A bad panda, a super sleuth and a treasure hunt by various authors - book reviews -

Meet a panda who’s fed up of being cute, set sail with a ship full of motley pirates, share adventures with a young detective on the trail of a train thief, and get all fired up with the most super-amazing superhero robot ever with a cool collection of summertime children’s books.

By Pam Norfolk
Wednesday, 14th July 2021, 12:30 pm
Bad Panda
Bad Panda

Age 7 plus:

Bad Panda

Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey

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Pandas are all cute, aren’t they? Well, maybe not all pandas…

Meet a precocious panda fed up with being labelled cute, and prepare to laugh yourself black, white and red in the first book of a hilarious new series from the outrageous queens of comedy Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey.

Not content with the full-feathered success of their Dave Pigeon series, author Haddow and her illustrator team-mate Dempsey have conjured up another laugh-out-loud winner in the shape of Lin the terrible, a panda who so hates being cute that she’s on an unstoppable mission to change that image forever!

Lin the panda is sick of being utterly adorable, she’s tired of being cuddled and hugged, and fed up with having her head confused for her bottom because she just so happens to be SOOOOPER-DOOOOOPER fluffy?

Yes, everyone thinks that Lin is the cutest panda in the world. So much so that they ship her off to the local zoo, away from her beloved brother, to be ogled at by the masses. But Lin hates being cute, and now she will do everything in her power to prove that she’s the baddest, meanest, most un-cute animal in the zoo.

If slapstick fun, outrageously bad behaviour and panda poo make you giggle and guffaw, then Bad Panda is going to be your go-to comedy read for this super-funny and super-silly series from one of the most inspired partnerships in children’s comedy fiction.

Packed with Haddow’s warmth and wicked, laugh-out-loud wit, and Dempsey’s irresistibly funny black, white and red illustrations, Bad Panda is simply the shining star of the show!

(Faber & Faber, paperback, £6.99)

Age 6 plus:

How to Be a Vet and Other Animal Jobs

Dr Jess French and Sol Linero

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work with animals?

There are many different animal jobs to choose from so here is the perfect book to help you decide exactly which one takes your fancy… how about a vet, or an animal physiotherapist helping animals in the wild, training guide dogs, or you might even consider becoming a bug wrangler!

Find out about all these jobs, the history of vets and lots more in this easy-to-read and fascinating book written by vet and CBeebies Minibeast Adventures presenter Dr Jess French, and lavishly illustrated throughout by Sol Linero.

There are facts and discoveries on every page… the first ever veterinary hospital was built by King Ashoka, an Indian emperor over two thousand years ago, meet some of the people who look after seahorses, snakes, lizards and parrots, and learn about the work of farriers, behaviourists, wildlife rehabilitators and zoo vets.

Packed with fun, information and animal inspiration, this is the perfect book for animal lovers, budding vets and anyone who wants to inspire youngsters to care for and appreciate our precious wildlife.

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Kintana and the Captain’s Curse

Susan Brownrigg and Jennifer Czerwonka

Shiver me timbers! Climb aboard a ship full of motley pirates and head off on a treasure-hunting voyage full of fun, magic and adventure.

Susan Brownrigg, a Lancashire lass who grew up in Wigan and now lives in Skelmersdale, serves up a boatload of thrills, spills and the strangest creatures you’ll meet this side of Madagascar as she sets sail with a charismatic crew of pirates and pets.

Kintana has grown up listening to stories of life at sea from her pa, an ex-pirate turned pet shop owner. So when a tall ship – The Nine Sails – berths at Pirate Island she eagerly joins the crew as a cabin boy, even though her main duty will be to look after the pirates’ pets.

But someone on board is determined to disrupt the voyage… could the dreaded captain’s curse be to blame, or is it the lure of buried treasure that will draw the ship back? One thing is for sure, Kintana is about to discover that sometimes adventure is found closer to home.

Brownrigg, who loves writing middle-grade historical fiction, and illustrator Jennifer Czerwonka take the helm as they steer youngsters on an exciting race against time to track down the pirate captain’s treasure.

