Friday, 3 February 2023

Short Walks in the Lake District: Windermere Ambleside and Grasmere

Jonathan and
Lesley Williams

AS the days grow longer and lighter, thoughts turn to the great outdoors and mapping out some invigorating walks in the stunning scenery of the Lake District’s most popular beauty spots.

But when you dig out your boots or trainers, make sure you don’t leave home without this brilliant new guide from Cicerone Press which steers you through fifteen of the best short walks around Windermere, Ambleside and Grasmere.

Cicerone – an enthusiastic publisher based in Kendal specialising in outdoor activities guidebooks –has a range of nearly 400 books for walking, trekking, climbing, mountaineering and cycling, covering the UK, Europe and other regions of the world.

And like the other books in their super pocket-sized guide series, Short Walks in the Lake District contains crystal-clear OS mapping and directions, and has been written by authors who are among the leading experts in their areas. In fact, this new publication is the work of Jonathan Williams, who has been Cicerone’s publisher and managing director for over 20 years, and his wife Lesley (pictured below) who has been marketing director, leading the company’s sales efforts, and now concentrates on the overall marketing strategy.

The walks they have chosen help readers discover the best of the area with a selection of easy or moderate walks (except for one) that take under three hours and are suitable for almost everyone, including casual walkers and families with children.

Each route has been carefully chosen to allow walkers to explore the area and its attractions and you won’t need any special equipment to enjoy the walks. Most of the routes are circular, although some linear walks may be included that use public transport to get back to the start.

Each walk has a clear route description and there are lots of illustration photographs, plus information on local beauty spots and tasty refreshment stops. And as none include challenging terrain or complicated navigation, the walks can be enjoyed by all generations of walkers. So whether you’re new to walking or are looking for something you can enjoy with the whole family, simply grab your waterproofs, pack this brilliant book and head for the hills! And if you want to follow up your Lakes rambles with another popular area for North-West walking, look out for Cicerone’s Short Walks in Arnside and Silverdale which is published on March 15.
(Cicerone Press, paperback, £9.95)

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

CHILDREN'S BOOKS: Dig in for spring, a feel for words and amazing memoirs

Discover the fun and easy way to grow your own fruit and veg, share your emotions with some wise words, go on adventures with a boy lost in time and enjoy machines, mysteries and mayhem with an intrepid boy-inventor

Age 7 plus
The No-Dig Children’s Gardening Book
Charles Dowding and Kristyna Litten

IF you thought that growing your own fruit and veg meant lots of back-breaking digging, then innovative gardener Charles Dowding is here to weed out the fascinating facts about his amazing no-dig technique! So put away those heavy spades and forks, forget digging and endless weeding and discover the perfect way to create an exciting and soil-friendly family garden whether you have a garden, a balcony or even just a window box.

All these brilliant gardening projects have been collected together to inspire budding young gardeners and are based on Charles Dowding’s popular no-weed, no-dig technique... meaning less hassle for parents and more fun for kids. Dowding, an organic grower since 1983, has built up a large and dedicated following on YouTube where he presents videos teaching practical skills. His weed-free methods are about growing more easily, in less time, by understanding and working with natural processes. The simple and achievable gardening projects are perfect for parents and young children to do together. All are based on Dowding's trademark no-dig technique, which perfectly lends itself to gardening with little ones who can’t manage heavy digging and who will quickly grow bored with endless weeding. Projects are broken down into easy, step-by-step processes, designed to be carried out by children, and the full-colour photography and fun illustrations are supplemented by factual spreads as well as extra little facts about plants and wildlife, and things to look out for when you’re outdoors.

With detailed advice on how to create your own compost, a guide to planting and harvesting, a planting chart for year-round fruit and vegetables, photographs of Dowding’s own garden, and the richly detailed illustrations of Kristyna Litten, this is the perfect book to encourage children to watch their plants grow and then discover just how good they taste. From pots on the windowsill to a dedicated small space, the whole family will be harvesting in no time at all!
(Welbeck Children's Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 6 plus
My Heart is a Poem
Various authors and various illustrators

EVERYONE has feelings... but how do you express them? There is no right or wrong way to ‘feel,’ and just experiencing emotions and feelings is a cause for celebration. So dip into this wonderful collection of poetry and, through the words of wise poets, explore the different variety and intensity of emotions which are all part of what makes us alive, and learn how different situations bring these emotions to the surface. My Heart is a Poem – written by a diverse selection of today’s most exciting voices and brought to life by the vivid and stirring artwork of an array of talented artists – is a book of powerful verse for everyone to enjoy. Featuring powerful poetry from Mandy Coe, Laura Mucha, Nikki Grimes, Naomi Shihab, Nye Debjani Chatterjee, Coral Rumble, Kate Wakeling, John Agard, Karl Nova, James Carter, Valerie Bloom, Janet Wong, Joseph Coelho, Ken Nesbitt, Jack Prelutsky, Nikita Gill, Jay Hulme, Rachel Plummer, Ruth Awolola and Elaine Laron, and the awe-inspiring artwork of Annalise Barber, Mariana Roldan, Masha Manapov and Nabila Adani, these poems are the perfect start to a lifelong love of poetry.

From feelings of uncontainable excitement and giddy happiness to gentle calm and the ache of sadness, and from the electricity which surges from anger and pride to the feelings of toe-curling embarrassment, the poems in this anthology perfectly put into words all the different things we feel in our hearts. With its rich, colourful and vibrant illustrations giving extra meaning to youngsters as they read the text and explore the visual representation of words on the page, the poems are tailor made to be read aloud or enjoyed while curled up in a quiet corner. A book to share and cherish... and an invaluable starter for a lifelong love of poetry.
(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 7 plus
The Lost Diaries of Charlie Small Volumes 1&2:
Gorilla City and Pirate Galleon
Nick Ward

ARE you ready for the most incredible journey ever experienced? Let young imaginations take flight with Charlie Small, the boy who is 400 (at least!) years old, can’t stop having adventures... and would really like to go home! Welcome to the wonderful world created by author and illustrator Nick Ward, the amazing setting for his alter-ego Charlie Small and his twelve action-packed volumes of unbelievable but completely true adventurous memoirs. These brilliant tales of inventions, monstrous creatures and evil villains have been republished by Guppy Books for a new generation and are dream reading for young adventurers who can lap up page after page of fun illustrations, maps, clever inventions and lots of wild and wacky exploits. So meet Charlie Small who might be centuries old but has never grown up. It’s because when he was twelve years old, he fell through a gap in space and time and found himself catapulted into a series of adventures which he records in a diary format. Charlie’s first adventure takes him to Gorilla City where he is captured by gorillas and meets the mighty gorilla Thrak. 

