Wild wonders, magical twins and a seaside mystery by various authors – children’s book reviews –

Discover the amazing story of a rewilding project on an estate in West Sussex, escape into a dazzling new fantasy series starring twins with magical powers, head off to 1930s Blackpool for an exciting mystery drama, and share laughter and mischief with a naughty fairy in a super selection of new children’s books.
Wilding: How to Bring Wildlife Back – An Illustrated Guide  by Isabella Tree and Angela HardingWilding: How to Bring Wildlife Back – An Illustrated Guide  by Isabella Tree and Angela Harding
Wilding: How to Bring Wildlife Back – An Illustrated Guide by Isabella Tree and Angela Harding

Age 9 plus:

Wilding: How to Bring Wildlife Back – An Illustrated Guide

Isabella Tree and Angela Harding

In 2018, award-winning author and travel writer Isabella Tree published an adult book called Wilding which told the amazing story of a pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex, using free-roaming grazing animals to create new habitats for wildlife.

The project was a spectacular leap of faith launched by Tree and her husband, Charlie Burrell, owner of the Knepp Castle Estate, after they were forced to accept that intensive farming on the heavy clay of their land was economically unsustainable.

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The results were spectacular. Thanks to the introduction of free-roaming cattle, ponies, pigs and deer – proxies of the large animals that once roamed Britain – the 3,500 acre project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife numbers and diversity in little over a decade.

And in a special celebration, which introduces the benefits of rewilding to a younger generation, a new spectacular edition has been published, packed with the extraordinary illustrations of artist Angela Harding.

Knepp is now home to some of the rarest and most beautiful creatures in the UK, including nightingales, kingfishers, turtle doves and peregrine falcons, hazel dormice and harvest mice, scarce chaser dragonflies and purple emperor butterflies.

The estate’s ecological success stories include the reintroduction of stork to mainland Britain for the first time in 600 years and the spontaneous return of the large tortoiseshell butterfly which had been officially extinct in Britain for half a century.

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This beautiful book – illustrated in full colour with Harding’s lino prints and watercolours, and photographs from Knepp – tells readers how to bring wildlife back to where they live with maps, timelines, an in-depth look at rewilding, and spotlight features about native animals including species that have returned and thrive... butterflies, bats, owls and beetles.

So whether it’s growing pollinator-friendly flowers on a windowsill, creating an animal superhighway through back gardens down your street, or discovering the connections between species and habitats, this is the perfect inspirational read for a new generation of re-wilders!

This book is published on March 1.

(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £20)

Age 9 plus:

Artezans: The Forgotten Magic

L.D. Lapinski

Twins Edward and Elodie Crane are different in every way... Ed is tall, scrawny and a social outcast while Elodie is average height, fat, beautiful and popular. But these adopted twins, who live in the wild wonders of Scotland, do have one shared secret... a powerful magic!

If you’re dreaming of an extra special, escapist adventure to welcome the arrival of spring, step into the first book of a thrilling new fantasy series from the creative mind of L.D. Lapinski, author of the critically acclaimed Strangeworlds Travel Agency.

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And fans will be delighted to hear that magic is back at centre stage in this gripping and timeless tale set in a dark and alluring Land of Dreams and Nightmares where magic is being diluted and only the twins can bring it back.

For the last 400 years, magic has been fading and Ed has always feared he won’t have any at all. For sure, he’s part of a powerful magic Artezan family – whose great deeds were once legend – but Ed is adopted. His twin Elodie isn’t so worried but then, everything always seems to work out perfectly for her. So when Ed discovers he does have an Artezan power after all, he’s relieved. And it’s more than he could ever have imagined... in fact, it’s a dream come true. But the problem with dreams is that sometimes they twist themselves into nightmares and with Ed’s new abilities growing by the day, there’s a chance that this nightmare will become all too real...

Lapinski’s dazzling new series is a dream come true for fantasy fans... a brilliantly imagined other world, a sprinkling of humour, unforgettable characters, danger, daring and adventure at every turn, and the mesmerising magic of a master storyteller.

