Malory Towers mysteries, Wonderland mazes and space pioneers by various artists - book reviews -

New Class at Malory Towers
New Class at Malory Towers

Enjoy a new chapter in the fun and games of Enid Blyton’s ever-popular Malory Towers books, join Alice for a challenging trip to Wonderland and meet a team of talented seamstresses who helped to put man on the Moon in some super holiday time books for children.

Enjoy a new chapter in the fun and games of Enid Blyton’s ever-popular Malory Towers books, join Alice for a challenging trip to Wonderland and meet a team of talented seamstresses who helped to put man on the Moon in some super holiday time books for children.

Age 9 plus:

Malory Towers: New Class at Malory Towers

Rebecca Westcott Smith, Narinder Dhami, Patrice Lawrence and Lucy Mangan

Calling all Malory Towers fans… there are some new girls on the block!

Fans – young and not so young – of Enid Blyton’s famous boarding school by the sea are galloping off to the Cornish coast to meet some intriguing fresh faces in four brand new adventures from a group of outstanding modern children’s authors who blend characters old and new with an addictive charm.

A new girl joins Darrell Rivers and her familiar cohort of friends in each of these four fantastic stories which add a contemporary spin to the six-book seaside boarding school series which has been a perennial favourite with young readers since they first appeared between 1946 and 1951.

The Malory Towers series has been enormously popular since the publication of First Term at Malory Towers in 1946 by one of the best-loved authors of all time. The school is set in picturesque surroundings by the sea in Cornwall. A castle-like building on the cliffs, it boasts four round towers (North, South, East and West) and a courtyard, as well as a swimming-pool amid the rocks which is filled with seawater by the tides.

Waterstones Book Prize-winner Patrice Lawrence introduces us to proud circus girl Marietta with her magnificent head of braided hair. A dormitory argument reveals something unusual about Marietta, and something equally unexpected about Alicia.

In Guardian and Stylist columnist Lucy Mangan’s story, student librarian Evelyn is wary of her lively, lacrosse-playing classmates. When one of them becomes a regular visitor to the hushed domain of the library, can Evelyn really trust her?

Sunita Sharma joins Malory Towers, surrounded by a sense of mystery, in Narinder Dhami's fabulous story. But is Sunita really as glamorous as the snobbish Gwendoline imagines?

And in Rebecca Westcott Smith’s heartwarming story, Darrell and friends fear the worst when spoilt Gwendoline’s cousin joins the school. But Maggie is very different from her stuck-up relative…

From the library to the lacrosse field, and the swimming pool to the stage, there are obstacles at every turn. Will the new arrivals learn to rise to the occasion as true Malory Towers girls traditionally do?

Illustrator Pippa Curnick has created the eye-catching book cover and each author brings their own contemporary take on boarding school adventures without losing the spirit and trademark magic of the original books.

Funny, entertaining and a class act for all generations of Malory Towers fans…

(Hodder Children's Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Eagle Warrior

Gill Lewis

Wildlife champion and former vet Gill Lewis brings home some hard-hitting truths in a beautiful adventure story set in the wilds of Scotland.

Award-winning author Lewis says Eagle Warrior – the tale of one girl’s fight to save an eagle – was sparked by the true story of a young golden eagle called Fred which ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances near a grouse moor in the Pentland Hills south of Edinburgh.

And she cites a Scottish Natural Heritage report which has unequivocally shown that grouse moor management is associated with the killing of eagles to such an extent that it limits their recovery as a breeding bird in Scotland.

Lewis is sending her Public Lending Right royalties from Eagle Warrior to Wild Justice, a new organisation challenging the legalities of wildlife law, and says the book ‘is a cry for the wild, and to bring a stop to those who try to take it so selfishly from us.’

At the heart of this topical story is a girl called Bobbie who is thrilled that a golden eagle has settled in the forest near her family’s farm in the Scottish hills. She loves to walk the hills with her granny and watch the bird soar through the sky.

But not everyone shares Bobbie’s awe for the spectacular bird. When her granny’s beloved dog, Haggis, is killed by poisoned bait, it soon becomes clear that someone is out to get the eagle… and they are ready to take down anything, and anyone, that gets in their way. Facing the threat of being sent away to boarding school, far from everything she knows and loves, Bobbie is determined to save the eagle but is she brave enough, and is it worth the risk?

