Wednesday 1 November 2023

CHILDREN'S BOOKS: Winter wonderland, animals galore and dancing delights

Dive into a gorgeous, glistening story set in wintry world full of adventure, discover a fascinating animal on every day of the year, put on your shiny shoes and waltz into the history of dance, meet siblings who were born to be storytellers and be uplifted by an inspirational friendship with a
super autumn section 

Age 8 plus
The Snow Girl
Sophie Anderson
and Melissa Castrillón

ARE you ready to take a magical journey into a thrilling winter wonderland? Snuggle down into your favourite armchair and lose yourself in The Snow Girl, a dazzling fairytale adventure about friendship, courage and not being afraid to reach out for help which has been described by one critic as ‘Frozen meets Narnia.’ This perfect winter and Christmas time story is the work of exciting Lake District author Sophie Anderson who is inspired to write by her grandmother’s Slavic folk tales and is bewitching us all with her sublime and lyrical storytelling, a gift which allows her to sweep readers away to soaring, evocative landscapes where magic, folklore and realism blend together in memorable, mesmerising adventures. In this gorgeous, glistening story, we meet Tasha who has moved with her parents to Grandpa’s valley to help him run his farm. Tasha is excited to see snow for the first time and when she builds a snow girl, she makes a wish that the snow girl can come to life and be her friend.

Tasha wants to feel less alone because for over a year, since one awful day, she has been scared of everything... especially asking for help. But Tasha’s wish comes true and the snow girl comes to life. Soon they are the best of friends and Tasha is drawn into a wintry world full of adventure and magic. She begins to feel braver again but the more time Tasha spends with the snow girl, the more snow falls and the deeper winter gets. Tasha’s family and neighbours struggle with the cold weather, and Tasha begins to suspect that the snow girl is linked to the long winter. Then a terrible snowstorm envelops the valley and Grandpa becomes ill. Tasha realises she must face the fears of her past and find the snow girl to ask her to end winter. But can she do it without losing her best and only friend?

This breathtaking adventure – with its echoes of the classic fairy tale The Snow Maiden – is brought to vivid, vibrant life by the blue-tone, atmospheric illustrations of award-winning artist Melissa Castrillón and is filled with Anderson’s rich and descriptive detail as the snows falls deeper and deeper, and Tasha learns to face her fears. Brimming with all those addictive fantasy tropes that young readers love, and with traditional and contemporary themes perfectly blended, this feast of magic, mysticism and wintry wonders is the perfect book to warm everyone’s heart this Christmas.
(Usborne Publishing, hardback, £12.99)

Age 6 plus
An Animal A Day
Written by Miranda Smith and illustrated by Kaja Kajfež, Santiago Calle, Mateo Markov and Max Rambaldi

IMAGINE discovering a fascinating animal on every day of the year! If you’re hunting down the perfect gift for young animal fans, then look no further than this illustrated gift book which lets them spend a stupendous 365 days in the company of some of the world’s most amazing creatures. Written by Miranda Smith, stunningly illustrated throughout by a team of talented artists, and packed with key information about each animal, the book enables youngsters to dip in each day to discover a new animal to enjoy sharing with friends or family. Travel through the incredible ecosystems and habitats of our beautiful planet, and meet some of the most fascinating animals that call them home. Dive into the oceans to find whales and giant squid, journey across the icy Poles with penguins and polar bears, and race across the African savanna with lions and wildebeest. Each day’s entry is filled with fascinating facts such as height, weight, length, scientific name and their diet. Children can also learn about completely new animals, and find out some incredible new sides to animals you might see often in everyday life. With breathtaking illustrations bringing each animal to life, the added bonus of an index, glossary and quiz, and important information about conservation and how we can protect endangered animals and the places they call home, An Animal A Day is guaranteed to be a year-long roaring success with all young wildlife fans! A gift book to read, enjoy and treasure...
(Red Shed, hardback, £20)

Age 7 plus
Welcome to the Arts: Dance
Sir Alistair Spalding and Jason Raish

PUT on your dancing shoes and waltz, shimmy and tap your way through a spectacular reading journey in the pages of one of this year’s most dazzling books. Expertly written and curated by Sadler’s Wells Theatre’s CEO Sir Alistair Spalding, and beautifully illustrated by multi-award-winning artist Jason Raish, this book of dancing delights – published in conjunction with Sadler’s Wells – immerses readers in the wonderful, multi-faceted world of dance. Dance is an exciting, large format title in the Welcome to the Arts series which offers all-hours admission to some of the world’s most wondrous performances. From Swan Lake to Riverdance, flamenco to tap, Dance features some of the most iconic performances and popular dances from around the world. Learn about the history, culture, evolution and technique of each dance, while also discovering the stars of past and present, including Fred Astaire, Carlos Acosta, Martha Graham and many more. Exclusive backstage access also allows readers to see what goes on behind the theatre doors, including the props and costume design departments. Raish’s intricate, life-like artwork puts colour, life and movement into this spectacular journey which offers facts, figures and inside stories every step of the way and is the perfect gift for any Strictly fan, musical lover or budding dancer. A book for all the family to treasure!
(Big Picture Press, hardback, £25)

Age 9 plus
Peter Bunzl and Katarzyna Doszla

AN evil queen, a family of siblings who were born to be storytellers, and a hidden key that opens the door to Fairyland! If that sounds like the perfect recipe for a thrilling and magical adventure (this time with more than a touch of the Brontës in it!), then you can be sure you’re in the safe hands of visionary storytelling wizard Peter Bunzl. Bunzl, whose award-winning Victorian steampunk series, Cogheart, won him critical acclaim and an army of young fans, makes a whirlwind return with Glassborn, second book of an epic new dual world series which began with last year’s modern classic, Magicborn. Inspired by the inventive worlds created by the famous Brontë sisters, who loved to weave stories about imaginary places called Glass Town, Gondal and Angria, and wrote them down in fairy-sized newspapers, Bunzl sprinkles his own special brand of dark and delicious fairy dust on this dazzling tale of magic and mystery.‘Fairy Tree, tall and grand, open a path to Fairyland...’ The year is 1826, and the four Belle siblings, Acton, Bram, Elle and Cora, arrive at their new home, Fairykeep Cottage, in Tambling Village after the tragedy of losing their mother to influenza. Acton, the youngest member of the Belle family and a lover of old fairy tales, immediately befriends a bright, red robin, leading him to discover a hidden key. That night, when the clock strikes thirteen, Acton is called to Fairyland. For in finding the key, Acton has become the Chosen One and must steal the Glimmerglass Crown for the cruel Fairy Queen. When his siblings realise their brother has been taken, they set out on a quest to rescue him. But Fairyland is full of dangers... and to overcome the Queen, and her deadly curse, they will need courage, cunning and a great deal of hope. Starring four charismatic siblings who must harness all their cunning, courage and hope on a perilous quest, Glassborn is filled with BAFTA award-winning animator Bunzl’s seductive, hallmark mix of pulsating action, literary history, gripping mystery, heart-stopping danger and mesmerising fantasy. Add on the atmospheric illustrations of Katarzyna Doszla and you have soaraway fantasy at its very best!

(Usborne Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus
The Frost Goblin
Abi Elphinstone and Fiona Woodcock

‘This is the story of the deepest frost of the year. The one that tiptoes into your garden in the middle of the night and turns your whole world silver. The one that, if scattered in just the right way, sparks magic.’

THE magical world of winter – with its chilly thrills and snow-covered delights – springs to glorious life in a beautiful and moving new illustrated story from bestselling author Abi Elphinstone and renowned illustrator Fiona Woodcock that is sure to melt the hearts of readers young and old. The deepest frost has the power to rekindle hope in anyone who’s lost it… in Bertie Crash-Wallop's noisy family, it can sometimes feel like there is no room for a quiet boy like him. But when Bertie meets a family of goblins on the night of the deepest frost, is it possible he might make some magic and discover his own place in the world? Elphinstone, whose childhood was spent amidst the spectacular countryside of Scotland’s highland glens, instils her own passion for the great outdoors into this wild and wonderful story which tingles with magic and mystery and is set against a stunning backdrop of glowing winter colours thanks to Woodcock’s atmospheric illustrations. With warm and reassuring messages for children who feel they don’t fit in to their families, and an adventure with all the crisp excitement of a frosty night, this is the perfect gift to lift everyone’s spirits.
(Simon & Shuster Children’s Books, paperback, £8.99)

Age 6 plus
With You Every Step
Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield

‘True friends are always there, even when times are tough.’ 

