The magic of words, learning to let go and the joys of nature By various authors - book reviews -

Set sail with a twin boy facing the fight of his life, discover the world beneath the waves, enjoy a breathless bedtime romp and blast off into space with a super summertime selection of new children’s books.

The Witchs Boy
The Witchs Boy

Set sail with a twin boy facing the fight of his life, discover the world beneath the waves, enjoy a breathless bedtime romp and blast off into space with a super summertime selection of new children’s books.

Age 9 plus:

The Witch’s Boy

Kelly Barnhill

Some stories are full of magic, and some stories are written in an alluring language of magic…

If both of these exciting elements float your boat, then set sail with this thrilling and powerful middle grade novel centred on the perilous fate of a boy after his twin brother is drowned when they both tumble from their raft into a raging river.

US author Kelly Barnhill – winner of the Newbery Medal with her offbeat, funny coming-of-age story The Girl Who Drank the Moon – delivers another breathtakingly dark and delightful twist on traditional fairy tales.

Ned and his identical twin brother Tam are a puzzle for the people of their village who are convinced that one of the boys must be slightly quicker, slightly cleverer and slightly more wonderful than the other. Which one that is has always been a subject of debate.

But when they both fall from their rickety raft into the currents of the Great River, and only Ned survives, the villagers are convinced that their father, who couldn’t rescue both his sons, had saved the wrong boy and he grows up lonely, awkward and ostracised by his village.

But when a Bandit King comes to steal the magic that Sister Witch – Ned’s powerful mother and a woman both loved and resented – is meant to protect, it’s Ned who safeguards the magic and summons the strength to protect his family and community.

Meanwhile, across the enchanted forest that borders Ned’s village lives Áine, the resourceful and pragmatic daughter of the Bandit King, who is haunted by her mother’s last words to her: ‘The wrong boy will save your life, and you will save his.’

When Áine’s and Ned’s paths cross, can they trust each other long enough to stop the war that is about to boil over between their two kingdoms?

Brimming with fantasy, adventure, superbly portrayed characters and timeless themes, and written in a manner that extols the sheer magic of words, The Witch’s Boy is both a page-turning treat and an unforgettable reading experience.

(Piccadilly Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Say Goodbye, Say Hello

Cori Doerrfeld

Accepting change – and learning to let go – are some of the hardest lessons in life…

Everyone, whether young or old, has to experience transition in some form or another but for the very youngest children, it’s a concept that is difficult to endure and often too complex to understand so give them a helping hand with this enchanting picture book.

US author and illustrator Cori Doerrfeld wins hearts and captures imaginations as she demonstrates through gentle words and heart-melting pictures how the end of one experience opens the door for another to begin.

Say Goodbye, Say Hello comes from Scallywag Press, a London-based children’s book company which aims to publish work by talented newcomers as well as classic titles and the work of favourite authors and illustrators with established reputations.

The emotive and visually appealing story follows two best friends as they say goodbye to wintertime snowmen, and hello to stomping in puddles. They say goodbye to long walks, butterflies, and the sun and hello to long evening talks, fireflies, and the stars. But the hardest goodbye of all comes when one of the friends has to move away. Feeling alone isn’t easy, and sometimes new beginnings take time. But even the hardest days come to an end, and tomorrow may bring an exciting new friendship.

Gorgeously illustrated and written with compassion, understanding and a special glow of human warmth, this is the perfect book to set children on the road to understanding life, and a journey that will inevitably be full of disappointments, joys… and unexpected surprises.

(Scallywag Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

A New Green Day

Antoinette Portis

Set your youngsters’ imaginations on fire with this evocative picture book which oozes the sensory joys of nature on every beautifully created page.

Author and illustrator Antoinette Portis’ enchanting book invites children to come outside to play and feast their eyes and minds on a fresh and original exploration of the natural world through poetic language, intriguing riddles and striking illustrations.

Little ones are taken from from day to night and back again as they encounter familiar animals, plants and weather. Who scribbles on the pavement with glistening ink? A snail! Who is a comma in a long, long sentence of a stream? A tadpole! Who is a sweet sucked smooth in the river’s mouth? A pebble! Who is a cool pudding on a muggy day? Mud!

Each spread offers lyrically posed questions and answers as everyday objects are described and encourage a more detailed and thoughtful examination of the surroundings they know and love.

With its simple yet powerful language, outstanding artwork, and brilliantly inspirational design and format, this is the perfect story to read aloud… and awaken the senses of even the youngest of readers.

(Scallywag Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Sea: A World Beneath the Waves

Patricia Hegarty and Britta Teckentrup

Discover the colourful world beneath the waves in a beautiful picture book from award-winning illustrator Britta Teckentrup.

In a stunningly colourful and vibrant peek-through book, Teckentrup and author Patricia Hegarty take little readers on an enchanting voyage deep into the ocean where a hidden world is teeming with life.

Teckentrup is one of the most innovative contemporary picture book artists working today. Her intricate collage style – layered here to stunning effect with clever peep-through holes – is strikingly original as sea life is explored in all its glorious contrasting shades, lights and colours.

