Planet facts, seeds of hope and a winning loser by various authors – children’s book reviews -

Find out why little Pluto is no longer a planet, meet a boy in search of hope, share Hollywood adventures with rival siblings, enjoy sniggers and snickers with a born loser, and celebrate the amazing diversity of life on Earth with some super, sparkling new children’s books.

By Pam Norfolk
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 12:30 pm
How to Teach Grown-Ups About Pluto: The cutting-edge space science of the solar system by Dean Regas and Aaron Blecha
How to Teach Grown-Ups About Pluto: The cutting-edge space science of the solar system by Dean Regas and Aaron Blecha

Age 8 plus:

How to Teach Grown-Ups About Pluto: The cutting-edge space science of the solar system

Dean Regas and Aaron Blecha

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Did you know that in 2006, poor little Pluto was kicked out of the exclusive planet club?

There are a lot of grown-ups who still don’t know that fascinating fact… so all you youngsters out there who want to give your adults a much-needed science lesson, dive into this delightfully witty and informative book from astronomer and NASA Solar System Ambassador, Dean Regas, and show off your knowledge!

How to Teach Grown-Ups About Pluto is the first in a fantastic new series that puts children in the driving seat and allows them to educate adults on the wonders of science.

The series has been beautifully and carefully created by Britannica Books whose mission is to inspire children’s curiosity and passion for learning, offering engaging non-fiction books that you can trust, and with experts behind every page of these humorous new guides to complex subjects, the books promise to be exciting, fun and fact-filled reading adventures.

Although Pluto has not been a planet for 16 years, its tiny world still inspires people of all ages while sparking controversy. Regas reveals the reason why Pluto is not counted as a planet any more as he delves into the history of space discoveries, the key players who have helped our understanding of the universe (including the 11-year-old girl who named Pluto in the first place) and the ever-changing nature of science.

The book promises to equip every reader with the tools they need to bring their grown-ups fully up to speed, and to sneak in as many amazing astronomical facts as possible. And there’s a fun planetary personality quiz at the end, plus a handy test so that youngsters can check their grown-ups have been paying attention!

Related throughout in a funny and accessible way (with plenty of jokes to keep young readers amused) and one hundred original illustrations by Aaron Blecha to bring the cast of astronomical characters to life, readers young and old will learn that science is a living, breathing, changing adventure… and that’s what makes science so much fun.

With the very latest science on the solar system, special features including timelines, a helpful glossary and fast facts, and holographic foil on the book’s cover and spine, there could be no better gift for budding astronomers and scientists.

(Britannica Books, hardback, £9.99)

Age 8 plus:

Seed

Caryl Lewis and George Ermos

Welsh novelist Caryl Lewis sows giant seeds of hope and kindness in a magical, mesmerising story that is guaranteed to ‘grow’ on very reader who opens the pages of this wonderfully inspirational book. The award-winning author of literary fiction opens the door to youthful imaginations with this big-hearted adventure – beautifully illustrated by George Ermos – which explores the healing power of love and friendship. Marty doesn’t have much. Unlike his mum who has billions of things… newspapers, holey shoes, rusty lawnmowers, broken picture frames. She keeps everything! In fact, it’s hard to leave the house. Marty does his best to look after her and wonders if anything will ever change but on Marty’s birthday, Grandad, with a glint in his eye, gifts Marty a very special seed. Grandad hasn’t been this excited since he invented the bum scratcher 2000 or thought he had brewed wonder fuel from rhubarb leaves. The seed grows bigger and bigger, and launches Grandad, Marty and his best friend Gracie on an impossible, wondrous plan fuelled by love, hopes and dreams. Lewis tackles some serious issues with a big helping of heart and humour, all the while reminding us that it is in the love of family and the kindness of friendship that we find our greatest comfort and our greatest rewards. Uplifting and entertaining, Seed is heart, hope and humour in perfect harmony.

