Book reviews: Time travel, ice adventures and a teacup house

Enjoy an amazing illustrated trip through a single moment in time, head across the world's oceans to the ice fields of Greenland, and share adventures with a family of toy rabbits in a fantastic new selection of children's books.

Monday, 29th January 2018, 12:39 pm
Updated Monday, 29th January 2018, 12:45 pm
Story Worlds: A Moment in Time by Thomas Hegbrook
Story Worlds: A Moment in Time by Thomas Hegbrook

Age 7 plus:

Story Worlds: A Moment in Time by Thomas Hegbrook

Have you ever wondered what is happening at this exact moment in time everywhere around the world? Well here’s your chance to find out!

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This inventive perpetual picture atlas, packed with fantastic illustrations from nature-loving artist Thomas Hegbrook, takes youngsters on an amazing trip through a single moment to discover what the whole world is doing at the exact same time.

This unique book – which can be read in two different ways by either reading continuously through the pages or folding it out in three chunky sections to compare and contrast – invites readers to explore the mysterious world of time zones.

Story Worlds: A Moment in Time comes from 360 Degrees, a non-fiction imprint of the Little Tiger Group which offers a stimulating and creative approach to presenting facts and aims to create accessible and unique non-fiction books with the highest production values and attention to creative detail.

The ‘perpetual’ format of three books in one helps to demonstrate the concept of one moment unfolding around the globe. This is a geography lesson in a single second and with an appeal for every interest from wild creatures roaming the Earth to the construction of man-made wonders.

Enjoy freezing time for a moment and discovering an incredible array of events, natural wonders and interwoven human stories, from a herd of swimming elk in Canada and a pod of humpback whales travelling through the Pacific Ocean to a nomad leading his camels through the Sahara Desert.

A Moment in Time takes the reader on a global journey with a difference, inspiring discussion and learning in a fun, interactive way. The very young can simply marvel at the beautiful, busy illustrations on every page and older children can learn about time zones and the world around them.

Hegbrook, a talented illustrator and designer, creates a glorious visual spectacle as well as a compelling learning tool with each colourful and kaleidoscopic spread offering an inviting insight into different time zones.

Time travel with an ingenious time travel twist…

(360 degrees, hardback, £17.99)

Age 8 plus:

Politics for Beginners by Louie Stowell, Alex Frith and Rosie Hore

They say politics should never be discussed in polite conversation… but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn how politics work.

To understand politics is to understand the world around us because this is the system through which cities, countries and continents are organised. It’s a chance for people to have a say on how they want their country to be run… and it’s also how wars begin and end.

This fascinating and informative book has been written with the help of political experts Dr Hugo Drochon and Dr Daniel Viehoff, and through consultations with John Pienaar, deputy political editor at the BBC, Rachel Reeves MP, Sir Nick Clegg and the Earl Howe.

It covers key topics like elections and voting, political systems, political ideologies and different kinds of government. Big questions are also tackled… is there such a thing as ‘human rights,’ what is terrorism, what is freedom of speech, what is fake news, who is responsible for the planet and what is immigration.

Big ideas come with simple explanations using bright, infographic-style illustrations by Kellan Stover, including cartoons and entertaining comic strips, and there are contents and index pages and a helpful glossary for easy reference.

There are also links to specially selected websites where readers can find out even more about politics, governments, elections and voting with virtual tours, quizzes and activities. See inside the House of Commons, take a virtual tour of the White House or explore the similarities and differences between the UK Prime Minister and the US President.

Politics for Beginners is ideal for both children and adults, and is guaranteed to win the vote of anyone looking for a no-nonsense, easy-to-understand guide to what politics is all about.

(Usborne, hardback, £9.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Eye of the North by Sinéad O’Hart

Light up the dark days of winter with this dazzling fantasy adventure from Sinéad O’Hart, an impressive debut author from Ireland who looks destined to be a new star of middle grade fiction.

In The Eye of the North, O’Hart, from County Meath near Dublin, takes us on a thrilling steampunk-style odyssey across the world’s oceans to the ice fields of Greenland with a gutsy young girl and an urchin boy with a past shrouded in tragedy.

The result is a gripping, page-turning reading experience that weaves classical elements of fantasy, magic and mystical creatures into an epic voyage full of danger, intrigue and discovery. Along the way we meet airships, a stampede of ice ponies, the mysterious Order of the White Flower and the ruthless Northwitch.

Emmeline Widget has never left home at Widget Manor and that’s the way she likes it… even though for as long as she can remember, she has been sure that her zoologist parents were trying to kill her.

But when her mother and father mysteriously disappear, Emmeline finds herself thrown into an epic adventure that takes her beyond the barriers of her world, deep into the frozen North and facing both the dangerous and the deadly.

It all begins when she is packed off on a ship to France, heading for a safe house in Paris. On board she is befriended by a scruffy urchin stowaway called Thing, a boy with a tragic past, but before she can reach her destination she is kidnapped by the sinister Dr Siegfried Bauer.