Charlie will have to battle for survival but could he finally end up as king of the jungle? It seems no adventure is too big for Charlie Small but he’d really rather like to get home to his Mum who thinks he’s just out playing! Reluctant readers will find so much to enjoy in these exciting, illustrated stories which serve up action aplenty, giggles galore, intriguing maps and illustrations, and a cast of unforgettable animal and human characters. And also available now is Charlie’s second adventure, Pirate Galleon, which takes him on to a pirate ship as cabin boy for some fearsome and ferocious pirate women. Will they make him walk the plank or will their skeleton enemy be the worst of them all? Adventure with a capital A!
(Guppy Books, paperback, £7.99 each)

Age 4 plus
The Swing
Britta Teckentrup

A SWING on a hill overlooking the sea plays the starring role in an evocative meditation on childhood, growing older, friendship and loss from renowned German author and illustrator Britta Teckentrup. Filled with visual and verbal beauty, and powerful thoughts on youth, age, change and life’s rich and timeless experiences, The Swing is a book that speaks powerfully and resonantly to readers both young and old. From youthful days when children look out to sea, wait for something to change... for something new, something exciting but find that every day seems to be the same, to the discovery that as seasons change and years pass, things do change, this is a book that celebrates the whole cycle of life. We watch as friends come and go, lovers meet and kiss, spring turns to autumn, and the swing grows creaky with age. And all of these changes are gorgeously portrayed by Teckentrup’s signature collage paintings that use soft, radiant colours and simple yet powerful compositions. With its equally enchanting text, readers of every age can experience time as a gentle but inescapable force, bringing about new emotions and experiences. And as the narrator grows older and wiser, readers themselves will understand that life’s most important memories can never disappear. The perfect way to experience life’s swings and roundabouts...
(Prestel Publishing , hardback, £19.99)

Age 7 plus
Rainbow Grey: Battle for the Skies
Laura Ellen Anderson

THERE'S a rainbow-coloured adventure full of wit, wonder and magic just waiting to be enjoyed in the third and final book of creative author and illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson’s sky-high series. These are thrilling adventures full of colour, fun and imagination as Anderson transports us into the world of Ray Grey and her adorable Cloud Cat Nim who live in the magical kingdom of Celestia in The Weatherlands, high up in the sky. After a forbidden trip to Earth on the back of Nim, Ray’s life changed forever. She is now Rainbow Grey and a Rainbow Weatherling with astounding weather power at her fingertips, and although she’s only ten years old, the future of the Kingdom of Celestria depends on her! In her farewell mission, Ray needs the help of her loyal friends Snowden Everfreeze and Dropletts Dewbells to figure out what her ultimate magical gift is and stop Tornadia Twist before she becomes the Storm Queen and destroys both the Weatherlands and Earth. With epic adventures, magic galore and everything at stake, the battle for the skies is on! Anderson, whose bestselling Amelia Fang books have enchanted young readers, delivers another rip-roaring, colour-infused tale of bravery, storm-filled action, kindness and warm-hearted friendships. A gallery of fun-filled illustrations add an extra layer of humour, charm and entertainment in a story that will delight young newly independent readers… come rain or shine!
(Farshore, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus
Ollie Spark and the Exploding Popcorn Mystery
Gillian Cross and Alan Snow

YOU'D better be on your mettle as an intrepid boy-inventor makes a speedy return for more machines, mysteries and mayhem! If you haven’t already met Ollie Spark – star of top team author Gillian Cross and illustrator Alan Snow’s thrilling adventure series – then buckle up now and enjoy the all-action ride. After the epic fun of first book, Ollie Spark and the Accidental Adventure, we join Ollie – who loves mending machines and solving mysteries – and his adorable best friend, Gasket the dog, on their most exciting outing yet. Their destination is a fancy food festival on a far-flung island where mysteries await, and in no time at all, Ollie’s encounter with a very suspicious Grand Duchess leads him on an undercover spying mission filled with daring and danger. Cross’s story is filled with fun, heartwarming kindness and a cast of larger-than-life characters whose antics celebrate friendship, bravery and just being yourself. Packed with award-winning author and Illustrator Snow’s brilliantly distinctive illustrations which bring all the action to life, and plot themes that cleverly encompass problem-solving and engineering in an engaging and accessible way, this is a series that entertains and educates in the most delightful way.
(David Fickling Books, paperback, £6.99) 

Age 5 plus
Adventuremice: Otter Chaos
Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

YOUNGSTERS are going to love these meeces to pieces! The dream team of author Philip Reeve and illustrator Sarah McIntyre pool their talents again for a simply delightful new 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 a timid little mouse determined to be brave enough to join the heroic team who protect the Mouse Islands from danger but ends up being swept out to sea! So meet Pedro. He’s tiny but while looking for a BIG adventure, finds himself floating on the ocean on the lid of his suitcase. Fortunately, Pedro is rescued by the Adventuremice... the courageous team who keep all the Mouse Islands safe from harm. Pedro’s dream is to show he is brave enough to join their ranks and he soon gets the chance to prove himself... when a big scary otter starts causing trouble in the waters nearby! Reeve’s lively and fun-filled storytelling delivers all those ingredients that children love – immersive adventures, lovable heroes, exciting action and plenty of smiles – and all brought to vibrant, colourful life by McIntyre’s exquisitely characterful illustrations. Destined to be a favourite with mouse lovers of every age!
(David Fickling Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus
Press Start! Game On,
Super Rabbit Boy!
Thomas Flintham

WHEN you’re too young to play video games (every day!) but are eager to get in on the action, have fun and games with Super Rabbit Boy... and enjoy taking on the world! Get your own game on with Press Start! an action-packed and full-colour series of graphic novels, brilliantly illustrated by Thomas Flintham, and which put young readers in the hot seat. So meet Sunny... his favourite game is Super Rabbit Boy and he loves to pit his skills against King Viking who hates fun and happiness and, in Game On, first book in the series, wants to steal Singing Dog and bring sadness to Animal Town forever! Can Sunny help Super Rabbit Boy get to Level 6 and rescue Singing Dog and restore joy to Animal Town? Only if he defeats the Robot Army, dodges the Robo-Crabs and Lakes of Lava before battling King Viking himself! Has Sunny got the skills and Super Rabbit Boy eaten enough super magical carrots? You'll have to read and find out...

