Book review: A strange circus, an exciting school and a superhuman boy

A strange circus, an exciting school and a superhuman boy

A strange circus, an exciting school and a superhuman boy

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A magical circus casts a spell in a sparkling selection of children’s books hitting the shelves this summer.

From adventures in the big top and drama in a girls’ boarding school to a thrilling supernatural adventure and a charming picture book celebration of life itself, there is something here for every child to enjoy.

Age 10 plus:

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

The circus is coming to town...

Welcome to the Circus Mirandus, a weird and wonderful place that might be real… or just might be the figment of a troubled boy’s fertile imagination.

Cassie Beasley’s stunning debut novel – its TV and film rights have already been sold for a six-figure sum – is so much more than a standard adventure story.

This timeless tale, which features the heart-warming relationship between a boy and his sick grandfather, is a powerfully moving novel brimming with magical possibilities and tackling head-on some of life’s biggest challenges like grief, loss, hope and belief.

Micah’s grandfather Ephraim is gravely ill and Micah’s mean Great-Aunt Gertrudis has arrived to take care of him. The boy is very close to his grandfather and has listened to many stories about a mysterious magic circus which his grandfather visited as a boy. It was there that his grandfather was promised a miracle by the Lightbender, the circus’s greatest magician.

With his friend Jenny in tow, Micah is determined to find out the truth of the Circus Mirandus before it’s too late, but he will have to wrestle with giant white tigers, and his wicked aunt, along the way. Will this bizarre stranger keep his promise and save his grandfather? And does the magical Circus Mirandus really exist?

This is a gorgeous, gregarious and unforgettable story with a charismatic backdrop and a cast of exciting characters, all leavened by a powerful, heart-warming message.

And the good news is that Beasley is hard at work on a sequel!

(Chicken House, paperback, £6.99)

Age 10 plus:

Mischief at Midnight by Esme Kerr

For years, Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers books were the must-read for girls, but a new boarding school series is moving to the top of the class for the 21st century generation.

Welcome to the bustling classrooms and gossipy dormitories of Knight’s Haddon School where orphan girl Edie and her friend Anastasia are back to solve another mystery.

Mischief at Midnight is the second exciting novel in Esme Kerr’s nostalgic and yet very contemporary boarding school series which is perfectly pitched at young readers who like a gripping mix of school stories and suspense.

There’s a new girl in the class at Knight’s Haddon and she isn’t like anyone the other girls have ever met before. Janet is cool and confident so Edie is thrilled when they become friends, and when her friendship with Anastasia becomes rocky, Janet is there for her. But then some rather unpleasant mischief begins to unfold and Edie realises that Janet may not be all she seems. And when events suddenly take a dangerous turn, Edie has to take some terrible risks…

Kerr, a clever and sensitive writer, ratchets up the tension in this brilliant school saga as emotions run high and the drama rapidly mounts.

Roll on the next adventure…

(Chicken House, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

The Unicorne Files: Alexander’s Army by Chris d’Lacey

Also winging its way onto the shelves this summer is the second book in Chris d’Lacey’s high-octane Unicorne paranormal adventure series featuring a secretive organisation and a boy with an innate superhuman ability.

Billed as the X-Files for a new generation, this highly original series is spooky supernatural at its best. Full of suspense and intrigue, Alexander’s Army, the sequel to A Dark Inheritance, features a fantastic cast of characters and plenty edge-of-your-seat action.

Fourteen-year-old Michael Malone investigates supernatural occurrences for the mysterious Unicorne agency. After strange reports emerge from a local comic book shop, Michael is sent to solve another unexplained mystery – but facing an invisible enemy is something has not been trained for...

Chris d’Lacey delivers plenty of thrill-a-minute action and startling surprises in this gripping adventure which will leave his band of addicted readers longing for the next chapter.

(Chicken House, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3-8:

The Paradise Bird

Written and illustrated by Marcus Pfister

Publisher Minedition, which produces beautifully crafted picture books that open the door to the world, serves up a ‘treeful’ of fun with this funny, charming celebration of life.

Pages of big, bold and enchanting illustrations and a story that invites youngsters to participate in the action create an unmissable picture book treat.

‘We’re so bored!’croak the ravens. ‘Nothing ever happens.’ But then something does happen, something bright and colourful and very, very noisy. Paradise Bird has arrived and life for the big, ebony birds will never be the same!

Pfister’s opulent and seductive Paradise Bird is as charismatic as his name suggests, turning the black, colourless world of the ravens into a riot of colour and raucous laughs.

Irresistible for young and old alike…

(Minedition, hardback, £13.99)

Age one plus:

Help! The Wolf is Coming!

Written by Cédric Ramadier and illustrated by Vincent Bourgeau

There’s a scary wolf on the prowl… and kids are going to have to do their bit to keep him at bay.

This imaginative, interactive board book is guaranteed to get your toddlers shaking, rattling and rolling as they follow the instructions to make sure the wolf doesn’t get them!

Get ready for the shrieks and giggles that will accompany this brilliant book which teaches that reading is fun and following instructions is a delightful game.

As the big, black wolf gets closer and closer, youngsters turn the page, tilt the book, shake it, and then slam it shut. And if we hold the book on a lean, maybe the wolf will slip and fall. Bye bye wolf!

Help! The Wolf is Coming! is already a hot seller around the world and now looks set to become a classic with English-speaking children.

(Gecko Press, board book, £6.99)

From birth:

Baby Touch: Busy Baby

Ladybird’s super new Baby Touch book is music to the ears of both little ones and their mums.

There are hours of entertainment to be enjoyed as your own busy baby explores the bright touch-and-feel pages in this interactive book which comes complete with an audio CD of specially composed baby music.

Follow the baby in the red car as he journeys across the big, colourful pages from the jungle, the town and the farm all the way back home again. With different patches of touch-and-feel on every double page and bright high-contrast pictures, there is plenty to look at and explore together.

And then sit back and listen to the ten tracks of specially-composed instrumental music, the perfect soundtrack to a baby’s busy day of exploration.

Baby Touch: Busy Baby is a real package of delights. It provides a sensory feast of fun for even the youngest of babies, helps to encourage a lifelong love of books and is the perfect travelling companion on long car journeys.

(Ladybird, board book, £7.99)