Ice-cold thrills, slapstick sleuths and a tooth fairy by Various Authors - book reviews -

Nordic Tales
Nordic Tales

Travel to the snow of faraway lands, solve a mystery with a boy and a shark, meet a very grumpy dog, and enjoy a jaw-dropping plan to fool the tooth fairy in an August selection of children’s books to beat holiday boredom.

Travel to the snow of faraway lands, solve a mystery with a boy and a shark, meet a very grumpy dog, and enjoy a jaw-dropping plan to fool the tooth fairy in an August selection of children’s books to beat holiday boredom.

Age 7 plus:

Nordic Tales

Illustrated by Ulla Thynell

Leave behind the warmth of summer and enjoy the magical ice cold of winter with a collection of Nordic folk tales guaranteed to chill, thrill and amaze!

Ulla Thynell, an artist, illustrator, and graphic designer based in Helsinki, has dug deep into the folklore of Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and her native Finland, to gather together sixteen traditional tales which transport readers to enchanting Nordic landscapes full of light and darkness, exciting adventures, alternative worlds, and stunning illustrations.

Translated and transcribed by folklorists in the 19th century, and presented here in their unabridged charm, the stories are by turns magical, hilarious, cosy, and chilling.

Divided into three sections – transformation, wit, and journeys – each tale sweeps away readers to spectacular worlds where trolls haunt the snowy forests, terrifying monsters roam the open sea, a young woman journeys to the end of the world, a boy proves he knows no fear, humans turn into wild animals, and animals help hapless humans.

The traditional folk tales provide a fascinating view into Nordic culture and Thynell’s atmospheric watercolour illustrations conjure up all the drama and wonder of dragons, princesses, soaring mountains and the green, glowing northern lights.

This special edition features an embossed, textured hardback cover and a ribbon marker, and is the perfect gift for thrill-seekers, culture vultures and anyone looking for an early Christmas present.

(Chronicle Books, hardback, £16.99)

Age 7 plus:

Mark and Shark: Detectiving and Stuff

John Dougherty and Katie Abey

Hands up if you like stories that make you laugh?

In answer to the rows of young hands now reaching for the sky, there’s miles of smiles and giggles galore (guaranteed!) when you are in the company of author John Dougherty, the Irish funny man who puts comedy into capers.

So make sure you get on the case with the unlikely sleuths, Mark the boy and Shark the… er, shark, in a brilliant new adventure story that puts laugh-out-loud fun into the not-too-serious business of detective work.

Mark and Shark: Detectiving and Stuff is the younger end of middle grade reading at its very best… a feast of wildly imaginative slapstick antics brought to life by the perfectly quirky and outrageously clever pictures of talented illustrator Katie Abey.

Meet Mark (a boy) and Shark (a shark)… you might not believe it but they are best friends. Mark is great at detectiving and Shark loves doing… well, stuff, so they are the perfect team to solve any problems, big or small.

When an enormous polar bear asks for their help with her ice cream business, Mark and Shark are straight on the case. But when Jimmy the Fridge and his gang decide to get involved too, it’s not just the ice creams that are going into meltdown. Mark and Shark end up doing more detectiving than they bargained for… and it’s fast, it’s furious, and it’s really, really messy!

There’s guaranteed guffaws from start to finish as Dougherty rolls out a cast of outlandish characters, including a magnificent horse called Clive, an enormous polar bear, a small penguin, a gang of really bad baddies, and great dollops of ice cream.

With lots of unexpected twists and turns, a plot in which everyone seems to lose the plot, and a master storyteller orchestrating all the frantic, fast-paced action, this is ideal for reluctant readers, and perfect for sharing at bedtime as youngsters laugh all the way to the Land of Nod!

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

This Is Gus

Chris Chatterton

Everyone feels grumpy sometimes… even a dog!

Banish all those frowns and downs at a stroke with this funny and beautifully perceptive picture book from author and illustrator Chris Chatterton who says the story of the doggedly dour Gus is based on his own grumpy moods!

Gus doesn’t like much of anything, not going walkies, not playing fetch, and especially not making new friends. So what will Gus do when a lively little puppy appears on the scene? Is grumpy Gus really a big old softie… maybe, or maybe not!

Youngsters will be giggling away their own grumps when they get their hands on the lugubrious Gus and enjoy his salutary lessons on bad moods, the art of compromise, making new friends… and sharing.

Bright, bold and charmingly expressive illustrations add to the sense of sardonic fun that radiates from every page as youngsters get to grips with understanding their own mood swings, and accept that we all have Gus days, whether we are humans or animals!

(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Dave and the Tooth Fairy

Verna Wilkins and Carl Pearce

A little boy’s jaw-dropping plan to fool the tooth fairy comes unstuck when his grandad makes a surprise discovery…

Experience the magic of a much-loved picture book classic about a little boy and the tooth fairy with a gallery of sparkling new illustrations from Welsh wizard Carl Pearce.

