Disney delights, Beano bedlam and a hilarious Dr Who - book reviews
Christmas is coming and there are plenty of spectacular new children's books guaranteed to put an extra sparkle into the festive season.
Age 7 plus:
The Mickey Mouse Museum: The Story of an Icon
It’s 90 years since Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse, the extraordinary cartoon character who has become one of the most iconic and much-loved figures in American culture.
Mickey Mouse is as popular and as relevant as ever. His familiar form is instantly recognisable the world over and yet despite his astounding success, he still possesses the simplicity, sincerity and humble personality that endears him to both children and adults. ‘When people laugh at Mickey Mouse,’ Walt Disney once said, ‘it is because he is so human.’
And to celebrate the enduring love affair with this adventurous little mouse, Studio Press have put together a giant-sized tribute book full of fascinating archive material showcasing Mickey’s journey from a picture on a page to irreplaceable and inspirational cartoon hero.
Beautifully illustrated with artwork from the Disney archives, this sumptuous collection gives readers and fans the experience of a fascinating museum exhibition enabling them to wander the ‘galleries’ and discover amazing exhibits on every page, all accompanied by informative text.
Through different art styles and across the decades, Mickey has adapted to advancements in animation and entertainment. His image still dominates the consumer goods landscape on clothes, toys and food products, and he has appeared across a wide range of media and forms, from comics, radio and television programmes to books, video games and films.
The Mickey Mouse Museum offers an entertaining and stunningly curated collection including concept sketches and rarely-seen material from the Disney archives, all chronicling the journey of the world-famous Mickey Mouse from his very first appearance in Steamboat Willie in 1928 to the present day.
A must-have addition to any Disney collector’s shelf and the perfect Christmas gift for Mickey fans of every age!
(Studio Press, hardback, £20)
Age 6 plus:
Where’s Mickey? A Disney Search and Find Activity Book
Mickey Mouse and his friends are also the star players in a brilliant search-and-find activity book which follows them on a series of incredible adventures as they travel through space and time, across the globe and beyond.
Jam-packed with busy, bustling scenes, exciting adventures and a cast of thousands, Where’s Mickey? is another exciting book to mark Mickey’s 90th birthday and is ideal hands-on entertainment for active children.
Follow Mickey and his familiar cartoon friends as they embark on an action-packed journey. In each location, you will find Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Pluto as they cross oceans, sail down rivers, explore mountains and cities across the world… and even journey through space to visit the moon!
And as part of the 90th birthday celebrations, Studio Press is giving Disney fans the chance to find an exclusive gold foil Mickey in a small number of this search-and-find book. Anyone who finds a copy containing the ‘golden Mickey’ is encouraged to tweet and tag @studiobooks with the good news!
Perfect for Disney fans young and old, this unique book is a great way to celebrate nine decades of a global icon.
(Studio Press, hardback, £9.99)
Age 9 plus:
Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
Welcome back to Nevermoor, a place of magic, marvels, friendship and ‘wunder’!
Morrigan Crow’s amazing adventures in the magical world of Nevermoor continue in the follow-up to Australian author Jessica Townsend’s runaway successful novel Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow which won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2018 Younger Fiction category.
Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow is the most anticipated sequel of the year and is another thrilling blend of wild adventure, soaring imagination, fast-paced action, edge-of-the seat tension, and lots and lots of magic.
Morrigan Crow is a much-feared Wundersmith and has been invited to join the prestigious Wundrous Society in Nevermoor, a place that promised her friendship, protection and belonging for life. She is hoping for an education full of wunder, imagination and discovery, but all the Society want to teach her is how evil Wundersmiths are.
And someone is blackmailing Morrigan’s unit, turning her last few loyal friends against her. Has Morrigan escaped from being the cursed child of Wintersea only to become the most hated figure in Nevermoor?
Worst of all, people have started to go missing. The fantastical city of Nevermoor, once a place of magic and safety, is now riddled with fear and suspicion...
This new episode in Morrigan’s tumultuous life as a Wundersmith is a truly thrilling, inventive, big-hearted and darkly mysterious adventure, and comes in a perfectly packaged gift book with its brilliantly illustrated and silver foiled cover and jacket.
A Christmas treat for middle-grade readers…
(Orion Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99)
Age 9 plus:
Doctor Who: The Secret in Vault 13 by David Solomons
As a lifelong Doctor Who fan, David Solomons is determined to get the younger generation in on an act that has been running for a staggering 55 years.
Doctor Who: The Secret in Vault 13 is a thrilling, hilarious and scary adventure novel set in the fantastic and thrilling world of Doctor Who, and starring the Thirteenth Doctor, as portrayed by the series’ first female actor, Jodie Whittaker.
The Doctor and her companions, Yaz, Graham and Ryan, are just working out where to go on holiday when Graham’s potted begonia unexpectedly sends out a distress signal.
