Book reviews: Travel, trivia and walks on the wild side

As the school holidays take off, get ready for summer fun with a galaxy of gorgeous new children's books.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 19th July 2017, 4:35 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 1:01 pm
Travel, trivia and walks on the wild side
Travel, trivia and walks on the wild side

See the world’s greatest cities from a fresh new perspective, discover the hidden life deep inside the forest, enjoy some wild activities, share the adventures with a group of magical friends and get spotting with a super brain-teasing puzzle book.

Age 7 plus:

In Focus: Cities Created by Libby Walden

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Take a look at some of the world’s most famous cities from a whole new angle!

Children will be itching to get their hands on this innovative, super-sized book which delves into the cultural, social and historical identities of ten world-famous cities. Lift the giant flaps on every spread to find out more about the amazing cities on the map. Ten talented illustrators prove good things come in tens as they place ten subjects under the microscope to explore unique cities from around the globe.

Interspersed with quirky trivia and fascinating facts, the cross-sectioned and cut-away illustrations rebuild these cities in the mind of the readers and the contributions from different illustrators means that each city is fresh, exciting and unique… just like the cities themselves.

This outstanding book is the brainchild of the ever-inventive Libby Walden and comes from 360 Degrees, a non-fiction imprint of the Little Tiger Group which offers a stimulating and creative approach to presenting facts and aims to create accessible and unique non-fiction books with the highest production values and attention to creative detail.

Each book in in the 360 Degrees line-up is unique in subject and presentation style and covers everything from natural history to human invention, from art to architecture, and from languages to lunar landings. What links them all is a thoughtful and creative approach to presenting intriguing facts.

True to form, In Focus: Cities lets youngsters make their own amazing discoveries about everything from Moscow’s magnificent Kremlin fortress and Istanbul’s awe-inspiring Hagia Sophia mosque to Cairo’s Gia Necropolis and Rome’s Colosseum.

Entertaining, accessible, original and with impeccable attention to detail, In Focus: Cities is the perfect gift for adventure-loving readers young and old who would enjoy a trip to iconic cities like London, Paris, Moscow, New York, Rome, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Istanbul and Sydney at the turn of a page.

A big, wide world of learning in one big, beautiful book…

(360 Degrees, hardback, £15.99)

Age 3 plus:

Hidden World: Forest by Libby Walden and Stephanie Fizer Coleman

Did you know that natural beehives are built in caves, rocks and trees? Or that the reason that beavers build dams is to make it easier to catch fish?

This chunky, charming book – another sure-fire winner from Little Tiger imprint 360 Degrees – is jam-packed with interesting facts and makes a wonderful first non-fiction book for young readers.

With the ever-increasing dangers of global warming and fears over the safety of our planet’s dynamic ecosystems, this novelty book allows little ones to learn about the flora and fauna of the forest and can be used as a way to start conversations about protecting, preserving and appreciating the forest environment.

Featuring a variety of themed spreads, including habitats, plants, baby animals and insects, each section has six flaps which open to reveal sumptuous illustrations and fun, bite-sized facts about the secrets of the forest.

This cleverly created, fully accessible, multi-flap book is perfect for igniting a passion for the wonders of the woodland, a love of natural discovery and to inspire your own little explorers to head off into the great outdoors this summer.

Gorgeous illustrations combined with easy-to-understand facts and hands-on discoveries make this learning adventure a natural wonder…

(360 Degrees, board book, £9.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Foolish King by Mark Price and Martin Brown

On your marks, get set… and make your first move!

Aspiring young chess players will be chomping at the bit to check out this brilliant new book which aims to inspire a new generation of quick-thinking chess champions through the magical medium of storytelling.

The Foolish King, an illustrated, interactive fairy tale about the secret history of chess, is the dazzling work of debut children’s book author Mark Price, former deputy chairman of the John Lewis Partnership and current Minister of State for Trade and Investment, and was written to teach his daughter how to play chess.

