What a fabulous month May is turning out to be in the bookish world. There are so many wonderful new releases. Here are my top picks:
Tickle! – Amelia Hepworth (author), Jorge Martin (illustrator), Little Tiger Press (publisher)
There is a tickling contest in town! Roll up, roll up! Who can make Moose laugh? Will it be team beaver, the strutting peacock, or will Mr gorilla arms make him giggle? Surely the eight arms of the octopus can do it? Or will it be a quiet little boy that finds Moose’s special tickle spot? This is a riotously colourful interactive board book with sweet and expressive illustrations of the various animals involved. With sturdy pages and easy to grasp lift the flaps, my twins loved the hilariously noisy ending of this book and we used the final question of “What makes you laugh?” as a starting point to have a lovely discussion about all the things that we each found funny. This is a fun, vibrant board book for younger readers.
One More Try – Naomi Jones (author), James Jones (illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)
To say we have been looking forward to the sequel to “A Perfect Fit” (aka the ‘triangle story’ in our house!) would be the understatement of the century! One More Try does not disappoint: it follows the story of Circle. Determined little Circle, who will not give up on his dream of making a tower, just like the squares and hexagons. But Circle and his friends are just rounder and sharper and wobblier and stacking one on top of each other just does not seem to work. Do Circle and his friends need to get fitter, or stronger, or smarter? Or perhaps they just need to look at things from a different perspective. Can Circle persuade his friends to keep going when they want to give up? Can he persuade them to give it just one more try? This book is simply wonderful. It’s a superb introduction to two-dimensional shapes and their properties as well as being colourful and fun. The illustrations are adorable (the cute faces of the shapes – oh my!) and the pages are vibrant and full of activity and colour. My children also love the maths involved: they count the number of shapes in the conga-line and laugh out loud at some of the funny asides that the different shapes make in their sweet little speech bubbles. A story of determination and resilience at its heart, with mathematics at its core (and your child doesn’t even realise it – win, win!), this book is a true triumph. I can see it being used in early learning settings and schools as a brilliant text to emphasise and enhance learning about maths and shapes. We are definitely #teamcircle in this house!
Flooded – Mariajo Ilustrajo (author and illustrator), First Editions (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
This is such a visually stunning book which highlights the issue of climate change in a very subtle and clever way. The animals in the city woke up one summer’s day and things were a bit wet. Nobody seemed to mind too much though, it was a great excuse to put on their wellies and splash around. But the water kept on rising and the smaller animals were completely submerged and having to go about their business with breathing equipment on their heads! Eventually, everyone acknowledged that the water really was a huge problem. But what could they do about it? Could they find a way to work together and help the situation drain away? This book works so well on so many levels. It is a visual masterpiece – the illustrations of the animals are both humorous and exquisite and the colour palette of black, white and grey drawings against the turquoise blue of the water is so impactful – and yet the text highlights the issue of climate change in a gentle way and even brings fun into the story with the laugh out loud comments of the animals in the various speech bubbles. It is a wonderful story about facing up to problems, the power of community and the strength we all have when we work together. It’s also one of those unique books that is as appealing to children as it is to adults.
Noah’s Seal – Layn Marlow (author and illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)
Do you love seals? There is something about their eyes that just draws me in and makes me want to get lost in their dark pools of loveliness. Consequently, this book is a total winner in our house. It makes my children want to get lost in the imagination and beauty of it. Noah is desperate to see a seal in the wild but his Nana needs to fix their boat before they can go out on the wide sea to spot one. She tells him that the seals don’t like to come to the shore. While she is mending the boat, Noah digs a hole on the sandy beach and, in his imagination, the pile of sand that he has moved looks like a seal so he decorates it to look even more like one and they wait patiently together for more seals to join them. When a storm comes, Noah’s seal is washed away …… but what turns up in its place is truly wondrous and magical. This is a beautiful story of nature, imagination and adventure and one that your little ones will be sure to love, particularly as the illustrations are superb and perfectly suited to the story. We can’t wait to get to the beach to make our own seal!
