Body facts, a dream read and a cool queen by various authors – children’s book reviews –

A Really Short Journey Through the Body by Bill Bryson and Emma YoungA Really Short Journey Through the Body by Bill Bryson and Emma Young
A Really Short Journey Through the Body by Bill Bryson and Emma Young
Take a fascinating journey through the human body with bestselling author Bill Bryson, escape into a thrilling land of shadows and dreams, enjoy an adventure full of mystery, history and girl power, and immerse yourself in a bewitching tale with a twist on the myths and legends of folklore in a super selection of children’s books.

Age 8 plus:

A Really Short Journey Through the Body

Bill Bryson and Emma Young

We spend our whole lives in one body and yet most of us have practically no idea how it works and what goes on inside it!

Following the success of the children’s adaptation of bestselling author and travel writer Bill Bryson’s prizewinning book, A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, comes this brilliantly funny retelling of another of his bestselling books, The Body.

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Both educational and entertaining, A Really Short Journey Through the Body is a dazzling collection of fascinating facts about how exactly the human body works and is perfectly created for curious young readers who want answers to their questions.

With an easy-to-understand introduction by Bryson, and adapted by Emma Young, this beautiful, large-format hardback has full-colour, intricately detailed illustrations throughout from artists Daniel Long, Dawn Cooper, Jesús Sotés and Katie Ponder.

Did you know your spleen is in a full-on battle with armies of deadly invaders, that your eyes blink 14,000 times a day, and that the ‘spongy stuff’ inside your bones is churning out red blood cells and will keep on doing that over and over again until they are battered and useless?

Packed full of facts, big numbers (such as the amount of microbes that make you) and small numbers (the size of those very tiny microbes), this feast of non-fiction book is a head-to-toe tour of the most amazing thing about you... your body.

An unforgettable journey into what makes us tick!

(Puffin, hardback, £25)

Age 9 plus:

The Republic of Dreams

Richard Lambert

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Escape into a thrilling land of shadows and dreams in The Republic of Dreams, the pulsating sequel to poet and fiction writer Richard Lambert’s exciting and evocative fantasy novel Shadow Town. It was in that enthralling first adventure that we met troubled boy Toby who led a quiet and unhappy life in London until a mysterious shadow appeared in his dreams and took him into a hidden world. And it was in the dangerous land of Balthasar that Toby met Tamurlaine, a strange and otherworldly girl who was trying to uncover the mystery of her identity. On our return trip to Balthasar, we find the now Princess Tamurlaine is about to be crowned queen of a land where some children have the power to use dreams to change reality, an activity fraught with danger. Changing the world can have lethal consequences and meddling with nature can lead to ecological disasters spinning irrevocably out of control. Tamurlaine wants to control dreams and dreamers, but a conspiracy led by power hungry Malladain, a family foe, aims to kill her on the day of her coronation. Can her trusted friend Toby from the other world save her? Toby, Tamurlaine and their staunchest allies, Anon a half-angel, Burston, a school friend, and Jinky, an orphan and refugee, must battle against the superior forces of people utterly corrupted by power in a place where no one can be trusted. With its gothic vibes, an intriguing cast of characters, and a fantastical story that tackles contemporary issues like the threat of ecological disaster, The Republic of Dreams is an imaginative blend of thrilling fantasy, heart-racing danger and keenly felt human emotions … the perfect combo for all adventure-loving readers!

(Everything with Words, paperback, £8.99)

Age 9 plus:

Rosie Frost and the Falcon Queen

Geri Halliwell-Horner

Heroes come in all forms and guises... but to be one you first you have to believe in yourself!

Enjoy a thrilling mix of mystery, history, nature and girl power as former Spice Girl, songwriter and author Geri Halliwell-Horner works her magic on a soaring, hidden island adventure that will have middle grade readers hooked from an intriguing prologue right through to the emotion-packed finale.

