books monthly october 2017 children's books

This month's pick of the new children's books with a new blockbuster from legend Frances Hardinge...

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Katherine Rundell (illus. Emily Sutton): One Christas Wish

Published by Bloomsbury 5th October 2017


It's Christmas Eve and Theo - left at home with a babysitter - sees an odd-looking star out of his window and decides to make a wish. He wishes that he had some friends to keep him company. Moments later the Christmas decorations begin to disentangle themselves from the tree behind him, ready to wreak a little havoc ... Written with generous helpings of warmth and humour, this is a story about treasuring the people and values that really matter at this time of year from master storyteller and bestselling children's author Katherine Rundell. Emily Sutton's breathtaking illustrations perfectly capture the magic of Christmas in stunning detail.


Beautifully illustrated and written - this is the first of many Christmas books that will come my way in the coming weeks and is certainly in the running for the very best. I can't fault it! The winning combination of Katherine Rundell and Emily Sutton is unbeatable...


Garth Jennings & Sara Ogilvie: The Wildest Cowboy

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 21st September 2017


Way out in the West there's a town they call Fear
And only the roughest and toughest live here . . . When cheerful salesman, Bingo B Brown, rolls his wagon full of Wild West goodies into town, he's met with a stony silence. This is clearly no place for novelty bow ties and elastic lassos. Not even Bingo's dancing dog can raise a smile! But this town is not just joyless, it's dangerous. And as Bingo soon discovers, the people of the town are not just scary, they're also scared. It isn't long before Bingo and his dog discover why, as they come face to face with the Wildest Cowboy in the West! Saddle up for a spectacular ride with a wildly talented pairing: film director and author, Garth Jennings and star illustrator, Sara Ogilvie. The Wildest Cowboy is a funny and uplifting adventure story in which fun wins out over fear. Featuring a dramatic train chase, rattlesnake socks and a dancing dog.


Old-fashioned cartoon drawings make this a real winner - so colourful!


Tim Hopgood: Wow! It's Night Time

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 5th October 2017


Step into a night-time world with Tim Hopgood, creator of the bestselling WOW! Said the Owl. The curious little owl is back, and this time she’s ready to discover the wonders of night-time, from the big, bright moon to the bats in the sky and the foxes deep in the forest. But where are all the other owls? When the wind blows the leaves from her tree, you'll soon see... A perfect preschool introduction to the nocturnal world with something to count on every page – all the way from one to ten! A timeless book told with warmth and simplicity, perfect for sharing at bedtime..


Lovely story and beautiful  illustrations but I have to admit I found it a little dark overall...



Elli Woollard illus. Steven Lenton: The Great Gran Plan

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 21st September 2017


The pig lives in a house in the middle of the wild wood. But inside the wild wood there's a bad wolf - and this hungry wolf wants a little pig for dinner! But a house made of bricks is hard to blow down, so instead of gobbling Pig, Wolf moves to plan B: gobbling Red Riding Hood's poor defenceless grandma! But his despicable plan is soon uncovered and Pig decides to rescue Gran! Will this plucky pig make it in time? A fabulously funny twist on two classic fairy tales: Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs. The Great Gran Plan is the first book by an exciting picture book pairing: the uniquely talented author and poet, Elli Woollard and best-selling illustrator, Steven Lenton.


Hilarious reimagining of the Little Red Riding Hood story... absolutely brilliant!







Eleanor H Porter: Pollyanna

Published by Alma Children's Classics 14th September 2017


The orphan girl Pollyanna moves in with her miserable aunt in New England. Despite being unwanted, Pollyanna's exuberance and positivity affect everyone who meets her, and she spreads joy and love wherever she goes. But when tragedy strikes, Pollyanna finds her optimistic attitude tested and she must learn to find happiness again. A heartwarming tale that has become one of the most loved children's stories of all time, Eleanor H. Porter's 1913 bestseller - the first in a long series of Pollyanna novels by the author and other writers - is a beautiful story with a powerful moral message.



