Marvellous medicine, girl power and fantastic football by various authors – children’s book reviews –

Take a visual tour through the history of medicine, share giggles, gasps and cringes with a hilarious schoolgirl, learn fascinating facts about the beautiful game, and meet a boy with the power of the ocean at his fingertips in a fantastic selection of new children’s books.
Medicine: A Magnificently Illustrated History  by Briony Hudson and Nick TaylorMedicine: A Magnificently Illustrated History  by Briony Hudson and Nick Taylor
Medicine: A Magnificently Illustrated History by Briony Hudson and Nick Taylor

Age 9 plus:

Medicine: A Magnificently Illustrated History

Briony Hudson and Nick Taylor

Disease, injury and death are all part of being human… but how did people through the ages tackle these hurdles?

From potions and ointments to space age bionics, plagues to prosthetics, and from ancient mummies to modern MRI scans, this visually extraordinary book presents the history of medicine as it has never been seen before.

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With an expert text written by museum curator, pharmacy historian and lecturer, Briony Hudson, and the stunning graphic artwork of Nottingham-based Nick Taylor, Medicine: A Magnificently Illustrated History takes youngsters on a fascinating journey of discovery.

The history of medicine is the history of everybody – and every body – both past and present, and the evolution of medicine has been one full of experiments, trials and breakthroughs. Humankind’s battle to stay alive has also been horrifying, bizarre and exhilarating, and there is still a long way to go.

Find out how ancient texts and artefacts help us understand medicine today as we join a mind-boggling and eye-opening exploration of fascinating beliefs, intriguing remedies and scientific discoveries as well as learning about some of medical history’s strange accidents and quirky experiments.

So who was Hippocrates, how did rural doctor Edward Jenner from Gloucestershire make the breakthrough in mass vaccination, and how was the life-saving antibiotic penicillin invented by scientist Dr Alexander Fleming at a London hospital?

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Uniquely presented through a series of posters, comic-strip retelling, timelines, newspaper articles and much more, Hudson’s accessible and engaging facts and Taylor’s extraordinarily offbeat and vintage-style illustrations are guaranteed to keep children gripped from first page to last.

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £16.99)

Age 9 plus:

The Mega-Complicated Crushes of Lottie Brooks

Katie Kirby

‘Things that are rubbish in my life: Have the most disgusting little brother in the entire world. Have to get braces when am on the brink of having my first kiss. Mum is making cottage pie for dinner. VOM.’

If the tone of that message strikes a chord, then you’ll be heading straight off to the shops to buy the third brilliant book in Katie Kirby’s hilarious and relatable Lottie Brooks series that is being devoured by readers in the unique ‘tweenage’ years.

Kirby, who writes and illustrates this perfectly pitched series, has a natural gift for finding humour in recognisable, everyday challenges, and the mega-funny Lottie Brooks books capture all the giggle-worthy and cringe-inducing essence of this often awkward pre-teen time of life.

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And after Lottie’s adventures and misadventures in The Extremely Embarrassing Life of Lottie Brooks and The Catastrophic Friendship Fails of Lottie Brooks, she’s back for more extremely embarrassing adventures as she goes on holiday and gets her very first boyfriend!

Daniel and Lotti finally have their first date… a trip to a fancy gelato place in Brighton. But how do you eat ice-cream in front of your crush and is Lottie ready for her first kiss? I mean he’s nice and all that, but boys are still a bit gross, aren’t they? But before they know it, the school holidays are looming and with Lottie off camping to France for two weeks and Daniel spending most of the summer on a fancy Greek island, it looks as if the young lovebirds will be cruelly ripped apart. But then Lottie makes friends with a French boy called Antoine… the language is an obvious barrier but does it matter when he’s THAT good looking?

Lottie once more navigates the pitfalls and perils of growing up in this fantastically funny and yet wonderfully life-affirming new story which is filled with friendship troubles, pre-teen politics and embarrassing moments, and is guaranteed to have young readers giggling, gasping and cringing all the way to the start of a new term!

(Puffin, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Stupendous Sports: Fantastic Football

Robin Bennett and Matt Cherry

Football is, without doubt, the most popular sport in the world. According to FIFA, there are over 250 million players playing in 200 countries with over 3.5 billion fans… that’s nearly half the number of people in the world!

