Making books, magic books and a book of everything by various authors – children’s book reviews –

Journey through our amazing world in the pages of an extraordinary encyclopedia, enjoy discovering just how a book is created, learn what it was like to live in the ancient Roman Empire, visit the secret lair of a genius penguin, and enter magical worlds full of thrilling adventures in a super autumn selection of children’s books.
Eyewitness Encyclopedia of Everything: The Ultimate Guide to the World Around YouEyewitness Encyclopedia of Everything: The Ultimate Guide to the World Around You
Eyewitness Encyclopedia of Everything: The Ultimate Guide to the World Around You

Age 9 plus:

Eyewitness Encyclopedia of Everything: The Ultimate Guide to the World Around You

Imagine journeying through the world’s most amazing nature, science, history, images and stories in one mind-blowing, jaw-dropping book!

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From botanists to brain surgeons, and palaeontologists to pilots, the world’s leading experts and ‘ologists’ are ready and waiting to take readers through four hundred pages of fascinating facts, eyewitness interviews and so much more.

The fully illustrated Eyewitness Encyclopedia of Everything – created by the experienced team at DK Books – is the perfect antidote to the internet... an expertly written and beautifully presented reference book for a world overloaded with unreliable information.

From quantum physics to the square of the hypotenuse, and from Ancient Rome to the depths of the oceans, this is a spectacular one-stop knowledge shop for the digital age full of clear, simple, accurate and unbiased information.

Encounter the world’s most deadly creatures and stunning natural wonders, history’s heroes and villains, and science’s most incredible breakthroughs and inventions... and all as you’ve never seen them before.

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This action-packed compendium will keep children – and their grown-ups – engrossed for hours and much like DK’s hugely successful Eyewitness series itself, this ultimate encyclopedia provides the museum experience from the comfort of your own home and contains every topic children could want to read about.

With an engaging text, graphics and facts that stand the test of time, and breathtaking photography which includes over 1,500 captivating images, the encyclopedia brings a fun twist to the exploration of the core subjects of nature, science, technology, history, and culture, and tackles each topic in an exciting, unusual, attention-grabbing way.

Featuring knowledge from over thirty experts across many different fields, from zoology to egyptology, Eyewitness Encyclopedia of Everything enables adults to test a child’s knowledge with the abundance of information, and picture quizzes dotted throughout the book. Enjoy pages full of facts and stats, and interviews with experts – from astronauts to zoologists – who answer children’s questions about what they do and why they love it.

So if you want to discover the world’s most deadly creatures and natural wonders, learn about history’s heroes and villains, meet the world’s greatest record-breakers, and explore science’s most incredible breakthroughs and inventions, and all as you’ve never before seen them, look no further than this big, beautiful and breathtaking book!

(DK Children’s Books, hardback, £25)

Age 9 plus:

Utterly Dark and the Tides of Time

Philip Reeve

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The dark and delicious fantasy, starring a girl called Utterly Dark with a mysterious connection to the sea, reaches its final, thrilling resolution in a mesmerising new adventure.

Utterly Dark and the Tides of Time – the highly anticipated sequel to Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep and Utterly Dark and the Heart of the Wild – comes from Philip Reeve, one of the most exciting authors working in children’s fiction. His outstanding debut, Mortal Engines, won the Nestle Smarties Book Prize and Blue Peter Book Award, and was made into a blockbuster film, and Here Lies Arthur, his take on the Arthurian legends, won the Carnegie Medal.

And now this master storyteller has chilled and thrilled readers again with these magical tales set in an extraordinary and atmospheric ‘other world’ called Wildsea. When Utterly Dark was a baby, she was washed up on the shores of the Autumn Isles and taken in by the Watcher of Wildsea. But everything changed when the Watcher drowned and someone new was needed to make sure Wildsea stays safe from the strange forces teeming in the ocean. Utterly now knows that she has a special link with the sea and has made a promise... to leave everything she has ever known and go and live in the sea with her mystical, oceanic mother. Leaving home is difficult enough but soon Utterly learns that someone is hunting her... and amazingly, it’s someone, or something, from a different time. Utterly will have to delve to the ocean’s magical depths, swim through impossible timeslips and face painful choices if she is to save herself, and those she loves.

