Story book heroes, music maestros and odd science By Various Authors - book reviews -

Star in Your Own Story: Saves the Day
Star in Your Own Story: Saves the Day

Take the starring role in tales of adventure, discover amazing facts about the human body, go on a journey through the story of music, and meet schoolgirl Greta who went on strike to save the planet, in some super summer children’s books.

Take the starring role in tales of adventure, discover amazing facts about the human body, go on a journey through the story of music, and meet schoolgirl Greta who went on strike to save the planet, in some super summer children’s books.

Age 3 plus:

Star in Your Own Story: Saves the Day

Georgiana Deutsch and Vicki Gausden

Everyone wants to be a story book star… and now there’s a chance to make your name as a hero!

Star in Your Own Story is a brilliantly clever and quirky series of picture and board books from the inventive book boffins at Little Tiger Press, a highly creative, independent publisher with its own distinct approach to producing engaging and inspiring books for children and young people.

And what could be more exciting than a range of personalised books in which you can add your child’s name to the story by using the alphabet stickers provided? The name then appears on every page through the clever cut-out window so that your little one can star in their very own story.

And hot off the presses is Saves the Day, the picture book tale of a plucky little red squirrel on the hunt of a scary monster, which was tailor-made for children who love to show off their superhero skills!

When Wolf, Owl and Moose hear groans, scuffles and scuffling noises coming from the forest, they quiver and quake. What if it’s a terrifying monster? They need a brave superhero with superhero strength to solve this mystery. And there’s only one superhero for the job…

Georgiana Deutsch has fun with an adorable cast of animal characters and Vicki Gausden provides a gallery of bright, bold and colourful illustrations that put our little reader’s name at the heart of all the action.

Also in picture book format is Drives a Digger, written by Danielle McLean and illustrated by Kathryn Selbert, which puts the reader in charge of a big, bright yellow digger hard at work on a busy building site.

It’s all go on the site until the digger hits something hidden in the earth with a crash and a clang. Whatever could it be? As the digger digs deeper, the mystery is solved… our hero digger driver has only unearthed an enormous wooden chest full of gold and treasure!

McLean’s engaging story is full of adventure and engines that go brrrum, brrrum while Selbert’s lively, eye-catching illustrations add colour and excitement to the action. The perfect adventure for little ones who like to be in the driving seat.

Putting yourself in the picture has never been so much fun!

(Little Tiger, hardback, £12.99 each)

Age one plus:

Star in Your Own Story: The Ballerina

Danielle McLean and Sebastien Braun

And you’re never too young to have your name in lights with the gorgeous Star in Your Own Story personalised board books.

Simply pull out the slot-in card inside the front of the book, write your child’s name, slot it back in and watch them become the star of the story!

In The Ballerina, little ones can leap and twirl, sparkle and shine, stand on their toes, and wear pink satin shoes… a prima ballerina at the turn of every page.

And Star in Your Own Story: The Firefighter, also written by Danielle McLean and illustrated by Sebastien Braun, there’s a chance to be a brave firefighter, driving a big red engine, answering alarm calls, going to the rescue, and wearing a yellow helmet.

McLean and Braun hit the spot perfectly in these beautiful board books with fun-filled stories that put adventurous young readers at centre stage!

(Little Tiger, board books, £6.99 each)

Age 9 plus:

Greta’s Story: The Schoolgirl Who Went On Strike To Save The Planet

Valentina Camerini

She’s the inspirational schoolgirl who’s fighting to save our planet… but where and how did Greta Thunberg’s story begin?

In a fascinating account offering hope, courage, determination, this enlightening and moving book from Valentina Camerini puts 16-year-old eco-warrior Greta firmly in the spotlight.

In just a few months, Greta managed to involve millions of people, both ordinary and powerful, in her battle to make the world aware that things must change if we are to save our environment.

On August 20 last year, during late summer in the Swedish city of Stockholm, it felt incredibly hot. The TV news reported rising temperatures, and there had been numerous fires throughout Sweden.

