Some brilliant recommendations for Children’s non-fiction in May 2022.

Some brilliant recommendations for Children's non-fiction in May 2022

Non-fiction works never used to be so wonderful, I am convinced of it.  Children’s non-fiction is now absolutely brilliant.  Visually stunning and filled with fascinating facts, designed to engage your young reader and absorb them in learning about a specific subject, these books deserve a blog post all to themselves.  Here are my top works of non-fiction around at the moment:

Table Of Contents
  1. Children of the World  – Nicola Edwards (author), Andrea Stegmaier (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)
  2. Wonders of the Night Sky – Professor Raman Prinja (author), Jan Bielecki (illustrator), Wayland Books (imprint of Hachette) (publisher)
  3. The Looking Book – Lucia Vinti (author and illustrator), Pavilion Children’s Books (publisher)
  4. Little People Big Dreams – Harry Houdini -Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Juliana Vido (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
  5. Sports Superstars: Hamilton Rules -Simon Mugford (author), Dan Green (designer and illustrator), Welbeck Children’s Books Limited (publisher)
  6. Do Baby Elephants Suck Their Trunks? Ben Lerwill (author), Katharine McEwen (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
  7. Beyond Belief – Alex Woolf (author), Jasmine Floyd (illustrator), 360 Degrees (imprint of Little Tiger Group) (publisher)
  8. The Tree Book – Hannah Alice (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
  9. Tales of Ancient Worlds – Stefan Milosavljevich (author), Sam Caldwell (illustrator), Neon Squid (publisher)
  10. Once Upon A Big Idea – James Carter (author), Margaux Carpentier (illustrator), Caterpillar Books (imprint of Little Tiger Group) (publisher)
  11. Around the World in 80 Trees – Ben Lerwill (author), Kaja Kajfex (illustrator), Welbeck Editions (imprint of Welbeck Children’s Limited) (publisher)
  12. Wild Life – The Extraordinary Adventures of Sir David Attenborough – Leisa Stewart Sharpe (author), Helen Shoesmith (illustrator), Wren & Rook (imprint of Hachette) (publisher)
  13. Little People Big Dreams – Florence Nightingale -Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Kelsey Garrity-Riley (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
  14. The Hospital – The Inside Story – Dr Christle Nwora (author), Ginnie Hsu (illustrator), Neon Squid (publisher)
  15. Atoms – John Devolle (author and illustrator), Pushkin Press (publisher)
  16. The Secret Life of Birds -Moira Butterfield (author), Vivian Mineker (illustrator), Happy Yak (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
  17. 100 First Words Nature – Edward Underwood (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
  18. BeYOUtiful – Shelina Janmohamed (author), Chante Timothy (illustrator), Welbeck Children’s (publisher)
  19. Little People Big Dreams – J.R.R. Tolkien – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Aaron Cushley (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
  20. Spies – David Long (author), Terri Po (illustrator), Faber & Faber Limited (publisher)
  21. Great Elizabethans, HM Queen Elizabeth II and 25  Amazing Britons from her Reign – Imogen Russell Williams (author), Sara Mulvanny (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
  22. If the World Were 100 Animals – Miranda Smith (author), Aaron Cushley (illustrator), Red Shed (part of Farshore) (publisher)
  23. A Day in the Life: Big Cats – Tyus D. Williams (author), Chaaya Prabhat (illustrator), Neon Squid (publisher)
  24. How to Make a Book – Becky Davies (author), Patricia Hu (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)
  25. We Are The Romans – David Long (author), Allen Fatimaharan (illustrator), Welbeck Children’s Books (publisher)
  26. Women who Led the Way – Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom (authors and illustrators), Otter-Barry Books (publisher)
  27. Writes of Passage  – Words to Read Before you Turn 13 – selected by Nicolette Jones, Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
  28. Leonardo Da Vinci’s Life of Invention – Jake Williams (author and illustrator), Pavilion Children’s Books (publisher)
  29. The Book of Sisters – Katie Nelson and Olivia Meikle (authors), Neon Squid (publisher)
  30. Around the World in 80 Musical Instruments – Nancy Dickmann (author), Sue Downing (illustrator), Welbeck Editions (imprint of Welbeck Children’s Limited) (publisher)

Children of the World  – Nicola Edwards (author), Andrea Stegmaier (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

Celebrating children around the world and different customs, phrases and customs, I love the way this book is set out.  It’s diverse, it’s inclusive, it’s colourful and it is hugely informative in the BEST of ways.  We all think that how we live our lives is the norm.  This book introduces children to other children around the world and what their lives look like, from where, and how, they sleep to how they might cure a cough or a cold (lizard soup anyone?!).  There are fascinating details about where it is impolite to cut your lettuce, or polite to slurp your food, how celebrations take place around the globe and where alpacas are a popular pet, to name but a few.  The information is set out in bite-sized text blocks and is visually appealing because of the sweet illustrations and earth-toned palette used.  The details in this book are incredible, you and your child can explore family life around the world, learning new words and phrases in different languages along the way.  I love how this book celebrates our differences and highlights what a wonderful world it is when we all appreciate each other.  What more can a book hope to achieve?!