It’s time to find your power... suddenly orphaned and alone, Rosie Frost is sent to the mysterious Bloodstone Island, home not only to the Heverbridge School for extraordinary teens but also a sanctuary for endangered species. There, Rosie confronts a menacing deputy headmaster, a group of mean girls bent on destroying her, and shocking family secrets. She also discovers that history can come to life in ways she never could have imagined. When the island itself comes under threat, Rosie knows she must enter and win the Falcon Queen Games in a desperate bid to save it. But she can’t do it alone. She finds that believing in herself – and her friends – is the first step to finding the power she never knew she had.

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Youngsters will love getting to know determined and big-hearted Rosie as she tackles life and her enemies head-on in an exhilarating adventure full of amazing music, family secrets and shocking betrayals, and where heroes are found in the most unexpected places.

(Scholastic, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

The November Witches

Jennifer Claessen

After thrilling readers with her classy, clever novel, The October Witches – which delivered a bewitching twist on the myths and legends of folklore – master storyteller Jennifer Claessen returns with an equally enthralling sequel.

Picking up on the perilous events in the first book, this November adventure is full of bonfires, knights, family disasters and one very important round table, and once again stars young hag Clemmie who knows – from watching her mum, aunts and cousin for twelve years – that magic can get very messy.

No witch is excited about gloomy, magic-free November apart from Clemmie who is relieved to finally be done with October’s magical mess. But if there’s no more magic, then where are all the armour-clad knights coming from? When even their enemy coven, the Morgans, don’t have any answers, the Merlyns are on the run. Neither the Morgan nor Merlyn covens want to burn so they will have to work together to solve the mystery of where the witch-hunting knights and the all-engulfing flames are coming from. Will Clemmie be able to find her voice in time to save her family?

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This fresh, eccentric and playful take on the world of witches is a triumph for Claessen as her feisty but big-hearted and thoughtful star Clemmie once more faces some tough tests and challenges in a bid to rescue her wonderful family coven.

Old stories interweave beautifully with new concepts and characters, and old enmities have to be put aside in an adventure that brims with the atmospherics and ethos of an Arthurian tale, and the familiar concerns of youngsters standing on the precipice of adulthood.

Witch way to November!

(UCLan Publishing, paperback, £8.99)

Age 9 plus:

The Earthshot Prize: A Handbook for Dreamers and Thinkers: Solutions to Repair our Planet

Colin Butfield, Jonnie Hughes, Cristina Guitain, Sir David Attenborough and HRH Prince William

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Youngsters who are eager to help save the planet will find plenty to inspire and empower them in this practical handbook published in collaboration with the prestigious Earthshot Prize.

Featuring an introduction from the Earthshot Prize’s founder, Prince William, who tells readers that ‘Our planet is the only home we have, and we must think big and dream bigger if we are to protect it,’ the book also has contributions from environmental activists including Sir David Attenborough, Christiana Figueres and Shailene Woodley.

The mission, we are told, is simple... to repair our planet. Our home is in trouble but the good news is that we can fix it by putting our heads together and dreaming up ways to build, create and shout about solutions.

And so young readers are taken on a trip around the world to celebrate the diverse and rich habitats, amazing animals and wonderful landscapes that make up our planet, and to learn about the problems and challenges facing these habitats.

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On the way, they meet Earthshot innovators, entrepreneurs and game-changers from the past and present, from Wangari Maathai to David Attenborough. And importantly, youngsters discover how they can become the change-makers of the future, helping to develop solutions to the world’s biggest problems... because even the smallest idea or Earthshot has the power to change everything.

Full of simple practical things young people can do or make from home, as well as big ideas and contributions from people around the globe, this is the ultimate handbook for future innovators and activists who want to make a difference.

(Wren & Rook, paperback, £10.99)

Age 8 plus:

An Atlas of Legendary Places: From Atlantis to the Milky Way

Volker Mehnert and Claudia Lieb

Take a thrilling journey to the most fascinating places on Earth with this magnificent, large-format book which is brimming with the magic of myth, culture and natural beauty.

