The longest day, a kelpie curse and comic fantasy by various authors – children’s book reviews –

Solstice: Around the World on the Longest, Shortest Day  by Jen Breach and 14 Global ArtistsSolstice: Around the World on the Longest, Shortest Day  by Jen Breach and 14 Global Artists
Solstice: Around the World on the Longest, Shortest Day by Jen Breach and 14 Global Artists
Explore the world through the lens of one magical day, discover the wild and wonderful landscape of New Zealand alongside a cursed family, meet a fantasy animal faced with some hilariously weird villains, and enjoy comedy antics with a rabbit desperate to buy a new car in a sunshine selection of spring children’s books.

Age 7 plus:

Solstice: Around the World on the Longest, Shortest Day

Jen Breach and 14 Global Artists

Explore the daily lives of children around the world through the lens of one single special day – June 21 – the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, and the shortest in the southern hemisphere.

With the help of 14 artists from different corners of the world, this beautiful and informative book allows readers to meet 14 fictional children in 14 places from the far south to the far north, and to discover the science, history and cultural significance of the solstice.

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Written by children’s author Jen Breach, and lavishly illustrated by an eclectic mix of global artists representing their different home countries, Solstice brings young readers scientific and cultural information using the worldwide experience of a solstice as its scientific core, and the descriptions of children’s lives at each latitude as the cultural narrative.

Just twice each year, during the solstice, Earth leans closest to our home star, the Sun, and since ancient times people have used the Sun as a timekeeper. They knew that the length of daylight changes in a regular way and celebrated the solstice as a signal of changing seasons.

This clever, colour and informative book enhances the text and illustrations with fascinating infographics about geography, hours of sunlight, sunrise and sunset times, and how the Earth’s tilt creates solstices and seasons.

And a global event needs a global perspective so Solstice introduces us to non-traditional families and some of the interesting facts that crop up in the different accounts... for example, in the Chinese entry we learn that pandas need to play or else they get sad!

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Packed with fascinating non-fiction, stunning illustrations for each location by artists representing their home countries with authority and beauty, and the opportunity to learn words in each language (including how to say hello!), this is the perfect, children-friendly way to discover a truly magical day.

(What on Earth Books, hardback, £15.99)

Age 9 plus:

The Grimmelings

Rachael King

Join a young girl as she tries to break the curse of a kelpie and save her family in a thrilling adventure full of alien magic, folklore and dark spirits from exciting New Zealand writer Rachael King.

Set amidst the stunning scenery of King’s homeland, The Grimmelings is a powerful, highly atmospheric adventure that harnesses Scottish mythology and contemporary New Zealand culture to create an utterly compelling tale of family, love and legacy.

Ella has long since learned not to listen to the local gossip about her and her family... she has her mum, Morag, her little sister Fiona, and their incredible grandmother, Grizzly, who often tells tales of her Scottish ancestry and the strange stories of creatures who travelled between our world and the faerie realm. The girls help Morag to run their horse trekking business in the heart of the stunning New Zealand landscape known as The Basin. And of course there is Magpie, Ella’s beloved horse, who is as cheeky and changeable as the black and white birds she’s named for. But the same evening local boy Josh Underhill goes missing, Ella feels uneasy. His teasing of the sisters had ramped up recently and Ella had snapped. She hadn’t really meant to curse him and she doesn’t even really believe in curses anyway. But now he’s missing and a strange, inexplicable foreboding sensation is falling over The Basin and when a black horse appears on the hill above the house, Ella feels somehow drawn to it. She now knows that words are powerful and she shouldn’t have uttered a wish and a curse on the same day. And who is Gus, the boy with the impish grin, who seems to appear in answer to her wish, and what does the black horse want? When Ella finds that her grandmother’s warnings of creatures that dwell in the lake are more than just stories, she and her pony Magpie are drawn into a dangerous, life-saving mission.

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A former literary festival director, King’s dazzling novel explores themes of loyalty, courage, and being careful what you wish for as Ella and her family try to unravel the mystery that seems to be stalking them, and work out whether it’s a spirit force for good, or one with evil intentions.

