Book review: Wartime thrills, rare leopards and a black princess with Walker Books

A boy on the run in wartime France, rare leopards under threat and a dainty royal with a ‘dark’ secret round off Walker Books’ summer of fun.

By Pam Norfolk
Wednesday, 26th August 2015, 10:00 am
Wartime thrills, rare leopards and a black princess with Walker Books
Wartime thrills, rare leopards and a black princess with Walker Books

There is also the chance to meet a malodorous roly-poly pony, share an adventure with a high-flying mouse, join an outing with four furtive friends on a mission impossible and explore the grim realities of a compelling coming-of-age tale.

Age 10 plus:

Codename Eagle by Robert Rigby

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Action, excitement, suspense and a slow, simmering romance… Robert Rigby’s thriller set in wartime Europe has everything a teenager could want.

In the gripping follow-up to last year’s The Eagle Trail, we meet up again with 17-year-old Paul Hansen whose comfortable existence in German-occupied Antwerp was shattered in a single brutal moment when German soldiers shot and killed his father, and his mother was arrested by the Nazis.

Paul learned that his parents were part of a group of resistance fighters and he was whisked away by a friend of his father to make the journey to England… and freedom. But the escape across the Pyrenees failed when their group was betrayed and Paul was forced to remain in France.

And while the Germans blitz London and other major cities, Paul is getting more and more restless, still eager to make his way out of France and into England. Although he too is now part of the resistance movement, the past six months have been quiet.

But there is someone who doesn’t want Paul to leave… the beautiful, fiery Josette, daughter of another resistance fighter, who regards Paul as more than just a friend.

Then one night, six men from the German Brandenburg Regiment, a special force of elite soldiers, arrive by parachute like phantoms in the night. Do they have information about Paul’s father’s role in the resistance and could Paul be their next target?

Rigby, co-author of the hugely successful Boy Soldier series, written with Andy McNab, is on top form in a scintillating story packed with brilliant characters, breathtaking action and impressive authenticity.

This is a revealing, intriguing and addictive series whether you are a teen or an adult… roll on the next chapter!

(Walker, paperback, £6.99)

Age 14 plus:

Drop by Katie Everson

Debut novelist Katie Everson tackles the emotive subject of drug-taking in a searingly honest and compelling coming-of-age tale.

Carla has just moved to London and starts at yet another new school. She is desperate to fit in. Although she makes a couple of new friends, she also meets and falls for the charismatic, good-looking Finn, and their whirlwind romance begins. Carla, an A student and gifted artist, lets her schoolwork slip as she enters Finn’s world – a world of partying and drugs.

Friends tell Carla that Finn is no good, and even his brother Isaac warns her about him. But Isaac has an ulterior motive, doesn’t he? And is either brother really right for Carla?

Drop is a bold, brave and revealing debut from a stunning new voice in teen fiction. Everson explores first love, drugs, friendship and family relationships with wit, wisdom, understanding and assurance.

(Walker, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Leopard’s Tail by Nicola Davies

The increasingly rare Caucasian leopards – there are thought to be fewer than 1,300 now left in the wild – take the starring role in the latest animal conservation story from award-winning writer and zoologist Nicola Davies.

The Leopard’s Tail is the sixth title in Davies’ Heroes of the Wild series which brings youngsters exciting, illustrated adventure stories based on real conservation projects.

Malik loves exploring the mountains near his village in Armenia and he has never forgotten the leopard he once saw as a very young boy. But the night he hears a shot from a poacher’s gun ring out across the mountain, he knows his leopard is in grave danger. As Malik strives to find out who would want to kill such a beautiful creature, he uncovers a villainous plot that will mean not only the death of his rare and beloved leopard but will harm every other living thing in the mountains too.

With vivid illustrations by Annabel Wright to bring the story to life and a fascinating fact file at the back of the book full of information about the Caucasian leopards, their habitats and the conservation project to protect them, this is both an exciting, action-packed adventure and a wonderful wildlife lesson.

