Tuesday 21 February 2023

CHILDREN'S BOOKS: A climate call to arms, zombie capers and poetic precision

Join a group of youngsters as they fight to save the future, enjoy fun-filled antics with an accidental time traveller, immerse yourself in a dazzling debut collection of verse, inspire youngsters to find the right career and laugh your socks off with a super new picture book series as a new selection of  books hit the shelves

Age 9 plus
The Rescue of Ravenwood
Natasha Farrant

WHEN you read a novel that has everything in it to make your heart swell, your spine tingle and your childhood memories shine, then you know you’ve found a book that is destined to be a classic! So grab a copy of The Rescue of Ravenwood and escape into a thrilling and epic adventure that puts the climate crisis at centre stage but has fun, family, friendship, beauty and hope as its best supporting players. What started out as Costa Award-winning author Natasha Farrant’s ambitious plan ‘to write a sort of blueprint for how to navigate the modern world’ morphed into an exciting, empowering tale featuring three extraordinary children who are determined to save the place and the wildlife they love, and to take control of their own future.

Billed as a call to arms, a reminder that we must fight to save the most treasured things on our planet, this outstanding adventure sweeps us away to the top of the hill, overlooking the sea because that is where you'll find a magical place. To Bea and Raffy, Ravenwood is home. To Noa, it’s a welcome refuge. In its own way, the house rescued them, even if it did have a fallen-down tree taking up most of the kitchen. So the idea that they could lose it because it could now be sold – demolished even – well, that’s unthinkable. Then again, it’s not like the children get a choice. But the truth is, we can all make our own choices, especially if we care enough. Ben can stow away across Europe on a train, Raffy can keep climbing the tree, and Noa can find out who started the fire.

Farrant excels at scene setting and the house called Ravenwood, with its 400-year-old magical ash tree and its long history dating back to the Viking invaders, forms the life and soul of this exciting and atmospheric story about holding on to what’s precious, and guarding the extraordinary nature that surrounds us. Written with the lightest of touches despite its big ecological themes, and packed with secrets, danger and intrigue, The Rescue of Ravenwood is one of the most moving, gripping and utterly charming novels you will read this year.
(Faber Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus
The Stickleback Catchers
Lisette Auton

CALLING all puzzle fans and adventure seekers... there’s a mystery just waiting to be solved! Join a gang of three friends – Mimi, Titch and Nusrat – on an exciting journey that’s full of talking crows and secrets, magical constellations and memories. So sit back and enjoy the ride as Lisette Auton, a northern disabled writer, activist and award-winning poet who specialises in novels featuring and celebrating disabled characters, delivers a moving and hope-filled story about friendship, family and acceptance. Mimi, who has to walk with crutches, adores her wild, fun, full-of-life gran. Then Gran starts forgetting things. Suddenly there are cracks appearing all around their home, plus a mysterious black crow, both of which only Mimi seems able to see. Mimi is determined to solve the mystery. Luckily she has new friends to help...Titch and Nusrat. Together, they are the Stickleback Catchers, solvers of puzzles and seekers of adventure. Down by the river, where the gang meet and the silvery sticklebacks swim, they discover a mysterious stone, speckled with stars. But this is no ordinary stone – it’s the doorway to another world, a world of talking crows and secrets, magical constellations and memories – and maybe, just maybe, Mimi’s chance to bring back her Gran forever. With its diverse cast of lovable characters, adventures based on Auton’s own experiences, and child-friendly exploration of dementia and family illness, The Stickleback Catchers is a magical tale sure to cast a spell over young readers.
(Puffin, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus
The Sleeping Stones
Beatrice Wallbank

