Book review: The story of D-Day and other Usborne highlights

Seventy years ago this week, 150,000 Allied soldiers landed in enemy-occupied France on what would become known as D-Day.

The story of D-Day and other Usborne highlights
The story of D-Day and other Usborne highlights

In a single historic and earth-shaking day, the troops fought their way off the Normandy beaches and began the final march to victory in the Second World War.

Usborne Children’s Books have put together a fascinating and informative collection of books to give a new generation an insight into not just D-Day but the background and events of the Second World War.

This month also sees an exciting and anarchic new series for reluctant readers from Usborne and a mesmerising teen thriller with a simply brilliant twist.

Age 9 plus:

D-Day - Henry Brook

D-Day, part of Usborne’s superb Young Reading Series, brings us the story of one of history’s biggest military operations in an easy-to-read format and with a collection of amazing colour illustrations and photographs.

Specially written for readers aged nine and over, D-Day takes us from the background and planning of the Normandy beach landings through to the final push to victory and defeat of Hitler.

Author Henry Brook reveals the commanders charged with overseeing the famous Operation Overlord, the equipment needed for the massive undertaking and tales of daring and bravery on the dangerous Normandy beaches.

Published in association with the Imperial War Museum, D-Day includes maps and internet links to specially selected websites where children can access additional information and resources.

This fully accessible guide brings history to life as well as providing a great introduction to the incredible story of D-Day.

(Usborne, hardback, £5.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Second World War by Henry Brook

Britain’s fight for survival during the dark days of the Second World War takes centre stage in another immaculately written and produced book from Usborne.

Also written in association with the Imperial War Museum, The Second World War forms part of the Usborne’s popular History of Britain series and is full of intriguing facts, illustrations, photographs, detailed reconstructions, paintings, maps and photographs

From the beaches of Dunkirk to the air raid shelters in the Blitz, this informative and accessible book tells the story of Britain during the most destructive war of the 20th century. Youngsters can marvel at the feats of pilots in the Battle of Britain, be inspired by the speeches of Winston Churchill, discover what it was like to be a child in wartime and share the secrets of the courageous special forces.

There are links to websites to find out more information, using the Usborne Quicklinks website, as well as lists of places of interest to visit throughout Britain.

The layout of pictures and sections of bite-size facts and figures is both interesting and varied, reflecting the many aspects of war and its impact on the ordinary people who lived through the conflict on the Home Front.

The perfect introduction and guide to the war and its aftermath.

(Usborne, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

Compton Valance: The Most Powerful Boy in the Universe by Matt Brown

How do you get a fidgety, free-thinking, free-wheeling boy to knuckle down and read (let alone enjoy) a book?

Best advice is to give him a book that includes time-travel, stinkiness, adventure, disgusting burps, custard trousers, secret agents from the future, dinosaur disasters, dads who wear dresses and the almost obligatory references to breaking wind.

Sounds impossible? Well, meet Compton Valance, a 10-year-old boy whose zany antics are the stuff of naughty childhood dreams.

He is the creation of DJ and TV presenter Matt Brown who admits that writing about Compton was the next best thing to living his own childhood dream of creating a time travel machine. And Compton’s adventures are just the start of a new series which looks set to raise more laughs than the proverbial slip on a banana skin.

In a book bulging with lively illustrations, a mixed bag of quirky narrative styles, hilarious bullet points, laugh-out-loud jokes and funny, clever plots and twists, this is a story just asking to be read… again and again and again.

Compton Valance and his best friend Bryan Nylon might not be the best behaved boys but they have discovered the world’s first time machine. How did they do it? By eating a mouldy, thirteen-week-old cheese and pickled egg sandwich that miraculously turned them into the most powerful boys in the universe.

But how will Compton and Bryan decide to use their incredible new time-travelling powers? Will they use them for good? Will they use them for evil? Or will they just focus their efforts on perfecting a formula for the world’s first pair of custard trousers? Things are about to get totally scrambled for Compton Valance…

Stomach-churning for mums, fun for dads… and heaven for boys!

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)


Now You See Me by Emma Haughton

Emma Haughton’s debut teen novel – a stunning psychological thriller with a real-life story at its heart – was created out of her interest in the theme of deception and our intrinsic need to believe that something is true.

Three years ago, thirteen-year-old Danny Geller vanished without trace one Sunday afternoon. His family and best friend Hannah Radcliffe are still hanging on to every last shred of hope but, not knowing if he’s dead or alive, their world is shrouded in shadows, secrets and suspicions.

Hannah was still mourning the death of her mother at the time of Danny’s disappearance. It was doubly bad for Hannah because Danny was the kind of friend who knows you better than you know yourself.

A huge police search failed to find Danny or come up with any answers. Now Danny’s mother Martha wants Hannah to appear in a TV documentary about missing teenagers but Hannah’s dad refuses to let her take part.

Despite tension between the two families, Hannah remains close to Danny’s mother and feels she must provide help and comfort for her, but Martha is willing to do anything to find her missing son…

Now You See Me tells the story of what happens when hope comes back to haunt those who despair and when the search for the truth is so consuming that reality becomes hard to accept.

Long-hidden secrets and lives built on lies form the basis of a beautifully paced thriller which grips from its intriguing start to its unexpected and electrifying finish.

An impressive and intelligent YA debut…

(Usborne, paperback, £6.99)