Clock mysteries, a dragon detective and a lonely pony by various authors - book reviews -

Get your hands on the tale of a haunted house of clocks, enjoy a book with togetherness written all over it, set sail on a seafaring adventure, and get all fired up by a laidback dragon detective who meets his match in a glittering collection of children’s books just perfect for half-term reading.

Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 3:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 4:21 pm
The House of One Hundred Clocks
The House of One Hundred Clocks

Get your hands on the tale of a haunted house of clocks, enjoy a book with togetherness written all over it, set sail on a seafaring adventure, and get all fired up by a laidback dragon detective who meets his match in a glittering collection of children’s books just perfect for half-term reading.

Age 9 plus:

The House of One Hundred Clocks

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A.M. Howell

A bereaved young girl, her talking parrot, a creepy house full of clocks, and a thrilling race against time!

Time really does fly when you open the pages of the second gripping middle-grade novel from author A.M (Ann-Marie) Howell who has the gift of blending history and mystery into exciting, atmospheric adventures full of danger, daring and heartbreaking emotional intensity.

After the runaway success of her debut, The Garden of Lost Secrets, an enchanting story whose roots lay in the discovery of a 100-year-old gardener’s notebook, Howell has found new inspiration in a remarkable clock collection in Bury St Edmunds’ Moyse’s Hall museum in her home county of Suffolk to imagine the adventures of a sad and lonely girl in the early years of the 20th century.

The collection was bequeathed to the council by local musician Frederic Gershom Parkington in memory of his son John, who was killed during the Second World War, and prompted Howell to ponder what it would have been like to live in a house which is home to one hundred clocks.

The result is a tale of sadness, joy and discovery starring a host of clocks of every shape and size, a cast of beautifully created characters, a plot that brings to life the spirit of change that marked out the Edwardian period, and all set against the stunning streets and spires of the city of Cambridge.

Helena Graham never wanted to leave her home in London but life hasn’t been the same for her since her mother died a year ago. But now, her father, a timekeeper and clock conservator, has taken up a new job as at a house in Cambridge.

The post comes with board and lodging for both Helena and her dad but the wealthy house owner, Mr Westcott, a cold, stiff and gloomy man, doesn’t seem too keen on Helena’s much-loved and very precious talking parrot, Orbit, who belonged to her mother, who was often heard to say that the bird ‘was part of my own being.’

But what worries Helena the most is that Mr Westcott has stipulated that her father sign a contract which agrees that if a single clock should stop under his care, he must hand over all his possessions to his employer in recompense.

Helena can’t understand why her father signed this agreement and soon discovers that the house and its clocks holds many mysteries, including a ghostly figure, strange notes and disappearing winding keys. Can she work out its secrets before time runs out?

Howell is a master storyteller and here she invites readers to enter an unforgettable house in which every hour is marked by a crashing cacophony of clock chimes, a young girl must dig out the secrets that have cast a pall of misery over its sinister owner, and all whilst still coming to terms with the loss of her beloved mother.

With its intriguing star players, its subtle and moving exploration of obsession, loss and grief, its captivating air of mystery, and its warm and universal messages about courage, friendship and the importance of memories, Howell’s novel is children’s fiction writing at its most imaginative and compelling best.

(Usborne, paperback, £7.99)

Age nought to ninety:

You Complete Me

Thomas Elliott

If you’re looking for a special Valentine love gift, here’s a book with togetherness written all over it!

This quirky peek-through book, which lets readers both young and old match up some well-loved partnerships, is full of visual and tactile vibrancy, and is guaranteed to make your other half’s day complete.

With its message that we are better together, like milk and cookies, peas in a pod, and peanut butter and jelly, this gorgeous novelty book lets readers have fun completing all the pairs… and is guaranteed to capture everyone’s heart.

(Caterpillar Books, board book, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Beatrix the Bold and the Balloon of Doom

Simon Mockler and Cherie Zamazing

If anarchy, queens and a big dose of deadly peril float your boat, then set sail for the last, all-action voyage with Beatrix the Bold!

Expect vile villains galore, madcap antics, and lots of laugh-out-loud moments as the third and final book in Simon Mockler’s gloriously funny series reaches a glorious journey’s end.

