Water wonders, rewilding cities and a thrill ride by various authors – children’s book reviews –

The Wonderful World of Water: From Dams to Deserts by Sarah Garré, Marijke Huysmans and Wendy PandersThe Wonderful World of Water: From Dams to Deserts by Sarah Garré, Marijke Huysmans and Wendy Panders
The Wonderful World of Water: From Dams to Deserts by Sarah Garré, Marijke Huysmans and Wendy Panders
Discover the endless ways that water impacts humans and nature, marvel at inventions to rewild every city on Earth, join a horse-mad girl for the adventure of a lifetime, and enjoy lots of madcap antics with Beano star Minnie the Minx in a selection of super December books.

Age 8 plus:

The Wonderful World of Water: From Dams to Deserts

Sarah Garré, Marijke Huysmans and Wendy Panders

Water, water everywhere... dip into any page of this fun, fact-filled book and discover the endless ways that water impacts humans and nature, and sustains life on Earth.

Water is our planet’s most important resource, yet it’s easy to overlook its significance in our daily life. This kaleidoscopic journey across the planet offers fascinating insights into how water is connected to the air we breathe, the food we eat, and how our own actions can upset the delicate balance of its cycle.

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Readers learn about how water journeys from ocean to sky to mountains, rivers, soil and back again, how water purification works, the flora and fauna of the rainforest, cloud formations and the weather they predict, natural phenomena such as the tiger bush, why rivers flood, and what causes a tsunami.

Did you know that three-quarters of Earth's surface consists of water and that because there’s so much water, astronauts see Earth as a blue planet from their spaceship. Discover how a water molecule consists of two types of atoms... one oxygen atom (O) and two smaller hydrogen atoms (H). And that's why scientists call water H₂O. Water, we learn, has always been there, and it travels round and round on an endless journey known as the water cycle.

When it rains, part of the rain disappears into the ground. Those raindrops find their way into the groundwater and it can be just under our feet or much deeper. Some droplets reach the groundwater after a few days, weeks, or months, but it can also take years or even centuries.

Learn about an oasis, an area of land where plants can grow in the middle of a very dry region because there is freshwater. Sometimes it’s a natural spring but there are also a great many oases where humans have given nature a helping hand. In the rainforest, meanwhile, there are an enormous variety of different animal and plant species... some yet to be discovered.

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Presented by researcher Sarah Garré, Professor Marijke Huysmans and illustrator Wendy Panders in lively and engaging double-page spreads, each topic is explored with quirky illustrations, trivia, and sidebars that encourage further exploration and experimentation.

And best of all, it makes young readers aware just how deeply entwined their futures are with the health of our planet’s water.

(Prestel Publishing, hardback, £19.99)

Age 9 plus:

Ultrawild: An Audacious Plan for Rewilding Every City on Earth

Steve Mushin

Step into the pages of a graphic novel like no other!

Youngsters will be queueing up to join industrial designer, illustrator and maverick inventor Steve Mushin as he tackles climate change with an avalanche of mind-bending, scientifically plausible inventions to rewild cities and save the planet.

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Based in New Zealand, Mushin collaborates with scientists and engineers to solve perplexing problems that no one else seems to know what to do about and this intricately illustrated, mind-bendingly original book is bursting with brilliant inventions that could just save the world... while inspiring readers of all ages.

Ultrawild – Mushin’s brilliant debut book – features one hundred technically possible, totally bonkers inventions as Mushin takes on climate change and sustainability, the big questions of our time, putting the ‘A’ firmly into STEM studies and showcasing how the arts can invigorate thinking.

Jump into his brain as he designs habitat-printing robot birds and water-filtering sewer submarines, calculates how far compost cannons can blast seed bombs (over a kilometre), brainstorms biomaterials with scientists and engineers, studies ecosystems and develops a deadly serious plan to transform cities into jungles, rewilding them into carbon-sucking mega-habitats for all species, and as fast as possible.

Through marvellously designed and hilarious engineering ideas, Mushin shares his vision for super-high-tech urban rewilding, covering the science of climate change, futuristic materials and foods, bio reactors, soil, forest ecosystems, mechanical flight, solar thermal power and working out just how fast we could actually turn roads into jungles, absorb carbon and reverse climate change.

