Picture books for children reviews – from old hats to new homes

Neil Gaiman’s mute, pearl-eyed princess and a magical tale of moving house are among the best illustrated reads for kids this summerIt is summer – the season in which mad dogs and Englishmen are said to go out in the midday sun. A better idea might be to stay in the shade and read Raymond, by Yann and Gwendal Le Bec (Walker £11.99, ages 3+). Even before you have opened the book, you will be won over by the brilliant sunshine-yellow cover and Raymond – a little dog with big dreams – standing on his hind legs, looking perkily assured, with a cup of what looks alarmingly like coffee in his left paw. Raymond’s big dream is to be more than one of the family – he wants to “act more and more like a human”. He becomes a celeb journo on Dogue magazine – and it ...

Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley – review

‘The characters are very vividly imagined and are most entertaining’ Elizabeth Camperdowne lives in Tudor England with her father and very strict aunt in a crumbling castle: Stonetron Castle. Destined to be married off at a very young age, our red-haired twelve-year-old heroine has before her a future of an arranged marriage to a man many years older than herself, and looking after her children to continue the family line. Then her future husband turns out to be an 18-year-old drunk, who has secretly married a chambermaid. Elizabeth does not conform, and due to her bad behaviour, she is sent to Trumpton Hall, a school for rich young ladies to learn manners. There she meets her cousin, Katherine Howard. Continue reading...

Wonder by R.J. Palacio – review

‘I think almost everyone will relate to this influential story’ Wonder is a brutally powerful story of a 10-year-old boy named August Pullman, who has a facial anomaly. He is an ordinary kid who plays Xbox, is obsessed with Star Wars, but despite the 27 operations done for his face he will never look normal. August had been homeschooled since he was small and he is remarkably smart for children of his age. This story commences with August going to a school called Beecher Prep for beginning his fifth grade. The story brings out all the ups and downs he faces from his first day of school until his graduation. This book is very realistic since it depicts how August gets bullied and is socially isolated for being different, therefore I think almost everyone will relate to this influential story. This book efficiently puts light onto the theme of intolerance ...

The Boy Who Sailed the Ocean in an Armchair by Lara Williamson – review

‘although the subject is bereavement this is not at all a depressing read and has some genuinely laugh out loud moments’ Becket Rumsey, his brother Billy and a snail called Brian have some serious investigating to do! The mystery began when their father took them away in the middle of the night, without Pearl (best step-mum) knowing anything about it. Without any explanation from their father, Beckett and Billy (and Brian) are left in the dark so they create “SNOOP” – Secret Network of Observations, Operations and Probing. In a series of hilarious yet vital “missions”, SNOOP set about finding Pearl. There are some twists and turns that you don’t see coming and although the subject matter is bereavement this is not at all a depressing read and has some genuinely laugh out loud moments. Continue reading...

Alienated by Melissa Landers – review

‘a good mix of romance and little sprinkles of humour here and there’ When aliens make contact with humanity, Cara Sweeney learns that she will be sharing her house and family with one: Aelyx. Most humans, however, are dead set against the L’eihrs, even though their DNA is nearly identical to humans. Aelyx experiences discrimination against his kind, and so does Cara for assisting him. At first Cara is slightly repulsed by Aelyx, because he is admittedly strange, not just because he is an alien, but because he can’t stomach human food either. However when Cara’s school becomes infected with paranoia over Aelyx being ‘welcomed’ into the community by officials, the school and town aren’t safe anymore. Continue reading...

The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters – review

‘The inclusion of photographs of relevant scenes and objects also helped to make the novel more vivid’ Hanalee Denny is a daring and fearless heroine, striding around her home town of Oregon with a pistol strapped to her leg as she quietly grieves the loss of her father, who died in an accident when hit by a drunk driver. As the curtains open, we see her on the hunt for Joe, the man who killed her father and who has recently been released from prison. He has something to tell her about the circumstances of her father’s death, and she leaves the meeting with her head spinning with thoughts of murder. Now everyone is under suspicion, and the only way to find the true culprit is to speak with her father – or his ghost at least. Her troubles don’t end there, for as a biracial girl in 1920s Oregon, ...

