Daffy detectives, fun science and happy minds by various authors – book reviews –


Share giggles galore with two madcap alligator sleuths, get hands-on with a creative handbook, dive into the ocean for deep sea discoveries, learn how to keep smiling, and a enjoy a magical Disney showcase as a new selection of children’s books hits the shelves.

Age 7 plus:


John Patrick Green

If corny one-liners, chaos, comedy and calamities are your child’s idea of reading heaven, introduce them to the deliciously daffy detective duo… the InvestiGators!

Written and illustrated by John Patrick Green – whose impressive CV includes work with Disney, Nickelodeon, Dreamworks, Scholastic and DC Comics – this full-colour, laugh-out-loud graphic series is ideal for reluctant readers.

Brimming over with glorious puns, lashings of toilet humour, and plenty of references to pop culture, Green’s high-energy, snap, crackle and pop story will have youngsters snorting and sniggering from the first appearance of the alligator investigators right through to their final frenetic flourish.

Mango and Brash are the InvestiGators… sewer-loving agents of S.U.I.T. (Special Undercover Investigation Teams) and the scourge of supervillains everywhere! With their Very Exciting Spy Technology and their tried-and-true, toilet-based travel techniques, the InvestiGators are undercover and on the case. And on their first mission together, they have not one but two mysteries to solve. Can Mango and Brash uncover the clues, crack their cases, and corral the crooks? Or will the criminals wriggle out of their grasp?

With sewers as their preferred travel route, expect lots of U-turns and U-bends when these two super-spies fight crime, armed only with groan-worthy puns and gigglesome gags.

Simply bursting with youthful energy, crazy comedy, vibrant artwork and breathtaking creativity, InvestiGators is a visual and verbal delight… and guaranteed to please even the most reluctant reader!

(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £9.99)

Age 10 plus:

Maker Studio: Fun science and tech projects for young designers

Alison Buxton and Zoe Bateman

If you can’t buy it, make it!

Youngsters will love getting hands-on with this creative maker’s handbook which comes packed with amazing craft projects that teach young designers some essential science, technology and design skills.

Written by Dr Alison Buxton, director at Steamworks Learning, a non-profit organisation dedicated to bringing STEM activities to schoolchildren, and Zoe Bateman, an author and self-confessed craft addict, this inspirational book helps youngsters come up with stylish, fun creations.

With easy, step-by-step instructions and tips, a helpful glossary and notebook pages to plan projects, children can learn how to make light-up bags, create a speaker from a Pringles tube, design their own resin jewellery, and grow amazing crystal flowers.

And when those projects are done, they can test their skills on making a light-sensitive door sign, colour-changing bath bombs and self-watering planters.

With craft concepts ranging from simple to advanced, there is something for every skill set. Each project comes with a short explanation of the science behind it, and every stage of the making process is fully illustrated and photographed to ensure that following the instructions is simple for everyone.

Making the most of young skills!

(Welbeck Publishing, hardback, £12.99)

Age 7 plus:

Bunny vs Monkey

Jamie Smart

Hold on to your hats and watch out for trouble… Bunny and Monkey are back in a brand new remastered book collecting together the comedy and chaos of their helter-skelter world!

Featuring Bunny vs Monkey 1: Let the Mayhem Begin and Bunny vs Monkey 2: Journey to the Centre of the Eurg-th for the first time, this smaller easy-to-read, chunky format features 256 pages of fast and furry-ous exuberant fun.

The Phoenix Presents series, published by David Fickling Books in partnership with The Phoenix comic, is going from strength to strength and much of that success is due to the genius of the extraordinarily talented illustrator Jamie Smart whose ingenious comic-strip Bunny vs Monkey books are causing giant laughter waves.

And once more, we are welcomed to the woods where chaos reigns supreme! Bunny and his friends Weenie the Squirrel, Pig (the pig), Action Beaver and Skunky the Inventor lived a peaceful life in the forest…until Monkey’s rocket crash-landed and he decided to take over. Now Monkey is causing mayhem, Bunny is determined to put a stop to it, and… what’s that? It’s an out of control shark tank, ruining a lovely picnic!

Outrageously comical and ingeniously addictive, these manic, high-energy stories were just made for fidgety readers who like their books to come with plenty of comic-strip pictures and loads of laughs.

Madcap antics for a new generation of action kids!

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £8.99)

Age 10 plus:

Happy, Healthy Minds: A Children’s Guide to Emotional Wellbeing

The School of Life and Lizzy Stewart

The human mind is a complicated and brilliant machine and, for much of our lives, it runs efficiently with minimal maintenance.

But every now and then, our minds need some ‘proper attention’ and recognising that at an early age can help children as they progress into adulthood so, to guide youngsters through that process, here is an invaluable illustrated book.