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Developed over seven years – with all projects vetted by experts – Ultrawild is a book brimming with optimism as the author explores creative thinking, science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and the potential for massive change. Filled with laugh-out-loud design comedy, it aims to empower and excite a new generation of designers, scientists, engineers and ultra-wild thinkers.

A tour-de-force of extreme problem-solving which is guaranteed to provide hours of enjoyment and encourage readers, young and old, to think outside the box as we adapt to an ever-changing world.

(Allen & Unwin, hardback, £14.99)

Age 12 plus:

100 Tales from the Tokyo Ghost Café

Julian Sedgwick and Chie Kutsuwada

Step inside the Tokyo Ghost Café if you dare! Author Julian Sedgwick and illustrator Chie Kutsuwada – the top team who brought readers the hugely successful Carnegie nominated Tsunami Girl – return with this thrilling collection of ghost stories in their trademark blend of prose and Manga, a style of Japanese comic book and graphic novel. Telling ghost stories at Christmas was made famous in England by Victorian novelist Charles Dickens but in Japan, the culture of sharing spooky tales around a fire has been taking place for centuries. And these dazzling short stories, framed by an overarching narrative and interwoven with Manga illustrations, create an unforgettably unique offering for readers. Abducted by spirits from his village, lost boy Akira must make the long journey in north Japan to find his family and save his young sister before time runs out. Voyaging deeper and deeper into a Japan ‘between the worlds,’ Akira and his companions encounter a host of yokai monsters and infamous spirits, discovering a sometimes comical and sometimes terrifying world of interlinked and ghostly short stories along the way. Sedgwick and Kutsuwada create a brilliantly seductive twilight ‘otherworld’ peopled by Japanese spirits which all have their own personality, traits and powers, and are the inspiration behind the phenomenon that is Pokémon. A stunning exploration of the different elements of Japanese history and culture, and our own relationship with the spirits around us.

(Guppy Books, paperback, £10.99)

Age 9 plus:

Finding Wonder

Lauren St John

Master storyteller and passionate conservationist Lauren St John returns with an unforgettable and moving tale starring a girl, a winning ticket, a stolen horse... and the adventure of a lifetime! Young horse fans will be chomping at the bit to get their hands on this equine extravaganza which blends daring deeds, a marvellous mystery and a stable full of stupendous steeds. Orphaned Roo Thorn feels like the unluckiest girl in the world... until she discovers a letter. The mysterious letter urges Roo to ‘grab life by the wings and fly’ and with the help of her aunt, Joni, Roo sets out to buy her dream horse... a fiery showjumper named Wonder Boy. When Wonder vanishes without a trace, Roo and Joni are determined to save him and set out to investigate his disappearance. But as the mystery deepens and more prize horses are stolen, the pair find themselves drawn into a thrilling, but dangerous, adventure. How far will they go, and what will they risk, to find Wonder? With eye-catching cover artwork by Levi Pinfold and beautiful interior illustrations by Marie-Alice Harel, this twisting, turning and gripping detective adventure celebrates not just one young girl’s heartfelt passion for horses but the joys to be found in family ties, friendships and the natural world. Rich in detail and emotionally charged, Finding Wonder is a thrill ride from start to finish.

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

Age 9 plus:

Children of Winter

Berlie Doherty

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One of the most inspirational stories to come out of the devastation of the Black Death plague – which swept across England in 1666 – springs to life in this beautiful new edition of master storyteller Berlie Doherty’s Children of Winter. Author of over 60 books for children, teenagers and adults, and winner of the Carnegie medal for both Granny Was a Buffer Girl and Dear Nobody, Doherty lives in the Derbyshire Peak District and in this beautifully atmospheric and authentic novel she recreates the time when the tiny village of Eyam in Derbyshire was hit by the plague and cut itself off to protect other communities. Set in the 20th century, the story centres around Catherine Tebbutt and her family as they set out from their home in Sheffield to visit their grandmother’s house deep in the Derbyshire hills. Sheltering from a storm in an ancient cruck barn with her younger sister and brother, it becomes strangely familiar to Catherine and she is drawn back to a time when three children sheltered all winter from a terrible plague that was ripping through their village. With beautiful cover artwork by Tamsin Rosewell, this emotion-packed and thought-provoking tale is a reminder of the suffering and loss wrought by the plague on families across the land, and the sacrifices of the brave folk in the village of Eyam.