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

Age 9 plus:

Sister to a Star

Eloise Smith

Lights, camera... kidnap! Former Olympic fencer Eloise Smith is having a ‘stab’ at writing children’s fiction and the result is this super, swashbuckling tale starring a pair of warring sisters at the sharp end of a dastardly kidnap plot. Evie is forever crossing swords with her twin. While she practises her after-school fencing, Tallulah is winning movie auditions. Neither of them could have imagined how their worlds would collide, but when Tallulah goes to Hollywood, Evie goes too… as her sister’s identical stand-in. But that changes when the film needs some all-action sword-play. Soon Evie is the one enjoying the limelight… that is, until Tallulah goes missing. With three Commonwealth gold medals to her name, Smith knows a thing or two about duels and this super, action-packed story proves that her pen is as mighty as her sword. Sibling rivalry, Hollywood glitz and big screen skulduggery all play leading roles in this thrilling, rollercoaster mystery which stars a diverse cast of feisty youngsters and is set against the bright lights of Hollywood. Touché!

(Chicken House, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Warrior In My Wardrobe: More Misadventures of Merdyn the Wild

Simon Farnaby and Claire Powell

Who can resist the magic of a comedy of errors? Readers, young and old, are sharing the joy of this simply wizard middle grade series from Simon Farnaby, writer of Paddington 2 and star of Horrible Histories. More Misadventures of Merdyn the Wild is the second book in a hilarious series and once again stars the badly behaved, time-travelling Merdyn (the greatest wizard of the Dark Ages) and Rose, his 21st-century descendent. Vanheldon the vandal warrior, meanwhile, is furious. After all, last time they met, Merdyn turned his army to stone. Seeking revenge, Vanheldon comes up with a way to kidnap Rose and transport her back to Dark Ages Transylvania, set on luring Merdyn into a terrible trap. Except (whoops!) his magical minion kidnaps Rose’s teenage brother Kris instead. Rose, Merdyn and Bubbles the guinea pig must team up to save the day. But can they rescue Kris without creating historical mayhem? Will Rose's wizard ancestor even remember her and will Bubbles ever stop pooing? Whether this terrific tale of is read alone or aloud, there are guaranteed gags, giggles and great adventures with a historical twist on every page as Farnaby lets his imagination and storytelling skills run riot, and Claire Powell adds the finishing touches with her super-charged, richly detailed illustrations.

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

Age 7 plus:

Barry Loser: Total winner!

Jim Smith

If zany humour tickles your funny bone, then you have nothing to lose when you open the pages of a brilliant graphic series that has been making kids snigger and snicker for ten long years of laughter! Winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, the Scholastic Lollies award, and shortlisted for the Waterstones prize, Jim Smith’s hilarious Barry Loser is bounding back with a series of brand new adventures published for the first time in full colour. Anarchic fun, a super-child-friendly format full of graphic, cartoon-style illustrations, a ‘how to draw’ section to help youngsters make their own comic books, and crazy catchwords that have become part and parcel of the Barry Loser experience, are the hallmarks of Smith’s exhilarating books. So sit tight and join the laugh-out-loud fun with Barry, Bunky, Nancy and the gang as Barry (along with his new cat French Fries) decides he has had enough of being a loser and wants to prove he’s a Total Winner. But when his parents ban him from gaming, he has to think outside of the box! Smith has his finger firmly on the pulse of what makes kids (and grown-ups!) laugh… the pages of his books positively buzz with energy, madcap antics, and a joyful sense of outlandish chaos that is as addictive as it is entertaining. Wild, witty and completerly wonderful!

(Farshore, paperback, £8.99)

Age 7 plus:

Funny Bums, Freaky Beaks and Other Incredible Creature Features

Alex Morss, Sean Taylor and Sarah Edmonds

Celebrate the amazing diversity of life on Earth – and some of the remarkable creatures that exist on our planet – in this exciting, fully illustrated compendium. From puzzling toes and weird ears to odd noses and extraordinary eyes, the most unusual and unexpected body parts of the animal kingdom are explored through a humorous, accessible narrative and the stunning illustrations of freelance illustrator Sarah Edmonds. Marvel at the long pointy noses of giant elephant shrews, take a close look at the gecko’s wrinkly toes with their hundreds of folds, laugh at the eastern spotted skunk with the smelliest bum of all, and admire the mass of wrinkles on the neck of a wild turkey. These weird and very individual body parts might seem strange to us humans but, we learn, they are just perfect for the needs of this intriguing array of stars from the natural world. Written by Alex Morss, an independent ecologist, journalist, and campaigner, and author, poet and playwright Sean Taylor, this beautifully created and visually dynamic book carries important messages that everybody and everything is strange and wonderful in its own way, and that difference should be celebrated. With a section on how to help wildlife near your own home, and what can be done to protect the world’s endangered species, this charming book is ideal for young readers who love nature, wildlife and are curious about Earth and its most off-beat creatures.