THE words of Rob Burrow – a former professional rugby league footballer who played for Leeds Rhinos in the Super League before retiring in 2017 – ring out loud and clear in this moving celebration of an inspirational friendship. Two years after he retired, it was publicly revealed that Burrow had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND), and by his side since then has been his best friend and fellow rugby player Kevin Sinfield. They first met playing rugby as young boys and now share a special bond that has grown over the decades. Through good times and bad, their friendship has remained a constant both on and off the rugby field and they inspired the nation when the pair completed the Leeds Marathon earlier this year, crossing the finish line together. Together, the friends have campaigned to raise money for and awareness of motor neurone disease, and while Burrow applied the same determined attitude to his fight against MND and for those affected by the disease as he did to his rugby, Sinfield has been undertaking epic fund-raising challenges for the MND community which have gained him national recognition, raising nearly £10million in three years. With You Every Step is a celebration of friendship, in their own words, and in this truly special, pocket-sized gift book for all ages, the heartfelt words of Rob and Kevin are brought to life with artwork from leading illustrators Rob Biddulph, Reggie Brown, David Litchfield, Gill Smith and Sam Usher to create an inspiring and hopeful celebration of love, support and connection. Exploring universal truths and celebrating kindness, empathy and the joy of friendship, and with heartfelt messages of strength and resilience through love rather than physicality, With You Every Step is the perfect way to show the special people in your life, young and old, just how cherished they are. And for every copy sold, Macmillan Children’s Books will donate 50p to be split equally between the Motor Neurone Disease Association and Leeds Hospitals Charity.
(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £10)

Age 12 plus
Explodapedia: Evolution
Ben Martynoga and Moose Allain

SCIENCE certainly isn’t boring when you take lessons from the fun-filled pages of an amazing exploding encyclopedia! Explodapedia is a unique non-fiction science series from David Fickling Books which delivers everything you need to know... one book at a time. This exciting, innovative approach takes key scientific subjects and presents them in a way that is hugely entertaining and readable, whilst still providing reliable, serious, in-depth information that will help readers gain a true and lasting understanding of crucial topics. Packed with accessible and funny cartoon illustrations, and superb double-page spreads which seamlessly integrate facts and art, these touchstone books are the work of Dr Ben Martynoga, a neuroscientist and science writer, and artist and cartoonist Moose Allain. In Explodapedia: Evolution, this dynamic author and illustrator team explore evolution in an approachable, compelling way, celebrating the ground-breaking work of Charles Darwin, the myriad other thinkers who inspired his work, and those who have developed his discoveries into today’s cutting-edge science. Along the way, young readers meet some surprising ancient relatives and wonder how our past will shape our future. These richly detailed and thought-provoking books offer an appealing and fully accessible way to learn about fascinating discoveries as well as inspiring young readers to enjoy a lifelong love of science.
(David Fickling Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 5 plus
The Night Train
Matilda Woods and Penny Neville-Lee

WHEN picture books are too babyish and middle grade books too hard, just what can a young in-betweenie read? The answer is a highly illustrated, full-colour fiction range from the creative book boffins at Little Tiger Press. With their enchanting stories and highly illustrated glossy pages, these books are ideal for bridging the gap between picture books and chapter books for newly independent young readers. In The Night Train, we set off with a shrill whistle as the special train leaves the station to deliver its passengers to children’s dreams. The yeti, the ballet dancer, the friendly monster and the princess all have starring roles but then the train comes to an unexpected halt. A tree has fallen across the track and there’s no way the guard can move it on his own. It’s a race against time and the passengers will need to use all their talents to get the train moving again. Can they reach their dreams before midnight? Matilda Woods, Australian author of The Boy, The Bird and The Coffin Maker, delivers an uplifting and magical story celebrating the power of teamwork, and all brought to vivid life by debut artist Penny Neville-Lee’s vibrant, colourful and beautiful illustrations. An enchanting book to read alone or share with the family.
(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus
Max and Chaffy: Search for the Ice Chaffy!
Jamie Smart

IF you’re searching for a book that pleases the eye and keeps your little ones on their toes, Chaffy could be just the special kind of ‘beast’ to stretch them to the limit! But don’t be alarmed... because Chaffy is a fluffy, white and lovable little creature who sports only one-and-a-half ears, has a habit of getting lost and is joint star of Max and Chaffy, a heartwarming, interactive graphic novel series from much-loved author and illustrator Jamie Smart. Smart, the genius behind the bestselling Bunny vs Monkey comic books series, works his special magic on these gorgeous books for younger readers, filling them with his trademark blend of fun, friendship and the biggest, brightest and boldest illustrations. In their third outing, Max and Chaffy are excited to look for more chaffies on a special snowy day and YOU can help. A surprise visitor soon joins them to look for one of the rarest chaffies of all and frosty fun abounds! There’s a journey up a mountain, a kind and friendly yeti, and a slippery, slidey adventure all the way down the mountain! Smart brings his zany wit and joyful charm to this ultra-cute and cuddly story which lets children actively join in the fun of searching and finding, celebrates the joy that comes from having a best friend, and shows that there’s a place for everyone. Full of charm and fun, these beautiful books are perfectly pitched for children who are just starting to read independently.
(David Fickling Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 4 plus
Little, Brown Nut
Mary Auld and Dawn Cooper

WHEN a large, round fruit falls from the tallest tree in the rainforest, it’s just the start of a journey that will have a giant impact on both the forest and the world. Little, Brown Nut is the second book in a thrilling and innovative series from exciting, young and independent children’s publisher Mama Makes Books. The Start Small, Think Big series unfolds a world of discovery, beginning from the small and familiar to new areas of knowledge where they really have to think big! From the moment a child opens the textured cover with the peep-through hole, they will be transported to the Amazon rainforest to see a huge fruit falling from the tallest tree. Inside is a little brown Brazil nut, surrounded by twenty others. It sits and waits for an agouti, a rodent with teeth so strong that it can free the nut from its hard casing. The story of the Brazil nut tree and the agouti is told clearly and carefully, with facts about germination, photosynthesis, seed dispersal, food production and the role of rainforests in maintaining a healthy planet. With the help of Dawn Cooper’s stunning illustrations, which bring the narrative and the science to life, Mary Auld’s easy-to-follow story builds understanding about the important relationship between the little nut and the small, furry animal. By thinking big, and through science-based words and pictures full of information and wonder, the book shows why the rainforest is important to local people and the wider world. And to make Little, Brown Nut truly special, there is a big fold-out at the back, with a world map, a picture lifecycle, and an I-Spy game to take children back into in the book to find the rainforest animals in the scenes. A dazzling addition to any home or school.
(Mama Makes Books, hardback, £10.99)

Age 3 plus
Hello Winter
Jo Lindley

AUTUMN is over and it’s time for Winter with the promise of exciting snowmen, snow angels and snowball fights! Enjoy the chills and thrills of the winter season in the fourth and final title of a magical picture book series from debut author and illustrator Jo Lindley. Best Friends with Big Feelings features stories about friendship, feelings and the seasons, and each is set in an enchanting natural world that little readers will love to return to again and again. So say hello to Winter who is SO excited to share her special season... but her friends don’t like her chilly games. And instead of passing the weather crown to Winter, Autumn gives it to Spring. As Winter stomps off to play snow games on her own, it isn’t long before her friends start feeling bad. Can they find their way through the ice and snow to tell their friend how much she means to them? Through pictures and words, Lindley’s four charismatic friends, who control the seasons, gently explore key social and emotional themes, and here they learn about empathy and the need to take turns. With its sparkling foil cover and a gallery of colourful and eclectic illustrations, this beautifully created series is an entertaining teaching tool for talking about both emotions and the seasons.
(Farshore, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus
Eight Nights, Eight Lights
Natalie Barnes and Andrea Stegmaier

