Book reviews - around the UK

These books are an introduction to the rich culture of our country - useful when visiting the locations but also good reads for learning about a variety of places.


London Mazes from Usborne Books

These puzzles start off relatively simply but soon get more challenging - I like this variation in difficulty although even the simplest require careful planning. These are not traditional box-style maxes, but colourful pictures drawn with routes to follow to solve the puzzle posed by each picture. From Leicester Square to the London Eye, from Guy Fawkes to ghost tours, children can explore the sights and history of London as they find their way through the wonderfully illustrated scenes in this book. There's a huge variety to enjoy which really reflects the wonderful buildings and culture of our capital city. Lots of history pages too, to spark children's interest. Try not to cheat - but all the answers are given; often, though, if you leave the puzzle and then come cak later, the answer will suddenly be clear. Hours of enjoyment to be had, as well as discovering more about London - a lovely gift book.

The National Archives: The Buildings That Made London by David Long

This book has so much to enjoy, for children and adults; it's a new perspective on London which will help us appreciate the superb architecture of our capital city even more. Josie Shenoy's marvellous drawings, which use original architectural drawings from The National Archives, are absolutely packed full of intricate detail - every time you look at each picture, you will spot something fresh; they make us look at the buildings with new eyes. Each picture is accompanied by text outlining the building's history; there are also amusing snippets of information to enjoy. Open the double-page spread to see Buckingham House transformed into Buckingham Palace. Other iconic buildings include the Palm House at Kew, The Imperial War Museum and Tate Britain - just a few of many. A simply beautiful book and one to treasure.

Mice in the City: London by Ami Shin

Join over 1700 mice as they travel around London visiting the iconic sights, old and new. Catchy rhymes describe each picture. The use of delicate pastel colours on the line drawings makes the book really appealing and the large format gives scope for lots of details in the pictures. The mice are all so different, there's plenty to enjoy. And for an extra challenge, there are eight small pictures to spot on each page - the challenge is, they are similar and themed, but not identical, so you'll have to look closely!

Welcome to London illustrated by Marcos Farina

Our capital city is a wonderful place and this book is a great way to introduce it to children - or to share with those who live in it or close enough to visit regularly. The book is a clever combination of information and stylish illustrations which abound in detail - often unexpected. Is that a bear riding in a taxi? Where is Sherlock Holmes going on that bus? And just look at the picture of the arhitect if St Paul's! Do take plenty of time to enjoy these and see what you and your child can spot. The book also features plenty activities to keep young travellers entertained as they explore the city. Very unusual and really enjoyable. Published by Button Books, May 2017, ISBN 978-1908985811.

London Through Time (Cities Unfolded) by Angela McAllister

This concertina-style book shows a boy and a girl exploring the streets of London through the centuries, from Follow one girl and boy on their adventure down a London street as they journey through time from Roman London to the present century. We are shown a continuous street scene with each section including buildings and people depicting a different period. History is put into context with a key events panel and timeline woven into the illustrations. Iconic and historic monuments including St Pauls, St Brides, Westminster, the London Eye and Trafalgar Square are included in street scenes that show how people lived in our city through the ages. This ingenious approach would be brilliant to use as the basis for a classroom display and the reconstructions of the buildings provide great ideas to make a display. A visual approach which makes history interesting and memorable.

The London Activity Book by Esther Coombs

Whether you are visiting London or not, this fun-filled book will give a good insight into our wonderful capital city. With games, puzzles, doodles and colouring-in activities, there is plenty for everyone to enjoy. All the iconic buildings and sights are here. It's a great way to take a tour of London - find your way through the Hampton Court maze, doodle some pigeons in Trafalgar Square, find the ravens at the Tower... The generous size of the book (it's bigger than A4) makes for really good activities and each page tears out easily. There are even postcards to colour and send. The range of activities has to be seen to be believed; many of them really encourage creative and imaginative skills. Publication date May 2015, Button Books ISBN 9781908985248.

