books monthly june 2017

This month's pick of the new children's books... best of the bunch is Old Hat (left hand column)

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Emily Gravett: Old Hat

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 18th May 2017


Harbet had a hat. His Nana had knitted it for him when he was little. Harbet likes his comfy knitted hat, but the others keep jeering at him - OLD HAT! OLD HAT! No matter what headwear he buys - be it a towering fruit platter hat, an old-boot-on-the-head hat or a brightly lit traffic cone hat, Harbet cannot keep up with the latest fashions. As soon as he gets a brand new hat it is already an . . . OLD HAT! It seems that Harbet will never fit in. But when one day he decides to go his own way, Harbet discovers just how much more fun it is to stop following others and think for yourself. A very funny, charming story all about the futility of fads and the joy of finding your own style, full of brilliantly inventive hats for children to spot. Old Hat! is a fresh, colourful and punchy book from the creator of Wolves, Dogs and Tidy and twice-winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal, Emily Gravett.


Far and away the best and funniest  children's picture book I have read this year, with brilliant illustrations, simple but effective words and an enormous sense of fun!


Tom Jamieson: The Big Bad Mood

Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books 1st June 2017


George is having One of Those Days.

One of Those Days where he shouts, 'I WILL NOT play nicely. I WON'T ... I CAN'T ... I DON'T WANT TO!!' George's mum says there's a Big Bad Mood hanging around him, but George has never seen a Big Bad Mood. That is, until today ... A gloriously clever tale about tempers, tantrums and making amends. For fans of My Big Shouting Day but Rebecca Patterson.


I'm not sure we would have let children of ours behave in such a fashion - how times change!


Lydia Monks: Mouse's Big Day

Published by Bloomsbury 4th May 2017


Welcome to Twit Twoo School! In this first story meet Mouse, Mole, Owl, Frog, Rabbit and their teacher Miss Hoot at their fun-filled treetop school. It's Mouse's first day, and she's feeling a little nervous - in fact, she doesn't want to go to school at all! But with a little help from her new friends, she finds that perhaps school isn't so bad after all . . . Mouse's Big Day is a warm and funny story about friendship that is perfect for any child who is starting school or nursery. With a cast of adorable animal characters and bright, bold, distinctive illustrations from the award-winning Lydia Monks, illustrator of the bestselling What the Ladybird Heard and What the Ladybird Heard Next, the Twit Twoo School series is sure to delight young children.


A beautifully written, simple story with super characters and lovely illustrations. Perfection.






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Sarah Tolcser: Song Of The Current

Published by Bloomsbury 8th June 2017


Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. Her father is a wherryman, as was her grandmother. All Caro needs is for the river god to whisper her name, and her fate is sealed. But at seventeen, Caro may be too late. So when pirates burn ships and her father is arrested, Caro volunteers to transport mysterious cargo in exchange for his release. Secretly, Caro hopes that by piloting her own wherry, the river god will finally speak her name. But when the cargo becomes more than Caro expected, she finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies. With much more than her father's life at stake, Caro must choose between the future she knows, and the one she could have never imagined.


A brilliant introduction to fantasy for older children from Sarah Tolcser. A fantasy adventure that has absolutely all the elements that children will find as they make the transition to adult fantasy. Superb!




Caleb Krisp: Bring Me The Head of Ivy Pocket

Published by Bloomsbury 1st June 2017


Our magnificently infuriating heroine is on the very brink of her greatest adventure: bound for London and Prospa House to save Anastasia Radcliff and young Rebecca Butterfield from fates worse than death. But there are difficulties at every turn. The devious Miss Always and her devilish Locks are in hot pursuit. Anastasia is gone, taken by her evil sister-in-law Estelle and hidden in a place no one will ever find her. And worst of all, the Clock Diamond is no longer working, blocking Ivy's route to Prospa. There's a mystery to be unpicked and if anyone can do it, it's Ivy Pocket. After all, she has all the natural instincts of a Russian chess master. Ivy Pocket's tumultuous finale is certain to involve breathtaking adventure, bone-shattering courage and frightful danger. But what price will she have to pay?


Madcap mayhem fro Caleb Krisp - plenty to laugh out loud at in this mind-boggling adventure comedy.


