Thrills in Ancient Rome, train sabotage and a world of food - by various authors

Meet a dangerous Roman Emperor hell-bent on revenge, take a thrilling train ride across Australia, tuck into some mouth-watering dishes and traditions, and meet a little girl with a magical pet dragon in a super selection of new children’s books.

By Pam Norfolk
Tuesday, 8th February 2022, 12:30 pm
Circus Maximus: Rivals on the Track
Circus Maximus: Rivals on the Track

Age 9 plus:

Circus Maximus: Rivals on the Track

Annelise Gray

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Breathtaking horses, pulsating action, a simmering, shimmering mystery… and a Roman emperor hell-bent on revenge!

If you hanker for a truly extraordinary adventure – a classic in more ways than one – then head off to Rome and share the thrills and spills of the ancient sport of charioteering alongside a courageous girl who dares to take on the best… and win.

In the second book of her heart-pounding debut series, classics scholar and Latin teacher Annelise Gray once again brings the Roman world to life with a vibrancy and breathtaking authenticity that cannot fail to capture hearts and minds.

A magical blend of real history and dazzling fiction transports us back to the perilous reign of the brutal Emperor Caligula in the first century AD whilst delivering a terrific and inspirational adventure starring Dido, the only girl charioteer ever to have chalked up a victory at the majestic but brutal Circus Maximus.

But it was a win that cost her dear because now Caligula is intent on wreaking revenge, and the whole empire wants to know Dido’s true identity. With a price on their heads, Dido and her beloved horse, Porcellus, are in hiding.

Can she outwit the emperor and his bounty hunters, and will a shocking family secret stop her in her tracks, or spur her on to make a daring return, helped by a one-eyed mare with a heart as brave as her own?

Ben Hur meets National Velvet as the intelligent, loyal and passionate Dido must summon up the blood to fight deadly battles in a world dominated by men whilst clinging on to hope, courage and redemption in the face of revenge, betrayal and cruelty.

With an exciting cast of human and horse characters, and a story that celebrates the close bonds of family, Gray’s gripping adventure gallops along as fast as the prize stallions whilst delivering intriguing snippets of real history and steeping readers in the sights and sounds of the Roman Empire.

So saddle up, take the reins and enjoy an extraordinary and exhilarating ride!

(Zephyr, hardback, £12.99)

Age 9 plus:

Sabotage on the Solar Express (Adventures on Trains)

M.G. Leonard, Sam Sedgman and Elisa Paganelli

Agatha Christie meets Indiana Jones as schoolboy Harrison Beck climbs aboard the Solar Express for a thrill ride across the vast terrain of Australia. Sabotage on the Solar Express is the fifth thrill ride in Adventures on Trains, the exhilarating middle-grade series from prize-winning author M.G. Leonard, and Sam Sedgman, a writer and lifelong train fan. These tales of the rails are perfect for young train buffs and with Elisa Paganelli’s vibrant black and white illustrations providing the extra bells and whistles, the books are building up an unstoppable speed on the fast track to reading heaven. In this new all-action adventure, we join budding young artist Harrison (Hal) Beck and his travel writer Uncle Nat on the journey of a lifetime as they board the hydrogen and solar-powered Solar Express for its maiden journey between the cities of Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin. They have been invited to be among the first passengers by billionaire train enthusiast August Reza as the exciting Solar Express was the winning design of his Reza’s Rocket competition. But during the journey, they discover the train has been sabotaged, hurtling passengers into a heart-stopping, drama-packed ride across the Australian Outback. Can Hal, who is joined by old adversary Marianne, find the saboteur and stop the runaway train before disaster strikes? With a cast of dynamic characters, a train-load of fascinating facts, adventure at every junction, and a baffling mystery to solve, Leonard and Sedgman pull out all the stops as they take youngsters on one of their wildest and most wonderful reading journeys yet in this witty, clever and enthralling series.

(Macmillan, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

World of Food: A delicious discovery of the foods we eat

Sandra Lawrence and Violeta Noy

Discover a whole world of food in a terrific and tasty book jam-packed with facts about more than one hundred mouth-watering dishes and traditions. Written by author and journalist Sandra Lawrence and gorgeously illustrated by Spanish artist Violeta Noy, this is a book on which to feast both your mind and your senses, and is guaranteed to make you hungry! What did the ancient Romans snack on, what did people eat for lunch 5,000 years ago, where does chocolate come from, how has the humble potato shaped history and will algae burgers be a future fast food? Everywhere on our planet where people can be found, there are different foods that we enjoy, and different ways of preparing and eating them too. From fruits, vegetables, cheeses and grains to spices, honey, chocolate and foods of the future, find out where these foods come from, and what we grow, farm, forage and cook in order to eat. Bursting with colour, food glorious food and fascinating facts, World of Food looks at what we have in common, and celebrates our differences. Anyone for roasted hedgehog?!

