Looking-glass magic, super sports heroes and wild adventures by various authors - book reviews -

Enjoy a Lewis Carroll classic with fabulous new illustrations, discover the heights of sporting success, meet a colourful heroine and her magical menagerie of creatures, and get up close and personal with a shark in a dazzling collection of children’s books.

By Pam Norfolk
Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 3:45 pm
Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There
Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There

Age 9 plus:

Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There

Written by Lewis Carroll and illustrated by Chris Riddell

Take Lewis Carroll’s eternally enchanting tale Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, bring the classic adventures to life with the unique illustrations of the talented Chris Riddell, and you have this year’s dream gift book for readers of every age.

First published by Macmillan more than 150 years ago, Carroll’s iconic stories about Alice – originally illustrated by Sir John Tenniel – have been loved and enjoyed by generations of children the world over, and this sumptuous hardback, silver-foiled and jacketed edition is brimming with Riddell’s new and gloriously imaginative colour illustrations.

Curious Alice’s second story – the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – takes her through the looking-glass to a place even stranger than the Wonderland of her first adventure. Caught up in the great looking-glass chess game she sets off across the chequerboard landscape to become a queen on the final square.

It isn't as easy as she expects… at every step she is hindered by unusual, funny and nonsense characters who keep cropping, not least Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and Humpty Dumpty. Some of them insist on reciting poems to her and these poems, such as The Walrus and The Carpenter and Jabberwocky, are now as famous as the Alice stories themselves.

Costa Award- and Kate Greenaway Medal-winner Riddell certainly works his creative magic on this stunning edition which presents Carroll’s complete text and has been published in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.

Riddell’s rich and evocative interpretation of Carroll's world brings new light and life to Alice’s memorable journey of exciting trials and tribulations, and with a ribbon marker to complete the package, this is the perfect gift for families, children and fans of the all-time classic.

(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £25)

Age 8 plus:

The Race

Roy Peachey

Two runners – over seventy years apart – face the race of their lives in a beautiful, moving story which celebrates the power of sport to unite.

The Race, written by teacher-cum-author Roy Peachey, features the parallel accounts of a young dual nationality Chinese girl battling problems at school, and Eric Liddell, the famous athlete who won Olympic gold for Britain in 1924 and who inspired the hit film Chariots of Fire.

‘This is what it feels like when I’m running. When I’m running fast, I feel free.’

Twelve-year-old Lili DeLisle, who has dual British and Chinese nationality, is determined to defeat her arch rival in front of the Queen during her school’s special anniversary celebrations.

Adopted from China as a baby, Lili also has personal challenges to overcome, but when her training is thrown into chaos by events outside her control, she realises that she must choose between family and the race of her life.

Meanwhile in 1944, Olympic hero Eric Liddell, finds himself in a war zone. Separated from his family, he is getting ready to run his final race in a prison camp when his lifelong principles are challenged by the imprisoned children he is trying to help…

Written with a warm sense of inclusion and friendship, The Race is both an inspiration and an emotional journey into the lives of two runners, one fictional and one very real, but both with battles to fight and problems to solve.

(Pokey Hat, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Sports Legends: 50 Inspiring People to Help You Reach the Top of Your Game

Rick Broadbent and James Davies

Reaching the heights of sporting success is a long, hard journey and no one knows that better than sports writer Rick Broadbent.

After meeting scores of top sporting legends, Broadbent has teamed up his knowledge with the creativity of illustrator James Davies for this exciting book which aims to inspire youngsters to reach the top of their game with fifty incredible true stories.

Award-winning journalist Broadbent, who has worked at the Olympic Games, football and rugby world cups and all the golf majors, has interviewed some of the greatest sporting names of our time.

In this gripping collection of true stories, he shares the most exciting and jaw-dropping accounts of success, failure, injury and bravery in sport, all guaranteed to help kids find the confidence and resilience they need to reach for the stars.

Young sports fan will love reading about their favourite sports heroes, such as Lionel Messi, Bayan Mahmud, Sophia Floersch, Jesse Owens, Usain Bolt and Serena Williams, and Broadbent brings us the tips and tricks of champions when it comes to facing your fears.

