Books review: Hotel capers, dead famous women and incredible germs

The Nothing to See Here Hotel by Steven Butler and Steven Lenton
The Nothing to See Here Hotel by Steven Butler and Steven Lenton
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There are plenty of thrills, spills and chills in a colourful and entertaining selection of new books for children.

Check in at wacky hotel for magical creatures, follow a witch’s spellbinding adventures, meet a girl with a cold (and a bad bout of the giggles!), and get up close to the nature in your garden.

Age 6 plus:

The Nothing to See Here Hotel by Steven Butler and Steven Lenton

You can check out any time you like from The Nothing to See Here Hotel, but you can never leave without laughing!

Welcome to an unforgettable hotel, an amazing place for magical creatures and a place where weird is normal for fun-loving troll boy Frankie Banister and his truly extraordinary parents.

Frankie’s outrageously funny and madcap adventures are just the first course of a deliciously offbeat new series from inventive author Steven Butler and illustrator extraordinaire Steven Lenton who together bring to life a cast of the wackiest characters imaginable.

From trolls, goblins and harpies to witches, puddle-nymphs and bogrunts, the guests at The Nothing to See Here Hotel are a gruesome bunch and their hilarious antics will have youngsters begging mums and dads to make an immediate booking!

Frankie’s story began when his great-great-great-grandad Abraham Banister fell madly in love with troll girl Regurgita Glump (she’s still alive because trolls live hundreds of years!) and they married in the sewers under Brighton high street.

Fast forward a hundred years and here is Frankie… his dad Bargeous is a Halfling, his mum Rani is completely human, and Frankie is a quarterling (his pointy ears and copper-coloured eyes are the only outward signs of his troll blood).

Their hotel is the best secret holiday destination for magical creatures in the whole of England which makes for the strangest guest list. So when a goblin messenger arrives at the hotel, announcing the imminent arrival of the goblin prince Grogbah, Frankie and his family rush into action to get ready for their important guest.

But it soon becomes obvious that the Banister family are going to have their work cut out with the demanding prince and his never-ending entourage, especially when it turns out the rude little prince is hiding a secret...

Expect room service with a difference as you enter through the doors of a wonderfully imagined and creative world in which humour, adventure and the totally bizarre taking leading roles. And the good news is that the second book in the series is coming to a shelf near you this autumn!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 12 plus:

Amazing Women: 101 Lives to Inspire You by Lucy Beevor and Sarah Green

One hundred years after women in Britain won the right to vote, Stripes Publishing – noted for their lively accessible children’s books – have gathered together the inspirational stories of 101 extraordinary women.

This unique collection of female pioneers places a special focus on British women as well as celebrating international figures from the past and present who have made their mark on history.

Covering amazing women from the 1860s right through to more contemporary high achievers, the book brings us those who have accomplished inspirational feats in in science, politics, sport and the arts.

Creatively written and curated by Lucy Beevor, and illustrated throughout by Sarah Green, we learn about the lives and achievements of women including JK Rowling, Rosalind Franklin, Edith Cavell, Marie Curie, Mother Teresa, Angela Merkel and Emmeline Pankhurst.

With sections highlighting pioneers, campaigners, leaders, activists, creators, virtuosos, trailblazers, young talent and inspiring voices, this beautifully packaged book offers factual and objective overviews of the achievements of women, encouraging young readers to do further research and to use critical thinking to draw their own conclusions on the legacies of the different women.

Amazing Women makes an important contribution to this milestone year for women by celebrating the remarkable contributions women have made to our society, and encouraging youngsters to become that yet to be discovered 101st woman who becomes the next fantastic female!

(Stripes, hardback, £12.99)

Age 9 plus:

Corpse Talk: Ground-Breaking Women by Adam and Lisa Murphy

And extraordinary women from the past also take a starring role in the second ‘dead entertaining’ book from Adam and Lisa Murphy in a brilliant series which brings youngsters history straight from the corpse’s mouth!

In this new outing, TV chat show host Adam Murphy digs up the dry bones of history to interview the dead famous women who changed the world.

Written and illustrated in a comic-strip format – and packed with comedy and fascinating facts – Corpse Talk comes from the increasingly successful The Phoenix Presents series, published by David Fickling in partnership with The Phoenix comic.

