Magical adventures, microscopic monsters and playful poetry by Various Authors - book reviews -

North Child
North Child

There’s a magical, wintertime feel to a new selection of children’s books which are destined to make reading an exciting experience this autumn… and just in time for the nights drawing in and the days growing colder.

There’s a magical, wintertime feel to a new selection of children’s books which are destined to make reading an exciting experience this autumn… and just in time for the nights drawing in and the days growing colder.

Age 10 plus:

North Child

Edith Pattou

Steep yourself in the magic, mysteries and marvels of a faraway kingdom in Edith Pattou’s timeless and beautiful wintertime adventure story which has been winning hearts and minds since it was first published thirteen years ago.

North Child is the unforgettable unfolding of one girl’s love and destiny, a modern-day classic and a spellbinding story based on the Norwegian fairy tale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon. It was first published in 2006 to critical acclaim, winning major awards and a passionate following that continues today.

And now a new generation of young readers can enjoy US author Pattou’s lush rendering of a fairy tale that first cast a spell over her when she was a child, and made her determined to rework it into an epic fantasy adventure of love, loss and betrayal set in a breathtaking landscape filled with castles, trolls, shamans and spellbound princes.

Rose is an unusual child… she was born facing North. She feels out of place in her family, despite her love for them and her home, and the old stories say she is destined to travel far from home on a dangerous journey, and meet a lonely, icy death. Making a pact with an enormous white bear, Rose travels on his back to a mysterious castle carved into a mountain that holds a dark enchantment, a darker temptation, and the key to her true destiny. But Rose’s actions have unleashed a terrible curse, and she must now save the stranger who stole her heart…

While writing North Child, Pattou became an expert in mapmaking, seamanship, Scandinavian languages, Norse mythology and the Arctic, journeying by ship through the fjords of Norway… and these all feed into her powerful and vividly imaginative storytelling.

Fantasy, folklore and a rich tapestry of beautifully drawn characters and exquisitely detailed snow-filled landscapes and dramas blend into a magical and unforgettable experience which has lost none of its beauty and power to enthral and delight readers of every age.

(Usborne, paperback, £7.99)

Age 10 plus:

The Pearl in the Ice

Cathryn Constable

Set sail on the stormy seas for a thrilling adventure with a young girl growing up in a time of impending war, deadly danger… and dark magic.

Cathryn Constable, author of the spellbinding and highly acclaimed debut novel The Wolf Princess, blends real history and all the vivid drama of a classic folk story in her new middle grade novel set on the cusp of the First World War.

It’s 1912 and with the world set against her, silence and deception reaching into the heart of her family, and a dangerously appealing new friend just waiting to take her off course, 12-year-old Marina Denham discovers that finding your place in the world – and uncovering the truth – isn’t as easy a task as it might first sound.

Marina’s father, a naval commander, has been away for most of her life, and certainly since her mother died. For some reason, he has kept Marina away from water all of her life, and yet she feels the pull of an ocean she has never known.

When she is sent to boarding school to learn to be a lady, Marina decides instead to stow away on her father’s ship. But what she doesn’t know is that it’s the eve of war and a perilous voyage lies ahead.

But where are they sailing to and why, and what has it to do with the dark shape in the deep that seems to be following them? As Marina travels through icy seas, a great secret is about to be uncovered…

Bathed in shades of dark and light, and brimming with atmosphere, the spirit of adventure, and magical realism, this is a fast-paced, utterly enchanting thriller and the perfect accompaniment to long, winter nights.

This book is published on November 7.

(Chicken House Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

Unseen Worlds: Real-Life Microscopic Creatures Hiding All Around Us

Hélène Rajcak and Damien Laverdunt

Discover a hidden universe of microscopic monsters that live all around us… but can only be seen with a microscope.

Youngsters will love travelling to locations both familiar and strange in this entertaining and informative book which takes readers on a hunt for the smallest creatures on planet Earth, and promises that they will never see the world in the same way again!

Unseen Worlds comes from What on Earth Publishing which specialises in the art of telling stories through timelines. And for every question the book answers, it sparks another one, helping to encourage young readers into a lifelong love of enquiring and discovering.

In this intriguing new book, youngsters unfold each page to reveal stunningly detailed illustrations bursting with jelly-like amoebae, predatory centipedes, ravenous mosquitoes, and more mites than you could imagine. From the murky ocean depths to your kitchen cupboard, and even inside your nose, this is an extraordinary journey of bizarre discoveries.

Contained within the pages are hundreds of ugly, fascinating or simply bizarre microscopic animals, plants and other organisms, but however terrifying these tiny beings might appear, we are reminded that without them, life on Earth would be simply impossible.

With the intricately detailed and colourful illustrations of French artists Hélène Rajcak and Damien Laverdunt , lots of amazing facts, and a helpful glossary at the end, this is a book that is both entertaining and a valuable teaching tool.

(What on Earth Books, hardback, £14.99)

Age 9 plus:

Prisoners of Geography: Our World Explained in 12 Simple Maps

Written by Tim Marshall and illustrated by Grace Easton and Jessica Smith

How did the USA become a superpower, why do people go to war, and why are some countries rich while others are so poor?