Dotty Detective by Clara Vulliamy – review

‘I like this book because it is funny and it is written by one of my favourite authors’ Dorothy Constable Marie Louise, aka Dot or Dotty (as she prefers), is a normal girl who moves house and has to move schools. Dotty is very nervous because she doesn’t know anyone and she thinks she will have no friends, but Dot is lucky, she makes lots of friends. Although not everyone wants to be friends with her – Laura and her friends seem to be forming a mean plan to win the school talent show. Dot and her new friends and McClusky (Dot’s pet dog or best friend) are starting a detective club all of their own called “Join the Dots” detectives. In the club they want to save the talent show from mean Laura and her nasty friends. Amy, a friend of Dotty who is very shy, is in the ...

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare – review

‘Once I had finished the book I wondered what the fuss was about’ Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare continues the story of the Blackwood children as they break the Accords to get their brother Mark back; the story follows a few years after the last Mortal Instruments book. I was very excited for this book because I preferred the dynamics of their family and was keen to discover more about them. Since its release all I had read was positive reviews about how fantastic it was, that it is her best book yet. Once I had finished the book I wondered what the fuss was about, but I thought maybe I was mistaken so I re-read the ending and I still was left confused. Now don’t get me wrong I do like the book, but for me it isn’t fantastic, it is blah. Continue reading...

Gorilla Dawn by Gill Lewis – review

‘Her in-depth research makes this book very real’ This book is set in the Congo where Imara is the black mamba’s spirit child. It is said that to look into her eyes is to see your death. She survived the bite of a black mamba, which usually has fatal consequences, and this proved to black mamba, the leader of the Mamba rebel tribe, that she is the devil’s child and converses with the sprits. Bobo is a ranger’s son; he, like his father, loves gorillas, so when he encounters Imara looking after a baby gorilla called Kitwana, he feels it is his duty to protect the animal from the rest of the Mamba tribe. Only Bobo sees that Imara is good at heart despite having the reputation of the devil itself. Continue reading...

The Graces by Laure Eve – review

‘an addictively twisted book’ The Graces by Laure Eve is an addictively twisted book. It isn’t, in fact, as I had initially thought, a story about graces but about the Graces. The family. Because the Grace family are who everyone wants to be: mysterious, cool, and enthralling. Rumours about them run wild. Our narrator is immediately drawn to them when she moves to their small town with her mother. You’ll notice that I don’t give the narrator a name. It was only several chapters into the book that I realised she doesn’t start with a name. It’s only once she falls into the Grace circle of friends that she chooses her own name and becomes River. I thought this really was rather fantastic sinister foreshadowing, and it definitely made the whole book more surreal. Continue reading...

Changers Book 2: Oryon by T Cooper and Allison Glock Cooper – review

‘This book delivered on some of those expectations but some things weren’t explored as fully as they could have been’ Last year Ethan found out that he was a Changer and therefore has to live each year of high school as a new person. The year that followed was crazy; Ethan became Drew, a pretty cheerleader, and had to figure out a lot of overwhelming things, including her romantic interest in her best friend Audrey and how on earth female bodies work. This year, Drew is Oryon, an African-American skater boy, and has to navigate life in his new identity whilst trying to keep parts of his old life, namely Audrey. Having enjoyed the first book in this series, expectations were set fairly high for the second instalment of Changers, especially as Drew’s new identity as Oryon would see him experience life as a different race, hopefully prompting some really ...

Rebel Bully Geek Pariah by Erin Lange – review

‘This book is an interesting read and I think if you are a fan of books such as Perfectionist by Sara Shepherd, this would be a gripping read’ Rebel Bully Geek Pariah is a story about an extraordinary night where four teenagers, who are initially strangers to one another, are brought together due to an unfortunate event. This book is actually in flashback form and is narrated by one of the main characters.
They run away from the police for all the wrong reasons which makes them seem guilty but did they actually break the law? Four people who never acknowledged each other’s presence; the rebel, the bully, the geek and the pariah, are speeding down a highway in a stolen police car. The same police car that was used to hit a police man and also contains a trunk full of drugs. Every step they take somehow backfires and ...

