Book reviews: Learning by numbers, words, pictures and magic

The new school term is on its marks to get set and go'¦ and publishers are easing youngsters into September with a shelf-load of educational and entertaining new books.

Thursday, 1st September 2016, 10:00 am
The World-Famous Book of Magical Numbers bySarah Goodreau
The World-Famous Book of Magical Numbers bySarah Goodreau

Age 3 plus:

The World-Famous Book of Magical Numbers by Sarah Goodreau

Learn your numbers by sleight of hand… this magical book will have little ones counting to ten before you can say abracadabra!

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Prepare to be amazed, amused and thoroughly entertained by Sarah Goodreau’s ingeniously clever lift-the-flap, pop-up and pull-out book which takes us from one to ten via an inspired ‘stage’ journey of delights and discoveries.

Goodreau’s magic trick-themed illustrations add a touch of nostalgia and vintage glamour to an elegant counting book packed full of spectacular sorcery, sensational illusions and some ingenious paper engineering.

Beautifully produced and built to last, The World-Famous Book of Magical Numbers is the fantastic follow-up to The Greatest Opposites Book on Earth and offers inquisitive youngsters the opportunity to get an exciting, hands-on learning experience by simply lifting, pulling and turning.

With its charming music hall feel and some dazzling pop-up surprises (including a stunning deck of cards!) this magnificent magical numbers show will win more reading encores than parents will be able to count!

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 8 plus:

Botanicum by Kathy Willis and Katie Scott

Big, bold… and blooming with the most amazing plant life!

Take a visual tour of Botanicum, a giant-size book of stunning botanical delights, and the next best thing to stepping inside a real-life exhibition of plants.

This stunningly curated guide to plant life, with finely detailed and incredibly coloured artwork from Katie Scott of Animalium fame, has been published by Big Picture Press in association with Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and is an exciting new addition to the Welcome to the Museum series.

Botanicum gives readers the experience of a fascinating exhibition from the pages of a beautifully illustrated book. From perennials to bulbs to tropical exotica, this wonderful feast of botanical knowledge, courtesy of Professor Kathy Willis, Director of Science at Kew, comes complete with superb cross-sections of how plants work.

Illustrator Katie Scott’s work draws influences from traditional medical and botanical illustration, both in aesthetic and subject matter. Her work plays with the ideas of scientific uncertainty and speculation, fabricating the inner and outer workings of the world, and the illustrations depicting a familiar yet fantasy vision of plants, humans and minerals.

The large, high-quality format makes the book the perfect gift for both book lovers and gardening enthusiasts alike. Whether you are a child or an adult, this book is a wonderful journey of discovery through fantastic flowers, plants, vines, creepers, grasses, rushes and palms from all corners of the world.

Enjoy the gallery of inspirational pictures and learn all the fascinating facts about plants and their life cycles, how they cope with drought, heat and exposure to strong winds.

The inside-out story of the wonderful world of plants…

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £20)

Age 8 plus:

Animalium Colouring Book by Kate Baker and Katie Scott

Another new addition to the Welcome to the Museum series is this highly creative companion colouring book from Katie Scott, illustrator of both Animalium and Botanicum.

Animalium offered children a close-up view of more than 160 animal specimens, from the simple sponge to the enormous elephant, and now youngsters can add their own creative touches to the menagerie of amazing animals.

Packed with intricate line drawings of creatures great and small, from the tiniest insect to the mighty lion, this beautiful colouring book is the perfect way to keep creative minds busy, and a guaranteed winner with all young animal lovers.

Colour in the animals, complete the scenes and learn incredible facts along the way. Engaging, informative and visually stunning, this is creative bliss for budding artists and anyone who loves animals.

So pick up your pencils and discover the world of Animalium...

(Big Picture Press, paperback, £9.99)

Age 8 plus:

Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx by Laura Wood

Lose yourself in a world of magic, mystery and mayhem in the second book of prize-winning author Laura Wood’s perfectly pitched and highly popular Poppy Pym series.

Exciting, fast-paced, packed full of comedy capers and brilliant characters, the adventures of super sleuth Poppy, a girl from an eccentric circus family thrust into life at a classic boarding school, have proved top of the class with young readers.

In Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx, we catch up with orphan Poppy who was abandoned as a baby and brought up by the performers in Madame Pym’s Spectacular Travelling Circus. Now twelve years old, Poppy has been sent by her guardians to a real school to enable her to make friends of her own age. And now the girls at Saint Smithen’s are celebrating Halloween but when Brimwell town hall burns down, the amateur production of Macbeth is moved to the school and it’s a case of all hands on deck.

Soon the play is struck by a series of mysterious attacks and it’s up to Poppy, her friends and her circus family to save the play and unmask the culprit…

With a gallery of energetic, quirky illustrations by Beatrice Bencivenni that help Poppy and her friends spring to life, this high-energy, rip-roaring romp is must reading for fun lovers and mischief makers!

(Scholastic, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

The Ultimate Peter Rabbit: A Visual Guide to the World of Beatrix Potter by Camilla Hallinan

Sit back, turn the pages and lose yourself in the magical world of the remarkable Beatrix Potter.

World-renowned Dorling Kindersley turns on the style and class in this stunning visual guide to the world of Beatrix Potter, published to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the celebrated Peter Rabbit author who famously made the Lake District her home.

