Amazing humans, a cult classic and dragon lore by various authors – children’s book reviews –

Human 2.0: A Celebration of Human Bionics by Patrick Kane and Sam RodriguezHuman 2.0: A Celebration of Human Bionics by Patrick Kane and Sam Rodriguez
Human 2.0: A Celebration of Human Bionics by Patrick Kane and Sam Rodriguez
Explore the fascinating advances in human prosthetic technology, marvel at a spectacular illustrated edition of a groundbreaking science fiction book, enjoy a fun and fast-paced tale featuring dragon lore and mythology, discover what it was like to be a Viking, and learn how to care for animals with a heartwarming new guide to pets as a sparkling selection of spring children’s books hits the shelves.

Age 7 plus:

Human 2.0: A Celebration of Human Bionics

Patrick Kane and Sam Rodriguez

‘The world is full of incredible people who are using technology to do amazing things... but the most astounding part of it all is that this world is the one we already live in.’

Celebrate the remarkable achievements made in the world of medical engineering and enjoy a glimpse of what the future might hold for humanity with a remarkable new book which explores a new age in which prosthesis technology has blurred ‘what is biological and what is not, and what is human and what is not.’

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In 2010, author, motivational speaker, campaigner, Ambassador to the UK Sepsis Trust and Ambassador to Touch Bionics, Patrick Kane, was fitted with a revolutionary bionic arm, the I-Limb Pulse, after contracting septicaemia as a baby.

It was a life-changing moment for Kane and now he has used his own experiences and knowledge to look at how recent advances in prosthetic technology have crossed the realms of ‘the purely imaginable, and reached a place of possibility,’ and allowed adults and children to realise their dreams.

The result of Kane’s research is Human 2.0: A Celebration of Human Bionics, a stunning book about the progression of bionics which focuses on everything from intricate bionic hands to neural implants, and has been lavishly illustrated in eye-catching style by Samuel Rodriguez from California whose work is heavily motivated by his interest in social, historic, and cultural hybridity.

This amazing book invites readers to meet people with paraplegia who can walk again, learn about hearing impaired people who can listen to even the faintest sounds, and those with sight problems who can now see in full colour. And readers can also discover the stories of people with missing limbs who can create beautiful works of art.

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Human 2.0 takes a look at all that has been achieved so far, and what might be possible in the near future. Is it inevitable that technology will surpass biology? From cochlear implants and pacemakers, to bionic arms and legs, this empowering book also spotlights pioneers like paralympians Richard Whitehead and Blake Leeper, and the world’s first ‘cyborg’ Neil Harbisson.

In his foreword, Hugh Herr – professor of media arts and sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who had his lower legs amputated after suffering severe frostbite and then developed his own specialised prosthetic feet – looks to a future in which ‘each person no longer has to suffer from unwanted limitations, but can freely choose the functionality of their own body and mind.’

And it’s the budding young scientists, inventors and technologists of today who hold the key to that better future for all.

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £16.99)

Age 12 plus:

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe Illustrated Edition

Written by Douglas Adams and illustrated by Chris Riddell

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Take a classic science fiction book written by a master of comedy, a gallery of illustrations by a renowned former Children’s Laureate… and what do you have?

The answer is The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the sequel to Douglas Adams’ smash hit sci-fi comedy and cult classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And what a spectacular return this is for a dazzling pop-culture masterpiece which has been spectacularly illustrated throughout by multi-award-winning artist Chris Riddell for a special gift edition.

Described by comedian, actor, writer, and television personality David Walliams as ‘one of the greatest achievements in comedy. A work of staggering genius,’ the Hitchhiker’s series was originally created by Adams – who tragically died suddenly in 2001 aged only 49 – as a 1978 radio comedy on BBC Radio 4 but was later adapted to other formats.

It went on to become an international multi-media phenomenon but the novels are the most widely distributed, having been translated into more than thirty languages by 2005.