A Perfect Spot – Isabelle Simler (author and illustrator), Pushkin Children’s Books
What a visual delight this book is! If you have a child who loves bugs and creepy crawlies then you NEED this book because the depictions of each insect are absolutely stunning. Your young reader will follow the journey of a ladybird who is a looking for a safe place to lay her eggs and what a visually brilliant landscape she traverses across. But everywhere she tries to settle, the poor little ladybird is pushed out by other insects camouflaged in the vegetation or shooed away by harsh foliage. Our brave little ladybird soldiers on, battered and bruised by her journey and is rewarded by finding the perfect spot to lay her eggs. My youngest daughter is fascinated by insects and so this was a real treat for her in particular but I would recommend this book to anyone to show how beautiful insects can be as the illustrations are absolutely exquisite. We were also fascinated by the two two-page spreads at the end of the book providing some interesting facts about the seven spotted ladybird (the same species as our little heroine in the book) and the brilliant bugs she meets on her journey. If only kids hadcoffee tables, this would be the perfect book to display.
Otters vs Badgers – Anya Glazer (author and illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)
Otters live on one side of the river. Badgers live on the other. Never the twain shall meet. Or shall they? One day, little culinary magician Francie Otter wanders over to the Badger side of the river whilst on a quest for the perfect ingredient for her next baking delight and she picks herself some Badger berries. The Badgers spot her and follow her back to her side of the river and the funniest of slanging matches ensues (my twins find the “worm breath” insult hilarious!) while Francie ignores them all and gets on with her baking. Can Francie’s delicious delights bring the Otters and the Badgers together? You bet ‘ya. Francie brings an end to the unkindness and fighting and unites the animals in a love for her baking. This is a brilliant story with a wonderful message about kindness, forgiveness and empathy, emphasising to young children that we might all be different but we can all try to get along. The illustrations are wonderful: laugh out loud funny and filled with hilarious speech bubbles and asides. We can’t wait to have a go at making Francie’s chocolate chip cookies using the recipe at the back of the book. We love a good #bookandbake here!
Agent Llama – Angela Woolfe (author), Duncan Beedie (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)
Oh my goodness, my children just LOVE this new spy in town, Charlie Palmer, aka Agent Llama. With gadgets galore (think stink bomb brussel sprouts and sports cars in ping pong balls!), missing banana underpants belonging to the PM himself, plane crashes, evil villains, kung fu kicks and well-planned escapes, this book really does have the best and most humorous of plots. The format of the book, in slices of text and bolts of action, makes for brilliant reading and maximum pictorial delight while you practise your best” talkover” voice for all the adventure in this picture book spy-thriller. I am not sure my children ‘got’ all the spoof references to the spy world but I appreciated them all, right down to the “Ai6” and “For Llama’s eyes only” references. I love it when a book has lots of levels! Written in a clever, rhyming verse, it’s vibrant, it’s colourful and, above all, it’s fun. Will Agent Llama manage to save the world from the evil masterminds Greta Grimm and Bogdan Boom? That would be telling. What I will say though is that we can’t wait for more from the legend llama, Charlie Palmer (pretty please?!).
My Beautiful Voice – Joseph Coelho (author), Allison Colpoys (illustrator), First Editions (imprint of The Quarto Group) (publisher)
This book just makes my heart sing! I love Miss Flotsam, the new teacher at school, and her colour, passion, vibrancy and enthusiasm. Every child in this world deserves a teacher like Miss Flotsam. Miss Flotsam encourages her class, each and every one of them. Miss Flotsam loves poetry and invites the children to create a poem and encourages the shy child in her class to unlock the power of her voice and gain the confidence and courage to speak her poem in front of her schoolfriends. And what a voice it is!! This book brings a tear to my eye every time I read it. My children are not the most confident and my youngest has a stammer and I love how empowering this book is to read with young children. Not only that but the illustrations and colour palette of magical and bright neon colours is simply exquisite. The book simply oozes the beauty of colour, voice, bravery and confidence. It’s an absolute triumph. Out now in paperback, make sure to make this one of the books that your children have on their bookshelf.
Dream Big Little One – Becky Davies (author), Dana Brown (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Limited (publisher)
“The world is yours, my little one. You can do anything.” This gorgeous book is written in a wonderful rhyming text which is full of magic and possibility, hopes and dreams which will inspire your little ones to achieve anything they set out to and believe that they can do anything. Just reading this book brings a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. It is at once hugely empowering and also soft and gentle in its words. I absolutely love the colour palette used in the illustrations for this book: it’s all turquoises and silvers and reds and nothing else. It conjures up images of stars and magic and infinite possibilities. It’s just a dream. Bold and beautiful, simple yet magical, it’s a book that should be given to every child to allow them to appreciate the magic and wonder that they are and the possibilities and adventure waiting for them in the big, wide world. I think this book would make the perfect gift for any newborn baby, or for a first birthday present.
