Books Monthly children's books september 2016

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Rod Campbell: Dear Zoo Colouring and Drawing Book

Published by Macmillan 28th July 2016


Rod Campbell's preschool classic Dear Zoo has been a firm favourite with children and parents alike ever since it was first published in 1982. Now even very young children can join in the fun and draw their own zoo! Toddlers will be kept busy for hours drawing, colouring and doodling all the animals from the original story in The Dear Zoo Drawing and Colouring Book. It's packed full of simple activities that are perfectly pitched for preschoolers: can you draw bananas for the naughty monkey, or give the fierce lion big sharp teeth? With large square pages, extra thick paper and lots and lots of animals, The Dear Zoo Drawing and Colouring Book is a fun and satisfying introduction to learning to draw.


This super book is simply perfect for introducing preschool children to Rod Campbell's iconic zoo animals. There aren't many such children who don't find it a thrill tobe colouring in!



Jules Bentley: The Hippopandamouse

Published by Macmillan 14th June 2016


Princess Flo has pocket money to spend, so she's off to Fluffley's Fine Toys, the best toy shop in town. There are cuddly teddies, cute kittens and perky penguins - all perfect for a royal princess! But to everyone's horror, Princess Flo spots a strange looking toy. It's part hippo, part panda and part mouse . . . and a total and utter mistake! But luckily for all, this polite little princess sees something unique and special - the perfect toy. All he needs now is a name! An incredibly funny debut from the winner of the Macmillan Prize for Illustration 2013. A brilliant, big-hearted story with an important message; our imperfections make us perfect. The ideal gift and a smart choice for little princesses everywhere!


Jules Bentley's extraordinary creation is just the thing to appeal to young children - brightly coloured pages and a super story! Amazing!



Bomi Park: First Snow

Published by Chronicle Books 

6th September  2016


In this gem of a book, a seemingly small moment creates some big magic that takes readers out into the first snow and beyond.


Stylish illustrations in this simple but effective tale of a young child's adventures in the discovery of snow...






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Eva Ibbotson: Journey To The River Sea 15th Anniversary Edition

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 25th August 2016


It is 1910 and Maia, tragically orphaned at thirteen, has been sent from England to start a new life with distant relatives in Manaus, hundreds of miles up the Amazon. She is accompanied by an eccentric and mysterious governess who has secret reasons of her own for making the journey. Both soon discover an exotic world bursting with new experiences in Journey to the River Sea, Eva Ibbotson's highly colourful, joyous adventure. Accompanied by Miss Minton, a fierce-looking, no-nonsense governess, Maia, a young orphan, sets off for the wilderness of the Amazon, expecting curtains of orchids, brightly colored macaws, and a loving family. But what she finds is an evil-tempered aunt and uncle and their spoiled daughters. It is only when she is swept up in a mystery involving a young Indian boy, a homesick child actor, and a missing inheritance that Maia lands in the middle of the Amazon adventure she's dreamed of. Readers of every generation will treasure Ibbotson's lush historical adventure that harkens back to the beloved classics of Frances Hodgson Burnett and Louisa May Alcott.


I'm a huge fan of Eva Ibbotson's and have reviewed many of her her books in Books Monthly, but never this one, and I don't remember it at all, so reading it for the first time was a big treat for me. One of our very finest children's authors and this brilliant adventure story will thrill and delight children and adults alike.

Alexander McCall Smith: Marvellous Mix-Ups

Published by Bloomsbury 8th September 2016


An irresistible bind-up edition of two infectiously entertaining adventure mysteries, Spaghetti Tangle and Teacher Trouble, from the bestselling author of the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, Alexander McCall Smith, and with amazing illustrations by Kate Hindley throughout. Spaghetti Tangle
John and Nicky would give anything in the world for a bowl of chips or a piece of chocolate cake, but they live with their strange aunty and she won't let them eat anything that's not raw! One day they sneek out and slurp down a plate piled high with spaghetti. Now they want more ... Lucky for them, there's a competition to visit the spaghetti factory and eat as much as you like. What will aunty say?
Teacher Trouble
It's Jenny's first day at a new school and she looks very grown-up – her mum has made sure of it. But when she arrives at the school, she looks so smart that the rest of her class think she is their new teacher! Soon Jenny finds herself in all sorts of tricky situations. How long will it be before Jenny is found out? And what will happen then?


I'm not sure I was even aware that Alexander McCall Smith wrote children's books, and this may well be his first! If it is his first, it's certainly not going to be his last, that's for sure. Hilarious, whacky fun from one of Britain's best-loved authors - superbly funny!


