Book review: It’s kick-off time for children’s summer reading

It's kick-off time for children's summer reading
It's kick-off time for children's summer reading

The vintage tale of a football which refuses to be kicked from pillar to post is the leading player in a ‘matchless’ line-up of fun reading for kids.

Also taking to the field is a dogged detective and a crazy cat cop, a pretty, playful balloon, a space boy who needs to space out, four youngsters on the cusp of big changes and two teenagers on the run from the past.

The Football’s Revolt by Lewitt-Him

It’s over 75 years since Polish-born artists Jan Le Witt and George Him published this funny, timeless story of a furious football which takes striking to new heights.

Le Witt and Him met in a Warsaw cafe in 1933 and built upon their friendship to become the highly successful collaborative design partnership Lewitt-Him. The two men moved to London in 1937 and at the outbreak of the Second World War, they produced posters for the Ministry of Information.

By late 1942, their main work was illustrating children’s books, although they continued with poster work, which appeared in war factory canteens. After the war, the Lewitt-Him partnership designed murals for the Festival of Britain in 1951 and exhibited in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, New York and Philadelphia.

In this quirky, charming reproduction of their popular 1940s children’s book, the pair’s creative imagination takes flight as we meet a football which proves that footballers are not the only ones that have feelings.

The excited citizens of Kickford and Goalbridge turn out for their annual football match only to have it cut short. After a particularly violent kick, the ball decides it has had enough and flies into the air where it finds perfect peace of mind on a passing cloud.

Despite the townspeople’s heroic attempts to get their ball down, the furious football stays right where it is. It’s left to the children of the town to come up with a plan to save the match.

Game on for a wonderful trip down memory lane…

(V&A, hardback, £11.99)

Age 2 plus:

Emily’s Balloon by Komako Sakai

If you are looking for the ‘aaah factor’ then sail away with this beautifully illustrated and heart-melting story of a little girl and her yellow balloon.

Emily’s Balloon, with its enchanting and evocative pictures and moving innocence, comes from the pen of Komako Sakai, winner of the Japanese Picture Book Prize.

One day, Emily gets a balloon but by the end of the afternoon, the balloon is no longer just a plaything… Emily and the balloon are friends. So when the balloon blows away, what will poor little Emily do?

Sweet, compelling and seductively simple, Emily’s Balloon explores the wonders of discovery and the joys of friendship through the medium of words and pictures.

A classic in the making…

(Chronicle Books, paperback, £5.99)

Age 2 plus:

Detective McWoof and the Great Poodle Doodler Mystery by Timothy Knapman and Holly Clifton-Brown

Children’s wordsmith Timothy Knapman works more of his animal magic in a brilliant new picture book brimming with daft dogs and harebrained humour.

Stealing the show are top dogs Detective McWoof, a pooch that’s a sleuth for the truth, and his dog-eared assistant Wanda who helps keep her boss on track.

Detective McWoof likes to think he’s a great detective, always sniffing out cases to solve, but he has a tendency to miss the most obvious clues. It’s a good job Wanda can keep him scampering in the right direction as they attempt to solve the mystery of the missing Poodle Doodler. Together they leave no case unsolved, and no bone unchewed!

A merry mix of Inspector Clouseau and Philip Marlowe, Detective McWoof conjures up slapstick humour on every page and children will love helping the dynamic detective duo solve the intriguing clues and linking them to the mystery at the end of the book.

Holly Clifton-Brown brings Knapman’s fun-filled story to life with her gallery of characterful canines and action-packed illustrations.

An inventive early introduction to detective stories…

(OUP, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Me Me Me’s, Angry Me by Annabelle Neilson and Astro

Meet the Me Me Me’s, a unique collection of quirky characters who explore the ups and downs of emotions that every child – and every parent – can recognise.

This imaginative and intelligent series comes from Fat Fox, a new and independent publishing company which aims to provide enthralling stories for every child, aged from three to 14, regardless of their background.

The adventurous Me Me Me tales offer excitement, fun and a gentle but informative understanding of the different emotions we experience in the most imaginative way.