Since it was first published in 1902, The Tale of Peter Rabbit has captured the hearts of youngsters around the world and Potter’s children’s stories have been retold in song, film, ballet, and animation many times.

Packed with detailed sketches of Potter’s best-loved characters, descriptions of each of the 23 ‘Little Books’ she created, and a selection of gorgeous original illustrations, The Ultimate Peter Rabbit is the perfect guide for both new and dedicated fans.

Meet the real Peter Rabbit, Potter’s childhood pet, see the first Peter Rabbit dolls, games and toys, celebrate the endless appeal of Peter Rabbit from storybook to stage and screen, discover the places that inspired the tales and pore over original sketches and photographs.

Generous access to the Potter estate archives has produced a volume which includes 300 artworks from the books and over 50 specially commissioned photographs of Beatrix Potter’s Lakeland home at Hill Top Farm, Near Sawrey, the inspiration for the bucolic settings of the much-loved children’s classics.

The Ultimate Peter Rabbit lets readers look at the world through the eyes of a unique artist and storyteller and understand the strong connection in Potter’s work between the glories of the natural world and the small, familiar domestic routines of everyday life.

The magic of Beatrix Potter in one big, beautiful book…

(DK Children, hardback, £14.99)

Age 4-7:

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things

Questions, questions, questions… give your little ones the who, what, where, when and why of a multitude of fascinating facts with this magnificent, full-colour encyclopedia.

Since 1974, Dorling Kindersley has been publishing outstanding quality, illustrated reference books for both adults and children and this fantastic new encyclopedia provides pages of facts, fun and games, all perfectly created for little learners who want to know everything.

Learn all about amazing animals, people and places, discover some of the wonders of our incredible planet and set off on a thrilling journey of discovery that ignites a child’s imagination, quenches their thirst for knowledge and supports the work of the National Curriculum.

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Things is split into four sections, All About Me, Animals, People, and My Planet, and covers everything from the continents to the blue whale in an enjoyable and engaging way.

Ideal for children from aged from four to seven years and overflowing with knowledge about subjects as diverse as star signs, the names of beetles and saying hello in different languages, this beautifully packaged and inspirational book is the perfect gift for young fact finders.

(DK Children, hardback, £14.99)

Age 3 plus:

One is Not a Pair by Britta Teckentrup

Put your clever little toddlers in the picture with this super brain-teasing, fun-filled puzzle book.

Britta Teckentrup, creator of the bestselling The Odd One Out and Where’s the Pair, is back to bewitch and bewilder youngsters with the third gorgeously illustrated book in her hugely popular spotting series.

In One is Not a Pair, each patterned page contains a set of pairs... but one thing does not match any of the others. Can you find it? Where is the broken pencil amongst the matching sets? Which teddy bear does not have an identical twin? Which house is the only completely different one on the street? Find the magpie with the treasure made of gold, and which brick tower is different to the rest?

Enchanting rhyming text and Teckentrup’s stylish, trademark illustrations create an exciting, mind-expanding puzzle on each page and lots of spotting entertainment for all the family. And it’s not as easy as it looks!

Fun, challenging and ideal for some early, gentle brain-training, this sturdy, beautifully produced book brings hours of pleasure and plenty of rewards!

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £10.99)

Age 3 plus:

Where’s the Pair? Spotting Postcards by Britta Teckentrup

And in the same ‘spotting’ series comes a cleverly packaged pack of pull-out spotting postcards based on Britta Teckentrup’s much-loved Where’s the Pair book.

A cardboard, linen-effect wallet contains gorgeously illustrated animal postcards for children to identify, match and then send off to their lucky friends to enjoy as well.

Can you spot the Siamese cats? Where are the fish with matching fins? Spot the hopping frogs, swishing fish and barking dogs. Then match up the zebras, beetles, squirrels and cats.

The inspiring illustrations get more and more intricate with every one of these pull-out, ready-to-send postcards, each featuring a different detailed design and with a surprise on every page.

The perfect gift for all little spotters and postcard senders!

(Big Picture Press, cards pack, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

Midnight at the Zoo by Faye Hanson

Every picture tells a multi-coloured story in an enchanting new picture book from talented author and illustrator Faye Hanson.

Clever, subtle and brimming with magnificently detailed illustrations that range from the blackest of blacks to the brightest of yellows, Midnight at the Zoo is an exciting tale of textual and visual contrasts.

What happens at the zoo when all the people have gone home? Max and Mia are very excited about their school trip to the zoo but when they arrive, not much is happening. The zebra is asleep, the lions are hiding and they can’t even see a monkey. Max and Mia try to make the best of it but suddenly they realise they have fallen too far behind everyone else… and are locked in the zoo at night. And what they didn’t know is that midnight is the time the zoo comes alive. Flamingos are doing the flamenco, lemurs light lanterns, the lions dance till dawn and the pandas prance through pagodas. It’s a night time zoo wonderland… if only mum would believe them!

As the pictures move from a prosaic day to a glorious night, Hanson also changes the tempo of her story, allowing children to savour the beauty and excitement created by the use of rhyming verse.

Bold, original and with enough fine detail to fill hours of spotting and discussion, Midnight at the Zoo is a delight for both children and parents.

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £11.99)