S G Barfield: Zed and Dez 005 Secret Agents

Published by Matador 28th April 2017


Join the secret world of Zed & Dez as they solve missions in the village of Champton using fantastic fantasy gadgets, all without the grown-ups knowing. Oh, and solve some tricky jokes along the way! Did you know children all over the world work for the 005 Secret Services Agency? Zed is just one of them! In the dark of night, 005 Agents fly over Zed's house and drop in top secret Agency work through a hatch in the roof, linked to a 005 Agency vending machine. The vending machine, hidden in the back of Zed's wardrobe, doesn't serve snacks. Oh no! It serves weekly secret missions. With the help of 9-year-old genius, Lorenzo, who creates amazing gadgets including a flying snowboard, video specs and decoder pens, Zed does his very best to solve each mission. But Zed can't complete his missions alone. He needs the help of his best friend, 9-year-old Dez. Can they stop a kidnapping, save the Christmas Talent Show, get Mr Ladd to safety, stop bike thieves at school, find a drowning swimmer and build a youth centre? Hopefully Lorenzo's wacky inventions including a video camera hat, voice recognition labels and a retrieving robot will help the pair in their quests.Zed & Dez is a fast-paced action book full of gadgets, humour and heroes that share a dose of friendly rivalry and jokes throughout. With an array of beautiful illustrations, Zed & Dez is ideal for young readers who enjoy being kept on their toes with non-stop action.


E A Quinn: The Scavyngers

Published by Matador 28th April 2017


For hundreds of years, the children of Knuddlesbury have been kidnapped and used as a source of LifeBlood for the Scavyngers, an army of despicable, loathsome monsters that rule Toot-Keye Woods. Despite tireless searches by the Ministry for Missing Children, the Scavyngers Headquarters proves impossible to find without the help of an ancient scroll containing a map of the woods. When the ghost of Barnaby Cattlebridge, the last child to escape the Scavyngers, appears to Fidelis Klopper, telling him that he must defeat the Scavyngers, Fidelis is flabbergasted. Then he meets his new science teacher, Gaspar Dylan, an eccentric man with an air of magic, and instantly feels a connection with him. The Scavyngers know that they have to recover the Scroll before Barnaby, Fidelis and Gaspar work together and use it to destroy them. Faced with a dangerous enemy, the trio work to defeat them. But when Fidelis's brother is captured by the Scavyngers, he races blindly into Toot-Keye Woods to rescue him. Fidelis too is captured and devises a plan to escape, offering the Scroll for his life. A fierce battle ensues after the plan goes horribly awry. Will Fidelis be able to beat the Scavyngers?Inspired by M R James, The Scavyngers is a childrens fantasy adventure packed with monsters and magic with an overriding theme of good versus evil. It will appeal to children aged 9-11 and those who enjoy a fast-paced fusion of adventure, comedy and magic.


Julia Donaldson & Lydia Monks: What The Ladybird Heard on Holiday

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 29th June 2017


Those two bad men, Lanky Len and Hefty Hugh, are back! They may be in the city instead of the farm, but they haven't changed their thieving ways. In fact, they've got even more ambitious. They're planning to steal a monkey from the zoo and use it to pinch the Queen's crown. It's a pity for them that a certain crime-busting ladybird is holidaying in the very same city . . . and she's got a good idea that will ensure the dastardly pair won't get away with it! With a whole host of noisy new zoo-animal characters to meet and even a cameo from the Queen, What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday, from stellar picture book partnership Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks, is a sure-fire hit. Featuring glitter on every page and a gorgeously glittery cover.


Sparkling genius from Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks. The glittery stuff throughout the book is inspired.


Peter Grenville: The Big Plug

Published by Matador 28th May 2017


In the book, the world is getting hotter as a result of the two-legs (humans) burning too much oil, creating a big blanket around Earth that threatens all living things. All around the world, trees, flowers and plants are dying. Dave, a cherry tree, and his fellow plants need a plan, but they don’t know where to turn. A year passes and the plants grow increasingly desperate. They are ready to give up until help arrives unexpectedly in the form of a huge, menacing spider and his loyal army. The spider says he has a plan to save the world, but the plan will involve hard work, pain – and some deaths. 

The plants team up with the spiders to save the world from destruction. In a climactic ending with many twists, readers are kept guessing. Will the spiders’ plan work? And will any of the plants survive their attempt to save the world? 

Peter Grenville’s story will raise awareness of the environmental damage that humans are causing and influence young readers to protect the environment as it brings the everyday garden to life. Inspired by Roald Dahl and Charles Dickens, The Big Plug will appeal to readers aged 5 years and over.