The perfect book to help unlock youthful self-confidence and achieve those sporting dreams!

(Walker Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 5 plus:

Football Superstars: Agüero Rules and Pogba Rules

Simon Mugford and Dan Green

With the UEFA European Football Championship in full swing, help kick off the fun with two new books in an enthralling series of highly visual first football biographies featuring some of the world’s most famous faces.

You can collect your favourites and build your knowhow with stats and expert tips about today’s biggest global football heroes with these on-goal Football Superstars books specially created by Ipswich Town fans Simon Mugford and illustrator Dan Green to engage reluctant young readers.

With a simple narrative text that has been graded and approved by an educational expert, and easy-to-digest facts and figures, youngsters can find out about each player’s rise to glory, top scoring moments and club transfers.

Is Sergio Agüero your ultimate football hero? He is the highest South American scorer in the history of the Premier League with more than 180 goals, has won the title four times, and holds the joint-record for the most goals (five) scored in a single Premier League match.

And if Paul Pogba is your favourite football superstar, discover how he was a key player in Juventus securing the Italian league title in 2015 and a World Cup winner in 2018.

Pogba went from being a hotshot prospect at France’s famous La Havre Academy to being named as the best young player in Europe in 2013 before making the move to Manchester United for a club record fee of almost £90million.

Each book is filled with fun quizzes, stats and little-known facts, and features a supporting cast of players, managers, TV pundits – and even the authors themselves – chipping in with quotes, jokes and comments to add to the playful and informative fun.

Add on cartoons and visual jokes, presented with an energetic, graphic look, a glossary of top words young fans need to know, whether that is the Ballon d’Or or the Copa Rey, and you have reading heaven for your own little soccer stars.

(Welbeck Publishing, paperback, £5.99 each)

Age 5 plus:

Football Superstars: Football Quizzes Rule

Simon Mugford and Dan Green

And also coming next month in the fabulous Football Superstars series is the ultimate soccer quiz book, packed with exciting football trivia.

Created by the same top team of Simon Mugford and Dan Green, Football Quizzes Rule focuses on today’s major soccer stars and greatest football tournaments of all time. Test your football knowledge with hundreds of funny and fascinating questions about your favourite players and competitions, plus enjoy a variety of other on-the-page activities.

And in extra time, this super quiz book features page after page of hilarious pictures, and with loads of jokes, anecdotes and fun, and sections and chapters to make the book easy to navigate, youngsters will love dipping and in and out on their journey of discovery.

The perfect gift for football fanatics!

(Welbeck Publishing, paperback, £5.99)

Age 7 plus:

The Culture of Clothes

Giovanna Alessio and Chaaya Prabhat

Clothing is one of the most inanimate objects… but it can tell a fascinating story about the wearer and their life.

Celebrate traditional dress, costumes and cultures from around the world with this beautifully illustrated compendium of clothing. From colourful kimonos and Bavarian lederhosen to dazzling flamenco dresses and Nigerian masqueraders, this book takes you on a journey through the continents to discover the incredible variety of thirty different types of traditional dress and what the clothes reveals about global culture.

As the important visual language of national dress is in danger of getting lost, this stunning book has been created to help store and share these rich cultural histories with a new generation.

With vibrant, folk-style artwork by illustrator Chaayha Prabhat, and Giovanna Alessio’s in-depth look at the colours, adornments and inspirations, this is a magnificent tribute to the diversity of global clothing and cultures.

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £14.99)

Age 7 plus:

Indigo Wilde and the Creatures at Jellybean Crescent

Pippa Curnick

Go totally wild this summer with a wonderfully wacky and creatively colourful new series from top author and illustrator Pippa Curnick.

The awesome adventures of new kid on the block, Indigo Wilde, and the magical creatures who share her seemingly ordinary home are set to be a tasty treat for middle grade readers.

Discovered in the Unknown Wilderness when she was just a baby, Indigo Wilde was adopted by world-famous explorers, Philomena and Bertram, who are always off adventuring.