This book is a real treat. The introduction educates us in the matter of Eleanor Porter's extraordinary success with Pollyanna, and this kind of suggests to us that we might want to actually read the book that created such a stir. I'd seen the film, of course, and loved it, because I' a hopeless Romantic; but I had never read the book - thanks to Alma Children's Classics I have recenty discovered The Railway Children, Little Women, Lassie Come-Home amongst others, and now Pollyanna. The story is simple, about a little girl who has been taught to be "glad" about her situation even if it seems as though there is nothing whatsoever to be glad about. Examples she gives in the book include broken legs - be "glad" only one of your legs is broken, if it had been both then you might have something to moan about. Pollyanna converts almost the whole town and its most curmudgeonly inhabitants, many of whom simply don't speak to anyone unless they absolutely have to, until something unthinkable happens to her - she is knocked down by a car and, it seems, will never walk again. No more spoilers, this is one of the finest pieces of children's literature from the early part of the 20th century I have ever read. It's a cautionary tale, and one with a message which we can all take on board - a mighty fine read and a beautiful new edition from Alma.


Julie Bertagna: Exodus

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 24th August 2017


The fifteenth anniversary edition of Exodus, a startling, thrilling novel set in a dystopian future ravaged by global warming. It is 2099 - and the world is gradually drowning, as mighty Arctic ice floes melt, the seas rise and land disappears forever beneath storm-tossed waves. For fifteen-year-old Mara, her family and community, huddled on the fast-disappearing island of Wing, the new century brings flight. Packed into tiny boats, a terrifying journey begins to a bizarre city that rises into the sky, built on the drowned remains of the ancient city of Glasgow. But even here there is no safety and, shut out of the city, Mara realizes they are asylum-seekers in a world torn between high-tech wizardry and the most primitive injustice. To save her people, Mara must not only find a way into the city, but also search for a new land and a new home . . . This new edition celebrates the 15th Anniversary of Exodus featuring a new foreword from the author.



Some of the very finest fantasy and science fiction offerings for children are worthy of being entirely suitable for a wider readership - I haven't read Exodus before, but the things that are happening to Planet Earth are topical and current, and the sense that the book is prophetic is one that cannot be dismissed. Julie's writing is sensationally good, and I would happily consider this as one of the very best apocalyptic novels of modern times. A real treat.


Sarah Baker: Eloise Undercover

Published by Catnip Publishing 9th September 2017


France, 1944. 12-year-old Eloise’s father has not come home in over a week, and she is getting worried that something might be badly wrong. When the Germans occupy Eloise’s town, and the Nazi Kommandant moves into Maison de la Noyer, things start falling apart. Through a chance meeting, Eloise volunteers to join the Resistance. Suspense, secrecy and danger follow her as, inspired by her favourite detective fiction books, she tries to find her father. A hidden passage behind a tapestry, a deportation list and a race against time… Will Eloise find her father? And what other secrets will she reveal?



Superb adventure set in Nazi-occupied France, with elements of Anne Frank's diary and echoes of Carve Her Name With Pride. Sarah's characters are top notch and the tension is palpable as the Nazis overrun Eloise's town. Absolutely riveting.


Nichole Mara: All Aboard! Let's Ride a Train

Published by Abrams 5th September 2017


Folding out car by car, this accordion-style book takes readers on a tour of what s inside a train. Each car has something to find things that make loud noises, things in different shapes and along the way, a little child searches for his missing hat. The back of the book is a running landscape dotted with objects for children to find and count. All Aboard! Let's Ride a Train is a fun, interactive ride from beginning to end.


This is an amazing fold-out train book with so much to discover in the brilliant illustrations. A triumphof modern book production.


Christopher Franceschelli: Buildablock

Published by Abrams 19th September 2017


In this companion to Alphablock, Countablock, Dinoblock, and Cityblock, readers are introduced to more than 24 construction machines. As in the previous books, Buildablock features die-cut shapes on every other spread and the charming art of British design team Peskimo. Alphablock was chosen one of Parents magazine's 10 Best Children's Books of 2013 and one of ALSC's Notable Children s Books of 2014.


