Freewheeling princesses, ruling the galaxy and chaotic cats by various authors - children’s book reviews –

Take flight with some feisty princesses on an all-action route to freedom, laugh all the way to outer space with an out-of-this world adventure, share madcap capers with feline friends as they go cat-astrophically crazy, and tuck into more cheesy fun with everyone’s favourite Supermouse as a sunshine collection of summer children’s books hit the shelves.

By Pam Norfolk
Wednesday, 6th July 2022, 12:30 pm
Princesses Break Free by Timothy Knapman and Jenny Løvlie
Princesses Break Free by Timothy Knapman and Jenny Løvlie

Age 3 plus:

Princesses Break Free

Timothy Knapman and Jenny Løvlie

Long gone are the days when a princess had to sit around waiting to be rescued by a handsome prince… now, they rescue themselves!

Girls will be leaping from towers, arming themselves with mushy apple pies, and parachuting with a giant pair of knickers when they get their hands on this humorous and gloriously go-getting picture book from author, lyricist and playwright Timothy Knapman and prize-winning illustrator Jenny Løvlie.

Princesses Break Free – a wild and wonderful fairy tale adventure – sets out to challenge all those stereotypical images of the pampered princesses and poised, preened damsels in distress and instead stars a princess who is ready to take charge of her own destiny.

The story begins in a fairy tale world like any other… princesses in distress are rescued by valiant and dashing princes and live happily ever after. The End. But for Princess Tilly, sitting around waiting to be rescued by a prince is BORING. So… she simply rescues herself! ‘This puny prison can’t hold me!’ she declares. And it’s not long before word of Tilly’s exploits spreads across the kingdom and inspires other princesses (and princes and witches) to take their fate into their own hands too!

Knapman’s all-action, high-energy and humorous story – with its fabulous cast of defiant princesses and traditional fairy tale settings – invites youngsters to buck the trend, reach for the sky and be whatever they want, instead of following a well-trodden and predetermined route into adulthood.

Brimming with Løvlie’s stunning gallery of rich and colourful illustrations, and embodying messages perfectly fitted to a new generation of 21st century children, this is a modern fairy tale with a wickedly funny twist… and the perfect inspiration for your own little princesses!

(Walker Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 9 plus:

A Beginner’s Guide to Ruling the Galaxy

David Solomons

It’s hard to crush your enemies when your homework is due! Strap yourselves in and take a deep breath because David Solomons is back with an out-of-this world adventure that will have you laughing all the way to outer space.

Solomons – who has been writing screenplays for many years, and is now an award-winning children’s author as well – plays to his star-struck audience in this entertaining, laugh-out-loud story about what happens when a galactic princess moves in next door… and almost brings about the end of the world!

Gavin has a new neighbour and she is really annoying. Niki follows him everywhere, bosses him about, claims she has never seen anyone so cosmically insignificant as Gavin, and doesn’t care that her parents will obliterate Earth with their galactic warships if she doesn’t stop running away from them. And now she wants Gavin to fix her spaceship. And if he doesn’t, the Earth will be destroyed by the alien despots (aka Niki’s Mum and Dad). Is Niki really a galactic princess and can they save the planet… possibly. Will they become friends along the way… doubtful!

Solomons knows his audience well and the beguiling mix of high-octane action, rib-tickling humour, outrageous plot twists, and genuine heartwarming emotion is guaranteed to have readers gasping and guffawing in equal measure.

So if it’s cosmic capers and intergalactic giggles you’re after, then climb aboard and prepare for a simply astronomical fun ride!

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

The Dragon in the Bookshop

Ewa Jozefkowicz

A young boy struggling with the grief of his father’s death is plunged into a magical adventure when he gets lost in the pages of his favourite book. Polish author Ewa Jozefkowicz blends Polish folklore with a fantastical quest in her powerful new novel about finding your voice in difficult times. An old Polish city fizzes with fear and the townsfolk are at the mercy of a dragon who lurks in the cave below the castle. Konrad’s dad always used to say, ‘There is a character in a book somewhere that matches you almost entirely. It’s just a matter of finding them.’ Konrad never expected the ‘finding’ to involve stepping right into a story, and he never expected his dad not to be there with him. After his dad’s death, Konrad stopped speaking. Not a word at home or school as the years rolled by. But that begins to change when he meets Maya on the beach he loved to explore with Dad. She doesn’t mind his silence. It gives her a chance to be heard because at home no one seems to notice her. When the pair go on a last visit to Konrad’s family bookshop before it is sold, they get lost in the pages of Konrad’s favourite book of folk tales. Whisked back in time to go on a quest with a dragon, they must find themselves and their voices, as well as a happy end to the story in the book and in real life. Jozefkowicz’s beautifully told, compassionate story – which was inspired by her own father’s death when she was a teenager and her work with bereaved children charity Grief Encounter – speaks volumes in this compelling and emotive medieval adventure. A warm, enchanting and reassuring read.

