Children’s Books for Springtime

Children's Books for Springtime
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We love this time of year: Spring has well and truly sprung, the promise of summer is in the air with the days lengthening and a warmth on the breeze.  It’s definitely the time to get outside and do a bit of alfresco reading.  If you are looking for some new books to take on your half term travels, or just looking for something to entertain the children, then we have some superb books Springtime:

Board Books:

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Five Little Speckled Frogs – Yu- hsuan Huang (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Who doesn’t love a cute board book based on a gorgeous, fun nursery rhyme?!

This bold and bright board book will keep little fingers busy and little minds engaged as your little one plays with all the interactive elements of this book. There are sturdy sliders to sliders to push and pull, finger holes to move and chunky wheels to spin as the rhyming story bounces along. 

The illustrations are so cute – adorable amphibians in the most gorgeous of settings drawn in a sweet way and set in vibrant colour tones which are sure to engage your little reader. 

This chunky board book is superb for babies and toddlers: it’s of a great size to take out and about, it’s interactive, it’s colourful and it introduces young minds to counting and singing. Fabulous fun on all levels.

Don’t forget to scan the QR code to hear the song to sing along to with your little one!

Five Little Speckled Frogs

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  • Where’s Mr King? – Ingela P Arrhenius (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

    Did you enjoy the coronation celebrations?  We had a fabulous time at various parties.  Are you looking for a sweet, fun board book about London and the King to share with your little one? Then look no further. 

    This series of hide and seek board books is super cute for sharing with the tiny person in your life and this coronation edition is just gorgeous.  With super-soft felt flaps which are in bold and vibrant colours, your little one has to lift the flap to find where the London icons – Mrs Tube Driver, Mr Beefeater, Mrs Cyclist and Mr King – are hiding.  Each felt flap is uniquely-shaped, providing interactive fun for your little one.  And who is hiding behind the final guard-house shaped flap?!  Why, baby of course!  We love the joyful mirror ending of this book.  With adorable illustrations of the London skylines and classic city scenes and people in bold, beautiful colours, this book is a joyful hide and seek bundle of fun to enjoy with your little ones.  The chunky pages are superb for little exploring hands and it is a brilliant size to pop under the pushchair or pop into a nappy bag to take out and about with you to entertain your little ones.  Bold, bright, interactive and fun, this board book is sure to be a hit and one to treasure for years to come and commemorate the King’s coronation with. 

    Picture Books:

    The King’s Hats – Sheila May Bird (author), Mark Beech (illustrator), Welbeck Flame (an imprint of Welbeck Children’s Limited) (publisher)

    What a joyful, fun celebration of the coronation of our new King this book is! It’s funny, it’s beautifully illustrated and it celebrates some of the royal roles that a king might have to fulfil.

    Poor King Charles III is finding his new, royal crown rather heavy to carry. It’s weighing him down and he is feeling blue. So he goes outside to the garden, his happy place, amongst all the greenery and nature. His good friend Tom, the gardener, cheers him up to show him that a monarch must be prepared to wear all kinds of hats – from hard hats to hair nets, shower caps to rain hats – during his reign and that he should not be afraid of wearing the crown he has been given. Because kings are brave and he must allow himself to be the king he was born and destined to be. 

    With its hilarious ending and celebration of King Charles’s lifelong love of nature and the environment, your little ones are sure to be delighted by this joyful picture book. The rhyming story makes it a perfect read aloud with your little one to celebrate the King’s coronation and they will love exploring the different roles our monarch might have to take and the hats he may have to wear.

    The illustrations are superb: fun drawings of the royal family filled with warmth and humour combine with a brilliant caricature style of hilarious scenes. Packed with colour, joy and humour, this is a superb celebration of our new King. We adore it. 

    Ben Plants a Butterfly Garden and Ruby Plants a Radish – Kate Petty (author), Axel Scheffler (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

    Do you have a little green-fingered child? Does your little one love the garden and watching things grow? Are they interested in nature and the outdoors? Then these two books, the latest in this series produced in collaboration with The National Trust, are just the books for them!! Wonderfully seasonal, these books continue the series with a fun blend of “faction” (fact and fiction) with their gentle, sweet stories about the wonder and joy of growing things.

    Ruby just adores radishes so she is impatient to grown her own juicy delights. This story encourages a love of nature and the outdoors as well as an understanding of how things grow and the care and patience that looking after plants requires.

    Ben wants to make a pretty corner in his garden and is encouraged by his friends, Ladybird and Worm, to grow a butterfly garden and some butterflies. This is such a lovely story to allow your young reader to appreciate the world around them.

    Each story has interactive and exciting flaps to lift and there is a huge and colourful pop-up 3-d surprise at the end of each book which your children will be sure to love (I bet you will love it too!). There are fascinating and age-appropriate facts throughout the stories so that your child can learn how seeds grow and the changes that a caterpillar undergoes. Each story is beautifully illustrated by the iconic Axel Scheffler and the pages are vibrantly stunning and so visually appealing. Educational, hugely fun, encouraging a love of the outdoors and nature, these books are truly superb. We love them.

    You’re So Amazing – James and Lucy Catchpole (authors), Karen George (illustrator), Faber & Faber Ltd (publisher)

    From the author and illustrator of “What Happened to You?” comes this wonderfully insightful and stunningly clever book which explores the way in which we respond to physical disability. 