Harmony Jones: The High Note

Published by Bloomsbury 1st June 2017


Lark's singing is BIG news on YouTube and she's finally starting to admit that she wants to be heard. But it seems that being a singer-songwriter means that it's not just her voice that's in the spotlight - it's her love life too! With pressure from two music executives - one of them her mum - to sign to their label and with irresistible pop sensation Abbey Road set to go on tour, Lark worries that the only boy she can really talk to about her fears and frustrations is about to leave . until Abbey Road ask her to be their opening act! Now Lark must find a way to listen to her heart, both on and off stage. Can she find the courage when it counts the most? The second book in a tween series featuring an aspiring singer-songwriter and the boy band that changes her life!


Will certainly appeal to young girls with their minds full of today's music...


Gaia Stella: Welcome To My House

Published by Chronicle Books 6th June 2017


First words are everywhere you look, especially in a house! This lovely picture book catalogues a variety of household items, naming the delightful miscellany that comprises a life. The charming collections are creative and unexpected, the sweetest of visual snapshots that reinforce word recognition and understanding: In addition to the expected kitchen and garden items, there are more surprising--and smart--spreads featuring 'things where you can take a nap,' 'things that keep you warm,' and the 'things that get lost' (parents will relate). Children will revel in the delicate illustrations of things they are learning to recognise, things they are discovering every day and things they will cherish and use as they grow.


A brilliant introduction to some of the most-used words around the house - beautifully illustrated, a real learning tool that's entertaining and fun.


Greg James & Chris Smith: Kid Normal

Published by Bloomsbury 13th July 2017


The first book in a laugh-out-loud funny adventure series for 8+ readers from popular radio personalities Greg James and Chris Smith. When Murph Cooper rocks up to his new school several weeks into the beginning of term, he can't help but feel a bit out of his depth. And it's not because he's worried about where to sit, and making friends, and fitting in, or not knowing where the loos are. It's because his mum has enrolled him at a school for superheroes by mistake. And unlike his fellow students, who can all control the weather or fly or conjure tiny horses from thin air, Murph has no special abilities whatsoever. But just because you don't have superpowers, it doesn't mean you can't save the day. Let's hope Murph realises that, and quick - because not far away is a great big bad guy who is half man and half wasp, and his mind is abuzz with evil plans . It's time for Kid Normal to become a hero! Perfect for fans of David Solomons, David Baddiel and Danny Wallace. Featuring brilliant illustrations by Erica Salcedo throughout.


Superlative adventure story that will resonate with children who like to read whacky, wild things.


Cornelia Funke: Dragon Rider - The Griffin's Feather

Published by Chicken House 6th July 2017


The last winged horses are on the brink of extinction. Three foals lie curled in their eggs in a sanctuary for threatened creatures, where a young dragon rider lives with his silver dragon. The foals are ill, and the pair volunteer to seek the only cure: a Griffin's feather. But Griffins, with the heads of eagles and the bodies of lions, are a dragon's fiercest enemy, and live far across the world in the sweltering jungle. A dangerous and exciting adventure begins ...


Super fantasy from Cornelia Funke, almost straying into the land of myth and fable. Most enjoyable.


Tara Altebrando: The Possible

Published by Bloomsbury 1st June 2017


What if ... no one knows the truth about you? It's been thirteen years since Kaylee's infamous birth mother, Crystal, received a life sentence for killing Kaylee's little brother in a fit of rage. Once the centre of a cult-following for her apparent telekinetic powers, nowadays nobody's heard of Crystal. Until now, when a reporter shows up at Kaylee's house and turns her life upside down, offering Kaylee the chance to be part of a high-profile podcast investigating claims that Crystal truly did have supernatural mind powers. But these questions lead to disturbing answers as Kaylee is forced to examine her own increasingly strange life, and make sense of certain dark and troubling coincidences . Unusual and gripping, The Possible will twist the reader round and round as it hurtles towards a sensational climax. For lovers of We Were Liars, Patrick Ness and Derren Brown.


Reminiscent of one of Stephen King's earliest and most memorable masterpieces, Firestarter. Conspiracy theories abound in this amazing adventure story - terrific!


Emery Lord: The Names They Gave Us

Published by Bloomsbury 1st June 2017


From the acclaimed author of When We Collided comes a vibrant, compelling story of love, loss, faith, and friendship. Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake and spending quality time with her parents. But when her mom's cancer reappears, Lucy falters--in her faith and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend "pauses" their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp--one for troubled kids--Lucy isn't sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means? Emotionally-charged and unforgettable, Emery Lord's storytelling shines with the promise of new love and true friendship, even in the face of life's biggest challenges.


I know there are loads of children faced with the prospect of losing a parent to cancer who will find this poignant and thought-provoking story something they can identify with. Beautifully written.




The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its sixteenth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.