(Zephyr, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

How To Hide An Alien

Karen McCombie

Life isn’t always easy… especially if you’re from another planet! Much-loved children’s author Karen McCombie returns with the warm, entertaining and thought-provoking sequel to her perceptive novel, How To Be A Human, which imagined a friendship that really is out of this world. These life lessons wrapped up in fantastical adventures gently explore what it means to feel like an outsider and other emotive classroom issues like friendship, bullying, and the pressures to be ‘popular’ and fit in. At the heart of these stories is Star Boy whose space-pod was destroyed but is adapting to life on Earth thanks to his friends Kiki and Wes who are helping him to get to grips with becoming a passable human. They know what it’s like to be an outsider but Kiki’s long list of don’ts is a constant reminder of how hard it is to pass for a convincing human. But more troubling for the Star Boy are the strange pings and pangs he is experiencing, and the hard-to-hide electrical surges that are worrying his human rescuers, causing electrical disturbances all over town and making it hard for him to stay invisible. And when the Star Boy accidentally channels his true form on to the whiteboard of every class at Riverside Academy, things reach a whole new level of panic. With frenzied reports of an alien sighting trending on social media, how can Kiki and Wes keep their friend safe? McCombie’s thoroughly heartwarming tale of a stranded alien and the two unlikely school friends who discover him is packed with fun, humour and otherworldly adventures, but it is also a reassuring read for youngsters who face their own battles as ‘outsiders.’

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

Cats in Chaos

Peter Bently and John Bond

Have these feline friends gone cat-astrophically crazy?! Get your paws on this second laughter-filled extravaganza from the picture book collaboration of Roald Dahl Funny Prize-winning author Peter Bently and brilliantly talented illustrator John Bond, the team which brought us the coruscating canine caper, Dogs in Disguise. Cats in Chaos is a wickedly funny rhyming romp which takes a fabulously funny and mischief-packed peep into the chaotic world of cats and all the incredible things they get up to when their owners aren’t looking! In the dark of night, as their owners sleep, the cats of the city are all headed to one place… Catsby’s Great Circus! Step this way and see conjuring cats, felines that fly, Siamese that swing from above, and don’t miss the mighty motorbiking moggie Evel Katnevel, and the gobsmacking Purrcules Claw who can balance thirty-one cats on one paw. But with so much activity, it only takes one little mouse in the wrong place to put the whole circus in chaos! Bently’s jaunty rhyme, a story full of action and laughter, and a cast of madcap moggies – each rendered with Bond’s wit and expressive precision – burst out from every page. And with a fantastic feline twist in the tail, this playful celebration of cats is a purffect joy!

(HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

Supermouse and the Volcano of Doom

M.N. Tahl and Mark Chambers

Little ones will be in a flap when they join everyone’s favourite Supermouse for more tasty, cheesy adventures! This new action-packed adventure from (cheese-loving) author M.N. Tahl and award-winning Mark Chambers is simply oozing with fun-filled flaps to lift, peep-through pages… and fiery fondue. Supermouse is back in action but with crime on the rise in Mouseopolis, volcanic Mount Fondue about to explode and hazards on every horizon, could this job be too much for one mouse to handle? It’s time to call for some back-up… but who is going to help? This action-packed adventure – featuring the hilarious antics of Peter Parmesan, the mouse behind the mask – is a cheesy delight. With endless hidden items to spot in Chambers’ richly detailed, comic-style illustrations, Tahl’s joyful, energetic storytelling, and puns aplenty, Supermouse’s adventures are guaranteed to inspire a love of reading in the youngest of children.

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Dinos Don’t Give UP

Smriti Halls and Richard Merritt

Nobody could possibly be good at EVERYTHING… or could they? Imaginative bestselling author Smriti Halls and inventive illustrator Richard Merritt have fun with a dino-tastic story about a superstar dipolodocus who is a whizz at everything she turns her hand to… until she’s toppled by a surfboard! Diplodocus Dinah is BRILLIANT at everything. There’s nothing she can’t do and no competition she can’t win. But what happens when the Surfing Contest comes to Dino Town and Dinah discovers that surfing is something she just can’t dino-do! For the first time ever, Dinah doesn’t come first. Will she be distraught… or will she discover that that there’s more to having fun than winning? Halls is on her best rhyming form for this inspirational story about discovering your true grit and building the confidence to never give up, while Merritt’s vibrant gallery of illustrations bring to life the cast of colourful dinosaur characters and all the humour, fun and antics. Perfect for action and dinosaur fans!

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: Pirates Ahoy!

Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton

Ooh arr, there’s a party on board the pirate ship and the captain wants… cupcakes! Welcome back to another slice of baking adventures with reformed robbers turned detective dogs Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam who have swapped their life of crime for a career in cake-making. Shifty and Sam’s hilarious adventures are the work of multi-award-winning author Tracey Corderoy, who has written over 70 books for children, and star illustrator Steven Lenton, and this swashbuckling pirate-themed adventure sees our delightfully dogged detectives cooking up more than they had bargained for! Baking for a pirate party sounds fun to Shifty and Sam until they find themselves caught up in the middle of a robbery. Captain Sharpwhiskers and his criminal pirate crew in disguise have stolen Captain Chucklebeard’s treasure. Can Shifty and Sam catch those BAD pirates and bring back the loot? With Corderoy’s trademark warmth, wit and charm radiating from every page of this rhyming romp, Lenton’s busy, bold and fun-filled illustrations capturing all the piratical action, and an eye-catching, gold-foiled cover, this is the ideal book to love and share with all the family.

