Category Archives: Book review

Book Review – The twelve days of Christmas

Title: The twelve days of Christmas

Illustrated by: Britta Teckentrup

Published by: Little Tiger Kids

The twelve days of christmas

Britta Teckentrup has illustrated the traditional Christmas carol, The twelve days of Christmas, to produce a fun and interactive novelty book.

It is described on the cover as, ‘a peep-through picture book’. Each spread is a verse of the carol and as you turn each page the holes grow in size and quantity to reveal the next days gifts radiating out from the partridge in a pear tree at the centre. The final page shows all the gifts in no particular order, interspersed with gold snowflakes and stars.

The children will enjoy taking the time to study each page, count the gifts and admiring the tiny, digital artwork in pastel shades as they sing along to each page.

The book would make a lovely stocking filler for children aged between 2-7 years.

Book Review – North Child

Title: North Child

Written by: Edith Pattou

Edited by: Rebecca Hill

Cover illustrated by: Clare Lefevre 

Published by: Usborne

North Child

A very cleverly written novel that uses a succession of monologues from each of the main characters – Rose, her father, her brother Neddy, the White Bear and the Troll Queen – to weave Rose’s story, which is based on the Norwegian fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Each of them with their own distinct voice.

We learn Rose was accidentally born facing North. Her mother believes this means she is destined to travel far from home on a dangerous journey. Rose’s love of weaving appeases her mother but Rose’s loyalty to her family and her thirst for adventure are stretched at the seams. Despite all her mother’s efforts to keep Rose home, the prophecy comes true. Rose makes a deal with the giant White Bear. She agrees to go with him if he saves her sister’s life. Rose is whisked away to an enchanted castle.

In the castle, she befriends, Tuki, a troll child and starts to learn his language. Apart from the White Bear, Tuki and his mother Urda, Rose does not meet anyone else in the castle but each night a silent stranger lays by her side in the big bed. She has been warned never to look at him and nearly lasts the whole year but her curiosity gets the better of her and she stares into the golden-haired man’s eyes. Immediately the castle and all its contents vanish.

The Troll Queen takes the White Bear away in her sleigh and the only clue to where he has gone are the White Bear’s words: East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Rose realises she has deep feelings for the White Bear. Wearing his ring she vows to rescue him. Her quest takes her on a perilous journey North where she meets many distinct characters to help her on her way. Edith Pattou creates an mesmerising icy palace where the final battle against the Troll Queen must be fought. Rose’s honesty and integrity sets her on the winning path. 

The novel encompasses the themes of temptation, loss and betrayal wrapped in a blanket of magic. The short monologues are quick and easy to read and follow a chronological sequence to build up Rose’s world, feelings and adventure. 

A great story for reading aloud to your children at bedtime that will have them hooked from the start.

Book review – William Wenton series

Title: William Wenton series

Written by: Bobbie Peers

Published by: Walker Books

The William Wenton series are fast-paced, thrilling fantasy adventures about twelve-year-old codebreaking genius. In book one, William Wenton was nearly kidnapped and taken to the secretive Institute for Post-Human Research to hide out. His parents believe he will be safer there as it was established by his grandfather who disappeared eight years earlier.

His grandfather also has an extraordinary talent for cracking codes and everyone thinks he used these skills to steal the last remaining traces of a strange and powerful substance known as luridium, originally discovered by Abraham Talley. William wants to learn more about Abraham Talley and why Talley thinks he would know anything about where his grandfather hid the luridium, so he breaks into the Institute’s Archives.

An enormous cybernetic robot hunts William down and attacks the Institute. William is taken to the Centre for Misinformation by Fritz Goffman who claims to be a friend of his grandfather. After escaping the Centre for Misinformation, William bumps into Iscia who he met at the Institute. Together they explore the underground tunnels of London on a quest to find his grandfather. But, they are trapped and William has to use all his ingenuity and code-cracking skills in order to escape with no idea who he can trust.

The second book, shows William adapting to his extraordinary talent for cracking codes when an ancient artefact mysteriously disappears from the Depository for Impossible Archaeology. William chases the antagonist from Norway, to England and then to the dizzying heights of the Himalayas. This race-against-time adventure pushes his skills to the limit to stop an ancient portal of untold power being unleashed.

The third book starts with William celebrating his thirteenth birthday when news breaks that Big Ben has suddenly stopped working due to a powerful ancient weapon. A series of codes and puzzle unravel to lead William to a network of long-lost underground tunnels beneath London.

The futuristic steam punk elements in each book will appeal to fans of Alex Rider, Percy Jackson and Peter Bunzl. It is ideal for boys and girls 8+. I was a little disappointed there were no codes to actually break in the story. We are simply told William solves them with his fantastic mind. However, William Wenton and the Luridium Thief, could spark off a multitude of code-breaking activities in the classroom.

