Real-life spies, making money and looking to the past by various authors – children’s book reviews –

Discover the thrilling and dangerous lives of spies and secret agents, learn how to take charge of your money, meet a girl with the power to see back in time, and get up-close to Cleopatra in an exciting collection of springtime children’s books.
Spies by David Long and Terri PoSpies by David Long and Terri Po
Spies by David Long and Terri Po

Age 9 plus:


David Long and Terri Po

Discover the exciting and dangerous lives of spies and secret agents in a fully illustrated collection of tales of derring-do from Blue Peter Award-winning author David Long and rising star illustrator Terri Po who was born in Hong Kong.

This new and exciting pairing sees writer and historian Long’s thrilling real-life adventures perfectly matched with Po’s stylish colour palette and awe-inspiring scene creations.

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For as long as there have been secrets to keep, there have been spies the world over, trying to uncover this classified information. Spying goes on all the time, and everywhere, but some of the most astonishing exploits occur during wartime.

A single spy can save thousands of lives and over the centuries, they have sometimes changed the course of history. Most countries have spies working undercover although very few would admit it. Their work can be exciting and often extremely perilous, but it is rarely as glamorous as it appears on television or in films like the famous James Bond movies.

The remarkable stories in this beautifully illustrated and collated book unpick some of the most astonishing missions undertaken during World War Two… actions that helped to save many lives. Amazingly, many of these tales had to remain a deadly secret at the time and are little known even to this day.

From Harry Rée, teacher turned saboteur, and Roald Dahl, the spy who became a bestselling children’s author, to Margery Booth, the spy who sang for Hitler, and Scotch Lass, a very special Second World War carrier pigeon which became Britain’s smallest ever agent, the pages of this fantastic book reveal the exploits of twenty-seven of the most courageous and daring spies.

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Meet Giliana Gerson, Britain's first female spy, Noor Inayat Khan, the first woman wireless operator, ‘Major Martin,’ the man who never was, and Lewis Hodges, the pilot of a special rescue plane whose missions by moonlight in France helped to save the lives of many other agents.

Packed with mind-boggling adventures and escapes, this moving and exhilarating tribute to the bravery of some extraordinary people is the perfect gift, and a book of heroics to keep and treasure.

(Faber & Faber, hardback, £18.99)

Age 10 plus:

Max Your Money

Larry Hayes, Rachel Provest and Chris Madden

You’re never too young to learn how to take charge of your money, and how to make money… lots of it! That’s the message – loud and clear – in this invaluable guide packed with good advice and inspiration to help you earn, grow and manage your own finances. Written by children’s author and investment fund manager Larry Hayes and private equity director Rachel Provest, Max Your Money is an engaging and accessible read for older children, covering key topics and packed with the full-colour, imaginative illustrations of Durham-born cartoonist and illustrator Chris Madden. Broken into three key sections – Earn it, Grow it, and Use it – the book guides young readers through essential concepts relating to money which will help them become more financially astute and confident about money matters as they enter their teens. Complex information is presented in bite-size chunks and engaging infographics and illustrations ensure it is appealing and age appropriate throughout. From how to stay safe working online, jobs of the future and investing versus gambling, to budgeting and planning for the future, mortgages, stocks and shares, pensions, saving versus investing, and borrowing, this books lets youngsters discover strategies, concepts and secrets that will help to make them money smart in the important years ahead. A quids-in starter for budding financiers and economists!

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

Age 9 plus:

The Consequence Girl

Alastair Chisholm

World-building is what exciting and creative author Alastair Chisholm does best so immerse yourself in the thrills and spills of his latest sweeping, supercharged story starring a girl with an extraordinary talent that is both a curse and a game-changing gift. The world of Colony is in ruins. No one knows what caused society to begin tearing itself apart but the secret may lie with Cora, a girl living on the mountainside far away from others. Cora possesses an extraordinary gift… the power to see back in time, from an event right back to its causes. Even more incredibly, sometimes she can change events. But the present is looking for Cora, and she is forced on the run. She must decide who she is, what she can do... and how to fix the future. Chisholm, highly-acclaimed author of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize-shortlisted Orion Lost and the Blackwell’s Children’s Book of the Year, Adam-2, brings us one of his most ambitious books yet as Cora’s volatile other-world unfolds with intriguing similarities and parallels to the contemporary life we can all recognise. Packed with breathtaking twists and turns, and out-of-this world concepts, Chisholm explores how far-reaching our choices can sometimes be, and the harmful effects of intolerance and prejudice. Big on imaginative power and utterly unputdownable, this brilliantly imagined sci-fi adventure that will have readers gripped from first page to last.

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

Interview with Cleopatra & Other Famous Rulers

Andy Seed and Gareth Conway

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Just imagine if you could go back in time and talk to some famous rulers from history… what would you ask? Blue Peter Award-winning author Andy Seed and illustrator Gareth Conway have fun with their new history series which features ‘interviews’ with ten big names from the past. So join former teacher Seed on his amazing time-travelling machine as he interviews well-known figures like Cleopatra, Alexander the Great, Boudicca, Hadrian, Harald Bluetooth, Genghis Khan, and Montezuma II when they take time out of their busy schedules to answer all sorts of (very nosy!) questions. Learn about the actions and unique perspectives of these big names from history, and discover the good, the bad and the unexpected as each ruler reveals the truth about their lives… and attempts to find out about what happens in the future! This super, fun and fact-filled book offers a bite-sized text in a question-and-answer format and is paired with Conway’s lively and entertaining illustrations, perfect for reluctant readers and comedy-seeking history fans. With bonus facts about key events in each ruler’s life, the book is ideal for Horrible Histories fans… and any reader who enjoys a fresh and captivating take on true stories from history.

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

Age 7 plus:

Indiana Bones and the Lost Library

Harry Heape and Rebecca Bagley

Get ready for more wits, courage, and snacks-a-plenty as Indiana Bones returns to solve another twisting, turning adventure! Halifax-based author and comedy maestro Harry Heape and illustrator Rebecca Bagley are on top form for the second adventure starring shaggy, magical talking pooch Indiana Bones and his number one side-pal Aisha Ghatak. With the detective dog’s fiendish fondness for fish fingers, and Aisha’s ‘black belt’ in archaeology and general all-round cleverness, this daring duo are well ‘plaiced’ to tackle any ‘fishy’ mystery involving ancient history. On the hunt for the Avenger’s lost treasure, the intrepid travellers set off on another trek, this time to the Temple of Diana at Ephesus. But nothing is ever simple for our heroes, and the slippery Serpent and stinky Ringo are still hot on their tails, determined to thwart their every move. This new dogtastic detective escapade – brimming with laughter, big-hearted adventures and vibrant illustrations – proves that Heape and Bagley are becoming one of the best author and illustrator teams in children’s middle grade fiction. A shaggy dog story for all the family to enjoy!

(Faber & Faber, paperback, £6.99)

Age 4 plus:

The Baker by the Sea

Paula White

The importance of community, family, and simply being yourself, shine through in a beautiful, lyrical and resonant picture book from illustrator and debut author Paula White who was inspired by the seaside place where she grew up. The Baker by the Sea is set in the busy, bustling Beach Village that once stood in Lowestoft, Suffolk, and made its living from the sea, but was sept away by those same waves. A young boy watches the grown-ups in his village go about their work. Everyone is busy… the blacksmith, the boat-builder, the baker. But most important of all, he thinks, are the fishermen who brave the waves and weather to bring in the catch. The boy’s father is a baker but the boy wants to be a daring fisherman when he grows up, brave enough to sail through stormy seas. He asks his father, ‘Have you ever been to sea?’ and learns that being a baker, and baking bread and cakes for the fishermen and all the other villagers makes him very proud. With richly atmospheric, textured illustrations in a striking colour palette of pen-and-ink artwork, and filled with nostalgic detail of traditional village life, this moving story is a timeless reminder that all members of a community are important and valuable, however small their role. And as an added bonus, readers can enjoy a tasty recipe for Hot Coconut Buns taken from the notebook of the author’s baker grandad to whom the book is dedicated.