(Walker, paperback, £5.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

Forget pink… black is the colour for this season’s princesses!

Meet Princess Magnolia, the dainty little royal who likes nothing better than ditching her flouncy dresses to become… the all-action supergirl Princess in Black.

Little girls will be tickled pink when they get their hands on the first book in a funny, action-packed series for young readers which is guaranteed to make them question their rose-tinted view of the world.

Full of quirky humour, monsters, despicable duchesses and the blackest heroine, this gorgeously illustrated book turns the pink and fluffy princess concept on its head.

Princess Magnolia is having hot chocolate and scones with Duchess Wigtower when... ring, ring, the monster alarm goes off. A big blue monster is threatening the goats but, of dear, stopping monsters is no job for the prim and proper Princess Magnolia. Fortunately, Princess Magnolia has a secret… she’s also the Princess in Black, and stopping monsters is the perfect job for her.

There are spills, thrills and laughter on every page of this rollicking good read from the award-winning writing team of Shannon and Dean Hale and illustrator LeUyen Pham.

(Walker, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

Get ready to be blown away by a teeny-tiny, roly-poly pony who causes quite a stink when he turns up at the court of precocious Princess Pinecone.

This terrific picture book tale of a funny, flatulent pony, from Kate Beaton, the artist behind the comic phenomenon Hark! A Vagrant, is guaranteed to have your little ones giggling out loud.

Princess Pinecone from a kingdom of warriors knows exactly what she wants for her birthday this year. She doesn’t want yet another cosy sweater, just a horse, and not any old horse. She wants a big horse, a strong horse, a horse fit for a Warrior Princess! But when the day arrives, Pinecone doesn’t quite get the horse of her dreams...

Using her trademark deadpan humour, a cast of anarchic characters and some deliciously madcap misadventures, Beaton’s warm-hearted story has real family-wide appeal.

(Walker, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Mouse Who Reached the Sky by Petr Horáček

There’s a ‘hole’ new adventure for award-winning Petr Horáček’s adorable Little Mouse in an adventure which has him reaching for the sky.

Peep through the holes and lift the flaps in a warm and reassuring story that puts fun and friendship in the spotlight.

What is that beautiful red, shiny thing hanging from the tree? Little Mouse thinks it’s a marble, but Mole is sure it’s a balloon and Rabbit says it’s a ball. None of them can reach it by themselves, so how will they discover what it really is? Together they will find a way, and discover the tasty treat at the end.

Horáček knows how to put adventure and creativity into his storytelling but he also knows how to touch our hearts and create inventive and lovable characters.

(Walker Books, hardback, £9.99)

Age 3 plus:

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

The best laid plans… prodigiously talented new kid on the block Chris Haughton – already the proud owner of a clutch of awards – lets his imagination take flight in this wonderfully clever and whimsical story.

The winner of the 2014 Association of Illustrators’ Award for Children’s Books, Chris Haughton’s irresistible tale is now in a gorgeous board book edition.

Take a beautiful bird, four furtive friends, their preposterous plans and feathers are sure to be ruffled!

The four friends are out for a walk. Suddenly, they spot it… a beautiful bird perched high in a tree. They simply must have it and shh, they have a plan. So they tip-toe very slowly, nets poised but, at the turn of the page, we find a ridiculous bunch of very tangled characters and a blissfully oblivious bird, flying away. One hilarious foiled plan after another and it’s clear that this goofy gang cannot catch that elusive bird! But one of the group, a quiet spectator up until now, knows that a bit of kindness can go a long way. Will his friends follow his gentle lead or will they get themselves into even more trouble?

Haughton uses few words to tell his story, relying instead on action, expression, humour, nuance and silences to speak volumes about life’s simple truths. It all adds up to ingenious storytelling and the perfect way to kick-start a lifetime of reading.

(Walker, board book, £5.99)