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In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, we meet up again with Arthur Dent, star of the tales of intergalactic misadventures, who decides that if you’ve done six impossible things this morning, why not round it off with breakfast at Milliways, the Restaurant at the end of the Universe? And that is exactly what Arthur and the crew of the Heart of Gold plan to do. There’s just the small matter of escaping the Vogons, avoiding being taken to the most totally evil world in the Galaxy, and teaching a space ship how to make a proper cup of tea. Oh, and did anyone actually make a reservation?

Readers will love embarking on another galactic, gastronomic-shaped adventure with the iconic, unforgettable characters Arthur Dent, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian and Ford Prefect. And Riddell’s sensationally illustrated edition bring this sci-fi classic to vibrant life, perfectly illuminating an imagined world which sends logic into orbit, twists time, plays with words in Adams’ trademark absurd and wonderful way, and, most importantly, is very, very funny!

Simply out of this world…

(Macmillan, paperback, £13.99)

Age 9 plus:

Fireblood: The First Flight

Sam Stewart

Threads of Welsh history blend with dragon lore and mythology in a fun and fast-paced middle grade adventure debut from Zambia-born Sam Stewart who grew up in South Africa and now lives in England. Packed with thrills and spills, Fireblood: The First Flight also harnesses Stewart’s long-held desire to write a book about people with the power of fire... so meet sibling duo Tula and Finn Flint who discover that the magic of dragons flows through their veins, a fact that is scary but also liberating! Nine-year-old Tula hasn’t spoken since their mother died eight years and no one but 12-year-old Finn and his father – who has mysteriously disappeared – can understand her subtle sign language. The newly-realised powers of dragonkind throw Finn and Tula into a terrifying and exhilarating world they never knew existed where they face a desperate quest. They must travel to a secret fortress island called Portaldor to help save their father and the world they know from the forces of destruction... and discover the truth of their incredible fireblood heritage. Dragons lie at the heart of this fabulously fiery adventure which explores issues around truth, family, friendship, belonging and a shared sense of community. Tula is our silent but strong star... a fearless girl whose sensitivity and powerful link with the animal kingdom informs the siblings’ journey through danger and discovery. With its magical, mesmerising world-building, and a beautifully imagined cast of characters, this is reading joy for all fantasy and fun fans.

(Firefly Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

What It Was Like to Be A Viking

David Long and Stefano Tambellini

From traders to raiders... award-winning non-fiction writer David Long takes readers on an amazing journey through Viking life in the first book of his enthralling new What It Was Like to Be... series. An expert in distilling complex stories from the past into an informative and entertaining format for young readers, Long skilfully explains everything from Viking politics to archaeology in this fact-packed and accessible introduction to a long-ago civilisation. The Vikings were a terrifying force that changed history across the globe – from Canada all the way to Iraq. But they were merchants as well as marauders, explorers as well as adventurers. The greatest seafarers and shipbuilders of their age, they were also skilled metalworkers and artists, farmers and fishermen, healers and herders. They were even democrats who established the world’s oldest surviving parliament. Long’s concise but wide-ranging account brings the Vikings’ fascinating civilisation into focus, explaining what Viking life was actually like as well as considering their lingering influence throughout the world. With all the intriguing facts and characters brought to vivid life by Stefano Tambellini’s rich artwork, and published in Barrington Stoke’s trademark dyslexia-friendly format, this promises to be a top class series from a dynamic writing and illustration duo.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Pets and their People

Dr Jess French and Becca Hall

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Whether you have a pet or not, it’s always good to know how to care for animals!

In the pages of this heartwarming guide, youngsters learn everything there is to know about pets of all kinds, and the many different ways to take care of them and give them the happiest life possible. Along the way, we discover lots of fascinating facts about the different animals that we might think of as pets, including their history, behaviour, and body language.

Written by Dr Jess French, a keen conservationist, TV presenter, author and qualified vet, and lavishly illustrated by Becca Hall, Pets and their People also provides inspiration for children who can't own pets, showing them that we can care for animals in lots of other ways... from volunteering at animal shelters to leaving food for them out in the wild.

