Wondrous waterways, a top class dog and a pirate princess by various authors - book reviews -

Discover some of the world’s most amazing rivers, enjoy canine capers with a dog called Noodle, have fun making unicorns, meet a boy who loses more than his temper, and join a feisty princess on the trail of pesky pirates in a summer selection of children’s books.

By Pam Norfolk
Thursday, 12th August 2021, 12:30 pm
Amazing Rivers
Amazing Rivers

Age 7 plus:

Amazing Rivers: 100+ Waterways That Will Boggle Your Mind

Julie Vosburgh Agnone and Kerry Hyndman

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If you fancy a thrilling voyage down the world’s most extraordinary rivers, open the pages of this brilliant book and discover over one hundred stunning waterways!

Amazing Rivers: 100+ Waterways That Will Boggle Your Mind comes from What on Earth Publishing which specialises in the art of telling stories through timelines. And for every question their informative books answer, they spark another one, helping to encourage young readers into a lifelong love of enquiring and discovering.

This intriguing, colourful, fact-filled book is the third in the entertaining Our Amazing World series and celebrates Earth’s magnificent waterways, revealing the animals that call them home, the societies that rely on them, and the environmental issues threatening them along the way.

Written by Julie Vosburgh Agnone and illustrated by Kerry Hyndman, winner of the 2017 Blue Peter Book Award, Amazing Rivers delivers a whirlwind tour in which young readers learn about the incredible wildlife and plants that live in or near rivers, from brown bears catching salmon that swim upstream to anacondas large enough to eat a pig, and vast paddy fields in China’s Li River.

Explore astounding natural wonders, from a boiling river so hot you can cook an egg in it to a multi-coloured river that flows like a liquid rainbow. And discover awesome river traditions, from ritual baths to rubber duck racing and barefoot waterskiing!

Amazing Rivers also addresses contemporary topics such as the environmental threats to rivers and what we can all do to help protect them, and includes a world map, which shows all the rivers profiled in the book, a lavish double fold-out spread with fascinating facts and figures, a helpful glossary and an index.

An exciting new addition to Amazing Islands and Amazing Treasures, this is the perfect book for fearless adventurers and young eco-warriors!

(What on Earth Books, hardback, £14.99)

Age 8 plus:

Noodle the Doodle Steals the Show

Jonathan Meres and Katy Halford

Noodle the dog steals the show again in a new canine caper from stand-up comedian and actor Jonathan Meres.

Young readers first met the adorable school pet – who really is in a class of his own – in Noodle the Doodle, the first book in a super-funny series which is published by Barrington Stoke in their trademark dyslexia-friendly format.

Illustrated throughout by Katy Halford, Noodle’s new adventures are full of hilarious mishaps and mayhem as everyone’s four-legged friend joins the new boy in class for the school talent show.

New arrival at Wigley Primary, Samir is shy and finds it hard to settle in but with a bit of help from Noodle the doodle, he starts to feel at home. When the class decide to put on a talent show to raise money for charity, Samir can’t decide what to do until his new best buddy Noodle gives him an amazing idea. Can the children in the class prove that Wigley’s has got talent...or will Noodle steal the show?

Meres puts on his own fine performance in this warm and wise story about friendship, fun and finding your feet in a new school while Halford’s gallery of playful black and white illustrations bring all the action to life.

A class act from a top team…

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Granny’s Little Monsters

Karen McCombie and Lee Cosgrove

Mud, glorious mud!

Youngsters will be up to their eyes in mud, mayhem and monsters when they dig into this gloriously funny and frantic adventure from the highly-acclaimed and much-loved children’s author Karen McCombie.

Published by Barrington Stoke in their trademark dyslexia-friendly format, and packed with Lee Cosgrove’s anarchic illustrations, Granny’s Little Monsters is the perfect fit for any for struggling or reluctant readers.

Cousins Zac and Essie are helping their Granny Mo in her search for the perfect pet. She has tried everything from cats to axolotls, and just can’t find the right one. But when the trio go mudlarking in the river bank in search of items that people have dropped there over the years, they find a creature unlike anything else... Granny Mo might have set out looking for a pet but now she’s got a monster on her hands, and it’s about to get up to some mischief!

McCombie is on her best comedy form as she casts a magical spell of family fun, warmth and wit over this laughter-packed tale of the totally unexpected starring two mischievous grandchildren and their fun-loving Granny.

Children will delight in these brilliantly bonkers adventures which tap into their fascination with treasure hunting and discovery, while Cosgrove’s picture perfect illustrations bring the story to glorious life.

