Book reviews: Circus capers and superhuman heroes herald a summer of reading
Kids have got it made this summer with a sparkling selection of books to keep boredom at bay.
Join in the fun when a crazy circus comes to town, marvel at a boy with superhuman powers, meet two heroic robot brothers, enjoy riotous fun with Rita the Rescuer, discover a bird that can’t fly and laugh along with a little rabbit’s giant friend.
Age 8 plus:
Circus of Thieves and the Comeback Caper by William Sutcliffe and David Tazzyman
Hold on to your hats, the circus is back in town… and this is not just any old circus!
Get ready for mathematical pigs, a canary choir, an inky camel taking a nap, a pickpocket monkey called Cuddlecakes and a surprising number of spoons as the madcap Circus of Thieves swings into action for a caper like no other. Yes, Shank’s Impossible Circus is back in the spotlight and it would be a crime to miss the fun.
This is the third outrageous adventure in the terrific Circus of Thieves books which come in an appealing chunky format and offer an irresistible blend of slapstick humour and clever word-play. Outstandingly entertaining and funny, these high-octane stories also introduce kids to some striking ideas, a lexicon of lovely language, and themes that will resonate with all the family.
Shank’s Impossible Circus rolls back into town and there’s going to be double the trouble as hideous, evil, thieving ringmaster Armitage Shank comes face to face with his long lost twin.
And, be warned, Zachary Shank, who scrapes ‘the very bottom of the cesspit of human nature,’ is even more crooked than Armitage. He’s cooking up a revolting and catastrophic cacophony of calamitous crimes. Urgh, how will the world cope with two Shanks?
Packed with dastardly plans, not very brilliant plans, the wackiest and most wonderful characters and plenty of laughs and adventure, author William Sutcliffe sets the stage for some very silly, very funny and utterly dastardly antics while David Tazzyman ups the ante with his brilliantly anarchic sketch-style illustrations.
Perfect for bedtime reading alone… or for sharing with equally addicted parents!
(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)
Age 14 plus:
Seven Ways We Lie by Riley RedgateOh, the angst of being not-so-sweet sixteen… not a kid any more but still not grown up.
US debut author Riley Redgate captures every nuance of the in-betweeners in this brilliantly perceptive novel about the fears, foibles and forbidden desires of contemporary teens as they struggle to set their moral compasses in a perplexing adult world.
A chance encounter entangles the lives of seven high school students as each tries to resist the allure of one of the seven deadly sins and each recounts their own story from their seven very distinct points of view.
The juniors at Paloma High School all have their secrets, whether it’s the thespian who hides her trust issues onstage, the closeted pansexual who only cares about his drug-dealing profits or the neurotic genius who has planted the seed of a school scandal.
But it’s Juniper Kipling who has the furthest to fall. No one would argue that Juniper – obedient daughter, academic high-flyer, natural beauty, and loyal friend – is anything but perfect.
Everyone knows she’s a saint, not a sinner. But when love is involved, who is Juniper to resist temptation?
When she begins to crave more and more of the one person she can’t have, her charmed life starts to unravel. Then rumours of a student-teacher affair hit the fan. After Juniper accidentally exposes her secret at a party, her fate falls into the hands of the other six sinners, bringing them into one another’s orbits.
All seven are guilty of something. Together, they could save one another from their temptation… or be ruined by them.
Redgate effortlessly weaves humour, heartbreak and redemption into a gripping and powerful drama as she explores topical issues like sexuality and mental health through a diverse collection of characters and with the lightest of touches.
Must-reading for teens…
(Amulet, hardback, £10.99)Age 9 plus:
The Unicorne Files: A Crown of Dragons by Chris d’Lacey
Winging its way on to the shelves this summer is the final book in Chris d’Lacey’s action-packed Unicorne paranormal adventure series featuring a secretive organisation and a boy with an innate superhuman ability.
Billed as the X-Files for a new generation, this highly original series has served up spooky supernatural fantasy at its best. Full of suspense and intrigue, the books feature an exciting cast of characters, thrilling twists and turns, and plenty of white knuckle action.
Fourteen-year-old Michael Malone is a special agent who investigates supernatural occurrences for the mysterious and secretive Unicorne agency. He has completed two missions for Unicorne, but still hasn’t found his missing father. When asked to investigate a scale of a dragon – the very same artefact his father was researching before he disappeared – Michael realises he is closer than ever to unlocking the truth. But the truth is darker than he could ever have imagined. His father is lost in an alternative reality, and Michael is the only one with the power to save him...
Chris d’Lacey delivers plenty of thrill-a-minute action and startling surprises in the gripping conclusion to a series that is ideal for all young adventure seekers.
(Chicken House, paperback, £6.99)
Mega Robo Bros by Neill Cameron
Brace yourself for a rocket-powered adventure courtesy of David Fickling Books’ highly popular The Phoenix Presents series.
Launched four years ago by David Fickling Books in partnership with The Phoenix comic, this exciting series features high quality, full-colour story strips packed with funny, action-packed adventure stories full of fun and comedy.
And the latest in the series, a supercharged tale of two robot brothers facing a Machiavellian rogue robot, will delight young readers and help to encourage a love of books and good storytelling.
