Wonderland revisited, an ancient mystery and Moon travels by various authors: - book reviews -

Return to Wonderland
Return to Wonderland

Discover what happened in Wonderland when Alice left, share an adventure in the natural world, learn the history of man’s race to the Moon, and enjoy cosmic capers with a bunch of time-travelling pals in a summertime selection of children’s books

Discover what happened in Wonderland when Alice left, share an adventure in the natural world, learn the history of man’s race to the Moon, and enjoy cosmic capers with a bunch of time-travelling pals in a summertime selection of children’s books.

Age 8 plus:

Return to Wonderland

Various authors

For over 150 years, readers have enjoyed sharing Alice’s adventures in Wonderland… but what happened after she left?

Eleven of today’s leading children’s authors have given free rein to their imaginations, and used their own unique writing skills, to bring a new generation of youngsters a stunning collection of warm, witty and highly original short stories which capture all the fun, charm and eccentricity of Lewis Carroll’s best-known tales and much-loved characters.

Return to Wonderland – with fabulous contributions from Peter Bunzl, Pamela Butchart, Maz Evans, Swapna Haddow, Patrice Lawrence, Chris Smith, Robin Stevens, Lauren St John, Lisa Thompson, Piers Torday and Amy Wilson – is a tour-de-force, offering a delightful, contemporary spin without losing the spirit of the original adventures.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was first published by Macmillan in 1865 and these beautifully written and creative stories – with illustrations by Laura Barrett – revisit Carroll’s amazing cast of quirky characters like the Queen of Hearts, the Mock Turtle, the Dormouse, the Cheshire Cat and Alice’s Sister.

So tumble down the rabbit hole again to find out what happens next in Wonderland. Is the Queen of Hearts still ruling with an iron fist, does the Mad Hatter still have to go to tea, and will Tweedledum and Tweedledee ever resolve their argument?

Peter Bunzl, author of the fantastic Cogheart series, brings us an adventure starring the Duchess’ son Pig, and prize-winning author Pamela Butchart makes the Queen of Hearts her star, Maz Evans, whose debut novel, Who Let the Gods Out, received 20 award nominations, conjures up a more sensible Mad Hatter, and Swapna Haddow, award-winning author of the Dave Pigeon books, reveals her story about books and libraries was inspired by the Mock Turtle’s passion for learning.

Patrice Lawrence, author of Orangeboy and Indigo Donut, delights everyone with her story of Honour, the hedgehog from a family of renowned croquet balls, Chris Smith, co-author with Greg James of the bestselling Kid Normal series, features the Tweedles who learn the importance of standing up to bullies, and Robin Stevens, author of bestselling detective mystery series, Murder Most Unladylike, tells us about trying to save Alice from Wonderland.

Bestselling author Lauren St John, who once worked as a veterinary nurse, reveals what happened when the Dormouse went to night court, Lisa Thompson, whose debut novel, Goldfish Boy, was, nominated for the Carnegie Medal, revisits the trial of the Knave of Hearts, prize-winning Piers Torday explains how the Cheshire Cat got his grin, and Amy Wilson, who writes wonderful magical fantasy novels including A Girl Called Owl, turns the hookah-smoking Caterpillar into the star of her story.

These brand new stories – each with a personal introduction by the author – are clever, magical, funny, fresh, written with genuine affection for Carroll’s original books, and the perfect introduction to the extraordinary world of Wonderland.

(Macmillan, hardback, £10.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Longest Night of Charlie Noon

Christopher Edge

When three children get lost in a wood one night and time starts to play tricks on them, every second counts if they want to ever escape…

Award-winning author Christopher Edge, who grew up in Manchester, likes nothing better than to set young minds in motion and he is back to entertain and educate readers with another fascinating mystery set amidst the stunning scenery of Lower Woods, ancient woodland on the border of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.

The inspiration for The Longest Night of Charlie Noon came from his own childhood when he discovered Brendon Chase, a classic children’s novel by Denys Watkins-Pitchford, writing as 'BB,' which was first published in 1944, and which features three boys who run away from home and live wild in the woods for month.