Monkey Bedtime – Alex English (author), Pauline Gregory (illustrator), Faber and Faber Limited (publisher)
Monkey mayhem and madness abound in this hilarious rhyming tale (or should that be tail?!). Surely it can’t hurt to let one little pygmy marmoset in through the window at bedtime? Oh, how wrong could one little boy be! The cheeky marmoset lets all his monkey friends in and they cause an absolute riot, creating havoc and mess all through the little boy’s house. Burping bubbles, sticky jam prints, toothpaste and lipstick everywhere kind of mess. Can the little boy get the monkeys to clean up after themselves before his Mum realises what has been going on in her house? Ooh-ahh-ahh, you will just have to read it and see. We love this picture book of monkey madness. Not only are the illustrations hilarious and laugh out loud funny at times but we love the fact that it subtly teaches your child about different types of monkeys and can also be used a good way to practise counting and early maths with your child (can they find the ten capuchins or the six macaques in the picture, for example?). With a fun, bouncy rhyming text, this is a perfect read aloud bedtime book and we just love the funny ending (but my lips are sealed).
Maya’s Walk – Moira Butterfield (author), Kim Geyer (illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)
What a gorgeous book about mindfulness and nature. Maya loves walking. Do you? Why don’t you go on a walk with her? Whether she is spotting animals in the woods, or listening to the sounds of the environment around her, or sniffing out lovely smells in nature, she sees every walk that she goes on as a wonderful adventure in the big wide world. We love how colourful and creative this book is. The illustrations are so sweet and bright, enticing your young reader to want to go outside and explore everything around them. There are lots of super ideas about how to make a walk more ‘mindful’ and interesting for children, such as copying the movements of animals or spotting the colours of a rainbow in the nature around them. This book would be the perfect accompaniment to any spring-time outdoor exercise as your little ones can use the ideas in the book to explore the world around them and see the busy-ness of nature at this wondrous time of year.
Bugs – Patricia Hegarty(author), Britta Teckentrup (illustrator), Little Tiger Press (publisher)
“If you look down towards the ground, a world of wildlife can be found.” What an opening line for a book! I love it. The latest in this beautiful series all about nature, “Bugs” brings the microscopic world of insects and minibeasts to all its colourful life. This blend of fact and fiction book, with a wonderful rhyming text, really engages your young reader and absorbs them in the magic of the brilliant world of bugs. This author/illustrator combo is such a winning formula because the gently rhyming words of the text combined with the beautiful and vibrant illustrations makes for an engaging read all about the life-cycles of various insects and how the changing seasons affect the world of minibeasts. With interactive cut out leaf shapes and two-page spreads on the day time and night time activities of insects, this book is fast becoming one of our favourites in the series. A brilliant book for any nature loving little one.
Early Chapter Books
The Bear Stylist – Steven Butler (author), Jacob Souva (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)
We have all the love for Ludo P. Tubbs in this house (let’s face it, with a name like that, how could you not love him?!). Ludo comes from a long line of bear stylists who follows his ancestors’ code of giving his customers the exact cut that they ask for. But when a new bear comes into town, cutting the animals’ hair with flair and pizazz, Ludo begins to question his own styling technique. Only one bear can be crowned bear stylist extraordinaire but who will it be? This fully colour-illustrated first chapter book has lots of sweet and funny pictures and short blocks of text to keep your early reader fully engaged in the humour of the story. We love the humorous illustrations which bring the book to life and the message of teamwork and collaboration underpinning the tale is so lovely. I would thoroughly recommend adding this book to your collection of fully colour-illustrated first chapter books: it’s grrrreat.
