Chapter books always brighten up our house. They're fun, engaging and offer a very different experience to picture books: longer, more complex stories and characters that can quickly feel like friends.
This is exactly the case with the three new releases below. During a wet and dreary May, all of these reads have offered us rays of sunshine, epic adventures and cosy, comforting reassurance. There are new series, returning series and those that have a VERY bright future ahead of them.
These are all books I definitely wish I'd had on my bookshelf as a child. My kids love them and the characters leap off the page. Despite the weather, I think we've had the best May ever and we just had to share our thoughts with you.
Rainbow Grey by Laura Ellen Anderson
Published by: Farshore Publishing, May 2021
How apt that in a month full of unpredictable weather comes the release of a BRILLIANT new series, Rainbow Grey, by the author of Amelia Fang. Laura Ellen Anderson has excelled herself with a series as colourful and loveable as a rainbow itself. With fabulous characters, a whirlwind plot and gorgeous illustrations, it really took our breath away.
High above Earth, Ray Grey lives in Celestia with all the other weatherlings. But while they have weather power, she has none.
All that changes, however, when Ray sets out on a forbidden journey to Earth to discover the truth behind the extinct rainbow weatherlings. Suddenly gifted with magical powers, Ray needs to learn how to use them and fast...for a storm is on its way...
This book is world-building at its absolute best. The plot fizzes, the characters sing and there is adventure and humour in abundance. Nim, Ray's cloud cat, is simply hilarious and the bond between Ray and her two friends, Droplett and Snowden, is as enchanting as the actual weather magic. Every character is quirky and memorable and every nook and cranny of the weatherlings' world is fully imagined - even the cakes are bursting with personality!
The plot moves at a much faster pace than I expected and covers a lot of exciting ground. There are twists and turns and tornados and storms that will whisk your feet off the ground and whizz you along faster than a cloud whale. Mark my words, Rainbow Grey is not going anywhere. She is gorgeous character brought to life by enthralling storytelling and amazing artwork. Combine that with a delicious villain and spell-binding weather magic and you have yourself a chapter book that feels as joyous as eating an ice-cream on the sunniest day and as cosy as drinking a hot chocolate with cloud marshmallows (yep, these are a real thing!) on the coldest.
Bring on books 2 and 3!
The Fiend of the Seven Sewers
The Nothing to See Here Hotel - Book Four
It's blunkin' bonkers but it's back and as brilliant as ever. The fourth instalment of The Nothing to See Here Hotel is as madcap and even more hilarious than the others. It's also considerably longer, treating us to even more Frankie Banister shenanigans.
When Frankie is kidnapped and taken down to the dooky deep, he has no idea who's behind it or what he's done to upset them. But when he finds out the identity of 'the boss', he realises he's underestimated old enemies and needs to enlist some help to battle his new ones. Will Frankie ever see his beloved family and home again?
This is a hoot of a read executed by a seriously talented storyteller. There's howlers on every page and the adrenaline-fuelled adventure rips along at the speed of a gurgly drain. As the author moves us into the wider worlds that exist outside the hotel, we are introduced to a host of new, mysterious and brilliantly envisioned characters. Queen Latrina and Doris steal the show and Mrs. Morkie offers a big dollop of home comforts.
As always, the book is wonderfully illustrated by Steven Lenton, who never fails to capture the fabulous eccentricity and energy of this series. With trolls and cuddlumps and poodly-pipes and ghosts, this is anything but a dull read. The dooky depths have never been so inviting...
UPCOMING RELEASE: The Adventure Club
RED PANDA RESCUE by Jess Butterworth
Published by: Hachette, 8th July 2021
Perfect for the younger end of the chapter book market, this is a brand new illustrated series by Jess Butterworth and Kirsti Beautyman. Told in first person diary format, it follows the adventures of animal-loving Tilly...
Tilly is over the moon when she is chosen to join The Adventure Club on a journey to Nepal. There, with the help of Anita, Leo and the adventure club team, she sets out to monitor and protect the red panda population. But things soon get very adventurous indeed. With mountains and snow and yaks to ride, Tilly faces many challenges and when a red panda goes missing, the race is on to find her...
This is a simple, beautifully told story with great illustrations and an accessible format. The story is told through diary extracts, postcards and I particularly like Tilly's 'objective' and 'obstacle' boxes which keeps the story very focussed. Jess Butterworth conjures up beautiful visuals of Nepal and it's great to see an animal series for younger readers that reaches out to far away places and more unusual animals. As a result there's great scope for this series to run and run, focussing on animal adventures across the globe.
A slight stretch of the imagination has to be allowed to believe that Tilly is able to go adventuring so far without her parents. However, I found the diary format very effective in exploring Tilly's thoughts and feelings about going on such a big adventure. There's nerves and wobbles and tears mixed with lovely euphoric moments and the reader is able to get completely invested in the challenges Tilly faces. It was great how Tilly applied her experience of moving house back home to her new experience in the jungle.
The plot, although relatively simple, is entertaining and engaging. There's lots of twists and turns and we really felt we were there in the camp tents with Tilly. There's a gentle but important eco-message running through the story and what's particularly lovely is that the story doesn't end when Tilly returns from Nepal but shows us how Tilly uses her adventure to improve her school environment. The description of the red pandas are gorgeous and is sure to evoke interest in both these animals and wildlife in general.
A big thanks to NETGALLEY for allowing me to review a digital copy. Red Panda Rescue is available to pre-order and is released in July.
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