London! The Future! Alex and Freddy are just like any other brothers. They are always squabbling and forever finding new ways to drive their adopted parents crazy. There’s only one difference... they are also the most powerful robots on earth. In this epic story, Alex and Freddy will soon discover that they are not the only super-powered robots around. The evil Robot 23 is hatching sinister plans to take over country. No one is safe and the lives of the brothers will soon be far from peaceful. Get ready for giant robot beefeaters, flying tube trains and rocket-powered sibling rivalry as battle commences!
A techno thriller for all your own young techno wizards…
(David Fickling Books, paperback, £9.99)
Age 5 plus:
Rita Rides Again and Rita on the River by Hilda Offen
Supergirl Rita is back… and there’s not a moment to lose!
Award-winning author and illustrator Hilda Offen’s delightful Rita the Rescuer stories have been favourites with children for over 20 years. The funny, action-packed adventures are ideal for children just starting to read by themselves or for reading aloud to little ones.
And now everyone’s favourite little super hero is starring in two new adventures that see her performing heroics on a visit to an old castle and swimming to the rescue when a day trip to the river turns decidedly dangerous.
In Rita Rides Again, a visit to the castle isn’t dull when Rita Potter changes into her superhero outfit and turns into Rita the Rescuer. She scares off the castle ghost, makes mincemeat of a monster in the moat, gets the better of some angry peacocks, jousts in a tournament and still has time to defeat three knights in a swordfight. What better reward than a big, delicious ice cream?And in Rita on the River, Rita has no intention of sitting on the river bank watching the ducks while the rest of her family set sail on an adventure. And when disaster
strikes, Rita slips into her magical outfit and saves the day by rescuing an island castaway and a puppy that can’t swim, and sorting out a giant crocodile. It’s all in a day’s work for Rita the Rescuer!
Learning to love reading is fun with Rita!
(Troika Books, paperback, £5.99 each)
Age 3 plus:
The Holiday: A Chough’s Tale by Jani Tully Chapin
The bird servants at the Manor House are all of aflutter… Chesterfield Penguin the Butler has declared it’s holiday time so they are winging their way to Cornwall.
Welcome back to Jani Tully Chapin’s new high-flying adventure, a delightful summer spin-off from her popular Manor House Stories, an enchanting and nostalgic series featuring life above and below stairs at the home of Edwardian gentleman and noblest bird in the county, Lord Peregrine Falcon.
These warm, wise and inspirational tales come from the pen of the talented author and illustrator who lives in Cornwall and has chosen a chough, one of the county’s most endangered birds, to be the star of a holiday-themed adventure.
Choughs, the most glamorous and captivating members of the crow family with their glossy black plumage, curved crimson-red bill and red legs, have long been in decline and there are now only seven pairs in the wild in Cornwall.
Chapin is donating money from sales of the book to the Cornwall Chough Conservation Network, a charitable organisation working to conserve these remarkable birds which have been a part of Cornish history since at least the 13th century.
The Holiday, packed with Chapin’s atmospheric and timeless illustrations, tells the story of a young Cornish chough who dreams of helping his father and grandfather operate the steam winding engine at the local tin mine.
But Charles Pencarrow Poldrake Treyarnon Chough, nicknamed Chuff, can’t get to the mine until he learns to fly. When he was just a tiny choughling, Chuff toppled off his clifftop home and nearly tumbled into the sharp rocks and sea below. Luckily he was rescued by the Coastguard, Sailor Oswald Seagull – SOS for short – but Chuff has been too scared to fly ever since.
And now help is on the way from another direction. The Manor House servants are heading to Cornwall for a holiday and Miranda Mistlethrush has the answer to Chuff’s fear of flying… a magic scarf!
Featuring the lovable bird characters from The Manor House Stories and a warm story about friendship and caring, the adventures of Chuff and his friends provide a charming bird’s-eye view of Cornwall for readers young and old.
(Jani Tully Chapin, paperback, £6.99)
It was so quiet I could hear a pin drop by Andy Goodman
Every perfectly pitched picture tells a story in this warm and whimsical book from author and designer Andy Goodman.
The simple but beautifully told tale of a child’s dreamy flights of fancy as she moves with the breeze on an outdoor swing takes us from prosaic reality to the outrageous realms of fantasy at the turn of every page.
Spot colour illustrations accompanied by an easy-to-follow text transform the child’s familiar, everyday sounds into physical shapes in this enchanting read aloud book. From quiet kites fluttering and busy bees buzzing to elephants stampeding and loose cannon firing, this is a magical story which offers ideas and fascinating sounds for inquisitive youngsters to explore.
Design and storytelling in perfect harmony…
(Princeton Architectural Press, hardback, £9.99)
Age 2 plus:
Mortimer’s Picnic by Nick Ward
There’s a large and unexpected twist in the tail as talented illustrator Nick Ward weaves his picture book magic in a tale of friendship, food and foes.
Mortimer the rabbit is planning a picnic with his best friend Oggy. But Oggy is ill with a terrible cold in the nose, so Mortimer decides to pack up some medicine, a get well card and a story book and take the picnic to his friend. What he didn’t reckon on was falling into a river and meeting a crocodile, a troll and a wolf who want to eat not just the picnic but Mortimer as well. It’s lucky that Oggy is a fearsome giant ogre who has no intention of letting his little best friend be eaten alive!
Ward’s warm, humorous illustrations are full of fascinating and intricate details that make the warm-hearted story of Mortimer and his giant-sized adventures such a delight for little children.
(Troika Books, paperback, £6.99)