Princess Minna – The Enchanted Forest, Princess Minna – The Unicorn Mix-Up – Kirsty Applebaum (author), Sahar Haghgoo (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
This new series of early chapter books is a total winner in our house. With full colour illustrations, they are bright, bold and beautiful – perfect for your little ones starting on their independent reading journeys. “The Enchanted Forest” and “The Unicorn Mix-Up” are separate stories in separate books but part of the Princess Minna series. Each book is standalone so you don’t need to read the books in any particular order. Princess Minna lives in Castle Tall-Towers and when all is well in her world, the doves swoop and make soft cooing noises. When all is not well, big seagulls descend and make the kingdom all stinky with a seaweed smell and poo all over the place (nothing like a bit of excrement to get a child laughing and excited about a story!!)!! In “The Enchanted Forest, Princess Minna is tasked with saving Lord and Lady Welling -Tunboot’s son from an everlasting sleep after pricking his finger on a spinning wheel. On the way she saves lots of other people and animals in distress showing what a kind and caring, not to mention fun, princess she is. In “The Unicorn Mix-Up”, poor Princess Minna is all mixed up because she is so tired and keeps getting confused about how to rescue the magical creatures. She fights a unicorn, tames a frog and tries to kiss a dragon. But a bit of love and affection was all the dragon really wanted to stop scaring people and he and Minna become firm friends. What was the cause of her tiredness though? You will have to read the book to find out. You certainly won’t regret it if you do. These books are packed full of sweet adventures of the kind and caring Princess Minna, the illustrations are bright and cheerful and the chapters are short and engaging for your young reader. They even come with some gorgeous stickers at the back of the book for maximum cheeriness and fun!
Graphic Novels and Puzzle Adventures
Sherlock Bones and the Case of the Crown Jewels – Tim Collins (author), John Bigwood (illustrator), Buster Books (publisher) (recommended reading age: 7-9)
My eldest daughter has got really into puzzle books. She also LOVES reading. So, I will try to convey to you how much we both ADORED this book. There is a unique crime-fighting, mystery-solving duo in town: Sherlock Bones and Dr Catson (address: 211B Barker Street, of course) and when the Crown Jewels go missing from Kennel Palace, it is up to our faithful four-legged friends to solve the crime. Your young reader is invited into the mystery right from the first page and encouraged to put their detective skills to the test by trying to solve over 30 different types of puzzles and help Bones and Catson solve their trickiest crime to date. We did the puzzles as we read through the fun story (which is full of funny references to Sherlock Homes and clever plays on words (probably lost on my daughter because she doesn’t know the true Sherlock Homes stories well enough but I chuckled away in the background) but you could read the story first and then come back to the puzzles, whatever your preference might be. The puzzles are a mixture of maths challenges (hugely appreciated here because it is not my daughter’s favourite subject but she said this was ‘fun maths’! (winner!)), mazes, spot the difference/odd one out/find the correct item and search and find challenges which were set at just the right level for the target reading audience. The story is a fun whodunnit with multiple culprits involved and brilliantly clever black and white illustrations to bring the story to life. As a standalone, the story would be a refreshingly sweet and fun take on the Sherlock Homes mysteries for younger readers but, combined with the puzzle element of the book, this makes for a unique and entirely fun read. Deer stalker hats off to the team involved. We just hope there are many more Sherlock Bones books to come.
Barry Loser: Total Winner! – Jim Smith (author and illustrator), Farshore (imprint of HarperCollins) (publisher) (recommended reading age: 7 plus)
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the best-selling and award-winning Barry Loser series, Barry Loser: Total Winner, a totally keel (if you read Barry Loser, you will know what I mean here) full colour graphic novel has been released introducing a new generation of readers to Barry and his friends and family. Starring everyone’s favourite Loser, there are five laugh out loud new adventures for your reader to enjoy involving the hilarious antics of a naughty nose, a contagious yawn and a cat called French Fries to name but a few. Bogeys (gross but seemingly sniggeringly funny to any child), poo, trumping and granny hairs abound making these wonderfully colourful stories fun and captivating. This book would be excellent for any reluctant reader or any child who struggles with large blocks of text and the asides and speech bubbles with brilliant one-liners mean that the stories can be read over and over again and your reader will appreciate more each time. The illustrations are brilliant and perfectly suited to the humour and chaos of Barry’s life. There are some fantastic pages at the end of the book teaching your reader how to draw Barry, French Fries and (of course!) a poo which hugely appealed to my daughter and would be brilliant for any child who would like to have a go at creating their own comic book.
