Vicious Vikings, a cowgirl sheriff and a cat and dog double act - book reviews

Travel back to the Dark Ages for a thrilling adventure, help solve a batty mystery at an old tower, and enjoy a story full of magic, mayhem and muck as publishers roll out an exciting assortment of new children’s books.

She Wolf by Dan Smith
She Wolf by Dan Smith

Age 9 plus:

She Wolf

Dan Smith

Journey back to the Dark Ages where death, darkness and prowling wolves are never far away in a thrilling new adventure story from Newcastle-based author Dan Smith.

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    The star of this compelling and atmospheric story is Ylva, an unforgettable Viking girl whose mission of revenge through a wild, dangerous and untamed landscape is guaranteed to win the hearts and minds of spellbound youngsters.

    In Northumberland in the year 866AD, a young Viking girl is swept away at sea by a storm and washes up on a frozen and desolate beach in northern England. Ylva has survived and she will not cry… she is meant to be strong because she has Viking blood.

    But when her mother is killed by a three-fingered man with lupine teeth, and the wolves of the forest circle closer, the cruelly orphaned but brave and resilient Ylva becomes set on revenge, tracking the killer through dangerous hinterland.

    She needs only the favour of the Norse gods, her faithful elkhound Geri and the comfort and memories of her mother’s stories to help her stay alive but when a stranger decides to protect Ylva – seeming to understand where others cannot – she must decide if she can trust her helper or whether she can shape her own legend.

    Will Ylva’s quest end in vengeance… or forgiveness?

    In this stunningly original, emotion-packed and high-tension adventure from this imaginative and award-winning author, our feisty and inspirational young heroine Ylva must battle raiders and the terrifying perils of the wild terrain, and learn to trust again if she is to survive.

    Expect vicious Vikings, danger at every turn, and a breathtakingly authentic backdrop as this Dark Ages yarn explodes into an unforgettable adventure!

    (Chicken House, paperback, £6.99)

    Age 9 plus:

    How Not to Lose It: Mental Health – Sorted

    Anna Williamson and Sophie Beer

    The modern world is a very stressful place… and particularly for young people who suffer the added anxieties of exams, growing up and friendship problems.

    Fifty per cent of mental health problems are established by the age of fourteen and there is currently a big gap between mental health needs and the available support for young people, so here’s a brilliant, illustrated go-to guide to empower children and support strong emotional well-being.

    Illustrated throughout by Sophie Beer and with reassuring and practical advice delivered in a chatty and honest tone by trained therapist, ChildLine counsellor and celebrity TV presenter Anna Williamson, How Not to Lose It is both reassuring and invaluable for youngsters struggling to think straight.

    Addressing key issues affecting children today, Williamson helps youngsters to become the boss of their brain.

    She explains that at times, life can feel like nothing but problems and pressure.

    But the good news is that, just like keeping your body healthy, you can boost your emotional wellbeing too.

    Tricks such as creating healthy habits, avoiding negative thought patterns, being in the moment and finding things to be happy about are the equivalent of taking your mood to the gym, helping you feel good and bounce back from obstacles.

    With Williamson’s immediate, heart of the matter advice, you can take charge of your attitudes, fears and stress levels, and achieve a balanced mind and mood control.

    Topics covered include anxiety, depression, stress, friendship, bullying, relationships and sex, family life and bereavement, phobias, peer pressure, self-harm, self-esteem and confidence.

    Inspirational and perfectly pitched for children between the ages of nine and fourteen, this is a must-have book for parents, carers and schools as well as a generation of children growing up in a pressured and bewildering world.

    (Scholastic, paperback, £9.99)

    Age 8 plus:

    Laura Norder

    Guy Bass and Steve May

    Meet an adorably fearless and no-nonsense cowgirl sheriff in a wacky Wild West romp from comic genius and award-winning author Guy Bass.

