Birds on the wing, whispering wars and a muddy princess by various authors - book reviews -

Look up to the skies to discover the wonderful world of birds, join the battle against dastardly dangers, share seaside fun with a mischievous princess, and don’t be late for a tea party parade as a host of colourful new children’s books wing their way to Earth.

Friday, 28th May 2021, 12:30 pm
The Bird Book: A curious compendium of 50 wild birds

Age 0-90:

The Bird Book: A curious compendium of 50 wild birds

Dr Meriel Lland, Roxanne Furman and Nicola Howell Hawley

Look out of your window, step out of your door, and look up into the skies!

Out there is a whole universe of twittering, fluttering, soaring, swooping life… and it’s just waiting to be discovered.

Turn the pages of this inspiring introduction to fifty wild birds which has been beautifully and thoughtfully created for mindful post-Covid nature watchers.

Written by vegan wildlife presenter and filmmaker Roxy Furman, and nature writer, poet and film-artist Dr Meriel Lland, this pocket companion for the newbie birdwatcher will introduce you to fifty birds often seen in the UK and Europe.

Bird watching is one of the biggest trends of the last few years, and whether you live in a high-rise flat or a cabin in the woods, spending time in nature, and away from screens, has proven benefits for our wellbeing.

Each bird – exquisitely illustrated by Nicola Howell Hawley – comes with a map of where in Europe you are likely to spot it, facts you never knew about each species, and notes on how we can help birds thrive… particularly those under threat.

Grouped together by each bird’s most likely habitat, from gardens and cities to coasts and mountains, all the members of the family can learn to identify birds by their location, appearance, behaviours and songs.

Whether you spot birds on your commute, cycle rides or weekend adventures, this is the perfect book for people who want to discover their local wildlife or mindful nature fans who want to look after our planet.

Designed in a compact format that is ideal for taking on walks, runs or bigger outdoor adventures, no bird lover should leave home without it!

(Studio Press, paperback, £8.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars

Jaclyn Moriarty and Karl James Mountford

Whisper it loudly… the Aussie queen of fantasy novels Jaclyn Moriarty is back to cast a spell with a thrilling tale of unlikely friendship, unexpected magic and dastardly danger!

The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars is the second whimsical and witty middle-grade novel from Moriarty and illustrator Karl James Mountford, the team who brought young readers the highly acclaimed novel The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone.

Set fifteen years before the first book, this standalone tale is packed full of quirky characters, amazing world-building and Moriarty’s trademark irreverent humour as two sets of children who are sworn enemies come together to defeat a much more dangerous foe in the Whispering Wars.

The town of Spindrift is frequented by pirates, Shadow Mages and charlatans. It’s also home to the Orphanage School, where Finlay lives with Glim, Taya and Eli.

Just outside town is the painfully posh Brathelthwaite Boarding School, home to Honey Bee, Hamish and Victor, Duke of Ainsley. When the two schools compete at the Spindrift Tournament, stakes are high, tensions are higher, and some people are out to win at any cost.

Before long, the orphans and the boarding school are in an all-out war. And then Whispering Wars break out, and Spindrift is thrust on to the front lines. Children are being stolen, Witches, Sirens and a deadly magical flu invade the town, and all attempts to fight back are met with defeat.

Finlay, Honey Bee and their friends must join forces to outwit the encroaching forces of darkness, rescue the stolen children, and turn the tide of the war. But how can one bickering troupe outwit the insidious power of the Whisperers? And who are the two mysterious figures watching them from the shadows?

Moriarty uses her vivid imagination, storytelling skills and love of language to unleash another thrilling and epic adventure full of fantasy, fun and wickedly clever wordplay… and there is the added delight of a welcome appearance by the irrepressible Bronte Mettlestone.

Funny, quirky, clever and outrageously entertaining!

(Guppy Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 6 plus:

Unipiggle: Mermaid Mayhem

Hannah Shaw

It’s holiday time… and that might just mean getting into mischief!

Get ready for more fun-filled anarchy with a princess who loves breaking the rules and her Royal Unicorn who just happens to be a smelly pig… sorry, a Unipiggle!

Share madcap adventures and giggles galore as Hannah Shaw returns with her magical series for young readers. Well-known for her superb illustrations in the award-winning The Great Hamster Massacre, Shaw welcomes back her readers to Twinkleland Kingdom where everyone is 100 per cent perfect… except for the irresistible Princess Pea.

Starring a princess who doesn’t like rules, thinks being perfect is boring, and would rather wear wellies than a frilly frock, expect laugh-out-loud antics all the way.