    In the first book, we come across Joe and this book continues his story as he plays with his friends. They still enjoy playing Doctor Crokchops vs Senor Sharkface but they don’t enjoy all the interruptions telling Joe how amazing he is. Especially when he is just going about his daily life. You see, Joe is “amazing”. He has one leg. People are always telling him he is amazing. For kicking a ball, or swinging on the monkey bars, or scratching his bottom (cue much hilarity from my twins!!) … Joe is more impressed by his friend Simone’s jumping, which he thinks is truly amazing. When he tries to let her shine in the spotlight, he becomes “poor Joe” rather than “amazing Joe”. Joe and his friends want him to be “just” Joe. 

    This story is funny, filled with warmth and humour, is insightful and totally ground-breaking as a picture book: it encourages readers (young and old) to look at the story and think about how able-bodied people attach emotions, feelings and stories to disability. For us, it is a very relevant read because my husband has a titanium femur and hip joint having had bone cancer as a child and he cannot always do some of the things that my children want him to do … he’s still just “Daddy” to them though. 

    This book is an essential tool in building empathy in young readers, encouraging acceptance and a realisation that a person with a disability wants to get on with their life and feel included for just being themselves. No pity required. No motivational or inspirational words needed. Just love and empathy. And an acceptance that disability is normal. 

    The book also includes a beautiful note by the authors at the back of the book which I highly recommend reading because it explains why this book is so important. Gorgeously illustrated with eye catching drawings which appeal to young readers, this book is a must-read for all children, parents, teachers and caregivers.

    How to Grow a Dragon – Rachel Morrisroe (author), Steven Lenton (illustrator), Puffin books (publisher)

    What a roarsome rhyming romp of a ride this fantastic picture book is!

    Step inside Mr Pottifer’s Parlour of Plants, a magical shop for green-fingered gardeners like little Sarah. Your young reader can join Sarah, the ginormous talking flytrap Mr Pottifer, and Sprout the (very cute) unicorn as they take a delivery of some Dragodil seeds. Much mayhem and hilarity ensues after Sarah mixes just the right amount of fizz with whizz and the dragons explode onto the scene with colour and drama! Will the dragons ever learn how to behave?! Will Sarah manage to tame their fiery ways and make them into roar-some pets?! You bet ya!

    We love this fun rhyming story, filled with a riot of colour, magic and mayhem! The rhyming tale makes it a brilliant read aloud as you and your child are transported on a rip-roaring read of hilarious proportions. Not only is the storyline fun and engaging but the illustrations by @steven_lenton are superb: bold, beautiful, full of mischief and magic and colourful cheekiness. We also adore the tips for growing reading skills at the back of the book. They are a wonderful reminder to allow your child to really explore the book mindfully and to savour and enjoy it each time they read it.

    It’s a book which is a delight for all the senses. Fantastically frivolous fun and we love it. We can’t wait for those Merseeds to grow.

    Pip and Posy: The Birthday Party – Camilla Reid (author), Axel Scheffler (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

    Do you know any Pip and Posy fans? 

    We love a Pip and Posy book in this house so we were very excited about this book which is out now in paperback.  This would be the most perfect book for any Pip and Posy fan’s birthday present!

    It’s Posy’s birthday and Pip has brought her a lovely present and baked her the most beautiful cake. They play some brilliant party games and then settle down to have Posy’s birthday tea…… but just as Pip is bringing his beautifully decorated cake out to her, he trips over a toy and the cake goes splat. All over Posy! Oh dear!! Pip and Posy are not ones for being upset for too long though and this sweet, funny book shows your little one how they make the best of a sticky (cake) situation!

    This book is simply joyful. It makes us happy just to look at it! It is beautifully illustrated with gorgeous spreads of fun and celebrations and sweet depictions of the characters involved. It’s vibrantly colourful, deliciously fun (mmmm, who doesn’t love a birthday party tea) and filled with friendship, resilience and positivity. My twins love scanning the QR CODE on this one to hear the story and turn the pages themselves too. We love it here.  Hooray!

    Molly, Olive and Dexter – Catherine Rayner (author and illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

    We are huge fans of Catherine Rayner books in our house (Smelly Louie is a particular favourite with my children!) so we jumped at the chance to review this latest beautiful release. But before I jump into a review of the book itself, I have to mention the endpapers. They are simply exquisite: beautiful brushstrokes of watercolour genius depicting the gorgeous, rolling landscape of the British countryside. Stunning!

    At the bottom of the garden, there’s an old oak tree which is home to Molly the hare, Olive the owl and Dexter the fox. Molly adores playing hide and seek. Dexter and Olive are not too great at hiding though! After Molly has counted, she opens her eyes and finds her friends straight away. Frustrated and cross with them, Molly tells them to hide “properly”…. She counts again… 1,2,3,4,5…. But this time, when she looks around her, she finds she has the opposite problem. Her friends have hidden too well. She looks for them everywhere, worried that maybe they have gone for good. Wherever can they be? Will she ever find them?

    This is an exquisitely illustrated book with a beautifully sweet and reassuring story for little ones. The stunning illustrations of the animals are so heart-felt and beautiful, combined with the irresistible story about friendship and togetherness, with its moving message about loved ones never being far away, that this book feels like a gentle, warm hug for your little ones. Each page is awash with beautiful brushstrokes and soft colour palettes and I think it would make a stunning gift for a new baby. This book provides a reassuring and comforting read for young children everywhere and it makes a great bedtime read. My children love it because we have an oak tree in our garden and they now think Molly, Olive and Dexter Iive there. A sweet and gentle storyline with the most sublime illustrations. Stunning. 

