Book reviews: Make the school holidays special with these top reads
In PICKING PICKLE (Pavilion, £6.99) adorable Pickle has lived at the dogs’ home for longer than anyone else so he’s keen to help visitors choose the best canine companion. Will it be handsome Geraldo, toothy Matilda or clever Dumpling? Polly Faber’s sparkling text is brought to life by Clara Vulliamy’s enchanting illustrations.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came To Tea and the gorgeous THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA PARTY BOOK (HarperCollins, £9.99) has everything you need to host a fun-packed children’s tea party including invitations, stickers, games, paper chains, bunting, recipes and even a “pin the tail on the tiger” poster.
ROSA DRAWS (words & pictures, £11.99) will inspire young children to pick up a pencil or pen and start drawing. Jordan Wray’s book charts the adventures of a little girl whose imagination runs riot as she draws everything from a peacock in socks to a naughty giraffe. The problem is the surface she’s drawn them on. How will her mum react when she finds out? Coralie longs to join the circus but her juggling tricks aren’t up to scratch. So when the ringmaster decides she’s the right size to be a human cannonball, she agrees to give it a go, encouraged by a friendly lion.
Grace Easton’s CANNONBALL CORALIE AND THE LION (Lincoln Children’s Books, £11.99) is a heart-warming tale about the importance of friendship and standing up for yourself.
A HOUSE THAT ONCE WAS (Two Hoots, £12.99) by Julie Fogliano is an evocative tale of a long-abandoned house and the mysteries within, brought to life by Lane Smith’s stunning and atmospheric illustrations.
In THE COOK AND THE KING by Julia Donaldson and David Roberts (Macmillan, £11.99), the author of The Gruffalo returns with the tale of a hungry but fussy king and a nervous cook called Wobbly Bob. With her trademark jaunty rhymes, Donaldson tells an endearing tale of team spirit.
THE STATION MOUSE by Meg McLaren (Andersen Press, £11.99) is the endearing story of Maurice the Mouse who works in Lost Property in a busy train station. He keeps a low profi le because humans aren’t over-keen on mice but he bravely breaks the rules when he sets about reuniting a sad little boy with his comfort blanket.
OLDER NOT WISER (HarperCollins, £8.99) is the first in Sophy Henn’s hilarious new Bad Nana series. Seven-year-old Jeanie’s grandma is always up to mischief, whether disrupting the line-dancing club or causing havoc on a school trip. Bad Nana is irrepressible, with jet-black hair, enormous sparkly glasses and a gigantic handbag, and this stunning book illustrated in zingy pink and green is a delight from start to finish. Meanwhile, crossed telephone wires cause chaos in THE GREAT TELEPHONE MIX-UP (Little Gems, £6.99) when a small village is struck by a thunderstorm and all the phone lines go dead.
Sally Nicholls’s easy-to-read tale is a salutary reminder of community spirit and lending a helping hand. Stage-struck eight-year-olds and up will enjoy THE SWISH OF THE CURTAIN (Pushkin Press, £6.99). This new edition of a much-loved classic tells the story of seven children who launch a theatre company in a disused church hall. They write their own scripts, design the sets and costumes and take on all the acting roles. Pamela Brown was only 14 when she wrote this captivating tale, typing her manuscript on a battered old typewriter with two fingers and following it up with four more books about the intrepid thespians.
Be careful what you wish for. That’s the simple premise behind David Baddiel’s BIRTHDAY BOY (HarperCollins, £6.99). Sam Green’s 11th birthday is so amazing that he wishes it could be his birthday every day. But when the impossible happens and his birthday arrives day after day he starts to have second thoughts. Billed as Agatha Christie meets Harry Potter, THE LAST CHANCE HOTEL (Chicken House, £6.99) is an entertaining whodunnit. Downtrodden kitchen boy Seth works in a hotel in the middle of nowhere and only has one friend, a black cat called Nightshade.
