A sea mystery, robot gorillas and cracking cricket by various authors – childen’s book reviews –

Set sail on a gripping adventure across the Atlantic, enjoy laughs at every turn with a hilarious time-travelling boy, discover lots of fun facts about the stupendous game of cricket, share the fun, fears and ups and downs of friendship, and meet a group of animal characters learning about the joys of the great outdoors in a super selection of children’s books.
Mysteries at Sea: Peril on the Atlantic by A.M. HowellMysteries at Sea: Peril on the Atlantic by A.M. Howell
Mysteries at Sea: Peril on the Atlantic by A.M. Howell

Age 8 plus:

Mysteries at Sea: Peril on the Atlantic

A.M. Howell

A mystery at sea, a race against time, and life-changing discoveries make for a thrilling, sea-salted adventure on the ocean wave in the first book of twisting, turning and heart-pounding new series from A.M. Howell, one of middle grade’s most exciting authors.

Inspired by her own childhood travels on the ocean waves, including crossing the equator, sailing the Atlantic several times, and inching through the Panama Canal, Howell sets sail in fine fashion with these gripping adventures which unravel mysteries aboard ships crossing the globe in the 1930s.

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In July of 1936, as the Queen Mary sets sail across the Atlantic, Alice can’t wait for the summer of adventure that lies ahead. She’s excited to explore the huge ship, with its shops, animals and even celebrities on board but, as Alice’s sailor father focuses on winning a prestigious race, she witnesses a shocking attack. Alice and her new friend Sonny start to uncover a dark plot to sabotage the race, and as they investigate gold bars, anonymous notes and lost silk gloves, secrets in their own lives come to the surface. While fog threatens the boat’s journey, and dangerous enemies show themselves, Alice and Sonny are in their own race to solve all the mysteries unfolding. But what they discover might change both their lives forever...

Set against the alluring backdrop of life at sea, and featuring real ships, historical figures and events, Howell brings the history of the period to vivid life in a wind-lashed story brimming with atmosphere, authentic detail and derring-do.

With sparkling artwork by Marco Guadalupi, secrets and sabotage, a captivating cast of characters, and Howell’s gift for breathless, fast-paced action, youngsters will be looking forward to the next port of call for this dazzling new nautical adventure series.

(Usborne Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

The After School Crime Club

Hayley Webster

After working as a teacher in secondary and primary schools, author and editor Hayley Webster knows a thing or two about how a child’s mind works, and how life can sometimes feel like a confusing mountain to climb.

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Determined to use her writing to help others make sense of the world around them, when it so often doesn't make sense, and after the success of her moving book, Luna Rae is Not Alone, Webster returns with another wise, warm, inspirational and uplifting story.

Willow has always felt like an outsider at school, but she and her Nanna (they spent more hours together at Nanna’s house than Willow did at home) were so alike that she never felt alone. But now what Willow always dreaded has happened. Nanna is gone and Willow is adrift. Nanna used to tease her but it was a gentle kind of teasing, the sort that comes with love and affection, not the mean, trickster, ‘get-everyone-in-class-to-laugh-at-you kind.’ So when a group of girls offer her friendship in exchange for ‘fun’ stealing dares, Willow feels she can’t say no. But as the dares escalate and the pressure on her builds, she has to ask herself... how far will she go to fit in, and is it worth the mounting cost?

The After School Crime Club is a clever, entertaining and reassuring story which explores what it feels like to ‘lose’ yourself at a difficult juncture of life. Full of hope, empathy and truth, and starring a young heroine with relatable problems, Webster’s delightful book celebrates the joy of discovering that you’re perfect just as you are.

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

Bob vs the Trousers of Doom

Andy Jones and Robin Boyden

If laughs on every page, gruesome robot gorillas, and seriously stinky farts tickle your reading taste buds, then prepare to be blown away as you head for the future with Bob, an accidental time traveller who is tasked with saving the world!

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Bob vs the Trousers of Doom is the second book of a brilliant action-packed series – perfect for reluctant readers – and comes from exciting Lollies Award shortlisted author Andy Jones. Packed with adventure, humour and excitement, and illustrated throughout by the ultra-creative Robin Boyden, there’s fun all the way to the future and back.