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Roar

Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar

Everyone needs a listening ear when things go wrong! Bestselling Irish children’s author Eoin McLaughlin and talented illustrator Polly Dunbar steal hearts (and win giggles!) with The Roar, another exquisitely imagined and illustrated picture book starring the adorable Hedgehog and Tortoise. With a quarter of a million copies sold in an outstanding series which has included the award-winning The Hug, While We Can’t Hug and The Longer the Wait, the Bigger the Hug – all books that spoke loudly to youngsters during the worst of the pandemic lockdowns – this inspirational pairing are back with the same winning formula of subtle simplicity, humour and tenderness. There were so many things that Tortoise wanted to do… so many games to play and rocks to climb. But oops, Tortoise is stuck and being stuck makes Tortoise cross. Tortoise isn’t having a good day because he’s stuck in a hole and is far too cross for hugs. But Hedgehog sits and waits and listens to his troubles… and then makes Tortoise laugh! And it’s all because the wise Owl told him that to cheer someone up, you have to first try to understand what they are feeling. McLaughlin’s gentle story and Dunbar’s delicate and emotive illustrations are the perfect combination to reassure little ones and help them understand their feelings of anger, frustration and upset. Simply beautiful…

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

Age one plus:

Spaceblock

Christopher Franceschelli and Peski Studio

3…2…1… blast off! Learn all about the wonders of space in this out-of-this-world trip to the stars and back. Spaceblock is the latest title in Abrams’ brilliant, collectible Block Book series and comes with the fantastic, full-colour artwork of Peski Studio, a husband-and-wife illustration and design team from Bristol. Ideal for young space fans, this entertaining and educational book invites readers to experience the historic Moon landing, learn about what modern astronauts do in space, read about the recent landing of Mars rover Perseverance, and discover how theMoon circles our planet. The super chunky Spaceblock includes vibrant artwork and cut-out pages on every spread and ten impressive gatefolds, including one that unfolds to an impressive thirty inches wide to showcase all the planets in our solar system. A picture perfect, interactive package of facts, fun and cosmic marvels offering the youngest children a whole new perspective on the wonderful world of space. And don’t miss the other books in the series… Alphablock, Countablock, Dinoblock, Cityblock, Buildablock, Farmblock, Loveblock, and Sharkblock.

(Abrams Appleseed, board book, £12.99)

Age one plus:

Bookscape Board Books: Wild Animals

Ingela P. Arrhenius

Is there a toddler who can resist a book that stands to attention? Enjoy a day on the savannah with some wild and exotic creatures in the latest title in Chronicle Books’ unique and inventive Bookscape Board Books series. Each uniquely shaped page overlaps with the next to create a complete landscape when closed (whether viewed from the front or back) and offers an immersive world to explore with each turn of the page when open. In Wild Animals, a simple text and colourful illustrations introduce babies and toddlers to adorable animals of the savannah and act as a gentle lesson in the chronology of day and night. With artwork by celebrated illustrator and designer Ingela P. Arrhenius, these delightfully petite but chunky board books, with their unique layers and tactile, toy-like quality, are an irresistible gift. A novelty series that’s perfectly shaped for little hands!

(Chronicle Books, board book, £6.99)

Age one plus:

Where’s My Turtle?

Kate McLelland

Where is Turtle hiding? She was here a moment ago. Can you find her? Help your curious little ones get interactive with this sturdy touch-and-feel board book which comes loaded with fun, discovery, word recognition development, and lots of visual and tactile appeal. A tantalising trail of colourful bubbles leads children past a touch-and-feel seahorse with an iridescent scaly skin, a whale with a bumpy tummy, and a seal with flappy flippers in the search for the green glowing Turtle. With Kate McLelland’s bright, appealing illustrations, discoveries on each spread, the allure of touchy-feely creatures, and a delightful flap ending, this enchanting series is ideal for young children. The perfect sharing book for babies and toddlers finding their way in the big, wide world!

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £6.99)

Age one plus:

Who Said Roar?

Yi-Hsuan Wu

Share giggles with your little ones as they discover who said Roar and who said Hiss! There is so much to enjoy in this gorgeously illustrated, interactive board book, full of animal sound guessing games and touchy-feely magic, as illustrator Yi-Hsuan Wu has fun with a cast of adorable characters. Who said ‘Roar’? Was it the sloth, and did the colourful chameleon say Snap? Pre-schoolers will love solving the mystery as they lift the peep-through flaps and touch the eye-catching, tactile pages to find out which noise matches which animal. With funny pairings, eye-catching illustrations, intriguing flaps to lift, and a surprise mirror ending to put little readers in the picture, this gorgeous book will be a hands-on hit with inquisitive babies and toddlers!

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £6.99)