AS the December celebration of Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, draws ever nearer, discover how this special time of year brings people together and light to the darkness in a beautiful, atmospheric picture book from Hertfordshire writer Natalie Barnes and German illustrator Andrea Stegmaier. Eight Nights, Eight Lights is a story celebrating Chanukah, told across eight nights, and exploring the much-loved time for songs and prayer, delicious food and friendship, and fun and family. Celebrate each night of Chanukah, known to some as Hanukkah, with eight different families and learn about the rituals and traditions which make up this wonderful holiday. With Stegmaier’s rich, emotive and colourful illustrations and Barnes’ lyrical, rhythmic text, this lovingly created book is the ideal gift to share with children. With its comforting and cosy ethos, the book is also perfect for any child who wants to learn more about The Festival of Lights which this year will start on the evening of Thursday, December 7 and end on the evening of Friday, December 15.
(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus
Percy the Post-Penguin
Genevieve Aspinall

HERE'S a beautiful picture story to melt your heart as we edge closer to the chilly winter months. Percy the Post-Penguin is the work of Genevieve Aspinall who recently graduated with a first class honours degree in illustration at UCLan and loves making stories come to life with her playful and charming artwork. In the cold and icy South Pole, a hardworking little penguin named Percy lives next to his post office in the glistening snow. But not many residents of the South Pole seem to know it’s there. With determination and confidence, Percy sets off on a mission to make himself known. Will he be able to make his dream come true and create a successful business? Aspinall has a passion for creating characters through animals and Percy and his crowd of new-found friends are guaranteed to enchant young readers. Ideal for reading as the nights draw in, and with resonant messages about resilience and determination, Percy the Post-Penguin has the stamp of a bedtime winner!
(UCLan Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Monday 30 October 2023

Shot With Crimson

Nicola Upson

WHEN she visits the Hollywood set of Hitchcock’s film of Rebecca in September, 1939, crime writer Josephine Tey finds herself drawn into a web of murder that stretches back to a historic house in the lush countryside of Cambridgeshire.

And before long, the menacing deeds and deadly desires of Daphne du Maurier’s famous Cornish story start to echo through events on the American side of the Atlantic. Shot With Crimson is the eleventh book in Nicola Upson’s outstandingly intelligent and atmospheric Josephine Tey Mystery series, set principally in England in the 1930s and 1940s, and inspired by the Golden Age of crime writing.

For those new to a name which shone brightly in this period, Josephine Tey was a pseudonym used by the enigmatic Elizabeth Mackintosh, a Scottish writer best known for her mystery novels of the 1940s and 50s. Virtually unknown today, Tey has been given a new lease of life as the lead character in Cambridge graduate Upson’s cleverly plotted novels which see the best-selling author and playwright turn detective to solve cerebral mysteries which often give a voice to the downtrodden silenced by both society and history.

Elegant, sophisticated and beautifully written, these stories blend fact and fiction, contrasting the stark realities of everyday life with the glamorous world of theatre and film during these middle century decades, and exploring hard-hitting issues, many of which are as relevant today as they were eight or nine decades ago.

And Upson’s (pictured left) army of fans will certainly have stars in their eyes when they join Josephine for this gripping mystery set between the alluring backdrop of Alfred Hitchcock’s film set for Rebecca with its iconic actors, and Milton Hall, Cambridgeshire, the Elizabethan manor house which du Maurier visited as a child and which became the inspiration for her unforgettable Manderley.

We join Josephine in September of 1939 as a sombre mood falls across the country. Dogged by the worries of war, she boards the magnificent luxury liner Queen Mary to sail into the unknown but desperately hoping to meet up again soon with her partner Marta Fox who is a screenwriter on the set of Rebecca. And it’s amid the opulence of the Queen Mary that she meets Alma Reville, the shrewd and clever actress who is now Hitchcock’s wife, and whom she first met three years ago when the famous director bought the film rights to one of her books.

This once in a lifetime trip was supposed to feel ‘like a blessing’ but the fear of conflict is ever-present, and when she arrives in Hollywood, Josephine finds that a different sort of battle is raging during the filming of Rebecca. A murderer, hell-bent on revenge, is stalking the set and soon a shocking act of violence reawakens the shadows of the past, with dangerous consequences on both sides of the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, far away in the lush Cambridgeshire countryside, the housekeeper at Milton Hall – the secretive house that led ten-year-old Daphne to the later creation of Manderley – has been murdered. With echoes of the notoriously sinister housekeeper Mrs Danvers in Rebecca ringing in her ears, Josephine is soon linking up with her good friend DCI Archie Penrose of Scotland Yard and they find themselves on a trail that has spine-tingling parallels with the book’s timeless themes of obsession, jealousy and murder…

In what is one of this talented author’s most impressive outings yet, a menacing mystery – packed with movie icons like Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, producer David O. Selznick and even Daphne du Maurier herself – plays out on both sides of the Atlantic as toxic truths are slowly and shockingly revealed. Reunited with her beloved Marta, and with good friend Archie sifting through the evidence after the murder at Milton Hall, Josephine must help to piece together a case that contains Upson’s familiar mesmerising Golden Age blend of fiction and reality, but on this occasion comes liberally sprinkled with intriguing literary tropes.

Slipping effortlessly between places, plotlines and a cast of characters portrayed with exquisite precision, and constantly overshadowed by the ever-gathering clouds of war, this twisting, turning homage to du Maurier’s classic novel is imbued with all the passion and emotions that we have come to expect from this author’s outstanding series. Classy, clever, endlessly entertaining, and perfectly stitched together, Shot With Crimson is a joy from start to finish.
(Faber & Faber, hardback, £16.99)

Thursday 26 October 2023

CHILDREN'S BOOKS: Body facts, a dream read and a cool queen

Take a fascinating journey through the human body with bestselling author Bill Bryson, escape into a thrilling land of shadows and dreams, enjoy an adventure full of mystery, history and girl power, and immerse yourself in a bewitching tale with a twist on the myths and legends of folklore in a super selection of children’s books

Age 8 plus
A Really Short Journey Through the Body
Bill Bryson and Emma Young

WE spend our whole lives in one body and yet most of us have practically no idea how it works and what goes on inside it! Following the success of the children’s adaptation of bestselling author and travel writer Bill Bryson’s prizewinning book, A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, comes this brilliantly funny retelling of another of his bestselling books, The Body. Both educational and entertaining, A Really Short Journey Through the Body is a dazzling collection of fascinating facts about how exactly the human body works and is perfectly created for curious young readers who want answers to their questions. With an easy-to-understand introduction by Bryson, and adapted by Emma Young, this beautiful, large-format hardback has full-colour, intricately detailed illustrations throughout from artists Daniel Long, Dawn Cooper, Jesús Sotés and Katie Ponder. Did you know your spleen is in a full-on battle with armies of deadly invaders, that your eyes blink 14,000 times a day, and that the ‘spongy stuff’ inside your bones is churning out red blood cells and will keep on doing that over and over again until they are battered and useless? Packed full of facts, big numbers (such as the amount of microbes that make you) and small numbers (the size of those very tiny microbes), this feast of non-fiction book is a head-to-toe tour of the most amazing thing about you... your body. An unforgettable journey into what makes us tick!
(Puffin, hardback, £25)

