Angela Kiverstein rounds up good books for kids


With a cast of gloriously imagined teachers and pupils, Pirate Academy, New Kid on Deck is book one of Justin Somper’s swashbuckling boarding school series (illustrated by Teo Skaffa, UCLan Publishing, £7.99). The academy teaches skills from sailing and combat to tying an almost inescapable knot (and escaping it) and this unusual education alone would be entertaining enough for young readers, but there are more thrills ahead. Talented but lazy Jacoby Blunt and his friend Jasmine Peacock are plunged into a stormy adventure, as Jasmine’s parents disappear and Jacoby gets an enigmatic new room-mate with mysterious enemies. Age eight up.

Hide and Seek by Rhian Tracey (Piccadilly Press, £7.99) unveils a second detective mission for Ned, who first appeared in Tracey’s I Spy mystery (prior knowledge not vital). It's 1942 and Ned and his mother relocate to Wales, to work on a secret project, protecting art from the National Gallery (their colleague is real-life scientist Miriam Rothschild). Ned makes friends with Jewish Austrian refugee, Anni and interestingly himself faces prejudice from a Welsh boy, for being English. When the art project is betrayed and Ned’s mother goes missing, Ned must save the day. Annie, alas, gets a less-active role. The JC gets a name check in this exciting, Famous Five style novel, which also highlights the first Jewish Suffragette. Age eight up.

What Rosa Brought by Jacob Sager Weinstein (HarperCollins, £12.99) tells the true story of Rosa (his mother). Living happily in Vienna, Rosa is looked after by her beloved grandmother while her parents work. Then the Nazis invade. After a rabbi comes to her father to buy a trunk with a hidden compartment to transport a Torah, Rosa begins to wonder – what precious thing will she take with her, if she has to leave? Sparingly narrated, every word perfectly judged, the tale holds a pent-up emotional punch. Eliza Wheeler’s illustrations are exquisitely detailed, from the street scenes of Vienna to the ghostly patches on the wallpaper left by Rosa’s family’s possessions when they flee, and a magical final spread incorporating Yiddish. Age eight to adult.

Finally, Happy Purim, Grover! (Kar-Ben, £6). This brightly coloured, friendly board book by Joni Kibort Sussman features the blue furry Sesame Street monster introducing key aspects of the festival, from hamantaschen to dressing up and making noise at Haman’s name. From birth.

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