Book review: A Celtic thriller, slapstick spies and sticker fun with Usborne

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From a beautiful story of magic and mystery to time travel with a madcap schoolboy, Usborne children’s books are gearing up for the long summer holidays.

And if your kids are already itching for some get-away fun, there is a sunshine selection of holiday sticker and activity books to keep boredom at bay as the countdown begins.

Age 12 plus:

Deep Water by Lu Hersey

Lu Hersey digs deep into the exciting mysteries of Celtic myth and folklore in a stunning debut novel that is guaranteed to bewitch, bother and bewilder.

Alive with ancient systems of ritual, magic and pagan belief, Deep Water blends a gentle but compelling modern day romance with an enigmatic storyline that uses the legends of Britain’s pre-history as its thrilling backdrop.

At the heart of this beautifully imagined and highly atmospheric foray into myth and magic is a teenage girl whose incredible, hidden gifts put a curse on both herself and those she loves.

When her mum goes missing, 15-year-old Danni Lancaster immediately senses that something is wrong, seriously wrong. Left alone at home, she has no choice but to go and live with her ‘hippy’ dad in a remote Cornish fishing village, miles away from her friends.

But when she arrives, complete strangers seem to recognise and shun her, crossing themselves in a bid to ward off some unseen evil or curse. And then strange things start to happen… salt-water seeps through her hands and her dreams become nightmares.

Soon her nightmares begin to reflect reality, and Danni discovers that she is not entirely who – or even what – she had always assumed. The village has a dark and disturbing past, one that she is somehow connected to. With the help of Elliot, a boy who works in her dad’s shop, and her friend Levi from home, she sets out to discover the truth and save her mother.

But Danni’s journey is far more dangerous than anything she could have imagined as she comes up against people who would prefer to see her – and all her kind – wiped off the face of the earth…

Hersey, a self-confessed fan of ‘the old ways’ which remain a vibrant part of Celtic folklore, works some real magic of her own in an intriguing story which weaves legend and reality, good and evil, belief and suspicion with such seductive charm.

Deep Water speaks loudly of tolerance, elemental power and the importance of learning lessons from our ancestors… only by getting close to nature and understanding the past, can we accept those sometimes unexplained events in our present.

An original, captivating and thought-provoking debut…

(Usborne, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

Compton Valance: Super F.A.R.T.S versus the Master of Time by Matt Brown

Picture this… a brilliantly funny story about an amazingly misbehaving boy that comes with almost as many crazy, comical illustrations as there are words.

Yes, he’s back! Compton Valance and his partner in time travelling crime, Bryan Nylon, are zooming in… and their mission is not just to make us all laugh but to get reluctant readers whizzing eagerly through pages and pages of outrageous antics.

Crazy Compton and barmy Bryan are the charismatic creations of DJ and TV presenter Matt Brown who admits that writing about the dynamic duo was the next best thing to living his own childhood dream of creating a time travel machine.

Their adventures come complete with lively illustrations by Lizzie Finlay, a mixed bag of quirky narrative styles, hilarious bullet points, jokes and ingenious plots and twists.

In their third outing, Compton and Bryan are still recovering from saving the universe when they are transported off to the future to become trainee Time Crime Agents with the F.A.R.T. Academy. But when a notorious criminal mastermind escapes from a maximum security prison and kidnaps Bryan, Compton must race against time to save his best friend – and the world – from evil. Problem is that his only weapon is a slimy sandwich!

There are laugh-out-loud moments for every member of the family in this wonderfully eccentric and accessible series which will hopefully go on and on and on and on into the time-travelling future…

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)

Age 6 plus:

Things to Spot in London Sticker Book

If you are heading to London this summer for a tour of the city’s landmarks, don’t leave without this invaluable little sticker book.

Perfectly sized to slip into a bag or pocket, this inventive guide features fifty of the capital’s best-known landmarks, each one fully illustrated and accompanied by a detailed description, interesting facts, other things to spot nearby and the nearest Underground stations. Add the stickers to the pages as you spot each building or place.

There’s the Tower of London, Big Ben, Kensington Palace, the British Museum, Nelson’s Column, the London Eye and Cleopatra’s Needle to name but a few and children will love adding the stickers to the pages as they spot each building or landmark.

This informative guide will help your city tour to go with a swing and provides a wonderful souvenir to take home after the holiday.

(Usborne, paperback, £3.99)

Age 3 plus:

First Sticker Book: Airport by Sam Smith and Wesley Robbins

We have lift-off… young imaginations will soar with this super sticker book which puts children up in the air and on a flightpath to the sunshine.

Airports are often the first leg of a holiday abroad and with this action-packed sticker book, children can create their own busy airport scenes showing people and planes arriving at the airport, getting ready to fly and taking off. There are over 200 stickers to enjoy featuring holidaymakers with their luggage, pilots and cabin crew, the runway staff who bring planes in safely to land and, of course, a selection of different aeroplanes.

Adding the stickers to each colourful scene will provide hours of fun as well as lots to look at and talk about. And if you are planning the very first flight for your little ones, this book is ideal for preparing them for the journey and keeping them entertained on board.

A flying start to the holidays…

(Usborne, paperback, £4.99)

Age 3 plus:

Holiday Sticker and Colouring Book by Jessica Greenwell and Stacey Lamb

There are two books in one in this bright and busy activity book, brimming with stickers and pages to colour.

Enjoy watching little ones get in the holiday mood as they add colourful, easy-to-handle stickers to beach scenes, holidays in the countryside, a trip to the fairground and a splashing time at the water park. This bumper-sized book is simply packed with holiday scenes for children to colour and complete with over 200 stickers of animals heading off for their holidays too. Children can also colour in the animals as they take a trip to the lake, go swimming in the pool and sit around the bonfire on a camping trip.

The perfect travelling companion for long journeys…

(Usborne, paperback, £6.99)