Antarctic wonders, secret agents and danger floods by various authors – children’s book reviews –
Enjoy danger and daring, wit and warmth, sunshine and rain, and a big dollop of fun and laughter in a super, sparkling collection of new children’s books just made for springtime reading.
Age 8 plus:
Antarctica: The Melting Continent
Karen Romano Young and Angela Hsieh
Wrap up warm and take a chilling, thrilling trip across Antarctica, Earth’s most inhospitable continent where only a handful of plant and animal species can survive.
It’s the coldest and driest part of the planet and a potentially dangerous place, says writer and polar explorer Karen Romano Young, which often seems designed to be inhospitable to humans. And yet Antarctica’s ice is vital to maintaining Earth’s balance and its future depends more than anything on our actions.
Antarctica: The Melting Continent – a fantastic, illustrated guide to the vast, cold and mysterious continent – comes from What on Earth Publishing which specialises in the art of telling stories through timelines, helping to encourage young readers into a lifelong love of enquiring and discovering.
And this intriguing, colourful, fact-filled book is full of incredible stories about the frozen continent. Discover incredible wildlife, awe-inspiring landscapes and meet adventurous scientists and explorers.
Romano Young’s guided tour introduces readers to some amazing people and animals as they learn about how this special place is changing and what it means for our planet. Marvel at some of the coolest creatures on Earth, both above and below the ice, as you meet emperor penguins, killer whales and elephant seals.
Explore some of the harshest landscapes known to mankind and follow in the footsteps of brave explorers. Learn how scientists survive there today and what they do all day – from studying climate change to investigating ice cores to learn about the history and future of our planet.
Topics from geology and physics to climate science are explored through an engaging, first-hand narrative with environmental messages woven throughout. Learn about the ways Earth is changing and take a tour of Antarctica’s more unusual wildlife animal life such as giant jellyfish and fish with anti-freeze blood.
The first-hand experiences of Antarctica by the author and illustrator Angela Hsieh help to bring this unique continent to life and to give youngsters an enthralling snapshot of both its beauty and its importance to the survival of Earth.
(What on Earth Books, hardback, £14.99)
Age 9 plus:
S.T.E.A.L.T.H.: Access Denied
It seems to be just an ordinary day for an ordinary boy until out of the blue comes a kidnap, the discovery of a hi-tech weapon that could destroy the world, and a race against time to prevent a disaster! If that sounds like the plot for a thrilling book, then join three daring and disparate youngsters in the first breathless, all-action adventure in a new espionage series from exciting London author Jason Rohan who talked his way into an internship at Marvel Comics in New York when he was only 16. And he certainly delivers a white-knuckle ride all the way through this witty and wonderful spy caper which is packed with intrigue, danger, secret agents and truly villainous villains. When his dad disappears, Arun Lal is amazed to discover that he was secretly working on a classified project and has been kidnapped by people intent on stealing it. Along with his computer geek best friend Sam and sassy, tough-talking Donna, Arun is plunged into a race to rescue his father and find his creation before the thieves can turn it into a destructive global weapon. From ordinary kids to S.T.E.A.L.T.H., a crack team of agents, their mission is now to stay under the radar and crack crime. Expect car chases, danger, daring and late homework as Mission Impossible for a new generation hits the streets… and the shelves!
(Nosy Crow, paperback, £7.99)
Age 9 plus:
The Drowning Day
Imagine a future in which enormous floods can destroy the land at any moment and your life is spent dreading the next tidal onslaught. That is the thrilling and authentic dystopian world conjured up by Carnegie Medal-shortlisted novelist Anne Cassidy in a story that reminds us all about the ongoing threat from climate change. It’s 2052 and Jade lives in the Wetlands, a place where the waters are rising fast. Safety can be found behind the walls of North-Hampton, but it’s a town steeped in prejudice against Wetlanders. When the siren sounds the flood-warning, Jade and local boy, Bates, must join with Wetlanders outcast Samson to head to North-Hampton. But the group of three are carrying secrets, and they are even more dangerous than the impending floodwaters. On their journey, Jade faces many challenges and when she is robbed one night by a group of Ferals, her chances of a better future are all but lost. But she finds help in the unlikeliest of places and must learn to trust those fears as well as trust herself. And when the floods come, truth rises to the surface. Cassidy’s thought-provoking and timely adventure is a tale of survival, hope, trust and the power that lies in human connections. With excitement and action on every page, The Drowning Day is a page-turner with a big message and a big heart.
