Are you a fan of Fantasy and Magic? Check out all our Fantasy / Magical book reviews, read extracts and compare prices.
October 2018 Debut of the Month | | Karolina is a living doll who’s been transported from the Land of the Dolls on a “kind wind” following a cruel war with the rats. She wakes “in her new world with a glass heart”, in the workshop of a dollmaker in Krakow, Poland. When Karolina speaks to him, the Dollmaker is certain that he’s lost his mind. He made her, after all, “and I can’t make something that comes to life,” he reasons. But Karolina explains that “gardeners do it all the time with flowers”. Through shimmering, lyrical language, and Karolina’s consummate compassion, we are witness to a transformation in the crotchety widower Dollmaker. He begins to smile, to make friends, to feel light and hope. And then, when darkness descends on their city in the form of the Nazis, together they must use their newfound magic to save their friends, no matter what. The author does not shirk from relating the brutal realities of the Jewish experience in Nazi-occupied Poland, yet the overriding message is one of hope and love, and the wondrousness of acts of kindness. This is a sublimely big-souled book, with an exquisite ambiance of timelessness.
Cinderella, Rumpelstilstskin, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk: these stories are in our DNA, says Michael Morpurgo in his introduction to this gorgeous new collection. They are told by some of our best authors for children and each story is illustrated in full colour with pictures that match its mood (Ian Beck’s illustrations for The Pied Piper of Hamelin, retold by Adele Geras, are particularly rich). Morpurgo himself has chosen to tell the story of Jack and Beanstalk and, typically, it’s a first person narrative, Jack addressing the reader directly, keeping us breathlessly attentive from the opening line to the happy every after. An excellent collection to share with children.
In the second of the Badlands adventures, J.R. Wallis creates another tense, exciting story, underpinned by thoughtful questions about courage, free will and the temptations of power. Our three central characters, Ed/Jones, Ruby and Thomas Gabriel all have complicated relationships with the magic that is crucial to the strange world they inhabit: Ed wants to be rid of it completely; Ruby wants recognition that girls can be magicians; while Thomas Gabriel is desperate – dangerously so – to acquire magical skills. It seems that all their problems could be solved in one go, but there are challenges to overcome first, that bring them up against some really frightening creatures. The magical world described is original and convincing, drawing much from old Anglo-Saxon legends in fact, and there’s more than enough action to keep the pages turning. The moral dilemmas faced by the characters feel equally real, and add to the satisfaction of the story. One to recommend to fans of Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co series.
Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | Author of the Year, British Book Awards 2018 | | Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | More than two decades after Northern Lights the first book of Pullman’s world-famous His Dark Materials trilogy, which has sold more than 17.5 million copies in over 40 languages comes, La Belle Sauvage, the first volume in his 'The Book of Dust' series. #BookofDust will return to the parallel world that has enthralled readers young and old. La Belle Sauvage is set 10 years before Northern Lights and centres on the much-beloved Lyra Belacqua. Alethiometers, dæmons, and the Magisterium all return to play their part. Since the ‘equel’ (as Pullman likes it to be known) to His Dark Materials was announced, fans around the globe have cheered the return of Lyra Belacqua, heroine of His Dark Materials. In a short film released by his publisher, Pullman revealed the ingredient for success behind His Dark Materials: Lyra’s ordinariness. He says: “When I wrote the first book of His Dark Materials - Northern Lights - I certainly didn't anticipate that so many people would find Lyra as interesting a character as I did.” “The thing about Lyra is that she's not a special child. She's not especially gifted or talented - she's a very ordinary child. When I was a teacher, I taught many girls who were like Lyra. They were brave, inquisitive, curious, disobedient: all those interesting things for storytellers. I think the reason that people have read this long and complicated story is because they're with Lyra. She doesn't know the things that are threatening her and she's in the same position as the reader, because the reader shares her sense of danger and excitement and curiosity about what's going to happen next. I hope the same thing will be true of Malcolm in La Belle Sauvage.” A Piece of Passion from Francesca Dow, Managing Director, Penguin Random House Children’s (UK): “La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One is a story for our time, with themes that resonate with our world today. It is a story for everybody: a much longed-for treat for established fans of His Dark Materials as they meet Lyra Belacqua again and the chance for new readers to step into the magical world of Philip Pullman for the first time. Pullman is a master storyteller, and Lyra has established herself firmly as one of the most-loved characters in literature, a worthy contemporary of the likes of Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series), Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games). In this book, she is joined by a new hero readers will love: an ordinary boy who steps up to the challenge of a lifetime.” Photo credit: Philip Pullman at a press conference held in Convocation House to launch his new novel La Belle Sauvage. © Ant Upton_Photocall Productions.
