Best books for eight year olds
Daedalus and Icarus & Orpheus and Eurydice by Marcia Williams
(£4.99, Walker Books)
In this collection, Marica Williams re-tells the story of Daedalus the inventor and his son Icarus, who are imprisoned in a labyrinth by the evil King Minos.
But even in the dark, with rats gnawing at their feet, Daedalus manages to concoct a plan of escape. Using feathers bound with wax and twine, he makes them each a pair of wonderful wings.
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Daedalus warns his son not to fly too close to the sun, afraid that the wax will melt and his wings will break. But will Icarus heed his father’s warnings?
Williams also retells the spooky tale of the handsome poet Orpheus and his beautiful wife Eurydice, who is bitten by a snake and dragged down into the land of the dead.
Once again, Williams re-tells these classic Greek myths with verve, wit and humour. They are illustrated throughout, the chapters are short and the language is accessible, wry and sparkles with energy.
King Flashpants and the Creature from Crong by Andy Riley
(£6.99, Hodder Children's Books)
Edwin is no ordinary boy. He is King Edwin Flashpants the First and has a big shiny crown and a castle with its own bowling alley! But being a king is hard work – you’ve got to look after your people and kingdom! When the chance to fight a terrifying monster pops up, Edwin jumps at it! However, far away, across the crashing grey sea, the evil Emperor Nurbison is plotting something sinister and has plans for the creature. Can Edwin defeat the evil monster and Emperor Nurbison and save his kingdom? This book is wonderful – loud, funny, chaotic and very funny. It’s full of adventure, monsters and wicked humour and will definitely appeal to children in this age group.
The Killer Cat Runs Away by Anne Fine
Poor old Tuffy! No one seems to have any sense of humour at all anymore. After all, he only spat at next door’s baby! Oh, and broke the television... Even Ellie’s too busy fussing over some new kittens to pay him any attention. So one night, Tuffy decides to run away, with hilarious consequences. Disgusted by the idea of eating dead mice and birds, Tuffy sets off to try his hand at busking but nothing seems to work. There must be somewhere in town where Tuffy will be treated properly... Anne Fine certainly knows how to make her readers laugh. This short, energetic read is great fun and Tuffy is a hilarious narrator, guiding the reader through his adventures and mishaps with humour and wit.
The Enchanted Horse by Magdalen Nabb
It’s Christmas Eve and Irina is helping her mother do the shopping in the local village. Inside a gloomy, dark junk shop Irina spies a toy horse. The kind old owner of the shop gifts Irina the horse, who she discovers is called Bella. Irina cares for Bella as if she were a real horse until one evening Irina discovers just how special and real Bella truly is. This is a bewitching, stunningly written story. Nabb’s magnificent language beautifully conjures up a snowy, magical landscape and the tender relationship between Irena and her horse is portrayed with warmth. The Enchanted Horse is a touching, delightful story about friendship and is quite unforgettable.
Poo: A Natural History of the Unmentionable by Nicola Davies and Neal Layton
(£7.99, Walker Books)
Poo, big jobs, number twos. Whatever you call it, faeces are everywhere and, whilst we may find the topic rather revolting and embarrassing, the truth is that all animals do poos! This hilarious and informative book gives young readers a tour of everything ‘poo’. Featuring amusing diagrams and a range of fact and figures, this book will have kids gasping, laughing and groaning throughout. You’ll find out what poo is for, its role in the animal kingdom, what it can tell us about the past and even about professional poo-eaters and fancy scientific terms such as ‘coprophagy’. A fascinating, lively natural history book that’s perfect for enquiring young minds.
I am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz
(£6.99, Walker Books)
The finches live in a noisy, great flock and make such a racket every day that you cannot hear yourself think! Life is predictable, except when the Beast comes – a fearsome, green monster that gobbles up the finches. And then one night, something odd happens. A finch wakes up and has a thought. He dreams of greatness, of defeating the beast and of saving the flock of finches. But when he is gobbled up by the Beast, he must learn to ignore the terrible doubts that crowd his head and devise a cunning plan to save himself and inspire the flock of finches to think for themselves. This is an entirely original, funny and thought-provoking book that is perfect for curious youngsters. It is also a tribute to being still, silent and calm and listening carefully to our own thoughts and feelings. Schwarz’s simple red fingerprint artwork is bold and colourful and young readers will be inspired by the story’s uplifting message.
Operation Gadgetman! by Malorie Blackman
Young Beans calls her scatty father ‘Gadgetman’ because of all the weird and wonderful gadgets he invents. From spy kits to exploding cereal, he’s thought of it all. Then one day, Gadgetman is kidnapped, leaving nothing but a strange note, which seems to be written in code. Who has kidnapped Gadgetman and why? Can Beans and her friends track down the kidnappers and rescue her father? Will Gadgetman be forced to reveal the secret of his new invention? This is an exciting, racy thriller full of crooks, thrilling chases and puzzles to solve. The relationships between the characters are portrayed with sensitivity and warmth and Blackman keeps the story whizzing along. Readers will also enjoy the opportunity to crack codes and solve a number of absorbing mysteries.
The Tempest: A Shakespeare Story by Andrew Matthews and Tony Ross
(£4.99, Orchard Books)
In the middle of nowhere, a violent storm is raging over an island. Prospero, a wizard, stands on the island controlling this terrifying storm with his magic staff. His daughter Miranda watches in horror as a ship sinks, afraid that everyone on board will drown. But Prospero has plans for the men on board and brings them safely onto the island in order to right a great wrong, done many years ago. The men on the boat are Prospero’s treacherous brother and the King of Naples. Twelve years before they plotted to overthrow Prospero, take control of his kingdom and then cast him adrift on the ocean to die. With the help of his tricksy sprite Ariel, Prospero is about to teach them a lesson they’ll never forget! This is an excellent introduction to Shakespeare’s work. The story is accessible and easy to follow, but still captures the magic and excitement of the original work. The mischief, mystery and revenge is perfectly complemented by Tony Ross’s lively illustrations.
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S Eliot, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
(£7.99, Faber & Faber)
In this delightful collection of T.S Eliot’s cat poems, young readers will meet Jennyanydots the Gumbie Cat who sits and sits and sits. They’ll also encounter the Rum Tum Tugger who can never make his mind up, sleepy Old Deuteronomy and The Original Conjourning Cat, Mr. Mistoffeles! Not forgetting the master criminal Macavity, who can defy the law and vanish without a trace. These classic poems are a real treat – funny, moving, exciting and a joy to read out loud. This edition comes with stunning, colourful artwork by Alex Scheffler, illustrator of The Gruffalo and Zog and the Flying Dragons.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
(£6.99, Puffin Classics)
First published in 1952, this beloved book still has the power to charm and move. A young girl called Fern rescues Wilbur, a pig who also happens to be the runt of the litter and is destined for the axe. Sent to Zuckerman’s farm, Wilbur is soon fattened up for bacon. However, a chance meeting with a kind, cunning and clever spider called Charlotte saves him once again. Charlotte weaves messages into her web, celebrating Wilbur’s gentleness and compassion, and sets in motion an exciting adventure that culminates in Wilbur winning a special prize at a county fair. White’s barnyard is a bubbling, lively place and his characters are treated with warmth, humour and honesty. The ending manages to be both sad and harrowing and rewarding and uplifting.