ABC London by James Dunn

Find out what makes London such a great capital city in this unusual alphabet picture book which reflects the huge diversity of the city. A is for Art, B is for Brick Lane, C is for Changing of the Guard… This delightful new alphabet of words and pictures looks at some of the things that give London its unique and stylish cultural identity, with a glossary at the end. A perfect souvenir or a great basis for a classroom display or topic theme.

London: A Time Traveller's Guide by Moira Butterfield

This is a fascinating book which had me enthralled. It is amazing what is hidden beneath the streets of London and the layers of history that lie there. Ancient treasures, long-forgotten buildings and even skeletons lie buried and now you have the chance to travel back through time to investigate and uncover the wonders of this marvellous city. Step inside your time machine - but make sure you have your maps and are wearing the right clothes! You will be taken right back to the Iron Age for the first trip, where you will attend a religious ceremony - and you are told what to wear! As you travel through the years, you will join all sorts of fascinating activities, all depicted with colour drawings so you feel part of what is happening. An unusual and engaging book which will interest all ages.

 Dodger's Guide to London by Terry Pratchett

Who better to take us on a journey through Victoriam London than Dodger, who rose from the sewers (literally)  to become a hero of London? This is the real London as lived in by real Londoners, brought to us courtesy of Dodger's fascinating notes (with some 21st century insights from Mr Pratchett).  It's a truly fascinating read which explores hidden depths and which contains a phenomenal amount of social history. Enticingly presented, with many contemporary illustrations and above all, highly readable. It will make a lovely gift for anyone interested in the city and gives some fascinating talking points.

 Underground: How the Tube Shaped London by David Bowness and others

The three expert authors of this wonderful book (which include Oliver Green and Sam Mullins) have a passion for the London Underground which shines through in this information-packed book. The book marks the 150th anniversary of the world's first underground railway and takes us into the futire with Crossrail. It is well-written and eminently readable - a book which will be enjoyed by all who travel on the tube, by those who are fascinated by transport, and those who want to learn about the history of London. The information is fascinating, with lots of intriguing snippets. It is lavishly illustrated, with a wealth of original material and, of course, those famous posters. It's not just a history of the trains - it is the history of London and its people and the vital importance of the tube to our capital city. I particularly enjoyed the sections on Metroland and the role of the tube during the Blitz.

London: A Very Peculiar History Quiz Book by The Book House

A fascinating book! It is divided into three sections - Putting London on the map; The Locals; and Work and Play. They are multi-choice questions - with some very surprising options! As well as the questions, there are lots of snippets of intriguing information - how long Hamley's has been in existence, what goes on beneath the streets and who really was Dick Whittington. Famous quotes are included too. This is one in a new series of books, which are companions to Book House's extremely popular (and highly collectable!) Very Peculiar Histories.

50 Things to Spot In London (Usborne Spotter's Cards) by Rob Lloyd Jones

Each of the colourful cards includes a coloured pen and ink draing on one side, with information, 'Did you know?' and 'Look out for...' on the reverse - lots of fascinating facts to be learnt. These are ideal to take on a trip round London and you could put them in order of your proposed route beforehand. Why not make up your own game with the cards? Position them on a map of London; give one key fact; pick two cards and work out how to get from one to the next on the Tube - the possibilities are endless and a great reflection of the versatility of these cards.

London Through Time - by Richard Platt

Detailed pictures show how the city has changed from its origins as a Celtic camp right up to today. The detail in the pictures is quite fascinating and repays close attention. Key periods and events in history are explored, partly through text alongside the pictures and additionally through captions on the pictures. This is an excellent device for capturing children's attention and helps engender discussion. Cross-sections draw the reader more deeply into the pictures. The comprehensive glossary is particularly useful and the presentation of the whole book is excellent.

THe Usborne Story of London Sticker Book by Rob Lloyd Jones

Over 120 generously sized and colourful stickers help children find out about the key events in our great capital city. As well as the stickers, there are colourful pages on the key sights and events in London's history. plus a map to help locate them in the city. Perfect those those who are not lucky enough to be able to visit London in this Olympic/Jubilee year, as well as a lovely souvenir to refresh memories after a visit.