Mudlarking heaven for young adventurers!

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:


Danielle Mclean

Little ones won’t be ‘stuck’ for something to do when they get their hands on this cuter-than-cute activity book.

Watch their imaginations run wild as they transform a series of everyday objects into magical unicorn friends using hundreds of colourful stickers. Add eyes, mouths, arms, and more to pictures of fruit, candy bars, flowers, toys, and other items.

With more than three hundred stickers to choose from, colourful artwork by Julie Clough, and lots of fuel to fire up young imaginations, this is the perfect activity book for young artists and little unicorn lovers with BIG imaginations.

Also included in this bright and beautiful new Cutie Stickers series is Create-a-Mermaid.

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £4.99)

Age 3 plus:

Sing Like a Whale

Moira Butterfield and Gwen Millward

Learn how to make a noise like the animals do!

Get ready to squeak, peep, roar and hoot like the animals with a fun-filled picture book from the top team of author Moira Butterfield and illustrator Gwen Millward.

Packed with energy, colour and a youthful sense of joy, Sing Like a Whale encourages little ones to whoop and sing and shout, and let their feelings out as they meet a collection of twelve animals from around the world and discover the sounds they make… and why.

So open the pages of this wonderful book, hear the call of the wild world, and learn how to make a noise like the animals do! Hoot like an owl, howl like a wolf, roar like a lion, sing like a whale, squeak like a mouse, and laugh like a kookaburra.

Sing Like a Whale features a different creature on each spread and each animal is accompanied by simple actions and sounds, along with dynamic type design and Millward’s bold illustrations to help children mimic each animal noise.

The perfect book to read aloud one-to-one, or as a fun activity to engage a group of young children, promoting their listening skills, letting them vent their emotions, and getting them using their voices and moving their bodies!

(Welbeck Publishing, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

How Can You Lose an Elephant ?

Jan Fearnley

Does losing your temper mean you might lose your friends as well?

The multi-talented author and illustrator Jan Fearnley works her special magic on this funny, gentle and reassuring picture book story which delivers resonant lessons about friendship, tempers, and making amends.

Ideal as a parental toolkit to help deal with tantrums, How Can You Lose an Elephant ? stars Oscar, a boy who loses everything — his football boots, his scooter, even his clothes. How lucky he is on a visit to the park when he meets Hugo, an elephant who never forgets anything! Soon the two friends become inseparable and Oscar starts remembering things. But one day, Oscar loses something very important — his temper — which means he might just lose his best friend as well.

Fearnley, creator of the bestselling Mr Wolf’s Pancakes, packs up an elephant trunk full of fun, wisdom, life lessons and gorgeous illustrations as the friendship between Oscar and Hugo casts a warm glow over this cute, cautionary tale.

(Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Never Mess With a Pirate Princess

Holly Ryan and Siân Roberts

Shiver me timbers… those pesky pirates have finally met their match in fiery, feisty Princess Prue!

All the family are going to be sailing off into the sunset with this super, swashbuckling debut picture book from exciting new team, author Holly Ryan and illustrator Siân Roberts.

Ideal for adventure-hungry toddlers and the perfect inspiration for both girls and boys, Never Mess With a Pirate Princess is a riotous rhyming romp starring the adorable Prue who just happens to be both a pirate and a princess, and is always ready to fight injustice and crime.

Princess Prue was sweet and fair, till pirates stole her teddy bear. Don’t they know… you never mess with Prudence, the pirate princess!

Ryan’s mould-breaking heroine is sure to empower young readers as they share laughs, rhymes and teddy bear crimes.

With Roberts’ bright, bold illustrations and the bouncy rhyming text, this blend of pirates and princesses is a joy to share and read aloud, and will help to fire up young imaginations and inspire a lifetime love of reading.

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Bird’s Eye View

Frann Preston-Gannon

Marvel at a bird’s eye view of the world – and the very different people in it – in a moving picture book from award-winning author and illustrator Frann Preston-Gannon.

Bird’s Eye View is a warm, lyrical and revealing exploration of the many sides of humanity and carries with it important messages about taking care of our planet… and each other.

Little Bird lives in a nest with her mother at the top of a tall tree. But Little Bird is curious about life beyond the forest and one day she leaves the safety and warmth of her nest and goes to explore the world. Her mama warns her to watch out for people, but what are they exactly?

On her journey, Little Bird will see many people who are all very different. She sees cruelty and greed, but also the lasting qualities of love and kindness.