Hidden in Vault 13, far across the galaxy, is a secret. Over thousands of years of existence, this secret has been forgotten… it could be the key to life or it could be a weapon which could destroy the universe. If it falls into the wrong hands, the consequences could be disastrous… and the wrong hands, in the form of terrifying alien Deadly Nightshade, are coming for it!
It’s a race against time for the Doctor and her friends to find the key to the Vault and work out exactly what it contains. But a deadly headteacher, some terrifying robots and a rather aggressive pot plant are determined to stop them.
Solomons has woven together an exciting, action-packed, fun-filled plot with unforgettable characters to create this rollercoaster adventure. Whether your youngsters are already confirmed Doctor Who fans, or eager to learn more about this iconic TV character, this amazing adventure is guaranteed to both entertain and amuse.
(BBC Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)
Age 9 plus:
The Casebooks of Sherlock Holmes: The Pound of the Baskervilles and Other Mysteries by Sally Morgan and Federica Frenna
World famous detective Sherlock Holmes has four devilish mysteries to solve… and he needs your help!
Budding young sleuths will love pitting their wits against some of the most cunning criminals of the Victorian age as they set to work on four cracking mysteries by working their way through Sherlock’s intriguing case notes.
Sally Morgan, who has written more than 20 well-loved books for children, has created an exciting and imaginative concept with these brilliant mysteries which explore Victorian England and encourage children to use their own deductive and detection skills to solve the cases.
There are hours of fun and mental stimulation as you study witness statements, look for hidden clues, spot the differences to seek out the truth, and study documents that could hold vital evidence to solve the puzzling mysteries.
With Watson away, Holmes has four tricky cases and he needs help to track down a kidnapper in The Pound of the Baskervilles, investigate an art theft in The Forger and the Fake, unravel a mystery in The Adventure of the Poisoned Apprentice and solve a gruesome riddle in The Adventure of the Found Finger.
So don your deerstalkers, get your brains in gear and the answers could well be elementary!
(Studio Press, paperback, £9.99)
Age 9 plus:
The Atlas of Heroes by Sandra Lawrence and Stuart Hill
Put on your pith helmet and get your compass ready as we join a young girl preparing to follow in the footstep of her long-lost great aunt who set out to discover the legendary heroes and heroines of world mythology.
London author and journalist Sandra Lawrence and illustrator and designer Stuart Hill – creators of the wonderful Atlas of Monsters – have once again combined their talents on this fascinating, giant-sized atlas which explores cultures from all over the world in the form of an exciting adventure story.
Alicea has unearthed papers revealing the daring exploits of her Great Great Aunt Helena, an explorer who packed sheepskin vest, flying helmet and goggles, and set out on an epic journey to track down famous heroes.
Using maps, fascinating facts and notes from Helena’s journal, we travel with Alicea from Greece, the Middle East and Africa to other amazing destinations like China, Japan, the Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, North and South America, and then back to Britain and Europe.
Along the way we meet some of these countries’ mythological legends and learn all about their incredible exploits. From Heracles of Greece and Maui of the Pacific, to the Empress Jingu of Japan and our own famous sorcerer Merlin, Alicea discovers fantastical stories of bravery, magic and cunning while cracking codes and ciphers.
Beautifully designed and illustrated, this globe-trotting, fact-finding extravaganza is entertaining, accessible and perfectly formed for curious, adventure-loving children and adults.
(Big Picture Press, hardback, £14.99)
Age 7 plus:
Little Book for Big Changes: Activities and tips to make the world a better place by Karen Ng, Kirsten Liepmann and Mona Karaivanova
Environmental awareness has been one of the biggest issues in 2018, so little wonder then that the word plastic is Oxford Children’s word of the year.
The younger generation are becoming passionate about our planet and this timely book – packed with fun activities and tips – provides children with a fascinating insight into the environmental problems that are plaguing society today.
But Little Book for Big Changes doesn’t just inform youngsters about the issues, it offers fun, educational and creative ways to help people try to change the world for the better including over 100 puzzles, games, craft activities, experiments, ideas and tips on how to recycle and reduce plastic waste.
The book is the brainchild of Karen Ng and Kirsten Liepmann who met at business school where they connected over a shared passion for social impact, and the desire to help others make a positive difference in the world. The two came up with the idea for the book and got the talented Mona Karaivanova involved to bring the content to life with bright and engaging illustrations.
With chapters on topics like global warming, hunger and nutrition, diversity and inclusion, health and hygiene, peace and order, resources and waste, the book helps young people understand complex global challenges such as inequality and climate change, and is designed to inform, empower and motivate tomorrow’s leaders to help make the world a better place.
This innovative activity book encourages young people to become responsible global citizens, develop understanding, empathy and a sense of responsibility, empowering them to protect the environment and to make the world a fairer place.
(Studio Press, paperback, £8.99)
Age 6 plus:
Beano: Christmas Jumper Activity Book
And here’s a book just made for mischief-makers and little rebels!
Chaos is guaranteed when you open the pages of this action-packed Christmas activity book which is filled with the antics of everyone’s favourite Beano characters.
