Fantasy worlds, famous explorers and a very long dog

The Black Amulet by J.R. Wallis
The Black Amulet by J.R. Wallis
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There’s magic, adventure and lots of knockabout fun as a new and exciting selection of children’s books heads for the bookshelves… and a new school term.

Age 9 plus:

The Black Amulet by J.R. Wallis

Welcome back to the Badlands, a hidden world of ethereal shapeshifters and creatures that should exist only in fairy tales… and nightmares.

The ordinary and the extraordinary merge together with thrilling visual intensity in this magical new story in J.R. Wallis’ middle grade adventure series which centres on a fabulous fantasy world and harnesses the universal appeal of Abi Elphinstone and Joseph Delaney’s Lancashire-based Spook books.

After training as an apprentice monster hunter, Jones was reunited with his parents and is finally living the ‘normal’ life he has always wanted. But, despite leaving behind the Badlands world of ogres, trolls and all manner of creatures, there is still magic inside him.

His two friends, Ruby and Thomas Gabriel, are struggling with their new lives too. Thomas’s magical abilities are fading away and Ruby is realising that she might never be accepted as a ‘proper’ Badlander in a world of monster-hunting men.

One thing could help them all… the Black Amulet, a magical artefact hidden for centuries by the most powerful Badlander that ever lived. But finding it won’t be easy, and using it even harder, because things are never simple when magic is involved...

There is menace and drama aplenty in this thrilling and atmospheric story which creates an enthralling other-world and populates it with an extraordinary cast of supernatural beings inspired by folklore and Anglo-Saxon mythology.

With an imaginative glossary of Badlander terms to guide readers through the darkness and danger, a plot packed with twists and turns, gripping action and inspirational friendships, this is middle grade fiction at its most exciting best.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Good Knight, Bad Knight and the Big Game by Tom Knight

Author and illustrator Tom Knight, the magical master of gloriously comical picture books and the creator of Good Knight, Bad Knight, returns with a hilarious new middle grade series starring those charismatic rival knights.

From danger and drama to rhymes and laugh-out-loud adventures, this is an entertaining and time-honoured fiction formula that will delight both children and parents.

Berkley Paggle is a bad knight and his cousin Godwin is a good knight. At least that’s the way things used to be. Last term Berk defeated a dragon with his troll-breath stink bomb in a jousting match and when he comes back to school, he discovers that his dragon-battling abilities have made him the most popular kid in class.

Berk loves the attention and joins the school bladderball team so he can hang out with the cool knights. Berk lets his popularity go to his head and doesn’t have time for Godwin and his best friend Warrick any more… until Godwin discovers that Warrick is dabbling in dark magic and needs Berk’s help.

Brimming with Knight’s lively, high-energy illustrations and a madcap story that delivers, spills, thrills, laughs and mishaps, this is the perfect series for mischievous youngsters and an appealing adventure for reluctant readers.

(Templar Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Cook’s Cook by Gavin Bishop

Award-winning New Zealand illustrator Gavin Bishop sweeps young readers away to life on the ocean wave with famous explorer Captain James Cook in a fascinating, fact-packed picture book.

Cook might have been at the helm of HMS Endeavour but down in the galley, the ship’s one-handed cook John Thompson was firmly in charge and this 250th anniversary celebration of an epic voyage explores just how he fed a shipful of hungry sailors.

In 1768 Cook set sail on a legendary voyage to the South Pacific with a crew of 94 men including the resourceful cook John Thompson. And it’s Thompson who is our narrator as we learn about his shipboard life, the exotic places they visit on the way to the Pacific, and his friendship with the famous botanist Joseph Banks. The wily Thompson also shares some of his extraordinary recipes like Pease Porridge, Shark Steaks, Albatross Stew, Poor Knight’s Pudding and Dog and Breadfruit Stew.

Through real recipes from the ship’s galley and events on board, Cook’s Cook tells multiple stories… of social class, hierarchy and race, of explorers and the people of the land and the story of one of the world’s most famous explorers told through a fresh new lens.

A feast of food, facts and history…

(Gecko Press, hardback, £11.99)

Age 5 plus:

Big Trouble for Nellie Choc-Ice by Jeremy Strong and Jamie Smith

Adorable Macaroni Penguin Nellie Choc-Ice makes a welcome comeback in a wild and wacky new adventure that sees her all at sea and longing for home.

Big Trouble for Nellie Choc-Ice is the knockabout-funny follow-up to Nellie Choc-Ice Penguin Explorer from the award-winning Jeremy Strong, the master of comic writing for children, and talented illustrator Jamie Smith, and the latest super-readable Little Gem from innovative publisher Barrington Stoke.

The Little Gems series brings together leading authors and illustrators, and a host of clever design and finishing techniques, to create easy-to-read books in a chunky format ideal for little hands, and with some extra reading, jokes and activity fun hiding inside the jacket flaps.

When Captain Beardy-Beard and his submarine rescue accident-prone Nellie Choc-Ice from the North Pole, she is more than ready to be returned safe and sound to her home in the South Pole. But mistakes and trouble are never far from Nellie, and when the submarine runs out of fuel in the docks of New York, Captain Beardy-Beard and his crew are a prime target for a hijacking! Looks like Nellie Choc-Ice is in trouble again and this time it’s Big Apple trouble!

