A cute Cookie, bloodthirsty Vikings and rampaging robots by various authors - book reviews -

Meet the chaotic new kid on the block, step back in time with ancient warriors, enjoy out-of-control robots, and get up close and personal with Abraham Lincoln in a dazzling collection of new children’s books.

Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 3:08 pm
Updated Friday, 31st January 2020, 3:54 pm

Meet the chaotic new kid on the block, step back in time with ancient warriors, enjoy out-of-control robots, and get up close and personal with Abraham Lincoln in a dazzling collection of new children’s books.

Age 7 plus:

Cookie!: Cookie and the Most Annoying Boy in the World

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Konnie Huq

Get ready for chaos, comedy and a cast of quirky characters as much-loved BBC Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq launches her hilarious new children’s series.

Written and illustrated by Huq, Cookie! stars adorable science-obsessed girl Cookie Haque, from a Bangladeshi family, who is ready to take on the world… and won’t take no for an answer!

With her chaotic family life, drama queen attitude and her love for madcap school science projects, geeky Cookie also has an uncanny ability to get herself into almost constant scrapes, and her riotous adventures are set to win the hearts of mischievous youngsters.

Cookie’s life is basically over. Her best friend is moving to Solihull because one of her dads has a new job there. Solihull… Cookie doesn’t even know where that is! Cookie begs her parents for a pet to fill the void but they have given her an absolute NO. It would be way too expensive and way, way too messy.

But Cookie has never been a fan of the word ‘no’ so she visits the pet shop anyway and sets her heart on the sweetest cutest kitten ever… Bluey. But then disaster happens! The most annoying boy she has ever met in her entire nine years goes into the pet shop, buys Bluey and renames her Nigel. Then he joins her year at school, and if that wasn’t bad enough, he moves in next door to her. Aaagh!

But it’s not all bad because Cookie gets the chance to go on her favourite TV show, Brainbusters. It’s only a chance though… first she has to win the school science competition. It shouldn’t be too hard… all she has to do is keep her head down, and not get too over-excited. Unfortunately that’s not Cookie’s strong point!

Huq’s inspiration for this anarchic comedy series – illustrated throughout with her own doodle-style, black and white illustrations – was her own childhood, a lingering feeling that she ‘didn’t quite fit in,’ and her own propensity for embarrassing disasters.

With a fresh, funny and joyful warmth permeating the story throughout, subtle lessons about negotiating friendships, an enchanting lead player who is both clever and playful, and fascinating facts about science, this is the perfect all-round adventure for middle grade readers.

This book is published on February 6.

(Piccadilly Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

Viking Voyagers

Jack Tite

The Vikings’ fearsome reputation as bloodthirsty warriors lives on today, and it is easy to forget their remarkable accomplishments.

So step back in time to around 1,200 years ago – when the legendary, voyaging Norsemen set sail to raid and trade – and discover fascinating facts and figures about the Viking way of life in this brilliant new book brimming with amazing history and a gallery of rich and detailed illustrations.

Written and illustrated by motion designer Jack Tite, Viking Voyagers tells how the Viking Age began, and how those early explorers from Norway, Sweden and Denmark left their mark on their world.

Discover how they travelled, where they traded and their rich mythology, come face to face with a fearsome berserker, explore inside a Viking longhouse, and learn how these expert boat builders made their fleet of ships.

Bold, graphic illustrations of vibrant Viking characters, incredible artefacts and stunningly detailed scenes showcase the Viking Age in full brilliant colour while Tite’s lively, engaging text is informative and easy to read.

Add on large size, fold-out pages which allow youngsters to discover the Vikings in exciting detail, maps which put the facts in context, and illustrations of some of the amazing Viking animals, and you have the perfect educational reading book to make history both fun and accessible.

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £16.99)

Age 9 plus:

Runaway Robot

Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Steven Lenton

Award-winning writer extraordinaire and comic genius Frank Cottrell-Boyce is at his storytelling best in this full-throttle, rip-roaring adventure starring a boy whose best friend is… an irrepressibly rambunctious robot!

The inventive funny man behind the 21st century return of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and one of the masterminds behind the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony, has exhilarated and entertained thousands of youngsters with his series of laugh-out-loud books which began with the perennial favourite The Astounding Broccoli Boy and has included Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth and Cosmic.

Full of heart and humour, this standalone novel – featuring the glorious illustrations of Cottrell-Boyce’s talented illustration team-mate Steven Lenton – is set in a futuristic world and was inspired by the author’s trip to the robot exhibition at London’s Science Museum. After discovering Eric, the first ‘robot’ ever created, and how one day Eric miraculously escaped and never returned, Frank’s imagination ran away with the story!

