Immortal jellyfish, marvellous bodies and feline sleuths by various authors  – children’s book reviews -

Explore the contrasting lifespans of a host of creatures, take a tour of the hidden workings of your body, meet a super-sleuthing pair of cat detectives, travel to Georgian London and join a mission to solve a dangerous mystery, and share adventures with a small boy in a world of giants with a sunshine collection of new children’s books

By Pam Norfolk
Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 12:30 pm
Our Time on Earth by Lily Murray and Jesse Hodgson
Our Time on Earth by Lily Murray and Jesse Hodgson

Age 7 plus:

Our Time on Earth

Lily Murray and Jesse Hodgson

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We are all on Earth but for a fleeting moment… and yet no two lives are the same!

From the delicate mayfly, which lives for just a few precious hours, to the death-defying immortal jellyfish, author Lily Murray and illustrator Jesse Hodgson work their magic on this fantastic and fascinating celebration of animal life cycles and all creatures big and small.

Bestselling children’s author Murray explores lifespans across the animal kingdom, beginning with the very shortest lifespans and ending with the longest. From the incredible monarch butterfly, the mysterious axolotl, the grand Galápagos tortoise, Our Time on Earth offers an array of uplifting and eye-opening facts, revealing creatures born within days of their mothers and others that stay infantile for almost one hundred years.

Discover why the lives of some animals are cut brutally short and why for some creatures, like a North Atlantic clam called the ocean quahog, their time on Earth can stretch to four hundred years or, in the case of the deep-sea glass sponge, over a staggering 11,000 years!

But perhaps the most amazing of them all is the immortal jellyfish, a tiny jellyfish no bigger than a little fingernail, which scientists discovered in the late 1980s and was found to be able to regenerate itself from one life cycle into another.

Highly-commended artist Hodgson’s stunning, atmospheric illustrations perfectly capture each animal in their natural habitat, making this an ideal way to help children appreciate and understand the diversity of life.

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £15.99)

Age 7 plus:

Marvellous Body: A Magic Lens Book

Jane Wilsher and Andrés Lozano

Who would have thought you could look inside a book and take a tour of the hidden and intricate workings of your body?

Always ready to come up with the most ingenious ways to make learning fun as well as informative, What on Earth Books provide a devilishly clever peep inside human organs and systems to explore how we breathe, move, think, twist, stretch… and even how and why we hiccough!

Using a see-through magic lens, Marvellous Body lets youngsters discover how our bodies function, see the different body parts hard at work inside us, and learn about how to look after their own physical and mental health at the same time.

Find out how your senses work with your brain to show us the world around us, discover which part of your brain controls memory, how your muscles make you move, how doctors and nurses spot diseases, and how we turn food (like pizzas!) into energy... and poo.

Acting much like an X-ray or microscope, the magic lens offers an exciting extra by showing all the elements and systems of the human body that are covered by skin, hair and nails, and reminding children that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and with different abilities or disabilities.

From brain power and heart function to keeping fighting fit and learning about the importance of genes and DNA, this brilliant book comes with source information, a guide to what parts of the body to look for, and helpful notes on how to keep healthy and happy.

Add on Jane Wilsher’s witty and engaging text, which explains all the scientific concepts in simple terms, perfectly partnered by Andrés Lozano’s bright and child-friendly illustrations, and this magnificent and marvellous book is the ideal gift for budding scientists and anatomists, and any inquisitive child.

(What on Earth Books, hardback, 14.99)

Age 8 plus:

What Do You See When You Look At a Tree?

Emma Carlisle

Have you ever sat in the shade of a big, old tree and wondered who might have gazed up at its branches down the years?

As summer brings its bright skies and long, hot days, it seems the perfect time to reflect on our connection with nature and its ability to bring both comfort and joy.

So immerse yourself in this gentle picture book that encourages children to explore our human connection with nature. What Do You See When You Look At a Tree?, published in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, explores themes of empathy, mindfulness and personal growth through the eyes of a child.

‘What do you see when you look at a tree? Leaves and twigs and branches? Or do you see a real, living thing, That moves, and breathes and dances?’

Beautifully written in a lyrical, rhyming verse, and fabulously illustrated by the award-winning author and artist Emma Carlisle, this timely and reflective book urges young readers to reconnect with nature by asking questions that encourage critical thinking and reflection on their own development, as well as helping to establish a deeper appreciation of the environment and their place within it.

Carlisle’s watercolour and hand-finished artwork, in a stunning palette of colours, draws parallels to Charlie Mackesy’s bestselling illustrated book, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse, which was the 2019 Waterstones Book of the Year, and evokes the classic nostalgia of E.H. Shephard’s much-loved Winnie-the-Pooh.

Mindfulness tips and information about trees are included at the back, making this the perfect gift book for both adults and children to read, share and treasure.

