The Wizard in the Wood / Diagnosis Danger

The Wizard in the Wood
Louie Stowell, illustrated by Davide Ortu
Nosy Crow

This is the third in Louie Stowell’s magical series.
A new term is about to begin for Kit, Josh and Alita. Before school starts though, Faith announces that the Wizards’ Council want to meet Kit.

Once in front of the council members, Kit learns that she has a very special mission – to take a new dragon’s egg to its new home beneath its own library where it will hatch.
Imagine her friends’ surprise and excitement when she and Faith return with a box containing said egg and Kit announces, “We brought you a present” and they discover what’s inside. It’s a dragon’s egg that must be planted beneath their very own school.

Faith makes two more exciting announcements: a new library awaits once school opens and that also means the arrival of a brand new wizard librarian. Surely nothing could be better than that.

The following day the term begins and the children meet this new librarian whom Faith has said is an old friend of hers. named Ben. He certainly seems a pretty cool guy. But is he?

Pretty soon the children discover that something isn’t right and they’re faced with solving a ginormous problem. It’s either that or face a world-changing disaster. Confronted by a hugely challenging, exciting mission, they really must all work as a team.

With plenty of jokes, great dialogue with lots of banter, and a smashing twist in its tail ,this is another cracker from Louie, especially as it celebrates the power of books and of story.

Whether shared as a primary classroom story time or read by individuals, this book is a delight, made all the more so by Davide Ortu’s offbeat illustrations.

Diagnosis Danger
Roopa Farooki
Oxford University Press Children’s Books

Do you know primary readers in need of an antidote to the trials of lockdown and home schooling? Then try doctor Roopa Farooki’s second exciting double detectives mystery.

Twins Tulip and Ali, the daughters of a hospital doctor, return in another sleuthing story and again they’re faced with a mysterious case to solve. Fortunately with mum a hospital doctor, and thus some medical knowledge of their own, as well a considerable amount of unsquashabilty and noses for danger, this pair have the tools for the job.

It begins when an unknown person attacks their friend Momo and he ends up in hospital, the attacker vanishing without trace. Needless to say Ali and Tulip waste no time is trying to track down the assailant.
Before you can say ‘sliced popliteal artery’ they and Nan-Nan ( a brilliant character) are on their way to a ‘holiday’ destination (unknown to two of their number). Eventually they arrive at a place calling itself Catty’s Cattery; the twins are puzzled and anything but impressed.

However, things are set to get even more strange, when, standing at the reception desk of this weird ‘kitty-obsessed-hotel from hell’ as Ali calls it, is a man who bears a close resemblance to the villainous Evelyn Sprotland. But is this a case of diagnosis ‘bang on the head’ or perhaps, ‘Diagnosis Doppledanger’. What exactly is the real purpose of this peculiar establishment? And, who is Catty; its boss? She certainly seems very choosy about who’s allowed to stay. The mystery deepens.

More important, can the twins aided and abetted by Nan-Nan get to the bottom of things?

Roopa’s mix of unusual characters, witty dialogue, large doses of humour and scatterings of medical information, makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read that will enthral readers who like something a little out of the ordinary. Book your consultation with the twins right away.

The Tooth Fairy and the Home of the Coin Makers / The Tooth Fairy and the Magical Journey / Dilwyn the Welsh Dragon

The Tooth Fairy and the Home of the Coin Makers
The Tooth Fairy and the Magical Journey

Samuel Langley-Swain and Davide Ortu
Dilwyn the Welsh Dragon
Samuel Langley-Swain and Jessica Rose
Owlet Press & The Royal Mint

The Tooth Fairy titles are a contemporary take on the tooth fairy tradition that divulges the fairy’s time-honoured teamwork with the original maker of coins.
In the first story we meet twins Grace and Ollie and their Grandpa at whose home they spend every weekend. The twins are thrilled when they both manage to get their wobbly tooth to pop out and rush excitedly to reveal their gaps to Grandpa an erstwhile employee at The Royal Mint. 

He explains that the tooth fairy will pay them a visit that night, exchanging the teeth for a coin apiece; he also makes little pouches to facilitate the exchange.

Excitement rules when the following morning the pouches both contain a gold coin, and then Grandpa shows the twins his own coin collection. He tells them how the Mint acts as a training school for the fairies and how once situated in London it has relocated to a Welsh valley. At the end of the story the twins lose another tooth each and cannot wait to share the news with their Grandpa.

In the second story, summer has come and the twins are losing more teeth. A sleepover at Grandpa’s is arranged. During the evening he regales the children with tales of a fairy, gold coins and a fearsome dragon; and tells them about his time as a Coin Minter for Her Majesty. Eager to learn how to fly, that night the twins set a trap for the tooth fairy but instead they’re visited by the Wensleydale Watch-Mouse and he’d spotted their trap.