And in Super Rabbit Boy Powers Up!, King Viking is planning to build a Super Robot to destroy everything and Super Rabbit Boy must find the Super Power Up component before King Viking does. 

He has a map... and his bravery and skills. Can he break the evil wizard’s curse, defeat the gobbling goblins and solve the riddles he finds in the Cold, Cold Caves? Or will King Viking get there first and doom everything?

So what are you waiting for? Join Sunny as he and Super Rabbit Boy take on the world... one move at a time!
(Nosy Crow, paperback, £6.99 each)

Age 3 plus
Cherry Moon: Little Poems Big Ideas Mindful of Nature
Zaro Weil and Junli Song

‘A THING of beauty is a joy forever,’ wrote John Keats and that powerful sentiment speaks loudly to a stunning poetry collection from CLiPPA award-winning poet Zaro Weil. The joys of the natural world certainly spring to vibrant and colourful life in Cherry Moon, a book that buzzes with creativity and wonder, and has been spectacularly illustrated throughout by artist Junli Song. Weil’s evocative poems capture eye-popping moments, tender observations and a thousand whimsical reflections on the sheer joy of the natural world. Packed with thought-provoking, sensitive and delightfully original verse, Weil’s words pose big questions about life with poems and other small gatherings of words, encouraging children of every age to explore the power, enchantment and sheer wonderfulness of nature. Discover parades of beast-doodles, preposterous penguins, talking blossoms, playful birds, humble fleas and a host of other exotic and everyday creatures who jump off the page and into our hearts. With the vivid celebration of nature in its many forms – the wind, rain, sunshine, the world of animals, wading through puddles, listening to a nightingale, and even catching the moon – this is an accessible anthology of soaring imagination and dazzling beauty. Inspirational poetry for readers of every age!
(Welbeck Editions, paperback, £11.99)

Age 5 plus
The Little Lost Kitten
Holly Webb and Abigail Hookham

ENJOY having your heartstrings well and truly tugged in a warm, tender and reassuring story from bestselling author Holly Webb who has written over 130 books for children. Starring an adorable stray kitten which brings together a family, and featuring the evocative, colour illustrations of Abigail Hookham, The Little Lost Kitten is the latest book in the super-readable Little Gems series which brings together leading authors and illustrators, and a host of clever design and finishing techniques, like dyslexia-friendly fonts, to create easy-to-read, first chapter books in a format ideal for little hands, and with some extra activity fun inside the cover. Lucy and her dad are still feeling sad about the death of their lovely cat Patch, who had been part of their family for such a long time. So when a little lost kitten turns up in their garden, Lucy doesn’t want to tell her dad in case it upsets him. But she grows to love the little kitten called Misty and he doesn’t seem to have a home, so Lucy is really upset when he disappears and finally she has to tell her dad the truth. Will her dad be able to help Lucy find the little kitten and can they offer him a new home? The perfect book for youngsters taking the first steps on the path to reading independence.
(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus
Let’s Stick Together
Smriti Halls and Steve Small

‘When you feel lost, I’ll come and find you.
When you have worries, I’m right behind you.’ 

EVERYBODY needs a cuddle-up book and what could be better than spending quality time with adorable friends forever Bear and Squirrel? Let’s Stick Together is the latest heartwarming adventure from the creative partnership that brought us bestselling picture books I’m Sticking With You and I’m Sticking With You Too. There are smiles and giggles all the way as imaginative author Smriti Halls and inventive illustrator Steve Small work their special magic on another joyful, humorous rhyming tale about how friends have the power to lift each other up. And this time, the lovable animal pals are ready to party! Squirrel is the expert at throwing parties and knows exactly what to do to make this the biggest and best ever, but Bear isn’t so sure and is feeling a bit shy. Can they find a way to work through their worries and wobbles... and stick together? Halls is on her best rhyming form for this inspirational and gentle story about showing how you’re never truly lost when you have a great friend by your side, while a heart-melting gallery of illustrations bring to life the adorable double act and all their shared humour, fun and antics. Perfect for your own little worriers!
(Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Thursday, 26 January 2023

The English Führer

Rory Clements

WHEN a mysterious plague rips through a small Cambridgeshire village in the autumn of 1945, fears grow that it could be a biological weapon attack by an unknown and unseen enemy.

Could it be the work of a dangerous Nazi remnant, a covert operation by agents from the Soviet Union... or could it be linked to Unit 731, the sinister Japanese biological warfare research laboratory in Manchuria?

Maverick Cambridge Professor Tom Wilde, who spent three years of the war as a spy with the Office of Strategic Services, America’s wartime intelligence agency, is rapidly learning that there is no such thing as retirement from espionage in the uncertain peace of the post-war period. Although the history books tell us that the Second World War ended in May 1945 in Europe and in the Far East three months later, it was not the end of fascism and many Nazi sympathisers continued to campaign for their beliefs. Add on the dawning realisation that the Red Army’s ‘liberation’ of Eastern European countries merely meant replacing one totalitarian occupation with another, coupled with the infiltration of Britain’s secret services by high-ranking traitors like Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt, and the stage was set for a new kind of warfare. 

In the seventh book of his acclaimed ‘what if’ historical novels series – which has included CorpusNucleus, Nemesis
Hitler’s SecretA Prince and A Spy and The Man in the Bunker – former national newspaper journalist Rory Clements (pictured left) sweeps us back into the life of Tom Wilde, his unconventional half-American, half-Irish history don who has braved death and danger to do his bit for peace and freedom.