Beatrix the Bold is a queen, a very bold queen in fact, and she’s also only ten years old. But that has never stopped her from doing anything before, and it’s certainly not going to stop her now. She’s on the run from the Evil Army AND her evil aunt Esmerelda, but she’s getting closer to finding her long-lost parents, whom she hasn’t seen since she was a baby.

She just has to cross the Sea of Sinking Ships, Devil Sprout Island and the Volcanos of Doom to get to them… not easy, right? But when you’re Beatrix the Bold and you’ve got Oi the boy, Dog the dog and Wilfred the Wise by your side, you can do anything…

Vividly illustrated by Cherie Zamazing, these magical, old-fashioned stories, which include Beatrix the Bold and the Curse of the Wobblers and Beatrix the Bold and the Riddletown Dragon, are perfect for fun lovers, adventure addicts and action fans with their charismatic cast of wizards, queens and curious creatures, lashings of knockabout comedy, and a big-hearted, fearless heroine.

(Piccadilly Press, paperback, £5.99)

Age 6 plus:

Dragon Detective: Catnapped!

Gareth P. Jones

Meet a droll, laidback dragon detective who meets his match when it comes to sleuthing skills!

Master of zany comedy and award-winning author Gareth P. Jones is back with an updated, new look, tweaked title but still fun-filled version of his action-packed and much-loved The Dragon Detective Agency series which was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book prize in 2007.

Starring the lovable jobbing London dragon detective Dirk Dilly, these brilliant stories are packed with laugh-out-loud comedy, madcap adventures, and positively fizz with Jones’ energy, wit, imagination and irreverent sense fun.

In Catnapped! we are introduced to mountain dragon detective Dirk who gets a call from Holly, a young girl whose pet cat has gone missing, and ends up with not only a new case to solve but also a self-appointed partner-in-solving-crime. And it turns out that Holly’s cat is just the beginning!

As the pair hunt for clues, Dirk spots other dragons flying over the city… and they are definitely not the good kind. Dirk has a hunch that the dragons might just be involved, but will he and Holly be able prevent further cat-astrophe before it’s too late?

With Jones’ love of words shining through, and plenty of crooks and crime to enjoy, a reprise of Dilly and Holly will make ideal reading for all young mischief makers.

(Stripes, paperback, £6.99)

Age 6 plus:

Princess of Pets: The Lonely Pony

Paula Harrison and Olivia Chin Mueller

Helping animals in need can sometimes mean breaking the rules!

If magic, animals and princesses are the number one ingredients on your child’s list of must-have books, then this sparkling, fun-filled adventure could be their dream read.

The Lonely Pony is the new title in the illustrated Princess of Pets series which features fabulous stories starring animal-loving Princess Bea who just happens to live in a royal palace where no pets are allowed.

Princess Bea, who lives at Ruby Palace, gets a big surprise when she discovers a beautiful pony all alone on the beach. Bea is determined to find Sandy’s owner, if only the playful little pony would stay put! When Sandy goes missing just before the royal garden party, can Bea find her before she runs into trouble?

Written by best-selling children’s author Paula Harrison, and exquisitely illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller, this is a beautiful, heartwarming series full of kindness, caring, life lessons, and enchanting animals!

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

I Can Do It!

Patricia Hegarty and Hilli Kushnir

You can do it!

Have fun tying shoelaces and fastening buttons, zips and poppers by using the step-by-step instructions and interactive elements in this beautifully created and imaginative book of fastenings.

Rise and shine, it’s time to get dressed! These youngsters need to put on their clothes to make sure they are ready for the day ahead and so that they don’t get cold. Can you learn how to do it yourself?

Illustrations in a palette of bold, engaging colours, and featuring a diverse group of little children, help your own youngsters to get to grips with five fastening experiments featuring a button, a real Velcro flap seal, a zip, a popper, and the knottiest challenge of all… shoelaces!

With easy-to-follow instructions, I Can Do It! offers fun and educational learning, and is ideal for little hands itching to start fastening their own clothes and shoes.

(Caterpillar Books, board book, £9.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Last Tree

Emily Haworth-Booth

The consequences of abusing our precious natural resources are brought powerfully to life in a clever and creative picture book from award-winning author, illustrator and educator Emily Haworth-Booth.

Author of the phenomenally successful The King Who Banned the Dark, a modern fable about power and protest, brings readers a haunting new tale about community and our relationship with the environment and nature.

