Excellent series aimed at reluctant readers aged nine to 11, with definite boy appeal. These are inventive stories involving a gang of mountain bikers, including a deaf signer called Andy. Text, speech bubbles and graphics are well integrated and the language is challenging as well as chatty.
NSPCC HAPPY KIDS. By Michaela Morgan Illustrated by Rob Lee. Egmont World pound;2.99 each
Six stories on a variety of vexed and thorny issues young children have to face, such as "wanting more"; "keeping safe" (dealing with strangers); "being friends"; "being different" (black, disabled etc). Bright, clear pictures accompanied by a sensitive but sparky text bring these issues to the fore as well as making these books pleasurable.
BENNY THE BREAKDOWN TRUCK. By Keren Ludlowand Willy Smax. Orion Dolphin pound;2.50 each
A series for beginner readers, illustrated with fresh colours and pleasing, clean, line drawings. Benny is a chunky, kindly breakdown truck who is always eady to help out. Full of little everyday details, of the kind children like to read over and over again.
PANDAS AND FLYERS. O'Brien Press pound;3.99 each
Pandas, for beginner readers, have proved popular with their clear, graphic illustrations and quirky, witty, occasionally insightful stories. The new titles are much in the same spirit. Granny Makes a Mess is the tale of Danny whose super-quick method of clearing the dishes lands him in trouble. The Big Fight by Frank Murphy, illustrated by Kieron Black, is in the Flyers series for newly confident readers. It's a bare-bones, action-packed retelling of the an Irish legend, much in the style of a graphic novel.
WE CAN READ. By Jacqueline Sweeney. Evans pound;6.99 hardback
Stories about animals for early readers with illustrations created from striking photographic collages. Each story focuses on a different character from the community - a rabbit, a duck, an owl, and so on. Though simple and written with a sound phonics structure, they have strong storylines and a varied vocabulary.