Train terrors, inspiring poems and bookshop bliss - book review

Horrible Histories creator Terry Deary is on a thrilling ticket to ride, women's poems take centre stage, and classic book characters spring to life in an exciting round-up of autumn books for young readers.

Wednesday, 19th September 2018, 7:09 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th September 2018, 10:53 pm
Wiggotts Wonderful Waxworld: Terror Train by Terry Deary
Wiggotts Wonderful Waxworld: Terror Train by Terry Deary

Age 9 plus:

Wiggott’s Wonderful Waxworld: Terror Train by Terry Deary

Thrilling adventures, wicked wit and a slice of horrible history… it can only mean one thing!

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The incredible, the imaginative and the history-loving Terry Deary is back – and he’s taking us on an unforgettable, time-travelling train ride through danger, daring escapes and some of history’s most remarkable characters.

Deary, author of the phenomenally successful Horrible Histories books, is on top form in the brilliant new Wildpool series which delivers adventure stories full of thrills, chills, laughs and non-stop action.

Star of the show is Boy, the crime college’s best thief. He’s on a mission set by the Master Thief to perform ‘the steal of the century’ at Arfur Loaf’s mysterious glass tower factory in the dark and dismal town of Wildpool.

He gets away with the theft of the world’s most amazing phone – the infinit-G – but soon things aren’t going too well for Boy. Not only are the police looking for him but the rather worrying Arfur Loaf is on the warpath too. There’s also a mysterious girl who seems to be trapped inside the phone and is constantly giving him orders.

Now, Boy is more than capable of looking after himself but going to the weird back street Wiggott’s Wonderful Waxworld to deliver the package and lie low for a while might be the worst decision he has ever made.

Climbing aboard Waxworld’s Terror Train seemed the best way to evade capture by the police but the girl in the phone has discovered from the internet that visitors who boarded the train have started to disappear… never to be seen again.

Now Boy is time-travelling to some dangerous places and meeting some very dangerous people… notorious bodysnatchers Burke and Hare are after him, not to mention some vicious Vikings and pestilent pirates. All Boy has to do is get back to his own time, escape the Terror Train and rescue the girl in the phone… and all before it’s too late!

Wiggott’s Wonderful Waxworld is an exhilarating adventure story packed with Deary’s trademark historical nuggets, outrageous wit and a cast of brilliant characters, both real and fictional, from the entertaining oldies of Wildpool – better known as ‘The Ladies Who Crunch’ – to the daring boy-thief, everyone’s favourite pirate Bluebeard, and the explosive Guy Fawkes.

Throw in the old Norse king Odin, a cameo appearance by Charles Dickens and the delightfully named PC L.O. Elloe, and the stage is set for a series that will run and run not just from the law, but for miles of larks, laughter and devilish historical twists!

(Scholastic, paperback, £6.99)

Age 10 plus:

She is Fierce: Brave, Bold and Beautiful Poems by Women by Ana Sampson

In the year that celebrates the centenary of women’s suffrage, anthologist Ana Sampson brings us a breathtaking collection of poetry which is guaranteed to inspire a new generation of budding feminists.

Cleverly collated and brimming with the resonant voices of women poets from the past and present, and from all corners of the globe, these 150 powerful and impressively diverse poems are yet more proof that female poets speak loudly and eloquently, and are at the heart of literary life.

At a time when women’s equality is by no means done and dusted, Sampson highlights not just the beauty of women’s poetry but the fierce, brave and bold flame that burns brightly in their words as they take their rightful place in what for too long was regarded as the ‘male’ arena of literature.

Over the centuries, many women have written poems but didn’t dare publish them, and others, like George Eliot and the Bronte sisters, published their work under male pseudonyms.

It was also felt that women should stick to certain subjects like family, friendship, dutiful religion, and the prettier corners of nature but in the poems gathered here by Sampson, we find meditations on every possible subject, including science, the universe, politics, protest, body image, myths, mental health, war and displacement.

From classic, well-loved poets like Emily Dickinson, Dorothy Parker and Maya Angelou to innovative and the bold modern voices of poets like Hollie McNish, Jackie Kay and Emergency Poet Deborah Alma, this stunning gift book is packed full of women who deserve to be heard time and time again.

Immerse yourself in poems from British-Indian writer Nikita Gill, Wendy Cope, Ysra Daley-Ward, Emily Bronte, Carol Ann Duffy, Fleur Adcock, Liz Berry, Imtiaz Dharker, Helen Dunmore, Mary Oliver, Christina Rossetti and Margaret Atwood, and hear the words of suffragettes, schoolgirls, superstars, civil rights activists, aristocratic ladies and kitchen maids.