From old favourites such as playful puppies and cuddly cats, to more unusual pets like lizards and snakes, and bugs and hedgehogs in parks and gardens, there are many amazing animals to meet inside the pages of this informative and eye-catching book.

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Have you ever wondered why cats miaow at us but not at each other, or been curious about what makes a dog wag its tail at you, and what should you feed a pet snake? The wide variety of animal facts includes a visual guide showing how a newborn kitten grows into a cat and what it needs at each stage, and there is advice on encouraging good pet behaviour, poorly pets and how vets help them, playing with and grooming pets, and pet history.

The broad range of pets ranges from dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs to other rodents, horses, rabbits, a range of reptiles and birds... all brought to life by beautiful illustrations and high-quality photography to give children an accurate understanding of how healthy pets look and behave.

Packed with important animal facts, and written with lots of animal love, Pets and their People is the ultimate guide to caring for animals and a dream read for animal lovers both young and old.

(DK, hardback, £12.99)

Age 7 plus:

Operation Banana

Tony Bradman and Tania Rex

Travel back to the dark days of the Second World War in London and meet a young girl determined to find a rare fruit treat for her mum. Operation Banana, which explores the food shortages and everyday anxieties of families during wartime, is the work of Tony Bradman, a hugely prolific and acclaimed author with a particular passion for bringing history to life through fiction for young people. This beautifully told and moving story, given extra poignancy by Tania Rex’s delightful artwork, is full of Bradman’s attention to rich and authentic historical detail. It’s November of 1942 and Susan is worried about her mum who says she’s forgotten what it’s like to be happy. Mum is struggling with long hours at her job in the factory and she’s upset because it’s a long time since they heard from Susan’s dad who is fighting on the front line in North Africa. Everything is in short supply in London, but Susan decides she’s going to cheer up her mum by getting her a treat, and what could be more rare at the moment than a sweet, delicious banana? Bananas are in short supply in London and no one has seen one for years. What lengths will Susan have to go to find one? Let Operation Banana commence! Susan’s story – which includes a helpful historical note outlining the long and tough years faced by Britain during the war – imagines the reality of life for Londoners during wartime by exploring how food shortages and separation from loved ones affected the day-to-day experiences of families. Published in Barrington Stoke’s trademark dyslexia-friendly format, and opening up period of time unimaginable to youngsters today, Operation Banana is both an emotion-packed tribute to the brave and resilient wartime generation, and a powerful reminder of the realities of life on the home front.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Wildsmith: City of Secrets

Liz Flanagan and Joe Todd-Stanton

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Feel the magic, get lost in a fantastical world, and love turning the pages of the second book of the enchanting Wildsmith series from Yorkshire author and teacher Liz Flanagan who puts wildlife conservation at the heart of her stories. Best known for her popular Dragon Daughter books, Flanagan has teamed up with award-winning illustrator Joe Todd-Stanton to deliver thrilling and imaginative fantasy adventures that combine the favourite, child-friendly ingredients of magical creatures, family, friendship and fun. Rowan, whom we first met when she discovered the secret of her identity, has started to embrace her gifts as a magical wildsmith which enable her to heal and speak to animals. But saving a young pegasus brings difficult decisions. Danger comes closer than ever, threatening her family and even Rowan’s own life. When she is betrayed, which friends can she trust? With her family divided and war still raging, where does Rowan belong now? Young readers cannot help but fall under the spell of these sparkling adventures which feature Todd-Stanton’s dream-like illustrations, the excitement and joy of fostering animals, and a magical cast of characters that includes baby dragons and white winged stallions known as pegasi. A totally wild all-round winner!

