Medieval magic, a dream school and a naughty spider by various authors - book reviews -

Enjoy the final chapter of a thrilling trilogy based on the evil Pied Piper of Hamelyn, join a Nigerian girl as she heads off to a very special school, meet a boy on a monstrous quest and marvel at three picture books celebrating the wonders of the world in a super selection of January children’s books.

By Pam Norfolk
Friday, 7th January 2022, 3:45 pm
A Thunder of Monsters
A Thunder of Monsters

Age 9 plus:

A Thunder of Monsters

S. A. Patrick

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If the medieval German legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelyn has always sent a shiver down your spine, then dive into the final, fantastic adventure in an exciting and atmospheric children’s fantasy series which is thrilling and chilling a host of middle grade readers.

A Thunder of Monsters is the last enthralling chapter of the out-of-this world Songs of Magic series from S. A. Patrick, an author who may be more familiar to adult readers as Seth Patrick, creator of the thrilling paranormal Reviver trilogy which won him fans and accolades.

These deep, dark and epic books were inspired by the spine-tingling tale of the Pied Piper, the creepy, terrifying villain who stole children from a helpless town.

Long haunted by the centuries-old mystery, Patrick has conjured up a truly amazing world of dragons, sorcerers and bandits in which the Pied Piper is not a one-off but a rogue member of a larger group of magical but shadowy musicians who are summoned to help towns and villages in times of need.

It’s a fantasy of immense imagination, breathtaking characters and captivating storytelling, and stars three accidental young heroes fighting not just to survive, but to save the world from a deadly enemy.

And in A Thunder of Monsters, the mesmerising, magical fantasy that has included A Darkness of Dragons and A Vanishing of Griffins, we are swept back into the lives of trainee piper Patch Brightwater and his friends, Wren Cobble, a girl cursed by a sorcerer to live as a rat, and Barver, a fire-breathing dracogriff (a cross between a dragon and a griffin).

Patch and Barver are trapped on a mysterious island full of monstrous beasts, and shapeshifting Wren is being held prisoner by the Piper of Hamelyn… but she’s working hard to escape. Clad in his suit of magical black armour and with dragons and a growing army on his side, the Piper seems destined to bring chaos and destruction down on the world. Can anything stop him now?

Get ready for more dragons, song-spells and pipers as the power battle reaches the thunderous finale of a series that is adventure in the true sense of the word. From thrills, spills and spine-tingling danger to soaring landscapes, awesome friendships, courageous heroes and fantasy aplenty, Patrick’s modern fairy tale is a magical experience from start to finish.

(Usborne Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

Jummy at the River School

Sabine Adeyinka

Fed up with being treated like a little girl at home, eleven-year-old Jummy dreams of going to the best girls’ school in Nigeria and having the space to be herself. She has taken the entry exams… and now she just has to play the waiting game to see if she will make it. Share the joy of lovely, lively Jummy’s mystery-filled adventures at the amazing River School in a sparkling middle grade fiction debut from Sabine Adeyinka who was born in England to a Nigerian father and Jamaican mother, and grew up in Nigeria. Using her own exciting experiences of her memorable time in boarding school, Adeyinka brings youngsters a vibrant and resonant story that explores issues of justice, class and poverty. When Jummy wins a place at the illustrious River School, the finest girls’ boarding school in southern Nigeria, nothing can dampen her spirits, not even when she learns that her best friend Caro won’t be joining her. Situated by the Shine-Shine River, the school is everything Jummy dreamt of, with friendly girls, midnight feasts and sporting prizes. But when Caro suddenly arrives at the school to work, not to learn, Jummy must bring all her friends together to help. Discovered through publisher Chicken House Books’ open submissions, Adeyinka delivers a glorious mix of boarding school dramas in 1990s Nigeria and an intriguing mystery with a big heart. With its stunning, colourful backdrop and an inspirational and irrepressible heroine, Jummy at the River School will enchant readers both young and old.

(Chicken House, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

Mort the Meek and the Monstrous Quest

Rachel Delahaye and George Ermos

Getting brutal isn’t easy if you’re a pacifist! In the second book of a laugh-out-loud series from the talented author Rachel Delahaye, youngsters collide head-on again with the strange life of Mort the Meek, a young pacifist boy who is unlucky enough to live in a kingdom where violence is a way of life. Mort the Meek and the Monstrous Quest is the second book in this super clever series which comes with the brilliantly characterful illustrations of George Ermos and delivers fun, wicked wordplay and outrageous adventures on every page. On the cruel and jagged island of Brutalia, ravenous ravens circle overhead, monstrous grot bears cause chaos and the streets are bulging with brawls with even the smallest children living for a punch-up. But Mort Canal, the plumber’s son, isn’t like the other islanders – he’s determined to live peacefully. The waves around rocky Brutalia are currently awash with brave seafarers, on a treasure hunt for their demanding queen. Among them is Mort, but rather than hunt for treasure, he’s more interested in looking for his family who are lost at sea. Unfortunately, his shipmate Punky has her eyes firmly on the prize. But when the pair find the tentacle of a mythical sea creature, their adventure takes a dramatic turn. Is this the prize-winning treasure Punky and the Queen seek, or could it be the monstrous twist in Mort’s rescue mission? Join our aspiring pacifist on an unforgettable voyage where danger is never far away, peace rarely reigns but laughter is guaranteed with every madcap, nautical mile!

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Bunny vs Monkey and the Supersonic Aye-Aye!