Sampson, author of many bestselling anthologies such as Poems to Learn by Heart, Green and Pleasant Land and Best-Loved Poems: A Treasury of Verse, includes brief biographies of all the poets making this the perfect package for budding poets and all lovers of inspirational verse.

(Macmillan, hardback, £12.99)

Age 9 plus:

Pages & Co: Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James

Imagine the thrill of heading off on amazing adventures with all your classic storybook favourites!

Anna James, a London-based author and journalist, lets her imagination take flight in her wonderful debut novel, the first book in what promises to be an exciting and inspirational trilogy for middle grade readers.

At the centre of this standout novel is a young girl who lives with her grandparents at an enchanting bookshop. It’s a place of magic, mystery and discovery… the author’s personal homage to all the bookshops she has visited, and a celebration of everything she loves about books.

Since her mother’s disappearance shortly after she was born, eleven-year-old Tilly Pages has lived above her grandparents’ bookshop, Pages & Co, and found comfort in reading stories.

But when her favourite characters, Anne of Green Gables and Alice from Wonderland, start appearing in the shop, Tilly’s adventures suddenly become very real. Not only can she follow Anne and Alice into their thrilling worlds, she discovers she can also ‘bookwander’ into any story she chooses.

Tilly’s new gift could even help her solve the mystery of what happened to her mother Beatrice all those years ago. But the mysterious Enoch Chalk is always lurking nearby and danger could be on the very next page…

James delivers the perfect reading adventure package… thrills, spills and chills, a brilliant cast of characters, and a dream bookshop setting that comes complete with roaring fire, old-fashioned leather chairs and the seductive smell of freshly-baked cakes wafting from the in-house café.

Brave and resourceful Tilly is an inspirational heroine and her fantastical ‘bookwandering’ is sure to capture the imagination of readers young and old. And with everyone’s favourite books just waiting to be explored, this trilogy looks set to become not just a winner, but a future classic.

(Harper Collins Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 9 plus:

Goth Girl and the Sinister Symphony by Chris Riddell

If music be the food of ghastly ghosts, then play on Ada Goth!

Gothic fantasy for young readers doesn’t come better than this beautifully illustrated and award-winning series from artist, political cartoonist and former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell.

Welcome to the final book in the award-winning and beautifully illustrated Goth Girl series from artist, political cartoonist and former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell.

The deliciously dark adventures of quirky Ada Goth pay homage to the outlandish, adventuresome style of Alice in Wonderland and the stars of other literary classics whilst offering a more contemporary and knowing way of looking at the world.

And this new book – with its glittery cover – is another classic, filled with a winning goth combination of music, mayhem, fashion and zombies, and Riddell’s wry humour and richly detailed illustrations.

Summer has come to Ghastly-Gorm Hall and Lord Goth is throwing a music festival to celebrate. Musicians from throughout the land are desperate to be included in the line-up but who will be the headline act of ‘Gothstock’?

Ada is very excited despite the inconvenient distraction of her grandmother’s desperate attempts to find her father a fashionable new wife and the fact that she has a faun called Shaun living in her wardrobe. It also appears that Maltravers, the indoor gamekeeper and outdoor butler, is up to his old money-making tricks. Ada, with the help of her Attic Club friends, must make sure everything goes to plan, and luckily even more assistance is at hand from a very interesting house guest…

Riddell’s outstanding black and white illustrations have a wonderfully nostalgic feel and bring to life this gloriously anarchic tale… the final flourish of a series that has won the hearts of both children and parents alike.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Anty Hero by Barry Hutchison

Award-winning children's author and screenwriter Barry Hutchison moves into comedy overdrive for a wonderfully offbeat new school adventure featuring bullies, bugs and a hilarious hero.

Featuring talented Tom Percival’s lively black and white illustrations, Anty Hero comes from innovative publisher Barrington Stoke and has been specially created in a super readable format for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers.

Ant isn’t like many other boys. His clothes are always dirty, there are often bugs in his hair and he doesn’t even know anything about footie.

But what really sets him apart is what’s hiding behind the ginormous sunglasses that he refuses to ever take off. And when his science teacher catches a glimpse behind the oversized green lenses, Ant is in grave danger.

Can his new friends Zac and Tulisa, along with an army of tiny helpers, save the day?

Hutchison’s debut for Barrington Stoke is a feast of entertainment, serving up fun, zany comedy, amazing insects and some important life messages.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £5.99)

Age 7 plus:

The Royal Rabbits of London: The Great Diamond Chase by Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore

Husband and wife team Santa and Simon Sebag Montefiore have combined their considerable writing talents again for the third book in their outrageously entertaining Royal Rabbits of London series.

And the exciting news is that the 20th Century Fox animation of the books is moving ahead as a hybrid-animated live-action feature film with Will Davies confirmed to write the script.