When Grandpa, disturbed by all the noise, finds out what they’ve been up to, he’s far from pleased but asks the mouse to take them to his favourite place. Something magical happens and off they all go on an exciting journey of discovery …

Told in Samuel Langley-Swain’s rhyming text accompanied by Davide Ortu’s lively, funky illustrations of gappy-mouthed children, Grandpa and an entourage of fairies and more, these stories will fascinate youngsters especially, when they lose that first tooth.

For a slightly younger audience is Dilwyn the Welsh Dragon, another rhyming tale, set in the relocated Royal Mint in Wales. Here, one night among the golden coins an egg appears from which emerges a tiny dragon.
Next morning the coin makers discover the hatchling naming it Dilwyn (truth) and caring for him. They bestow on him the task of guarding the coins and one night his powers are put to the test when a pair of robbers break in …

This clever interweaving of a fun story with real history will entertain little ones and the book will make an especially worthwhile purchase should they visit Llantrisant where the story is set.

The Whispering Stones

The Whispering Stones
Saviour Pirotta, illustrated by Davide Ortu
Maverick Arts Publishing

Following on from The Stolen Spear, Wolf is back in his village and now knows that he wants to become a healer like Moon, the current village shaman.

It’s Moon he confides in and the healer is encouraging, offering to become his guide and teacher. Not so however Moon’s son, Rain, who considers it his right to assist and follow his father.

First Moon asks Wolf to accompany him to return the spear from the first story to its rightful owner, now a skeleton in the House of the Dead. Therein he receives a gift. It’s the bird-skull amulet that once hung around the dead healer’s neck.

This amulet gives Wolf seeing-dreams – visions that are not always what they first appear so Moon tells the lad, and if wrongly interpreted could have fatal consequences. A warning to heed if ever there was one.

Then Moon invites Wolf to go with him to a secret shaman ceremony in honour of the Time of Wolf Moon, further infuriating Rain.

During the ceremony Moon is poisoned after drinking from the bowl he’d given to Wolf and inevitably the boy is blamed.

In order to clear his name and save his mentor’s life, Wolf must take the shaman with him and search for a cure. It’s a journey that is long, hard and dangerous, taking them far from their island home

to the Whispering Stones.

Once again this is a gripping tale during which its young protagonist narrator learns much about himself, about the importance of choices and their consequences, about acceptance of past mistakes and the ability to learn from them, and about the power of friendship. And the good thing is that the story ends with Wolf, in the company of his trusted friend, Crow, about to embark on another adventure.

This is a historical series that is both exciting and with its Neolithic period setting, unobtrusively imparts some information about the ancient past.

Davide Ortu helps to bring Stone Age atmosphere to the book with his dramatic illustrations and amulet chapter headings.

Particularly recommended as a lower KS2 class read-aloud as well as for individual readers.

The Monster in the Lake / Unicorn Academy: Isla and Buttercup

Here are the latest stories in two magical series from Nosy Crow

The Monster in the Lake
Louie Stowell, illustrated by Davide Ortu
Nosy Crow

We’re back in the magical world Louie Stowell took us to in Dragon in the Library with youngest magician in the world, Kit Spencer. Beneath that library in Book Wood, she’s having ‘spelling’problems. She hasn’t been distracted, her pronunciation was spot on as were her hand gestures; so why, oh why, are her spells going haywire?
Then Kit and her pals learn two things: one: they can understand what the animals they encounter in the park are saying and two: Dogon the delightful dragon dog is poorly, very poorly.

Definitely time for a spot of investigation …

Almost before you can say ‘weird’ the friends find themselves face to face with a strange creature calling itself Lizzie and saying it’s a Lesser Nessie from Scotland.

After a conversation with Lizzie, the friends return to the library and before long they’re embarking on a double rescue undertaking in Scotland, via one the library’s portal books.

Once there they discover a mobile library and its librarian Duncan. Then follows a terrific adventure full of mermaids, ancient curses and much more. It’s dangerous, nail-bitingly tense and absolutely perfectly paced.

Once again Louie Stowell’s telling with its mix of magic, friendship and bookish references works a treat, and with Davide Ortu’s stylish illustrations, the result is another spellbinding foray into the world of Kit, Faith, Josh and Alita.

An absolutely brilliant, unmissable story for primary readers: and what a superb final observation by Faith, “Whatever else changes, whatever threats we face … We will always have books.”

For slightly younger readers:

Unicorn Academy: Isla and Buttercup
Julie Sykes, illustrated by Lucy Truman
Nosy Crow

Can it really be the 12th visit to the magical Unicorn Academy? I know one girl, now seven, who has lapped up all the stories so far and has been eagerly awaiting this new one. I’m sure she will devour it in a single sitting.

The term is drawing to a close and Isla is eager to graduate along with all the other girls. When her unicorn Buttercup discovers that his magical power is ‘finding magic’ Isla hopes that he’s capable of using this special power to find the evil Ms Willow who has disappeared.

Does 2nd year student Valentina know anything about her whereabouts – she’s certainly acting strangely. Why is she receiving so many letters, and who is sending them?