Jamie Smart

Hold on to your hats and watch out for trouble… Bunny and Monkey are back in an exhilarating remastered series with all the comedy and chaos of the daffy duo’s helter-skelter world! This outrageously funny fourth book in the series collects together Bunny vs Monkey 7: The Floating Cow Catastrophe with heaps of brand new comics, never before published in book form, and it comes in a smaller, easy-to-read, chunky format featuring 231 pages of fast and furry-ous exuberant fun. The books are part of the Phoenix Presents series, published by David Fickling Books in partnership with The Phoenix comic. The partnership is going from strength to strength and much of that success is due to the genius of the extraordinarily talented illustrator Jamie Smart. In this latest adventure, there’s a new animal joining Bunny and the gang… Ai, a supersonic, super-fast aye-aye! But how will Ai fit in to the Woods? What mischievous schemes is Skunky cooking up? And will Monkey ever stop trying to hit her with a stick? Outrageously comical and ingeniously addictive, these manic, high-energy stories were just made for fidgety readers who like their books to come with plenty of comic-strip pictures and loads of laughs. Madcap antics for a new generation of action kids!

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £8.99)

Age 3 plus:

Anansi and the Golden Pot

Taiye Selasi and Tinuke Fagborun

Publisher DK is celebrating the wonders of the world this month through three beautiful, colourful and informative picture books which aim to inspire and teach children aged three and over. In the bold and eye-catching Anansi and the Golden Pot, award-winning author Taiye Selasi, of Ghanaian and Nigerian origin, and illustrator Tinuke Fagborun reimagine the legendary Ghanaian story of Anansi, a much-loved trickster spider, for a new generation. Kweku has grown up hearing stories about the mischievous spider Anansi. He is given the nickname Anansi by his father because of his similarly cheeky ways. On a holiday to visit his beloved Grandma in Ghana, Anansi the spider and Anansi the boy meet, and discover a magical pot that can be filled with whatever they want. Anansi fills it again and again with his favourite red-red stew, and eats so much that he feels sick. Will he learn to share this wonderful gift? Selasi’s charming and entertaining retelling of a centuries-old West African story teaches young readers about the dangers of greed, and the importance of being kind while Fagborun’s colourful rainbow of illustrations bring to glorious life all the magic and wonder of the tale.

(DK Children, hardback, £9.99)

Age 3 plus:

In You I See

Rachel Emily and Jodie Howard

And revel in the words, illustrations and sheer colourful magic of a stunning picture book celebrating the beauty within from singer-songwriter and poet Rachel Emily and illustrator Jodie Howard. People are not always what they seem on the surface and it’s important to look a little closer. That’s the message that speaks loud and clear as this joyful book explores the various layers and attributes that different people possess, gently but powerfully teaching that we are all special and always more than meets the eye. With the heartwarming words of Emily, who has penned number one hits for the likes of Wretch 32, Leona Lewis and Girls Aloud, and the motivational illustrations of Howard, In You I see is an important reminder about the value of self-confidence, learning to love ourselves and how special we all are. From a brave tiger to a dancing river and a forest filled with oak trees, and from rainbows that appear after the rain has gone to the welcome sight of swooping swallows, both children and adults will cherish this dazzling book that was just made for bedtime reading!

(DK Children, hardback, £9.99)

Age 3 plus:


Brendan Kearney

Head off into the rainforest on another eco-adventure with Finn the fisherman and his dog Skip in this new and timely tale about the catastrophe of deforestation and what we can all do to help. Forest is written and illustrated by Brendan Kearney, who lives by the sea in the south-west of England, and is the second book featuring the dynamic duo, Finn and Skip, to highlight the threats facing our planet. Grown-ups and children will enjoy reading together and following the story of Finn and Skip, with its adventures and misadventures, and pointing out all the different animals that Finn meets in the rainforest. And along the way, they also learn about how using ethical products can help save the animals. With its timely and uplifting messages about protecting the world around us and fun, quirky illustrations, Forest is the ideal introduction to the environmental concerns facing our forests, and a welcome addition to any child’s bookshelf.

(DK Children, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:


Emi-Lou May and Leire Martín

Just what the doctor ordered… a laughter-filled tonic for poorly toddlers! If your little ones are feeling under the weather – or just love playing doctors and nurses – here’s the perfect rhyming picture book to inspire, cheer… and make them giggle. With a cast of daffy dinosaurs, some medical conundrums, and a dynamic Doctorsaurus dispensing pills and potions to her patients, author Emi-Lou May and illustrator Leire Martín have created a hilarious cure-all comedy. Splinter in your finger, thumping head, tummy ache, nose all sore and sniffy? Call for Doctorsaurus on her super-fast ambulance and she’ll fix you in a jiffy! Doctorsaurus is on the case and she aims to make all the dinosaurs feel better. May’s delightful raucous rhymes and Martín’s gallery of funny, friendly dinos will have little ones quickly on the mend and with an explosive finale guaranteed to result in cheeky grins and grown-up groans, this cheery picture book is medicine for all the family!

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Little Things

Emma Dodd

It’s the little things that matter! In a world where big things seem to be happening every day, discover comfort and joy in the enchanting tale of a giant panda and its adorable cub from award-winning author and illustrator Emma Dodd. With its themes of gratitude, caring and kindness, stunning picture book The Little Things features Dodd’s beautiful, emotive illustrations and a pitch perfect rhyming narrative celebrating the smallest things that so often bring the greatest contentment. ‘It’s the little things that matter, it’s the little things that count, it’s not the biggest or the best or the largest amount.’ Through laughter, adventure and play, the giant panda and its cub discover the importance of helping others. Written with a large helping of heart, warmth and wisdom, this gorgeous hardback book, with its gold-foiled cover and pages, makes the perfect gift for any time of year. Carefully crafted and brimming with love…

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £7.99)