books monthly january 2017

This month's pick of the new Science Fiction and Fantasy titles... it's all about Rogue One!

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Colin West: The Funniest Stuff

Published by Matador 28th November 2016


The Funniest Stuff contains over fifty funny poems with equally amusing illustrations created by Colin West. They cover an array of different subjects in a range of various verse forms, strong in rhyme and wordplay. There are crazy creatures like the Snoope and the Lolloping Lollop. There are eccentric characters like Uncle Norman, a traffic warden who likes to keep on his uniform, (even in bed), and Aunt Priscilla, who wrestles a wild gorilla. There are insights into the poet's world, where Colin eschews personal questions in 'Don't Ask Me About Myself', and gives vent to his feelings about airy-fairy writers in 'O How I Hate the Poet!' Black humour is in evidence in short pieces, such as the nature-loving Henrietta and the longer rollicking ballad, Fritz, who liked to frolic in the foothills but whose dreams were sadly crushed. There is even a pastiche of the early Victorian cautionary tale in 'Belated Bertie', about a boy who liked to play practical jokes. There is pure nonsense in 'Under My Uncle's Umbrella' and a nod to concrete poetry in 'I Used To Climb Up Lamp-posts, Sir'. The Funniest Stuff is brimming with humour, wit and charm and is sure to find your funny-bone and give it a good tickle! It will appeal to children aged 8-12.




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Carol Ann Duffy & Lydia Monks: Queen Munch and Queen Nibble

Published by Two Hoots 6th October 2016


Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and beloved illustrator Lydia Monks team up for a wonderfully imaginative and delightfully funny 64-page story about an unlikely friendship between two very different royals. Bold, bouncy Queen Munch loves nothing more than eating delicious cakes and enormous breakfasts, whereas Queen Nibble is pale, quiet, and likes making necklaces out of raindrops. So when Queen Munch decides to invite Queen Nibble for a visit and win her friendship, the mission seems doomed to fail. But there is more to each Queen than meets the eye and soon a friendship begins to blossom. Author of The Lost Happy Endings, The Princess Blankets and The Tear Thief Carol Ann Duffy brings these loveable characters to life with her uniquely evocative voice - paired brilliantly with the bold and colourful artwork of the illustrator of Julia Donaldson's What the Ladybird Heard, Lydia Monks. With full colour artwork and a longer story than most picture books, Queen Munch and Queen Nibble is the perfect gift for new readers, and a journey into a captivating and fantastical world that will delight young readers over and over again. The sumptuous real cloth quarter binding, bright ribbon and shining foil details to the front and back cover make this an ideal gift for any child.


At last! A book from Carol Ann Duffy! And actually, it's quite good and your children will appreciate it...


Stephanie Burgis: The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart

Published by Bloomsbury 9th February 2017


Aventurine is the fiercest, bravest kind of dragon, and she's ready to prove it to her family by leaving the safety of their mountain cave and capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human. But when the human she captures tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, she finds herself transformed into a puny human girl with tiny blunt teeth, no fire, and not one single claw. She's still the fiercest creature in these mountains though - and now she's found her true passion: chocolate! All she has to do is walk on two feet to the human city, find herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious), and she'll be conquering new territory in no time . won't she? Wild and reckless young Aventurine will bring havoc to the human city - but what she doesn't expect is that she'll find real friendship there too, along with betrayal, deception, scrumptious chocolate and a startling new understanding of what it means to be a human (and a dragon). A pinch of Ella Enchanted, a sprinkling of How to Train your Dragon and a generous helping of Eva Ibbotsen -The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is entirely delicious.


A brilliant testament to the power of chocolate wrapped up in an enchanting children's story...

Christina Clarry: The Great Wizard Wars

Published by Matador 28th January 2017


In the far distant past, two mighty forces clashed in the first Great Wizard War.
It was a battle of good against evil! A Golden Army against a Dark Army! The Great Wizard Wars is an exciting tale of the wars between good and evil armies of wizards and witches, which is ideal for fans of fantasy stories aged 7-11 years. Modern wizards and witches are leading extraordinary lives, going about their day-to-day business in a peaceful manner, hidden from the rest of the world. Breaking the ancient truce that was reached after the first war, a Dark Army rises once again, intent on destroying these descendants of its old foe. The backward, outrageous, evil wizards and witches launch their attack with outmoded weapons and mystical creatures that they cannot control while they fight amongst themselves for power in a frankly mind-boggling manner. As good and evil forces clash once again, four young wizards and witches find themselves in perilous situations. In a twist of fate they are forced into an unexpected showdown. Written in a style reflective of Roald Dahl, Christina Clarry’s writing is brimming with gross humour, from the revolting smell of the characters to their foul and wacky habits. Full of ferocious dragons, unpredictable zilants and a zany snake, The Great Wizard Wars is sure to capture the imagination of young readers looking for an exciting and humorous fantasy story.

