Magic awakens, female pride and horrors galore by various authors – children’s book reviews –

In the Shadow of the Wolf Queen by Kiran Millwood HargraveIn the Shadow of the Wolf Queen by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
In the Shadow of the Wolf Queen by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Dive into an epic new fantasy series starring an inspirational orphan girl, learn how to embrace your inner Lioness, enjoy a delicious dollop of black comedy, and saddle up for a horse riding adventure in an exciting selection of new children’s books.

Age 9 plus:

In the Shadow of the Wolf Queen

Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Enter a fantastical adventure, built on the foundations of the real world, and brimming with the kind of alluring, elemental magic that stretches your imagination into the furthest and most fertile regions of the mind.

In the Shadow of the Wolf Queen is the first gripping book of an epic new Geomancer trilogy exploring the magic of nature, the lure of power and the strength of love from award-winning author Kiran Millwood Hargrave.

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Hargrave, who is also a poet and playwright, puts heart and soul into this lyrically written and action-packed fantasy which is based on her research into ley lines, earth grids and the planet’s ‘natural patterns and disruptions,’ and creates a wild and wonderful world which, enticingly, could or could not be authentic.

In the lakes, the wolf queen sharpens her spear, in the mountains, an ancient girl opens an eye and in the forest, an orphan is summoned by the trees. Ysolda has lived her life in the shadow of the wolf queen’s tyrannical rule but, safe in her forest haven, she has never truly felt its threat. Until one day when a mysterious earthquake shakes the land and her older sister Hari vanishes in its wake. Accompanied by her loyal sea hawk, Nara, Ysolda embarks on a desperate rescue mission. But when she is forced to strike a bargain with the wolf queen, she soon finds herself embroiled in a quest for a magic more powerful – and more dangerous – than she could ever have imagined.

Using locations inspired by the Celtic Rainforests, the Lake District, the Scottish pinewoods and Stroma Island, an uninhabited island between Orkney and the mainland of Scotland, Hargrave invites readers to marvel at our awesome planet and to learn how foolish it is to pit ourselves against it.

But this is also a story that celebrates sibling bonds, magic, friendship, and children’s ‘extraordinary capacity for compassion, hope, and change’ as we witness Ysolda’s breathtaking bravery, feel the raw power of her emotions, and meet a cast of amazing animal characters.

A dazzling opener to what promises to be a modern classic.

(Orion Children’s Books, hardback, £14.99)

Age 7 plus:

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Three Lionesses: Find your team, build self-belief, embrace your inner Lioness

Ella Toone, Georgia Stanway, Nikita Parris, Cheryl Rickman and Cat Sims

Lionesses are brave, they fiercely look out for one another, they stick together, and they roar as loud as they need to because they want to ensure their voices are heard!

Inspire youngsters to embrace their own inner Lioness with this brilliant, empowering and uplifting guide from three legendary football stars, Ella Toone, Georgia Stanway and Nikita Parris, who were all part of the Euro 2022 Lionesses squad.

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These three football stars share their personal stories of how they became the champions they are today as well as offering practical tips to help youngsters go after their goals, navigate challenges and setbacks, cope with stress, find their own superstar team and, most of all, embrace their inner Lioness.

With inspiring anecdotes, helpful tips and practical activities, Three Lionesses is co-written with Cheryl Rickman, bestselling author and ghostwriter of 26 self-help, wellness and business books, and packed with the illustrations of Cat Sims whose work is grounded in her passion for comic art.

With a special focus on friendship, teamwork and succeeding as women in a male-dominated world, the book explores how football can teach you so much about life, whether that’s joining a new squad and finding your place in a team, stepping up to take a penalty and dealing with pressure, or getting back up when life (or a footballer!) knocks you down!

With the true stories of how the three female footballers got to where they are today and tons of practical tips, this motivational book will help young readers embrace who they are, ignite their spark, go after their goals and find their team... because no Lioness is complete without her pride!

(Puffin, paperback, £12.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Wonder Team And the Forgotten Footballers

Leah Williamson, Jordan Glover and Robin Boyden

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The pioneering Dick, Kerr Ladies football team from Preston, which found fame over one hundred years ago, are the inspiration for a brand new, time-twisting adventure series from captain of the Euros-winning women’s England team, Leah Williamson. The Wonder Team And the Forgotten Footballers has been written with debut author Jordan Glover, and includes illustrations by Robin Boyden. Based on the Dick, Kerr Ladies’ brave protest against the ban on women’s football, this fun soccer adventure stars schoolgirl Leah who discovers a mysterious time capsule with her two best friends and opens up a whole new world. Transported back in time by a hundred years, Leah, George and Mimi make an unexpected discovery... women’s football has been banned! Along with their new friend Dot, Leah and the team must work together to make sure the all-important Championship Cup final still goes ahead. But with a mysterious figure working hard to ruin the team’s chances, Leah is in a race against time to put the clues together and catch the culprit before it’s too late. The odds are against them, but time is on their side! This fast-paced, fun-filled series is written straight from Williamson’s heart, explores themes of teamwork, friendship resilience, leadership and problem-solving, and aims to introduce young readers to more inspiring and fascinating women from history. Don’t miss kick-off!

