Golden goddesses, time-travel perils and magical mysteries by various authors - book reviews -

Be inspired by the stories of fabulous female figureheads, join some time-travelling thieves on a dangerous voyage, discover dark secrets hidden beneath the ice, step into the eye of a storm, and hoist the mainsail with a shipload of pirates as a new selection of children’s books lands on the shelves.

By Pam Norfolk
Wednesday, 23rd February 2022, 12:30 pm
Goddess: 50 Goddesses, Spirits, Saints and Other Female Figures Who Have Shaped Belief
Goddess: 50 Goddesses, Spirits, Saints and Other Female Figures Who Have Shaped Belief

Age 9 plus:

Goddess: 50 Goddesses, Spirits, Saints and Other Female Figures Who Have Shaped Belief

Dr Janina Ramirez and Sarah Walsh

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Goddesses, guides, spirits, saints, witches, demons and mountains… step into the pages of this amazing book and meet 50 female figures from around the world who have entranced and empowered people through the ages and whose stories have shaped belief.

Produced in a partnership with the British Museum, this fabulous collection, superbly written by cultural historian and broadcaster Dr Janina Ramirez and brought to life by the lavish illustrations of Sarah Walsh, tells the stories of female figureheads who still inspire us today.

There are loving creators, wise leaders, fearsome warriors, gentle healers and mystical protectors, and they can each inspire youngsters to find strength within themselves. Meet the fascinating females that have played an important role in shaping belief today… from Athena, Mami Wata, Ezili Danto, Xiwangmu, Baba Yaga, Durga, Juno and Venus to Chalchiutitcue, Brigid, Mokosh, Pattini, Rangda, Medusa, Kali, Oshun and Spider Mother.

Divided into thematic chapters, but connected by the power of the female, there are important stories of creation and love, action-packed stories of war and death, and heroic stories of great adventure and strength.

Based on original sources and with photographs from the British Museum collection, this stunning introduction to goddesses throughout history and mythology is both entertaining and educational, and will inspire young readers to learn and empower themselves through stories and ideas that stretch back thousands of years.

With each spread full of facts, fantastical stories and gorgeous illustrations, this is a magnificent celebration of girl power you won’t want to miss!

(Nosy Crow, hardback, £16.99)

Age 10 plus:

The Ship of Doom

M.A. Bennett

If mystery, inventions and the tale of the doomed ship Titanic, tickle your reading taste buds, then feast on the first book of a rip-roaring, time-travelling mystery by the bestselling STAGS author, M.A. Bennett. At Greenwich, London, on February 15, 1894, Luna thinks that an evening at her aunt’s butterfly club sounds deadly boring. But it turns out that the meeting, held in the Butterfly Room at the Greenwich Observatory, is not at all as Luna expects. The Butterfly Club is a society with an unusual secret… they use time travel to plunder the future for wonders. Together with her friends, Konstantin and Aidan, and a clockwork cuckoo, Luna boards the Time Train. The gang travel to 1912 and find themselves aboard a great ship travelling from Southampton to New York. They locate a man called Guglielmo Marconi and his new invention… the wireless radio. But as the ship heads into icy waters, they discover its name… the RMS TITANIC. Can Luna and the boys save Marconi and his invention from the doomed ship? Can they get the radio back home to the Butterfly Club and how will their actions change the rest of time? Packed with fascinating real history, heart-pumping thrills and an exciting cast of characters, this fantastic mystery tale asks youngsters to consider if they would risk the future to change the past. Don’t miss the boat with this thought-provoking and gripping adventure with a charismatic group of time-travelling thieves!

