Book reviews: Museum mix-ups, amazing facts and beautiful bugs

The autumn nights are destined to be filled with wonder and discovery as a new selection of fun and factual children's books start hitting the shelves.
Museum mix-ups, amazing facts and beautiful bugsMuseum mix-ups, amazing facts and beautiful bugs
Museum mix-ups, amazing facts and beautiful bugs

Age 3 plus:

Mixed-Up Masterpieces: Funny Faces

Faces come in all shapes and forms… so imagine what fun it would be to mix and match them!

Take a trip to the British Museum and ‘flip’ your way through some of its greatest treasures with this intriguing and entertaining photographic mix-up book featuring fascinating faces from the museum’s huge collection of sculptures, masks and artwork.

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Mixed-Up Masterpieces: Funny Faces offers hours of page-flipping creativity and is part of an exclusive partnership between the British Museum and children’s publisher Nosy Crow to create a broad range of children’s books covering ages from 0 to 12.

The collection includes board books, non-fiction, craft and activity titles inspired by the vast and unparalleled collection of objects in the museum collection, and celebrating different cultures around the world.

This innovative mix-up book allows young readers to solve the puzzle by matching up the correct faces on the split pages and then they can mix them all up to create another two thousand hilarious combinations.

From an ancient Egyptian mummy and a Roman marble head to a modern Mexican mask and a wooden Japanese figure, this book is full of amazing art that provides hours of madcap mix-up fun. The final page reveals who the ‘funny’ faces are and just how old, and there is a handy index and a QR code at the end which parents can scan to learn more about the artefacts featured in the book.

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A thrilling package of cultural history, creativity and seriously silly fun!

(Nosy Crow, hardback, £9.99)

Age one plus:

British Museum: Colours and Opposites

And in the same series, Nosy Crow and the British Museum have combined their skills in two wonderfully colourful and eye-catching board books, Colours and Opposites, which aim to encourage the very youngest children to engage with early learning concepts.

Featuring artefacts from cultures around the world and following on from the first two titles in the series, ABC and 123, these sturdy learning books create a stunning mini-library for toddlers to enjoy.

These new titles let little ones learn all the colours of the rainbow, and explore contrast and opposites – black and white, and big and small – with gorgeous photographic images of intriguing museum artefacts on every page.

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From thousand-year-old relics like an ancient Iraqi helmet and beautiful works of art to 20th century toys including a Mexican pottery crocodile, Egyptian jewellery and African instruments, these are visually exciting images which will stimulate young minds and imaginations.

As well as celebrating difference, the books also highlight our similarity to other nations and peoples, and are a great way to illustrate in simple one-word terms the important message to young children that we are all different and yet the same too.

The unusual objects are ideal for creating discussion and encouraging little ones to look beyond a picture and enjoy discovering where an object comes from and its place in the big wide world.

And parents and children can discover more about the amazing artefacts pictured in the books by using the QR code at the end of the book.

(Nosy Crow, board book, £6.99 each)

Age 8 plus:

13½ Incredible Things You Need to Know About Everything

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Some facts are interesting, some are amazing… and some are simply mind-blowing!

Discover the world as you’ve never seen it before with this unique collection of extraordinary images and irresistible facts from DK (Dorling Kindersley), a publisher that has a well-deserved reputation for delivering beautifully designed, produced and illustrated children’s books.

Each image in this magnificent, hard-wearing book has 13 mind-blowing facts plus the added bonus of a little myth-buster about every topic under (and including) the Sun, transporting readers on an incredible factual adventure.

Everyday familiar objects – including cars, skeletons, pianos, chocolate, the Earth, a tiger, an Apollo spacesuit and a scorpion – are exploded to reveal their extraordinary insides, while the eclectic and curious selection of topics, including chocolate chunks, funny bones, mighty molluscs and fabulous fruit, cover core subjects like science, history and nature.

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Awesome, larger-than-life illustrations allow the reader to look inside the skeleton of a scorpion, explore the halls of the iconic Parthenon and see the cogs work inside a watch. Stunning photographs show the far-away marvels of the Milky Way and awesome close-ups take us into the jaws of a predator.

Simple text-based spreads explore more abstract topics such as the internet, language and philosophy, and each concise caption packs in the facts so you can find out in less than 50 words, for instance, why the Aurora Borealis changes colour.

From spacesuits to snowboards, rocks to Romans, and dinosaurs to the digestive system, the random page order means you never know where this book will take you next. Did you know that one in every four animals on Earth is a beetle, that white chocolate isn’t technically chocolate, or that the planet Pluto is so small that two could sit side-by-side across the USA?

The one thousand facts on 80 different subjects will help to satisfy your child’s thirst for knowledge while the surprising myth-busters offer a wealth of new favourite facts, such as chameleons change colour to stand out not blend in and sharks only kill six people a year while people kill 100 million sharks a year.