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

Age 9 plus:

Dread Wood: Deadly Deep

Jennifer Killick

Imagine a book that serves up those super-spooky vibes that kids love... horrors galore, a delicious dollop of black comedy and a bunch of spiky classmates with a murky, sea-soaked mystery to solve. If that menu tickles your tastebuds, then you’ll be dining out on queen of chills-and-thrills Jennifer Killick’s fourth brilliant adventure in a series which delivers horror and humour in perfect harmony. Perfectly pitched for middle grade readers, Dread Wood stars Hallie, Angelo, Gus, Colette and Naira, and here we find them ready for a summer term school trip with a difference! Year 8 are on a boat off the coast of France, learning about ocean life. But things are about to get weird! Who is the creepy man on board the ship heading to Corsica and what IS the vast, shadowy creature seen lurking at the bottom of the ocean? When the ship is sunk, Club Loser members, Hallie, Angelo, Gus, Colette and Naira, realise that they are the only ones who can save the day... and their classmates. Can they outwit and defeat a giant, deadly sea monster from the depths? It’s a fight for survival and if they fail, Club Loser will find themselves in a watery grave! Killick is a slick and sassy storyteller… she knows just how far to take her heart-stopping tales of cool comedy and scary horror as she pumps up the action and lets loose her rich imagination. Just be prepared to read this gorgeous, gigglesome chiller-thriller in one sitting!

(Farshore, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

Read, Scream, Repeat

Compiled by Jennifer Killick and illustrated Mathias Ball

If Halloween is already casting a long and exciting shadow as your youngsters’ thoughts turn to the autumn term, indulge their wicked wishes with stories guaranteed to make them shiver! Queen of screams Jennifer Killick brings together thirteen spooky mystery stories from some of the most exciting authors in children’s books today in this spine-tingling, spooktacular collection. Illustrated with a gallery of Mathias Ball’s perfectly matched artwork, Read, Scream, Repeat dares readers to see what’s lurking inside! It includes terrific tales from Killick herself, Kirsty Applebaum, Jasbinder Bilan, Aisha Bushby, Joseph Coelho, Rachel Delahaye, Kat Ellis, Phil Hickes, Polly Ho-Yen, Sharna Jackson, Elle McNicoll, Dan Smith and J.T.Williams. Discover arcade-game zombies hunting victims in the real world, a graveyard ghost on a mission and a cursed pond that wants to drag you down, down, down into its depths! With horror stories to chill, thrill and delight middle-great readers, this truly diverse anthology taps into everything youngsters are looking for in the spooky season... and is guaranteed to keep them on the edge of (or hiding behind) their sofas!

(Farshore, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

Jessie and the Star Rider

Esme Higgs, Jo Cotterill and Hannah George

Saddle up again and get ready for another exhilarating ride as the Starlight Stables Gang gallop into a new adventure! Jessie and the Star Rider is the second outing in this super, girl-power series written in a magical collaboration between children’s author and superstar equestrian influencer, Esme Higgs, and multi award-winning children’s author Jo Cotterill.

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Brought to life by the perfectly matched illustrations of Hannah George, this new story is told from the viewpoint of Jessie, rider of handsome dark bay horse Angus who adores jumping. After solving the mystery of the stolen pony, the Starlight Stables Gang are ready to have a relaxing summer and enjoy the Haversham Horse Trials, but things aren’t as sunny as they seem when one of the horses manages to kick a hole in the stable block. With lots to fix and ponies to feed, the stables may be at risk of closing down for good. Determined to save the place they love, Jessie and the gang hatch a plan. Can the Starlight Stables Gang band together and work as a team once again, or will it prove too much for one of the friends?

Higgs is one of the biggest social-media content creators in the equestrian world, with over 1.5 million followers across her ThisEsme channels and a very loyal fan base, but her credentials as a horse-mad ordinary girl help to bring fun and authenticity to this sparkling equestrian series.

So get your feet in the stirrups, your hands on the reins... and jump into the action!

(Puffin, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Terra Ultima: The discovery of a new continent

Raoul Deleo and Noah J. Stern

Who would have thought our well-traversed, explored and mapped world holds an entire continent that has – almost unbelievably – escaped us all?

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If you thought that wasn’t possible, take a look through the pages of this magnificent book and discover Terra Ultima... the extraordinary story of a strange new world, with findings by Dutch explorer and illustrator Raoul Deleo, and brought to print with the help of his fellow explorer and scientist Noah J. Stern who compiled his work and provides the introduction.