(UCLan Publishing, paperback, £7.99)
Age 8 plus:
Ajay and the Mumbai Sun
Varsha Shah and Sònia Albert
Head off to modern day India with a boy whose one big (even if unlikely!) ambition is to be… a journalist. Debut author Varsha Shah, winner of the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2020, brings us a joyful and inspirational adventure starring one of the most delightful protagonists you will meet in children’s fiction this year. Abandoned on the Mumbai railways, Ajay has grown up with nothing but a burning wish to be a journalist. Finding an abandoned printing press, he and his friends Saif, Vinod, Yasmin and Jai create their own newspaper: The Mumbai Sun. As they hunt down stories for their paper, the children uncover corruption, fight for justice and battle to save their slum from bulldozers. But against some of the most powerful forces in the city, can Ajay and his friends really succeed in bringing the truth to light? Not to mention win the most important cricket match ever… Ajay and the Mumbai Sun is a wonderfully high-stakes, humour-sprinkled story full of life, colour and the spirit of youth and entrepreneurship. Shah tackles serious topics like social justice and truth in journalism with the lightest of touches, while Sònia Albert’s black and white illustrations bring Ajay’s world to glorious life. Packed with adorable characters and set against a stunning backdrop, this is a tale of heat, heart and hope.
(Chicken House, paperback, £7.99)
Aged 8 plus:
Magic is the word when it comes to Lissa Evans’ dazzling, laugh-out-loud children’s books… addictive stories which always seem to capture the spirit and anarchy of joyful youth. And this heartwarming and rib-tickling new story of friendship, following your dreams and celebrating the power of the imagination is everything that a young reader could have wished. Ed and his younger sister Roo are faced with the most boring half-term holiday in history… five days spent in the company of their elderly neighbour Miss Filey and her ancient, smelly cat called Attlee. Ed declares he would rather spend the week in the shed, or even in the middle of a car park, but when they find a box of birthday candles in a cupboard in Miss Filey’s house, their world is changed completely. These are no ordinary candles because every single one of them comes with a wish. There’s only one problem… some of those wishes actually belong to someone else. It’s little wonder that Evans’ novels have been shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award, Carnegie Medal, and Branford Boase Award. Wished is one of her classics… hilariously funny but instinctively kind, entertaining and wise, and stars a grumpy, demanding cat who could well merit his own story!
(David Fickling Books, hardback, £12.99)
Age 7 plus:
Kate on the Case: The Call of the Silver Wibbler
Young reporter-in-training Kate is back for a new adventure and she’s (exceedingly!) hot on the trail of a rare and legendary bird! Illustrator Hannah Peck, in her debut series as an author, certainly turns up the temperature in the second book of her exciting mystery adventures which bring young readers all the intrigue and colourful characters of an Agatha Christie classic. The Kate on the Case series, with its chapter book format, is ideal for emerging independent readers and is brimming with mystery, comedy, an inspirational heroine, some wonderful wordplay and, in this new adventure, a gallery of vibrant, two-toned neon-yellow illustrations. When Kate and her mouse Rupert sail through the jungle home of the legendary Silver Wibbler, they know there’s a story to be sniffed out. Why else would the Bird Brigade be on board? Their fearsome leader General Hornbill is convinced the Wibbler is a myth but young Bird Brigader Bertie is determined to prove him wrong. Can Kate help Bertie uncover the truth? It’s full steam ahead for friendship, mystery and some ruffled feathers! Peck moves into creative overdrive for this cleverly plotted, sleuthing adventure which lets readers share the fun of following clues, picking out suspects and finally solving the case. All aboard for wit, Wibblers and whiskers!
