Amazing astronauts, a lovable llamacorn and a beaky salesman by various authors - book reviews -

Where Once We Stood
Where Once We Stood

Share the stories of those intrepid astronauts who landed on the Moon 50 years ago, meet the boy who knew nothing, and enjoy adventures with unicorns, pirates and a frightened little tree frog in a sunshine selection of July children’s books.

Share the stories of those intrepid astronauts who landed on the Moon 50 years ago, meet the boy who knew nothing, and enjoy adventures with unicorns, pirates and a frightened little tree frog in a sunshine selection of July children’s books.

Age 10 plus:

Where Once We Stood: Stories of the Apollo Astronauts Who Walked on the Moon

Christopher Riley and Martin Impey

In 1962, US President John F. Kennedy declared that ‘space is there and we’re going to climb it… as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which Man has ever embarked.’

He could never have imagined how hard it would turn out to be and that just seven years later, a team of intrepid astronauts would make history by travelling through space and stepping out on to the surface of the Moon.

Published for the 50th anniversary of that first Moon landing, Where Once We Stood captures the extraordinary first-hand accounts of those brave human beings who set out on a daring adventure and were rewarded with experiences most of us could only ever dream about.

Combining a unique series of atmospheric illustrations by artist Martin Impey with the words spoken by the astronauts on the lunar surface, this book offers a rare insight into what it really felt like to live and work on another world, something that those who have experienced it often found hard to convey.

Writer, broadcaster and film-maker Christopher Riley has spent a lifetime studying the Apollo project and interviewing many of the astronauts, their friends and families. In this special collaboration, he joins forces with Impey, whose black and white paintings of the missions have been credited by the astronauts themselves as capturing the essence of their lunar encounters.

The alien nature of the Moon, its textured surface, the lumbering actions of the astronauts, and the raw excitement of breaking previously unimaginable boundaries spring to life as Impey’s illustrations mark out the astronauts’ amazing journey.

Between July 1969 and December 1972, twelve men from Earth landed their spaceships on the Moon. They spent a total of just over 300 hours living and working there, travelling over 100 kilometres across its ancient surface in search of some of the oldest rocks in the solar system. It had taken the combined efforts of the whole American nation to get them there.

Keeping astronauts alive on a voyage to the Moon demanded a machine that could do all the amazing things our planet does to keep us, and rocket motors powerful enough to propel them away from Earth and through space.

And to land there safely, they would need a rocket engine capable of slowing them down to a gentle jog, space suits with all their essential life support built in to walk and work on the Moon, and then one more rocket boost to launch themselves off the Moon, break free of its gravity and fall back to Earth.

Millions of problems had to be solved to make all this possible, and it took hundreds and thousands of men and women to accomplish it. Only three people would fly on each mission and only two of them would land and walk on the Moon. Six successful landings were made and twelve people reached the Moon and returned with the stories, pictures and silent movies of their experiences.

From the sight of a bright morning sun shining out of an inky black sky to playing on pristine dust and the airless vacuum of low gravity, they found it difficult to convey the human experience but the joy and delight of what they saw and felt is evident in the words they spoke on the Moon.

From maps of the landing sites and the first footprints left by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during their pioneering walk on the Sea of Tranquility, to the final ambitious expeditions as astronauts drove an electric car deep into the mountains of the Moon, this is a revealing record of what it truly meant to explore a place far beyond our planet.

A thrilling new perspective on one of the greatest adventures of all time…

(Harbour Moon Publishing, paperback, £19.99)

Age 8 plus:

Trailblazers: Neil Armstrong

Alex Woolf

Illustrated by Luisa Uribe, George Urmos and Nina Jones

And on the theme of the Moon landing’s 50th anniversary, here’s a chance to get up close to Neil Armstrong, the adventurous astronaut and space pioneer who took that famous first step.

Trailblazers: Neil Armstrong is the first book in a fun and factual new biography series inspired by the lives of pioneers both past and present. Packed with little-known trivia, fascinating facts and lively illustrations, these books celebrate the lives of forerunners in every sphere, from science and sport and business to activism, politics and the arts.

Long before that astonishing day in 1969, Neil Armstrong was already dreaming of journeys above the clouds, building model aeroplanes, visiting air shows and gaining his pilot’s licence aged just fifteen.

He went on to fly as a fighter pilot but nearly missed out on the momentous moonwalk by sending his astronaut application late. Despite the many dangers, Neil kept his cool, commanding the first mission to the Moon and making history.

Find out how this flight-obsessed astronaut went on to play a major role in one of mankind’s greatest achievements through a gallery of interactive illustrations and a lively text which combine perfectly to bring the man and his mission to life.