    A Damsel NOT in Distress – Bethan Stevens (author and illustrator), First Editions under Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

    I do love a picture book which subverts the norms! And this hilarious picture book is one of the best. This is a story about a damsel. A weak, helpless damsel. Who is in complete and utter distress. Stuck in her tower, unquestionably bored out of her brain. Surrounded by a ginormous scary dragon. Surely she MUST need rescuing?! So, enter a knight in shining armour, a Prince Charming and, of course, erm, ahem, a gnome!! But, yep, you may have guessed it! This damsel is certainly not your average damsel. She’s certainly not hopeless and she is certainly not in distress. And she does not need rescuing! In fact, without spoiling the ending, your little reader will find out just how strong and capable this damsel is.

    We adore this laugh out loud book. In part because it reminds us of our youngest daughter who is so independent and strong that we all can’t help spotting the similarities. But it is mainly because it is such a funny read which subverts the norm and has a wonderful message about not judging by appearances AND it has a brilliantly strong female lead. The faces that the damsel pulls are just comical and the illustrations are both eye-catching and colourful. Not only that, but the drawings spread across each page with gorgeous brushstrokes and they add even further warmth and humour to the already giggle-inducing story. For any little independent person, this is a super-fun read and we highly recommend it. 

    Grandpa and the Kingfisher – Anna Wilson (author), Sarah Massini (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

    What a beautiful, moving book. Get your tissues at the ready, this poignant yet gently reassuring book about the circle of life brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat.

    Over the course of the seasons, a young child and his faithful dog watch beautiful kingfishers by the local river with Grandpa. Throughout the year, and through the different seasons, Grandpa teaches his grandchild all about the wonder and power of nature and about the birds. How the kingfishers come together and stay together to have their young, how they build their nests and how they eventually die. He gently explains that “No one lives forever…. Only nature goes on forever.” And when the young kingfishers come back the following year to start their own families, the young child sees the hope of the new season even though Grandpa is not there to share in it.

    This is such a powerful and moving book. We adored the intergenerational bond between Grandpa and grandchild and the reassuring message which is ultimately one of hope: hope that life goes on, that spring will always follow winter and that there is beauty in the nature around us which will always continue. It is sensitively written and explains things in a gentle way but it does not veer away from the truth or the facts of the circle of life. The illustrations are exquisite: gorgeous brushstrokes of colour bringing to life a busy and beautiful British riverbank in all its resplendent glory. The depictions of Grandpa and the young child are so beautifully drawn and really show the loving bond between them. This would be a superb book to use if you have had any death or grief within the family, whether that be of a pet or a person. We have found it very comforting since my father passed away last month because it gently explains the natural life cycle to young children like my twins. 

    Smart Sisters and I am Born to be Awesome – Mechal Renee Roe (author and illustrator), Welbeck Children’s (publisher)

    These books are vibrant, feel-good, empowering picture books for young readers. In “I am Born to be Awesome”, boys (and girls alike) will love the affirmative text in this easy-to-read rhyming picture book that celebrates the joys of being a boy and the fun times that boys can have together. The fun, bouncing text is filled with positivity and confidence-boosting words. Combined with the joyful and funny illustrations, this book will make your little one’s heart soar. The pages are filled with vibrant and colourful drawings of beautiful activities and scenes which exude confidence, fun and positivity. It’s a celebration of being young, of having the world as your oyster, of being confident and filled with a restless energy and a love for life: “Life’s the best, no time to rest, I love to be me.” If you are looking for a book which instils positivity and celebrates self-esteem and self-confidence for young children then look no further. 

    “Smart Sisters” is a joyful, colourful picture book which celebrates the bonds of sisterhood through simple, life-affirming messages: “Inspire and dream, we make a great team.” Your young reader can turn the bold and bright pages of Mechal Renee Roe’s trademark warm and vibrant illustrations to discover all the best things about having a sister. They can explore all the things that sisters can do together, including doing science and sports and giving each other a shout out when one is feeling down. Sisters are kind and loyal and supportive and can share their big dreams of a great future. It’s an empowering and beautiful book for any sisters out there but also for any girl who has a friend she loves like a sister or anyone who just wants a big dollop of joy, positivity, self-worth and empowerment.

    These books are the ideal confidence boosters for young children. Bright, bold, beautiful and life-affirming. What’s not to love?!

    Find your Happy – Emily Coxhead (author and illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

    Just looking at the bright, bold, shimmer-foil filled cover of this book makes me happy!! However, what I love about it even more is that it acknowledges that although happiness is wonderfully wonderful, it’s ok not to feel happy all of the time. I think this is a superb message for our children and one that I am working on with my three young ones. 

    This book is a brilliant introduction to all sorts of emotions for young children. It is colourful and fun and depicts one of the cutest sloths you ever did see! The rhyming words of the book introduce each emotion and the way that these emotions might make a child feel but also gives them techniques of how to deal with those emotions when they are in the moment (something we can all learn from in my opinion!). Whether it is taking deep breaths when you are worried or giving big hugs to someone you trust when you are sad, there are mindful techniques given and beautiful and bold illustrations to accompany them. The drawings are just gorgeous: sweet, fun and wonderfully demonstrative. We love how the colours used match the emotions that little sloth is experiencing and that the ending of the book acknowledges that not all days are the same – “some days are incredible, others are just ok, and some feel really bad.” – but it ends with such hope and positivity: that there is always a way to find your happy. Practical, joyful, reassuring, hopeful, vibrant and fun, this is a stunning book to help talk about emotions and, in time, I can see it helping to create more empathetic young minds. I am gifting it to everyone I know- young and old! 