    Youngsters are guaranteed a laugh-a-minute tale as Bass and illustrator Steve May combine their talents for a terrific tale packed with the author’s trademark hilarious puns and May’s glorious gallery of madcap characters.

    The brilliantly named Laura Norder comes from innovative publisher Barrington Stoke and is produced in a super readable format especially suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers.

    In the heart of the lawless Wild West, ten-year-old Laura Norder is the self-appointed Sheriff of Butts Canyon and lives her life by the Golden Rules. No crime commotion or nit-witted nonsense gets past her until the no-good, rule-breaking Duncan Disorderly rides into town and starts causing chaos.

    Enough is enough! It’s time for the pint-sized Laura to step up to the plate and catch the masked mischief-maker before he breaks any more of her rules.

    Fast-paced action, sharp-shooting one-liners and rampant fun are the order of the day in this witty and wonderful Wild West adventure!

    Also in Barrington Stoke’s super readable series are:

    Age 8 plus:

    The Ghost Tower

    Gillian Cross

    Curiosity saves the bat in this funny and quirky adventure story which will have young readers giggling out loud at the ghostly goings on!

    An unexpected discovery causes ghostly mayhem in this entertaining and timely tale of environmental struggles and the importance of conservation from outstanding English author Gillian Cross.

    The night Dot and Ryan take a sneaky Halloween visit to a condemned tower, they discover more than they bargained for when they catch a glimpse of an endangered species of bat.

    It’s clear that the bat colony and the tower need to be saved, but Dot and Ryan were never meant to be there and it’s not going to be easy to get the grown-ups on side.

    Can they find a way to stop the demolition and save the bats before it’s too late?

    Gillian Cross, best known for her Demon Headmaster series and its BBC adaptation, has won many of the most prestigious awards for children's fiction, including the Carnegie Medal, and this exciting tale, full of mystery, humour and spooky fun, tackles serious issues with the lightest of touches.

    Age 7 plus:

    Go! Go! Chichico

    Geraldine McCaughrean and Tom Percival

    Chichico has everything he needs to be a top footballer… apart from a pair of boots!

    Enjoy a little football story with a big heart from the Carnegie Medal-winning author Geraldine McCaughrean. This super new lower reading age edition of McCaughrean’s uplifting story now stars BAME characters and has been re-formatted to make it accessible to even more young readers.

    Chichico is thrilled when a talent scout spots him during a kick-about with his friends Davi and Anna, and he is asked to try out for Santos Brazil. But without a pair of football boots, how will Chichico ever be taken seriously? Loyal Davi steps in and sets out on a mission to solve Chichico’s problem. But Davi’s actions soon risk ruining forever Chichico’s ambition to be a football star...

    McCaughrean’s clever, thoughtful and inspirational story – packed with Tom Percival’s lively, eye-catching illustrations – hits the spot perfectly, blending an action-packed footballing adventure with subtle messages about loyalty, friendship and chasing your dreams.

    (Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99 each)

    Age 5 plus:

    Jasper and Scruff

    Nicola Colton

    Say hello to the dynamic Jasper and Scruff, a cat and dog double act full of magic, mayhem and muck!

    This purrfectly delightful puss and puppy partnership – featuring cool cat Jasper and endlessly enthusiastic but muddy mutt Scruff – comes to young readers courtesy of talented Irish author and illustrator Nicola Colton.

    Jasper has everything he could want… a fancy apartment, bow ties in every colour and a large book collection. The only thing he’s missing is the right type of friends. Jasper wants more than anything to become a member of The Sophisticats, a society for exceptional felines.

    When they accept Jasper’s dinner invitation, he knows his chance to impress has arrived. But a boisterous, waggy-tailed puppy called Scruff follows Jasper home and his evening doesn’t quite go to plan!

    Illustrated throughout with Colton’s stylish and fun illustrations in an eye-catching two-tone palette, the crazy adventures and misadventures of Jasper and Scruff are ideal for youngsters bridging the gap between picture books and reading books.