Katherine Rundell: The Wolf Wilder

Published by Dorling Kindersley 1stBloomsbury 8th September 2016


Feodora and her mother live in the snowbound woods of Russia, in a house full of food and fireplaces. Ten minutes away, in a ruined chapel, lives a pack of wolves. Feodora's mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder is the opposite of an animal tamer: it is a person who teaches tamed animals to fend for themselves, and to fight and to run, and to be wary of humans. When the murderous hostility of the Russian Army threatens her very existence, Feo is left with no option but to go on the run. What follows is a story of revolution and adventure, about standing up for the things you love and fighting back. And, of course, wolves.


Reminiscent of Jack London's Call of the Wild, and with elements of stories like Black Beauty and The War Horse, this is superlative writing, children's fiction at its very best. A beautifully crafted tale.


Barbara Robertson: Intrigue At The Castle

Published by The Book Guild 28th July 2016


Following their incredible ninth-century Viking adventure on their last visit to Ormsthorpe, Harriet, Jake and Mathew return to their grandmother for Christmas and, while visiting Ulfsthwaite Christmas market, find themselves embarking on another time-travel escapade. This time they are transported back to the year 1388, where they find themselves charged with foiling an evil plot to disgrace the lord of the manor, Duke Leofrik, and his family. Centred on a colourful and spectacular jousting tournament in the grounds of Ormsthorpe Castle, this fast-paced adventure story is full of nail-biting suspense. Will the wicked Duke Edmund and his family succeed in their plot to poison Baron Rulf's hunting dogs? Will they sabotage Duke Leofrik's knights jousting armour, causing them to be badly injured or killed? Can Duke Edmund snatch the title of Lord of Ormsthorpe Castle from Baron Rulf? Or will the three young but intrepid time travellers foil the plot before they are whisked back to the twenty-first century? Packed full of fascinating and gruesome detail about life in the Middle Ages, this exciting page-turner will have you on the edge of your seat!


There's one thing for certain in children's literature, and that's adventure stories for children about children like themselves will always entertain. Barbara's characters are sparkling and alive - it's been done before, this time travel thing for kids, but it's done well in Barbara's book - a surefire winner!

Janvi Pawar: The Cow Who Jumped Over The Moon

Published by Studionesh 28th July 2016


The cow who jumped over the moon is tired of doing the same thing every day. He leaves his safe home and travels in search of adventures. Where will he go? What will he see? And when he comes back home, will he still be the same Cow? A child-friendly tale of the wonders of travel and how opening up to new experiences can change how you view yourself


This is an absolutely delightful book, taking a centuries-old, established children's rhyme, changing a few things and bringing it up to date. Superb!

Zehra Hicks: Flying Lemurs

Published by Macmillan Two Hoots 14th July 2016


A funny, reassuring story about overcoming fears and discovering hidden talents. Everyone in the lemur family is good at jumping - even Grandma, whose speciality is being shot from a cannon. Everyone, that is, except the littlest lemur. He just can't do it, no matter how hard he tries. But there are so many jumps to choose from, surely he will manage one, and be able to take his rightful place on stage with the rest of the troupe? Flying Lemurs is a charming, comic story for would-be acrobats everywhere. Colourful, bold, and bursting with energy, this is visual storytelling at its best from the talented author/illustrator Zehra Hicks. You'll be rooting for the little lemur from the start as he gradually overcomes his fears and finds his true calling in style.


I'm not sure there are that many would-be acrobats around, but then I do think the appeal of this book is far, far wider! Great fun, and fun with a message - always a bonus.


Jonathan Emmett illus. Poly Bernatene: Prince Ribbit

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 28th July 2016


Is Prince Ribbit really a handsome prince, or just a plain, ordinary frog? There's only one way to find out . . . Pucker up princesses, it's time for true-love's kiss! A beautifully illustrated, brilliantly funny twist on the classic fairy tale, The Frog Prince. From Jonathan Emmett and Poly Bernatene the creators of the The Princess and the Pig - an award-winning international best-seller!


Modern children's illustrations often leave me cold, and in books where the illustrations are so important, that can be off-putting, but not so with Jonathan and Poly's book. Vibrant colours, brilliant caricatures, and a well told, up to date version of a famous fairy tale - brilliant!


Mo O'Hara: More People To Love Me

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 25th July 2016


This little girl's family is huge! The only way to show how huge would be to draw a family tree. With a step-mum, a step-dad, four brothers and sisters, and a whole lot of grandparents, her family tree has a lot of branches - and a lot of people to love her. Mo O'Hara's warm and playful story will speak to any young child with an extended family. Accompanied by Ada Grey's charming illustrations, More People To Love Me is a gorgeous book which shows that families come in all shapes and sizes.


It doesn't really have much of a story to it, but the illustrations are superb and the message is clear. For Mums to read out loud to their toddlers.