Rumaysa Ever After – Radiya Hafiza (author), Rhaida Eltouny (illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)
To follow on from her award-winning debut novel, “Rumaysa: A Fairytale”, was going to be no mean feat and yet we think that this eagerly anticipated sequel is another enchanting masterpiece. At the end of the previous book, Rumaysa escaped her tower and the evil witch, Cordelia. Now, she is searching the land, desperate to find her long-lost parents, armed only with a magical necklace to help her (although it seems to have a mind of its own!). After helping a Prince named Aydin fight off a hideous beast, Rumaysa receives an invitation to dinner by his sister, H.R.H. Queen Saira White of Bishnara and subsequently becomes embroiled in a dark and magical adventure which threatens her own happily ever after. Will Rumaysa ever find her parents? Or is she destined to be alone forever? No spoilers here but what I will tell you is that this is a wonderful story, twisting fairytales on their heads and providing an empowering novel which emphasises the strength of love and friendship. We love how the different fairytales are mixed up, turned upside down and looked at from a fresh, new perspective, valuing kindness and friendship over beauty and superficial looks. We also love the setting of the story in a beautiful landscape and the representation of a heroine who challenges stereotypes and who, despite her reluctance to be considered as a heroine, is a powerful, true and helpful friend and ally. I should also mention that you can most definitely read this book as a standalone, it is hugely enjoyable without having read the first book.
Seed -Caryl Lewis (author), George Ermos (illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)
Oh my, has this book planted itself firmly in my heart! From the first page (a list of items!), this book wound its story-telling tendrils around my imagination and transported me to a place where imagination knows no bounds and hope, love and optimism grow. Marty’s home life is hard. His mum has a mental health issue and their house is crammed full of ‘things’ that she feels she has to hang onto. Things that suck the fun and joy out of life for Marty, things that fill his headspace so that he feels he can’t think, things that make his school-life unpleasant for him. Marty has stopped believing that his life can change and that his world can be magical. Until, that is, his grandfather buys him a very special seed for his birthday and, from that moment on, everything starts to change for the better. Marty makes a special friend at school and he begins to see the world, with the help of his grandfather and the community around him (and, of course, that extra special seed which has grown into a very special plant (ssssshhh, not telling you any more about that)), as somewhere where joy, love and happiness can flourish as Marty, Grandad and Gracie embark on a journey of a lifetime. Despite the difficult issues the book deals with, such as Marty’s mum’s precarious mental health, poverty and Gracie’s hearing impairment, your reader will be left uplifted at the end of this book and truly believing that anything is possible with a little faith and encouragement. In fact, the only thing that I was sad about was that it ended. I truly loved this book and cannot recommend it highly enough: you need to get hold of a copy and let it work its magic on you so that it becomes planted in your heart too.
The Offline Diaries – Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene (authors), Harper Collins Children’s Books (publisher)
Released at the end of April, this is a contemporary story of friendship and love which navigates the tricky world of secondary school life with warmth and humour. Told through the diaries of the Year 8 protagonists, Ade and Shanice, it is sure to captivate your middle grade reader with its sometimes funny, sometimes poignant and often-times all too real anecdotes of school life. Ade has just moved to the area because her stepdad (who she refuses to acknowledge and simply refers to as “him”) has got a new job. Shanice has become even more shy and inward-looking since the death of her mother a year ago and has become increasingly frustrated at having to spend her spare time at her Dad’s hair salon. Cue Ade’s mother’s fateful trip to Shanice’s father’s hair salon where the two spot each other’s diaries and the girls embark on a rollercoaster of a friendship. Will Ade be true to herself and her friendship with Shanice, or will she just want to be popular at her new school? Will the girls’ true relationship be the offline story or the online version of events? This story is all too relatable. As a parent, I found some of the Ade’s behaviour uncomfortable (I was ‘disappointed’ in her – way worse than anger, as we all know!!) but yet completely understandable. This a lively, sweet and often funny story which will empower young girls as it emphasises the importance of real life, real love, real friendship and staying true to your real self.
Zeina Starborn and the Sky Whale – Hannah Durkan (author), Orion Children’s Books (publisher) (recommended reading age: 9 plus)
I was blown away in the best way possible by this fantastical debut by Hannah Durkan. Seriously, this book is amazing. I devoured it in the space of a day and LOVED every word of it. My tiny brain cannot comprehend how writers come up with such inventive worlds! And the world that Zeina Starborn inhabits is nothing short of superb. Aboves and Belows don’t mix in Zeina’s world and as a Below, Zeina spends her days dreaming of a life above the smog-filled city of Ravenport. A life of adventure, a life of freedom, away from respirator masks and back-breaking hard work. Jackson Willoughby is the seemingly spoiled heir to the Willoughby fortune, the family behind the magnificent sky Whale Hotel structures. So, when Zeina wins the chance to visit the Willoughby Whale Hotel, she is not going to let her enthusiasm, excitement and sense of adventure be dampened by the sulky Jackson Willoughby. And yet things are maybe not always as they seem on the surface, a lesson that Zeina has to learn the hard way. Will Zeina and Jackson put aside their differences and learn to work together for the greater good of their planet? Oooo, I am not giving that one away. What I would say though is that this book is an absolute must-read. With strong themes of friendship, love, caring for the environment and the animals within it (whatever they may look like), this is a tale (or should that be tail!) of invention and adventure like no other.