Alfie has had a terrible accident in which he lost both his hands and his confidence and now he hides himself away at the Limb Lab where they teach you New Limb, New Life lessons which encourage you not to think too much about how your accident happened.

But he also likes going to the airport where he can enjoy imagining himself flying off to exciting destinations instead of going to lessons at the Limb Lab, and it’s on the shelves at the airport Lost Property counter that Alfie finds Eric, a giant, one-legged robot who is desperate for a friend.

But has Alfie taken on more than he bargained for? Eric has lost half his memory as well as a leg and he’s super strong, but super clumsy. And Eric is convinced that he is the very latest technology when he is actually nearly one hundred years old and ready for the scrapheap.

What’s worse is that a ban on humanoid robots has just been passed which means Alfie is breaking the law by sheltering Eric. Can he find a way to save Eric from destruction… before Eric destroys everything around him?

This funny and heartwarming adventure starring two unlikely best friends, who help put themselves back together again in more ways than one, is full of Cottrell-Boyce’s wisdom, compassion and understanding of what it means to be outside what is viewed as the ‘norm.’

The world he imagines is cleverly conceived and the spirit of fun and adventure is pure Cottrell-Boyce, but there are also messages about acceptance and diversity, tucked away between the madcap antics, which will resonate with readers of every age.

Expect plenty of laughs, some unexpected twists and turns, and a big smile as the last page turns.

This book is published on February 6.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

First Names: Abraham Lincoln

Jonathan Weil and John Aggs

The world is – and has been – home to some amazing people… so what fun it would be to get up close and personal with them!

This exhilarating and quirky non-fiction series from David Fickling Books invites young readers to get on first name terms with some of our planet’s cleverest and most inspirational personalities through the lens of fun, lively and highly illustrated biographies.

The spotlight in First Names focuses on famous people from history like Emmeline Pankhurst, Amelia Earhart, Abraham Lincoln and Harry Houdini as well as more modern names like Elon Musk, the billionaire, mega-brain entrepreneur, that some readers may not know.

The aim is to let children discover who, for example, Albert Einstein really was and not just what he achieved, and to see these famous names as ordinary people who grew up to do extraordinary things.

In the latest book in the series, we meet Abraham Lincoln, the power-speaking president of the USA who helped free millions of people from slavery.

Written by Jonathan Weil and illustrated by John Aggs, we learn about Lincoln’s legendary rags to riches tale and find out how he came up with one of the best speeches ever given, how he got the nickname ‘Spotty Lincoln’ and how wrestling and crowd-surfing helped him to win votes.

All the titles in this brilliant series aim to be entertaining and factually accurate, and are designed to educate and inspire. Lively black and white illustrations, provided by a range of excellent comic artists throughout each book, help to tell the story, with each personality featured chipping in to add their own comments.

So forget all those stuffy, dull history books and find out about the people who made (and, in some cases, are still making) things happen. High energy, informative and entertaining, these books make learning fun and are the perfect addition to every inquisitive child’s shelf.

This book is published on February 6.

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £6.99 each)

Age 7 plus:

Is My Teacher a Robot?

Dave Cousins and Catalina Echeverri

There’s a robot on the rampage and it’s making life a nightmare for a pair of terrible twins!

Is My Teacher a Robot? is the second book in a fully illustrated, laugh-out-loud series from Dave Cousins, the master of slapstick comedy, and talented children’s books illustrator Catalina Echeverri.

It’s a series packed with chaos, outlandish fun, a cast of brilliant characters, and a (too often!) out-of-control robot babysitter who has been programmed by their inventor Grandma to look after Jake and Jess while their Mum and Dad are at work.

In this hilarious new adventure, Robin the robot babysitter loses his memory in an accident and starts thinking he’s a teacher at Jake and Jess’s school. Although Robin is probably Grandma’s most successful invention and has unlimited knowledge to share with the students, Robin is definitely not your average teacher, people are getting suspicious and might take him away forever. Not only that, but Jake and Jess want their OLD madcap but well-meaning robot back. How can they restore the Robin they know and love?

Echeverri’s vibrant illustrations add extra energy to a story perfectly pitched for reluctant young readers and with the multi-talented Cousins conducting all the action, this fun-packed series is taking Artificial Intelligence to exhilarating (and now explosive) new heights of anarchy.