Eagle Warrior is a thrilling and timely story which shines a powerful light on endangered wildlife and nature. Written with knowledge and a deep concern for conservation, this though-provoking adventure encourages discussion about pollution and endangered species, and raises questions about broader environmental issues.

Published in a super readable format which makes it particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers, this is gripping, moving and thought-provoking story that will resonate far beyond the hills of Scotland…

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 6 plus:

Alice in Wonderland: A Puzzle Adventure

Aleksandra Artymowska

Some puzzle books are guaranteed to leave youngsters feeling curiouser and curiouser…

So join Alice and her band of Wonderland friends and animals as they jump down a rabbit hole and enter a fantastical adventure book packed with eighty absorbing challenges and amazing mazes.

Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s book, Polish illustrator, graphic designer and painter Aleksandra Artymowska’s stunning scenes are packed with references to the original, from a Mad Hatter’s tea party and an (almost!) identical Tweedledum and Tweedledee, to lines of marching playing cards and a flying Cheshire cat.

From one page to another spot the difference, youngsters must crack the clues, find their way through challenging mazes, match up different objects, piece together broken fragments of plates, and find the missing walrus.

Beautifully illustrated, full of nostalgic charm, and brimming with Alice’s spirit of adventure, this imaginative puzzle book offers hours of fun and brain-enhancing puzzles that will appeal to readers young and old.

Stylish, creative and artistically inventive, this is the perfect book to keep boredom at bay over the long summer holidays!

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £16.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Spacesuit

Alison Donald and Ariel Landy

It didn’t just take rocket science to put man on the Moon… there was also a team of talented, tireless seamstresses!

Author Alison Donald and illustrator Ariel Landy have the history of the spacesuit all sewn up in an enchanting picture book which celebrates the real-life people who won a race against time to develop the special astronaut clothing used in the first Moon walk 50 years ago.

Dedicated to the women and men who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make the Moon landings possible, The Spacesuit focuses on the team of seamstresses, led by the very talented Eleanor ‘Ellie’ Foraker, who won a competition to make a suit for the Apollo 11 astronauts.

Ellie was an ordinary woman who loved to design and sew from an early age. She felt her fingers come alive the first time she used a sewing machine. When she grew up, she got a job sewing clothes for women and babies and worked so well that when her American company entered an exciting competition to make the spacesuit for the first Moon landing, she was asked to lead a team of expert seamstresses. No one believed they could win but they were determined to try and came up with a spacesuit that was heat-resistant, flexible, lightweight and comfortable. Stitch by stich, their spacesuit changed the world for ever!

Landy’s bold, colourful illustrations are full of intriguing, small detail, and Donald’s story features lots of fascinating, accessible facts as the excitement of the race to make a spacesuit mounts, and the sheer determination of Ellie and her team to achieve their own seeming mission impossible shines through.

An inspirational true story about the remarkable women who helped to make a space dream come true…

(Maverick Arts Publishing, paperback, £7.99)

Age 5 plus:

Molly Rogers to the Rescue

Cornelia Funke and Kasia Matyjaszek

Thieves, greedy pirates and mischief-makers are no match for madcap Molly Rogers and her crazy crew!

Molly Rogers to the Rescue is the latest super-readable Little Gem from innovative publisher Barrington Stoke and sees the return of top team, author Cornelia Funke and illustrator Kasia Matyjaszek and their swashbuckling pirate girl Molly Rogers.

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

In the companion book for their fun-filled picture book, Molly Rogers, Pirate Girl, Molly and her mother, Barbarous Bertha, discover that Captain Firebeard is destroying Monkey Skull Island in search of buried treasure so set sail on the Red Swallow to save the island and its animals from his clutches. But Firebeard will stop at nothing to get his treasure… how will Molly outwit him this time?

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

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Hello Friend!

Rebecca Cobb

Making friends doesn’t always come naturally…

Award-winning author and illustrator Rebecca Cobb is back to steal our hearts in a beautifully illustrated, warm, witty and wisely observed picture book about kindness, empathy and forming first friendships.

Inspired by her own bubbly daughter who is always eager to make new friends, Cobb explores the struggles some children find in creating new friendships and how it’s the easiest thing in the world for others.

Hello Friend! tells the story of one kind and relentlessly enthusiastic little girl who is determined to make friends with a reluctant little boy. And why wouldn’t he want to be friends with her? She’s very good at sharing… even if it’s a sandwich that he doesn’t like. And she’s certain that playing outside is their favourite thing to do, even if he is not so sure. But while he doesn’t seem keen on many of the things that she loves to do, there is one thing he is very keen on after all… being friends.