In each book, versatile cartoon character Adam Murphy gets the answers to tricky questions about the world and its history by bringing the ‘dead famous’ to life for a special question and answer session. How did Elizabeth I smash the Spanish Armada? How did Anne Frank’s diary help her deal with despair? Was Ching Shih the world’s coolest pirate queen?

There are over 120 pages of cheeky humour, discoveries and surprises to enjoy in this educational and yet hugely entertaining book which has been rather aptly compared to ‘having history injected into your brain.’

Clever, comical, informative and brilliantly illustrated, this wonderful book achieves what many youngsters thought almost impossible… it makes learning laugh-out-loud fun!

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £9.99)

Age 8 plus:

A Witch Alone by James Nicol

In the second book of James Nicol’s enchanting Apprentice Witch series, clever young witch Arianwyn faces the toughest spell of her career

Fifteen-year-old Arianwyn is now a fully qualified witch but is discovering that magic is never easy. The Hex has driven all sorts of supernatural creatures out of the Great Wood, some harmless and others positively dark. The Spellorium has never been so busy!

During a holiday in Kingsport, Arianwyn is recruited by the High Elder for a dangerous mission… to retrieve the Book of Quiet Glyphs from its hiding place in the Great Wood. But as she returns home to Lull, feyling refugees gather outside the town walls and Hex plagues the forest.

As tensions lead to fall-outs with her friends, town squabbles and magical mishaps, Arianwyn faces a sobering truth… she alone can find the Book, and wield its secrets.

There’s magic aplenty in this sparkling series which has certainly cast a spell over young readers. Packed with warmth and humanity, and starring the bewitching Arianwyn and her exciting, action-packed, adventures, Nicol’s fantasy adventure series offers that irresistible blend of danger, mystery and magic.

(Chicken House, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Free Lance and the Dragon’s Hoard by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

Here it is… the epic last chapter of Paul Stewart and former UK Children's Laureate Chris Riddell’s Free Lance trilogy which is not just a rip-roaring medieval adventure but a key to help children unlock the love of reading.

Printed on heavy paper in two colours – black for the text and yellow Pantone® for the page background – this book from Barrington Stoke has been specially designed to be dyslexia-friendly by reducing the contrast between text and paper.

Following on from Free Lance and the Lake of Skulls and Free Lance and the Field of Blood, this final story offers the same seductive blend of high octane action and tongue-in-cheek humour on every page.

It should have been an easy job for Free Lance… protect the wealthy merchant and his jewels on a journey home, nothing out of the ordinary. But Free Lance ends up with a lot more than he bargained for when the villagers cry dragon. Can he save the beautiful damsel in distress and live to fight another day?

Filled with thrills, spills and fabulous illustrations, this is a fantastic finale to a terrific trilogy.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Alice Dent and the Incredible Germs by Gwen Lowe

If you thought getting a cold was miserable, then check out what happens to poor Alice Dent when she starts to sneeze!

Gwen Lowe, a consultant in Communicable Disease Control for Public Health Wales, digs deep into her doctor’s bag of tricks for Alice Dent and the Incredible Germs, a brilliantly funny and inventive debut novel which melds fascinating medical facts with wicked humour and an all-action adventure.

Lowe has cleverly worked her knowledge of germs and viruses into a quirky, fun-filled story featuring a bizarre cast of characters, dastardly deeds and heartwarming friendships.

When 11-year-old Alice Dent from the town of Knott Sowell gets a cold, she has no idea how much trouble it’s about to cause. First of all, her very weird parents – who don’t much like children anyway because they are always picking their ‘crusty little noses’ – have a phobia about germs.

Over her lifetime, Alice has had so many baths and showers that she is surprised she hasn’t shrunk. Her mother likes to keep everything ‘shipshape and Bristol fashion’ and her father is a zealot when it comes to law and order.

But even more worrying for Alice is the fact this cold is no ordinary cold. It has come with some seriously strange side-effects… she can’t stop giggling and every animal she meets sticks to her like glue.

And when the mysterious Best Minister for Everything Nicely Perfect and his scary masked henchmen come to take her away, Alice realises that her troubles are only just beginning …

Alice Dent and the Incredible Germs is simply bursting with quirky charm, real-life science and a brand of dry, dark humour that will have all the family giggling from the first sneeze to the last gasp finale!

(Chicken House, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

PramBusters! by Anne Fine and Vicki Gausden

If your youngsters are struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers, this Little Gem of a book could be just what they are looking for.

