Book review: A summer of reading with Random House Children’s Books

Cross my heart
Cross my heart
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A gripping story of espionage and wartime resistance takes centre stage in an exciting line-up of children’s books from Random House this month.

There are also sticker books to keep little ones entertained, a picture book full of monster fun and a charming story to prepare for that all-important first day at school.

Cross My Heart by Carmen Reid

Teenagers are not the only age group who will be mesmerised by this harrowing and heart-breaking story about a 15-year-old girl whose life changes forever when the German army invades Belgium in 1940.

This compelling wartime saga delivers a powerful emotional punch to readers young and old as it takes us into the heart of the Belgian Resistance movement and the terrors of Nazi occupation.

Cross My Heart is the work of Carmen Reid, one of the UK’s best-loved authors, and is movingly inspired by real-life places and events, and her own grandparents who served on both sides of the Second World War.

The desperate plight of thousands who faced suffering both in everyday life and in the concentration camps is brought vividly to life by the courageous efforts of one young girl and her fellow freedom fighters.

‘Who knows what will become of us,’ declares the worried headmistress of St Teresa’s School in Brussels as German tanks enter the city on a sunny May morning.

Nicole watches the Nazis and knows that her father will be horrified. He fought for two years in the filthy trenches of the Great War until he was wounded and sent home to live under German occupation.

Now the nightmare is happening again but, determined not to stand by as her country is brought to its knees, Nicole vows to fight back and joins the Belgian Resistance.

Under her new alias, Coco, Nicole follows in the footsteps of the boy she loves, embarks on a dangerous life as a spy and learns that she’s not too young to fire a gun, plant a bomb, face capture, torture and heartbreak, or put her life on the line.

The only question now is not if she will be caught, but when...

Reid adds an irresistible frisson of young love to this thrilling and thought-provoking wartime adventure story which has all the makings of a teen classic.

(Corgi, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Bobbo Goes to School by Shirley Hughes

The wonderful, time-honoured picture books of Shirley Hughes never fail to work their special magic on successive generations of young children.

Here the talented author and illustrator creates a warm and reassuring story for little ones who are growing nervous and excited about starting school.

Hughes’ bold, busy and enchanting artwork captures all the rollercoaster emotions of entering the daunting new world of ‘big’ school as little Lily makes an unexpected trip to the classroom.

Lily is desperately searching for her beloved lost toy, a cuddly dog called Bobbo. It’s one of Lily’s ‘bad days’ and in a temper tantrum she threw poor Bobbo on to the roof of the school bus as it was passing through the traffic.

Now Lily is very worried and fears she may never see Bobbo again. But what an adventure for Bobbo when he is discovered lying in a bush in the school playground. Fortunately, mum soon hears where he is and Lily learns all about the fun of school when she calls to collect him.

There is a beautiful warmth, simplicity and universal appeal to Hughes’ books which makes them a winner for children of all generations and all backgrounds.

(Red Fox, paperback, £5.99)

Age 2 plus:

Do Not Enter The Monster Zoo by Amy Sparkes and Sara Ogilvie

And what self-respecting pre-schooler could resist the outrageous charms of a group of a burpy purple gurps, cuddly furry furbles and monstrously scary squirgals?

Amy Sparkes and Sara Ogilvie, fresh from the fun of creating Dogs Don’t Do Ballet and The Worst Princess, return with a madcap picture book full of raucous rhyming riddles.

The talented duo can’t put a foot wrong in the zany world of children’s books and this inspiring and imaginative story about facing up to challenges and learning the benefits of self-confidence, however monstrous the obstacles, is perfectly pitched.

What would you do if you received an invitation to run a zoo full of huge, scary monsters? The brave little boy in this story leaps at the chance, and although the monsters seem scary at first, he soon has the Humples, Morphs and Quees eating out of the palm of his hand.

Sparkes’ addictive rhyming text is brought to bright and colourful life by Ogilvie’s bold and painterly illustrations.

(Red Fox, paperback, £5.99)

Age 2 plus:

Mr Bloom’s Nursery: Mr Bloom’s Busy Day Sticker Book

Mr Bloom’s Nursery is one of the most popular shows on CBeebies, with the much-loved gardener welcoming thousands of ‘Tiddlers’ to his garden full of eccentric Veggies.

And now there’s a different way to join in all the fun with Mr Bloom and the Veggies in this brilliant new sticker book which contains over 100 stickers and hours of fun.

Mr Bloom has got a very busy day ahead of him, and he’ll need lots of help. There’s so much to do, from feeding Compo and growing plants in the allotment to fancy-dress fun with the Veggies.

Play hide and seek with the Veggies, find a pair of wings for the dragonfly party and help Mr Bloom to count all the vegetables in his allotment. There won’t be a dull moment in this all-action, laughter-filled kitchen garden!

(Bantam, paperback, £3.99)