Money matters, a world of stories and wartime danger by various authors – children’s book reviews –

Deborah Meaden Talks Money by Deborah MeadenDeborah Meaden Talks Money by Deborah Meaden
Deborah Meaden Talks Money by Deborah Meaden
Learn how to make the most of your finances, discover the stories that are the building blocks of the world’s cultural heritage, be swept away to the perils of wartime Europe, return to a secret land where the wilderness and magic are alive, and enjoy a coruscating cornucopia of fascinating facts about the human body with a summertime selection of children’s books.

Age 11 plus:

Deborah Meaden Talks Money

Deborah Meaden

Can finance ever be fun? The answer is yes when the topic is in the capable hands of Dragons’ Den investor and entrepreneur Deborah Meaden.

Deborah Meaden Talks Money – an unmissable non-fiction book about money and finance for young people – is the first of a new trend-led series for children aged from eleven to sixteen and is the perfect, empowering introduction to money and finance.

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Money is such a huge part of our lives so learning how to make it work best for you is a crucial skill. Knowledge is power! Whether you want to earn money, save money, set goals, or set up and grow a business, Meaden will be your personal guide, demystifying the world of finance and sharing the knowledge and insights that have made her one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs. So if you’re fearful of finance, take heart that you are not alone. Discover how to budget like a boss, deal with debt, finance your future and power your pension.

Talks Money comes packed with podcast-style interviews with ordinary young people, as well as top business people and personalities, including Steven Bartlett, Joe Lycett, Gary Neville and Sophie Ellis-Bextor who reveal the secrets to their success... and the mistakes they’ve made along the way. With Q&As, quizzes, tips and challenges, the book helps youngsters build the skills and confidence they need to manage finances and reduce money worries.

The ideal way to make finance exciting, relatable and personal.

(Red Shed, paperback, £9.99)

Age 7 plus:

Stories That Built Our World

Caroline Rowlands and Alette Straathof

Once upon a time (actually, a long, long, time ago!) a story was told. Then, over time, that story was handed down through the generations, becoming a mythical, legendary tale and a building block of our cultural heritage.

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For as long as humans have existed, tales of adventure and wonder have entertained and educated people in every society around the globe. These ancient stories are sometimes based on fact, but other times they are pure fiction, and have been shared by word of mouth, written text, through songs and dances and even in sculptures and paintings.

But research carried out by young and vibrant children’s publisher Noodle Juice with teachers and school librarians revealed that many children today (and over 50 per cent of primary school teachers they spoke to) no longer know these pivotal tales, meaning we are in danger of losing their impact on future society.

And after looking at the evidence, the publishers have created Stories That Built Our World which features a tale for every week of the year and is designed to be both an effective and joyful resource in primary schools.

The book – a dazzling blend of Caroline Rowlands’ masterful story retellings and illustrator Alette Straathof’s sumptuous watercolour artwork – brings together 52 tales of adventure and wonder, and includes everything from Perrault’s fairy tales, Norse sagas and Scheherazade’s 1001 Arabian Nights to Shakespeare’s comedies and African, North American, Innuit and Indian folk tales.

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The perfect resource for home or school, Stories That Built Our World ensures these precious, life-enhancing stories are not lost and teaches children about the tales that inform our culture, our language and our understanding of other peoples.

(Noodle Juice, hardback, £18.99)

Age 11 plus:

The Teenage Guide to Digital Wellbeing: Find the balance to live your best life

Tanya Goodin

Navigating the digital world is a minefield for many tweens and teens so let author, podcaster and digital wellbeing expert Tanya Goodin guide them safely through the pluses and pitfalls with this invaluable, friendly guide.

With a pledge to help youngsters live their best life both offline and on, the book is not about urging teenagers to give up their devices forever... it’s about being more mindful of how they use them and inspires them to set their devices aside (sometimes anyway!) and start living in the here and now.

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Digital wellbeing is all about finding the balance between the digital world and the real world... and making sure we use smartphones and other digital devices in a healthy way, while living fulfilling lives beyond the screen.