    Unicorn NOT Wanted – Fred Blunt (author and illustrator), Happy Yak (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

    Now come on, surely you agree that there are way too many books about unicorns out there. This book does NOT allow unicorns. Or cute little pugs, for that matter! And quite right. Unicorns and pugs do NOT belong in the Wild West, where this book is set. Yet try as the narrator might, he just can’t seem to get rid of those tenacious, adventurous animals! And when he makes poor unicorn cry, and a river of tears threatens to flood the book and all who sail in her, the narrator just has to let unicorn and pug play a small part in the story. But we all know that unicorns are not born to take a back seat!!

    This is a super-silly, fantastically fun, anti-unicorn unicorn story which my twins have had a hoot with. They have laughed out loud at the antics of pug and unicorn – from their cowboy attire to their superhero swinging escapades- and adored the vibrant, fun-filled pages. The illustrations add even more humour to the side-splittingly funny story and the colour and detailed drawings of the hilarious duo are just superb. We also love the more serious messages of the book: the themes of just being yourself and having the courage to shout about your own self-worth, as well as encouraging children not to stereotype. If you are looking for a book to have fun with, a book to bring a smile to your face and laughter into your life, then this is the picture for you and your little ones. 

    The Bear, the Book and the Blanket – Lou Peacock (author), Ged Adamson (illustrator) Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

    Bunnies Bilal, Betsy, Bridget, Bertie, Bernie, Bonnie, Barney, Basil, Bobbie and Bia have to be quiet because it is Baby’s bedtime. But Baby can’t possibly sleep without Bear, Book and Blanket. So, off the blue bunnies go, helpful as ever, looking for Bear, then Book, then Blanket. Cue chaos and much fun as the bunnies turn the house upside down for Baby. And what will they do when they realise that Blanket has just been washed and doesn’t have that rumpled look and smell of cuddles?! Well, I am sure they will think of something so that Baby can drift off into a peaceful slumber. And by the time they have kissed baby good night, it is time for them to go to sleep too. But do you know what they couldn’t possibly sleep without?!…..

    This is such a gentle and fun bedtime story. Turning the pages of this book is like being wrapped up in a nice, warm hug. The colour tones used are both colourful and soothing at the same time and the story is laugh out loud funny in places without getting your children too excited at bedtime! The illustrations are superb – the adorable expressions of the bunnies are pure comedy genius – and each two-page spread is filled with colour and portrays the warmth and sweetness of the story. A lovely bedtime book. But don’t be surprised if you have to find a Bear, a Book and a Blanket every bedtime ever after! 

    Chapter books

    Suitcase Switch – Aisha Bushby (author), Coralie Muce (illustrator), Barrington Stoke Ltd (publisher) (reading age 8 plus)

    What a gorgeous chapter book! This is a sweet, captivating story with a sprinkle of magic and a dusting of fun and is sure to engage your young reader. 

    When Zahra accidentally picks up the wrong suitcase after a train journey with her parents, she’s in for a surprise! There begins a whole series of magical mishaps because she realises that she has now got the suitcase and entire belongings of a young witch!! She wears the magical pjs and her room is overrun with cats, auditioning to become her familiar; she wears the enchanted boots and her feet start disco dancing of their own volition (much to Zahra’s intense embarrassment!) and she sets off on a flying adventure like no other in a charmed cloak!! It’s all a little bit too much for Zahra – all she wants to do is learn her poems for her nerve-wracking audition the next day.

    She soon discovers that magic can be fun though. It can turn her Dad’s tasteless cooking into a dish that tastes like cookie dough and chocolate chip! When Zahra and the young witch are reunited, maybe Zahra will keep just the teensiest magical item?! 

    This story charmed the pants off us. Me and my children loved it: the sweet story, the magical mayhem and fun, the themes of friendship, courage, self-belief and growing confidence… all set out in accessible shorter paragraphs on off-white paper and with gorgeous artwork bringing the story to life and providing maximum engagement for its target audience. Prepare to be bewitched as this charming story casts its spell on you. 

    Rainbow Magic- Charles the Coronation Fairy – Daisy Meadows (author and illustrator), Orchard Books (imprint of Hachette Children’s) (publisher)

    Was there a series of chapter books that got your child really into reading? For us, and my eldest daughter, it was this Rainbow Magic series by Daisy Meadows. So, we jumped at the chance to review this fantastic book in the series which was published in time for the celebrations for the coronation of King Charles III. 

    In this sweet chapter book, we meet Kirsty, Rachel, Khadijah and Gracie when they meet Charles the Coronation Fairy. Charles helps all the coronation ceremonies go smoothly, with the most beautiful decorations and the shiniest crowns for the new kings and queens. But Jack Frost and his jealous behaviour are never far away. He wants Charles to crown him Emperor of the land and kidnaps Charles and his golden orb when he won’t do so! Can Rachel and Kirsty and their friends rescue Charles and his all-important golden orb? Will they all have time to save the day and will Charles be there in time to crown Princess Grace and Prince Arthur as a new king and queen?

    We love the short, engaging adventure style of these chapter books. The larger font and short chapters mean that these are so wonderful for those children starting out on their independent reading journey. There are also plenty of adorable black and white illustrations spread out across the pages of the book to provide maximum engagement for independent readers. This is a sweet adventure story with friendship and magic at its core and an extra amount of added sparkle and wonder which will help commemorate the coronation of the King. A super cute read for this May and beyond. 

    Sherlock Bones and the Mystery of the Vanishing Magician – Tim Collins (author), John Bigwood (illustrator), Buster Books (an imprint of Michael O’Mara Books Limited) (publisher) (recommended age range 7-9  year olds)

    Whoo hoo – Sherlock Bones and Dr. Catson are BACK!!! Having absolutely LOVED the previous two books in this fun, fast-paced detective puzzle book series, my eldest daughter and I were so excited to receive this, the third adventure in the series, and couldn’t wait to get stuck into it.  And it does not disappoint.  