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Fantastic Football is the second book in the super Stupendous Sports chapter books series from award-winning children’s publisher, Firefly Press, and puts the spotlight firmly on football with cartoons, jokes, fun facts and useful stats, a brief history of football, details of player positions, the future of the game, the importance of diversity, the forthcoming Football World Cup, the rise of womenʼs football, and a great section on skills and tricks.

The aim of the series is to teach kids about sports, but with a light touch that highlights the spirit of the game as well as the rules. Written by sport-mad Robin Bennett, and with the hilarious illustrations of Matt Cherry, this super new book in the series is ideal for fans of the beautiful game, their parents (and grandparents!), but mainly for young readers who enjoy dipping into a book of entertaining football facts and, like the game itself, to share it with friends.

With an exploration of the origins of football, helpful playing tips, amazing stories, loads of facts, and details of a Stupendous Sports website ( promoting the fun side of sports for children, signed books, special offers and merchandise, this is football heaven for fans of every age.

So what are you waiting for… the whistle has blown and the game is on!

(Firefly Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

Alex Neptune, Dragon Thief

David Owen

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Meet a star water dragon, two loyal friends, a sharp-shooting octopus, three acrobatic otters, a thieving seagull, an army of crabs… and a brand new hero!

David Owen, whose YA debut novel, Panther, was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal, thrills and enthrals us with Alex Neptune, his first fabulous, action-packed series for younger readers, born out of his self-confessed love for nail-biting heists, fantastical monsters and heartfelt friendships.

With the power of the ocean at the centre of this fast-flowing adventure and an imprisoned water dragon desperately in need of help, this is a sweeping, tide-turning tale perfect for summer reading.

For as long as Alex Neptune can remember, the ocean has been trying to kill him. So he’s not too happy when a bunch of sea creatures drag him to the abandoned aquarium on the hill in rundown seaside town Haven Bay where an imprisoned water dragon needs his help. But how can he say no to a magical creature? Recruiting his tech-genius best friend Zoe, legend-lover Anil, a sharp-shooting octopus, three acrobatic otters and a thieving seagull, Alex plots a heist to break the dragon out of prison. And suddenly, and excitingly, Alex discovers he has the power of the ocean at his fingertips.

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With the weirdest cast of characters this side of the ocean, a new hero to share fun and adventures with, and eco themes that speak as loudly as the crashing of the waves in Haven Bay, this is just the start of a sparkling sea-themed odyssey with a born storyteller.

(Usborne Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

Mia and the Lightcasters

Janelle McCurdy and Ana Latese

Dive into an exciting and magical ‘other world’ in the first book of the Umbra Tales, an exciting and gripping debut fantasy series from Janelle McCurdy, an author and fully-fledged gamer. With a vivid imagination attuned to video games, martial arts and fantasy, McCurdy conjures up a deliciously dark and magical adventure that is the perfect fit for video game fans. Beware of the shadows, the Reaper King is coming… Mia always dreamed of being an umbra tamer until she met the wild creature on the Nightmare Plains. Since that day, she prefers to stay safe within the walls of Nubis. Safe, that is, until a surprise attack. With her parents captured, Mia's only hope is to travel to the City of Light to find help. But with only her little brother, two friends and one solitary tamed umbra, the journey feels impossible. Mia not only has to overcome her fears, she also has to learn to harness her umbra taming abilities if they are to complete the quest in time. With Ana Latese’s atmospheric illustrations bringing all the thrilling world-building to life, a cast of inspirational characters, lots of heart-pounding action, resonant messages about courage and the power of friendship, this gripping tale is just the start of what promises to be a thrilling adventure series.

(Faber & Faber, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

Maths is Weird and The Periodic Table is Weird

Noodle Fuel and Luke Newell

Maths isn’t boring… it’s wonderful and definitely weird! Enjoy two fascinating and enthralling non-fiction books, which add up to fun from first page to last, as a husband and wife team put an exciting new slant on learning mathematics. Noodle Fuel, the creative partnership of Sarah Walden, a veteran of publishing, and her husband, Mark, a children’s author and ex-computer game designer, and Luke Newell bring youngsters two brilliant brain-bursting books. True to their mission to produce engaging high-octane content for children, Maths is Weird travels from zero to infinity and back again via algebra, polygons, probability and averages with friendly (but silly!) robots guiding the reader through the weirdness of mathematics. And in The Periodic Table Is Weird, young readers will discover every element from actinide to zirconium alongside a group of alien scientists. With up to 300 fascinating facts, 150 riotous gags, and some awesome activities to enjoy, these inspirational, cleverly educational and entertaining books help youngsters understand why maths is so much weirder than they ever could have imagined.

