Perfect gifts, thrilling adventures and books to make you think by various authors - book reviews -

Christmas is well and truly on the horizon so here is an autumn collection of dazzling children’s books that are are guaranteed to inform, amuse, entertain… and bring a mile of smiles to readers of every age.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 3:45 pm
Everything Under the Sun
Everything Under the Sun

Age 4 plus:

Everything Under the Sun

Written by Molly Oldfield

Questions, questions, questions… being curious about everything under the sun is all part of growing up.

So here’s the perfect gift book for every parent, teacher or carer who needs some help with providing answers…a coruscating collection of 366 curious questions (one for every day of the year!) asked by children from around the world, and based on the award-winning podcast by original QI Elf, Molly Oldfield.

How much bamboo can a giant panda eat, do aliens exist, what we would do if we didn’t have a prime minister, why do bubbles pop when you touch them, and why do hammerhead sharks have such strange-shaped heads?

Find out the answers to these curious but fascinating questions and much, much more as this brilliant book explores everything from science and nature to dinosaurs, alongside some very knowledgeable experts.

Ponder where ideas come from with award-winning illustrator Rob Biddulph, find out why you taste things differently when you have a cold, courtesy of Michelin star chef, Heston Blumenthal, and learn about everything from how astronauts see in the dark to what the biggest dinosaur was with experts from the Natural History Museum.

Fascinating facts are accompanied by gorgeous, full-colour illustrations from the likes of Momoko Abe, Kelsey Buzzell, Beatrice Cerocchi, Alice Courtley, Sandra de la Prada, Grace Easton, Manuela Montoya Escobar, Richard Jones, Lisa Koesterke, Gwen Millward, Sally Mullaney, and Laurie Stansfield.

Whether you read a question a day, or dip into it whenever you are feeling curious, this is a book to treasure and share all year round, and, without question, a super gift for Christmas!

(Ladybird, hardback, £25)

Age 5 plus:

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by MinaLima

Join young orphan Dorothy Gale and her little dog Toto when they are blown away by a tornado to Oz, a magical place filled with witches, munchkins, winged monkeys, and other unusual inhabitants.

Hailed as America’s best-loved home-grown fairy tale, L. Frank Baum’s classic story has been enjoyed by generations of young readers since its publication in 1900, and was the inspiration for the award-winning 1939 film starring Judy Garland, stage plays and musicals.

Over the years, it has become a staple of American literature, teaching children the true meaning of friendship and belonging, so indulge your children this Christmas with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a spectacular, interactive book which reimagines the novel’s iconic imagery and highlights phrases from the original book in a unique and delightful style that will enchant readers of all ages.

Destined to become a collector’s item, this deluxe illustrated edition contains specially commissioned full-colour artwork and nine exclusive interactive features, including a cyclone map that opens up to reveal the Land of Oz, pop-up Yellow Brick Road glasses that provide a different look at the world, fighting trees with branches that move and Dorothy’s silver shoes that can be clicked together.

Created by MinaLima, the award-winning design studio behind the graphics for the Harry Potter film franchise, this keepsake edition is a wonderful addition to Harper Design’s imaginative series of illustrated children’s classics and is guaranteed to be treasured by families for years to come.

(Harper Design, hardback, £25)

Age 8 plus:

How Was That Built?: The Stories Behind Awesome Structures

Roma Agrawal and Katie Hickey

Look up at the sky in a cityscape and you’ll see some of humankind’s most amazing constructions! Whether it’s the Brooklyn Bridge in the US, the Pantheon in Italy, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Shard in London, the Sapporo Dome in Japan, or simply building on the moon, this amazing, sky-scraping book will set alight the minds of budding engineers. Roma Agrawal, the award-winning structural engineer who worked on The Shard, takes youngsters on an exciting behind-the-scenes look at some of the world's most incredible landmarks. Discover the ingenious methods structural engineers have come up with to enable us to build underground, underwater, on ice and even in space. And learn about the impact different forces and materials can have on a structure by carrying out your own engineering experiments from the ‘Try it at Home’ sections. With richly detailed illustrations by Katie Hickey, including cross-sections, skylines and close-ups of engineering techniques, this is inspiration in action for the youngsters who will build the future.