His research for this thrilling, timely and atmospheric story led him to spend a very scary – and very lonely – night in the woods, a night so dark that the moonlight filtering through the trees seemed to scatter blossom on their branches.

‘If you go into the woods, Old Crony will get you’ says local legend. Secrets, spies, or maybe a monster… who, or what, is it that is leaving curious patterns of sticks that are appearing in the woods? Who, or what, lies deep in the heart of the woodland?

Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Noon, and her friends Dylan ‘Dizzy’ Heron and Johnny Baines, are determined to discover the truth, but when night falls without warning they find themselves trapped in a nightmare. Lost in the woods, strange dangers and impossible puzzles lurk in the shadows. As time plays tricks, can Charlie and her pals solve this mystery and find a way out of the woods? But what if this night never ends and they are doomed to stay in this night forever?

The Longest Night of Charlie Noon is that rare thing… a book that is as clever as it is spellbinding, weaving science, history, fantasy, fun and real-life issues into one great, big adventure full of surprises, suspense and mystery.

It is also a celebration of the natural world, carefully and lovingly designed make youngsters pause and reflect that, when times are dark, solace and beauty can be found in nature and that we should all cherish these moments while we still have the time.

An exceptional middle-grade novel…

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

Balloon to the Moon

Gill Arbuthnott and Chris Nielsen

As the world gets ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first time humans landed on the Moon, blast off into space and learn the history and science behind that historic journey.

Using words, pictures and lots of fascinating facts, author Gill Arbuthnott and illustrator Chris Nielsen bring a new generation of space fans a fascinating countdown of the technologies, innovations and stories that led humans from flying in a hot air balloon to walking on the Moon.

In 1969, humans walked on the Moon for the first time, but how did we get there? Long before anyone had designed a rocket, the Montgolfier brothers were making hot air balloons in 18th century France. In October 1783, they became the first people to experience controlled flight with the help of a sheep, a duck and a rooster who were their first passengers.

Balloon to the Moon starts from that historic balloon flight (in which the animals returned baffled but unharmed!) at King Louis XVI’s Palace of Versailles near Paris, and counts down to American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s ‘giant leap for mankind’ and beyond.

Structured around the famous NASA countdown to launch, Balloon to the Moon is a beautifully illustrated account of the human journey to space in which each chapter describes a key stage of flight – the technologies, innovations and stories – and how they led to the famous Moon landings.

The book’s design and Nielson’s atmospheric illustrations reflect the vintage feel of the 1960s with their clever use of colour and texture while Arbuthnott, a former science teacher who loves combining scientific fact with wonderful anecdotes of people and places, brings life and vitality to the exciting history and innovations of space travel.

So from flying erratically over the heads of a king and queen to gliding through space on the way to a ‘small step’ on the Moon, sit back and enjoy the ride…

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £16.99)

Age 8 plus:

My Cousin is a Time Traveller

David Solomons

Strap yourselves in and take a deep breath because David Solomons is back with the explosive finale to his award-winning, out-of-this world superhero comedy series.

Yes, all you young time travellers, it’s cosmic capers again as Luke, Zack and the rest of the gang do battle with a toaster that wants to take over the world… and the most dangerous book in the universe.

Solomons, who has been writing screenplays for many years, plays to an understandably rapt audience in this entertaining, laugh-out-loud series which stars a boy who has a troublesome twin in a parallel world.

Luke is surprised to discover that his cousin Dina is a time traveller. He is even more surprised when she brings him a warning from the future… the machines are becoming too intelligent and he must help her stop them taking over the world and save humanity. It couldn’t come at a worse time for Zack, though, as he has decided to give up his superpowers and live life as a normal teenage nerd. Can Luke stop the tech take-over? Well, first he must overcome the problem of making a piece of toast, swallow his irritation and rise to the challenge yet again...

