Book review: Classics old and new from Walker Books

‘Looks’ are everything this autumn with a cool and creative collection for children from innovative publisher Walker Books.

By Pam Norfolk
Tuesday, 21st October 2014, 10:00 am
Classics old and new from Walker Books
Classics old and new from Walker Books

From its humble beginnings in a spare bedroom back in 1980, Walker has grown into Britain’s leading independent children’s book publisher, producing over 300 books of outstanding quality every year.

So join them for a close-up view of everyone’s favourite adventurer Wally, a beautifully illustrated retelling of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Misérables, an outing with two adorable animal detectives and a brilliant adventure as children trapped in portraits spring to life.

Age 5 plus:

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Where’s Wally? The Magnificent Mini Book Box by Martin Handford

You can search high and low for Wally but this time you’ll need a magnifying glass to pin down the well-known wanderer and his assortment of weird and wonderful friends.

Small is definitely exciting as the first five classic Where’s Wally? titles are brought down to size in a slipcase containing miniature editions complete with an impressive magnifying glass.

Budding Sherlocks will love using the glass with its striped handle to scan pages of colourful illustrations and hunt for Wally and the hundreds of other challenges.

Martin Handford’s Where’s Wally? books have been immensely successful, selling more than 50 million copies worldwide in over 50 countries and 30 languages. Each Wally picture takes Handford several months to draw.

The five adventures featured in this brilliant pint-size edition are Where’s Wally?, Where’s Wally Now?, Where’s Wally? The Fantastic Journey, Where’s Wally? In Hollywood and Where’s Wally? The Wonder Book.

Ideal for car, train or plane journeys, these mini marvels will provide hours of entertainment and fun for children (and parents!) who love a challenge.

(Walker Books, £14.99)

Age 5 plus:

Pigsticks and Harold and the Tuptown Thief by Alex Milway

Also playing detective are magical duo Pigsticks and Harold, the Holmes and Watson of the animal world.

Author and illustrator Alex Milway’s brilliant Pigsticks and Harold series, featuring a furry hamster and a decidedly un-furry pig, has captured the hearts of children everywhere.

Madcap humour and whimsical one-liners make these quirky books a joy to share with your youngest family members who love the eye-catching illustrations and simple straightforward story lines.

Pigsticks is the world’s most optimistic pig while his sidekick Harold is an over-anxious hamster who carries the weight of the world on his tiny shoulders.

In their new adventure, there’s a thief on the loose in Tuptown and the annual Butterfly Ball will be cancelled unless someone is brought to justice. Luckily, Pigsticks has crime-fighting in his blood and a magnifying glass in his hand. Can Pigsticks and Harold solve the crime, particularly when they have such a long list of suspects? And can they do it in time to save the Butterfly Ball and, along the way, win the Spirit of Tuptown Prize for being brilliant?

Packed with colour and comedy, these clever books offer plenty to discuss on every page and a detective double act as adorable as it is devilishly clever.

Having fun is elementary when Pigsticks and Harold are on the case…

(Walker Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Les Misérables by Marcia Williams

One of the greatest novels of all time gets a beautiful retelling in a superbly illustrated book from the multi-talented Marcia Williams.

Marcia Williams has worked her special magic on many literary classics for children with her distinctive cartoon-strip style and here she breathes new and instantly accessible life into Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Misérables.

This immaculately produced book is a wonderful introduction to an epic tale of injustice, love and heroism in 19th century France. The story follows Jean Valjean, an ex-convict, as he tries to put his criminal past behind him. Will he manage to escape from the ruthless Police Inspector Javert who is determined to see him behind bars again? Can he build a life with Cosette, an orphaned girl he has rescued from poverty and neglect? When Cosette grows up and falls in love with the handsome Marius Pontmercy, will Jean Valjean let Cosette go or will the revolution that is sweeping through the streets of Paris tear all their lives apart?

With its easy-to-understand narrative and complemented by illustrations that give life and vigour into an unforgettable story, there could be no better way to instil a love of the classics into young children.

(Walker Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 5 plus:

Seen and Not Heard by Katie May Green

An Elizabethan portrait of three sombre-looking children clad in stiff-looking clothes was the inspiration for a deliciously atmospheric debut picture book from Katie May Green.

What would it feel like to be trapped in a painting for 400 years and were they, in their time, so very different from children today? Would there be any kind of release? Perhaps with a little moonlight, a little magic, she thought, they could live again.

And so she casts a spell over readers young and old in a wonderfully original story with all the timeless spirit of Alice in Wonderland and the thrills of a forbidden adventure.

In a big old house, up creaky stairs, in a silent little nursery full of dolls and teddy bears, you’ll find the children of Shiverhawk Hall. They are children in pictures on the wall, seen and not heard. Meet dainty little Lily Pinksweet, the very polite Plumseys, clever Billy Fitzbillian, kind Percy who shares his toys and the De Villechild twins, two girls who are perfect angels. They all look so sweet and good, just like children should, but when night-time comes and there’s no one to see, the children climb out from the quiet of their picture frames and what do they do? They run riot and they run free!

Picturesque, pastel illustrations add light and shade to the wild goings-on at ghostly Shiverhawk Hall as the children make the most of their escape from the frozen solitude of their pictorial prisons.

A glorious celebration of the power of the imagination…

(Walker Books, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Worst in Show by William Bee and Kate Hindley

Inventive author William Bee and his trusty illustrator Kate Hindley create a real stink in this wacky picture story about a pet monster which is monstrously bad at winning prizes.

Albert is entering his pet monster Sidney in The Best Pet Monster in the World competition and he has very high hopes. Sidney, however, is a rather gentle monster who enjoys long soaks in bubble-filled baths while nibbling on some sugary fairy cakes. And a champion monster has to be, well, hideously horrible to win. They must be able to fly, be full of parasites, super smelly, extremely warty and fiercely fire-breathing. Round after round, Sidney tries his best but Albert soon begins to realise that Sidney’s best talent might not be a very ‘monsterly’ one after all...

Worst in Show celebrates every kind of monster – hairy warts and all – in this comical, anarchic tale about competition, friendship and finding your own unique place in the world.

And with a super fold-out page to make Albert’s adventure even bigger and better, there are no prizes for guessing why this book is destined to win best in show.

(Walker Books, hardback, £11.99)