Featuring a cast of unforgettable characters, all the atmospherics that one would expect from such a unique and mystical landscape, and with fantasy threaded through every corner of the action and drama, The Grimmelings is the perfect way to get ‘carried away’ this summer!

(Guppy Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

I Am Wolf

Alastair Chisholm

Enter a thrillingly imagined dystopian world packed with big ideas, spine-tingling danger and jaw-dropping surprises as highly-acclaimed author Alastair Chisholm unleashes the first book of a dazzling new trilogy.

With a bold and highly original ‘other world’ just waiting to be discovered, a cast of unforgettable characters, plenty of thought-provoking concepts, and a page-turning adventure to get lost in, youngsters will be hooked from first page to last.

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Coll belongs to Wolf. He lives with his crew on their Construct, Wolf, a huge technological ‘creature’ driven by the clan’s combined willpower. Together they roam their savage world, battling other Constructs, fighting for territory, and absorbing them into their own. Coll is determined to show he deserves his place in Wolf’s crew, especially because some of the crew treat him unfairly because of his limb difference. But when a new and dangerous Construct attacks them, Coll is thrown clear from Wolf and left behind. Now he must get back to his crew, helped by Rieka, a ‘Tock’ who makes the Constructs work. She promises Coll a way to return, but does she have ulterior motives, can she be trusted and what is she really trying to do? As Coll learns new ways to survive and uncovers the truth, it destroys everything he thought he knew about his crew, the world they live in, and even himself. In a world full of danger, and suddenly without meaning, will he ever find Wolf again and even if he does, will he still belong?

Expect to be bewitched and bedazzled by Chisholm’s imaginative power as Coll’s fascinating, fearsome world rolls out across 225 pages of action, intrigue, peril and unlikely alliances. With its cast of unforgettable characters and uncertainty round every corner, the second book in the series can’t come too soon!

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

When Saturday Comes

Tony Bradman and Tania Rex

A boy torn between love for his family and his love of playing football is the star of a moving story from the top team of acclaimed author Tony Bradman and accomplished illustrator Tania Rex. Daniel had a hard time when his parents split up two years ago and his dad started working abroad. He had to move and start at a new school, but things changed for the better when he made friends with Ethan and started playing football for the Haybrook Rockets who are coached by Ethan’s dad. This season the team are in with a chance of winning the Championship but just as things are looking up for Daniel, his own dad comes back and the only time he can meet up is a Saturday morning... when Daniel plays football. He doesn’t want to let his dad or his team down, so what is Daniel going to do? Bradman’s sensitively told story – specially created by publisher Barrington Stoke in a super readable format for reluctant or dyslexic readers – zones in on Daniel’s strained relationship with his struggling dad when he is forced to choose between playing football and spending quality time with the father he hasn’t seen for quite some time. Harnessing all the familiar feelings and frustrations of children caught between warring parents, Bradman brings us a story full of warmth, insight and wisdom, with the added poignancy of Rex’s expressive and emotive artwork.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Secret Society of Very Important Post

Alexandra Page and Penny Neville-Lee

A good read will definitely be ‘sorted’ when youngsters get their hands on the second book in the delightful Wishyouwas mystery series which comes with an enchanting retro feel... and a nod to the nation’s long-serving Royal Mail.

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Written by Alexandra Page and illustrated by Penny Neville-Lee, these twisting, turning modern-classic crime capers sweep youngsters into animal adventures and enchanting underground worlds where friendship, bravery and danger take centre stage

At the heart of these delightful books is Penny Black, who we first met in the first book, Wishyouwas, and whose mother and uncle run a post office in London in the 1950s. It could sometimes be a lonely life for Penny but all that changed when she discovered a small, fluffy, funny, talking creature called Wishyouwas. The little creature is a Sorter and he has introduced Penny to a fascinating secret world hidden in the tunnels underneath the city’s streets. Self-appointed guardians of lost mail, the Sorters have dedicated their lives to rescuing letters that have gone astray and making sure they get delivered to their rightful owners. And now it’s1953, just days from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, and Penny Black can’t get into the summer holiday spirit because she’s about to move to Scotland with her mum – and away from everything she knows – for good. But when Wishyouwas plops into the fireplace in a cloud of soot and chaos, with a summons from the Royal Postmistress herself, all of Penny’s plans suddenly go up in smoke. The intrepid pair are soon on the trail of a mysterious traitor and a potentially deadly plot to halt the coronation. Their investigation will take them across London’s busy streets, high up in the air and deeper into danger than they’ve ever been before.

