Children’s Books Recommendation for Spring

Childrens Book Recommendations for Spring

With World Book Day falling in March, it is always a marvellous month for brilliant books being published and Spring is in the air so there are lots of books encouraging us to get outside and love the nature around us.  Take a look at my book choices for this month and see if there is anything that catches your eye ….

Board Books

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Babies Laugh at Peekaboo  – Dr Caspar Addyman (author), Campbell Books (imprint of Pan Macmillan) (publisher)

What baby doesn’t love a game of “peekaboo”, I ask you?!  In fact, what adult doesn’t love a game of “peekaboo” with a child?!  This fun-filled, brightly coloured chunky board book is expertly developed to make little babies laugh.  And isn’t that the best sound in the world?!  If only we could bottle it!!  Your little ones will gurgle and giggle along with this fun, interactive book as they grab and slide open the interactive pages to play peekaboo to find the baby within the gorgeously- illustrated sturdy pages of this board book.  We love the ending of the book, with its shiny mirror encouraging lots of laughs with your little one. Brilliantly interactive, helping to develop those gross motor skills, this is such a fun book to read with your baby to encourage emotional bonding and development.  As a final touch, we also love the chunky cut-out hand hold for little hands so that this book can be carried with you for fun and games wherever you and your little one go!  Fab.

Elephant Makes a Smell – Noodle Juice Ltd (author), Mr Griff (illustrator), Noodle Juice Ltd (publisher)

From new publisher, Noodle Juice, comes this sturdy board book which shows young children that good manners make the world a much nicer place.  Your little one can join Elephant on his journey through this sensationally stinky story.  This rhyming romp of a book follows Elephant and his friends through rotten eggs, stinky socks, pongy pond slime and manky manure and many more smells.  Will Elephant ever learn to mind his manners?  This is a funny board book with chunky pages for little hands to turn.  The illustrations are bright and eye-catching and wonderfully silly, with bright colours being used on each page in order to captivate the attention of young readers.  The rhyming story makes a great read-aloud to young readers and they will laugh out loud at the fun ending to the book.

Picture Books

The Hare-Shaped Hole – John Dougherty (author), Thomas Docherty (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Oh my goodness, I am not sure I can find the words to do justice to this exquisitely moving picture book.  My, did I cry!  Great heaving sobs of tears.  But they were the best kind.  For a book that is truly, truly beautiful.  Bertle and Hertle are best friends.  The do everything together.  Until one day, they don’t.  Hertle has gone and all that is left of him in the world is a black, lonely, dark Hertle-shaped hole in the air.  Bertle is absolutely distraught.  What is he going to do without his best friend?  How can he get rid of this awful, empty, dark hole and find a way to bring his friend back?  What will happen when he realises that he cannot do that?  Perhaps a different friend might be able to help Bertle to navigate through his despair.   Working its way through the whole range of emotions – from disbelief, anger, sadness, despair and, ultimately, acceptance – this is the most moving and perfect of picture books to deal with loss, death and grief.  With its soothing, lilting rhythm and moving, gentle words which will ultimately bring comfort and acceptance, it is perfect for its target audience.  No one wants to have to talk to young children about loss and the emotions that go with that but this book is truly one of the most sensitive books around that I have read on the subject.  It doesn’t shy away from the emotions that loss and death can bring, rather it embraces them and shows young children that grief can be managed, especially with the support of good friends (and family) around you.  The illustrations are absolutely stunning: the way the colours and drawings match the emotions and feelings of Bertle as the lilting words of the story unfold is just superb.  An absolute stunner of a book.

Mr Leopard’s Bookshop – Alexa Brown (author), Julia Christians (illustrator), Scholastic (publisher)

What a fun, inviting book this one is!  We adore it.  From the vibrant cover page with its flashes of gold sparkles, to its colourful endpapers and everything in between, this book is a welcoming twinkle into the imagination and fun that books can bring.  Sophie’s best friend is her curly-tailed pug, Boss.  So, when it comes to his birthday, she needs to make sure she finds the most perfect present for her bestest puggy.  Mr Leopard’s bookshop looks inviting and magical and so Sophie and her Mummy step inside to receive the warmest of welcomes from Mr Leopard, the owner of the bookshop.  Mum is so flabbergasted, she swoons away and Sophie gets to experience the magic and fun of the shop herself.  Not only does Mr Leopard have the best jumble of magnificent books, he also has an entire team of gorgeous animals creating the very best stories for children!!  There is even a familiar surprise author there too!  Filled with the most wonderful ideas – books upon books and bears, wolves, lions and whales creating marvellous masterpieces – as Sophie and your children will discover, Mr Leopard’s bookshop truly is the most magical place.  This book positively fizzes with fun and enchantment for little readers.  The rhyming story makes it the most wonderful read-aloud and the illustrations are exquisite: filled with magic, sparkle, colour and wonder.  With his sparkling eyes and sense of fun, do let Mr Leopard take you and your little one on an exciting journey filled with spark and imagination, you won’t regret it.