London for Children by Matteo Pericoli

This is a wonderful fact-filled 20 mile journey along both banks of the Thames - the author walked almost 40 miles to create this unusual book. Flip the book to go from North Bank to South Bank, all illustrated with colourful pen-and-ink drawings Enjoy a plethora of fascinating (and often little-known) facts; from the battles of Roman London and the Princes in the Tower, to the Gunpowder Plot and the great Victorian stink! Find out how eight people drowned in beer and where to find the pub with a set of gallows. A lovely introduction to our great capital city. 

Katie in London (Jubilee Edition) by James Mayhew

Sometimes, a perfectly wonderful series comes along - and the Katie series is one of those. Katie is a sparky adventurous little girl who just loves new experiences. As we share things through her eyes, we revel in her enthusiasm, perfect for encouraging children to enjoy the experiences for themselves. Katie and Jack thought London might be boring when Grandma wants a rest - but far from it when a talking lion from Trafalgar Square is their guide around the iconic sights. I particularly like the way that children can see exactly where each place fits into the whole. Look closely at the pictures - the detail is fantastic. A lovely gift book and an ideal souvenir of a first visit to London.

Discover London by Jacqui Bailey

This is a new edition of a popular title, updated to reflect the ever-changing city and to include the Olympic Games. It's a great guide for the family with plenty to interest all ages. A useful double page map starts the book - help children to learn their way around by finding on the map the places featured in the book. The book covers the history of London and explains why there are two cities. Find out how London rules; places to visit; about theatres, markets and parks and more. Attractively laid out with good use of colour and a variety of information boxes to make the information easy to find. Plenty of photos capture interest and there are entertaining cartoons and snippets of information. Share this book together as a family and enjoy planning a visit to our capital city and then use it to reinforce memories of your visit. An excellent book.

See Inside London (An Usborne Flap Book) by Rob Lloyd Jones and Barry Ablett

Children are always intrigued by lift-the-flap books as they give so much to explore. This book from Usborne Books has over 80 flaps to lift, and under each is more information. The book goes from ancient London, through the Middle Ages, Fire and Plague, after the Fire, smoke and fog, the Blitz, right up to today. It's packed with fascinating snippets of information - just enough to whet children's appetites and encourage them to find out more about the fascinating history of our capital city.

 Family Guide: London (Eyewitness Travel) from Dorling Kindersley

Dorling Kindersley are highly renowned for their travel guides, which are practical, informative and excellent value. Practical facts start the book, which is then split into 6 geographic areas. The Kid's Corner section on almost every page will give children plenty of fun and provide an excellent way to interest them in the history, geography and culture of this great city. Each attraction includes a section called 'The Lowdown' which includes all the information you need. There is a description of the attraction and the surrounding area, including where to take the kids to let off steam and where to eat. There are lots of web links included so all the family can learn more. Packed with information, this is an excellent guide, with relevance to the whole family.

London Stories by Jim Eldridge

Written by a born and bred Londoner, this is an intriguing collection of short stories, which depicts London through the ages through the eyes of children. It starts with the story of Bran, and the Roman invaders in AD 61 and comes right up to date with Olympic Dreams in 2012 through 12 varied and enjoyable stories. It's a great way to mark the singificance of our capital city in a year when it will be a centre of attention, and the stories are ideal for reading aloud at school as well as for supporting history studies.

The Bumper Book of London by Becky Jones and Clare Lewis

The cover tells us that this book has 'Everything you need to know about London and more...' An ambitious claim, but this book does pack in an enormous amount of information. The best thing is that much of it is unusual - this certainly isn't your ordinary guide book. It's a fascinating read and a great book to dip into and learn some intriguing facts to fascinate your friends and family - it's an excellent book for any lover of trivia. Broadly arranged by history, you will learn about art and architecture, landmarks, hidden places, ghosts, pearly kings and queens, festivals, street names, games, traditions, markets, football teams, and much, much more. On just one two page spread, there is London lingo, Georgian houses, Georgian secrets, a poem and a recipe - I can only give a small flavour of the contents here - but do get yourself a copy of this book!

