Striking gold, wildlife wonders and a crocodile aunt by various authors - book reviews -

Enjoy a breath of fresh air in a world full of screen technology, celebrate the wonders that can be found in the wild, escape to the heart of the French Revolution, and meet a green and scaly babysitter called Aunt Amelia as more springtime children’s books hit the shelves.

Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 3:45 pm
Noah’s Gold
Noah’s Gold

Age 9 plus:

Noah’s Gold

Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Steven Lenton

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There’s always a buzz of excitement in the air when a new Frank Cottrell-Boyce book hits the shelves and the award-winning author certainly strikes gold with this rip-roaring adventure.

Featuring a group of children marooned on an uninhabited island without a single adult, any money, or (horror of horrors!) internet connection, Cottrell-Boyce’s mobile-free comedy – brilliantly illustrated by Steven Lenton – is a breath of fresh air in a world full of screen technology.

Written through the medium of letters from a schoolboy stowaway to his family back home in Limavady in Northern Ireland, Noah’s Gold is a sparkling, laugh-out-loud celebration of life without screens… and the joys to be found in the great outdoors.

Being the smallest doesn’t stop you having the biggest ideas! Eleven-year old Noah Moriarty sneaks along on his big sister Eve’s geography field trip to the Wonder Warehouse but then everything that can go wrong does go wrong… starting with the sat-nav taking them way off course.

And now six kids are marooned on an isolated island and their teacher, Mr Merriman, has vanished. The one shop here has a sign saying ‘Closed from now on’ and they’re all hungry. Even worse, their phones don’t work and Noah has broken the internet so there’s no way of contacting home. It’s all a disaster until Noah discovers a treasure map and the gang go in search of gold!

Learning non-tech skills to survive in the wild proves to be more fun than the children could ever have dreamt as Cottrell-Boyce unleashes his imagination on this full-throttle adventure which is brimming with mystery, gentle comedy and youthful joie-de-vivre.

A magical adventure with the Midas touch of ‘golden boys’ Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Steven Lenton!

(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 9 plus:

By Ash, Oak and Thorn

Melissa Harrison

As more freedoms beckon this spring and summer, enjoy a mesmerising story celebrating the glories of the rich, wild world and all its wonders.

Acclaimed wildlife writer and Costa Award-shortlisted novelist, Melissa Harrison, gives her nature-inspired imagination free rein in her topical, magical and utterly breathtaking debut children’s book, By Ash, Oak and Thorn.

Inspired by 1942 classic The Little Grey Men, a children’s fantasy novel written by Denys Watkins-Pitchford under the nom de plume BB, and with a nod to Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, Harrison’s tale of disappearing wilderness could not be more relevant than in today’s environmental crisis.

Three tiny ancient beings – Moss, Burnet and Cumulus, once revered as Guardians of the Wild World – wake from winter hibernation in their beloved ash tree home.

But when it is destroyed, they set off on an adventure to find more of their kind, a journey which takes them first into the deep countryside and then into the heart of a city.

Helped along the way by birds and animals, the trio search for a way to survive and thrive in a precious, and yet disappearing, world...

Prepare to fall in love with these three tiny eternal beings – the Hidden Folk – as their thrilling, funny and magical adventure introduces young readers to real plants, birds, animals and folklore, including things they can find in their own gardens, local parks, or on walks.

An unforgettable walk on the wild side!

(Chicken House, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

Moonchild: City of the Sun

Aisha Bushby and Rachael Dean

Bask in the enchantment of a magical world as Aisha Busby makes a welcome return with the second book of a captivating series inspired by The Arabian Nights and the exoticism of the Middle East.

Deserts, souks and moon magic spring to life again as this new book in the atmospheric Moonchild series, which began with Pocketful of Stars, focuses on twelve-year-old Farah, a girl defined by her curiosity.

The Sahar Peninsula lies just beyond the horizon, but it isn’t the easiest place to get to. No maps will take you there, nor can it be charted by gazing up at the stars, or down at a compass.

Farah is a Moonchild with a very special kind of magic and a jinni of her own. But although she loves her magical animal companion – a lizard called Layla – Farah isn’t entirely convinced that she’s cut out for the life of adventure, which seems to bring endless danger.

When it becomes clear that Farah and her fellow Moonchildren, Leo and Amira, have unlocked moon magic that could destroy the Sahar Peninsula, Farah and her friends are thrust into another accidental adventure.

And it takes them to a burning desert and another mysterious city which holds deadly secrets of its own…

These beautifully told and moving stories – superbly illustrated by Rachael Dean – provide a heartfelt exploration of emotions… how important it is to feel them, how we use them, and how they define us, particularly as children.

Each tale features short, fable-like stories woven into the main narrative, adding a timeless feel, and each is packed with thrills, magic, mystery and adventure.