First released in 1993 and featuring two leading BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) characters, Dave and the Tooth Fairy broke new ground when it was published by Tamarind over 25 years ago. It was written by Grenada-born Verna Wilkins, founder of Tamarind Books, a publishing company she set up in 1987 to produce books with the aim of giving children of colour a sense of self and personal value.

She went on to become the author of forty picture books and eight biographies of young people, with some featured on BBC children’s TV and included in the national curriculum for schools.

Updated for a new generation and with Pearce’s bold and colourful illustrations, this clever, comical story – featuring a computer-literate, independent-minded tooth fairy – has lost none of its charm and charisma.

Dave Alexander Curtis has a wobbly tooth. He wibbles and wobbles it backwards and forwards, but it won’t come out. But then one day Dave lets out an enormous sneeze and the tooth flies across the room and vanishes. Dave searches high and low, but it’s nowhere to be seen. No tooth means no visit from the tooth fairy, and no money for a new kite. How will he get the tooth fairy to visit him now… with the unwitting help of Grandad’s false teeth, perhaps Dave’s crafty plan might save the day!

Wilkins’ unique, humorous spin on the tooth fairy tradition will delight a new generation of youngsters… and help to fill the gap whilst they grow a shiny, new set of teeth!

(Studio Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Animal Homes: A Lift-the-Flap Book of Discovery

Libby Walden and Clover Robin

Let your little ones get up close to nature in a stunning lift-the-flap board book written by popular author Libby Walden and illustrated by exciting artist and designer Clover Robin.

Animal Homes, a Clover Robin Book of Nature, combines enchanting, informative illustrations with lots of bite-sized, easy-to-understand facts, making it the ideal introduction to the wonderful world of animal homes and incredible habitats where creatures rest high above our heads, and where burrowing beasts dig deep into the earth.

Youngsters can lift the flaps to uncover some astonishing homes and the animals that live inside them. Discover why beavers construct dams and lodges, how beehives are built, and what lives in colossal mounds that tower as tall as trees. From hives and warrens to nests and earth beneath our feet, these are the places where animals make their homes.

With lots to learn about on every page, these books are ideal for both home and school, and will encourage children to treasure creatures of the wild and to take a closer look at the amazing world of nature.

Also in this imaginative nature series are Bug Hotel and Bird House which provide fascinating facts on creepy crawlies of all shapes and sizes, and home-made habitats where birds can safely rest and nest.

(Caterpillar Books, board book, £8.99)

Age 3 plus:

Where in the Wild

Poppy Bishop and Jonny Lambert

‘Across the world, on land and sea,

Are creatures living wild and free.

And each one has a precious home –

‘A habitat,’ as it is known.’

Jonny Lambert, the award-winning author, illustrator, designer and paper engineer, is back to steal our hearts and please our eye with a stunning picture book which explores the world’s animal habitats.

Where in the Wild is an intriguing peep-through picture book celebration of the natural world but it also carries a stark warning to a new generation of children about the importance of saving these wilds from destruction.

It has been written by Poppy Bishop whose lyrical, rhyming text is full of fascinating facts about different habitats which aim to inspire little ones to love nature and explore in the great outdoors.

Some animals, like foxes and wolves, we learn, have adapted to live in many different places. Others are found in one type of habitat and if their habitat is destroyed, then they will have nowhere to live. Habitats can be big, like a huge, grassy meadow, and small, like a rotting log on a forest floor. Sometimes humans damage habitats by cutting down trees in rainforests, turning wilderness into farms and polluting seas and rivers. The result is that animals lose their homes so it is important that we look after wild places so that all animals can thrive.

Lambert’s artistic skills take flight with creatures big and small, under the sea and on land, in the sky and under the ground, and little ones will love identifying the wildlife, whether that is giant giraffes and elephants, or tiny insects and beautiful butterflies.

A picture and word perfect way to engage the youngest children with the world around them… and impress on them the importance of saving it from destruction.

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Garden of Hope

Isabel Otter and Katie Rewse

Themes of anxiety and sadness are also explored in a beautiful and poignant picture book from talented duo, author Isabel Otter and illustrator Katie Rewse.

The Garden of Hope is a simple story of one girl and her dad struggling to cope with the loss of a mother but it carries a powerful message that speaks volumes about hope, regeneration, beauty and love.

Mum ‘knew that by the time the seeds had grown, those worries would have faded away. She called them her seeds of hope.’

Things have changed at Maya’s home since Mum has gone away. Maya, her dad and Pip the dog are a bit of a mess and the garden has become wild and overgrown. When Dad senses Maya’s worry, he tells her the story of how Mum nourished her garden, and in turn, how that garden nourished her.

As Maya sets about clearing weeds, sowing new seeds and reviving the neglected garden, she finds comfort and happiness in watching new growth bloom as a result of her care. The garden hums with flowers, animals, insects and life, and Maya discovers she has forgotten the worries she planted with the seeds.