Whether your child is a new, struggling, reluctant or dyslexic reader, this wonderful Little Gem story could be just what they are looking for. Jamie Smith’s gallery of bright, colourful and suitably anarchic illustrations are the perfect foil for a story full of adventure, giggles and fascinating penguin facts.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Long Dog by James Davies

Everybody longs to have a dog of their own… but what if it’s a very long dog?

Author and illustrator James Davies has fun in his laugh-out-loud debut picture book which stars a boy and his friendship with a pet dog that just won’t stop growing. Illustrated throughout in a uniquely bold, graphic style influenced by old cartoons and retro picture books, Long Dog will capture everyone’s hearts.

Meet Long Dog. He’s not skinny, or tall, or scruffy… he’s long and he and his proud owner James like it that way. Mum and Dad aren’t so sure, especially when Long Dog gets stuck in the cat flap or in the drain pipe. Long Dog may be weird, but James doesn’t see it that way; he just sees his best ever friend. Being long is awesome, even if nobody else thinks so. It means spaghetti hugs and extra-long walks. Luckily, the other pets in the park don’t seem so perfect either and when they mysteriously go missing, there’s only one dog in the whole world who is long enough to rescue them.

Davies’s simple but powerful story uses humour and appealing pictures to add energy and vibrancy to a joyful tale about friendship, difference and loyalty.

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £11.99)

Age 2 plus:

Tom’s Magnificent Machines by Linda Sarah and Ben Mantle

The power of the imagination and the unbreakable bond of love between a father and son ring out loud and true in a moving and enchanting picture book from Linda Sarah and Ben Mantle.

Incredible inventions and the mutual support between the generations become an extravaganza of words and pictures as Sarah’s gentle narrative and Mantle’s beautifully expressive illustrations combine in a heartfelt story.

Tom and his dad are good at making things. Their inventions start out simple, but they quickly become bigger, faster, crazier… and they almost always involve wheels. But then Dad loses his job and everything changes. Sadness seems to cloud their home like a winter sky. Tom knows he has to do something and he comes up with a brilliant plan that takes their amazing vehicle inventions and creates something astounding, something the world has never seen before … a Museum of Vehicles Made From Things Not Usually Used For Making Vehicles. But when disaster strikes, they will have to put their thinking caps on again…

An emotionally charged and highly imaginative book that explores themes of love and support between children and their parents, Tom’s Magnificent Machines is also great fun, with incredible inventions, crazy contraptions and a wonderfully inspiring pioneering spirit at its heart.

Sarah’s magical and excitingly inventive story – brought to glorious life by Mantle’s richly detailed illustrations – comes packed with emotion and wisdom, but it also delivers a fun-filled adventure featuring some of the wackiest and most wonderful contraptions in the world!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Fearless Mirabelle by Katie Haworth and Nila Aye

Identical twins are… well, identical, but they are also very, very different!

Katie Haworth and Nila Aye celebrate our individuality in a warm, wise and funny picture book starring adorable twin sisters Mirabelle and Meg Moffat as they get ready to join their parents’ daring circus act.

Mirabelle and Meg’s mum and dad are famous acrobats. Like her parents, Mirabelle is fearless and promises to be the most topsy-turvy, upside down acrobat of all. Her twin Meg doesn’t like balancing and climbing… she would much rather talk, read and go swimming. It turns out that Meg is afraid of heights, but is her lively sister Mirabelle afraid of anything? With the new grand show opening, Meg might be about to find out.

With its circus setting and quirky, adorable twin stars, Fearless Mirabelle is an exuberant and inspirational story which explores how we can all use our very different talents.

Haworth delivers important messages through a fun and lively story set against a thrilling circus backdrop while Aye’s seductive palette of ‘retro modern’ illustrations add special charm and atmosphere.

A class act from a top team…

(Templar Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

It All Began When I Said Yes by Simon Philip and Annabel Tempest

Yes, no, maybe…

Author Simon Philip and illustrator Annabel Tempest go to town (and back!) with a picture book filled with fun, wordplay and very large gorilla.

Sometimes saying yes is a brilliant thing but not for one little girl whose mum and dad are fed up with her saying no all the time. You can meet new people, discover amazing things and go on exciting adventures when you say yes… particularly when an oversized gorilla named Gideon shows up at your house with lots of questions and some very strange requests. It’s Gideon’s birthday and he wants lots of balloons, a tower of paper plates, a mountain of jelly and a bucket-load of bananas. ‘Yes’ is leading to big, big trouble… is it time to start saying no again? Maybe…

Simon Philip’s child-friendly story has all those ingredients that little ones love – madcap antics, gorilla-sized giggles and a mountain of mischief – and all brought to bright and beautiful life by Annabel Tempest’s gorgeous illustrations.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Magical Pets: A Practical Guide by Anya Glazer

Pets come in all shapes and sizes… but how do you look after a fire-breathing dragon?

Debut author and illustrator Anya Glazer lets her imagination take flight in this enchanting and magical picture book about the most colourful and amazing pets you could think of!

If you could have any pet in the universe, what would you choose? A dragon, perhaps, or a three- headed dog? Maybe you’d go for a vampire bunny or two? But choosing is the easy bit… because how on earth are you going to look after it?

Little ones will love this quirky, fun-filled and witty story about choosing and caring for magical pets, and finding out what unicorn poo looks like!

Glazer, who likes to incorporate humour and wordplay into her books, uses a palette of soft colour, rich detail and a fascinating menagerie of weird and wonderful pets in a story that is as gently moving as it is entertaining.

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £6.99)