Books for young children have come such a long way in such a short space of time. Hot on the heels of Let's Ride a Train (above) comes Buildablock - I didn't get to see the others in this series, but if this one is anything to go by, I really missed out! Superb entertainment for toddlers!


G S Prendergast: Zero Repeat Forever

Published by Simon & Schuster 7th September 2017


The 5th Wave meets Beauty and the Beast in this fast-paced and heart-stopping novel about an invasion of murderous creatures and one girl fighting for her life at the end of the world. He has no voice or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind: Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall. His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting. Until a human kills her… Sixteen-year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying armored Nahx invade. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her fellow campers can only stay put. Await rescue. Raven doesn’t like feeling helpless, but what choice does she have? Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend. Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is injured, and Eighth deserts his unit, their survival comes to depend on trusting each other…


The mix of real life (summer camp) and fantasy reinforces the belief that such things as occur in this brilliant fantasy could well come true here on Earth. Mesmerising.


Simon Holland: The Picture Atlas

Published by Bloomsbury 21st September 2017


Explore the world by looking not only at borders, mountains, rivers, seas and oceans, but by discovering the natural wonders of the world, historical artefacts, amazing animals, fascinating cultures and much much more. With stunning illustrations from the incredible Jill Calder, The Picture Atlas is quite unlike anything you've seen before. From the freezing Arctic Circle with its powerful orca whales, to the amazing Sydney Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef, learn, explore and be amazed by the wonders of the world. Bursting full of beautiful artwork, informative maps and astounding facts, take a trip around the world like you've never seen it before.


This is a terrific children's atlas, but I have to say that the illustrations are not quite my cup of tea. The words are great, but the pictures don't do anything for me, sorry.


John Kelly: Sir Scaly Pants and The Dragon Thief

Published by Bloomsbury 7th September 2017


Sir Scaly Pants the Dragon Knight ALWAYS fights for what's right,
but it can be very lonely being the One and Only Dragon Knight. When an evil fire-breathing dragon kidnaps the king, Sir Scaly and his trusty steed, Guinevere, vow to rescue him. Their journey takes them to lands far and wide, and when they finally catch up with the wicked king-napping dragon, Scaly knows he's met his match. But is the evil dragon really as bad as everyone thinks, or can Scaly uncover the truth and finally make a friend? A tale full of peril and pants, this is the second brilliantly funny story featuring Sir Scaly Pants and his trusty steed, Guinevere. From Kate Greenaway Medal-shortlisted illustrator John Kelly.


Stunning colours in this crazy adventure for toddlers.


Morag Hood: I Am Bat

Published by Macmillan Children's Books (Two Hoots) 21st September 2017


I am Bat. I like cherries. I do NOT like mornings. DO NOT STEAL MY CHERRIES. Bat's cherries keep going missing. One by one, the precious red cherries are whisked away by mischievous animal tricksters behind Bat's back. Bat fruitlessly tries to catch the culprit and rescue those poor cherries - all to no avail. Will the cherries ever be restored to their rightful owner? In the hilarious I Am Bat, super-talent Morag Hood cleverly draws the reader into the story as Bat attempts to track down the guilty cherry thief and everyone's a suspect - including YOU! This bold, colourful and very funny book, stunningly printed with eye-poppingly bright pantone inks is an instant winner with children and adults alike, and the adorably petulant and over-protective Bat is an irresistible character destined to be loved by all.


Not sure I like the monochrome minimalist illustrations, but then it's not aimed at me!


Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler: Whoosh! Went The Witch

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 21st September 2017


Who's that flying over the treetops? Whoosh! It's the witch and her cat and a very tall hat. Fly through the sky with the witch and her friends and bring the story to life with a specially-designed 'whoosh' sound. Whoosh! Went the Witch is a fun and interactive introduction to one of the UK's favourite story books, Room on the Broom from the superb partnership of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.


Three of us, all adults, found it very hard to get the button to work to play the sounds - the story is excellent and the illustrations are super, though...


