The tree of life, wordplay wonders and a couch potato by various authors - book reviews -

Enjoy a beautiful Christmas tale of friendship and new beginnings, share tears and tantrums with the Queen of the Dorks, get lost in a magical world of verse, and meet a couch potato who can’t peel himself away from the sofa in a colourful selection of children’s books.

The Robin and the Fir Tree
The Robin and the Fir Tree

Age 4 plus:

The Robin and the Fir Tree

Jason Jameson

Life and its blessings of hope and continuity take centre stage in an exquisitely illustrated tale inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Fir Tree.

This beautiful, though-provoking retelling is the work of Jason Jameson who has over 15 years of experience in concept and character development, design and animation direction, and is co-founder and creative director of Unanico Group, an award-winning media company.

Jameson, who is currently working on a short film of The Robin and the Fir Tree, brings us a lyrical story with an uplifting message about friendship and new beginnings, brought to vivid life by a stunning gallery of Pre-Raphaelite inspired illustrations.

The fir tree grows in a forest far away from the bustle of the town. It is a beautiful place, but he dreams of the excitement of the outside world. His friend the Robin tells him stories of the places she has seen, and the forest animals dress him up with berries and leaves, but he is still not happy.

One day he is cut down and taken away to be a beautiful Christmas tree in the middle of town. He thinks his dreams have come true, but what will happen when his decorations are finally packed away?

The Robin and the Fir Tree speaks loudly to readers young and old about love, renewal and the cycle of life, and is the ideal gift book for the season of sharing, caring and remembrance.

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £14.99)

Age 9 plus:

Double Dork Diaries: Frenemies Forever and Crush Catastrophe

Rachel Renée Russell

Nikki Maxwell, Queen of the Dorks, is back for a special bumper edition of dorkiness featuring a bind-up of two brilliant books from the blockbuster bestselling Dork Diaries series.

Nikki and her BFFs Zoey and Chloe are the giggling, gossiping stars of Rachel Renée Russell’s much-loved Dork Diaries series which chronicles the daily dramas of the 14-year-old’s life inside (and outside!) school.

Russell, a US lawyer who prefers writing children’s books to legal briefs, also illustrates the fabulous Dork Diaries, filling Nikki’s entertaining meanderings with drawings, doodles and comic strips.

In Crush Catastrophe, it’s the countdown to the end of the school year and Nikki is juggling some big questions about how she will spend her summer. She is also facing an unexpected crush catastrophe… there’s a new kid interested in Nikki but the last thing she wants to do is accidentally hurt Brandon. It all comes down to the very big decision Nikki has to make, and drama like she has never faced before!

And in Frenemies Forever, Nikki is spending a week at North Hampton Hills as part of the school transfer programme. The good news is that NHH is super-cool and preppy. The bad news is that Nikki’s nemesis MacKenzie started there two weeks ago! But, faced with NHH queen bee Tiffany, who takes meanness to a whole new level, Nikki might need to work WITH MacKenzie if she’s going to survive the week! Can Nikki and MacKenzie overcome their differences and become BFFs… Best Frenemies Forever?!

Friendship, fun and boyfriend gossip… what more could any teen girl want?

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £8.99)

Age 7 plus:

Saturdays at the Imaginarium

Shauna Darling Robertson and Judith Wisdom

Escape into the magical worlds and imaginative wordplay of Northumberland-born poet Shauna Darling Robertson in an excitingly original book of verse which comes beautifully illustrated by Judith Wisdom.

In her first book of poems for children, Darling Robertson – whose work has been performed by actors, displayed on buses, used as song lyrics and turned into short films – celebrates creative thinking, encourages curiosity and revels in the pleasure of looking at things from a different angle.

Between the pages of this book, you can discover a world where ordinary things like eating and adverts seem quite preposterous, while absurd things such as teacups feeling unloved are fairly commonplace.

Thoughts fly around like mosquitoes, a day lasts longer than a year and the weather forecast predicts an ear-to-ear grin nearly two miles high. Meet a child who catches her dreams in a net, a polite rebel who asks nicely before overwriting history… and undercover magicians who operate on every high street.

Inventive, provocative and entertaining, Saturdays at the Imaginarium uses language and thought in an extraordinary way to ask big questions about how we think about ourselves, each other and the world whilst inviting children of all ages to explore the possibilities of their own vastly creative minds.

The perfect book of poetry to inspire young minds…

(Troika, paperback, £7.99)

Age 4 plus:

The Couch Potato

Jory John and Pete Oswald

When you love being a couch potato, going out to play seems like a half-baked idea…

But peeling yourself off the sofa when a power cut strikes turns out to be just the start of a big outdoor adventure in the fourth, fantastic picture book from author Jory John and illustrator Pete Oswald, bestselling creators of The Bad Seed, The Good Egg, and The Cool Bean.

This terrific top team can’t put a foot wrong when it comes to conjuring up child-friendly stories with important life messages carefully wrapped up inside lots of John’s warm and witty wordplay, and Oswald’s captivating, high-energy artwork.

So get ready to giggle and gorge on the antics of the Couch Potato who has everything he needs within reach of his comfy, cosy couch... a remote control, a games console, headphones, popcorn and a shimmering wall of screens. But when the electricity suddenly goes out, Couch Potato’s slouching on the couch ends abruptly and he dares to leave the comforts of his lounge and venture outside. And when he does, he realises fresh air and sunshine could be just the thing he needs!

