Fabulous Children’s Books for September

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Take a look at the fabulous books we have reviewed this month and enjoy some peace and quiet while your child is absorbed in a book …

All of these books are either out now, or at the end of the month.

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Board Books

Jane Foster’s Baby’s First Stories- 0-3 months and 3-6 months – Lily Murray (author), Jane Foster (illustrator), Templar Books (imprint of Bonnier Books) (publisher)

Do you ever struggle to think of nice gifts when a baby is born? Then look no further. These sturdy board books are the perfect present!

It’s never too early to start reading to your child and these books are a superb place to start. The first book in the series (0-3 months) has stunning black and white visuals for your little one to enjoy as well as four adorable animal stories, featuring a sweet elephant, a panda, a whale and a bunny. Each story has a gentle, lilting rhyme, designed to soothe even the youngest of babies while the bold black and white artwork captivates a young baby’s gaze. The rhyming stories are just the perfect length and will fit wonderfully into a newly established daily routine for a little one.

When your baby is ready to move on, the 3-6 month chunky board book features the same four adorable animals and beautiful illustrations in an eye-catching black, white and blue colour palette. Each story collection has been created in consultation with early years experts and they aim to suit your baby’s needs at each stage of their development in their first year.

They are a super size to pop in a changing bag and take out and about with you to entertain your little one on your travels too. Engaging, boldly beautiful with sweet stories, these are the perfect first baby book.

Picture Books

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam – Train Trouble – Tracey Corderoy (author), Steven Lenton (illustrator), Nosy Crow Limited (publisher)

I *may* have mentioned this before but we are HUGE Shifty and Sam fans in this house (we have all the books!) so my five year old twins were sooooo excited when we got this latest book to review.  In fact, this book has a shiny gold sticker on it, proudly announcing Shifty and Sam’s tenth anniversary- how has that happened?!! I feel so old! Ahem, I mean, huge congratulations to the terrific author/illustrator combo that is Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton!!

The baking barkers are back better than ever in this terrific tale aboard the luxurious Pawrient Express. Shifty and Sam travel across Europe to bake aboard this decadent delight, making their way to Venice for Carnival Night capers. But the doggy duo start to get suspicious as the posh passengers’ gems go missing …. The thief looks strikingly familiar and the detective duo chase the kitty-cat criminal across the stunning cityscape of Venice. But will Shifty and Sam catch our un-clawful (ha ha, see what I did there?!) criminal or will she escape to thieve another day?

 We love these doggy detectives and their canine capers.  The illustrations are always so wonderful in this series.  The colour palette and stunning scenery used in this book, in particular, are simply superb, really bringing to life the splendour of Venice and the decadence of the train journey. The characters are all so brilliantly portrayed in the drawings, which are hugely bright and fun.  One of our favourite things to do is to spot the spider on each page: he ends up in some hilarious places in this book. Long may Shifty and Sam’s action-packed adventures continue!

Imelda and the Goblin King – Briony May Smith (author and illustrator), Flying Eye Books (publisher)

This book is classic fairytale in the making in our opinion! It’s been an instant hit with my children and has been requested time and time again!  Rooted in classic fairytales, it is filled with magical creatures, mean baddies (in the form of greedy goblins) and the triumph of good over bad.

Imelda lives right next to an enchanted forest: a whispering wood which is home to the magical fairies which she counts as her friends. But one day trouble arrives in the  forest when a selfish, greedy goblin king arrives and tries to take over. When the nasty bully kidnaps the fairy queen, the fairies call upon Imelda to help them. Together they come up with a cunning plan to outwit the greedy goblin and free their queen. But will it work?

I couldn’t possible spoil the ending of this one (it’s so good!).  I will say though, that not only does this book have a wonderful story with  a fantastic moral of kindness and generosity overcoming greed and selfishness, it is also filled with the most dazzling drawings of magical creatures in the most gorgeous of autumnal colour tones. It’s visually stunning as well as being a superb story filled with fantastical creatures from folklore. A timeless tale that will enchant young readers everywhere.

The Safari Stomp – Caryl Hart (author), Nicola Slater (illustrator), Orchard Books (imprint of Hachette Children’s Group) (publisher)

Join in the rhyming romp at the safari stomp! We love this playful picture book which encourages your little ones to get up and get moving! Let’s move with the animals on safari today as a little boy and his friendly bunny join in with the wild animals on the savannah. Your little ones can engage with their bodies as well as their minds by hopping, jumping, lunging and crawling with aadvarks, elephants, giraffes and lions as well as encountering many more animals on safari. There are five different exercises to try to mimic the animals and encourage movement and the brilliant, rhyming refrain adds joy and playfulness to this delightful story. We also love how the book ends with the safari animals all yawning and calming down for bed.

The illustrations by Nicola Slater are adorable and the pages are filled with bright, colourful scenes which captivate young readers and encourage them to get up and get moving. A wild, romping stomp of a book, we defy you to not enjoy it!

Gina Kaminski Saves a Wolf – Craig Barr-Green (author), Francis Martin (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher)

If you have been following this blog for a while, you will know that my little boy adores wolves so I picked this book out just for him. He adored the positive portrayal of the wolf in this clever, twisted fairytale (he much prefers it when the wolf isn’t the “baddie” in a story).

This book is truly unique. I haven’t read anything like it before and that’s not because it is a twisted tale. It’s because, amongst other things, it uses emojis throughout the story and has a strong, neuro-divergent protagonist whom my twins absolutely adore. 

School is rubbish for Gina Kaminski today. The classroom is too hot, too smelly and too loud so off she goes to the reading room to read the story of Little Red Riding Hood but the ending is “😖😖😖”. Gina loves facts. The story, she believes, has three mistakes and Gina is going to fix them and save the wolf. Can she do it?