Find the answers to these questions and many more in a clever, eye-opening book which uses maps to explain how geography has shaped the history of our world, and lets children discover how the choices of world leaders are swayed by mountains, rivers and seas, and why geography means that history is always repeating itself.

This remarkable and unique introduction to world affairs, which will inspire curious minds everywhere, is a stunning abridged and illustrated edition of the international adult bestseller, Prisoners of Geography, by acclaimed author Tim Marshall, a leading foreign affairs journalist with more than 30 years of reporting experience reporting around the world.

Full of fascinating facts and history, distilled from the original and brought to life by the beautiful artwork of illustrators Grace Easton and Jessica Smith, the book is an easy-to-understand introduction to geography, history and politics, and helps children to gain a new and enlightening perspective on the world around them.

(Elliott & Thompson Limited, hardback, £16.99)

Age 9 plus:

Changing the Game: Fantastic Female Footballers

With Casey Stoney

Enjoy meeting the game-changers of women’s football in a super, glossy, fully illustrated compendium that will inspire a new generation of female fans.

Changing the Game, featuring some of the world’s most famous female footballers, has been curated by experienced player, coach and Olympian Casey Stoney who tells us in her introduction, ‘These are the trailblazers, the pioneers, the brave. Women who have been fighting stereotypes and prejudice since the first time they kicked a football, just to play the game they love.’

From historically important figures such as Lily Parr, the Preston woman who defied the government ban on women’s football and played for the town’s trailblazing team, Dick, Kerr Ladies FC during the First World War, to contemporary record-breakers such as Marta, the brilliant Brazilian who lights up the stadium with her magical skills, and rising stars like French player Salma Bacha set to take the game to new heights, this book is packed with fascinating facts, figures and faces.

With beautiful illustrations, inspirational stories, player skills and statistics, and Stoney's motivational voice throughout, this is a must-have book for girls and women looking for sporting heroes.

(Studio Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 8 plus:

Butterflies for Grandpa Joe

Nicola Davies and Mike Byrne

Youngsters will be all of a-flutter as they turn the pages of a moving and gently reassuring book which celebrates the close bonds of family and the beauty of butterflies.

Award-winning author Nicola Davies, well-known for nature writing and children’s fiction, puts her beloved natural world at centre stage in a heartwarming tale of loss, empathy, affection, and dealing with grief across the generations.

Grandpa Joe is butterfly bonkers. There’s nothing he loves more than photographing the fluttering, colourful creatures in his garden. But since Ben’s granny passed away, Grandpa Joe has changed. He doesn’t want to go outside or talk or smile. He seems to be a completely different person and it feels like time is running out to help him.

If only Ben could find a way to bring the butterflies to his Grandpa. Maybe seeing them again could help bring back his smile...

Written with Davies’ trademark gentle touch, and featuring beautifully emotive black and white illustrations by Mike Byrne, this poignant story explores important subjects like grief and depression in a sensitive and accessible way for young readers.

Ideal as a first chapter book for new, struggling and dyslexic readers, and produced in publisher Barrington Stoke’s super readable format, Butterflies for Grandpa Joe will touch the hearts of readers both young and old.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Granny Magic

Elka Evalds

You don’t need to be a knitting fan to find yourself in stitches as debut novelist Elka Evalds works her special magic on a tale full of woolly delights!

Evalds, who was born in the USA and now lives in the Cotswolds, was inspired by her Latvian granny’s magical knitting skills to pen this enchanting and entertaining cross-generational celebration of what family really means.

Combining grannies, knitting and magical sheep, Granny Magic is a funny, heart-warming and quirky adventure for young readers.

Will’s beloved granny spent her days making cakes and knitting itchy jumpers… at least, that’s what he thought. But when she passes away and dodgy Jasper Fitchet moves into their village with a pattern for dark magic, everything begins to unravel in Knittington.

Can Will unpick Fitchet’s evil plans? With the help of gran’s secret knitting club, some ancient motorbikes and a flock of magical sheep, they might just stitch him up!

Featuring the brilliant black and white illustrations of Teemu Juhani, Granny Magic has fun and laughter on every page…

(Chicken House Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Heidi

Jeanne Willis, Johanna Spyri and Briony May Smith

If you’re looking for an extra special Christmas gift book, this glorious, illustrated retelling of Johanna Spyri’s 1880 classic tale of Heidi, set amidst the majesty of the Swiss Alps, could be the answer.

Beautifully produced, printed on luxurious paper, and with a fully-foiled cloth binding, foiled jacket and ribbon marker, the new Nosy Crow Classic is a joy to look at and a delight to read, and follows the success of the first two books in publisher Nosy Crow’s Illustrated Classics Series, The Velveteen Rabbit and Peter Pan.

Author Jeanne Willis and illustrator Briony May Smith combine their considerable talents on this stunning book which retains all the warmth and sparkle of the original book, and will be enjoyed and treasured for years to come.