(Caterpillar Books, £7.99 each)

Age 7 plus:

The Case of the Runaway Brain

Nick Sheridan and David O’Connell

It’s no mystery that children love mysteries so let them indulge their detection skills (and have fun along the way!) in the first in a new laugh-out-loud, illustrated mystery series from award-winning journalist and television presenter Nick Sheridan. Starring three unlikely (and lovable!) detectives and one BIG mystery, The Case of the Runaway Brain has been dubbed Scooby-Doo for a new generation and comes with the brilliant illustrations of David O’Connell. When a child escapes Madame Strang’s Academy for Incredibly Irritating Children in the dead of night, Madame Strang, her cool and calculating right-hand man, Mr Grule, and her overweight sausage dog, Mangler, will do anything to track him down. But friends Riz and Olly know a good story when they see one, and with the help of runaway Drew Hill, the trio are soon on a mission to uncover the secret that Madame Strang is so desperate to keep… one that involves a dastardly brainwashing invention and an academy full of plain and perfectly behaved children. Prepare to laugh your socks off as this mischief-laden adventure comes with clues, comic action and chaos at every turn of the page. A no-brainer for comedy and mystery fans!

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

Age 7 plus:

My Mum Is A Spy

Andy McNab, Jess French and Nathan Reed

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I spy with my little eye… a fresh, funny and informative new adventure series that fizzes with espionage, animal facts and fantastic illustrations. My Mum Is A Spy is the work of former SAS warrior and now bestselling author Andy McNab, vet, zoologist, TV presenter and author Jess French and illustrator Nathan Reed, and is set to be a winner with fun-loving youngsters. My mum is absolutely definitely 100% NOT a spy! When Lucia and her dad come to stay for a week, Idris can’t believe his bad luck. He had prepared himself to share the TV remote and maybe some of his toys, but he hadn't prepared himself for Lucia. Lucia loves spying and – worst of all – she is convinced that Idris’ mum is a spy. And that just can’t be true... can it? But even Idris has to admit there is something a bit unusual about their family trip to the zoo. Were his eyes playing tricks on him, or did someone really drop something that looked like a secret message into Mum’s bag? And why is Budi the orangutan, who is normally so cheerful, suddenly off his food? Maybe it’s time for some spying after all. With a cast of quirky and charismatic characters, a topical exploration of nature and conservation, a down-in-the-mouth orangutan taking a starring role, and the sheer exuberance of a tale told with gusto, this is an animal extravaganza you won’t want to miss!

(Welbeck Flame, paperback, £6.99)

Age 4 plus:

The World at Your Feet

Karl Newson and Clara Anganuzzi

The importance of simply being yourself shines through in a beautiful and empowering new picture book from author Karl Newson and illustrator Clara Anganuzzi, the top team who brought us How to Mend a Friend. Who will I be, what will happen, where will I go and why? Join a child and a host of animal friends as they explore new possibilities and discover that it’s okay to try things and not to know how they will turn out. This moving story about trying your best and being true to yourself has an enchanting sense of youthful curiosity, uncertainty and unquenchable exuberance as the child and his animals pals receive the encouragement and reassurance they need to understand that it is all right not to always succeed or to have all the answers. The best thing they can do is go out into the world and realise their potential. With Newson’s lyrical, mesmerising verse carrying along the story and Anganuzzi’s stunningly imagined gallery of illustrations, this is an uplifting picture book with wise messages for us all.

