Family time, super sleuths and a hero wolf by various authors - book reviews -

Enjoy a five-minute celebration of family time, share adventures with a super 21st century’s take on the Famous Five, meet a wolf who longs to be a hero, laugh out loud with the worst class in the world, and join an explosively funny monster hunt with a sparkling selection of January children’s books.

By Pam Norfolk
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 4:55 am
Britannica’s 5-Minute Really True Stories for Family Time
Britannica’s 5-Minute Really True Stories for Family Time

Age 4 plus:

Britannica’s 5-Minute Really True Stories for Family Time

Stories by Alli Brydon, Catherine D. Hughes and Jackie McCann

Sign up to our daily Burnley Express Today newsletter

What do families all over the world eat for breakfast?

If that intriguing thought tickles your curiosity taste buds, then tuck into this brilliant book crammed full of stories to share, entertain and educate… and all in less than five minutes.

There are thirty amazing stories to share with all the family in the second book of a clever and colourful series which comes from Britannica Books, a reference imprint for young readers, published in an exciting partnership between What on Earth Publishing and Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Their mission is to inspire children’s curiosity and passion for learning, offering engaging non-fiction books that you can trust, with experts behind every page, and Britannica’s 5-Minute Really True Stories for Family Time certainly fits the bill.

These fascinating true stories reveal the science and history behind family time activities. What did the world’s first playgrounds look like, where do different people take their holidays, and how did dinosaurs look after their babies? Through the pages of this fact-filled compendium, readers meet all types of families – both human and animal – and learn about the many ways they spend time together.

Discover fascinating facts on the workings of a bicycle, funeral traditions from around the world, playground science, family reunions, epic animal journeys, the history of swimming, the different ways we celebrate, welcoming a new baby, a world of birthdays, camping adventures and so much more.

From tidy-up time to cosying up with pets, and with up-to-the-minute, expert information and stunning, specially commissioned artwork by Anneli Bray, Vivian Mineker, Sophia Moore and Syklar, this joyful book is the perfect celebration of the everyday family time which has come to play such a central role in all our lives.

And don’t miss the other fabulous book in the series, 5-Minute Really True Stories for Bedtime, with an audiobook read by Joanna Lumley.

(Britannica Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 8 plus:

The After School Detective Club: The Case of the Smuggler’s Curse

Mark Dawson and Ben Mantle

They might not yet be the ‘famous five,’ but the four members (and a dog called Sherlock!) of the After School Detective Club are certainly sleuthing in the footsteps of Enid Blyton’s eternally popular adventurers. Welcome to the first thrilling case for a new crime-cracking gang of youngsters who are set to do for Suffolk what the Famous Five did for Cornwall. The After School Detective Club is the brainchild of bestselling author Mark Dawson and award-winning illustrator Ben Mantle, and features a delightful modern twist on a classic favourite. Lucy, Max, Charlie and Joe aren’t looking for new friends because they have too many of their own problems to worry about. But when the four of them, and Charlie’s faithful dog, Sherlock, spot a phantom figure on Southwold beach one winter’s night, they are thrown together to unravel a mystery that none of them expected. The deeper they dig, the bigger the adventure becomes… motorboats and tracking devices, bedroom breakouts and daring sea rescues are all in a day’s work for the newly formed After-School Detective Club. But when their investigations lead them into trouble with the police, there is only one thing left to do – they must go undercover for a final showdown with a ruthless gang of smugglers. With danger, daring, detective work, friendships and fun, there is so much to enjoy in this thrill-a-minute new adventure series… and look out for the next case which is due to be investigated in June!

(Welbeck Flame, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

The Hunt for the Nightingale

Sarah Ann Juckes and Sharon King-Chai

Coping with loss and bereavement is one of life’s greatest tests and it is this emotive subject that Sarah Ann Juckes tackles through the medium of nature in her stunning and sensitively conceived middle grade novel. Written as a sort of love letter to the natural world, The Hunt for the Nightingale is full of hope, heart and humanity, and comes packed with a gorgeous gallery of black and white bird drawings by Sharon King-Chai, an Australian-born, award-winning designer and illustrator. Ten-year-old Jasper has been waiting all spring for his beloved nightingale to return to his garden and sing. But it’s not there, and neither is his sister, Rosie. His parents seem sad and preoccupied so gathering his courage, his backpack and his treasured Book of Birds, Jasper sets out alone on a walk to find them both. The expedition takes Jasper through town and country, meeting a host of characters who are also searching for lost things. Helping his new friends, Jasper begins to see that he may not find what he is looking for when he reaches the journey’s end, but even in the darkest of moments, a nightingale’s song can be heard somewhere. Using the song of the nightingale – one of the most beautiful sounds on the planet – as her motif and her inspiration, Juckes reveals to youngsters the healing power of the natural world and its ability to bring hope for the future. Tear-jerking in its recognition of the pain of grief, and yet life-affirming in its beauty and heartfelt messaging, this is a story that shines brightly in life’s darkest corners.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Monster Doughnuts: Cyclops on a Mission