With enemies always on the horizon, a plank that was just made for walking, perilous plots at every turn, and a hold full of exotic pets, there’s a treasure trove of reading here for all adventure lovers!

(UCLan Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Kate on the Case

Hannah Peck

Meet a young detective who’s hot on the trail of a thief as she boards a train heading for the decidedly cold North Pole!

Illustrator Hannah Peck, who is also making her debut as an author, certainly adds bells and whistles to the first book of an exciting new detective series which brings young readers all the intrigue and colourful characters of an Agatha Christie classic.

Kate on the Case First is the first in a witty and vibrant two-colour chapter book series for emerging independent readers and is brimming with mystery, comedy, an inspirational heroine, some wonderful wordplay and brilliant orange-themed illustrations.

Young reporter-in-training Kate and her mouse-accomplice Rupert are on board a train to visit Kate’s mum in the Arctic. But as soon as the train departs, mysterious things start happening. A packet of ginger nuts goes missing, a collection of gymnastics trophies are stolen and some ancient scrolls disappear.

Kate and Rupert use all their reporter training to interview everyone on the train and haughty passenger Madame Maude and her cantankerous cat seem the most likely culprits, until a surprising – and delicious – twist turns the whole investigation on its head!

Peck moves into creative overdrive for this cleverly plotted, sleuthing adventure which lets readers share the fun of following clues, interrogating suspects and finally solving the case.

All aboard for wit, whisks and whiskers!

(Piccadilly Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Freddy and the New Kid

Neill Cameron

Being different to everybody else at your school isn’t easy when you are the most super-amazing superhero robot ever…

And when Freddy discovers that the new girl at school thinks humans are better than robots, the battle lines are drawn!

Much-loved comics creator Neill Cameron turns on his own creative boosters in the second book of his fully illustrated Awesome Robot Chronicles series which positively fizzes with fun, firepower and antics, but also cleverly celebrates unity, uniqueness and diversity.

Freddy lives with his Mum, Dad and big brother Alex in London and he goes to school. But main thing is that he is an awesome robot with awesome robotic superpowers! He has lasers and electronic bolts, can fly up in the sky and is so strong he can lift a car over his head. Only problem is that he is hardly ever allowed to use the super powers, and definitely not at school.

But now there’s a new kid at school. She’s called Aoife and she’s super annoying. She claims humans are better than robots so there’s only one way to prove her wrong… a contest! And Freddy is definitely going to win!

Freddy’s mishaps and misadventures are guaranteed to make readers of all ages laugh out loud whilst also providing a heartwarming and perceptive insight into diversity, and acknowledging that not all children are the same.

With its quirky, comic-strip style narrative and format, illustrations that zing with humour and energy, and two lovable and empathetic heroes, Freddy and the New Kid is a clever, fun and fast-paced adventure, and ideal for your reluctant readers.

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Bunny vs Monkey and the League of Doom!

Jamie Smart

Hold on to your hats and watch out for trouble… Bunny and Monkey are back in an exhilarating remastered series with all the comedy and chaos of the daffy duo’s helter-skelter world!

This outrageously funny third book in the series collects together Bunny vs Monkey 5: Destructo and Bunny vs Monkey 6: Apocalypse for the first time and is published in a smaller, easy-to-read, chunky format featuring 251 pages of fast and furry-ous exuberant fun.

The books are part of the Phoenix Presents series, published by David Fickling Books in partnership with The Phoenix comic. The partnership is going from strength to strength and much of that success is due to the genius of the extraordinarily talented illustrator Jamie Smart whose ingenious comic-strip Bunny vs Monkey causes giant laughter waves across eager young readers.

Since he crash-landed to Earth in a rocket, Monkey has been causing absolute mayhem! Bunny and the gang (Squirrel, Pig, Action Beaver, and Skunky the Inventor) have almost had enough. Monkey’s eternal struggle for world domination is getting more ridiculous every day, and it’s impossible to predict which bizarre plan he is going to put into action next...