Princess Peony Peachykins Primrose Polyanna Posh (better known as Pea) loves getting muddy and having adventures with her royal pet, Unipiggle. And today Unipiggle and Princess Pea are excited to be on holiday. They can’t wait to build sandcastles and explore the magical underwater town, Mermaid Springs.

But then the King is swept away in a whirlpool, the mermaids think he has been taken by a mysterious undersea creature... who likes to burp a lot. Can Unipiggle and Princess Pea brave the bubbles to find his secret lair and save the King?

Like a pig in muck, Shaw has fun, games and muddy magic with this wonderfully madcap and imaginative series which is filled with high-energy, full-colour illustrations, knockabout comedy, a draw your own narwhal section, a spot the difference challenge… and a loud, muddy and proud Unipiggle quiz.

Enjoy!

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)

Age 4 plus:

Tea Party Parade

Nick Sharratt

It’s not just children who come out to play in a joyful book from award-winning author and illustrator Nick Sharratt!

Word play also takes centre stage in his new playground-based story full of colourful costumes, party parades and lots of delicious food.

Tea Party Parade is the latest book in the super-readable Little Gems series which brings together leading authors and illustrators, and a host of clever design and finishing techniques, like dyslexia-friendly fonts, to create easy-to-read, first chapter books in a chunky format ideal for little hands, and with some extra reading, jokes and activity fun inside the covers.

So join in the celebrations as the schoolchildren get ready for the spring tea party parade. The class are in their costumes and the teachers are marching too. Teacups are twirling, cake slices are spinning, and the big finale is going to be the best show of all!

Bursting with lots of rhyme, rhythm and energy for little ones to enjoy, this cheerful, charming story is ideal for youngsters taking the first steps on the path to reading independence.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Somewhere

Jeanne Willis and Anastasia Suvorova

The imagination is a powerful thought vehicle and nowhere is it more potent than in the mind of a young child.

Harnessing all those magical places to which a child can escape, award-winning author Jeanne Willis and Russian illustrator Anastasia Suvorova bring us an enchanting picture book filled with wonder, colour, ingenious peep-through pages… and wild imaginings.

At the bottom of Oscar’s garden is a magical place called Nowhere, a place where extraordinary things can happen. Oscar can fly an incredible kite, build an enchanted castle and even set sail in a pirate ship! He can do just what he likes, and there are no grown-ups asking questions he doesn’t want to answer.

But when Nowhere begins to feel a little lonely, will Oscar find himself wishing for Somewhere that feels more like home?

Somewhere really is something… a beautifully illustrated and atmospheric story that takes youngsters on a fantastical journey as they follow Oscar to the stars and back where he discovers that however far we roam, being at home with loved ones is simply the best!

With its themes of adventure, family love and the cosy reassurance of home, Somewhere is the perfect wind-down story for your sleepy little bedtime readers!

(Nosy Crow, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Meet the Grumblies

John Kelly and Carmen Saldaña

Easy come but not so easy go are the watchwords in this clever, comical and cautionary picture book from dynamic duo John Kelly and Carmen Saldaña.

Meet the Grumblies – starring a hilarious group of Neanderthal characters – offers a bright, colourful and quirky lesson in teamwork to all young readers who like their stories to come with a big dose of fun and giggles.

The Grumblies – Grumble-Stick, Grumble-Rope and Grumple-Mud – live in the land of Grumbly where bread rolls grow on bushes, squidgy fruit hangs from every tree and the pond is full of fizzy juice. You’d think they would be happy because they have lots of spare time to sit around but all they do is argue! So when a huge, hungry Gobblestomp arrives in their village and chomps and slurps all their food and drink, they need to decide which little Grumbly will banish the beast?

Kelly lets his imagination take flight for this fun-filled, slapstick tale of a combative clan who can’t stop arguing while Saldaňa uses her broad brush strokes and colourful palette to bring all their frantic antics to glorious life.

Get ready to laugh out loud and fall in love with the warring Grumblies!

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

This is Crab

Harriet Evans and Jacqui Lee

A shy crab needs a helping hand to come out of his shell in a fun, interactive picture book from top team author Harriet Evans and illustrator Jacqui Lee.

Little ones will love diving into this clever, cl-awesome adventure which lets them get hands-on as they explore the wild creatures and wonders of the ocean.

There is lots of gripping, tipping and nipping to be enjoyed as Crab leaves his underwater cave and youngsters must shake, push, tilt, wave, clap and tickle some strange and colourful obstacles until our crustacean hero finally sheds his old and grubby shell.

The fun and playful combination of Evans’ words, fun flaps to draw inquisitive readers into the action and Lee’s bold, expressive illustrations is guaranteed to enchant and inspire young readers as they join Crab on his interactive adventures which incorporate interesting facts about crabs and life under the sea.

