Animal poetry, whispering wars and the wild wind by various authors - book reviews -

From verse to inspire you every day and adventures glistening with winter ice, to a beagle hound that builds rockets and a fun-filled farmyard of partying veggies, there is a children’s book for every taste in this fabulous autumn selection.
Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!
Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!

Age 6 plus:

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!: An Animal Poem for Every Day of the Year

Fiona Waters and Britta Teckentrup

Take an inspirational day-by-day journey through the seasons and the natural world with this beautiful and breathtakingly illustrated anthology of 366 animal poems from around the world.

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Inventive publisher Nosy Crow has been collaborating with the National Trust on some exciting and inventive books to inspire youngsters to enjoy the great outdoors, and this stunning book of verse, cleverly compiled by acclaimed anthologist Fiona Waters and illustrated by award-winning artist Britta Teckentrup, proves the creative partnership is well and truly flourishing.

There is a whole world inside this glorious book which is the fabulous sequel to the poetry collection, I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree, winner of Waterstones Children’s Gift of the Year 2018 and Red Magazine’s Children’s Illustrated Book of the Year 2019.

The spectacular range of poems for children includes work by Roger McGough, William Blake, Dick King-Smith, Ted Hughes, Grace Nichols, Lewis Carroll, Christina Rossetti and Emily Dickinson.

And as well as a poem for every day, this amazing introduction to nature and all our fellow creatures helps youngsters to get to know them better. From unforgettable classics to contemporary works from around the world, including poetry in translation, there are poems to read time and again, some you can learn by heart, and some to enjoy just for their sheer beauty.

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Teckentrup’s lavish illustrations, which provide a riot of colour and animal detail on every spread, bring together all the richness and wonder of the animal kingdom while Waters’ eclectic selection of poems spans 400 years and 22 countries.

With sumptuous finishes including cloth binding, and ribbon marker, Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! is a thrilling gift for all generations to treasure, and sure to inspire a lifelong love of both poetry and wildlife.

(Nosy Crow, hardback, £25)

Age 9 plus:

Owl and the Lost Boy

Amy Wilson

The queen of wintertime Amy Wilson spreads out her special magic like a carpet of glistening, glittering snow in her exciting return to the world of Owl, daughter of the one and only Jack Frost.

Wilson has made this time of year her own when it comes to chiller-thriller adventures and it’s always a pleasure to meet up again with Owl McBride, the star of A Girl Called Owl, the acclaimed debut novel which won this talented author a longlisting for the Branford Boase Award, a Carnegie Medal nomination and a raft of regional awards.

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In this wonderful sequel, Wilson’s imagination moves into overdrive as she sweeps us into a winter wonderland of snow, ice, menace and mystery for a stunning adventure that conjures up Narnia-style magic with a modern twist.

Being stuck in an eternal summer is not fun, especially when you’re the daughter of Jack Frost, the icon of winter who spreads frost across the world. Owl's friend Alberic – who also happens to be the Earl of Autumn’s son – has gone missing and determined to find him and end the perpetual summer, Owl and her best friend Mallory embark on an adventure that will take them deep into the magical world of time itself.

But Alberic’s disappearance is shrouded in secrecy, and there’s more going on than meets the eye. As an epic battle of the elements approaches, will Owl and Alberic be able to control their magic and restore the natural world?

There could be no better time to escape into this breathtaking story with its enticing age-old charm and enchantment, and a seductive, ethereal, ice-coated world, trapped in the mists of time and steeped in the very best traditions of adventure, folklore and mystery.

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A wintertime winner that will capture the hearts and imaginations of middle-grade readers, and the perfect Christmas gift for your young adventurers!

(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Daisy and the Unknown Warrior

Tony Bradman and Tania Rex

The moving true story of the ceremonial burial of Britain’s Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey one hundred years ago is the inspiration behind a captivating story from Tony Bradman.

Bradman, a prolific author with a particular passion for bringing history to life for young people, has created a beautiful tribute to the war dead as well an unusual and compelling perspective on this momentous occasion and what it meant to the thousands of bereaved families.

The story of one young girl’s struggle to come to terms with her beloved father’s death is complemented perfectly by Tania Rex’s atmospheric illustrations, and is a unique and heartfelt rewinding of the clock, ideal for Great War studies in schools.

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In November of 1920, the body of an unknown soldier is to be buried at Westminster Abbey. The war has claimed the lives of thousands of men whose bodies will never make it home, and the Unknown Warrior will represent them all. As hundreds of people crowd to Westminster Abbey on a cold and frosty morning, 11-year-old Daisy Robinson knows she has to make it to the ceremony. Because although they call the warrior ‘unknown,’ she is sure that he is her father who died in battle two long and sad years ago.