In this comic extravaganza, the pint-sized friends must face a giant robot whale, a pig cannon, and a camping trip that goes wrong...

Outrageously comical and ingeniously addictive, these manic, high-energy stories were just made for fidgety readers who like their books to come with plenty of comic-strip pictures and loads of laughs.

Madcap antics for a new generation of action kids!

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £8.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Mighty Lions & the Big Match

Tom Chapman and Chris Dickason

‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same,’ wrote Rudyard Kipling in his famous poem If–

Facing up to winning – and losing – has been well and truly in focus during the thrilling Euro 2020 football championships and it’s an important theme taken up by award-winning author, public speaker and international educator, Tom Chapman, in his resonant children’s book debut.

Using the concept of a football team of young lions under pressure to beat their tough tiger opponents, Chapman reminds us that children can often feel under too much pressure to succeed in all walks of life, whether that’s in the classroom, in their social relationships or on the sports field.

Abel, his brother Drake and the rest of the Mighty Lions have made it to the final match against the Tigers. They know they have to win the cup, especially as it is expected of them by both the coach and their watching parents.

But with the stakes getting higher as the game progresses, it becomes too much for the young footballers and they crack under the pressure. As a result, they lose the match and are disappointed that they have let everyone down. Worse, they are worried that they have completely failed.

But Mum and Dad Lion have some important words for their young cubs… they are loved whether they win or lose, and losing one match doesn’t make them failures.

In this clever, cautionary tale – beautifully illustrated by Chris Dickason – Chapman, founder of The Lions Barber Collective, a charity that promotes suicide prevention and awareness, and focuses on men’s and boys’ mental health, encourages children and parents to discuss how learning from failure can only make you stronger.

A perfectly ‘pitched’ and inspirational story…

(Welbeck Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Does a Bear Poo in the Woods?

Jonny Leighton and Mike Byrne

Go down to the woods today (if you dare!) for a hilarious rhyming picture book romp from the top team of author Jonny Leighton and illustrator Mike Byrne.

In a brilliant story sure to appeal to little mischief-makers, Leighton and Byrne work their magic on the agonising dilemma of a shy bear who needs a poo… but can’t avoid the peering eyes of his fellow forest dwellers.

When he feels the urge to go, there’s only one thing on Barry the bear’s mind… finding a private place where he can poo in peace. But a whole host of woodland animals – who don’t care where they poo – just won’t leave Barry alone!

Does a Bear Poo in the Woods? provides an answer to the age-old question in this funny, laugh-along picture book which is guaranteed to have little ones grinning and giggling from first page to last.

Brought to life by Leighton’s perfectly poo-filled rhyming text and Byrne’s rich, textured and firmly tongue-in-cheek illustrations, Barry’s woodland quest is destined to be a favourite with all the family!

(Buster Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Cat and the Rat and the Hat

Em Lynas and Matt Hunt’s

Witty wordplay, stylish presentation, an extravaganza of neon colour… and a menagerie of manic fun.

If these are the kind of picture book ingredients that whet your little one’s reading appetite, then let them tuck into top team author Em Lynas and illustrator Matt Hunt’s The Cat and the Rat and the Hat, a raucous, rhyming romp that will have children (and adults!) laughing all the way from first page to last.

Cat is sitting on his favourite mat, when who should come along but Rat with a very nice hat. Cat wants Rat’s hat and will stop at NOTHING to get it. But when Bat arrives wearing a fancy cravat, well, what could be better than that? Chaos ensues as both Cat and Rat decide they MUST have Bat’s fancy cravat for themselves!

Ideal for reading aloud and new readers, and for encouraging children to understand and enjoy the concept of rhyming words and sounds, this hilarious, tongue-twisting, lavishly illustrated tale is bursting with comic capers, slapstick humour and animal antics.

And like every Nosy Crow paperback picture book, The Cat and the Rat and the Hat comes with a free Stories Aloud audio recording – just scan the QR code and listen along!

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £6.99)