A thrilling fantasy, time-travel laughs and new baby blues by various authors – children’s book reviews -

Step into a fabulous fairytale fantasy created by award-winning Coghearts author Peter Bunzl, travel back to Ancient Egypt for cheeky grins and gargantuan giggles, meet a pair of twins learning to love their baby brother, and enjoy walking in the great outdoors with a super selection of new children’s books.

By Pam Norfolk
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 4:55 am
Magicborn  by Peter Bunzl and Maxine Lee-Mackie
Magicborn by Peter Bunzl and Maxine Lee-Mackie

Age 9 plus:


Peter Bunzl and Maxine Lee-Mackie

Mystery, history, fantasy and the wildest, most thrilling and chilling adventures…

Lyrical and visionary writer Peter Bunzl, whose award-winning Victorian steampunk series, Cogheart, won him high critical acclaim and an army of young fans, makes a whirlwind return with an epic new dual world series featuring his very special brand of dark and delicious magic.

With his seductive, hallmark mix of pulsating action, gripping mystery, heart-stopping danger and mesmerising fantasy, BAFTA award-winning animator Bunzl unleashes a sumptuous story featuring a fairy curse, a wild boy, scheming royals and a time-travelling plot with an exciting hint of Shakespeare about it.

‘The Curse is changed. You'll never know. The truth is lost. The lie will grow.’ The year is 1726 and the Royal Sorcerer of England is on the hunt for those who are magicborn. When Storm Girl Tempest is captured after accidentally unleashing a power she didn’t know she had, she is taken to Kensington Palace alongside Thomas, the ‘Wild Boy’ who turns out to be her twin.

Trapped, Tempest and Thomas find their magic flickering to life and with it, long-buried memories. For they are the lost prince and princess of Fairyland, bound by a deadly curse... and now the fairies are coming to get them. A battle is building, one only they can end… but who will survive?

‘Magicborn was created somewhere between history, myth, and fairy tales,’ says Bunzl and reveals this fabulous new series – which transports readers to a magical land of wolves, devious royals and deadly curses – was inspired by a 1726 mural from the court of King George I in Kensington Palace featuring a ‘wild boy’ who lived there.

And this is certainly a wild and wonderful story, brimming with Bunzl’s descriptive elegance, all the exhilarating atmospherics of a menacing fairy tale and peopled by a superbly drawn cast of characters that promise to make this new series another modern classic.

Add on the dark and atmospheric illustrations of Maxine Lee-Mackie and you have soaraway historical fantasy at its very best!

(Usborne, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

How to Survive Time Travel

Larry Hayes and Katie Abey

Some children’s books really do hit that elusive funny spot… and this brilliantly bonkers sci-fi adventure series from the talented Larry Hayes is hilariously, cleverly and perfectly on target!

So buckle up for cheeky grins and gargantuan giggles, then climb aboard Hayes’ second out-of-this-world novel and enjoy a time-travelling, home-alone story with a difference.

Fresh from saving their parents from the jaws of frenzied billionaire Mr Noah in How to Survive Without Grown-Ups, ten-year-old Eliza and her genius little brother, Johnnie, are called upon once again to save their parents.

Mum and dad have disappeared into thin air and it’s up to the kids to save the day, travelling back in time to Egypt in the year 5000 BC. Can they overcome friendly locals, a mysterious boy-god, snakes, a rainbow-coloured Sphinx and another plot to end the world?

And – most importantly of all – will they survive their time-travelling mission?

Hayes certainly knows how a child’s mind ticks and with Katie Abey’s zany black and white illustrations throughout, this super-charged, action-packed mission impossible is guaranteed to keep youngsters glued to the page… and laughing all the way to Ancient Egypt and back!

(Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

Rumaysa: Ever After

Radiya Hafiza and Rhaida El Touny

Be dazzled, enchanted, entertained and empowered by Radiya Hafiza’s beautiful and exciting sequel to her fantastic debut Rumaysa: A Fairytale. This super new adventure spins the classic fairy tale to show that anyone can be a hero, and invites youngsters to return to Once Upon a Time where anything is possible… Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fiercest one of all? Ever since she escaped her tower, Rumaysa has been searching the land, far and wide, determined to find her long-lost parents. But after she receives a mysterious invitation from Saira White, Queen of Bishnara, she is soon pulled into a dark, magical adventure that threatens her own happily ever after. Threaded through with magic and humour, this eagerly anticipated sequel is a winner, intertwining traditional stories of Princesses, Princes, Witches and Beasts with a fresh, inspirational and culturally diverse perspective. Gorgeously illustrated by Rhaida El Touny, and brimming with action, heart, thrills, spills and chills, this is a terrific tale for readers young and old.

(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

New Baby

Isabel Otter and Lucy Farfort

Having a new baby brother or sister in the family can be a difficult concept for jealous toddlers so here’s the perfect picture book to help them understand the changes ahead. New Baby is part of Little Tiger’s beautifully created first experiences series which also includes Our Town: Afraid of the Dark. Sofia and Bilal are twins, and they love making mischief together! When their family of four becomes five, the twins realise that sharing with new baby Farhan is harder than they had ever imagined. But with gentle reminders about accepting situations we can’t control and working together as a team, the twins soon learn to accept their baby brother. Author Isabel Otter uses her simple but emotionally powerful story to teach little ones about the importance of family and the patience and love needed to become a big brother or sister, while Lucy Farfort’s beautiful and breathtaking watercolour artwork captures all the excitement of welcoming a new addition to the family. The perfect gift book for parents and carers.

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Daddy Do My Hair: Beth’s Twists

Tolá Okogwu and Chanté Timothy

As Father’s Day fast approaches, share in the joy of a wonderful, heartwarming story which celebrates Afro hair, and the unique and special relationship between a father and daughter. Written in rhyming verse by hair care educator and author Tọlá Okogwu, and with bold and colourful artwork by rising star illustrator, Chanté Timothy, this is a picture book for all the family to treasure. It’s Sunday evening and dinner is over. Beth is excited and heads to the sofa. Daddy is there with a smile and a chair. ‘Daddy,’ she asks, ‘will you please do my hair?’ It’s the night before School Picture Day and Beth would like a brand new hairdo so Daddy gets to work with water, oils and magical twists of his wrists. Youngsters will love joining Daddy and Beth on a wonderful hair adventure which highlights the quality time spent between parent and child and includes Afro hair care tips from Nigerian-born Okogwu.

(Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Maya’s Walk

Moira Butterfield and Kim Geyer

Pull on your walking boots and head for the great outdoors! Every walk is a brand new adventure in an inspirational picture book from author Moira Butterfield and illustrator Kim Geyer. Ideal to encourage your youngsters to enjoy the wonders of the great outdoors, this beautifully written and stunningly illustrated story is full of ideas to help children discover how much fun a walk can be. Maya and her dad love walking… whether it's a walk through woods full of wildlife, listening out for noises in the bustling streets, or savouring the perfume of flowers at the local park, there is always lots to see, hear, touch, and smell. Little ones will love joining Maya as she discovers hidden treasures, hops and jumps along the path, and enjoys all the magic of nature. At a time when the benefits to mental wellbeing of time spent outdoors are more keenly felt than ever, Butterfield’s story shows just some of the pleasures to be found in a walk, no matter how familiar the setting.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)