The Little Gems series by publishers Barrington Stoke brings together top children’s authors and illustrators and a host of clever design and finishing techniques to create super readable books in a chunky format ideal for little hands, and with some extra reading fun hiding inside the jacket flaps.

The latest book in the series, PramBusters!, celebrates the vivid imagination of children as prize-winning author Anne Fine delivers a story full of warmth and wit and illustrator Vicki Gausden brings the action to life with a gallery of beautiful artwork.

When the rain threatens to ruin the fun at summer camp, Malik and his friends are tasked with inventing a pram that any baby would love. But when ideas start flowing, tensions run high and it turns out that not everyone agrees on exactly what a baby would need. Only the PramBusters can sort out this one!

The perfect way to make reading fun for everyone!

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Bug Hotel and Bird House by Libby Walden and Clover Robin

Let your little ones get up close to nature in two stunning lift-the-flap board books written by popular author Libby Walden and illustrated by exciting artist and designer Clover Robin.

Bug Hotel and Bird House, two Clover Robin Books of Nature, combine enchanting, informative illustrations with lots of bite-sized, easy-to-understand facts, making them the ideal introduction to garden bugs and birds.

At the Bug Hotel, youngsters lift the flaps to find a wonderful selection of bugs and the home-made habitats where creepy crawlies of all shapes and sizes can find a place to stay. Discover how a bug hotel can create a sustainable, safe environment for insects and mini-beasts by exploring each section, lifting the flaps and finding out facts about favourite garden insects.

And in the Bird House, we find home-made habitats where birds can safely rest and nest. Bird houses come in all shapes and sizes, designed to suit all different types of birds. Discover how bird houses can provide much-needed shelter, explore how we can help our gardens to become more bird-friendly and lift the flaps to find out more about your favourite feathered friends.

With instructions on how to make your own bug hotel and lots to learn about on every page, these books are ideal for both home and school, and will encourage children to take a closer look at the amazing world of nature.

(Caterpillar Books, board books, £8.99 each)

Age 2 plus:

Ziggy and the Moonlight Show by Kristyna Litten

Stripes are all the fashion in this warm, moving and enchanting new picture book from Yorkshire-based author and illustrator Kristyna Litten.

Animals, birds, colours, patterns and shapes all take centre stage as an exotic hoopoe bird – with its distinctive striped wings and eye-catching crest – hunts for her lost chick with the help of Ziggy the zebra.

All week long Ziggy looks forward to the spectacular Moonlight Show on Saturday night. But this Saturday she discovers that a stripy bird has lost her chick and immediately offers to help. Each time they think they have found the missing chick, the black and white shapes in the reeds turns out to be a chorus of croaking frogs, the stripes in the grass belong to a scary snake and the stripes in the tree are on a sleepy tiger. Lost in a dark forest and far from home, Ziggy starts to wonder whether she and the bird will ever find the lost chick. And how will they find their way back in time for the magical Moonlight Show?

This beautiful search-and-find story – filled with gorgeous illustrations in pastel shades of blue and terracotta, and striking black and white – has real child appeal with its cosy, caring, sharing warmth and seductive sense of mystery and adventure.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Poor Little Rabbit! by Jörg Mühle

When little rabbit has a fall, he’s going to need readers to get him back on his feet again!

Toddlers will love helping to take care of a tearful little animal in this beautifully illustrated interactive board book from German author and illustrator Jörg Mühle.

Poor Little Rabbit! is the follow-up to Tickle My Ears and Bathtime for Little Rabbit, and comes from Gecko Press, an independent publisher of ‘curiously good’ children’s books based in Wellington, New Zealand.

Gecko Press are on a mission to translate works by some of the world’s best writers and illustrators. By championing eclectic stories, rich in language and illustration and with a strong ‘heart factor,’ it aims to encourage children to love to read.

In this appealing new board book, we find Little Rabbit has hurt his arm, and there’s blood! Young readers will have to blow on it gently three times, cover it with a plaster and recite a rhyme… but, oh no, he’s still crying. Will giving his ears a stroke and wiping his tears finally make Little Rabbit better?

With its gentle, appealing story, interactive fun and adorable illustrations, this clever, captivating book speaks volumes to youngsters who like to play their part at story time!

(Gecko Press, board book, £6.99)