Look What I Found on the Farm! – Moira Butterfield (author), Jesus Verona (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

If you haven’t come across this “Look What I Found…” series then you have certainly been missing out! Produced in collaboration with the National Trust, this latest book in the series encourages your young children to set off on a fantastic, farmyard adventure to find the natural wonders around them.  We love this type of book: “faction”, we call it, because it blends fun, fact-filled nature notes with a sweet, part-rhyming story.  There is plenty to see and explore in this book – there are things to spot in the gorgeous illustrations and short paragraphs of factual information on the animals and livestock that you might find on a farm.  Your little ones can learn about different types of animal footprints, see different animal babies, look at minibeasts to spot, learn about animal homes and discover the produce that comes from a farm, and the animals that made it.  Each two-page spread is filled with colour and gorgeous illustrations of the animals, insects and birds from the natural world.  The factual information is set out in easy to digest blocks of text, interspersed across the pages, making for engaging and fun reading and providing maximum interest in the story and facts.  It would be a brilliant book to take with you on a day out to the farm.  Full of the fun of the springtime season, beautifully illustrated and a brilliant blend of fact and fiction, this book is sure to keep your little ones entertained.

Amazing Mum – Alison Brown (author and illustrator), Farshore (imprint of HarperCollins) (publisher)

With Mother’s Day coming up on 19 March, this is a gorgeous shout out to all the Mums doing a jolly-good job out there!  Mums, you are amazing.  From the juggling acts that we do, to the snuggles that we give, the games we play to the loudest, proudest claps we cheer, from the things we repair to the things we love to fuss over, this book celebrates it all.  Mums can be chatty, silly, fussy, playful, practical …. And everything else in between.  But the there’s just one Mum who can give the best hugs of all.  Do you think you might be able to guess who it is?!  This book is such a bold, bright and beautiful celebration of all Mums.  It showcases special talents, unique identities and most of all, oodles of love.  It’s contemporary, it’s inclusive, it’s relatable and it’s filled with gorgeously adorable illustrations of the special bond between a child and their Mum.  It positively sparks joy to look through the pages filled with their super-sweet and colourful illustrations and makes a wonderful read aloud to your children with its fun, rhyming verse.   It will inspire laughter and recognition and lots of wonderful conversations about what makes a child’s own Mum unique to them (aww, I can’t cope.)  A perfect present for any Mum this Mothering Sunday.

When Things Aren’t Going Right, Go Left – Marc Colagiovanni (author), Peter H. Reynolds (illustrator), Scholastic (publisher)

What an empowering book!!  One day, for no particular reason, nothing was going right.  What did the little boy in the story do?  Did he give up?  Did he try to fight it?  Nope.  He simply went left.  And going left meant he left behind his worries.  And then he left behind his doubts.  He walked on some more and came across a pool where he wanted to try and dive off the board perfectly.  But, in order to do that, you have to leave behind your fears, and your frustrations.  And then, do you know, you feel so much lighter and like everything is going right.  So, when you keep going left until everything is right, you walk around with lighter fears, lighter worries, lighter doubts, lighter frustrations … and you feel like you might be able to carry them again without everything going wrong.  But if they ever do feel like they might start to overwhelm you again, you know what to do? You got it.  Just. Go. Left.  I absolutely adored this book.  It is such an uplifting and powerful story about overcoming your fears, worries and any adversity that life may throw at you. I love the colour tones used throughout the book, starting with blues and purples as the little boy is overcome and weighed down by his negative emotions and ending with oranges and yellows showing the positivity and challenges that he has overcome and how his feelings have changed.  The illustrations are brilliant, cartoon-style drawings bringing to life the emotions showcased it the book.  A brilliant exploration of emotions in a fun, easy to understand storyline, with a beautiful affirmative and uplifting ending.

Counting in Green – Hollis Kurman (author), Barroux (illustrator), Otter Barry Books (publisher)

What a gorgeous book!  What can we do when Mother Earth is crying out for our help?  From one to ten, this book comes up with simple ideas to count green and to try and help keep our wonderful world safe, clean and filled with nature.  Following a group of young children, whether it is one new tree being planted, or four recycling bins to reuse our waste, or seven beach cleans to protect our seas and oceans, or nine wild flowers being grown to encourage wildlife, this is a bright, gorgeously illustrated book which gently encourages children to take care of the planet around them.  It’s also an empowering book, showing children that even small actions can have a huge impact and make a difference to help save our perfect planet.    Not only is it a great simple counting book, but it helps to development empathy and eco-awareness in the young.  We were fascinated by the pages at the back of the book which provide some facts about global warming and animal populations being in decline but that also counter-balance these with hope for the future, stating that little changes can make a difference and asking young minds to think about how to ‘go green’.  There are even some useful links to organisations helping the planet if your child would like to know more.  The illustrations are exquisite – beautiful, bright spreads of colour showcasing the beauty and wonder of the natural world.  Although simple in its concept, it is a powerful picture book which will help to educate our young children in conservation, providing practical and realistic ideas for looking after our planet and the wonders it contains.

