Wartime heroics, animal magic and two Christmas crackers by various authors – children’s book reviews –

Marvel at a thrilling tale of wartime daring and danger inspired by real family history, discover some truly amazing creatures in a fabulous, fact-packed book of mammals, enjoy a winter-themed countdown with a family of penguins, and get colourful with a host of your favourite Disney characters in a super selection of children’s books.

Zinc by Sue Klauber
Zinc by Sue Klauber

Age 10 plus:

Zinc

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Sue Klauber

On the eve of conflict in Europe, three young siblings are determined to do their bit for the war effort... wherever that might take them.

Based on the extraordinary real-life stories of her father, uncle and aunt, fundraiser and former media educator Sue Klauber has put pen to paper to celebrate the heroic part played by her North London Jewish family in the wartime struggle against tyranny.

The sibling trio were born into a Hungarian, Jewish, British family. John became a code-breaker at Bletchley Park while George was a secret agent for the Special Operations Executive, parachuting behind enemy lines. Meanwhile, their sister Eva, who had married a Hungarian and gone back to live in Hungary, was in grave danger because the Hungarian government was an ally of the Nazis.

Zinc was written principally for her son, reveals Klauber, adding that it is ‘an adventure based on the real-life history that makes me, me’ and ‘very much a family story, in every way.’

It’s 1939 and the Nazis are menacing Europe and planning to invade Britain. As the Second World War breaks out, brothers George and John and their sister Eva want to make a difference with each of them fighting in their own different way. Soon secret agent George is being parachuted into enemy territory in Slovakia in an operation codenamed Zinc and on a mission to blow up trains, and John is cracking German codes at Bletchley Park. Meanwhile, their sister Eva is stranded in enemy-occupied Hungary. What will she do in this time of unimaginable danger?

Zinc is a triumph... a thrilling adventure, full of daring, danger and rich authenticity, which explores the lives of three ordinary young people at an extraordinary time of war when life was anything but normal. It’s a story that reveals how our relationships and decisions are shaped by our experiences and how those decisions impact on our future lives.

Written straight from the heart, and with many themes that will strike a chord with contemporary readers, this is a gripping story of one family’s heroic and selfless part in the battle to defeat a brutal enemy.

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(Troika Books, paperback, £8.99)

Age 6 plus:

There are Mammals Everywhere

Camilla de la Bedoyere and Britta Teckentrup

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Pack your rucksack and get ready to discover some truly amazing creatures with a fabulous book of mammals that come in every size and shape! Camilla de la Bedoyere, an author with an academic background in zoology, and award-winning illustrator Britta Teckentrup explore the colourful world of animals in There are Mammals Everywhere, a super-sized and lavishly illustrated non-fiction book and the last book in this sumptuous series. Wherever you travel, the world of mammals is full of surprises and diversity. Some of them clamber through the canopy, others scuttle through the undergrowth, and some even move underground. Follow a pride of lions across the savannah, spot a polar bear hidden in the Arctic snow and swing through the treetops with a family of gibbons. Young readers learn where all different kinds of mammals can be found and all the weird and wonderful things about them that they never imagined were true. With facts galore, an added search-and-find element and Teckentrup’s vibrant illustrations bringing the creatures to life, this is an exciting, fun and fascinating way to look, learn and enjoy.

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 2 plus:

Five Little Penguins

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Lily Murray and Holly Surplice

Christmas is in the air and the penguins are on a roll! Author Lily Murray and illustrator Holly Surplice team up for the second book in an enchanting and wonderfully colourful lift-the-flaps picture book based on the familiar nursery rhyme Five Little Ducks. ‘Five little penguins went out one day Over the hills and far away. Mamma Penguin said ‘Hurry back to me!’ How many penguins can you see?’ Little ones will love joining the adorable and playful penguin family on a lift-the-flap walk through a winter wonderland. There’s so much to see as Mamma Penguin and her little penguins waddle through a frosty forest, skate down an icy river and toboggan down snowy slopes. Along the way, they meet all kinds of festive animals playing in the snow. But wait... the little penguins are disappearing one by one. Whatever are they up to? Lift a host of intriguing, easy-to-handle flaps to find the lost penguins, discover a fantastic surprise ending, and learn how to count as you hunt for the chicks. With its festive mix of magical words and snow-sprinkled illustrations, this is the picture perfect book for sharing with the family at Christmas!

(Templar Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

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Disney The Christmas Collection Colouring Book

As Christmas looms large on the horizon, ‘draw’ on the help of your favourite Disney characters to keep little ones out of mischief! This bumper official Disney colouring book – packed with Christmas-themed illustrations of favourite Disney characters – is guaranteed to lift the spirits and get everyone in the festive mood. Featuring princesses like Elsa, Belle and Rapunzel, villains like Cruella De Vil, the much-loved Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Lilo & Stitch, Toy Story characters like Buzz and Woody, and Winnie the Pooh, there is something for all ages to enjoy. With intricate patterns and stylised art, the book contains over eighty festive images to colour and design and will keep youngsters entertained for hours. The perfect gift or stocking filler for anyone and everyone who loves Disney!

(Studio Press, paperback, £10.99)