Book review: Animal (and other) magic from Scholastic Children’s Books

Chase away those January blues with Scholastic’s colourful collection of children’s books which includes an exciting new series based on real-life animal rescues.

Whether it’s a little lost hedgehog, a dog biscuit-sized girl or a seafaring adventure in Cornwall, there’s a story to warm hearts, tickle ribs and set hearts pounding.

Fresh from the printers this month is a brilliant new series of books which have been produced by Scholastic in tandem with the RSPCA, the leading UK animal welfare charity. The books feature fictional characters but tell the real-life story of the RSPCA’s part in an animal rescue.

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Each book, priced at only £4.99 and suitable for children aged over three, has a separate theme – wildlife, pets and farm – and includes heart-warming stories that families can enjoy together as well helping little ones to become aware of the important role of the RSPCA in saving animal lives. The beautifully-produced books, with a foiled cover and full of adorable illustrations, also promote responsible pet ownership. There are facts about animal care, an interview with a real RSPCA inspector and information about the RSPCA children’s club. And for every book sold, 15p will be donated to the RSPCA.

In Puppy Gets Stuck by Sue Mongredien, Emily’s family has a new puppy. Pickle is naughty and loves exploring but one day, when out for a walk, Pickle goes missing. Emily’s family and the whole village search everywhere but Pickle can’t be found. Then Emily hears a tiny yap and discovers Pickle is in a pickle. He has fallen into an old mineshaft. The RSPCA and fire brigade come to help and with the help of a special harness, Pickle is pulled to safety!

In Little Lost Hedgehog by Jill Hucklesby, we meet Grace who is out in the garden feeding her rabbits when she hears a rustle in the flower bed. She sits very still by the kitchen door, peering out into the dark and then spots some little paws, two shiny eyes and a twitching nose. It’s a tiny hedgehog but where is its family because he looks lost and hungry? Grace’s mum calls the RSPCA who take it back to their centre and nurse it back to health.

And in the topical Lamb All Alone by Katie Davies, Ben’s school is closed due to a flood warning. At home, Ben and his family secure the house against the rising water but what about the sheep in the field at the end of his garden? The farmer is stuck on his farm and can’t rescue them. Luckily, the RSPCA are on hand to help. Together Ben’s family and the RSPCA Inspector herd the animals to safety – through Ben’s garden! But one little lamb has been left behind. How will they get the animal across the deep water?

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These eye-catching and informative books are set to be a real winner with children who love animals, fun and adventure.

Meanwhile, Jumblebum (paperback, £6.99), a brilliant new picture book from top team Chae Strathie and Ben Cort , will have children aged three to six laughing along to the rhyming text and enjoying the big, bright, colourful illustrations. Little Johnny thinks that his room has its own special style but mum thinks his room is a mess. Johnny doesn’t care… until the chaos attracts the terrible Jumblebum Beast. Is Johnny about to end up in the mess-loving monster’s tummy, or can his secret plan save the day? This hilarious tale about the importance of tidying up has a moral that won’t be lost on little ones. It’s for sure there’ll be a new broom sweeping clean when Jumblebum gets to work! And it’s not only little ones who are going to have all the fun this January. The amazing Shrinking Violet Potts (paperback, £5.99), the brainchild of the talented Lou Kuenzler, is a fresh and quirky character and her madcap adventures are jam packed with thrills, spills and laughter.

A must for all eight-year-olds and over with bags of attitude, Violet’s escapades guarantee guffaws on every page. In Shrinking Violet Definitely Needs a Dog, we meet Violet who is normal size one minute and dog biscuit-size the next. Her startling transformation takes place when she gets very excited or nervous and that could happen at any time.

Here we find Violet desperate for a dog, but she’s not allowed one – well, not unless she can prove she’s really, really responsible. Luckily there’s a dog walking scheme that she and her friend Nisha can join and where they love playing with their designated puppy, Chip. Violet and Nisha really want Chip to win the dog show and not mean Ratty-Riley and his dog. But on the big day, Violet surprises Nisha by shrinking to the size of a dog biscuit, and sometimes being tiny is terrifying! However, Violet discovers that her small size might yet win her a prize...

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An eye-catching text and warm, witty illustrations by Kirsten Collier add to the entertainment while a special foiled cover and chunky, square shaped design ensure these books will become collectible classics.

Younger readers will also be hooked on Midnight Pirates (paperback, £6.99), Ally Kennan’s second standalone book which is brimming over with excitement, intrigue, tension and wit.

The beautiful (and supposedly haunted) Dodo Hotel sits proudly on the edge of the beautiful Cornish coast. To 13-year-old Miranda and her brothers Jackie, 10, (and his dog Fester) and Cal, 16, whose parents own the 300-year-old hotel, it is the best place in the world.

But the hotel is leaking money with a constant need for repairs and, apart from a few ghost hunters, it isn’t attracting enough guests to make ends meet. It has to be sold and the children must go away to boarding school.

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Determined not to lose their beloved home and to stop the Dodo Hotel becoming extinct, Miranda and her brothers hatch a plan. Whilst their parents are away at a wedding, they will escape from school and go back to run the hotel themselves. After all, how difficult can it be?

But one day a strange man checks into the hotel and Miranda is immediately suspicious. And when a ship runs aground in the bay, it seems her worst fears are coming true. This man has something to do with it, and the children are in even more trouble than they could possibly have imagined.

This is a book full of knockabout fun that will appeal to the over ten age group with its irreverent humour, crazy adventures, busy, buzzing dialogue, a charismatic cast of kids (and adults!) and a mystery to keep readers guessing.

Couple all this with its fantastic Cornish setting and seafaring skulduggery, and you have a brilliantly conceived 21st century take on the adventures of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five.

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