Daisy and the Unknown Warrior is a beautiful and heartfelt reflection on the terrible sacrifices of a generation, and has been specially created by publisher Barrington Stoke in a super readable format for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers.

Lest we forget…

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars

Jaclyn Moriarty and Karl James Mountford

Whisper it loudly… the Aussie queen of fantasy novels Jaclyn Moriarty is back to cast a spell with a thrilling tale of unlikely friendship, unexpected magic and dastardly danger!

The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars is the second whimsical and witty middle-grade novel from Moriarty and illustrator Karl James Mountford, the team who brought young readers the highly acclaimed novel The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone.

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Set fifteen years before the first book, this standalone tale is packed full of quirky characters, amazing world-building and Moriarty’s trademark irreverent humour as two sets of children who are sworn enemies come together to defeat a much more dangerous foe in the Whispering Wars.

The town of Spindrift is frequented by pirates, Shadow Mages and charlatans. It’s also home to the Orphanage School, where Finlay lives with Glim, Taya and Eli.

Just outside town is the painfully posh Brathelthwaite Boarding School, home to Honey Bee, Hamish and Victor, Duke of Ainsley. When the two schools compete at the Spindrift Tournament, stakes are high, tensions are higher, and some people are out to win at any cost.

Before long, the orphans and the boarding school are in an all-out war. And then Whispering Wars break out, and Spindrift is thrust on to the front lines. Children are being stolen, Witches, Sirens and a deadly magical flu invade the town, and all attempts to fight back are met with defeat.

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Finlay, Honey Bee and their friends must join forces to outwit the encroaching forces of darkness, rescue the stolen children, and turn the tide of the war. But how can one bickering troupe outwit the insidious power of the Whisperers? And who are the two mysterious figures watching them from the shadows?

Moriarty uses her vivid imagination, storytelling skills and love of language to unleash another thrilling and epic adventure full of fantasy, fun and wickedly clever wordplay… and there is the added delight of a welcome appearance by the irrepressible Bronte Mettlestone.

Funny, quirky, clever and outrageously entertaining!

(Guppy Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 7 plus:

Timeline Science and Technology: A Visual History of Our World

Peter Goes

Enjoy a pictorial history of the inventions, discoveries and technologies that have shaped our world in a fascinating follow-up to Peter Goes’ bestselling Timeline: A Visual History of Our World.

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Timeline Science and Technology comes from New Zealand-based Gecko Press, an independent publisher of ‘curiously good’ children’s books which is on a mission to translate works by some of the world’s best writers and illustrators.

And here we join Belgian illustrator and author Peter Goes for a visual introduction to our planet and society from the Stone Age to the present day, and from America to the Southern hemisphere and beyond, alongside the fascinating history of our greatest inventions and groundbreaking technology.

In his signature playful style, Goes illustrates the most fascinating technologies, from the first tools to the most specialised IT, from medical breakthroughs to the creation of YouTube, and he also includes remarkable scientists and innovators and some lesser-known stories.

This beautiful, large-format book is brimming with infographics and maps, and each spread shows major discoveries, inventions and technical breakthroughs for a time period in history.

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Ideal as a gift for all ages, and a superb reference book for children, and an invaluable resource for classrooms, this is the go-to book for all science and technology fans.

(Gecko Press, hardback, £16.99)

Age 6 plus:

Sofia Valdez and the Vanishing Vote

Andrea Beaty and David Roberts

Can you ever be too young to fight for democracy? One question always leads to another when you are sharing adventures with the irrepressibly curious Questioneers!

Sofia and her fellow Questioneers – Rosie Revere, Ada Twist, and Iggy Peck – love looking for problems to solve, and their quest to find the answers leads youngsters on a fascinating journey of discovery in Andrea Beaty and David Roberts’ brilliant series of fun educational books.

Problem-solving and the joy of scientific and technical experimentation are at the heart of these engaging chapter book stories which serve up adventure, humour and a cast of lovable characters. And just in time for the 2020 US election, we meet up again with Sofia Valdez, a little Mexican-American girl with big ideas who is determined to make the world a better place for everyone.

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Teacher Miss Lila Greer announces it’s time for Grade Two to get a class pet, and she wants the kids to participate in choosing which one. After all, they will all have to share the responsibility of caring for it. The class narrows it down to two options… Team Turtle and Team Bird.

Sofia is named Election Commissioner, in charge of overseeing a fair and honest election between the two teams, and there is a class-wide campaign, complete with posters, articles, and speeches. Then it’s time for the election. But when the votes are counted, there’s a tie, and one vote is missing. How will the class break the tie? And what happened to the vanishing vote? It’s up to Sofia and the Questioneers to restore democracy!

