A wartime angel, ancient wonders and a shark school by various authors – children’s book reviews –

Angel of Grasmere by  Tom Palmer and Tom Clohosy ColeAngel of Grasmere by  Tom Palmer and Tom Clohosy Cole
Angel of Grasmere by Tom Palmer and Tom Clohosy Cole
Meet a mysterious wartime ‘angel’ who brings kindness and hope to a Lake District community, enjoy a captivating journey into the rise and fall of the colourful Maya civilisation, explore the fascinating world of witches in a fun-filled adventure, and enjoy undersea antics with a rock star shark band in a super new selection of children’s books

Age 9 plus:

Angel of Grasmere

Tom Palmer and Tom Clohosy Cole

Inspired by the much-loved Swallows and Amazons outdoor adventure books of Leeds author Arthur Ransome, award-winning writer Tom Palmer – who hails from the same city – once against uses the majestic backdrop of wartime in the Lake District for a moving story based on real events.

Palmer, who brought us Arctic Star and After the War: From Auschwitz to Ambleside, has a long-standing love affair with the Lakes, and in this sharply perceptive and emotive story he looks to a German wartime plan to invade Britain by landing paratroopers and gliders in the Lakeland fells as the starting point for a beautifully imagined adventure.

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It’s July of 1940 and as angry Tarn Forthergill struggles to come to terms with the loss of her beloved brother Joss – who was reported to have died after falling overboard from a rescue ship in the chaos of the British retreat at Dunkirk – she and her friends scour the hills around their Lake District home, watching for any signs of the long-dreaded Nazi invasion.

But as the war drags on, with little good news from the battlefields at the front, the locals become aware of someone carrying out anonymous acts of kindness, such as saving a flock of sheep from a snowdrift and getting help for an injured farmer who might otherwise have died.

With no one claiming credit, the thankful and uplifted people of Grasmere come to think of this unidentified stranger as a kind of guardian angel but when his identity is finally revealed, can Tarn come to terms with the truth?

Illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole and with a gripping storyline, strands of real history, and a warm and wise exploration of friendship, kindness, and what it is to be brave, this atmospheric adventure is both an inspiration and a reminder of the nation’s wartime hardships, sufferings and sacrifices.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

What It Was Like to Be an Ancient Maya

David Long and Stefano Tambellini

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Enjoy a captivating journey into the rise and fall of the rich and colourful Maya civilisation with Blue Peter Award-winning author David Long in the third book of his enthralling What It Was Like to Be... series. Largely forgotten for centuries, the ancient Maya were incredible. Their cities across Central and South America featured astonishing pyramids and palaces while they were also successful farmers and highly creative artists. The Maya were the first people in the Americas to learn how to read and write, and they invented things like rubber, chocolate and chewing gum. They had a deep understanding of astronomy, mathematics and timekeeping, although they also had some horrible, bloodthirsty traditions such as making human sacrifices. Find out what life as an Ancient Maya was actually like while also investigating why this mysterious civilisation was close to dying out when the region was conquered by Spanish conquistadors in the sixteenth century. Long’s concise and thoroughly entertaining account brings the Maya’s fascinating civilisation into focus, allowing a deeper understanding and appreciation of their often forgotten culture. With all the intriguing facts and mysteries of their lives brought to vivid life by Stefano Tambellini’s rich artwork, and published in Barrington Stoke’s trademark dyslexia-friendly format, this is a dazzling addition to a top class series from a dynamic writing and illustration duo.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Max Magic: The Incredible Holiday Hideout

Stephen Mulhern, Tom Easton and Begoña Fernández Corbalán

Put extra magic into your life with the third marvellous mystery in the amazingly good Max Magic series from TV presenter and magician, Stephen Mulhern.

Inspired by Mulhern’s own incredible story of his journey to becoming a magician, performer and TV star, and written with well-known children’s author Tom Easton, these fun-packed adventures celebrate friendship, family, never giving up... and magic, of course!

Here we meet up again with Max Mullers as he gets ready to take his magic skills to the next level. But then the news gets out that the no-good Crayfish Twins have broken out of jail and are ready to get their revenge on Max and his friends. Luckily, Max and the gang are heading to the incredible Bupkins holiday resort for a week of seaside fun... it’s the perfect place to lie low. But staying out of the spotlight doesn’t come naturally to Max, and he’s soon grabbing attention at Bupkins with his magic and mischief... and not in a good way! Max and his friends have managed to escape some sticky situations in the past, but will they be able to stay one step ahead of trouble this time?

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Packed with Begoña Fernández Corbalán’s lively black-and-white illustrations, a simple card trick for youngsters to try out for themselves, and with a dyslexic-friendly layout, this rip-roaring romp is not just an exhilarating ride through some terrific magic, but a book that is ideal for every child to read and enjoy. On with the show!