John Holroyd: Snake Ring At Risk

Published by Troubador 28th January 2017


Snake Ring at Risk & Other Stories is a heartwarming collection of fantasy short stories that will appeal to readers age 9 and above. Continuing on from John Holroyd's previous book, The Strange Tale of the Snake Ring, this collection centres on the story Snake Ring at Risk which sees Thomas and Gerda's most treasured possession, the magic snake ring, being the centre of a feud with Gruninax, a mighty wizard. After making a promise that the ring would never leave his family, Thomas is put under immense pressure when Gruninax goes to extreme lengths to secure ownership of the ring. Plagues of locusts and beetles are unleashed, livestock is killed and houses demolished. What happens will surprise you..! Other stories include Pie and the Witch, Like Nothing on Earth and Jack's Revenge. Each story includes strong moral messages for children, whether it's to think about the consequences of their actions or to not judge a book by its cover. The stories are focussed on younger children allowing a direct comparison between reader and character and will appeal to children aged 9 and over, as well as parents who enjoy reading with their children.


A stunning story by someone who knows how to engage and keep children interested. Reminiscent of children's tales from long ago...


Andrew Chaplin: The Key To The Half Worlds

Published by The Book Guild 24th November 2015


Richard Cranfield is an ordinary thirteen-year-old who never expected that a ride on the school bus would catapult him and his friend Tom into a half-world that had 'gone missing' a long time ago. They find themselves in an alternate version of the world where sorcery, elves, dragons and many other mythological creatures abound. It amazes them at first, but soon this world appears to be more frighteningly real than their own.

They meet a young female elf who changes Richard's life forever and, aided by a charismatic elf-wizard, the boys must help stop an evil elf-sorceress from recombining the half-worlds in her bid for ultimate domination. The journey leads them through a country called Dracofarne to the sorceress's fortress. The future of the half-worlds proves to be bound up in an ancient volume entitled The Key to the Half Worlds and the race is on to get hold of it before the elf-sorceress does.

Can they save the day and, in doing so, save the world?


Devika A Rosamund: The Haunted Painting On The Wall

Published by Matador 28th November 2015


When Tracy and Sebastian go to stay with their great aunt in her old castle in the Highlands of Scotland, they are intent on searching for a secret, long-lost hidden chamber which legend says hides priceless treasure that has never been found. Unfortunately for the children, a malevolent ghost has been haunting the castle for four centuries, waiting to wreak revenge. In searching for the hidden chamber, the children are unwittingly putting themselves in great danger. Unbeknownst to them, witchcraft was once practised in the castle, and sinister dark magic is still lurking within the castle walls waiting to be unleashed again. On Tracy's bedroom wall in the castle, there is a mysterious painting which holds a very dark and terrifying secret...


Cathryn Constable: The White Tower

Published by Chicken House 5th January 2017


When Livy's accepted at Temple College, a school for the very brightest, no one is more surprised than her, though she has always felt different. Recently, Livy's been drawn to the roof, where, among its towering stone angels, she has the strangest desire to fly. But her behaviour is noticed by others, for whom the ability to defy gravity is a possible reality ... one that they'll stop at nothing to use for their own ends.


Superb introduction to fantasy for older children...


Cathryn Constable: The White Tower

Published by Bloomsbury 17th November 2016


Chronologica takes the reader through an informative, eye-opening and often humorous journey across 100 years, covering well-known events and biographies, alongside little-known episodes which have had an impact on world history. Rather than an all-encompassing complete history of the world written in a dense essay formula, which can appear too overwhelming to embrace, Chronologica presents a more concise, punchy analysis of years and personalities which instigated big changes and were particularly formative in the making of the modern world. In addition to classic historical events such as the Battle of Agincourt, the book will also feature diverse subjects including the creation of the pizza, the founding of Nintendo and the first football league and cup double. Each year is presented over three pages and comprises three to five topics covering the year in question. For example, 1789 - why was this year important? George Washington was elected as the first American president, sailors mutinied on HMS Bounty and the Storming of the Bastille initiated the French Revolution. The book will be a global journey with events and people from every continent. This book is not designed as a university text book but is intended as an easy-access title for people interested in historical events, people, inventions, food, literature, sport, music and more.