This book is simply superb. It’s a masterful retelling of a classic fairytale, inspiring children to tell a story in their own words and encouraging them to do what is right. And it has cake! What’s not to love?! The illustrations are dazzling creations of comic style and brilliance which serve to bring this empowering story to life. We loved the use of the sensory chart for Gina to show how she is feeling and the celebration of the strength of her character. A superb story which has been asked for by my twins on repeat! 

Zoom! – Sam Usher (author and illustrator), Templar Books (imprint of Bonnier Books) (publisher)

Do you have a budding astronaut at home? If so, then this is the book for them! 

I think we will be making cardboard rockets this weekend!

ZOOM! is the first title in a new quartet of books from the amazing Sam Usher which features a beautiful intergenerational relationship between Boy and Grandad. This story sees them recycling and re-using by making a rocket to zoom them to the moon at night because they cannot sleep on the hottest night of the year. They blast off to space in their cardboard creation, – swerving asteroid clouds and quasars – mend a broken module, rescue two stranded astronauts and parachute back home again in time for breakfast! 

This book is magical – do they really go to the moon or not?!  Well, that’s up to you and your imagination but we also love how there are subtle scientific and engineering facts interwoven into the captivating adventure story. We love the celebration of recycling and the power of the imagination and the creativity that that can bring. The illustrations are out of this world (ha ha, see what I did there?!): beautiful, detailed spreads bringing the adventure of Grandad and Boy to life. We particularly loved the rocket blueprints in the book. A beautiful intergenerational story, filled with creativity, science and fun; we adored it.

It Wasn’t Me! – Maria Altes (author and illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

This is a hilariously fun tale which has resonated hugely in our house. It’s a light-hearted story about friendship, falling out and forgiveness with an extra bit of cheeky humour (in the form of a feathered friend) thrown into the mix.

Ellis and Charlie are great friends. They live happily and peacefully together on an island in the middle of the sea, sharing everything. Until the day, that is, when their things start to go missing. First their big pot goes walkies, then their little spoon… they both swear that it wasn’t them. No one is owning up, no one is happy about it but each of them blame the other. If it isn’t Ellis and it isn’t Charlie, then who could it possibly be?! 

This is a brightly-coloured, beautifully illustrated picture book which we have loved. My twins and their sister are often falling out and this laugh out loud book shows them all about friendship and forgiveness. It portrays that even the best of friends and siblings can fall out and be angry with each other but that it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, last. It also contains the most hilarious ending. Cheeky, fun, impactful – a fabulous book about falling out and making up.

A Bad Day for Bear – Duncan Beedie (author and illustrator), Templar Books (imprint of Bonnier Books) (publisher)

Bear is back and he has a very important job to do! It’s time for the animals to party in the forest tonight and Bear is chief campfire maker. But, Bear just seems to be having one of those days…. You know the ones I mean, where everything seems to go wrong?! First, he gets a thorn in his finger, then he gets hit on the head by a falling log …. He thinks it is just the WORST day ever. How will he ever manage to make the campfire? It’s a good job he has such a positive friend like Frog. Frog shows bear that despite all the difficulties he seems to be facing, things are never as bad as they seem and by the end of the book, even Bear can see the bright side of things as he and his friends sit with their bellies full of toasted marshmallows looking up at the wonder of the night sky.

This is a brilliant book for bad days. Filled with humorous illustrations, friendship and warmth. A great book to demonstrate to children that everyone has bad days, and that is normal, but with the love and support of your family and friends, they often aren’t as bad as you think, nor do they last that long.

Be You! – Karl Newson (author), Ela Smietanka (illustrator), Studio Press (imprint of Bonnier Books) (publisher)

What a gorgeously empowering book for your little reader! It exudes joy on every page. “Whoever you are, whatever you do, celebrate being you!”

This colourful rhyming romp of a picture book has a brilliantly bouncy rhythm which is just made to be read aloud. The playful picture book encourages young children to be their true selves, as well as allowing them to see that not everything will be easy and not all days will be good ones. It encourages resilience, self-worth and self acceptance and uses the most joyful illustrations to do so. A gaggle of children are dressed as their favourite animals – from hedgehogs to wombats, pangolins to bumblebees – and your child can roar like a lion, hop like a frog and flap like a penguin to be smart, kind, spiky, tough … whatever… to be You! 

The illustrations are just joyful: vibrant and colourful drawings of children in animal onesies. This would be a brilliant book to gift a child for a birth, first birthday or christening. 

Mrs Owl’s Forest School – The Very Big Den – Seb Braun (illustrator), Templar Books (an imprint of Bonnier Books) (publisher)

Written in consultation with forest childcare experts, this is a superb book to get your children outside and exploring nature. Join Mouse, Squirrel, Fox and Rabbit as they gather deep in the woods for Mrs Owl’s Forest School. Your children can learn along with the woodland animals as they find out about the wildlife surrounding them and make friends. Not only that but they can get creative too in this unique “faction” book (a blend of fact and fiction). 

Your little nature enthusiasts can learn about tying knots, recognising tree leaves, make a bug hotel and much more. There are activities to try at the end of the story and symbols throughout to show to children when certain activities are more dangerous than others and to explain that they should never go to the woods without a responsible adult.

The illustrations are gorgeous: adorable animals and bright, colourful drawings of nature in all her glory. This is a gorgeous book for any nature enthusiast or forest school lover. It’s perfect for us in our house!