Gianna Pollero and Sarah Horne

When you’re a monster hunter, you might have to think outside the box to catch your prey. And when the box has doughnuts in it, your secret weapon could prove to be explosive! Welcome back to the adventures of tenth-generation, monster-hunting heroine Grace, the ingenious invention cooked up by sparkling new writer Gianna Pollero and illustrated by the award-winning Sarah Horne. Grace has a unique way of bumping off monsters… she and her sister run a bakery, Cake Hunters, where they make fabulous creations full of a special exploding baking powder that will get rid of any troublesome monster. And now Grace has a new and unlikely partner in crime… 360-year-old cyclops Mr Harris. Their new and perilous mission from the Secret Service is to rid the city of a pesky Bottom-Biter who is causing havoc. If only Mr Harris would stop just eating the monsters and honing his advanced patisserie skills in Grace’s bakery, what a team they will make! The hilarious Monster Doughnuts series has all the perfect ingredients for laughter-loving, sleuthing youngsters to enjoy… short chapters pitched perfectly for new and reluctant readers, sparkling dialogue, monsters, madness, and lots of crime-cracking action. Explosively funny!

(Piccadilly Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Worst Class in the World Dares You!

Joanna Nadin and Rikin Parekh

There’s double trouble, and double the fun, in a two-in-one classroom adventure book that is set to take a star role in this year’s World Book Day Title. The Worst Class in the World series was cunningly and lovingly created by award-winning author Joanna Nadin and illustrated by rising star Rikin Parekh. Highly illustrated throughout and featuring two hilarious, knockabout adventures in one book, these stories are ideal for children ready for their first chapter books. Head teacher Mrs Bottomley-Blunt thinks 4B is the worst class in the world. She says school is not about footling or fiddle-faddling or fun. It’s about learning and it’s high time 4B tried harder to excel at it. But best friends Stanley and Manjit didn’t literally mean to let free flying minibeasts in the classroom. And they really didn’t literally mean to do a series of dares to become the Overlord of the Universe. These things just happened, even though they had foolproof plans to get away with it all! With a rich sprinkling of naughty-but-nice teacher and parent jokes to get young readers giggling, a bookload of classroom anarchy, and fast-paced action to keep the pages turning, this is a joyous and playful parody of school life in all its riotous, raucous glory!

(Bloomsbury Children’s Books, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

A Hero Called Wolf

Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes… but why are they are never, ever wolves? The creative king and queen of book-themed stories, author Lucy Rowland and illustrator Ben Mantle, play wolf with their inspirational and joyful take on adventures in a fairy tale world. Wolf used to be bad but now he loves reading and has made lots of new friends. There’s just one problem. The more he reads, the more he starts to realise something… every book has a hero. The heroes are handsome, tough and strong and, most importantly, the heroes are never, ever wolves. But when a giant comes stomping into the library one day, can Wolf find the courage to speak up? Because heroes don’t have to be handsome, tough and strong. Maybe true heroes are kind and brave… just like Wolf! Full of madcap fun, larger-than-life characters and the simple joys of reading and imagination, this playful, heart-warming story speaks loudly about being brave and kind, and finding the hero inside you. Written in Rowland’s trademark bouncy and addictive rhyme, and richly illustrated with an abundance of wit and warmth by Mantle, A Hero Called Wolf is the perfect book to inspire your own little heroes!

(Macmillan Children Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Colour and Me!

Michaela Dias-Hayes

Colour is the name of the game in a beautiful new picture book from author and illustrator Michaela Dias-Hayes who is on a mission to help and empower young children of colour. Colour and Me! –second book in a two-part series that began with Sunflower Sisters – champions children with brown skin through a bright, beautiful and heartwarming story. It stars a little girl learning to mix paints to make new colours and discovering that there is beauty in every single shade, particularly the colour brown which suits her perfectly. The book was inspired by a conversation shared between the author and her young son, and made her determined to create a book that would dispel negative feelings about skin colour. With a fun, rhyming story about self-confidence, colour, creativity and self-expression, plus a rainbow of colours to enjoy in the little girl’s journey, this is an uplifting and gently motivational introduction to the whole concept of colour.

(Owlet Press, paperback, £7.99)