Lost in the City – Alice Courtley (author and illustrator), Orchard Books (imprint of Hachette Children’s Group) (publisher)

Maya loves her small, tight-knit family.  It’s just her, her Gran and their little kitten, Sammy.  She loves where they live in a cosy house on a peaceful street. So, when Gran tells Maya that they are going adventuring to the big city one day, she is less than enthusiastic about it!  Maya is scared and thinks that she must be too small for the big city. Surely it will swallow up a little thing like her?  And who on earth will look after Sammy while they are away?  Well, she needn’t have worried about that because when they get to the tall skyscrapers of the big city, Maya opens her backpack to discover that mischievous Sammy has stowed away!  He jumps out of her bag and disappears off into the bustling metropolis so Maya knows she must be brave and go after him! Will she manage to overcome her fears of the unknown?  This is such a sweet story, fast-paced and fun, all about facing your fears, getting out of your comfort zone and being brave.  It’s a gorgeously illustrated story: we love the bustling, vibrant pages of illustrations filled with busy scenes of the big metropolis and adore the pops of neon orange from the drawings of little Sammy (my twins love to see who can spot him first as we turn the pages!).  It’s inclusive, it’s relevant, it’s an amazing adventure and it is also filled with love – love for family, love for pets and it showcases in the most wonderful of ways the power of love and support from your family: with it, you can do anything, as Maya realises in the book.

The Girl Who Loves Bugs – Lily Murray (author), Jenny Lovlie (illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

From the dazzling duo who created the delicious, “A Dress with Pockets”, comes this fabulous new creeping, crittering creation!  Inspired by the pioneering life of entomologist, Evelyn Cheesman, who was the first female to head up London Zoo’s Insect House, and who went on many amazing expeditions, uncovering lots of exciting discoveries, this book is a brilliant rhyming story encouraging young people to follow their dreams.  Evie loves bugs.  She is obsessed with them and is constantly looking for them and trying to make others as fascinated as she is when her family is out walking.  When her mums say that the family is coming to visit and they have to go home to make the house perfect, Evie decides to bring ALL the insects home!  When the larger family arrives, there are cousins galore and even scary great-Gran has come to visit.  So, when all the creepy-crawlies also come out to play, ALL OVER THE HOUSE and even in the food, what on earth is great-Gran going to say?! I couldn’t possibly spoil the ending but it is a superb one.  Empowering, playful and uplifting!  We adore this funny, joyful picture book, all about the power of curiosity and the fun that it can bring.  The illustrations are gorgeous: bright, colourful and full of humour and warmth, really bringing to life Evie’s joy and passion.  This book is a gentle reminder to all adults to encourage young minds in the wonder of the world and to support curiosity, fascination and passion.  We also love the information at the back of the book, providing some information about how to love bugs and giving some fascinating facts about Evelyn Cheesman’s life.   Inclusive, joyful, fascinating and full of fun, it’s a brilliant book.

Ella and the Waves – Britta Teckentrup (author and illustrator), Orchard Books (imprint of Hachette) (publisher)

This is a beautiful story by one of our favourite author/illustrators,  Brita Teckentrup.  Ella sits alone in the dark, in a boat, battling the humungous waves which are breaking high as houses around her.  A despairing, bodiless voice from below the surface of the ocean tells her there is no point going on, there is no hope, she will never find land, she will never be safe again…. But, there are also voices of encouragement and hope at sea too.  Voices that tell her that she needs to keep sailing, she needs to keep trying, and that the waves are only as big as Ella’s fear.  These voices offer Ella encouragement, and courage, and hope, and positivity.  From the kindness of a small, white bird, to a group of friendly porpoises, to jellyfishes and whales, Ella begins to realise that she can overcome the waves, she can have courage, and that she was never travelling alone.  This is such a beautiful, moving picture book.  Anyone that has ever felt fear, or anxiety, or worry, or lack of confidence, or self-doubt can relate to this book.  It is a stark reminder to us all, and a wonderful comfort to children, that although sometimes things might seem insurmountable, we are all in this together and there are always kind people in the world who are happy to help, to offer a comforting word, or to encourage us to try and turn fear into strength and bravery.  We love the way the book starts out with dark, drab colour-tones, reflecting the despair of Ella, and ends up with bright and beautiful spreads of gorgeous illustrations.  The artistry is exquisite – stark drawings bringing to life the emotion and words of the story.  A book to inspire you to be brave and one that really encourages children to engage with their emotions.  Brilliant.