TUCK into the distinctive Welsh flavour of this intriguing, warmhearted debut fantasy novel, inspired by mythology and Welsh mermaids called morgens, and which flowed from the pen of Welsh sea historian Beatrice Wallbank. With magic all the way, and set against the atmospheric backdrop of a small island off the Welsh coast, The Sleeping Stones is a thrilling, compelling adventure which explores what it means to truly belong. Gruff and his new friend Matylda (Mat) live on a very special island where legends are beginning to stir. Islanders find themselves irresistibly drawn to the Sleeping Stones, a line of six dark rocks like stepping stones out to the shining sea, but legend has it that they are the stepping stones of giants and if you step on the final stone, the Sleepers tempt you to leap into the waves and the current sweeps you away. Soon Gruff and Mat will find themselves risking everything to save each other and their community from a terrifying storm driven by an ancient, magic anger. Wallbank paints an alluring portrait of a small, close-knit, rural community living in a place where nature is all-powerful, and myths and legends abide deep inside the green fields and coastal bays. Rich in Welsh mythology and culture, and with a vibrant cast of well-drawn characters, The Sleeping Stones is awash in magic, adventure and mystery.
(Firefly Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus
The Song Walker
Zillah Bethell

FORGET the chills of February and head off to the heat and dazzling backdrop of the Australian Outback in a thrilling story of friendship, discovery and courage from Zillah Bethell, author of The Shark Caller which won the Wales Book of the Year and the Edward Stanford Children’s Travel Book of the Year 2022. Bethell was born in the shadow of the volcano Mount Lamington in Papua New Guinea and has used her amazing childhood experiences for exotic and exciting stories set in lands on the other side of the world. And this beautiful and moving new adventure is full of the masterful storytelling, beauty and descriptive power that we have come to expect from this talented author. ‘There are three questions that I need to find the answers to: Where am I? What am I doing here? And... Who am I?’ When a young girl wakes up in the middle of the desert, she has no idea who she is. She’s wearing one shoe, a silky black dress, and she is carrying a strange, heavy case. She meets Tarni, who is on a mysterious quest of her own. Together, the two girls trek across the vast and ever-changing Australian Outback in search of answers. Except both of them are also hiding secrets... Brimming with emotion and beautiful imagery, The Song Walker explores the disorienting experience of memory loss and the healing strength of friendship whilst delivering an all-action adventure in a dazzling landscape. Tailor-made for middle-grade readers!
(Usborne, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus
Bob vs the Selfie Zombies
Andy Jones and Robin Boyden

IF laughs on every page, zany zombie escapades and banana bread tickle your reading taste buds, then fasten your seatbelts and head for the future with Bob, an accidental time traveller who is tasked with saving the world! Bob vs the Selfie Zombies is the first of a brilliant new action-packed series – perfect for reluctant readers – and straight from the imagination of Lollies Award shortlisted author Andy Jones. Packed with adventure, humour and excitement, and illustrated throughout by Robin Boyden, there’s fun all the way to the future and back. For Bob and his best friend Malcolm, winning the school talent competition with their band, The Tentacles of Time, is really important. And that’s before they realise the future of the world depends on it. Bob doesn’t know why he can time travel but he does know that it always happens at the worst possible moments... like when he’s in the bath. Awkward! But when Bob comes face to face with his future self in the midst of a disastrous alternative reality, he’s got no choice but to try to do something. In this future, an evil genius has created a smile-operated selfie camera that turns people into zombies and the world as Bob knows it has completely collapsed. There’s not even anywhere to get a pizza... things are seriously bad! Now it’s up to Bob to change the course of the present to save himself, future Malcolm AND the whole world. If only he could figure out how... Jumping forward twenty years in time proves to be just the starting point for this brilliantly entertaining new series as Jones lets loose his imagination on madcap escapades cleverly created for young readers who like long laughs and short chapters. Fizzing with energy, comedy and some important real-life issues, Bob’s time-travelling adventures are set to span far into the future... 
(Piccadilly Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus
The Time Tider
Sinéad O’Hart

After winning praise and plaudits for her stunning novels, The Eye of the North and The Star-Spun Web, master storyteller Sinéad O’Hart is back to weave her special brand of magic in a cracking, science-based novel with an extraordinary, time-bending heroine. The Time Tider is a dark, thrilling and atmospheric fantasy adventure starring a girl with a gift that lets her step in and out of time... an ability that brings with it great danger. Irish girl Mara and her dad Gabriel have lived in their shabby van for as long as she can remember. Whatever her father does to scrape a living has kept them constantly on the run and Mara has never questioned what he does. But then she uncovers a collection of notes addressed to ‘the Tider,’ an individual responsible for harvesting lost time from people whose lives were cut short, and making sure that it doesn’t form dangerous Warps. But before Mara can question her father about it, he is kidnapped by a dangerous group who want to use his power for evil. With the very fabric of time and space at stake, it’s down to Mara and her new friend Jan to find him before it’s too late. But to find the Tider, will Mara have to step into his shoes? O’Hart has a real gift for character development and conjuring up thrilling fantasy worlds in which youngsters are pitted against evil forces and must use all their ingenuity, bravery and determination to save both themselves and the places and people they hold dear. With its atmospheric backdrop, and a story brimming with action, excitement, wisdom and ethical conundrums, The Time Tider is adventure with a big heart and prodigious imaginative power.
(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus
Rivet Boy
Barbara Henderson