(Welbeck Flame, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

A Storm of Sisters

Michelle Harrison

Get ready for more icy thrills and malign magic as master storyteller Michelle Harrison returns with the fourth fantastically frosty adventure in her much-loved Pinch of Magic series. A Storm of Sisters is guaranteed to send more shivers of excitement down young spines as they join the Widdershins sisters discovering perilous secrets hidden beneath the ice. When the Widdershins and Granny are called away in deepest winter to look after cousin Clarissa, it doesn’t take long for adventure – or trouble – to find them. The town of Wilderness has plenty to explore with its frozen lake and winter market, as well as being haunted by a doomed highwayman and his secret love. But the legends are true and seeing a ghostly figure one night, the girls realise that Granny is in terrible danger. As an icy storm rages, the race to save her begins… can the sisters lay Wilderness’s ghosts to rest before another soul is claimed? The coolly addictive and icy cold world conjured up by the Harrison’s magical pen – and the charismatic warmth and feistiness of her female stars – cannot fail to cast a spell over her young audience. Imaginative, filled with darkness, light and impressive world-building, this is middle grade reading at its very best.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Weather Weaver: A Gathering Storm

Tamsin Mori

Imagine having a cloud for a friend and being able to choose the weather… would it bring sunshine-filled happiness, or storms of darkness and discontent? Always at ease in the stunning scenery of her mother’s Shetland homeland, where she whispered spells into sea shells and sang to the selkies, author Tamsin Mori has harnessed the islands’ fabulous myths and legends for a mesmerising debut series filled with magic, danger… and weather of every kind. These thrilling, original and action-packed adventures celebrate the rich, mysterious and unpredictable moods of the elements whilst gently exploring universal themes like gaining independence, the meaning of home, handling grief, and discovering the fallibility of adults. Taking centre stage is eleven-year-old Stella who grew up on a tiny Shetland island but left five years ago and has now returned to stay with her widowed Grandpa. When she first arrived, Stella felt lonely and trapped but then she met an old woman named Tamar, a Weather Weaver who can spin rainbows and call hurricanes. And now, with the help of Nimbus, a feisty young storm cloud who is in need of a lot of training, Stella is learning the craft of weather weaving. In this new adventure, weather weavers from all over the globe are coming together at the annual Gathering to trade weather magic and stories. Stella and Nimbus can’t wait to meet others like them but they are in for a frosty welcome. Seasoned weather weaver Tamar has always been a rule-breaker but this time she has broken the law and it’s Stella who will lose everything if the trial goes badly. Can Stella and Nimbus thaw the hearts of the council elders, or will winter tear them apart? Drawing on the elements, island myths, and the natural world, A Gathering Storm is an enchanting and inspirational tale which blends the thrills and spills of magic with a beautifully portrayed and authentic young girl who is firmly rooted in reality. Add on the wild beauty of Shetland and some fascinating insights into weather systems, and you have a wonderful, windblown reminder that looking for the end of the rainbow isn’t always an impossible dream!

(UCLan Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Rainbow Grey: Eye of the Storm

Laura Ellen Anderson

There’s a rainbow-coloured adventure full of wit, wonder and magic just waiting to be enjoyed in the second book of creative author and illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson’s sky-high series. These are thrilling adventures full of colour, fun and imagination as Anderson transports us into the world of ten-year-old Ray Grey who lives in the magical kingdom of Celestia in The Weatherlands, high in the sky. After a forbidden trip to Earth on the back of cloud cat, Nim, Ray’s life changed forever. She is now Rainbow Grey and a Rainbow Weatherling with astounding weather power at her fingertips, used to keep the Earth safe and balanced. In her second adventure, Ray is getting accustomed to life as Rainbow Grey – she now has ALL the magical weather powers at her fingertips, although she hasn’t quite mastered them yet! When all of the cloud creatures start disappearing – including her beloved cat Nim – Ray and her friends have a mystery to solve. Ray is sure that a dark magic is behind the disappearances. Can she work out what is going on before cloud magic is lost forever and Earth is destroyed by the ultimate storm? Anderson, whose bestselling Amelia Fang books have enchanted young readers, delivers another rip-roaring, colour-infused tale of bravery, storm-filled action, kindness and warm-hearted friendships. A gallery of fun-filled illustrations add an extra layer of humour, charm and entertainment in a story that delights… come rain or shine!