Pick A Story – A Superhero & Mermaid and Dragon Adventure – Sarah Coyle (author), Adam Walker-Parker (illustrator), Farshore (publisher)

Does your little one love dragons? How about superheroes? Or maybe they are more of a mermaid kind of a person?  Maybe they love all three? Well, in this colourful picture book they will find them all in this fun, interactive story.

This is the third title in this pick your own picture book adventure series and we were really looking forward to it because we adored the first two books.  If anything, we love this book even more because my boy/girl twins seem to really relate to the three fun-filled worlds of this pick a story book.  If you have not come across this type of book before, there are decisions for your little reader to make on each page, making them masters of their own stories and taking them on a fun-filled whirlwind of an adventure of their own choosing.  It is so interactive and so much fun because each time you read the story it can be different because there are so many varied story arcs.  I mean, what is not to love about a bright and beautiful picture book which combines such favourites as superheroes, mermaids and dragons?!  From the very first page, your little one has to choose what to do when we find out that Davey’s superb show-and-tell  picture has gone missing on his way to school. Davy needs help to find it! What will your child do? 

This a superb book to read when you are reading to more than one child too (like me!) because they can take it in turns to decide what happens next and where the adventure will take us.  There are so many options, so many challenges, so much adventure.  When you combine that with the gorgeous illustrations which are bold and bright and pop out of the page at you to bring the adventure to life even more, you can see why this book will be such a favourite with young children everywhere.  We were sucked into the adventure right from the cover page with it’s vibrant illustrations and rainbow foil font.  What a winner.  We hope you pick up this book and join in the fun adventure too.

Chapter books

Mermaid Academy – Cora and Sparkle- Julie Sykes and Linda Chapman (authors), Lucy Truman (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Your little reader will love diving down into this fin-tastic magical adventure series. If you haven’t come across these books before, Mermaid Academy is an enchanting school, hidden beneath the waves where young merfolk are paired together to create a very special bond with a dolphin and they must discover their own unique powers and magic. This story centres on Cora and Sparkle. Cora loves are marine mammals and ocean wildlife. But there is something weird about the creatures she sees stealing and smashing up coral from the Glass Ocean.   Sword sharks are snapping at the precious coral  but they seem to be in some kind of aggressive trance. Surrounded by these snapping fish with their razor sharp teeth, Coral and Sparkle may have bitten off more than they can chew! 

This is the second book in this gorgeous chapter book series, filled with fin-tastic adventure and marvellous marine life. Your little ones will even learn a thing or two along the way. The chapters are short and engaging and there are plenty of sweet black and white illustrations interspersed throughout the entire book, providing maximum engagement for its target audience. We were transported into an enchanting underwater world and we adored every minute of it.  We hope for many more mermazing adventures!

Middle Grade books

The Clock Thief by Karen Beddow & Lyndsay Macaulay

In this race against time, Lucy and Tom journey across Spain, past and present, to solve the mystery.

Can they help the King of Spain find the missing treasures?

The Clock Thief is the second adventure in the Extraordinary Travellers series by Karen Beddow and Lyndsay MacAulay and ideal for readers 7-12.

My eldest and I were eagerly awaiting this next instalment of the Extraordinary Travellers because we loved the first one The Little Museum so much (my daughter re-reads it on a fairly regular basis!) and The Clock Thief does not disappoint.  We love the way the story is broken up with facts about the country that the travellers are visiting (in this case, Spain) and the brilliant way it teaches children words from another language and gives them the phonetic spellings of these too to assist with pronunciation.  Such a clever way to get children learning about a second language without even realising it. Set in Spain, this is a fast-paced adventure across the country to help the King of Spain discover who is stealing the country’s most valuable time-pieces and why?  This is a super book (and you will maybe learn a thing or two yourself -I know I did!).

Sherlock Bones and the Horror of the Haunted Castle  – Tim Collins (author), John Bigwood (illustrator), Buster Books (an imprint of Michael O’Mara Books Limited) (publisher) (recommended age range 7-9  year olds)

Whoooowhooooo (my best ghost impression!!) – Sherlock Bones and Dr. Catson are BACK!!! Having absolutely ADORED the previous books in this fun, fast-paced detective puzzle book series, my eldest daughter and I were so excited to receive this, the fourth adventure in the series, and couldn’t wait to get stuck into it. All of the books can be read as standalone stories though so don’t worry if you have never heard of these puzzle adventure books before.

This book is a superbly spooky read for this time of the year, publishing at the end of September, in time for Halloween reading.  In this tale, a wealthy hound is haunted by a ghostly figure in a castle that she has just inherited in the Catpathian Mountains, Transylvania. She and her husband call in Bones and Catson for help. But Bones is a pragmatist- he doesn’t believe in ghosts – surely there must be a rational explanation?! But there are certainly some spooky goings on in the corridors of the castle, and when books and sauce-pans start flying around, he has to admit that some strange is happening! The spooky spectre is still at large, the staff are unfriendly and Bones gets suddenly called back to London, so poor Catson is left in the creepy castle to solve the mystery herself. Can the clever Catson unmask the gruesome ghost and survive to tell the tale?

Not only does this book have a superb storyline, with lots of twists and turns and hilarious puns but it contains 28 games and puzzles for your reader to crack along the way.   With its delightfully fun plot, engaging story and series of puzzles and games to solve, your young reader will really immerse themselves in this book.  There are mazes, search and find puzzles, maths problems, spot the differences and lots of other fun puzzles to help your young reader solve the mystery, as well as lots of fantastic and humour-filled black and white illustrations interspersed throughout this spooky story. Completely absorbing, totally engaging and very clever (with its puzzles and games and nods to the traditional Sherlock Holmes stories and famous real-life geography) we have loved this adventure and we cannot wait for the next one! A ticket to Transylvania awaits your reader, they will love tagging along on this spooky adventure.