Dr Bauer is bound for a glacier in Greenland to summon a legendary monster from the depths of the ice. And he isn’t the only one determined to unleash the creature… the Northwitch has laid claim to the beast too. Can Emmeline and Thing stop their fiendish plans and save the world?

Emmeline is a brilliant heroine… quick-witted and fearless, her self-confidence and dark, no-nonsense humour propel her through danger at every. Her sidekick Thing proves to be a lovable rogue and together the two very different youngsters form a strong and insoluble friendship.

But perhaps what impresses most is the depth, detail and richness of O’Hart’s imagination and the exciting, other world that she creates. Children (and adults) will love losing themselves in both the story and the fabulous backdrop of frozen lands and mythical creatures.

Perfectly paced and with a seductive timeless appeal, this is top-notch reading for middle grade youngsters.

(Stripes, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Twister by Juliette Forrest

When Juliette Forrest set out to write her debut novel for children, she was determined to create ‘a firecracker of a heroine’ and the irresistibly feisty and fearless Twister would seem to fit the bill perfectly!

Blending fantasy and gritty real-life issues in one whirlwind adventure, Forrest has created an unforgettable story full of magic, danger, adventure and drama, and starring an enigmatic and rebellious young girl on a mission to find her missing father.

When magic whirls, danger creeps closer… she’s curious, she’s courageous, she’s a riddle and she’s a rebel. Enjoy magic, danger, adventure and drama.

Twister is no ordinary girl… when she was born, the sky glowed green and lightning made the windows looked cracked. It was the worst storm in living memory and she wriggled so much in her father’s arms that he called her Twister.

But now her beloved father has gone missing, her mother has grown as quiet as her shadow and Twister is determined to find him.

Twister has spent her childhood roaming the countryside and it’s there that her search leads her to a witch called Maymay living in the woods. The girl is given a magical necklace that holds the souls of living things and can turn the wearer into a wolf, or a rushing river, or a rainstorm, with the promise that it will help her find her father.

But this all comes at a price. Maymay warns that there is a dark foe on the hunt for this necklace, a baddie who wears a coat crawling with creatures and who might have something to do with her father’s sudden disappearance.

Will Twister be able to save her father from a fate worse than death before it’s too late?

Twister is a fantastic, all-action adventure with thrills, chills and mystery aplenty, and with an inspirational heroine who is gutsy, fierce and loyal, and more than ready to tackle her enemies, whether they come from the real world or places of fantasy and magic.

Gritty, exciting, inspirational… and not to be missed!

(Scholastic, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Meet the Twitches: Teacup House by Hayley Scott and Pippa Curnick

Just imagine the fun you can have with a family of toy rabbits that come alive when no one is looking!

Author Hayley Scott, who grew up near Watership Down where she often visited the big hill to watch the rabbits hopping in and out of their burrows, has sent her imagination into overdrive for this enchanting, fully illustrated debut series for younger readers.

Starring a family of four tiny rabbits who live inside a Teacup House but whose all-action adventures are a smart, subtle reflection of contemporary life, this is The Borrowers for a new generation.

Stevie lives with her mum at the top of a very tall block of flats in the middle of a city but now they are moving to a cottage in the countryside and Stevie really doesn’t want to go.

Nanny Blue knows Stevie is fighting the move hard so buys her a beautiful teacup house called The Twitches complete with a family of little grey rabbits… father Gabriel, mother Bo, and sister and brother Silver and Fig Twitch.

When Gabriel goes missing during Stevie’s move to her new country home, she is frantic to find him but what she doesn’t know is that the toy rabbits have a secret… they come alive when Stevie isn’t looking!

And that’s when the adventures start… not just for Stevie settling into her new home but for the Twitches family as Daddy Gabriel desperately tries to find a way to join his family at Teacup House.

This appealing and magical new series is perfectly pitched for younger readers. Scott’s delightfully vibrant story is brimming with the spirit of adventure, and all brought to life by Pippa Curnick’s beautifully detailed and colourful illustrations.

Teacup House and its four little rabbit heroes looks set to be the perfect brew for all adventure-loving readers!

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Pirates of Scurvy Sands by Jonny Duddle

Shiver me timbers… those crazy pirates are in town and they’re playing ‘dirty’ with a squeaky clean landlubber!

Welcome back to another sparkling Jolley-Rogers adventure from Jonny Duddle, one of the most talented authors and illustrators currently working in the wonderful world of children’s picture books.

The Pirates of Scurvy Sands – a riot of colourful characters, exquisitely detailed illustrations and hilarious seafaring action – is the much-anticipated sequel to the Waterstones Award-winning The Pirates Next Door.

And Duddle has certainly pushed the boat out for this fantastic pirate town adventure which brims with wit and wordplay, and will have both children and adults laughing all the way to the end of the plank!

Matilda lives in the charming seaside town of Dull-on-Sea but this summer she has persuaded her mum and dad to let her join her pirate penfriend Jim Lad and the Jolley-Rogers for a holiday on the island of Scurvy Sands, a favourite holiday destination for pirates.