 Time Out London for Children 2012

The guide for parents on how to enjoy London, whether you live there or are visiting. It's crammed with information on everything from shopping to sports, parks to parties, museums to movies. Detailed maps are included with references from the attractions. There are attractions listed to cover every possible interest together with all the practical information families need to prepare for a visit. This, the 2012 edition covers the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games with details on what's happening and plenty of ways for children to get involved in sport, including motivating personal experiences. Conveniently pocked sized, this is a book to take around with you. You'll never be at a loss for ideas!


The Ladybird Book of London by John Lewesdon

A wonderful trip down Memory Lane! I remember this book so well - it was one of my prized books as a child. This is an exact facsimile of the original and it shows us the London of 50 years ago in a marvellous piece of social history. The underground map was particularly interesting - you and your children could have great fun comparing this with the current map.  Famous places are described with a picture on the opposite page and it is fascinating to see the changes have taken place. Find lots more fascinating books and information at How I wish I had kept all my old Ladybird books!

 London: A Three Dimensional Expanding City Skyline by Sarah McMenemy

A cleverly engineered book which would make a great souvenir after a visit to London. 12 famous buildings are included in this skyline, with 6 on each side, celeverly cut out to show the different outlines. Buckingham Palace, The Tower of London, Piccadilly Circus are just some of the iconic landmarks included. Two little maps allow the user to pinpoint the locations and each buidling includes a brief description. This would make a lovely forefront to a display, either at home or in school - but it does need gentle handling!



 A Walk in London by Salvatore Rubbino

This is a super account of a walk through London, taken by a mum and her little girl. The walk as described in the book takes the best part of a day and is an ideal way to see the key sights our our wonderful historical capital city. Starting in Westminster, the duo visit St James's Park, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and all the other key landmarks until they are back at Big Ben - just in time to see the royal family! Your child will love to share in the little girl's excitement as all the famous places come to life and they can follow the journey through the map on the endpapers. It is packed with absorbing facts and snippets of information. Charmingly illustrated in absorbing detail, this is a book to treasure as a memento of a wonderful day out or as a record of the capital.As well as a useful guide, it is also a great story and will be enjoyed as such.  It would be a super book for visiting children from abroad to take home or to be given as a gift.



Paddington's Guide to London by Michael Bond 

Of course, this journey around London starts at Paddington Station. In his own inimitable fashion, Paddington guides us around London and tells us lots of amusing anecdotes as we go. Useful maps preface each section and these are great for helping children to locate where they are and where to go next. Packed with full colour photos, most of them showing Paddington so we know he has really been there, this is a well produced book on heavy glossy paper, ready to withstand plenty of visits to our capital city - and to help with the excitement of planning those visits. And for those unable to get to London, it gives a really personal tour of all the important sites. It is a really readable book and I found out lots of things I didn't know. A useful address section at the back too. 


London Unlocked by Emily Kerr and Joshua Perry

This is one of the best books I have ever reviewed! It is a brilliant guidebook to London, aimed at children, and it will do a wonderful job of enthusing them to visit the sights - both famous and less well-known. I found many places and activities in here I have never thought of. Presented in the style of a conventional guidebook, there are 60 super places to visit, all with an outline of the fascinating activities available. Tips, facts, how to plan your visit and stickers to remind you how good it was. Design your own coat of arms; drive a tube train and much, much more. Not only an essential guide for those visiting London, but a great book for all children, to familiarise them with the marvels of our capital city. A well-produced book, this is excellent value for its wealth of inspiring information - very highly recommended. See the rest in the series at


My First Book of London by Charlotte Guillain

This is an excellent introduction to London, featuring the places of most interest to children, and is an ideal school library resource. I like the way questions take the reader from one page to the next, giving the book a real coherence - for example, we are shown the top of a very tall pillar and asked where we are. Busy illustrations, full of detail, bring the capital to life and are perfect for introducing London prior to a visit. Children can see how much they remember in the quiz at the end. The book would make an excellent gift for young friends from abroad. I would love to see other British cities covered in the same format - children need to be introduced to all the marvellous places in the British Isles. 