Bursting with action, intrigue, and fascinating insights into the life and times of London in the decade after the Second World War, Page’s enthralling adventure takes us on a journey through some of the city’s real-life hidden landmarks.

With a magical underground world to enjoy, a warm and wonderful friendship to share, and a perilous, high-stakes mystery to solve, this new Wishyouwas mission is not to be missed!

(Bloomsbury Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 6 plus:

The Narzat

Luke Marchant and Rory Walker

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Imaginary worlds don’t come more funny, fantastical and downright wacky than this delightful comic debut from primary school teacher, and now author, Luke Marchant. Packed with the equally zingy and zany illustrations of Rory Walker, this hilarious and warm-hearted adventure stars the lovable Narzat, a fantasy animal faced with some very weird and wonderful villains in the very, very faraway Jumble Jungle Wood. The Narzat lives in the wood with his friends, the LookyLizard (a feisty reptile who communicates through sign language) and the Chatty Chirper (a comically talkative bird who never shuts up). Little is known about how the Narzat arrived there, but he wears a necklace bearing a meaningful inscription. The Jumble Jungle Wood is full of animals you would love to meet because they are fun and friendly but some, like the roaring Ravenoserous are absolutely lethal. And then one day, two villains arrive, Lord and Lady Snide, armed with guns and a fierce desire for furs and the Narzat’s necklace. Can the Jumble Jungle Wood defeat the two awesome newcomers and their wicked plans? Featuring goodies to love and baddies to boo, The Narzat is a visual and verbal delight as Marchant and Walker harness their considerable talents on an all-action romp that packs in everything that young readers adore. A sure-fire winner with mischief-makers!

(Everything with Words, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

Winnie-the-Pooh and the Party

Jeanne Willis and Mark Burgess

Join your favourite characters from the Hundred Acre Wood at birthday party time in a beautiful gift book that marks the hundredth anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh’s first appearance.

With gentle rhyming verse by bestselling author Jeanne Willis, and inspired by A.A. Milne’s classic poem Teddy Bear, this joyful, heartwarming rhyming adventure about true friendship and having fun features the enchanting, full-colour illustrations of Mark Burgess, in the style of the original illustrator E.H. Shepard.

This dazzling series of books, by a contemporary pairing, introduce a new generation to the much-loved adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh and have been authorised by the Trustees of The Pooh Properties and the Trustees of The Shepard Trust.

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Featuring some of the best-loved characters from the Hundred Acre Wood, and with all the comforting vibes of Milne’s classic tales, the adventures in rhyme come in beautiful hardback gift editions with a foiled jacket.

In this cosy new story, it’s Rabbit's birthday and that means party time in the Hundred Acre Wood! With all our beloved characters in attendance, name badges are a must... but spelling can be tricky, as Booh Pear, Tiddle and Wiglet find out! Will Rabbit let them in if their names are not spelt correctly?

With reassuring, humour-filled adventures to enjoy, and moments that capture the essence of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, this is the perfect introduction to a classic favourite and a brilliant read-aloud story for all the family to enjoy!

This book is published on May 23

(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Pick a Story: A Monster Princess Shark Adventure