(UCLan Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

The Wild Robot Protects

Peter Brown

Can nature and technology exist together in harmony? The Wild Robot Protects is the third enchanting book in award-winning author and illustrator Peter Brown’s bestselling The Wild Robot series which is brought to life by his gloriously atmospheric illustrations. These bold, original and imaginative adventures are contemporary classics which explore what happens when nature and technology collide. Roz the robot has made an unlikely home for herself on an idyllic island dense with forests, wild flowers and friendly animal inhabitants, including her own young son, Brightbill the gosling. Life on the island is perfect until a dying seal washes ashore and warns of dangerous, cloudy waters that are flowing towards the island, bringing new dangers for the animals. Forced inland, they will have to fight over fewer resources and Roz realises that she must march into the waves and undertake an incredible undersea adventure to find a way to protect her beloved island and all who live on it. With a heartwarming, moving and action-packed story about survival, unusual friendships and the importance of family, The Wild Robot Protects is a dazzling addition to this inspirational series.

(Piccadilly Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Beano Minnie’s Mission of Maximum Mischief

Craig Graham, Mike Stirling and Laura Howell

Minnie the Minx, one of the shining stars of the Beano’s Bash Street Kids celebrates her 70th anniversary this year and what better way to enjoy her famously madcap mischief than with the seventh book in this official, illustrated super-fun Beano Boomics series. Packed with comic artist Laura Howell’s cheeky illustrations, these hilarious adventures – written by top team Craig Graham and Mike Stirling – are a cross between books and comics and are the perfect introduction to the Beano, the longest running comic in the world. So join Minnie, Dennis and Gnasher in Beanotown where Bash Street have made it through to the knockout stages of Super Epic Turbo Cricket European Tour of Mischief for the first time in forever. And due to a case of mistaken identity owing to a rogue Gnasher racing on to the pitch, Minnie has just been made team captain! This should be amazing news except Minnie’s parents don’t seem to be happy for her. In fact, now that Minnie thinks about it, they haven’t been happy in a long while. Join Minnie on her mission to cheer up her parents again the best way she knows how... with a Super Epic Turbo prank. Will it work, or will it unearth what’s really going on? Full of comedy, capers and reassuring messages to children whose parents are splitting up, this marvellous Minnie mission is joyous fun from start to finish.

(Farshore, paperback, £7.99)

Age 5 plus:

The King's Coronation and the Kohinoor Diamond

Anthea Turner, Wendy Turner and Rufus Thomas

Did you know that there is a community of mice who live beneath London's bustling Tube stations? Get ready for fun, laughter and action as celebrity sisters Anthea Turner and Wendy Turner join forces again to revive their endearing tales of a group of lovable mice in the first book of a brand new Underneath the Underground series. The sisters, who have both enjoyed successful television and business careers, first introduced readers to the antics of the furry creatures nearly 30 years ago with their popular series, Underneath the Underground. And now they have updated the enchanting stories – with the help of illustrator Rufus Thomas – and created this sparkling series for a whole new generation of younger readers, starting with this hilarious and topical adventure. It’s two weeks before the King’s Coronation and the British Asian Mice at Hounslow Underground Station are planning a fabulous party to celebrate. But disaster strikes when a huge glitter ball spins around and fails to shine! There’s panic all round until clever mouse, Mo Low, has a fantastic idea... to take back the famous Kohinoor diamond from the Royal Crown and return it to the Indian community where it belongs! It’s a daring plan and it could all go terribly wrong but the mice know the Kohinoor diamond is perfect to light up their ballroom on the King’s special day and they are determined to pull it off. The question is, will King Charles and Queen Camilla notice? The only way is up for these daring little Underground mice in a new series which is guaranteed to have young readers squealing with delight!

(Splendid Publications, paperback, £8.99)

Age 3:

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The Colour Monster: The Feelings Doctor and the Emotions Toolkit

Anna Llenas

When the world seems a scary and confusing place, there’s one person who can teach us all a lesson… the Colour Monster! Spanish-born author and illustrator Anna Llenas is winning hearts and minds with her beautiful picture book series, The Colour Monster, which explains, in the most delightful and imaginative way, the many human emotions that we all experience.

