Going for gold, life and death, and an outsize pet by various authors - book reviews -
Be inspired to go for gold with a fun-filled and action-packed guide to Olympic sports, enter a thrilling world of supernatural magic and dangerous folklore, have fun on a fizzing, whizz pop adventure, and meet a demanding little boy on the hunt for the perfect pet in a sparkling selection of spring children’s books.
Age 7 plus:
On Your Marks, Get Set, Gold! A Funny and Fact-Filled Guide to Every Olympic Sport
Scott Allen and Antoine Corbineau
Be inspired to go for gold with a fun-filled and action-packed guide to every Olympic and Paralympic sport which is guaranteed to be a runaway success!
Written by former sports journalist and author Scott Allen, On Your Marks, Get Set, Gold! is a coruscating cornucopia of weird, wonderful and wildly hilarious facts but also a laugh-a-minute tour of some these sports’ strange foibles.
Learn how the Olympics began, what could happen in the future, and what skills you will need to get a head start. And from boxing to boccia, discover why each of the sports is great, why it’s not so great, what skills and equipment you will need to start practising and even how to sound like a professional!
Can you tell the difference between a karate chop and a belly flop? Can you throw, row or put on a medal-winning show? If the answer is yes, maybe you too could have what it takes to become an Olympic champion. And if not there’s no need to panic!
Lavishly produced, On Your Marks, Get Set, Gold! is a true sporting treasure and comes packed with the eye-catching illustrations of Antoine Corbineau who specialises in creating colourful, fun and beautifully striking artwork through texture, imagery and typography.
So if you want to know how to become a professional sportsman, and you’re speedy, sporty and just a little bit silly, what are you waiting for? On your marks, get set and GO buy the book!
(Nosy Crow, hardback, £14.99)
Age 9 plus:
The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke
Big questions about life, death and ageing come under the observant eye of exciting middle grade author Kirsty Applebaum in an enthralling and heart-rending novel about family, secrets and a terrible power.
The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke – a contemporary and deeply atmospheric fairy tale with a truly original narrator – is an adventure brimming with all the supernatural magic and dangers of folklore, but also a gentle invitation to youngsters to contemplate mortality.
Lonny is a lifeling. He didn’t know he possessed special powers until the day in the woods when a buzzing in his ears leads him to a dying rabbit. When he touches the rabbit, it revives and Lonny realises he has the gift to heal any living creature and bring it back from the dead.
But there is a heavy price to be paid for this magic touch… by lengthening the creature’s life, he gets older and older each time and shortens his own life.
His grandfather, who knows all about the lifeling gift, tells Lonny that he must now be careful and protect himself and the rest of the family. He must stay hidden in the forest because if people knew what he could do, Lonny would soon be left with no life at all...
Full of twists and turns, nail-biting tension, and though-provoking dilemmas, The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke is one of the cleverest and most compelling middle grade books you will read this year.
Applebaum’s story encourages children to engage in important philosophical debates as well as giving them a gripping and emotional rollercoaster ride into danger, uncertainty and a high-stakes adventure.
Top class reading!
(Nosy Crow, paperback, £7.99)
Age 9 plus:
Everyone will be raising their glasses when they get their hands on this fizzing, whizz pop adventure from award-winning author Mitch Johnson.
Featuring the world’s most popular fizzy drink, a trillion dollars, and a rip-roaring adventure that ends with a bang, this is a hilarious, all-action reading experience with timely messages neatly tucked into its heart.
Get ready for good guys and bad guys, an outrageous theft and a huge reward as two friends on the run discover how far you can go through the power of courage, and how standing up for what’s right makes the world a better place.
Queenie de la Cruz stares out at the ocean and dreams of a world beyond her small town, and she’s about to get her wish...
When the priceless recipe for the world’s most popular drink Mac-Tonic™ – thought to be lost forever – washes up at her feet near her shabby home on the coast of North California, Queenie’s life instantly changes. Everyone wants it, and with a ten million dollar bounty on her head, Queenie’s soon on the run.
Pursued by bounty hunters, black-ops helicopters and angry mobs, Queenie’s journey involves a trip to Area 51, a man-eating alligator and an unlikely new friend, Todd. But being on the run also makes Queenie begin to see the world around her more clearly… a world in which a big corporation's excess has left the planet covered in its plastic bottles and waste.
Suddenly, the home she always dreamed of escaping, and the ocean she grew up with and took for granted, don’t seem so bad. If Queenie and Todd can bring down the bad guys, maybe she can go back home and make a difference...
Caring for our endangered planet, digging out secrets in high places, and doing your bit to right wrongs are all tackled her with a light touch and an outrageously funny brand of comedy that will keep delighted youngsters turning the pages.
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry… and you’ll enjoy every minute of the ride!
(Orion Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)
Age 8 plus:
The Beast of Harwood Forest
Dan Smith and Chris King
Something spooky is lurking in the forest at night… and three daring children are determined to discover exactly what it is!
A school camping trip takes a menacing turn in a thrilling supernatural mystery from the pen of Newcastle-based Dan Smith, the award-winning and imaginative author of books for both children and adults.
What’s hiding in Harwood Forest? When Pete, Nancy and Krish arrive at Heathland Camp for a school trip, they’re in for an adventure – just not the kind they were expecting.
Nearby sits the abandoned Harwood Institute. The crumbling buildings are out of bounds but strange screams come from the surrounding forest at night. Mystery shrouds the events that took place at the institute during the war, so Pete and his friends make it their mission to find out the truth.
But the forest is hiding a sinister secret, and the trio could be in real danger... are some mysteries best left undisturbed?
