Thursday 26 January 2017

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - January 2017

Welcome, welcome to another year's worth of fantastic monthly chapter book roundups. Once again we'll be bringing you monthly catchup posts full of brilliant book recommendations for older readers, as well as the odd review or two when a particular chapter book catches our eye and our hearts.

So we're kicking off with a book that instantly had Charlotte saying "that's ME!"

Chris Higgins' "Trouble Next Door" (with illustrations from Emily MacKenzie) is bang on the nail for Charlotte's taste, being a hilarious slice of girlish life.

Our hero Bella has just moved into a new house. It's old and dark and she's sure there's a ghost in the attic! But things look up when she meets her new next-door neighbour Magda. Magda is lots of fun! She's bubbly and full of imagination and can even turn cartwheels! It doesn't take long before the two neighbours become best friends.

But Magda is, unfortunately, the sort of girl your mum warned you about! She breaks Bella's mum's best tea set, trashes Bella's room and covers the whole living room in soot. 
Worse than that, somehow Bella ends up getting the blame for everything. Is this new frenemy more trouble than she's worth? 
With tons of slapstick and comedy and a rather acutely observed slice of middle grade girl life captured perfectly within its covers, "Trouble Next Door" is a smasher!
"Trouble Next Door" by Chris Higgins and Emily MacKenzie is out on 12th January 2017, published by Bloomsbury. 
Next, this one is really going to rock your world if you've ever dreamed of living in a bookshop.

Sylvia Bishop's awesome "The Bookshop Girl" won us both over (and by now you'll have already seen it hit our Book of the Week slot), not just because it came with a free cup of tea (and there's no better way to review a book than with a free cuppa! We're still amazed they managed to mail it to us without spilling it!) but because it has one of the most original heroes you're likely to find in a book.
Meet Eleven-year-old Property Jones who (gasp) lives the dream, actually living in a bookshop (oh god, if we could ever actually do that I think we'd both just die of bliss!)
Found in the shop’s lost property cupboard at five years old, Property Jones was never collected so now calls the Bookshop 'home'.

But when Property’s adopted bookshop family announce that they’ve won a competition, and that the prize is Montgomery’s Book Emporium – the most magical, most magnificent bookshop in the world! – Property realises that not all is as it seems. The bookshop may come with more books than they’ve ever dreamed of (as well as one extremely grumpy cat), but it also comes with a mystery to be solved. As far as Property is concerned, there's only one gal for the job!
We adored this book, shot through with originality from start to finish, a refreshing change from the usual middle grade staples - and a tip to budding authors out there, setting your book in a bookshop or a library just seems to make it a gajillion times more appealing to us so there y'go (oh and PRs, free tea = GENIUS idea!)
"The Bookshop Girl" by Sylvia Bishop is out on 2nd March 2017, published by Scholastic Books. Look out for a review around that time!
What's next in our 2017 January Book Bag? It's about time we solved a mystery or two...

Patricia Elliott's spirited sleuth Connie Carew is back in Book two of the awesome girl detective series.

This time Connie is on a luxury ocean liner bound for New York (it's alright for some!)

It's far from the idyllic luxury cruise though, as there's trouble at sea. Someone is trying to harm the passengers. Why? Who has a grudge against whom?

It's up to Connie to investigate the secrets of all the passengers as, mile by nautical mile, the ship sails ever closer towards disaster.

Connie is a clever, witty and opinionated young detective, living at an exciting time - the early part of the 20th century when women were beginning to carve careers and lives of their own. As far as mighty girl heroes go, Connie sets a fantastic example for your own mighty girls and boys who will love her antics and of course her detective brain.

"The Ship of Spectres - A Connie Carew Mystery" is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books. 
Pirates! We need some pirates next to compliment all that dastardliness at sea!

Chris Mould's awesome "Pocket Pirates" series is back with book four and "The Great Treasure Hunt".

Our pint sized gallant band of heroes live in an old junk shop aboard a dusty ship in a bottle. When the world isn't watching, a tiny pirate crew comes out to explore. They're smaller than a teacup, but these scurvy sailors have a HUGE appetite for adventure!

The Pocket Pirates have left the safety of their shelf to search for GOLD ... but dangers await them. The skirting-board mice are on the prowl, and the shopkeeper has an unwelcome surprise in store!