(Studio Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

Everything Changes

Clare Helen Welsh and Åsa Gilland

Tackling the tricky topic of divorce with very young children is never easy so help your youngsters through this anxious time of change with a beautifully pitched and created picture book. Clare Helen Welsh and Åsa Gilland, the author and illustrator team behind The Perfect Shelter – which helped children understand and cope with serious illness – work their magic and gentle charm on this sensitively imagined story. Laughing and playing together as a family on the beach, it seems the happy, warm days of summer will never end. Then, everything changes. Mummy and Daddy say they can’t live together any more, and sad, worried feelings begin to emerge. It’s not fair! Was it all my fault? But, as time passes and the seasons change, it becomes clearer that hard times won’t always be quite so hard. Welsh’s lyrical tale about the difficult emotions a child can feel when their parents break up also carries an optimistic message of hope and resilience, while Gilland’s illustrations, with their emotive colour palette, perfectly capture the nuances of feelings experienced by children and parents during a separation. Full of care, understanding and the empathy needed for this time of change.

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

When You Joined Our Family

Harriet Evans and Nia Tudor

Everything is new and strange when a child is adopted so here is the perfect picture book to explore the emotions and fears that inevitably arise during this life-changing experience. Written by seasoned author Harriet Evans, and beautifully illustrated by Nia Tudor, When You Joined Our Family takes a gentle look at the whole adoption process, from first meetings to creating new family traditions. By following the stories and poignant journeys of a diverse group of children, we learn that the arrival of a newcomer in a family is just what they had waited and wished for. Packed with accessible, emotive and informative messages, and Tudor’s heartwarming illustrations, this beautiful and creative picture book showcases exquisitely the unconditional love between an adopted child and their adoptive parents. Perfect for families who have experienced adoption, and for teaching little ones that families come in all shapes and sizes.

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Ollie’s Back-to-School Bear

Nicola Killen

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School is one big adventure in a magical animal adventure that is perfect for little ones starting pre-school or big school. Author and illustrator Nicola Killen is back to bewitch and beguile us with a playful new story in her warm and wonderful Ollie series which has captured the hearts of readers young… and not-so-young! On the night before school starts, Ollie is feeling nervous. Finally asleep, she is suddenly woken by the call of an owl outside her window. Following it into the woods, she sees lots of other animals there too. But where can they all be going? Join Ollie on an amazing adventure she will never forget. This charming picture book with its reassuring and engaging messages, intriguing cut-outs for little ones to peep through and explore, enticing foiled illustrations in a limited, eye-catching palette, and a simple but magical story with a big, warm heart, will help to ease you little ones into their own new school adventure.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Which Bum’s Mum’s?

Jonny Leighton and Mike Byrne

A stampede is guaranteed as mischievous youngsters head off to get their hands on a cheeky, charming picture book about animals and their big, hairy, spotty and smelly bums! Author Jonny Leighton and north-west illustrator Mike Byrne – the dynamic duo behind the hilarious Does a Bear Poo in the Woods? – work their special magic on this bum-tastic, laughter-filled odyssey with a playful zebra. When young zebra Ziggy accidentally causes a huge stampede, he finds himself lost and alone in the savannah. But he knows he’ll find home again if he just looks out for his mum’s distinctive, zig-zag striped bum. Along the way, he encounters big ones, small ones, spotty ones, tall ones, hairy bums, smelly bums, scaly ones and old ones… belonging to huge hippos, very tall giraffes, lazy lions and many more animals besides! With Leighton’s comical, rhyming story and Byrne’s charismatic illustrations bringing all the rear-end fun to life, youngsters will be making their own laugh-out-loud journey through this book with a big smile on their faces!

(Buster Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Martha Maps It Out

Leigh Hodgkinson

Step into Martha’s world where we are all connected and anything is possible! Author and illustrator Leigh Hodgkinson helps put simple scale, shape, and an addictive vibrancy, to our complex world in this richly detailed, colourful and subtly educational picture book. Packed with Hodgkinson’s stunning, distinctive and lively illustrations, Martha Maps It Out is a perfect package of fun, facts and food for thought. Martha loves drawing maps. She creates maps of everything, the city where she lives, her block of flats, her bedroom and even her thoughts and dreams! So let Martha be your guide as she welcomes you to her world. Starting in outer space, we zoom in page by page to our planet, Martha’s community, and beyond to her dreams of a future where anything is possible. Full of quirky details and Martha’s fun, non-fiction labels ideal for children to pore over, the book offers cool new facts with every reading, and maps imbued with an irresistible sense of excitement about the world and optimism for the future. A dream read for curious minds! 

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)