City of Horses – Frances Moloney (author), Pushkin Children’s (publisher)

An excellent equine adventure, we galloped through this middle grade story! 

Thirteen year old Misty lost her Mum a few years ago. All her memories of her are in the house that she loves. She loves her school and her two best friends. But when her Dad loses his job, everything begins to change for Misty. She has to leave behind the house she grew up in and move into a house on the Redbridge council estate where people call her “posh”. 

Food banks and secrets from her friends become her reality. She doesn’t want to confide in her friends because she doesn’t think they will understand. She feels embarrassed, lost and alone. Until she begins to make friends with a smiling, happy-go-lucky, freckled-faced boy and her world becomes filled with horses and exciting adventures as she learns to ride and take care of an abandoned dappled grey pony. 

She is still determined to hide her new life from her old friends though but when her new way of life and the horses which live on the common come under threat, will Misty have the courage to speak out? Will she realise that change isn’t always bad?

We adore this book: it’s a story filled with family and friendship, about overcoming new challenges and taking on new experiences as well as a story which deals with the harsh realities of grief, loneliness, prejudice, depression and poverty in a sensitive way. Ultimately, this is a heartwarming book with family and friendship at its core and lots of love for horses and ponies. What’s not to love?! It’s perfect for any horse-mad children, equine enthusiasts and animal lovers. 

The Light Thieves – Search for the Black Mirror – Helena Duggan (author), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

Eeeeek! If you remember from the first book, the Earth has tilted on its axis, a dark mark has appeared on the surface of the sun, the whole world appears to be in danger and it is down to the children to save it! The first book left the storyline on such a cliffhanger so I was desperate to find out what happens next in this second book of the trilogy. And I honestly think I enjoyed it more than the first book. It was gripping and fast paced and I read it in almost one sitting, so desperate was I to find out the fate of the world! 

I loved the fact that there was a fun, illustrated re-cap at the beginning of this book to bring you up to speed if you can’t remember what went on previously in the story. So, picture this …. The sunlight is being stolen (and you don’t need to be a scientist to figure out that that is not good news for any living thing on the planet), time is running out and it is up to friends Grian, Jeffrey and Shelli to try and work out how it is happening. They know that the sinister scientist and tech genius Howard Hansom is behind it all but they can’t use any of his smart technology to try and stop him because it will track them. They have to use the ways of the Earth itself to help them foil Howard Hansom’s plans.  But what exactly are they and what has a strange black mirror got to do with them saving the sun?

Goodness me, the writing in this book just exploded onto the first chapter and ensures you are on the edge of your reading seat from the off. I mean, this gripping adventure does not let up and you feel like you cannot turn the pages fast enough! 

I love this unique and imaginative world written out in the most creative and engaging of ways by Helena Duggan.  Yet it feels all too scarily possible at the same time. I love the important message about caring for nature and the environment which is threaded throughout these stories and weaves itself into the reader’s consciousness. This book is fantastical, full of adventure and friendship and I, for one, cannot wait for the final book in the trilogy to see how this story ends.

The Spirit Snatcher – Cat Gray (author), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

Snuggle down under your blankets and enjoy this spectacularly spooky read this Autumn….

Pip has just moved to London. It seems scary and imposing, and pretty weird if he is honest. And that is just the street he lives on! But still, Pip is desperate to fit in and blend into the background, unlike his eccentric parents. Until, that is, one morning after the night before – when he is visited by a strange mist- his Mum and Dad seem to be acting very oddly and only communicating via grunts. Pip has to get his parents back to how they used to be so he sets out to explore Elbow Alley and its rather unusual inhabitants. You see, his new neighbours include banshees, werewolves, vampires and ghosts … but worst of all, there is a spirit snatcher on the loose, sucking the personalities out of people. With his new friend and neighbour, Fliss, and her dog, Splodge, Pip sets out to uncover who the mysterious spirit-sucking monster is before time runs out. They will need to find and destroy it to save Pip’s parents but it always seems to be one step ahead of them. And Pip realises no one is safe when Fliss and her father fall prey to its monstrous ways. Will Pip have the courage to save his new friends and neighbours? 

I absolutely adored this page-turner of a monstrous, magical mystery. It’s spectacularly spooky and amazingly atmospheric as well as being a gruesomely gripping read. It’s about friendship, it’s about believing in yourself and not caring too much what others think, it’s about community spirit, it’s about embracing differences … it’s a fangtastic, five star book which will be perfect for reading in the run up to Halloween.

Crookhaven – The School for Thieves – J.J. Arcanjo (author), Euan Cook (illustrator), Hodder Children’s Books (an imprint of Hachette Children’s Group) (publisher)

My husband actually read this book before I did. “It’s brilliant”, he said, “it’s like a Harry Potter but for thieves.” But, in the nicest possible way to my husband, it is SO much more than that. The one thing that we can agree on (no, not that the bins are most definitely his job!) is that we both loved it.

Gabriel is a talented pickpocket. He has to be. He and his Grandma need to eat. But when he is recruited to Crookhaven, a secret school for thieves, he is welcomed into a whole new world of cunning and trickery.

There, he will learn the arts of Forgery, Deception and Crimnastics, but all for good purposes… so the pupils of the school can go into the world to do good. Gabriel soon makes friends at the school and becomes determined to win the Crooked Cup competition in his year. He quickly realises though that the best way to do that is to bring together a crew of multi-talented misfits. But it seems this is not entirely to be encouraged! Will Gabriel play by the rules… I mean, when has breaking a few regulations ever stopped a crook?! 