Beaty’s clever, inspirational and exciting books – ideal for children to read alone or with adults – come packed with Roberts’ richly detailed and humorous artwork, and are guaranteed to entertain, inform and empower young readers.

(Amulet Books, hardback, £8.99)

Age 5 plus:

One Girl

Andrea Beaty and Dow Phumiruk

Only one spark is needed to set a girl on the path to a life of learning in a meditative and beautifully illustrated book from bestselling author Andrea Beaty and artist Dow Phumiruk.

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Enchanting, lyrical and moving, One Girl was inspired by the global movement to empower girls through education, and its simple but powerful narrative shows how books and learning can inspire change and help just one child to make a huge difference.

One girl, one spark, faint and fading in the dark… a tiny ember, burning low. A sad young girl sits on her porch when suddenly a book falls at her feet like a shooting star. She reads the book and it lights a spark within her. She shares what she learns with her class, and the spark grows again. The girl is then moved to write her own story, which she shares with girls around the globe, and it ignites a spark in them in turn, eventually lighting up the whole world.

Brought to life by Phumiruk’s stunning, heart-warming illustrations, and with a message in the back of the book for girls about the precious and powerful nature of knowledge, and how it helps to lift them out of poverty, this simple tale speaks volumes to women in every corner of the world.

(Abrams Books for Young Readers, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Wild is the Wind

Grahame Baker-Smith

Watch in wonder as the world springs to glorious life in a stunning, wind-blown picture book from self-taught, Kate Greenaway Award-winning artist Grahame Baker-Smith.

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Baker-Smith, whose love for drawing is a passionate and all-consuming activity, has created a breathtaking celebration of the extraordinary and majestic path of the wild wind around the globe through the simplest but most effective of stories and a gallery of dazzling illustrations in a veritable rainbow of colours.

Floating across the sky in her hot air balloon, Cassi watches a little swift dive and swoop through the still air. In the rising sun the world seems to be holding its breath. Then a small breeze stirs the leaves in the trees and, as the wind grows bolder, a whiff of danger sends small creatures running for cover.

Across the ocean, the wind awakes with a fury, whipping the waves, cresting each one with wild, white horses. And further on, around the still eye of a hurricane, clouds are carved into a great spiral, howling with stormy power. And throughout, the wind in all its guises is witnessed by Cassi’s little swift as it embarks on its mammoth migratory journey, finally coming to nest on the other side of the world.

Packed with intricately detailed and atmospheric illustrations, coupled with a beautiful lyrical text, Wild is the Wind is both an ingenious learning tool and a voyage of magical discovery.

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

It’s Only Stanley

Jon Agee

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Just like Stanley the beagle hound in American author and illustrator Jon Agee’s gloriously mischievous picture book, youngsters are guaranteed to fall in love with this tale of barking mad antics!

A master of visual storytelling and zany humour, Agee’s rhyming adventure starring a dog who turns a house into a space rocket is brimming with canine comedy and read-aloud-and-share appeal for all the family to enjoy.

Mysterious noises keep waking up the Wimbledon family. That’s very odd, says Mr Wimbledon each time, but when he returns from checking on the sounds, he’s always reassuring. It's only Stanley; he’s fixing the oil tank. It’s only Stanley; he’s clearing the bathtub drain.

But what genial genius Stanley is actually doing while his oblivious family goes back to bed is turning the house into a rocket ship to take all the family to another planet… and an unexpected and romantic alien encounter!

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Agee, whose books have won starred reviews and medals galore, uses bold, eye-catching illustrations with a wealth of rich detail and expressive genius as youngsters turn the pages and enjoy watching the ingenious Stanley slowly (and noisily!) build his rocket engine.

With a rhyme that romps from start to finish, a feast of visual and verbal wit, an addictive sense of fun that imbues every page, and its warm celebration of family loyalty and togetherness, this is Agee at his quirkiest and playful best!

(Scallywag Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:


Brendan Kearney

Dive into an eco-adventure with Finn the fisherman and his dog Skip in a terrific, timely tale about ridding the ocean of plastic pollution.

Fish is written and illustrated by Brendan Kearney, who lives by the sea in the south-west of England, and the idea for this enchanting picture book was born from his fascination with the ocean and the animals that live within it, and a constant awareness of the threats our oceans face from pollution.

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All Finn wants is to catch a nice, tasty fish for his dinner but, no matter how hard he tries, all he seems to catch at the end of his fishing line is other people’s trash. The longer he spends out on the ocean, the more crazy the objects he collects! Finn and his dog Skip go home each day with a full boat, but empty tummies.

