When children first show an indication that they are ready to progress on to slightly longer independent reads they can still find pages of dense text a little daunting. Thankfully there has been a recent growth in highly illustrated quality fiction that is just right for this audience. They are attractively presented and appealing but still give young children that sense of achievement of having read a ‘proper book’. However it helps if the stories are exciting, memorable and include characters that readers find engaging. The following books are ones that I have read recently that I think fit the bill perfectly especially as they feature popular themes such as detectives, pirates, dinosaurs and knights on horseback; sometimes even a combination!
Kate on the Case written and illustrated by Hannah Peck
Kate on the Case by Hannah Peck is the first in a new series featuring a young would be super sleuth reporter and her trusty companion, Rupert a talking mouse. Packed with eccentric characters, an enjoyable plot and delightful illustrations this charming package would be just right for newly confident young readers.
Set on a train in true Agatha Christie style the story follows Kate as she, her father and Rupert set off to see her mum who is an explorer and scientist in the Arctic. No sooner has the train left the station than mysterious incidents start to occur. One passenger’s gymnastic trophies are stolen, ancient scrolls disappear and a packet of ginger nuts go missing. Quickly our intrepid heroine is on the case interviewing passengers in an attempt to decipher clues and find the culprit using her trusty Special Correspondent Manual as her guide. Kate suspects the rather severe Madame Maude but her investigations lead her down an unexpected path.
The illustrations throughout this book are lovely and full of detail to explore and complement the story perfectly. This action packed story is a full on complete adventure in itself and in no way feels like a ‘scene setter’ for the forthcoming series. No doubt children will be eagerly awaiting the opportunity to follow Kate on her next adventure.
Kate on the Case is published by Piccadilly Press on 8th July.
Dino Knights: Panterra in Peril by Jeff Norton illustrated by Jeff Crosby
Panterra in Peril by Jeff Norton is the first in a new trilogy merging two popular themes, dinosaurs and medieval knights, in an action packed adventure with a likeable hero. This could covert the most reluctant of readers.
Henry Fairchild is a lowly stable boy in a medieval land where dinosaurs still roam living side by side with people. His task is to care for the creatures who belong to the kindly Lord Harding and Lady Anwyn. When Henry finds himself promoted to the rank of Dino Knight his adventures truly begin and he finds out how brave he can be when it matters.
This adventure is full of thrills and daring do but there are important themes of loyalty, kindness and equality threaded through the story too. The fast paced plot will keep young readers’ attention and the dramatic illustrations by Jeff Crosby convey some of the story’s more exciting moments well and each chapter bears a lovely heraldic heading.
Presented in a spacious and slightly larger typeface this will be attractive to those who have not developed reading stamina. The book opens with illustrations and brief thumbnail descriptions of the characters and closes with a helpful Practical Field Guide to Dinosaurs from Henry which is a lovely touch.
Dino Knights: Panterra in Peril is published by Scallywag Press on 1st July.
Flintlock Bones: The Eye of Mogdrod by Derek Keilty illustrated by Mark Elkins
The Eye of Mogdrod is the second in another great trilogy for newly independent readers from Scallywag Press. It features a riotous assembly of pirate investigators sailing the seas solving crimes in a jolly adventure which is great fun.
Flynn, Red and the rest of the crew of the Black Hound return in this follow up to The Sceptre of the Pharaohs which would work perfectly well as a stand alone story. In an effort to trace a priceless golden chalice that has been stolen from Fergus McSwaggers, chief of the Bog Islands, Flynn and his friends must face the perils of the Frozen Sea, danger from the Ice Pirates and even the giant cat-like beast, Mogdrod. Excitement and intrigue mount as we join in on this wonderful mix of mystery and humour accompanied throughout by wonderful illustrations by Mark Elvins that add to this book’s appeal. The gallery of characters at the beginning of the book provides an introduction and the frequent double page spreads encourage readers to stop and explore the detail and the jokes.
Flintlock Bones: The Eye of Mogdrod was published in March by Scallywag Press.
I should like to thank the publishers, Laura Smythe and Antonia Wilkinson for providing my review copies.
If these appeal you may also like to try Mr Tiger, Betsy and the Golden Seahorse by Sally Gardner illustrated by Nick Maland.