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 8 plus:

The After School Detective Club: The Secret of Ragnar’s Gold

Mark Dawson and Ben Mantle

They might not 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 back to another thrilling case for a crime-cracking gang of youngsters who are doing 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. The series stars four friends, Lucy, Max, Charlie (plus his faithful dog Sherlock) and Joe, and in this new adventure, they can’t believe their luck when they get the chance to stay in a castle for their Easter holidays. And Ufford Castle is everything they had hoped for, with a moat and an ancient burial mound that gives it an air of mystery. But things aren’t what they seem and a treacherous discovery in the grounds reveals a 300-year-old treasure map. The race is on. The After-School Detective Club is in pursuit of Ragnar’s gold… a hoard of treasure said to have been buried by a Viking warrior and guarded by his demon hound. But is someone else going to get there first? Dawson reveals that Ufford Castle is based on Orford Castle on the Suffolk coast and that Ragnar Lothbrok was a real Viking hero who carried out many fierce raids along the coasts of Britain. Add on danger, daring, detective work, friendships and fun to some real, exciting history, and there is so much to enjoy in this thrill-a-minute adventure series!

(Welbeck Flame, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Kitty Quest: Trial by Tentacle

Phil Corbett

Every picture has a laugh-out-loud moment in storyteller and illustrator extraordinaire Phil Corbett’s fantastic, cat-tastic new adventure with a super-sleuthing pair of feline detectives. Billed as Dog Man meets the Lord of the Rings, this epic laugh-out-loud graphic novel series about two aspiring monster slayers is packed full of cat-fuelled comedy and action thrills and spills. In the second adventure, the islands of Pawdor are in peril once again. Ferocious sea monsters have been spotted on shore, and the townsfolk of Meowminster are in a complete panic. Luckily, Kitty Quest are ready to protect the land. So what if Woolfrik and Perigold are the only guild members (besides their mentor who is a ghost) and it’s just their second week on the job? How are these two amateur heroes supposed to stop a whole army of tentacled beasts? It may just take some quick thinking, a whole lot of luck, and a little help from the most unexpected of places. In order to save all of kitty-kind, Woolfrik and Perigold are going to have to learn to work together and prove that two heads are better than one. Youngsters will be purring with joy when they get their paws on this feast of visual colour and verbal cat antics as the laughter levels rise on every page and our furry heroes face their biggest trial yet. Reading purrfection for action fans!

(Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, paperback, £8.99)

Age 8 plus:

Small!

Hannah Moffatt

Being a small boy in a world of giants can cause some BIG problems! There are plenty of outsized laughs to enjoy – and lots of beautiful moments to hug to your heart – in a fabulous comic debut novel from Hannah Moffatt, creative director at a language and behavioural science consultancy. Harnessing her knowledge, imagination and empathy, Moffatt brings us a truly daffy and delightful tall tale full of weird and wacky characters that seem to have come straight out of a Grimms’ fairy story, but fuelled by rocket-boosting giggles. When Harvey Small accidentally sets fire to his headteacher’s trousers, Mum decides it’s time for a big change. She buys him a pair of stilts, a pair of sludge-brown dungarees and a green velvet top hat, and packs him off to Madame Bogbrush’s School for Gifted Giants. But Harvey is not a giant… he’s a ten-year-old boy on stilts. And if his giant classmates, who don’t like Smalls, find out, they will stomp him into a sandwich! Then the Beastly School Board arrives for a surprise inspection and Harvey realises that he’s not the only one in danger. With themes of divorce, isolation and bullying sensitively explored, and the brilliant illustrations of Rory Walker to bring Harvey and his world to life, this clever, creative book is fun from first to last, and guaranteed to win the hearts of readers young and old.

(Everything with Words, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Lizzie and Belle Mysteries: Drama and Danger

J.T. Williams

Take a trip back in time to Georgian London and join two young Black girls on a mission to solve a dangerous mystery in a thrilling debut detective series from freelance writer and educator J.T. Williams. The heroines of the Lizzie and Belle Mysteries are based on Lizzie Sancho, the real-life daughter of exuberant 18th century letter writer and abolitionist Ignatius Sancho, and Dido Belle of Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath, who was born to an African mother and British father, and was great-niece to the Earl of Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice. In an atmospheric, action-packed story set in London’s theatre land, we follow the two 12-year-old girls as they investigate a baffling mystery, and fight to protect their friendship, families and freedom. Lizzie Sancho and Dido Belle are from different worlds. Lizzie lives in bustling Westminster in her dad’s tea shop, while Belle is an heiress being brought up by her aunt and uncle and living a quiet life at grand Kenwood House… but they both share a love of solving mysteries. And when their eyes meet in the audience of the Drury Lane theatre one night, both girls are sure they have seen something suspicious on stage. Lizzie and Belle soon find themselves on the trail of a mystery, and becoming best friends. But can they work out what’s going on in time to prevent a murder? With two brave and determined girls – from contrasting backgrounds – leading the action, and the fascinating streets of Georgian London brought vividly to life, this exciting historical series is both a reading delight and an inspiration for children to explore their own hidden histories.