Treasure hunting is a risky business when you're shorter than a Lego minifigure!

A fab pirate romp, illustrated throughout by Chris (who also illustrated the fantastic "The Boy Who Saved Christmas" by Matt Haig). "Pocket Pirates Book 4: The Great Treasure Hunt" is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books. 

More detective fun next, penned by a famous celebrity and her sister.

Holly and Kelly Willoughby's "School for Stars" series is now on book 8 (book 8!!! book 8, I had no idea they'd been so prolific!). In "Best Friends Forever", the final book in the series you can once again join schoolgirl detectives Molly, Maria, Pippa and Sally for more mystery and glamour in this adventure series set in a contemporary school for the Performing Arts.

Twin sisters Molly and Maria are first class detectives with a flair for uncovering adventure - there's no mystery too big for the Fitzfoster duo.

But, alongside their crafty clue-hunting, there's also the small matter of a school camping trip in the big outdoors. The girls are ready to roll up their sleeves but nothing could prepare the friends for what awaits them en France . . .

I let Charlotte loose on this one and she gave it a very firm thumbs up, perfect for her age group and interests with enough glitz, glamour and sparkle for princessy girls too.

"School for Stars - Best Friends Forever" by Holly and Kelly Willoughby is out now, published by Orion Children's Books. 

Next, a gorgeous classic brought back to life with a groovy retro cover...

Mary Norton's timeless "The Borrowers" is one of those books that everyone should have in their collection. The brilliantly original story of wee folk that live in the house and 'borrow' certain objects (only borrow mind, not steal!) has spawned a couple of movies and a TV series, and even a fantastic animated version from Studio Ghibli.

But go straight to the source with the fantastic cloth-bound version new from Orion Publishing.

Deep beneath the floorboards lives the tiny Borrower family - Pod, Homily and Arrietty Clock. Everything they have is borrowed from the humans above them; even their names are not quite their own.

There is just one rule: they must never be seen. Then one day Arrietty accidentally meets the boy from above, and the family's incredible adventure begins.

I remember reading this as a child, and being completely in love with the idea of the little folk.

Charlotte loved the Borrowers through the movie versions (both live action and the gorgeous Ghibli version of the story) so it's been awesome to introduce the book to her.

It's still just as fabulous as ever it was, with the original black and white illustrations included in this version too...

(Oh look, there's Mrs May!!)

Children young and old are bound to love reading this one. 

"The Borrowers" by Mary Norton is out now, published by Orion Children's Books. 

Let's have a look at another gorgeous pair of books...

 5th January saw the release of the next two books in Catherine Coe's awesome "The Unicorns of Blossom Wood" series. You've already seen our reviews of books 1 and two so now it's time to delve into "Storms and Rainbows" and "Best Friends" - both out on the same day.

In "Storms and Rainbows" Cora, Isabelle and Lei arrive in Blossom Wood to bright sunshine.

But moments later, a storm begins to rain down.

Blossom Wood is being flooded and the animals need their help.

The only problem is, Lei still doesn't know what her unicorn magic is! Can the Unicorns of Blossom Wood come to the rescue?

More fabulous magic adventures, where adventuresome girls become mythical magical Unicorns (it's very easy to see why this series was a complete win for Charlotte!)

In "Best Friends", Lei, Isabelle and Cora once again return to their favourite magical place. Once back in Blossom Wood for another adventure they find that their friend Loulou the squirrel is organizing a talent show for all the animals.

The three cousins can't wait to help, but what's the matter with Loulou?

Can the Unicorns of Blossom Wood use their special powers to make Loulou happy again?

Girls will love these adventures, full of magic and sparkles and there are lots of games and quizzes in each book in the series.

Complete your "Unicorns of Blossom Wood" collection with the two latest titles, written by Catherine Coe and published by Scholastic - and out now!

From a mythical creature to an entirely real one...

"Me and Mister P" by Maria Farrer, with illustrations by Daniel Rieley is newly published by OUP and tells the story of a rather unexpected arrival.

Young Arthur is fed up. He's got a completely bizarre family, a brother from weirdsville and now a gigantic polar bear is standing on the doorstep, suitcase in hand, expecting to come and stay for a while. What on earth would you do?

