Book reviews: Rip-roaring adventures and classroom capers
June is fun time for young readers as publishers roll out an exciting selection of books packed with thrills, spills, school larks and laughter.
Enjoy a captivating debut fantasy adventure set on the Sussex coast, join a madcap schoolboy on his summer camp and share the extraordinary tale of an ordinary boy called upon to save the world.
Age 8 plus:
The Rose Muddle Mysteries: The Amber Pendant by Imogen White
Fantasy adventures don’t come much better than this rip-roaring debut from an exciting new writer inspired by her rich local history.
Imogen White draws on the mystery of a Bronze Age amber cup tucked away in her local museum in Hove, East Sussex, to bring us the first book of a thrilling new series featuring ancient magic, dark spirits and a feisty girl plucked from an Edwardian workhouse to seek out her amazing destiny.
The Hove Amber Cup was discovered beneath an enormous ‘Beowulf-style’ burial mound which once stood in the centre of the town. White says she found herself imagining who this forgotten hero was, why he owned the cup crafted from amber and what he might have done to be buried in such a grand way.
The result is this exhilarating and inspirational story, a classic adventure that blends myth and magic with ancient legends, an intriguing period setting and thrilling fantasy.
When 12-year-old Rose Muddle is plucked from the workhouse in 1907 by a mysterious woman, she finds herself working as a maid in a grand mansion. But she soon learns that her new mistress, the frail Miss Lucile Templeforth, has much bigger plans for Rose.
She is the keeper of a strange amber pendant, a pendant with extraordinary powers, holding spirits which were trapped inside it long, long ago, and Rose is to inherit it. But with the pendant comes huge responsibility and danger, for there is a second pendant held by those who wish to wreak havoc on the world and turn it into a place of shadow inhabited by fearsome enemies.
With the help of her new friend Rui Singh, nephew to the Maharajah of Jaipur, and Bahula the monkey, Rose is swept into a perilous adventure, pitting herself against the scary Brotherhood of the Black Sun. As the shadows begin to close in, can Rose uncover the truth of her own destiny to stop these forces of evil?
Expect danger, fearsome enemies, friendship and fun as this enthralling new series takes off at a cracking pace!
(Usborne, paperback, £6.99)
Age 9 plus:
Harry Potter Colouring Book: Celebratory Edition by Warner Bros
What a wizard way to enter the wonderful world of Harry Potter!
This exciting and beautifully produced book is the ideal introduction to the Harry Potter Colouring Book series which lets youngsters add a little of their own magic to the films that have brought the famous boy wizard to glorious technicolour life.
This special 20th anniversary Celebratory Edition features a selection of artwork from the Harry Potter Colouring Book, Harry Potter Magical Creatures Colouring Book, and Harry Potter Magical Places & Characters Colouring Book, along with several exclusive never-before-seen images.
From the orange, brown and green hues used to convey the warmth and whimsy of the Weasley family to the emerald green and silver of Slytherin house, colour was an essential element in creating Harry Potter’s world on the big screen and conjuring up an atmosphere full of enchantment.
Packed with stunning pieces of artwork from the Warner Bros archive, the book – best used with colouring pencils rather than paints – gives fans the chance to colour in the vivid settings and much-loved characters of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world.
The intricate line drawings used in the making of the Harry Potter films feature many of the fan-favourite scenes, creatures, and characters of the series, from Dobby and baby Norbert to Quidditch games and the unforgettable Lord Voldemort.
The film stills, full colour photographs and concept art included at the back of the book can be used as both a guide and inspiration as youngsters explore the colour of the Harry Potter films.
Fun and fascinating, the Harry Potter Colouring Book will be loved by budding young artists and is an exciting collector’s item for fans of the blockbuster saga.
(Studio Press, paperback, £9.99)
Age 8 plus:
The Misadventures of Max Crumbly: Middle School Mayhem by Rachel Renée Russell
If you have any reluctant readers in your house, here is the second brilliantly funny adventure in a series guaranteed to wean them off the Xbox and into the wonderful world of books.
Written in the style of a journal, packed with eye-catching illustrations and guaranteed to touch all young funny bones, Max Crumbly and his amazing misadventures are the creation of the ever-popular Dork Diaries author Rachel Renée Russell, a US lawyer who prefers writing children’s books to legal briefs.
While the Dork Diaries series chronicle the daily dramas of a 14-year-old girl’s life, madcap Max Crumbly is the disaster-prone male Dork on the block and his zany antics will have youngsters laughing all the way to his next adventure.
