Book reviews - fiction 5 to 11 (page 16)

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

Ada Twist and the Perilous Pantaloons (The Questioneers)​ by Andrea Beaty

I really ponder over where to put these excellent books. They are so much more than simply fiction, with their fascinating look at various aspects of science. However, as the enjoyable story is the theme of the book, here it is with fiction. Ada Twist thirsts after knowledge, asking question after question, and undertaking practical activities until she gets a satisfactory answer - just like any great scientist. And her example is a wonderful way to set children off on their own voyages of discovery. Everything around her arouses curiosity - coffee that doesn't smell, shoes that stink... and how can she get Uncle Ned back when he's floated off to space in his enormous pantaloons? Ada must rely on her curious mind, her brave spirit, and her best pals Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck to solve a mystery in her own backyard. She is a wonderful role model, one who perseveres and works things out for herself, despite setbacks - and it's a fun read too. Brilliant!

 Dancing the Charleston by Jacqueline Wilson

A new book by Jacqueline Wilson is always a long-awaited treat and her fans are in for another wonderful read, with Jacqueline's trademark historical detail packed with intriguing family relationships and superb characters. Set in the evocative world of the 1920s, this is the story of Mona, who starts off living humbly with her aunt and eventually finds herself in the glamorous lifestyle of the period. Mona's aunt is dressmaker to the lady of a grand house. When Lady Somerset dies and a new member of the family inherits the house, life changes drastically for Mona. She finds herself in the whirl of society, invited to dazzling balls, dining on delicious food and playing with wild new friends. But it's not all plain sailing... As always, we find ourselves immersed in the world of the star of the book, and feel a part of village life as well as of London life, living it along with Mona. A brilliant read.

Al's Awesome Science: Busy Bodies!​ by Jane Clarke

It's no surprise to learn that Splash Down! in the same series has been shortlisted for the inaugural STEAM Children's Book Prize, as this series is an excellent combination of science with gripping stories. This time, Al is researching the effects on his body of travelling in a time machine. but it turns out to be a messy job! It's not helped by Precious the cat and Al's naughty dog Einstein. This engagingly presented book, with lots of diagrams, cartoons and other illustrations by James Brown, presented science in a lively manner that makes it easy to understand, with plenty of hands-on ideas to try out to help understanding. Experiments about digestion, nutrition, plus facts about the body, balance and space travel make for a lively and informative read that children will love.

Mister Cleghorn's Seal by Judith Kerr

Mr Cleghorn is sad and lonely since he retired, so when he finds an abandoned seal pup whilst on holiday, the obvious thing seems to be to take it home to his flat... Maybe, though, he hadn’t quite considered all the complications... This touching story tells us happened to Mr Cleghorn and Charlie the seal as they set to find a home for Charlie and, incidentally, happiness for them both. The delicate pencil drawings complement the story, conveying all the emotions to perfection. A thoughtful and heartwarming story that leaves you with a warm glow.

Hamish and the Monster Patrol​ by Danny Wallace

There's definitely something strange about Starkley, with odd things always happening. There's something weird out in the ocean and most of the locals have fled or gone into hiding. Not our intrepid hero Hamish and his pals from the PDF though, because someone has to save the world. Help is on hand though, from the top-secret Monster Patrol is on hand to help. But how much use will the ill-assorted mix of a strange new kid, a bizarre-looking fish monster and a bonkers old lady actually be? With wonderful illustrations by Jamie Littler which give the book immediate kid-appeal, this is a hilarious story, full of wit and humour.

Head Kid by David Baddiel

Here's a question - what would happen if the naughtiest child ever swapped places with the strictest head ever? Chaos, that's what would happen! Ryan has played so many tricks at Bracket Wood School that in the end the Head Teacher just walks out... but the new Head is so strict that even the teachers are scared of him. But in the most unexpected thing, Ryan and Mr Carter swap bodies. Now Ryan is Head Teacher – and his mortal enemy is one of his pupils. Is being Head Teacher all it's cracked up to be though? Find out in this hilarious story of chaos and mayhem that will have its readers in fits of laughter all the way through. David Baddiel know just how to tick the right boxes to appeal to children with just enough realism to have children thinking 'what if...?'. Fantastic fun from a very talented writer, complemented to perfection by STeven Lenton's brilliant illustrations.

Runaway Robot by Frank Cottrell-Boyce

Alfie is off school after an accident in which he lost not only his hand but also his confidence. He's lonely all day on his own. So when he comes across Eric, a one-legged robot in need of a friend, he brings him home with him. But a ban on humanoid robots has just been passed, which means Alfie is breaking the law by sheltering Eric. Can he keep his new friend safe – and himself out of trouble? Full of humour, this imaginative book has a thoughtful and perceptive deeper message which encourages readers to think about friendship and supporting one another. Accompanied by Steven Lenton's illustrations, this is a story that will stick in the reader's mind long after the last page is read.

Little Badman and the Invasion of the Killer Aunties​ by Humza Arshad and Henry White

Meet Humza Khan, who claims to be the greatest eleven-year-old rapper Eggington has ever known. But he faces a problem at school - all teachers are disappearing and the aunties are taking over. He tells us that now these aunties are trying to mess with his music, "so me and my best friends Umer and Wendy are going to hunt for the truth. Cos something big and bad is going on and we won't let anything mess with my music... or you know, the world."

The Puppy Who Couldn't Sleep by Holly Webb

Holly Webb is a hugely popular writer of animal stories that make easy enjoyable reads to encourage children into reading. When Lara and her dad are out walking their dog, he leads them to a scared black puppy hiding in an alleyway. Lara's dad won't let her take him home but Lara can't stop thinking about him. She convinces her dad to let him stay and names him Jet - but when Jet spends night after night howling, Lara’s dad soon changes his mind. Can Lara save Jet from the animal shelter? The cute illustrations are by Sophy Williams.

Revenge of the Living Ted by Barry Hutchison

The teddy bears who star in this pacy series are a far cry from the cuddly teddy bears we see as normal! Grizz and his army of teddy bears are terrifying creatures who are plotting to take over the world. Just when Lisa Marie and Vernon thought they'd seen the last of Grizz and his terrifying army of Halloween teddy bears, they’re kidnapped by megalomaniac Ursine Kodiak, who has an army of evil bears of his own. But there's worse to come – Ursine has created an AI version of Grizz, who is now on the loose and intent on revenge. Can Lisa Marie and Vernon save the day – and the world – again? A hilarious adventure.