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This is the world in all its colourful, close-up, mind-blowing reality… a cornucopia of random facts and figures brought to glorious life by stupendous photography and intriguing, awe-inspiring fine detail. A must read for anyone aged eight to eighty!

(DK, hardback, £14.99)

Age 5 plus:

Bugs by Simon Tyler

And if insects float your child’s boat, let them roam through the colourful pages of this fascinating inventory of the world’s most bizarre and most beautiful bugs.

From beetles to bees and dragonflies to butterflies, this stunning book is ideal for readers young and old, and will have everyone poring over the vibrantly coloured artwork as well as marvelling at the intricate amazing world of bugs.

There are more bugs on our planet than any other type of animal and we still only know about a small fraction of the number of bug species that are thought to exist. Scientists have described over a million of them but there are likely to be many more out there just waiting to be discovered.

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Bugs also come in a staggering array of shapes, sizes and colours. Some fly, some walk or crawl, some dig and some swim. They live in virtually every environment on Earth from massive mountains to the deepest jungles and from dry deserts to the surface of oceans.

Written and illustrated by designer, illustrator and writer Simon Tyler, in association with the Buglife conservation charity, this is a wonderful compendium of bugs and insect life, taking us up close to over 50 different and fantastic bugs including the biggest, smallest and most amazing bugs in the world, the most beautiful and the ones with the strangest habits.

The book shows all types of insects in colourful detail and with hundreds of fascinating facts about their senses, defences, camouflage, how they catch prey, where they live and more. So get ready to meet the dido longwing butterfly, the green shield bug, the melon fly, the Mediterranean stick insect, the cryptic mantis, the deadly assassin bug and the Central American bullet ant which has the most potent sting of any insect in the world!

Bugs, glorious bugs on every page!

(Pavilion Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 11 plus:

Kick by Mitch Johnson

Debut author Mitch Johnson kicks off his writing career with a beautiful and thought-provoking novel that takes us into the heart of Indonesia’s sweatshops.

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It is amongst the dusty, desolate slums of Jakarta that we are invited to step into Budi’s shoes… he works ten hours a day in a factory but has the same hopes and dreams as any other 12-year-old.

Budi’s moving tale of life at the sharp end of poverty, and his dream to one day wear the smart football boots he so laboriously sews together highlights a serious global issue and has been endorsed by Amnesty International UK.

But Kick is so much more than just an insight into the practices of Third World sweatshops; this clever, compelling and sometimes brutal tale is also a story of hope and compassion… and the unifying power of sport.

Budi’s plan is simple… he’s going to be a football star. Every long day at the factory, he makes football boots. Some of those boots are worn by his idols, the Real Madrid football team, and Budi dreams that one day he will wear them himself and be a famous footballer.

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Yes, Budi is going to play for the greatest team on Earth instead of sweating over each stitch he that he sews into each football boot he makes. The only thing standing in his way is… well, everything. Budi’s family don’t have a lot of money, and Budi has a medical condition that means his blood doesn’t clot properly so when he cuts himself, it won’t stop bleeding.

And then one day, an unlucky kick shatters the window of a nearby house and brings Budi’s world crashing down. The house is owned by man known as Dragon – the ruthless gang lord and moneylender who owns and runs the town, and who is reputed to ‘chew you up and spit out your bones’ if you cross him – and Dragon gives him a brutal ultimatum.

Budi must steal a pair of shoes from the factory where he works or see his beloved family out on the street. Soon it isn’t only Budi’s dreams at stake, but his life…

Kick was inspired by Johnson’s job in a sports shop where he discovered a discarded, crumpled drinks sachet left in a shoebox between a brand-new pair of football boots. His research into ‘fast fashion’ revealed disturbing facts about the global textile industry and sweatshops, the slums of Jakarta and everyday life for a boy like Budi.

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And the result is this powerful and poignant debut, a life-affirming story about dreaming big, about hope and heroes, about sacrifice, friendship, never letting anything stand in your way… and football.

Funny, heartbreaking and captivating, this is a super story and an author to watch.

(Usborne, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Secret Diary of Jane Pinny: Victorian House Maid (and Accidental Detective) by Philip Ardagh and Jamie Littler

Get your pinnies on and head downstairs to discover that there’s more to being a housemaid than just dusting the mantelpiece!

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The Secret Diary of Jane Pinny is the second book in the brilliant Secret Diary Series written by Roald Dahl Funny Prize-winning author Philip Ardagh and illustrated by much-loved illustrator Jamie Littler. These beautifully produced books are just part of an educational and entertaining collaboration between Nosy Crow children’s publishers and the National Trust.

Ardagh is a masterful wordsmith whose writing is laced with wit and humour and this clever, laugh-out-loud faction series is an ingenious blend of historically accurate period details and page-turning, all-action adventure plots.