Goodin, who is founder of the ‘Time to Log Off’ movement, packs her guide with positive prompts, thought-provoking science, and hands-on activities to encourage healthy habits around screen use... including nostalgic crafts, retro tech scavenger hunts, and phone-free nature excursions, plus practical tips on how to deal with digital challenges like comparison culture on social media, cyberbullying, trolling, and much more.

Teenagers discover how to develop healthy habits, identify priorities and set achievable goals as well as know their own screen limits and deal with digital distractions. There is also advice on staying safe and savvy on the internet, and focusing on the positive and productive uses of smartphones (no more doom-scrolling!)

Learn how to quieten your inner critics, how to nurture friendships and family relationships offline and on, and how to build resilience and self-confidence to live healthily and happily with digital devices.

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The Teenage Guide to Digital Wellbeing is essential reading for all youngsters, and full of good advice for parents who want to understand how they can help and support their children through the tricky world of smartphones and digital devices.

(Collins, paperback, £12.99)

Age 9 plus:

Code Name Kingfisher

Liz Kessler

Lose yourself in a moving dual timeline story featuring two generations – several decades apart – and the plight of a Jewish family caught up in the Nazi terrors of wartime Holland.

Code Name Kingfisher springs from the vivid imagination of Liz Kessler, author of twenty-three books for both children and young adults, including the outstanding novel When the World Was Ours. Inspired by her father’s experiences when he escaped from Nazi-occupied Europe just before the start of World War Two, her moving and insightful wartime adventures have won the hearts of readers of all ages.

Weaving together the narratives of a 13-year-old girl struggling with friendship issues, and her 92-year-old grandmother whose dementia is slowly wiping out her memory bank, Kessler whisks us away to 1942 where we find two sisters under strict orders to hide their Jewish identities.

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The world is at war and as the Nazis’ power grows, Jewish families are in terrible danger. Twelve-year-old Mila and her older sister Hannie are sent to live with a family in another city with new identities and the strict instruction not to tell anyone that they are Jewish. Hannie, determined to fight back, is swept into the Dutch resistance as an undercover agent... Code Name Kingfisher. And although Mila does her best to make friends and keep out of trouble, there is danger at every turn and the sisters are soon left questioning who they can trust…

In the present day, Jewish schoolgirl Liv is finding life tough. Her long-time best friend Karly – she’s the one with the ‘loud personality’ – has got in with a new group of friends, has very little to do with Liv now, and seems to find pleasure in making fun of her. Liv’s grandmother Bubbe hasn’t been the same since grandad, Pop, died and now the old lady, who has always been secretive, is confused and sad. But then Liv finds a box from grandmother Bubbe’s childhood and uncovers an extraordinary wartime story of bravery, betrayal and daring defiance...a story that will change Liv and her family forever, and which goes back to Holland in 1942.

Kessler’s compelling and suspense-packed story is both timely and heart-rending, reminding us of the terrible crimes and cruelties perpetrated by the Nazis against Jewish people, and the importance of not forgetting events in the past that have shaped our future.

But as well as delivering a thrilling and atmospheric adventure across two very different timelines, Code Name Kingfisher explores themes of female friendship, family, courage, connection, and ultimately, hope against a superbly imagined and emotionally charged backdrop.

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A masterpiece of storytelling and real history with echoes that speak loudly in today’s world...

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

Greenwild: The City Beyond the Sea

Pari Thomson and Elisa Paganelli

Return to the secret world where the wilderness is alive and the magic is real in the second book of the fabulous, prize-winning Greenwild debut series from Pari Thomson, editorial director for picture books at Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Thomson’s aim was to write ‘a loveletter to the beauty of the natural world’ and she ended up with a thrilling eco-adventure series which has all the hallmarks of a Harry Potter-style classic and is brought to life by Elisa Paganelli’s stunning illustrations, delivering an alluring brand of botanical wizardry.

Starring an intrepid young girl desperately trying to track down her missing journalist mum, these spellbinding tales of magic and mystery are breathtaking in the sheer power of their world building, characterisation and imaginative storytelling.