    Travelling through Europe by train, Bones and Catson are thrown into an exciting adventure when another passenger on the train, a world-renowned magician, vanishes right before their eyes! No one else seems to have seen the magician but Catson suspects foul play and is determined to find out why the magician has been taken – can the dynamic duo solve the mystery before it is too late? Or will the criminals get the better of them this time?

    Not only does this book have a superb storyline, with lots of twists and turns, including the theft of the iconic “Mona Lemur”, but it contains 28 games and puzzles for your reader to crack along the way.   With its delightfully fun plot, engaging story and series of puzzles and games to solve, your young reader will really immerse themselves in this book.  There are mazes, search and find puzzles, maths problems, spot the differences and lots of other fun puzzles to help your young reader solve the mystery, as well as lots of fantastic and humour-filled black and white illustrations interspersed throughout the adventure. (We particularly loved the hilarious parts the sloths play in the story). Completely absorbing, totally engaging and very clever (with its puzzles and games and nods to the traditional Sherlock Holmes stories and famous real-life artwork) we have loved this adventure and we cannot wait for the next one!

    The Adventures of Billy Shaman – The Rage of the Sea Witch – Roland Chambers (author and illustrator), Zephyr books (publisher) – age 7 plus 

    What a unique story this is and, my, what a unique narrator!!

    When Billy’s rather selfish and globe-trotting, adventure-hungry parents leave him in the care of an elderly couple at Charles Darwin’s old house for the summer holidays, poor Billy thinks he is going to be bored out of his mind. That is, until he sits on a rock in the gardens of the house and stumbles across an exciting discovery. The rock is not a rock at all, but a 237 year old talking giant tortoise who used to be best friends with the real Charles Darwin and knows everything there is to know about the house and the exhibits it contains. He’s also our narrator for the entire story. From that moment on, nothing is ever the same again for Billy Shaman. He is whisked back in time over 2000 years by an intricately carved Inuit ivory necklace and meets the owner, Ahnah, of the museum piece in an Arctic blizzard. And let’s not forget her shape-shifting grandmother and a magical trickster of a Greek explorer named Pytheas, whom he also meets in the frozen north. In a fantastical and somewhat surreal adventure, Ahnah ends up back in Billy’s time and a whole storm of trouble ensues! Can Billy return Ahnah back to her own time? Or will inviting her shape-shifting grandmother to come and collect her just cause mayhem and disruption? Will Billy learn that there is more in his surname than just a name after all?! 

    The first in a new series, this a fantastical adventure filled with fascinating historical details, mind-blowing time-travel, friendship across the ages, and humour. The story is packed with brilliant black and white illustrations on every two-page spread which really bring the adventure to life. If you have a particularly sensitive child, they might find some of the shape-shifting grandmother scenes a little scary (I know my eldest would have been terrified by these!). We found this book to be a fast-paced, historical fantasy blended with time travel and exploration through the ages. Unique, engaging and fascinating, we are already looking forward to the next instalment! 

    Mermaid Academy – Isla and Bubble – Julie Sykes and Linda Chapman (authors), Lucy Truman (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

    Your little reader will be dying to dive down into this fin-tastic new adventure series. Mermaid Academy is an enchanting school, hidden beneath the waves where young merfolk are paired together to create a very special bond with a dolphin and they must discover their own unique powers and magic. Isla is so excited to be at Mermaid Academy and thrilled to be in a dorm with some new mermaid friends. Isla is often a little impulsive and can have a mischievous sense of fun so when she sees a cheeky young dolphin named Bubble blowing bubbles during Dr Oceania’s opening speech, she knows the two of them will be great buddies. Isla and Bubble aren’t afraid of breaking the school rules of swimming outside the school grounds to try and win the treasure hunt for their dorm, Moon Pearl. When the whole dorm follows them into troubled waters though, Isla wonders whether they might just have swum a bit too deep ….?

    This is such a gorgeous chapter book, filled with fin-tastic adventure and marvellous marine life. Your little ones will even learn a thing or two along the way (who knew dolphins had to surface from the ocean to fill their lungs up with oxygen?!) . The chapters are short and engaging and there are plenty of sweet black and white illustrations interspersed throughout the entire book, providing maximum engagement for its target audience. We were transported into an enchanting underwater world and we adored every minute of it. We loved the twins in the story (because my son and daughter are twins and they love seeing twins represented in books) and we are so happy that Bubble and Isla have paired.  We can’t wait for the next adventure in the series featuring Cora and Sparkle.

    Lenny Lemmon and the Invincible Rat- Ben Davis (author), James Lancett (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

    What a fabulously fun book! A story about a rat, you may ask…… How can that be funny? It just is! 

    Lenny is looking forward to school today. It’s olden days school day and he is desperate for his form to win the olden days school Year Five prize. His class never wins anything. So, this time, Lenny thinks he has it in the bag. Literally. He has brought in what he thinks is the BEST olden days item. Although it is not an item at all. It is very much alive. And strong. And wriggly. And germ-infested. He’s brought in a rat. But not just any old rat. An invincible rat! A rat he plucked from the street, from right behind the back of the bins!!! Cue much mayhem and rodent-filled panic and hilarity. Will Lenny’s antics have cost the class their shot at winning the prize? Or maybe an even more exciting discovery might be made?

    We raced through this hilarious book. It’s easy to read, set out in well-spaced paragraphs with friendly font and different sized words, meaning it’s an engaging read for its target audience. There are brilliant and humour-filled black and white illustrations galore, really bringing to life the laugh out loud story. Ridiculously riotous rat-filled fun – we loved it. 