Stephanie Perkins: There's Someone Inside Your House

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 5th October 2017


Over a year after her parents sent her away from Hawaii to live with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska, Makani Young is still adjusting to her new life. She's made a small group of close friends and even flirted with romance, but her past in Hawaii is still hard to forget. And then . . . one by one the students of her new high school begin to die in a series of gruesome murders. Makani doesn't know who's next on the list. Between this, and a secret scorching relationship with the school weirdo, this school year may turn out to be one to die for . . . literally. There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins will have you swooning with fear and romance, and is the perfect page-turner for fans of Scream Queens and I Know What You Did Last Summer.


Sensational chiller for younger young adults. You can cut the tension with a knife... best not to mention knives, though...


Kim Ventrella: The Skeleton Tree

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 21st September 2017


When Stanley Stanwright finds a bone poking out of the earth in his back garden, he is determined to take a picture of it and send it to the Young Discoverer's Competition, thinking it will help bring his dad back home. But the bone begins to grow, reaching up out of the ground until it turns into a skeleton - a skeleton with an unusual interest in his unwell younger sister Miren. As time wears on, Miren's condition worsens, and the only time she is truly at peace is when she is playing with the skeleton. But Stanley is wary of him, especially when he finally manages to get a picture, and spots a scythe at the skeleton's feet. . . A whimsical, heartfelt story about a boy who finds a friend in Death with the help of an unusual tree growing in his back garden. With black line illustrations throughout by Victoria Assanelli.


I found this a little depressing, to be truthful, and I can imagine this might appeal mainly to children who might be considered slightly introspective. Loved the illustrations.


Kendare Blake: One Dark Throne

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 21st September 2017


The battle for the crown has begun, but which of the three sisters will prevail? With the unforgettable events of the Quickening behind them and the Ascension Year underway, all bets are off. Katharine, once the weak and feeble sister, is stronger than ever before. Arsinoe, after discovering the truth about her powers, must figure out how to make her secret talent work in her favour without anyone finding out. And Mirabella, once thought to be the strongest sister of all and the certain Queen Crowned, faces attacks like never before - ones that put those around her in danger that she can’t seem to prevent. In One Dark Throne, the enthralling sequel to Kendare Blake’s The New York Times-bestselling Three Dark Crowns, Fennbirn’s deadliest queens must face the one thing standing in their way of the crown: each other.


I really think you need to read Three Dark Crowns before embarking on One Dark Throne - something I was unable to do, obviously, and a great shame, as it has all the elements of fine fantasy in it...


Sophy Henn: Dress Up With Ted

Published by Bloomsbury 5th October 2017


Have a terrific time with Ted in this eye-catching new series for preschoolers. Ted's creative imagination takes him on awesome adventures - where will he go today? Hey there, Ted! Are you playing dressing up? Who will Ted be? A brave knight with a pet dragon? A jolly pirate captain? Or maybe an awesome astronaut? Lift the flaps to find out where Ted's creative imagination will take him. With sturdy flaps to lift on every page, this bold and creative new book in the Ted series will delight preschoolers and is ideal for little hands.


Perfect entertainment for pre-schoolers, colourful, eye-catching, absolutely charming.



Debi Gliori: All The Way Home

Published by Bloomsbury 5th October 2017


Daddy Penguin has to look after the egg while Mummy is finding fish. But he wanders away from the Dad Huddle and he and the egg are whisked up into the air by a gust of wind, landing in the Arctic. Brave Daddy must find out where he is and how to get home. But the Arctic creatures aren't that friendly and he stumbles along in the cold, lost ... until he bumps into a reindeer, who takes them to breakfast with the Special Air Navigation Transport Authority ... Can brave Daddy Penguin and his new little one get all the way home before Mummy returns? If only penguins could fly ... Framed as a secret story that loving Daddy Penguin only shares with Little One, adults and their little ones will love cosying up to read this wintry tale with a warm heart. Debi Gliori's Dragon Loves Penguin was shortlisted for the 2015 Red House Children's Book Award, while her No Matter What is a perennial favourite with families all over the world.


The latest offering from Bloomsbury's best toddler author, Debi Gliori, is all about penguins - utterly charming.



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.