Life & Culture

Children's books review: Combat, chaos and comedy in David Solomons’s new offering plus a pasta cat from Michael Rosen

Even the most action-hungry reader will be satisfied by Solomons' entertaining fable


Combat, chaos and comedy abound in David Solomons’s A Beginner’s Guide to Ruling the Galaxy (Nosy Crow, £7.99). Geeky Gavin Cheeseley notices something strange about new classmate Niki Apple. As soon as she joins his school, she acts as if she’s arrived to conquer the place. But she doesn’t have an earthly about human behaviour and often makes hilarious mistakes.

Things get crazier when Gavin and Niki are forced into an alliance to save the planet. No sooner have the cosmic team sorted one crisis than another follows. They’ll be eaten by aliens! They’ll be blown to pieces! Even the most action-hungry reader will be satisfied. Underlying the madcap entertainment is a comforting fable about finding one’s place in the universe. Age nine to 12.

J.R. Silver Writes Her World by Melissa Dassori (Little, Brown, £12.99) celebrates the power of stories and will especially appeal to fans of the (wonderful) EL Konigsburg classic, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, to which it pays homage. Josephine Rose Silver is starting sixth grade – but her best friend has come back from summer camp with a new set of friends and JR struggles to be included.

There’s a new teacher, Ms Kline, to cope with, too — and there’s something mysterious about the creative writing assignments she’s setting.

Dassori really understands the painful dynamics of tweenage friendships and this gentle novel is another consoling read. Age nine to 12.

Imagine if you loved pasta but had no way of telling the people who fed you? Michael Rosen’s Rigatoni the Pasta Cat (Andersen Press, £5.99) is in just that position when his owners go away and leave him in charge of a clueless cat-sitter.

Rigatoni has to use his initiative to find a source of his Italian culinary favourites. An easy-to-read chapter book with friendly line drawings by Tony Ross. Age five to seven.

There are second helpings of pasta from Michael Rosen in Ready for Spaghetti, Funny Poems for Funny Kids (Walker, £14.99).

These poems are all about enjoying the sounds of language, so instead of getting up, we get up, up, uppity-up and when we brush our teeth, we chant brush/brushy/brssh! with relish. Perfect for reading aloud.

The poems take us through a child’s day full of toddler favourites — mirrors, swings, diggers, sandpits. And, of course, spaghetti. Polly Dunbar’s super-cute illustrations are in the same spirit. Age up to six.

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