Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows by Denis Knight and Cristy Burne

Magic and science don’t often go together. Magic is mysterious and unexplainable whereas science is grounded in fact and can always be explained. Both magic and science are equally important in Denis Knight and Cristy Burne’s new series, Wednesday Weeks. The first book in the series, Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows, is out now and it’s absolutely brilliant!

Wednesday Weeks is always accidentally creating havoc, whether it’s setting things on fire or blowing things up. Her teacher knows what to expect and keeps a fire extinguisher handy at all times. If that wasn’t bad enough her sorcerer grandfather keeps materialising in her classroom, ready to take his apprentice away. Wednesday never asked to be a sorcerer’s apprentice, but her grandpa keeps showing up. One day, Wednesday will be the Protector of the Realms and her grandpa needs her to be ready. When Wednesday and her grandpa travel to the Realm of Slugs, they are attacked by the fire-flinging, psychotic goblin king, Gorgomoth. Grandpa refuses to give Gorgomoth the Ruby Ring, with which he would enslave the Nine Realms, so Gorgomoth takes grandpa and disappears through a void. Together with her best friend Alfie, a prime-number fan and robotics expert, and a wise-cracking talking skull called Bruce, Wednesday must learn to control her magic so that she can rescue her grandpa from the Tower of Darkness. Together they will have to solve puzzles, outwit fairies and survive a laundry maze to reach the Pit of Extreme Discomfort in the heart of the Tower of Darkness.

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows is an epically awesome adventure that had me laughing out loud the whole way. There is something for everyone in this story, whether you like coding and mathematical problems, magic spells and sorcerers, or power-crazy villains and sarcastic sidekicks. Wednesday and Alfie are two characters that I would follow anywhere. Between them they can solve any problem that comes their way.

The book is bursting with humour, from the characters, like Bruce the wise-cracking talking skull, to the witty dialogue, and Denis and Cristy’s spot-on comedic timing. There are so many parts of the story that made me laugh out loud, like the fact that there is a Realm of Unfriendly Cats, or that Wednesday’s grandpa has a Settee of Interdimensional Contemplation. I love that Bruce is totally sarcastic and you never know what will come out of his mouth. You can tell that Denis and Cristy had a lot of fun writing this story and really let their imaginations go wild. I mean, a maze in a laundry, filled with clothing that turns into a kraken?! Fantastic!

Wednesday Weeks and the Tower of Shadows has me hooked on the series. I’m super excited for book two, Wednesday Weeks and the Crown of Destiny, which is out in September. I can’t wait for more adventures with Wednesday, Alfie and Bruce!

Wow in the World: The how and wow of the human body by Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz, illustrated by Jack Teagle

I love children’s nonfiction books that present their information in a fun and fresh way. These are the books that I know will inspire kids to learn about something new. It might be the design of the book, that breaks the information in to small chunks, or the format in which the authors present the information. Wow in the World: the how and wow of the human body, by podcast hosts Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz, is one of these great nonfiction books. It is sure to teach kids heaps of interesting facts about the human body and have them laughing out loud while they read.

My eyes were drawn towards this book in my local bookshop, with its bright yellow cover, the title exploding off the front and the cartoon images of the authors. As soon as I picked it up and flicked through it, I knew I needed it for my school library. It’s the most visually appealing book about the human body that I’ve seen and it looks funny. This makes it a great book for dipping in to as you could just pick a section that you’re interested in. I started reading from the start and just kept on reading, because it’s so interesting and entertaining.

Like all human body books, this one is split in to different sections. There’s a welcome to your body section, where Mindy and Guy tell you the different ways you could experience this book (read it out of order and share interesting facts with your friends and family) and things you shouldn’t do with this book (barf over it when you read the gross parts). We then go on a tour of the human body, including the stuff on the outside (like hair, skin and nails) and the stuff on the inside (like the skeleton, heart and digestive system). Each section is jam-packed with info about how each part works and why it’s important. That is accompanied by Jack Teagle’s diagrams, comics and other visual gags that will make you chuckle. There are also heaps of Fact Snacks, quizzes and Bonus Body sections. The Fact Snacks are quick facts that are easy to remember and share with your friends and family.

This is one of the coolest children’s nonfiction books ever! I love that it is so visual, because this makes it both super fun and very re-readable. There are lots of comics throughout the book, like the Body Parts Awards and Muscle Mania, which will make this book appealing to those kids who love comics and graphic novels. The Bonus Body sections are hilarious! They tell you about the body parts you (probably) don’t need and all about your butt. There’s a good glossary and index at the back of the book, along with a bibliography, and books and websites for recommended reading. The book is based on a podcast by the authors, so there are also QR codes linking to each episode of Wow in the World.

