Book review: Thrills, chills and spills for young adventurers

Thrills, chills and spills for young adventurers
Thrills, chills and spills for young adventurers
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Bewitched, bothered and bewildered… there are some truly magical children’s books to enjoy this autumn.

From the classic fairy tale Snow Queen who inspired Disney’s blockbuster film Frozen and a superb teen chiller thriller collection to a ‘genius’ science adventure and a cave boy with a mammoth problem, youngsters will have the dark nights fully booked.

Age 5 plus:

The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

Nearly two centuries before Disney film favourite Frozen was gripping the nation’s youngsters, Danish author Hans Christian Andersen was winning hearts with the shimmering, glimmering fairy tale that laid its foundations.

The Snow Queen, an epic battle between good and evil, was also the inspiration for C.S. Lewis’s classic book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and now a fresh, dynamic translation by Misha Hoekstra allows a new generation of children to share the majestic beauty of Andersen’s unique storytelling gifts.

With stunning black and white illustrations by Lucie Arnoux to add atmosphere and visual vitality, the timeless themes of love, loss, loyalty and innocence in the face of great hardship are reborn in this exciting and resonant story.

Kai and Gerda are best friends until one day two shards of glass from the Devil’s cursed mirror land in Kai’s eye and in his heart. From that day on, he can no longer see goodness in anything… not in the beautiful roses that grow in his garden, not even in the kind-hearted Gerda.

One wintry evening whilst out sledging, Kai is kidnapped by the evil Snow Queen and swept away to live forever in her kingdom of ice. Refusing to believe that Kai is gone, Gerda sets off on the perilous journey to find him. She must travel through inhospitable and frozen lands, sustained only by the kindness of strangers, in order to find her beloved friend. But even if she can find him, will she be able to melt the ice in his heart?

An ice-packed story that is sure to melt the hearts of children everywhere…

(Pushkin, paperback, £6.99)


Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton

And there are chills galore for horror fans to enjoy in a goosebump collection of short stories from newly fledged master of the macabre Dave Shelton.

Shelton is best known as the creator of the slapstick comedy noir comic strip Good Dog, Bad Dog, and his debut novel for children, A Boy and a Bear in a Boat, was shortlisted for the Costa children’s prize and the Carnegie medal, and won the Branford Boase award.

Thirteen Chairs ploughs a new and fertile furrow, transporting us into a scary world of strange happenings and weird characters where Jack, an insatiably curious boy, hears twelve terrifying tales of death and horror from twelve ghostly figures.

Jack stands in the dark on the landing of the sinister old house and looks at his feet. For countless minutes, his hand on the door handle, he debates whether or not to go in. Then he peers through a crack in the door. Inside is a high-ceilinged room lit only by candles.

There are thirteen chairs, one empty, and twelve ghostly storytellers just waiting to begin. Come in, take your place, we have been expecting you, do you dare to listen to our stories and do you dare to tell your own, they ask? Jack is a curious boy… are you curious enough, or brave enough, to listen to their stories too?

These thirteen super, spine-tingling stories – some old, some new, some set in the past and some in the present – come with a full-page illustration by Shelton to set the scene for each chapter, and all are guaranteed to set hearts thumping and hackles rising.

Powerfully atmospheric and curiously creepy, Thirteen Chairs is packed with stories to thrill and chill. Read them if you dare… but preferably not after dark!

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Frank Einstein and the Brain Turbo by Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs

Jon Scieszka, one of the most exciting voices in children’s literature, is back on ‘genius’ form in the third book in a brilliant science-based adventure series from Abrams & Chronicle Books.

This innovative and high-energy Frank Einstein series, packed with science, adventure and comedy capers, is perfectly pitched at boys who want their learning to come with a mighty big dollop of action and anarchy.

Brian Biggs provides the charismatic illustrations for tales full of boys’ toys like robots and mad machines, and the scene is set for some out-of-this world science.

Child genius Frank Einstein loves to tinker, build and take things apart. He loves to observe, hypothesise, experiment and invent. He loves figuring out how the world works by creating contraptions that are part science, part imagination and definitely unusual.

Here we find Frank and his best friend Watson, along with Klink, a self-assembled artificial-intelligence entity, and Klank, a mostly self-assembled artificial almost intelligence entity, in competition once more with T. Edison, their classmate and arch rival. Frank and his team have created the Brain Turbo to power boost the human body and help their baseball-pitching friend Janegoodall make the team. But can they also figure out how to foil T. Edison and save the world?

There are diagrams to study, plots to unravel and power battles to enjoy in this scintillating science romp which throws up as many fascinating facts about the human anatomy as it does electronic fistfuls of mayhem and madness.

Science and humour in perfect motion …

(Amulet Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

First Sticker Book: Paris by James MacLaine and Wesley Robins

What better way for a child to take a stroll around Paris than in a sticker-book packed with facts and fun?

This stylish, illustrated activity book encourages children to explore the narrow streets of the French capital, visiting its cafes, museums, river bank and bookshops, and add stickers to complete each scene.

There are plenty of top tourist landmarks to enjoy… call in at the magnificent Eiffel Tower, see people climb the hill in Montmartre, take a look at the paintings in the famous Louvre, marvel at busy scenes in the Metro, look at what is for sale at the market and take a walk in the beautiful Tuileries Gardens.

And then bring them all to life with over 200 stickers of Parisians and tourists, cars and bikes, famous paintings and boats on the River Seine. There is also a map of Paris on which to place stickers of all the famous city landmarks.

Ideal as a holiday activity book or souvenir from a trip to Paris, there won’t be a dull moment with this creative activity book.

(Usborne, paperback, £4.99)

Age 2 plus:

This Orq. (he cave boy) by David Elliott and Lori Nichols

He cave boy, he love woolly mammoth…

Welcome to a quirky picture book which features cave boy Orq and his adorable pet Woma, a very smelly, very hairy woolly mammoth who causes a stink when he moves in with the cave-dwellers.

There is so much to enjoy both verbally and visually in this simple but highly effective story which packs in a spectrum of themes from logic and language to family and friendship.

Orq the cave boy loves Woma very much. Unfortunately, his mother doesn’t feel the same way. To her, Woma is a hairy, smelly beast who sheds his coat and isn’t even house-trained. What can Orq do to persuade his mother that Woma is actually the perfect pet?

Lori Nichols provides the captivating illustrations for David Elliott’s clever, funny story which teaches not just the beauty of words but a basic understanding of the different ways in which they can be used.

Fun for all the family…

(Troika, paperback, £6.99)