Garden delights, planet monsters and a greedy frog by various authors - book reviews -

Let your children discover the wonders of planting and growing, find out how eating vegetables could help save the planet, go batty about house pests, and enjoy frantic antics with a fiendishly funny grog in a sparkling selection of Easter time children’s books.

Thursday, 9th April 2020, 4:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th April 2020, 4:26 pm
In The Garden

Let your children discover the wonders of planting and growing, find out how eating vegetables could help save the planet, go batty about house pests, and enjoy frantic antics with a fiendishly funny grog in a sparkling selection of Easter time children’s books.

Age 8 plus:

In the Garden

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Emma Giuliani

Enter the wonderful world of planting and growing in an extraordinarily beautiful and informative illustrated book that will have youngsters heading straight out to the garden with their spades and forks!

In the Garden, packed with the exquisite illustrations of Parisian artist Emma Giuliani, introduces young readers to Plum and her brother Robin who offer an enchanting interactive tour of their colourful garden throughout the seasons.

This engaging large-size, hands-on book, from Princeton Architectural Press, features flaps in all shapes – including seeds, flowers and vegetables – that lift and open to reveal the remarkable world of the garden’s flora and fauna whilst exploring the tools, tricks and caretaking secrets that will inspire budding gardeners.

From season to season, children follow the life of a garden as each page reveals new treasures hiding under lift-up flaps.

Peek inside the curious tulip bulb and discover the peas inside a peapod. Watch a ladybird help with pesky aphids and search for ripe strawberries under the leaves. What do you do with plants in the autumn, how do you feed birds in the winter, what should you grow in the spring, and what fruits can you plant to eat in the summer?

Rich in detail, Giuliani’s bright and visually stunning illustrations and flaps, in their fantastic shapes, sizes and colours will delight gardeners of all ages.

The perfect book to inspire children to enjoy a spring of lockdown gardening…

(Princeton Architectural Press, hardback, £21.99)

Age 7 plus:

Planet SOS: 22 Modern Monsters Threatening Our Environment (and What You Can Do to Defeat Them!)

Marie G. Rohde

Who would have thought that saving the planet could be as simple as riding a bike or eating vegetables?

Our planet is sending out an SOS. From global warming to plastic pollution, real-life environmental monsters are threatening our world at every turn… but now children have the chance to challenge them.

Planet SOS is a friendly, humorous and stunningly illustrated handbook for any young eco-heroes who want to learn about our global environmental crisis and help the planet, but don’t yet know how to go about it.

This wonderfully entertaining and informative book comes from What on Earth Books which aims to publish non-fiction books to engage children’s natural curiosity and passion for learning by offering readers diverse perspectives on the world.

Mythical monsters have always represented humanity’s greatest fears, and the environmental monsters in Planet SOS are no different. Meet the habitat-harming monsters that are ruining the Earth and learn how to vanquish each one. The fearsome Atmosdragon is heating the planet and causing global warming, while the bright-eyed Glareworm is busy creating light pollution and the Smogosaurus is filling our air with toxic fumes.

Each of these environmental menaces is paired with the mythological beast it is based on and each is wreaking havoc on our planet and we need heroes to vanquish them. They are causing damage to everything from plastic pollution to e-waste and deforestation. The 22 monsters are accompanied by a Monster Card outlining the big, bad beasts’ weaknesses and how to make small changes in everyday life to reduce their carbon footprint.

A fold-out highlighting monster-beating actions kids can take and a world map showing where these environmental problems can be found are included, along with a helpful glossary, index, and source notes.

With its imaginative format, intriguing environmental facts, and inspirational ideas on how to help save the planet, there could be no better book for home, school, and eco-warriors of every age!

(What on Earth Books, hardback, £14.99)

Age 6 plus:


Emer Stamp

Not content with turning a pig into a star, award-winning author and illustrator Emer Stamp has gone batty about rats, fleas, bluebottles and beetles!

If your youngsters like mischief, mice, creepy crawlies and chaos then this illustrated series from the creator of the award-winning Diary of Pig series is going to be dream reading.

PESTS – a glorious melee of household pests, brilliant illustrations and laugh-out-loud antics – follows the adventures of a tiny but heroic house mouse who is determined to join Maximus the rat and the army of other unsavoury creatures that live at Flat 3 in Peewit Mansions but will have to first prove his credentials.

Say hello to Stix, the little mouse who is the size of an egg cup, can jump the width of a dog’s bottom, and loves cheese. He lives behind the washing machine with his very strict grandma who taught him to always stay out of trouble and never let the humans know he’s there.

But now Stix has stumbled across PESTS – the Peewit Educatorium for Seriously Terrible Scoundrels –in the basement of his building, and along with a whole host of new pesty friends (and enemies), he is about to rip up his grandma’s rule book and make a REAL pest of himself...

Perfect for sharing or for newly independent readers to tackle alone, PESTS is crammed full of all-action, pencil-line illustrations, the author’s now trademark toilet humour, a mountain of mischief and lashings of fun.

When the lights go off, get ready for the PESTS to come out!

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

Age 5 plus:

Bug Belly: Babysitting Trouble

Paul Morton

Can a greedy frog forget food long enough to keep his trusty tadpoles out of danger?

Meet Bug Belly, the hilarious, hungry, accident-prone star of a debut funny fiction series from exciting Barnsley-based author and illustrator Paul Morton who has produced dozens of children’s board games, some for Disney and Pixar, as well as artwork for educational books.

Larger than life and lovably silly, this fiendishly funny frog with a ferocious appetite is an ingenious and inventive creation, and his frantic antics as uncle to all the little tadpoles and froglets in Top Pond will have youngsters laughing out loud.

