A happy Halloween, genius inventors and a yeti collective by various authors - book review -

Ghoulia: Making New Friends Can Be Scary
Ghoulia: Making New Friends Can Be Scary

Meet a not-so-scary zombie girl on a Halloween outing, discover the perfect antidote to the Xbox, head off to the Himalayas for a wild adventure, and enjoy a wickedly funny slice of horrible history in a glowing line-up of autumn children’s books.

Meet a not-so-scary zombie girl on a Halloween outing, discover the perfect antidote to the Xbox, head off to the Himalayas for a wild adventure, and enjoy a wickedly funny slice of horrible history in a glowing line-up of autumn children’s books.

Age 7 plus:

Ghoulia: Making New Friends Can Be Scary

Barbara Cantini

Making friends can be scary… particularly if you’re a zombie!

Halloween is the perfect time to say hello to the ghoulish but gorgeous Ghoulia, the whey-faced star of a new series from Italian illustrator – and now author – Barbara Cantini who lives in the Tuscan countryside.

Translated by Anna Golding, these gothic-toned but warm-hearted chapter books are all about friendship and acceptance, and come with super, atmospheric illustrations and activity pages for children to join in the spooky fun.

Ghoulia lives in Crumbling Manor with her Auntie Departed and spends most of her time playing with Tragedy, her beloved albino greyhound. But things aren’t as easy as they seem for this little zombie girl… all she wants is a real friend.

She tries to venture past the manor s walls, but she can’t hide her pale green skin or the deep purple circles under her eyes. The other children will be afraid of her, and no one will want to be her friend. But when Halloween rolls around, Ghoulia hatches a brilliant plan. All the other, ordinary children will be dressed up like monsters, so Ghoulia can go out into the town and be entirely herself. In the end, all the kids realise that Ghoulia is (almost!) just like them and that friendship can come in many forms.

And in the second book in the series, Ghoulia and the Mysterious Visitor, we join Ghoulia on a dark and stormy night when cousin Dilbert comes to visit her at Crumbling Manor. She’s confused because she didn’t invite him, and it turns out that Dilbert complains about everything!

When Ghoulia tries to track down Auntie Departed to find out why she invited Dilbert, she finds that Auntie has vanished. Ghoulia can’t find her and the doorbell won’t stop ringing. One after another, Ghoulia’s friends arrive… all with the same mysterious invitation in hand. As the gang searches Crumbling Manor for Auntie Departed, one of their own goes missing. Finally, Dilbert inadvertently solves the mystery in the greenhouse when he finds himself face-to-face with the sinister Chatterbox Ivy!

Youngsters will adore the adventures of the lovable, not-so-scary zombie, and with the full-colour illustrations and child-friendly activities, these books are ideal for newly independent readers.

(Amulet Books, hardback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

Inventor Lab: Projects for genius makers

With a foreword by Dr Lucy Rogers

Entice your youngsters away from the TV and Xbox with a brilliant book that unlocks their inventive and experimental skills.

Inventor Lab has been cleverly created by DK Children’s Books to inspire budding technology buffs to learn the science of ‘making’ through 18 amazing step-by-step science projects, from an automatic night light to your own remote-controlled snake!

This superb science activity book for children is all about building, experimenting, and inventing with technology, electronics and mechanics at home and comes with a foreword by Dr Lucy Rogers, an engineer, Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, problem-solver, maker, and judge on the BBC series, Robot Wars, who is herself adept at bringing ideas to life.

Learn how to keep siblings out of your room with a cunning bedroom alarm, power a propeller motorboat, make a stereo from pipes, and build your own AM radio by following step-by-step instructions and using affordable equipment.

Simple steps with clear photographs take readers through the stages of each low-cost project, with fact-filled ‘how it works’ panels to explain the science behind each one, and to fascinate youngsters with real-world examples.

The projects progress from the fairly easy, such as constructing a working battery, to more challenging builds, including the remote-controlled snake. Kids who have been weaned on Lego will enjoy the building challenges and exploring STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and maths), an important part of school curricula.

An awesome gift, and the perfect companion for any inquisitive child with an interest in how and why the worlds of science experiments and technology work, Inventor Lab is stimulating, fun, and educational.

(DK Children, hardback, £12.99)

Age 9 plus:

The International Yeti Collective

Paul Mason and Katy Riddell

Put on your walking boots and head off to the magnificent mountains of the mighty Himalayas for the wildest adventure of the year!

Nature lover and author Paul Mason, and talented, up-and-coming illustrator Katy Riddell, team up for an epic story with big feet and a big, warm heart in the first book of a thrilling and timely series which blends adventure, friendship and conservation into a magical concoction.