Whitaker's Almanac for children, presented in such a stunning way it will delight anyone who chances upon it!


Chris Higgins (illus. Emily MacKenzie): Trouble Next Door

Published by Bloomsbury 12th January 2017


From much loved author Chris Higgins and acclaimed illustrator Emily MacKenzie comes a charming new young fiction series about friendship. Bella has just moved into a new house. It's old and dark and she's sure there's a ghost in the attic! But things look up when she meets her new next-door neighbour Magda. Magda is lots of fun! She's bubbly and full of imagination and can even turn cartwheels! Soon they are best friends. But Magda is also trouble! She breaks Bella's mum's best tea set, wrecks Bella's room and covers the whole living room in soot. And somehow makes sure Bella gets the blame for everything. Bella is going to have watch out because there's Trouble Next Door!


Reminds me of one of my favourite Enid Blytons: Those Dreadful Children... superlative writing from Chris Higgins!


Emily MacKenzie: There's Broccoli In My Ice Cream!

Published by Bloomsbury 12th January 2017


Granville the Dalmatian loves sweet, sugary, chocky wocky gooey things to eat. NOT fruit and vegetables. Which is a shame, because he comes from a long line of greengrocers and gardeners. So his family come up with a plan to persuade him to be passionate about parsnips and bonkers about broccoli. Only, Granville has a plan of his own - and it will surprise everyone! A fabulously funny story from the creator of Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar - nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Perfect for foodies and fussy kids everywhere!


I haven't ever met anyone who can tell me why you should want to eat broccoli, so I can fully understand Granville's distress... hilarious and beautifully illustrated mayhem...


Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan: We Come Apart

Published by Bloomsbury 9th February 2017


YA rising stars Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan join forces to break readers' hearts in this contemporary story of star-cross'd lovers. Jess would never have looked twice at Nicu if her friends hadn't left her in the lurch. Nicu is all big eyes and ill-fitting clothes, eager as a puppy, even when they're picking up litter in the park for community service. He's so not her type. Appearances matter to Jess. She's got a lot to hide. Nicu thinks Jess is beautiful. His dad brought Nicu and his mum here for a better life, but now all they talk about is going back home to find Nicu a wife. The last thing Nicu wants is to get married. He wants to get educated, do better, stay here in England. But his dad's fists are the most powerful force in Nicu's life, and in the end, he'll have to do what his dad wants. As Nicu and Jess get closer, their secrets come to the surface like bruises. The only safe place they have is with each other. But they can't be together, forever, and stay safe - can they? An extraordinary, high-impact, high-emotion collaboration between two Carnegie honoured rising stars of YA. Perfect for fans of Patrick Ness, Malorie Blackman, Rainbow Rowell and John Green. Sarah Crossan received the 2016 CILIP Carnegie Medal for her astonishing novel One, which also won the YA Book Prize,CBI Book of the Year Award and the CliPPA Poetry Award. Brian Conaghan's powerful debut, When Mr Dog Bites, was shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, Peters Book of the Year and CBI Book of the Year Award.


The story has been told a thousand and one times before... but never quite like this. Sumptuously written, will capture everyone's heart who reads it...


Huw Powell: The Pirate King

Published by Bloomsbury 12th January 2017


The galaxy is at war and Jake Cutler is at the heart of it. With his friends and allies captured, it's up to teenage space pirate Jake to go into battle and take down the corrupt Interstellar Government once and for all. But in order to win this battle, Jake must find his father and confront secrets from his own past . Prepare for blast-off with the explosive third book in the Spacejackers series - perfect for fans of Star Wars, pirates and space adventures of all shapes and sizes.


The perfect combination for children who like reading: pirates and space adventure. Plenty of humour, adventure and style!


Mark Sperring, illus. Alison Brown: I'll Love You Always

Published by Bloomsbury 12th January 2017


How long will I love you?
A second is too short.
A second is no time
for a love of this sort.

A minute is no better,
for minutes fly by!
They're gone in a moment
like a sweet butterfly.


Moving through the day, the seasons and then the years, this ode to everlasting love will reassure children and bring a lump to the throat of parents. Moving and heartfelt, this is the perfect gift for new parents, experienced parents - and even sweethearts. For fans of Guess How Much I Love You, from the bestselling author and illustrator Mark Sperring and Alison Brown.


The illustrations are gorgeous, and the story is utterly captivating. What more can I say? Brilliant.



The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its sixteenth 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.