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After stepping through a mysterious hidden doorway at Kew Gardens, Daisy Thistledown found herself in another world... the Greenwild. It’s a place bursting with magic and full of amazing natural wonders like roses the size of dinner plates and giant lilypads that ferry passengers across lakes. But Daisy is on a mission to find her kidnapped mother and despite defeating a terrible enemy, she still hasn’t found her. So Daisy and her friends in the Five O’Clock Club have smuggled aboard a long-awaited expedition to the heart of the Amazon but soon find themselves in danger on the high seas, pursued across the waves by Grim Reapers. Their only hope is to find the legendary Iffenwild, a mysterious city hidden beyond the sea and lost to time. What they hadn’t reckoned on was a strange, wild magic that is stirring beneath the waves. It will take all of Daisy’s courage and determination – and the trust of a new friend – if she is to discover the truth that haunts Iffenwild, and save the magical world before it’s too late.

Thomson’s astonishing botanical wonders are a fantastical creation, the products of people who care deeply for a natural world that is wild and strange but hidden inside these unforgettable escapades are concerns about the future of our forests and oceans, and a joyful celebration of the magic, beauty and excitement that is out there in the wild if we only take the time to pause, enjoy it, and value it.

Written in Thomson’s elegant, descriptive prose, and with an addictive sense of adventure, fantasy and fun, Greenwild is an exceptional debut trilogy which can be enjoyed and treasured by readers from nine to ninety!

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

Age 8 plus:

Always Anthony

Terri Libenson

School is full of challenges… just ask chalk and cheese (or so they think!) classmates Anthony and Leah! Always Anthony is the eighth brilliantly empathetic book in the bestselling Emmie & Friends graphic novel series from bestselling US author and cartoonist Terri Libenson and is told from the alternating narratives of popular Anthony, a Black boy with dyslexia, and timid Leah, a Jewish girl from a single-parent home, as they grapple with a bullying incident at school. And in her much-loved, trademark style, Libenson’s latest look at middle school life is packed full of her lively illustrations and perfectly pitched at the eight-plus age group who are just starting to learn the ways of the world. Here young readers meet Anthony who is TPFW (Too Popular For Words), loves science, hates writing, and Leah, a super-shy nerd who’s finally making friends of her own. What could they have in common? A lot more than they thought, as it turns out! But then one day they witness Anthony’s team-mates bullying a sixth grader. What happens next could cement their new friendship... or blow it up forever. Libenson’s funny, tender and heartfelt story about unexpected friendship and everyday bravery is full of relatable incidents and dialogue, and explores issues like teenage boys’ mental health and the struggle to express feelings, which are guaranteed to strike a chord with young readers.

(HarperCollins, paperback, £8.99)

Age 7 plus:

Everything You Know About the Human Body is Wrong!

Emma Young and Maribel Lechuga

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If you thought that every part of your body is human and that the appendix doesn’t actually do anything, then you’d better think again! Youngsters will love impressing friends and family with their bodily knowledge brilliance when they dive into this coruscating cornucopia of fascinating facts about the human body. Curious readers will quickly become experts with this informative, inventive and entertaining take on an anatomy book. Do you know everything there is to know about the body? Humans have all of the answers about how it works, right? Well, this book is here to show you that you’re WRONG! But don’t worry because even the experts can’t be right all the time and this fun-filled, factual book is here to uncover the truth. From breathtaking brain tricks to awesome undiscovered senses, discover how everything you think you know about the human body is actually untrue in this in-depth, ingenious look at the workings of the human body. With an intriguing, friendly and easy-to-understand text written by award-winning science, health and medical journalist Emma Young, and Spanish illustrator Maribel Lechuga’s amazingly designed and detailed colour artwork on every page, this beautifully produced hardback gift book, with its stunning tactile cover, will impress readers of any age. Also available in this series are Everything You Know About Dinosaurs is Wrong!, Everything You Know About Minibeasts is Wrong! and Everything You Know About Sharks is Wrong!

(Nosy Crow, hardback, £14.99)

Age 7 plus:

Fantastically Great Women Sports Stars and Their Stories

Kate Pankhurst

Meet one of the greatest gymnasts of her generation, a small town girl who became a big football star, and a woman who wins in the water and out of it, in the latest inspirational book from Kate Pankhurst, a descendant of Emmeline Pankhurst, the famous organiser of the UK suffragette movement.

