Speaking out loud, magical birds and a murky mystery by various authors – book reviews –

Discover a mighty good way to beat shyness, take a trip to a mystical island where bird people live, enjoy a spooky comedy thriller with a group of classmates, blast off on a story shop adventure and marvel at an elephant’s fun park city in a super, sparkling selection of children’s books.

By Pam Norfolk
Thursday, 7th April 2022, 4:55 am
Shy and Mighty: Your Shyness is a Superpower
Shy and Mighty: Your Shyness is a Superpower

Age 7 plus:

Shy and Mighty: Your Shyness is a Superpower

Nadia Finer and Sara Thielker

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Nadia Finer knows what it’s like to struggle with shyness and that’s why she is embarking on a (softly-spoken) mission to help shy people be more ‘mighty.’

She runs the Mighty Mob, an online program which helps shy youngsters to feel braver, more able to speak up and join in, and more comfortable to be themselves. And now she is determined to convince children that their shyness is a ‘superpower’ with this brilliant, very readable book which comes packed with inclusive and colourful illustrations by Sara Thielke.

Although shyness is not a personality flaw, she tells us, it’s a complex trait and means many kids struggle to speak up in class, get involved in activities, make friends, put themselves forward, and compete. As a result they can miss out on exciting opportunities, and are often overlooked, ignored, and sidelined.

Shy And Mighty offers an insightful way of looking at this emotive subject which will comfort and reassure shy children, and help them to overcome the aspects of their shyness that are holding them back, without pretending to be something they’re not.

Featured in the pages of this heartwarming book is practical advice on how to take small steps to achieve your dreams, how to work with other people, and ways to get your views heard. Thielke’s bright, fun illustrations help to portray important topics like understanding body language and appearing more confident.

With activities, solutions, and coping strategies for children, Shy and Mighty includes simple tools and suggestions to help them get more involved, share their ideas, and make friends, whilst exploring the science behind shyness in an accessible and easy-to-understand format.

Brimming with inspirational ideas for parents, carers and teachers, this is the ideal book to help children their inner voice and to take that giant leap from being invisible to… invincible!

(DK Children, hardback, £12.99)

Age 9 plus:

The Thief Who Sang Storms

Sophie Anderson and Joanna Lisowiec

Snuggle down into your favourite armchair for a fabulous, fantastical journey into a dazzling world of magical birds, bravery, community and kindness as Lake District author Sophie Anderson returns with a story just made for spring nights.

Inspired by the Slavic folk tales that inform so much of her work, this exciting writer is bewitching us all with her sublime and lyrical storytelling, a gift which allows her to sweep readers away to soaring, evocative landscapes where magic, folklore and realism blend together in memorable mesmerising adventures.

And here she sweeps us away to the Island of Morovia, a place shaped like a broken heart where humans live on one side of the island, and the alkonosts – the bird-people – live on the other. But it wasn’t always this way. Linnet wishes she could sing magic, like her father Nightingale, and bring the two sides of her island together again.

Her land has been divided by a terrible tragedy and Linnet has been banished with her father to the deepest swamps, leaving behind her best friends, Hero and Silver. So when her father is captured, Linnet must be brave and embark on a treacherous journey.

Through alligator pools and sinking sands, she finds new friends. Yet without her singing magic, Linnet discovers something even more powerful… something that could save her father and heal the broken heart of her island once more.

This enchanting fairy tale adventure, brought to vivid, vibrant life by the atmospheric illustrations of Joanna Lisowiec, is filled with rich and descriptive detail, nail-biting suspense, a pulsing sense of danger, and important life lessons about grief, trust, love, and the healing power of community and kindness.

Set against a lush, breathtaking and fantastical ‘other’ world full of mysticism and magic, this is a warm and heartfelt adventure, and just the sort of book that makes youngsters want to read!

