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By Philip Reeveaward-winning author

A selection of exciting, new children’s books for readers aged seven to 11

Our reviewer

Philip Reeve

Philip Reeve is the author of the award-winning Mortal Engines sequence and Here Lies Arthur (both Scholastic, £6.99 PB). He has also illustrated Kjartan Poskitt’s Murderous Maths (Scholastic, £5.99 PB) and Urgum the Axeman (Scholastic, £6.99 PB) series. In his latest novel, No Such Thing As Dragons (Scholastic, £9.99 HB), Philip illustrates one of his own stories for the first time. He lives on Dartmoor with his wife Sarah and their seven-year-old son Sam. Sam is fairly new to reading and still quite suspicious of it, but he helped with some of these reviews. You can keep up with Philip’s blog at

No Such Thing As Dragons

Reviewer’s choice

Wishing for Tomorrow by Hilary McKay (Hodder, £10.99 HB)

Wishing for Tomorrow

I’ve somehow come this far through life without reading Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, but I loved this beautifully written sequel. Set in Miss Minchin’s tatty Edwardian boarding school soon after the departure of Sara, the heroine of the original book, it features secrets, intrigue and a lot of gentle humour. The period setting is well drawn and the characters are engaging, especially worried, loveable Ermengarde, mischievous Lottie and the indomitable new scullery maid Alice. It deserves to be read and adored by whole generations of thoughtful girls, curled up on sofas on winter afternoons.

Suitable for: girls; older readers; more able readers; reading aloud.

Dear Hound by Jill Murphy (Puffin, £9.99 HB)

Dear Hound

Alfie, an excitable young deerhound, gets lost and must fend for himself in the woods, helped by two foxes called Sunset and Fixit, while his young owner, Charlie, frantically searches for him. Well written, and illustrated with Jill Murphy’s careful and quirky drawings, this should appeal to any animal-loving child, although they may be upset by some of the predicaments Alfie finds himself in, and by Charlie’s very believable distress at the loss of his ‘dear hound’. Sam and I had to finish the whole thing in one record-breaking sitting in order to reach the happy ending!

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; more able readers; reading aloud.

The Magic Half by Annie Barrows (David Fickling, £4.99 PB)

The Magic half

It’s a shame that the publisher has chosen to market this book solely at girls, with a pink sparkly cover that no self-respecting boy would open, for it’s actually a light but intriguing time-travel tale that I know I would have enjoyed when I was nine or ten. Miri moves with her family into an old house and quickly discovers a magical route back to 1935, where she befriends the girl who lived in the house then. There is a hissable villain, some buried loot, and enough neat twists to keep readers guessing all the way to the end.

Suitable for: boys; girls; older readers; more able readers; reading aloud.

Z. Rex by Steve Cole (Doubleday, £10.99 HB)

Z Rex

Steve Cole, author of the popular Astrosaurs (Red Fox, £4.99 PB) series, continues his dinosaur theme in this tense thriller for older readers. Adam’s father has been kidnapped by a sinister BioTech company (is there any other sort?). To save him, Adam must join forces with their creation; a souped-up tyranosaur called Zed. The writing is simple but effective, and the relationship between boy and monster is well handled. Fans of Alex Ryder (Walker, £6.99 PB) or Doctor Who should enjoy the pacey plot that leaves just enough loose ends hanging to suggest that a sequel is on the way.

Suitable for: boys; older readers; reluctant readers.

The Storyteller’s Secrets by Tony Mitton, illustrations by Peter Bailey (David Fickling, £12.99 HB)

The Storyteller's Secrets

Toby and Tess encounter a mysterious traveller named Teller whose verse retellings of five classic folk tales form the main part of this lovely book. Some of the stories, like ‘Tam Lin’ and ‘The Pedlar of Swaffham’ are familiar, others – ‘The Woodcutter’s Daughter’ and ‘The Seal Hunter’ were new to me, but all are well told in simple verse with pleasing rhymes and rhythms, and the book encourages children to learn these old tales and pass them on. Peter Bailey’s charming illustrations – inky cross hatchings for the verses, silhouettes for the framing story – evoke the illustrations of Heath Robinson and Edward Ardizzone.

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; more able readers; reading aloud.

Don’t forget to visit our ‘Giveaways’ section for a chance to win some of the featured books!

The Orchard Book of Magical Tales by Margaret Mayo, illustrations by Jane Ray (Orchard £8.99 PB)

The Orchard Book of Magical Tales

Intelligently chosen and beautifully retold, this jewel-box of a book features 14 enchanting stories from around the world, illustrated by the incomparable Jane Ray.

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; older readers; more able readers; reading aloud.

Bug Buddies: Beetle Power! by Joe Miller (HarperCollins, £3.99 PB)

Bug Buddies: Beetle Power!

Chirpy illustrations and a fast-moving story will help this tale of insect life appeal to younger and reluctant readers. My son, Sam, read it to himself without being asked or bribed. That’s never happened before…

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; reluctant readers.

The Extraordinary Dinosaurs of Mr Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley, illustrations by Brian Selznick (Scholastic, £10.99 HB)

The Extraordinary Dinosaurs of Mr Waterhouse Hawkins

The fabulous illustrations bring to life the story of Waterhouse Hawkins, the Victorian artist and paleontologist who created the famous Crystal Palace dinosaur sculptures.

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; older readers; reading aloud.

The Squirrel’s Birthday and Other Parties by Toon Tellegen, illustrations by Jessica Ahlberg (Boxer, £9.99 HB)

The Squirrel's Birthday

I enjoyed reading Toon Tellegen’s stories to Sam, although I think he found some of them a bit too gnomic. But, we both loved Jessica Ahlberg’s beautiful and funny illustrations.

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; reading aloud.

Wizard Dog by Rebecca Lisle, illustrations by Hannah Shaw (Andersen Press, £4.99 PB)

Wizard Dog

The story of a dog who dreams of becoming the Royal Wizard, and rids the castle of a ghost cat. It should appeal to any child who likes dogs or wizards – all of them, I think.

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; reading aloud.



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