Pankhurst, an author and illustrator, has captured the hearts and minds of young readers with her internationally successful Fantastically Great Women series and in this new book, she tells the fascinating stories of some of history’s most talented female sports stars.

So be inspired to aim for the top of the sporting tree as we travel to Greece and watch Cynisca, a Spartan princess, become the first ever woman to win at the ancient Olympic Games, and touch the heavens with Junko Tabei as she carves her path through history and mountain ranges with little applause but a lot of bravery.

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Also featured are five times Wimbledon champion Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Dod, women’s sport pioneer Alice Milliat, Junko Tabei who was the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, Derartu Tulu, the first African woman to win an Olympic gold medal, Brazilian Marta Vieira da Silva, regarded as the greatest female footballer of all time, British Paralympian swimmer Ellie Simmonds, and Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast in history.

From football superstars to trailblazing Olympians, women throughout history have fought for the right to take part, win or lose, in sports across the globe. Whether they were the Lionesses on the pitch who won the UEFA European Championship in 2022, or behind the scenes setting up rival games when the Olympics said NO to women, these women are all sporting heroes.

With diary entries, postcard messages, maps and more, Fantastically Great Women Sports Stars and Their Stories is a celebration of just some of the women whose tenacity and skill have made a mark on the world. The perfect gift for your budding sports stars!

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

Age 7 plus:

The World’s First Rollercoaster: and Other Amazing Inventions

Mike Barfield and Franziska Höllbacher

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Discover the amazing stories of some of the world’s most famous inventions in this fun-filled compendium of curiosities told in comic-book form by Blue Peter Award-winner Mike Barfield, a writer, poet, performer, songwriter, ukulele player and award-winning cartoonist. Packed with the joyful and colourful illustrations of Munich-based artist Franziska Höllbacher, this clever and entertaining book – the first of a three-book non-fiction series from Barfield – offers children an irresistible way into science and technology, with a delightful dash of history. Did you know that bubble wrap started life as a new type of wallpaper that didn’t catch on, or that Lonnie Johnson invented the Nerf Super Soaker while working on a NASA mission to Saturn? Barfield digs into the past to tell the fascinating true stories behind an amazing range of wild, weird and wacky inventions and innovations. From bubble wrap to the barcode, instant noodles to drones, from rollercoasters to supermarkets, pizzas to post-its, and from trainers to the teddy bear, the story of each invention is told in a lively and child-friendly comic-strip format as we meet the colourful cast of characters involved in the lightbulb moments which left their mark on the world. Fun, facts and fascinating world firsts from start to finish!

(Templar Publishing, paperback, £10.99)

Age 4 plus:

Why Do We Need Worms?

Katie Daynes and Moesha Kellaway

Discover why worms are so much more than wiggly minibeasts! Inquisitive little pre-schoolers will love digging into this bold, bright and brilliant life-the-flap First Questions and Answers book which delves deep underground to find out what worms do all day (and night!) Written by Katie Daynes, and with flaps to lift, simple explanations, and Moesha Kellaway’s gorgeous, colourful illustrations on every page, this fascinating, fact-filled board book explores a wonderful world of microbes, plant roots and creepy crawlies, and reveals the crucial role they all play in making soil just right for plants to grow. Little hands will enjoy lifting the flaps to discover answers to all the intriguing questions in this entertaining and enlightening book. A wild and wonderful wiggle underground through twelve exciting pages of fun and flaps!

(Usborne Publishing, board book, £9.99)

Age 3 plus:

Mrs Owl’s Forest School: The Moonlit Campout

Ruth Symons, Seb Braun and Lizzie Noble

If you go down to the woods today... you’ll discover a forest school and a very big den! The joys of the great outdoors spring to glorious (and fascinating!) life in the second adventure of an inspirational picture book series which aims to get youngsters into the wild and wonderful world of nature. Deep in the woods, beneath the trees, the animals are gathering. It's time for Mrs Owl's Forest School. Join Mouse, Squirrel, Fox and Rabbit for a little forest school adventure. Out in the woods, they can learn about wildlife, try something new, get creative and – of course – make friends! And today they are learning how to go camping for the night. Written by author Ruth Symons in consultation with Lizzie Noble, a forest childcare provider with experience of running creative, play-based forest school sessions for families, and featuring richly detailed and colourful scenes created by French artist Seb Braun, these beautiful books will have little ones itching to explore their local woodland. And with exciting, fact-packed stories to share, and lots of activities to try for yourself, the Mrs Owl’s Forest School books are the perfect accompaniment for summertime adventures.