(Farshore, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

The Extraordinary World of Birds

David Lindo and Claire McElfatrick

Take flight into the blue yonder with bird lover David Lindo whose fascination with the birds that share our cities have earned him the title, the Urban Birder. With the brilliantly colourful and vibrant illustrations of Claire McElfatrick to help him track a flight path high into the skies, Lindo takes us on an eclectic global journey to meet parrots, hummingbirds, eagles and owls as we swoop across the pages of this wonderful book. Illustrations and photographs help young nature enthusiasts to enjoy the extraordinary world of birds as they discover the surprising homes, relationships, and habitats of our feathered friends, and learn about how we can protect the wonderful bird world. Discover gamebirds, flightless birds, and perching birds, amazing facts about how birds talk to each other, what they eat, and how they are able to fly. From frozen ice-scapes to sweltering deserts, and from prehistoric ancestors to amazing adaptations, children can explore the surprising homes, relationships, and habits of our feathered friends. Lindo’s engaging text explains to children just how amazing birds are, what they do for our planet, and how we can help to protect birds and their natural habitats. He also shows that birding can be accessible to all, inspiring even city-dwellers to engage with birds in urban environments. With a glossary of bird terminology, a full list of national birds, information on all things bird, including beaks, feathers, nests, eggs and habitats, this is perfect as a home or classroom read, and is guaranteed to inspire a new generation of twitchers!

(DK Children, hardback, £14.99)

Age 7 plus:

It’s a Wonderful World

Jess French and Aleesha Nandhra

Our world is wonderful but it’s in danger! That’s the message that shines out loud and clear from the pages of this inspirational and yet practical book by nature lover, TV host, author, and veterinarian Jess French who is known for her CBeebies show Minibeast Adventure with Jess. In this beautifully created book, packed with Aleesha Nandhra’s vibrant illustrations combining art with photography, French tells children that they may feel small, but their actions can make a big difference. She encourages youngsters to take care of the planet not by simply focusing on the problems, but teaching them practical solutions to the issues facing our world today, from living a sustainable lifestyle to using their voice in politics and the positive contribution that humans can make to each other’s lives. As well as tips on taking care of plants and animals, French delivers themes of self-care and mindfulness throughout the book, and introduces children to activism. Discover how to reduce your carbon footprint, understand the importance of preserving our forests, oceans, and endangered animals, and learn the best ways to stand up for what you believe in. With Nandhra’s eye-catching illustrations creating stunning spreads, and French’s empowering and fact-filled book providing an introduction to nature conservation and protection, It’s a Wonderful World shows children that being kind to each other and working together is the best way to start protecting the planet. The perfect book to discover more about yourself and what you can achieve… and how to find wonder in the most unexpected places!

(DK Children, hardback, £9.99)

Age 7 plus:

Flyntlock Bones: The Ghost of Scarletbeard

Derek Keilty and Mark Elvins

Ahoy, me hearties… get ready to hoist the mainsail and climb aboard a ship full of pirates charting a course to danger and mayhem! Youngsters will adore this super, swashbuckling comedy adventure from the top team of author Derek Keilty and illustrator Mark Elvins as they set sail with the final riotous instalment of a seafaring trilogy. Starring a gallery of wonderfully anarchic characters, a vividly imagined world of raucous pirates, and two budding young investigators determined to solve every mystery that comes their way, this is a glorious mix of detective work, danger, slapstick fun and outstanding illustrations. So welcome back to the Black Hound… a ship full of the cleverest pirate investigators you ever set eyes upon. The Countess of Bohemia’s jewels have been stolen by a ghost. Not just any old ghost, but the ghost of Captain Scarletbeard, the scariest pirate who ever lived! Flynn and the crew of the Black Hound end up descending to the murky depths to Davy Jones’ Locker where they uncover a ghoulish plot that threatens the survival of the Seven Seas. Expect thrills, mystery, ghosts, magic spells and lots of madcap adventures as this exciting writing and illustration team depart the high seas with their trademark waves of laughter, deck full of comedy characters, and barrel-loads of grog and salty giggles!