Peter F Hamilton: The Queen of Dreams Hunting of the Princess

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 28th July 2016


The Hunting of the Princes is the second title in the Queen of Dreams trilogy. Featuring black and white illustrations, this fantastic series from the UK's best-selling sci-fi author, Peter F. Hamilton is a future classic in the making. It had been a big year for Taggie Paganuzzi. From learning that she was actually the Queen-to-be of a magical realm, to learning to use magic, to fighting for her life against the King of Night, there had been a lot of 'firsts'. And when someone tried to assassinate her as she was cycling home from the local pool in Stamford, England. Well, that was a first too. It turns out that someone has been killing royal heirs throughout the magical kingdoms, and every leader from every realm believes the King of Night's army, the Karraks, are responsible. War seems inevitable . . . and yet Taggie has just discovered two very interesting facts. Firstly, that the Karraks come from a cold, dark universe, and they cannot abide warmth and light. And secondly, that there was once a gate to this universe . . . now lost in the mists of time. But where do you begin to look for a gate which was deliberately hidden centuries ago? To find out, Taggie must rescue the one Karrak Lord who also hopes for peace. Who happens to be imprisoned in an impenetrable fortress . . .


The perfect children's fantasy series continues with book 2. The Queen of Dreams series is superbly crafted to guide mid-teens into the heady world of adult fantasy. I can't fault it! If only there had been more books like this when I was growing up!


Matt Ralphs: Fire Witch

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 25th August 2016


Hazel Hooper is no ordinary girl. She is a Fire Witch, and she is furious. Ever since her mother, Hecate, sacrificed herself to the demon world in order to stop a demonic invasion, Hazel has been determined to get her back, regardless of the cost. Hazel's only chance to find Hecate is to seek advice from Nicolas Murrell, the Order of Witch Hunters most-prized prisoner, and the very same man responsible for Hecate's loss. With only Bramley, her grumpy dormouse familiar for company, Hazel must disguise herself as a boy and infiltrate the black heart of the Order of Witch Hunters to gain an audience with Murrell. But can he be trusted? Or will Murrell reveal to his captors that their newest apprentice is actually . . . a witch? Fire Witch is the fantastic sequel to Fire Girl by Matt Ralphs - perfect for young readers with a taste for the extraordinary!


Shades of Stephen King's Firestarter! Hazel bears many of the terrifying traits of Stephen King's apocalyptic pyromaniac, but the story is gentler. Again this is a sequel, and well worth a read.


Mark Sperring, illus. Sue Hendra: Four Silly Skeletons

Published by Bloomsbury 8th September 2016


"It's midnight!" shouted Skelly Sid.
"But what do we all care?
How can we think of sleeping
when there's music in the air ... ?"

Four silly skeletons dance off with a skip and a hop, and not one of them sees the GREAT BIG DROP! Luckily, Auntie June is there to patch them up. Even if they end up in a bit of a muddle. A rollicking, rhythmical story perfect to read aloud, made even more zany and hilarious by Sue Hendra's bright, bold illustrations. Just right for making kids jump - and then making them laugh.


I know that being scared is supposed to be good for you, and there's nothing really terrifying in this superbly-illustrated, very funny read. Children just starting primary school will really love this one!


Holly Black & Cassandra Clare: Magisterium - The bronze Key

Published by Macmillan Children's Books September 2016


Magic can save you
Magic can kill you

It should be a time of celebration. The Enemy of Death is dead; a severed head proof of his downfall. The magical world has no reason to believe otherwise, and Callum, Tamara and Aaron are celebrated as heroes. But at a party held in their honour, things go horribly, brutally wrong. A fellow student is callously murdered, and it seems Call’s worst fears are confirmed: there is a spy in the Magisterium. No one is safe. Now, using the powerful magic they’ve been taught, the trio must risk their lives to track down the killer. But magic is dangerous – in the wrong hands it could bring terrible destruction. And reveal the deadliest secret of all . . .


Holly Black is one of my favourite children's authors - glad to see she doesn't pull any punches when it comes to killing characters off.. A most excellent bit of SF/fantasy for older kids.


M J Exon: Clearful and the Queen

Published by Matador 28th August 2016


Clearful and the Queen is the beautifully-told story of Lali and her big sister, Abba, who decide to tell the Queen all about their new word, ‘clearful’. After inventing the word during a trip to their grandparents’ house, they decide to write to the Queen and, to their surprise, she writes back! By royal decree, the new word ‘clearful’ is added to the English dictionary, announced at the opening of the Houses of Parliament and even taught in schools. Invited by the Queen to tea, Lali and Abba embark on an adventure together to reach the Palace, aided and abetted by their cat, Smokey. If they get there in time, what will they find when they arrive? Clearful and the Queen is a light-hearted story of two young sisters. Full of beautifully hand-drawn illustrations, this is a captivating tale that will appeal to young children.