And just when Tom thought the moment had arrived when he could put the war behind him and enjoy time with his wife, Lydia, and six-year-old son, Johnny, a new threat arises in a world ‘exhausted by war, desperate for peace – and extremely vulnerable.’

In October of 1945, off the east coast of England, a Japanese submarine surfaces briefly after an epic 18,000 nautical mile journey across the Pacific and the Atlantic, unloads its mysterious cargo and then blows itself to pieces, duty done. Meanwhile, former spy Tom Wilde is enjoying peacetime in Cambridge, settling back into teaching and family life... until a call from senior MI5 boss, Lord ‘Dagger’ Templeman, brings him abruptly out of retirement. As Tom’s wife Lydia warns him, ‘the war might be over for everyone else, but not for Professor Wilde.’

It seems the nearby village of Flowthorpe has been locked down by the military, its residents suddenly blighted by a deadly plague-like illness. No one is allowed in or out and there are rumours that the Nazi machine is still operational, with links to Unit 731, the notorious Japanese

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

CHILDREN'S BOOKS: Family love, storm tides and a plane plot

Be inspired by the moving wartime story of a father and his remarkable son, dive into an unforgettable tale set in an underwater world, join a high-flying mission to stop a dastardly espionage plot, and have your spine tingled by a terrifying Day of the Triffids-inspired thriller as a new collection of children’s books hits the shelves

Age 8 plus
Fritz and Kurt
Jeremy Dronfield and
David Ziggy Greene

THE moving story of the all-consuming love between a father, a son and a brother is explored in this retelling of one of the most inspirational accounts to come out of the Holocaust. Jeremy Dronfield’s bestselling publishing phenomenon, The Boy Who Followed his Father into Auschwitz, was first published to great acclaim in 2019 and acted a reminder of both the best and the worst of humanity, the strength of family ties, and the power of the human spirit. And now Dronfield has adapted for younger readers his almost unbelievable true story of Austrian Jew Fritz Kleinmann who volunteered to follow his father, Gustav, into Auschwitz in 1938 rather than be separated from him.

When everything is taken away from you, love and courage are all you have left. In 1938, the Nazis come to Vienna. They hate anyone who is different, especially Jewish people. Brothers Fritz and Kurt’s family are Jewish, and that puts them in terrible danger. Fritz, along with his father, is taken to a Nazi prison camp, a terrible place, full of fear. When his father is sent to a certain death in Auschwitz, Fritz can’t face losing his beloved Papa and chooses to go with him and fight for survival. Meanwhile, Kurt must go on a frightening journey, all alone, to seek safety on the far side of the world. Fritz and Kurt face unimaginable hardships, and the two brothers wonder if they will ever return home...

Dronfield’s heart-rending and eloquent account of the Kleinmann family’s horrific ordeal – a truly extraordinary story illustrated throughout by David Ziggy Greene – is handled with immense sensitivity without losing sight of the importance of truth and factual honesty. Fritz and Kurt is a tragic and shocking story, with the Kleinmanns’ experiences of the cruelty suffered by Jews in the concentration camps acting as a powerful reminder of the evils of the Nazis, but it is also an enduring and resonant tribute to the unbreakable bonds of family love.
(Puffin, paperback, £8.99)

Age 9 plus
The Storm Swimmer
Clare Weze

DIVE into this glorious middle grade novel from Clare Weze and you won’t want to surface again until the last page – and the tide – has turned! Weze, whose debut children’s book The Lightning Catcher was longlisted for the 2022 CILIP Carnegie Medal, sweeps away her young readers on an unforgettable adventure that travels across the land and under the sea, and has a life-changing friendship at its warm and beating heart. Summer was supposed to be Ginika’s time for fun, friends and fairs, but instead she has been sent to live at the dead-end seaside boarding house which her grandparents run. Even though her parents – who have hit hard times – say it’s just for a little while, she can’t help feeling abandoned and heartbroken to be missing out on everything she loves back home. And then she meets Peri. He leaps and dives through the water like a dolphin and he talks like a burst of bubbles. He’s not exactly a mermaid, but he is certainly a sea dweller and definitely something Ginika has never seen before. 

His family is far away too but unlike Ginika, he loves his independence. As Ginika shows Peri her world of life living on the land rather than in the sea, she starts to feel free as well. They don’t need anyone else when they’ve got each other. But then the lights and noise of the human world start to change Peri. And when things spin out of control, Ginika must be the bravest she has ever been to face her fears and make the hardest decision of her life. Join Ginika and Peri as they dive beneath the waves and walk the lands that will take them into each other’s worlds on an adventure they will never forget and a life-changing friendship.

There may be an ocean of difference in the worlds of Ginika and Peri but Weze’s atmospheric and exquisitely created story fills that gap with an inspirational friendship which has no boundaries when it comes to care, empathy and shared affection. Throw in some very real issues around the angst and uncertainty that comes from financial hardship, and the loan sharks who feed on those who are vulnerable, and you have an original, exciting and magical adventure with some important life lessons swimming very close to the surface. A master storyteller at work!
(Bloomsbury Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus
The Wildstorm Curse
Eve Wersocki Morris

CAN a girl with dyslexia find the words that will save her friends? Despite struggling with her reading and spelling as a child, and fearing that she would never be able to read to even a basic standard, Eve Wersocki Morris has never let her dyslexia diagnosis stand in the way of her gift for storytelling. And the proof is in her growing reputation as an exciting author of thrilling, chilling mystery novels full of myths, legends, folklore and fantasy. So experience all that irresistible black magic in The Wildstorm Curse, a dark and dazzling adventure that serves up the same spine-tingling brand of spooky supernatural which won hearts and minds in her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Bird Singers.