September 2018 Book of the Month | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2018 | Best-selling duo Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks’ new picture book is a charming adventure full of magic and friendship. When Josephine buys a new pair of running shoes she is told that they are magic. And it is lucky that they are! While Josephine loves the pit-a-pat sound her new shoes make as she hurries down the road from the shop she is very frightened by the Bear with a rucksack who is following her. Helped by her magic talking shoes which very splendidly adapt to any situation including climbing up a mountain and ski-ing down it, squelching through mud and swimming a river, Josephine keeps just ahead. And when the pair finally do meet up, Josephine discovers that she had never had anything to fear after all! Wonderful glittery and embossed illustrations add extra magic to the story. Julia Eccleshare's Picks for September: The Legend of Kevin: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure by Philip Reeve The Girl, the Bear and the Magic Shoes by Julia Donaldson Happy: A Children's Book of Mindfulness by Nicola Edwards Jelly Boots, Smelly Boots by Michael Rosen You've Got a Friend by Judi Curtin Tilly and the Bookwanderers (Pages & Co., Book 1) by Anna James Wish for a Witch by Kaye Umansky Poems to Live Your Life By by Chris Riddell Once Upon a Wild Wood by Chris Riddell
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2018 | Kaye Umansky, the creator of the much-loved Pongwiffy stories follows up Witch for a Week with a new adventure about Magenta Sharp, a rather muddled local witch, and Elsie Pickles, the little girl she gets to help her. In this new adventure Elsie is invited back to the wandering tower that is Magenta’s home to help the witch to sort out the terrible chaos of her magic-selling business. Magenta has been ignoring the paperwork and she is now attracting so many complaints that she is threatened with the loss of her magical licence! Can Elsie save Magenta’s business? And can she also help her to keep an unruly genie under control while she is about it? as ever, Kaye Umansky’s magic is deliciously frothy and ridiculously good fun. Julia Eccleshare's Picks for September: The Legend of Kevin: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure by Philip Reeve The Girl, the Bear and the Magic Shoes by Julia Donaldson Happy: A Children's Book of Mindfulness by Nicola Edwards Jelly Boots, Smelly Boots by Michael Rosen You've Got a Friend by Judi Curtin Tilly and the Bookwanderers (Pages & Co., Book 1) by Anna James Wish for a Witch by Kaye Umansky Poems to Live Your Life By by Chris Riddell Once Upon a Wild Wood by Chris Riddell
Rib-tickling, thought-provoking, wonderful fun with a little history thrown in for good measure. Johnny returns, with his quirky gang of friends, this time hurtling into the past on board a slightly dysfunctional time travelling shopping trolley. First published in 1996, the beauty of the writing means that it still feels relevant, is fabulously funny, and quite quite bonkers. This is Terry Pratchett at his best, yes it is predominately a book for kids, however I thoroughly enjoyed it, I suppose that makes me a big kid! Mark Beech illustrations grace the start of each chapter, perfectly summing up what is to come. Showing how the past shapes the present, and always surrounds us, Johnny and the Bomb is quite possibly my favourite in the Johnny Maxwell trilogy.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month September 2018 | Former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell weaves a wonderful fantasy adventure around some of the best loved fairy story characters in this hugely attractive and thoroughly entertaining picture story book. Little Green Cape sets out with a handful of useful things including a strong straight stick, comfortable clumpy boots and an invitation to a party. Once in the wild woods she is in a magical world where even the trees have faces, full of surprising characters. There’s a Beast looking for his Beauty, three Bears who are mistrustful of strangers, a talking harp, three little pigs, seven dwarves and many more. Young readers will love both feeling they know the stories being surprised by some of the turns of events.
Menace, madness and medieval adventure abound in this thrilling fourth volume of the atmospheric Order of Darkness series by a doyenne of historical fiction. Luca Vero belongs to the Order of Darkness and has been charged with investigating disturbing occurrences that seem to herald the imminent end of the world. Travelling through medieval Europe with Lady Isolde and her companion Ishraq, he witnesses the alarming outbreak of “dancing sickness”. As Luca seeks to discover the truth behind this phenomenon – are the victims possessed by Satan? – Isolde herself succumbs to an overwhelming urge to dance after acquiring an irresistible pair of scarlet shoes from a travelling tradesman. Alongside being an epic adventure, and richly rewarding for history and mystery buffs, a powerful thread about rejecting prejudice and hatred weaves its way through this novel. “You have to do the right thing, not just the certain thing... Surely you want to be a good lord, not just a powerful one?” Such remarks about social responsibility and acting honorably resonate sharply, as does a potent sense of female empowerment. While women were believed to “have little determination and they are not strong”, the principle female protagonists here display much resolve, with Isolde determined to raise an army to win back her inheritance from her brother, and Ishraq being a highly educated free woman.
September 2018 Book of the Month | Jim Kay's dazzling depiction of J.K. Rowling's wizarding world has won legions of fans since the Illustrated Edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was published in hardback in 2015, becoming a bestseller around the world. This irresistible smaller-format paperback edition of J.K. Rowling's novel brings the magic of Jim Kay's illustration to new readers, with full-colour pictures, French flaps and a handsome poster pull-out at the back of the book. This edition has been beautifully redesigned with selected illustration highlights - the fully illustrated edition is still available in hardback. When a letter arrives for Harry Potter on his eleventh birthday, a decade-old secret is revealed to him that apparently he's the last to know. An incredible adventure is about to begin! Shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2017 |
A submarine ingeniously disguised as a floating island, and a state of the art training programme designed to turn five ordinary kids into sporting superstars – Atlantis United is a highly original and intriguing action adventure story. Joe, Kim, Craig, Ajit and Jess enjoy their different sports, but are conscious that they’re certainly not the best in their teams – so why the interest in them by the stranger in the black hat watching their games? Turns out he is a scout but for a really unusual operation – a maverick billionaire business man has created an amazing but top secret programme for junior athletes based on the latest scientific and sports thinking. The sporting detail is fascinating, while tension rises when the kids notice a strange drone spying on them – could they be in danger?
Sisters Imogen and Isabel Greenberg make brilliant use of the comic book/graphic novel format to tell stories of Athena, probably the most appealing of all the Greek goddesses, weaving different myths into one coherent adventure. It starts as Athena springs from Zeus's head fully armed and 'ready to do battle in the world'; next is the story of her relationship with Athens and, more crucially, rivalry with Poseidon, then interventions in human lives with Perseus and Arachne (the latter a good learning experience for the goddess), before the lead up to the Trojan war and finally the wanderings of Odysseus. The stories are unbeatable and text and illustrations do them full justice. A terrific introduction to the world of Greek mythology and a great bit of storytelling.
Check out the latest activities in our KidsZone.