These terrific tales of sibling rivalry going cosmic have been all-round winners. Solomons knows his audience well and the beguiling mix of high-octane action, sizzling suspense, laugh-out-loud humour, outrageous plot twists, and genuine heart-warming emotion has left an army of addicted young readers gasping, guffawing and gulping in equal measure.

One last blast to round off a super-charged space odyssey!

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Spectacular Revenge of Suzi Sims

Vivian French and Julia Patton

It’s going to take some very cunning plotting but Suzi Sims is determined to dish out some sweet revenge on the class bully!

Author of over 270 books, Vivian French is set to get young readers giggling and cheering as they join feisty Suzi in a comical sports day drama full of brilliant characters and important lessons about standing up to bullies.

Sports day is coming up soon and accident-prone Suzi Sims, who reckons she could win the 100 metres race, is in a good mood. But that all changes when her class gets saddled with mean old Miss Grit as their supply teacher.

Miss Grit has it in for Suzi from day one, and worst of all, Suzi’s rival Barbie Meek – so mean that she made rattlesnakes look like fluffy kittens – is Miss Grit’s class favourite! The terrible duo are about to turn Suzi’s life into a nightmare... will she even make it to sports day for her chance to win the race and out-run the class bully?

Everyone – particularly struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers – will love Suzi’s much-deserved dose of revenge in this super sporty story filled with fun and mishaps, and featuring delightful black and white illustrations from award-winning author and illustrator Julia Patton.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Owen and the Soldier

Lisa Thompson

We all need comfort in hard times… and sometimes help can come from the most unexpected places.

Former radio producer Lisa Thompson, the award-winning author of The Goldfish Boy, which put Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in focus, brings young readers another moving and gentle story of loss, remembrance and the isolation suffered by child carers.

Owen and his mum are struggling. It’s just the two of them at home now after dad left, mum is depressed and they are finding it difficult to ask for the help they need.

When Owen discovers a crumbling stone soldier sitting on a bench in the local park, it feels like he finally has someone he can talk to about his worries. Hidden away in the park, Owen feels free to be himself. When the war-weary soldier is listening, his anxieties slip away.

Only Owen understands how important the stone soldier is but nobody else cares about the soldier, and the town council want to tear him down. Owen is scared that he will be left on his own again. He wants to save the soldier but can he find the courage to speak up before it’s too late?

Owen and the Soldier is a beautiful and thoughtful story which addresses the importance of understanding mental health issues, sharing your worries with other people, even if you don’t think they can hear you, and discovering the hidden courage that everyone has deep inside them.

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

An inspirational and heartwarming story…

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Special Delivery

Jonathan Meres and Hannah Coulson

Understanding dementia is becoming ever more important so author, stand-up comedian and actor Jonathan Meres brings us a moving story specially created for young readers.

Special Delivery is the latest clever and entertaining book in Barrington Stoke’s much-loved Little Gems series, and it speaks sensitively and yet powerfully about helping others and forging friendships across the generations.

The Little Gem books bring together leading 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 activities inside the cover.

All Frank wants is a new bike, but bikes cost money so he had better start saving! When he settles on helping his sister, Lottie, with her paper round, the last thing Frank expects is to meet an old lady wearing a cowboy hat and boots… she’s not like anyone he has ever met before. But Frank’s new friend seems a bit muddled, and when she needs help, he’s the only one there to lend a hand.

Meres’ gentle exploration of dementia is written with insight and a reassuring hand so that children can empathise and better understand the confusion that is a part of this distressing condition.

Hannah Coulson’s warm and expressive illustrations help to bring the story to vivid life, making this beautiful Little Gem appealing to even the youngest readers.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Supertato: Carnival Catastro-Pea!

Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

A devilish invention called the Colour-Suck-A-Tron-5000 is threatening to turn a supermarket carnival into a crushing catastro-pea… and there’s only one person who can save the day!

Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet – the author and illustrator team who have cooked up a storm with their delicious Supertato series – dish up another feast of fun with a new adventure for their superhero potato and his gang of veggies pals.