The Climbers (Colour Fiction) by Ali Standish

This is another book in the excellent Stripes Colour Fiction range, which perfectly bridges the gap between picture books and chapter books. It's a big step for children to take and some are reluctant to move on from the appeal and familiarity of colourful picture books. This series is lavishly illustrated in full colour but offers meatier stories for children to engage with. Alma would love to explore the forest beyond her town, but her uncle has told her it’s full of fearsome beasts. Despite this, one night, she ventures into the forest and finds a frightened bear cub. The two become unlikely friends but the rest of the town is not so welcoming, so Alma and the bear set off in search of pastures new. A gentle story about friendship and believing in yourself with gorgeous illustrations by Alette Straahof.

Adventure Duck vs Power Pug by Steve Cole

Adventure Duck doesn't ask much, just a quiet life on his pond but one night, everything changes and a meteor gives him superpowers. Then he knows he must fly into battle and defeat the forces of evil. Who is he up against? None other than Power Pug, a tiny arch-villain who is plotting to take over the world with his hypnotic stare and an army of hench-animals. Can Adventure Duck and his friends stop Power Pug in his tracks? Packed with humour, and eye-catchingly presented, this is great fun with lots of clever plays on words to enhance the enjoyment.

Charlie Changes Into a Chicken by Sam Copeland

When you're a born worrier, it's hard to be optimistic but Charlie McGuffin tries his best. But there are problems everywhere, the worst of which is that he's started turning into animals! Some superpowers can be highly desirable - others less so. Will he get sent away for Science to deal with? Will his parents crack under the extra stress? With the help of his three best friends, Charlie needs to find a way of dealing with his crazy new power - quickly. A clever and hilarious story with a hero you'll love. There's a serious side, that of coping with stress, and this is capably handled and will touch children affected by this ever-growing issue. This is the first in a new series - I'm already looking forward to the next one.

Horrid Henry: Up, Up and Away​ by Francesca Simon

Where Horrid Henry is, you can be sure hilarious trouble is never far behind. This new collection of four short stories sees him getting into scrapes in some very varied situations. He causes chaos at the airport and on the plane, rewrites history when he has to write about the Tudors, sabotages the school play and gets to ride on the Zoom of Doom. As ever, Tony Ross' hilarious illustrations add enormously to the feel of the book, bringing Henry and his friends to life for the reader. These short stories are ideal for children starting to read independently; they are full of fun and the zany presentation is always a winner with children.

Julius Zebra: Grapple with the Greeks!​ by Gary Northfield

Heracles needs help to find his golden apple - and who better to help than Julius and his chums, with the incentive of immortality as the reward. On this hilarious adventure, told in lively text accompanied by chatty cartoons, our unlikely band of animal heroes are immersed in Greek legends. They confront the Minotaur in the labyrinth, trick a one hundred-headed dragon at the Garden of Hesperides and make a dramatic visit to King Midas. Full of excitement, you never know where the story will lead next. It's very funny, it's very silly and it gives a great insight into the world of Ancient Greece, making history more enjoyable and relatable for children. I love this series! Even reluctant readers will enjoy the book and keen readers will enjoy a satisfying read.

The Adventures of Na Willa by Reda Gaudiamo

This unusual book is a collection of short stories by an Indonesian author. Na Willa is a multicultural girl growing up in Indonesia with a Javanese mother and a Chinese-Indonesian father, and she is a bold character who is not afraid to question. Set in the 1960s in a time when children spent the day outside, this book vividly recollects a very different society, and a world when race and gender would still go undiscussed. Na Willa's musings are well recollected and she has a refreshing approach to the issues of life.

Bloom by Nicola Skinner

Wonderful things happen when you break the rules - what an enticing statement to find on the cover of a book! It introduces a really unusual story with a heroine who is just perfect... until she finds a packet of Surprising Seeds. Sorrel is so perfect, even the teachers at Grittysnit School go to her for advice; she, of course, follows rules to the letter. But that's all set to change in this wonderful head-over-heels story. When she discovers the Surprising Seeds buried under a tree in her garden, strange things start to happen. Her mouth seems to get stuck, she's hearing voices, seeing things, and she's experiencing an almost unstoppable urge to plant the Seeds in some very unusual places. No longer is she The Most Obedient Child of the School. Witty, funny and above all, totally original, this is a superbly told story that veers off in the most unexpected of directions, taking the reader on a magical journey of self-discovery. Peopled with beautifully written characters, full of imagination and encouragement to dare to be different.

Thief in the Night (The Trapdoor Mysteries: Book 3) by Abie Longstaff

Tally is a feisty young girl with a double life - she's servant girl at Mollett Manor and she's also the Secret Keeper of a magical library hidden in the grounds. Of course, like all good detectives, she has her sidekcik, in this case it's a squirrel called Squill. She and Squill use the enchanted books to solve crimes. When ghostly noises start haunting the lady of the manor in the middle of the night, it's Tally who is summoned to help. But how can books help Tally catch something that no one can see? This story includes all the classic elements of children's stories - a main character who is isolated from the world, a crime to solve, animal magic, puzzles and humour, all superbly blended. Set in its own little world, the story is superbly complemented by James Brown's atmospheric illustrations.

Dumbo (Disney Animated Classics)

Find out much more about the much-loved classic film of Dumbo, filmed, amazingly, nearly 80 years ago. This beautiful hardback gift book has a cloth binding with matching ribbon marker, foil stamping and illustrated endpapers, making it a lovely book to commemorate the film and to act as a lasting reminder. This retelling is accompanied by paintings, story sketches and concept art from the original Disney Studio artists. There's also a foreword by Natalie Nourigat, a storyboard artist at the Walt Disney Animation Studios, and information about about the artists who worked on the film. A beautiful book, a worthy tribute to the film.

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: The Aliens Are Coming!​ by Tracey Corderoy

Children may well have already met these baking dogs through the picture books, so they will love to continue to follow their escapades through these early reading books. With three stories in the book, there's plenty of summer fun to be enjoyed. Someone is cheating in the sandcastle competition; there's something fishy about the new cafe; and there's an alien invasion to contend with. These hilarious stories are perfectly complemented by Steven Lenton's illustrations in their two colour format. Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam are great characters, already for new adventures and mysteries to solve - and new recipes - and children revel in the lively light-hearted stories, packed with humour.

Kat Wolfe Takes the Case (Wolfe and Lamb) by Lauren St John

Join brave Kat Wolfe and her animal sidekicks in this second mysterious adventure filled with friendship, freedom and a fierce wild cat. Throughout the story, the reader is continually engaged in following the twists of the plot as scientists come to explore the rare ‘dragon’ dinosaur, revealed by a landslip on the Jurassic Coast. But after they begin investigating a suspicious death, events spiral quickly out of control for detectives Wolfe and Lamb. Worse still, Kat’s wild cat Tiny is in trouble. Can they solve the mystery – and save Tiny's life – before it’s too late? This is what I would describe as a typical traditional children's adventure story - but with a contemporary setting and appeal. Think 21st century Enid Blyton but - dare I say it -even better, with clever plotting and evocative language that sets a standard for story telling that children will relish.