    Graphic Novels 

    Monster Support Group: The Werewolf’s Tale – Laura Suarez (author and illustrator), Flying Eye Books (publisher) (age 7 plus)

    The first in a brilliant and funny new graphic novel type series, this book is a superb debut by Laura Suarez.

    Meet Lowell. He’s twelve years old. And a twin. And he has six older sisters. He’s new in town and being bullied by Cassius Steel and his gang. Oh, and he’s been undergoing some pretty dramatic changes lately. By the light of the full moon, once a month, Lowell transforms into a werewolf. His twin sister, Lys, thinks it is pretty cool but Lowell just wants to fit in and be “normal” so he joins his local Monster Support Group. He finds a young witch to brew a potion for him to become his true self. But what might that look like? 

    This is such a clever and fun story which has at its heart acceptance, non-judgment and inner peace. It deals with change and differences in a unique and hilariously funny way through its fast-paced storyline which blends with fact and folklore about monsters along the way. We loved the themes of normalising differences, acceptance and tolerance and thought that the concept was unique, clever and interesting. 

    The illustrations and comic style of the book are just fantastic – hugely engaging for its target audience with gorgeous colour tones and beautiful images throughout. There is so much detail on each two-page spread. 

    Quirky and charming, we have adored the first in this new spooky (or is it?!) new series about the stories behind everyone’s favourite monsters. We can’t wait for the next instalment! A definite must-read for this year. 

    Middle Grade books

    Serpent of the Sands – Vashti Hardy (author), Scholastic (publisher)

    What a book!! I raced through this one (and so desperate was I to finish it that I took it to my twins’ swimming lesson and accidentally dropped it in the pool (and I didn’t even wait for the pages to dry before I read on!!)) and I am now desperate for the next instalment, pretty please! 

    Princess Ganzorig doesn’t relish the thought that one day she might have to lead her realm. She just wants to be free: to adventure, to explore, to have fun … but when her beloved Uncle falls gravely ill, she will not only have to go on the adventure of a lifetime searching for the fabled Serpent of the Sands, a super sapient who might be able to heal her Uncle, but she will end up having to lead her people in a battle for their survival. With her new friend, Thorn, a seemingly orphaned young boy from lands afar, and her sweet and courageous gerbil sapient, she will have to try and find the Serpent. Along the way though, secrets are revealed and she will end up questioning everything she believes and trusts.

    This story is so well-written. It’s fast, it’s pacy, it’s set in a fantastical landscape which has nods to the previous books in the Brightstorm Chronicles (which I haven’t read and you definitely don’t need to because this book is a standalone – although now I am desperate to read them!!) and it is one heck of an adventure. The plot twists and turns like the serpent itself and your reader will be desperate to find out what happens next at each stage of the book. With themes of friendship, loyalty, trust, courage and love blending with elements of fantastical folklore and amazing adventure, this is a five-star read that you do not want to miss. Superb. 

    Wild – Ele Fountain (author), Pushkin Press (publisher)

    I confess, I have not read any books by Ele Fountain before but, golly gosh, did I LOVE this one. I zipped through it in less than a day so gripping was the adventure and so desperate was I to find out what was going to happen.

    Jack’s behaviour is spiralling out of control. He feels numb at times and filled with a whirlwind of rage at others. His beloved Dad has died and all his Mum does is work and leave him notes of instructions. Looking for a distraction from what is going on inside his head, he starts hanging out with a group of boys who like to cause trouble. He starts skipping school and even stealing. He thinks his Mum is too busy to notice and too wrapped up in her conservation work to care. But then she suggests that the two of them should go on a trip together. Soon Jack realises that this is not going to be a relaxing trip away together. Instead, he is travelling with his Mum into the dense and dangerous rainforest, far away from the city he has grown up in. Jack thought that he craved adventure and excitement, but maybe this trip will be too much of a wild ride, even for him. Will he discover the real reason for his Mum’s trek to the rainforest? Will he be able to handle the danger from the wildlife? What about the danger from the loggers who are felling the beautiful rainforest? Will everyone make it out of the jungle in one piece?

    This book is not only a moving exploration of grief and how it affects a family relationship but it is also a gripping page-turner of an adventure with a story about conservation and the crisis in the rainforest at its centre. It’s a beautifully written book about grief and trauma, about making the right choices and growing up, as well acknowledging your mistakes. But it is also a hugely educational book (I, for one, do not want to be stung by a bullet ant, or pursued by angry howler monkeys!), as well as a book which raises awareness for the plight of our rainforests and instils a respect and understanding for our beautiful planet. We were transported on this journey with Jack to a place that provided a cathartic effect on him. Heartfelt, moving, gripping and beautifully written, this was a five-star read for us. 

    The Thief of Farrowfell – Ravena Guron (author), Alessia Trunfio (illustrator), Faber & Faber Ltd (publishers) 

    Twelve-year-old Jude Ripon feels like she just isn’t taken seriously by her family. Her mother and father ignore her, her sister looks down on her. To them, she is not old enough or important enough to involve in their criminal, magic-stealing heists. Jude is desperate to impress her family, most notably her all-powerful Grandleader, and steals some magic of her own… from the grandest house in town… but the magic is protected by a terrible curse! Jude attempts to untangle the mess she has gotten herself into by trying to release the curse but she is shocked to discover the web of deceit and horror that her magic-stealing family has become caught up in. To release the curse, Jude has to try and find Mr and Mrs Weston, the owners of the magic she stole and the father and mother of Eri and Fin. Along the way, Erin and Fin become her good friends and Jude finds out just how depraved her family has become to stay at the top of the criminal world. After being desperate to become a true Ripon, Jude begins to realise that she might just not want to be part of her family at all anymore ….