When Matilda arrives, the swashbuckling residents are not too impressed with her. She has clean teeth, tidy clothes and she doesn’t smell like she’s been at sea for six months without washing. What’s more, she can’t read a compass and she doesn’t know her East from West. Matilda, they say, is definitely no pirate.

But when Matilda discovers the secret of the legendary treasure of Scurvy Sands, the pirates decide that maybe some landlubbers aren’t so bad after all!

With a fantastic treasure map at the end of the book, a stunning four-page fold-out, potty pirates aplenty, a feisty little heroine and a raucous rhyming story, this is a voyage of fun from sea launch to beach landing.

A classic pirate adventure that will have kids scurrying to find their own scurvy sands!

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Night Flower by Lara Hawthorne

Witness one of nature’s most spectacular miracles in an exquisitely illustrated picture book from fresh new talent Lara Hawthorne.

Inspired by nature, myths and legends, Hawthorne is noted for creating wonderful small worlds with her distinct watercolour style and here she brings to glorious life an amazing desert flower that blooms for just one night a year.

Based on the Saguaro cactus in the Sonoran desert in Arizona, this is a magical real-life, rhyming tale straight out of the natural world. The Saguaro only blooms for a single night once a year but its strong scent and brilliant white petals attract rare pollinators, including bats, moths and doves.

Youngsters can follow the unfolding of this memorable night as the summer sun sets over the Arizonan desert and wildlife gathers to witness a very special annual event. The night flower is about to bloom.

Watch in wonder as the quiet desert is transformed for just a short few hours into a riot of colour and sound, and mammals and insects congregate from miles away to take part in this miracle of nature.

From pollinating fruit bats to howling mice and reptilian monsters, young readers can explore the unusual wildlife the desert has to offer and then turn to the end of the book to enjoy a ‘Did you spot’ section in which they are invited to seek out some of Saguaro’s desert friends in the wonderful gallery of illustrations.

The gentle, lyrical, rhyming story, coupled with beautifully detailed illustrations, create a visual feast of nature’s wonders that will appeal to both children and adults alike.

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Strongest Mum by Nicola Kent

Here’s a book you might want to tuck away for Mother’s Day this year… a beautiful, warm and poignant tribute to all those supermums out there!

Author and illustrator Nicola Kent, who worked for ten years as a television producer at the BBC and Channel 4, turns her talents to this eye-catching and gently funny celebration of the special relationship between a mother and her child in a stunning debut picture book.

The Strongest Mum is a true spectacle of colour and fun as one busy little bear reveals just how much work and care is put in by real-life mothers every day.

Little Bear is sure that no one is as strong as his mum. She can carry anything… his bike, Zebra’s shopping, Elephant’s carpet and even Flamingo’s piano! And of course, there’s always room in her handbag for Little Bear’s treasures like snacks, soggy mystery objects, a very bouncy ball and spare socks. But even mums can get tired and need a helping hand sometimes, as Little Bear learns when mum takes on one thing too many, with hilarious and heart-warming consequences.

Original and clever, The Strongest Mum teaches little ones about the importance of helping each other and reinforces the unbreakable bond between parents and children.

With a cast of endearing animal characters and Kent’s bright, jewel-like coloured illustrations full of intricate detail and visual appeal, this is destined to be a firm family favourite.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Look Out, It’s a Dragon by Jonny Lambert

Meet a lonely, caring dragon who discovers that making friends isn’t easy when you breathe fire!

Award-winning author and illustrator Jonny Lambert takes flight in this enchanting new picture book starring a delectable dragon who has trouble convincing her woodland friends that she isn’t all fire and fury.

Sweet and sassy Saffi isn’t like other dragons. She doesn’t enjoy crushing castles and capturing princesses, and sitting on cold, rocky mountains just hurts her bottom! So off she flies until she finds the perfect new home in some sunny woodland. But all the forest creatures are terrified of dragons and run away from her. How can she persuade her new neighbours that she is actually a helpful sort of dragon?

Lambert’s funny, warm-hearted story about bravery, overcoming prejudices and the joy of forming friendships is filled with his beautiful, distinctive and appealing illustrations. His clever eye for design, colour and form shines through on every page as Saffi tries to convince the other forest animals that she’s a friend and not an enemy.

Guaranteed to fire up young imaginations…

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £11.99)

Age 2 plus:

I say Ooh You say Aah by John Kane

There won’t be a dull moment when you open the pages of this madcap, interactive adventure!

John Kane, who says he liked to make up stories for his little sister when he was younger, will have youngsters oohing and aahing with this highly original and fun-packed, call-and-response debut picture book which encourages young readers help to tell the story by responding to simple verbal or visual cues.

‘There’s something very important that I need you to remember. When I say Ooh, you say Aah as loudly as you can.’ Ooh the donkey has lost his underpants and readers must help him find them. But it’s going to take a lot of oohs, aahs, whispers, searching and silliness to find them!

Each page of this entertaining and energetic book is a kaleidoscope of colour and words, and the perfect book to read aloud and share with your little ones.

Laughter all the way…

(Templar, paperback, £6.99)