make it to the boat on time? Or are there other adventures to be had with robbers, giants, a messenger called Barry, and Matilda the very small Duchess...

Ardagh is a master of tongue-in-cheek humour and this wonderfully anarchic story – which contains plenty of slapstick fun and real history – will have youngsters rolling with laughter all the way across the Channel!

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 4 plus:

Splash Day! by Nick Sharratt

And making a splash is multi-award-winning author and illustrator Nick Sharratt with his fizzing, fun-filled debut for the Little Gems series.

Splish, splosh, splash! It’s Splash Day at school and there is a paddling pool on the playground and buckets of water around the bushes. After working hard all year, Class One have downed their pens and everyone is ready for an epic water fight with the teachers. They have got their trunks and wetsuits, wellies and rubber rings, and Mrs Thistle is ready to start the fun with her whistle.

This vibrant chapter book story, packed with Sharratt’s distinctive illustrations, is ideal for young readers taking the first tentative steps on the path to reading alone.

So duck for cover, put up your brollies and get ready for all the splashing fun in a story that is bursting with rhyme, rhythm and energy… and guaranteed to have youngsters longing to join in the water fight!

Splash Day! is published on July 15.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Society of Distinguished Lemmings by Julie Colombet

Meet a quirky society of lemmings who live on the edge… a cliff edge to be precise!

This marvellously madcap story starring a cast of eccentric lemmings comes from talented French artist and first-time author Julie Colombet who declares that she loves to start a project, find characters, evolve them and then grow attached to them.

And here, she brings her artistic flair, wonderfully wry sense of humour and fertile imagination to this truly offbeat and outrageously entertaining tale of a group of learned lemmings.

The Society of Distinguished Lemmings enjoys the finer things in life, with members aiming to be distinguished in everything they do. They perform long and serious plays, meal times are a spectacle of fine dining, they play the piano exceedingly well and they appreciate a glass of good wine. So when the lemmings meet a bear, they are faced with a great challenge. Can they transform this wild animal – which rather strangely prefers climbing trees and jumping in puddles to painting and chess – into a member of their grandiose society?

This hilarious tale speaks loudly and joyfully about learning to overcome and celebrate our differences. The gorgeously textured illustrations are full of rich detail and lovable animal characters, and the hilarious one-liners will have both little ones and their parents chuckling as they turn the pages.

A standout picture book that is destined to become a family favourite!

(Templar, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Steve, Terror of the Seas by Megan Brewis

Young readers will love taking the plunge into this deep sea adventure starring a pilot fish with only one pal!

Welcome to the delightful debut picture book from South African-born Megan Brewis, an exciting new author and illustrator whose distinctive artwork reflects her work as a textile designer before moving to England.

This funny and informative story about ‘scary’ Steve is based on nature’s real-life symbiotic relationships which pairs up different species through their long-term biological association. In Steve, Terror of the Seas, youngsters are given a fun lesson in the relationship between pilot fish and sharks.

Steve, the very scary pilot fish, isn’t actually very big. His teeth aren’t very sharp and although he’s no angelfish, there are far scarier creatures in the sea. So why does everyone – and that includes fish both big and small, and humans – think that Steve is the terror of the seas?

Little ones will fall in love with super cool fish Steve as he glides through the ocean bringing fear and terror, and the chance to meet up with some of the ocean’s truly scary fish… the poisonous puffer fish, the viperfish with his fangs, the toad fish that actually croaks, and the strange blob fish.

Fun to read over and over again, this is a story that will appeal to little ones whilst teaching them about the wonders hidden in the ocean. And there is the added fun of spotting Steve’s friend, George the shark, on every page.

Original and imaginative, this comical, colourful story is the perfect introduction to a fascinating range of sea creatures.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age one plus:

Loved To Bits by Teresa Heapy and Katie Cleminson

Love is… a child’s favourite toy!

Cuddle up close with this gorgeous picture book which is guaranteed to warm the heart of every parent… and capture the imagination of every child.

Inspired by the true story of a boy and his teddy bear, this memorable tale is a celebration of early love, the spirit of adventure and that eternal affection for our battered first childhood toy.

Teresa Heapy, author of the multi-award-winning Very Little series, dedicates her rhyming tale to her son Ben who used to swing his Stripy Ted round and round his head… until the arms and legs fell off!

‘He knows my hopes, my secret schemes,

My stories, wishes, fears and dreams.’

Join a small boy and his beloved bear, Stripy Ted, on their lifetime of swashbuckling adventures together. They dream, play, hide, explore, fight monsters, laugh and so much more. But, of course, they don’t escape unscathed and Stripy Ted picks up a lot of war wounds along the way. Worn out and battered, poor Stripy Ted isn’t quite the handsome bear he used to be. But fortunately for the bear, the little boy wouldn’t change him for the world!

Children will love watching Stripy Ted’s amazing adventures on land and sea and his slow transformation from a handsome, golden-striped bear into a scruffy teddy with no stripes, no arms, no legs and just a worn ball of body and head.

Heapy’s beautiful, poignant and yet joyously playful rhyming text is brought to life by Katie Cleminson’s stunning, bold, colour-washed illustrations which capture all the exuberance and warmth of the story.

The perfect cuddle-up-and-share story for bedtime!

(David Fickling Books, hardback, £11.99)