Book review: Fun, learning and adventure for autumn nights

From a home-made pinball machine and a 3D space adventure to the absorbing world of gaming and a lion on the run, there is a book for every child this October.

Thursday, 6th October 2016, 3:57 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 8:04 pm

Age 2 plus:

How to Hide a Lion at School

Helen Stephens

Take one rib-tickling lion, a very cute little girl, a big, big secret and what do you have? Helen Stephens’ ever-popular picture book hero, of course… a warm and witty package full of laughter, lovely pictures and a lovable lion.

How to Hide a Lion is the third rollicking adventure in the bestselling How to Hide a Lion series which has sold over 100,000 copies and won the hearts of children everywhere.

In the new adventure with little Iris we find our favourite playmate heading off to school without her hero lion who is loved by all (except Iris’s teacher) because he once rescued the mayor’s best candlesticks from some robbers.

Lions aren’t allowed at school but Iris’s lion doesn’t want to be left behind so he sneaks in after her.

Today they are all off on a school trip and lion manages to stow himself away on the bus. But when he hides among the exhibits at the museum, there is soon madness and mayhem. Good job that when the bus breaks down on the way home lion jumps to the rescue again!

Stephens has her hand well and truly on the pulse of children’s humour and this heartwarming story about a very special friendship is guaranteed to win new fans from both the young and older generations.

The simple text and an easy-to- understand story are ideal for pre-school children while the off-beat illustrations have a distinctly nostalgic feel in their style and presentation, providing all the right ingredients for a firm family favourite.

(Scholastic, paperback, £6.99)

Age 7 plus:

Pinball Science

Nick Arnold, Ian Graham and Owen Davey

Science in motion! There’s nothing like getting hands-on when it comes to learning the laws of science…

So how about building your very own working pinball machine and then discovering how it all works? Open up this wonderful box of tricks – a 32-page book, 88 model pieces, elastic bands and a marble – put them all together and create the coolest working model in town!

Nick Arnold and Ian Graham provide the knowledge, technology and words, and illustrator Owen Davey brings the science to pictorial life in an ingenious book that is bulging with facts, fun, ideas, innovation and creativity.

From Isaac Newton’s laws of motion to types of energy and forces, the book explains everything you need to know about how your elastic band-powered pinball machine works, and includes awesome experiments to do at home.

Learn about key scientific principles such as force and motion, speed and velocity, acceleration, matter, mass and weight, all with illustrated spreads explaining how they work. And then using the sheets of cards and multiple components, follow the step-by- step instructions to assemble the pinball machine with its elastic-band plunger, bumpers, spinners and flippers. It’s fun, easy to assemble and will give your brain a boost as well.

The do-it- yourself way to learn how science works!

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £17.99)

Age 7-8:

The Magical World of Amy Lee

Amy Lee

A recent survey of children aged seven to fourteen revealed that one in three girls play games every day, and yet girls are more reluctant to describe themselves as serious gamers than boys…

So bypass YouTube and dive into a new and dazzling puzzle book to discover the cutesy online world of Amy Lee, star of the biggest girls’ gaming channel in the UK, and the bringer of love and adventure. Every day Amy uploads videos to YouTube and all have a heartwarming central message

of love for each other.

This colourful, fun-packed odyssey is the first book from Amy Lee and features all the best bits from Amy’s Land of Love, the series she creates in the world of Minecraft. Meet all the favourite characters from the Land of Love, including Mittens, Grandfather Oak, Stampy, Lexi and Ash Dubh, and enjoy pages of facts, puzzles, quizzes, drawing, activities, fill-in fun, colouring, mazes, stories and tips.

Can you escape from the creepers, decode a secret message from the fairies, stop Mittens causing too much chaos, escape from that pesky witch and become a cute recruit?

Be inspired to get creative with this sparkling book… and enter Amy Lee’s Land of Love without even tapping a key!

(Scholastic, hardback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

The Pocket Dog

Holly Webb

Illustrated by Sharon Rentta

Animals are what Holly Webb does best so lap up this warm-hearted imaginative story about dogs and friendship which is guaranteed to put the ‘aah’ factor into reading.

Kitty is jealous of the new girl in her class. Erin has a phone and seems much cooler than Kitty.

Confused, Kitty starts to take it out on her friend Bella and once she starts being mean, she finds that she can’t stop. It takes the love of her adorable little dachshund puppy Frank to show her that bullying isn’t the answer and to bring the two friends together again.

Webb is the author of over 100 books for children and her sensitive and observant writing is a perfect balance between contemporary and classic. Illustrated throughout, The Pocket Dog is ideal for youngsters starting to read alone, providing an enchanting story filled with Sharon Rentta’s atmospheric black and white illustrations.