And it was at this moment that 15-year-old Greta Thunberg decided she couldn’t wait any longer… politicians had to do something to save the environment. So instead of returning to school, she took a placard and went on strike in front of Sweden’s parliament building.

Greta’s protest began the Fridays for Future – or School Strike 4 Climate – movement, which millions have now joined around the world. The plucky schoolgirl has since spoken at COP24, the UN summit on climate change, and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

This inspirational book, featuring the work of illustrator Veronica Carratello and translated by Moreno Giovannoni, is not just Greta’s story but that of many other girls and boys around the world who are willing to fight for a better future against the indifference of those in power.

With her courage and determination, the teenager who inspired a worldwide climate change movement has showed that all of us can do something practical to tackle even the toughest of issues. Or, as she herself said, ‘You are never too small to make a difference.’

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Odd Science: Brilliant Bodies

James Olstein

Science doesn’t have to be boring… in fact, it can be quirky, excitingly strange and super cool!

And no one knows that better than author and illustrator James Olstein who has put together another amazing picture book, full of facts, wonders and some of the most in incredible aspects of science, as part of his exciting Odd Science series.

Yes, the world of science can be exceedingly odd and our bodies possess all sorts of strange and fascinating secrets. Did you know that a full head of human hair is strong enough to support up to 12 tons in weight, and that microglia are brain cells that trim and eat long synapses of material that no longer functions inside the brain?

Our bodies are fascinating… from the atoms that form us to the energy that we create, and from the bones that hold us up to the bacteria that call our bodies home. How many people know that stomach acid in a human body can dissolve metal and that a liver can regenerate itself?

Read about how ice cream gives you brain freeze, wonder at how much information your brain can process and tell your friends that a whole tonne of air is always pressing down on you, learn why you cannot tickle yourself no matter how hard you try, and discover how much ‘snot’ your body can make in one day!

There are facts about breathing underwater, facts about pineapple ‘eating’ you (while you eat it), and facts about how music makes you feel good.

Olstein beautifully illustrates these odd facts in a retro-inspired, quirky style. His designs aren't meant to be taken literally, but you'll laugh-out-loud when you see a fish swimming in a brain and an elephant on someone’s head! Prepare to laugh, marvel and learn. Being a geek has never been so cool.

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

Age 7 plus:

Princess BMX

Marie Basting

The faraway Kingdom of Biscotti meets the cool and colourful world of Camden Town in an exciting and eclectic debut novel from talented writer Marie Basting.

The fun and fantastical tale of seriously bored Princess Avariella Petulia Winifred Pandoro D’Allessandro of Biscotti (soon to be known as Ava), who discovers the thrills and spills of BMX cycling, is set to have youngsters racing to the finish.

Brimming with humour, action, mystery and danger, Princess BMX turns traditional fairy stories on their head as the irrepressible Ava, from a magical world of courtly manners and incredible creatures, lands on the down-to-earth streets of London and proves to be a feisty, free-wheeling female star for adventure-loving readers.

Cossetted Princess Avariella reckons fairy tales have it all wrong. Dingy towers and wicked step-mums are the least of her worries… it’s the boredom that makes her stuffy, royal life so dull. Apart from the endless supply of cupcakes, being a princess and having to behave herself all day is pretty rubbish. She used to think about locking herself in a tower and throwing away the key. Thank the good goblin she discovered BMX. If it wasn’t for BMX, nothing would have changed…

When she slides down the stairs one day in a potato sack, Ava ends up in the palace ballroom where the air is filled with the smell of marshmallows and a strange purple mist. Along with her fluffy puppy, Jeb, she mysteriously finds herself in the ‘Kingdom of Camden,’ full of busy shops and a colourful cast of characters, including Ethan and Cleo who introduce her to the fabulous world of BMX bikes.

Before long, she’s a cycling star and will need to use all these new-found skills to save herself and her homeland from the evil plans of her villainous, banished aunt Odette…

Fully illustrated throughout by Flavia Sorrentino, Princess BMX is a bewitching, laugh-out-loud adventure, full of weird and wonderful creatures (not least Ava’s mother’s micro-unicorn Doreen and Alun the dragon!) and with a bold, brave, rule-breaking heroine who proves girls step in where others fear to tread.