A fabled witch, a powerful curse, a monster out for revenge... thirteen-year-old Kallie Tamm can’t wait to spend a week of her summer holidays at the Wildstorm Theatre Camp, and she is determined not to let her dyslexia hold her back from achieving her dream of becoming a playwright. The finale of the whole week is a performance in the local village theatre. But as soon as she arrives, Kallie discovers that the cast will be performing a play written by a 17th century witch, Ellsabet Graveheart, and strange, scary things start happening. Unbeknown to Kallie, a dark shadow is stirring in the woodland near Wildstorm... an ancient and dangerous creature has awoken from a centuries-old slumber, and it is out for revenge, putting Kallie and all of her new friends in grave danger. Can an unlikely hero find the words to save her friends? This is adventure with a capital A, a suspenseful tale about unlikely heroes and the power of storytelling which comes steeped in 17th century witchlore and darkly dangerous demon myths. With its reassuring message that even the best spellers are always the best storytellers, and that ‘true heroes aren’t always the strongest or the most powerful,’ The Wildstorm Curse is empowering, bewitching and page-turningly good!
(Hodder Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus
Alice Éclair Spy Extraordinaire:
A Spoonful of Spying
Sarah Todd Taylor

THE heat is on as French baker-cum-spy extraordinaire Alice Éclair embarks on a high-flying mission to stop a dastardly plane plot in the second book of a brilliant mystery series cooked up by Sarah Todd Taylor. Star of the show is Alice Éclair who leads an exciting double life as a baker by day at her mother’s patisserie in Paris and a rather unusual spy by night. And after the breathless adventures on Alice's first mission, A Recipe for Trouble, she is ready to whisk young readers away on a fabulous journey full of daring action and delicious cakes. Inventors and artists from all nations have gathered in Paris for the World Fair. All eyes are on the aeroplane exhibition... these incredible machines will take humanity to new heights! Alice suspects that some of these inventors are in terrible danger but no one believes her until France’s top aeroplane engineer mysteriously disappears. Surrounded by enemy spies, Alice will need to use every trick in the recipe book if she is to keep her friends safe and stop France’s greatest invention from falling into the wrong hands. With a half-baked plan, a dash of daring, and the help of her new espionage partner Claude, Alice must foil the enemy’s devious plot before the whole thing boils over... Ideal as a stand-alone novel, or enjoyed as part of the series, A Spoonful of Spying dishes up the same delicious mix of mouth-watering mystery, super-sleuthing,  cakes baked to perfection, and fast-paced fun and action. Roll on the third course!
(Nosy Crow, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus
Albi the Glowing Cow Boy
Georgia Byng and Angela Cogo

CAN a special relationship between a boy and a calf help to give them both a better future? Vegan and animal lover Georgia Byng explores the world of animal agriculture and its impact on the planet in a moving and original novel aimed at encouraging empathy and opening questioning young minds. On a quiet farm in a frosty England, under the glowing light of a magical milk moon, an albino boy calf is born. His name is Albi, and he has no idea how extraordinary he is going to be. Several miles away lives a human boy called Rufus Chumley whose father owns the abbatoir. Rufus is extraordinary in his own way – he has a condition that has made him grow way beyond the size of other children of his age – but he has no friends and no one to love him, not even his parents. Rufus seeks the family he never had and he’ll go to any lengths to find it. Albi and Rufus must each embark on a journey that will take them across continents, showing them things they never believed could be true. But why are they so deeply connected? And will each extraordinary ‘boy’ find what they are searching for? Told through the alternating narratives of Albi and Rufus, Byng’s beautifully atmospheric story – complete with the stunning illustrations of Angela Cogo – is filled with both ethereal beauty, harsh realities... and plenty of food for thought.
(UCLan Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus
The Mapmakers
Tamzin Merchant

IF magic, maps and marvellous adventures are your route to reading heaven then journey back to the spellbinding world of Cordelia Hatmaker, the inspirational star of actress and now exceptional new storyteller Tamzin Merchant’s stunning novel The Hatmakers. This stunning sequel once again sweeps us away on another wild and imaginative wave of danger, discovery and soaraway fantasy in which Cordelia must try to save the very essence of magic itself. Ever since Cordelia – who comes from a long line of magical milliners – discovered the hidden map in her father Prospero’s precious telescope, she has been searching the streets of London by starlight, trying to uncover its secrets. She’s sure that her missing father is out there somewhere, and that if she follows his map, she will finally discover the truth about his disappearance. What she doesn’t expect is to stumble upon a secret society of Mapmakers... or to learn that magic isn’t limited to the few Maker families, but instead is all around if you just know where to look. Now danger is lurking around every corner and Cordelia must convince the rival Maker families to work together for once... not only to bring her father home, but to save a whole world of magic. With illustrations by Paola Escobar adding extra vibrancy and life to Merchant’s story, and plenty of intriguing twists and turns along the way, The Mapmakers explores the bonds of friendship and family with warmth, insight and an irresistible sense of fun. Magic, charm, heart and humour... perfect middle grade reading for all young adventurers!
(Puffin, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus
The Terror of Hilltop House
Dan Smith and Chris King

THERE'S something seriously scary going on at creepy Hilltop House… and three daring children are determined to discover exactly what it is! Get ready to have your spine well and truly tingled in a terrifying Day of the Triffids-inspired thriller from the pen of Newcastle-based Dan Smith, the award-winning and imaginative author of the exciting Crooked Oak Mysteries series. When Pete, Krish and Nancy read a story in the local paper about weird gunk being found in a field where sheep have gone missing next to Hilltop House, they’re sure there’s a mystery to be investigated. The new research farm at Hilltop is working on the creation of bio-fuels, but when a storm knocks out the power in the local area and something escapes from the farm, it’s clear that the research has gone horribly wrong. Will anyone believe our three smart and intrepid detectives from Crooked Oak Academy, and can the brave trio save the village in their most terrifying adventure yet? Featuring the wonderfully atmospheric black and white illustrations of Chris King, and published in Barrington Stoke’s trademark dyslexia-friendly format, this terrific, fast-paced tale of three youngsters caught up in a secretive plot is packed full of twists and turns, monstrous apparitions and dangerous genetic experiments. Expect thrills, chills and spills… but best read in daylight hours!
(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £7.99)

Age 5 plus
Lizzie and Lucky: The Mystery
of the Disappearing Rabbit
Megan Rix and Tim Budgen