Lily and the Rockets by Rebecca Stevens

This excellent historical novel is set in 1918; a very different world to today, especially for girls - and today's girls will be fascinated and intrigued by Lily, a strong character who wants to change things. She spends her days working in a munitions factory at Woolwich Arsenal (original home, of course, of one of today's top men's teams), and her lunchtimes kicking a ball with her workmates. Together they form a football team, the Rockets, and a league soon follows. But when the war ends, the girls lose both their jobs and their football. But Lily is not about to give up on her dreams... An inspiring story of determination and a love for sport, and a dauntless heroine.

Murder at the Museum (Agatha Oddly, Book 2)​ by Lena Jones

This book follows on closely from the first in the series, which introduced aspiring member of the Gatekeepers' Guild, Agatha Oddlow. When there's a murder at the British Museum, it seems that the police are taking too narrow a view of the case. There's a lot going on - a disused Tube station, a huge fireworks display, and five thousand tonnes of gold bullion all have a part to play in this twisty yet coherent plot with its authentic London background. Quirky and well-drawn characters are a real feature of the book. Detective fiction has become a popular genre for the upper KS2 market and Agatha Oddly is a sparky contemporary character who will appeal to aficionados of the genre.

Pog by Padraig Kenny

Pog has had the house to himself for many years... but now, following the death of their mother, David and Penny have come to live there with their Dad. And their mum? A strange beginning which may be hard for children to understand, but that's part of the mystical, other-worldly feel of the book. Pog is one of the First Folk, protecting the boundary between the worlds. As the children explore, they discover monsters slipping through from the place on the other side of the cellar door. Meanwhile, David is drawn into the woods by something darker, which insists there's a way he can bring his mother back ... A story dripping with mystery and atmosphere.

Winter of the Wolves (Flashbacks) by Tony Bradman

In KS2, children will learn about the Anglo-Saxons, and historical novels set in the period are a great way to give them good background and ignite their enthusiasm. Oslaf is determined to gain respect and to prove his worth in the village, working on the farm and training as a warrior. But when the Chieftain makes the decision to move the village across the sea to the great new land of Britannia, suddenly the Britons are a greater threat than Oslaf's rivalry with the Chieftain's son, Wermund. Can the Angles and the Saxons defeat the Britons? And will Oslaf be as brave as the hero in the tale of Beowulf? An atmospheric read, full of excitement to capture interest, which shows how the Angles and the Saxons learnt to work together, leaving a legacy for future generations.

The Fire Maker by Guy Jones

Fleeing from bullies in a dramatic start to the book, Alex finds himself in eccentric Mr Olmos's back garden. There, he sees a kind of magic he can't explain: three tiny flames floating in the air. Alex loves magic and soon he and Mr Olmos are swept up in a great adventure of secrets, genies and an ancient, bitter rivalry... Compellingly told, this is a multi-faceted story written with empathy and insight into a boy's life and feelings, along with magic and mystery to enthral. Magic - Friendship - Adventure.

Spider! (Dirty Bertie) by David Roberts

Dirty Bertie really does have some disgusting habits, which I won't go into here, but they do, of course, endear him to young readers! Spider! is, amazingly, his 31st adventure and the humour is just as strong as ever. Bertie shocks and amazes his classmates with his huge pet spider, is tricked into wearing one of Gran's knitted horrors to school, and finds nothing but trouble when he digs for treasure in the park in the three short stories in this volume. With short chapters and plentiful illustrations, the stories are an easy and enjoyable read. Bertie's just the sort of character children love, and David Roberts pitches his humour and storylines perfectly for boys and girls age 6 to 8, really encouraging them to enjoy reading.

Mr Dog and the Rabbit Habit by Ben Fogle

Animal stories are perennially popular and this new series has the extra bonus of being inspired by the real-life experiences of a well-known broadcaster and explorer. The book is co-written with best-selling children’s author Steve Cole and the combination works well, with each bringing their own talent to give a good story. The book is illustrated throughout with beautiful black and white illustrations by Nikolas Ilic. Mr Dog will always help an animal in trouble and when a mother rabbit is captured in a trap, he ends up playing bunnysitter... But there is more at stake - someone wants to get rid of all the rabbits and it's up to Mr Dog to help. Ben Fogle's passion for animals and love of adventure have been put to good use in this book, with its cast of lovable animals, and I'm looking forward to seeing the series continue.

Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles​ by Thomas Lennon

At 14, Ronan Boyle is the youngest recruit to the secret Garda, an Irish police force - but a police force with a difference. Magical creatures are its remit. Ronan believes his parents have been falsely imprisoned, framed by the wee people, so, despite the odds being against him, he sets out to prove their innocence. In this most Irish of tales, he confronts a fiery leprechaun, a sinister harpy, and masses of monsters. Fast paced, action packed, and totally hilarious, this is the first in a new middle-grade series by actor and writer Thomas Lennon. With excellent descriptions, compelling characters and a most unusual storyline, this is a really enjoyable story.

SAMI’S SILVER LINING (THE LOST AND FOUND BOOK TWO) BY CATHY CASSIDY

In this very topical and relevant book, Sami has been forced to flee his home in Syria to seek safety in England. It's hard for Sami to put the past behind him, and he clings to memories of the past as he attempts to begin a new life. School is a real struggle as the other children don't understand him. It starts to get better with his new friends in the Lost and Found band. There's also a romance with the girl of his dreams. The book is told in the first person, which gives the book a strong impact and personal flavour. It's a highly-charged emotional story which highlights the refugee crisis and the way it impacts on individual lives. It's touchingly told and true-to-life in its approach, giving young readers a deeper understanding of how it feels to be a refugee.

Galloglass: Worldquake Sequence Book 3​ by Scarlett Thomas

This gripping series started with Dragon's Green and The Chosen Ones... and I recommend that you try to read these first to get the most from this exciting and atmospheric story. The Diberi are a corrupt and ruthless group out to destroy the worlds of Midwinter; Effie Truelove and her school-friends Lexy, Wolf, Maximilian and Raven must use their magical skills to defeat them. During a visit to the Otherworld, Effie is mistaken and imprisoned for being a galloglass - a dangerous, selfish islander; Lexy is threatened by the vile professor Jupiter Peacock and Wolf embarks on a perilous journey to find his missing sister. Even Neptune the cat has a part to play in this intricately woven story of many strands. Can Effie and her friends reunite before total destruction is wreaked upon the universe?