(Scholastic, paperback, £5.99)

Age 6 plus:

Brick by Brick Space

Warren Elsmore

Head off into space with this exciting new Lego book which has brick building projects that are out of this world!

Yes, Lego and space prove the perfect mix as brick by brick, youngsters learn how to build amazing space projects by following simple and easy step-by- step instructions. All you need for it to work are Lego bricks and your living room floor!

Create amazing space craft, the planets, a telescope, a lunar lander, a satellite, a Mars rover and much, much more and not only will children learn how to build amazing space projects, they will also learn a bit more about them from information scattered throughout the book.

Find out where the crew of a space rocket sit for take-off and during their mission and learn how the crew move into the re-entry module as they head back to Earth, abandoning the other two modules to burn up in the atmosphere. Marvel at how the United States’ Space Shuttle was lifted into space by its own rocket boosters which separated from the orbiter and parachuted back to Earth where they could be re-used.

This amazing book features accurate recreations of many of the world’s greatest achievements in space, from rockets and probes to satellites and space stations, and by completing the incredible space projects, youngsters start to understand them a little better.

A fun-packed and creative way to get the very best out of Lego and learn about the mysteries of the universe…

(Weldon Owen, flexiback, £14.99)

Age 5 plus:

Ludwig the Space Dog

Henning Lohlein

Living inside the pages of a book can get boring when your dream is to travel through space – so how will Ludwig the dog ever escape from his paper prison?

The answer could be a crashed rocket, a penguin pilot, a new chapter in Ludwig’s life… and an ingenious pair of 3D glasses so youngsters can join in the fun!

German-born Henning Lohlein takes storytelling to a new dimension as 2D becomes a thrilling 3D with clever canine Ludwig and his page-turning pals whose madcap adventures spring to crazy life with a pair of very special space goggles.

Ludwig the small dog lives and plays in a world of books with his assorted friends. Naturally, everything in their world is made of paper but Ludwig is curious and loves to read about different galaxies and planets, dreaming every night of zooming past cheese moons and sausage planets.

He tries all sorts of ways to fly away and go exploring but they never seem to work so it looks like he’ll never leave his book world and see the real universe. But then something from another world – something very large and not unlike a space rocket – crash-lands on Ludwig’s page. Could this be his chance to head for the skies?

Young imaginations will go into orbit with this super, space-themed book and its exciting goggle-eyed gallery of astonishing 3D images. See the world through rose-tinted specs, thrill to a spectacular double-page spread featuring a magical 3D universe and see space as it has never been viewed before!

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Happy Birthday Old Bear

Jane Hissey

Celebrate the 30th anniversary of Jane Hissey’s timeless classic tales of Old Bear and his friends with a brand new adventure featuring all her familiar and much-loved characters.

These include the toys and everyday objects that belong to either Hissey or her family. Old Bear himself was given to Hissey by her grandmother when she was born and he has travelled the world with her, visiting schools, libraries and literary events, becoming increasingly worn and threadbare but still recognisable to millions of adoring readers.

Beautifully produced by Scribblers, a small publisher whose mission is to create books designed to develop key learning skills in babies, toddlers and young children, Hissey’s gorgeous new book has a traditional feel which will appeal to everyone from three to 93.

The toys are getting things ready for Old Bear’s birthday party, helped by their new friend, Elsie the little elephant, who is planning to give him a very special painted umbrella as a gift. But when the toys all head out into the garden, Elsie and her umbrella are blown away by a gust of wind.

Fortunately Hoot the owl arrives just in time to rescue poor little Elsie and they all sit down to enjoy a hastily reshaped umbrella cake!

This charming, gentle and reassuring new adventure, with its irresistibly cute illustrations, is the perfect bedtime wind-down for tired youngsters.

(Scribblers, hardback, £11.99)

Age 2 plus:

I am a Very Clever Cat

Kasia Matyjaszek

Talented new author and illustrator Kasia Matyjaszek has storytelling all sewn up in this hilarious knit one, purl one adventure featuring a pussy cat with a woolly problem.

Stockton the cat is extremely clever and very good at everything… but especially knitting. In fact, he is excellent at knitting. If you are very lucky, he will show you how to knit the fanciest scarf you have ever seen without ever getting into a tangle. But is he as clever as he thinks he is, or will he find himself in the middle of a rather nasty, knotty problem?

Matyjaszek’s distinctive and fun-filled illustrations certainly put the chaos and colourful calamities into this creative yarn which has a beautiful friendship-themed message in its clever little tail.

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £11.99)