Twelve-year-old Ella Stern is trekking in the Himalayas with her broadcaster-explorer Uncle Jack and searching for yeti. But what seems like the adventure of a lifetime is cut short when she realises that these secretive creatures might not want to be found.

Tick knows it’s against yeti law to approach humans, so when some arrive on the mountain, why does he find himself peering through the trees to get a closer look? What Tick doesn’t know is that his actions will set off a series of events that threaten the existence of yeti all over the world. What can he do to make things right? Just when all hope seems lost, help comes in the most unexpected form…

Packed with humour and excitement, this is a thrilling tale with a beautiful friendship at its heart and with strong ecological themes to add extra depth and resonance to all the fun, drama and adventure.

(Stripes, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

The Conspiracy of Magic

Harriet Whitehorn

Bravery and ingenuity – with a dazzling feminist twist – take centre stage in a thrilling story filled with magic, mystery and deadly danger.

Author of the bestselling Violet series, Harriet Whitehorn has let her imagination take flight once more for a sparkling new adventure set in the fabulous fantasy world she created in her spellbinding book, The Company of Eight.

Starring a young girl who lives in a magical land, these adventures conjure up a breathtaking other-world of icebound cities, turbulent seas and dense forests, and a wonderful secret society which youngsters will be eager to join themselves.

Fourteen-year-old orphan Cass Malvino lives in the magical land of Minaris with Mrs Potts, her elderly guardian, who owns the Mansion of Fortune in which fortune tellers ply their trade. In a world where magic is so powerful it has been outlawed, Cass is a rare creature… she is an obtuse, someone who is totally unaffected by magic.

But her immunity to magic which has always felt to Cass like a handicap is a strength, she has discovered, when sorcerers and magicians begin to perform magical deceptions with malicious intent.

Tasked with protecting the Queen of Minaris, who is in grave danger, Cass can’t wait to travel to places she has only ever dreamed of. But when the royal party is targeted by evil forces, how can Cass defeat the sinister magician behind it all when she has no powers herself?

Expect daredevil exploits, spine-chilling peril and moments of heartbreaking emotion as Whitehorn’s rich fantasy adventure continues unabated with super, swashbuckling action, a formidable cast of characters – including crime-fighting women skilled in sword fighting and hand-to-hand combat – espionage, and thrills galore.

Inspirational, exciting and addictive…

(Stripes, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

Wiggott’s Wonderful Waxworld: Fire Flight

Terry Deary

Thrilling adventures, wicked wit and a slice of horrible history… it can only mean one thing!

The incredible, the imaginative and the history-loving Terry Deary is back with the second book in his unforgettable time-travelling ride through danger, daring escapes and some of history’s most remarkable characters.

Deary, author of the phenomenally successful Horrible Histories books, is on top form in the brilliant Wildpool series which delivers adventure stories full of thrills, chills, laughs and non-stop action.

Stars of the show are trickster Boy, the crime college’s best thief, and his friend Molly Maltby, who live in the strange town of Wildpool. There’s a new mayor in Wildpool (it’s the fearful thief and kidnapper Lady Mary Frankenstone even though she’s not necessarily the one that everyone voted for!).

And now something very mysterious is afoot and there’s a danger the oldies of Wildpool – better known as ‘The Ladies Who Crunch’ – will be forced to move home and that Wiggott’s Wonderful Waxworld, which is about to be reopened, will actually be demolished. Can Molly and Boy save the day? Will Wildpool ever be the same?

Deary delivers another exhilarating adventure story packed with his trademark historical nuggets, outrageous wit and a cast of brilliant characters, both real and fictional, from the daring boy-thief and the delightfully named PC L.O. Elloe to the nasty Roman Emperor Nero and the explosive Guy Fawkes.

Get ready for larks, laughter and devilish historical twists!

(Scholastic, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Nose Knows: Wild Ways Animals Smell the World

Emmanuelle Figueras and Claire de Gastold

Some books are a winner… by a nose!

Children will love getting on the scent of Nose Knows, a fresh look at the world from an animal’s perspective, and the second exciting title in the Wild Ways series which began with the award-winning book, Eye Spy.

In a new, inventive take on the natural world, youngsters can discover how animals use smell in a wild assortment of ways, including finding prey, courting mates, warning friends, and even playing dead!

Using this fun, flap-filled book, written by French Guianan author Emmanuelle Figueras and imaginatively illustrated by Paris-based Claire de Gastold, youngsters will love exploring how smell plays a key role in the lives of animals and shapes their behaviour and relationships.

Each flap reveals the hidden side to the environment of different creatures, only perceptible through smell, providing a clever layering of information, and providing a constant element of surprise from start to finish.