Spook-tacular Surprise (Vlad, The World's Worst Vampire Book 4)​ by Anna Wilson

Vlad really doesn't fit in with his vampire family, but this lovable character tries hard and means well. Now he finally has his Bat Licence it seems his mother still wants more... if he can't show super-strength he will find himself in the dreaded Black Tower. Vlad's talents lie in other directions - maybe he can impress with his acting skills? Trouble is, he has to keep his two lives separate, and that just doesn't happen. Vlad is a lovely character and the imaginative and unusual story is great fun which is enhanced by the super illustrations by Kathryn Ourst. There's plenty of dialogue which makes for a good read, especially to read aloud.

The Little Mistake (Country Tales) by Nicola Davies

I like the concept of these books - they are slim volumes each containing a short story, perfect for reluctant readers at the top of this age range. They have the satisfaction of reading a 'real' book. After a very sad, almost traumatic, opening which may be hard for young readers, Rosie has been given a sheepdog puppy to care for - but the pup is never going to make the grade as a sheepdog. But even though the puppy was a mistake, she teaches her Rosie that not all mistakes are bad in this story about belonging and finding your place. Beautifully illustrated by Kathy Fisher.

Flying Free (Country Tales) by Nicola Davies

Each of these short stories is about young people growing up in the countryside. They are not the normal animal story though as they are much harder-hitting and grittier. Colin lives with his mum and big brother and he can't wait to grow up. But is growing up as good as he had hoped? When his brother gives him an air rifle for his birthday and he shoots a hawk, he soon learns that shooting live creatures is very different to shooting cans on the wall. A powerful tale of growing up and gaining responsibility.

Bad Dad by David Walliams

David Walliams writes imaginative books that are spot-on for children, with exciting and humorous storylines that have readers gripped. This is a fast-paced laugh-a-minute cops and robbers adventure about a father and son taking on the villainous Mr Big. I love the way we meet all the characters at the outset, illustrated by the wonderful Tony Ross; this is a super way to engage children with the story and get them immersed from the start. Of course, being David Walliams, nothing is as expected and this is a back-to-front riches-to-rags story about a mission to break an innocent man into prison! Clever variations in text coupled with those superb illustrations make the book instantly appealing. It's an addictive read that also sensitively touches on some tricky issues, opening up avenues for discussion.

Little Lion Rescue (Little Rescue) by Rachel Delahaye

Perfect for young readers of 5+, this is the first in a new series that couples appealing animal stories with a message about conservation and information about animals and their environment. A school trip to the zoo for Fliss and her classmates ends up being the adventure of a lifetime when Fliss is magically whisked away to the Serengeti! There she finds a little lost lion cub, separated from its family, and Fliss is determined to reunite them. But with only a bottle of water, half a sandwich and her instinct to guide her across the plains, is she ready to face the wild? It's a great concept, one that will open up discussion and a wider interest whilst being an enjoyable read. I'm looking forward to the next story.

Spot Guevara: Hero Dog by Zaro Weil

Spot has quite a story to tell and he shares it with us in his own words in this unusual and engaging story. Spot was born rough on the streets of Brooklyn and one dreadful day, his entire family is taken away by the Dog police. He is determined to find them and this leads him into many adventures as he roams the city meeting new friends, fending off danger and learning about humans and other dogs. Delightful character-full coloured illustrations by Katie Riddell are the ideal complement to the story. Spot is a super character; I was really drawn to him and I know children will love him too - and enjoy his really happy outcome.

The Skylark's War by Hilary McKay

This superb story has all the elements that make a classic children's book. Set in the time leading up to and during the First World War, it's the story of Clarry and her older brother Peter. They can't wait for their idyllic summers in Cornwall, staying with their grandparents and spending time with their cousin, Rupert. Each September, it's back to boring routine – boarding school for Peter and Rupert, and a dull life for Clarry at home with her absent father. This all changes as the shadow of a terrible war looms over the country. When Rupert goes off to fight at the front, Clarry feels their skylark summers are finally slipping away from them. It's the combination of strong family and friendship bonds that support the characters through the terrible events they face, and the contrast between the children's cold and unloved life in London dramatically and effectively contrasts with the love and warmth they find in Cornwall. The impact of war is vividly described and the story runs a gamut of emotions from humour to heartbreak with ultimate hope.A moving and emotional story, well deserving of the highest praise.

The Deadly Dinner Lady (Rory Branagan (Detective), Book 4)​ by Andrew Clover

Rory Branagan is a detective - the best detective in town, or so he likes to think! He tells his own story about the huge crime committed at his school. Just who would want to kill the head dinner lady? It's up to Rory and his sidekick, Cassidy 'the Cat' Callaghan, to solve the crime. With drawings by Ralph Lazar on every page which are fundamental to the story, this book is perfect for children aged 8 and up who like a mystery to solve and a lively and hilarious read. The book makes a perfect transition from picture books and children who may be reluctant readers will definitely be encouraged to read it - often, I have seen children flick through books looking for high picture content and this definitely fits the bill. Children will be rewarded with a pacy funny story.

To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg-Sloan and Meg Wolitzer​

Avery (Night Owl) and Bett (Dogfish) are two totally different characters, with one thing in common - their dads are dating each other. In the hope the girls will make friends, their dads send them to the same camp for the summer vacation. perhaps surprisingly, the girls become close but then the unthinkable happens and their dads break up,. Will the girls get them together again? Told entirely through emails and letters, it's not a writing style I personally enjoy, but today's generation will, and the format makes it easy to read and contemporary in approach - a good hook to capture interest.

Captain Cat and the Treasure Map​ by Sue Mongredien

Meet the crew of The Golden Earring and revel in their piratical adventures. Patch is the ship's cat and with her friends, Cutlass the parrot and Monty the monkey, they are often needed to get the incompetent pirate crew out of trouble. This is their first adventure and it's a great start! The pirate crew have discovered a treasure map and set out to find where X marks the spot. But it's not plain sailing - the treasure is cursed and it's up to Captain Cat to stop them, before it's too late! It's a lively story with a super cast of characters and engaging writing that will appeal to newly confident readers.

Secret Supervillain vs Lightning Girl by Alesha Dixon

Aurora Beam is anxious to help her mum and grandma track down the stolen precious stone that holds the key to her family's powers. Much to her annoyance, they don't want her to get involved. It may be that even Lightning Girl and the Bright Sparks can't defeat the supervillain who is against them. Worried that whoever has the stone will destroy it and flick the switch off on her powers for ever, brave Aurora refuses to hide at home. What can she discover about master-of-disguise the Blackout Burglar? And about his boss, the secret supervillain with a deep-seated desire for revenge...A laugh-aloud story, enhanced by the funny art throughout, this is a pacy and empowering story with a strong role model. Written in collaboration with Katy Birchall.