(UCLan Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Sheep Can’t Bake, But You Can!: A first baking book

Sarah Walden and Mr Griff

Meet Pig, Rabbit and Sheep... they’re cooking up a storm and they want you to join them! Pig, the expert baker, Rabbit who’s in charge of health and safety, and last but not least, Sheep (who has an awful lot to learn!) are on a very special mission to dish up lessons on how to bake. Youngsters will love joining Sheep and his hilarious friends in this this unique, first baking book as they cover eight core baking skills including delicious sponge cakes, breads, biscuits, gluten-free and dairy-free bakes, and lots more easy-to-prepare tasty treats. Sheep Can’t Bake, But You Can! has been created by Noodle Juice, a children’s publisher which aims to make young brains ‘fizz,’ and this new book is part of their Practically Awesome Animals series that uses detailed instructions and hilarious animal characters to teach kids how to draw, bake, cook and create comics. And this perfectly cooked baking book is packed full of step-by-step photographic instructions, colourful illustrations and helpful tips and tricks on making the best cakes – plus a spoonful of humour – from the animal team. Brimming with essential life skills, gentle wit, and lots of practical and safety advice, this invaluable guide proves that sheep may not be able to bake... but you certainly can!

(Noodle Juice, hardback, £12.99)

Age 7 plus:

Rhinoceros Can’t Draw, But You Can!: A first drawing book

Sarah Walden, Luke Newell and Mr Griff

Also in Noodle Juice’s Practically Awesome Animals activity books series is this delightful first drawing book in which we join Rhinoceros and his friends, Orangutan, Tiger and Crocodile for simple and fun lessons on how to draw animals, people, landscapes, buildings, dinosaurs, aliens and much more! Simply take ten big ideas, six top tips and seven warm-up exercises and youngsters will soon be able to draw all kinds of amazing things. In fact, Rhinoceros Can’t Draw starts with how to draw a straight line and ends with landscapes, and covers tone, perspective, people and animals in between. With step-by-step instructions for 25 different activities, lots of colourful illustrations, and the wisdom and jokes of artist-in-residence Tiger, messy and always hungry Crocodile, art expert Orangutan, and maybe even Rhino, this practical fill-in art activity book gives youngsters the skills to unleash their inner artist. Your book... your canvas!

(Noodle Juice, paperback, £9.99)

Age 5 plus:

Ivy Newt and the Storm Witch

Derek Keilty and Madga Brol

Enter the magical world of Miracula... and discover a truly bewitching adventure! Master storyteller Derek Keilty from Belfast weaves his world-building wonders in the first of his enchanting Ivy Newt chapter book series which stars an unstoppable and lovable young witch, and her best friend Tom. Highly illustrated throughout by Polish-born Madga Brol, this exciting and entertaining adventure series is perfect for sharing or as a first reading book. Ivy Newt’s parents, the King and Queen of the Sand Witches, have prepared her a show-stopping birthday present... a magic act where they disappear. But hold on, they really have disappeared! Foul work is at play and, to rescue Ivy’s parents, she and her shape-shifting friend Tom must travel all over Miracula on broomsticks and flying carpets, making friends along the way, and pulling together to defeat Clawdelia Thorn, evil Queen of Grotland. With lots of laughs, pages of fast-paced action to enjoy, a cast of superbly imagined characters, themes of justice, standing up to bullies and shared endeavour, and Brol’s comical illustrations adding extra zing and zest, this is the perfect book to launch youngsters into a lifetime of reading.

(Scallywag Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

Maths Words for Little People: Money and Time

Helen Mortimer and Cristina Trapanese

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You can count on Oxford University Press to make learning fun with this brilliant series of books which makes maths both friendly and inspirational. Maths Words for Little People is a series of little books which aim to build children’s confidence with mathematical vocabulary and ideas, and provide a foundation for learning in a way that feels good. Written by Helen Mortimer and illustrated by Cristina Trapanese, the same winning team that brought us Big Words for Little People, the books are special not just because they focus on maths in a child-friendly way, but because the Oxford book boffins pack them with educational goodness that helps children develop and grow. In Money, we meet money-related words that you can use every day in activities like saving your pennies or playing shop. People have used money all down the centuries and today grown-ups use coins, notes, cards, watches and phones to pay for things. And in Time, children encounter carefully chosen words in relatable settings from the world around them. Do you love to know what comes next and how long things will last? Discover first words about time through the medium of all the fun of a puppet show. Published in sturdy hardback, packed with fun characters, engaging questions and activities, and Trapanese’s playful artwork, the books are the perfect size and shape for sharing and reading together whilst exploring and enjoying the different concepts of maths.