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £14.99)

Age 7 plus:

Indigo Wilde and the Creatures at Jellybean Crescent

Pippa Curnick

Go totally wild this spring 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, paperback, £5.99)

Age 5 plus:

Luma and the Pet Dragon

Leah Mohammed and Loretta Schauer

There’s a special kind of ‘puppy’ love in this adorable debut series from Leah Mohammed who was inspired by her British-Pakistani heritage and the kind of story she would have loved to read as a girl. Starring schoolgirl Luma, who discovers that there is always mischief and magic when you have a baby dragon as a pet, the book features two warm and funny stories packed with Loretta Schauer’s lovely and lively illustrations. When Luma Dewan wakes up on the morning of her seventh birthday, she knows that today will be special. But she has no idea just how wonderful and extraordinary it will be. For today is the day she will meet Timir… a real talking dragon. Or at least that’s what he is when Luma is around. When anyone else is there, he becomes an ordinary grey puppy with a fluffy tail who loves chasing squirrels and bouncing on trampolines. It’s a big secret to keep and soon Luma’s clever cousin Arjun is suspicious of this peculiar puppy who doesn’t behave like any other dog. Luckily Luma’s grandmother, Nani, is there to help and to Luma’s surprise, Nani might just know a little dragon magic of her own! Expect lots of laughs, mountains of mischief, and a truly magical friendship as Luma and her cheeky dragon steal the show!

(Welbeck Flame, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

A Walk Through Nature: A peek-through natural world book

Libby Walden and Clover Robin

Discover the amazing, secret wonders of our world in this enchanting peek-through book for early learners. Our natural world transforms every day and month and year, but if we don’t take time to look, the wonders fade and disappear. And to inspire your little ones to make their own journey of discovery, let them explore nature through the pages of this beautiful book which features fascinating facts, inventive, gate-folds to explore, the stunning illustrations of Clover Robin and a lyrical, rhyming text by Libby Walden. From the tiny seeds from which flowers bloom to the wriggling worms which hide deep underground, there are so many breathtaking spectacles to admire. A Walk Through Nature is the perfect book for young wildlife enthusiasts, and the vibrant illustrations are sure to capture young imaginations. A poignant reminder to us all to take time to look around us and admire and protect the world we live in.

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £8.99)

Age 3 plus:

Mayor Bunny’s Chocolate Town

Elys Dolan

Is being a leader all it’s cracked up to be? Elys Dolan’s Mr Bunny (who shot to fame in award-winning, laugh-out-loud picture book Mr Bunny’s Chocolate Factory) is back and, after eschewing capitalism, returns to the front line of politics to run for mayor! A talented young author and illustrator, Dolan has earned a top reputation for her clever, comical and superbly illustrated stories in which her eye for exquisite small detail and wry comedy prove irresistible to all generations of readers. In this new adventure, we find that Coop Town is in need of some urgent repairs and Mr Bunny is promising to make it great again if he wins the vote for a new mayor. At first, the chicken electorate is wowed by Mr Bunny’s promises of new chocolate houses, new chocolate parks, new chocolate swimming pools and a bold claim that chocolate will repel hungry foxes. But what will happen when the truth comes home to roost? This cute, cautionary and truly funny tale teaches youngsters the importance of honesty, fairness, ambition and responsibility as well offering a riotous romp packed with a delicious mix of comic capers, tasty gags, adorable characters, and lots of chocolate! A feast of giggles and gregarious artwork…

(OUP, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Dogs in Disguise

Peter Bently and John Bond

Have these dogs gone barking mad?! Get your teeth into a laughter-filled extravaganza from the fantastic new picture book collaboration of Roald Dahl Funny Prize-winning author Peter Bently and brilliantly talented illustrator John Bond. Dogs in Disguise is a wickedly funny rhyming romp that will have little ones tugging at the lead to get their hands on a copy. ‘Dogs come in all kinds of colours and sizes. But when no one’s looking they put on disguises.’ Dressing up in clothing they find at home, these adventurous pooches blend into the crowd at all the places dogs aren’t allowed, like the store, the cinema and the swimming pool! But not all of their disguises go quite to plan… with hilarious results. From schnauzers in trousers to cosmonaut cockapoos and pugs in tuxedos, Bently’s romping rhyme, crazy canine capers and the daftest line-up of daffy dogs – each rendered with Bond’s wit and expressive precision – burst out from every page. And with an out-of-this-world twist in the tail, there’s no disguising the utter joy of this playful celebration of dogs.

(HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

One Camel Called Doug

Lu Fraser and Sarah Warburton

‘I want to be alone,’ quipped the famous Swedish actress Greta Garbo, and after a day of frantic fun with his pals, Doug the camel knows just how she felt! Award-winning writer Lu Fraser, an exciting new voice in children’s picture books, and illustrator Sarah Warburton work their special magic on a crazy camel caper that is perfect for the countdown to bedtime. A warmly reassuring, rhyming story – complete with a fun counting element – about how it’s OK to need a little me-time, this brilliant, bouncing adventure captures all the zany zest of youth and that time of the day when the battery starts to run down. Doug the camel is all alone and sometimes he wonders whether one is enough (it makes playing hide and seek terribly tough). So when at first one, then two, then three, then four more camels turn up (followed by a whole camel herd), Doug delights in the possibilities all these new friends bring. But when Doug is ‘all camelled out’ from the excitement and it’s time to count down to bedtime, he takes just as much pleasure from the peace of being alone once again. Fraser’s warm and funny tale is a delight to read out loud and is illustrated with warmth, humour and rich detail by Warburton in the first book from this fresh and funny picture book partnership.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

I Want To Be… a Ballerina

Becky Davies and Richard Merritt

Do you want to be a ballerina? Does your little one dream of dancing on stage? Well here’s your chance to spend a day with a ballerina! Find out what it takes in this fun and entertaining book which is part of an early-learning series featuring different careers to inspire and inform your child, and is perfect for young minds with big dreams. The board book offers a simple, accessible text alongside bright, bold illustrations by Richard Merritt which will appeal to children of every age. With chunky pages and a surprise mirror ending, so little ones can spot their own face smiling back at them, this is the ideal book to keep tots on their toes!

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

I’m the Tractor Driver and I’m the Bus Driver

Illustrated by David Semple

Let’s imagine! Encourage children to engage in creative play with these two super books which put your little ones firmly in the driving seat. Designed to build self-confidence and gently teach the concept of following instructions, problem solving, and teamwork, I’m the Tractor Driver and I’m the Bus Driver offer a child’s eye insight into driving vehicles. The stories – beautifully illustrated by David Semple – are also ideal teaching tools as they are embedded with early learning skills such as recognition of colours, shapes, and numbers. Whether it’s the farmer climbing aboard his tractor, hooking up the trailer and heading to the fields, or the bus driver starting the engine, giving out the bus tickets and delivering all the children to school on time, these books are perfect to share with children as a fun way to practise key skills while spotting their favourite vehicles and making the sound effects. Jump in the seat and go!

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age one plus:

Toddler Take-Along: Nature

Becky Davies and Ana Zaja Petrak

There’s so much to discover on a nature adventure… what will YOU spot? There’s a transport of delight inside the chunky pages of this fun and informative board book which encourages little ones to explore their environment and learn about the world of nature outside. Toddlers will love carrying the book around with the pair of bright, sturdy fabric handles. Each page contains simple labels to help curious explorers identify the plants and animals as they walk and explore in the great outdoors and Ana Zaja Petrak’s bright, colourful illustrations and peep-through pages deliver extra entertainment. Toddler Take-Along: Nature is the first title in a clever and educational new board book series focusing on child-led learning. Perfect for keeping little ones busy when you’re out for a walk!

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £7.99)

Age one plus:

Hello, Bee

Isabel Otter and Sophie Ledesma

Join a bee on a buzzy, busy journey and say hello to lots of friendly bugs along the way in this joyful and colourful journey through nature. Hello, Bee – a beautifully produced touch, feel and reveal board book – features tactile textures, exciting flaps and peek-through holes to encourage little learners to interact with the pages. So join Bee on his search for the hive and meet a hungry caterpillar, a spotty ladybird, a wriggly worm and lots of other hidden creatures in this search-and-find adventure with a difference. The bold and bright illustrations of Sophie Ledesma bring the natural world to life while Isabel Otter’s simple but informative text, and the intriguing flaps, allow little learners to recognise other insects. The ideal fun and stimulating book to share with your toddlers.

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £7.99)

Age from birth:

Looking For Mummy

Becky Davies and Anna Doherty

Little Brown Bunny wants a cuddle from his mummy in this adorable lift-the-flap story book just made for the youngest members of the family. Where is Little Brown Bunny’s mummy, can you find her? Take a peep under the flaps and meet a host of adorable animals along the way as Bunny goes on a mummy hunt! Part of a cuddly and colourful new Snuggle Up Stories series – perfect for bedtime – this charming board book features sturdy, peep-through flaps and chunky pages for little hands to explore. With a simple story and gentle learning topics throughout, each book combines soft, atmospheric art with stunning photographic animals and reassuring stories… ideal for soothing even the most restless of toddlers to sleep!

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £6.99)