WHATEVER you do, don’t look down! The story of one Victorian boy’s role in the building of the iconic Forth Bridge – Scotland’s greatest man-made wonder – takes centre stage in truly riveting new book from Inverness-based author Barbara Henderson. This is an author who specialises in taking fragments of real history and using them as inspiration for her novels and here she sweeps us away on an enthralling adventure which blends fact and fiction in perfect harmony. When 12-year-old John Nicol gets a job at the Forth Bridge construction site in 1889, he knows it’s dangerous. Four boys have already fallen from the bridge into the water below. But John has no choice... with his father gone, he must provide an income for his family, even if he is terrified of heights. John finds comfort in the new Carnegie library, his friend Cora and his squirrel companion, Rusty. But when he is sent to work in Cain Murdoch’s Rivet Gang, John must find the courage to climb, to face his fears, and to stand up to his evil boss. Based on real people and events, Rivet Boy harnesses the life and death stakes involved in the building of the famous bridge for an adventure full of vivid characters, gripping action and eye-opening real history. Authentic, atmospheric, and totally captivating!
(Pokey Hat, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus
A Passing On of Shells: 50 Fifty-Word Poems
Simon Lamb and Chris Riddell

‘I’m fascinated by the sheer possibility of poetry, where a whole
universe can be offered to the reader in a precisely chosen
packet of words – in this case, exactly fifty!’

THE inspirational words of poet, performer and storyteller Simon Lamb ring out loud and clear in this dazzling debut collection of verse which features fifty luminous poems, each written in exactly fifty words, and superbly illustrated in black and white throughout by former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell. With a background in teaching, Lamb works extensively in schools to ignite and inspire young learners by sharing his passion for poetry and, with the help of pioneering Scallywag Press, he has joyfully grabbed his chance to shine with this sparkling and beautifully reflective anthology. Offering up his poems as small nuggets of wisdom, warmth and wit to help readers of all ages navigate their lives, each one features a stunning visual interpretation and invites readers, young and old, to lose themselves in both the words and pictures. And what an exciting new voice Lamb is with his incisive and playful poetry covering everything from family, identity and growing up, to the need for hope, the wonder of nature, and the very concept of poetry itself. And to complement Lamb’s ever present three-dimensional sense of drama and interaction with the reader, every poem is given its own double-page spread, each one exquisitely illustrated with Riddell’s distinctive insight and flair, and adding new layers of meaning, humour and joy to the already magical poems. Brimming with heartfelt emotion, and covering thought-provoking topics ranging from mysterious and fantastical to the downright prosaic, A Passing On of Shells comes in a creatively produced hardback gift edition with a textured, de-bossed cover and thick paper pages, and is a book to read, to love, to inspire and to treasure.
(Scallywag Press, hardback, £10.99)

Age 5 plus
The Bear and the Wildcat
Kazumi Yumoto and Komako Sakai

HELP your little ones to find a way through the paralysing grief of a close family bereavement with this beautiful and sensitively created picture book from the talented Japanese team of author Kazumi Yumoto and illustrator Komako Sakai. The timeless classic, The Bear and the Wildcat, is back in print by popular demand and with its outstanding monochrome illustrations and uplifting ending, stills stands as one of the best picture books to guide children through the dark days of loss and grief. When the little bird dies, his friend the bear is inconsolable. He cuts a tree from the forest and makes a little box. He stains it with berry juice and lines it with petals. Then he gently lays his friend inside. Full of grief, he locks himself in his house and ventures out again only when the smell of young spring grass blows through his window. He always carries the box which he opens for no one. Then he meets a wildcat who understands his need to carry the box. As the wildcat plays on her violin, the bear remembers all the beauty he experienced with the little bird. Now he can bury his friend, keeping him alive in his memories and feelings. Yumoto’s moving tale of the pain and loneliness of loss, complete with its positive and consoling reminder of hope and new beginnings, springs to life through Sakai’s exquisitely atmospheric charcoal illustrations.  Picture book perfection.
(Gecko Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 5 plus
When I Grow Up, I Want To Help People
When I Grow Up, I Want To Look After The Planet
Sarah Walden and Flavio Remontti