Little ones will soon be laughing along as their new spuddy buddy learns that balancing screen time and playtime can be the root to true happiness. After all, there’s a big, wide world out there just waiting to be discovered!

The perfect gift book to egg on your own couch potatoes… and watch them scramble for the door!

(HarperCollins, hardback, £12.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Tooth Fairy and the Home of the Coin Makers

Samuel Langley-Swain and Davide Ortu

Everyone’s favourite Tooth Fairy is braced for a magical transformation in a new series of colourful, rhyming picture books created in an exclusive partnership between Owlet Press and The Royal Mint.

This inventive books present the Tooth Fairy as you have never before seen her as she shares adventures with a pair of inquisitive twins whose wobbly teeth provide the portal to the magical place where all Tooth Fairies are trained… The Royal Mint!

With the vibrant illustrations of artist Davide Ortu and fast-paced, rhyming stories by Samuel Langley-Swain, these books offer a fresh, contemporary twist on the much-loved Tooth Fairy and fascinating insight into the work of the original coin-maker.

In the first book in the series, The Tooth Fairy and the Home of the Coin Makers, twins Ollie and Grace are delighted to both get their first wobbly tooth at exactly the same time. After Grandpa tells them to expect a visit from the Tooth Fairy, they wake the next morning to find a glistening coin under their pillows. When they rush to Grandpa’s amazing collection room, he explains that coins come from The Royal Mint where Tooth Fairies are trained. Maybe one day Ollie and Grace will see this magical place for themselves!

And in The Tooth Fairy and the Magical Journey, Ollie and Grace both lose their teeth and put them under their pillows with a trap to catch the Tooth Fairy. Imagine their surprise when they wake to find a Watch Mouse named Wensleydale walking around their bedroom. Not only that, he knows their grandpa! They learn how Watch Mice help Tooth Fairies by checking that children are fast asleep. And soon the twins are travelling through magical underground tunnels to The Royal Mint where they meet the Chief Tooth Fairy herself who is waiting with a special gift.

Also in the series is Dilwyn The Welsh Dragon, a new and exciting story about the origins of the Welsh Dragon, written by Langley-Swain and illustrated by Jessica Rose.

In the valleys of Wales, everyone at The Royal Mint is hard at work making coins. But one night, a baby red dragon hatches from a magical egg. The makers name him Dilwyn and take care of him until he’s big enough to guard their coins. Every night Dilwyn sleeps high up in the rafters keeping watch… until two robbers foolishly try to break in and discover that Dilwyn has a mighty roar and a fiery breath!

With exciting tales of treasure, shiny coins, watch mice, dragons and timeless tooth fairies, these are enchanting books to read aloud and share, and to help develop reading skills in young children.

(Owlet Press, paperback, £7.99 each)

Age 3 plus:

How To Be a Bug Warrior

Written by The Parent-Child Dino Research Team and illustrated by Loyal Kids

Getting health and safety messages across to your little ones during the ongoing pandemic is a tricky task for parents and teachers…

So turn learning into fun with this clever picture book which blends practical tips about staying safe with an engaging child-friendly story, and provides gentle reassurance to youngsters who are worried by the disruptions to their daily life.

Danny Dino is not feeling well. What can he do to protect himself and others from getting sick? Dr Pterosaur tells Danny Dino and his friends how to prevent the spread of germs and bugs through correct hand washing, and other useful tips. Can you do the seven step super handwash just like Danny Dino?

How To Be a Bug Warrior was written by the Dino Parent-Child Relationship Research Team, which is composed of experts on early childhood psychology and early childhood education in domestic universities. By analysing early childhood behaviours, it studies the characteristics of early psychological development, and provides parents with professional advice on understanding their children.

With a colourful array of illustrations by the Loyal Kid company, a simple question and answer quiz to reinforce advice given throughout the story, and tips on how to protect yourself and others, this is an invaluable teaching tool for both parents and schools.

(Little Steps Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Detective LB and Hopper: The Case of the Missing Chocolate Frogs

Janey Gaston and Anil Tortop

When some very special chocolate frogs go missing, solving the mystery could well lead to meltdown!

Author Janey Gaston and illustrator Anil Tortop blend their talents on a fun-filled picture book starring two star sleuths who are determined to solve a sweet dilemma with just with two magnifying glasses, a hat, two comic books and three carrots.

So step inside the adorable Bunnybugs Detective Agency and meet Detective LB, the brainy ladybug detective, and her partner Hopper, a comic-loving, all-action rabbit. There haven’t been many cases to solve recently but that all changes when Mr Poppy from the Poppycat Candy Company arrives with a baffling case. An important consignment of extra delicious chocolate frogs, which should have been delivered to Grandma Rose, has mysteriously disappeared, and silky smooth Mr Poppy is convinced someone is stealing them. Can LB and Hopper solve the case?

Any child with a sweet tooth and a fascination for mysteries will love this superbly illustrated, chocolate-coated story which packs in lashings of laughs, miles of mishaps… and an unexpected superhero!

The perfect stocking filler and fun for all the family…

(Little Steps Publishing, paperback, £6.99)