These enchanting world-building stories of nature, fantasy, family and friendship have all the vibes of Dickens but with an electrifying thread of magical realism running through their core. Brave, caring and determined, the utterly wonderful Utterly is at the centre of all the action and danger, and Reeve – with his enviable gift for characterisation – surrounds her with a brilliantly imagined cast of supporting characters. Add on a heady mix of warmth and humour, and you have the perfect reading package.

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

The Weather Well

Vashti Hardy and Natalie Smillie

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If mystery, monsters, maps, amazing inventions and dangerous missions set your pulse racing, head off to a land called Moreland and join a crime-fighting girl for her final fantastical adventure! Produced in a super readable format by innovative publisher Barrington Stoke, and especially suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers, The Weather Well brings to a thrilling close an exhilarating, fantasy-fuelled steampunk series from Blue Peter award-winning author Vashti Hardy and talented illustrator Natalie Smillie. Grace Griffin’s family are wardens of the Griffin Map which was invented by her Great Grandma and is the most important piece of technology in the city of Copperport. The Griffins use the map – which shows the entire country of Moreland – and its teleport technology to fight crime and keep law and order across the land. It’s now the height of summer in Moreland, and Grace and her fellow warden Tom Eely are sweltering in the heat until they answer a strange call for help that comes through on the Griffin map. After teleporting to Oakwell, they find the town paralysed by a freezing snowstorm which is ruining the famous summer market that brings in visitors and trade. Using their mystery-solving skills and inventions, can Grace and Tom find the cause for the weird weather and restore summer from the snow? Adventure is once more the name of the game in the final book of this gripping series which has all the hallmarks of Hardy’s rich imaginative powers… a stunningly created ‘other’ world, brilliantly inventive kids, a charismatic supporting cast, and a story full of twists, turns, kindness and big-hearted family values. Add on Smillie’s superbly detailed and evocative black and white illustrations, and you have a reading treat for all fantasy-loving middle-graders.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

Books and the People Who Make Them

Stéphanie Vernet and Camille de Cussac

You might (mistakenly!) have thought there is nothing missing the world of children’s books... but how about a book about how a book gets made?

Stepping into this missing ‘page’ are creative French duo Stéphanie Vernet, founder of France’s Picture Book Agency, and Camille de Cussac, a member of the Jaune Cochon illustrator collective, who regularly collaborates with children’s book publishers.

The result is Books and the People Who Make Them, a fascinating behind-the-scenes exploration featuring delightful double page spreads that depict every stage in the life of a book. Young readers learn why an editor’s to-do list is so long, what’s important to a book designer, how a book gets sold to libraries and stores, and what a printing press looks like.

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They can also discover jobs which they might not have known about, including literary critics, librarians, and sales reps, and learn about topics beyond publishing, such as fan fiction, ebooks and audiobooks, and book collecting. But, most importantly of all, young readers will understand how the book they are reading actually came to be made.

Filled with rich detail about each process in the making of a book, and de Cussac’s distinctive artwork, this unique, fun and informative journey from the writer’s notebook to the reader’s hands is the perfect addition to every young book lover’s library!

(Prestel, hardback, £14.99)

Age 8 plus:

What it was like to be an Ancient Roman

David Long and Stefano Tambellini

From ordinary citizens to famous emperors, the remarkable Romans established the largest empire the world has ever seen. Award-winning non-fiction writer David Long takes readers on an amazing journey through Roman daily life in the second book of his enthralling What it was like to be... series. An expert in distilling complex stories from the past into an informative and entertaining format for young readers, Long skilfully explains how a small tribe of Romans, who lived in a group of huts on a hilltop, came to build the most important city in the world, dominate the whole of Italy and then create a vast and sprawling empire. Why were the Romans such brilliant and ingenious innovators, responsible for inventions including newspapers, concrete, surgeon’s tools and even an efficient postal system? What made their army invincible and their buildings so remarkable, and why, eventually, did the whole empire come crashing down? Long explains what life was actually like for ordinary Romans as well as their long line of emperors, including education, religion, their notorious games, and their military tactics, and looks at the lingering influence of Roman civilisation throughout the world. With all the intriguing facts and characters brought to vivid life by Stefano Tambellini’s rich artwork, and published in Barrington Stoke’s trademark dyslexia-friendly format, this is a top class series from a dynamic writing and illustration duo.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Evil Emperor Penguin: The World Will Be Mine!