Supertato, who always his eyes firmly fixed on the bad guys, is now one of the most popular picture book stars, with children racing to get their hands on his tasty, mish-mash adventures.

It’s carnival time in the supermarket and Supertato and the veggies are busy with preparations for the big day. It’s set to be a wonderful celebration of colour and fun but arch enemy Evil Pea is out to spoil the fun… with a devious device that sucks all the colour out of everything, including the veggies! Can Supertato and the veggies come up with an ingenious plan to stop their colourful carnival turning into a catastro-pea?!

The chippy hero’s comical, calorie-consuming adventures amongst fridges, friends and foes are cooked to perfection by Hendra and Linnet, the formidable duo who created Barry the Fish with Fingers, Norman the Slug with the Silly Shell and Nobot the Robot with No Bottom.

Big, bold and bright illustrations help these funny, fast-moving and deliciously wicked adventures come to the boil as Supertato plays out of his skin when the chips are down and Evil Pea plans more dastardly deeds.

A serving of Supertato always leaves little ones hungry for more…

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Don’t Eat Pete!

Sue Walker and Carlo Beranek

Expect the unexpected in this comical tale of a hungry troll who has the tables turned on him… in more ways than one.

Debut author Sue Walker and illustrator Carlo Beranek work their magic in this playful picture book story which is guaranteed to have little ones giggling as the troll gets guzzling.

When Moll the troll asked Uncle Boll to puppy-sit her pug, Pete, she made sure there was plenty of food to satisfy Boll’s huge appetite. The hungry troll is under strict instructions ‘Don’t Eat Pete!’ Despite his promise not to eat the little pug, Boll loves his food and small and sweet Pete looks very, very tasty. But now Pete is getting hungry too… what is a dog to do when his tummy is rumbling?

Walker’s fun-filled, rhyming story starring cute little pug Pete and his blue warty puppy-sitter has a wonderful twist in its tail, and Beranek’s big, bold and bright illustrations add life and colour to the fur-raising action.

A tasty treat for all the family!

(Maverick Arts Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Pirate Who Lost His Name

Lou Treleaven and Genie Espinosa

Meet a pirate who is as ‘piratey’ as any pirate could hope to be… if only he could remember his name!

Picture book author Lou Treleaven has fun and plenty of guessing games with this quirky and captivating tale of a pirate and his parrot voyaging across the high seas in search of his forgotten name.

There was once a pirate. A very piratey pirate. He had everything a pirate was supposed to have… a curvy sword, a feathered friend and a wooden limb. The only thing he didn’t have was a name. He’d forgotten it! So he sets off on a quest to find it… a quest that takes him to the wonderfully named Heart-shaped Island and Collector’s Cove, but ends with a very loud squawk!

Children will love tagging along with the bearded pirate as Treleaven delivers a treasure-load of wordplay and knockabout action, while Genie Espinosa climbs aboard with an array of fantastic, multi-coloured illustrations.

The perfect pirate package for your own little buccaneers!

(Maverick Arts Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

I, Pod

Rebecca Lisle and Richard Watson

Stone Age boy Pod is back… and discovering that babysitting can be positively hair-raising!

I, Pod – a funny, warm-hearted story which puts fun, adventure and words in the spotlight – is the third picture book from dynamic author and illustrator duo, Rebecca Lisle and Richard Watson, who brought young readers the brilliant Stone Underpants and Games of Stones.

In his latest action-packed adventure, keen inventor Pod is in trouble when he is asked to babysit baby Nim and his latest invention – a swing made from wood and vines – turns out to be a little too successful. Baby Nim, who lands in the river and is swept away on a dangerous course, has been having trouble saying Pod’s name but it’s okay when her mum wants to know what has been going on because she now knows exactly where to point the blame!

Lisle is on top form in this hilarious Stone Age adventure and Watson provides the wonderfully colourful and characterful illustrations for a charming picture book brimming with invention, imagination and an irresistible sense of fun.

(Maverick Arts Publishing, paperback, £7.99)