So get in gear for the best royal story in London town!

(Chicken House Books, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Once Upon a Rhythm: The story of music

James Carter and Valerio Vidali

Stomp, clap and rock your way through the colourful history of music in a big, bold and multi-coloured picture book from award-winning poet James Carter and Italian illustrator Valerio Vidali.

Carter, who travels all over the UK with his melodica to give lively poetry and music performances and workshops, puts verse and vibrancy into a tip-tapping, rip-rapping journey across the origins of music from the drum beats of ancient civilisations to the huge variety of musical genres we enjoy today.

Carter’s rhythmic words, which flow like musical notes across the pages, and Vidali’s gallery of vivid artwork provide the ‘soundtrack’ to a spectacular book that informs as well as delights and entertains.

‘It hums and it thrums

through day and night

the magical, mystical

rhythm of life!’

Did music start with a stomp or a clap? Follow the amazing musical trail through flutes made of bone, communal songs passed down the generations, the sounds of orchestra, choirs and bands to the swing, swirl and beat of jazz, rap, pop and rock ’n’ roll.

Once Upon a Rhythm is a wonderfully engaging and unique book… a playful, poetic paean to the joys of music, a fascinating musical exploration, and the perfect book to read and share with children either at home or school.

Music maestro, please…

(Caterpillar Books, hardback, £11.99)

Age 5 plus:

Nellie Choc-Ice and the Plastic Island

Jeremy Strong and Jamie Smith

Adorable Macaroni Penguin Nellie Choc-Ice makes a welcome comeback in a wild and wacky new adventure that sees her helping to fight the scourge of plastic.

Nellie Choc-Ice and the Plastic Island is the knockabout-funny follow-up to Nellie Choc-Ice Penguin Explorer and Big Trouble for Nellie Choc-Ice from the award-winning Jeremy Strong, the master of comic writing for children, and talented illustrator Jamie Smith, and the latest super-readable Little Gem from innovative publisher Barrington Stoke.

The Little Gems series brings together leading authors and illustrators, and a host of clever design and finishing techniques, to create easy-to-read, dyslexia-friendly books in a chunky format ideal for little hands, and with some extra reading, jokes or activity fun hiding inside the jacket.

Nellie’s latest adventure is an accessible but hilarious exploration of the importance of protecting our oceans and the animals that live in them as we watch her demonstrating the need to clean up the sea and make environmentally-friendly choices.

Nellie Choc-Ice is on her way home to the North Pole at last! But things don’t go so smoothly when Captain Beardy-Beard’s trusty submarine grinds to a halt in an island of plastic… and they aren't the only ones who are trapped. It’s up to Nellie to untangle everyone from the mess. But what are they going to do about all this plastic in the ocean?

Whether your child is a new, struggling, reluctant or dyslexic reader, this wonderful Little Gem story could be just what they are looking for. Smith’s gallery of bright, colourful and suitably anarchic illustrations are the perfect foil for a story full of adventure, giggles and fascinating facts.

Also in the Little Gems series is:

Age 5 plus:

The Baker of Happiness

Ian Beck

Much-loved author and illustrator Ian Beck turns on the French charm in a tasty and touching story that stars a lovesick baker.

Perfect pain au chocolat, hot, crusty croissants… and a voice that turns every word into a song. Paul du Pain’s bakery is a very special place. Each day, Paul bakes the bread while Marie serves customers in the shop. Everyone who steps through the door walks back out feeling happier than before. But when Marie goes away, Paul’s days become sad and grey. Without her, the bakery’s magic is gone. Will Paul ever be able to win her back?

Beck will steal everyone’s hearts (rather than tarts!) in this poignant and beautifully imagined Parisian-style confection of love, friendship and delicious food with its soulful story and enchanting, retro-style illustrations.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99 each)