Once again, teamwork is key in this adventure: Will the girls find the missing teacher; will Isla finally believe in herself and will everyone receive their graduation scroll at the end of term?

The Stolen Spear / Buttercup Sunshine and the House on Hangman’s Hill

Here are two recent additions to Maverick Publishing’s junior fiction list

The Stolen Spear
Saviour Pirotta, illustrated by Davide Ortu
Maverick Publishing

The first in a new series set in the Late Neolithic period, on an island in the Orkneys, this is exciting historical fiction for primary age readers.

The focus is on the narrator, young Wolf, and his endeavours to discover who is really responsible for the disappearance of the sacred spear that is stolen from a burial mound during the midsummer celebrations.

And after a journey that takes him far from his village and community, from one island to another, discover the thief he does with the help of his trusty dog Shadow and friends he makes along the way.

By the time he reaches home once more, not only has Wolf secured the spear, but he’s also discovered his path in life. Tough and strong he may not be, but he’s destined to become a very special person in his community,

With illustrations by Davide Ortu adding to the atmosphere, there’s trickery, plenty of thrills, friendship, hope and determination aplenty in this twisting, turning Stone-Age tale for which the author draws on real historic links and places about which he talks in a note at the end of the book.

Buttercup Sunshine and the House on Hangman’s Hill
Colin Mulhern
Maverick Publishing

Colin Mulhern tells a tale that blends together comic horror and the classic story of Frankenstein that sees the return of Buttercup Sunshine.

As the story begins there’s been a zombie invasion of Buttercup’s locality (even her gran has been zombified) and she’s on her way to inform the town’s powers that be, when she meets a postman who begs her instead to go first to Hangman’s Hill to deliver a package to a house that has suddenly appeared as if from nowhere.

What follows is a bizarre encounter with the extremely weird and seemingly totally mad scientist calling himself Dr Frankenstein and what’s more he has a monster and a storeroom full of jars containing human brains.

Buttercup is desperate to find a cure for the zombies but as she discovers, the doc. has other plans of the world destroying kind. So when he sends her to fetch one of those brains – a very particular one – from the store, she knows she has to do something or she might even find herself becoming part of his very unearthly experiment.

I’ll say no more other that the words ‘bunny rabbit’ and the hope that she succeeds.

Totally crazy but enormous fun and ‘a bit carroty’ in its final moments.

The Dragon in the Library / The Day I Found a Wormhole at the Bottom of the Garden

The Dragon in the Library
Louie Stowell, illustrated by Davide Ortu
Nosy Crow

Kit is anything but enthusiastic about reading; she much prefers to be playing outdoors and the library is definitely not her choice of destination on the first day of the summer holidays. But when her friends manage to persuade her to accompany them she discovers that she’s a wizard. Not just any wizard though, possibly the youngest ever wizard. The librarian doubles up as a wizard too.

Before long Kit learns that she has to play a crucial role in protecting the dragon sleeping in the library. The existence of the library itself is at stake though (the villainous Salt is determined to destroy it and it seems as though he knows too much about that dragon).

There’s another snag however, over-enthusiastic Kit is, shall we say rather impetuous in the use of her new-found power and it might be that her action has put not only the library but the entire world in danger.

The plot moves at a rapid pace and with its plethora of wonderful one-liners, allusions to other children’s books, and excellent characterisation, Louise Stowell’s debut story is a cracking one. Throw Davide Ortu’s illustrations into the mix and the magic becomes even more potent. ‘True magic’ indeed as the final words of the story say.

The Day I Found a Wormhole at the Bottom of the Garden
Tom McLaughlin
Walker Books

This book is totally crazy; it’ll likely have you giggling your way through in one gulp as you encounter its diverse cast of characters. There’s metal detecting enthusiast Billy and his trusty dog Shakespeare, Billy’s nan (who loves to snooze and in between bakes cakes (rocky ones) and watches television. Then come – thanks to the wormhole of the title – Queen Victoria, Roman warrior and wonky road builder Atticus, Einstein (self explanatory), Shakespeare – the real one this time and Professor Jones, scientist specialising in time travel and consumer of quantities of his favourite dunkable chocolate biscuity confection.

How on earth can all those co-exist you may be wondering; it’s on account of that time portal aka wormhole. When you toss into the mix a whoopee cushion, (it reminds Queen Vic. ‘of my Albert after a pork-pie session’),

a toaster – which according to HRH “has utterly blown one’s mind.”, a dinosaur and the frantic race to close that wormhole before the whole of history is forever altered, you’ll be sure Tom’s day cannot get any more complicated.

Splutter-inducing dialogue, a plot that moves so fast you almost have to run to keep up, and a liberal scattering of suitably silly drawings by none other than Tom himself, not to mention a quiz, a maze and instructions for making an olde quill pen, make for a terrific adventure to tickle the taste buds of independent readers.

It would make a super class read aloud too – as long as you don’t laugh so much you lose the plot.