Wow in the World: the how and wow of the human body is a must-have for all primary and intermediate school libraries and would make a great gift for inquisitive 8-12 year olds.

Space Oddity by Christopher Edge

I’m a huge fan of Christopher Edge. Many of his previous books have had a science theme, from inter-dimensional travel to the laws of the universe. His characters, and the unusual situations they find themselves in, stick with you. Christopher’s latest book, Space Oddity, has all the things I love about his stories, with a good dash of humour mixed in.

Jake is always being embarrassed by his dad. Whether he is breakdancing at the school disco or making a surprise appearance as a rubbish Darth Vader at his school production, Jake’s dad just can’t seem to stop doing silly things. When Jake’s dad tells him that the two of them are going away for the weekend to spend some quality time together, Jake can’t think of anything worse. His dad takes him to a Dads and Kids Weekend Adventure, where they will spend the weekend doing fun activities together. However, when his dad embarrasses him in front of the whole camp, Jake is ready to pack it in and go home. Then, his dad tells him who he really is – an alien who crashed to Earth twelve years ago. Thanks to a special device, Jake’s dad has been able to disguise himself as a human and blend in. But, when Jake fiddles with the device, he inadvertently signals the Cosmic Authority. They appear out of nowhere and abduct his dad, taking him back to his home planet. Jake’s dad may be super embarrassing but he is still his dad, and Jake will do anything to get him back.

Space Oddity is an intergalactic adventure with a whole lot of heart and humour. There is something in this story for everyone, from stinky aliens and killer robots, to alien technology and a giant out-of-control Lego spaceship. It’s a story about family and the lengths that we would go to for the ones we love, even if they are super embarrassing. It’s part science fiction, part adventure, but there are also plenty of laughs. I especially loved the range of ways that Jake’s dad has embarrassed him in the past. It’s a slightly younger story than most of Christopher’s other books, but a great way to hook kids into this amazing author.

Jake is a really relatable character, whose voice I loved. Most readers will have a family member who can be embarrassing, so they’ll understand how Jake feels. Jake’s dad hasn’t been able to explain why he gets things so wrong, and when he tells Jake the truth, Jake has trouble believing it. Jake does actually love his dad though, and he can’t bear to think about losing him forever. Jake puts his own life in danger in order to try and save his dad.

The fantastic Ben Mantle has created the cover illustration and illustrations throughout the story. Whenever I see one of his covers I always pick it up, and his cover for Space Oddity is spectacular. The cover designer, Steve Wells, has added some nice touches, with the raised title and the shiny, textured bits on the spaceship.

Space Oddity would be a brilliant read aloud or class set for Years 4-6. It’s funny and action-packed, so it will engage everyone.

Space Maps by Lara Albanese and Tommaso Vidus Rosin

The award for coolest nonfiction book of the year (and possibly the best book about space for kids EVER) goes to Space Maps by Lara Albanese and Tommaso Vidus Rosin. Its combination of bite-sized facts, stunning design and illustrations and sheer size make this a winning nonfiction book. It’s a book that every space fan, young or old, needs to have on their home bookshelf.

Starting with what we can see with our eyes (the stars and constellations) and moving further out to the planets we know, and then to beyond our solar system, readers journey throughout the universe. We see the planets in new ways, with maps showing us the craters, chasmas and seas and giving us interesting tidbits of information to astound our friends and family. The Selenean Summit, for instance, is the highest point on the moon and is higher than Mount Everest. Each planet has an identity card with fast facts about each one, including average temperature (-63 degrees Celsius for Mars) and number of moons (79 for Jupiter). We also learn about the observatories that help us look in to space and the things that help humans survive in space, including spacesuits and the International Space Station.

Space Maps is a book to treasure and pore over again and again. It’s a book that is beautifully produced, with strong binding, thick paper and a hard cover, meaning it will stand up to repeat reading in a home, school or public library. The large format of the book makes this a great book for sharing, spreading it out on a table or the floor to soak up the information and illustrations. Like any good nonfiction book there is a contents, glossary and a detailed index.

Tommaso Vidus Rosin’s illustrations are absolutely stunning! His maps of the planets are really detailed and the colours swirl and glow. I love how some of the pages really do seem to glow, like the map of the sun. You can tell that he has spent a lot of time studying images of the planets in order to create his images.

Get to your bookshop or library now and get a copy of this wonderful book.