I loved this book and the whole imaginative world that has been created by the author and the concept of having a school for thieves which teaches students to use their talents for good in the world. It’s jam-packed full of adventure, action, friendship and solidarity and I cannot wait to read the second book in the series which is out now! 

The Feeling Good Club – Be Kind, Shazmin – Kelly McKain (author), Jenny Latham (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher)

Set out in diary format (complete with doodles and all!), my eldest daughter and I love this fun series exploring emotions and encouraging children to talk about how they are feeling. And this latest book in the series is no exception.

Shazmin is so upset that her sister, Charita, seems to have turned into a stressed-out, shouty teenager. She seems to dislike Shazmin and never wants to hang out with her anymore or have fun with her. She’s always too busy studying, or arguing with their mum and dad about whether she is allowed to go out with her friends or not! Desperate to impress her, Shazmin tries to get The Feeling Good Club involved in making a video for a tv competition but her need for perfection makes her demanding and unkind to her best friends Archie and Bella. Will there be a mindful solution to helping Shazmin get back on track with her relationship with her sister? Can Shazmin and her family finally open up as to how they all feel? Join The Feeling Good Club as they help each other out, face their difficulties and practice some marvellous mindful activities to calm themselves.

My eldest daughter really loves these books – although this is the third book in the series, it can easily be read as a stand-alone- and she has started writing and drawing in this style in her “diary”. It’s so relate-able and sure to be a huge hit with its target audience, especially those who are struggling to work through their feelings about a particular matter or have fears that they want to face. 

As a caregiver, I loved how the messages of mental and emotional well-being were emphasised and reinforced throughout the whole book.  The cartoon-like, and sometimes incredibly funny, black and white illustrations support the text and provide engagement with the story.  We also love the suggestions at the back of the book containing some of the mindful activities detailed in the story – my daughter actually has a “happy jar” which they created at school (and she loves adding notes to it) and this is a very similar concept to the gratitude jar in the book (and I even have a gratitude journal by my bed!). My twins also used to do mindfulness club at school where they did a “what a like about you exercise’ so we love this one too.

A magnificent, mindful middle grade read.

The After School Crime Club – Hayley Webster (author), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Willow has always felt like an outsider at school. She doesn’t enjoy the same things as other children her age. She and her Nanna were like peas in a pod. But now her Nanna has gone and Willow has never felt so lost and misunderstood. So, when a group of children befriend her and dangle their friendship and that of others in front of her in return for “fun dares” that Willow must undertake, Willow finds herself unable to say no. But the dares escalate and Willow becomes increasingly uncomfortable. She keeps thinking about what her Nanna would think about her actions and Willow has to do some soul-searching to ask herself how far she is willing to go to fit in? How far would you go?! 

I read this story really quickly, almost in one sitting but I have to say that I spent much of the first half of the book feeling uncomfortable at the choices and decisions that Willow was making because she is so lost. Ultimately though, this is an uplifting story which explores themes of grief and loss in a poignant and sensitive way as it deals with Willow’s complicated emotions surrounding the death of her Nanna and the relationship she has with her mother. It’s also a warm and powerful book about learning who you really are and being proud of that, as well as an important story about the true meaning of friendship. A unique and well-written story of self-discovery and self-worth. 

Finding Bear – Hannah Gold (author), Levi Pinfold (illustrator), HarperCollins Children’s Books (publisher)

Roaring into our hearts once more, Bear is back and Hannah Gold has done it again with Finding Bear, her stunning sequel to The Last Bear!

It’s been over a year since April came back from Bear Island, her Dad has got a new girlfriend and is happier than ever but April can’t help wondering how Bear is getting on.  When she has a strange dream and then hears that a polar bear has been shot and injured in Svalbard, April is convinced that Bear is in trouble. She travels back to the frozen north with her father and sets out on a sensationally snowy adventure to find him with the help of some familiar faces. But April finds much more than she bargains for when she finds that Bear is not alone. A starving and frightened polar bear cub needs her help and she is going to have to navigate the wild and dangerous icy Arctic terrain to bring it to safety. Can she manage it, or has she gone one snowy step too far?

I can say with certainty that this book is just as roarsome, if not more so in my opinion, than the first story of Bear. I raced through this Arctic adventure in almost one sitting (pesky adult responsibilities got in the way!) and I was truly captivated by this spellbinding sequel. I loved seeing the April/Bear bond once again but I also really enjoyed the other characters that are brought into this story and following the blossoming friendship of Tor and April. I also loved the wilderness and beauty of the snowy landscapes and how the book brings to the reader’s attention that nature can be powerful and dangerous even within its beauty and it should be revered for this. Added to all of this are the important environmental and ecological messages which are interwoven throughout the story and you can see why this is such a beautiful yet important read. I promise you, you will have such a big smile on your face as you close the pages of this book: it’s a stunner. 

Kevin the Vampire – A Most Mysterious Monster – Matt Brown (author), Flavia Sorrentino (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Roll-up, roll-up, the Carnival Monstromo carriages are coming into town and a fang-filled fun adventure bursts into your life! We adored this frivolously fun read by Matt Brown. 

Kevin is a villainous vampire who is almost 11. Except he isn’t villainous. He’s lovely, and caring, and open-minded. And he can’t even change himself into a bat yet! Susie is a human who is stuck slaving away for her mean and bad-tempered aunts in the most deathly boring town in the world. Until, that is, the Carnival Monstromo carriages roll into the dull town(s) of Lower Drudging and Kevin’s family accidentally wakes the sleeping monster who lives in the mountain. The screeching creature seems determined to wreck the village and terrify the townsfolk unless Kevin and Susie can manage to stop it. With the help of Brannie, Kevin’s favourite sherbet-lemon eating dragon, will Kevin be able to rescue Susie and the Mayor and help the villagers without angering the creature too much? Maybe the monsters aren’t the bad guys the humans think they are!