    This is a unique story like no other I have read! It’s exhilarating, full of twists and turns and allows the reader to enter into a whole new magical world of trickery and criminal behaviour. It’s fantastical and fun and yet filled with rich characters and a pacy plot. If your reader loves magic and adventure but with a difference then this is an unmissable middle grade book for them.

    Non fiction

    Our King Charles – Eleanor Grey (author), Rose Gerrard (illustrator), Wren & Rook (imprint of Hachette Children’s Group) (publisher

    What a delight this book is! You and your reader can embark on a fascinating journey through our new King’s life and find out about all the things he deems important. Your reader can see how his role has changed throughout his life and what it means now he has become the new monarch of Britain. 

    Touching on the legacy that Queen Elizabeth has left behind and providing a fascinating insight into Charles’ early years, this book is packed full of interesting facts and wonderful insights into the personality of our new King Charles III. Did you know that he adores hens (and that one of his homes is affectionately known as Cluckingham Palace!)? Or that he is passionate about the natural world and the environment and even made a new fuel to run his car on made out of old wine and cheese!!? Yuck! 

    Your reader can find out all about the coronation and the apparel that the King must wear, delve into his early years, learn all about his important work with charities and discover what will change (ooo, new stamps and post boxes!) now that Britain has a new monarch. 

    The information is spread out across the vibrantly colourful two-page spreads in bite-sized text boxes providing maximum engagement and visual appeal. The illustrations are beautifully drawn and inject warmth, humour, fun and personality into this wonderful work of non-fiction about King Charles III.

    My children have been captivated. I hope yours are too. A real celebration of a book to be enjoyed for the coronation and for years to come. 

    The Earth Book – Hannah Alice (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

    We love the books in this series – they are such unique works of non-fiction!  No spoilers from the title, this book is all about our incredible Earth and the things that it does: from super soil, to its watery worlds, the atmosphere and the weather, and everything in between.  There are see-through circles representing the Earth on most two-page spreads of the book and they are an absolute winner in our house as a wonderful, interactive visual aid to what is happening in the globe, allowing your child to take a closer look at what is going on in the world through each section. This wonderful book looks in detail at each part of the Earth – from what it is and how it looks from Space, to the human and animal life it contains – and provides some thought-provoking facts on climate change and a wonderful page on how we can take care of our planet, which we love.

    The pages are full of vibrant colour and there are gorgeously detailed illustrations and wonderfully drawn diagrams to emphasise and enhance the bite-sized text blocks of information.  We love seeing the Earth as depicted on the acetate pages and the details these provide. My children were particularly fascinated with learning about the water cycle and where you can find various animals living across the globe. This is a book to play with, a book to learn from, a book to educate and a book to enjoy.  Full of colour, digestible facts and simple labels, this book is a superb non-fiction read all about our excellent Earth. 

    The Little Book of Butterflies- Andrea Pinnington & Caz Buckingham (authors), Fine Feather Press (publishers)

    Do you know, the other weekend when it was really sunny in the garden, my eldest daughter spent three hours outside playing with (it kept landing on her) and watching a butterfly! So, when we got the chance to review the latest release from Fine Feather Press, which was all about butterflies, I just knew we had to jump at the chance. Produced in conjunction with Butterfly Conservation – a UK-wide charity that aims to protect butterflies, moths and the environment – this photographic nature guide is the perfect introduction to beautiful butterflies for the whole family. 

    There are gorgeous fold-out galleries on the front and back pages of the book which will help you identify the butterflies when you are out and about and you can use these as a quick visual aid. But, we have loved getting to know the resident butterflies of the UK in more detail using the information contained within the paragraphs of the book. Each butterfly – from the orange tips to the pale clouded yellows – is featured in detail with fantastic photos to accompany it and your reader can learn all about the plants, animals and processes involved with them. You can learn about the anatomy of a butterfly in close up detail and explore the life cycle of a butterfly, as well as learning about the different butterfly families that we see.

    This is a thoroughly fascinating guide to beautiful butterflies, containing superb photographic images and stunning facts. A perfect size for exploring the natural world outside and an amazing addition for your next adventure. We are captivated. 

    Little People, Big Dreams – Vanessa Nakate – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Olivia Amoah (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

    Whoo hoo! Congratulations to the Little People, Big Dreams series on this, their 100th book!! And to celebrate this fantastic news, young readers can now nominate their own suggestion for the next book to appear in the series. Nominations are really quick and easy – you just need to head over to the littlepeoplebigdreams.com website and submit your choice. The figure who receives the most nominations by 13th June 2023 will be the next one in the series to be published and the winner will be announced on 30th June 2023. How exciting!

    This book about Vanessa Nakate is such a superb choice for the 100th book. She is such a fascinating and empowering young woman and we have adored reading more about her. Following the life of Vanessa, who was born in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, she was shocked that in school she heard very little about climate change and how badly it was affecting her continent, Africa, and, in particular, the Congo Basin. She learned about the deforestation of the Congo Basin and was inspired by Greta Thunberg to strike outside the Ugandan parliament. She persuaded her siblings and cousins to join the cause and soon she was invited to speak at international conferences. In early 2020, she appeared in a photo with some other young climate activists but, shockingly, she was cropped out of the image when it was published! It was as if they had tried to erase her entire continent!  Her outrage ignited mass attention for her continent and the climate change cause. She is recognised as being one of the most influential young Africans and is an inspiration to young children everywhere who dream of a brighter, greener future for our planet.

