Book review: Spook’s: A New Darkness and other summer sparklers from Random House

Preston author Joseph Delaney is leading the charge in a thrilling line-up of summer children’s books from top publishers Random House.

Wednesday, 25th June 2014, 10:00 am
Book review: Spooks: A New Darkness and other summer sparklers from Random House
Book review: Spooks: A New Darkness and other summer sparklers from Random House

The first of Delaney’s new Starblade Chronicles – a spin-off from his amazing Spook’s series – is as terrific as it is terrifying, and another Lancashire-born author, Rebecca Patterson, steals the picture book show with her enchanting, illustrated story of a troubled teddy.

There’s also a cute and cuddly tribute to heroic dads, fairytale fun for hair-conscious girls and a suitably mucky adventure for little boys who love cars and engines.


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Spook’s: A New Darkness by Joseph Delaney

Welcome to the County where the heart of darkness is ready to engulf us all again…

Just when you thought former Preston teacher and best-selling author Joseph Delaney was resting on his Spook’s laurels, he’s back on the dead beat with the most terrifying creatures on the planet.

Not content with the excitement of Seventh Son, a film adaptation of his brilliant Spook’s series due to hit the big screen next year, Delaney has been conjuring up new adventures in beastly boggart country.

The Spook’s stories, inspired by real Lancashire places and legends, are noted for their notoriously spine-chilling and blood-curdling fantasies featuring an ongoing battle against supernatural forces in a landscape based on the county’s rugged and beautiful countryside.

His cast of grisly witches, grave-wreckers, hall-knockers, rippers and all kinds of other nasty creatures are instantly recognisable to local children who have fun guessing the real locations.

Spook’s: A New Darkness heralds the start of the much-anticipated Starblade Chronicles which pit new Spook Thomas Ward against the worst demons, devils and beasts that Lancashire County can produce.

The new adventure opens after apprentice Thomas (Tom) Ward’s Master, John Gregory, has been killed. Although he has not yet fully completed his training, Tom is now officially the County’s Spook and he too must find himself an apprentice.

When a young girl called Jenny arrives and tells him she is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, he reluctantly takes her on as his much-needed apprentice even though there has never before been a female Spook.

Suddenly he needs all the help he can get because girls are dying in mysterious circumstances. They are found dead in their beds, covered in blood, with a look of pure horror on their faces. Worse still, their ghosts are left to walk the earth, just waiting for someone to hear the terror that has befallen them.

Tom’s job is to protect the County from things that go bump in the night but this is no ordinary haunting, and he finds himself on the path of a dangerous beast that is looking to kill again.

Monstrous assassins are on the loose and this devilish beast is just the beginning. Far to the north, a new darkness is rising and it threatens to invade their lands, enslave their people and spread terror to the far corners of the earth.

Do Tom and Jenny stand a chance against the might of the Kobalos as a terrifying new chapter in the Spook’s legend begins?

Prepare to be seriously scared…

(Bodley Head, hardback, £12.99)

Age 4 plus:

The Fairytale Hairdresser and Snow White by Abie Longstaff and Lauren Beard

Purple hair, princesses, fairytales and magic… it doesn’t get any better for little girls! Add some glitzy, glittery pages and baddies to make your hair curl and the result is story heaven.

The Fairytale Hairdresser and Snow White is the fourth picture book fairytale adventure for hairdresser extraordinaire Kittie Lacey, a feisty, stylish heroine for whom no tangle is too troublesome and no frizz too fearsome.

This bewitching series, featuring everyone’s favourite fairytale characters and the best and quirkiest hairdresser in all the land, combines fun, fantasy and humour in addictive and exciting storylines.

Can Kittie save the day in this modern retelling of the classic Snow White story? Snow White has fled from the palace and the wicked queen is on her trail. With the help of seven musical dwarves, a magic mirror and a dashing doctor prince, can the heroic hairdresser rescue the doomed princess?

With its busy, bold illustrations, fabulous glitter spread, hidden references and hilarious jokes, this is guaranteed to become a firm favourite.

(Picture Corgi, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Nightbear by Rebecca Patterson

Bolton-born Rebecca Patterson has a way with words… and pictures. And you can always expect something extra special, warm and witty from the winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize.

Nightbear, a magical mix of humour and pathos, introduces us to a teddy bear without portfolio… a cuddly toy who wants to help but doesn’t know how.

Pre-school children will love travelling with this special teddy as he comes from the factory to his first home, and then from the charity shop to another new home with a friendly little girl. This could be his perfect home with the perfect owner, but the little girl has a bedroom full of teddies and they all have a job to do. Can he find a task which makes him just as useful as the other bears?

Patterson’s illustration are a delight… packed with colour, interest and charm, they bring to life all the triumphs and disasters of early childhood. Little ones will recognise and love the concept of best-loved toys and their reassuring role.

A cuddly story just made for bedtime…

(Jonathan Cape, paperback, £6.99)

Woooo! by Gerry Turley

Set young imaginations in flight with the inspirational story of two baby owls preparing to head off into the big, wide world.

With its simple and effective illustrations and warm storyline about the rewards of trying your best and triumphing over adversity, this enchanting story will delight babies and young children.

Daddy Owl has decided that it’s time his two little owlets learned to fly. First of all he brings them some tasty treats. Then he gently ushers them from the nest and into the world outside. Join them as they flap flop flump, swish swoosh swump into the woods and finally take off, narrowly avoiding some hungry-looking predators along the way.

Little ones will love sharing the sounds of the flying owlets and watching them taking that final flying leap into the unknown… a picture perfect story.

(Hutchinson, hardback, £11.99)

Age one plus:

Daddy is My Hero by Dawn Richards and Jane Massey

Time to celebrate! Daddies are often the unsung heroes so here’s a delightful tribute book that would make the perfect thankyou gift to read and share.

This sturdy board book will charm the socks off everybody in the house, particularly the youngest children, with its simple, heartwarming rhyme and enchanting illustrations.

‘My daddy looks quite normal, no different from the rest . But my daddy is a hero, the greatest dad, the best!’ A child plays dressing up with Dad, and together they go on some amazing adventures. As if by magic, Dad becomes a cowboy and a knight, fights pirates and flies a spaceship, all in the course of one special day together.

Warm and winsome, full of fun and fantasy, this hard-wearing book will become a favourite read for every child who loves special stories… and special dads.

(Doubleday, board book, £5.99)

Stanley’s Garage by William Bee

Meet Stanley the Hamster… his work is never done and his adventures are boy’s own stuff!

Stanley and his animal friends are the stars of a delightful new series for pre-schoolers eager to use their eyes and minds. There are plenty of exciting things to spot on every page of these sturdy, padded books which have been made to withstand busy little hands and plenty of rough handling.

Ring! Ring! Another phone call for Stanley’s Garage but can he fix all the cars with problems today? There’s an overheating radiator, a flat tyre and a bit of an oily mess. It means a whole lot of work for Stanley and his pick-up truck.

Bold, stand-out illustrations featuring quirky characters and familiar themes, some gentle humour and an appealing format are guaranteed to capture the hearts of young (and older!) readers.

(Jonathan Cape, hardback, £8.99)