(Oxford University Press, hardback, £5.99 each)

Age 2 plus:

The King’s Runaway Crown: A coronation caper

Rosalind Spark and Ian Smith

A little girl enjoys a crowning moment of runaway success on a very special royal day in Rosalind Spark and Ian Smith’s madcap coronation caper The King’s Runaway Crown. The day of the new king’s coronation has arrived. It’s a stupendous day, an exciting day, a MOST important day...and everyone, from the King’s butler to the palace guards, is feeling nervous. They’re all getting ready when Colin, the King’s Jack Russell, grabs the crown and runs away. Soon, he is being chased by the butler, the guards... and even the pigeons and the crowd gathered for the event! But it takes little Violet, aged five, to work out what the problem is. Maybe Colin is nervous about his important new job as the King’s dog. Actually, everyone else admits they’re nervous too... especially the King, who has the biggest job of all. Can Violet help get Colin and the crown back to the King in time for the coronation? Spark’s high-energy and laughter-filled adventure is the perfect way to celebrate the coronation with the family’s youngest children. Themes of anxiety, empathy and community are explored with a light touch and a warm heart while Smith’s gorgeous illustrations are packed with comedy and fun details for young readers to spot. Add on a non-fiction page with facts about coronations and their history at the end of the book, and you have the ideal coronation package for home, schools and nurseries.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

Wanna See a Penguin?

Simon Philip and Ian Smith

We’re going on a wild... penguin chase! Seeing isn’t necessarily believing in a laughter-filled picture book from Simon Philip, author of the award-winning You Must Bring A Hat, and master illustrator Ian Smith. And with two little penguin-hunters taking the starring roles, Wanna See a Penguin? is definitely a tale told in black and white! So join the two friends as they try to track down penguins around the city. One of them is a self-described penguin ‘expert’ and finds black and white animals at every turn. But are any of them really penguins... and can you spot the real penguin hiding on every page? Written with Philip’s trademark wit and verve, and harnessing all the fun of the pantomime convention of ‘it’s behind you,’ this action-packed adventure puts fun, friendship and animal recognition at centre stage. Young readers will love guessing what each new animal is from the glimpse given in the artwork, before turning the page to find out. And there are fun facts about penguins and a host of other wacky black and white animals in a fact file at the end of the book. Laughter (in full colour) all the way!

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Digits: Number Jumble and Double the Fun

Tony Bradman and Miguel Sánchez

Welcome to the wonderful world of the Digits... friends you can count on to prove that maths is fun! Number Jumble and Double the Fun are the first two books in Oxford University Press’s funny, entertaining and educational new picture book series that makes learning about numbers a laugh-out-loud adventure. Each clever, playful story – imaginatively written by award-winning author Tony Bradman – stars the Digits, a group of number friends and in Number Jumble, they are moving into The Number Tower, but finding there is something odd about One’s new apartment. There are too many of everything, and the bed is SO uncomfortable that One doesn’t sleep a wink. There seems to have been a mix-up with the apartments. Can the Digits get to the bottom of it? With a simple maths concept subtly woven into the playful storyline, this is the perfect book for developing number recognition skills! And in Double the Fun, it’s party time at The Number Tower where Three is very excited about what he hopes will be his best ever birthday party. But when the other Digits arrive, things don’t go to plan. There isn’t space for everyone to sit down or enough cake to go around. Can the Digits find a way to save the party and give Three that best birthday ever? This is the ideal adventure for understanding and explaining concepts of greater and less, double and half. With each story stylishly illustrated by Miguel Sánchez, and a guide for adults about reading, sharing and further topics and activities, these books are an invaluable asset for teaching and learning.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £7.99 each)

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