While the exact location of Terra Ultima remains a secret, Deleo’s life’s work on this previously unknown part of the world have now been made public for the very first time and he has allowed Stern, an honorary member of the Royal Science Society, to access his discoveries, illustrations and notes, and to compile them into this remarkable book, a visual sensation over a decade in the making.

All Deleo’s remarkable findings and stunning illustrations bear witness to the discovery of a continent so large, so rich and diverse in wildlife, that it remains a mystery as to why it has never been properly discovered before.

So welcome to Terra Ultima... an extraordinary place on the edge of the world.

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £25)

Age 7 plus:

Grimwood: Attack of the Stink Monster!

Nadia Shireen

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You can never be too young to enjoy a bit of anarchy! Youngsters (and their parents) will be grinning, guffawing, snorting and sniggering when they get their hands on the third woodland caper in one of the funniest children’s series currently on the market. Grimwood – a sort-of Watership Down with foxes which evokes tears of laughter rather than of sorrow – is the work of author and illustrator Nadia Shireen who has won awards for her picture books and been shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. Fully illustrated throughout, the books star two fox cub siblings, Ted and Nancy, who love their new life in Grimwood… the forest where anything (riotous!) can happen. They have made a lot of new friends in Grimwood – not least bouncy and ferocious rabbit Willow who has a big heart and endless energy – but now a Bigfoot is on the loose and Ted, Nancy, Willow and the rest of the Grimwood gang must embark on their greatest adventure yet to save their home from a nasty, thieving stink monster. Monster hunters are GO! Shireen serves up an irresistible blend of glorious gags, hilarious comedy routines, boundless madcap escapades, and a memorable cast of quirky characters that young readers will love following from first page to last. With a side helping of zany, high-energy black and white illustrations, which bring both the animals and the action to life, the Grimwood series has the legs to run and run.

(Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 5 plus:

Izzy the Inventor and the Curse of Doom

Zanna Davidson and Elissa Elwick

Meet a girl who believes in science... not magic! Author Zanna Davidson and illustrator Elissa Elwick return to Fairytale Land for the second super science-packed adventure with Izzy the Inventor and her lovable unicorn Henry. This time Izzy must rescue the prince in Sleeping Beauty from a wicked fairy’s curse. If she fails, he’ll vanish! With the help of Henry the unicorn, Izzy needs to work out how to make snow in summer, an exploding volcano and a contraption to help Henry fly. Can Izzy’s science skills outwit the wicked fairy before it’s too late? Davidson’s easy-to-read and laughter-filled story is brimming with Elwick’s lively illustrations, and there are ideas for experiments and a QR code with links for more science fun to try at home. Perfect for beginner readers and anyone who loves experiments, explosions and adventure!

(Usborne Publishing, paperback, £5.99)

Age 5 plus:

Peanut, Butter, & Crackers: Puppy Problems

Paige Braddock

Welcome to the cute and cuddly pet series that puts animals, nature and fun in the spotlight! Author and illustrator Paige Braddock showcases pets – and particularly rescue pets – in these adorable books which are the ideal first introduction to the world of graphic novels, and are perfect for youngsters who wonder what their pets might be up to when no one is around! Butter and Crackers are rescue pets living their best (and quiet) lives. Butter, a laid-back cat, has access to all the butter he can lick and Crackers, a slightly nervous dog, is free to bark at squirrels to his heart’s content. With an owner who goes to work every day, they spend their days doing whatever they want. But when Peanut, a brand-new puppy with big floppy ears, arrives, everything changes. He has no appreciation of the quiet life, no idea how stairs work and he’s even afraid of the dark! Butter and Crackers have had enough... this puppy needs to go! But when Peanut escapes and gets lost, it turns out that home isn’t home without the noisy little puppy after all. Animal-loving children cannot help but fall for Braddock’s exciting and heartwarming visual storytelling which encourages respect for animals and nature, and gently confronts some familiar childhood worries and fears. And with lots of delightful bonus extras, including how to draw, behind the scenes and a short story, there is so much to enjoy!

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Be You!

Karl Newson and Ela Smietanka

Whoever you are, whatever you do, however you feel... be you! That’s the message that speaks loud, clear and joyfully in the pages of this uplifting picture book from the top team of Karl Newson, award-winning children’s books author, and Polish illustrator Ela Smietanka. Featuring an eclectic cast of children and animals, Be You! encourages young readers to be themselves, even on the toughest of days. Illustrated with children in animal onesie costumes, this playful, pleasing book features a lively rhyming text in a bouncy rhythm which grown-ups will love reading aloud while little ones will love seeing their favourite animals on the page. Whether youngsters identify most with the child hopping across the page like a frog, roaring like a lion or buzzing like a bumblebee, this positive picture book encourages both resilience and self-acceptance. With an empowering message and fun illustrations, there is no better way to encourage youngsters to be true to themselves... whoever they are and however they are feeling.

(Studio Press, paperback, £7.99)

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