This is how Arthur meets Mister P - the world's most helpful polar bear! Mister P could well be the answer to all Arthur's prayers, or a complete nightmare in bear form. Eeek!

The unlikely pair form a strong friendship, and sometimes there are times when only a polar bear will do!

Chock full of brilliant energetic illustrations, this is a funny and heartwarming tale of a very strange friendship.

"Me and Mister P" by Maria Farrer and Daniel Rieley is out now, published by Oxford Children's Books / OUP. 

Sticking with OUP for a moment, another January publication that is very far from cute, cuddly and friendly. More like fiendly in fact!

In Hacker Murphy's "The Creeper Files - The Root of all Evil" with illustrations by Lucie Ebrey you'll meet ace investigator Hacker Murphy, curator of"The Creeper Files", detailing the nefarious activities of the most evil man/plant ever known.

Young Jake has a problem. There's something crazy and evil on the loose in his garden. 
Jake's dog knows there's a problem: there's no way he's venturing outside on his own. 

Jake's friends know there's a problem: who exactly is the strange entity lurking in their back gardens too?

Jake's mum has no idea there's a problem: she's a grown-up, you know what they're like. 
Careful of what is growing beneath the soil, you'll never look at a plant (or a watering can) the same way ever again!

A perfect adventure romp and detective series kicks off in January. "The Creeper Files: The Root of All Evil" by Hacker Murphy and Lucie Ebrey is out now, published by Oxford Children's Books / OUP. 

So what's next lurking at the bottom of our book bag?

We're coming into this series very late (well, at the end!) but here's a true modern epic to wrap your peepers around...

Kate O'Hearn's fantastic "Pegasus" series reaches its conclusion with book 6 - "Pegasus and the End of Olympus".

As you can probably tell from the title, the series draws to a cataclysmic close as Emily must once again return to earth to fulfil an ancient promise.

When she arrives, she is horrified to find that the nefarious CRU have taken more victims.

Emily has to investigate the nature of the CRU, uncovering a secret that once again leads her back to Titus and a final confrontation with Saturn that may be her last desperate act.

Likened to the "Percy Jackson" series, "Pegasus" similarly taps into ancient Greek mythology for an exciting and contemporary fantasy series with tons of excitement and adventure. Emily is a mighty girl to be reckoned with! "Pegasus and the End of Olympus" by Kate O'Hearn is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books. You can also catch up with the previous books in the series, also published by Hodder.

Next, more adventure and excitement for dice-throwers everywhere...

With the huge surge in popularity of fantasy role playing games, there's never been a better time to dive into a brilliant fantasy series that'll appeal to all Dungeons and Dragons nuts. David Grimstone's awesome "Outcasts" series picks up with Book 2 - "Thunderbolt" (following on from previous volume "The Game").

Jake (Dealmo) and his friends Kellogg, Lemon and Fatyak love nothing better than hurling the bones playing role playing games. But their board-based adventures are about to 'get real' in the most incredible way.

Armed with new superpowers, the friends are on a mission to stop a ruthless organisation from ruining the world.

This time, it's God of the Sky, Zeus's Thunderbolt they must save.

But will their superpowers be enough to win the battle ... and tame the storm?

If your kids are looking for a fantastic new fantasy series, look no further. Tight writing and interesting characters and situations make for a brilliant frenetic read.

"Outcasts Book 2: Thunderbolt" by David Grimstone is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books.

Book 3 of a fantastic dark and exciting series is up next...

"River of Ink - Genesis" (Book 1) by Helen Dennis is joined by "Zenith" (book 2) and now "Mortal" (book 3) continuing the illustrated narrative and high adventure of the series to date.

Once again we join Jed and Kassia on a frenzied flight across the world. Jed's life is in danger, he has exactly one year to complete a perilous quest or he will die. If he somehow manages to unravel his own mysterious past, he may join the immortals and live forever.

Now the friends know that Jed is the key to solving the mystery, the two flee to Istanbul to hunt for more clues, with deadly pursuers intent on stopping them at all costs.
The third in an action-packed series full of adventure, this book has an illustrated narrative running through it, helping readers to solve the mystery alongside the characters in the story.

"River of Ink - Mortal" by Helen Dennis is out now, published by Hodder Children's Books. 