When we last left our hero, Max Crumbly, he had crash-landed on top of a Mighty Meat Monster pizza after taking a late night tumble through the vents at South Ridge Middle School… and he was completely surrounded by three ruthless criminals!
Will Max be shredded to bits like mozzarella cheese on the hard and crunchy pizza crust of doom? Can his friend and sidekick, computer whiz Erin, help get him out of this sticky situation alive?
Max’s escapades pack a real punch… along with all the knockabout fun and humour, Russell offers subtle wisdom and advice on some of the more serious issues which can affect middle grade youngsters.
Mad Max just got even madder!
(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £10.99)
Age 8 plus:
Beaky Malone: Super Creepy Camp by Barry Hutchison and Kate Abey
Get ready to laugh out loud this summer with the third book in the brilliantly comic adventure series from Barry Hutchison, an award-winning children’s author and screenwriter who has his finger firmly on the pulse of children’s humour.
The star of these irresistible stories is Dylan Malone, aka Beaky, a naughty but nice schoolboy who has a hilarious habit of telling porkies… yes, every time he opens his mouth, out pops a whopper, whether that’s a proclamation that he is in love with the school dinner lady, or swearing blind that the dog ate his homework.
The Beaky Malone books – a joy for naughty schoolboys everywhere – feature suitably anarchic illustrations from the pen of illustrator Kate Abey and come courtesy of Stripes Publishing, a ‘small-but-mighty’ imprint of the Little Tiger Press stable which prides itself on creating books that children want to read.
And there is certainly plenty of fun to be found in the latest outrageous adventure starring everyone’s favourite school pals! When Beaky, Theo and Wayne are chosen to take part in the annual inter-schools contest with Foxley Hill, it can mean only one thing for Beaky … trouble.
The contest includes a debate, a quiz and an overnight team-building exercise. With Wayne determined that their team be crowned the victor, Beaky’s only hope is to keep his mouth firmly shut, but as past experiences have earned him the title of World’s Greatest Liar, it won’t be easy. Cue chaos, calamity and things that go bump in the night…
Hutchison’s imagination moves into overdrive in this hilarious knockabout tale filled with crazy capers, madcap moments and frantic antics. Hold on to your hats, take a deep breath and prepare to laugh your socks off because bad boy Beaky is back!
(Stripes, paperback, £5.99)
Age 7 plus:
Boyband of the Apocalypse by Tom Nicoll and David O’Connell
A funny thing happened on the way to the boyband concert…
Band fandoms and pop reality TV shows meet alien Armageddon in a truly apocalyptic reading odyssey from the (self-confessed) very silly but inspired author Tom Nicoll and his partner in crime, illustrator David O’Connell.
This daring duo have come up with a comical masterpiece… the extraordinary tale of an ordinary boy with ordinary hair who is suddenly called upon to save the universe!
When Sam agrees to take his little sister, Lexie, to see the world’s most popular boy band, Apocalips, he expects it to be bad. But he doesn’t expect to get locked in a cupboard, to overhear the band plotting to destroy the world and to witness them disintegrate one of their own members.
When no one believes him but his best friend Milo, Sam is left with no option but to take part in a contest to join the band to try and save the world from Armageddon. To do this Sam will have to become someone he’s never been before. With help from Milo and Lexi, he’ll have to overcome the Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse, pop Svengali Nigel Cruul, a dodgy haircut, and his complete inability to sing or dance. Still, it’s not the end of the world… well, not yet!
This fast-paced, exciting and fully-illustrated adventure is perfect pop fiction for reluctant readers and boyband fans… and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud guffaws to really make the story sing!
(Stripes, paperback, £6.99)
Age 7 plus:
St Grizzle’s School for Girls, Ghosts and Runaway Grannies by Karen McCombie
Welcome back to St Grizzle’s … a batty boarding school for girls where the emphasis is more on riotous fun than old-fashioned learning!
St Grizzle’s School for Girls, Ghosts and Runaway Grannies is the second book in an anarchic school series featuring the fantastic illustrations of Manchester-based rising star Becka Moor and guaranteed to hit the funny bones of both children and their parents.
The outrageous antics of a madcap cast of characters, a loopy goat called Twinkle and extra big servings of off-the-wall humour are the winning formula for this wonderfully wacky boarding school farce which is proving to be the St Trinian’s for a new generation of mischief-making youngsters.
These fantastically entertaining books spring from the imagination of Karen McCombie, the prolific author of over 80 super books for children and a writer who never seems to run short of new ideas, amazing characters and quirky humour.
