Book reviews - short stories

Short stories are an excellent way to encourage children to enjoy reading. They are manageable in length, and so don't feel daunting, even for reluctant readers. Many also make excellent bedtime stories. They are a good way to introduce children to a variety of authors and to different genres of writing.

Animal Stories by Enid Blyton

This is a super collection of 30 animal stories featuring a whole host of furry, scaly and feathered friends that children will love. Attractive line drawings by Mark Beech bring the creatures to life with a frontispiece illustration for every story. There's the cow who loses her moo; a very clever talking budgie; a tortoise who caught a thief and many more charming stories. This bumper collection will keep children happily reading for hours on end, whether sharing as bedtime stories, reading aloud or for some quiet time. They are just the right length not to seem daunting and children are bound to make some new animal friends through these pages.

Animal Stories chosen by Helen Paiba

This is one in an extensive series that has been around, and popular, for a long time. Many different genres are included in the series - animal, magical, bedtime and funny are some of them. This varied collection has stories from some of the very best writers for children, including Dick King-Smith, Ursula Moray Williams, Michael Rosen, Philippa Pearce and Allan Ahlberg. Mice, horses, ostriches, kangaroos, dogs, guinea pigs... just a few of the creatures starring in these lively stories. It's a great selection with a variety of writing styles to be enjoyed. Short stories are a good way to encourage children to read and to find out what they enjoy so they can then be led into reading full length stories. They are also great for bedtime and class reading.

Treasury of Bedtime Stories by Enid Blyton

There's something very comforting and nostalgic about an Enid Blyton anthology, and this collection of bedtime stories is perfect to relax children and send them happily off to sleep. The pretty silvered cover makes the book a delight; the book throughout is superbly illustrated by Becky Cameron, with pictures that complement the feel of each story excellently. Each story is independent and takes the reader on a fresh adventure. From the pixie seamstress who makes dresses for the Fairy Queen, to the little boy who turns into a steam engine, children will meet a whole storybook library of engaging characters. The stories first appeared in magazines and anthologies published between 1920-1960s, and still have a fresh appeal. The range is wide and there are stories here to appeal to every child; each will have their favourites to return to over and over again. It's an ideal gift for a family - one that will bring hours of shared pleasure.

The Tashi Storybook by Anna and Barbara Fienberg

Tashi is Jack's extraordinary, adventurous and clever imaginary friend, a gnome-like character from a place far away. In this story, Tashi has seven amazing adventures, including the time the Baba Yaga's house blew into the village on the winds of a terrible storm, the story of a haunted house, and when Tashi found a genie and rode on a flying carpet. Tashi has stories about a big smelly giant, a haunted house, and a proud golden phoenix. And he must be very clever when the Book of Spells is stolen, and almost magical when he tries to save the Baron's dog. Tashi's friend Jack loves hearing Tashi's stories, and so do children all over the world. In this storybook, Anna and Barbara Fienberg have chosen some of their favourite Tashi stories, and written a new one called Kidnapped! Gorgeous line drawings by Kim Gamble capture the special magic of these stories.

The Puffin Book of Ghosts And Ghouls

Look out! Listen carefully... what was that noise? Be very careful when you read this book... If you're feeling brave, then you'll enjoy the 14 varied stories, some much more scary than others. There's a great range of popular authors, including Gene Kemp, Robert Westall, Jane Gardam, Joan Aiken, Penelope Lively and Michael Morpurgo. The stories are all satisfyingly scary and feature an unnerving array of ghosts and ghouls, including a Victorian child with disturbing powers, two children with a gruesome plan, and a bizarre ghost puppy. Lots of additional material, including a quiz, a recipe and writing tips, usefully complement the book. And for those reading beneath the bedclothes, there's a ghostly glow in the dark green cover!

Good Night Sleep Tight by Kristina Andres

This lovely book is restful from the cover on. There are 11½ goodnight stories from friends fox and hare who help each other get to sleep. The eighth story claims to be (and a half) but I must be missing something, as I just can't see it. The book is beautifully produced with heavy cream pages and the stories are an unusual and eclectic mix.

A World Full of Animal Stories: 50 Favourite Animal Folk Tales, Myths and Legends by Angela McAllister

Children respond well to animal stories, and short stories are a super way o introduce a genre - I am a great fan of short stories. With 50 stories to enjoy, comin g from all around the world, there's plenty to enjoy and a great cross-section of the animal kingdom is featured.  The selection is excellent, with many different genres of story included; there are classic stories, folktales, myths and legends. The bright vibrant illustrations by Aitch are full of variety and complement the stories very well; the cover has instant appeal too. These stories are perfect for bedtime reading, or for classroom use, perhaps just before going home time. This lovely hardback book would make an excellent gift.