(Stripes, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Boy Who Knew Nothing

James Thorp and Angus Mackinnon

Expect the wonderfully unexpected in a big, beautiful and fabulously fantastical picture book which takes storytelling and illustration to a stunning new level.

The Boy Who Knew Nothing is the second brilliant collaboration between exciting author James Thorp and talented illustrator Angus Mackinnon, the dynamic duo who created The Elephant in the Room.

‘On the day he was born, before he could crawl, the boy who knew nothing, knew nothing at all.’

There once was a boy who knew nothing at all… everyone told him so. One day he discovered a strange creature in his parents’ wardrobe and – surprise, surprise – he didn't know what it was. The funny thing was that his mum and dad couldn’t tell him either. Determined to identify his new friend, the boy who knew nothing set out on a quest for information… and discovered an amazing adventure!

This superbly surreal picture book is brimming with wild adventure, a riot of colour, and a cast of outlandish characters that will have youngsters giggling and gasping as they turn the pages.

The Boy Who Knew Nothing is a masterclass in imaginative storytelling and brilliant illustration, and guaranteed to keep readers guessing until the very end. Thorp’s flawless rhyming text is a joy to read aloud and the bold, stylised illustrations, highlighted with an eye-catching neon pink, add a quirky twist to this remarkable storytelling extravaganza.

(Templar Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

I Love My Llamacorn

Danielle McLean and Prisca Le Tande

A lovable llamacorn is set to steal everyone’s hearts in a gorgeous, glittering book full of rainbow colours and fun peep-holes.

The llamacorn is the cutest half-unicorn half-llama you can possibly imagine as he prances through the pages of author Danielle McLean and illustrator Prisca Le Tande’s adorable and wonderfully tactile rhyming board book.

Packed with glitter-coated, jewel-toned illustrations and a peep-through heart that shines a new shade of the rainbow on every page, this is a confection of cute comedy and eye-catching colour.

Do you love llamas, and how about unicorns? Now imagine if you squeezed them together and added a zillion rainbows, glitter, and some magic. You’d get a whole new best friend in the shape of... a llamacorn! Llamacorns are fleecy, sparkly creatures that are full of love and kindness, and can make all your dreams come true.

With its glittery pages, kaleidoscopic colours, engaging rhymes, interactive fun, and spirit of unconditional love, there could be no better or cuddlier board book to introduce your little ones to the fun of reading.

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £7.99)

Age one plus:

Dotty and Dash’s 1,2,3

Patricia Hegarty and Craig Shuttlewood

Which is your favourite number?

It’s never too early to learn to count so join Dotty the dog and Dash the tortoise as they set off on a fun-filled quest to discover the number they like the best in this gorgeous pop-up board book just made for inquisitive toddlers.

Dotty and Dash’s 1,2,3, a colourful counting book, is the perfect starting point for children learning their numbers as they help the dynamic duo choose their favourite numbers between 1 and 100.

With its engaging rhyming text on every spread, talented artist Craig Shuttlewood’s cute and colourful illustrations which burst with life, energy and fun, and charming pop-up numbers to make the counting lesson even more appealing, this sturdy, bright and busy book is set to be everyone’s number one!

(Caterpillar Books, board book, £10.99)

Age 3 plus:

Sneaky Beak

Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal

Top author and illustrator team, Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal, deliver the real deal in this clever and comical cautionary tale about always wanting more than you have.

The talented creators of The Christmas Extravaganza Hotel and The One-Stop Story Shop have found another winning formula in this laugh-out-loud picture book which stars a ruthless ‘salesbird’ on a mission to upgrade an unsuspecting Bear’s life.

Is your bath bubbly enough? Is your bed bouncy enough? Is your cereal crunchy enough? When Bear sees an advert for a brand new bed, he starts to doubt that his current bed is up to scratch.

Promising extra bounce, bonus bubbles, and high calibre crunch, it appears that Sneaky Beak the gadget-mad salesbird has plenty of gadgets, gizmos and thingummies to improve and upgrade everything in Bear and his friend Hamster’s lives from their beds to their cereal. But when they finally have it all, will Bear and Hamster really be happier?

Sneaky Beak is the perfect antidote to every child who says they want more. With its madcap capers and addictive sense of fun, Corderoy’s magical story is perfect for sharing and reading aloud with little ones as they learn the pitfalls of wanting everything they see.

Children will love exposing Sneaky Beak’s sneaky selling ploys and enjoy his enthusiastic sales pitches as illustrator Neal brings his natural energy, wit and empathy to Corderoy’s pitch-perfect story and charismatic cast of characters.