It’s a new term and when local schools are asked to make a film showcasing the surrounding area, Dani and the rest of St Grizzle’s set to work. But Spencer and his mates at the village school are determined to sabotage the work of the smelly Grizzlers. To Dani’s surprise, help comes in the form of Granny Viv who has secretly taken up residence in the school’s tree house with Downboy the dog. Together they come up with the perfect ghostly video... but will Granny Viv be able to stay once the competition is over?
Lights, camera, action for movies, mayhem and mid-term madness!
(Stripes, paperback, £5.99)
Age 6 plus:
A Kitten Called Tiger by Holly Webb and Sophy Williams
To celebrate the 30th birthday of innovative children’s publisher Little Tiger Press, much-loved author Holly Webb conjures up a new book with an adorable Tiger twist for her adorable Animal Stories series for young readers.
Webb, who has written over 90 books for children, brings us the cuddly story of cute kitten Tiger who may be small but makes up for it with a big personality and an irresistible sense of adventure.
As Tiger gets up to his various escapades, his owner Ava finds herself constantly coming to the rescue, even having to save the kitten from next-door’s dogs when he climbs over the garden wall. But when Tiger disappears one night, Ava has no idea where he could be.
Poor Tiger, meanwhile, is stuck up a tall tree, cold and alone. The next day Ava is walking home from school with her friend Jess, about to put up missing posters, when she hears a meow and spots Tiger.
The girls hurry off to find Jess’s dad who has a tall ladder but the terrified kitten only runs further into the tree as he sees the strange man approach. It’s up to Ava to bravely climb the tree with some cat treats, and at long last she and her beloved Tiger are reunited!
Sophy Williams provides the gorgeous black and white illustrations for this enchanting 37th book in a series that that has captured the hearts of every animal-loving child. And fans can also discover the free Puppies and Kittens app on App Store and Google Play. It’s jam-packed with exciting activities from fantastic games and puzzles to creative colouring and sticker fun.
Perfect for children just starting to read alone, youngsters who love to share a book with mum and dad, and any child who can’t resist the magnetic allure of animals.
(Stripes, paperback, £5.99)
Age 5 plus:
See You When I See You by Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson
Life isn’t always happy… however much you want it to be!
See You When I See You is the beautiful, heart-melting new book in an acclaimed and much-loved chapter book series from a top Swedish team, award-winning author Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson, one of that country’s best-loved illustrators of children’s books.
This warm, emotional series of standalone books has been translated into 15 languages and features stories full of human behaviour, happiness and a look at how life really is for young children.
At the heart of these accessible stories is a young girl called Dani who possesses a lot of natural optimism, even if sometimes life makes it hard to be happy, and her good friend Ella.
In their latest adventure, Dani faces up to new challenges and Ella is full of rebellious ideas while back home, Dani’s dad is more focused on his new girlfriend.
Dani is on a school trip to the zoo and the teacher tells the children how to stay safe and not get lost. Unfortunately, Dani gets separated from her friends when suddenly another class comes rushing up the path. And who does she spot at the back of the noisy crowd… someone she knows. It’s Ella! The good friends are so happy to be together again and Ella wants to play. What should Dani do? Follow her best friend in the whole world or do as her teacher said? The answer is obvious… follow her friend of course even if it means getting into trouble.
Original, gentle, fun and brimming with hopes and fears recognisable to young children, these are ideal stories for children just starting school or those who just need a welcome dose of optimism!
(Gecko Press, paperback, £7.99)
Age 3 plus:
Daddy Long Legs by Nadine Brun-Cosme and Aurélie Guillerey
When all else fails, Daddy will always be in the driving seat!
From classy French writing and illustration team, Nadine Brun-Cosme and Aurélie Guillerey, comes this funny, stylish and reassuring picture story about a little boy who can’t stop worrying.
The old green car had trouble starting this morning. It gets Matty to nursery but what if later it won’t start at all... how will Dad pick him up? Matty is very worried but Dad tries to put Matty’s fears to rest with a series of increasingly imaginative suggestions for alternative modes of transport, from a tractor to a dragon and a polar bear to a rowing boat. But, if all else fails, he’ll just have to arrive on foot… because to come and pick up Matty, Dad’s long legs will never be too tired!
Daddy Long Legs is a joyous but warm-hearted and gentle story packed full of Guillerey’s bright, fresh and startlingly colourful artwork with its retro charm and pleasing palette. The relationship between a father and his child is movingly imagined making this the perfect gift for Father’s Day.
(Two Hoots, hardback, £11.99)