Book review: Comics, knights and stylish spies with Usborne Books

October’s here and Usborne have got the dark nights covered with a glittering selection of children’s books.

By Pam Norfolk
Wednesday, 1st October 2014, 10:00 am
Comics, knights and stylish spies with Usborne Books
Comics, knights and stylish spies with Usborne Books

Hot off the presses is a brilliant activity book for budding cartoonists, an amazing look inside our wonderful world, a well-dressed journey to the court of King Arthur and an adventure with fashion’s most stylish detective.

Age 8 plus:

Write and Draw your own Comics by Louie Stowell, Jess Bradley and a host of comic artists

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Kapow! Boom! Woo hoo! You don’t have to be a comic genius to create your very own comic… and Usborne’s fantastic new activity book will help youngsters to ‘draw’ on their talents.

This wonderfully designed and incredibly easy-to-follow book helps budding cartoonists to imagine and put together their own comic strips. Simple step-by-step instructions, with lots of handy tips and hints, show children how to create graphic stories using all the devices employed in ‘real’ comics.

Packed with advice and examples, the book contains ideas for characters and storylines, sample comic strips, and drawing tips from well-known comic book artists like Laura Howell from The Beano and Neill Cameron from The Phoenix.

There are over 130 useful stickers, with sound bubbles and other comic features, to help create characters, think up storylines, write dialogue, use sound effects, draw action sequences, portray emotions like surprise, anger or pleasure, and then – abracadabra – put it all together to make your own magical comic book adventure.

Basic comic strips have already been drawn as a guide and include plenty of spaces for youngsters to make their own designs. And with simple writing and drawing activities to help them get into the comic groove, there’s no excuse for not getting stuck into the creative fun.

And if your young artists want to find out more about writing and drawing comic strips, they can visit and simply type in the title of the book.

A comic creation that will let children have the last laugh…

(Usborne, hardback, £9.99)

Age 11 plus:

Model Under Cover: Stolen with Style by Carina Axelsson

High fashion and high drama are the talk of the town again as undercover model Axelle Anderson unearths another catwalk catastrophe.

Axelle, who doubles as a top model and secret stylish sleuth, is the glittering, glamorous creation of real-life former catwalk model Carina Axelsson who is half-Swedish and half-Mexican and grew up in California.

Stolen with Style is the second book in this fashionably fabulous series which features adventures in the world of lip-gloss, sky-high heels and bitchy back-stabbing.

When it comes to glamorous crimes of fashion, Axelle has discovered that modelling is the perfect cover for a wannabe detective. So when the world’s most famous black diamond vanishes from a fashion magazine cover shoot, she slips on her stilettoes and jets to New York to investigate and hopefully catch the culprit.

Axelle thinks she has solved the crime until things take an unexpected turn and her gorgeous sidekick Sebastian goes missing too. Axelle is feeling the heat in New York and not just because it’s Fashion Week…

Fun, fashion and foul deeds…

(Usborne, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Look Inside Our World by Emily Bone and Marianna Oklejak

Take a trip around the world with this fascinating flap book which lifts the lid on the workings of our wide and wonderful world.

This ingenious and enthralling journey to the centre of the Earth features bold illustrations, simple explanations to complex questions and over 60 flaps to lift in the quest to understand the basics of geography and geology.

What is the Earth made of and what goes on beneath the surface? Discover how rivers flow from mountains all the way to the sea, meet some of the thousands of different creatures that live in the rainforests, dive into the mysteries of our vast oceans and seek out the dry world of the deserts.

Intrepid explorers will delight in learning about the layers that make up planet Earth, the tiniest rainforest insects and the creatures which live at the very bottom of the sea. There is information about the hottest and coldest parts of the world, and a map with lift-the-flap details about each continent.

Every page is an adventure with flaps to lift and facts to unfold, offering an exciting and extraordinary journey for young explorers. A whole world of learning in one amazing book…

(Usborne, hardback, £9.99)

Age 5 plus:

Sticker Dressing King Arthur by Struan Reid and Diego Diaz

Dressed to thrill… the magical court of King Arthur’s Camelot comes to life in this entertaining activity book for little ladies and their handsome knights.

With over 140 colourful, easy-to-use stickers – including swords, shields, armour, helmets and glamorous dresses – and a potted history of a legendary story, this is a fun and interactive way for children to learn about King Arthur.

Youngsters can dress King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and the Knights of the Round Table in a dazzling array of outfits and see for themselves what people wore during the medieval period, including the fashions at court and the knights’ armour.

With the help of colour-filled scenes, they can meet beautiful Guinevere and magician Merlin, the wisest man in the kingdom of Camelot, join the adventures of the Knights and see Arthur pulling his magical sword Excalibur from the stone, jousting with Sir Lancelot and fighting his final battle.

A hands-on history lesson…

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

Peep inside Night Time by Anna Milbourne and Simona Dimitri

The mysteries and marvels of the night time unfold with colourful clarity in this charming, simple and beautifully illustrated lift-the-flap book for little children.

As they peep into the starlit darkness, the secrets of swooping owls, flitting bats and busy bakers are revealed with startling definition.

Little fingers can lift the large and accessible flaps in scenes of dark, quiet, sleepy night-time and learn about the busy activities taking place beneath. There are owls, foxes and mice looking for food, frogs singing the night away, bakers making bread for the morning and a sleeper train travelling through the night.

This is a hard-wearing board book sure to delight inquisitive pre-schoolers and open up a whole new world behind their bedroom curtains. Atmospheric illustrations by Simona Dimitri do full justice to an imaginative narrative from Anna Milbourne.

An intriguing and enchanting adventure and the ideal bedtime book to usher in the land of nod.

(Usborne, boardbook, £6.99)

Baby and toddler:

How High is the Sky? by Anna Milbourne and Serena Riglietti

How many times have you heard a child ask, how high is the sky?

Imaginative author Anna Milbourne and talented illustrator Serena Riglietti take storytelling to new heights in this enchanting and revealing journey into the blue yonder.

Pipkin is a very small penguin who is always asking very big questions... but what he wants to know most of all is how high is the sky? Pipkin and his friends set off on an exhilarating exploration, flying in a hot-air balloon, travelling in a space rocket and even walking on the Moon as they try to figure out exactly how high the sky is. But will they ever know for sure?

There is a truly magical feel to this enchanting little tale which is complemented by Riglietti’s wonderfully whimsical and emotive illustrations and is guaranteed to warm hearts and inspire plenty of discussion.

The perfect tall story to make bedtime short and sweet…

(Usborne, paperback, £4.99)