Artificial Intelligence is threatening to take over the world, and our last hope is a 12-year-old boy called Bob. He should be doing his homework but instead he’s bouncing in and out of the year 2049... and life in the future seriously stinks! When Bob’s science class experiment goes wrong, he causes a global aroma-virus pandemic... also known as the farting flu. The grumpy school inspector has his eye on Bob and detention looms. But Bob has got bigger problems. He must face robot gorillas, an evil computer and giant patrol insects to save the world from a very farty future! Hold your noses for a hilarious adventure to the year 2049 and back!

Jumping forward in time proves to be just the starting point for this brilliantly entertaining series as Jones lets loose his imagination on madcap escapades cleverly created for young readers who like long laughs and short chapters.

Fizzing with energy, comedy and some important real-life issues, Bob’s time-travelling adventures are so good that they promise to run far into the future!

(Piccadilly Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

Mega Robo Bros: Carnival Crisis

Neill Cameron

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Brace yourself for another rocket-powered graphic novel adventure courtesy of David Fickling Books’ highly popular The Phoenix Presents series… and comic books creator Neill Cameron.

Part of an amazing all-colour story strip series, Carnival Crisis is the sixth book in a republished version of Mega Robo Bros, but now fully remastered and adapted into a new chunky format with lots of extra bonus content.

Packed with all-action fun, exhilarating drama and comedy, these supercharged tales of two robot brothers fighting evil enemies will delight young readers and help to encourage a love of books and good storytelling.

So travel to London in the future and meet Alex and Freddy who are just like any other brothers. They are always squabbling and forever finding new ways to drive their adoptive parents crazy. There’s only one difference... they are also the most powerful robots on Earth.

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In this epic story, Alex and Freddy face their greatest danger yet... the return of their most terrifying enemy, a robotic malware virus causing robots to rebel against humanity, and a growing anti-robot protest movement. It’s a lot for two robot brothers to cope with. But when the robot malware strikes during the carnival, the danger dial shoots up to the max! Will Alex and Freddy be able to resist... and save the day?

With big explosions, family drama, electrifying high stakes and two madcap brothers saving the day, these superhero thrillers guarantee laughs on every page and are ideal for your own young techno wizards!

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £9.99)

Age 7 plus:

Stupendous Sports: Cracking Cricket

Robin Bennett and Matt Cherry

One of the ‘whackiest’ games on Planet Earth, and (probably) invented by bored shepherds to pass the time, cricket has bounced its way to become the second most popular sport in the world.

There are an estimated 60 million players worldwide today and although the sport’s roots lie in 16th century England, a game in Aleppo in Syria was written about in 1676, and the first ever international match was played between the US and Canada in New York in 1844.

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In the third book in a series of fantastic chapter books featuring Stupendous Sports – from award-winning independent children’s and YA publisher, Firefly Press – the spotlight here is firmly on cricket with jokes, cartoons, fun facts, a glossary of key cricket words, and information on famous cricketers bringing the game to life.

The aim of the series is to teach kids about sports, but with a light touch that highlights the spirit of the game as well as the rules. Alongside the books, there is the added bonus of the Stupendous Sports website (www.stupendoussports.com) which promotes the fun side of sports for children, with giveaways, special offers and guest appearances from sporting stars.

In Cracking Cricket, written by Robin Bennett and illustrated by Matt Cherry, the foreword is by former England cricketer Simon Jones who tells youngsters that cricket is a game that can be played by anyone and helps develop critical thinking, concentration, discipline and courage.

So if you want to know how to bowl a googly or discover why there’s a place on the pitch called ‘Cow Corner,’ stun your pals with a reverse sweep, or be a stats Jedi, then this book is your perfect match!