Laura Ellen Anderson

Who doesn’t love a comic book supervillain... especially when he’s a genius, a penguin and ever so cute! A comic genius herself, Laura Ellen Anderson is knee deep in the snow and ice of Antarctica again with her super creation, Evil Emperor Penguin, and his madcap team. This hilarious graphic novel series starring the world’s most lovable villain has been a favourite with young readers for years and now the books are being republished as part of a partnership between David Fickling Books and The Phoenix comic. In the snow-covered depths of Antarctica is the secret lair of an extraordinary penguin... Evil Emperor Penguin! His plans to take over planet Earth are in place, and nothing can stop him... he has a time-travelling machine that will give him the key to world domination. But wait, is that his arch-nemesis, Evi l Cat?! Surely the world is too small for TWO evil geniuses! Who will become the cutest evil genius in the world? The comics in this book were originally published as Evil Emperor Penguin (Almost) Takes Over the World and Evil Emperor Penguin: Winging It! but these super new editions have an appealing chunky format with extra ‘how-to-draw’ tips. Brim full of Anderson’s fabulously detailed illustrations and spilling over with giggles, guffaws and puns, these riotous romps spell fun from first page to last.

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £9.99)

Age 7 plus:

Llama Can’t Cook, But You Can!: A first cookery book

Sarah Walden, Mr Griff and Tina Knowles

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Would you like to learn how to make soups, salads, pasta and noodle dishes? Or maybe even learn the skills to cook up paella, jambalaya, burgers, dips and a roast chicken with all the trimmings? Well here’s your chance to join Llama (who has a lot to learn!), Guinea Pig (the expert chef) and Parrot (in charge of Health and Safety) as Llama learns how to cook over 70 recipes, from a simple boiled egg to that delicious roast chicken dinner! Youngsters will love joining Llama and his hilarious friends in this this unique first cookery course which is served up with information about key ingredients, and popular dishes from around the world. As well as pasta and rice dishes, plus lots of plant-based recipes, Llama learns to make salads, things on toast, and curries. He finds out how to cook eggs, cheese, fish, meat and chicken, and learns about core cookery techniques along the way. Ideal for anyone starting out in the kitchen, the book has colourful illustrations and helpful tips, and Tina Knowles’ step-by-step photography is simple to follow and instils confidence in beginner cooks, whether they are young or old, while the quirky cast of characters ensure that the reader has fun while learning essential life skills. Llama Can’t Cook, But You Can! has been created by Noodle Juice, a children’s publisher which aims to make young brains ‘fizz,’ and this new book is part of their Practically Awesome Animals series that uses detailed instructions and hilarious animal characters to teach kids how to draw, bake, cook and create comics. Exciting life skills for a new generation!

(Noodle Juice, hardback, £12.99)

Age 6 plus:

