Numerous children’s books have been published over the summer and I have only been able to read a few of them so apologies to those not included in this summer fiction round-up. However those featured here should appeal to a range of tastes and levels of reading stamina. Adventures incorporating magic and football, evil and bravery, racism and conservation illustrate the array of themes covered in children’s books at present.
The Whale Watchers by Dougie Poynter illustrated by Amberin Huq
The Whale Watchers combines summer holiday adventure and environmental concerns in an exciting and thoughtful story. As Finn departs reluctantly with his marine biologist mum and younger brother Jesse for six weeks in Scotland all he can think of is the sun drenched fun his friends are enjoying on their exotic holidays. His mood is as grey as the weather. After an inauspicious start the two boys develop a friendship with local girl Skye and go to her favourite look out post to try and watch the whales off the coast. It is then that Finn finds himself caught up adventure to save one of these important creatures.
The book was prompted by a campaign by Brita to raise funds for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation after research showed primary school kids were experiencing a high level of anxiety about the planet. The storyline whilst teaching children about the importance of conservation will also reassure them that every individual action will help and encourage them to take small steps towards supporting the larger campaigns.
The story is fast paced and presented in clear typeface to support the less confident reader and interspersed with charming illustrations. The information section providing the science behind the story at the end of the book is an added bonus and extremely comprehensive including biographical details of people involved in dolphin and whale protection, the human impact on the planet, facts about whales, tips on how to be eco-friendly and a glossary. Suitable for 7+ and published by Owlet Press in July.
Spellstoppers by Cat Gray
This debut features a young boy who is a bit different. Every time Max touches something electrical it explodes and this is making life steadily more difficult for both Max and his mum. Reluctantly, Max’s mum sends him off to stay with his grandad, whom he has never met, to spend the summer with him in the seaside village in which he lives. Once there life takes a dramatic turn for young Max as he discovers the secret behind what he considers his curse and embarks on a magical and dangerous adventure with his new friend, Kit.
The opening pages ground this magical fantasy in reality and Max has an appeal that ensures readers care about him as he discovers the truth about himself and his family of Spellstoppers. His rare ability to stop magic spells that have gone wrong, inherited from his grandad, results in Max having to face the cruel Keeper of the magical castle close to the village where he is now staying. Malevolent owls, man-eating goldfish and sinister shadow people are just some of the dangers Max must learn to overcome as he battles to save his grandad and the village.
The development of Max’s character as the story unfolds is thoughtfully executed and the way in which he conquers his fears and problems offers encouragement to young readers which may benefit them in slightly less challenging situations than poor Max faces! Kit too is a sensible girl and their friendship is a balanced and believable one. The story contain elements popular in children’s books over the years presented in a fresh and original premise. As the first in a new series I can see this having a wide appeal and the next book is due out in 2023. Spellstoppers was published by Usborne in July.
Game Changer: A Rocky Rovers Novel by Tom Palmer illustrated by Anna Morozova
If you want to build on the excitement and enthusiasm generated by the Lionesses’ brilliant Euros win this summer then Game Changer is the perfect book for you. The latest in the Roy of the Rovers series features his sister Rocky who plays for the newly formed Melchester Women’s team who are embarking in their first full season of professional football. Packed with exciting football action and behind the scenes tension this will definitely appeal to football fans. Tom Palmer uses his own football knowledge and love of the game to ensure that the importance of various fixtures and results is conveyed heightening the excitement.
However Tom Palmer also tackles important issues such as mental health and grief plus the problem of racism providing an extra dimension to the story. These subjects are handled with a sensitive yet practical and encouraging manner stressing the importance of asking for help and standing up for what you believe is right. These are valuable life lessons for young readers and are deftly incorporated in the plot without feeling didactic or preaching in tone. The friendships and family relationships are realistically portrayed and the characters sympathetic.
This is a must read for football fans and if you are a fan of Tom Palmer’s historical fiction and have not tried this series, maybe not considering yourself a lover of football fiction, I suggest you give this a try. He may convert you to the beautiful game! Game Changer was published in June by Rebellion Press.
Hattie and the Magic Watch by E. H. Hansen
Hattie and the Magic Watch is the first in a new trilogy, The Kingdom of Amber, set in the magical world of Ambrithia. Hattie, a headstrong and impulsive eleven year old, is still grieving the loss of her grandmother when she goes on a school trip to visit some famous caves. Whilst there she loses the special gold pocket watch her grandma gave her and her attempts to retrieve it result in her being plunged into another world full of magic and mystery Hattie embarks on an epic quest to discover the truth about her past and the importance of her grandma’s gift.
This fantasy adventure for the upper age middle grade readership incorporates conflict, secrets, questions of loyalty and trust together with magic, evil villains and wise guides. The idea of learning how to talk to animals and birds, to fly on the backs of magical creatures into mountains and discover secret kingdoms will appeal to lovers of classic fantasy and the lead character is one young readers will be rooting for throughout the excitement. Hattie has always felt different from her friends and as she gradually discovers more about her parents she grows in confidence and determination. The plot ensures that the reader is not sure who to trust and this adds to the tension as we navigate the twists and turns as the cast of characters reveal clues, the background to Hattie’s family and the cause of the distrust between the warring factions involved. Hattie will return in the second adventure, A Cure for a King. Hattie and the Magic Watch was published on 22nd August by bookmedia v/Elisabeth Houe Hansen
I should like to thank the publishers for providing my review copies.