Age 9 plus
The Republic of Dreams
Richard Lambert 

ESCAPE into a thrilling land of shadows and dreams in The Republic of Dreams, the pulsating sequel to poet and fiction writer Richard Lambert’s exciting and evocative fantasy novel Shadow Town. It was in that enthralling first adventure that we met troubled boy Toby who led a quiet and unhappy life in London until a mysterious shadow appeared in his dreams and took him into a hidden world. And it was in the dangerous land of Balthasar that Toby met Tamurlaine, a strange and otherworldly girl who was trying to uncover the mystery of her identity. On our return trip to Balthasar, we find the now Princess Tamurlaine is about to be crowned queen of a land where some children have the power to use dreams to change reality, an activity fraught with danger. Changing the world can have lethal consequences and meddling with nature can lead to ecological disasters spinning irrevocably out of control. Tamurlaine wants to control dreams and dreamers, but a conspiracy led by power hungry Malladain, a family foe, aims to kill her on the day of her coronation. Can her trusted friend Toby from the other world save her? Toby, Tamurlaine and their staunchest allies, Anon a half-angel, Burston, a school friend, and Jinky, an orphan and refugee, must battle against the superior forces of people utterly corrupted by power in a place where no one can be trusted. With its gothic vibes, an intriguing cast of characters, and a fantastical story that tackles issues like the threat of ecological disaster, The Republic of Dreams is an imaginative blend of thrilling fantasy, heart-racing danger and keenly felt human emotions … the perfect combo for all adventure-loving readers!
(Everything with Words, paperback, £8.99)

Age 9 plus
Rosie Frost and the Falcon Queen
Geri Halliwell-Horner

HEROES come in all forms and guises... but to be one you first you have to believe in yourself! Enjoy a thrilling mix of mystery, history, nature and girl power as former Spice Girl, songwriter and author Geri Halliwell-Horner works her magic on a soaring, hidden island adventure that will have middle grade readers hooked from an intriguing prologue right through to the emotion-packed finale. It’s time to find your power... suddenly orphaned and alone, Rosie Frost is sent to the mysterious Bloodstone Island, home not only to the Heverbridge School for extraordinary teens but also a sanctuary for endangered species. There, Rosie confronts a menacing deputy headmaster, a group of mean girls bent on destroying her, and shocking family secrets. She also discovers that history can come to life in ways she never could have imagined. When the island itself comes under threat, Rosie knows she must enter and win the Falcon Queen Games in a desperate bid to save it. But she  can’t do it alone. She finds that believing in herself – and her friends – is the first step to finding the power she never knew she had. Youngsters will love getting to know determined and big-hearted Rosie as she tackles life and her enemies head-on in an exhilarating adventure full of amazing music, family secrets and shocking betrayals, and where heroes are found in the most unexpected places.
(Scholastic, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus
The November Witches
Jennifer Claessen

AFTER thrilling readers with her classy, clever novel, The October Witches – which delivered a bewitching twist on the myths and legends of folklore – master storyteller Jennifer Claessen returns with an equally enthralling sequel. Picking up on the perilous events in the first book, this November adventure is full of bonfires, knights, family disasters and one very important round table, and once again stars young hag Clemmie who knows – from watching her mum, aunts and cousin for twelve years – that magic can get very messy. No witch is excited about gloomy, magic-free November apart from Clemmie who is relieved to finally be done with October’s magical mess. But if there’s no more magic, then where are all the armour-clad knights coming from? When even their enemy coven, the Morgans, don’t have any answers, the Merlyns are on the run. Neither the Morgan nor Merlyn covens want to burn so they will have to work together to solve the mystery of where the witch-hunting knights and the all-engulfing flames are coming from. Will Clemmie be able to find her voice in time to save her family? This fresh, eccentric and playful take on the world of witches is a triumph for Claessen as her feisty but big-hearted and thoughtful star Clemmie once more faces some tough tests and challenges in a bid to rescue her wonderful family coven. Old stories interweave beautifully with new concepts and characters, and old enmities have to be put aside in an adventure that brims with the atmospherics and ethos of an Arthurian tale, and the familiar concerns of youngsters standing on the precipice of adulthood. Witch way to November!
(UCLan Publishing, paperback, £8.99)

Age 9 plus
The Earthshot Prize: A Handbook for Dreamers and Thinkers
Colin Butfield, Jonnie Hughes, Cristina Guitain,
Sir David Attenborough and Prince William

YOUNGSTERS who are eager to help save the planet will find plenty to inspire and empower them in this practical handbook published in collaboration with the prestigious Earthshot Prize. Featuring an introduction from the Earthshot Prize’s founder, Prince William, who tells readers that ‘Our planet is the only home we have, and we must think big and dream bigger if we are to protect it,’ the book also has contributions from environmental activists including Sir David Attenborough, Christiana Figueres and Shailene Woodley. The mission, we are told, is simple... to repair our planet. Our home is in trouble but the good news is that we can fix it by putting our heads together and dreaming up ways to build, create and shout about solutions. And so young readers are taken on a trip around the world to celebrate the diverse and rich habitats, amazing animals and wonderful landscapes that make up our planet, and to learn about the problems and challenges facing these habitats. On the way, they meet Earthshot innovators, entrepreneurs and game-changers from the past and present, from Wangari Maathai to David Attenborough. And importantly, youngsters discover how they can become the change-makers of the future, helping to develop solutions to the world’s biggest problems... because even the smallest idea or Earthshot has the power to change everything. Full of simple practical things young people can do or make from home, as well as big ideas and contributions from people around the globe, this is the ultimate handbook for future innovators and activists who want to make a difference.
(Wren & Rook, paperback, £10.99)

Age 8 plus
An Atlas of Legendary Places: From Atlantis to the Milky Way
Volker Mehnert and Claudia Lieb

TAKE a thrilling journey to the most fascinating places on Earth with this magnificent, large-format book which is brimming with the magic of myth, culture and natural beauty. An Atlas of Legendary Places – the work of travel writer Volker Mehnert and Munich-based illustrator Claudia Lieb – is a virtual passport to the world’s most intriguing destinations. Packed with information and gorgeous illustrations that inspire wonder and spark the curiosity of young readers, this bright and bold book is an exciting introduction to eighteen of the world’s most fascinating landmarks. Stunning double-page spreads offer a close-up look at each site, with intriguing information and exciting perspectives. Readers learn about the unique geology of Thingvellir National Park in Iceland and Namibia’s Brandberg Mountain, the legends behind Germany’s Lorelei rock and Greece’s Delphi, the diverse cultural histories of Timbuktu and Jerusalem, the architectural and natural splendours of Taishan in China and Palenque in Mexico, and even the galactic marvels of the Milky Way. Uncovering the unique histories, physical characteristics, and cultural lore of these magical places, this fact-filled atlas invites youngsters to learn more about each of the locations, and helps to encourage a lifetime interest in travel, geography, history... and the unexpected!
(Prestel, hardback, £19.99)

Age 8 plus
Guy Bass and Alessia Trunfio

IMAGINE if robots took over the planet! That’s exactly what award-winning author Guy Bass does in the first book of an exhilarating and original new trilogy which explores the topical issue of Artificial Intelligence with humour, creativity and lots of dynamic action. The year was Something Something. Humans had spread like peanut butter across the galaxy, looking for new planets to call Somewhere. One of those planets was Somewhere Five One Three. And when the humans arrive on Somewhere 513, they discover that the robots sent to prepare the planet for Humanity’s arrival have chosen to keep it for themselves. Only one robot remains loyal – K1-NG, aka King of the Robots. But even with the most powerful robot on their side, the outlawed humans don’t stand a chance. Ten years on, Gnat and her sister Paige are the only humans left and have spent their lives hidden underground. Now they must venture out in search of the one robot that stood by the humans. There’s just one problem... the once mighty K1-NG has confronted his past and vowed never to help another human for as long as he lives. Alessia Trunfio’s outstandingly atmospheric black-and-white Illustrations bring the thrilling story to life as Bass serves up his entertaining robotic romp with the sense of child-friendly fun that has made all of his thirty or more books such a rip-roaring success. Storytelling wizardry!
(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus
Knight Sir Louis and the Sinister Snowball
The Brothers McLeod