With universal themes about adoption, self-discovery, finding your place in the world, and the thorny problem of bullying, the Artezans are set to work their magic on the wonderful world of reading!

This book is published on February 29.

(Orion Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

Gracie Fairshaw and the Missing Reel

Susan Brownrigg

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Lights, camera, action! There’s plenty of drama at the Winter Gardens – Blackpool’s famous domed and white-tiled entertainment centre – in the third book of Lancashire lass Susan Brownrigg’s brilliant middle-grade detective series.

The star of the show is amateur sleuth and trainee reporter Gracie Fairshaw who lives with her brother George and parents in the resort’s Majestic Boarding House in the 1930s, and finds that mystery and skulduggery are never far away.

In this exciting new adventure set in 1936, it’s announced that a new movie is being filmed in Blackpool, a dazzling event which turns into a real scoop for The Gazette’s Gracie Fairshaw. Invited to interview the star, Sally Sunshine, Gracie uncovers a plot as thrilling as the one being filmed... someone has stolen a vital film reel. But then a vicious attack is attempted on Sally and in a world of body-doubles, stunts, costumes and make-up, not everything is what it seems. Gracie must go behind the scenes and work out which of the cast and crew can’t be trusted before the shoot comes to a thrilling climax at the town’s cinema.

Brownrigg – who set her two earlier books in the series against the backdrop of the 1935 Blackpool illuminations and Blackpool Tower’s professional Children’s Ballet Company – fills her stories with such rich authentic detail and beautifully drawn characters that you can almost taste the fish and chips, smell the sea salt in the air and hear the trams rolling down the promenade.

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In Gracie, we have an inspirational lead player… a girl with a mild disability, the heart of a lion and big ambitions who is fearless in her pursuit of truth and justice. Add on Brownrigg’s nostalgic and exhilarating evocation of the North West’s most famous resort in its heyday, and a peep behind the scenes of the Blackpool Gazette’s newspapers offices, and you have one of the best children’s mystery series currently on the shelves.

This book is published on March 7.

(UCLan Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

Hide and Seek: A Bletchley Park Mystery

Rhian Tracey

It’s wartime and everyone knows that the penalty for breaking the Official Secrets Act is prison or, worse, death by firing squad... even if you’re a child!

Three intrepid youngsters – under suspicion of treachery – must solve a perilous mystery in the second book of a gripping adventure series full of secrets, spies and subterfuge from Welsh author Rhian Tracey who was inspired by trips to Bletchley Park – one of the most secret places in Britain during the Second World War – and her own family’s link to the code-breaking centre.

Based on true events, this thrilling standalone mystery explores not just the nationally important work of the Bletchley Park staff but how three plucky youngsters – one of them a Jewish refugee –form a close friendship during the adversities of wartime and battle to keep a secret stash of priceless national art works out of enemy hands.

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Before the war started, Ned was resigned to a future working in the family funeral parlour. Then the covert operations at Bletchley Park began and his life was transformed. In 1942, Ned and his mother, who is engaged in secret war work, leave Bletchley Park on a vital mission into the Welsh countryside. Their task is to protect national artwork which is being stored in a slate mine in the remote village of Manod.

As long as its whereabouts are secret, they will keep the national treasures safe from the enemy. But not everyone is happy about the arrival of strangers and when it appears that someone in the village is trying to expose the truth, suspicion turns to the newcomers... Ned, his mother, and a young Jewish refugee, Anni. Can Ned, Anni and their friend Harri prove their loyalty to the mission and keep the secret safe?

Packed with intrigue, mystery, excitement, a lovable hero dog and some real-life wartime figures, this heartwarming and inspirational story packs a real punch as the children embark on a race to save the nation’s valuable artwork. Add on the dramatic and authentic wartime backdrop, and an old-fashioned, addictive sense of adventure, and you have the perfect history/mystery for young thrill-seekers!