(Usborne Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

Dread Wood

Jennifer Killick

Imagine a book that serves up all those super-spooky vibes that kids love, a delicious dollop of black comedy and a bunch of spiky classmates with a murky mystery to solve. If that menu tickles your tastebuds, then you’ll be dining out on queen of chills-and-thrills Jennifer Killick’s brilliant new middle grade series which delivers horror and humour in perfect harmony. Perfectly pitched for middle grade readers, Dread Wood stars four youngsters facing the worst school detention ever. When classmates (but not mate-mates) Hallie, Angelo, Gustav and Naira are forced to come to school on a SATURDAY, they think things can’t get much worse. But they’re wrong. Things are about to get seriously scary. What has dragged their teacher underground? Why do the creepy caretakers keeping humming the tune to Itsy Bitsy Spider? And what horrors lurk in the shadows, getting stronger and meaner every minute? Cut off from help and in danger each time they step out, the gang’s only hope is to work together. But it’s no coincidence that they are all there on detention. Someone has been watching and plotting and is out for revenge. 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. Be prepared to read this gigglesome chiller-thriller in one sitting!

(Farshore, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Rewilders

Lindsay Littleson

The wild is waiting in this thrilling adventure set in wonderful countryside! Award-winning author and full-time primary teacher Lindsay Littleson’s rural-themed, all-action story explores the concept of rewilding and the reintroduction of Eurasian lynx in Scotland alongside issues around peer pressure and bullying. Esme is annoyed and braced for boredom when she’s sent to stay with her gran for the weekend… until she discovers a terrible mistake. Cora, the abandoned kitten Gran found on the Rothiecraig Estate, is in fact a wild lynx cub and she is growing fast! Suddenly, Esme find herself on a dangerous mission to rewild Cora, with Callum Docherty, the school’s ‘bad boy,’ for company, and Shug, the worst guard dog in the world. The situation takes a terrifying turn when the children pitch their tents on a bleak Highland moor and hear wolves howling outside. There’s excitement all the way in this fast-paced rewilding mission as Esme and Callum take on some important lessons about friendship as they battle to protect and help Cora. The perfect read for youngsters who love nature and a thrill-a-minute adventure!

(Pokey Hat, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Dino Knights: Invasion

Jeff Norton and Jeff Crosby

Pick two favourite themes – dangerous dinosaurs and daring knights – blend them together, and what do you have? Dino Knights, of course! In the second book of his fabulous, action-packed chapter book series, Jeff Norton transports youngsters to a thrilling medieval land where dinosaurs still roam and brave knights ride into adventures on the back of roaring dinosaurs. Norton, loved for his stories which create compelling characters, awesome escapades and immersive worlds, is on his best form in this new tale starring Dino Knight Henry Fairchild who races into action on the back of a T-rex. When the Highlanders of Brecklan are attacked and kidnapped by their ruthless neighbours, the Dino Knights are torn between avenging Ellie’s Highlander family or protecting Brecklan which is now under threat. Ellie and Henry risk everything and disobey orders to go to the rescue, but in doing so they make a powerful new ally who will help them save Brecklan. With Jeff Crosby’s atmospheric black and white illustrations to bring Norton’s world-building to vivid life, a gallery of amazing characters, a map, playful heraldic chapter headings and a dinosaur field guide, this exciting story of bravery, loyalty, friendship and family is perfect for all fearless young adventurers.

(Scallywag Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Story Shop: Blast Off!

Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal

Young adventurers eager for some thrills, chills – and easy reading – need look no further than the Story Shop! This fresh and funny new series from Shifty MGifty author Tracey Corderoy and children’s illustrator Tony Neal is just the job for new and emerging readers. Looking for adventure and want to be a hero? Then step inside the Story Shop! It’s full of plots, costumes and characters galore, and shopkeepers Wilbur and Fred are ready and waiting to find every customer their perfect adventure. When a daredevil mouse visits the shop, Wilbur and Fred have just the thing… an out-of-this-world space mission! Join Space Mouse as he nibbles his way into trouble on the Moon, bets his tail on a game of Tiddlywonks with Phoebe Fairplay, and causes chaos on Planet Cog with his over-the-top inventions. With an action-packed story to enjoy, and Neal’s vibrant illustrations bringing all the fun to life, the Story Shop is guaranteed to be on every youngster’s shopping list!