A clever, comical and exquisitely created picture book from one of the best teams in the business!

(Little Tiger, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Pirates Don’t Go to School!

Alan MacDonald and Magda Brol

A little pirate finds his ‘sea legs’ as he sets out on his first-day-at-school adventure in a funny and reassuring picture book from Alan MacDonald and Magda Brol.

MacDonald, author of the much-loved Dirty Bertie series for newly independent readers, and Polish illustrator Brol pool their talents for this action-packed, fun-filled tale for youngsters getting ready to start school and already suffering those starting school nerves.

Jake is tired of mopping parrot poo on his home, the Salty Prawn ship, and wants to go to school… but his pirate family are horrified. School is all rotten work, rotten rules and terrible ten-legged monster teachers. Pirates don’t go to school… or do they? Jake finally persuades his parents to let him go and though his first day is far from uneventful thanks to his stowaway parrot, Jake soon learns that school is actually fun!

There is so much to enjoy in this charming and nerve-calming story as Jake discovers that some of the favourite things he does at home are all part of school life too. MacDonald injects his own special brand of madcap comedy into the action and Brol brings the story to life with her gallery of bold and busy illustrations.

The perfect book to share with anxious school starters… and any little pirates looking for adventures on shore!

(Little Tiger, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Unicorn Club

Suzy Senior and Leire Martín

Suzy Senior, author of the entertaining picture book Octopants, swims back into view with a new story starring a club just made for unicorns.

Amy is starting a unicorn fan club – with cupcakes and painting and prizes to win. The only problem is that her street is empty and none of her friends have turned up. But, hang on a minute... is that a unicorn up in the treehouse? It’s not just one, it’s a whole herd of them! It’s time for some magic, so come and join in! This galloping, giggling story is perfect for young unicorn fans.

Senior’s bright, beautiful and heartwarming adventures of a little girl who thought her hopes of starting a unicorn club were dashed until the arrival of a host of colourful unicorns is sure to win the hearts of young readers.

Spanish illustrator Leire Martín’s dazzling and multi-coloured illustrations bring energy and charisma to a tale which encapsulates the joy and excitement of meeting new friends and enjoying new experiences.

From the horns of a dilemma to a magical unicorn adventure!

(Little Tiger, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

This is Frog

Harriet Evans and Jacqui Lee

Get ready to have your ribbits tickled with this whopping, hopping, non-stopping picture book starring a frightened little tree frog!

This is Frog – part of a super series featuring interactive animal adventures – comes packed with large flaps and interactive play which encourage children to hop along with Frog as he bounces about the rainforest and give him a helping hand to get through a busy day full of new and scary experiences.

Quirky, playful and full of fun, Harriet Evans’ clever story encourages children’s imaginations to take some giant leaps as they meet Frog sitting in his tree and push, blow, cheer, tap and croak to stop him getting into trouble.

The playful tone of Evans’ entertaining story is guaranteed to captivate little ones as they are drawn into the action and peer underneath the flaps and through the peep holes while Jacqui Lee’s expressive, striking artwork is full of detail and rich colours, bringing life and energy to the story.

There are also subtle lessons to be learned along the way about tree frogs… where they live, what they eat and their love of jumping through the trees.

Hands-on, interactive fun for inquisitive young minds!

(Caterpillar Books, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Grandma Z

Daniel Gray-Barnett

Even his birthday is a grey day for little Albert… until his amazing grandma roars into town and turns it into a blaze of life and colour!

Daniel Gray-Barnett, an illustrator based in Tasmania, Australia, celebrates grandparents, childhood, and imagination in the most spectacular way in a debut picture book full of magic, discovery and the spirit of wild adventure.

On an ordinary day, in an even more ordinary town, it was Albert’s birthday and there’s no party, no musical chairs and not a hope of tasting a piece of chocolate-cherry-ripple cake. But then he makes a secret wish and Grandma Z arrives, roaring into town on her motorcycle and soon Albert is swept up in a very extraordinary adventure. Life may never be the same again!

This glorious debut from Gray-Barnett is filled with wonder, imagination, and a wild, magical spirit that will thrill young and old.

His clever palette gradually introduces splashes of colour into Albert’s grey world until Grandma Z arrives, bright and larger than life. The images dance from the page as the ordinary day is turned on its head and Albert begins to see the world from many different perspectives… flying high in the sky, looping the loop on a rollercoaster and sitting peacefully on top of a hill.

Readers both young and old will love joining Albert on his breathtaking, action-packed ride through one wonderful day as the two generations share the joys of a very unordinary day.

(Scribble, paperback, £6.99)