Chapter Books

Two Terrible Vikings – Feast with the King – Francesca Simon (author), Steve May (illustrator), Faber & Faber (publisher)

If you haven’t come across this hilarious chapter book series then you have been missing out.  This, the next in the series, is out now and is our favourite of the books in the series so far!  They can easily be read as standalone reads because each book contains three stories about the worst Vikings in the world: boy/girl twins Hack and Whack.  In this laugh out loud book, Hack and Whack are asked to babysit a toddler called Fire Hazard (for his obsession with setting things alight!!) and, being the terrible Vikings that they are, they completely forget to look after him which results in them realising that maybe there is a young rival to their claim of being the most terrible Vikings in the village!!  In the second story, the Viking village is very excited because King Leif the Very Uptight is coming to the village.  Everyone is expecting revelry and fun and games but they soon realise that they all have to be on their best behaviour for three whole days!  Dirty Ulf even has to have a bath!!  Hack and Whack are certainly not looking forward to the visit …. Until a new teenaged King turns up who just loves a food fight!  Yippee!  In the final tale, filthy-rich cousins Ketil Flat-Nose and his daughter Gudrun Grim-Tongue turn up for the winter.  They make everyone’s life a misery, making petulant demands and eating them out of house and home… but surely there is no way to get rid of a winter guest before the summer months, is there?!  Brimming full of drinking horns, hilarious names, rapscallion behaviour and brilliant humour which hugely appeals to its target audience, this is such a witty, fun chapter book.  The black and white illustrations are superb: bringing to life the humour and brilliantly bonkers behaviour of the terrible Vikings and their friends.  The drawings are interspersed throughout the larger-sized font, making this a superb early chapter book for those starting out on their independent reading journey and beyond.

Middle Grade

Tourmaline and the Island of Elsewhere – Ruth Lauren (author), Little Tiger (publisher) (advanced proof copy)  

Publishing at the beginning of March, this middle grade book is a fabulous fantasy of magical proportions.  Your reader will fly through the pages, being carried along with the feisty Tourmaline and her friends, in a hugely rich and imaginative world.   When Tourmaline’s mother, Persephone, the great artefact hunter goes missing on an expedition, Tourmaline begins to asks questions of the academics around her in the university where she lives.  When she doesn’t receive the answers and reassurances she is looking for, she sets off with her best friend George and her new friend Mai to rescue her mother, armed only with her resilience, determination and quick wit.  What follows is a rip-roaring adventure of imagination and challenge.  The friends encounter a band of fearless female pirates, an island floating in the sky, trees that talk and magical artefacts.  All of these challenge the friends and test them to their limits.  Will they be able to overcome their fears?  Will they be able to think outside the box?  Will they ever be re-united with Tourmaline’s mother?  We adored this fast-paced adventure which conjures up fantastical landscapes and magical mischief and were captivated by the world that the author had created.  We loved the strength of the female characters, particularly Tourmaline herself, as the story is filled with descriptions of their courage, determination, strength and intelligence.  A fun, feminist fantasy filled with friendship, love and resilience with characters which provide great role models for my daughters (well, apart from the minor thievery but we will gloss over that!!).  

The Nowhere Thief – Alice M.Ross (author), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

From debut children’s novelist, Alice M. Ross, comes this mind-bending marvel of a book following a twelve year old girl, Elsbeth, and her travels through the multiverse!  Elsbeth has an extraordinarily unique power: she can create openings to other worlds (or ‘spheres’) and travel into them, looking around and bringing objects back to sell in her mother’s failing antiques shop.  When her mother is plagued by the shop’s money-grabbing Landlord and then goes missing one day, Elsbeth just knows that it has something to do with her other-worldly travelling ways.  So, with Idris, a friend she meets along the way (and who has his own unique talents), she steps inside the kaleidoscopic world of colour and possibility through the portal of Nowhere.  She will certainly end up somewhere…. But where?  As her and Idris’s actions start to set off extreme weather conditions in the ‘somewheres’ they are travelling to, Elsbeth begins to wonder if her gifts come at too high a price?  If she stops using her marvellous multiverse talents, will she ever be re-united with her mother?  This is an exciting, fast-paced adventure of mind-bending proportions… I loved the idea of all the different ‘spheres’ and the endless possibilities that this brings with it.  Fantastical, clever, unique and thought-provoking, with a brilliant cast of characters, this debut novel has exploded onto the middle grade scene.  Whether you are nowhere, somewhere or anywhere, I hope you get your hands on a copy.

Alex Neptune – Pirate Hunter – David Owen (author), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

This is the second in this brilliantly briny adventure by author David Owen but is the first book we have read in the series.  Now we have read it, we will certainly be going back to read the first!!  Only because we adored it, not because it is a pre-requisite to reading this adventure set on the high seas.  In fact, it was incredibly easy to get up to sailing speed as to what happened in the first story as there is a really easy to follow synopsis in this one.  In this terrific tale, Alex is struggling with his confidence in his ability to get to grips with his new, magical oceanic powers.  So, it’s kinda unfortunate when Haven Bay gets attacked by marauding, litter louting pirates, invading on a ship made of rubbish!  What is the treasure that they are seeking?  Only the missing sea dragon egg of the rare and powerful water dragon that Alex befriended in the first book and who is now recharging its magical powers.  Alex, with the help of his human and sea-creature friends, is determined to stop them from reaching the egg first.  Obviously, nothing is ever as easy as it sounds, so Alex and his friends set sail on a treasure hunt for the egg, pursued by the pirates.  Alex will have to summon every ounce of confidence and self-belief he can to overcome the three monstrous challenges that stand in the way of him and the egg.  Will he manage it?  Brimming with brine, cute crabs, sweet seals, and otter-ly loyal otters, this is a brilliant, fast-paced nautical adventure.  It’s filled with imagination, funny dialogue and a treasure trove of action and adventure.  With themes of friendship, self-belief, confidence, eco-activism and love, it’s a pacy, rich and imaginative story which we absolutely adored.  A five-star read for us!