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £5.99)

Age 4 plus:

Elephant Island

Leo Timmers

Will a shipwrecked elephant ever find his way home again? Get ready to laugh at the lines and marvel at the stunning illustrations as award-winning Belgian author and illustrator Leo Timmers works his special magic on another stellar picture book which inspires youngsters to build on teamwork… and have fun in the process! Caught in a storm, Arnold the elephant washes up on a tiny island. And although many animals come along to try to rescue him, each of their broken vessels provides new materials for another intricate construction. Wheels and pulleys create a Ferris wheel, an elevator, a waffle maker, and soon there is a whole community, enough space for everyone and Elephant Island has turned into a fun park city! As with all of Leo Timmers' picture books, there are many layers of discovery to enjoy, rather like a building game on a page. Each new building creates a wonderful fun park, packed with mechanical details and showcasing the busy animals working together. With the quirky story translated by James Brown, Timmers’ trademark richly detailed illustrations with their stunning use of colour and atmospheric light and shade, and humour on every page, this is the ideal picture book to inspire imagination and creativity in young readers.

(Gecko Press, hardback, £11.99)

Age 4 plus:

The Young Designers

Paul Smith and Sam Usher

Comedy is all the fashion in the second inventive and beautifully creative picture book from international fashion designer Sir Paul Smith and star illustrator Sam Usher. This exciting and artistic duo have stitched together a new title in their Adventures of Moose and Mr Brown series featuring cleverly produced, laugh-out-loud stories of friendship, animals, design, and finding inspiration in the most unlikely of places. Smith is renowned for his creative spirit and these delightful and beautifully produced and illustrated books star a cast of curious and charming characters, inspired by toys that Smith has owned for many years. In this sparkling new adventure, there are some inquisitive visitors to Mr Brown’s fashion studio. It’s a group of small, young animals who all want to learn how to be a designer. Moose is put in charge of the little ones and chaos ensues… from Skunk creating a stink in the lift to Elephant spilling juice all over a pristine white coat. Luckily Moose knows how to keep the youngsters entertained and how to inspire them… so will it all come good in the end? Usher’s vibrant, colourful and characterful illustrations capture all the exuberance and spirit of adventure that mark out Smith’s captivating story about the joys of kindness and friendship, and the power that comes from using your creative talents.Tailor-made for your own young designers!

(Pavilion Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Girl Who Planted Trees

Caryl Hart and Anastasia Suvorova

Meet a little girl whose dream inspires a whole village to create something amazing that will last forever! Award-winning author Caryl Hart harnesses the words of Greta Thunberg, ‘No one is too small to make a difference,’ for this uplifting and empowering picture book tale for our time. When a little girl's grandad shows her a picture of what the great, grey mountain used to look like, she can't wait to plant a new forest and for the animals to return. Although the girl soon realises that growing trees isn’t easy, she doesn’t give up. After many weeks, a little patch of green appears on the mountain and gives the whole village hope. Then, one day, a terrible storm comes tearing up the valley, destroying every single one of the girl’s saplings. Has all her hard work been for nothing or has it inspired those around her to share her dream? With Anastasia Suvorova’s beautiful, evocative artwork shining out from every page and one girl’s imagination, determination and positivity motivating a whole community to work together, this lyrical, hope-filled book will encourage both children and adults to make their own small but vital contribution to creating a better, more sustainable world. And as every Nosy Crow paperback picture book comes with a free Stories Aloud audio recording, you can just scan the QR code and listen along to the story!