IF it’s crazy fun you’re looking for this autumn, mount your steed and join the charge with the fourth book in a hilarious, illustrated series from BAFTA award-winning sibling duo, The Brothers McLeod. The Knight Sir Louis adventures have been dubbed Monty Python and the Holy Grail for middle grade readers… and it’s easy to see why! Brimming with inventive storytelling, laugh-out-loud jokes, choose-your-own adventures, and madcap comic strip illustrations, this is a masterclass in crackpot comedy. Knight Sir Louis is the bravest knight at King Burt the Not Bad’s Castle Sideways. He has defeated evil goblins, horrible wizards, a dastardly damsel and a double-headed dragon (but please nobody mention wasps, Knight Sir Louis is absolutely NOT afraid of them). In this new, rollicking adventure, Splint the Sinister Snowball has his icy eyes set on world domination with the help of his frosty siblings, Flint, Hint, Mint, Clint and Sharon. But champion dragon-slayer Knight Sir Louis isn’t about to let Castle Sideways become smothered in snow! Louis rides off to the legendary Brrrrrland with his friends Reader Catalogue and Clunkalot, but waiting for them are goofy goblins, a talking carrot and the biggest meanest snowball in the whole wide world! The Brothers McLeod (otherwise known as author Myles and illustrator Greg) dish up another raucous romp full of super-silly sword play, bone-crunching action, and hilarious heroes as Louis and his friends save the day again. Sublimely funny and seriously entertaining, this is the ideal way to get your youngsters hooked on reading… and medieval mischief!
(Guppy Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 5 plus
The Ever-Changing Earth
Grahame Baker-Smith

TAKE a mesmerising and unforgettable journey through the evolution of planet Earth in a stunning picture book from self-taught, Kate Greenaway Award-winning artist Grahame Baker-Smith. Baker-Smith, whose love for drawing is a true passion, has created a breathtaking celebration of our extraordinary and ever-changing planet through a beautiful lyrical text – which reveals a world teeming with vibrant, complex life – and a gallery of dazzling illustrations. A small boy imagines life on Earth when dinosaurs ruled, and the sky boomed with the wild beat of pterosaur wings. Then an asteroid fell, changing the world forever. If Kûn could go back further in time, he would witness an even bigger collision when the young Earth was struck by another planet, creating our companion moon. Follow Kûn’s spellbinding journey through Earth’s incredible evolution, with its forgotten creatures, its buried oceans and its frozen layers. It leads us to Solveig, a little girl who lives far, far away from Kûn, where she floats in a pool heated by fires at the centre of the Earth. Packed with intricately detailed and atmospheric illustrations, coupled with a moving story, The Ever-Changing Earth is both an ingenious learning tool and a voyage of magical discovery.
(Templar Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 5 plus
Villains Academy: How To Steal a Dragon
Ryan Hammond

BEING bad really HAS never felt so good in the second hilarious instalment of debut author-illustrator Ryan Hammond’s villainously funny and devilishly delightful illustrated series for middle-grade readers who love laughs, action and lots of pictures! Villains Academy stars a school full of evil ‘pupils’ like Bram the werewolf, Mona the elf-witch, Bryan the lion, Shelia the ghost and Tony the skeleton, and guarantees giggles at the turn of every page. It’s the start of the winter term and there’s a new teacher in town at Villains Academy... the notorious dragon-rider Felix Frostbite. Class Z are in awe of him and his lessons on venomous beasts and mythical creatures, but werewolf Bram is suspicious. Soon Bram and his friends, the Cereal Killers, uncover Felix Frostbite’s evil plan to steal all the dragons from the Wicked Woods and leave Villains Academy undefended. Have the gang learnt enough to outsmart their troublesome teacher, or will Felix Frostbite’s heist go down in villain history? With a sparkly cover, gorgeously grotesque super-villains, illustrations galore and bucketloads of badness, this is school as you’ve never before enjoyed it! 
(Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus
I’m Feeling (a little bit) Shy
Anna Milbourne and Asa Gilland

SAYING hello isn’t always easy... especially when you’re shy! Author Anna Milbourne and Swedish illustrator Asa Gilland work their magic and imagination on this charming picture book which uses words, pictures and ingenious holes in the pages to help little ones explore their feelings... particularly the ones it’s sometimes hard to articulate. A little girl is finding it very hard to say hello. She struggles going into groups or parties and is very scared of starting a new school. But when she shares her feelings, she learns that everyone feels shy sometimes... even her exuberant, outgoing big brother! Shyness, she learns, is a feeling that will pass and this realisation enables her to begin to find her own way to deal with new situations, just watching and listening until she is ready to join in. Even those nervous butterflies on her first day at school help her pay attention... and notice children who might become wonderful new friends! The relatable characters, Gilland’s colourful illustrations of busy scenes like parties and playground visits, and the peep-holes in the pages help make this the perfect empowering story. The ideal book to help little ones cope with shyness.
(Usborne Publishing, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus
Daniela Sosa

WHERE we would be without friends? Romanian-born writer and artist Daniela Sosa makes her mark on the world of picture books with her author-illustrator debut Friends, a joyful celebration of the different kinds of friendships. Filled with colour, warmth and the comforts that come from making friends, this heartfelt journey through the topic of friendship teaches youngsters that there are many kinds of friends – old friends, new friends and everything-in-between friends  – and the day to make new friends is always near if you look. There are friends you have from the start, friends who are near and those who are far. There are friends who make you feel brave and some who make you feel angry or jealous but, most importantly, there are friends who will make you roll with laughter. And sometimes friendships come out of nowhere when you need them most. With its simple but resonant messages, sense of joy and wonder, and enchanting illustrations that capture the innocence, the rewards, and occasional complications of friendship, this is the perfect book for home, nursery and school.
(Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Wednesday 25 October 2023

The Paris Affair

Anton Du Beke

CHANGE is inevitable when war is raging across the world and the future looks uncertain, but for the staff of London’s exclusive Buckingham Hotel, the ‘show’ must go on... even if it’s not quite business as usual.

Put on your dancing shoes, polish up the sequins, and glide seamlessly into the glitz and glamour of Mayfair as the dark shadows of conflict fall over the luxury hotel which has become the much-loved stage for Strictly Come Dancing star and all-round entertainer Anton Du Beke’s richly nostalgic novel series.

The king of dance – and now king of romance – Du Beke (pictured below) returns to sweep us off our feet and waltz us back in time to the upstairs and downstairs dramas of the residents and staff of the Buckingham Hotel in 1941 and discover that wartime brings danger on both the home front and the battlefront.  The Paris Affair is our sixth trip back in time to the music and magic of the Buckingham’s magnificent Grand Ballroom where dreams, dancing and dilemmas are part of everyday life, but where the war is proving the catalyst for changes that affect every corner of the hotel.

As the Buckingham digs in deep for life in wartime, echoes from events in Paris in 1926 are beginning to stir. In those heady days, young dancer Ray Cohen had arrived fresh from London to compete at the Casino de Paris as part of the Exhibition Paris.

Dogged by a feeling that he didn’t ‘belong’ in these grand places, Ray was reminded of his own ‘lowly upbringing’ in Whitechapel but was soon led astray by Frenchman Hugo, a charismatic dancer who was born to the Parisian streets and introduced him to the city’s nightlife... including a dazzling, dark-haired stranger called Hannah Lindt.

Hugo was convinced that Ray must change his name if he was to impress High Society with his elegance and poise, and so that pulsating night before the big competition he became Raymond de Guise, a name he still holds 15 years later. But it’s 1941 and Raymond isn’t dancing now... instead, he is away fighting in

Tuesday 24 October 2023

The Great Deceiver

Elly Griffiths

MAGICIAN Max Mephisto might now be divorced from his film actress wife Lydia Lamont and living in London but dark events in Brighton – the seaside town he knows well – are about to lure him back.

If you haven’t already been swept away to the shadowy corners of one of the south coast’s busiest and most vibrant resorts in the Sixties, then now would be an excellent time to discover the sheer mastery of this cerebral and beguiling series.