Home for Indigo and her little brother, Quigley, is 47 Jellybean Crescent, a crazy and colourful house full of magical creatures that her parents have taken in over the years. There’s Fishkins, a purrmaid which is half-cat, half-fish, and ALWAYS grumpy; Graham, a llama-corn with a particular taste for tinsel; Olli and Umpf, bright pink and blue yetis who can’t blend in to the snow, and that’s to name just a few of the creatures.

And now Indigo’s parents have sent another Monster Mail delivery to Indigo and Quigley. But this time, the box is empty, and the escaped creature is running rampage around the house. The race is on to catch the creature before it’s too late… and making sure not to disturb the neighbours, of course!

Gorgeously illustrated in full colour throughout, and ideal for newly independent readers, Indigo’s madcap, rainbow adventures are a pot of book-filled gold for all action-loving youngsters.

(Hodder Children’s Books, hardback, £9.99)

Age 6 plus:

Interview with a Shark and Other Ocean Giants Too

Andy Seed and Nick East

If you want to discover what a great white shark is thinking, go straight to its mighty jaws!

Or in the case of this clever and comical book from the dynamic team of author Andy Seed and illustrator Nick East, get up close and personal with ten extraordinary ocean giants as they step up to the mic and share their habits, behaviour, likes and dislikes, and even their favourite foods.

Simply open the pages of this ingeniously conceived and illustrated book and enjoy the fun and fact-filled, bite-sized text in a question-and-answer format, and all paired up with East’s colourful, eye-catching illustrations.

Children will have a whale of a time getting answers to questions they would l love to ask… why are bull sharks moody, how do orcas hunt, what is a conger eel’s dream, do narwhals use their tusks for fighting, and why ay are manta rays sometimes called devilfish?

Written in the form of interviews – all threaded through with daring ‘interviewer’ Andy Seed’s brilliantly anarchic sense of fun – the amazing creatures featured include a great white shark, blue whale, orca, sunfish, giant squid, narwhal, manta ray, octopus, conger eel, and angler fish.

With ideas on how to do your bit to help endangered species and their habitats, and humour on every page, this is the perfect book for new or reluctant readers, and all young wildlife fans.

(Welbeck Publishing, hardback, £9.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Nine Lives of Furry Purry Beancat: The Library Cat

Philip Ardagh and Rob Biddulph

First chapter books should always be enticingly full of fun, so look no further than this rip-roaring early reading series from the top-notch pairing of award-winners Philip Ardagh and Rob Biddulph.

Ardagh, bestselling author of The Grunts series and Eddie Dickens adventures, and illustrator Rob Biddulph, award-winning creator of Draw With Rob!, combine their talents on The Nine Lives of Furry Purry Beancat which stars one extraordinary cat with nine extraordinary lives.

Purrfectly digestible for those new to chapter books, and brimming with Biddulph’s exuberant black and white illustrations, this is just the kind of series to give youngsters the enticement and the confidence to enjoy reading alone.

Just like every other cat, Furry Purry Beancat loves a catnap but, unlike other cats, when Beancat wakes she finds herself in a different one of her nine lives. In each book, our hairy heroine embarks on a new adventure, whether that’s saving a train from disaster as a railway cat, creating potions as a witch’s cat or saving a library from closure. But one thing’s for sure… she always saves the day!

In this new adventure, we have to shhh! Our furry (and purry) heroine has woken up in a library, and there’s trouble afoot. There are plans to close it down, but with the help of two grumpy spiders, can Beancat do what she does best and save the day… again?

With slapstick antics, breathless action and a cat always just a whisker away from danger, this is a series of cat-astrophes that has the legs to run and run!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

How to Grow a Unicorn

Rachel Morrisroe and Steven Lenton

A little girl’s birthday gift for her gran turns out to be a true party pooper in a delightfully quirky and joyful picture book from an exciting new author/illustrator team.

Talented new picture book author Rachel Morrisroe proves to be the perfect pairing with bestselling illustrator Steven Lenton as they unleash their imaginations on How to Grow a Unicorn, first book in an exciting new series.

Both heart-warming and hilarious, Morrisroe’s rollicking, rhyming, read-aloud story of a little girl’s adventures in a magical plant parlour is guaranteed to capture the hearts of readers young and old.