(Firefly Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Carrie and the Roller Boots

Lisa Thompson and Jess Rose

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The rewards of friendship take centre stage (literally!) in an enchanting story from the top author/illustrator team who stole hearts with their perfectly pitched first joint venture, Sidney Makes a Wish. And this new adventure featuring Sidney and his best pal Carrie delivers the same heartwarming blend of fun, fears, and the ups and downs of friendship. Sidney is planning to show off his tap-dancing skills during Friday Fun Time at school and Carrie wants to join in. She plans an amazing routine where Sidney will dance and she will roller-skate. But there’s one big problem… Carrie has never roller-skated before. Will the performance end in disaster or will their friendship help them to dazzle the audience? Carrie and the Roller Boots is the latest book in the super-readable Little Gems series which brings together leading authors and illustrators, and a host of clever design and finishing techniques to create easy-to-read, first chapter books in a small format ideal for little hands, and with some extra reading, jokes and activity fun inside the covers. Award-winning children’s author Thompson brings her powerful and empathetic storytelling skills to this beautiful, inspirational tale about discovering your talents, being yourself, and not being afraid to ask friends for help. Perfectly matched with Rose’s emotive and child-friendly illustrations, this sensitively created adventure is ideal encouragement for young readers to celebrate and enjoy their own close friendships.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Max and Chaffy: The Great Cupcake Mystery

Jamie Smart

If you’re searching for a book that pleases the eye and keeps your little ones on their toes, Chaffy could be just the special kind of ‘beast’ to stretch them to the limit!

But don’t be alarmed... because Chaffy is a fluffy, white and lovable little creature who sports only one-and-a-half ears, has a habit of getting lost and is joint star of Max and Chaffy, a heartwarming, interactive graphic novel series from much-loved author and illustrator Jamie Smart.

Smart, the genius behind the bestselling Bunny vs Monkey comic books series, works his special magic on these gorgeous books for younger readers, filling them with his trademark blend of fun, friendship and the biggest, brightest and boldest illustrations.

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Max and Chaffy, who live in a lighthouse on Animal Island, are excited to go to Chief Constable Moose’s surprise birthday party. But the birthday cake has gone missing! Max and Chaffy need to find the clues and solve the mystery so the party can go ahead... and you can help them!

Smart brings his zany wit and joyful charm to this ultra-cute and cuddly story which lets children actively join in the fun of searching and finding, celebrates the joy that comes from having a best friend, and shows that there’s a place for everyone. Full of charm and fun, these beautiful books are perfectly pitched for children who are just starting to read independently.

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Mrs Owl’s Forest School: The Very Big Den

Ruth Symons, Seb Braun and Lizzie Noble

If you go down to the woods today... you’ll discover a forest school and a very big den! The joys of the great outdoors spring to glorious (and fascinating!) life in an inspirational picture book which aims to get youngsters into the wild and wonderful world of nature.

Deep in the woods, beneath the trees, the animals are gathering. It’s time for Mrs Owl’s Forest School. Join Mouse, Squirrel, Fox and Rabbit for a playful forest school adventure. Out in the woods, they can learn about wildlife, try something new, get creative and, of course, make friends! And today they are learning how to build a very big den.

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Written by author Ruth Symons in consultation with Lizzie Noble, a forest childcare provider with experience of running creative, play-based forest school sessions for families, and featuring richly detailed and colourful scenes created by French artist Seb Braun, this beautiful book will have little ones itching to explore their local woodland. And with an exciting, fact-packed story to share and lots of activities to try for yourself, Mrs Owl’s Forest School: The Very Big Den is the perfect accompaniment for summertime adventures.

(Templar Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: Train Trouble

Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton

It’s all aboard for an exciting escapade starring crooks, cakes, cookies... and a super-posh train! Take your seats for another slice of baking brilliance with reformed robbers turned detective dogs Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam who are celebrating ten years of their much-loved double act. The hilarious adventures of Shifty and Sam, who swapped their life of crime for a career in cake-making, are the work of multi-award-winning author Tracey Corderoy, who has written a staggering 78 books for children, and star illustrator Steven Lenton. And this chaotic, carnival-themed new adventure sees our delightfully dogged detectives cooking up more than they had bargained for on an action-packed train ride to Italy! When Shifty and Sam are asked to bake on board the Pawrient Express, travelling to Venice for Carnival night, they find themselves caught up in a robbery. A sneaky cat thief (who just happens to be a familiar feline foe!) has stolen the wealthy passengers’ gems and is making her escape in a getaway gondola. The daring canine detectives are hot on her tail, but can they unmask the kitty-cat criminal and save the day? With Corderoy’s trademark warmth, wit and charm radiating from every page of this rollicking rhyming romp, Lenton’s busy, bold and fun-filled illustrations capturing all the carnival chaos, and an eye-catching, gold-foiled cover, this is the ideal book to love and share with all the family.