Barb the Brave: The Shadow Army

Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson

When the going gets tough, Barb the Brave gets going! Welcome to the third high-octane and laugh-out-loud adventure in Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson’s dizzying and dazzling graphic novel series which well and truly hits the funny spot with young readers. Abdo and Patterson (aka Dan & Jason) have developed numerous animated campaigns, network TV and web series in both the US and UK and their latest star, Barb, is top of the current crop. Barb is a Berzerker, one of an elite crew of warriors who protect the land of Bailiwick from the scourge of monsters. Barb has been captured by the evil Witch Head and, too injured to fight back, her chances of freedom are slim. But they are both in for a surprise when Barb’s Berzerker mum, Raven, comes to the rescue. The mother and daughter duo manage to escape but can’t stop Witch Head from summoning a powerful army from the Shadow Realm to take over Bailiwick. Can Barb and her ragtag crew of Berzerkers find a way to beat the infamous Shadow Army? Can she figure out how to harness the mystical power of the Ghost Blade... and can Porkchop make sure everybody has enough snacks? Barb's adventure continues in this action-packed, side-splitting story! With a high-stakes, high-octane adventure, action sequences bursting out of every page, a fine line in knockabout humour, and a cast of super-quirky characters to enjoy, this is top notch reading for fans of Bunny Vs Monkey, Disney’s Brave and Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man. Laughter all the way!

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

Age 5 plus:

Ivy Newt and the Time Thief

Derek Keilty and Madga Brol

Enter the magical world of Miracula... and discover a truly bewitching adventure! Master storyteller Derek Keilty from Belfast weaves his world-building wonders in the second all-action adventure of his enchanting Ivy Newt chapter book series which stars an unstoppable and lovable young witch, and her best friend Tom. Highly illustrated throughout by Polish-born Madga Brol, this exciting and entertaining adventure series is perfect for sharing or as a first reading book. Ivy Newt’s parents are the King and Queen of the Sand Witches, and every Halloween at sunrise in Miracula, a spooky haunted house appears near Newt Castle, only to disappear again at the stroke of midnight. Ivy and her shape-shifting familiar Tom set out to solve the mystery, stumbling upon an imprisoned witch, a powerful sorcerer and a curse they must break before time runs out. With lots of laughs, pages of fast-paced action to enjoy, a cast of superbly imagined characters, themes of justice, standing up to bullies and shared endeavour, and Brol’s comical illustrations enhancing the atmosphere of wizardry, peril and fun, and adding extra zing and zest, this is the perfect book to launch youngsters into a lifetime of reading enjoyment.

(Scallywag Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 5 plus:

Magic Faces: Monster Mayhem

Esi Merleh and Abeeha Tariq

Open the box of magic face paints and discover the adventure that’s waiting for you! Author Esi Merleh and illustrator Abeeha Tariq return with the third super adventure in their Magic Faces series which sees two playful youngsters and their dog transformed into an assortment of thrilling characters. Fairytale world or Monster Ball... which one will you choose? In each a race to find the prize, Will you win or lose? Austin, Alanna and sausage dog Ozzy are going to a Monster Ball! With the help of a magic paintbrush, Austin has been transformed into a werewolf, and Alanna is a vampire. Their mission is to find a crystal ball, but when a pair of evil skeletons steal a witch’s wand, there’s mayhem on the dance floor. Will Austin and Alanna take back the wand and complete their mission before their time in the monster world runs out? Fun is the keyword for this joyful series which places Merleh’s imaginative storytelling, giggles and a big dose of magic at centre stage. Add on Tariq’s rich and colourful illustrations and you have a series guaranteed to cast a magic spell over your own little adventurers!

(UCLan Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Clive Penguin

Huw Lewis Jones and Ben Sanders

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You have to take your hat off to Huw Lewis Jones and Ben Sanders... they certainly know how to create an adorable penguin! Lewis Jones, a real life polar-exploring adventurer, and award-winning illustrator Sanders combine their talents on this ice-coated and quirky picture book adventure starring a penguin who hates the cold. Surrounded by the same old snow day in, day out, the same old bloomin’ penguins, and always freezing cold, Clive Penguin wishes he was somewhere else. Some days he wishes he was SOMEONE else. But, with an epic discovery just around the corner, the solution might be easier than he thinks... simply find yourself a hat! Youngsters cannot help but fall in love with the hilariously deadpan Clive Penguin as he discovers that getting what you need is sometimes better than getting what you want. With Lewis Jones providing Clive’s unique voice and Sanders delivering a perfectly matched, edgy gallery of illustrations with flashes of orange neon ink, this is the coolest picture book you will reads this autumn!