One of the most entertaining and inventive introductions to chess ever created, this enthralling story about two children from the ancient Kingdom of Marra who are on a quest to understand and play the game has been brought to stunning pictorial life by Martin Brown, illustrator of the mega-selling Horrible Histories series.

Chess is played by almost 500 million people around the world and now children have the chance to learn the game from an early age and gain the knowledge and inspiration to enjoy the rewards and challenges of chess throughout their lives.

The intriguing, all-action story teaches chess moves and rules while the witty and whimsical illustrations add an extra layer of fun. There are also interactive puzzles and games to practise the different moves and the chance to follow the ultimate chess game as part of the story.

And to add to the exciting learning experience, children aged six and above can also use a well-designed, companion iPad app, using the same story and illustrations. The app, which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store, features clear tutorials, tips on how to improve your technique and suggestions for chess moves to try out yourself. There are one and two player game options, three different levels and the ability to play a friend either side-by-side or opposite each other as on a traditional board.

Entertaining, inspirational and original, this wonderful, multi-layered book is the perfect gift and the ideal way to set imaginations alight and spark a lifetime’s love for one of the world’s most popular games.

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £8.99)

Age 7 plus:

Star Friends: Wish Trap by Linda Chapman and Lucy Fleming

The Stars are out again… and there’s magic in the air!

Linda Chapman, author of over 200 books for children, has her finger firmly on the pulse of little girls and animal lovers in the second book of her wonderfully warm and whimsical Star Friends series which has won the hearts of thousands of youngsters.

Ionie and her friends are Star Friends – girls who can use magic to keep the world in harmony, looking after the environment, healing things and people, but most importantly conquering evil. And when they meet the Star Animals, a whole world of magical adventure unfolds.

In their new adventure, Ionie and her star animal, a wildcat called Sorrel, must use their special powers to stop the forces of dark magic. When a run of bad luck hits the local gym team, the Star Friends suspect that dark magic is behind it. But are their Star Magic skills strong enough to fight back?

Chapman’s imaginative story – ideally pitched for building reading confidence – transports children into the wonderful Star World through her gentle narrative and enchanting characters while Lucy Fleming provides the vibrant, contemporary illustrations for a story packed with dreams, dramas and dilemmas as the friends battle to overcome evil using their magical powers.

With captivating animal characters, awesome adventures and a lively group of Star Friends to get to know and like, there is fun, love and adventure on every page as well as important messages about wildlife and the environment.

Casting a spell with the magic of reading…

(Stripes, paperback, £5.99)

Age 7 plus:

The Hounds of Penhallow Hall: The Lost Treasure by Holly Webb

Why are the ghosts of old Penhallow Hall so restless? Solving the mystery is going to take one little girl on a rollercoaster adventure!

History, excitement and animals… much-loved author Holly Webb weaves her trademark magic in the second book of an enchanting and atmospheric series set in a haunted hall in Cornwall.

Brought to life by Jason Cockcroft’s beautiful, expressive black-and-white illustrations, Webb’s Penhallow books whisk us away to a memorable coastal setting, rich in history and legend, for terrific tales that are proving irresistible to dog lovers and young readers hooked on mystery and magic.

For Poppy, moving to Penhallow Hall in Cornwall was the fresh start she had been longing for since the death of her father. Her mum has got a job managing the stately home and once the last of the visitors leave for the day, the place is all theirs.

Poppy soon discovers that the house is full of ghosts and memories and her unexpected new friends include Rex, an Irish wolfhound who lived at Penhallow many decades ago, another dog ghost called Magnus and William Penhallow, a boy who also lived at the hall.

One night, the three friends wake Li-Mei, the Chinese porcelain dog from the Red Drawing Room. The little Pekingese tells them of her adventures with a girl called Sarah Penhallow and how they once investigated rumours of smugglers and sighted a ghostly Green Lady down at the cove.