Happy, Healthy Minds: A Children’s Guide to Emotional Wellbeing comes from the School of Life, a global organisation which wants to help people of all ages lead more fulfilled lives, and act as a resource to assist understanding ourselves, improve relationships, careers and social lives, as well as offer tips on finding calm and getting more out of leisure hours.

Led by founder and series editor Alain de Botton, the Swiss-born British philosopher and author, the School of Life ‘library’ aims to ‘educate, entertain, console and transform,’ and this essential new guide encourages children to become more aware of their emotional needs.

The book examines a range of everyday topics that might be difficult for children… parents don’t seem to understand, falling out with friends, school feels boring or difficult, being overwhelmed by too much to do, phones troubles, or simply feeling sad, bored, anxious and fed up with things.

Happy, Healthy Minds acts as an atlas to a child’s mental processes, exploring a range of common scenarios encountered by young children, and discussing some of the best ideas to deal with them. And by offering a sympathetic and supportive framework, children are encouraged to open up, explore their own feelings and face the dilemmas of growing up armed with essential emotional intelligence.

Informative, fully accessible and beautifully illustrated by Lizzy Stewart, this is a thought-provoking treasure trove of helpful resources and good common sense.

(The School of Life Press, hardback, £18)

Age 5 plus:

Fox and the Deep Sea Quest

Benjamin Flouw

Dive into the ocean with two animal cousins… and discover a world of deep sea wonders!

Fox and the Deep Sea Quest – a colourful and adventure-fuelled story of discovery and friendship –comes from German-based publishers Gestalten whose aim is to ‘continually engage with the surrounding creative landscape.’

And this educational and entertaining picture book – written and illustrated by Frenchman Benjamin Flouw – is full of colourful surprises and revelations at every turn of the page as Fox and his cousin Wolf put on their diving gear and take the plunge on a visit to the seaside.

Enchanted by tales of an incredible luminous seaweed, Fox embarks on an expedition to the depths of the deep blue sea. With the help of Wolf, the equipment needed for the daring dive is mapped out and planned… a task which shines a light on the importance of friendship to solve problems and challenges.

With flippers on, an oxygen cylinder filled, and an underwater camera in hand, Fox dives in. And his mission to find the mysterious submerged plant takes many twists and turns as he encounters giant algae, a city of coral, and a whale trapped inside a fishing net. But his final discovery has a very important message for us all… together we are stronger.

Youngsters will love exploring the ocean with Fox and learning about activities connected to the seaside, and look out for that special mica anemone, hold it into a bright source of light, and watch it glow in the dark!

Discover more about Fox and the Deep Sea Quest at https://gestalten.com/products/fox-deep-sea-quest

(Little Gestalten, hardback, £16.95)

Age 5 plus:

Over and Under the Rainforest

Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal

Under the canopy and up in the leaves of the rainforest, hundreds of amazing creatures make their homes…

And now you can step into the pages of this gorgeous illustrated book and discover the wonder that lies hidden among the roots, above the winding rivers, and under the emerald leaves of the rainforest.

As part of Chronicle Books’ critically acclaimed Over and Under series, award-winning duo Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal take readers on a thrilling tour of one of the most diverse ecosystems on planet earth… the rainforests of Central America.

Explore the canopies, where toucans and pale-billed woodpeckers chatter and call, meet the slender parrot snake and the blue morpho butterfly, and marvel at the capuchin monkeys who swing from vines, and the slow-moving sloths who wait out daily thunderstorms.

The hidden world of the rainforest springs to life in this stunning book which is part educational, and part entertaining to behold. Watch as day turns to night and see creatures like the orb spider which weaves a web like a golden tapestry shining in the moonlight.

The perfect addition to school libraries, and a gift book to treasure for all young animal lovers!

(Chronicle Books, hardback, £13.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Happy Book

Alex Allan and Anne Wilson

What does happiness feel like… and is it okay not to feel happy all the time?

These are just some of the questions a young child may ask and it’s not always easy to answer in a way they will understand so here’s the perfect picture book to share with any child suffering from anxiety, feeling unhappy, or just having problems adjusting to a new school or a new routine.

Warm, charming, relatable and playful, The Happy Book is full of ideas and thoughtful prompts to encourage children to pay attention to their moods and learn to express their thoughts and feelings rather than hide them away.

The book was developed in consultation with psychotherapist Sarah Davis and includes top tips to help young children not just to identify their different emotions but to understand and talk about them. Mini science sections explain simply what happens in their brain and body, and there are helpful resources for parents and carers.

With an array of fabulous illustrations by Anne Wilson to bring feelings and emotions to life, and a gentle text by Alex Allan, this is ideal for home, nurseries and schools.

(Welbeck Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 5 plus:

All’s Happy that Ends Happy

Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson

The moving story of a friendship between two little girls reaches its final, heartwarming chapter in a brilliant series from a talented author and illustrator team.