Following on from the Secret Diary of John Drawbridge, Medieval Knight in Training, we fast forward a few centuries to unearth the realities of the Victorian age as unsuspecting housemaid Jane Pinny finds herself unravelling some unsavoury goings-on.

Jane has moved to the very grand Lytton House to be a Maid of All Work. It’s an incredible place to work but being a Maid of All Work means that she has to do...well, all the work, obviously! Cleaning, dusting, scrubbing, washing… there’s so much to do in a Victorian country house. But when a priceless jade necklace belonging to the lady of the house disappears, Jane turns accidental detective (with the help of her best friend, a pigeon called Plump). Can she solve the mystery of the missing jewels before it’s too late?

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The Secret Diary series is perfectly pitched for young readers. Ardagh fields a cast of wonderful, larger-than-life characters in a story brimming with facts (in the form of accessible footnotes), intriguing storylines, exciting, old-fashioned drama and lashings of fun and humour.

Ardagh perfectly captures the essence of the characters in their time and place, and Littler’s lively and distinctive illustrations add visual entertainment to all the fun and facts.

Real history and laugh-out-loud humour on every page!

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Trains, Boats and Planes by William Bee

William Bee is just buzzing with excitement… the man who loves vehicles is back and this time he’s showing us his amazing collection of trains, boats and planes.

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In his first book, William introduced little ones to his incredible trucks and now little transport enthusiasts are treated to a trio of delights… trains, boats and aeroplanes.

Brimming with pages of eye-catching vehicles in all their wonderful detail, this marvellous mix of fun and facts is proving irresistible to young readers who have plenty to spot as they make an exciting whistle-stop tour of William’s collection.

Each double-page spread is packed with beautiful, graphic full-colour illustrations and there is plenty of humorous detail to spot along the journey plus signals, signage, logos and lights to explore.

From a steam engine to a super-fast bullet train, a biplane to a jump jet, a hovercraft to a submarine, and the ultimate travel vehicle – a space rocket – this manual of machines and engines is destined to be a favourite with kids who love transport.

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Marvel at the jump jet which can take off vertically, a First World War fighter plane that can perform amazing stunts, a chug-along steam locomotive, a mini submarine, a speedboat (which is occasionally stolen by Sparky the dog!), and take off with William’s super-powered space rocket!

Laugh along with the comical cone family who seem to be more of a hindrance than a help and enjoy mischievous madcap Sparky’s antics. Perfect for every child fascinated by amazing vehicles that can fly, float, dive underwater, travel on tracks and blast off into outer space, this is engine-powered fun for your own little dynamos!

(Pavilion Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Hibernation Hotel by John Kelly and Laura Brenlla

Home is where the heart is!

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is here… and time to check into the Hibernation Hotel with a bear just wanting to get his head down for some serious sleep before winter arrives.

He can’t doze off, his cave is too cramped and his friends are too loud and whiffy! Bear finds himself still awake and desperate to sleep in his cave long after hibernation has started. His friends, Racoon, Beaver and Skunk, aren’t helping. Racoon snores, Beaver fidgets and Skunk is just too smelly! The solution is to check into the Hibernation Hotel, far away from his noisy, cramped, whiffy cave. But despite a comfy bed, a tasty snack and a hot bath, Bear is still truggling to nod off. Who will save the day for this sleepless big Bear?

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Combining John Kelly’s joyously playful and enchanting story with Laura Brenlla’s stylish and emotive illustrations, Hibernation Hotel is a tender and friend-affirming story that will help to ease little ones into their own peaceful, night-time hibernation!

(Little Tiger, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

You Can Never Run Out Of Love by Helen Docherty and Ali Pye

‘You can’t measure love in a bucket or cup. You don’t have to worry you’ll use it all up. Because love’s not a game where you have to keep score. Whenever you give some, you’ll always have more.’

Love takes centre stage in this gorgeous picture book from top team Helen Docherty and Ali Pye. A joyful and tender story of the everyday, extraordinary love that inspires us to help friends and reach out to strangers.

You can run out of biscuits, you can run out of bread, you can run out of energy and you can run out of time, money and patience but, as this beautiful, heart-melting story assures us, you can never run out of love. And when you’ve run out of everything else you’ll still find… love!

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Little ones will be joining in the chorus as this warm and funny celebration of love between friends, family, and the boy and girl next door, unfolds with all its sweet and uplifting charm and eloquence.

Pye’s soulful and gently reassuring illustrations capture the warmth, emotion and vibrancy of Docherty’s magical word play in this heartwarming and funny tale about the different kinds of love, and how no matter how much love you give you can never run out.

Destined to become a bedtime favourite with little ones, and a charming novelty book for grown-ups celebrating their own love-filled, special occasions…

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

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