Into the Faerie Hill –  H.S. Norup (author), Pushkin Press (publisher)

The moment that Alfred arrives at his Granny’s cottage, he feels a strange, tingling sensation, like he is being watched.  Forbidding nature surrounds him: dark forests and strange streams, steep cliffs and strange sink-holes… and it all seems to be teeming with some rather bizarre little creatures.  Creatures which only Alfred seems to be able to see and hear.  What on earth is going on?  Alfred feels like he doesn’t belong but then Saga bursts into his life with her quirky ways (always wearing red and putting items of her clothing on backwards) and Alfred doesn’t seem so alone anymore.  Saga seems to believe him that he can see and hear the creatures from this special world so it’s only fair if Alfred helps her try to protect it.  Because it is under threat.  From his dad’s company, who are trying to build a tunnel right through the centre of it!  Alfred joins Saga in her protests against the plan, all the while finding himself getting drawn closer and closer to the world of the faerie creatures.  He is instinctively drawn towards that world, knowing that, somehow, it will provide him with the answers he has been looking for.  Like where his mother really is?  Is she really dead?  Why is Alfred the only one who can hear and see the sprites and faeries?  What secrets is this special world holding and will he be able to travel there with Saga and make it out alive?!  If your child loves faeries (don’t think of sweet, innocent flying friendly creatures here – some of these little creatures can be vindictive and spiteful!) and folklore, magic and fantasy then this is definitely the book for them!  It’s a wonderful world of faerie and magic blended with a story about nature and eco-activism with themes of love, family, friendship and belonging running right through its core.  Full of magical mystery, it’s a fantastical faerie-land of an adventure.

Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind – Misa Sugiura (author), Puffin Books (publisher)

Fantastical, other-worldly, filled with Japanese mythology and exciting adventure, this book will take you on a cross-realm journey like no other!  Momo Arashima just wants to fit in.  She wants an ordinary life; a life where she doesn’t have to take care of her mother and isn’t bullied for being different by her classmates.  You see, Momo sees things. She has an active imagination and sometimes she can’t tell where reality stops and magical stories begin.  And her schoolfriends tease her mercilessly for it.  But Momo is destined for tremendous things.  Momo is going to become legendary.  For when a terrifying death hag chases Momo and her estranged friend Danny down and a fox wearing old-fashioned clothes starts speaking with her, Momo begins to realise that the powerful and terrifying stories her mother told her about Japanese mythology were real.  Momo has to quickly come to terms with the fact her mother is a Shinto goddess, that she is grand-daughter of the god of the sea and storms (who has a terrible temper!) and that her mother is dying and the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance unless Momo can somehow close the gate to the land of the dead which has been opened so that hundreds of evil spirits can pour through it and destroy humanity!  Momo, with the help of Danny and Niko (the fox!) (Go team Da-Mo-Nik!!), have to try and save Momo’s mother and the world.  But Momo is full of self-doubt and there are whisperings that Danny and Niko are not to be trusted.  Can Momo have the confidence to unlock her powers and yet stay true to herself?  Can she learn to trust?  Will the trio be able to save humanity and force the demons back to their world?  At what cost?  Fast-paced and addictive, I loved this fantastical adventure story.  I was fascinated to learn so much more about Japanese mythology and I loved the way that this was woven into the story (and I found the glossary at the back of the book really useful, if I ever found myself wondering who was who again!).  I loved Momo’s character: a realistic blend of self-doubt, loneliness, frustration, confidence, determination, love and bravery all rolled into one gorgeous girl.  The book covers themes of bullying, racism, social standing, peer-pressure and low self-esteem but also focuses on complex friendships and love.  Leaving us on a cliff-hanger, this book was gripping, suspenseful and full of folklore and we look forward to the next in the series.