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

Age 7 plus:

Sherlock Bones and the Case of the Crown Jewels

Tim Collins and John Bigwood

It might all be elementary for super-sleuth Sherlock Bones but he is still going to need some help to crack his toughest case yet! Put on your thinking caps and sharpen your pencils for the first fantastic book in a brand-new, interactive fiction series starring two crime-fighting (animal!) heroes. Sherlock Bones and the Case of the Crown Jewels – a right royal mystery featuring no less than the crown jewels – is the work of award-winning children’s author Tim Collins and illustrator and graphic designer John Bigwood. This fun-filled puzzle adventure contains over thirty games, including mind-boggling mazes, number puzzles, search-and-find challenges, spot-the-difference and silhouette matches, all cleverly woven into the action so that readers feel part of the exciting detective plot starring Sherlock Bones and his trusty sidekick Dr Catson. In this first case, the dynamic duo face multiple suspects and a trail that’s starting to run cold as they endeavour to track down the crown jewels which have gone missing from Kennel Palace. They are going to need some help to crack the puzzles if they are going to catch the culprit in time. Hours of fun for budding young sleuths!

(Buster Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Great Elizabethans: HM Queen Elizabeth II & 25 Amazing Britons From Her Reign

Imogen Russell Williams and Sara Mulvanny

As the nation gears up for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations next month, discover the life stories of some of the people who have called Britain home during her remarkable 70-year reign. Over Queen Elizabeth II’s long and eventful decades on the throne, Britain has seen incredible changes in the ways we live, think and feel, changes that were often shaped by the inspiring people who were born in Britain or arrived on its shores. From modern pioneers, leaders and scientists to writers, athletes and activists, each page spread in this beautifully illustrated special edition is devoted to a tale of an inspiring Briton. Written by writer and children’s books critic Imogen Russell Williams, and brought to life by Sara Mulvanny’s vivid colour illustration, the book also features a gloriously illustrated timeline, showing key events from the Queen’s reign, like the foundation of the NHS by Aneurin Bevan and the creation of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine by Sarah Gilbert. Meet activists like Paul Stephenson and Malala Yousafzai, scientists Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee, and learn about key figures from all areas of British life, including Winston Churchill, Alan Turing, Roald Dahl, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Yehudi Menuhin and Bobby Charlton. Great Elizabethans is not only a glorious celebration of the Queen’s reign, but also the citizens who have contributed to such an incredible seventy years.

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £9.99)

Age 3 plus:

Bugs

Patricia Hegarty and Britta Teckentrup

‘If you look down towards the ground, A world of wildlife can be found. And now that spring is in the air, New life is blooming everywhere.’ A colourful array of amazing bugs and minibeasts take starring roles in this striking peep-through book from children’s author Patricia Hegarty and award-winning illustrator Britta Teckentrup. Little ones will love turning the pages of this gorgeously produced book to watch the wonders of nature’s insect world unfold. Hegarty’s lyrical, rhyming text helps little ones to understand the magical activities and busy lives of creatures like caterpillars, ladybirds, moths and butterflies throughout the year while Teckentrup’s colourful and expressive artwork brings the teeniest, tiniest bugs to life. Don’t miss this visual and verbal trip to a wild and wonderful world of creepy crawlies!

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 2 plus:

Tickle!