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Zizzi Moonbeam: Fairy Party Planner

Emily Hibbs and Natalie Smillie

Who doesn’t love a party? Little ones will be flitting and flapping with delight when they open the pages of this spellbinding adventure with comes with fabulous fairies, luscious letters, flaps to lift, and a sprinkle of magic! Zizzi Moonbeam: Fairy Party Planner is the dazzling and deliciously delightful creation of author Emily Hibbs and illustrator Natalie Smillie who work their own special magic on a fairy-filled picture book extravaganza. It’s Zizzi Moonbeam’s first day as a party planner at Fairy HQ and she’s fizzing with excitement! Watch her whizz to the rescue to ensure every party runs smoothly. Rain on the day of your garden party? A bridesmaid’s dress covered in jam? No problem is too big for Zizzi Moonbeam. But oh no... it looks like she’s forgotten to reply to one of her letters. There’s no time to solve this party pickle on her own! Will one of her new fairy pals swoop in to help Zizzi save the day? With an enchanting story made in fairyland, lots of intriguing flaps for curious little hands to explore, and a vast array of Smillie’s cute and colourful illustrations, this is the perfect gift book for lovers of fairies, adventures... and parties!

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

50 Words About Nature: Plants and Birds

Tara Pegley-Stanger and Debbie Powell

There’s discovery and (don’t whisper it too loudly!) learning written all over a brilliant and ambitious series from the clever book boffins at Oxford University Press! 50 Words About Nature includes sparkling little books introducing first words on nature, and these two new titles have been written by early years professional, Tara Pegley-Stanger, who is passionate about parental engagement and children’s voices. Each title introduces pre-schoolers to new and challenging words, as well as more familiar ones, alongside simple, easy-to-understand explanations and the enchanting, full-colour artwork of illustrator Debbie Powell. In Plants, youngsters discover giant oaks and redwoods, tiny daisies and strawberries, and sunflowers and cacti, as well as learning important vocabulary for talking about plants, how they grow, what they need to grow, where they grow, and what they mean to us. With different plants from all around the world, there is so much to discuss on every page. And in Birds, little ones see birds in all shapes and sizes as they swoop and soar, swim and walk. Meet giant, flightless emus, tiny songbirds, hummingbirds that can fly backwards and eagles with their powerful wings. Beautifully produced, the book introduces new and familiar bird words, as well as some challenging ones, and all brought to life by Powell’s beautiful artwork which will leave readers soaring over every page. With a note to grown-ups in each book to encourage talking about the subject matter and a pronunciation guide for tricky terminology, these colourful, factual books are ideal to set young brains in motion, and the perfect teaching tools at home, nursery or school.

(Oxford University Press, hardback, £5.99 each)

Age 3 plus:

Who Will Kiss the Crocodile?

Suzy Senior and Claire Powell

They’re having a ball... and you won’t want to miss it! Author Suzy Senior and illustrator Claire Powell – the dynamic duo behind the incredibly successful Octopants series – turn their talents to this hilarious, rhyming retelling of Sleeping Beauty... which comes with added bite! Baby Princess Liss’s first birthday is celebrated with a fancy royal ball. But as guests arrive in their smartest clothes, ONE fairy has not been invited and she isn’t at all pleased. And as the dancing, fun, laughter and partying gets under way, she casts a spell and now the sleeping princess has turned into a snoring crocodile with very sharp teeth! Will anyone be brave enough to wake her with a kiss and turn her back into a girl? And who needs a prince? Expect heroic handy-grans armed with mops and drills, a sharp-toothed crocodile and an amazing Eighties party in this hilarious, feminist twist on a favourite fairy tale. Packed with Senior’s super snappy and playful rhymes and Powell’s trademark richly detailed, bright, bold illustrations, Who Will Kiss the Crocodile? is a rip-roaring romp that youngsters will love sinking their teeth into!