Dream reading for lovers of magical mystery!

(Farshore, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

An Escape in Time

Sally Nicholls and Rachael Dean

Head back in time with a daring brother and sister duo as they return for their third fun-filled, action-packed adventure… and this time they are in the heart of the French Revolution!

An Escape in Time follows on from A Chase in Time and A Christmas in Time, and again stars Alex and Ruby Pilgrim who have discovered that when they fall through the magic mirror at their Aunt Joanna’s Applecott House, they find themselves in a different historical period, each time with a different task to perform before they can return to the present.

In this new adventure, Alex and Ruby discover that the Countess d’Allonette, a furious French aristocrat has landed in the hallway and their task is to hide her in Regency England. Can they get to the bottom of things and stop her causing chaos? Probably not...

With the atmospheric black-and-white illustrations of Rachael Dean to bring the story to life and an enchanting cover illustration by Isabelle Follath, Sally Nicholls’ new time-slip tale is perfect for youngsters who love travelling back through time for stories brimming with humour, action, thrills and real history.

Add on a charismatic cast of characters and lots of fascinating period detail and you have a feast of magical fun for middle-grade readers.

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Beach Puppy

Holly Webb and Ellie Snowdon

Nobody does animal stories better than Holly Webb!

Worldwide bestselling children’s author Webb makes her debut for innovative publisher Barrington Stoke with a truly adorable summertime tale of sun, sand… and a special little sausage-dog.

The Beach Puppy is the latest book in the super-readable Little Gems series which brings together leading authors and illustrators, and a host of clever design and finishing techniques, like dyslexia-friendly fonts, to create easy-to-read, first chapter books in a chunky format ideal for little hands, and with some extra reading, jokes and activity fun inside the covers.

Ruby’s dad has arrived home with a wonderful surprise…Coco the sausage dog puppy! And when the family go on holiday to the seaside, of course Coco will be coming too. The beach is a thrilling place for a dog… so many sights, smells and holes to dig!

Ruby and Coco can’t wait to spend the day splashing in the waves and playing in the sand. But disaster strikes when Coco disappears. Suddenly she’s lost and all alone on the huge, busy beach. Will she ever find her way back to Ruby?

With Webb’s enchanting storytelling, all the heartwarming fun of Ruby and Coco’s exciting seaside adventures, which celebrate the relationship between a dog and its owner, and talented illustrator Ellie Snowdon’s beautifully evocative, colour illustrations, The Beach Puppy is a hands-on winner for all little animal lovers.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Aunt Amelia’s House

Rebecca Cobb

Award-winning author and illustrator Rebecca Cobb is back to steal our hearts in a warm, witty and wisely observed picture book about kindness, sharing and having fun while working hard.

Aunt Amelia’s House follows on from the acclaimed Aunt Amelia and features another beautifully illustrated tale filled with imagination and adventure, and starring everyone’s favourite, and very unusual, green and scaly babysitter.

The children are so excited! They are going to stay at Aunt Amelia’s house. They always have a brilliant time with her and can’t wait to see what she has in store. But when they arrive, there seems to be no time for games. Instead Aunt Amelia has a long list of chores to do. But from the gardening to the laundry, cleaning the windows to feeding the pets, Aunt Amelia has her own special way of doing things, and fun will not be in short supply!

Cobb, illustrator of bestselling The Paper Dolls, always perfectly captures the joys and uncertainties of childhood with her observant eye and warm heart, and here she once again sets her artistic sights on her lovable crocodile aunt with attitude.

Brimming with the rich colours, irresistible playfulness and the spirit of adventure that has made her one of the nation’s favourite author/illustrators, this creative, clever and rib-tickling story is destined to be another family favourite!

(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99 and paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

Curious Kids: Age of the Dinosaur

Jonny Marx and Christiane Engel

Some were tall, some could fly… and some were fierce and scary!

Get ready to journey back millions of years to a time when formidable dinosaurs roamed the Earth in this ingenious pop-up book just made for curious young minds. From Ankylosaurus and Tyrannosaurus to Triceratops and Diplodocus, learn all about the fascinating dinosaurs as they pop up from each page.

Christiane Engel’s fun and intricately detailed illustrations explore the amazing prehistoric creatures with rich textures and bright, jewelled colours that can’t help but catch a child’s eye while Jonny Marx’s narration is packed full of fascinating facts to engage children with the wonders of the dinosaur world.

With delightful, eye-catching pop-ups that bring to life the different species of dinosaur, helpful tips on pronunciations, and a fiery asteroid as a final flourish on the last pages, this is an innovative and exciting introduction to what lies beneath the sea and on the shore.

Discovery and entertainment in one beautiful pop-up book.