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An Atlas of Legendary Places – the work of travel writer Volker Mehnert and Munich-based illustrator Claudia Lieb – is a virtual passport to the world’s most intriguing destinations. Packed with information and gorgeous illustrations that inspire wonder and spark the curiosity of young readers, this bright and bold book is an exciting introduction to eighteen of the world’s most fascinating landmarks.

Stunning double-page spreads offer a close-up look at each site, with intriguing information and exciting perspectives. Readers learn about the unique geology of Thingvellir National Park in Iceland and Namibia’s Brandberg Mountain, the legends behind Germany’s Lorelei rock and Greece’s Delphi, the diverse cultural histories of Timbuktu and Jerusalem, the architectural and natural splendours of Taishan in China and Palenque in Mexico, and even the galactic marvels of the Milky Way.

Uncovering the unique histories, physical characteristics, and cultural lore of these magical places, this fact-filled atlas invites youngsters to learn more about each of the locations, and helps to encourage a lifetime interest in travel, geography, history... and the unexpected!

(Prestel, hardback, £19.99)

Age 8 plus:


Guy Bass and Alessia Trunfio

Imagine if robots took over the planet! That’s exactly what award-winning author Guy Bass does in the first book of an exhilarating and original new trilogy which explores the topical issue of Artificial Intelligence with humour, creativity and lots of dynamic action.

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The year was Something Something. Humans had spread like peanut butter across the galaxy, looking for new planets to call Somewhere. One of those planets was Somewhere Five One Three. And when the humans arrive on Somewhere 513, they discover that the robots sent to prepare the planet for Humanity’s arrival have chosen to keep it for themselves. Only one robot remains loyal – K1-NG, aka King of the Robots. But even with the most powerful robot on their side, the outlawed humans don’t stand a chance. Ten years on, Gnat and her sister Paige are the only humans left and have spent their lives hidden underground. Now they must venture out in search of the one robot that stood by the humans. There’s just one problem... the once mighty K1-NG has confronted his past and vowed never to help another human for as long as he lives.

Italian artist Alessia Trunfio’s outstandingly atmospheric black-and-white Illustrations bring the thrilling story to life as Bass serves up his entertaining robotic romp with the sense of child-friendly fun that has made all of his thirty or more books such a rip-roaring success.

Storytelling wizardry!

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

Knight Sir Louis and the Sinister Snowball

The Brothers McLeod

If it’s crazy fun you’re looking for this autumn, mount your steed and join the charge with the fourth book in a hilarious, illustrated series from BAFTA award-winning sibling duo, The Brothers McLeod.

The Knight Sir Louis adventures have been dubbed Monty Python and the Holy Grail for middle grade readers… and it’s easy to see why! Brimming with inventive storytelling, laugh-out-loud jokes, choose-your-own adventures, and madcap comic strip illustrations, this is a masterclass in crackpot comedy.

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Knight Sir Louis is the bravest knight at King Burt the Not Bad’s Castle Sideways. He has defeated evil goblins, horrible wizards, a dastardly damsel and a double-headed dragon (but please nobody mention wasps, Knight Sir Louis is absolutely NOT afraid of them).

In this new, rollicking adventure, Splint the Sinister Snowball has his icy eyes set on world domination with the help of his frosty siblings, Flint, Hint, Mint, Clint and Sharon. But champion dragon-slayer Knight Sir Louis isn’t about to let Castle Sideways become smothered in snow! Louis rides off to the legendary Brrrrrland with his friends Reader Catalogue and Clunkalot, but waiting for them are goofy goblins, a talking carrot and the biggest meanest snowball in the whole wide world!

The Brothers McLeod (otherwise known as author Myles and illustrator Greg) dish up another raucous romp full of super-silly sword play, bone-crunching action, and hilarious heroes as Louis and his friends save the day again.

Sublimely funny and seriously entertaining, this is the ideal way to get your youngsters hooked on reading… and medieval mischief!

(Guppy Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Ever-Changing Earth

Grahame Baker-Smith

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Take a mesmerising and unforgettable journey through the evolution of planet Earth in a stunning picture book from self-taught, Kate Greenaway Award-winning artist Grahame Baker-Smith.