When a group of magicians arrive for dinner, VIP guest Dr Thallomius is poisoned by Seth’s special dessert. Innocent Seth is the main suspect – how can he clear his name? Nicki Thornton’s debut novel is wonderfully atmospheric with a cast of eccentric characters. Jacqueline Wilson has written some of the most memorable characters in children’s fiction, from Tracy Beaker to Hetty Feather. In ROSE RIVERS (Doubleday, £12.99), young Rose has everything money can buy yet she still isn’t satisfied.
Then a new nursemaid arrives and Rose finds a true friend. Illustrated by Nick Sharratt, this book skilfully blends Wilson’s warmth and wisdom with a vivid picture of life in Victorian times. David Walliams is back with 10 stories about the worst children ever. THE WORLD’S WORST CHILDREN 3 (HarperCollins, £14.99) opens with the tale of terrible triplets who get their comeuppance in a stomach-churning way. With glorious illustrations by Tony Ross and a cut-out medal to give to the worst child ever, young readers will roar with laughter at Walliams’s grossly inventive tales.
Cursed Morrigan Crow is rescued from imminent death by the charismatic Jupiter North and whisked to safety in the magical land of Nevermoor. But she can stay only if she discovers a unique talent and wins a place in the secretive Wundrous Society. Readers with a Harry Potter-shaped hole in their lives will be captivated by NEVERMOOR: THE TRIALS OF MORRIGAN CROW by Jessica Townsend (Orion, £6.99), a sparkling and inventive story with unforgettable characters.
In 1920s Cornwall, farmer’s daughter Lou can’t believe her luck when she is befriended by the glamorous young owners of grand Cardew House, fun-loving Caitlin and enigmatic Robert. But will our sparky heroine ever really belong in her new acquaintances’ world of wealth and entitlement? A SKY PAINTED GOLD by Laura Wood (Scholastic, £7.99) is a captivating, charming and nostalgic romance for fans of I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith or Rosamond Lehmann’s Invitation To The Waltz. Charli Howard launched the All Woman Project, a charity that works with schools to educate children about body image and mental health.
No girls have been born for 50 years – until the arrival of Eve. For her first 16 years Eve lives in a closed community of ageing women, well away from boys. But as she approaches adulthood, she must choose between three potential suitors in the hope of saving the future of the human race. This first book in a trilogy has a brilliant premise and is very well executed. From civil rights leader Martin Luther King to young activist Malala Yousafzai, PEOPLE OF PEACE (Wide Eyed Editions, £9.99) profiles 40 people who have dedicated their lives to making the world a better place in a peaceful way. Sandrine Mirza’s book is packed with facts, figures and inspiring stories of exceptional men and women.
MAKE AND DO
With the MAKE & PLAY FARM illustrated by Joey Chou (Nosy Crow, £7.99), small hands can press out pieces and slot them together to assemble a colourful farmyard scene with a farmer, a tractor and an array of animals. WINNIE-THE-POOH’S 50 THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU’RE 53/4 (Egmont, £7.99) is a charmingly inventive book full of EH Shepard’s illustrations from the AA Milne stories. It is packed with suggestions of outdoor challenges, from decorating pine cones and building a nest to making a worm farm. In Eryl Nash and Hannah Tolson’s MY RSPB NATURE CLIPBOARD (Walker, £9.99), open the clipboard folder to find a book of “build, make and explore” nature activities, a handy guide to common birds, animals and insects, a poster and numerous fun challenges.
Children will enjoy getting creative with Kate McLelland’s PRESS OUT AND DECORATE FLAMINGOS, LLAMAS & OTHER COOL THINGS (Nosy Crow, £9.99) by colouring the metallic cardboard pieces then assembling them to build the creatures in the title. Blast off into the great unknown with YOU CHOOSE IN SPACE (Puffin, £6.99), Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart’s wonderfully inventive and boldly colourful book that allows children to choose a tailor-made trip to a galaxy far, far away.
What job do they want to do on the spaceship? What will they wear? What will they eat? A journey of infinite possibilities. Olympic table-tennis player and journalist Matthew Syed has written two motivational books for adults. In YOU ARE AWESOME (Wren & Rook, £9.99) he turns his attention to urging younger readers to achieve their potential. Engaging and inspiring with lively illustrations and lots of personal anecdotes.