Welcome to Mr Pottifer's Parlour of Plants… a magical shop with the most surprising plants you will ever see! Sarah thinks she has discovered the perfect gift for her garden-loving grandma in the mysterious shop. But before you can say garden full of unicorns, the contents of Sarah’s seed packet grow wildly out-of-hand!

Little ones will love the fast galloping disasters of the twenty-four unicorns which sprout from the special vines in this outrageously funny story and its glorious gallery of magical mayhem illustrations.

Poetry in motion!

(Puffin, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Mooncat and Me

Lydia Corry

Escaping into our imaginations is a powerful psychological tool…

And when a little girl called Pearl moves to live in the scary big city with her mum, she discovers that fears can be conquered when you have a giant-sized cat called Mooncat right by your side.

Childhood anxieties about change, moving house or starting school are banished in a beautiful, fresh and contemporary debut picture book from author and illustrator Lydia Corry.

With colourful pages thronging with modern city life, Mooncat and Me tells the story of Pearl as she overcomes the fears of moving house and starting a new school with the help of her imaginary friend.

Pearl is worried that she won’t know anyone and no one will know her, but as we watch her grow in confidence, we learn that with a bit of imagination and determination, there’s nothing we can't do.

Corry’s, bright, busy and bold illustrations are brimming with busy people filling pavements, buses and cars, while people are leading their different lives as we look through the windows of their homes.

Mooncat’s calm and reassuring presence is the spur to Pearl starting to explore the vibrant city with her mother, and settling in at school where she soon finds there are many friends to be made.

A picture perfect tale of enjoying your new beginnings…

(Two Hoots, hardback, £12.99)

Age 2 plus:

Frog Goes on Holiday

Carly Gledhill

When is a frog not like other frogs… when he wants to go on holiday!

Children’s book Illustrator and surface pattern designer Carly Gledhill from Stockport will have little ones leaping with joy as a frog with wanderlust steals the show in her playful and entertaining new picture book.

Frog isn’t like most frogs. He wants to travel and see the world so he is heading off on a holiday! What will he find on his adventure? Follow Frog as he goes on an amazing, wonder-filled journey this way and that, over and under, around and through. But where will he end up?

With lots to spot, intriguing peep-through holes, shaped pages and a surprise fold-out ending, this engaging novelty format provides a super interactive reading experience for little ones.

And with vibrant splashes of colour, illustrations full of rich and intricate detail, and a cast of adorable animal characters to enjoy, Frog’s holiday proves a welcome escape for all the family!

(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

Book Hospital

Leigh Hodgkinson

Every book tells a story… but what’s like to actually BE a book?

Author and illustrator Leigh Hodgkinson leaves no page unturned in her quest to make children be kind to their books in this super-imaginative and enchanting tale about the magic of books and reading.

If books could talk, they would tell us that the BEST bits of being a book is hanging out with your friends and telling amazing stories, but sometimes a good book can end up in the wrong place at the wrong time...

They might get scribbled on, nibbled on, spilt on, or even lose their last and most important page. And when that happens, it’s time to go to... the Book Hospital where there are nice doctors and nurses waiting to give them their happy ending!

Hodgkinson, co-creator of the hit Cbeebies series, Olobob Top, has lots of fun with her funny, reassuring story which celebrates the wonder of books but also delivers gentle, cautionary messages about taking good care of them.

Fabulously illustrated in an eye-catching palette of colours, and with a special appeal for all young book lovers, Book Hospital is destined to be a family favourite.

(Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Emma Dodd

There really is no place like home!

Take a peep through the cat flap and enjoy the warmth and charm of award-winning author and illustrator Emma Dodd’s uplifting celebration of the special place that we call home.

‘Just what IS it that makes home such a special place to be? Home’s an extra special space you hold within your heart to keep you very close to me when we must be apart.’

This beautiful and moving book stars a big wise mother cat and her adorably mischievous white kitten discovering all the secrets that make home a safe, cosy and love-filled sanctuary.

Written with a large helping of heart and lots of hugs, Home Is Where the Heart Is features a delightful rhyming text which is ideal for reading out loud with little ones, and a gallery of stunning, gold-foiled illustrations.

Carefully crafted and brimming with mother love…

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £7.99)