Book reviews: Children's round up

Angela Kiverstein with the best of the latest children's book releases


If there are hungry birds or raccoons to be fed or lost toys to be found, call on Vivian Newman’s Moti the Mitzvah Mouse (Kar-Ben, £5). Youngsters listening to the story are invited to join in by finding and naming items in Inga Knopp-Kilpert’s illustrations. On Shabbat, Moti rests. Perhaps someone will do a mitzvah for him. Straightforward educational fun for under-fives.

Slightly older children are encouraged to think more deeply about mitzvot in Rosie Saves the World by Debbie Herman (Kar-Ben, £6.50, illustrated by Tammie Lyon). Rosie is so excited when she learns about tikkun olam (repairing the world) that she rushes around collecting cans for the food bank, tutoring at the library and entertaining residents in the assisted-living centre. Naturally, she has no time to give her mother a hand with the shopping, help her brother with his Hebrew handwriting or visit her own grandmother. When will she realise the flaw in her approach? Age three to seven.

Saving the world in more dramatic fashion are teenagers Ben and Sophy, in Bad Blood II by Jane Brittan (Blowfish Books, £6.99). They have risked their lives to investigate Ben’s father’s mysterious death. Now Ben is in China, where he is first incarcerated in a medical-research camp and then forced to become a prize-fighter. Sophy remains in Britain, which, with America, is facing a deadly plague as a result of a bio-terrorist attack. Ben’s mission is to battle his way back to Sophy — and to wipe out the plague. A classic action adventure for age 12 up.

The blood and guts in Piglettes by Clémentine Beauvais (Pushkin Press, £7.99), comes in sausage-making — and there is a vegetarian option. Having been declared the least attractive in their school, teenagers Mireille, Astrid and Hakima set off on a cycling trip from Bourg-en-Bresse to Paris with Kader, Hakima’s handsome brother, who lost his legs serving in Problemistan. To fund their trip, they sell superior hot dogs. In Wizard of Oz-style, each traveller has a personal goal, to be achieved on Bastille Day at a party held by President Barack Obamette. Along the way, there is food, philosophy – and a surprising diversion into Middle Eastern politics. Translated from French by its author, Piglettes brings a distinctively European flavour to teen-lit. Age 11 up.

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