Chasing shadows, taking flight and a howling hag by various authors - book reviews -

Choose your own adventure and turn into a hero, discover a magical box full of tiny people with wings, meet a secret witch on the trail of a bad witch and follow a young Hindu girl into a mythical fantasy world as a new batch of summer children’s books head for the shelves.

Thursday, 29th July 2021, 3:45 pm
Shadow Chaser: Choose your own story
Shadow Chaser: Choose your own story

Age 9 plus:

Shadow Chaser: Choose your own story

Simon Tudhope and Tom Knight

Choices, choices… do you dare to enter a strange and magical world and choose your own danger-packed adventure?

Author Simon Tudhope grew up with the fantasy gamebooks of the 1980s and his memories of the dark, enthralling gameworlds, and the chance to set off on an adventure not knowing what dangers lie ahead, inspired him to write his own… and the result is the fabulous Shadow Chaser.

This classic ‘choose your own story’ book is packed with exciting challenges, choices and decisions which will delight a new generation of thrill-seeking youngsters who want to put their own skills and imagination into play.

Fabulously illustrated by Tom Knight, this atmospheric and engrossing gamebook plunges you into a story with a difference… one where the hero is YOU.

Woken one night by a bang at the door, you creep to the window and see five hooded strangers below. The leader looks up and beckons you down. What do you do? Open the door, play for time, or escape through the window out back… the choice is yours.

From this point onwards you are in control of an epic adventure, and your survival depends upon the decisions you make. Who to fight? Who to trust?

In a book where nothing is as it seems, even the pictures hold secrets that must be unlocked. But as you race across land, sea and sky, one thing becomes clear… it’s not just your fate that hangs in the balance. It’s the fate of the entire kingdom.

Full of puzzles to solve and choices to make, each one leading to different adventures and endings, Shadow Chaser brings together a dark and sweeping story, beautifully illustrated and richly detailed picture puzzles, and a fascinating combat system.

A full-on adventure full of chases and choices that is guaranteed to keep youngsters gripped from beginning to end!

(Usborne, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

Edie and the Box of Flits

Kate Wilkinson and Joe Berger

Lost property offices are well known for their strange assortment of odds and ends… but no one in the world would expect to find a box full of tiny people with wings!

Young imaginations are destined to take flight when they tuck into this magical box of tricks from former BBC Radio children’s writer Kate Wilkinson as she unleashes a thrilling story with all the vibes and effervescence of Mary Norton’s classic 1952 fantasy, The Borrowers.

Edie and the Box of Flits – which comes with animator, cartoonist and artist Joe Berger’s brilliantly atmospheric illustrations – stars eleven-year-old Edie Winter and her adventures when she discovers the amazing winged people who can only be seen by children.

Edie loves going to London Transport’s Lost Property Office. Her dad works there and it’s always full of unexpected things. But when a mysterious box is left on a seat on the London Underground, Edie is amazed to discover that it’s home to a family of Flits… tiny, thumb-sized winged people.

And Impy, Speckle and Nid are desperately in need of Edie’s friendship and help. Not only are they short of supplies (rice crispies, sugar sprinkles, digestive biscuits and raisins) and someone to look after them, but their brother Jot has run away and they will need Edie’s help to find him.

Set against the backdrop of London and its Underground network, Wilkinson’s action-packed and heartwarming story about friendship and family reminds us all to notice the little things in life and to treasure each other, however big or small we might be.

(Piccadilly Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Howling Hag Mystery

Nicki Thornton

If young readers are still mourning the end of Nicki Thornton’s fantastic Last Chance Hotel series, then there’s some good news coming out of the magical village of Twinhills.

Nightshade, everyone’s favourite talking cat, is back – alongside a resourceful young witch called Raven – in a new spin-off series which delivers the same cosy but tantalising tangle of Golden Age style magic, mayhem and mystery.

Thornton, a former independent bookseller who was nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Award and won the 2016 Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition, is on her best form for a stunning sleuthing adventure filled with thrilling atmospherics, wicked wit and her own special brand of magical mystery.

Raven Charming knows there is only one Golden Rule in life. If anything strange happens – unexpected good luck, objects moving by themselves, the blossoming of inexplicable smells – Mum said just to remember that Golden Rule… deny everything.

But when there’s a murder in the village of Twinhills and a hag is heard howling at the local inn, Raven, who knows the rules of magic in the real world, realises she may not be the only secret witch in the village.

And she is horrified to discover that this witch could be a rival… one who practises the worst kind of trickery and magic. With the help of amateur sleuth, Mortimer Scratch, and Nightshade, a talking cat with a feline sense of detection, Raven sets out to solve just what has been going on…

Thornton excels at building a rich and exciting world full of bizarre and extraordinary characters, but with the authentic atmosphere of a timeless tale, and a trail of intriguing clues that will keep young readers guessing right through to the last pages.