Cobb always perfectly captures the joys and uncertainties of childhood with her observant eye and warm heart. The simple but beautiful story celebrates children, whether they are shy or gregarious, providing gentle reassurance to those nervous about making new friends, and encouraging the more outgoing to offer warmth and companionship to others.

Brimming with Cobb’s trademark rich colours, irresistible playfulness and the spirit of adventure that has made her one of the nation’s favourite author/illustrators, this creative, clever and utterly charming picture book is destined to be another family favourite!

(Macmillan, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Lunchtime, The Something, and Aunt Amelia

Rebecca Cobb

Also available now in paperback are three of Rebecca Cobb’s much-loved picture books.

If mealtimes often turn into a temper tantrum nightmare with your fussy little eaters, try tempting them with this delightful little dish!

Lunchtime is Cobb’s colourful cautionary story about a little girl who is so busy having fun that she lets some unexpected visitors eat her lunch... and ends up so hungry that she’ll eat almost anything.

Cobb’s quirky, freehand drawings capture the anarchic essence of a story that will appeal both visually and verbally to pre-school children. A tasty tale of food, friendship and fun that is sure to tickle young taste buds!

And there’s a ‘hole’ lot of mystery in Cobb’s enchanting picture book The Something which perfectly captures the innocence of childhood.

When a little boy loses his bouncy ball down a mysterious hole underneath the cherry tree in his garden, he can’t stop thinking about what could be down there. His mum reckons it’s a little mouse’s house, dad thinks it’s a hole for frogs, his sister says it’s the lair of a scary, hungry troll that might come and eat him if he’s naughty, or even be a dragon’s den. He doesn’t really mind what’s down there, he’s just glad that something has chosen to live in his garden… and he’s not afraid to find out what it is.

Bold, inventive and witty illustrations capture the wonder of discovery and the joy of an inquisitive mind in a story guaranteed to bewitch young hearts and minds.

And in Aunt Amelia, Cobb sets her artistic sights on an aunt with attitude.

When Mum and Dad go away for the night, Aunt Amelia comes to look after one very cross little girl and boy. They do not want to be looked after and, even worse, Mum has left a list of boring instructions. But Aunt Amelia turns out to be rather different from expected… and a lot more fun!

Cobb’s original style always puts an irresistibly idiosyncratic charm into her picture books and this rib-tickling story about an aunt that every child would want is a guaranteed winner for bedtime reading.

(Macmillan, paperback, £6.99 each)

Age 3 plus:

Deep in the Ocean

Lucie Brunellière

Forget yellow submarines and instead dive into the ocean with a super, silver submarine for an amazing underwater adventure!

Spot the animals, large and small, and the extraordinary eco-system beneath the waves in a big and beautiful picture book that explores the ocean through the colourful digital artwork of French artist and designer Lucie Brunellière.

A scientific team has boarded the submarine Oceanos to explore the ocean’s depths. Suddenly, it gets caught in a violent storm, causing it to drift thousands of miles off-course. From the glittering surface of the sea to the darkness of the abyss, Deep in the Ocean takes readers on a bewitching journey through fascinating waters… some warm, colourful, and crowded with sea creatures, others mysterious and turbulent.

Six colours of ink (including neon pink and metallic silver) are used throughout, and a free downloadable soundtrack transports young readers deep into the abyss as dolphins, fish, whales and the stormy sea come to life to create a fascinating marine melody, enabling listeners to feel even more fully immersed in this beautiful underwater world. Readers can find the download at

A colourful and fact-filled experience for both sea lovers and landlubbers!

(Abrams Appleseed, board book, 10.99)

Age 3 plus:


Stephanie Blake

Schoolboy rabbit Simon discovers that you have to start from scratch when it comes to falling love!

Welcome to a brand new adventure starring Simon the cheeky rabbit… the cuddly creature who won everyone’s heart in the bestselling Poo Bum, first book in a series which has proved a big hit all over the world.

Simon’s hilarious escapades have featured in I Want Spaghetti!, I Don’t Want to Go to School!, Super Rabbit! , I Can’t Sleep! and I’m the Biggest!, and he is now the star of a new series for Milkshake! TV on Channel 5.