This book is published on February 29.

(Piccadilly Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Stink: Fairy vs Wizard

Jenny McLachlan

Star author (and now illustrator!) Jenny McLachlan is back with the second book in her cartoon-filled, magical and mischievous Stink series... and it’s definitely not to be sniffed at! Giggles galore are guaranteed as youngsters get up close and personal with Stink, the worst fairy ever... and the writer of the funniest diary-style adventures on the human side of fairyland. But before you read this diary of disaster, here is some stuff you need to know about Stink’s human... a boy called Danny Todd. He’s 11 years old, loves drawing cartoons, has two pet rats called Tony and Noah, and, last but not least, he has a fairy called Stink. Danny’s life hasn’t been the same since REAL fairy Stink flew out of a fairy door, attached herself to his hair and turned his life upside down. In their new adventure together, Stink tries to help Danny with his lead role in the school play, makes a Malteser adventure playground in the science cupboard, and accidentally unleashes a giant, all-powerful, evil wizard into the world. Stink was only aiming to get Danny a reputation for being cool and awesome... where did it all go wrong? Expect a marshmallow beard, a floating cat head and an embarrassing dance Gif as Stink leaves a trail of magical mayhem and side-splitting laughter in her wake. With McLachlan’s gallery of hilarious illustrations putting extra oomph into her wacky and wonderful adventure, this is heaven-scent reading for young mischief-makers!

This book is published on February 29.

(Farshore, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Grimwood: Attack of the Stink Monster!

Nadia Shireen

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You can never be too young, or too old, to enjoy a bit of anarchy! Youngsters (and their parents!) will be grinning, guffawing, snorting and sniggering when they get their hands on the third woodland caper in one of the funniest children’s series currently on the market. Grimwood – a sort-of Watership Down with foxes which evokes tears of laughter rather than of sorrow – is the work of author and illustrator Nadia Shireen who has won awards for her picture books and been shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Fully illustrated throughout, the books star two fox cub siblings, Ted and Nancy, who love their new life in Grimwood… the forest where anything (riotous!) can happen. They have made a lot of new friends there – not least bouncy and ferocious rabbit Willow who has a big heart and endless energy – but now a Bigfoot is on the loose and Ted, Nancy, Willow and the rest of the Grimwood gang must embark on their greatest adventure yet to save their home from a nasty, thieving stink monster. Monster hunters are GO! Shireen serves up an irresistible blend of glorious gags, hilarious comedy routines, boundless madcap escapades, and a memorable cast of quirky characters that young readers will love following from first page to last. With a side helping of zany, high-energy black and white illustrations, which bring both the animals and the action to life, the Grimwood series has the legs to run and run.

This book is published on February 29.

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

Age 5 plus:

Lottie the Little Wonder

Katherine Woodfine and Ella Okstad

Never underestimate what little girls can do! The incredible real-life story of tennis superstar Lottie Dod, who won the Wimbledon Ladies’ Singles Championship five times, is the latest Little Gem book in an inspirational women from history series from bestselling Lancaster author Katherine Woodfine.

Lottie the Little Wonder, an action-filled, heartfelt tale highlighting the challenges and prejudices that young women faced in the late 19th century, is the latest super-readable Little Gem from innovative publisher Barrington Stoke… and it’s a real historical gem!

The Little Gems books bring together leading authors and illustrators, and a host of clever design and finishing techniques, to create easy-to-read books in a chunky format ideal for little hands, and with some extra reading, jokes and activity fun hiding inside the jacket.

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So meet Lottie, who was born in Bebington in Cheshire in 1871, won her first Wimbledon title when she was only 15 in the summer of 1887, and remains the youngest ever ladies’ singles champion. Lottie was a multi-sport athlete, winning a silver medal for archery in the 1908 Olympic Games.