We laughed out loud at this fangtastically fun adventure. We adored the Monster Fact Files dotted throughout the book and the storyline which highlights the importance of friendship, acceptance and not judging by appearances. The black and white illustrations are superb, adding character and atmosphere to the humorous, monster-filled story. For fans of Monster Hunting for Beginners, this is a fang-filled, five star read for us and we can’t wait for the next in the series! 

Peril on the Atlantic – A.M. Howell (author), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

Oooo, I love a good mystery! And one that takes place on one of the most decadent and iconic ships of all time ticks all my boxes.

It’s July, 1936 and the magnificent Queen Mary is setting sail across the Atlantic. It’s an exciting voyage for Alice – the first in a summer filled with adventure exploring the huge ship as she sails backwards and forwards with her father, Staff Captain Townsend. But when Alice witnesses a violent and shocking attack against a crew member, Alice becomes friends with a passenger named Sonny and together they uncover a sinister plot. Danger lurks around every porthole and on every deck as they uncover secrets involving gold bars and lost silk gloves from family members. The friends must uncover the truth before the ship sails across the Atlantic but will the Queen Mary’s attempt to do this in the fastest time possible be sabotaged? And what does that have to do with Alice and Sonny? What they discover might just change the course of their histories forever!

Ooo, I sailed through this marvellous mystery. I adored the glamorous setting aboard the Queen Mary and all the sumptuous detailing of the decadent cruise liner, as well as the details about what it was like for those who were not travelling in first class cabins. I adored the brilliant plot – which was filled with twists and turns – the mystery and intrigue and the characterisations of the main players. The black and white illustrated map of the ship was a wonderful inclusion in a book brimming with secrets and sabotage. A marvellous maritime adventure, truly deserving of five stars from us. 

Finding Wonder – Lauren St John (author), Marie- Alice Harel (illustrator), Levi Pinfold (cover art), Faber & Faber Limited (publisher)

I galloped through this book like the proverbial racehorse, so enthralled was I in the horsey world and the thrilling mystery!

Roo Thorn has just been orphaned and feels like the most unwanted and unluckiest child in the world as her estranged Aunt Jodi drives off with her one snowy night and the van they are travelling in bursts into flames! But all of that changes with a winning lottery ticket bought by her recently deceased father and a letter from him encouraging her to “grab life by the wings and fly”. So, with the help of Joni, Roo sets out to buy her dream horse, Wonder Boy. When he vanishes into thin air, seemingly without a trace, and even more horses go missing, Roo and her Aunt Joni embark upon a thrilling and dangerous journey of a lifetime, taking them across the length and breadth of the country and delving into the darker underworlds behind the glossy stables of the equine world.

With the support of some excellent and trustworthy friends that they make along the way, will they be able to find the horses, and at what cost?

This was a heart-in-mouth epic adventure story for me, filled with some of my favourite things: horses, mystery and adventure. I loved the characterisation of the main players in the story and I adored all the details about the horsey world, as well as the mystery and intrigue which kept me cantering through the pages of this book. The illustrations are stunningly beautiful, adding to the spell that this enthralling book casts over you. A five star rosette from us!

Bella Bright and the Ghost Game – Carolyn Ward (author), Beatriz Castro (illustrator), Welbeck Flame (imprint of Welbeck Children’s Limited) (publisher)

Hide and seek will never again be the same after you read this hair-raising book. And Oh my goodness, do NOT let the fun cover artwork on this book fool you- this is one spectacularly spooky story! I was genuinely scared at various stages in this book, making this the perfect spooky season read.

Bella Bright has just moved into the creepy Darkling House with her mother, a property renovator. On her first day at her new school, she is coerced into having a spooky sleepover on Halloween at the enormous and crumbling old house. Her friend Lex and the diabolical duo, Regan and Skylar, come over to spend the night while Bella’s mother is out until midnight. But when the old front door mysteriously slams shut and locks them in, the house shifts and groans and they hear a spine-tingling whisper inviting them to play hide and seek, they begin to realise that this will not quite be the fun night they had planned. The ghost of a cruel, young girl hides Bella’s three school friends around the house and Bella must seek them out before midnight strikes or Alice, the girl, will keep them as her playmates forever. Is Bella ready… because, even if she is not, she has to play the game!

 Believe me, you will never look at insects in the same way after you read this story!! I don’t want to give anything away but this is truly a chilling, spook-tastic read of a book. I raced through the pages with my heart in my mouth, so powerful is the story. I also loved the way that the book explores friendships and the confidence to be yourself, as well as creating complex yet relateable characters, both alive and dead! Sensationally spooky, we loved it.

Bridget Vanderpuff and the Ghost Train– Martin Stewart (author) David Habben (illustrator), Zephyr (publisher)

Bridget is back!! Fun and frivolous, filled with lashings of love and exciting escapades, I adored the first book in this new series by Martin Stewart so my eldest daughter and I were very excited when this second book dropped onto our doormat for review. Even if you haven’t read the first book though, this story can very easily be read as a stand-alone.