(Templar Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Wanda the Blue Whale

Beverly Jatwani and Sawyer Cloud

The precious connection between a child and an endangered animal springs to life in a moving and tenderly wrought picture book from Indian-born author Beverly Jatwani and Madagascan illustrator Sawyer Cloud. Wanda the Blue Whale is the third picture book of the inspirational Together We Can Change the World series from New Frontier Publishing and features the uplifting story of a girl and the endangered blue whale. When Paula discovers a baby blue whale caught in a fishing net on the beach, she realises there is only one thing to do… she must free it from the net and return it to the sea. And as the whale heads out into the ocean, this magical encounter will forever change Paula’s understanding of the concept of compassion. With seven stories, covering seven continents, in which children learn how they can transform themselves and the world around them by embracing their emotional superpowers, the beautiful books in this series highlight a fundamental core value whilst simultaneously encouraging children’s responsibility towards Planet Earth. With the added bonus of fascinating facts about blue whales at the end of the book, this is the perfect read for your own little eco-warriors!

(New Frontier Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Friendly Mammoth

Anna Terreros-Martin

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The past meets the present with enchanting results in this magical and mesmerising picture book from talented author and illustrator Anna Terreros-Martin whose passion for animals and wildlife shines through from every page. Mansi loves visiting her local museum. It’s a perfect place for remembering the past. She only wishes she had a friend to go with. And with a sprinkle of magic, and a whole lot of snow from Mansi’s painting, the little girl and the museum’s Woolly Mammoth are transported back to the Ice Age. Once there, the new friends explore the world as it once was, meet the animals that have long-since disappeared, and learn that sharing what you love is one of the best ways to make new friends. Terreros-Martin’s endearing story, filled with her stunning, atmospheric illustrations, celebrates unexpected friendships and the wonder of the natural world. Mansi’s adventures with the friendly mammoth will pull at everyone’s heartstrings as together they explore the Ice Age and help to inspire a love of nature and animals which could last a lifetime.

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Robber Raccoon

Lou Kuenzler and Julia Woolf

A joy to read aloud and a visual feast of colour! Lou Kuenzler and Julia Woolf’s rascally robber raccoon steals the limelight – and everyone’s hearts – in this playful, rhyming picture book which puts the importance of eco-friendly upcycling at centre stage. With its clever mix of important eco messages and fun-filled adventures, The Robber Raccoon is the latest work from the talented team that brought young readers the wonderful Not Yet, Zebra and Calm Down, Zebra, and is guaranteed to win the hearts of all little mischief-makers. ‘Rosie Raccoon was up to no good, out and about in a grand neighbourhood. With a sack on her back, she crept up Bear’s porch, then clambered inside by the light of a torch.’ But Rosie needs to watch out because police are after her… and it’s not long before she is feeling the furry arm of the law! There is plenty to get little eco-warriors turning the pages in this exquisitely illustrated night-time adventure starring an adorable and mischievous raccoon whose stolen goods turn out to be nothing more than junk for making something new!

(Faber & Faber, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Hop Lola Hop

Kathy Urban and Siski Kalla

Losing a friend, or even a favourite toy, can be an upsetting and difficult experience for toddlers… so invite them into the pages of this beautiful and reassuring picture book to find understanding and comfort. Ella is heartbroken when her beloved bunny, Lola, goes missing. Lola has been with Ella forever and when she can’t find her bunny, Ella feels sad and unhappy. Lola is the little toy bunny who likes to go on fun adventures. But one day, she Hop! Hop! Hops!… just a little too far! How are the two friends going to find each other again? Written by freelance journalist and debut author Kathy Urban, and stunningly illustrated by London-born Siski Kalla, this moving, magical and heart-warming tale about an adorable lost toy bunny and the feelings and emotions that come with losing something special is the perfect fun and feel-good antidote for any anxious child.

(Little Steps Publishing, paperback, £7.99)