The Great Deceiver is the latest book in the gripping Brighton Mysteries series and comes from the pen of Elly Griffiths, an accomplished and elegant contemporary crime writer whose work includes the award-winning, Norfolk-based Dr Ruth Galloway series, featuring a forensic archaeologist, which ended on a high this year. Griffiths (pictured below) has the gift of blending cosy, clever, character-driven murder mysteries with acute social observation, a superbly evoked sense of time and place, and the kind of immaculate detective work and plotting which harks back to the golden age of Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham and Josephine Tey.

These charming stories centre on a group of Second World War friends who once served together as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men, using their knowledge of stage magic techniques to aid the war effort, and were inspired partly by her grandfather’s life on the stage.

It’s April of 1966 and Max, now a Hollywood film actor, is in London on his way to visit daughter Ruby, star of Magic Ruby, the most popular TV show in Britain, and her new-born baby girl when he is hailed by a voice from the past... fellow performer Ted English, better known as the Great Deceiver.

Ted’s assistant, Cherry Underwood, has been found dead in her Brighton boarding house and he is convinced that he will be accused of her murder. Max agrees to talk to one of his Magic Men pals, Edgar Stephens, now a police superintendent in Brighton, who is investigating the case. What Max doesn’t know is that the girl’s family have hired private detective duo – Emma Holmes, Edgar’s former police sergeant and now his wife, and local journalist  Sam Collins – to do some digging of their own. What they discover is that the inhabitants of the boarding

Sunday 22 October 2023

Stories behind the world’s style icons

Discover the fascinating histories of two of the world’s most famous style brands – Rolex watches and fashion icon Dame Vivienne Westwood – in two pocket-sized books full of stunning photographs and intriguing facts

Rolex: The Story Behind the Style
Rachael Taylor

ROLEX is the world’s most famous watch brand and now you can enjoy the story of its beginnings in 1905 to its current position as a global icon. Written by Rachael Taylor, a freelance jewellery journalist and regular contributor to titles across the globe, Rolex: The Story Behind the Style is packed with photographs and information covering the company’s entire history. The book reveals the groundbreaking designs and technology that made Rolex such a significant player in the business, and the timeless designs favoured by everyone from world leaders to film stars. 

Marvel at the range of professional watches designed for climbing, diving and other hard-core activities and discover how the crown became the Rolex emblem. Find out about the major moments in history that were graced by the presence of a Rolex watch, and all the places it has travelled to across the world, from the depths of the Mariana Trench to the summit of Everest. With an exploration of everything from the brand’s iconic film appearances and Rolex’s philanthropic efforts, to its status as a collectible investment piece renowned for holding its value, this is the perfect gift for watch lovers everywhere.

Vivienne Westwood:
The Story Behind the Style
Jessica Bumpus

ALSO in this stylish series is a stunning, handbag-sized visual history of the punk fashion designer and all-round revolutionary icon, Vivienne Westwood. Packed with photographs and information covering her extraordinary life, readers of Vivienne Westwood: The Story Behind the Style discover how provocation and anti-establishment slogans became her calling cards and how her brand developed its characteristic motifs. 

Written by Jessica Bumpus, a freelance fashion journalist and the former Fashion Features Editor of British Vogue online, the book recalls the memorable Vivienne Westwood catwalk moments that have gone down in history, how THAT wedding dress came to feature in the Sex and the City movie and how a pearl necklace went viral on TikTok. With an exploration of everything from the most notable collaborations and key protest moments to the last VW show and collection before her death in 2022, Vivienne Westwood: The Story Behind the Style is the perfect gift for everyone who has ever been inspired by the great Dame of fashion.
(Studio Press, hardback, £12.99 each)

Thursday 19 October 2023

CHILDREN'S BOOKS: Surprising sizes, lost legends and a moon mission

Enjoy a life-size close-up of the big and small stars of the natural world, immerse yourself in the mist and magic of Britain’s fascinating heroes and monsters, join a star-struck space traveller for a lunar adventure, and spread your wings for another sky-high escapade with an extraordinary hero in an eclectic mix of new books

Age 8 plus
Size Wise: A Fact-Filled Look at Life-Size Wonders
Camilla de la Bedoyere
and Vasilisa Romanenko

THE natural world is home to some amazingly big and incredibly small wonders, and now you can take a close look at them in their actual life-size through the pages of this bold and beautifully illustrated book. From colossal squids to snowflakes, Size Wise lets young readers measure up against the most colossal or minuscule things in nature with facts and figures across each fascinating spread, and all brought to life by Vasilisa Romanenko’s dazzlingly rendered lifelike artwork. Written by Camilla de la Bedoyere, whose work is informed by her academic background in the sciences, the book showcases everything from giant tigers and enormous elephants to minute crystals and tiny grains of sand. Readers will love exploring nature’s array of large and small gems including eyes, wings, tentacles, sand, snowflakes, flowers and much more and observe them at real-life size or zoomed in for extra interest. Marvel at the dinner-plate-sized eye of the colossal squid, the rainforest flowers you can sit inside, the fingernail-width pygmy butterfly, and find out what sand really looks like when magnified. The book is simply brimming with captivating information about these incredible things, and there are fascinating size comparisons and extra facts. With awesome discoveries, guaranteed to take your breath away, this book offers an unforgettable journey into our astonishing planet.
(Buster Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 9 plus
Storyland: Discover the magical myths and lost legends of Britain
Amy Jeffs

IMMERSE yourself in mist and magic, and discover heroes and monsters right on your doorstep, with a thrilling book that was created for adults but has now been retold for children so they too can marvel at Britain’s fascinating and age-old myths and legends. Based on her bestselling Storyland: A Mythology of Britain, Amy Jeffs – an author, printmaker and art historian specialising in the Middle Ages – brings youngsters a beautiful gift book packed with landscapes which they can recognise but populated with everything from goddesses, Trojans and giants to runaway servants and power-hungry kings. Many of us have heard of Thor, Medusa and Hercules... but what about the myths which are closer to home? Learn about the Trojan heroes who wrestled giants, the Syrian sisters who found refuge on our lands, the dragons who slept in hollow hills, and the kings who communed with the dead. Travelling across the wildest of landscapes – as far north as Orkney and way down to Cornwall in the south – children will learn how Britain got its name, build Stonehenge with the young Merlin, chase hounds up the mountains of Wales, ride stags into the forests of Scotland, and sail with Trojans along the rivers of Britain, discovering a land bursting with thrilling adventures. Full of enchantment, beauty and discovery, and brimming with Jeffs’ striking lino cut illustrations, this stunning book is the perfect way to dazzle children with home-grown tales of magic and adventure... and introduce them to an unforgettable array of dragons and demons, kings and princesses, giants and prophets. Simply wizard!
(Wren & Rook, hardback, £14.99)

Age 9 plus
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Chalice of the Gods
Rick Riordan

FANS of outstanding US author and global bestseller Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians fantasy series – which brings Greek mythology alive for contemporary readers – will be sky high with joy when they land on this brand new epic adventure. For those yet to be initiated into this bestselling phenomenon, the novels are set in a world with the Greek gods in the 21st century, and follow the protagonist Percy Jackson, a young demigod who must prevent the Titans, led by Kronos (Cronus), from destroying the world. And in this sixth epic adventure, we discover that even though Percy has saved the world multiple times, the modern-day son of the moody sea god Poseidon is still hoping for a regular final year at school. It’s just too bad then that the Greek gods have other plans, and three new quests for Percy to complete. First up... the cupbearer of the gods, Ganymede, is missing his golden chalice. Not only is this embarrassing (why do the gods keep losing their magical items?), it’s also potentially disastrous. One sip from the cup will turn any mortal into a powerful god and the old gods do not take kindly to newbies. Can Percy and his friends, Annabeth and Grover, find the chalice before it falls into the wrong hands? And even if they do, will they be able to resist its awesome power? This gripping new adventure sees Percy on another enthralling, high-octane and thrilling mission, full of legendary heroes, mythical creatures, ancient Greek gods and enduring friendship, and guaranteed to keep young readers hooked from first page to last.
(Puffin, hardback, £16.99)