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

Pick a Story: A Superhero Mermaid Dragon Adventure

Sarah Coyle and Adam Walker-Parker

Decisions, decisions, decisions! Being given a choice can be scary and for some youngsters, it can be terrifying. But making choices and decisions are an inevitable part of life so make it fun – and not too easy! – with this sparkling new interactive children’s illustrated picture book series where YOU choose the story. Author Sarah Coyle and illustrator Adam Walker-Parker have fun and challenge little ones to start making decisions and enjoy the bigger picture with these super ‘pick your own’ whirlwind adventures. And in this third empowering and laugh-out-loud interactive story, youngsters discover not one, but three fun-filled worlds featuring three childhood favourites... dragons, mermaids and superheroes. Davy is on his way to school to show his teacher the amazing picture he has drawn for Show and Tell. It’s probably the best thing he has ever drawn, ever ever ever. But all of a sudden, the picture has disappeared. Davy needs your help to find it! Has the picture been taken by dragons, pinched by mermaids, or has it been pilfered by a superhero? It’s up to you to decide! With a different story guaranteed every time the book is read, and twists and turns, hilarious characters and decisions to make on every page, this is the ideal book to inspire a lifelong love of reading. So what are you waiting for? Come on in and join the fun!

(Farshore, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

Supermouse and the Volcano of Doom

M.N. Tahl and Mark Chambers

Little ones will be in a flap when they join everyone’s favourite Supermouse for more tasty, cheesy adventures! This new action-packed adventure from (cheese-loving) author M.N. Tahl and award-winning illustrator Mark Chambers is simply oozing with fun-filled flaps to lift, peep-through pages… and fiery fondue. Supermouse is back in action but with crime on the rise in Mouseopolis, volcanic Mount Fondue about to explode and there are hazards on every horizon, could this job be too much for one mouse to handle? It’s time to call for some back-up… but who is going to help? This action-packed adventure – featuring the hilarious antics of Peter Parmesan, the mouse behind the mask – is a cheesy delight. With endless hidden items to spot in Chambers’ richly detailed, comic-style illustrations, Tahl’s joyful, energetic storytelling, and puns aplenty, Supermouse’s adventures are guaranteed to inspire a love of reading in the youngest of children. You don’t need to say cheese to prompt a smile in this adventure... grins galore are guaranteed!

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

Ollie’s Birthday Surprise

Nicola Killen

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A little girl’s birthday turns into one big adventure in a magical animal odyssey that is perfect for little ones who would love to get in on the act! Author and illustrator Nicola Killen is back to bewitch and beguile us with a playful new story in her warm and wonderful Ollie series which has captured the hearts of readers young… and not-so-young! It’s Ollie’s birthday and she is feeling excited so when a bunch of colourful balloons float past her window and into the magical woods, she can’t help but follow. But where could they be headed and what surprises lie in store? Join Ollie and her magical friends on a birthday adventure she’ll never forget in this enchanting picture book with its joyful messages about playing, sharing and friendship, intriguing cut-outs for little ones to peep through and explore, enticing foiled illustrations in an eye-catching palette of colours, and a simple but magical story with a big, warm heart. Love, celebration and adventure for the young... and the young at heart!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

Nooo! Not the Dentist!

Stephanie Blake

A trip to the dentist has naughty schoolboy rabbit Simon running for cover in a tale full of knockabout fun and reassuring messages from Stephanie Blake. Nooo! Not the Dentist! is the hilarious new escapade starring Simon the cheeky rabbit… the cuddly creature who won everyone’s heart in Poo Bum, first book in Blake’s best-selling picture book series which has proved a big hit all over the world. US-born Blake, who now lives in France, is the author and illustrator of dozens of highly successfully children’s books. In this new rabbit adventure, translated by Linda Burgess, Simon has a sore tooth so needs to make his first trip to the dentist. The night before the appointment, Simon’s friend Ferdinand makes the most of the chance to show he knows more. Ferdinand uses all his imagination to describe the graphic horrors of the dentist’s chair. ‘I will NEVER go to the dentist!’ yells Simon. But his mother takes no notice and when Simon is eventually persuaded to get into the dentist’s chair, insisting his name is ‘Poo Bum,’ he finds a remarkably patient dentist and an experience he wasn’t expecting. And now he can get on the phone to Ferdinand to explain it doesn’t hurt a bit... not if you’re a Super Rabbit! Blake’s instantly recognisable bold and expressive illustrations will delight young readers and the funny, charming story – which aims to ease toddler fears about visiting a dentist and is useful for any daunting new experience – is guaranteed to strike a chord (and raise a smile!) with both children and parents alike.