Featuring the suitably dramatic black and white illustrations of Chris King, and published in Barrington Stoke’s trademark dyslexia-friendly format, this terrific, fast-paced tale of three youngsters caught up in a secretive plot is packed full of twists and turns, ghost stories and mysterious experiments.
Expect thrills, chills and spills… but best not read after nightfall!
(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)
Age 7 plus:
Knight Sir Louis and the Dragon of Doooooom!
The Brothers McLeod
If it’s crazy fun you’re looking for this spring, mount your steed and join the charge with the second book in a hilarious, illustrated series from BAFTA award-winning sibling duo, The Brothers McLeod.
The Knight Sir Louis adventures have been dubbed Monty Python and the Holy Grail for middle grade readers… and it’s easy to see why! Brimming with inventive storytelling, laugh-out-loud jokes, choose-your-own adventures, and madcap comic strip illustrations, this is a masterclass in crackpot comedy.
Knight Sir Louis is the bravest knight at King Burt’s Castle Sideways. He has defeated hungry dragons, evil goblins and horrible wizards (but please nobody mention wasps, Knight Sir Louis is absolutely NOT afraid of them).
And now he has been sent on another important mission… he must face the dastardly, double-headed dragon, Borax, whose aim is to be really, really irritating to as many people as possible! And Louis’ mission isn’t made any easier with the tricksy jester Merry-Jingles trying to steal his thunder. Things are about to get hot, then hotter, then boiling.
Luckily, Louis has great friends who can help… his trusty, flying robot horse, Clunkalot, an adventurous boar (a unique sort of piggywig) called Catalogue, and Pearlin, the brilliant young wizard and inventor (wizentor). That’s bound to help… right?
The Brothers McLeod (otherwise known as Myles and Greg) dish up another raucous romp full of super-silly sword play, bone-crunching action, and hilarious heroes as Louis and his friends save the day again.
Sublimely funny and seriously entertaining, this is the ideal way to get your youngsters hooked on reading… and medieval mischief!
(Guppy Books, paperback, £6.99)
Age 3 plus:
The Pet: Cautionary Tales for Children and Grown-ups
Catherine Emmett and David Tazzyman
Looking for the perfect pet becomes an oversized problem for one very demanding little boy in a super-funny cautionary tale from a dazzling and creative picture book duo.
Rising star author Catherine Emmett and David Tazzyman, the internationally acclaimed and award-winning illustrator of the Mr Gum series, work their animal magic on a rhyming romp which might just make little ones think more carefully about what they wish for!
Digby David slammed the door, and dumped his bag upon the floor. ‘Daddy! I DEMAND a pet, Why have I not got one yet?’ Digby David wants a pet, but not just any pet… it has to be TWICE as big as Reuben’s guinea pig and even better than Lily Jean’s cat.
So Digby David’s Daddy does what he’s told, and soon Digby has a guinea pig, which he loves with all his heart... for half a day. Digby demands bigger and better, Daddy’s hair gets greyer and greyer, and when Digby’s dog gets boring too, he insists Daddy buy him... a gorilla!
This brilliantly clever tale – brought to life by Tazzyman’s dynamic and ingeniously detailed illustrations – will strike a chord will all parents as Digby David’s pet demands grow more and more outrageous.
But between the madcap antics and the giggles, Emmett also delivers subtle lessons about wanting too much, and the importance of caring properly for your pets… messages that speak loudly and powerfully because of their cross-generational appeal.
A bedtime treat for all the family to enjoy!
(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99)
Age 3 plus:
My Summer with Grandad
Even the best of friendships have to end in a beautiful picture book from author and illustrator Tom Tinn-Disbury.
Tinn-Disbury, whose debut The Caveman Next Door was shortlisted for the Read It Again! Picture Book Awards, plucks at our heartstrings with this moving and appealing story which celebrates the special bond between children and their grandfathers.
Eric loves spending summers with his grandad. This summer is even more special because it’s the first time he will be helping his grandad catch lots of fish on his old fishing boat. Eric always imagined he would be a great fisherman but it turns out he isn’t! So grandad gives Eric one very important job … Chief Seagull Shoo-er! But when Eric and grandad rescue Beaky, a baby seagull, who is trapped in one of the fishing nets, Eric isn’t sure that he wants to see his new friend fly away.
My Summer with Grandad is a joyous tale of family love and shared adventures, and a gentle, humour-infused lesson for youngsters about the importance of freeing animals into the wild rather than keeping them as pets.
Brimming with Tinn-Disbury ‘s richly detailed, expressive and colourful illustrations, this is a story guaranteed to entertain, inspire and educate.
(New Frontier Publishing, hardback, £11.99)
Age 3 plus:
Mr Bat Wants a Hat
Kitty Black and Laura Wood
The desire for a smart new hat goes to the head of a naughty little bat in a funny and clever cautionary tale from author and illustrator duo Kitty Black and Laura Wood.
Mr Bat wants a Hat is a delightfully heart-warming and imaginative story about taking away and giving which encourages young children not to be selfish and to learn to think about others.
Mr Bat is missing something. Something important. Yes, of course, that’s it… a hat! He wants a hat! Soon he finds the perfect pink hat with pretty roses and covered in glitter, but this hat belongs to someone else. It’s on the head of a sleeping baby in her pram and that doesn’t bother him at all. Or does it?
Important themes about empathy, kindness and doing the right thing are played out in Black’s story as she helps children to recognise the role of their conscience when it comes to decision-making and to understand how two lines of thought or behaviour can run alongside each other.
With Laura Wood’s brilliant expressive and colourful illustrations to add an extra layer of fun, Mr Bat is destined to be a story time favourite with your own mischief-makers!
(New Frontier Publishing, paperback, £6.99)