Popular Swedish author Rose Lagercrantz and award-winning illustrator Eva Eriksson have brought a special kind of magic to thousands of children with their tales of delightful Dani, an enchanting girl who has the ability to be happy and make others happy too… not least, her best friend Ella.

This chapter book series – perfect for young readers moving away from picture books – fills the reading gap with its compelling combination of superb storytelling, emotive illustration and a clever balance of adventure and real life issues.

It’s spring and Dani is going to Rome for her father’s wedding but Ella is not invited because Dad said no. What will Ella think when she finds out? The road between them is becoming longer and longer. They almost never meet. Will their friendship survive the distance, and can Dani make sure their story ends happily?

The success of this series, with its funny, charming stories, lies in its emotional power, appealing characters and its child’s eye view of the world… a place of warmth, wonder, love and learning.

(Gecko Press, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Blue Giant

Katie Cottle

The sea is the alluring backdrop to the second, inspirational picture book from award-winning author and illustrator Katie Cottle who is on a mission to put our endangered planet at centre stage.

Cottle’s 2019 debut picture book, The Green Giant, which won the Batsford Prize, was a beautifully illustrated letter to the natural world and this gorgeous new book has a blue environmental theme, turning the focus on our rich and diverse oceans.

Meera and her mum are enjoying a break at the seaside… until a creature emerges from the waves. It’s a giant, a blue giant, with warnings of a huge problem for the world. And it has a stirring and resonant plea to us all to help clean up the ocean and save sea creatures from the menace of plastic waste. Meera and her mum agree to help. But they can’t do it alone… they are going to need help.

This poignant and timely picture book introduces children to issues of pollution, waste management and the oceans, with useful suggestions about lifestyle changes to help the world become a better, cleaner place.

Using a gallery of broad-stroke, blue-themed illustrations, exciting page spreads, a gentle narrative, and warm messages of kindness, friendship and hope, The Blue Giant is the perfect story to inspire your own little eco-warriors.

(Pavilion Children’s Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 to adult:

Disney Block: Magical Moments for Fans of Every Age

Illustrated by Peskimo

Step into the world of Disney’s animated films for a magical showcase featuring your favourite characters… and lots of unforgettable moments!

Disney Block is the latest title in Abrams’ brilliant, collectible Block Book Series and comes with the fantastic, full-colour illustrations of Peskimo, a husband-and-wife illustration and design team from Bristol.

From Snow White and Pinocchio to Beauty and the Beast, Mulan and Frozen 2, each spread is brimming with nostalgia, wonder, and iconic scenes, making this book perfect for the youngest Disney fans as well as seasoned collectors.

The super chunky book includes enchanting artwork and cut-out shapes on every spread. There are also familiar quotes from the characters as a reminder of why everyone falls in love with Disney’s fabulous films.

And as a final flourish, there’s a spread which encourages little ones to make their own magic!

(Abrams Appleseed, board book, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

My Grandma is 100

Aimee Chan and Angela Perrini

Less is best in an enchanting picture book from top author and illustrator team Aimee Chan and Angela Perrini.

My Grandma is 100 is a funny and moving cross-generational tale about a child who doesn’t know what gift to give his grandma on her very big birthday, and learns that life is actually simpler when you don’t have too many possessions!

Grandma Edna is about to have a very special 100th birthday… but there are so many questions that need to be answered first. Will there be 100 candles on her birthday cake, will she eat potato chips and party pies and, most importantly, what do you buy someone who is turning 100?

My Grandma is 100 offers heartwarming, humorous and salutary lessons about the burden of wanting too many things, and will delight readers aged from three to 103. With Chan’s playful but thought-provoking story, and Perrini’s endearing and colourful illustrations, this is the ideal book to encourage conversations about love, family and ageing.

(Little Steps Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

How to Drive a Roman Chariot

Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves

A trip into the countryside to see some horses gives playful Albie free rein for a full-gallop Roman adventure!

How to Drive a Roman Chariot is the tenth book in Peak District author Caryl Hart and top notch illustrator Ed Eaves’ much-loved, picture book action series featuring the irrepressible Albie and his amazing adventures.

Albie is outside feeding four big horses with his mum when it starts to rain and he dives into a barn to shelter. It’s there he meets a young girl called Julia who whisks him off to the hippodrome in Ancient Rome for a big chariot race. And before they know it, the two youngsters are at the helm of a runaway chariot.

History has never been so much fun in this breathless ride through the ancient city. Can Albie and the plucky Julia beat the odds in the scary chariot race and win a golden crown from the Emperor?

Packed with Eaves’ bold, colourful illustrations, plenty of action and knockabout fun, this is the perfect setting for young imaginations to take flight on their own historical adventures!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

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