ABRACADABRA! Enjoy lots of fun and frolics with young detective Lizzie and her adorable puppy Lucky as they work hard to track down a missing rabbit in their third mystery-solving adventure. Author Megan Rix and illustrator Tim Budgen work their special magic on this enchanting new chapter for a little girl growing up with hearing loss. Drawing on her own experiences of living with partial deafness, Rix blends gentle adventures with fun activities and the basics of sign language to add extra sparkle to her story. Lizzie and Lucky are off to a magic show. But during the performance, a very large and world-famous rabbit called Rudy disappears... and it was not on purpose! Can Lizzie and Lucky find Rudy, get to the bottom of who stole him, and why? Featuring short chapters ideal for new readers, packed with Budgen’s charming and heartwarming illustrations, an adorable Dalmatian pup as a detective sidekick, and some useful tips on caring for pet rabbits, this magical adventure is a dream read for young animal lovers.
(Puffin, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus
Dig, Dig Digger
Morag Hood

WHEN you’re fed up of digging down, the only way is up! The highs and lows of being a digger machine are explored with the trademark wit and creative genius of award-winning author and illustrator Morag Hood in her new brilliantly funny picture book. It’s a day like any other at the roadworks when Digger decides she no longer likes digging down into mud, dark and worms. Instead, she wants to dig UP and find sky, stars and adventure! Although up is quite tricky to get to, with some ingenuity and the help of balloons, Digger flies off on a journey of discovery. But what she does find is that adventures aren’t so much fun without friends... so Digger must dig her way home! The earth certainly moves for our daring little digger in this brilliantly funny picture book from an ever-inventive author and illustrator who leaves no stone unturned when it comes to comical and creative thinking. Packed with eye-catching artwork, the clever playfulness and endearing mischievousness that we have come to expect from Hood, and a finger trail spread to follow Digger’s journey, this is story that celebrates the fun and joy of friendship... and is destined to be a favourite with all the family!
(Two Hoots, hardback, £12.99)

Age six months plus
That’s Not My T. Rex...
Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells

MEET five friendly T. Rex as they stomp and snort through the pages of an exciting and especially sparkle-edged new book in Usborne’s award-winning That’s Not My... series, a much-loved favourite with both parents and children. The bestselling touchy-feely series has over 70 titles and has sold over 20 million books worldwide. The simple text, bold, colourful illustrations and tactile patches are irresistible to babies and toddlers who love turning the pages and touching the fun and ‘feely’ patches. Written by Fiona Watt and illustrated by Rachel Wells, this new title features different textured patches on every spread as we discover a colourful array of furry and fuzzy dinosaurs. These board books allow the youngest family members to have a hand in all the fun of reading as they touch the textured patches, follow the story and look for the little white mouse on every page. Specially designed to develop sensory and language awareness, the distinctive That’s Not My… board books really are a vividly visual and hands-on treat for inquisitive babies and toddlers. Touchy-feely genius at a stroke!
(Usborne, board book, £6.99)

Monday, 23 January 2023

The Murders at Fleat House

Lucinda Riley

WHEN the coroner suspects that a notorious sixth form bully has been murdered in his study room at a local fee-paying school, it marks a return to rural Norfolk for high-flying Detective Inspector Jazmine ‘Jazz’ Hunter of the Met Police.

But there are dark secrets buried deep inside historic St Stephen’s School and as Jazz digs deeper into both the past and the present, she confronts not just a baffling mystery but the full force of her own demons. Following the untimely death in 2021 of international bestselling author Lucinda Riley (pictured below) – the remarkable writer of the sensational, time-slip Seven Sisters series which is being planned as a seven-season TV series – her family are continuing to fulfil her vast literary legacy.

The eighth, and final, book of the Seven Sisters sequence has been completed by Riley’s eldest son, Harry Whittaker, and will be published in May, but there is also the excitement of a new and previously unpublished novel… the author’s only crime mystery. Written back in 2006, The Murders at Fleat House is a twisting, turning, suspense-packed story which displays in fine form Riley’s expert grasp of both plot and characterisation, and has been published with only the bare minimum of final edits and rewrites to allow her voice to speak loudly and authentically from the text.

The sudden death of sixth former, Charlie Cavendish, in Fleat House at St Stephen’s – a small, 150-year-old private boarding school in deepest Norfolk – is the ultimate nightmare event that the headmaster, Robert Jones, is very keen to call a tragic accident.

But the local police cannot rule out foul play… epileptic Charlie’s two evening tablets had been deliberately substituted with two aspirin, a drug to which the 18-year-old had a severe allergy and which caused his sudden death when he was alone in his study room. An investigation is ordered and the case prompts the return of 34-year-old DI Jazz Hunter to the force. Jazz has her own personal reasons – not least her divorce

Thursday, 19 January 2023

CHILDREN'S BOOKS: Wild wonders, money talks and learning to fail

Travel back to the Sixties for a wild and wonderful animal adventure, find answers to all your questions about money, discover how failure can be the key to success, and go monster hunting with a gang of laugh-out-loud friends with a sparkling collection of New Year children’s books

Age 9 plus
C.C. Harrington

INSPIRED by watching a speech by Dr Alan Rabinowitz – an extraordinary big cat conservationist who grew up in the 1960s with a severe stutter but was able to speak freely to animals but not to humans – writer C.C. Harrington put pen to paper for an enthralling middle grade debut novel which has all the ingredients of a modern classic. Wildoak, set in Cornwall during a snowy February in 1963, is a shimmering, simmering tale – packed with haunting and memorable atmospherics ­– and with an emotionally powerful animal/human relationship at its heart... a plot line based on the one time sale of wild animals like baby elephants, jaguars and leopards from stores such as Harrods in London.

