Human history, space maps and autumnal verse by various authors - book reviews -

The autumn nights are drawing in so snuggle up with a colourful array of new children’s books which include learning lessons from our ancestors, journeying far into space, speaking the language of Star Wars, and sharing adventures with a daring pirate cat.
The HumansThe Humans
The Humans

Age 9 plus:

The Humans: Ancient civilisations and astonishing things they taught us

Jonny Marx and Charlie Davis

The human species, as we know it today, has existed for approximately 200,000 years… so just what lessons can we learn from our ancient ancestors?

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Although we look similar to humans in the past, we now think and behave in a very different way so discover more about their legacy and how we can build on that knowledge in this fascinating, illustrated book from children's book editor and author, Jonny Marx, and talented artist Charlie Davis.

The Humans is packed with fun facts and exiting illustrations, and showcases the greatest achievements of ancient civilisations, peoples and iconic figures from history. From the Nubians to the Native Americans, and the Akkadians to the Aztecs, our predecessors have pioneered a plethora of wonderful and wacky inventions, technologies and practices.

Travel across the world from Africa, Oceania, Western and Eastern Asia to Europe and the Americas to meet the ancients who constructed monumental buildings and sprawling cities, created languages, modes of transport, art, medicines, music, stories, myths and lots more.

Over the centuries, humans have told stories that have passed from one generation to the next, they have climbed mountains, crossed deserts, journeyed far and wide, written songs, made music and painted, and we still pursue some of their cultures today.

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Youngsters will love delving into the past to discover some of the greatest inventions of our ancestors, and finding out what humankind accomplished in the centuries and millennia since the first civilisations were formed.

With pages full of richly detailed illustrations and the inspirational history of human achievements, The Humans is the perfect gift book for curious minds aged nine to ninety.

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £19.99)

Age 9-90:

A Poem for Every Autumn Day

Edited by Allie Esiri

The ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ is here and there could be no better time to celebrate autumn with some of the best and most inspirational poems.

Carefully curated by award-winning and bestselling poetry anthologist Allie Esiri, A Poem for Every Autumn Day is brimming with verse that will transport readers to vibrant autumnal scenes, from harvest festival to Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day.

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The poems have been selected from Esiri’s bestselling poetry anthologies, A Poem for Every Day of the Year and A Poem for Every Night of the Year, and are perfect for reading aloud and sharing with all the family.

With a dazzling array of familiar favourites and remarkable new discoveries, these seasonal poems – together with introductory paragraphs – are full of autumnal vitality and variety, and have a link to the date on which they appear.

There are two poems for the morning and evening of each day of the season, from September 1 right through to November 30, and the work covers a wide range of poets, including traditional names like Robert Louis Stevenson, John Betjeman, Amy Lowell, Paul Laurence Dunbar, William Shakespeare and Christina Rossetti as well as more contemporary poets Seamus Heaney, John Agard, Simon Armitage, Patience Agbabi and Imtiaz Dharker.

Esiri is an insightful and sensitive anthologist and her introductions give readers a window into each poem and its relevance to topics like war, religion or simply the joys of the season, making the book ideal for reading aloud and sharing with all the family.

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Soul-enhancing and comforting, this is the perfect autumnal panacea in the time of pandemic.

(Macmillan, paperback, £14.99)

Age 8 plus:

Space Maps: Your Tour of the Universe

Lara Albanese and Tommaso Vidus Rosin

How are you fixed for a thrilling intergalactic journey… from the comfort of your armchair!

You only need to take a peep at the night sky to know that space is an incredible spectacle. With approximately a billion trillion stars in the universe, mapping out the constellations is the perfect introduction to studying our solar system and beyond.

And that is exactly the starting point for Space Maps, an amazing new book from the ever-inventive What on Earth Publishing which specialises in the art of telling stories through timelines. For every question their informative books answer, they spark another one, helping to encourage young readers into a lifelong love of enquiring and discovering.

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So sit back and enjoy your very own space adventure through the universe with this stunning and intricately detailed collection of 24 maps and fantastic illustrations of our solar system and beyond, all packed into one super-sized book.

Marvel at the twinkling stars and the constellations that they make, and learn about what different cultures – from traditional Chinese to the Native American Navajo people – call each shape and what the patterns mean to them.

Then venture further out, past what the naked eye can see, and hop from planet to planet, viewing nebulae and black holes along the way, to explore Earth’s celestial neighbours.

Discover the different types of space technology and learn how humans have used space shuttles, rockets, probes and telescopes to explore space… there’s even a stop off at the International Space Station to visit the scientists working there!

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With fully accessible chunks of fun and fascinating facts from physicist and children’s author Lara Albanese, and a gallery of Tommaso Vidus Rosin’s eye-catching illustrations to marvel at, there is a whole wide universe out there with secrets and mysteries to solve so grab your telescope and head for the stars!