Amelia Fang and the Half-Moon Holiday​ by Laura Ellen Anderson

Amelia Fang is a vampire - but don't worry, she's a very friendly one! It’s the half-moon holidays in gloomy Nocturnia and Amelia and friends are going to spend it with their Rainbow Rangers troop, earning badges on Sugar Plum Island. But whilst exploring, Amelia and the gang stumble upon an ancient curse – and are shrunk to the size of bugs! Now how can they break the curse? It's a light-hearted and fun read with friendship at its centre. With illustrations on almost every page, it's great for children who need encouragement to move on from picture books - and they will be rewarded with an enjoyable read and a great cast of characters who are really just like other children albeit with some special powers.

The Girl Who Learned All The Languages Of The World​ by Ieva Flamingo

Lela is a clever but obstinate girl who can't see the point of doing as her parents want and learning languages. But then she finds herself at an important international party where she can't understand anything. So she decides to learn all of the languages of the world, one word at a time... Join Lela on her journey, learning words in Latvian, French, Finnish, German, Spanish, Italian, Estonian, Swedish, Slovenian, Dutch, Maltese and Russian. As the story unfolds, Lela and her friends find more and more words they want to learn, all neatly interwoven into the story. Full of fun and gentle humour, this is a great (and very unusual) way to encourage children to learn different languages.

Jasper and Scruff by Nicola Colton

On the surface, they couldn't be more unalike - a scruffy dog and a svelte cat. But what really matters is having friends - despite having everything he could want (a swish apartment, a bow tie for every occasion and lots of books), Jasper is lonely and desperate to be accepted by ‘The Sophisticats’, a society for exceptional felines. They've accepted Jasper’s dinner invitation, so he makes great plans... but it seems someone else wants to be friends and cheeky little pup Scruff causes mayhem. Maybe, though, there are better friends to be made... It's a hilarious story of friendship and what really matters, packed with laugh-aloud humour. The colour illustrations are a sheer delight too, and this adorable story is perfect for new readers moving on from picture books. I love it and it's great to know it is just the start of a series.

Mystery of the Theatre Ghost (The Secret Seven) by Pamela Butchart

What a treat - a brand-new Secret Seven mystery that captures all the spirit of the originals and are set in the same world and time as the original stories by Enid Blyton. The Secret Seven are thrilled to have been chosen as extras in a play, but when the play opens, things start to go badly wrong. The cast and crew insist that a theatre ghost must be causing trouble but the Secret Seven aren't deceived... they know there's something going on. As ever, the children work through the problem together, determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. The story is brought to life by Tony Ross's brilliant illustrations throughout. As a child, I thought there were never enough Secret Seven stories, so today's children who feel that way will love these new stories, which are well written, pacy and fun to read.

Teachers on Pluto by Lou Treleaven

To me, Maverick Publishing has become synonymous with great stories - they are always excellent and Lou Treleaven's Pluto series is brilliant in both story and presentation. Mrs Hall is temporarily in charge of Pluto and is running it just like school - hardly surprising as she is Jon's teacher. Her new laws mean doing spelling tests and Iron Age projects, so Jon and Straxi must take matters into their own hands .... especially when there's a giant, mutant snarlger on the loose! The stories appeal to both boys and girls and the format based on various forms of letter-writing has great appeal. It is also inspiring to encourage children to write letters and would therefore make a super class reader. A truly original story and such fun to read - letter-writing has its place!

Arlo, Miss Pythia and the Forbidden Box​ by Alice Hemming

4X are now 5P and they have a new and rather unusual teacher, Miss Pythia. Her teaching methods and special box on her desk are definitely not normal. When 5P are picked to take part in A Play in a Day, they decide Pandora's box would be the perfect play to perform. Arlo is elected as director but gets a bit carried away and doesn't notice that the cardboard replica of Pandora's box has been swapped... now will they find out what is in Miss Pythia's one? Lively illustrations by Mike Garton are a great complement to this quirky and enjoyable story.

Grandma Dangerous and the Dog of Destiny: Book 1 by Kita Mitchell

Children who like light-hearted fun adventures will love this series. Ollie's dad is missing - but anarchic and wacky Grandma Dangerous is on the case. All she needs are a hot-air balloon, thirty packets of biscuits and a dog with magical powers. But as they sail through the skies on their way to Australia, Ollie realises they're not just on a rescue mission... Grandma's on the run! The plot gathers pace as the story progresses and gets sillier and sillier... in the best possible way. Great fun, and a lively read for 7 - 10 year olds who want something out-of-the -ordinary.

The Great Rocket Robbery by Frank Cottrell-Boyce

This is one of the World Book Day books for 2019. Laika and her fellow street dogs are being trained up for the greatest adventure in history – a trip to the moon! But Laika can't wait to see the stars – so she hatches a plan with her friends to get her there all on her own... Carnegie Medal-winning author Frank Cottrell-Boyce and illustrator Steven Lenton work together to bring children a super book which will encourage them to seek out more by this super combo.

Millions: the Not-so-great Train Robbery by Frank Cottrell-Boyce

What a dilemma! In the countdown to Britain joining the Euro, brothers Damian and Anthony find themselves caught up in a train robbery - with masses of cash in their hands! How can they spend it before it becomes worthless? Should they buy loads of pizzas or end world poverty? And whatever, can they keep out of the clutches of the robbers? It has all the makings of a hilarious story and that's just what we get. There's a moral message too, and the contrasting characters of the boys leap off the page at you, they are so well portrayed. An unusual and gripping story with plenty of pace. Macmillan have reissued Frank Cottrell-Boyce's award-winning collection of hilarious fiction, all with out-of-this-world covers by the acclaimed illustrator Steven Lenton.

Framed: the Perfect Crime That's a Work of Art by Frank Cottrell-Boyce

This perceptive story is based on the fact that the contents of the National Gallery were stored in the Welsh slate mines during World War II. Dylan lives in the tiny Welsh town of Manod and his parents run the local; his life is so dull that he keeps track of everyone coming in and out of Manod. But what is going on, when a convoy of vehicles goes to the disused mine? This is a funny and touching exploration of how art – its beauty and its value – touches the life of one boy and his big family in a very small town. It's superbly written with a light touch yet a serious undertone, and the family relationships are strongly portrayed. With their colourful new covers, these books make up a lovely collection for children - and a good on-going gift idea.

Cosmic: One Giant Leap for Boy-kind by Frank Cottrell-Boyce

Another well-plotted and addictive read, which really gives children something to get their teeth into. Liam is super-sized, which generally is a drawback but it does have advantages - he's the only eleven-year-old to ever ride the G-force-defying Cosmic rollercoaster or to be offered the chance to drive a Porsche. And he makes a giant leap for boy-kind by competing with a group of adults for the chance to go into space. Is Liam the best boy for the job? Sometimes being big isn't all about being a grown-up. There's plenty of comedy but also a thought-provoking look at what it's like to take responsibility. A great read. "Frank Cottrell-Boyce is a successful British screenwriter whose film credits include Welcome to Sarajevo, Hilary and Jackie and 24 Hour Party People. Millions, his debut children's novel, won the 2004 Carnegie Medal and was shortlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award. His second novel, Framed, was shortlisted for the 2005 Whitbread Children's Fiction Award and has also been shortlisted for the 2005 Carnegie Medal. His third novel, Cosmic, was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. Frank has also written a sensational sequel to the much-loved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the heartwarming Runaway Robot."

Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell-Boyce

This zany and laugh-aloud story has a real heart to it, with family and friendship at its core. Meet the Blythes, a warm-hearted family who sometimes foster children... and one of them is Prez, a silent though seemingly content boy. Then along comes Sputnik, an apparent alien claiming to be Prez' relative... and the rest of the family seem to think he's a dog. Sputnik is intriguing and cleverly personified. Chaos reigns with wonderful hilarity as household items come to life and Prez is going to have to use his voice to explain himself. Gradually, Prez gets to know his family in this touching story. These are meaty books, with plenty to really absorb young readers, and to make them think. They are not hard to read but immensely satisfying, meaning they appeal across KS2 and into KS3, with compelling storylines and great characters. These new editions include bonus material and discussion questions from Frank Cottrell Boyce, which are excellent for classroom use, and feature fantastic new cover artwork from Steven Lenton.

 

THE ASTOUNDING BROCCOLI BOY BY FRANK COTTRELL-BOYCE

Rory Rooney thinks he is prepared for anything until the unexpected happens on a school trip. It's not easy being green, as Rory Rooney finds out when he suddenly turns green. He's not the only one - there are two more green children in his hospital ward. Perhaps it's not something they ate...perhaps it's not a mysterious virus...perhaps they are actually superheroes. There's only one way to find out...so each night, they sneak out of the hospital and try out their superpowers on the streets of London - with hilarious consequences. Zany and humorous, this quirky book will appeal to readers of all ages; it would make a brilliant classroom read, guaranteed to send children home happy at the end of the day.

Rainforest Hide and Seek (Muddle the Magic Puppy)​ by Hayley Daze

This is just the sort of series that is perfect for young readers setting out to enjoy books on their own; they get engaged with the series and that encourages them to read more. This is the fourth story about cute puppy Muddle whose magical powers are triggered by jumping into a puddle. His friends Ruby and Harry are only too happy to share in his adventures and this time they are in the rainforest, where someone is causing trouble and things are going missing. Can they find out why? The illustrations are charming (they make me want to get my crayons out and colour them in!) and enhance the story. It's an easy read, with plenty of fun and friendship and enough excitement to captivate readers.

Cuddle the Magic Kitten Book 4: School of Spells by Hayley Daze

Cuddle is the star of another collectable series for young readers who naturally appeals to the same market as Muddle - give her a cuddle and the magic begins. Olivia and Graces find themselves in an enchanted school for fairies, unicorns, pixies and more in this enchanting story. The littlest unicorn at the school is lonely and it's up to Cuddle and the girls to help him to make new friends. It's an important topic for children and they will enjoy the friendship theme. The lively illustrations are a key element of the book and are really important for children at this stage of their reading journey as they make the transition from picture books and still look for visual clues to support their reading.

JoJo and Bow Bow: Candy Kisses by Jojo Siwa

Jojo Siwa is a social media phenomenon and she holds that there is no holiday like Valentine's Day - sweets and hearts are among her favourite things. This year, she plans a sleepover for BowBow and all her friends. With a new dance workshop as well, there's plenty to look forward to. But there's trouble ahead with three difficult girrs - the Queen Bs. Can it all be sorted to give a sweet Valentine's Day?

Mummy Fairy and Me: Unicorn Wishes by Sophie Kinsella

Much-loved author Sophie Kinsella has turned her attention to the children's fiction market with this appealing series about Ella and her family. Ella has a big secret - her mummy is a fairy! But Mummy Fairy's magic doesn't always go according to plan and then it's up to Ella to help... With flying cars, enchanted ballet shoes and a unicorn in the kitchen, there's plenty of fun to be had, with lively illustrations by Marti Kissi to set it all off. Girls will love the sparkly cover which perfectly reflects the magic of the story. Perfect for girls of 5+ who are starting to enjoy reading stories on their own - and good to share too. The light-hearted story has a loving family at its heart, as well as friendship and helping others.

The Golden Horsemen of Baghdad (Flashbacks)​ by Saviour Pirotta

Set in Baghdad in the Islamic Golden Age circa AD 900, the book gives a good background to the National Curriculum studies. This exciting and atmospheric adventure is the story of Jabir, who hopes to save his family from being made homeless by finding work himself in Baghdad. Starving, he resorts to stealing and is imprisoned. When his talent for carving wooden models is spotted, he is released on the orders of the grand caliph Harun al Rashid himself. His commission is to carve but someone is determined to go to any lengths to stop this. Can Jabir and his friend Yasmina finish the horsemen or will Jabir be sent back to prison? Flashbacks is an excellent series to support and encourage children's interest in history; fiction with an authentic background is really good to give children a sense of period and to bring history to life.

Sami’s Silver Lining (The Lost and Found Book Two) by Cathy Cassidy

In this very topical and relevant book, Sami has been forced to flee his home in Syria to seek safety in England. It's hard for Sami to put the past behind him, and he clings to memories of the past as he attempts to begin a new life. School is a real struggle as the other children don't understand him. It starts to get better with his new friends in the Lost and Found band. There's also a romance with the girl of his dreams. The book is told in the first person, which gives the book a strong impact and personal flavour. It's a highly-charged emotional story which highlights the refugee crisis and the way it impacts on individual lives. It's touchingly told and true-to-life in its approach, giving young readers a deeper understanding of how it feels to be a refugee.

She Wolf by Dan Smith

A dramatic story with a vividly depicted setting - Northumbria in the year 866. Vikings are strong, and Yvla, who has been washed ashore on a frozen English beach, epitomises that. But it's hard - when her mother dies at the hand of a three-fingered man, and the wolves of the forest circle closer, Ylva will need more than the memory of her mother's stories to stay alive. Can she shape her own legend? Will it end in revenge - or is there another way? I love the maps which preface the book - they allow the reader to really envisage the story and they will resonate especially with readers from the localities named. Chicken House's description of the book is Vikings - Vengeance - Wolves; an enticing mix which will have readers hooked as they enjoy this pacy novel, full of excitement and suspense. It gives a superb picture of the period and will be perfect to read when studying the Vikings, to immerse children in their world.