(Nosy Crow, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Shelly Hen Lays Eggs

Deborah Chancellor and Julia Groves

Set young feathers fluttering with the latest enlightening and entertaining picture book in a series which helps children to understand where their food comes from… and just how precious it is. Shelly Hen Lays Eggs is the third title in a Follow My Food series from ever-inventive Scallywag Press which aims to encourage children to appreciate the different sources of food and to become environmentally aware of its origins.Written by experienced children’s author Deborah Chancellor and colourfully brought to life by the illustrations of Julia Groves, the book follows a little boy and his journey with Shelly Hen as she takes a dust bath to shake off pesky mites, pecks the ground and searches for food, hangs out with her flock, takes a nap in a shady place and lays a tasty fresh egg. A simple quiz and fun facts at the end explain more about the life of free range hens including the colour of their egg yolks, how they stay warm at night in their coops, their activities outdoors to keep them healthy and happy, how they ‘talk’ to each other with over twenty-four different sounds, and details of their pecking order. Groves’ bright and stylish artwork helps to underline the message that producing food and caring for animals is important work, and that we must respect the animals and humans who help produce it… and certainly not waste it! The perfect book to help explain the concept of sustainability to your budding eco-warriors.

(Scallywag Press, hardback, £11.99)

Age 2 plus:

All Around Bustletown: Nighttime

Rotraut Susanne Berner

No matter what time of year, the inhabitants of Bustletown are busy working, walking, playing, eating, making music, exercising, and shopping! Welcome to an exciting picture book series, from award-winning German illustrator Rotraut Susanne Berner, which has been published to wide acclaim in fifteen countries. With richly detailed illustrations on every page, young readers can enjoy exploring seven colourful spreads featuring Bustletown and its inhabitants and create their own stories about all the things you can do after the sun sets. Because even though it’s nighttime, the fun hasn’t stopped! Readers can peek inside a multigenerational house, a farm, a railway station, a community centre, a marketplace, a department store, and a park with a lake. Just as Berner’s previous explorations of the town have brilliantly evoked the sights and colours of the seasons, here she bathes the town in shimmering darkness that throws evening activities into fascinating relief. Readers will return again and again to the superbly detailed pages to discover everything that takes place in Bustletown during the night… a burglar tries to break into the dental office, the book shop features ‘books for a good night,’ fireworks explode above the lake, and there’s a slumber party in the library. Fun to explore… and the ideal way to encourage little ones to observe the world around them.

(Prestel, board book, £9.99)

Age 2 plus:

Noah’s Seal

Layn Marlow

Here’s the perfect bedtime read! Author and illustrator Layn Marlow works her special magic on this gentle, thoughtful tale celebrating the power of the imagination and the joyful spirit of adventure. Noah waits on the beach all day for Nana’s boat to be ready so that they can go seal spotting. He waits and waits, and eventually takes matters into his own hands, building his very own seal out of sand. And it’s almost as good as the real thing! But it isn’t long before a storm whips up and his sand seal is soon washed away. Nana packs up ready to leave and Noah loses all hope that he will ever spot a real-life seal… until something special happens! Marlow’s lyrical, inter-generational story explores how nature can inspire our hopes and dreams through emotive words and a gallery of beautiful and evocative artwork. Picture book perfection!

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)

From birth:

Sophie la girafe: Sophie Has Lunch and Sophie Goes to Sleep

Ruth Symons and Vulli

Ever since she was first produced in Paris in 1961, Sophie la girafe has been a worldwide success as the number one squeaky rubber teething toy. And now Sophie is stepping into the limelight again on the pages of a brand new series of baby board books. So get ready to eat – and prepare your tired babies and toddlers for bedtime – with these super, tactile books which come packed with gentle messages, textured pages, practical tips and lots of first words to learn. Here, we join the hungry little giraffe at the table for a delicious meal in a story specially made for little ones trying their first tastes, and share her calming night-time routine of fun in the bath and one last book before the lights go out. The short stories are perfect for reading aloud with babies and toddlers. Each scene presents first words from around the home, making it the ideal book for little ones just starting to talk, while textured pages will engage even the youngest babies’ senses. Each page features short, practical tips in consultation with Early Years expert Lizzie Noble. Beautifully created for reading together with your baby or toddler, these colourful books are the perfect baby shower or new baby gift.

(Templar Publishing, board books, £6.99 each)