Together, they set off to solve the mystery once and for all, and discover a secret tunnel where the broken statue of a dog lies buried beneath a rock fall. Could their discovery have anything to do with the disappearance of Li-Mei’s canine companion?

Webb, who has written over 90 books for children, has conjured up a wonderful mix of child-friendly ingredients in this beautifully imagined series which comes packed with irresistible characters – both human and animal – and a thrilling sense of adventure.

(Stripes, paperback, £5.99)

Age 7 plus:

Bunny vs Monkey: Book Four by Jamie Smart

Hold on to your hats and watch out for trouble… Bunny and Monkey are back, and chaos is guaranteed in their helter-skelter, hilarious world!

The Phoenix Presents series, published by David Fickling in partnership with The Phoenix comic, 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 books are causing giant laughter waves.

Book Four sees the arch rivals on an outrageously funny night-time foray into the woods where Bunny and his friends are battling Monkey in increasingly crazy and hilarious ways.

A peaceful night-time picnic in the woods. What could go wrong? Slurpppp! It’s Monkey and he’s got a robot suit that shoots custard. And wait... there’s more! Rocket-powered hot air balloons, Lord Wuffywuff’s Dragon, the Wobbles and even the terrible hew-mans... can Bunny defend the woods and avoid getting poinked?! Bunny and Monkey have some spectacular new inventions for the latest round of their epic battles and you wouldn’t want to miss them!

Hilariously comical and ingeniously addictive, these manic, high-energy stories were just made for fidgety readers who like their books to come with plenty of pictures and loads of laughs. Madcap antics for a new generation of action kids.

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £8.99)

Age 6 plus:

Dirty Bertie: Burptastic Body Book by Alan MacDonald and David Roberts

If you have ever wondered why bogies are green and why fingers go wrinkly in the bath, Dirty Bertie has all the answers.

Dirty Bertie, the cringe-making creation of writer Alan MacDonald and illustrator David Roberts, has been winning laughs and guffaws for over ten years now with his nose-pickingly disgusting habits and catastrophic comic chaos.

An expert in all things yukky, there’s nothing Bertie likes more than to be surrounded by worms, fleas, bogeys, burps and suspicious smells… and his disgusting adventures have become a delight for his legions of (mainly male) fans who revel in his revolting revels.

And now everyone’s unwholesome hero is back on a stomach-churning, chuckle-filled tour of the human body to discover the weird, wonderful and plain yucky things happening right under our noses.

So are boys smellier than girls, where do burps come from, why are some men bald and what IS your belly button for? From bad breath, smelly sweat and blood-sucking nits to funny bones, amazing brains and bionic burping, this chunky, square-format book includes some delightfully disgusting details guaranteed to put you off your dinner!

An unforgettable human biology lesson with bad boy Bertie…

(Stripes, paperback, £5.99)

Age 5 plus:

My First Wild Activity Book by Isabel Otter-Barry Ross and Maxime Lebrun

Now here’s a challenge… take a walk on the wild side through seven different habitats of the world.

This action-packed, fun and fascinating activity book invites youngsters to become explorers and meet wild animals from all around the world.

There are seven different habitats to discover, each with a giant fold-out scene that can be made into a poster at the end. With a wide variety of activities including colouring, search and find, spot the difference, dot-to-dots, doodles, mazes and colourful stickers, this book is packed with lots of wild animal facts.

Travel through the driest deserts, climb the highest mountains, meet the amazing wildlife at the North Pole and dive into the ocean to discover dolphins, sharks and the giant blue whale then pick up your pencils and crayons and get busy with all the activities and puzzles.

Hours of fun, learning and wildly imaginative adventures!

(Caterpillar Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Where’s the Baby by Britta Teckentrup

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

Britta Teckentrup, creator of the bestselling The Odd One Out, Where’s the Pair and One is Not a Pair, is back to bewitch and bewilder youngsters with the fourth gorgeously illustrated book in her hugely popular spotting series which has sold over 250,000 copies.