Filled with Preston-Gannon’s trademark textured illustrations, with their eye-catching use of colour and bold design, and beautifully capturing the natural world around us, this wise and universally appealing story speaks loudly to readers young and old.

(Templar Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Rapping Princess

Hannah Lee and Allen Fatimaharan

Just because you can’t sing doesn’t mean you’re out of tune!

Feel the rhythm and find your hidden voice with this fabulous, funky fairytale from author Hannah Lee and illustrator Allen Fatimaharan, the exciting partnership that brought young readers My Hair, a stylish and exuberant debut picture book celebrating the amazing versatility of styling black hair.

This talented duo emerged from the FAB Prize for undiscovered BAME writers and illustrators and in a clever and playful new rhyming story, they set their sights on a young black princess whose gift for rapping reaps unexpected rewards.

Princess Shiloh lives in a kingdom where her mother and father are the Queen and King. Being a princess is a tough job for someone so small but it’s even harder when you have a problem you can’t solve. You see, every princess in the kingdom can sing except for Shiloh… whose special gift is rapping. Can she find her voice and learn to stand out from the crowd in a different way?

It turns out Shiloh might not be able to sing like her sisters but she has other talents, and sometimes it’s about embracing your differences and celebrating them.

The Rapping Princess, with its inspirational messages and vibrant illustrations was inspired by rapping ‘queens and princesses’ of our times such as Queen Latifah, Missy Eliot, Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé, and is guaranteed to get tiny tots rapping and tapping to the rhythmic verse!

(Faber & Faber, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:


Amelia Hepworth and Jorge Martín

Everyone is going to giggle and guffaw when they turn the final page of this upROARious lift-the-flap book!

Roar! is the inventive life-the-flap board book creation of author Amelia Hepworth and illustrator Jorge Martín and features a cute animal story with a VERY noisy surprise in its tail.

Duck is interviewing the animals to find the best roar in town! Could it be Mouse who has been doing a lot of practice, or maybe Penguin who tries his best, and a dog who can only shout Woof? Surely it will be the dinosaur who wins the day… or maybe not!

There are lots of monstrously loud laughs to enjoy as youngsters peep under the flaps, follow the story and join in the noisy sign-off.

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £9.99)

Age one plus:

Little Nature: Build

Isabel Otter and Pau Morgan

The animals are ready to build!

If your little ones are buzzing to learn about nature, let them take a walk on the wild side with this fascinating board book.

There is so much to learn and enjoy as young readers explore creatures that build their own homes and use clever, peek-through holes to uncover their amazing creations.

This charming book is an ideal and gentle introduction to some amazing wildlife habitats, and lets little ones discover how bees, eagles, spiders and beavers create their homes with beeswax, sticks, silk thread or branches,

Made from 100 per cent recycled board to help look after our planet, and beautifully illustrated by Pau Morgan, this clever book is essential reading for all budding eco warriors and nature lovers!

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £6.99)

Age from birth:

Little Days Out: At the Shops

Illustrations by Sally Garland

Life is a voyage of discovery for little ones so treat them to a series of fun-filled ‘days out’ with this colourful series of board books.

Ideal for reading aloud and developing early word recognition, the educational and entertaining Little Days Out series is full of places that are more than likely to become familiar to babies and toddlers.

Here we go to the shops and peep beneath the large and accessible flaps to discover all the different foods you can find in the supermarket, from fruit and vegetables to sweet treats and freshly baked bread.

A tasty dish for curious youngsters who love to explore!

(Catch a Star, board book, £6.99)

Age from birth:

Let's Go! On a Submarine

Rosalyn Albert and Natalia Moore

Little ones love to be on the go and the inventive Let’s Go! series is guaranteed to set their engines running!

These fun and vibrant board books, which are ideal for preschool age children, come from the stable of Catch a Star, an imprint of New Frontier Publishing which was established in Australia in 2002 with the motto ‘to inspire, educate and uplift.’

Each book features a mode of transport and uses Rosalyn Albert’s simple, engaging text alongside Natalia Moore’s vibrant illustrations to encourage toddlers and early learners to explore the great outdoors as they begin the early years of discovery.

In Let's Go! On a Submarine, youngsters are invited to go on a submarine and cruise beneath the sea where they discover strange and wonderful creatures who swim fast and free through underwater cities with underwater trees and buildings made of coral.

With their fun rhymes, sturdy pages and appealing illustrations, these user-friendly books are a hands-on winner with adventurous (and noisy!) toddlers.

(Catch a Star, board book, £6.99)