The books are the work of US-born author Stephanie Blake whose passion for writing and illustrating began in childhood when she created books for her brothers and sisters as birthday presents. After moving to France, she discovered other writers and artists whose work continued to inspire her stories and drawings. She now is the author and illustrator of dozens of highly successfully books in France, many of them children’s favourites.

In Blake’s new rabbit adventure, Simon feels a new emotion stirring… he thinks he’s in love with a girl in his class called Lou! Unfortunately, Lou loves a boy called Mamadou and Simon is very jealous. But when poor little Lou comes into school one day with trillions of itchy nits, she’s suddenly not so popular any more. Except with Simon who doesn’t care because he loves Lou… and her nits! His reward is a kiss from Lou… and some scratchy little visitors!

Blake’s instantly recognisable bold and expressive illustrations will delight young readers and the funny, poignant story, which offers a gentle air of reassurance that some people love us just because of who we are, is guaranteed to strike a chord with both children and parents alike.

(Gecko Press, hardback, £10.99)

Age 3 plus:

Monkey on the Run

Leo Timmers

Every picture tells a story in a charming, wordless picture book from Belgian author and illustrator Leo Timmers.

Creator of Gus’s Garage, Timmers provides exciting illustrations which encourage young readers to use their imaginations and tell their own story within the story. By studying the vehicles on every page, they discover a rich spectrum of activity in each one.

Papa Monkey and Little Monkey are on their way home but the street is very busy with traffic and they are moving so slowly! Little Monkey loses patience and jumps on to the fire engine. Up the ladder he goes and joins a TV crew, then a garbage truck, an aquarium bus, a food cart for rabbits packed with carroty treats, Arctic animals traveling by snow globe and a jewel thief's getaway car… there is so much going on in the street that it has become a playground!

Each vehicle in this wordless book contains a world of detail, activity and humour to share with curious toddlers. Each page is packed with intricately detailed illustrations which allow youngsters to follow the action and tell their own, unique version of the story.

The ideal book to share with grown-ups and rev up the imaginations of even the youngest children!

(Gecko Press, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Song of the River

Joy Cowley and Kimberly Andrews

Join a little boy as he follows a lyrical, lilting river journey to the sea from his home in the snow-topped mountains of Canada.

Joy Cowley, one of New Zealand’s best-loved children’s writers, sings out her story of a wonder-packed adventure through mountain waterfalls, creeks, river beds and industrial landscapes all the way to the salty winds and crying seabirds of the wild, blue and beautiful ocean.

Cam the mountain boy has always wanted to see the sea and one spring morning he decides to follows the river from its trickling source in the mountain snow all the way to the coast. The river leads him through forest, farms, and towns to the vast, endless sea.

Cowley’s beautiful, melodic story – brimming with atmosphere and descriptive power – is exquisitely brought to life by illustrator Kimberly Andrews’ dramatic evocation of a wonderfully contrasting North American landscape full of rich detail and muted, earth-toned colours.

A magnificent celebration of the spirit of adventure and the diversity of nature…

(Gecko Press, hardback, £11.99)

Age one plus:

Treacle Street: Marcel’s Parcels and Prima’s Missing Bunnies

Kate Hindley

Welcome to Treacle Street… where keeping busy is all part of a day’s work!

Marcel’s Parcels and Prima’s Missing Bunnies are the first books in an adorable new lift-the-flap board book series that introduces young children to the residents of Treacle Street and teaches valuable lessons about community spirit and appreciating others.

It is the first solo project written and illustrated by the award-winning Kate Hindley who has illustrated a variety of picture books and fiction for authors including Simon Philip, Alexander McCall Smith, and Santa and Simon Sebag Montefiore.

In Marcel’s Parcels, it’s a bright sunny morning on Treacle Street, and Marcel Trunkmore the postman’s trolley is full of parcels. Join him on his rounds to find out who they are all for… and lift the flaps to find out what’s inside!

In Prima’s Missing Bunnies, it’s a special, sparkly evening on Treacle Street… the opening night of the Dance School’s first performance. But all of Prima Pavlova’s star performers have gone missing. Can you help her find them all before the show begins?

Hindley’s words and richly detailed illustrations capture the warmth, friendliness and shared fun of the close-knit animal community as they go about their business on the bright, bustling and colourful Treacle Street.

With lots of surprises to enjoy, a cast of colourful animal characters and intriguing flaps to lift, this is a series destined to be streets ahead of the rest!

(Simon & Schuster, board books, £6.99 each)