(Bloomsbury, hardback, £14.99)

Age 7 plus:

Everything You Know About Dinosaurs is Wrong!

Dr Nick Crumpton and Gavin Scott

If you believed dinosaurs were extinct, enormous and could roar, then you’d better think again! Dinosaur fans will quickly become dinosaur experts with this inventive and entertaining take on a dinosaur book. Dinosaurs are mean, green and not very smart, right? Wrong! But don’t worry, even the experts can’t be right all the time. From fossilised feathers to long-necked lookalikes, this ingenious compendium is packed with amazing dinosaur discoveries, including jaw-dropping research debunking myths about all kinds of prehistoric creatures. Let’s put it this way… you'll never look at a pigeon the same way again! With a fascinating, easy-to-understand text by zoologist Dr Nick Crumpton and Gavin Scott’s richly detailed colour artwork on every page, this fabulously tactile hardback gift book will turn dinosaur fans into budding palaeontology pros!

(Nosy Crow, hardback, £12.99)

Age 9 plus:

A Day in the Life of a Caveman, a Queen and Everything In Between

Mike Barfield and Jess Bradley

How did a woolly mammoth pass the time, what did microbes make of scientist Louis Pasteur, and what was life like for a cat in ancient Egypt? Asking questions is all part of growing up and finding the answers can be fun… particularly when you dig into the fascinating facts inside this brilliant, illustrated, laugh-out-loud guide to the daily lives of the people, animals and objects who made history. Follow early humans painting mammoths on cave walls, discover a dog in the trenches of the First World War and learn how the Great Wall of China was built. With over ninety stories to enjoy in the friendly, informative style of cartoonist Mike Barfield, and brought to life by the colour-explosion of Jess Bradley’s awesome illustrations, this is the ideal gift for any child who likes to mix their learning with a big dollop of laughter!

(Buster Books, paperback, £9.99)

Age 4 plus:

Britannica First Big Book of Why

Sally Symes, Stephanie Drimmer, Britannica Group and Kate Slater

Why do our tummies rumble, why can’t penguins fly and why are clouds different shapes? Find answers to the strangest and most wonderful questions in the endlessly fascinating Britannica First Big Book of Why, an authoritative and lavishly illustrated question and answer book guaranteed to satisfy even the most curious children. Over 100 questions, all verified by Britannica experts, are answered in this fact-filled, colour-packed and entertaining book which spans a range of topics including animals, the body, machines, space, food and the Earth. With clear and accessible explanations, diagrams, photography, Kate Slater’s stunning illustrations, intriguing picture puzzles, wacky facts, and an exploration of some of the world’s still unsolved mysteries, this brilliantly conceived and created book is the ideal food to nurture enquiring minds and instil an appetite for learning in the years to come.

(Britannica Books, hardback, £20)

Age 8 plus:

Freeze

Written and illustrated by Chris Priestley

As Halloween draws near, get your goosebumps raised with this ghostly tale from award-winning author and master of horror Chris Priestley. With creepy stories, wrapped in another creepy story, this is a fantastic horror fest for plucky youngsters who love to have their spines well and truly tingled! When Maya and her classmates are asked to write a creepy story with a winter theme, they come up with some brilliant ideas. Floodwaters uncover long-buried bodies and ghostly children take to the ice on a frozen canal but as each of the stories is read out, Maya grows uncomfortable because she features in every creepy tale. And when a mysterious new girl reads the last story of the day, the light dims, it starts to snow, the classroom freezes and everyone is trapped. Can Maya stop the story before the nightmare comes true? Priestley’s atmospheric black and white illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to a super scary story brim full of chills, spills and thrills!

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Pippi Longstocking

Written by Astrid Lindgren and illustrated by Lauren Child

Nostalgia really is what it’s cracked up to be in this gorgeous, flagship gift edition of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s eternally lovable Pippi Longstocking, the eccentric girl who has been bewitching readers for over seventy-five years. Pippi, who just happens to be an amazing rebel role model, is back to win the hearts of another generation thanks to her timeless, fun-filled escapades, a sparkling translation by Susan Beard, and the striking artwork of Lauren Child. Here we join Pippi at Villa Villekulla where she lives all by herself with a horse, a monkey, and a big suitcase full of gold coins. Pippi and her friends, Tommy and Annika, have the best time together, going to the fair, buying ALL the sweets in the sweet shop, and getting shipwrecked for the weekend. A magical introduction to the weird, wild and wonderful world of Pippi!