IT'S never too early to start thinking about what the future might bring! So inspire your youngsters to find the right career ...and a job that will not just help the world work but also help people. When I Grow Up, I Want To... is a sparkling series from Noodle Juice, the tasty new children’s publisher which is on a mission to make young brains ‘fizz’ with a selection of vibrant books that aim to amaze, amuse and surprise, as well as disrupt and challenge conventions, and help little people answer big questions in an increasingly confusing world. 
Using simple language to explain different jobs, these charming books demonstrate to young children how different careers can help people, and look after the planet. When I Grow Up, I Want To Help People introduces roles like a translator, charity worker, sports coach, care worker and yoga teacher, as well as school teacher, doctor, nurse and police officer.

And When I Grow Up, I Want To Look After The Planet includes roles such as zookeeper, food scientist and planet engineer as well as forester, conservationist and journalist. Children can read all about the jobs and then see which one they would like to try when they grow up. The series comprises four books, each containing thirteen different jobs that are involved in helping people, looking after the planet, the creative industries, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics learning. Packed with ideas and Flavio Remontti’s colourful, inclusive illustrations, these books are ideal for schools, nurseries and home reading.
(Noodle Juice, hardback, £9.99 each)

Age 3 plus
NOT Just Another... ABC and 123
Illustrated by Jack Viant

WHAT parent or carer could resist a book that bills itself as ‘boredom-free guaranteed!’ So these sturdy first alphabet and counting board books are the first of what is not just another first concept series. Packed with learning, fun, and a fine line in wit which will appeal to adults as well as children, these brilliant books offer entertainment all the way.

This brand-new approach will ensure toddlers and parents giggle together as they find out just how funny learning the alphabet (and counting up to ten) can be! 
So as little ones travel their way through alphabet, will the alligator go before the crocodile, will the pirate queen ever finish her recycling, and will the sheep find the shark that took his underpants? 

And as little ones count from one to ten, will the four funny foxes make it to the party, will the six shaky sheep ever perfect their yoga poses, and will the eight octopuses ever manage to complete the hokey cokey? 

With a joke to enjoy on every page and the enchanting illustrations of Jack Viant adding extra colour to learning time, these books are a must-have for all pre-schoolers.

(Noodle Juice, board books, £6.99 each) 

Age 3 plus
High Top: The Sneaker That Just Can’t Stop
Tom Lacey

KIDS will be laughing their socks off when they get their hands on the first book in a simply shoeper new comedy series! High Top is the brainchild of Tom Lacey, the pseudonym of a group of creative ‘sole’ mates who, between them, have written and illustrated numerous bestselling books on both sides of the Atlantic. So welcome to Shoe Town where the residents are all footloose, and meet High Top, the sneaker who’s fresh out the box, ready to run and has an irrepressible lust for life. Where’s the harm in that? But when High Top gets carried away and his enthusiasm threatens to trample all over his friends, can he find the balance he needs to make things right with everyone and still be the life and sole of the party? Giggles and guffaws are guaranteed as High Top’s hilarious antics land him in a knot with his new footwear friends. With an irrepressibly energetic hero striding out on a series of madcap adventures, and a gallery of colourful slippers, sandals, wellies and boots keeping young readers on their toes, this is a series that is destined to run and run! 
(Stripes Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus
Mums Are Magnificent
Simon Philip and Dawn Lo