(Piccadilly Press, paperback, £6.99)
Age 7 plus:
Looshkin: The Maddest Cat in the World
Youngsters will be grinning and guffawing from first page to last with the wildest, craziest cat ever in a newly remastered bind-up of two previously published Looshkin comic-strip adventures (Looshkin and Looshkin: The Big Number 2) from Jamie Smart, one of the shining stars of a partnership between David Fickling Books and The Phoenix comic. Smart is the extraordinarily talented illustrator behind the vibrant comic-strip Bunny vs Monkey books and now loopy Looshkin, the wonderfully accident-prone cat, is causing a fresh wave of laughter. You may think that your cat is mad, but it has got nothing on Looshkin. Leave him for just a moment and you’ll find that your house has flooded, a steam train has smashed into your living room and a portal to a hell dimension has opened in your loft. Now a miniature hot air balloon filled with intrepid explorers is making its way across your kitchen, there are pigs on your roof, everything is covered in bees and there are sirens. Looshkin, what HAVE you done?! Hilariously comical and packed with Smart’s ingenious illustrations, these manic, high-energy stories deliver a cat basket of laughs and are ideal for fidgety readers who like their books to come with plenty of bold and busy pictures. Cat-astrophic cat antics for action kids!
(David Fickling Books, paperback, £8.99)
Age 5 plus:
The Wild Garden
Biodiversity is fast becoming an integral part of the world’s race to save the natural world from disaster. Using a simple but powerfully emotive story, and a gallery of richly detailed and colourful illustrations which bring nature and its glories to vibrant life, author and illustrator Cynthia Cliff works her special magic on this beautiful picture book. In the village of Mirren, a tidy community garden is carefully organised and tended by the townspeople. On the other side of the garden wall is a wild patch of land with a jumble of trees, a pond and tall grassy places. While the garden is cared for in different ways throughout the seasons, Jilly and her grandfather like to visit the wild place, foraging for mushrooms, asparagus, and nuts, and watching the insects, birds and other animals. When the townspeople decide they need a bigger garden, they make plans to expand beyond the wall into the wild place. Worried about what will happen to their special piece of nature, Jilly and her grandfather come up with a plan, inviting the townspeople to discover a new kind of gardening. Their plan works and the wild place and the community garden merge harmoniously… the bees pollinate the crops, berry bushes take over a garden corner, pumpkins grow along the pond, and delicious herbs appear among the ferns. With her experienced designer’s eye, Cliff uses an enchanting, rustic backdrop of people, plants and animals to illustrate her story of community and biodiversity, and introduce children to the variety of ways that things can grow and flourish in nature. With the joys of every kind of garden celebrated throughout the book and a story that offers endless opportunities to talk about healthy eating, nature, ecological gardening, and friendship, this is the perfect addition to any home or school shelf.
(Prestel, hardback, £11.99)
Age 4 plus:
Ada Twist, Scientist: Show Me the Bunny
Hide, seek… and find the bunny! It must be Easter because the irrepressibly curious Ada Twist, Scientist, star of the much-loved Netflix show, is on the hunt for eggs, and she has a few questions to ask along the way. The eggs are decorated, the baskets are ready and it’s time for the annual Twist Easter Egg Hunt, Ada’s favourite family tradition. And this year, her parents are letting Ada hide the eggs but Arthur, her big brother, thinks the egg hunt is going to be too easy now that he’s eleven. So Ada has to do a test hiding to make sure it’s super hard or else Arthur will retire from the egg hunt forever. Ada and her friends Rosie and Iggy brainstorm about how to find the hardest hiding spot in the history of egg-hiding… but it won’t be straightforward! This sweet and funny picture book about learning from your mistakes and accepting that sometimes you might fail delivers some fascinating facts and egg-cellent messages for the Easter season as well as ideas for creating your own Easter Egg Hunt. The perfect gift for your own little egg hunters!