(What on Earth Books, hardback, £18.99)

Age 9 plus:

Star Wars: How to Speak Astromech with BB-8

I.M. Rollin and JAKe

Find yourself a new mechanical friend with this quirky sound book featuring BB-8, one of the most popular characters from the new Star Wars films.

How to Speak Astromech with BB-8, which collects ten essential BB sounds alongside tongue-in-cheek translations and some eye-catching, playful illustrations, will delight all Star Wars fans and follows the success of the sound books How to Speak Wookiee and How to Speak Droid with R2-D2.

Ten droidspeak audio clips, translation and conversation tips, and funny illustrated scenarios, help readers understand and get the best out of their own droid companion in a galaxy far, far away.

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This sound-driven operator’s guide demonstrates the many amazing qualities of the BB-series of astromechs, including bravery, resourcefulness, curiosity, comedy, and more, all through the entertaining adventures of BB-8.

New insights on a beloved character and lots of inside jokes will delight Star Wars fans, while BB-8’s (frankly adorable) ball-droid construction, spherical mobility, handy tool bays, dedication and loyalty to their owners make them great mechanical allies and friends.

The perfect way to celebrate those special Star Wars droids…

(Chronicle Books, board book, £12.99)

Age 9 plus:

The Cloud Horse Chronicles: Guardians of Magic

Chris Riddell

Step into a dazzling world of fairy tale wonders, intriguing mysteries, lovable heroes, unforgettable villains and skies filled with cloud horses as author and illustrator extraordinaire Chris Riddell works his special magic on a thrilling new children’s series.

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Guardians of Magic is the first book in The Cloud Horse Chronicles, a sumptuously presented and action-packed adventure series which sees former Children’s Laureate and Costa award winner Riddell at his imaginative best as three ordinary children discover that they have extraordinary gifts.

The Kingdom of Thrynne is a place where fairy tales don’t behave and magic can be found in unexpected places. For as long as anyone can remember, children have made a wish on a cloud horse, never quite believing that their wishes will come true.

But magic also brings danger to three very different teenagers with special skills – apprentice baker Zam Zephyr, musician Phoebe Limetree, and orphaned daughter of a giant slayer, Bathsheba Greengrass – because it is forbidden.

The reason is that times are changing. The future of magic is under threat from three powerful enemies… the King Rat, the Clockmaker and the Professional Princess are working together to harness the sacred magic for their own desires. If their evil plan succeeds, the magic of nature and its most powerful source, the Forever Tree, will be destroyed.

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Unless the three brave children can fight back and believe in the impossible, soon magic and the cloud horses that nestle in the branches of the giant Forever Tree will be gone forever.

Set against fantastical landscapes, and featuring witty and inventive twists on traditional fairy tales, Guardians of Magic stars an engaging cast of new and familiar characters battling evil and taking on enemies with youthful wisdom, energy and determination.

Highly illustrated throughout in Riddell’s unique, rich and intricately detailed style in a blue-toned palette, and with a special fold-out, full-colour guide to the giants in the book, this this is the sort of adventure that allows youngsters to step into an amazing, superbly imagined fantasy world.

The perfect gift for all adventure-seekers!

(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 10 plus:

Special Forces Cadets: Hijack

Chris Ryan

Special Forces Cadet Max Johnson is going to need all his combat skills just to stay alive on a perilous mission in the Falkland Islands… is he tough enough, and is he smart enough?

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A former SAS corporal and the only man to escape death or capture during the perilous Bravo Two Zero operation in the 1991 Gulf War, Chris Ryan returns with the fifth thrilling book in his exciting, action-packed series.

These military-style adventures – full of derring-do and heart-thumping exploits – have captured the imagination of an army of teen readers who count down to the next book just as soon as the last page has turned.

In the Falkland Islands, in the South Atlantic Ocean, intelligence has been received that Argentina is plotting to invade, but is it reliable? The Special Forces Cadets are sent in to investigate, disguised as nature watchers, but when they split up to conduct essential research, two of them are captured and imprisoned.

Their lives are in grave danger, but with the main operation at a crucial stage, the others are under orders to leave their friends to their fate. Can the cadets prevent a war and make it out alive?

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Expect explosive action, danger at every turn, and bravery beyond the call of duty as Ryan rolls out another cracking adventure for his fearless young warriors!

(Hot Key Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Nine Lives of Furry Purry Beancat: The Pirate Captain’s Cat

Philip Ardagh and Rob Biddulph

First chapter books should always be enticingly full of fun, so look no further than this rip-roaring new early reading series from the top-notch pairing of award-winners Philip Ardagh and Rob Biddulph.

Ardagh, bestselling author of The Grunts series and Eddie Dickens adventures, and illustrator Rob Biddulph, award-winning creator of Draw With Rob!, combine their talents on The Nine Lives of Furry Purry Beancat which stars one extraordinary cat with nine extraordinary lives.

