Book reviews: Broken hearts, animal magic and games galore with Usborne

Troubled teens, a pirate-loving schoolboy and the world's greatest Olympians are just some of the summer stars from top children's book publisher Usborne.

Wednesday, 29th June 2016, 10:00 am
Broken hearts, animal magic and games galore with Usborne
Broken hearts, animal magic and games galore with Usborne

Meet a teenage girl with a guilty secret, enjoy a hunt for treasure on the high seas, join a rescue mission to find a baby zebra and use a book full of stickers to learn about the history of the Olympic Games.


Cruel Heart Broken by Emma Haughton

Never one to shy away from tough complex issues, Emma Haughton returns with another powerful and thought-provoking tale for our generation of sassy teens.

Cruel Heart Broken, a gripping exploration of guilt, impulsive mistakes and dire consequences, is freelance journalist Haughton’s third YA novel and was partly inspired by the true story of a teacher in France who committed suicide after an accusation by a pupil.

People think 15-year-old Laurie Riley from Hove near Brighton is a good girl. She’s the good sister, all sweetness and light, hard-working and always doing her homework in preparation to fulfil her ambition to be a doctor. Older sister Katy, meanwhile, is the feisty one, ‘all edges and sarcasm and slammed doors.’

But Laurie has a secret, a terrible secret. Eight months ago her life changed forever. ‘Poison’ seeped into her blood and nothing will ever be the same again because Laurie became a murderer. She did something she can’t undo and now it’s tearing her apart.

Charlie Forrest, the handsome boy with the dark curls who used to be her best friend, has also done something he regrets. And now someone has died. When guilt shatters your world, Laurie and Charlie learn that the hardest person to forgive is yourself.

Cruel Heart Broken deals frankly with – and sparks a much needed discussion on – teen pregnancy and abortion, and parental depression. This is a heart-wrenching novel about impulsive mistakes and their devastating consequences.

Haughton’s heartbreaking story handles difficult themes with understanding, openness and sensitivity while delivering a compelling page-turning story packed with mystery, authentic characters and shocking discoveries.

(Usborne, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Tanglewood Animal Park: Baby Zebra Rescue by Tamsyn Murray

What could be more exciting for young animal lovers than adventures set among roaming lions, lemurs, lizards and leopards?

Tamsyn Murray, author of the fun-packed Completely Cassidy series, works magic of the furry and feather variety in a charming new series which features two siblings enjoying their new life in a wild animal park run by their mum and dad.

This enchanting new middle grade series was inspired by Murray’s visits with her own son to the family-run Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and her research there provided plenty of ideas for animal adventures.

Zoe Fox and her younger brother Rory can’t wait to move into their very own zoo! There is a lot of work to be done at rundown Tanglewood Animal Park but the family is more than ready to take on the task. Soon Zoe is helping to care for the animals. She splashes with penguins, feeds the lemurs and she even sees baby zebra, Flash, being born. Despite having difficulty making friends with Max Chambers, son of Tanglewood’s chief vet, Zoe is finding life at the animal park a dream come true. But then Flash goes missing and Zoe has to find him before the baby zebra comes to any harm…

With Chuck Groenink’s cute illustrations to add the extra ‘aaah’ factor, this gorgeous new adventure series is guaranteed to win the hearts and minds of animal lovers of every age.

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)

Age 7 plus:

Eddy Stone and the Epic Holiday Mash-Up by Simon Cherry

Ahoy me hearties… head off to the high seas for a cracking pirate adventure!

Television producer, writer and director Simon Cherry hits the ground (or is that the sea?) running in his first book for children, the high-octane, hilarious tale of a bored schoolboy and his madcap pirate pal.

Eddy Stone’s holiday at his gran’s old seaside cottage in Tidemark Bay is a disaster. He’s miserable and bored and he has only been there for four days. But one morning, just as he is about to get stuck into his bowl of Choccy Puffs, he hears a deep bellow and a heavy thump. And when he creeps upstairs, who’s there? It’s a pirate… sitting in the bath, fully clothed and with a big, black beard! Even better, he wants Eddy to help him find some buried treasure.

Setting sail in a ship-shaped shed, crewed by an old lady and a grumpy penguin, what could possibly stop their quest for booty? Well apart, that is, from the world’s most evil shopkeeper, a man-eating beast, and the maddest, baddest villain in all the seven seas…

Francis Blake’s suitably anarchic black and white illustrations add yet more frantic fun to a laugh-out-loud story packed with brilliant jokes, knockabout action and plenty of potty pirates.

So hoist the mainsail and hold on to your pirate hats for what promises to be the best adventure series you’ll see on the high seas this year!

(Usborne, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

The Olympic Games Sticker Book by Susan Meredith and Galia Bernstein

With the Rio Olympic Games now only weeks away, let your youngsters get stuck into the action with an exciting and informative sticker book.

Published in association with the International Olympic Committee, this bright and colourful book is the entertaining way to learn all about the history of the biggest multi-sport event in the world, from the early Olympians in Ancient Greece right through to the creation of the Paralympic Games in the 20th century.

Discover the epic stories and record-breaking victories behind the Games and read all about some of the greatest athletes. With 100 stickers of famous athletes such as Usain Bolt and Jessica Ennis-Hill and new Olympic sports from goalball to biathlon, this is an unmissable introduction to the Olympic Games.

Colourful photos and illustrations tell the story of how the Games began and developed, reveal how the opening and closing ceremonies celebrate the peaceful spirit of the Games, provide the lowdown on the mascots and emblems of different Games and feature some of the most amazing records ever achieved.

Packed with facts, stickers and activities, The Olympic Games Sticker Book is the perfect way to get ready for the Games… and have fun while you learn.

(Usborne, paperback, £7.99)