Graphic Novels

Juniper Mae – Knight of Tykotech City – Sarah Soh (author and illustrator), Flying Eye Books (publisher) – 7 plus

Meet Juniper Mae, Knight of Tykotech City, brave and fearless (sort of!) inventor.  Tykotech City is Juniper Mae’s home.  It’s a marvellous, peaceful place, filled with amazing technology.  But when something starts to go horribly wrong with that technology and power cuts begin to disrupt the City, Juniper realises that a dark force has infiltrated her hometown and that the people within it are in great danger.  It’s up to Juniper Mae, certified gadget queen and kid-whizz to try and help out.  While trialling one of her newest inventions, Juniper Mae is thrown into the dark forest outside the City after a malfunction.  What dark creatures lurk there?  Why, only the adorable small green tama-tamas!  Juniper Mae befriends a young tama-tama named Albie (who is the cutest little fella you ever did see!) and together they learn about the ancient Guardian Knights protecting the City and the forests in bygone times.  Can the new friends step up to the challenge of saving the City, inventing some cool new gadgets and amazing armoury along the way?!  We love this debut graphic novel from Sarah Sou, the first in a new trilogy about Juniper Mae.  We love Juniper Mae – the shy, quiet girl who gains courage and confidence throughout the story and inspires young children to pursue their dreams, to have confidence and to embrace learning.  The illustrations are vibrant, cute and fresh, providing colour, fun and excitement to the already pacey plotline.   There’s also a fun cliffhanger at the end of the book, paving the way for the next in this fresh and fun, new graphic novel sci-fi series.

Squished – Megan Wagner Lloyd (autho-r) and Michelle Mee Nutter (illustrator), Graphix (an imprint of Scholastic) (publisher) – ages 8-12

What a fabulous graphic novel this one is! We have adored it.  Avery Lee is fed up of feeling squished and squashed in between every last Lee in her family.  All she wants is some peace and quiet, her own room and space to create her artwork in peace.  If Avery wants her own room so badly though, she thinks that she is going to have to raise enough money to build an extension on the family’s crowded house. She comes up with all sorts of money-making schemes (which are mainly thwarted by her siblings!) whilst also trying to navigate her way through changes in her friendship group and also trying to pull together a show-stopping art project.  Then her parents let her know that all her dreams might come true, and she might just get her own room!! But it comes with a catch: Avery is devastated to find that that can only happen if the family moves across the country, leaving behind everything she knows in Hickory Valley, Maryland.   When this causes all sorts of complications in the family, Avery begins to realise that family is the most important thing and that forever friends will always find a way to be friends, no matter what.  This is such a funny, relatable story for any child with multiple siblings.  It’s filled with chaos, humour and the most wonderful illustrations which really bring to life the mayhem and madness of family life.  We love the fun, fast-paced storyline and really felt we were part of the Lee family as we devoured the pages of this book.  Great graphics, super storyline, a raucous read with strong themes of family love, friendship, change and growing up… we loved it. We hope you do too.


The Indestructible Tom Crean – Jennifer Thermes (author and illustrator), Welbeck Editions (publisher) – 4-8 year olds

To say we loved this book is an understatement of the grossest proportions!  WHAT. A. BOOK!  We were captivated.  Frozen in its icy depths.  We rejoiced, we cried, we were intensely absorbed.  Had you heard about the heroic explorer, Tom Crean before?  When I was younger, we learned all about the Antarctic and Scott’s ill-fated expedition but I don’t think I had really appreciated Tom Crean’s part in that, and nor did I know about his other amazing adventures into the Antarctic.  My children were equally gobsmacked.  This incredible human being ventured not on one but on THREE jaw-dropping and death-defying expeditions to the coldest and windiest continent on Earth.  The life of Tom Crean is exquisitely told through this re-telling of his real-life Antarctic adventures.  Through his story we go on a journey ourselves, not just to the captivating ice fields of the frozen lands, but a journey which is both thrilling and heart breaking, inspiring and incredible in portraying Tom’s endurance and determination.  This man, who was an animal lover and a born adventurer, risked his life to battle against some of the hardest and inhospitable environments to help out his fellow crew members in their times of need.  What an absolute legend.  There are some difficult themes addressed in the book, such as the death of Captain Scott and the other crew members, and the fact that some of the animals go missing, or cannot be cared for any longer because the environment is so extreme, but these are dealt with very sensitively in the book.  The story is told in such a unique way – with huge spreads of colour and detail worked into every stunning illustration which are spread across the pages of the book in the most wonderful way.  With its page of facts at the end of the story, beautiful drawings of the animals of the Antarctic and unique timelines, this is an absolute showstopper of a book.  We cannot recommend it highly enough!

Peep Inside Springtime – Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher) – Ages 3 plus

Don’t you just love a book which sparks curiosity and intrigue in younger readers?  That’s what this wonderful series of board books does.  We love our Peep Inside the Garden book and so we knew we would adore this sensational seasonal read.  Your little one can explore all the fun of the season by peeping under a blanket of snow, lifting leaves, exploring flowers, lifting lily-pads, checking out wriggling tadpoles (and seeing what they might turn into), seeing what is behind a bear’s bottom (!), and taking to the skies to see what happens when the sun shines on the rain.  It’s an excellent exploration of all the wonder and beauty of this fabulous season when all the natural world is bursting to life and waking up after a sleepy winter.  There are tiny cutaways to explore and multiple flaps to lift and so much to see and learn in the most fun way possible so your little ones don’t even realise that they are absorbing all these fabulous facts about what goes on in springtime.  Each sturdy two-fold spread is awash with the most gorgeous of springtime colour palettes and there are interactive elements on every page.  The illustrations are beautiful: adorable animals of the season depicted in vibrant and colourful natural habitats.  Absorbing, interactive  and fun, it’s a superb springtime board book and we hope your little ones get their hands on a copy.