Published in partnership with Save the Children Christmas Jumper Day which is being held this year on December 14, the Beano Christmas Jumper Activity Book offers festive activities, games and puzzles just made for Beano fans.
Design a Christmas jumper for Dennis, enjoy a totally un-boring Christmas board game, entertain your family with hilarious jokes, play pranks aplenty, and get stuck into some festive DIY so you can share the Beano cheer with everyone.
And if that wasn’t enough, there are also loads of cool seasonal stickers and parcel labels to use either in the activities, or just for fun.
Ideal for youngsters who love mayhem and madness!
(Studio Press, paperback, £7.99)
Age 6 plus:
Animal Worlds of Wonder by Anita Ganeri and Maddy Vian
Animals are amazing… and here’s a beautiful book that takes you on a trip around their world!
From the deepest depths of the sea to the peaks of the highest mountains, Planet Earth has an amazing variety of places where animals and plants can live… bone-dry deserts, rolling grasslands, rushing rivers, icy poles and fabulous forests.
Through the words of award-winning author Anita Ganeri and fantastic illustrations, Animal Worlds of Wonder transports us to every continent to visit some of the most remarkable and intriguing animals of the land, air and sea.
Learn all about the ecosystems they live in and the other creatures that share them and meet creatures as diverse as the Galapagos Tortoise, the Japanese Macaque, the Giant Clam, the Eurasian Otter, the Hyacinth Macaw, the Gila Woodpecker and the Triplewart Seadevil.
Lavishly illustrated by Maddy Vian and bursting with colour and rich detail, this book explores fascinating facts about the animals’ diets, habitats, roosts and hierarchy in an easy-to-understand and entertaining format.
Ideal for home study or schools, this is a beautifully produced and informative book will delight animal lovers of every generation.
(20 Watt, hardback, £14.99)
Age 5 plus:
The Adventures of Egg Box Dragon by Richard Adams and Alex T. Smith
Imagine making a home-made dragon… and then watching it spring magically to life!
The rich legacy of Richard Adams, the award-winning author of Watership Down who died in 2016, lives on in this enchanting picture book about the adventures of a mischievous dragon which began as a story for his children.
Illustrated in rich detail by Alex T. Smith, creator of Claude, the best-selling beret-clad canine hero, The Adventures of Egg Box Dragon is a delightful story inspired by Adams’ daughter Juliet’s school art project.
Emma is delighted when her home-made dragon magically comes to life. He is good at roaring and great at breathing fire but best of all, whatever you have lost, Egg Box Dragon will find it. He has retrieved missing footballs, glasses and watches aplenty. In fact, he is such an expert at cracking mysteries that the Queen herself requests his services. Will Egg Box Dragon find the missing diamond from the Queen’s crown?
Smith’s colourful and charismatic illustrations, full of child appeal, are the perfect accompaniment to Adams’ funny, action-packed story, and it’s easy to see why The Adventures of Egg Box Dragon was one of the Adams children’s favourite stories from their father’s collection of characters.
What’s certain is that a new generation of youngsters are also going to revel in this rip-roaring romp with a cardboard dragon who might breathe fire but also has a rather strange (but useful) accomplishment… finding anything that is lost!
(Hodder Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)
Age 3 plus:
The Elephant that Ate the Night by Bing Bai and Yuanyuan Shen
Translated from the Chinese by Bing Bai
Do you have a child who is scared of the dark? Here is the perfect bedtime story to reassure your little ones that nights without darkness aren’t quite as good as they might think!
The Elephant that Ate the Night – a beautiful, imaginative picture book filled with warmth, wisdom and a wonderful array of animal characters – comes from Everything With Words, a small independent publisher of children’s books producing high quality works by new talent and well-known authors. Their aim is to publish stories with intriguing plots and memorable characters, and provide stories that give you goose bumps but also make you laugh.
The story is the brainchild of Bing Bai, an award-winning children’s literature writer in China, and Yuanyuan Shen’s quirky and charming illustrations are the perfect match for this gorgeous adventure.
All the baby animals in the Dark Mushroom Forest are scared of the dark night. Zhazha the little porcupine rolls into a ball and Duoduo the bear cub clings to mummy bear. They fear the dark night will swallow them up. Then along comes Awu the elephant who doesn’t eat leaves, grass or bananas but instead loves to eat darkness. He sucks it right up his trunk.
Everyone is happy and they dance around the forest because now there is light both day and night. But when there is no darkness left lurking anywhere, everyone starts to yawn. Even the tigers lose their roars and the Dark Mushroom Forest becomes an annoying, yawning place. Soon they are begging Awu to spit out the night so they can get some sleep at the right time… in the darkness of night!
This is an engaging and clever picture book full of warmth and atmosphere and with an intriguing and original concept that provides both ‘light’ entertainment and gentle reassurance for any young child who is frightened of the dark.
Destined to become a classic, The Elephant that Ate the Night is the perfect book to share at bedtime and the perfect reading tool to cast new light on the positive side of darkness.
(Everything With Words, paperback, £7.99)