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – review

‘If I had to sum up the whole book into one word, it would be: beautiful’ Beautiful. If I had to sum up the whole book into one word, it would be: beautiful. From the cover of the novel to the storyline and characters, all of it was just so captivating. It made me think about life’s struggles but also made me see the beauty. The story circles around a young girl named Madeline Whitter, who has a rare disease called SID, which is where you’re allergic to the world. All of it. The slightest thing from the outside world could trigger a reaction or worse, death. Madeline Whitter spends her whole life inside a bubble, with her mother who is broken by the accident which killed both her husband and son. He husband was a doctor and had been treating Madeline since she was little. As the story goes ...

Whisper to Me by Nick Lane – review

‘an amazing, eye-opening book that was so gripping that I read it in one go’ Whisper to Me is an amazing, eye-opening book that was so gripping that I read it in one go. I like the way that it’s written as one long email so there are no chapters as such. I prefer it like this because it makes the story continuous and without breaks, which is what makes it more gripping. It has very interesting and contrasting characters that are very believable and the plot is very tense and has lots of twists in it. Continue reading...

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn – review

‘it’s a lighthearted story of two people falling in love over their passion for books’ Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares is written by the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Rachel Cohn and David Leviathan. Lily, one of the protagonists of the novel, has written a set of clues and challenges in a red notebook and left it on her favourite bookstore shelf waiting for the right guy to come along and complete those challenges.
This YA novel is set during the Christmas season in New York City. The two main characters Dash and Lily are absolute book nerds, who pass a red moleskin notebook between them consisting of dares for the other one to do. Now doesn’t this make you want to read this book? There’s Christmas, nerd love and a game of dares, it’s an ideal book for every book-lover out there ...

The Apple Tart of Hope by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald – review

‘It’s not filled with action and high drama but it is filled with loyalty and standing up for what you believe in’ This book is about a boy who is missing and presumed dead. However his best friend, Meg and his brother Stevie believe he is still alive and are determined to find him no matter what it takes. Along the way they learn about friendship and the power of never giving up hope. The plot is very different, almost magical and filled with ups and downs. It made me think deeper about what could happen next and what I think of the characters as people. My favourite character was Stevie because even though nobody believes Oscar is alive, he did and isn’t going to give up. Continue reading...

Geek Girl Head Over Heels by Holly Smale – review

‘If I went to the same school as Harriet, I would love to be her friend’ “My name is Harriet Manners, and I will always be a geek.” And sometimes being a geek is probably one of the best things you could be. Ok, being 16 does totally not mean I am a not a fan of Geek Girl, trust me I LOVE the series. Seeing the world through Harriet’s shoes always gives a hint of hope, comfort and love. Continue reading...

The Leaving by Tara Altabrando – review

‘I started reading this book because it sounded absolutely chilling and I thought it was going to be an absolutely amazing thriller’ They were only young, tiny children too young to understand anything. Still growing, in size and personality. Innocent and unaware and that’s when they were taken - ripped away from their families, leaving their parents distraught and heartbroken. No one knows where, no one knows why. All six of them disappeared as if they never even existed. Eleven years later, five of them return, almost adults now, with no memories of anything or anyone except each other. But where’s the sixth child? Where’s Max Goddard? I started reading this book because it sounded absolutely chilling and I thought it was going to be an absolutely amazing thriller. Full of twists, turns and awesome story lines. However, I felt that it was written weirdly. Tara has a way of ...

The Whisper by Bali Rai – review

‘This book shows the truth; it shows you how the consequences of your actions have an effect on others’ This book is a sequel to The Crew and continues to explore the lives of teenagers who experience many problems and daily find themselves in sudden and unpredictable situations, most of which are negative. The book is like a survival guide for anyone living in the ‘Ghetto’. In the estate you’ll find; schools and relationships but also run-down shops, gangs, drugs, separation, promises of protection and a battle to be the best gang. Continue reading...