High – Jess McGeachin (author and illustrator), Welbeck Editions (park of Welbeck Children’s Limited) (publisher), age 7 plus

Scale the rooftops and fly high with this fantastic new work of non-fiction!  Have you ever wondered what is going on it the skies?  What is happening way up above your head?  This book takes your little reader on a vertical journey of wonder and delight as they fly up, up and away!  There’s a whole wonderland in the skies waiting to be discovered…. Whether it’s exploring the huge trees and magnificent creatures that inhabit them, or wondering at the marvels of human’s creation in the terrifically tall buildings of the world, there is so much to see and be amazed at in this book.  Your little reader can fly with the birds and insects of the world, or journey with the brave and bold who have conquered the highest mountain summits.  The book is split into six sections – high life, high rise, high fliers, high peaks, high skies and high heavens – for easy navigation and we were mesmerised by each section.  Linking diverse subject matter together through the idea of height, this book truly invites young minds to explore the world of the skies and the universe beyond.  We particularly loved the sections on the sky at night and sky gods and were absolutely blown away by the sky lines of the various animal aviators who migrate across the globe: the arctic tern does a 30,000km round trip each year, and the painted lady butterfly does a 14,000km round trip!  That is immense.  We love the bold and vibrant illustrations in the book which bring the various topics to life and create a brilliantly beautiful work of non-fiction.  The short text blocks of information, combined with the superb illustrations make this an engaging, thoroughly fascinating and out of this world read.

Earth’s Incredible Places – Yellowstone – Catherine Ard (author), Bianca Austria (illustrator), Flying Eye Books (publisher)

The latest in the “Earth’s Incredible Places” series, this fantastic fact book focuses on one of the places in the world that I would LOVE to visit – Yellowstone National Park.  This book is sumptuously illustrated to showcase the sheer volume and size of Yellowstone and showcases its natural wonder and beauty in the most beautiful and eye-catching of ways.  Split into four sections – Welcome to Yellowstone, Land of the Geysers, Wildlife of the Park and the Park Today – this book showcases a wealth of information and fascinating facts about this stunning National Park.  Your young reader can explore the life in the skies of the wildlife around the Park, read about the reintroduction of wolves to the Park and how the bison population has been protected over the years, learn about the tribes of Yellowstone and how the Park became the US’s first national park, as well as finding out fascinating information about the gigantic active volcano that sits under the park!  The illustrations in this book are just exquisite: on some pages there are large, beautiful spreads depicting the glorious landscape of the area and on other pages, there are gorgeous and wonderfully detailed drawings of the wonderful wildlife of the area, surrounded by text blocks of information about the subject matter.  We love that the facts are split out into chunks of easy-to-digest information, making this a wonderful work of non-fiction which is lively, engaging and amazingly attractive.  Short of being able to book a flight and visit the Park, this is the best way to learn about this amazing area: you really feel like you are taking a walk through the park, running with bison and soaring with eagles.  If you are lucky enough to be visiting the region, this would be an amazing guide to take with you.  Extremely interesting, exquisitely illustrated, this is a wonderful work of non-fiction.

Activity Books

Little Children’s Springtime Puzzles – Usborne Publishing Ltd – Ages 5 plus

Do your children like an activity book to keep them entertained on a long journey, or at a meal, or even just to occupy them at home?  My girls both love puzzle books (my little boy is less keen – he still doesn’t want to hold a pencil unless he has to, ha ha!) and this gorgeous Springtime edition from Usborne is just one of the best.  With its joyful Springtime colour palette, it is filled with the most gorgeous and engaging seasonal activities for your little one to explore and enjoy.  There are springtime flowers, bouncing bunnies, egg-cellent eggs, cute chicks and lovely lambs all captured in the sweet pages of this beautiful activity book.  With dot-to-dots, marvellous mazes, missing piece puzzles, spot the differences, wordsearches, counting exercise and pictures to circle to help with pencil control, there is masses of fun set out in the pages of this adorable activity book.  Packed with puzzles, the sweetest and most interesting illustrations and oodles of joyous fun for the season, this is a wonderful puzzle book to take with you on long journeys, or when spring showers stop the outdoor play.  It’s a superb book for developing skills in maths, reading, writing and the power of observation.  (And shhhhh, there are even answers to the puzzles at the back of the book if you get stuck!)  We will be using it on our flight on holiday this Easter break.