Nonstop Nonsense by Margaret Mahy

This is a wonderful book to dip in and out of, and it's perfect for reading aloud too. This attractive hardback gift edition of this wonderfully witty and delightfully silly collection of stories and rhyming nonsense comes from an all-star author and artist team - Margaret Mahy and Quentin Blake. The stories and poems are fun and lively, and Quentin Blake's coloured line drawings are the ideal complement. The variety is excellent and there is a story to fit all kinds of occasions. It's a beautifully produced book that is one to treasure.

Holiday Ha Ha Ha! from Simon & Schuster

I am a huge fan of short stories for children. They are a great way to encourage them to try out a range of different authors and genres. This collection of hilarious stories makes a super summer read. From disastrous car journeys to super-powered grannies to gruesomely funny ghost hunters there’s something for everyone in this side-splitting anthology! The book showcases a line-up of much-loved authors - Steve Cole, David Solomons, Joanna Nadin, Jeremy Strong, William Sutcliffe, Steven Butler, Candy Harper and Jonathan Meres. It's a good variety of stories and of authors and there will be something here to appeal to every child - and when they find an author they really enjoy, encourage them to seek out more of their books.

10 Ten-Minute Stories (Illustrated Story Collections) from Usborne Books

10 mimutes - just right for a bedtime story, or maybe two if you child is very lucky! There are stories here to appeal to all tastes - the sorcerer's apprentice, a flying horse, a magical firebird, Dick Whittington and the tin soldier are just some of the characters in this collection. The stories come from all around the world, and every one is beautifully illustrated in a distinctive style that is carefully chosen to match the story. It's a book that will give many hours of happy shared reading but which is also suitable for reading alone. It's a chunky hardcover book that will make a lovely gift.

The Ghosts Who Danced: and other spooky stories by Saviour Pirotta

Take a spooky journey all around the world with this varied selection of gripping tales retold by a talented storyteller. The stories are perfectly matched by Paul Hess’s atmospheric and witty illustrations which really convey the spirit of each country. The stories included are The Ghost Ship (USA); Dogs to the Rescue (Russia); I’ll Be Back (Lithuania); The Ghosts Who Danced (Ireland); The Haunted Farmouse (England); Them Bananas (Tanzania); Welcome to the Red Palace Inn ( China); The Guest (Brazil); The Ghost and his Uncle (India); Atchoo! (Korea). It's a well chosen selection and the stories have instant impact. Short stories can be highly effective when well told, as these stories are. They have an immediate impact and these spooky tales work really well as the reader is immediately gripped by the story.

Tashi and the Wicked Magician and other stories by Anna Fienberg

Tashi is bold and clever, and tells the best stories ever! Here we have four stories about Tashi and his friend Jack. There's a Magnificent Magician with a greedy plan, a haunted house about to go up in flames, ruthless ruffians after a rare orchid, and a quest for the bravest person in the land to face the fire-breathing Red Whiskered Dragon. This lovely hardback has attractive cream pages, each with a pretty border and an excellent colour illustration for each tale. These imaginative stories are lovely to encourage children's own imaginations.

Blackberry Blue and Other Fairy Tales by Jamila Gavin

A collection of six magical stories from a skilled and original storyteller. Watch Blackberry Blue rise from the bramble patch; follow Emeka the pathfinder on his mission to save a lost king; join Princess Desire as she gallops across the Milky Way on her jet-black horse. Each tale has a moral at the beginning which remains in your mind as you read.  Beautifully wrought prose takes the reader deep into magical worlds; worlds where the extraordinary is ordinary. The pencil drawings by Richard Collingridge enhance the magical feel with their delicacy.

Stories for Children by Oscar Wilde

The Happy Prince; The Selfish Giant and The Nightingale and the Rose make up this collection of three classic fairy tales - not fairy stories for the very young child but ones to be appreciated by older children, especially The Nightingale and the Rose which has a dark side. The language lends itself perfectly to reading aloud - and allows the adult to ensure understanding of both language and moral. This edition contains the original watercolour and line illustrations by Charles Robinson and they reflect the stories and the world of Oscar Wilde perfectly - the beautiful layout will be appreciated by the older reader. A gift edition to treasure.

Blackberry Blue and Other Fairy Tales by Jamila Gavin

A collection of six magical stories from a skilled and original storyteller. Watch Blackberry Blue rise from the bramble patch; follow Emeka the pathfinder on his mission to save a lost king; join Princess Desire as she gallops across the Milky Way on her jet-black horse. Each tale has a moral at the beginning which remains in your mind as you read.  Beautifully wrought prose takes the reader deep into magical worlds; worlds where the extraordinary is ordinary. The pencil drawings by Richard Collingridge enhance the magical feel with their delicacy.