These books are exciting page turners, which create vivid images in your mind. The plots are full of twists and turns that will keep young minds active and engaged. The characters are strong and realistic that make you feel for their dilemmas. I enjoyed reading these thrilling action adventures and hope the series continues.

Book review – Are you a Monkey?

Title: Are you a Monkey? A Tale of Animal Charades

Written and Illustrated by: Marine Rivoal

Published by: Phaidon Press

Are you a Monkey

This is a creative non-fiction book using animal characters and the guessing game of charades to divulge poignant facts about a wide variety of jungle animals. The title Are you a Monkey? is memorable, intriguing and matches the tone of the story, as well as highlighting the charades theme of this picture book.

The beautiful screen-printed illustrations are bright and fun, creating a lively jungle setting and atmosphere. The structure of the book is ideal for keeping a child turning the pages to find out who is character is acting out, whilst providing space for the child to interpret the story, with added humour as toucan keeps guessing wrong.

I personally felt Marine Rivoal could have developed each individual character more with exciting sound effects and a wider variety of dialogue, rather than using the same phrase to disclose what animal they were pretending to be. There was also an explanation of what charades is at the beginning, which I felt was not necessary and a little preachy. The story works well without this.

A cute and satisfying ending that resolves the question of who the tiny starfish could act out, creating a ‘big reveal’ moment and bringing the story full circle.

This book would be great for acting out the characters at home or in the classroom and could spark of a wide range of investigative work on finding out more about the animals portrayed.

Book review – The Jamie Drake Equation

Title: The Jamie Drake Equation

Written by: Christopher Edge

Published by: Nosy Crow

The Jamie Drake Equation

This is an ideal book for young sci-fi enthusiasts. It combines real interstellar facts with fantasy to produce a unique and heart-warming story that will keep the readers turning the pages.

Written in first person narrative, Jamie retells the story of his dad, Commander Dan Drake, who is about to embark on a spacewalk as part of a mission in search of alien life. He has been orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station for several months but won’t be back in time for Jamie’s eleventh birthday.

Jamie describes how he disturbed Professor Forster, an astronomer doing unofficial investigations into signs of extra-terrestrial intelligence, at the abandoned observatory and inadvertently picked up a weird signal on his mobile phone which he tried to charge it from her laptop. The phone buzzes in his pocket and strange messages start coming through from an ancient alien civilisation known as the hi’ive, which Jamie names Buzz. When Jamie’s dad gets caught in a solar storm during his spacewalk, Jamie and Buzz have to save him.

The Jamie Drake Equation touches on the issue of divorce without labouring the point. The reader is left with the sense relationships change but they are still a family. A satisfying, thought-provoking book for mid-grade readers, which will make you laugh and cry.

Book Review – The Little Ghost who didn’t like to be scary

Title: The Little Ghost who didn’t like to be scary

Written and illustrated by: Isla Wynter

Published by: Peryton Press

This unusual sized, 17cm x 17cm, Halloween themed book is about challenging stereotypes. It is about Layla who does not want to be a scary ghost that haunts the castle. She prefers to play and be friendly so she goes to speak to the wise old owl.

An excellent book for showing how important it is to talk about your worries and ask for help if you need it. I like the way the author, Isla Wynter, demonstrates free will when Layla thinks about the advice she receives from the owl before deciding what she wants to do.

The bold illustrations are white on a black background. These high-contrasting black and white pictures are ideal for very young children. Studies show babies from 6 months old can detect light and dark contrasts: see here. Black and white visual stimulation encourages young children to focus their eyes on objects and over time helps to increase attention span.

The Little Ghost who didn’t like to be scary could be used in the classroom and at home to reinforce and discuss how we shouldn’t make judgements about people based on what they look like.

Book review – Ruby McCracken

Title: Ruby McCracken Tragic without Magic

Written by: Elizabeth Ezra

Published by: Kelpies, Floris Books

Ruby McCracken

In a reverse plot to Harry Potter, twelve-year-old Ruby McCracken believes her life is over. She has been forced to leave her home in Hexdonia and live in the ordinary world, without magic, after her parents both mysteriously lose their jobs at the same time. She is totally magicless – she can’t even conjure up a quick snack spell to ward off the hunger pangs. She misses leaping off the flyway on her broomstick to go to school, she misses her old school and she misses her witchy best friends, Abigail and Margaret. Even her familiar, Vronsky, has turned weird. So when the girls at her new school are mean to her, she tries to phone home, with dire consequences.

This fast-paced, mystery-adventure story set in Edinburgh, will appeal to eight to twelve-year-olds. Ruby McCracken Tragic without Magic is packed with humour, magic, disgusting food concoctions and hilarious anecdotes that will be perfect for fans of the Worst Witch and You Can’t Make Me Go to Witch School.

Ruby McCracken Tragic without Magic could be used in the classroom as a good starting point to discuss talking to strangers and how to make someone new to their school feel welcome.