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Purrfectly digestible for those new to chapter books, and brimming with Biddulph’s exuberant black and white illustrations, this is just the kind of series to give youngsters the enticement and the confidence to enjoy reading alone.

Just like every other cat, Furry Purry Beancat loves a catnap but, unlike other cats, when Beancat wakes she finds herself in a different one of her nine lives. In each book, our hairy heroine embarks on a new adventure, whether that’s saving a train from disaster as a railway cat, or creating potions as a witch’s cat. But one thing’s for sure… she always saves the day!

In this first book, we join our furry (and purry!) heroine as she sets sail aboard a pirate ship, helping her captain and his shipmates fight a rival crew in an epic battle at sea.

With slapstick antics, breathless action and a pussy cat always just a whisker away from danger, this is a series of cat-astrophes that has the legs to run and run!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

It’s Only One

Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal

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Just one sweet wrapper leaves a bitter taste in an imaginative and timely picture book from the top team of author Tracey Corderoy and illustrator Tony Neal.

In a world that can so easily be blighted by litter and thoughtlessness, here’s a clever, cautionary story which teaches youngsters that a little care and consideration from everyone makes a joyful world for all.

Sunnyville is a perfect town. It twinkles with total loveliness and friendliness until Rhino, without thinking, drops a toffee wrapper! ‘What? It’s only one!’ he says. But soon all the animals are throwing down their sweet wrappers, picking flowers in the park, playing their music loudly and making the whole town feel grumpy. It’s up to one little mouse, with a bright idea, to save the day!

It’s Only One is the ideal book to teach young children to think about the consequences of their actions, whether that is disposing of litter or considering how their behaviour impacts on the happiness and welfare of those around them.

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Using a cast of delightful animals characters, all brought to life by the magical brush of artist Tony Neal, and with tips and advice on being good citizens from both author and illustrator, this a lesson in caring that will be shared and loved.

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £11.99)

Age 2 plus:

I Really, Really Need a Wee!

Karl Newson and Duncan Beedie

Picture book duo Karl Newson and Duncan Beedie work their magic on your ‘wee’ ones in this hilarious cautionary tale of a bush baby in an all-too-familiar fix!

Hold on tight for laughs all round as we learn of the perils of leaving home without first visiting the loo as award-winning children’s author Newson and creative illustrator Beedie give their imaginations free flow on a rhyming, raucous romp that is destined to be everyone’s number one.

Bush Baby is in a fix. She didn’t need a wee before she left home but now she needs one right away! Uh-oh and oh dear, she tries thinking of something else and ducking into the bushes but she’s foiled every time. What will she do if there’s just nowhere to go?

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Giggles galore are guaranteed in this clever, comical book which delivers resonant life lessons about the importance of self-awareness and always taking that last-chance toilet trip before leaving home.

With Newson’s fun-filled rhymes, Beedie’s bold, vibrant illustrations, and a terrific twist in its tail that will tickle young readers, I Really, Really Need a Wee! is simply bursting with fun!

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

I Really Want to Shout!

Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti

Shout it out loud… top picture book team Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti are back with a message that speaks volumes!

The talented author and illustrator duo are calming more troubled brows and easing temper tantrums with the enchanting follow-up to their perennially popular books I Really Want to Win! and I Really Want the Cake! which have won the hearts of children and parents everywhere.

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Blending Philip’s wonderful rhyming text – full of fun, joy and down-to-earth common sense – with Gaggiotti’s gallery of big, bold illustrations, young readers meet up again with our playful but naughty little heroine who has to learn big lessons about dealing with anger.

We all get angry once in a while, but it can be hard to know what to do when we feel this way. And that’s proving a tough conundrum for our determined little heroine because there’s simply so much stuff that makes her want to yell. What should she do when she REALLY wants to shout?

There is so much to enjoy and empathise with in this engaging picture book… the sense of youthful exuberance coupled with the all-too-familiar feelings of confused frustration, the delightfully expressive illustrations, and the important messages about how to cope with anger.

(Templar Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age two plus:

What Can You See? At Night

Kate Ware and Maria Perera

Discover what the world looks like at night in a clever peep-through board book with intriguing, multi-layered landscapes.

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With simple, fun facts about the wildlife and people in each night time scene, and lots of interesting animal sounds to identify and imitate along the way, little ones will love peeping through the pages, meeting postal workers, farmers and shopkeepers.

Discover all the different nocturnal animals and birds… watch the owl swooping over then rooftops, find a fox looking for food, see the fireflies with their little lights, and find the baker starting work on his delicious bread and pastries.

With its sturdy board book pages, richly detailed illustrations by Maria Perera, and Kate Ware’s simple facts, this is the perfect introduction to the joy of books, the fun of learning, and the wonderful world at night.

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £7.99)

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