The first in this series is all about the expressive little red space boy Angry Me who struggles to contain his anger. But Mellow Yellow – the constant voice of calm in the series – reassures and guides, reminding Angry Me that he is never alone and that there is always a friend to listen and help.

The graffiti-style illustrations by Astro are bold, colourful and eye-catching, and work perfectly in tandem with Annabelle Neilson’s punchy, rhyming prose. With its soothing messages and sense of lively fun, this charming series is ideal for cooling and calming tired youngsters at bedtime.

(Fat Fox Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Catsup High Detective Agency by Margaret Ryan

There are plenty of cool cats to enjoy as a feline detective agency gets its paws on a baffling case.

It would be a crime to let your kids miss this gorgeous little early reading book with its charismatic characters and slapstick storyline featuring delightful detective duo Malarkey and Sparkie.

Malarkey is worried. ‘I’m worried,’ he says to no one in particularly, because as owner and sole employee of the Catsup High Detective Agency, he is the only cat in the office. Cats are going missing in Catsup and Malarkey needs to know why so he decides to hire an assistant.

He dips his claws in some ink, writes out a poster and puts it in his office window. ‘Vacancy for assistant cat detective. Must be hard working and not eat much. Special powers an advantage.’ Then he sits back and waits, but not for long.

The last thing he expects to walk through the door is a kitten (the advert clearly says ‘cat’) but Sparkie is no ordinary kitten… he has special powers. Now a top team, Malarkey and Sparkie set out to solve the mystery with the help of Malarkey’s magical flying scarf. Will they catch the catnapper before all the cats in Catsup disappear, or are our heroes about to become cat food?

Margaret Ryan, a former teacher who has written over 80 books for children, adds an infectious sense of fun to this funny, engaging and imaginative story which is brought to glorious life by Vicky Barker’s lively illustrations.

(Catnip Publishing, paperback, £4.99)

Age 7-9:

The Way It Is by Bernard Ashley

Former teacher and headmaster Bernard Ashley takes us on a trip around the world in this fascinating collection of moving and beautifully observed stories.

The Way It Is combines four powerful stories about young people learning something about the world and themselves. Each one is set in a different country and describes four very different young people.

Kantu lives in the village of Pubungu in Uganda, Lenny and Prakesh attend school in an England that will be very familiar to readers, Zafar is growing up in Sri Lanka while Winnie is south London born and bred, athough St Lucia is always referred to as ‘back home.’

Each story describes a moment of drama in their lives. Kantu learns something about justice as he officially becomes a man. Over a game of Monopoly, Prakesh learns not to judge by others’ preconceptions. Zafar sees true heroism in action as he and his friends are caught up in the terrible tsunami of 2005. And while attending the funeral of her uncle, Winnie suddenly sees him for the hero he was.

Unexpected, revealing and resonant, these are stories to open young people’s eyes to how others live, and give new meaning and understanding to their own way of life.

(Troika, paperback, £6.99)

Age 12 plus:

The Mark by Rosemary Hayes

Two troubled teenagers are on the run in this hard-hitting contemporary novel from Rosemary Hayes, an experienced children’s author who runs creative writing workshops.

Rachel is in a bad way when Jack marks her out. Homeless, hysterical, alone, naïve and desperate for love, Rachel is easy prey for Adam, the man who claims to be her boyfriend. When Jack intervenes, she’s becomes ‘his mark’ and soon they are on the run together. But they are an odd couple, haunted by voices in their heads, both trying to escape the nightmare of their past lives.

The woods and fields along the road to London provide an unexpected refuge and Jack starts to believe that he can get Rachel to safety before his time runs out. However, it seems Jack has his own personal agenda. Rachel must work out who she can really trust, and fast. Against the odds, can two teenagers change their future?

The Mark, a thrilling story packed with emotion, insight and suspense, is also a sensitively written exploration of the topical issue of abuse and child sexual exploitation.

A gritty tale with a caring heart…

(Troika, paperback, £6.99)