I'm not sure who this one is aimed at - it has the graceful, B&W illustrations you'd expect with an older child's book, but the story is most definitely for pre-secondary children... A mystifying, lyrical piece of writing, quite extraordinary.


Allie Esiri: A Poem For Every Night Of The Year

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 8th September 2016


A Poem For Every Night of the Year is a magnificent collection of 366 poems compiled by Allie Esiri, one to share for every night of the year. The poems - together with introductory paragraphs - have a link to the date on which they appear. Shakespeare celebrates midsummer night, Maya Angelou International Women's Day and Lewis Carroll April Fool's day. Perfect for reading aloud and sharing with all the family, it contains a full spectrum of poetry from familiar favourites to exciting contemporary voices. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, W. B. Yeats, A. A. Milne and Christina Rossetti sit alongside Roger McGough, Carol Ann Duffy and Benjamin Zephaniah.


Macmillan's beautiful new anthology of children's poetry. I suspect this will find its way into children's reading time at school fairly quickly...


Paul Cookson: 100 Brilliant Poems for Children

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 25th August 2016


From Paul Cookson comes 100 Brilliant Poems For Children, featuring the best of the absolute best. The essential poems for every child to read and enjoy. Paul Cookson spends most of his time visiting schools, performing his poetry and helping children to write their own poems. Paul has compiled lots of books for Macmillan (over a million copies sold to date), including The Works, and has two collections of his own poetry. He supports Everton and lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and children.


Another superb collection of poems aimed specifically at children from Macmillan.


Ann Onymouse: The Conjurer's Mouse!

Published by Matador 28th August 2016


Full of beautifully hand-drawn illustrations, The Conjurer's Mouse is an eloquent collection of rhyming short stories, limericks and anecdotes about a concoction of characters from dinosaurs to mice, frogs to aliens, and everything in between. Written in a light-hearted and joyful manner, The Conjurer's Mouse is ideal for children age 6 and over. Each of the many stories can be read alone or aloud, making it the perfect bedtime read - and the rhymes laughed over at any time!


and a third... I've always been a huge fan of rhyming stories for children - what's missing is a huge collection of illustrations like in the Rupert Bear stories - otherwise excellent!


Marie Fordacq et al: Baby Animals

Published by Magnet Books (Abrams & Chronicle) 30th August 2016


Get ready for a multisensory treat! Beginning readers can run their fingers through the fleece of a woolly lamb, touch the soft fur of a baby polar bear and even feel the smooth shell of a baby turtle. With textures on every colourful spread, this book will keep children busy learning through touch. What's more, they will enjoy lifting the flaps to find out all about their favorite baby animals. Which baby animals hatch from eggs? What do they eat? This and much more is in this fact-filled book and texture-rich book, just right for little eyes and hands!


Abrams and Chronicle have perfected the technology behind magnetology, where there's a brilliant collection of magnetised paper shapes in a folder inside the front cover, and you and your children fit the shapes to the illustrations - brilliant, educational and fun at the same time!


Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler: Gruffalo Crumble

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 8th September 2016


Gruffalo Crumble and Other Recipes is packed full of sweet treats, healthy snacks and simple meals - all based on the bestselling picture book The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Is your tummy beginning to rumble? Make your own owl ice cream, scrambled snake and roasted fox, and of course . . . Gruffalo crumble! With twenty-four recipes specially designed for adults to use with children, easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions and lots of hints and tips on what to do next, Gruffalo Crumble and Other Recipes is a great way to introduce Gruffalo fans to cooking and baking. Perfect for holidays, rainy days and full of food ideas for a Gruffalo party.


You simply cannot go wrong with anything to do with The Gruffalo - this is a superb collection of genuine recipes to get your little ones involved in stories and cooking at the same time. What can possibly go wrong?


Brian Biggs: Tinyville Town

Published by Abrams 6th September 2016


Tinyville Town, a new series from the bestselling and beloved author and illustrator Brian Biggs, is launching with three books: Tinyville Town Builds a Bridge, a world-establishing picture book that introduces the town and its many residents; I m a Veterinarian, a day in the life of the town vet; and I m a Firefighter, a day in the life of Charlie the town firefighter. The series is set in a cozy community where cell phones don t exist, the bus is always on time and everyone buys their doughnuts at same bakery. The people are kind and everyone does their part to keep things running smoothly. Tinyville Town is a growing, thriving city full of interesting people. They can t wait to show you around!


The latest episode in the Tinyville series - beautifully illustrated, wonderful characters!




The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its eighteenth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.