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Tales of heroes ... and haggis

What's The Time, Mr Wolf?

Debi Gliori

(Bloomsbury £10.99) Age 2+

Gliori brings all her customary quick humour and zany charm to this delightful romp through everyone's favourite nursery rhymes and tales. Inspired by the eponymous popular playground game, a not-so-wicked wolf lurches through his day, coping with prank calls from three little pigs, discovering his dish has kidnapped his spoon and fleeing from a fiddle-playing cat, before arriving home for a surprise party. Small children will love recognising the characters. There's plenty for the adult narrator to enjoy too, such as the fangs in Mr Wolf's bedside glass, the old Penguin Classic he reads in the bath or Little Bo Beep's head torch for nocturnal shepherding.

Superworm

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Scholastic £10.99) 3+

Down in the realm of bugs and slugs, there's a new hero: Superworm. Super-long and super-strong, he can avert any impending disaster from a baby toad on a busy road to a beetle down a well. When wicked Wizard Lizard captures Superworm and threatens to feed him to his crow, his pals come to the rescue. There are lessons here about friendship and the effectiveness of joint action, but it's the sheer imaginative tour de force of Donaldson's jaunty rhyming narrative and Scheffler's brilliantly funny illustrations that will have this book wriggling into your affections. Another winner.

Newspaper Boy And

Origami Girl

Michael Foreman

(Andersen £10.99) 4+

From one extraordinary flight of imagination to another and from one new superhero to the next. When Joey, a poor young news vendor, is attacked by bullies, his newspapers magically fold themselves into Origami Girl, who whisks the boy away in pursuit of the crooks, flying high over old London docklands and into the lair of a beastly Mr Big character. The way the story is peppered with characters and scenes from both past and present simply adds to its dreamlike quality. We all sometimes long for an imaginary friend to come to our aid when the odds against us seem overwhelming. Foreman's charming watercolours capture that longing so well.

Horace And The Haggis Hunter

Sally Magnusson, illustrated by Norman Stone (Black & White £9.99) 5+

The haggis in this story is far from being a "great chieftain o' the puddin-race". Rather, he is a small podgy bagpipe-playing creature on the verge of extinction. And he gels his hair. When Horace arrives in Acre Valley as an orphaned refugee, his future looks bleak on account of Angus McPhee, with a red veiny nose and tulip-decorated underpants, who would prefer to see haggis on his menu than on his farm. But he hasn't reckoned with a motley cast of locals, including a vegetarian fox, magpies who communicate by tweeting (naturally) and an erratic Mole Patrol. The illustrations by Sally's other half, Norman Stone, whose caricatures have thus far rarely reached beyond Christmas cards for family and friends, merit a wider audience.

My Funny Family

Chris Higgins, illustrated by Lee Wildish (Hodder £4.99) 5+

Nine-year-old Mattie is a worrier. She worries that her parents will divorce like her friend Lucinda's or that her mother will die, like her "Aunt Etna" (a chain smoker). She worries that the seeds in her garden won't grow and she worries when her Grandma describes her chaotic, bohemian family disparagingly as "this lot". When she worries, her brain changes to "spaghetti". This is a warm and funny portrait of life in a large family which, like the veg, just keeps growing. Mattie's lovely parents come up with reassuring coping strategies for Mattie's worries, including banishing them behind "the worry door" and "cuddle sandwiches", in which mum and dad are the bread. Higgins writes in a relaxed accessible style, ideal for new readers.

Liar & Spy

Rebecca Stead

(Andersen £9.99) 9+

Georges is down on his luck when he responds to the notice "Spy club meeting – Today" and falls in with Safer, a 12-year-old loner and "spy". Together they spy on the mysterious Mr X, one of Georges's neighbours. As the plot thickens, the line between reality and game-play grows indistinct and Georges is left wondering if he's a hero, a criminal or merely a fool. Safer (the clue is in the name) is not the daredevil he appears to be. He finds life pretty scary and his bravado is a front. If there's a lesson, it is that admitting to such fears is the first step to overcoming them. And, though Georges feels betrayed when the truth unfurls, this relationship has given him the courage to face down the school bullies who were making his life a misery. Stead is a first-class storyteller.

Gods And Warriors

Michelle Paver (Puffin £12.99) 9+

Paver's Chronicles Of Ancient Darkness series, set in the Stone Age, sold in 35 languages. Her new adventure series takes place in the Greek Bronze Age of 3500 years ago, when the Mycenaeans and the Minoans dominated the eastern Mediterranean. A poor, orphaned boy who stands out from the crowd and a rich girl fleeing from an imminent forced marriage may be rather overworked characters in young adult literature but there is nothing derivative about Paver's handling of them. This story is also a fascinating window on the cultures of the time, when violence could erupt at any moment from mysterious warriors or apparently impulsive gods. Extensive research of both the archaeology of the period and the belief systems of the people gives Paver's work the ring of truth, though this is never allowed to obscure the narrative thrust, as Hylas and Pirra flee together across mountains and seas and into caves and shipwrecks. The plot is held together by the mystery of an apparently all-powerful dagger and helped along by a heavily anthropomorphised dolphin. Readers hoping for a neat resolution will be disappointed. This book is the first in a series.

Contextual targeting label: 
Families

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