Life & Culture

Children's book reviews round-up

Angela Kiverstein on the latest titles from children's fiction


Dany and his family are Stoons; they live in a ghetto and must signify their lowly status with a red hat. They can’t practise professions — or magic. Man-eating bears, dog-wolf hybrids and brutal guards roam the streets. So, to protect the family, Dany’s father creates a golem. Gottika by Helaine Becker, illustrated by Vero Navarro (Green Bean Books, £9.99) is an enjoyably challenging, multi-layered read, replete with Jewish mystical ideas but also teenage energy (“How can we ‘fix’ the universe?” demands Dany. “We can’t even go outdoors without a freaking hat!”). Age 11 to adult.

Deliberately distorted cinematic techniques are cleverly used to ramp up tension and distrust in The Last Girl, a neatly-constructed page-turner by Goldy Moldavsky (Electric Monkey, £7.99). Rachel, already troubled by past trauma, is inducted into the Mary Shelley Club, whose members are horror-flick aficionados who set each other “fear tests”. When students die in freaky circumstances, the race is on to unmask the lethal prankster. Age 14 up.

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas (Bloomsbury, £16.99) centres on rebellious Nesta, who is in therapy for PTSD at a faery-warrior boot camp. As ever, Maas creates a richly imaginative fantasy world, which convinces because the supernatural characters are battling with recognisable human emotions, from addiction to love. Strictly 16-plus.

When Benjy is born, his grandfather makes him a blanket (gloriously depicted by Raquel Catalina in Mexican-quilt style). As Benjy grows, the blanket becomes a fine superhero cape. Later, grandpa recycles it as a jacket for Benjy. And when the jacket is outgrown, a waistcoat. Then a scarf. And so on – until it’s just a button. Then – one day, it’s lost.

But the greatest wonder is that grandpa can still make something from it (can you guess what?).

Benjy’s Blanket (Green Bean Books, £11.99) is adapted by Miguel Gouveia from a traditional Jewish tale, while Catalina’s illustrations tell a subtle parallel story, since, as the blanket changes, grandpa, too, is changed by time.

A moving parable about making memories, for all ages.

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