(Oxford University Press, hardback, £20)

Age 7 plus:

Earth is Big: A Book of Comparisons

Steve Tomecek and Marcos Farina

Take a fresh and exciting look at the world we live in! Author Steve Tomecek and illustrator Marcos Farina give youngsters a fascinating new perspective on the unique nature of Planet Earth in this eye-catching book of comparisons. Earth is big (compared to a frog) but Earth is small (when it’s hiding in a galaxy). And that’s not all. Earth is wet and dry, hot and cold, round and jagged, fast and slow… it all depends on how you look at it. Get to know our planet in a whole new way by comparing it to a huge variety of other incredible things, from tiny particles to giant star clusters, and then embark on a tour of some of the most extreme places on the planet and beyond. From bacteria to elephants and redwood trees, you’ll never see Earth the same way again!

(What on Earth Books, hardback, £14.99)

Age 8 plus:

Tripwrecked!: Tempest Terror

Ross Montgomery and Mark Beech

If you fear stormy days ahead, enjoy a performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest as you’ve never before seen it! Award-winning Ross Montgomery puts fun and laughter into the Bard’s classic tale of love and freedom with a captivating caper that will have youngsters giggling all the way to the final curtain. Frank and his drama club are off on a dream school trip to perform The Tempest at a festival. But it turns into a nightmare when their ferry is hit by a terrible storm and half of the actors wash up on a sandy shore. To Frank, it all sounds strangely like the plot of The Tempest and he hasn’t got a clue how they’re going to get out of this mess. But one thing’s for sure... they’ve all been tripwrecked! Montgomery’s riotous parody is a brilliant introduction to one of the Bard’s lesser known plays while Mark Beech’s anarchic illustrations bring the cast and action to vibrant life. Guaranteed to earn an encore!

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 9 plus:

By Rowan and Yew

Melissa Harrison

As autumn casts its cloak of colours over the landscape, enjoy this mesmerising sequel to the stunning By Ash, Oak and Thorn from acclaimed nature writer Melissa Harrison. Celebrating the glories of the rich, wild world and all its wonders, Harrison gives her nature-inspired imagination free rein as Moss, Sorrel, Burnet and Dormer return home to Ash Row to unravel a riddle that might explain why their kind are fading from the Wild World. And when you’re only one-hand high, it’s an autumnal journey filled with danger and delight… golden leaves, shiny conkers, the brightest of berries, but also storms and the first frost of winter. They have friendship, good sense and humour, but will it be enough to secure a future for the Hidden Folk? Readers young and old cannot help but fall in love with these three tiny eternal beings as their thrilling and magical adventures introduce young readers to real plants, birds, animals and folklore, including things they can find in their own gardens, local parks, or on walks.

(Chicken House, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

Dragon Rider: The Aurelia Curse

Cornelia Funke

Nearly twenty-five years ago, German-born author Cornelia Funke whipped up a reading storm with her fabulous book Dragon Rider, a legendary tale of fantasy, dragons and magical kingdoms, which was adapted for the big screen this year. And now young readers can enjoy the third book in the series, a thrilling adventure packed with Laura Ellen Anderson’s richly detailed illustrations. Ben and the Greenblooms must protect a mythical new creature rising from the ocean that can bring light or darkness to whoever it first meets… a vast, mythical Aurelia. It’s a race against time to protect it, for if the Aurelia is hurt, all fabulous creatures will vanish from Earth. Amazing creatures, inspirational adventures, edge-of-the-seat thrills and all the excitement of entering a magical, mysterious world make these books irresistible to be read alone or as a bedtime treat.