(Gecko Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

Amazing Animal Tales: Little Monkey and Tiny Tadpole

Anne Rooney, Caroline Rabei and Qu Lan

We all see pictures of adorable baby animals… but how big are they really, and where do they live? The ever-inventive book boffins at Oxford University Press work their magic on this exciting and innovative picture book series which delivers incredible baby animal survival stories and optional flaps which open to reveal amazing facts. So say hello to Little Monkey who loves to scamper about his treetop home, swinging from branch to branch and playing. There are many dangers in the forest, but luckily Little Monkey’s mum is never far away! This heartwarming story – colourfully illustrated by Caroline Rabei in the stunning shades of the rainforest – features a spider monkey family living in the wild and has big flaps to open and fascinating monkey facts to discover. Readers will love interacting with the flaps where they can identify the different exotic fruits! And with a scarlet macaw to spot on every page, and the choice to make the story a fiction or non-fiction experience, this gorgeous book is a feast of fun, facts and mischievous monkeys! And in Tiny Tadpole, packed with the colourful illustrations of Qu Lan, we meet the little creature at the start of her amazing transformation into a poison dart frog. She begins life in the shelter of a hidden rainwater pool, growing and learning alongside her brother... until one day, she starts to change. Enjoy the big flaps which reveal fascinating frog facts, find out just how tiny a tadpole is, and spot the hummingbird on every page.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £7.99 each)

Age 2 plus:

Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy Town

Richard Scarry

Join Lowly Worm, Huckle Cat and lots of other lovable animal characters for a day of fun, discovery and adventure in a busy, busy town!

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The summer holidays are the ideal time to treat your youngsters to a gorgeous, classic picture book written and illustrated by American author and artist Richard Scarry, one of the founding fathers of children’s illustration.

Scarry, who died in 1994 aged 74, is unquestionably one of the best-loved children’s authors of all time, writing more than 250 books which have gone on to sell more than 150 million copies globally. Born in Boston in 1919, he moved to Switzerland in 1968 and once wrote: ‘It’s a precious thing to be communicating to children, helping them discover the gift of language and thought.’

Scarry had a unique ability to see the world from a child’s point of view and Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy Town is a shining example of his inimitable and inspirational work which offers a special kind of gentle charm on every beautifully created page.

Visit the school, the farm, the post office, and many more fun and exciting places in this classic book which allows young readers see how all the different people in communities like their own go about a typical day.

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Filled with Scarry’s trademark humour, his richly detailed and colourful pictures to study and enjoy, and hilarious antics to spot in every spread, this busy, beautiful book is perfect for any child who wondered what exactly adults get up to while they are at school!

(Faber Children’s Books, paperback, £8.99)

From birth:

Don’t Mix Up My Farm and Don’t Mix Up My Shark

Rosamund Lloyd and Spencer Wilson

Little ones will be ducking, diving and spinning when they get their paws on two colourful and creative board books from Little Tiger Press. With chunky pages full of Spencer Wilson’s big, bold illustrations, these gorgeous mix-and-match books let babies and toddlers spin the wheel and find a tail for each of the colourful farm animals and sea creatures. Meet a sheep, a duck, pig, cockerel and donkey in Don’t Mix Up My Farm, and a crab, clownfish, anglerfish, octopus and dolphin in Don’t Mix Up My Shark. The built-in wheel contains different touch-and-feel panels for little hands to explore and is perfect for developing hand-eye co-ordination. With five options to choose from, and the fun of spinning the wheel, these eye-catching early years activity books are guaranteed to be a hands-on winner!

(Little Tiger Press, board books, £7.99 each)