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

Nibbles: The Bedtime Book

Emma Yarlett

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He’s back and he’s chomping his way through other people’s stories! Nibbles, the adorable yellow monster who has stolen hearts both young and old with his munching madness, is on the run at bedtime in a feast of flaps, mishaps and fairy tale fun. Multi-talented author and illustrator Emma Yarlett touches the funny bone of readers aged from nought to ninety as she rolls out her irresistible, bestselling brand of clever, conceptual art and design work, and magical, laughter-packed storytelling with her mischievous little book monster. Nibbles: The Bedtime Book is the fourth Nibbles adventure and Yarlett delivers the same captivating mix of imaginative storytelling, innovative flaps to lift, and intriguing cut-out holes to peep through as youngsters embark on a journey of fun, mixed-up fairy tales, comedy, and crazy capers. It’s bedtime, but where’s Nibbles? Instead of counting sheep, Nibbles is munching through bedtime stories. He’s making a splash in The Ugly Duckling and stealing the spotlight from Cinderella. Come back Nibbles! It’s time all little monsters were tucked up snug in bed. Innovative, cleverly interactive, brimming with the kind of bright, lively illustrations that children love, and with lots of intriguing story-within-a-story flaps to lift and a hilarious mish-mash of familiar tales to enjoy, this is another joyful, exuberant Nibbles adventure that entertains from first page to last.

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

Winnie and Wilbur: The Witches’ Sports Day

Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul

The wild and wonderful adventures of Winnie, everyone’s favourite witch, and Wilbur, her accident-prone black cat, have provided spellbinding reading for youngsters for decades and sold more than ten million books worldwide. And in this daffy and delightful gift edition featuring the magical double act, author Valerie Thomas and illustrator Korky Paul whisk us away to the fun and games, madness and mayhem of the local witches’ sports day! After training hard in their garden, the big day has finally arrived. There is a high jump contest, an egg-and-spoon race, and even a cats’ tree climb race... but the main event is the exciting broomstick obstacle race. Winnie and Wilbur are desperate to finally win it this year having lost out to Maryam and her cat Malak for the last two years. But when the referee is about to read out the results, a gust of wind blows them away! Will the witches ever find out who won... or might they discover that perhaps it doesn’t matter who won when you’re having this much fun? Thomas certainly has the magic touch when it comes to capturing children’s hearts, and this super-silly and sporty story will have readers rooting for Winnie and Wilbur as they loop the loop and soar high in the sky. Add on Paul’s mischief-laden and intricately detailed illustrations to perfectly capture all the mad, bad and dangerously hilarious antics of Winnie and Wilbur, and you have the perfect gift book for your own little sports fans. And don’t forget to scan the QR code in the book to hear the story with music and sound effects!

(Oxford University Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

One Little Leaf

Molly Littleboy and Bryony Clarkson

As autumn arrives, discover the magic of leaves in this fantastic, fact-packed lift-the-flap book which aims to encourage young children to head out into nature and explore. Written by Molly Littleboy and richly and colourfully illustrated by Bryony Clarkson, One Little Leaf tells youngsters how trees grow, what amazing creatures they can spot among their branches, and even how to plant a tree of their very own. Packed with simple facts, activities and prompts, this is the perfect book to inspire a love of nature in children and is part of an engaging, non-fiction series with a call to action at its core for curious children to get out into nature. Each title – including One Little Seed, One Little Bug and One Little Egg – empowers little ones to interact with the world around them, no matter where they live or what their circumstances are. So put on your coat, pull on your wellies and enjoy the whole world of trees that’s just waiting to be discovered!

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £9.99)

Age one plus:

All the Things a Tree Can Be

James Carter and Nathalia Takeyama

Discover the wonders of nature and explore all the amazing things that a tree can be with this fantastic interactive book from award-winning poet and non-fiction writer James Carter and illustrator Nathalia Takeyama who is half-Japanese and half-Brazilian. Little hands will love spinning the board pieces and lifting the flaps to reveal all the hidden marvels and easy-to-understand facts about rivers and trees. Learn how a tiny seed grows into a towering tree, and the different changes trees go through as the seasons and the year go by. From the animals who call the branches their home to South America’s Amazon rainforest and the impact trees have on our daily lives, this beautifully illustrated and gently factual book explores a whole host of reasons why trees are so special.

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £8.99)