    Providing a wonderful insight into the life of an activist and strong female lead, this book is empowering and hugely inspirational. With characteristically gorgeous illustrations in muted, earthen colour tones, this is a book which highlights the climate change cause yet brings hope for the future and shows the power of the voice to build a brighter world. Wonderful.

    Don’t forget to use your voice and nominate the figure you would like to read about next in this series! 

    The Secret Life of Oceans – Moira Butterfield (author), Vivian Mineker (illustrator), Happy Yak (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

    This is just the most gorgeous, fun-filled book about our sensational seas and ocean life around the globe. It is so clever: you and your children swim together with Tia the green turtle as she tells us more about herself and guides us through gorgeous ocean life. Along the way, she points out who lives where, her friends, big and small, the way ocean animals talk, the incredible journeys some animals make, the beautiful gardens under the water, the secrets of the coastline and so much more.

    This book dives down into a watery world filled with lots of fascinating facts.  Did you know that corals are actually tiny creatures? Or that the Indian Ocean is shaped like a giant letter M?! Even if me and my children didn’t love oceans, we would find the facts in this book absolutely riveting.  Your child will learn about all of the above as well as, crucially, how to look after our oceans and the marine life they contain. And I am not even finished yet! In between all of that, there are wonderful and spell-binding tales about marine life and a love of the water from all around the world which will be sure to captivate your reader (my daughter’s favourite was the sea tale from Fiji called “Battle of the Guardians”). 

    We love how unique this book is because it breaks up the fascinating facts with ocean tales from legends and folklore. The illustrations in this book are sumptuous, colourful and so adorable, filled with brilliantly cute depictions of various types of ocean life and wonderfully bold and vibrant drawings of the images evoked by the sea tales told throughout the book.  Imparting a love and respect for the oceans of our world, this is a beautiful book. 

    I Can See Nature’s Rainbow – Vicky Woodgate (author and illustrator), Scholastic (publisher)

    This riotously colourful book is a delight for our eyes and minds! Have you ever wondered why there are so few purple animals? Or why green leaves turn orange in autumn? Or why the sky is blue? Ok, what about this …… Did you know that pigs sing to their babies? Or that red foxes have retractable claws? Or that vipers look like they have long eyelashes? 

    These are just a few of the fascinating facts you can learn in this exquisitely illustrated and creatively colourful book. Each page explores a stunning and incredible colour from the natural world and details fascinating facts about animals, wildlife and sealife. Eleven vibrant colours are covered and each bright spread is filled with bite-sized text blocks of information about the rainbow of colours from the natural world, as well as the most stunning illustrations. There is even a page on the gorgeous gemstones and how they get their unique colour. We also loved spotting the hidden chameleon on each two-fold spread of the book. Such fun.

    Perfect for children aged four and above, this book is a fascinating feast for the senses and a true celebration of colour and the wonders of our natural world. We adore it. 

    Round and Round Goes Mother Nature – Gabby Dawnay (author), Margaux Samson-Abadie (illustrator), Wide Eyed Editions (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

    My children have been learning all about the life-cycles of various animals at school and so they are fascinated by this topic and the changing of the seasons.  This book is a beautiful exploration of the way the world is always turning and the changes that are happening all the time.  Wonderfully clever, this book contains 48 stories which all have their own beginning, middle and end, much like the natural circles of life.  Your reader can delve into lots of the wonderful ways that change is happening all around us by immersing themselves in these fantastic stories.  The stories themselves are split up into stories about Animals, stories about Plants and Fungi, stories about the Earth and stories about Space.  The ‘stories’ detail the mind-blowing life cycles in fascinating detail: there are text blocks of superb information accompanied by exquisite artistry detailing the stories of some of the most amazing life-cycles on Earth (and beyond!!).  Your reader can learn about the cycle of the moon, how diamonds are formed, how mushrooms are made, and all about the naked mole rat!  And that is only four stories!  There is so much to explore.

    This is a stunningly illustrated book.  The artwork is sublime: really bringing to life the wonder of these natural life cycles and showing the Earth and its inhabitants, as well as Space, in all its magnificent glory and detail.  From its gorgeous gold-foil cover, through its pages of fascinating facts and amazing artistry, this book is a mesmerising marvel.  Thoroughly captivating, highly engaging, beautifully put together, it will spin your child on a journey around the globe and beyond, allowing them to marvel at the way the world keeps turning, nature goes on and change keeps happening.

    Activity Books

    The World’s Best Dad – Sarah K. Benning (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

    Out now, ahead of Father’s Day in June, this is a high-value, beautifully designed gift book for that special father figure in a child’s life. It is the first in a new series of beautiful keepsake books which combines the best of activity books, scrapbooks and journals.

    I can’t wait for my children to start filling it in when I give it to them because I know they are going to enjoy completing the activities so much! It’s packed full of fun ways to help children express themselves and show their Dad why they think they are the world’s best Daddy. They can draw pictures, write fantastical stories of adventures with Dad, design a mug, come up with a dream menu for Dad, create a superhero personality for him and so much more. There are sweet “Dad facts” interspersed throughout the pages, so not only is this book truly gorgeous but it is educational for father and child as well! (I didn’t know that Barbary macaques show off to others by parading their little ones on their backs, for example!)

    There is so much for your little ones to do and so much for their fathers to treasure forever. There are even photo pages so that your child can stick in pictures of their wonderful memories with their Daddy. This book would be THE book to gift from child to Dad on Father’s Day. Creative, colourful, sumptuously designed, it is a gift that will be cherished forever. 

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    Fiona lives in Yorkshire with her husband and little girl who is 6 months

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