Amelia Hepworth and Jorge Martín

Everyone is going to giggle, wriggle and chuckle when they turn the final page of this terrific and ticklesome lift-the-flap book! Tickle! is the second inventive lift-the-flap board book creation of author Amelia Hepworth and illustrator Jorge Martín in a fabulous, fun-filled series that began with Roar! and features a cute animal story with a VERY noisy surprise in its tail. The challenge in this new, laugh-out-loud (literally!) adventure is to make Moose laugh! So little ones (and a cast of comical creatures including a proud peacock and an ambitious octopus) had better get their tickling fingers ready because this moose is a tough nut to crack! There are lots of laughs and miles of smiles to enjoy as youngsters peep under the flaps of this chunky board book, join in each animal’s antics as they attempt to make Moose chuckle, and giggle along with the surprise sound hidden under the final flap!

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £9.99)

Age 2 plus:

How It Works: Dinosaur

Amelia Hepworth and David Semple

Look and learn! Did you know that each of a T-rex’s 60 teeth was the size of a banana with razor-sharp edges! Take a close look at the ‘cutting edge’ of the most famous and mighty dinosaur of all in a super chunky board book perfectly created for the very youngest dino fans. Dinosaurs were incredible creatures and now little ones can look inside them and discover when they lived, just how small their brains were, where they laid their eggs, how powerful their legs were, and what they liked to eat. The sturdy book is ideal for little hands, with interactive, layered, peep-through pages to grasp and explore. There is a little Mouse to guide readers through the pages which are jam-packed with bite-size facts, simple labels and an accessible text to captivate curious children. Ideal as a first non-fiction series to engage and inspire young children, the inventive How It Works books also include Rocket, Tractor and The Body.

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

One More Try

Naomi Jones and James Jones

Join a determined little circle on an up-and-down journey of self-discovery in the pages of a brilliantly clever picture book from husband-and-wife team, author Naomi and illustrator James Jones. The couple’s fabulous debut, The Perfect Fit, proved to be a worldwide hit and this endearing new story features strong and positive messages about never giving up and problem solving, as well as introducing little ones to geometric shapes and the difference between 2D and 3D perspectives. Circle loves the tower that the squares and hexagons have built and wants to make his own. But circles, diamonds and triangles are pointier, rounder and much wobblier… making a tower is not as easy as it looks! The shapes try and try but their tower just keeps tumbling down. Can Circle persuade them to have just one more try? Geometry meets appealing storytelling and vibrant, full-colour artwork as Circle’s adventures and misadventures blend maths as a core Early Years Foundation Stage subject alongside important life lessons on personal, social and emotional development. And it’s a joyful, fun-filled story offering an entertaining and imaginative exploration of shapes as well as a warm, playful celebration of the rewards of perseverance, teamwork and friendship.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Boy Who Sailed the World

Julia Green and Alex Latimer

Enjoy the hopes, achievements and adventures of a little boy in a beautiful, emotive picture book that was inspired by the childhood dream of author Julia Green’s son Jesse that one day he would sail round the world. ‘Right from the start, the boy loved the sea! He ran along the sand, danced in and out of the waves, his heart full of longing and delight.’ This little boy has always loved the sea and so he builds a boat and sails away on a voyage of adventure in which he faces strong sea currents, big ferries and cargo ships, watches magical sunsets, meets leatherback turtles and singing dolphins, rides the storms and makes new friends on their island home. Brimming with Green’s lyrical text which celebrates all the wonders of the natural world, and brought to life by the vibrant illustrations of Alex Latimer, this enchanting and inspirational tale of ambition, determination and the rewards of following your dreams is perfect for little ones who love adventure, the sea, and harbour their own hopes of one day travelling the world!

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age from birth:

People

OKIDOKID and Liuna Virardi

Opposites are part of everyday life and it’s a concept that children are never too young to learn. So here’s an inventive board book series that teaches little ones first opposites in the most delightful and entertaining way. First in the series – which was created by OKIDOKID, an agency founded by Justine de Lagausie who now works hand-in-hand with children’s author Raphaël Martin – is People which lets little ones discover a world of opposites with different kinds of people. From happy kids to sad kids and real people to imaginary, little hands will love lifting the flaps of this bright and chunky board book. Featuring the bright, stylish and quirky illustrations of Liuna Virardi and simple, accessible pairings ideal for language development, the book’s chunky, fold-out flaps transform the pictured scenes to make the opposite come to life. Simply lift, learn and explore and look out for more books coming soon in this inventive opposite series… Vehicles, Animals and Houses.

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £6.99)