In Where’s the Baby, every one of the brilliantly illustrated pages contains a gallery of enchanting animals but there is only one mother animal with her baby. There’s a baby croc, a small elephant, a tiny gosling and a joey kangaroo. Enjoy the delightful rhyming descriptions and then enjoy the fun of finding the mums and babies.

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 is guaranteed to bring hours of pleasure and plenty of rewards!

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £10.99)

Age 2 plus:

Big Brown Bear’s Cave by Yuval Zommer

Sometimes the bear minimum is best!

There will be bear hugs all round when youngsters get their hands on the latest captivating picture book from dynamic author and illustrator Yuval Zommer, creator of the hugely popular One Hundred Bones and One Hundred Sausages.

This playful adventure starring a Big Brown Bear who can’t stop filling his new home with unnecessary ‘stuff,’ comes packed with Zommer’s addictive, freewheeling sense of fun which makes story time such a delight for little children.

‘My cave will have the most ever!’ Big Brown Bear’s new cave just doesn’t feel like home, so he fills it with all kinds of STUFF. He has seen how humans fill their ‘caves’ with stuff and that is exactly what he is going to do too. Soon there is SO much stuff there is no room to stretch or scratch or do any of the things that Big Brown Bears generally like to do. And there is definitely no room for his friends to come and visit. Something has got to give because a cave without friends in it just doesn’t feel like home.

Zommer is such a clever talent in the world of picture books. His intricately detailed, colourful and energetic artwork possesses a glorious joie de vivre and this funny, gentle story speaks loudly about the value of belonging and the warmth of friendship.

The cutest, cuddliest bear you’ll meet this year!

(Templar, hardback, £11.99)

Age 2 plus:

I Am Actually a Penguin by Sean Taylor and Kasia Matyjaszek

Not all penguins live amongst the ice and snow…

Author Sean Taylor and illustrator Kasia Matyjaszek are on top form in a joyously comical picture book that celebrates the power of a child’s imagination.

Every parent knows their child loves dressing up but one little girl is convinced that she has actually turned into a penguin…

The little girl loves putting on her dressing-up clothes because that way, she doesn’t have to be ‘me’ any more. But when she is given her favourite outfit, a penguin suit, she decides that living as a penguin is much more fun than just dressing as one. The problem is that penguins don’t exactly behave like people… they don’t ride on the bus like people, they don’t talk like people and they certainly don’t catch fish fingers like people. Her mum worries she might break something when she comes down the stairs like a penguin and her dad is trying to get used to giving a goodnight kiss to a penguin. In fact, all her family tell her, ‘You're not actually a penguin’ but she knows that she actually is!

Taylor, author of Hoot Owl, captures the wonderful spirit of youthful imagination and enterprise in this funny, charming story packed with Matyjaszek’s warm, whimsical and vibrant illustrations.

Everyone will be flapping their wings with joy when they p-p-p-pick up this penguin adventure!

(Templar, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Cat in a Box by Jo Williamson

‘I am a cat, and I have a busy, busy life. Looking after my family is a full-time job. They just couldn't do without me!’

Cat lovers of every age will be purring with delight when they get their paws on this enchanting and exuberant celebration of our feline friends.

Jo Williamson, the author and illustrator who brought us How to be a Dog and Messy Molly, takes a loving and playful peep at what cats really do all day, whether that’s waking everybody up, indulging in a bit of washing and drying, or waiting patiently for the postman. Whatever this cat does, chaos and capers are guaranteed!

Packed with splashes of vibrant colour, peek-a-boo boxes, quick cat-naps, irritating stretches on keyboards and bath-time horrors, this gorgeous picture book has been created with Williamson’s trademark spirit of adventure, laugh-out-loud humour and extra helpings of CATtitude.

The cat’s whiskers for all feline fans!

(Scholastic, paperback, £6.99)