The Insiders – Cath Howe (author), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher) (recommended reading age: 9 plus)
Callie, Nico, Ted and Zara are supposed to be best friends who tell each other everything but things start to go wrong for their friendship group after Ted bears the brunt of a practical joke at school. Instead of communicating with each other properly, the group keep secrets from one another, lie and go quiet. Ted distances himself from his friends even further as he becomes upset that they have been into school after dark without him, investigating some strange goings-on. Who is the mystery lodger at the school and why are they staying there? Will the group ever be friends again or will things go too far to be able to salvage any friendship? This is a fast-paced, easy-to-read, moving tale about friendship, love and the consequences of our actions. There are some difficult topics (such as strained family relationships, secrets, lies and how our actions can impact others negatively) which are dealt with compassionately and sensitively. I loved the delicate balancing act struck between feeling sorry for Billy (the practical joker) and yet disliking his behaviour at times and the same goes for all the main characters as their actions and words hurt the people around them in the story. This is a moving tale about the relationships of a group of friends which is full of empathy and real-life feelings with a strong message of the negative impact of bottling up your feelings.
Why not PIN this Childrens Book Recommendations For May 2022
Teen and Young Adult
My Heart and Other Breakables – Alex Barclay (author), Harper Collins Children’s Books (publisher) (recommended reading age: 11 plus)
Fast-paced and easy to read, I devoured this emotional read by Alex Barclay. This is the first in a diary trilogy featuring the loveable Ellery Brown. Ellery’s mother has died and has left a gaping hole in her life. But Ellery says no to sadness (although don’t be fooled, I cried like a baby at the end of the book!) and her life is one funny, crazy episode after another. She lives in a bird’s nest (the term used to describe how Ellery stays in her house while different adults move into the ‘nest’ to look after her for periods of time) in south-west Cork, Ireland and hilarious references to Irish ‘speak’ and phrases abound in the book. Ellery and her best friend Megser discuss everything from boys at school to whether, and how, Ellery can find her Dad. Ellery embarks on some ridiculous and laugh out loud adventures to try and find out who her father is and deploys almost every trick in the book: think fake IDs, roller skates, disguises and solo plane trips. Also think: a whole heap of fun. I loved how this book was simultaneously hilariously funny yet also deeply moving, light-hearted yet also very poignant. Un-put-downable, fun and intriguing would be how I would describe it. It has certainly captured my heart.
Ready or Not – Tracy Darnton (author), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)
Since finishing this book, I cannot stop thinking about it! I am desperate to talk to someone about it because I need to know whether my theories are correct! Millie and her friends have always summered at Creek House in Cornwall, playing games and having fun. They have grown up together and have become great friends. Or have they? One summer, tensions are high and secrets are hanging in the air like ripe fruit waiting to be picked. And then Kat, Millie’s best friend and twin sister to Charlie, goes missing one night during a fateful game of hide and seek. People don’t just disappear though, right? Surely someone knows what happened to Millie on that summer’s night? Jumping forwards and backwards in time from the events preceding Millie’s disappearance and a year later when the friends all go back to the house for one last time before it is sold, this is a fast-paced, heart in your mouth, gripping read. The questions are endless… What has happened? Is Millie dead? Is she missing? Has she been murdered? And eeeeeeekkkk! I wish I could tell you but that would be a mammoth spoiler. Just please read it so I can chat to someone! I can see this being a brilliant young adult/teen book club book because there are so many angles to discuss and complex relationships to unpick. Five out of five from me for suspense and intrigue, I was left guessing until the final pages.