Watch a polar bear track its prey beneath the ice, join a column of marching ants, see a snail detect scents with its ‘two noses,’ discover a ring-tailed lemur’s power of ‘stinkiness,’ marvel at guard bees which carry out identity checks at the entrance to a hive, find out how opossums smell like they’re dead to confuse attackers, and learn how to say hello to a family of forest piglets. Anything is possible when you follow your nose!

This wonderfully entertaining and informative book comes from What on Earth Publishing which specialises in the art of telling stories through timelines. And for every question the book answers, it sparks another one, helping to encourage young readers into a lifelong love of enquiring and discovering.

An ingenious, interactive way of learning that is not to be sniffed at!

(What on Earth Books, hardback, £14.99)

Age 7 plus:

Beyond Platform 13

Sibéal Pounder and Beatriz Castro

‘That’s the thing about magic… it’s only real if you believe in it.’

Return to the spellbinding wonders of the late much-loved author Eva Ibbotson’s classic book, The Secret of Platform 13, in a new fun, magical adventure inspired by characters from Ibbotson’s original book.

Ibbotson, who was born in Vienna in 1925 and moved to England with her father when the Nazis came to power, wrote more than twenty books for children and young adults during her long career. She died in 2010 by which time her imaginative and humorous books had won several prizes and stolen the hearts of her many adoring fans.

Written by Sibéal Pounder, and beautifully illustrated by Beatriz Castro, this super new story recreates a dazzling world of hags, harpies, mistaken identities, and the beloved Island of Mist.

The island is under siege and Prince Ben and his best friend Odge Gribble (a hag!) are in hiding. Desperate to find out why the island’s protective mist is disappearing, Odge travels through the gump to Vienna, to find a mistmaker expert.

But in yet another case of mistaken identity, Odge finds Lina, a nine-year-old girl looking for adventure. With the help of friends old and new, and some very interesting magic, Odge and Lina must discover the secret of the mist, before they lose their beloved island completely.

An exciting and action-packed adventure which pays warm tribute to the spirit, imagination and vitality of Ibbotson’s work.

(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

The Extraordinary Life of Rosa Parks

Dr Sheila Kanani and Nan Lawson

Read about the amazing lives of three important names in world history in the latest books in Puffin’s fascinating Extraordinary Lives series.

These easy-to-read and child-friendly books explore the lives of incredible historical and modern figures through a narrative biography, timelines, fascinating facts and beautiful illustrations. The series, which also includes Stephen Hawking, Malala Yousafzai, Neil Armstrong and Michelle Obama, is diverse, empowering and educational, and is creatively illustrated throughout with stunning one-colour pantone.

In The Extraordinary Life of Rosa Parks, we meet the woman known for refusing to give up her seat on the bus, a small act of defiance that triggered a monumental shift in the fight for civil rights. Raised in Alabama, Rosa Parks knew all about the racism of her society from an early age. Discover how she became the brilliant activist we know today in this inspirational story by Dr Sheila Kanani which comes beautifully illustrated by Nan Lawson.

And in the The Extraordinary Life of Mary Seacole, youngsters learn about the life of Mary Seacole… the brave woman who defied expectation to save people’s lives.

Mary is now known for her medical work in the Crimean War, and as a brilliant woman who fought the racial prejudice she experienced in her lifetime. But for a long time her story was lost. From growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, as the daughter of a doctress who taught her how to nurse to helping countless soldiers in the war, discover how Mary Seacole became a beacon of hope in this wonderful tribute written by Naida Redgrave and thoughtfully illustrated by Alleanna Harris.

Finally, The Extraordinary Life of Mahatma Gandhi lets us discover more about a remarkable man whose voice influenced the world.

After growing up in India and studying in London to become a lawyer, Gandhi worked as political activist and became a powerful speaker in South Africa, campaigning for change. He went on to lead some of the most important protests in the fight for Indian independence. Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy has lived on well beyond his years, and he is known all over the world as a symbol of perseverance and peace.

Written by Chitra Soundar and beautifully illustrated by Dàlia Adillon, this is a wonderful tribute to a brilliant, strong-willed and influential man.

(Puffin, paperback, £6.99 each)

Age 6 plus:

Turn and Learn: Our World

Isabel Otter and Hannah Tolson

Our world is a spectacular place, full of curiosity and wonder. So why not take a closer look!

Explore five fascinating habitats – the desert, the rainforest, the Polar region, the savannah and the sea – in this ingenious, fact-filled book which comes with magic sliders that let youngsters make their own investigations.

Read about weird and wonderful plants, from the prickly cactus to the carnivorous Venus flytrap; discover the amazing adaptations that animals and plants have made to survive in some of the harshest places on Earth; and learn about the traditions of people from all over our world, including the ancient Maasai tribe in Africa.