Maggie’s stutter makes going to school hard. She will do almost anything to avoid speaking in class... even if that leads to trouble. Sent to stay in the depths of Cornwall with a grandfather she barely knows, Maggie discovers an abandoned snow leopard hiding in the nearby woods. Rumpus was an ‘exotic pet’ from Harrods that proved too wild. Maggie and Rumpus build an understanding, but when the creature is spotted by others, danger follows. Can Maggie believe in herself enough to save the cub in time...  and the ancient forest around them? Told in the alternating voices of Maggie and the snow leopard cub, Wildoak shines a light on the delicate interconnectedness of the human, animal and natural worlds as the bond between troubled Maggie and abandoned cub  is explored with compassion and insight. A wild and wonderful story with a warm heart and a resonant message for a fragile and endangered world.
(Chicken House Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 6 plus
Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Money
Written by Lara Bryan in consultation with Bobby Seagull and illustrated by Marie-Eve Tremblay

UNDERSTANDING money today is so much more than learning about notes and coins... so giving your youngsters an early lesson in finance is guaranteed to pay dividends. Experts say that early learning about money is key to building good money habits, and Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Money – the latest book in an illustrated, award-winning series from independent publisher Usborne – comes packed with practical advice and fun facts to help children discover just how money works. Find out where money comes from, why we have to save, what happens if we click Buy Now, why there are so many different prices, why there are so many bills, what an interest rate is and what value for money means. Simply bursting with answers to all those BIG money questions, from saving up to online safety and what things are really worth, youngsters will love finding answers to important money questions... and some fun ones too like how much does it cost to fly to space! Written by Lara Bryan, alongside money management expert and ambassador for the charity National Numeracy Bobby Seagull, and combined with Marie-Eve Tremblay’s gallery of colourful illustrations, Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers about Money’s clear, fun and digestible information and special format creates the perfect reading tool for your curious kids. Money talks!
(Usborne, cased board book, £10.99)

Age 12 plus
Failosophy for Teens
Elizabeth Day and Kim Hankinson

YOU can’t win all the time! That’s the message that speaks loud and clear in bestselling author Elizabeth Day’s new illustrated book which helps youngsters to turn failure into success. Billed as a handbook for when things go wrong, Failosophy is full of good advice and sound common sense, and is the ideal game-changing guide to being happier, healthier and succeeding better. Illustrated throughout by Kim Hankinson, Day’s warm, practical and empowering wise words are based on her own experiences and the personal stories of guests on her award-winning podcast How To Fail. Pretty much all of us, she says, would like to feel happier, less anxious, more successful, and at ease with ourselves, and the key may surprise you... failure! Full of creative and inspiring advice on how to talk openly about failure, turn failure into success, build resilience for when life sends you curveballs, and reframe negative thoughts about yourself, Failosophy encourages teens to actually embrace failure and treat it is an opportunity to learn, grow and accept that you are an awesome human being. A book that can’t fail to win hearts!
(Red Shed, paperback, £8.99)

Age 9 plus
All Four Quarters of the Moon
Shirley Marr

THE uncertainties of new beginnings take centre stage in a beautiful, heartwarming novel from Shirley Marr, a first-generation Chinese-Australian author who describes herself as having a Western mind and an Eastern heart. Writing about ‘the space in the middle where both worlds collide,’ Marr bases her stories on her own personal experiences of migration and growing up. The Guos are a very traditional Chinese family and everything so far for 11-year-old Peijing (if she had to sum it up) was a string of small awkward experiences that she hoped would end soon. The night of the Mid-Autumn festival, making mooncakes with her grandmother, Ah-Ma, was the last time Peijing remembers her life being the same. Now facing leaving Singapore and moving to a new home in Australia, a new school and a new language, everything is different. Peijing thinks everything is going to turn out okay as long as they all have each other but cracks are starting to appear in the family. Biju, lovable but annoying, needs Peijing to be the dependable big sister. Ah-Ma keeps forgetting who she is, and her mum and dad, Ma Ma and Ba Ba, are no longer themselves. Peijing has no idea how she’s supposed to cope with the uncertainties of her own world while shouldering the burden of everyone else. If her family are the four quarters of the mooncake, where does she even fit in? Questions of identity, the challenges and culture shock of migration, and the importance of family are all explored in this beautifully imagined and inspirational tale. Add on some fascinating Chinese mythology, and a warm and vibrant sense of sisterhood, and you have a reading treat for anyone struggling to find their place in the world.
(Usborne, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus
Monster Hunting: Monsters Bite Back
Ian Mark and Louis Ghibault

IF you like your fairy tales to be monstrously funny then dive into the second rollicking romp in Northern Irish author Ian Mark’s brilliant all-action fantasy series. Mark’s hilarious debut middle grade outing with Monster Hunting brought showers of accolades last year, and this new adventure packs in the same brand of outrageously silly antics and full-on fun entertainment. Promising to turn everything you thought you knew about monsters upside down, Monsters Bite Back stars the same misbehaving monsters and monster hunting team which won every young reader’s heart. So meet Jack, his best friend Nancy and Stoop (a grumpy, 200-year-old monster hunter) as they head to Scotland following reports of some mysterious monsters causing chaos in an ancient abbey. And, who knows, maybe they will catch a glimpse of famous monster Nessie! But when they get there, they find some obstacles in their path... whether that’s the fog goblins, disgruntled ghosts, some very odd loch monsters, and even a rival monster hunting agency. Oh, and there’s also an ancient curse that spells the end of the world as we know it! A monster hunter’s work is never done. Packed with Belgian illustrator Louis Ghibault’s gloriously anarchic illustrations, this laugh-out-loud extravaganza is a delight from the collection of toothsome monsters hidden under the hardback dust cover to the warmth, fun, madness, mayhem and comedy that spills out from every page. You’d me monstrously mad to miss it!
(Farshore, hardback, £12.99)

Age 7 plus
Kate on the Case: The Headline Hoax
Hannah Peck

FEARLESS young reporter Kate is back for an action-packed new adventure and she’s heading to the city for her biggest challenge yet! The third and final story in illustrator Hannah Peck’s debut series as an author once again brings youngsters all the intrigue, excitement and colourful characters of an Agatha Christie classic. With its chapter book format, the Kate on the Case series is ideal for emerging independent readers and is brimming with mystery, comedy, an inspirational heroine, some wonderfully witty wordplay and, in this new adventure, a gallery of vibrant, two-toned neon-yellow illustrations. Kate is thrilled because she has received a VIP invitation to visit the headquarters of The Lookout Post newspaper to help her hero, top reporter Catherine Rodriguez. But Kate’s dream-come-true begins to sour when she discovers that all is not as it should be at the newspaper. Someone has been tampering with the famous newspaper and smeared rubbish all over the stories... literally! Luckily Kate and her mouse friend Rupert are on hand to unravel the mystery. Will Kate be able to make the scoop of the century and prove herself as a Special Correspondent? It's going to take all the courage she's got to catch the culprit. Peck moves into creative overdrive for this cleverly plotted, sleuthing adventure which lets readers share the fun of following clues, picking out suspects and finally solving the case. Mystery, meddling, mayhem... and all before deadline!
(Piccadilly Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus
Three Epic Adventures of Supertato
Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