Once upon a time a group of friends were seeking a place to call home. The desert was too hot, the valley was too wet and the mountain was too windy. Then they found the forest and it was perfect. The leaves gave shelter from the sun and rain, and a gentle breeze wound through the branches. But the friends soon wanted to build shelters. The shelters became houses and then the houses got bigger. All too soon they wanted to control the environment and built a huge wooden wall around the community. As they cut down the trees, the forest becomes thinner, until there is just one last tree standing. It is down to the children to find a solution…

Full of inspirational messages about treasuring our natural world, and the impact of its decimation on our well-being, Haworth-Booth’s cautionary fable features an atmospheric palette of muted colours as words and pictures combine into a storytelling odyssey.

(Pavilion Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

What Can You See on the Farm?

Kate Ware and Maria Perera

Watch a farmyard spring to life in a clever peep-through board book with intriguing, multi-layered landscapes.

With simple facts about each scene on the farm and lots of things to spot along the way, little ones will love peeping through the pages, meeting the farm workers, and discovering the different animals.

Children can practise counting and number skills, look out for hidden ladybirds and a little squirrel, discover what pigs like to eat, find tiny mice making their nests in wheat, and see the farmer collecting milk and eggs for his tea.

With its sturdy board book pages, richly detailed illustrations by Maria Perera and simple facts, this is the perfect introduction to the joy of books and the fun of learning, and life on a farm.

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

Lenny Makes a Wish

Paula Metcalf

A rabbit learns some tough life lessons in a beautiful, love-filled picture book from talented author and illustrator Paula Metcalf.

Lenny Makes a Wish is an enchanting story about meeting people from different walks of life and how powerful friendships can be formed in the most unexpected ways.

Lenny the rabbit is out picking flowers for his mum when he rests beside a pond and spots a funny, black little fish all by herself because she was swept away from her family in a storm. They play together, but will they be able to stay friends when rabbits live on land, and fish live in water?

Fun to read aloud, and with a rhythmic and rhyming text, and illustrations to melt the hardest of hearts, Metcalf teaches the importance of personal connections… and delivers some subtle, gentle facts about how tadpoles turn into frogs!

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Everybody Has a Body

Jon Burgerman

Everyone’s body is different in some way… and that’s something to celebrate!

Internationally acclaimed doodle artist Jon Burgerman, a UK-born, Brooklyn-based artist famed for his instantly recognisable drawings, doodles, characters and murals, has put body and soul together in this joyful picture book.

Featuring Burgerman’s trademark, eye-popping colour palette and a cast of anarchic characters, this playful story encourages children to love their bodies, and teaches them that all bodies are different and special.

So whether your body is big, small, wide, short or tall, Burgerman uses both words and pictures to show us that it’s not only uniquely yours, but something to be proud of!

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age one plus:

Who Said Moo? and Who Said Woof?

Yi-Hsuan Wu

Animals make lots of different noises… and little ones can find out which creature says what!

Who wouldn’t want to get their paws on these two gorgeous lift-the-flap, touch-and-feel board books which are the first titles in a brand new Who Said…? interactive series which will make children laugh with its collection of comical animal pairings and vibrant illustrations by Yi-Hsuan Wu.

In Who Said Moo? children must lift the flaps and rub the tactile clues to discover which animals say moo, baa, quack and oink! And in Who Said Woof? youngsters have to find out which pet says woof, meow, squeak and squawk.

With entertaining lessons on which noises match the different creatures, sturdy flaps to lift, touchy feely pads to rub, and a surprise mirror ending, these clever, engaging and colourful books are destined to be a favourite with all the family.

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £6.99 each)

Age one plus:

Where’s My Unicorn

Kate McLelland and Becky Davies

Where’s my unicorn? She was here a moment ago. Can you find her?

Help your curious little ones get interactive with this sturdy touch-and-feel board book which comes loaded with fun, discovery, word recognition development, and lots of visual and tactile appeal.

A tantalising trail of colourful footprints will lead children past a touch-and-feel mermaid and some fascinating creatures in the search for the fluffy unicorn. With Kate McLelland’s bright, appealing illustrations, discoveries on each spread, and a surprise flap ending, this new series is ideal for young children.

The perfect sharing book for babies and toddlers finding their way in the big, wide world!

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £6.99)