Expect mishaps, mischief, mayhem… and some hilarious malfunctions!

This book is published on February 6.

(Stripes, paperback, £5.99)

Age 6 plus:

Cinderella: Disney Animated Classics

Adapted by Lily Murray

Enjoy a classic fairy tale as you have never before seen it!

Cinderella is the stunning new title in Disney Animated Classics, a sparkling series from Studio Press with each book presenting an enchanting retelling of Walt Disney’s eternally popular films as seen through the animator’s eye.

These beautiful hardback books with their premium cloth binding, ribbon marker to match the cover, gold foil stamping and illustrated endpapers, make the perfect gifts for all those who have been spellbound by the magic of Disney’s famous animated classic films.

The series includes Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Dumbo, Aladdin, and now Cinderella, some of the best-loved films of all time and family favourites for over eighty years.

Relive the star-dusted magic through Lily Murray’s retelling of the classic animated film, accompanied by paintings, story sketches and concept art from the original Disney Studio artists. Also featured is a foreword by Mark Henn, a supervising animator and director at the Walt Disney Animation Studios.

And when the story is finished, youngsters can turn to the back of the book to learn more about the artists who worked on the memorable animated film.

These sumptuous books, full of atmospheric retellings and fascinating illustrations, are perfect gifts for young collectors, and anyone enchanted by the magic of Disney.

This book is published on February 6.

(Studio Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 6 plus:

The Adventures of Harry Stevenson: Guinea Pig Superstar

Ali Pye

Some people might think that guinea pigs just like to sleep lots and eat lots… but they obviously haven’t met the fur-raising Harry Stevenson!

Ali Pye, author and illustrator of a number of picture books, brings us two more captivating, action-packed adventures in her brilliant young fiction series inspired by a real-life guinea pig called Harry Stevenson… who had to be renamed Harriet Stevenson when it was discovered that he was actually a girl!

And Harry certainly is a guinea pig who can gobble up the most dangerous dilemmas as he finds himself plunged into some unexpected dramas which take him far away from the cosy, hay-filled, creature comforts of his cage. He might be small but he has some very BIG adventures!

Harry’s home is in a flat with seven-year-old Billy Smith and his mum and dad. And at first glance, Harry doesn’t seem any different from your average guinea pig.

But don’t be fooled! Harry may just want to sleep and eat (and then eat some more) but somehow he always manages to get swept up in adventures… and that’s usually because his greedy tummy always lead to trouble.

Harry is VERY excited. He’s off to school with Billy! Billy can’t wait to show Harry off in Show and Tell but when another classmate brings in his pet snake, chaos ensues. Can this small guinea pig survive his first day at school? And in the second riotous story, when a thief – dressed up as a chicken – steals Sparky FC’s championship cup, Harry finds himself caught up in a real-life robbery! Can Harry stop the thief and save the day?

Join Harry in this brilliant two-stories-in-one book which is filled with fun, giggles, guinea pig derring-do, and lots of action, all brought to life by a very large and delicious helping of two-tone neon-orange illustrations.

Perfect fur-flying young fiction for newly confident readers…

This book is published on February 6.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Tractors and Farm Machines

William Bee

Peep, peep! William Bee is just buzzing with excitement… the man who loves vehicles has his foot on the pedal and is raring to show us his amazing collection of tractors and farm vehicles.

Brimming with pages of eye-catching tractors in all their wonderful detail, this marvellous mix of fun and facts is irresistible to little transport enthusiasts who have plenty to spot as they make an exciting whistle-stop tour of William’s collection of tractors and farm machines.

William Bee’s Wonderful World of Tractors and Farm Machines is the third title in this bright and bold series – now available in a new paperback format – and features motor-mad William showing off his trucks, trains, planes, boats, tractors and more.

Each double-page spread in is packed with beautiful, graphic full-colour illustrations and there is plenty of humorous detail to spot along the journey as we explore the jobs that farm machines do to bring food to our tables.

There’s his teeny tiny tractor for picking fruit, the widest tractor in the world that can cover acre after acre, tractors for pulling ploughs or for pushing smelly loads of manure, his combine harvester and not forgetting his animals, including cows, Daisy and Buttercup, plus Brian the horse. The Cone Family are back to help – or maybe hinder! – o­n the farm, along with Sparky the dog.

Perfect for every child who is fascinated by farms and tractors large and small, this fun, fact-filled, engine-powered picture book puts your own little dynamos well and truly in the driving seat.

This book is published on February 6.

(Pavilion Books, paperback, £6.99)