Wednesday 8 February 2023

New and Upcoming Releases: Young Fiction

Call The Puffins by Cath Howe, Illustrated by Ella Okstad

Published by: Welbeck Publishing, 2nd March 2023


Call The Puffins! is a new young fiction series for 5-7's and we instantly fell in love with it. Short and accessible, this simple story follows Muffin the Puffin as she heads to the island of Egg and begins her training to become part of the search and rescue team...

Muffin is about to follow in her parents footsteps and begin her training on the island of Egg. But starting a new chapter is tricky, especially when it involves making new friends and rising to new challenges. 

Worried that her turned up feet may hamper her dreams of becoming a search and rescue puffin, Muffin struggles with her anxiety. Does she have what it takes to fit in and become part of the team?

Perfect for bird and nature lovers, this is a gorgeous concept for a young fiction series. Although the story is simple, the world-building is delightful, the plot has high stakes and Muffin is a very relatable character for young children who may be about to start school or join a new club and step out into the world. There's a strong emphasis on teamwork and a focus on how to cope with and overcome anxiety. I particularly loved the inclusive feel of the text and the representation of characters with disabilities. Muffin has upturned feet, which actually help not hinder her, and Muffin's friend, Tiny, has problems with his eyesight. Together, however, they make a formidable duo and the daring ending showcases that there is going to be a lot of exciting things to come from future books in the series. 

A big thanks to NetGalley and Welbeck Publishing for allowing us a review copy. Call the Puffins! is available to pre-order.

Hotel Of The Gods: Beware the Hellhound

Published by: Hachette, 2nd February 2023


If you're after another genius concept that's hilariously funny, why not try Hotel Of The Gods. This is a riotous, brilliantly written caper which left us immediately wanting more...

When Atlas' parents mysteriously land new jobs running a luxurious hotel, he's really excited. This might be just the thing to change his family's luck. 

But when they arrive at the hotel, they soon find this is no ordinary hotel. This is a holiday destination for ancient gods and goddesses who are no longer worshipped by humans. With prankster Maui showing him the ropes, a dragon in the pool and a gateway to the Underworld in the basement, Atlas is not finding his new life a bed of roses. But when he accidentally unleases Cerberus, a .;' three-headed hellhound and a whole host of other monsters, he has to do something FAST!

This is definitely one of our favourite reads of 2023. It fits perfectly with any classroom teaching around gods and goddesses but is aimed at a slightly younger audience than the Loki series by Louie Stowell, Who Let The Gods Out? by Maz Evans or The Nothing To See Here Hotel by Steven Butler. There are a lot of characters, though, and the plot is busy, possibly making it more suitable for the older end of the 5-7 age-range.

The characters are brilliant. Although Atlas is the only child in the story, the mix of incredibly fun gods and goddesses alongside Pegasus, a water dragon and other numerous mythical creatures makes every chapter highly entertaining.  Expect chaos, carnage and MAXIMUM fallouts mixed with rock concerts, makeovers and honey and banana smoothies. There's also scope for plenty more adventures and, with the next two books already on their way, I think we are in for a treat. 

A big thanks to NetGalley and Hachette for allowing us a review copy. Hotel of the Gods: Beware The Hellhound is out now.

The Wishkeeper's Apprentice by Rachel Chivers Khoo, illustrated by Rachel Sanson

Published by: Walker Books, 2nd March 2023


Crackling with magic and charm, The Wishkeeper's Apprentice, aimed at the 7-9 age group is a cosy but fast-moving read with plenty of twists and super-high stakes...

Rupus Beewinkle has got himself in a pickle. Being the Wishkeeper of Whittlestone is a very busy job and he needs an apprentice. So when Felix Jones makes a wish, Rupus ends up hiring him. 

As Felix begins to discover the magic behind making a wish, things soon take a sinister turn when they discover there is a Wishsnatcher in town. And when Rupus himself is snatched, it's up to Felix to save him and ALL the wishes of Whittlestone.

This delightful story initially feels as light and frothy as a milkshake or even a cup of snorlicks but there is a dark and dangerous undertone running through it which adds a fairy tale vibe. The villain is particularly grim and gripping with echoes of the traditional fairy tale wolf and I loved how the light of Rupus Beewinkle contrasted with the dark of this creature. There's also an excellent twist to the characterisation and an interesting exploration of what makes a villain a villain.

Felix is a great character and his relationship with his older sibling, Rebecca, is both relatable and heartwarming. Becoming Rupus' apprentice has huge consequences for Felix, which gives the story a big hook. Without this dramatic turn, however, I would still have kept reading. Rachel Chivers Choo has created a whimsical world of wishes that is warm, wild and just wonderful to be part of. 

A big thanks to NetGalley and Walker Books for allowing us a review copy. The Wishkeeper's Apprentice is available to pre-order.

Woodland Magic: The Stranded Otter by Julie Sykes and Katy Riddell

Published by: Piccadilly Press, 9th March 2023


It's only a couple of weeks before the third book in this  gorgeous nature series is released and I think it might be our favourite yet. With a dramatic rescue and a dramatic capture, it will keep young readers on the edge of their seats, engage them with charming characters and educate them on how we can look after the environment.

Cora and Jax are desperate to be made official Keepers but when they are tasked with building and monitoring a bug hotel, their focus is distracted by a baby otter who needs rescuing. Can they use the raft they have been working on with their friends to save the day? And will everyone get the happy ending they are hoping for?

This cleverly devised concept ticks so many boxes. Not only is there a strong environmental focus which highlights the importance of rewilding, each story features an animal rescue too. The Keepers - tiny, secret people who work tirelessly to repair the damage Ruffins cause - are warm-hearted and fun, with an element of magic, but who also take their responsibilities very seriously. 

The story is both entertaining and educational. Julie Sykes balances the more serious moments with lots of friendship fun: parties and raft races and mouth-watering descriptions of food. The gentle themes of teamwork, discipline and when to abide or not abide by rules are not didactic and yet the consequences of a Keeper's choices is always explored. This is a series perfect for nature lovers, animal lovers, lovers of secret magical folk and a valuable resource for teachers who are looking for stories to support their curriculum topics. 

A big thanks to NetGalley and Piccadilly Press for allowing me a review copy. 

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