    With mischief on every page, a colourful cast of animal characters and an easy-to-read story which explores what friendship really means, this barking mad cat-and-dog comedy duo are certain to win the hearts of all young readers.

    (Stripes, paperback, £5.99)

    Age 5 plus:

    Little Lion Rescue

    Rachel Delahaye

    Head off on a magical trip to Africa’s special Serengeti wildlife region with a little girl who dreams of becoming a vet.

    Little Lion Rescue is the first book in a new series of gentle stories for younger children by former journalist Rachel Delahaye. Readers follow Fliss on her action-packed adventures to save wild animals in danger. Each story comes with gorgeous black and white illustrations and contains a subtle educational element, teaching children about the species of animal and the environment featured in the book.

    Each adventure in the series will be set in a distant location around the world, transporting readers to amazing new places. Here we go deep into the heart of the Serengeti with and animal-loving schoolgirl.

    What starts out as a school trip to the zoo for Fliss and her classmates ends up being the adventure of a lifetime when Fliss is magically whisked away to the heat, dust and sun-bleached grass of Tanzania’s Serengeti.

    There she finds a little lost lion cub, separated from its family, and Fliss is determined to reunite them. But with only a bottle of water, half a sandwich and her instinct to guide her across the plains, is she really ready to face the challenges of the wild?

    Little Lion Rescue combines a lively, heartwarming adventure with easily recognisable real-life issues told from a child’s perspective, resulting in a captivating story perfectly pitched for youngsters just starting chapter book reading… and anyone who is wild about animals!

    (Stripes, paperback, £5.99)

    Age 3 plus:

    This is Owl

    Libby Walden and Jacqui Lee

    Get ready to hoot with laughter at this flapping, tapping, clapping picture book!

    This is Owl comes packed with large flaps and interactive play which encourage children to spend the night with Owl as he delivers a whole host of wonderful surprises to share with everyone.

    Quirky, joyful and full of fun, Libby Walden’s clever story encourages children’s imaginations to take flight as they find owl and help the birds on their adventure.

    The playful tone of Walden’s entertaining story is guaranteed to captivate little ones as they are drawn into the action and peek underneath the flaps.

    Jacqui Lee’s expressive, striking and humorous illustrations create a colourful contrast to the backdrop of an inky black night, bringing life and energy to the story.

    There are also subtle lessons to be learned along the way about the nature of friendship, and fascinating facts to enjoy, including discovering what lights the sky at night, what nocturnal means and how birds hatch from eggs.

    This is Owl is the first book in a super new series featuring interactive animal adventures, and will be followed by This is Frog later this year.

    A high-flying story to share with inquisitive young minds!

    (Little Tiger Press, hardback, £11.99)

    Age 3 plus:

    This is Love: A Celebration of Harmony Around the World

    Isabel Otter and Harriet Lynas

    They say that love makes the world go round… and it certainly does in this warm and caring picture book from author Isabel Otter and illustrator Harriet Lynas.

    This is Love is a gentle and joyous celebration of human harmony, and the relationships children share with friends and family, whoever they are, and wherever they live in our big, wide world.

    Intriguing see-through cut-outs add an extra layer of interest for curious young eyes as they travel through a rainbow selection of countries and different peoples.

    Through verse and beautifully diverse illustrations from the talented Lynas, the book explores the gentle power of love from a child’s perspective as we move through the seasons and across the world.

    From a snow-covered landscape and wet and windy day in a park to a coastal paradise of sea and palms, Otter’s gentle rhyming story emphasises the universal expression of love, and Lynas’ gallery of charming pictures portray evocative and playful scenes in a variety of colourful settings.

    An uplifting and inspirational exploration of family love and friendship for pre-schoolers…

    (Little Tiger Press, hardback, £11.99)

    Age 2 plus:

    Lubna and Pebble

    Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egnéus

    An exquisitely beautiful picture book story about the power of friendship puts the refugee crisis in focus for the very youngest children.