From tiny, graceful seahorses and darting tropical fish to electric eels, humpback whales and manta ray, this colourful array of sea creatures springs to glorious life through Teckentrup’s imaginative and rainbow-coloured illustrations while Hegarty’s lyrical, rhyming text helps little ones to understand the ebb and flow of the sea and its mysteries.

Entertaining and illuminating, Sea is the perfect way to convey subtle environmental messages about the importance of protecting the world’s precious oceans.

(Little Tiger, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Bedtime Book

S Marendaz and Carly Gledhill

A trouble shared is a trouble solved in the most unexpected way in a beguiling picture book from a talented author and illustrator duo.

Welsh author S Marendaz and Yorkshire illustrator Carly Gledhill work their magic on a cute and cuddly bedtime story that starts with a breathless romp and ends with a suitably gentle snore.

Friendship and the rewards of sharing take centre stage in this big, bold and colourful book which is perfectly created to help little ones wind down at the end of a busy day.

It’s a cool, still night in the garden, but Mouse is not asleep. Someone has taken her bedtime book from outside her flowerpot home! Where could it be and how will she possibly sleep without it? Join Mouse and her friend Frank the sausage dog as they set out on the midnight trail of a little blue book with shiny stars on the cover…

S Marendaz winds up the aaah factor with Mouse and her kind friend Frank , while Gledhill’s stylish and distinctive artwork adds colour and vibrancy to a book that is destined to be a bedtime favourite.

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

I’m Sorry!

Barry Timms and Sean Julian

Sorry seems to be the hardest word…

It certainly is in this heart-hugging picture book from creative author and illustrator team, Barry Timms and Sean Julian, as they give little ones a funny and gentle lesson in the importance of saying sorry… and really meaning it!

Scribble the squirrel, who likes writing plays, and Swoop, the owl who likes making things, are the best of friends and meet up every day at the bend in the river. But when they decide to find a new a home and live together, it leads to a terrible quarrel about who is going to use the veranda. Which friend will be the first to say sorry, and can an apology fix their precious friendship?

Julian’s soft palette of colours and adorable illustrations are the ideal match for Timms’ clever and relatable story which demonstrates perfectly that ‘sorry’ is not a magic word and can only work if it’s truly meant.

Ideal for encouraging squabbling siblings to say that hardest of words, and to learn to share their space, time and toys, I’m Sorry! should always be on hand in schools, nurseries and at home!

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £11.99)

Age 2 plus:

Oi Puppies!

Kes Gray and Jim Field

The exciting team of writer Kes Gray and illustrator Jim Field are up to their wonderful word tricks again as they play puppy love with a new rhyming extravaganza.

The bestselling, multi-award-winning creators of Oi Frog!, Oi Dog!, Oi Goat! and Oi Duck-billed Platypus! will have children laughing their socks off as they join in the fun of a riotous romp starring a cast of out-of-control pups who simply refuse to sit still.

A masterclass in the absurd, this clever, comical picture book stars our familiar friend Frog and the long-suffering Dog who is looking after some puppies. Well, quite a few puppies, actually, and none of them will sit! Not even on guppies, like they’re supposed to. Puppies are far too busy being puppies to sit but they’re getting a little out of hand. Luckily Frog has got a cunning idea and it involves a ‘seating’ plan built on rhyme…

With increasingly outrageous word combinations on each page and a gorgeous gallery of Field’s bold and amazingly expressive illustrations to enjoy, youngsters will be joining in the rhymes, laughing out loud and begging for more the moment the last page has turned.

Comedy capers for all the family!

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

Age one plus:

Zoom: Space Adventure

Susan Hayes and Susanna Rumiz

Blast off into space and dive into the deepest oceans with two exciting and innovative board books which were specially created for all young adventurers.

Space Adventure and Ocean Adventure are the first two titles in an imaginative new board book series from What on Earth Publishing which specialises in non-fiction books which engage children's natural curiosity and passion for learning.

And these sturdy, informative books, with their intriguing peep-holes and a final fold-out surprise, deliver fascinating facts about space travel and the wonders of the deep with an exciting, colourful and fun-filled flourish.

In Zoom: Space Adventure, we join Ava and her cat on their thrilling journey into space where they visit the International Space Station, ride in a moon buggy, discover a Mars rover, travel past all the planets in the Solar System, and watch the greatest show in outer space… a supernova explosion.

With pages designed in the shape of number for countdown and lift-off, planets to discover, and a final landing back on Earth in time for supper, this is the perfect way to enjoy learning in action!

And in Zoom: Ocean Adventure, written by Susan Hayes and illustrated by Sam Rennocks, we meet Noah as he puts on his wetsuit and visits Earth’s most mysterious environment… the ocean. Dive down to come face to face with a great white shark, join dazzling fish on a coral reef, explore the depths of the ocean in Noah’s submarine, and discover your very own pirate treasure!

With its fun and informative facts about ocean animals, bold interactive features, and vibrant illustrations, this is the ideal gift for any budding deep sea adventurer!

(What on Earth Publishing, board books, £10.99 each)