Hotel Magnifique – Emily J. Taylor (author), Pushkin Press (publisher)
I could not put this book down! What a debut in young adult literature from Emily J. Taylor. Much like the magic within the hotel itself, it was absolutely spell-binding! The Hotel Magnifique is hiring and Jani is determined to get a job for herself and her talented sister in the hotel and lift their lives out of the misery that they are in. But Jani should be careful what she wishes for. Better the devil you know, some might say. After Jani cheats her way into the hotel, she begins to realise that things are not what they seem. The wonder and magic of the hotel seems to hide something much more sinister and terrifying than the beautiful veneer would portray. As Jani’s sister is lost to her, she starts to ask more and more questions and a relationship between her and the powerful suminaire, Bel, blossoms. So many questions, so little time, so much magic and yet the spells and enchantments don’t seem to be affecting Jani herself. Will she ever find answers and manage to hold on to those she loves? No spoilers here. This book is dazzling, enchanting and extremely addictive. It’s like a spell has been cast over you: it’s so fast-paced, you will be desperate to find out what happens next and yet equally desperate for it not to end. I loved it. It’s a spell-binding five stars from me!
Smile Out Loud -Joseph Coelho (author), Daniel Gray -Barnett (illustrator), Wide Eyed Editions (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
I love everything about this book. The cover literally sings to me and brings me out in a beaming smile. It’s yellow (which just so happens to be my favourite colour), it’s cheerful and it’s happy. Brought to us by the dazzling duo who created “Poems Aloud” (which I have previously reviewed), this is a compendium of poetry that will not fail to turn up the corners of your mouth and make you put your happy face on. With poems designed to make you ‘walk funny’ (can you perfect the walk and memorise the poems?), poems with ‘silly’ endings, poems to pull funny faces in the mirror to, poems by yetis, poems to be performed with others, to name but a few, this book has everything you need to instil a love of words and poetry into your child. The fun, happiness and magic of words oozes out from this book. And it isn’t just the words, it’s the illustrations as well. They are so bright and beautiful, with the colours used perfectly matching the cheeriness and fun of the words themselves. You and your reader will also learn a thing or two from this book too: do you know what a zeugma is? Can you remember what a spoonerism is? You will find out with this wonderful book of poetry. This is a perfect book for any child to gain confidence reading aloud and to enjoy and appreciate the fun and power of the spoken word. I cannot rate it highly enough; it’s guaranteed to brighten your day.
SuperQuesters – The Case of the Stolen Sun- Lisa Moss & Dr Thomas Bernard (authors), Amy Willcox (illustrator), QuestFriendz (publisher)
A love of STEM (that’s science, technology, engineering and maths) doesn’t often go hand in hand with a work of fiction but that is what this unique, new book sets out to do. This fabulous book sets out to inspire children to love STEM through this young fiction series (this book is the first) which is full of adventure but also has a non-fictional, educational twist. Winner! The children don’t even know they are learning! Aimed at children aged 4-8, this is such a clever idea. This first book centres around Lilli and her two best friends who have a scientific question that they don’t know the answer to – how do you make something go up? – and with a dollop of imagination and fun Lilli, Leo and Bea become their alter-ego selves, the SuperQuesters. From then on, there are a series of Quests that your child can undertake using the stickers provided with the book. From coding to logic and trial and error, each quest is unique and fun and can be completed in order or as a standalone quest. It blows my mind how clever this book is to link computing, maths, logic and science together with a work of fiction. It’s perfect for my eldest who naturally shies away from those subjects because she prefers the language and words of books. With its unique blend of stories and STEM interactivity, we can’t wait for the next in this series.
What Can I Do? – Mary Richards (author and illustrator), Agnes & Aubrey )
If I had a pound for every time I heard this phrase, I would be sunning myself on a yacht in the Caribbean by now!! This is a fun-filled activity book for children aged six and above. There is something for everyone so even if you think your child isn’t the most creative artistically or athletically, for example, there are lots of activities for them to do. I would have loved this book as a child! From inventing a code, through creating a book cover, playing a game of consequences (I had forgotten about this one!!), inventing a dance, designing a building, to staging a sports contest, this book has ALL the ideas. There are even interesting fact text blocks interspersed throughout the book so there is some sneaky learning in there as well. Win win! Some activities require friends or siblings to complete them and others can be done independently. The pastel colours used in the book, the easy-to-follow text format and sweet illustrations mean that this book is visually appealing to the reader and the instructions are therefore simple to follow. I think that this would be a wonderful book to gift to a creative child. Personally though, I think that this is one of those books that you just NEED in your armoury to get out on those rainy days (on holiday or at home) when you have no activities planned and you don’t want to resort to the electric nanny! Inspiring and creative, this book is the perfect boredom-buster.