Sarah Coyle and Adam Walker-Parker

Decisions, decisions, decisions! Being given a choice can be scary and for some youngsters, it can be terrifying. But making choices and decisions is an inevitable part of life so make it fun – and not too easy! – with this sparkling interactive children’s illustrated picture book series where YOU choose the story. Author Sarah Coyle and illustrator Adam Walker-Parker have fun and challenge little ones to start making decisions and enjoy the bigger picture with these super ‘pick your own’ whirlwind adventures. And in this fourth empowering and laugh-out-loud interactive story, youngsters discover not one, but three completely different, fun-filled worlds featuring three childhood favourites... monsters, princesses and sharks. Zara is enjoying a day at the beach, when she realises – horror! – that Old Ted has disappeared. He may be old and worn but Zara needs him back, and she needs YOUR help to find him! Has Old Ted been taken by a monster? Or pinched by a princess? Or snapped up by a shark? It’s up to YOU to decide! Each page includes an activity, such as search-and-find, odd-one-out, mazes and more, all woven seamlessly into the stories. And with a different story guaranteed every time the book is read, plus lots of twists and turns, hilarious characters and decisions to make on every page, this is the ideal book to inspire a lifelong love of reading. So what are you waiting for? Come on in and join the fun!

(Farshore, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

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Old MacDonald had a Farm and Five Little Ducks: Slide and Count Books

Camilla Reid and Jill Howarth

Enjoy watching little ones get hands-on with a gorgeous new interactive counting book series based on favourite nursery rhymes. Written by Camilla Reid – a writer and deviser of award-winning books for early years children including the much-loved Pip and Posy stories – this delightful new Slide and Count board book series features buttons which slide along special tracks. And there’s lots of fun and smiles to be had as youngsters bring Old MacDonald’s noisy farmyard to life, and make Mother Duck’s little ducklings follow her down the stream and off on their adventure. With a romping, read-aloud text which is ideal for sharing, easy-to-move buttons to slide, and an adorable cast of animal characters, these joyful pre-school books are brought to enchanting life by the striking and super-colourful illustrations of artist Jill Howarth. With richly detailed scenes that are packed full of details to spot, these beautifully created and innovative board books are the perfect way to introduce early-years children to the concept of counting!

(Macmillan Children’s Books, board books, £7.99 each)

Age 2 plus:


Lou Carter and Magda Brol

If you’re looking for the ‘wheel deal’ when it comes to picture book fun, then enjoy a ride with Lou Carter and Magda Brol’s supercharged adventure! This top team are the bestselling creators of The Great Hamster Getaway and Wowzers! is filled with laugh-out-loud antics, Carter’s romping rhymes, and Brol’s high-energy illustrations whilst delivering entertaining reminders about the rewards that come from friendship and helping others. Rabbit is desperate to buy a new car... until one fine day, he finally saves up enough to buy his heart’s desire – a flashy blue motor! And VROOM, he’s off to show his friends. But when Rabbit sees his pals showing off their cool diggers, flashing fire-engines and amazing sailboats, it’s hard to resist trying to outdo them all... even when they need help to rescue poor Cat who’s stuck on a high bridge. Once again, Carter and Brol bring youngsters their own special brand of picture book magic as lovable, revved-up Rabbit looks set to capture the heart of every reader. Perfect for reading aloud, this four-wheeled adventure is destined to be a sure-fire family favourite!

(Bloomsbury Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

Does a Bear Wash its Hair?

Moira Butterfield and Adam Ming

Don’t poo poo it, but here’s a picture book that explores some of the incredible daily routines (and toilet habits!) of an amazing menagerie animals! Does a Bear Wash its Hair? is a dazzling new picture book from author Moira Butterfield and illustrator Adam Ming, the perfect partnership that created Does a Monkey Get Grumpy? which helped youngsters understand their emotions. And in this fun and fact-packed sequel – with its bouncy, rhyming text and Ming’s bold, colourful and playful illustrations – the team encourage children to identify their own self-care activities and routines whilst learning about the importance of caring for Earth’s remarkable creatures. So did you know that some crabs get dressed, that young meerkats have to go to ‘school,’ or that sloths have very particular pooping habits? From brave plover birds who clean crocodile teeth, to orangutans who make cosy treetop beds, animals have the most fascinating routines... just like us! Whether they are keeping clean or using tools to catch their dinner, the daily habitats of 15 animals across the planet – including sloths, meerkats, alpacas, wolves, foxes and crabs – spring to vibrant life. Ideal for relating human behaviour to animals whilst delivering a host of humorous facts, lovable animal characters, and helping youngsters to recognise ideas of empathy and animal welfare, this is the perfect, wind-down book for children’s own bedtime routine!

(Bloomsbury Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

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