Baker-Smith, whose love for drawing is a true passion, has created a breathtaking celebration of our extraordinary and ever-changing planet through a beautiful lyrical text – which reveals a world teeming with vibrant, complex life – and a gallery of dazzling illustrations.

A small boy imagines life on Earth when dinosaurs ruled, and the sky boomed with the wild beat of pterosaur wings. Then an asteroid fell, changing the world forever. If Kûn could go back further in time, he would witness an even bigger collision when the young Earth was struck by another planet, creating our companion moon.

Follow Kûn’s spellbinding journey through Earth’s incredible evolution, with its forgotten creatures, its buried oceans and its frozen layers. It leads us to Solveig, a little girl who lives far, far away from Kûn, where she floats in a pool heated by fires at the centre of the Earth.

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Packed with intricately detailed and atmospheric illustrations, coupled with a moving story, The Ever-Changing Earth is both an ingenious learning tool and a voyage of magical discovery.

(Templar Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 5 plus:

Villains Academy: How To Steal a Dragon

Ryan Hammond

Being bad really HAS never felt so good in the second hilarious instalment of debut author-illustrator Ryan Hammond’s villainously funny and devilishly delightful illustrated series for middle-grade readers who love laughs, action and lots of pictures! Villains Academy stars a school full of evil ‘pupils’ like Bram the werewolf, Mona the elf-witch, Bryan the lion, Shelia the ghost and Tony the skeleton, and guarantees giggles at the turn of every page. It’s the start of the winter term and there’s a new teacher in town at Villains Academy... the notorious dragon-rider Felix Frostbite. Class Z are in awe of him and his lessons on venomous beasts and mythical creatures, but werewolf Bram is suspicious. Soon Bram and his friends, the Cereal Killers, uncover Felix Frostbite’s evil plan to steal all the dragons from the Wicked Woods and leave Villains Academy undefended. Have the gang learnt enough to outsmart their troublesome teacher, or will Felix Frostbite’s heist go down in villain history? With a sparkly cover, gorgeously grotesque super-villains, illustrations galore and bucketloads of badness, this is school as you’ve never before enjoyed it!

(Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

I’m Feeling (a little bit) Shy

Anna Milbourne and Asa Gilland

Saying hello isn’t always easy... especially when you’re shy! Author Anna Milbourne and Swedish illustrator Asa Gilland work their magic and imagination on this charming picture book which uses words, pictures and ingenious holes in the pages to help little ones explore their feelings... particularly the ones it’s sometimes hard to articulate. A little girl is finding it very hard to say hello. She struggles going into groups or parties and is very scared of starting a new school. But when she shares her feelings, she learns that everyone feels shy sometimes... even her exuberant, outgoing big brother! Shyness, she learns, is a feeling that will pass and this realisation enables her to begin to find her own way to deal with new situations, just watching and listening until she is ready to join in. Even those nervous butterflies on her first day at school help her pay attention... and notice children who might become wonderful new friends! The relatable characters, Gilland’s colourful illustrations of busy scenes like parties and playground visits, and the peep-holes in the pages help make this the perfect empowering story. The ideal book to help little ones cope with their shyness.

(Usborne Publishing, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:


Daniela Sosa

Where we would be without friends? Romanian-born writer and artist Daniela Sosa makes her mark on the world of picture books with her author-illustrator debut Friends, a joyful celebration of the different kinds of friendships. Filled with colour, warmth and the comforts that come from making friends, this heartfelt journey through the topic of friendship teaches youngsters that there are many kinds of friends – old friends, new friends and everything-in-between friends – and the day to make new friends is always near if you look. There are friends you have from the start, friends who are near and those who are far. There are friends who make you feel brave and some who make you feel angry or jealous but, most importantly, there are friends who will make you roll with laughter. And sometimes friendships come out of nowhere when you need them most. With its simple but resonant messages, sense of joy and wonder, and enchanting illustrations that capture the innocence, the rewards, and occasional complications of friendship, this is the perfect book for home, nursery and school.

(Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

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