‘Girls can’t play tennis as well as boys? What a lot of nonsense!’ Lottie is determined to show that girls can be just as good at sports as boys. She runs and jumps and leaps after the ball... playing tennis makes Lottie feel wonderful. And after beating her brothers, she goes on to reach the finals of the most important tennis competition of them all... Wimbledon! Can she continue her winning streak to become the world’s first female sports superstar?

Whether your child is a new, struggling, reluctant or dyslexic reader, this celebration of a determined and daring girl from a small northern town will provide both entertainment and empowerment, and with Ella Okstad’s gallery of vibrant and energetic illustrations bringing the action to life, this is the perfect victory parade for sporting superstar Lottie!

This book is published on February 29.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Adventuremice: Mice on the Moon

Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

Youngsters love these meeces to pieces! The dream team of author Philip Reeve and illustrator Sarah McIntyre pool their talents for the new book in a simply delightful early reader series which has all the fun of TV hit Paw Patrol, and the charm and whimsy of classics like The Wind in the Willows. With its focus on fun, friendship and kindness, Adventuremice features Pedro, a timid little mouse who has proved himself to be brave enough to join the heroic team who protect the Mouse Islands from danger. And here we find Pedro zooming off an out-of-this-world adventure because inventor-mouse Professor Bernard Quatermouse – better known as Millie’s Uncle Bernie – needs help with his latest invention... a big, dangerous rocket! The professor has built a spaceship and he wants the brave and clever Adventuremice to fly it. BOOM! Pedro and his friends blast off into outer space where they become the first mice on the moon... or so they think! Reeve’s lively, heartwarming and fun-filled storytelling delivers all those ingredients that children love – immersive adventures, lovable heroes, reassuring friendships, exciting action and plenty of smiles – and all brought to vibrant, colourful life by McIntyre’s exquisitely characterful illustrations. A warm and whiskery favourite with mouse lovers of every age!

This book is published on March 7.

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Flying High

Cao Wenxuan and Yu Rong

Translated by Jake Hope and Simone-Davina Monnelly

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No matter how small you are, you can still fly high! That’s the soaring message in this conceptually clever and comforting picture book written by Cao Wenxuan who grew up in rural China and is now a professor of Chinese literature and children’s literature. He was also the first Chinese author to receive the Hans Christian Andersen Author Award, and his beautifully fluid and poetic prose depicts honest, sometimes raw, and often melancholy moments. Flying High, which celebrates the joy to be found in being different with sensitivity and insight, has been flawlessly translated by Jake Hope and Simone-Davina Monnelly, and illustrated by Yu Rong, a Chinese artist now living in the UK whose distinctive artwork brings vitality and zest to the story. ‘Wawa is my best friend, Even when I feel small and low, Wawa still flies high.’ Have you ever felt small and lacking in confidence? One little boy feels sad, angry and upset when the other children say that he’s too small to play with them. Can Wawa the bird find a way to help her friend see that being different can be a strength, and give the child the courage to fly a kite at the town’s festival? Join the pair on an extraordinary and inspiring journey through the wonders of the world, helping to grow understanding and confidence along the way. Ideal for encouraging thoughtful reflection and discussion, and with Yo Rong’s dynamic designs featuring mixed media collage and naturalistic pencil-drawn faces, this is perfect for reading aloud and sharing with younger children.

(UCLan Publishing, paperback, £8.99)

Age 4:

The Spaces In Between

Jaspreet Kaur and Manjit Thapp

Find peace and calm amidst the noise and bustle of the city with this beautiful picture book from award-winning teacher, spoken word poet, writer and activist Jaspreet Kaur and award-winning artist Manjit Thapp. Have you found the spaces in between? The secret places no one else has been? Traffic, roadworks, ambulances! Where do you go when the hustle and bustle of the city gets too much? Follow a little girl and her father as they seek out the secret spaces where they can go to find peace and quiet. With themes of anxiety, fear, kindness and joy, explore how children can find ways of coping with noisy, busy spaces. From the warm embrace of a loved one, finding joy by splashing through puddles and feeling the crunch of autumn leaves on the pavement, The Spaces In Between takes youngsters into the hidden corners that can be found in a busy city. Cleverly created and gorgeously illustrated, this children’s mindfulness poetry has helpful tips and suggestions at the back of the book, and is full of ideas that are accessible to all children... wherever they are in the world.