Pip and Posy – Outdoor Explorers Sticker Activity Book – Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Does your little one love Pip and Posy? Then this is the sticker book for them.  It’s jam-packed full of the beauty and wonder of the outdoors as your young reader can join Pip and Posy as they get outside and explore the fun of nature.  There are spot the differences to do, colourful rainbow mosaic stickers to make using numbers (I love a bit of a maths learning thrown in there), a dot to do to join and colour in, friend bingo to play while exploring outside , funny faces to draw on kites, in or out sticker scenes to have fun with and so much more.  With over one hundred stickers and lots of fun activities, it is sure to keep little hands and minds busy both inside and outside.  We love the bright, colourful pages which are filled with gorgeous pictures of Pip and Posy and the fun that they are having, as well as the superb stickers which are plentiful and of a really good size for little hands to be able to peel and use themselves.  The perfect sticker book for a Pip and Posy fan.

 SuperQuesters – The Case of the Missing Memory – Lisa Moss & Dr Thomas Bernard (authors), Amy Willcox (illustrator), QuestFriendz (publisher) – ages 4-8

A love of STEM doesn’t often go together with a fun work of fiction and stickers galore but this unique series combines all of the above in its delightful pages.  This is the second in this series (but can easily be read as a standalone)which sets out to inspire children to love STEM owing to its combination of fun fiction, fascinating fact and super stickers, adding an educational twist to a chapter book story.  Brilliant – the children don’t even realise that they are learning.   This book centres around Bea: when her new robot doesn’t seem to be working properly after she has installed some new dance software, Bea and her friends join their heads together and return to Questland to try and find a solution to the problem.  But Bea is not the only one having difficulties.  The Queen of Questland tells the friends that Lord Grumble has been wreaking havoc and stealing memories from everything, so no one can remember what they should be doing!  Through a series of quest activities, full of sticker fun and aimed at developing STEM skills, your young reader will help the three friends on their mission and try and restore Questland to normality.  And maybe, just maybe, that will help Bea realise what is wrong with her poor robot…?   Each quest is unique and fun and can be completed in sequence or can be undertaken as a standalone quest.  It blows my mind how this book combines interactive elements with a work of fiction and links all of this with computing, science, maths and logic.  It’s perfect for any child who shies away from these subjects to show them how much fun they can be and it would also be a hit with any child who loves STEM but doesn’t naturally show an inclination for reading.  A super example of learning through play!  We hope for many more in the series.

A Little Dose of Nature – Dr Alison Greenwood (author), Anneli Bray (illustrator), Ivy Kids (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

What a superb book!! Marvellously mindful, full of fresh air fun and packed with fascinating information about the wonders of our natural environment.  We ADORE this book.  Any book which encourages children to get outside into nature is a winner in my eyes but this is one of the BEST because it actually explains to children the benefits of being outside and the fun that they can have in the great outdoors.  There are over 25 mindful activities for children (and adults!) to enjoy which really explore nature and allow them to make the most of all the benefits of nature and what it can do for you to keep a healthy mind and body.  Focussing on the five active ingredients in nature that scientists have discovered can make us feel more energetic, improve concentration, boost our mood, feel more relaxed and even help us sleep better, this book is a wonderful introduction to a daily dose of nature and the benefits it brings.  The activities are intended to spark joy, to appeal to children (and for adults they will definitely bring out your inner child!) and to encourage happiness and a sense of calm, depending on the activity.  Whether you choose to make natural mandalas, play who is top sniffer dog (!), play in the mud or lie under a tree and take in the sights and sounds around you, this book is sure to be a hit with your children.  The illustrations are adorable; gorgeous, pastel spreads bringing to life the beauty and wonder of the natural world in the most joyful way possible.  And, to top it all off, Ivy Kids print all of their books  on 100% recycled paper in the UK so this book is not only encouraging a love of the environment it is also environment-loving too!  We cannot rate it highly enough!

Poetry Books

Courage Out Loud – Joseph Coelho (author), Daniel Gray-Barnett (illustrator), Wide Eyed Editions (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

We LOVE everything about this series of poetry books!  This cover positively screams (in the best way) courage and happiness, with its gorgeous bright orange colour and fabulous artistry.  The books in this series make children want to open them and explore the poetry and word play contained within them.    Brought to us by the dazzling duo who created “Poems Aloud” and “Smile Out Loud”, this, the latest in the series, is a compendium of 25 poems which will not fail to inspire children to be true to themselves and help them feel brave and happy.  We love how there is an explanation before each of the poems to allow children to see the mindset of the author before he wrote each poem and to encourage children to think about how to read the poem.  There are limericks to make you feel happy, poems to be whispered into the ear of someone who needs some encouragement, poems to inspire children to keep trying….and so many more.  There are also activities to try with some of the poems, like drawing pictures or having a go at writing poems.  This is a brilliant book to help children gain in confidence.  My youngest daughter has a stammer and whilst she doesn’t let it affect her most of the time, books like this are superb to encourage her love of words and verse and are wonderful for any child to help them explore the magic and power of the written word.  The illustrations are such fun: bold, filled with emotion, vibrantly bringing to life the poetic form.  A book to provide happiness, courage, fun, bravery and confidence and which showcases the joyfulness and the power of words, what’s not to love?!

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Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!

Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.

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