Book review: My Second Life and other boredom-busters from Usborne

Keep your children out of mischief during the summer holidays with a sparkling collection of activity packs and sunshine reads.

By Pam Norfolk
Thursday, 17th July 2014, 10:00 am
My Second Life and other boredom-busters from Usborne
My Second Life and other boredom-busters from Usborne

Usborne Publishing is this year’s Independent Publisher of the Year and Children’s Publisher of the Year, producing beautifully designed and imaginative children’s books for every age from baby to teenager.

They have holiday activity packs, a wide selection of sticker books, a brilliant teen debut novel and some top-class reading for every taste in a fantastic summer line-up.


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My Second Life by Faye Bird

An ingenious concept, an intriguing mystery and a gripping story told with pace and passion.

Former TV agent Faye Bird’s debut teen novel is a cracker... the riveting tale of a teenager who is living a second life and knows that in her first life, something terrible happened and now it’s coming back to haunt her.

My Second Life has all those ingredients that make a story sing... psychological suspense, a beautifully drawn cast of characters, young love, heartbreaking emotions and a compelling conundrum.

Fifteen-year-old Ana Ross has never felt comfortable in her skin. That’s because she’s been here before. She was once Emma Trees, young, beautiful and with everything to live for. But Emma died when she was 22 in 1994 and, for some unknown reason, she has was born again as Ana in 2000.

It has left Ana struggling to accept Rachel Ross as her mother, knowing that her real mum was another woman whom she loved dearly. Even so, Ana has enjoyed her second childhood because ‘one life lived is just that: one life lived. It’s not every life.’

But recently she had a chance meeting with an elderly woman called Frances Wells whose six-year-old daughter Catherine drowned in a devastating tragedy and now Ana is being bombarded by memories of her previous life.

And one of those recalls is tearing her apart... Ana is sure that she killed Catherine. The time has come to discover just what happened in that first life if she is to make sense of her second.

Bird’s unique storyline proves utterly addictive as we follow Ana through the moral maze of her past life and explore the possibility that a person can be born with the layers of another, previous life embedded deep within them.

It’s a fascinating idea and Bird works it to the very best advantage in a story full of tension, drama, love, hatred and mystery.

An amazing and thrilling debut...

(Usborne, paperback, £6.99)

Age 6 plus:

London Activity Pack

The ever-inventive book boffins at Usborne have come up with dream holiday gift packs for young travellers... handy little carry cases full of fun and games.

Each of the packs – and there is everything from a Football pack and Farmyard Tales to a Fairy pack and a Getting Ready for School pack – contains four mini activity books and stickers.

And if you are heading to the landmarks of the capital this summer, the London activity pack will help to make the trip more exciting and memorable.

A handy carry case contains a London Colouring Book, London Doodling Book, Things to Spot in London Sticker Book and a selection of postcards to colour.

The fun-filled carry case is jam-packed with London-themed colouring, doodling and sticker books, things to spot and ten postcards of iconic buildings like St Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament to colour and send. The sturdy case is ideal for taking on holiday and makes a delightful souvenir when you return home, giving children lots to talk about and hours of entertainment.

Don’t leave home without it for your big city adventures...

(Usborne, £12.99)

Age 4 plus:

Sticker Puzzle Holiday by Susannah Leigh and Brenda Haw

There’s no excuse for holiday or travel boredom with this exciting and challenging puzzle adventure book for young children with picture problems to solve on every double page.

Youngsters will love following the colourful adventures of Katy and Tim on their trip to the Puzzle Holiday Park. They can get stuck into all the action by working their way through the story, adding over 180 stickers, solving puzzles and spotting all kinds of creatures, from stinky skunks to juggling spiders.

Designed to help develop essential skills, including identifying, sorting and matching, the book also tests young readers’ comprehension, maths and logic as they have fun with the different challenges.

There’s a prize for meeting the spotters’ challenge, some helpful hints and the answers to all the puzzles are included at the back of the book.

From boarding the bus to the holiday park, through trouble with the tents, a hillside scramble, seaside delights, circus antics, a splash at the water park and an outdoor feast, this is the perfect travelling companion for little children.

The fun starts here...

(Usborne, paperback, £4.99)

Age 7 plus:

Pony Mad Princess: Princess Ellie’s Perfect Plan by Diana Kimpton and Lizzie Finlay

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the ever-popular Pony-Mad Princess series, Usborne are publishing new editions of every book in the series over the summer.

And top of the pile is a brand new story, Princess Ellie’s Perfect Plan. The brilliantly addictive Pony-

Mad Princess stories feature plucky Princess Ellie who is fed up with being a princess and would much rather be outdoors with her best friend Kate, riding one of her four gorgeous ponies.

The newly-published books have updated covers, quizzes, fact files and guides as well as fascinating facts about riding and horse care.

In Princess Ellie’s Perfect Plan, Ellie is faced with losing her best friend Kate when her parents make a big announcement. Will time run out before she can come up with a perfect plan to keep them together?

An irresistible blend of glitz, glamour, horses and adventure, brought to life with lively illustrations, make these books a must-read for pink-coloured girls with a penchant for palaces, princesses and ponies.

(Usborne, paperback, £4.99)