And in Turn and Learn: Weather, inquisitive youngsters can discover all the answers to their weather questions by delving into amazing weather systems… rain, thunder and lightning, sunshine, wind and snow. How does the wind blow? Why isn’t rain salty? How do we feel heat? Why is snowy weather so crucial for our planet?

Using the magic sliders, children will love to digging deeper to uncover the ways in which weather of every kind affects our world.

Brimming with fascinating facts and the beautiful artwork of illustrator Hannah Tolson, these books are the perfect introduction to intriguing habitats, and our ever-changing but essential weather systems.

(360 Degrees, hardback with slide and reveal wheels, £12.99 each)

Age 5 plus:

Together: Animal partnerships in the wild

Isabel Otter and Clover Robin

See nature in perfect harmony in a beautiful, peep-through picture book packed full of colour, learning and inspiration.

Follow a flock of cranes as they migrate by land and sea, and find out how animals forge unlikely partnerships to help each other in the wild as author Isabel Otter and illustrator Clover Robin take youngsters on a flight of factual delight.

From little birds that pick the morsels from a crocodile’s teeth to the zebras and ostriches which benefit from each other’s strongest senses, Otter takes young reader on a journey of migration, and along the way she highlights the shared advantages of togetherness.

Robin’s illustrations bring animals and nature together in a balance that portrays a vibrant natural world, with her intricate collage work providing a striking rich texture that positively brims with life. Clever, cut-out holes also give youngsters a sense of continuity as they trace the migrating cranes across each page.

And by marrying gentle haiku poems with fascinating facts to give powerful insights into how animals work side by side, Otter also proves that the most unexpected pairings can sometimes reap the most enchanting results.

The perfect way to watch creatures of the world in natural unison…

(Caterpillar Books, hardback, £11.99)

Age 5 plus:

Through the Animal Kingdom

Derek Harvey and Charlotte Pepper

Go on a journey that spans every corner of our planet and discover amazing animals and their remarkable homes.

What do freezing mountain peaks, vast deserts, lush forests, and the deepest, darkest oceans have in common? They are all places that incredible animals call home. Through the Animal Kingdom invites you on a journey across these habitats to discover the secret lives of the animals that live there.

Track a bald eagle as it soars majestically over the Rocky Mountains, follow migrating wildebeests across the Serengeti as they attempt a dangerous river crossing under the watchful eyes of hungry predators, or trace the tracks of the solitary amur leopard – the rarest cat on Earth – as it silently stalks its prey through the icy forests of the Siberian wilderness.

The structure of each habitat is meticulously planned out, letting young readers navigate the pages in a way that resembles a journey, stopping along the way to absorb the information before carrying on.

And to add to the fun, the contents page is displayed in the form of a colourful map which allows readers to chart their journey of discovery from the Arctic Tundra across the Amazon rainforest, over the Atlantic Ocean, past the Sahara Desert, into the Siberian Forest, over the Coral Reef, and across to Antarctica.

Combining high quality DK photography, rich illustrations by Charlotte Pepper and a lyrical, enchanting text for a fresh and imaginative way of exploring the animal kingdom, this is just the first instalment of a new series aiming to reinvent early reference for a whole new generation of readers.

The perfect gift for young adventure seekers … and animal lovers of every age!

(DK Children, hardback, £9.99)

Age 5 plus:

Michael Morpurgo’s Myths & Legends

Brave heroes, battling beasts, mighty gods and magic spells… here’s a treasury of epic tales to amaze, bemuse and enchant!

Award-winning children’s writer and former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo has collected classic tales of heroism and adventure from around the world and put them together in one beautifully illustrated book that will leave youngsters mesmerised by the marvels of mythology.

This wonderful treasure trove of myths and legends comes with outstanding, eye-catching colour illustrations by some of today’s most talented illustrators and each entertaining, easy-to-understand story has been retold by a host of well-known children’s authors like Jeanne Willis, Michaela Morgan and Tony Bradman.

There are lots of stories to choose from, including Mulan, Icarus, and Hercules the Hero, plus The Legend of Robin Hood, Thor and the Stolen Hammer, The Giant of Mont Saint-Michel, and a retelling of Gawain and the Green Knight written by Sir Michael himself.

Each story includes a brief summary of its fascinating origins, and the underlying message and meaning are explained in the simplest terms to young readers, so whether you are looking for a quick read or a longer story to escape into, something to enjoy alone or a tale to share, there is an enchanting story here to read and relish.

A legendary book that speaks volumes to readers young and old!

(OUP, paperback, £9.99)