Age 9 plus
Chris Bradford and Charlotte Grange

LEFT alone and with no shelter after a meteor crashes into the moon, a young space dweller must find a way to survive before her oxygen runs out. Star-struck young readers will be over the moon when they get their hands on this heart-thumping, outer-space adventure from top-selling children’s author, Chris Bradford, and illustrator Charlotte Grange. Luna loves living on the moon. She enjoys helping her father – a Moon Miner – on his searches for precious minerals and rocks. But when a devastating meteor strike destroys the Hub, their base, Luna is left stranded and alone on the moon. With no shelter and few supplies, she must find a way to survive. The problem is that any hope of rescue is at least three days and 400,000 kilometres away... and her oxygen is fast running out! Bradford, creator of the hugely popular Young Samurai and Bodyguard series, is a master of authentic and thrilling adventures and Lunar delivers not just his familiar nail-biting action drama but a story threaded through with fascinating facts about the m oon and space travel. Brought to life by Grange’s atmospheric black-and-white illustrations, and published in Barrington Stoke’s trademark dyslexia-friendly format, this is a moon mission you won’t want to miss!
(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus
The Boy With Wings: Clash of the Superkids
Lenny Henry and Keenon Ferrell

SPREAD your wings for another sky-high adventure with an extraordinary hero in the funny and acutely perceptive follow up to comedy legend Lenny Henry and New York-based illustrator and animator Keenon Ferrell’s wonderfully inclusive novel The Boy With Wings. When Tunde sprouted wings, he learned that he was all that stands between Earth and total destruction. Luckily, for him, his pals got his back and with his new powers, Tunde was ready to fly in the face of danger. But now Tunde is on his next super-powered mission. So it’s wings? Check. A super-cool, super-secret past? Check. An impossible mission to save the world from a super evil enemy? Check. Tunde’s parents have taken him to a top-secret testing facility called The Complex but he’s nervous about meeting others like him who have superpowers. Soon trying to make new friends is the least of his worries. There’s something much scarier going on and it’s going take more than just the boy with wings to stop it. Now that flight isn’t an option, the only choice is to fight! Co-founder of Comic Relief, Henry is a strong advocate for diversity and this action-packed adventure speaks loudly to youngsters about family, friendship, and courage. Filled with the author’s trademark wit and sense of fun, but also with his empathy and keen eye for the concerns of minority ethnic groups, this is a wonderfully entertaining story which will have youngsters giggling and guffawing from first page to last.
(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 7 plus
Agent 9: Mind Control!
James Burks

NEW threats, new foes and a new partner! Adventure-loving readers will be purring with joy when they get their hands on the second book of an outrageously funny graphic novel series from James Burks, the talented US movie and television show animator and author. Leading the feline fun and cat-orchestrated chaos is Agent 9 of the Super-Secret Spy Service... a fearless feline operative who seems to court danger, daring, and some unfortunate destruction! Here we find Agent 9 back in action at the Super-Secret Spy Service, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The next assignment? Stopping the Wolf, a cunning canine who has been hired by the sinister organisation DiViSiON to hunt down the final pieces of a mind-control device. It’s a mission of such paramount importance that Nine must do the unthinkable... work with a partner! S4 teams up Agent 9 with Traps, a mouse who specialises in covert operations (and knitting too). Unfortunately, the partnership gets off to a rocky start and despite their best efforts, the Wolf always seems to be one step ahead. With time running out and DiViSiON’s plans to take over the world nearly complete, can Nine overcome the toughest challenge yet... being part of a team? Fast, furious and hair-raisingly hilarious, Agent 9’s madcap, spy thriller-style adventures are guaranteed to leave youngsters gasping for breath and crying with laughter. With comedy and chaos on every page, Burks’ special brand of one-liners, and lots of brilliant illustrations to enjoy, readers will already be counting down to the next outing for Agent 9!
(Piccadilly Press, paperback, £8.99)

Age 5 plus
Adventuremice: Mice on the Ice
Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

YOUNGSTERS love these meeces to pieces! The dream team of author Philip Reeve and illustrator Sarah McIntyre pool their talents for the new book in a simply delightful early reader series which has all the fun of TV hit Paw Patrol, and the charm and whimsy of classics like The Wind in the Willows. With its focus on fun, friendship and kindness, Adventuremice features Pedro, a timid little mouse who has proved himself to be brave enough to join the heroic team who protect the Mouse Islands from danger. And here we find Pedro finding life even more exciting because it has snowed and the Frost Fair is coming. It’s the most wonderful time of the year with ice skating, hot chocolate and yummy treats, Pedro can’t wait! But there’s so much ice that celebrating the Frost Fair might be trickier than normal... or even impossible. It’s up to Pedro and the Adventuremice to save the fair and bring joy to the town. Reeve’s lively, heartwarming and fun-filled storytelling delivers all those ingredients that children love – immersive adventures, lovable heroes, reassuring friendships, exciting action and plenty of smiles – and all brought to vibrant, colourful life by McIntyre’s exquisitely characterful illustrations. A warm and whiskery favourite with mouse lovers of every age!
(David Fickling Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus
Princess Katie’s Kittens: Suki in the Snow
Julie Sykes and Sam Loman

WELCOME back to Starlight Palace for more princesses, kittens and sparkly fun! Princess Katie’s Kittens – an adorable series written by ace storyteller Julie Sykes and illustrated by creative artist Sam Loman – ­hits the spot perfectly for youngsters just moving on to chapter books. Stars of the show are Princess Katie who lives in a beautiful palace in the kingdom of Tula and her six playful little kittens. In her third adventure, Suki in the Snow, Princess Katie is excited about her winter holiday in the snowy mountains but she’s going to miss the kittens. Then Katie discovers that Suki sneaked into her luggage and has come along for an adventure! But being a small kitten in an unfamiliar place is very tricky and Suki finds that she has got lost. Can Katie and her best friend Becky find the kitten before night falls? With short chapters, endearing black and white illustrations, and some top tips about kitten care, these gorgeous books are ideal for newly confident readers. And look out for the other books in the series... Pixie at the Palace and Bella at the Ball which are out now.
(Piccadilly Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 4 plus
Say My Name
Joanna Ho and Khoa Le

NAMES define us... that’s the message that speaks loudly and clearly from the pages of this moving picture book from author Joanna Ho – who is of Chinese and Taiwanese heritage and passionate about equity in books and education – and illustrator Khoa Le who is based in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Say My Name is written in Ho’s lyrical prose and brought to life with Le’s exquisite artwork, and celebrates the importance of names, exploring how they reveal our personal histories and weave an intricate story of both the past and the future. Names, and saying them correctly, are important as each one carries the hopes, dreams and traditions of those who came before us. Six captivating children connect with the reader and proudly celebrate their names, languages and backgrounds from Chinese, Tongan, Persian, Navajo, Mexican, and Ghanaian descent, honouring their ancestors and cultural histories. Only by learning how to say a person’s name, says Ho, can we feel confident in our culture and truly know each another.
(Harper360, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus
Winnie-the-Pooh at the Palace
Jeanne Willis and Mark Burgess

JOIN your favourite characters from the Hundred Acre Wood and introduce a new generation to the enchanting adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh! Authorised by the Trustees of The Pooh Properties and the Trustees of The Shepard Trust, A.A. Milne’s classic poem, Buckingham Palace from When We Were Very Young, has provided the inspiration for bestselling author Jeanne Willis’ gentle rhyming story celebrating the fun and warmth of friendship, and taking us into the wintry grounds of Buckingham Palace. Featuring some of the best-loved characters from the Hundred Acre Wood, and with all the comforting vibes of Milne’s classic tales, this adventure in rhyme comes in a beautiful hardback gift edition with a foiled jacket and Mark Burgess’ gorgeous colour illustrations in the style of E.H. Shepard. On a day out to Buckingham Palace, Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends play in the snowy gardens, have a thrilling ride on a sledge, but then Pooh gets stuck in a snow drift. And when, Pooh’s friends manage to pull him out and dust him down, they make a surprising discovery... he’s wearing a wonderful golden crown! And what’s even better is that the discovery leads to an invitation to have tea with the King! With heartwarming, fun-filled adventures to enjoy, and moments that capture the essence of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, this is the perfect introduction to a classic favourite.
(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus
Cori Doerrfeld