Heidi is by far the most popular piece of Swiss literature ever written and has been translated from German into 50 languages, been filmed more than a dozen times, and more than 50 million copies of Heidi books have been sold worldwide.

When five-year-old orphan Heidi is sent to live in the Swiss Alps with grumpy Grandpa, the rest of the village take pity on her. But Heidi soon discovers that her grandpa is gentle and kind behind his scowl, and she loves her new life running wild in the mountains with the goats, the flowers and her best friend Peter. But then Heidi is forced to move far away from all she now loves to the soot and smoke of Frankfurt to be the companion of disabled girl Clara. Will she ever return to her true home in the mountains?

Willis’ sensitive retelling, which tweaks elements like Clara’s disability to better represent the modern world, and Smith’s heartwarming, full-colour illustrations, combine old and new in perfect harmony.

Perfectly pitched for newly confident readers to enjoy alone, but also tailor-made for parents to read aloud, this is an ideal gift for young children or older fans of this moving and timeless tale.

(Nosy Crow, hardback, £14.99)

Age 4 plus:

Who Am I?: A Peek-Through-Pages Book of Endangered Animals

Tim Flach

Enjoy close-ups of some of the planet’s most amazing but endangered creatures in a book of full of stunning nature photography.

Who Am I?, which uses clever riddles, stunning images and intriguing peek-hole pages, comes from award-winning animal portrait photographer Tim Flach, creator of the adult book Endangered, and aims to introduce children to ten vital species-at-risk.

Beautifully designed to catch the eye – and pique the curiosity of younger readers – the peep-through format gives tantalising glimpses of rare birds, fish and animals before revealing them in all their majestic and colourful splendour.

Who is that peeking through the page? Is it a giant panda munching on bamboo, or perhaps a yellow-eyed tree frog hiding in a tropical forest? Marvel at close-up pictures of a polar bear and an axolotl (a rare salamander known as the Mexican walking fish), and meet a rolled-up white-bellied pangolin and an imperious-looking Philippine eagle.

With its engaging and timely message about conservation, this beautifully creative picture book is the perfect gift for animal enthusiasts of any age.

This book is published on November 12.

(Abrams Books for Young Readers, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Gobbledegook Book

A Joy Cowley Anthology re-illustrated by Giselle Clarkson

Joy Cowley, one of New Zealand’s best-loved writers for children and adults, has a very special way with words and this gorgeous new anthology of her warm and inspirational work is set to enchant young readers in the UK.

The Gobbledegook Book is packed with Cowley’s favourite stories, poems and nonsense rhymes, all lovingly collected together, and re-illustrated by Giselle Clarkson, in a sturdy, hardback gift volume.

Perfect for reading aloud and snuggling up with at the end of the day, Cowley’s renowned wordplay and humour shine through in this landmark collection which includes New Zealand favourites like Faster Faster and other treasured stories.

Enjoy a jaunty rhyme about a tiny woman who stitches herself a coat from autumn leaves, Cowley’s much-loved, classic rhyme, Nicketty-Nacketty Noo-Noo-Noo, starring a hungry ogre who chews glue stew, the laugh-out-loud tale of a pumpkin that grew so big that it exploded, and meet a very greedy cat that gobbles up the shopping!

The Gobbledegook Book, packed full of Clarkson’s fresh, vibrant and funny illustrations which add life and colour to Cowley’s timeless, joyous, youthful and nostalgic stories, is destined to become a family favourite.

(Gecko Press, hardback, £14.99)

Age 3 plus:

Twelve Days of Kindness

Cori Brooke and Fiona Burrows

Give your little ones a simple, subtle and gentle lesson in kindness with a clever picture book from Australian author and illustrator team, Cori Brooke and Fiona Burrows.

Nabila is the new girls in the class and Holly doesn’t like to see her having to eat alone and suffer teasing from the other girls. Nabila is struggling to make friends and Holly wants to make her feel at home. Both girls are picked for the school soccer team and with the help of their football coach, they come up with a plan. Can their school team bring them together, and will the spirit of friendship win the day?

With its themes of helping, caring, friendship and teamwork, Twelve Days of Kindness is the perfect book for teaching youngsters about the importance of empathy and inclusivity, and using kindness as stick to shame the bullies.

(New Frontier Publishing, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Caveman Next Door

Tom Tinn-Disbury

The modern world can be a bewildering place… particularly when you are a caveman!

Meet the extraordinary, nature-loving Ogg, who discovers friendship in unusual places, in a funny and touching debut picture book from author and illustrator Tom Tinn-Disbury.

Trying to fit into the contemporary world when you are a caveman isn’t easy. He has moved in next door to Penny and she can’t help but notice that he doesn’t have a TV or wear any socks, and grunts instead of talking. Penny is determined to show him around but Ogg always seems to get things wrong… with hilarious results. Poor Ogg, he just wants to fit in. Fortunately, Penny finds a way to help him!

Brimming with playful fun and vibrant illustrations, The Caveman Next Door delivers reassuring messages about the challenges of being different, how friendship is a vital part of overcoming these hurdles, and the healing power of the natural world.

(New Frontier Publishing, hardback, £11.99)