(Templar Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Poo That Grew

Peter Bently and Nick East

It’s a fact hard to swallow but some creatures like eating poo! Bestselling duo, author Peter Bently and illustrator Nick East, have fun with a ‘delicious’ cautionary tale about nature’s need for dung beetles in their laugh-out-loud picture book. Little ones will be giggling from start to finish as they discover the disastrously, pooey results when the dung beetles go on strike. ‘The animals were in a funk. The poop was EVERYWHERE. It stuck to paw and claw and trunk, To tail and horn and hair.’ Dung beetles love to chew on other animals’ tasty poo but when the monkeys make fun of them for having such a stinky lunch, the beetles decide to munch elsewhere. What the monkeys don’t realise is that without the beetles, there’s no one to clean up their business. And so, the pile of poo grew and grew and GREW. Bently lets his richly creative imagination take flight over what might happen if dung beetles stopped doing their job and shows children that every creature is important to our environment, even those that are small and smelly! Add on East’s bold, bright and super-colourful illustrations and there’s tasty treat in store for all young readers!

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

Age one plus:

Gigantosaurus – Giganto Games

Cyber Group Studios

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Join four daring dinos as they compete in the epic Giganto Games! There are pages of action-packed fun to enjoy with Bill, Rocky, Mazu and Tiny in a super, sporting quest which sees the dinosaur pals vying for fame, glory and a delicious reward. This heartwarming and roaringly good adventure comes packed with dinosaur love and is based on the Gigantosaurus TV series which is developed by Paris-based Cyber Group Studios from characters created by Scottish-born author and illustrator Jonny Duddle. Here we find the foursome racing, climbing and competing for glory in Cretacia’s greatest sporting event... the Giganto Games. The prize up for grabs is a delicious, glistening golden pineapple, the tastiest you’ve ever seen. But as Bill becomes more and more determined to win, how far will he go to secure the prize? Will his selfish antics put his friends in danger? Perhaps good friends are the best prize of all... It’s no surprise that Duddle’s award-winning picture book Gigantosaurus has been a global hit with the TV series launching in America on Disney Junior in 2019 and in the UK in 2020 on Tiny POP. So follow the dinos on this adorable and joyful adventure and watch out for more Gigantosaurus fun!

(Templar Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Age from birth:

Black & White and Black & White in Colour

Tana Hoban

Before babies can see colour clearly, they respond to the high contrast between black and white, so let them feast their eyes on these delightful concertina board books from the iconic American photographer and filmmaker Tana Hoban.

Hoban (1917–2006) was the creator of more than one hundred books for children and her photographs have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and in galleries around the world.

Black & White is the perfect first book for newborns, created in a concertina-style fold-out format and sturdy enough to stand by itself. It features fourteen bold black-and-white high-contrast images of everything from a baby bottle to a banana and a bib – to engage babies and very young children, help their brains develop, and stimulate development in the retina and the optic nerve.

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Next in the sequence is Black & White in Colour which features iconic black-and-white images of recognisable objects from a child’s world accompanied by full-colour photographs of adorable babies interacting with the objects.

Also created in a concertina-style, the book is ideal for little hands, and features Hoban’s bold black and white images of familiar objects – like a bottle, a spoon and a flower – along with full-colour photographs of adorable babies interacting with those objects. Cleverly designed and full of entertainment and education, Black & White in Colour encourages a baby’s brain to make connections in an ever-expanding world.

And with a handy Velcro fastener, both these books are perfect for sharing at tummy time and an ideal gift for new parents.

(Greenwillow Books, paperback, £6.99 each)

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