Otter explores the fragile and yet heartwarming relationship between a father and daughter as they navigate their changed lives together. By leaving the absence of Mum open to interpretation, the book is ideal for those looking to open a discussion not only about the subject of bereavement and loss, but also an absent parent in the case of family breakdown.

The Garden of Hope is a reassuring, tender and moving story, brought to life by the evocative and atmospheric illustrations of new talent Katie Rewse. A picture book to treasure, especially during times of family upheaval.

(Caterpillar Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

What Do You Do if Your House is a Zoo?

John Kelly and Steph Laberis

Choosing the right pet isn’t as easy as you might think…

Author John Kelly and illustrator Steph Laberis have fun with this wonderfully anarchic picture book story about a boy who advertises for a new pet and gets a lot more than he bargained for when a madcap menagerie of strange creatures start arriving on his doorstep!

Oscar is over the moon because his mum and dad have finally said he can have a pet. The problem is he can’t decide which pet he should pick. So what could be better than an advert in the paper? ‘Could you be the perfect pet for me? If so, contact me, Oscar, at: 99 Ice Cream Drive, Little Bumbling.’ And after a deluge of replies and a dizzying choice of pets, including a gorilla and a whale, some of them make an unexpected appearance. What on earth will he do when they all move in? His house has turned into a zoo!

Kelly’s hilariously funny and inventive story ramps up the comedy action as everything from mobilised meerkats and dam-building beavers to race horses and space monkeys come tumbling through Oscar’s front door.

Children will love the joyful sense of chaos that runs throughout this crazy but essentially warm-hearted story and the wonderfully funny letters that arrive in response to Oscar’s advertisement. And with Laberis’ quirky, cartoon-style illustrations on every page, this is the perfect caper for animal (and fun!) lovers of every age.

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Polly and the New Baby

Rachel Quarry

When there’s a new member of the family on the horizon, it sometimes needs a little bit of imagination to make them truly welcome!

If your child is feeling unsure about the prospect of a little brother or sister, here’s the perfect book to calm fears and ensure that the new arrival is greeted with open arms, and a warm heart.

Polly has a friend, Bunny. He may be an imaginary friend but nonetheless Polly absolutely MUST use the pushchair that was hers as a baby to push Bunny around. So when Polly’s parents need the pushchair for a new arrival in the family, they try all sorts of ways to persuade Polly to give it up… a doll’s pram, a baby carrier, a trike trailer. But ultimately the situation is resolved, thanks to Polly’s imaginative solution which means everyone – including Bunny – is happy!

Rachel Quarry’s cute and cuddly picture book offers a fun and playful story, gentle reassurance for confused youngsters struggling with the concept of a new baby in the family, and special smiles for any child who is lucky enough to have an imaginary friend.

With a gallery of gorgeous illustrations and messages about new siblings and family love, this is a book just made for sharing…

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

How to Find Egyptian Treasure

Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves

Adventure-loving Albie might just have bitten off more than he can chew when lunchtime turns into a flying visit to Ancient Egypt!

How to Find Egyptian Treasure is the ninth book in favourite author Caryl Hart and talented illustrator Ed Eaves’ much-loved, picture book action series featuring the irrepressible Albie and his amazing adventures.

Albie is putting the finishing touches to his sandcastle in the garden just in time to have his lunch when a mysterious wind blows him all the way to Ancient Egypt! There he finds Tuti and Anka, the Pharaoh’s children, and together they go on an exciting adventure to hunt for some lost family treasure. But will they make it out of the dark and winding catacombs in time for lunch?

Ancient history has never been so much fun in this breathless, up-pyramids, down-dunes adventure with Albie and his Egyptian friends as they race to find treasure and escape some scary tomb raiders.

Packed with Eaves’ bold, colourful illustrations, plenty of action and knockabout fun, this is the perfect setting for young imaginations to take flight on their own historical adventures!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Moon River

Tim Hopgood

Music maestro, please! Let your little ones get ready for bedtime with this musical story and singalong CD extravaganza.

This gorgeous picture book from exciting illustrator Tim Hopgood centres on the beautiful song Moon River, composed by Henry Mancini with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for its performance by Audrey Hepburn in the iconic 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Through words and music, we follow a little girl on a magical, dream-like journey along the Moon River. It flows from her bedroom and out into the big wide world just waiting to be discovered. And she’s soon to be joined by other children who are all excited to be exploring the beautiful world together. There is such a lot of world to see!

Hopgood’s bold and evocative illustrations offer magic, mystery and the spirit of discovery, while the song, here performed by Andy Williams, rings in everyone’s ears. There is also an exclusive reading with page-turn signals.

So join the drifters off to see the world and watch as your own little ones sail gently off to sleep!

(OUP, paperback and CD, £8.99)