(Piccadilly Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Lily Halfmoon: The Witches' Council

Xavier Bonet

Prepare to be totally bewitched by the second book in a magical graphic novel series from talented self-taught illustrator and comic book artist Xavier Bonet who lives in Barcelona. Gorgeously illustrated in full colour, these adorably witchy stories celebrate the power of friendship and explore the world of witches with some real-life facts. Lily Halfmoon has a secret. She’s a witch! With her animal guardian and her powerful magic gemstone, she and her friends help protect the town of Piedraville from all kinds of dangers. And now it’s almost Samhain, when magic is at its strongest, and witches from all over the world are gathering at Lily’s school. There will be a meeting of The Witches’ Council, but there will also be plenty of fun activities like magic demonstrations, kelpie taming and flying races. But Lily is in trouble. A mysterious person is after her rare moonstone and if they get their hands on it, it could threaten everything Lily holds dear. Will Lily have the strength to fight for what she believes? Bonet creates an exciting and magical world as the backdrop to his intricately illustrated and action-packed stories but there is also the chance to learn some fascinating information about the witches’ lunar calendar, magic schools around the world, and some legendary magical creatures. Fun, fantasy and facts in one spellbinding book!

(Allen & Unwin Children’s Books, paperback, £9.99)

Age 6 plus:

Jawsome: Licence to Rock

R.J. Timmis

If you’re looking for non-stop adventure, dive into the second book of award-winning Australian author and illustrator R.J. Timmis’ awesome highly illustrated novel series Jawsome! The sharp-toothed heroes of these ocean romps are Finley, Hunter, Gilleon and Gnash who are busy juggling their double lives as ordinary school sharks with being the stars of the sensational rock band, Jawsome! But they soon find themselves deep in a sea of suspicious shark-nanigans. From stopping evil A.B.B.A agents to unmasking a strange new band, Jawsome will need to use all their rock star skills to save Chumville. Youngsters are loving getting their teeth into the gill-splitting antics of Jawsome, the big names at Chomp FM who have six krillion fans and three gold albums! With themes of friendship, mystery, sharks, marine life, adventure, humour, music, rock and roll, and secret identity, and featuring two hilarious stories in one book, there’s plenty of reading here for youngsters who like their adventures in bite-size chunks!

(Allen & Unwin Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 6 plus:

Bad United: Just For Kicks

Louise Forshaw

Loving your sport is more important than being the best! Young action lovers and reluctant readers will adore running in the goals with a super-charged Unicorn called Hoof in the first book of a highly illustrated, graphic series from author and illustrator Louise Forshaw. All Hoof the Unicorn wants to do is be part of a football team but his club never appreciated his talents and kicked him out. Then he spots an advert for Bad United and he feels a tingling in his hooves... a chance to be part of a team again, a chance to play the game he loves, and a chance to show off his skills. And Hoof is thrilled to find his new team-mates are more than up for the challenge. Led by enthusiastic mermaid coach Serena Winmer, the team consists of Bones, their skeleton captain who sometimes struggles to keep her head, Rex, the ROARsome dinosaur defender, cheetah striker Bolt who brings the thunder, Tinkerball who dazzles with her magic fairy moves, and Annette who guards the goal with her life (and eight spider legs). All deemed ‘not good enough’ to play for their teams (who decides what’s ‘good’ anyway?!), Bad United combine strength, skill, speed and stench to show everyone what they’ve got... Breathless fun, lots of on-pitch shenanigans and uplifting, inspirational messages about inclusivity make this super-silly action series the perfect choice for your own all-action mischief makers!

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Woodland Explorers Club: Benji’s Emerald King

Ewa Jozefkowicz and Gillian Flint

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As the nation’s woodlands burst into a riot of springtime colour, discover the wonders of nature in the first of an exciting forest school adventure series from Waterstones Prize shortlisted author Ewa Jozefkowicz. Brimming with friendship, adventure, and learning through nature, these inspirational stories – with Gillian Flint’s fun illustrations on every page – introduce young readers to the Woodland Explorers who solve mysteries and protect the animals of Willow Wish Woods. The woods are home to the ancient Emerald King, the tallest tree in the forest which has something special and magical about it. Local children, Benji, Shyla, Ajay, Trix, Fujiko and Eric, discover that its branches are damaged. Who could have hurt the tree, and why? And not only that... the stream, the Tadpole Run, is full of rubbish, and there’s not a frog in sight. The friends decide to form the Woodland Explorers Club and their first mission is to solve the mystery of the Emerald King and bring the magic of the forest back to life. With magic, mystery, forest school fun, a whole world to explore, and the added bonus of outdoor activities to try out, youngsters will be pulling on their wellies and heading for the great outdoors!

(Zephyr, hardback, £7.99)

Age 4 plus:

Tiny, Floating Coral

Mary Auld and La Scarlatte

Marvel at an amazing story that begins and ends with a tiny coral planula floating through the ocean in a soup of plankton as it looks for the perfect place to settle, divide and grow.