(Abrams Books for Young Readers, hardback, £7.99)
Age 4 plus:
Phyllis and Grace
Nigel Gray and Bethan Welby
Friendships can be made in the strangest of ways. Take Phyllis and Grace… Grace is a little girl and Phyllis is the old lady next door. And despite their vast age difference, and Phyllis’s dementia, they end up sharing the most heartwarming and enduring friendship. Be prepared to shed a few tears as award-winning author Nigel Gray brings young readers a moving story based on the experiences of his own granddaughter and her elderly neighbour. Phyllis lives alone and her memory is fading but that doesn’t stop Grace from liking her and visit her often with food gifts and smiles. They find that, despite the huge gap in their ages, they have much in common and a touching friendship is born. Using empathy, humour, a compassionate understanding of the barriers caused by dementia and Bethan Welby’s imaginative and sensitive illustrations, this is a beautiful picture book and ideal for introducing the topic of dementia to younger children.
(Scallywag Press, hardback, £12.99)
Age 3 plus:
Big Hedgehog and Little Hedgehog: Take An Evening Stroll
Prickle and tickle your youngsters into the land of sleep with this gorgeous bedtime tale of two adorable hedgehogs! Award-winning illustrator Britta Teckentrup combines a gentle, wind-down story with a gallery of gloriously atmospheric, dusk-toned illustrations to soothe and amuse your youngsters. It’s evening and the big and little hedgehogs are slowly making their way home. There is so much to see and the little one wants to take it all in. Each step of the way as the little hedgehog stops to take in the wonders of the world, the big hedgehog patiently asks: ‘What are we waiting for now?’ The little hedgehog’s answers unfold in a series of lush landscapes as the two animals wait for the sun to set, for birds to fly by, for the moon and stars to appear, and for the world around them to prepare for sleep. At last, the little hedgehog is also asleep, carried home in the big hedgehog’s arms. With Teckentrup’s trademark simple text and picture perfect illustrations, this foray into nature and its calming array of eventide colours is every parent’s answer to choosing a story for bedtime!
(Prestel, hardback, £10.99)
Age 3 plus:
Lauren Ace and Jenny Løvlie
The journey of four boys from childhood to adulthood becomes a tale of friendship, sharing and self-discovery in a beautiful picture book from the creators of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize winner, The Girls. Lauren Ace, who has worked in publishing for ten years, and illustrator Jenny Løvlie combine their talents once again for a resonant story about the wonderful adventure of life and the close and lasting bonds we form along the way. Four boys meet by the sea... Rey, Nattie, Bobby and Tam splash together in the water and play on the shore. They all have different ways of expressing themselves and as they grow up, they hold on to their friendship. As we follow their journeys from boys to men, they take different paths. But even if their friendships are occasionally put to the test, they listen to and support each other no matter what. With its diverse cast of characters, Løvlie’s exquisitely detailed illustrations to enjoy, and Ace’s warm and emotional story, this is the ideal companion book to the prize-winning The Girls and the perfect book to inspire both children and adults.
(Caterpillar Books, paperback, £6.99)
Age 2 plus:
Punk Rocker Poodle
Laura Dockrill and Sandhya Prabhat
What is a toddler’s favourite word? NO! Every parent or carer will feel the vibes and nod to the rhythm from this adorable picture book which puts the terrible twos firmly at centre stage. Author and performer Laura Dockrill lets a prancing poodle strut his stuff in a story perfectly tailored for every toddler with an ‘attitude’ problem! No school. No THANKS. No. NO. NO! Dockrill’s inimitable style of poetic rap is brilliantly suited to this romp through the house and round and round the playgroup as a feisty little poodle demonstrates what fun it is to stomp and stamp and pout… that is until naptime, when all she really wants is a cuddle! Family members young and old will be tapping their feet and smiling with joy as they relish the funky music video quality to the story and feast their eyes on Sandhya Prabhat’s riotous artwork. Words, pictures and troublesome toddlers in perfect harmony!
(Faber & Faber, paperback, £6.99)