Book review: A sparkling September with Usborne children’s books

Music, fashion, aliens and the timeless tales of Aesop take centre stage in a sparkling round-up of reading and activity books from top children’s publisher Usborne this month.

Wednesday, 18th September 2013, 10:00 am
A sparkling September with Usborne childrens books
A sparkling September with Usborne childrens books

Usborne Publishing is the leading UK independent publishing company and Children’s Publisher of the Year 2012, producing beautifully designed and imaginative children’s books for every age from baby to teenager.

Here are just some of their exciting and innovative new books:

From birth:

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Baby’s very first noisy lullabies book - Illustrated by Stella Baggott

This creative and colourful lullabies book will be music to the ears of babies everywhere.

A delightful and sturdy board book, it comes with buttons for little fingers to press and play tunes and sound effects, and has special tabs to help tiny tots find their favourite pages.

The atmospheric music has been specially designed to help lull babies to sleep and beautifully arranged by Anthony Marks to create a gentle ambience for bedtime. The five favourite lullabies, which include Rock-a-bye-baby and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, have low decibel sounds and a stop function.

Share the words, enjoy the music and watch baby drift off peacefully to the Land of Nod!

(Usborne, hardback, £9.99)

Age 3 plus:

Illustrated Stories from Aesop - Written and edited by Susanna Davidson

Travel back thousands of years and rediscover a classic collection of fantastic fables believed to spring from the imagination of Aesop, a slave and story-teller reputed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BC.

There are over thirty timeless fables here, retold and reanimated for a new generation of children, featuring Aesop’s best-loved characters and all brought to glorious life by the enchanting, full-colour illustrations of Giuliano Ferri. And the stories are presented in a stunning, padded hardback book with a ribbon, making it a wonderful gift for younger children.

Who can forget the cautionary tales of The Hare and the Tortoise, The Boy who Cried Wolf, The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg and The Lion and the Mouse? The fables are famous for their moral guidance and this dazzling new book arranges each story thematically, with chapters including Friendship, Quarrels, Greed, Pride and Comeuppance. All have been specially refigured for children and are a perfect introduction to Aesop and the whole concept of taking responsibility for our actions.

An extra special book, beautifully created and crafted, and the perfect gift for an extra special child!

(Usborne, hardback, £12.99)

Age 5 plus:

Aliens Sticker Book - Edited by Kirsteen Robson and illustrated by Seb Burnett

Usborne’s ever-expanding range of sticker books is proving to be one of their biggest success stories so how about a new version that is simply out of this world? Aliens Sticker Book is a chunky activity book with over 400 bold and colourful stickers for children who love making their own adventures.

Little ones will delight in climbing aboard a sensational ‘spacecraft’ for a light-hearted, light-speed tour to meet some of the universe’s most amazing aliens. Inside this wacky book are hundreds of stickers to record the strange sights witnessed on the way. From flaming suns on Planet Scorchum to the curious citizens of Yooneeka, children will be entertained for hours on an ever-spinning tour of imaginary planets.

The ideal book to keep little hands busy and imaginations in full flight.

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)

Royal Doll’s House Sticker Book - Edited by Struan Reid and illustrated by Elisabetta Ferrero

For little girls, there is the chance to experience a taste of a life of luxury behind the closed doors of a royal palace in another expertly produced sticker book. They can explore the magnificent home and garden of a prince, princess and their small baby, turn the pages on lavish rooms and fill them with beautiful furniture and artefacts.

Choose from over 200 stickers of bespoke furniture, regal oil paintings, chandeliers, elegant soft furnishings and lots, lots more. The book includes over ten rooms for children to decorate in any fashion they want. Arrange the furniture in a formal saloon, fill the orangery with shrubs and ornaments and select the toys and baby equipment for the smart nursery.

A right royal adventure guaranteed to provide hours of fun and thought as well as a perfect canvas for budding artistic flair.