YAY! The return of a fantastic hero next, and the follow-up to a book we both really enjoyed!

Curtis Jobling's teen hero Max Helsing is back, with a new beast to deal with. "Max Helsing and the Beast of Bone Creek" pits the would-be monster slayer against a new foe, as his holiday camping trip to Bone Creek goes downhill fast.
Trouble starts brewing when a slew of mysterious murders have Bigfoot hunters lining up, guns at the ready, itching to confront "The Beast". 

Max's old enemy Abel Archer has also rolled into town, adamant that he's going to be the one to take the beast down.

But the appearance of dire wolves and vampires complicate matters - who is really responsible for the murders? With the help of his friends, it's up to Max to find the culprit before the wrong suspect ends up as a trophy on a monster hunter's wall!

Wildly exciting and original, like a cross between The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Percy Jackson, this is going to rock your world if you're into monsters, myths and mysteries!

"Max Helsing and the Beast of Bone Creek" by Curtis Jobling is out now, published by Orchard Books. 

Slight change of tack now from huge slavering beasts to adorable cute little puppies...

Book 5 in Rosie Banks' "Secret Princesses" series is out, and this time they've brought puppies!

The animal-loving Secret Princess trainees, Charlotte and Mia, have to help Princess Ella get her wand back by granting four animal-related wishes. 

Can they help Tessa complete puppy obedience school so that she can take her puppy on holiday with her family? 

Or will Princess Poison and her pet, Crusher, spoil everything?

A special bumper length book that's actually not a bad starting point for new readers to the series who want to find out all about the magical world of the Secret Princesses. 

"Secret Princesses - Puppy Magic" by Rosie Banks is out now, published by Orchard Publishing. 

Finally, this one arrived with exquisite timing for our Chapter Book Roundup - as it's out today!

Joining the hallowed ranks of comedy writers who are turning their hand to writing children's books, Christian O'Connell's "Radio Boy" introduces Spike, an ordinary everyday kid who just happens to be a secret superstar DJ.

All is not well in Spike's world though - he becomes the first presenter ever to be sacked from hospital radio but radio stardom is addictive, so Spike decides to carry on from a makeshift studio in the garden shed.

With the help of his best friends Artie and Holly, Spike becomes Radio Boy, disguising his voice and becoming a huge sensation as word gets round.

Soon Spike's motormouth gets him into trouble once again, and now the hunt is on for the mysterious Radio Boy!

Can Spike remain anonymous? Will he get to marry the girl of his dreams, Katherine Hamilton? Will he become famous and popular? The answer to most of these questions is no…but the answer to whether this is a hugely entertaining, funny and original book is a resounding YES!

"Radio Boy" by Christian O'Connell with art by Rob Biddulph is out today, published by HarperCollins Children's Books. 

Just time to quickly mention a book that came out in hardback last June but is now here in a gorgeous new paperback edition...

Rachel Renee Russell, fantastic author of "Dork Diaries" - a series that Charlotte absolutely loves to bits has a new dorky hero, this time it's a boy! "The Misadventures of Max Crumbly Locker Hero" sets the tone for a series of completely chaotic new stories featuring Max.

After being homeschooled by his Grandmother, Max is finally heading to 'real' school for the first time. But before long he’s starting to question that choice with the Doug aka Thug Thurston Problem.

As in, Thug keeps stuffing Max in his locker! This never happened at Grandma's!

If only Max could be like the hero in all the comics he likes to read – or the ones he draws – and magically escape the locker and defeat Thug. 

Unfortunately, Max’s uncanny, almost superhuman ability to smell pizza from a block away won’t exactly save any lives or foil bad guys. But that doesn’t mean Max won’t do his best to be the hero his school needs!
Rachel's writing is as entertaining as ever, and judging by the amount of time Charlotte has spent reading (and re-reading) this one, I think she's got another huge hit on her hands.

You can also check out the Max Crumbly book trailer below:

"The Misadventures of Max Crumbly" by Rachel Renee Russell is out now, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books. 

We'll be back next month with another chapter book roundup - in the meantime, if you're still hungry for more, catch up with our February Podcast and regular "Chapter Book of the Week" slots throughout the rest of 2017. Happy reading!