(Chicken House, paperback, £7.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Christmas Carrolls

Mel Taylor-Bessent and Selom Sunu

If you need to add some extra warmth to your Christmas celebrations this year, bask in the cosy glow of this funny, friendly and diverse tale of a family that enjoys Christmas every day of the year. Interactive video firm Authorfy founder Mel Taylor-Bessent imparts resonant messages of kindness and good cheer when we join nine-year-old Holly Carroll and her family as they live the merriest life in a house with year-round fairy lights, Christmas trees and a carol-singing toilet. Unfortunately, not everyone shares their yuletide enthusiasm and when the neighbours try to remove the Carrolls from the street, could Holly be about to lose her Christmas spirit? With Selom Sunu’s wonderful illustrations adding to the festive feast, this is the perfect tasty dish to set before your own Christmas kings and queens.

(Farshore, paperback, £7.99)

Age 9 plus:

The Book of Stolen Dreams

David Farr

Inspired by his own family history, David Farr, one of the UK’s leading screenwriter and film and theatre directors, plays a blinder with his breathtaking debut children’s book set in Krasnia, a sinister dictatorship where children are banned from playing in public and only allowed outdoors for exercise and education. When Rachel and Robert are passed a stolen book by their librarian father, they have to go on the run and protect it at all costs. But the cruel and calculating child-hating Charles Malstain is on their trail and if the book falls into his hands, he could rule forever. This is the kind of exhilarating, page-turning story that will send a thrill down the spine of all adventure-loving youngsters. Darkness, danger and mystery at every turn… don’t miss it!

(Usborne, hardback, £12.99)

Age 8 plus:

The Good Bear

Sarah Lean and Fiona Woodcock

Escape into the winter wonderland of snowy Norway in a beautiful middle grade novel that will pull on your heartstrings and speak loudly about the importance of family. The Good Bear is a moving animal adventure starring a troubled girl who finds solace in her mission to save a threatened bear, and discovers that making her way in the world might also mean learning to accept. Written by Sarah Lean and beautifully illustrated by Fiona Woodcock, this is a thrilling and emotion-packed story about unlikely friendships, family bonds, building bridges, and the fight against animal cruelty, all set in a magical snow-filled landscape and celebrating our amazing natural world.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)

Age 5 plus:

Football Superstars: Football Jokes Rule

Simon Mugford and Dan Green

Kick off the autumn season with this fantastic book of football jokes… all guaranteed to keep your soccer-loving youngsters onside! Part of Ipswich Town fans Simon Mugford and illustrator Dan Green’s hugely successful Football Superstars series, this ultimate joke book is filled with hundreds of the most hilarious football gags around. And if that wasn’t enough, there are pages of wacky pictures and loads of anecdotes and fun throughout. Gratuitously gigglesome and roaringly funny, this side-splitting joke book is ideal for encouraging your young footie stars to read by themselves or with friends.

(Welbeck Publishing, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

Little Santa

Jon Agee

Have you ever wondered what Santa was like when he was just a child? American author and illustrator Jon Agee fills the age gap with this gloriously mischievous and eye-catching picture book. Little Santa loves the North Pole but the rest of his family don’t so when they move to Florida, Santa is miserable. Fortunately, a blizzard foils their plans and the only way out of the house is up the chimney. Up goes Santa to look for help, and along the way, he meets a reindeer and a large group of elves. The rest of the story we all know… A veritable feast of visual and verbal wit for every child (and adult) who loves Christmas!

(Scallywag Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 2 plus:

A Thing Called Snow

Yuval Zommer

The friendship between two animals becomes a beacon of kindness and community in a dazzling picture book from award-winning author and illustrator Yuval Zommer. This gorgeous winter-themed book celebrates both togetherness and the natural world and has all those perfect ingredients to delight children and their parents… warm, gentle storytelling, stunning artwork, and heartfelt messages that beautifully reflect the spirit of Christmas. A verbal and visual treat to treasure for yourself or gift to others!

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Bear and Her Book

Frances Tosdevin and Sophia O'Connor

Journey with a book-loving bear as she sets off on a globe-trotting adventure, armed only with her Big Book of Being Wise, and discover how friendship and caring make the world go round. Author Frances Tosdevin and illustrator Sophia O'Connor touch everyone’s hearts with The Bear and Her Book, a beautifully illustrated and emotionally powerful story for any child who seeks a sense of love and belonging during the season of giving.

(UCLan Publishing, paperback, £7.99)