AS Mother’s Day approaches, celebrate your own special mum with this warm, witty and wonderful rhyming romp from award-winning author Simon Philip and Hong Kong-born illustrator Dawn Lo. Featuring a diverse and inclusive range of marvellous mums, Philip lets loose both his imagination and his sense of fun on a rollicking journey involving mums everywhere and of every variety! Mums are special. Mums are unique. They can play let’s pretend and be your best friend. They can be pilots of planes or drivers of trains. All mums are different, magic... and magnificent! With its tender but exuberant exploration of the love between mother and child, Lo’s gallery of colourful, expressive and eye-catching illustrations, and a rhyming text full of humour, joy and love, Mums Are Magnificent is the perfect gift to mark the arrival of a new baby, or to give to your own very special mum on Mother’s Day!
(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus
Amazing Mum
Alison Brown

AND mums also take centre stage in a super-cute picture book from author and illustrator Alison Brown. Every mum is unique, and every mum is special... so celebrate your own wonderful mum with a book that says it all! With its fun-filled rhyme and heart-melting illustrations, Amazing Mum pays a warmhearted tribute to every kind of mum and features pictures of a caring and inclusive range of loving animal families. Amazing mums are all around! They are chatty, practical, funny, sporty... and everything between. Mums find your lost treasures, they celebrate your achievements, they never let you down, they give the best hugs, and they love you no matter what. The perfect picture book to share on Mother’s Day... and any day you just want to celebrate your mum!
(Farshore, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus
Bee Chuck

THE joys of the great outdoors spring to green and glorious life in a warm and inclusive picture book from non-binary artist Bee Chuck. Inspired by a desire to make the world a better place through art, Chuck brings us a tale of our times with important messages about slowing down, taking notice of what’s around us and discovering a slower, kinder, friendlier and more beautiful world. Outside is a place that nobody thinks much about. It’s somewhere to go for a walk in the park or a trip to the duck pond, or simply to get from one place to another. Inside is much more important... until suddenly, no one is allowed to go outside and everything changes. In our post-Covid lockdowns world, Outside speaks loudly to young readers and demonstrates, through words and accessible pictures, just how important outside work can be in our day-to-day lives.
(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 2 plus
How to Make a Story
Naomi Jones and Ana Gomez

TELL us a story! Help your children to take the first steps to being a storyteller in their own right with this fun and inspirational picture book from Naomi Jones and Ana Gomez, the top author and illustrator team behind the much-loved How to Catch a Rainbow. When Milo decides he’s going to tell a story, it seems like a great idea... a story of his very own, made up by him! The only problem is that he’s not sure how to start it, what to put in the middle... or how to end it. With a little help from his family and a lot of real-life inspiration, Milo’s story is soon off to a flying start. If only his little brother and sister weren’t getting in the way. But then Milo learns the most important lesson of all about stories... that they are made to be shared. How to Make a Story is a creative delight... a lovely, lively, vibrant picture book that captures perfectly all the enthusiasm of youth and cleverly demonstrates how, through teamwork and sharing, you can put your ideas into action. Brimming with colour, gorgeous illustrations and creative charm, How to Make a Story is the ideal way to introduce the youngest children to the whole concept of storytelling.
(Oxford University Press Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age one plus
Kind Crocodile
Leo Timmers

A KIND crocodile leaves his pond to see the world and gets more than he bargained for in a fresh and funny new board book from Belgian author and illustrator Leo Timmers.  Winner of the New York Times Illustrated Book Award, Timmers has a magical touch with both words and pictures, and there are many layers of discovery and fun to enjoy in his playful story packed full of wit, warmth and richly detailed illustrations. The animals are in danger and they need the help of the kind crocodile! And here they come... a terrified mouse, a frightened hog, an antelope and even a rhinoceros. One by one they find shelter on Crocodile’s long green back, while his big teeth scare their enemies away. Grrr! In a fun game of chase, the kind crocodile gives shelter to one animal... until the load becomes too heavy and the crocodile doesn’t feel so kind any more. He turns on his friends... grrr. But, in a trademark Timmers twist, it’s not for long. ‘Just kidding!’ says Crocodile. ‘Not kind!’ reply his friends. Translated from the Dutch edition by Bill Nagelkerke and published in a larger format, Kind Crocodile is perfect for reading aloud with toddlers and pre-schoolers who will love the use of repetition and the lively game of chase whilst subtly taking on board the advantages that come from teamwork.
(Gecko Press, cased board book, £9.99)

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