It’s Bug Belly’s turn to babysit. The taddies and froglets in Top Pond can’t wait to try out their uncle’s cool water slides, death-defying dragonfly drops, and fancy frogball games. But when Bug Belly's tummy goes gurgle, gurgle, glump, everyone knows it spells one thing… TROUBLE!

As Bug Belly launches himself off the slide in pursuit of scrumptious worm snack, he accidentally knocks loose all the rocks that are damming up Top Pond, and suddenly he’s in a race against time to get the taddies to safety before they get stuck in the mud.

Will his penchant for yummy snacks lead him and the taddies astray and straight into the hungry jaws of Old Pike, Heron or Sneaky Snake?

Illustrated throughout with Morton’s two-tone, high-octane pictures, and with action-packed adventures written in a wonderfully humorous and alliterative style, this series is ideal for reading aloud and is destined to be a firm favourite both at home and in classrooms.

(Five Quills, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Museum Kittens: The Midnight Visitors

Holly Webb and Sarah Lodge

Enjoy the magical, mysterious world of a museum through the eyes of… a kitten!

Museum Kittens: The Midnight Visitors is the first book in a fabulously furry new series from much-loved, best-selling author Holly Webb and freelance illustrator Sarah Lodge who is also a part-time children’s bookseller.

The series, which is guaranteed to capture the imaginations of any child who loves cats and the unique atmosphere of museums, was inspired by tales of real-life museum cats, from the British Museum to the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia.

When the museum’s visitors are gone for the day, it’s time for the cats to come out and play and one stormy night a little black kitten appears on the museum steps. Tabby cat Tasha is delighted to show Peter the museum’s passageways and secret corners but the other cats aren’t as keen to welcome the new arrival. Determined to prove that Peter is just as much of a museum cat as any of the others, Tasha takes him on a rat hunt. But the pair’s quest almost ends in disaster when they find themselves in the Dinosaur Gallery with its famous T-Rex skeleton. Will anyone come to their rescue?

Who couldn’t fall for this gallery of brave, clever cats which seem to be never more than a whisker away from adventure? And in between all the flying fur, youngsters can learn lots of fascinating facts about topics from the Ancient Egyptians to dinosaurs.

(Little Tiger, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

King of the Classroom

Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Starting pre-school is a big milestone… but one excited little boy is ready to become king of the classroom!

The exuberance of early childhood shines through in this life-affirming, warm and wonderful picture book from talented American author and illustrator duo Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton.

Our little hero has dressed himself, eaten a pile of pancakes, and can’t wait to be part of a whole new kingdom of kids. The day will be jam-packed, but he is up for the challenge, taking new experiences in his stride with his infectious enthusiasm. And afterwards, he can’t wait to tell his proud parents all about his achievements… and then wake up to start another day.

Newbery Honour-winning author Barnes’ empowering and inspirational story is full of lyrical beauty and resonance, and will give children new to nursery or pre-school a reassuring confidence boost and a gentle lesson in how being kind to others makes everyone feel good.

Brantley-Newton’s endearing, multi-coloured illustrations bring the story to vivid life and perfectly portray all the natural exuberance and optimism of youth and new beginnings.

The perfect book for any child getting ready to start school and set out on the journey of life.

(Scallywag Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Hey, Water!

Antoinette Portis

There’s water, water everywhere… even if you can’t always see it!

Plunge into this clever and captivating picture book which celebrates water in all its many forms and comes from Antoinette Portis, the US author and illustrator of the award-winning picture book Not a Box.

Brimming with vitality, fascinating facts, and the sheer joy and excitement that water can bring, Hey, Water! delivers important lessons about the science of water as we follow a little girl exploring the world around her and discovering all the places where water can be found.

Budding young scientists will love the section in the back of the book on the water cycle, water conservation, true and false questions and answers, and fun experiments with water.

Idea for reading aloud and sharing with younger children, and brimming with bold artwork in striking colours and exciting visual designs, the book is both a beautiful work of art and a source of education, information, entertainment and discovery.

(Scallywag Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Avocado Asks: What Am I?

Momoko Abe

Go on a journey of self-discovery with the world’s most popular superfood!

Avocado Asks: What Am I? is a superbly clever and funny debut picture book about identity and being confident in your own skin from Japanese-born author and illustrator Momoko Abe who came to the UK aged 20 in pursuit of her passion for visual storytelling.

Avocado is feeling just fine in the fruit and veg aisle at the supermarket… until a young customer asks a difficult question: ‘Is an avocado a fruit or a vegetable?’ Avocado doesn’t know the answer either, and the question won’t seem to go away until Avocado meets Tomato who has a deliciously simple answer… just being yourself is enough!

With its simple and yet powerful message about accepting who you are, this imaginative story is a great starting point in discussing self-identity and celebrating individuality with younger children.

Momoko Abe’s stylish, vintage-inspired illustrations add colour, class and vibrant colour to a book that will suit the ‘taste’ of both children and their parents!

(Orchard Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Bad Day

Frann Preston-Gannon

Teamwork wins the day in a beautiful picture book from London-based illustrator and designer Frann Preston-Gannon.

Everyone has a bad day sometimes… but some are definitely worse than others, and this funny, clever, rhyming story about the mishaps of a group of woodland friends contains powerful messages for little ones about the rewards of working together.

Squirrel is left hanging when a search for a tasty nut goes wrong. Meanwhile, Woodpecker has his beak buried in a tree trunk, Snake is tied in a knot, Turtle is upside down, and Fox? Well, Fox has a suspicious tummy ache. These animals are all having a very bad day. But soon it turns out that little Mouse is having the worst day of all, and his friends can only help him – and each other – if they work together.

Stunning illustrations with their eye-catching use of colour and bold design are the perfect match for an engaging story full of warmth, wisdom and the consolations of friendship, compassion and shared adversity.

(Templar Publishing, paperback, £6.99)