This book is published on February 29.

(Big Picture Press, paperback, £8.99)

Age 3 plus:

Maybe Later, Georgie

Luke Scriven

Smile, say ‘aaah’ and wipe away a surreptitious tear because Luke Scriven – author and illustrator of much-loved picture book The Little Fear – is back to melt our hearts with an adorable picture book about sibling love. All Georgie wants to do is play with his big brother Ed who ALWAYS comes up with the best games and adventures! But recently, all Georgie hears is the same phrase, time and again – ‘Maybe later, Georgie’. Will later ever arrive, will they ever have fun together again... has Ed finally grown up? Scriven, who works traditionally using a mix of watercolour and gouache to create pictures, certainly knows how to win over both children and parents. Written with humour and genuine empathy and tenderness, and brought to life with wonderfully simple but expressive artwork, this celebration of unbreakable brotherly bonds is destined to be a family favourite.

(HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

Wanna See a Llama?

Simon Philip and Ian Smith

Do you wanna see a llama? Seeing isn’t necessarily believing in another laughter-filled picture book from Simon Philip, author of the award-winning You Must Bring A Hat, and master illustrator Ian Smith, the top team who stole our hearts with Wanna See a Penguin? Enjoy fun all the way as a self-described ‘llama expert’ takes her friend on a chase around the city. They discover wild and wacky animals around every corner... but are any of them really llamas? Llamas are very sociable animals, though, and where there’s one, there’s often more... Young readers will be shouting at the book with delight as more and more llamas gather in the background... until a whole parade of partying llamas is revealed. But will the llama hunters ever find what they’re looking for? Written with Philip’s trademark wit, warmth and exuberance, 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 following the clues and 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 llamas and all the other fascinating creatures in a fact file at the end of the book. Laughter (in full colour) all the way!

This book is published on March 7.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

Grandmas Are the Greatest

Ben Faulks and Nia Tudor

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Every grandma is different...but they’re ALL special! Celebrate one of humankind’s most treasured relationships with this gorgeous picture book from the top team of actor, presenter and children's author Ben Faulks and Carnegie and Klaus Flugge Prize-longlisted freelance illustrator Nia Tudor. ‘Grandmas are the GREATEST- they’re kind and brave and true! Each one of them is SPECIAL and will love YOU through and through.’ Is your grandma an actor or an acrobat? Is she an ambulance driver, an expert chef, or a secret spy? Whatever your grandma does, you can be sure she loves you! Grandmas Are the Greatest is a heartwarming celebration of grandmas everywhere, and the love and friendship they share with their grandchildren. With Faulks’ irresistible romping rhymes and Tudor’s richly detailed and enchanting illustrations, this is the perfect book hug for much-loved grandmas everywhere!

(Bloomsbury Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age one plus:

Who’s Cute? and Who’s Sleepy?-

Camilla Reid and Nila Aye

Enjoy watching little ones get hands-on with a gorgeous new board book series starring an adorable cast of woodland animals. Written by Camilla Reid – a writer and deviser of award-winning books for early years children including the much-loved Pip and Posy stories – this new series features soft felt flaps on every spread, sturdy pages and a surprise mirror ending. So discover who is the cutest little person ever – baby bunny, small mouse or tiny owl – in Who’s Cute? and lift the irresistibly soft felt flaps to discover who is the sleepiest little person ever – small lamb, baby chick or tiny piglet – in Who’s Sleepy? Tiny tots will find the answer when they look in the mirror hiding under the final flap! With enchanting and heartwarming illustrations by award-winning artist Nila Aye, these striking books are perfect for sharing with babies and toddlers.

(Macmillan Children’s Books, board books, £7.99 each)