The Montefiores are renowned storytellers whose books have been published all over the world. Santa pens popular women’s novels and her husband writes both fiction and non-fiction, but this exciting children’s book collaboration has won the hearts of both youngsters and their parents.

These terrific, high-octane adventures are set in a secret society of rabbits living under Buckingham Palace. Our hero rabbits are Special Forces commando Thumper rabbits who get caught up in conspiracies which pit them against evil rodent enemies like the Ratzis.

In his daring new adventure, little rabbit Shylo Tawny-Tail and his friends must track down the Siberian Diamond, the biggest, most beautiful diamond in the whole world, which has been stolen from Buckingham Palace.

Nobody knows how the sneaky thief managed to take the Siberian Diamond from right under the Queen’s nose – but Shylo and the brave Royal Rabbits of London will do whatever it takes to solve the case and return the jewel to its rightful place.

They discover that Russia’s elite sharp-toothed secret-agent minks are in London… could they have anything to do with the theft? But nothing is quite what it seems and the Royal Rabbits soon realise they might need a bit of help from an old friend to solve this mystery...

The non-stop action in this exciting and beautifully imagined world of heroic rabbits and dirty rats, which seduces with its air of nostalgia and chivalric charm, is brought to life by the lively, atmospheric illustrations of Kate Hindley.

Even the smallest rabbit can be the biggest hero in this enchanting and inspirational series which speaks loudly to children about challenging your fears, following your instincts and learning how empowering it can be to fight for what’s right, however dangerous that may be.

With its gorgeous foiled jacket, fabulous illustrations and the promise of another adventure next year, this is the perfect gift for readers young and old.

(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £10.99)

Age 7 plus:

Stay Strong! And Be Brave! Mindful Kids by Dr Sharie Coombes and Katie Abey (illustrator)

In our busy, pressured world, feelings of anxiety, stress and anger have become increasingly prevalent and it’s not just adults who struggle to cope.

Many schools are now introducing mindful techniques to the classroom in an effort to deal with childhood stress, anxiety and bullying, and to complement this project, Studio Press have published two new sensitively created activity books in their Mindful Kids series.

Written by Dr Sharie Coombes, a child and family psychotherapist, and with a helpful introduction and notes for grown-ups, the activity books combine mindful activities with Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Both books feature the charming and quirky illustrations of Katie Abey with the pictures helping to keep young readers entertained and focused as they work through the books, or they can simply dip into the pages for ten minutes of calm colouring.

Stay Strong! has been specifically developed for youngsters who are experiencing bullying, allowing them to colour and doodle their way through emotions tied to being bullied and building resilience.

The encouraging and simple activities and exercises tackle the feelings of being bullied, teased and overwhelmed. Children will enjoy using their creativity to combat negative feelings and work out how to cope with these emotions through writing, colouring, doodling and drawing.

Be Brave! is ideal for children who sometimes feel scared or afraid, helping them to feel calm, safe and in control of their fears. The activities and exercises tackle phobias and feelings of fear, encouraging children to work out why they feel scared and put fear back in its place through writing, colouring, doodling and drawing.

With an introduction and notes aimed at both children and adults, support organisation contact numbers and websites for children who are being bullied, lots of discussion points, and a fantastic range of activities, these books are ideal for both at home and at school.

This imaginative, important and immensely constructive series also includes No Worries, Hello Happy and Stay Strong.

(Studio Press, paperback, £8.99 each)

Age 5 plus:

Nice Work for the Cat and the King by Nick Sharratt

When you’re a king, you shouldn’t have to worry about paying the bills… good job then that the canny cat has his paws on the royal purse strings!

Welcome back to the second book in award-winning author and illustrator Nick Sharratt’s wonderfully quirky The Cat and the King series which turns the whole concept of power play on its head.

Using laugh-out-loud humour and an irresistible two-tone illustration palette, Sharratt serves up another clever comedy double act featuring a lovable, child-like king and his smarter-than-smart cat.

After an unfortunate incident with a dragon, the king had to leave his palace and move to Number 37 Castle Close where his faithful and exceedingly clever cat is now introducing him to all sorts of new experiences.

However, the Royal Money Box is almost empty and the king must earn some money, but what kind of job would be fit for a king? What about being a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker? Problem is that the king is only good at making speeches, cutting ribbons and walking on red carpets.

It will take many comical disasters, and a surprisingly helpful visit from a fire-breathing dragon, before both cat and king find their perfect jobs.

Sharratt is on his wittiest and most entertaining form in this fabulous follow-up romp which serves up a feast of madcap escapades, a deliciously droll dragon and some mouth-watering food, including a recipe for your own gingerbread cats.

Canine capers and right royal laughs!

(Scholastic, paperback, £6.99)