    Author Wendy Meddour has received an Arts Council Grant to enable her to fulfil a project entitled Vulnerable Children and the Power of Picture Books, and Lubna and Pebble is the first of her three books which will also include Stefano the Squid and Tibble and Grandpa.

    Taking starring role in this moving story is Lubna who arrives with her father at a refugee camp where her only friend is a pebble. She found it on the beach when they arrived in the night and then fell asleep in Daddy’s salty arms. Lubna tells Pebble everything… about home, about the war.

    Pebble always listens to her stories and smiles when she feels afraid. But one day, when a little boy called Amir also arrives, alone in the World of Tents, Lubna finds a new friend and soon poignantly understands that he needs Pebble even more than she does…

    Meddour’s gentle and yet resonant story about friendship, hope and the strength of the human spirit celebrates the power of the imagination and encourages little ones to empathise with displaced children and to understand that they are children just like them.

    And Swedish illustrator Daniel Egnéus’ bold, dream-like and stunning artwork contrasts the drabness of the camp with the brilliant colours conjured up by Lubna and Amir’s shared joy at being able to get lost in play together.

    A clever, caring story in which hope springs eternal…

    (Oxford University Press, hardback, £11.99)

    Age 2 plus:

    Cyril the Lonely Cloud

    Tim Hopgood

    When you are a cloud in the sky, who wants to look up and smile at you?

    Tim Hopgood, an author and illustrator who revels in the feel-good factor, also has a special relationship with the wonders of the natural world so there is a joyous silver lining to this tale of a lonely cloud who just wants someone to love him.

    It is sad but true that no one is ever pleased to see Cyril the cloud. He is always being blamed for ruining everyone’s fun by casting shadows over everywhere he goes, and making things look dull and miserable. So one day Cyril drifts far, far away in search of a friendly face.

    Passing over farmland, towns, and an ocean, he eventually he arrives in a new land whose ground is baking hot. Here everyone welcomes the shade Cyril gives. This makes Cyril so happy that he cries big glorious tears of joy, and his tears soak the land and everything seems to smile. And that is all Cyril ever wanted… to look down on the world and see a happy smile.

    Children will love following this high-flying journey of a little cloud whose greatest desire is to bring happiness to the world. Each page is lavishly illustrated by Hopwood whose captivating, multi-coloured artwork brings Cyril’s story to life and reveals the fantastic diversity of nature.

    Ideal to use in the classroom when studying the weather and brimming with the author’s distinctive brand of optimism, this is a story to warm the hearts of readers young and old.

    (Oxford University Press, hardback, £11.99)

    Age one plus:

    A Quiet Quiet House

    Georgiana Deutsch and Ekaterina Trukhan

    There’s a houseful of trouble just waiting to be enjoyed in an enchanting peep-through book from top team Georgiana Deutsch and Ekaterina Trukhan.

    Little ones will love Deutsch’s engaging, fabulously illustrated story which reveals how a normally peaceful and quiet house gradually becomes a cacophony of noise, clatter and finally music as more and more little mice arrive with mysterious, colourful parcels in tow.

    ‘Down a quiet, quiet street Came a quiet little mouse, Who was speeding on a scooter To a quiet, quiet house.’

    But – uh oh – here comes a mouse on a pogo stick! And there’s another mouse on a moped, one on her rollerskates and one on a wobbly unicycle! The quiet house won’t be quiet for much longer… whatever is happening inside?

    Peeping through the windows of this not-so-quiet house, joining in the story’s repetitive first line, and trying to solve the mystery of the house’s procession of visitors are just some of the entertaining joys of this gorgeous picture book.

    Packed with fun characters, vehicles, colours, weather and lots of quirky details to spot on every page, A Quiet Quiet House is destined to be a favourite with both little ones and their parents.

    (Little Tiger Press, paperback, £7.99)