A magic castle, train adventures and Halloween fun by various authors - book reviews -
Step into a world of magic and danger, share adventures and fairy tales with Poppy and Sam, and enjoy activity books full of Halloween fun with a super, sparkling selection of autumn books from leading independent children’s publisher Usborne.
Age 9 plus:
The Castle of Tangled Magic
Sophie Anderson and Saara Söderlund
When you have spent all your life in a centuries-old castle topped by dreaming, shimmering domes, magic is never very far away.
Turn on the lamp and snuggle into your favourite armchair for a fabulous, fantastical journey into a dazzling world of secrets, wonders, doom and danger as Lake District author Sophie Anderson returns with a story just made for autumn nights.
Inspired by Slavic folk tales and the stories of her Prussian grandmother, this exciting writer is bewitching us all with her sublime and lyrical storytelling, a gift which allows her to sweep readers away to soaring, evocative landscapes where magic, folklore and realism blend together in memorable mesmerising adventures.
And after winning critical acclaim for her thrilling books, The House with Chicken Legs and The Girl who Speaks Bear, Anderson is back with more stunning storytelling in an enchanting fairy tale adventure about the power of love and courage.
Thirteen-year-old Olia lives with her parents in in Castle Mila, a gorgeous place with gleaming pine-log walls, roof domes that sparkle like silver and a five-hundred-year history that has been seasoned with myth and legend down the generations.
Her grandmother, Babusya, claims the castle was built from magic and when Olia follows a mysterious cat to one of the ancient castle’s hidden roof turrets, she finds herself stepping through a doorway into a magical land filled with wonders.
But everything is not quite as it seems. This is a land tangled by magic, where hope has been lost, scheming magician, Chernmor holds all the power, and the magic is fading away.
Soon Olia learns that she is destined to save this land, but time is running out and with her enchanted band of new friends and her family in danger, she must search for the magic within herself… to save her home, the land of forbidden magic, and all those she holds dear.
Brought to vivid, vibrant life by the atmospheric illustrations of Saara Söderlund, The Castle of Tangled Magic is a triumph. Filled with rich and descriptive detail, nail-biting suspense, important life lessons, a pulsing sense of danger, and all set against a lush and breathtaking backdrop full of mysticism and magic, this is just the sort of book that makes youngsters want to read.
Faced with perilous challenges, and what might seem to be an impossible mission to save the world, Olia is an inspirational heroine whose love for her family is a shining example to all, and whose adventures are as remarkable as the world she inhabits.
Emotional, evocative, gripping… and unmissable!
(Usborne Publishing, paperback, £6.99)
Age 3 plus:
Poppy and Sam’s Wind-Up Train Book
Based on stories by Heather Amery and illustrated by Stephen Cartwright
The adventures of farmer’s children, Poppy and Sam, have been a family favourite for over 30 years and now little ones can get hands-on with the fun-loving duo in an exciting wind-up train book.
Over 20 million copies of the Poppy and Sam books have been sold worldwide and for the last few years, Usborne have been giving the enchanting series a bright and colourful makeover for a new generation of little ones… without losing the magic of the original titles.
And this innovative, chunky board book, with the original artwork of the late Stephen Cartwright, features a wind-up model steam train and three tracks to bring to life three delightful Farmyard Tales train stories.
Little ones will love winding up the train, putting put it on the embedded track on each sturdy page, and watching it chugging around the countryside on a school trip, a whistle-stop family visit to the seaside, and touring the little town of Apple Tree on a hunt for a lost puppy.
This exciting book and toy format – with a beautiful colour illustration by Simon Taylor-Kielty – is full of that special child-appeal which has made the Poppy and Sam stories so popular, and the good news is that there is still the added fun of finding the hidden Little Yellow Duck on every page!
(Usborne Publishing, board book, £19.99)
Age 2 plus:
Poppy and Sam’s Fairy Stories for Bedtime
Based on stories by Philip Hawthorn, adapted by Kate Nolan and illustrated by Stephen Cartwright and Simon Taylor-Kielty
As day turns to night, join Poppy and Sam for a beautiful selection of cosy, cuddly bedtime stories which are guaranteed to whisk away your youngsters to the blissful land of nod!
After a busy day on Apple Tree Farm, farmer’s children Poppy and Sam love to have stories read to them before bedtime. They snuggle up together and lose themselves in magical tales of fairies and adventures.
So curl up with your little ones and enjoy seventeen of Poppy and Sam’s favourite fairy stories in this gorgeously illustrated, glossy-paged book, which includes The Hairy Boggart, The Tooth Fairy, The Brave Shepherd, The Disobedient Dog and The Nose Tree.
Based on stories by Philip Hawthorn, but adapted by Kate Nolan, and featuring the classic illustrations of Stephen Cartwright, these timeless stories are perfect for sharing with little children.
With additional illustrations by Simon Taylor-Kielty, and the hidden Little Yellow Duck to find on every page, this compendium of fairy land magic is destined to take the sting out of bedtime!
(Usborne Publishing, hardback, £9.99)
Age 6 plus:
Sticker Dollies: Mermaid in Trouble
Zanna Davidson and Kat Uno
Inspired by Fiona Watts’ multi-million copy selling Sticker Dolly Dressing books comes the third book in a sparkling series full of magic, adventure… and amazing clothes!
Ideal for independent new readers, these beautifully produced and creative stories are fully illustrated throughout and include a page of colourful sticker clothes to dress the Magic Dolls who care for the Magical Creatures of the Enchanted Isle, and that includes everything from unicorns to fairies and mermaids.
In this super new adventure, the Magic Dolls – Grace, Holly and Lily – are called out on a secret mission on the night of the Undersea Gala on the Enchanted Isle. Nerissa the mermaid is in trouble. She can’t find the grand prize… the Shining Pearls. Have they been stolen and who would do such a thing? It’s up to the Magic Dolls to find out!
These exciting Sticker Dollies stories come in enchanting, accessible chapter books which are ideal for youngsters eager to start reading on their own, and with stickers to dress the dolls and fire up imaginations, this series is a hands-on winner!
(Usborne Publishing, paperback, £5.99)
Age 5 plus:
Sticker Dolly Dressing Halloween
Fiona Watt and Non Figg
Check out what the best-dressed girls are wearing this Halloween and then choose your favourite, magical outfit!
There are hours of fashion fun to be enjoyed in this super-spooky Sticker Dolly Dressing book which is simply bursting with a fabulous range of brilliant, brightly coloured Halloween clothes and costumes, stylish accessories and decorations to complete the magical scenes.
Young fashionistas will love dressing up the dolls as they go trick-or-treating, prepare for Halloween parties, bake cakes, make decorations, and dance like witches!
With hundreds of stickers to choose from and lots of spooky, spidery fun to share, this is a Halloween dream for girls who love dressing up!
(Usborne Publishing, paperback, £6.99)
Age 3 plus:
Little First Colouring Halloween
Kirsteen Robson and Jenny Brown
Everyone wants to join in the spooky fun of Halloween!
Pre-schoolers will be spellbound with this bewitching easy-to-use colouring book which comes packed with everything from bats, cats and spooky spells to wizards’ hats, a sparkling wand and wriggling worms.
With its charming text and simple, bold outlines and engaging illustrations by Jenny Brown, this entertaining Halloween-themed colouring book is the perfect way to help young children develop their pencil control and colouring skills.
Guaranteed to cast a spell!
(Usborne Publishing, paperback, £4.99)