Bridget and Mr Vanderpuff have been charged with baking the centrepiece for the Night of the Hungry Ghosts parade, the most spooky time of the year in the little village Belle-on-sea where they live. But poor Mr Vanderpuff is all out of ideas and Bridget’s best worst baker accolade is still working its charm and her “bakes” still aren’t working out as well as her inventions so she isn’t much help. When they are warned that something terrible is coming to town and then a ghostly, green coloured train is seen, Bridget realises that something sinister is going on. Then, when the librarian and the Mayor mysteriously go missing, Bridget and her best friend Tom start putting the clues together and investigating the train tracks, just before Mr Vanderpuff himself is whisked (pun intended!) away. Bridget has got her work cut out: she needs to solve the ghostly mystery, rescue the prisoners, save the parade and come up with a show stopping bake for the Night of the Hungry Ghosts parade, all before it is too late. Will the bold Bridget manage it?! Of course she will!

This is a brilliant addition to this new series and a great spooky, seasonal read. We love the hilarious escapades of the brave and capable Bridget and the mouth-wateringly delicious descriptions of the baking world. I loved the elements of spooky alongside the fun and my love for Bridget just grows and grows. She’s clever, fun, brave, inventive, loving, caring, capable and adventure-seeking. A girl who is both rescuer and rescuee all at the same time. I also loved the fun black and white illustrations dotted throughout the story, really bringing the adventures of Bridget and the world of Belle-on-Sea to life. And there are even yummy recipes at the back of the book.  What’s not to love?!   I cannot wait for the next book in the series which is out next June. 

The Stolen Songbird – Judith Eagle (author), Kim Geyer (illustrator), Faber & Faber Ltd (publisher)

I love mysteries set in the past. It just adds such excitement and atmosphere to a storyline for me!

It’s 1959 and Caro’s mother has disappeared on one of her expeditions and Caro has no choice but to go and stay with her miserable and estranged Great Aunt Mary (GAM). Not only that but her adored rabbit, His Nibs (what a name!), is not allowed to go with her. 

Caro, though, is one of life’s rule-breakers… with her fluffy friend in hiding, and her devil-may-care attitude getting her into trouble, Caro is going to find herself in hot water! The lining of the suitcase she takes with her to Gam’s contains a stunning painting of a thrush that some dangerous art thieves are desperate to get their hands on. But what is it doing there? Can Caro and her friends solve the mystery of the stolen songbird before it is too late?

This book was full of mystery, intrigue and plenty of atmosphere. There were twists and turns in the plot that I just wasn’t expecting and I loved them. Judith Eagle’s storytelling is riveting – her writing grips the reader and takes them on an exciting and danger-filled adventure. I loved the characters in the book, particularly the fearlessness of Caro and exploration of the complicated relationship of Gam, Caro and Jacinta. A thrilling mystery with great depth and wonderful pace.

Nimbus – Jan Eldredge (author), Devin Elle Kurtz (illustrator), Scholastic (publisher)

This is magical middle grade at its best! Wonderfully spooky and bubbling with witchcraft and monsters, I almost couldn’t turn the pages fast enough in this animal

adventure with a spooky twist.

Nimbus is a kitten who was abandoned at birth and then knocked over by a car. She hasn’t had the best start in life. But that all changed when she met Fletcher. Her human boy, Fletcher. Fletcher, who nursed her back to health and read The Hobbit to her every night. 

But when a hideous nightmare demon is released in Fletcher’s house and causes all sorts of damage, Nimbus gets the blame and she is banished by Fletcher’s aunt. Wounded and alone once more, Nimbus meets a friendly, theatre-loving rat named Rhett who takes Nimbus to be looked after by a kind witch called Agatha. As soon as some of Nimbus’s strength returns, she realises that her encounter with the demon has left her with one yellow eye and one green eye because she has taken the demon’s magical power to walk through the dream world. Desperate to return to her beloved Fletcher, who she finds out is getting sicker by the minute, Nimbus realises she must have confidence in herself. She must learn to harness her new-found skills that her feline friends have taught her and face her destiny with bravery.

I adored this magical book. It’s creepy in places, with its talk of monsters and nightmares, but it is also so heart-warming and it is a beautiful animal adventure. I loved the characters of the different cats in the book and the blossoming relationship of Nimbus and Rhett. This is a sensationally spooky read for this Autumn. 

Non-Fiction

The Magic of Forests – Vicky Woodgate (author and illustrator), Dorking Kindersley Limited (publisher)

Mimi the cat is back! And this time the fabulous feline is our number one forestry fan. Mimi takes your reader on a wonderful journey exploring our wondrous woodlands, fantastic forests and joyful jungles around the world. 

 This book is absolutely fantastic.  It’s filled with fascinating facts all about different types of forests around the planet – from explaining different types of forests, to the history and fascinating folklore and fairytales associated with woodland, to the animals that live in different forests around the globe. Not only are the colourful drawings stunning and wonderfully illustrative but there are quizzes to take, unbelievable facts to digest (even around our feline friends -did you know that the sound of a cat’s purr can lower stress and anxiety levels?) and amazing activities to do to get you outside into the beauty and wonder of nature. We loved the activity ideas for back of the book – from the health benefits of tree-hugging to relaxing techniques for forest bathing, what’s not to love?! Mimi is one very special (and very clever cat) – thanks for taking us on this wonderful woodland adventure Mimi, we loved what we learned!

Little People, Big Dreams – King Charles – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Matt Hunt (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

If you have been following us and this blog for a while, you will know that we are HUGE fans of this fantastic non-fiction series which educates children about outstanding people and their incredible lives.

We were absolutely fascinated by this exquisitely illustrated work of non-fiction all about our Sovereign and how he became heir to the throne at the tender age of three. This brilliant book tells your reader all about Charles’ early life, how he was the first royal to obtain a degree and of his first marriage to Lady Diana Spencer and her unexpected death. When he became king, Charles promised to serve his people with loyalty and respect.  