(Scallywag Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 4 plus:

The Book Family Robinson

Jonathan Emmett and Sam Caldwell

Book yourself in for a treasure island adventure as author Jonathan Emmett and illustrator Sam Caldwell let their imaginations take flight on a fun-filled picture book. Featuring a clever twist on the classic tale of Swiss Family Robinson, Emmett brings us a ‘bookish’ family Robinson who are shipwrecked on a treasure island, only to be plunged into a face-off against a fearsome pirate crew. The keen-reading Robinsons set out to sea, their boat barely afloat with all their books, until a storm strikes down their holiday plans. Shipwrecked on a mysterious island, they gather up their soggy books and research how to survive… completely missing the treasure littered all around them! But the Bloodbucket pirates remember it all too well and when they find the Robinsons have taken their turf, it’s time to walk the plank! With only baby Charlie’s favourite, hilarious book, Silly Monkey Goes to the Toilet, left to hand, can the Robinsons read themselves free from a watery doom? Stories – and books of course – really do conquer all in this charming, madcap adventure which puts the pleasure of reading at the top of everybody’s wish list!

(Templar Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 4 plus:

Eyes That Speak to the Stars

Joanna Ho and Dung Ho

‘Your eyes rise to the skies and speak to the stars… and your eyes can foresee the future.’ The bestselling team that brought young readers the stunning picture book, Eyes That Kiss in the Corners, combine their talents again to create a companion book filled with the same hallmarks of reassurance and inspiration. Blending words of lyrical beauty and breathtaking illustration to celebrate Asian-shaped eyes and the power of love, Eyes That Speak to the Stars is a heartwarming, poetically imagined story about a young Asian boy learning to love both the shape of his eyes and his heritage. It is the work of author Joanna Ho, who is of Chinese and Taiwanese heritage and passionate about equity in books and education, and illustrator Dung Ho, who was born and raised in Hue Imperial City, Vietnam, and finds inspiration for her exquisite artwork in nature. When a friend at school creates a hurtful drawing of his eyes, a young boy turns to his family for comfort. And through their words, he realises that his eyes rise to the skies and speak to the stars, shine like sunlit rays, and glimpse trails of light from those who came before. In fact, his eyes are like his father’s, his agong’s, and his little brother’s, and not only that… they are visionary. Inspired by the men in his family, he recognises his own power and strength from within, and his ability to change the future. Eyes That Speak to the Stars is a joyful and moving story that will delight readers of all ages with its celebration of family connections, comforting messages about self-acceptance and the rewards of diversity, and its outstanding visual elegance.

(HarperCollins, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Hello Spring

Jo Lindley

Flowers reaching for the sun, butterflies flitting and birds swooping… soak up the joys of spring in the first of a magical new picture book series from debut author and illustrator Jo Lindley. Best Friends with Big Feelings features stories about friendship, feelings and the seasons, and each is set in an enchanting natural world that little readers will love to return to again and again. So say hello to the Little Seasons! After a whole year of waiting, it’s finally Spring’s turn to wear the Weather Crown and create her own special season. Her friends can all remember how beautiful spring was last time. But this time, as Winter places the crown on her head, Spring starts to feel anxious. Can her friends help by showing her that not everything has to be perfect? Lindley’s four charismatic friends, who control the seasons, gently explore key social and emotional themes, such as anxiety, self-belief and resilience, in this irresistible new series. With its sparkling foil finish and a gallery of colourful and eclectic illustrations, Hello Spring is an entertaining teaching tool for exploring both emotions and the seasons.

(Farshore, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Me, in the Middle

Annette Demetriou and Angela Mayers

Just as trees have many colours and shapes but all dig down into the same rich earth, so too do our family trees. Loosely based on her own childhood experiences as the daughter of a black immigrant father and a white mother, author Annette Demetriou brings little ones a beautiful story celebrating all kinds of families, but particularly those of mixed heritage. Georgie’s class is learning all about families but when each one is asked to point to the place their parents come from on a map, she doesn’t know which parent to pick. She dreads having to draw her family tree as homework but once she starts working on it she realises how special it is and just how far and wide the branches spread. Soon Georgie is helping to show her class that all of their roots dig down into the same earth so they’re not that different after all! With Angela Mayers’ gentle and expressive illustrations to add colour and poignancy, Demetriou’s inspirational and emotionally powerful story comes straight from the heart and offers uplifting messages to children, whatever their heritage.

(Owlet Press, paperback, £7.99)