This is the early stage in the remarkable life-cycle of the different plants and animals that form a coral reef... a whole world of microscopic life that is too small for us to see but which can live for thousands of years.

Tiny, Floating Coral is the third book in a thrilling and innovative series from exciting, young and independent children’s publisher Mama Makes Books. The Start Small, Think Big series unfolds a world of discovery, beginning from the small and familiar to new areas of knowledge where they really have to think big!

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And from the moment a child opens the stunning cover of this new book, with its alluring peep-through hole, they will be transported to the world of coral reefs, a habitat which is under the most urgent threat from climate change, and where they will learn a host of fascinating facts.

So travel to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef – the largest coral reef ecosystem on Earth – and delve into its wonders through a narrative which has two levels. The main story is written in the first person for emerging readers, while an additional factual text is ideal for more advanced readers and shared reading.

With the help of La Scarlatte’s richly detailed illustrations, which bring the narrative and the science to life, Mary Auld’s easy-to-follow exploration includes a giant fold-out map, packed with information, and an I-Spy game at the back of the book to turn back the pages and find an array of coral reef animals. A dazzling addition to any home, school or library.

(Mama Makes Books, hardback, £10.99)

Age 3 plus:

Pearl and her Bunch

Momoko Abe

What really makes a family? A grape in search of her true identity is the star of a delicious new picture book from Japanese-born author and illustrator Momoko Abe whose tasty debut, Avocado Asks, won the hearts of readers young and old. In this new dainty dish, we meet little Pearl who makes the startling discovery that she’s not a grape like the rest of the bunch and begins to question everything! Can they really be her family if she doesn’t look like them? An adventure around the house might just help her find the answer she’s looking for. This warm and witty story – starring a stellar cast of fruit and veg of all shapes and sizes – has a simple and yet powerful message about accepting who you are and is a great starting point in discussing chosen families, identity and belonging. Brought to life by stylish, vintage-inspired illustrations, this is a book that will suit the ‘taste’ of both children and their parents!

(Orchard Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Supersaurus: Total Tricera-Flop!

Angela Woolfe and Mark Chambers

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It’s jamboree day at Smalltown but there’s sabotage afoot. Can anyone save the day? Prepare to laugh yourself silly with this romping, roarsome picture book from the top team of children’s author Angela Woolfe and France-based illustrator Mark Chambers. Dino-vision goggles? ON! Tricera-strength? READY! Supersaurus is here to save the day! But, uh-oh, everything keeps going wrong. Could Supersaurus’s superhero days be behind him? And who will turn the tide against the giant wave of ice cream that threatens to wreak havoc on Smalltown? Dinosaurs meet superheroes as the rhyme romps and the ice cream flows in this super-silly and super-funny adventure illustrated in a young comic-book style by Chambers. A laughter-packed dinosaur book that’s perfect for little mischief-makers!

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

Richard Scarry’s Please and Thankyou Book

Richard Scarry

Find out who has the best manners in Busytown... and learn how to stay safe, be polite and helpful, and have a great time!

Springtime is here and it’s the perfect time to treat your youngsters to a gorgeous, classic picture book written and illustrated by American author and artist Richard Scarry, one of the founding fathers of children’s illustration.

Scarry, who died in 1994 aged 74, is unquestionably one of the best-loved children’s authors of all time, writing more than 250 books which have gone on to sell more than 150 million copies globally. Born in Boston in 1919, he moved to Switzerland in 1968 and once wrote: ‘It’s a precious thing to be communicating to children, helping them discover the gift of language and thought.’

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Scarry had a unique ability to see the world from a child’s point of view and Richard Scarry’s Please and Thankyou Book is a shining example of his inimitable and inspirational work which offers a special kind of gentle charm on every beautifully created page.

Here, we join his beloved characters Huckle Cat, Lowly Worm and lots of other lovable animal characters for a day of fun, discovery and adventure in a busy, busy town as they learn important life lessons like being a good loser and helping friends, family and neighbours.

Filled with Scarry’s trademark humour, his richly detailed and colourful pictures to study and enjoy, and hilarious antics to spot in every spread, this busy, beautiful book is perfect for your own little mischief-makers!

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

Age from birth:

Imagine if... Flowers!: A Push, Pull, Slide Tab Book

Aya Watanabe

Let your little ones push, pull and slide their way into surreal and colourful adventures with this new zingy and zany slider book from up-and-coming Japanese illustrator Aya Watanabe who loves to explore imaginary worlds. Watch little faces light up as flowers take on unexpected forms in this joyful novelty book which proves that with a little imagination, the world is a wondrous place! Sunflowers become roaring lions, dandelion seeds become parachutes, and bluebells turn into a cable car. Lift, slide, push, pull and spin the wheels in this gloriously interactive book for babies and toddlers which has a romping rhyming text and bursts with energy and humour. And don’t forget to find the ant who is hiding on every page! Ideal for reading aloud and to encourage creativity.

(Templar Publishing, board book, £6.99)

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