In this new adventure, we discover that the Colour Monster is now a doctor and he’s more than ready to encourage conversations about consent, mental health and wellbeing because his first patient today is Nuna who is not feeling okay because she was asked to do something she didn’t want to do. She ended up saying yes because she didn't know how to say no, and it left her feeling strange and confused. Fortunately for Nuna, the Colour Monster can help to heal emotions, especially those that are big and difficult to understand. To begin with, Nuna cannot find the right words but with the help of Colour Monster and his emotions toolkit, Nuna learns how to use tools and techniques that will make her feel better. Together they try things like deep breathing, arts and crafts, blowing bubbles and dancing until she starts to feel calmer. Now will Nuna be able to talk about what's bothering her?

This bright and colourful story addresses complex themes around consent, saying no and mental wellbeing in a sensitive, age-appropriate way. Using her experience as an art therapist, Llenas interweaves techniques that can make conversations easier, including large, fold-out pages which allow children to look inside the emotions toolkit and make use of the ideas for themselves (with the support of a grown-up when needed). Add on Llenas’ distinctive and visually exciting collage-effect illustrations, full of warmth, wit and vibrant colour, exquisite design and eye-catching contrasts, and this is a simple but highly effective and accessible exploration of feelings and well-being.

(Templar Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Duck Who Came for Dinner

Steve Smallman and Joëlle Dredemy

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Youngsters will love getting their teeth into the fifth tasty picture book in Steve Smallman and Joëlle Dredemy’s heartwarming and hilarious The Lamb Who Came for Dinner series. The Duck Who Came for Dinner sizzles with Smallman’s wit and warmth and French illustrator Dredemy’s striking and characterful artwork as we meet up again with Wolf, Hotpot the lamb and their pet crocodile Omelette one windy day when a little duck blows into Wolf’s backyard. Wolf and Hotpot call her Apple, and together they nurse her wonky wing back to health. But though she may be small, Apple is one plucky duck and it’s not long before she is flying to their rescue when Hotpot’s kite-flying adventure turns sky high. Smallman’s clever, comical and cautionary tale encourages young readers to challenge stereotypes and expectations, and look beyond the surface. The perfect book to share with your own special family and friends!

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age one plus:

Old Bear

Jane Hissey

Cuddle up close for the return of Jane Hissey’s beloved Old Bear with this newly refreshed teddy-bear classic which is perfect for sharing with little ones! Old Bear himself was given to Hissey by her grandmother when she was born and he has travelled the world with her, visiting schools, libraries and literary events, becoming increasingly worn and threadbare but still recognisable to millions of adoring readers. Old Bear tells the heartwarming tale of how a much-loved teddy bear is lost and finally found again. After Old Bear is packed away in a box in the attic, Bramwell Brown becomes determined to save his forgotten friend. And so, with the help of Little Bear, Duck, Rabbit and an assortment of other toys, he plans an ingenious rescue mission to save Old Bear from loneliness and bring him safely back home. Nostalgia and the warmth of true friendship shines out from each page in this beautiful paperback edition of Hissey’s adorable story. Stunning, photo-realistic artwork blends with a funny, reassuring text, making this a teddy bear tale to love and treasure forever.

(Templar Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age one plus:

Little Explorers: Goodnight Dinosaurs

Molly Littleboy and Jacob Souva

Sleepy babies and toddlers can’t help but pick up on the gentle rhythms of this gorgeous new board book in the delightful Little Explorers series which combines facts, fun and a beautiful verse with cut-out, peep-through pages… perfect to share at the bedtime wind-down. ‘Drift through the mountains, the sky blushing bright. Pass by the dinosaurs, wish them 'Goodnight'.’ Little ones will love saying goodnight to the sleepy dinosaurs as the sun sets and discovering fascinating facts about the different dinos as they drift through valleys, along rivers and over mountains. And watch little ones’ eyes start to close as the creatures of land and sea settle down for their night-time slumbers. Produced in a chunky format, these beautiful books have fun facts on every page about the dinosaurs they meet, and the horizon page has a twinkling and foiled, double-page spread to illuminate the bedtime journey. A beautiful, interactive lullaby of soothing words and pictures…

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £7.99)

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