If I am being completely honest, I hadn’t really realised what a hugely passionate defender of the environment and nature he is. This work of non fiction tells us of how he warned the world about the dangers of climate change before it was even widely recognised! His philosophies of respecting nature, championing conservation and creating a sustainable future, together with his tireless charity work make for fascinating reading.

 As usual with this series, there is a fantastic further facts and black and white photo section at the back of the book where your little reader can learn more and be inspired by the lifetime achievements of this now reigning monarch.  I cannot sign off without mentioning the artwork.  It absolutely stunning: beautiful colours and gorgeous illustrations of people, fabulous flora and fauna and stunning landscapes. If you would like to find out more about this wonderful series, do take a look at the Little People, Big Dreams website Little People, BIG DREAMS – Be Bold, Be Brave, DREAM BIG! (littlepeoplebigdreams.com) to subscribe to their newsletter so you can stay up to date with the latest releases.

The Story of Conservation – Catherine Barr and Steve Williams (authors), Amy Husband (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (an imprint of Quarto)

What an eye-opening book! This is a story of conservation, told in chronological order, right from pre-historic times to the modern day. It’s about the relationship and interaction that humans have with nature and how some human behaviours across the years has caused huge damage to the Earth and threatened our future. Your child can learn about the arrival of the Industrial Revolution and how this demanded so much from nature. They can see how some humans (like those killing animals for fashion or trophies) consumed nature on a destructive and grand scale. They can learn about how National Parks have sprung up across the world to protect our environment and there are messages of hope dotted throughout this book, highlighting those who live in harmony with nature or try to stand up and fight for conservation.

It was really interesting (and saddening) to learn about the treatment of Indigenous people who live in harmony with nature and how they have been ignored and pushed out of their homelands at various stages in history. But alongside words such as deforestation, climate change, endangered and extinction there are snippets of light peppered throughout, such as the bee corridors in Oslo and the campaigns against coal-fired power stations in Japan. And ultimately, there is the final message that this stunningly illustrated book leaves us with: we can all make a difference. We can join in, support nature with the decisions we make and challenge the behaviours of those who do not respect our wonderful world.

Little People, Big Dreams – David Hockney – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Ana Albero (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

We are lucky enough to live incredibly close to a mill which features huge displays of David Hockney’s stunning artwork and so my children have grown up being familiar with his colourful style and his playful pups, Stanley and Boodge.

So, we were desperate to read this superb addition to this non-fiction series, all about the inspirational life of David Hockney.

As a youngster in the city of Bradford, David loved drawing. He lived to doodle and draw and was determined to be an artist, despite his mother worrying that he would never make it at art school or in his chosen profession. His drive and determination proved her wrong! David also knew that he liked boys and he refused to hide his feelings like so many other gay people at that time. He moved to London to study at the Royal College of Art and to be free to be himself. He went on to become a famous artist: his first exhibition was a sell-out and people went wild for his bright paintings of pools and pictures of everyday life, his family and friends. And of course his adorable, beloved dogs! He has spent a lifetime pioneering in the world of art and exploring different artistic mediums and his 80th birthday exhibition in Paris showcased a lifetime of work. But he hasn’t stopped there, still sharing his amazing and colourful artwork and spreading joy throughout the world.

We love the fascinating facts in this book – did you know that one of his paintings sold for a record-breaking £70 million in 2018?!- and the vibrant and dazzling illustrations in this work which showcase David Hockney’s artistic style and zing with colour and life. The fact and photo section at the back of the book is also brilliant, adding further detail to highlight the life of this expressive, incredible artist. 

Puzzle Books

The Odd One Out – a spotting book – Britta Teckentrup (author and illustrator), Big Picture Press (imprint of Bonnier Books) (publisher)

A super-cool spotting book! Can your little one spot the bat which has got its eyes closed? Or what about the terrified turtle that has hidden its head. Perhaps they can see which panda has dropped its bamboo? Surely they can spot the cross-eyed lemur in amongst the troop?! 

This is a stylish and super spotting book designed by the award-winning author/illustrator, Britta Teckentrup. Its pages are filled with fun and bold illustrations which draw your little reader in and encourage them to explore the pages to spot the difference between the amazing animals on the page. Each spread is beautifully colourful and there is an engaging, rhyming verse telling the children what they need to look for. They (and you!) can really put their visual accuracy to the test as they search among the dazzling designs to discover the odd creature out. 

These kind of books where you have to locate the hidden surprise on each page are a real winner in our house. And this one is truly special, with its intricate, detailed artwork, vibrant colour schemes and playful rhyme. Perfect for rainy days!

Find Tom in Time – Shakespeare’s London– Fatti Burke (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Tom is lost again!! Can you help find him and his cheeky feline friend, Digby, on every page of the book?  He’s trapped in the Tudor times in Shakespeare’s London and your reader can have so much fun learning about the fascinating facts about that period of history while also searching for other artefacts, people or animals (think an actor dressed as a donkey, or a monkey thieving someone’s hat!).  Your child can immerse themselves in Shakespearean history by visiting the Globe theatre, and learn about Tudor times by visiting famous parts of London and join in football games played with footballs made from pig’s bladders and filled with peas!  It is superbly illustrated with captivating colours and jam-packed full of fascinating facts. There is even a glossary at the end of the book and solutions if you do get stuck.  This is a superb-boredom buster and learning resource for older children. 

Be prepared for much competition and scouring of pages when trying to locate the various ‘can you spots’  though! There is so much to see and find that there is something for everyone.  Educational and fun, we love it.

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Fiona lives in Yorkshire with her husband and little girl who is 6 months

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