HIDING your feelings can be very painful as a little boy discovers in US author and illustrator Cori Doerrfeld’s visually and verbally beautiful new book. This is a writer who certainly knows how to tug at our heartstrings whilst dispensing her worldly wisdom, and Beneath is the perfect book to encourage youngsters to talk about their feelings. Finn is in a horrible mood and doesn’t want to talk about it but after some persuading, he agrees to go for a hike with Grandpa. Throughout their forest walk, they see many different things... big, strong trees with networks of roots growing underneath, still water with schools of fish swimming below, and an expectant bird with eggs nestled under her. Grandpa explains that people also have hidden feelings beneath the surface and despite appearances, may be feeling exactly the same way you do. Beneath empowers troubled children to talk about, explore and understand their pent-up feelings, whether that’s a bereavement or other difficult times in their life. With its spare but reassuring words, and irresistibly enchanting illustrations, Beneath is the perfect go-to book for parents, teachers or carers trying to explain in the simplest, gentlest and most accessible way the power that comes from sharing your problems.
(Scallywag Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus
Heavy Metal Badger
Duncan Beedie

SOMETIMES you just have to let the music out! Creative author and illustrator Duncan Beedie has fun with a rock-and-roll-loving badger in this strumming, thrumming, thumping good picture book which is alive with the sound of music. Badger is ready to ROCK! The music inside him is ready to burst out. He just needs to find a band. But a recorder class isn’t right and neither is the church choir. And as for the marching band, he has to beat a hasty retreat. Will Badger ever find his musical tribe? Maybe, just maybe, it’s been there all along! With Beedie’s funny and playful illustrations keeping perfectly in tune with the beat of his rhyming story, all the laugh-out-loud chaos to enjoy as Badger looks for a musical home, and tons of rock-themed references, puns and visual jokes, this empowering rock anthem is the perfect celebration of identity, self-expression... and the sheer joy of music!
(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus
The Great Storm Whale
Benji Davies

ENJOY a warm and wonderful new addition to awardwinning picture book creator Benji Davies’s eternally popular and bestselling Storm Whale series which celebrates the stories and love that are passed down through generations. The tender, timeless and beautifully wrought tale of a lonely little boy who finds a stranded whale on the beach after a storm made waves when it first appeared in 2013, quickly becoming a modern classic and a global bestseller. And after follow-ups, The Storm Whale in Winter and Grandma Bird, Davies brings us The Great Storm Whale with its gallery of stunning illustrations, a mesmerising sense of wonder and whimsy, and a dramatic story that captures perfectly how it feels to be a child caught up in a time of great peril. As a fearsome storm blows around Nois house, his grandma tells of an unforgettable friendship between a little girl and a whale, many storms ago. But as she finishes her tale of perseverance and new beginnings, Noi soon realises that it’s all part of their own story too. With every page a feast for the eyes and senses, this beautiful new book of cross-generational love is another one to read, enjoy and treasure.
(Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus
Cotton Cloud Refuses to Rain
Elizabeth F. Hill and Hannah George

A PLAYFUL cloud who just wants to make people happy learns an important lesson about the need for harmony in nature in a gentle but powerfully resonant picture book from Canadian poet and author Elizabeth F. Hill and illustrator Hannah George. Cotton Cloud wants to be the best cloud ever! She will never rain, she says, because rain makes people sad, and sunshine lets people frolic in the lake and grow tall, green plants. But the endless sunshine dries up the lake, withers the plants and cracks the soil. Sun and Wind tell Cotton Cloud it is time for her to rain. But stubborn Cotton Cloud refuses to listen... until one day she looks down on the hot, tired people and sees they are no longer happy. Her heart swells with sorrow and as her tears turn into rain, the dry earth turns green again. The people laugh and dance happily in the rain, and Cotton Cloud realises the importance of her true purpose. Beautifully illustrated with George’s richly detailed and vibrant artwork, Hill’s heartwarming story is ideal for exploring themes of empathy, the water cycle, weather systems, cloud types, and the importance of the seasons. Every cotton cloud has a silver lining!
(Five Quills, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus
Where will the Sleepy Sheep Sleep?
David Metzenthen and Jonathan Bentley   

GETTING your mouth round tongue-twisters isn’t exactly a recipe for sleep in this fun and fluffy picture book from David Metzenthen, a writer for young people, and award-winning illustrator Jonathan Bentley. Do you think the sleepy sheep will sleep on top of this wild and windy hill Baah! No-o-o, this windy hill is far too high and wild for a sleepy sheep to sleep on!
Do you think the sleepy sheep will sleep deep down in this steep and stony valley? Baah! No-o-o, this valley is far too deep, steep, and stony for a sleepy sheep to sleep in! So where will the sleepy sheep end up sleeping? Perfect for bedtime reading with the sheep’s sleepy eyes getting droopier with each page and each tongue-twisting teaser, Where will the Sleepy Sheep Sleep? is sure to be voted the best sleepiest sleep-time story for every tongue-twisting, fun-loving tot!
(Allen & Unwin Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus
Where’s Supertato? A Search-and-Find Book

PICTURE book superhero Supertato is back in town but he needs your help to track down his number one enemy ... the mean, green Evil Pea! This super-fun search-and-find book is the first TV tie-in title based on the popular BBC CBeebies TV series which launched in autumn last year and features lots of new challenges and hilarious escapades for award-winning duo Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet’s chunky superhero creation Supertato who is always there when the chips are down. So tuck into more wacky, calorie-consuming adventures amongst fridges, friends and foes as you sweep through the supermarket with Supertato and the veggies and help them tidy up toys, put on a party, and play hide-and-seek on a supermarket snow day. You can also meet the team, discover their catchphrases, and keep your eyes peeled for Banana who is hidden on every page. But don’t forget to look out for those mini peas! With big, bold and bright illustrations and lots of items and characters to search for and find, this serving of Supertato fun will leave little ones hungry for more!
(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus
Would You Rather? Halloween
Donna David and Eamonn O’Neill

WOULD you rather be a spooky spider, or a brilliant bat? There are choices, choices, choices to enjoy in a super silly this-or-that choosing book... the perfect Halloween treat for little monsters everywhere! Would you rather have eight legs to scurry through the night? Or would you rather spread your wings and take a midnight flight? Spider or bat? Skeleton or monster? Cute cat or wily werewolf? Get ready to play Would You Rather: Halloween! in this laugh-out-loud rhyming book which offers pre-school readers a fun choice on each page. David’s bouncy, rhyming, read-aloud text takes youngsters on a delightful journey with loads to spot along the way while O’Neill’s bold, colourful illustrations are packed full of spooky fun. Add on an amazing fold-out game at the end and reading tips for grown-ups, and you’d be a ghoul to miss it!
(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus
Spread Your Wings
Emma Dodd

‘The world is waiting for you, its endless skies above.’ 

READERS young and old will fall in love with another beautiful and heartfelt book from award-winning author and illustrator Emma Dodd which celebrates growing up, leaving the place you call home, and discovering new adventures. ‘As we snuggle here together, gazing at the sky, I know that soon the day will come when you’ll spread your wings and fly.’ A baby cockatoo learns that there is a big wide world out there to explore as Dodd spreads a golden glow over a book that works it magic through a stunning foiled cover and pages, an inspirational rhyming story, and a gallery of beautiful, emotive illustrations. Exquisitely created and brimming with love, Spread Your Wings is written with a large helping of warmth and wisdom, and makes the perfect gift for any time of year.
(Templar Publishing, hardback, £7.99)