Where Dani Goes, Happy Follows (My Happy Life)​ by Rose Lagercrantz

Dani has a dilemma. Her best friend lives in another city and the adults can't keep their promises about when she'll see her. So it's all down to Dani to find a solution. Dani's father is away and Dani is staying with her grandparents. When she is invited to Ella's party, she thinks of the world's best gift for the world's best friend - herself! So when Grandma asks "Would you dare to go on your own?", Dani agrees and boldly sets out on a journey all by herself. I love Eva Eriksson's evocative illustrations which capture Dani to perfection. The story is gently told and excellently characterised, capturing the world of childhood and the wonders of growing up, with loyalty, friendship and bravery at its heart.

Emily Lime - Librarian Detective: The Book Case by Dave Shelton

St Rita's is an apparently posh girls' boarding school - but things are not what they seem, as Daphne is soon to discover. Daphne's an avid reader and is delighted to be quickly offered the chance to interview for Librarian's assistant's assistant immediately upon arrival. But where is the librarian? It seems she doesn't really exist, but the librarian's assistant, Emily Lime, really does need an assistant - so help her solve crimes. Mystery and intrigue are about to strike St Rita's and Emily Lime is going to need all the help she can get... It's a wonderful blend of traditional school story (think Malory Towers) with undertones of St Trinians and a good dose of classic detective fiction. It's a story that engages the reader, keeping you guessing as it twists and turns marvellously and all the time providing a good element of humour. A great read with excellent characters - and an emphasis on books, which I love!

Two Sides (Colour Fiction) by Polly Ho-Yen

This is a story that reflects a common problem with friendships, and so will resonate with many readers. Lula and Lenka have been best friends forever, despite being total opposites. But one terrible day, it all goes wrong, despite good intentions. What started as a day like any other ends with Lula and Lenka ignoring each other. Neither is prepared to listen or forgive... will they ever sort things out? The story is cleverly told from both girls' perspectives and the reader really feels a part of the story; a really well written story with much to teach us. It's delightfully illustrated by Binny Talib. This new venture from Stripes Publishing really fills a gap in the market. The books are designed to bridge the gap between picture books and chapter books. There are colour illustrations on every page, and the text is pitched at just the right level for children who are ready to start reading alone. I would like to see the books divided into chapters, though, as I think this would help young readers' transition without losing the purpose of the series.

Little Rabbit's Big Surprise (Colour Fiction) by Swapna Haddow

This is a lovely story about helping others and being useful and valued, whether young or old. When Little Rabbit is bored, and everyone else busy, her grandfather, Big Rabbit, takes her out with him and she soon learns that there is plenty that can be done to help others. Mole, Granny Hedgehog, Dormouse and Squirrel all need help, which is willingly given. This is a heartwarming story, beautifully illustrated by Alison Friend. The books are beautifully produced - they are hardbacks with a lovely traditional presentation that sets them apart from other books; the shiny coloured paper makes them a joy to read and enhances the feel of picture books rather than chapter books, to fit with the purpose of the series. Perfect to instill a love for books.

Grandma Dangerous and the Egg of Glory: Book 2 by Kita Mitchell

Right from the start, this book had me engaged with its fascinating characters - Ollie who is just a normal boy and prim and proper Thomas. Add Grandma Dangerous, who is certainly not your ordinary grandma, into the mix and a great read is guaranteed. Nothing deters her, so when a priceless artefact is stolen in Russia, Grandma Dangerous sets out to find it. She meets with some very unexpected obstacles along the way - poisoned caviar, a prison break or a spot of contemporary dance. Will Ollie and Grandma recover the treasure before the Politsiya and Mum find out what's going on? Great characters, wonderfully described, and a fun fast-paced narrative make this a great read that children will love

The Great Animal Escapade by Jane Kerr

For readers who like their books to be Thrilling - Animal - Adventure (in the words of publisher Chicken House), this will be ideal. Add to that, historical (the book is set in 1872), and already you have a flavour of the book. One-time pickpocket and street urchin, Danny now works at Belle Vue Zoo. He trains the famous elephant Maharajah as well as helping look aftet the other animals. But his new life is threatened with a series of events - his arch-enemy, Frank Scatcherd escapes from prison; Danny is suspected of stealing animals; and a mystery man turns up, claiming to be Danny's father. Can Danny untangle the mystery of the animal escapade - and find out where he really belongs - in order to clear his name? There is a huge amount going on in this story, but it's all skilfully interwoven to bring us an exciting adventure that is a real page turner - and has readers rooting for Danny.

Hunt with Newton: What are the Secrets of the Universe? (The Curious Science Quest) by Julia Golding

This is an exceptionally good series, with its clever interweaving of real historical events with a close look at whether science or faith answers every question as well as a good storyline. There is plenty of factual information through the book, which supports KS2 science excellently and there are also hands-on science experiments. Harriet the tortoise and Milton the cat are off on another time-travelling adventure, exploring the links between science and religious beliefs. Harriet and Milton are investigating the beginning of the modern scientific age as they join experiments with Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke, and meet Isaac Newton. It's a fun and fact-filled quest with informative illustrations by Brett Hudson. The series conveys lots of information and, importantly, encourages children to think.

A Witch Come True by James Nicol

This, the last in the Apprentice Witch trilogy, brings everything to a satisfying conclusion - but, if you are new to the series, please start with The Apprentice Witch. TheNow the war is over and Srianwyn has discovered the secret of the glyphs, she hoped her troubles were over, but that was not to be. There's her everyday work as Lull's witch which is made problematic by bad winter. And then Arianwyn's grandmother is abducted by the traitor on the Council, and she faces her greatest challenge yet. This Spellbinding - Charming - Adventure is excellently written with a heroine you can't but love and admire. The author takes on the mantle of well-loved authors such as Diana Wynne Jones and Jill Murphy with great success.

Barry Loser's Book of Keel Stuff by Jim Smith

Jim Smith has hit on a winning format with his Barry Loser books. In case you're wondering, keel means cool and Barry and friends are, of course, the coolest ever. The Book of Keel Stuff sees the Ultimate Book of Keelness released as a paperback with brand new content. This engrossing book with its lively format includes jokes, animal mash-ups and a 'Which Loser are you?' quiz.; short stories ‘Bunky is a Loser’ and ‘My Dad is a Loser’, as well as editions of the Daily Poo, a Q&A with Jim from his fans and pages of brand-new superkeel drawing guides and activities. It includes 'I am Not a Loser'. Wow! So much for fans to enjoy and the great thing about books like this is the way they generate enthusiasm for reading, even in reluctant readers. Hilarious and perfect for existing fans and to generate new ones.

Charlie Changes Into a Chicken by Sam Copeland

When you're a born worrier, it's hard to be optimistic but Charlie McGuffin tries his best. But there are problems everywhere, the worst of which is that he's started turning into animals! Some superpowers can be highly desirable - others less so. Will he get sent away for Science to deal with? Will his parents crack under the extra stress? With the help of his three best friends, Charlie needs to find a way of dealing with his crazy new power - quickly. A clever and hilarious story with a hero you'll love. There's a serious side, that of coping with stress, and this is capably handled and will touch children affected by this ever-growing issue. This is the first in a new series - I'm already looking forward to the next one.