So if a slice of fairy tale fantasy, and a big helping of Harry Potter-style magic are top of your reading must-haves, Twinhills could be your ideal destination this summer!

(Chicken House, paperback, 6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom

Sangu Mandanna

Banish fears and anxiety with a young girl who finds her self-belief and discovers that there is more to life when you’re a warrior… and not a worrier.

Author Sangu Mandanna – who was four years old when an elephant chased her down a forest road and she decided to write her first story about it – transports us into the mind and exciting adventures of a young Hindu girl in this fabulous middle-grade fantasy novel.

Kiki Kallira has always been a worrier. Did she lock the front door? Is there a terrible reason her mum is late? Recently her anxiety has been getting out of control, but one thing that has always soothed her is drawing.

Kiki's sketchbook is full of fantastical doodles of the Hindu myths and legends her mother has told her since she was tiny. One day, her sketchbook’s calming effect is broken when her mythological characters begin springing to life from the page and Kiki is pulled into the mystical world that she drew.

There, she discovers the band of rebel kids who protect the kingdom, as well as an ancient, monstrous god bent on total destruction. Kiki must overcome her fear and anxiety to save both worlds – the real and the imagined – from his wrath.

But how can a girl armed with only a pencil defeat something so powerful?

Young readers will love joining charismatic Kiki as she learns to be a hero in a world full of mythical beasts and a richly imagined fantasy world inspired by Hindu legends and cleverly created to ease anxiety, promote creativity, and help youngsters to discover their own strengths.

Brimming with fast-paced action, fun, humour and fascinating Hindu folklore, Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom is the perfect fit for all worriers and thrill-seekers.

(Hodder Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Anisha, Accidental Detective: Granny Trouble

Serena Patel and Emma McCann

Granny steals the show AGAIN in the latest baffling mystery for Anisha Mistry… everyone’s favourite (accidental!) detective.

Award-winning author Serena Patel and illustrator Emma McCann are back with a new case in their brilliant detective series starring reluctant sleuth Anisha and her best friend and fellow investigator Milo.

Milo and Anisha have been looking forward to this half-term for what feels like forever… they’re finally going to the National Space Centre to meet a real-life space engineer! Anisha’s whole family, who usually cause mayhem whenever they go anywhere, wanted to tag along and visit a festival first, where a super-famous, mega-expensive diamond is on display.

But guess what? The diamond has been stolen. And the police think Anisha’s granny did it so she’s in serious trouble. Someone needs to prove Granny Jas is innocent, so it looks like Milo – the only person Anisha can trust to help her solve the case – and Anisha might need to go undercover. It’s lucky she’s Anisha, Accidental Detective!

Join Anisha and Milo as they go through the suspects one by one, and share all the fun, action and mystery that are never far away when the Mistry family are on the move!

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)

Age 4 plus:

Harriet’s Expanding Heart

Rachel Brace and Angela Perrini

Becoming part of a stepfamily can be a difficult and emotional time for youngsters so here’s a warm and wise picture book which puts all those feelings and insecurities into a reassuring focus.

Harriet’s Expanding Heart has been written by registered psychologist Rachel Brace who is also co-creator and founder of www.steppingthrough.com.au, an educational and support resources for stepparents and their partners in Australia.

With its gentle, easy-to-understand messages about settling into a new stepfamily and the eye-catching illustrations of Angela Perrini, this beautiful story features one little girl’s emotional experiences of life moving between two homes, two parents, two different bedrooms and managing her mum and dad’s varying rules and routines.

Brace makes it clear to children that it is perfectly normal to have a range of feelings about stepfamilies and that they will feel different things at different times.

Ideal as a resource for stepfamilies and with tips about how parents and stepparents can emotionally support young children, Harriet’s Expanding Heart is an important and helpful guide for families, nurseries and schools.

(Little Steps Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Rainbow Connection

Vanessa Parsons and Angela Perrini

Staying at home – and apart – was the message that became the biggest part of our lives during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mums and dads worked from home, schools and nurseries closed and families played games, read books, sang and danced, watched television and ate chocolate! And at first it was okay but children, particularly, missed their friends and soon everyone had to find new ways to connect with other people.

And to celebrate and remember the creative ways we found to connect and spread joy when we all had to stay apart lies at the heart of an inspirational picture book from primary school teacher Vanessa Parsons and artist and drawing teacher Angela Perrini.

Filled with Parsons’ heartwarming and reassuring words, which every child will be able to relate to, and Perrini’s gorgeous illustrations, The Rainbow Connection is a reminder of how coming together in a time of crisis was a light in the pandemic darkness.

And 20p of author royalties from the sale of the book will go to NHS Charities Together.

(Little Steps Publishing, paperback, £6.99)