Kids - Time Out London

As one would expect from Time Out books, this is a comprehensive guide to the capital. This edition is designed for Summer 2011. There are 25 day trips within an hour of London; all the shows currently on for children, Sarah McIntyre's guide to her favourite things, outdoor swimming, eating, shopping, activities and outdoor things to do, attractions and the Arts - it really is all here. Opening times, admission charges, website addresses and how to get there form part of each listing. Lots of illustrations - and some adverts. A useful and practical guide, light enough to carry around and durable enough just to last the summer.


Around the UK 

Oxford Colleges by Pitkin

Pikin is renowned for its heritage publishing, and the superb presentation of the books really does justice to this important topic - they make superb souvenirs of visits. The 39 Oxford colleges are integral to the architecture of this beautiful city. With a detailed numbered map to guide visitors, this guide explores each college, detailing the historical and architectural magnificence, and tales of famous men and women who founded them. Usefully, web links are included so the reader can explore further. The pages are clearly and attractively presented with excellent photos and useful fact boxes. A good value introduction to this beauiful city, that really enhances appreciation.

A Guide to Britain and Ireland: pocket-sized edition (Infographic Guide Pocket Edition) by Kevin Pettman

Infographics are an excellent way to present information in an easily assimilated and memorable way and this books uses them to great advantage. Britain and Ireland are full of ancient history, impressive landmarks, stunning scenery and famous faces, and this pocket-sized guide is perfect to discover all the hidden wonders of these islands. Resident, visitor, or simply curious from afar, this books allows you to tour England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Wales. Marvel at the long history from dinosaurs to inventors, avoid the queues and see stone circles and skyscrapers close up, try the local food, get drenched by the famously bad weather, meet bold British and iconic Irish people from the past and present, and much more, all within this one packed book.

Village Christmas: And Other Notes on the English Year (Penguin Modern Classics) by Laurie Lee

This lyrical and descriptive book is an account of our conntryside and its people through the seasons. It takes us back to a long-lost world with evocative descriptions that bring it to life and make us mourn our lost freedom and traditions. It's a world where children were free to explore, unfettered by modern fears; a world where they learnt to appreciate everything in the natural world around them. From centuries-old May Day rituals to Laurie Lee's own patch of garden, from carol singing in crunching snow to pub conversations and songs, the reader is transported to a different world. The writing goes beyond the author's beloved Cotswolds too, as he writes about the mysteries of love, living in wartime Chelsea, Winston Churchill's wintry funeral and his battle, in old age, to save his beloved Slad Valley from developers. A superb evocation of times past, written with affection and a wonderful use of language.

An English Year: Twelve Months in the Life of England's Kids by Tania McCartney

Meet Aman, Victoria, Amelia, Tandi and George who are here to take readers around England and through a year. Join with them as they take part in the celebrations we all enjoy. There's a page for each month which includes everyday activities as well as festivals and celebrations enjoyed by those of many cultures who all call England home. Towns and cities get a mention too in some months. Although the book takes us through the year month by month, most of the activities could take place in any month - they celebrate Englishness rather than belonging to the month; for this reason, I find the title of the book is not fully appropriate. That aside, it's a lovely book and will be great for classroom use, and act as a good springboard for further activities.

A Scottish Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Scotland's Kids by Tania McCartney

Taking the same format as the book about England, this is an enjoyable look at the traditions that are part of Scottish life. This time, Rashida, Sophie, Dominik, Isla and James are our guides; as you can see, once again, they are children from a variety of cultures. Many of the activities overlap, but they are given a Scottish feel - burn instead of river for example. The lively illustrations are a superb part of these books and they will engage children's attention. It would be good to use these books together, to see where the similarities are and to discuss the differences. This book ends with a list of regions and an annotated map of Scotland.