It isn’t long before Finn finds a way to reuse and recycle everything he has collected. Pretty soon he makes enough money to make a tasty dinner every day, and under his care the ocean becomes clean, bright, and full of fish again.

With a gentle, fun and engaging story, a gallery of fun and colourful illustrations, and uplifting messages about protecting our oceans and the rewarding results of recycling our rubbish, Fish is the ideal introduction to the important concept of environmental protection.

(DK Children, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Veg Patch Party

Clare Foges and Al Murphy

Veggies… are you readddy?

From Clare Foges and Al Murphy, the bestselling picture book team that brought youngsters the fabulously funny Kitchen Disco, comes a fun-filled farmyard fiesta full of mud, rain… and boogie bean nights!

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As the sun goes down on the farm, all of the animals close their eyes because it’s time for bed… but not for the vegetables. They start waking up, peer cautiously from their planted rows, stretch, rise and shine and prepare to get their veggie wiggle on. Yes, it’s veggie party time, and mud, rain and vegetables are a winning combination!

Teaming up Foges’ versatile veggie verse with the ever-popular Murphy’s big, bold, giggle-inducing illustrations proves the perfect combo for a zany, zinging double act which pays homage to big names like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and features a stunning silver holographic spread to add an extra layer of stardust.

Glastonbury with veg!

(Faber & Faber, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

I say Boo, You Say Hoo

John Kane

There won’t be a dull moment when you open the pages of this madcap, interactive adventure!

John Kane, who says he liked to make up stories for his little sister when he was younger, will have youngsters booing and hooing with this highly original and fun-packed, call-and-response picture book.

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Boo is little ghost who lives in a haunted house… and he’s afraid of the dark. In I Say Boo, You Say Hoo, readers must help tell the story with a series of hilarious verbal and visual cues which will have them turning pages, shouting Boo and Hoo, and laughing out loud.

Each page of this entertaining and energetic book is a kaleidoscope of colour and words, and the perfect book to read aloud and share with your little ones. But be warned… it contains stinky poos!

(Templar Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

What’s in the Truck?

Philip Ardagh and Jason Chapman

All aboard for the wacky races!

Philip Ardagh, the children’s author who has been labelled ‘a national treasure,’ hits the road with a roaringly funny picture book romp starring a truck-driving dog-prince on a very special mission.

With illustrator Jason Chapman as his co-driver, Ardagh takes little ones on a thrilling, high-octane ride as they enjoy journeying with a series of extraordinary vehicles that are revealed page by page and one by one.

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‘Out glides a limo, as sleek as a plane, With big gleaming hubcaps as bright as champagne.’ Something is racing along the road! Is it a truck, a racing car, a motorbike, a scooter?

Children will delight in this silly, surreal caper featuring the dog-prince in his truck on the way to the palace for Princess Maxie’s birthday. With each page turn, a new vehicle pops out of the last in the style of a Russian doll.

Ardagh’s hilarious, rhyming text is perfectly matched to Jason Chapman’s richly detailed and energetic artwork in a brilliantly funny, top-speed road adventure that motors through to a super-sized finale. Perfect for your own little roadsters!

(Faber & Faber, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Ollie’s Lost Kitten

Nicola Killen

Join a little girl and her cat as they enjoy fun and games amongst the autumn leaves.

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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!

One crisp, windy autumn morning, Ollie and her cat Pumpkin are playing outside when they discover a little kitten. After lots of fun and games, Ollie learns from posters that the kitten is actually lost, and she must help him find his way home. But after returning the kitten to his rightful owner, she realises she has lost something very dear to her.

This charming picture book with intriguing cut-outs for little ones to peep through and explore, enticing foiled illustrations in a limited, eye-catching palette, and a simple but magical story with a big, warm heart, is the perfect bedtime wind-down for young adventurers.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Who’s Driving?

Leo Timmers

The well-known fable of the tortoise and the hare gets a comical and contemporary twist in a board book from much-loved Belgian author and illustrator Leo Timmers.

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Creator of Gus’s Garage and Monkey on the Run, Timmers provides exciting illustrations alongside a question-and-answer text which encourage young readers to use their imaginations and interact with the story.

Solve the puzzles and get guessing as a menagerie of colourful animals prepare to drive their vehicles… who will get behind the wheel of a fire truck, a race car, a tractor and an aeroplane? It’s not always who you think!

With a world of detail, activity and humour to share with curious toddlers and each page packed with interactive fun, this is the ideal book to share with grown-ups, and rev up the imaginations of even the youngest children.

(Gecko Press, board book, £7.99)