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)

Age 7 plus:

Historical Sticker Dolly Dressing: Edwardian fashion - Edited by Emily Bone and illustrated by Simona Bursi

As a new series of Downton Abbey gets underway, history and fashion prove an irresistible combination in another wonderful addition to the Usborne dolly dressing sticker book collection.

Young fashionistas can discover the elegant clothes people wore a hundred years ago in a beautiful book which features over 160 stickers of exquisite clothing and accessories. From blazers and straw boaters for an afternoon by the river to luxurious Art Nouveau gowns at a sophisticated arts evening and the most fashionable outfits for a day at the races, this is the best of fashion from the Belle Époque.

Each section offers extra historical information about life and fashion in Edwardian times, including contemporary advertisements, full-colour photographs, diagrams, posters, sketches and internet links to find out more.

Youngsters can dress up the dolls and learn about the background to each fashion at the same time. What better way to bring to life the era and its fashions as well as providing hours of hands-on entertainment?

History with a fun and fashionable twist…

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)

Age 10 plus:

The Battles of Ben Kingdom: The Feast of Ravens - Andrew Beasley

Andrew Beasley returns with the second book of his epic, coming-of-age series set in Victorian London, a fantastic action-packed odyssey about a boy who appears to be just a cocky street urchin but is actually the saviour of mankind.

And the adventure continues in this innovative new story which again combines the timeless theme of good versus evil with steampunk gadgetry and free-running angels.

Beasley has certainly hit on a winning formula with these thrilling, dark-centred stories rich in charismatic players, innovative concepts, mind-blowing fantasy and the deepest, darkest corners of history.

Light can save the blackest heart, darkness can poison the purest soul and one boy must lead the fight… The year is 1892 and London is in the grip of evil. The Legion has unleashed an ancient darkness on London, leaving crime and chaos in its wake. From their rooftop base, The Watchers, a secret society of urchins and warriors, will have to fight to restore order. An ancient prophecy claims one boy, Ben Kingdom, has the power to end this war but unbeknown to The Watchers, Ben is harbouring a deadly secret that could put them all in danger.

As the Legion gather their forces for invasion, all they need for victory is the final Coin of blood. Ben knows that he could put an end to this battle but on the darkest night of all, the Feast of Ravens, Ben’s secret could destroy everything. Can he find the courage to fulfil his destiny... or will the city fall?

The Battles of Ben Kingdom is an ambitious and far-sighted series, ideal for both boys and girls. Action-packed, full of the spirit of adventure and with serious moral issues underlying the plotlines, who could ask for anything more?

(Usborne, paperback, £6.99)

Age 14 plus:

Angel Fever - L.A. Weatherly

How do you start telling the success story of L.A. Weatherly’s addictive, spine-tingling and richly romantic Angel trilogy? Well strangely, the best place is probably the end.

Teen books come and go but rarely do they deliver such a marvellously memorable and satisfying dénouement. The heartbreaking adventures of mankind’s saviours – the wonderful Willow and the captivating Alex – are rounded off in a magical final instalment.

As half-angel Willow strives to save the world from her parasitic otherworldly kin, romance and tension are heating up. In the devastated remains of the world, millions of people live in ‘Edens,’ camps provided by the angels who have all but enslaved mankind.

As the angelic stranglehold on humanity tightens and their love grows ever stronger, Willow and Alex are recruiting and training new Angel Killers while struggling to hold ground on the celestial battlefield. Willow continues to struggle with feelings for Seb, and her love and resolve are tested as a shattering revelation sends Alex on a separate and deadly solo mission.

Now that the final battle versus the angels is about to begin and the fate of the world hangs in the balance, each of them must face the consequences of their own choices. Will love endure? Will Alex ever come back? Will the human race survive?

Powerful emotions and thrilling action are the hallmarks of this concluding chapter of a series that has stolen the hearts of thousands of teenagers all over the world.

A dazzling end to a truly magical story…

(Usborne, paperback, £7.99)