England Unlocked by Tessa Girvan

I am a great fan of this series. Most guidebooks are written for adults, and even where they include child-friendly places to visit, often the books themselves are not written in a way to appeal to children. This book is divided into 8 regions, and handy colour coding helps you find the right place in the book. Key places to visit in each region are described, and children will love the 'Fascinating Facts' section for each attraction - be prepared to be bombarded with 'Did you know....?'. Parents will welcome the 'Plan Your Visit' information, which usefully indicates an idea of cost. The well-known attractions are here, but also an interesting range of less known places or ideas - like racing crabs at Dittisham! After the visit, children can use the stickers to rate the attraction. I give these books 5 stars out of a possible 5!

Wales Unlocked by Joanne Owen

What better way to generate excitement about a holiday or a day out than reading up on the area beforehand and deciding as a family where you want to go? THere's just the right amount of information here to help you. Wales is divided here into 6 areas with a wide variey of places described, ensuring there is something for everyone... whatever the weather. Plenty of pictures, including lots of fun-filled drawings, and brightly coloured pages, all add to the child appeal of these books - equally, parents will welcome the practicality. Each place can be found on the map of the region, so children get an idea of where they are travelling. There are also other suggestions of places or activities, related either by area or theme. Another excellent guide.

 England is Truly a Magical Place by Karl Woodbury

We do live in a wonderful country and the richness and variety of our heritage is brought out in this innovative book. Join twins Jenny and Lenny on a magical journey around England. The whole journey is related in catchy verse which conveys the excitement and speed of the journey as we travel with the twins from the Garden of England all around the country and back to London, effortlessly assimilating knowledge about geography, history and culture. The illustrations by Tony Crampton include maps of the whole journey so facts are put into geographical context - an important fact, often overlooked. The accompanying CD audiobook, read by Christopher Kent, brings the story alive. A fascinating book and I am delighted to learn it is one in a new series. Find out more and enjoy the activities at

England - Countries Around the World by Claire Throp

There are currently around 24 titles in this series from Raintree. They are a useful introduction to each country, with coverage of history, the landscape, wildlife, constitution, social life and culture. There is a useful fact file, a timeline, a glossary, resources for projects and a detailed index. All these add up to a book which is an excellent library resource, both for studying the subject and for learning how to use books to their full potential. Photos, diagrams and fact boxes add up to a very colourful, attrractive and accessible series.


Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk Unlocked by Chloe Jeffries

This guide covers some areas which may be less known, but which deserve to become well known. There are so many fascinating places in this region, that is super to see them included in this fabulous series. I thought I knew the areas reasonably well, but I found out some interesting facts - adults will enjoy these books as much as children, I think. This includes lots of nature activities, reflecting the character of the area, as well as historical places and fun activities - all presented in such a way that your child will really want to go there. Each attraction features on a two page spread which contains a huge amount of information, presented attractively and in a way that makes you want to read on, and has a star rating for the child to complete with the gold stars included - making this a lasting personal record and a super holiday memento. The Top 5 section at the end gives lots more ideas, such as things to look out for when travelling around. Packed with pictures and attractively presented, I would love to see this series stocked in the gift shops at all the attractions mentioned. A brilliant series. 



Devon and Cornwall Unlocked by Emily Kerr and Joshua Perry 

I love this series! So often, children know very little about the beautiful and varied country in which we live, and these books with their sense of fun and discovery are a great way to remedy that. All the facts that grown ups need, like opening hours, contact details and that all-important cost (including plenty of free places) are here but there is far more. Be prepared for plenty of groans at the puns along the way but I guarantee that these books are a great read. Plenty of facts about each place of interest, and each is chosen carefully to have appeal to children and presented in a way that will have them begging to be taken there. A wide range is covered, with some lesser-known attractions featuring - the guide includes riding on a tram, watching sheepdogs, seeing an outdoor play, King Arthur's Castle and many many more. There really is something for everyone.  Full of humour, fascinating facts, other nearby places to visit plus plenty of jokes and fun - a winning combination!








The most recent reviews are at the top of the page, so these are generally the most recently published books.


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