ENJOY a tasty triple helping of Supertato… the most a-peeling veg in the supermarket! Always there when the chips are down, Supertato is a picture book superhero with his eyes firmly fixed on the bad guys and always ready to play out of his skin. His wacky, calorie-consuming adventures amongst fridges, friends and foes have been cooked up by award-winning duo Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, and if you haven’t already met this swashbuckling spud, then here’s the chance to tuck into three Supertato adventures in one brilliant book. In Supertato, the first delicious story in the series,  our supermarket superhero does battle with a very, very naughty pea who is on the loose and causing mayhem for the other veggies. Can Supertato defeat the evil pea? In Veggies in the Valley of Doom, a night-time game of hide-and-seek turns into an epic treasure hunt when Supertato and the veggies face fearsome foes, the impassable Cactus Canyon and the dangerous Valley of Doom. Will Evil Pea have the last laugh? And in Carnival Catastro-Pea, it’s carnival time in the supermarket and Supertato and the veggies are busy preparing for the big day. It’s set to be a wonderful celebration of colour and fun but Evil Pea is out to spoil the fun again! Can Supertato stop their colourful carnival turning into a catastro-pea?! Big, bold and bright illustrations help these funny, fast-moving vegetable adventures boil over as the spud with superpowers makes mincemeat of the perfidious Evil Pea. A serving of Supertato always leaves little ones hungry for more!
(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £9.99)

Age 3 plus
Frank and Bert: The One
Where Bert Learns to Ride a Bike

Chris Naylor-Ballesteros 

WITH a good friend behind you, life is a downhill ride! Author and illustrator Chris Naylor-Ballesteros steals our hearts again with another freewheeling, fun-filled picture book featuring Frank and Bert, his stellar fox and bear double act. And this time, the dynamic duo are in the saddle for a celebration of the joys, rewards and strength that come from a true friendship. Frank the fox and Bert the bear are the best of friends. Bert is CERTAIN he can ride his bike as well as Frank, but he is very wobbly! And even when they both try riding Frank’s bike, it still goes very wrong. Will the best friends make it all the way down from the big hill? Of course they will! All they need is a little bit of confidence and trust in each other. With its warm heart and infectious sense of fun, this enchanting story – brought to vibrant life by Naylor-Ballesteros’ stunning illustrations with their eye-catching use of colour and visual humour – proves that friendship and caring keep the wheels of life turning. And with giggles guaranteed right through to the last page, and a free Stories Aloud QR code audio recording to enjoy, this is a ride your youngsters won’t want to miss!
(Nosy Crow, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus
I Really Really Love You So
Karl Newson and Duncan Beedie

EVERYONE'S favourite Bush Baby is back... and he’s got a whole lot of love to share with his fans! Dynamic picture book duo – award-winning children’s author Karl Newson and creative illustrator Duncan Beedie – work their special magic on this hilarious and heartwarming sequel to the bestselling I Really, Really Need a Wee. And the star performer once again is the cute and curious Bush Baby who delivers important life lessons and messages about parental love in the most comical and characterful way. So here is Bush Baby, he’s back and he has something really, really important to say... but how?! From climbing a mountain and building a rocket to sailing a stormy sea and wrestling with crocodiles, Newson’s enchanting story is packed with extreme and exciting ways to show a special someone that you love them. But sometimes the simplest way to show that you care (a big hug!) is the best way. Newson and Beedie give their imaginations free flow on this heartfelt and fun-filled rhyming romp that features a bold and vibrant gallery of artwork and has love written right through the centre of every page!
(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age one plus
The Kiss
Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar

EVERY sleepyhead needs a goodnight kiss when it’s time for bed! Bestselling Irish children’s author Eoin McLaughlin and talented illustrator Polly Dunbar steal hearts and minds again with The Kiss, an exquisitely imagined and illustrated picture book with a clever flip-book format, and featuring a new star pairing, Tiger and Crocodile. With a quarter of a million copies sold in their outstanding Hedgehog & Friends series – all books that spoke loudly to youngsters during the worst of the pandemic lockdowns – this inspirational author and illustrator team are back with the same winning formula of subtle simplicity, gentle humour and tenderness. Tiger was feeling sleepy. As sleepy as sleepy can be... so sleepy only one thing could help. Crocodile was also feeling sleepy. As sleepy as sleepy can be... so sleepy only one thing could help. But the animals along the way don’t seem very helpful. Perhaps it’s those sharp little teeth that they can see when Tiger and Crocodile yawn. Then they see a sharp-toothed shadow... eek! But don’t worry it’s just Daddy Croc and Mummy Tiger, come to kiss their little ones goodnight! McLaughlin’s super-snuggly bedtime story and Dunbar’s enchanting and emotive illustrations provide the perfect celebration of blended families and kindred spirits. A beautiful bedtime story sealed with a kiss!
(Faber Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age one plus
Ways to Say I Love You
Madeleine Cook and Fiona Lee

LOVE conquers all in this warm and cosy picture book from children’s author Madeleine Cook and creative illustrator Fiona Lee. In this beautifully imagined and uplifting exploration of the many ways we express love, young readers watch how children grow, see families immersed in their busy lives, but always finding time and many different ways to say ‘I love you.’  Love can be a word or a hug, it can be a shared experience or activity, being silly together, cheering when you try something new, or simply offering a helping hand and a friendly wave goodbye. Filled with warmth, cosy charm and family togetherness, this beautiful picture book speaks loudly to little ones about the different ways a cross-section of people express their feelings of love, and at the same time reinforcing the notion that love is the one thing we all have in common. A book of love to share and treasure.
(Oxford University Press, paperback, £7.99)