A shell-cracking book to read and share… and then start all over again!

(Little Tiger, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Curious Kids: Stars and Space

Jonny Marx and Christiane Engel

From comets to stars, space is full of amazing things!

Head off beyond the skies to discover just some of the trillions of incredible things that our eyes cannot always see in this ingenious pop-up book just made for curious young minds. From comets and asteroids to stars, solar systems and rockets, learn all about the fascinating universe as pictures pop up on each page.

Christiane Engel’s fun and intricately detailed illustrations explore the world of space and space travel with rich textures and bright, jewelled colours that can’t help but catch a child’s eye while Jonny Marx’s narration is packed full of fascinating facts to engage children with the wonders of the universe.

With delightful, eye-catching pop-ups that bring the space facts to life, a visit to the 1969 Moon mission, and a fiery asteroid as a final flourish on the last pages, this is an innovative and exciting introduction to stupendous stars, space and our solar system.

Discovery and entertainment in one beautiful pop-up book.

(Caterpillar Books, board book, £10.99)

Age 3 plus:

Nen and the Lonely Fisherman

Ian Eagleton and James Mayhew

Can two people from different worlds ever be together?

That is the question posed in a beautiful picture book that celebrates the beginning of international Pride month by reimagining the story of The Little Mermaid with an LBGTQ+ theme.

Written and illustrated by gay author Ian Eagleton and with enchanting artwork by gay illustrator James Mayhew, Nen and the Lonely Fisherman was inspired by their personal experiences of recognising and being fearful of their ‘difference.’

Far out to sea and deep below the whispering waves lives a merman called Nen. Nen spends his days exploring his underwater kingdom, but something is missing… his heart is empty. So Nen ventures to the forbidden world above and it is here that he meets Ernest, a lonely fisherman.

But can two people from different worlds be together and what will happen when a terrifying storm gathers?

With its lyrical and sensitive celebration of love, acceptance and faith, and gentle messages about how we treat our oceans, and each other, Nen and the Lonely Fisherman is a tender reminder that love in all its forms is a cause for celebration and hope.

(Owlet Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

All Aboard the Words Train

Illustrated by Sean Sims

You don’t need a ticket to ride when you hit the rails on a first-class journey of learning!

Oxford University Press are ready and waiting at the station with this brilliant series which introduces key early learning concepts through beautifully illustrated and engaging stories which explore words, colours, numbers, space and so much more.

So hop aboard this thrill-filled train and enjoy fun lessons with a gang of playful youngsters… and a menagerie of amazing creatures.

In All Aboard the Words Train, youngsters are off to have fun at the seaside whilst they explore the world of words. Join them as they splash around on the beach, discover a coral reef, meet turtles, dolphins and an octopus, and visit a tropical island!

Each page focuses on nouns, adjectives, or verbs, as a gentle introduction to word classes and there is lots to learn, spot, count and talk about along the way.

And with Sean Sims’ vibrant, colourful illustrations perfectly pitched for pre-schoolers, and discovery and fun on every page, this unmissable series offers fast-track learning all the way!

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age one plus:

Tim Hopgood’s Wonderful World of Colours

Tim Hopgood

Nature doesn’t just come in shades of green… it’s every colour of the rainbow!

Let little ones discover our wonderful world of colours with a joyous board book from author and illustrator Tim Hopgood.

Turn the pages of this beautiful introduction to the beauties of nature and colour, and delight in everything that grows, from red strawberries and juicy oranges to green peas and yellow bananas.

With bright, eye-catching artwork, Hopgood’s enchanting book shows the youngest children how colours can be mixed to create new ones, and ends with a stunning fold-out rainbow.

Lavishly illustrated in a full kaleidoscope of shades by Hopgood, this a truly special book world and an entertaining first lesson in the concept of the colour.

(Oxford University Press, board book, £6.99)

Age from birth:

Bear & Mouse: Go to Nursery

Nicola Edwards and Maria Neradova

Every day is a new adventure with Bear and Mouse… and in their latest outing, the two best friends are off to the nursery!

Help prepare your little one for a busy day of fun and nursery play with this gorgeously illustrated and designed board book which is part of a lively, interactive series from author Nicola Edwards and illustrator Maria Neradova.

With adorable illustrations and an enchanting text, these clever books introduce little ones to first experiences in a fun and friendly way, and encourage them to join in the activities with Bear and Mouse by pushing slides and lifting flaps.

And here we find the pals getting creative as they paint, play on the slide, enjoy a snack, and tuck up for a nap when they start to feel sleepy.

From whizzing down the slide and picking their favourite fruit to making music together, there is so much to share and learn along the way in this hands-on, nursery adventure!

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £6.99)