(Caterpillar Books, board book, £10.99)

Age 3 plus:

Thunder Down Under

Timothy Knapman and Steve James

Here’s a picture book guaranteed to blow away your little mischief-makers…

Author Timothy Knapman and illustrator Steve James dig down and deep to deliver a stinking, stonking story full of raucous sniggers and gargantuan giggles as they celebrate every child’s favourite subject… farts!

Toot toots, parps, flollops and flungles come thick and fast in this naughty but exceedingly nice romp through a foul-smelling day in the life of a group of animal pals.

Crikey, it seems someone has just farted! It’s huge, it’s smelly, but who did it? Not Wombat, Emu, Kangaroo or Croc. Tiny Numbat knows, but nobody is listening! Who pays attention to someone so small?

Discover who is the smelly culprit as Knappman and James let their prodigious imaginations take flight ‘down under’ in a terrific tale that delivers laughs on every page, gloriously funny illustrations, and gallons of hot air.

With messages about making your voice heard, however small you are, coming over (very) loud and clear, best get your nose clips ready for what is destined to be every child’s favourite picture book!

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Just Being Ted

Lisa Sheehan

Get ready to have your heart broken and put back together again by the adorable star of a gorgeous picture book from author and illustrator Lisa Sheehan.

Inspired by a teddy bears’ picnic at her daughter’s school, at which only teddies were allowed, Sheehan put her skills to work and came up with the idea of a lonely dragon called Ted who wants to gatecrash a bears’ picnic… but in the nicest possible way!

Ted the dragon lives all alone in a big house, deep in the woods. He loves making things, spending his days baking cakes, painting pictures and creating costumes. There’s just one problem… he doesn’t have anyone to share his amazing creations with.

Ted tries so hard to make friends with the other animals, but there’s something about his fiery breath and fearsome-looking claws that keeps putting them off. One day Ted notices a sign for a summer picnic party in the forest and that’s another problem because it’s for bears only.

Perhaps if he dresses up as a bear for the day they will let him in and he’ll make lots of new friends. What could possibly go wrong?

Sumptuously produced, exquisitely illustrated, and filled with heart and hope for any young child who is nervous about finding new friends, Sheehan’s heart-melting tale reinforces messages about the importance of being yourself, and being accepted for who you are.

The magic of friendship!

(Buster Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

When a Dragon Meets a Baby

Caryl Hart and Rosalind Beardshaw

Even the best behaved dragons are naughty sometimes!

Award-winning author and illustrator team Caryl Hart and Rosalind Beardshaw work more of their toddler magic in a new rhyming picture book that was just made for any little dragon who is about to become a big sister or brother.

This charming follow-up to When a Dragon Comes to Stay and When a Dragon Goes to School is full of the kind of pre-school behaviour that every parent will recognise, and deals with all those troublesome emotions that inevitably bubble up when a new baby arrives.

Mummy and Daddy bring a new baby home one day, but will this little dragon share her squishiest toy, fetch the changing mat, and help to tidy the house while Mummy has a nap? Or will she refuse to say hello, and bash and crash her toys at bedtime?

It’s going to be hard to behave herself… because she is a DRAGON after all!

With its funny, reassuring and heartwarming messages about accepting the arrival of a new baby in the house, this fabulously illustrated story is full of child appeal and, like all Nosy Crow paperback picture books, comes with a free ‘Stories Aloud’ audio recording. Just scan the QR code and listen along!

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Your Body (Switch-a-Picture)

Harriet Evans and Lirios Bou

Have you ever wondered what’s inside your body?

See the fascinating bones, nerves and organs inside your body with this innovative and educational novelty board book which features intriguing (and revealing!) changing pictures.

Turn the pages and discover that you have a skeleton made up of bones, lungs that fill up with air when you breathe, a stomach where food travels when you eat and a brain inside your head which passes messages along your nerves.

Simply pull the tabs on the side of the book to reveal to reveal all that hides in your insides. From nose to heart and toes, there is plenty to discover with the magically dissolving windows in this bright and colourful board book.

The ideal way to find out just what makes you tick!

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £8.99)

Age 2 plus:

Follow That Unicorn!

Carles Ballesteros

Who can resist a unicorn?

Clip clop into your little one’s heart with a gorgeous felt flap counting book full of numbers, learning… and lots of love!

Spanish-born illustrator Carles Ballesteros sprinkles his special brand of stardust all the pages of Follow That Unicorn! as we discover where Mummy Unicorn is hiding. Is she in the castle, behind the flowers, under the sea coral, or is she under the heart?

Children will adore lifting the rainbow-coloured felt flaps as they turn the sturdy pages, meet the different magical characters and learn to count from one to ten.

So follow that unicorn and have fun along the way!

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £6.99)