Down the Rabbit Hole (Silly Stories) from Miles Kelly

Encourage young readers to see just how amusing classic stories can be with this marvellous selection of silly stories from Lewis Carroll, Sir George Webbe Dasent, Andrew Lang and E Nesbit. This book contains four extracts plus suitably silly illustrations. The attractive embossed cover will attract young readers to look inside and they won't be disappointed. The pages are charmingly decorated and the range of stories means there is something to attract every reader.

The Musicians of Bremen (Silly Stories) from Miles Kelly

This is an entertaining collection which includes stories from The Brothers Grimm (the title story plus The Three Spinsters), Stone Soup (a much-loved tale which is excellently retold here) and The Greedy Brownie. The lively illustrations offer plenty of opportunities for discussing the stories. Encourage children to read these short stories, which are perfect for one reading session (and for reading aloud, perhaps at the end of the school day) and then make sure the original books are available to keep their interest alive.

Football Shorts edited by Tom Watt

'Big match writing for the best in the game.'  Young football fans will be thrilled to see the superb line up of writers in this collection of short stories - Alan Davies, Terry Deary, Matt Holland, Nick Hornby, Tom Palmer, Hilary Freeman, Mal Peet, Paul Cookson, Alan Sefton, Curtis Davies (Birmingham City), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Faye White (Arsenal) and Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal). The writing is wide ranging, just like the writers, so there will be something here to appeal to everyone who loves football. A great way to encourage boys to read, the varied presentation of the stories and interesting formatting, make it an attractive book. Poetry, letters, newspaper articles and short stories all feature - great to dip into.

The Lion Storyteller Book of Animal Tales retold by Bob Hartman 

Bob Hartman is a professional storyteller and this shines through in his collections of short stories. Animal stories are always popular and have been for centuries. This collection draws on some of the very old favourites such as The Tortoise and the Hare and moves on to some original stories written by Bob himself. There are stories from all around the world, bringing great diversity to the collection. Bob tells us in his introduction that he has chosen the stories because they encourage the best human traits and his hope is that they will encourage children to be more compassionate, or kind, or gentle - storytelling is a wonderful way to achieve this as children absorb the messages in stories. This would be a great classroom and assembly resource as well as a lovely book for children and parents to share. As with his other books, there is an excellent section at the end on sharing these stories with groups to get the best out of them. The illustrations by Krisztina Kallai Nagy are enchanting and the perfect foil for the stories.

How the Whale Became by Ted Hughes

'Long ago when the world was new, all the creatures were pretty much alike.' This classic collection of stories is inevitably compared with Kipling's Just So Stories, but this is totally different and a wonderful collection in its own right. 11 stories including the title one, which tells us how the whale got to be so huge. Read about the Owl who deceives the other animals; the sly Fox who develops a taste for chickens; the  vain Polar Bear; why the Hyena laughs; how the Tortoise got a shell instead; and then there's the Bee, the Cat; the Donkey; the Hare and the Elephant.  All children should be introduced to these humorous and thought-provoking tales (ideal for reading aloud) and they deserve to be even more widely read, so it's great to see a new edition.

Illustrated Adventure Stories edited by Lesley Sims 

I love this series of chunky anthologies from Usborne Books. They are a super way to introduce children to stories and great for reading aloud. This collection contains five super classic adventure stories, ideal to capture attention - The Count of Monte Cristo, The Prisoner of Zenda, Don Quixote, The Three Musketeers and The Thirty Nine Steps. Each is retold in pacy accessible language, ensuring children are quickly drawn into the story. The illustrations, which are plentiful, hep understanding and keep interest alive. With such a positive introduction to the classics, hopefully children will go on to read the originals very soon.

Illustrated stories for boys

I love this series of chunky books from Usborne. They are beautifully produced and crammed full of illustrations. Ask boys what would be in their dream collection of stories and they would respond 'Pirates, dragons, robots and monsters'. Well, they are all here in this wonderful collection. Just the right length for young readers to read on their own, or for bedtime stories. The inclusion of classics such as Sir Gawain and Treasure Island is a great way to introduce children to the classics and instill a desire to read the whole story. The illustrations fit the stories beautifully and give plenty of scope for discussion around the story. Look out for others in the series, including

Illustrated Classics for Boys (Anthologies & Treasuries)

Illustrated stories for girls

A gorgeous gift for young girls, this beautiful treasury of 'Usborne Young Reading' titles will delight and entertain with its mix of classic fairytales and original stories. It features well-known classics such as 'The Princess and the Pea', 'The Little Mermaid' and 'Rapunzel' alongside brand new stories about mermaids, fairies, princesses and dolls. 'Usborne's Young Reading' series is developed in conjunction with experts from Roehampton University and is designed to encourage independent reading. Each story has clear, engaging text and is accompanied by original illustrations. Try these too:

Illustrated Animal Stories (Usborne Anthologies and Treasuries)

Illustrated Fairy Tales (Usborne Illustrated Stories)

Illustrated Stories from Around the World

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

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