Sam Wu is NOT Afraid of the Dark! by Katie and Kevin Tsang

There are a few things Sam Wu is afraid of, as we have learnt earlier in the series - ghosts and sharks. But he's definitely NOT afraid of the dark... or is he? As we also know, Sam is the bravest scaredy-cat in the world! So when Sam goes camping in the woods with his friends and cousin Stanley, his bravery will be put to the test. Wonderfully illustrated by Nathan Reed (with excellent use made of contrasting night-time images to make the book appealing), this is ideal for children who can read alone and also great to encourage reluctant readers, who will find their efforts amply repaid. It's fun, it's funny and the characters are great.

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The four reviews immediately below are for books sent to us by Books2Door who tell us: "Here at Books2Door, we want to encourage a love of reading in all children. That's why we have been offering exceptional books at affordable prices since 2004. We select books that we know your children will fall in love with, from treasured classics to the latest must-have series. With our extensive range of authors and genres, there is something for every child, from reluctant readers to eager bookworms. Our service doesn’t stop there: our friendly team are on hand to ensure that your shopping experience with us is enjoyable and hassle-free. You can be sure that your books will arrive on time and in great condition." They have a great range of books at exceptional prices, and their service is excellent. Orders over £30 are eligible for free delivery, and there is an option for next-day delivery (otherwise 3 - 5 days).

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 David Walliams 5 Books Collection Pack Set

The five books in the set are: The Boy in the Dress, Ratburger, Mr Stink, Billionaire Boy and Gangsta Granny - they are the first five novels by David Walliams and will be enjoyed by children of 7+. David Walliams started his children's book writing career with The Boy in the Dress, a touching story that addresses issues of stereotyping with sensitivity and humour. Chloe befriends Mr Stink in this story about a definitely smelly tramp, and keeps him hidden in her garden shed. Rich with humour and with some memorable characters. Joe, aka Billionnaire Boy, is really, really rich and seems to have everything a 12 year old boy could possibly want. But, despite his wealth, he doesn't have a true friend. A telling story with a deep message about the things that really matter. Gangsta Granny is no ordinary granny - revel in her adventures which include swimming in the Thames and trying to steal the Crown Jewels. A heartwarming, humorous but also sad story. Ratburger introduces us to Zoe and her amazingly lazy stepmother, as well as school bully Tina Trotts. A convoluted story full of Walliams' trademark humour. This is a super collection from an author who really understands what children will enjoy - there's lots of humour but also a strong understanding of, and empathy with, human nature. Top-class illustrators make the books even more special - The Boy in the Dress and Mr Stink are illustrated by Quentin Blake, the the other three by Tony Ross. Being a box set means this is ideal as a gift. Order your box here. Price £17.99 January 2019.

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The Shakespeare Stories 16 Book Collection retold by Andrew Matthews

Of course these can't take the place of reading the original plays, but this collection is perfect to introduce young children to the works of our greatest playwright.  All the stories have been appropriately abridged for children, using modern English. This will help to develop and nurture their linterest in our literary heritage and give a basic grasp of the storyline of each play which will inform future reading; understanding of any of the plays read will be helped by reading these succinct stories. The language used has been carefully selected to be easily understood by KS1 children, but it still keeps a high level of interest and appeal. The way the stories have been so engagingly told will really spark an interest and they stimulate vocabulary too. The plays in this well-balanced collection are: 'The Taming of the Shrew', 'The Merchant of Venice', 'King Lear', 'Julius Caesar', 'Much Ado About Nothing', 'As You Like It', 'Richard III', 'Othello', 'Antony and Cleopatra', 'Twelfth Night', 'Romeo and Juliet', 'Henry V', 'Macbeth', 'The Tempest', 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and 'Hamlet'.  I'd recommend starting off with the comedies, moving on to the history plays and then reading the tragedies, to ensure an appropriate level of interest. They are excellent to read aloud and share, but also perfectly accessible for children reading alone. Superbly illustrated to bring the characters to life by the wonderful Tony Ross. Having these as a boxed set makes them really special. Buy the collection here. Price £11.90 January 2019 - fantastic value.
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Captain Underpants 10 book set by Dav Pilkey

This entertaining series is all about two boys, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, and Captain Underpants, a superhero from one of the boys' homemade comic books. Captain Underpants accidentally became real when George and Harold hypnotizse their ill-tempered principal, Mr. Krupp.  Captain Underpants' amazing wedgie-power means Earth is saved - over and over again. Evil villains like Professor Poopypants and the Wicked Wedgie Woman have met their match! They are engaging stories about a couple of lively boys and an unlikely hero, with black and white illustrations to capture the attention. The books are:  Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers; Captain Underpants and the terrifying re-turn of tippy tinkletrousers; The  Adventures of Captain Underpants; Captain Underpants and the attack of the talking toilets; Captain Underpants and the invasion of the incredibly naughty cafeteria ladies from  outer space; Captain Underpants and the perilous plot of professor poopypant; Captain Underpants and the wrath of the wicked wedgie woman; Captain Underpants and the big, bad battle of the bionic booger boy Parts 1 and 2;  and Captain Underpants and the preposterous plight of the purple potty people. You only have to glance at the wonderful titles to know that here is a writer who understands what sort of humour appeals to children. A whole set of books like this is an excellent way to encoureage reading and a love for books. Buy the dust cover set here. Price £15.99, January 2019.

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The World of David Walliams Book of Stuff

Fans of best-selling author David Walliams will get to know his books even better in this fascinating Book of Stuff. Children will appreciate learning more about the characters and the settings of the hugely popular books as they enjoy a whole range of fun activities; I find that enjoyment of books is almost always increased with some background knowledge. They can design their own Walliams book cover, learn how to draw like Tony Ross (who has illustrated some of the books) and read about the background to the stories. This is the perfect book for Walliams fans (and there are plenty of them!) aged 7+, and it makes a great gift; perfect for travel too. Order your copy here. Price £4.99 January 2019.

Against All Gods (Who Let the Gods Out?) by Maz Evans

Epic - Hilarious - Finale is how Chicken House describe the fourth and last book in the bestselling Who Let the Gods Out? series. As you'd expect from the final book in the series, things get darker and more dramatic than ever. Things are looking worse than ever for Elliot as he must get the final Chaos Stone - Fire. So much is at stake, not only on a personal level but the very future of mankind. Despite the way it sounds, this is a hilarious book, starring an eclectic mix of misfit gods, a lost constellation and a mortal boy. It's one of those series where you really need to start at the beginning of this emotional series though, so to get the full impact I'd recommend you go back to the start (Who Let the Gods Out?) to get the most from this adventure.

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