(Farshore, paperback, £7.99)

Age 6 plus:

Aziza’s Secret Fairy Door and the Mermaid’s Treasure

Lola Morayo and Cory Reid

Step back into the magical world of adventure created by Lola Morayo and Cory Reid in the fourth book of a fun-filled, heartwarming series for younger readers. Lola Morayo is the pen name for the creative partnership of writers Tólá Okogwu and Jasmine Richards who are both passionate about telling stories that are inclusive and joyful and were inspired to write this inspirational series by fairies and creatures from world mythology. Here we find Aziza excitedly packing her suitcase ready to go on holiday when she finds sand and seashells from the secret fairy door all over her room. Before long, she is stepping through the door and into Shimmerton, a magical world with princesses, naughty fairies, shapeshifters, unicorn shopkeepers and mischief around every corner. And this time there is drama on the beach where naughty fairies, the Gigglers, are causing havoc by accidentally awakening an ancient shell-walker who has been asleep for many years under the sand. Everyone scatters as the shell-walker grows bigger and bigger. What can be done? Aziza’s new mermaid friend might just know someone who could help. Gorgeously illustrated throughout by Cory Reid’s vibrant black and white illustrations, this is the perfect summertime read for your own young adventurers!

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

Age 3 plus:

Five Bears

Catherine Rayner

When five bears meet each other on their travels one day, they all seem to be very different. But looks prove to be deceptive in this beautiful, big-hearted picture book from CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal winner Catherine Rayner. Ideal for youngsters who have grown up in lockdown, and may be nervous about starting nursery or school, Rayner’s celebration of difference and acceptance puts the joys of friendship firmly in the picture. Bear is walking through the forest, minding his own business and just being a bear when he comes across another bear. Other Bear is different and Bear feels nervous, a little wary and just a bit unsure. The two bears wander along, thinking different thoughts, and looking in different directions. Soon the two bears come across another bear, and then another, and eventually find a bear stuck in a tree. And when they talk to one another, and laugh and listen to each other, the bears realise that perhaps they aren’t so different after all and perhaps they could all be friends. The magic of Rayner’s fresh, richly expressive and painterly illustrations, and the poignancy of the growing mutual understanding and empathy of the five bears, springs to glorious life in her talented hands, making this a gift book that all the family can share and treasure.

(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Knight With the Blazing Bottom

Beach

It’s bottoms up again with a wind-blown fairy tale series that delivers fart-tastic fun and explosive action in rhyming spadefuls! The Knight With the Blazing Bottom – which follows on from the hilarious The Dragon with the Blazing Bottom – is the work of former pizza chef and now children’s author and illustrator Beach whose anarchic comedy is winning the hearts and minds of thousands of young mischief-makers. ‘Our story begins with a knight on the town, Sir Wayne seemed happy, but Dragon was down. ‘It’s just so unfair,’ he said to his friend. ‘Each time I breathe fire it comes out the wrong end!’ Sir Wayne and Dragon are still endeavouring to get Dragon’s flame round the right way. Luckily Wayne knows just what to do but is doing everything in reverse all day long really a good idea? And when they start to dress as each other, swapping everything round, what on earth might happen?! Youngsters will be blown away by this new chapter in the lives of the chaotic Sir Wayne and Dragon which comes with madcap adventures, a gallery of bold and colourful illustrations and a truly explosive finale!

(Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Strong

Clara Anganuzzi

‘Your strength comes from being true to yourself.’ That’s the message that speaks loudly and clearly in a beautiful, thoughtful picture book from author and illustrator Clara Anganuzzi who was raised in the stunning Seychelles Islands. Maurice is different to the other dragons who like to bare their sharp teeth, stretch their pointed wings and parade their magnificent horns. He isn’t very scary, and he doesn’t like to breathe fire or snarl or growl. In fact, what Maurice loves most in the world is flowers! But will the others ever accept him for who he really is? Anganuzzi’s enchanting story of self-discovery celebrates being the odd one out, and embraces all the different ways you can be brave… like using your creativity to help others. With a story steeped in kindness, courage and empowerment, and gorgeous, rainbow-coloured artwork featuring a world of fiery dragons and mesmerising magic, this is the perfect book to introduce your little ones to the idea that it’s OK to be different.

(Caterpillar Books, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Look to the Skies

Nicola Edwards and Hannah Tolson

Travel with the amazing monarch butterfly on its epic migration across North America to find warmer climes in Mexico in a stunning, multi-coloured picture book from author Nicola Edwards and illustrator Hannah Tolson. ‘In borderless blue skies, bright butterflies roam, Travelling three thousand long miles from home.’ With Edwards’ lyrical, rhyming text, Tolson’s engaging, quirky and richly detailed artwork, and an array of intriguing peek-through holes to enjoy, Look to the Skies takes young readers on an amazing adventure through cities, mountains and finally to the majestic monarch butterflies’ perfect microclimate in the now sadly endangered oyamel fir forests of Mexico. Vibrant and uplifting, this gorgeous picture book is a life-affirming celebration of the simple joys of looking up, and a reminder of the fragility of our planet’s ecosystem and the urgent need to conserve nature’s wonders.

(Caterpillar Books, paperback, £7.99)