Wonders of the Night Sky – Professor Raman Prinja (author), Jan Bielecki (illustrator), Wayland Books (imprint of Hachette) (publisher)

Just looking up at the night sky blows my tiny little mind! I just can’t seem to comprehend how vast it all is. This book is a superb guide to the wonders of the universe.  It prepares you with some handy hints about how to go stargazing (and what equipment you might need – don’t forget that all-important flask) and takes you on a cosmic adventure exploring the stars and constellations, the moon (including fascinating facts about lunar eclipses), the planets, asteroids, comets, the northern and southern lights ….and then expands outwards to the galaxies (not the chocolate variety) and this is where my brain starts to explode, knowing that our sun and all the stars we see are part of only one galaxy (the Milky Way (again, my brain drifts to chocolate!)).  This is such a beautifully illustrated work of non-fiction, filled with fascinating and jaw-dropping facts and one that I think you will be drawn to time and time again.  Perfect for any budding star-gazer or cosmos enthusiast.

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The Looking Book – Lucia Vinti (author and illustrator), Pavilion Children’s Books (publisher)

This book is a fantastic resource for any young creator or budding artist.  By following the activities in the book, your young reader can turn their every day activities into something creative and wonderful, so a walk with the dog, or a trip to the shops can be transformed into the most amazing art.  This book encourages children to find art and beauty everywhere they look, from the sky above them to the buildings surrounding them.  Not only that but this book is a visual stunner! Each page is bold and bright and filled with the most fantastic illustrations of the different styles of the artists it mentions.  From David Hockney through Sister Corita Kent to Kehinde Wiley, this book explores various techniques that different artists use and provides fascinating, easy to digest text blocks of information about these wonderful creators and encourages your young readers to try out the differing styles.  We also love the creative thinking that is hugely encouraged in this book: from creating and using a ‘finder’ to look at the world a bit differently, or making and drawing a people passport of interesting people, to writing a poem about a piece of art in a gallery, there are lots of opportunities to allow your child to get their creative juices flowing.  Part activity book (there are over 70 suggested activities contained within it), part work of non-fiction, this book is a masterpiece in encouraging a passion and enthusiasm about creativity and art. 

Little People Big Dreams – Harry Houdini -Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Juliana Vido (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Celebrating the life of Erik Weisz, better known by his stage name of Harry Houdini, this work of non-fiction tracks through the incredible stunts and tricks of this great illusionist.  After Erik’s family emigrated to America, his family could not afford to continue with his education so he took matters into his own hands and studied the street performers in Wisconsin and started to perfect some acrobatic feats before moving on to his true passion: magic.   In the day he trained as a locksmith, and at night he studied to use this knowledge to become one of the greatest escapologists the world has ever known.  This book tells of how The Handcuff King baffled police officers, royalty and the general public alike by performing jaw-dropping and daring feats of escape artistry.  Did you know that he even made an elephant disappear from a theatre packed full of soldiers?  To this very day, how he did that remains an absolute mystery!  Mind blowing.  We love the message of this book: “that limits are just an illusion and that life is really magic.”  The illustrations are vibrant and beautiful with such a feeling of celebration of life, magic and colour that your young reader will be truly captivated by the circus and wonder of it all.   If you have a child who is interested in tricks and stunts, this book is truly magical. If you would like to find out more about this wonderful series, do take a look at the Little People, Big Dreams website Little People, BIG DREAMS – Be Bold, Be Brave, DREAM BIG! ( to subscribe to their newsletter so you can stay up to date with the latest releases.

Sports Superstars: Hamilton Rules -Simon Mugford (author), Dan Green (designer and illustrator), Welbeck Children’s Books Limited (publisher)

Brought to us by the dynamic duo which created the best-selling Football Superstars series, this book, the first title in this brand-new series from Welbeck Children’s, published at the end of March.  Focussing on racing driver, Sir Lewis Hamilton, this black and white paperback is a visually brilliant fact file of information about the king of the track.  The illustrations are fun and engaging with cartoon-style pictures to bring alive the fascinating facts and interesting narrative about this champion driver.  This is an easy-to-read and very engaging book charting the biography of Hamilton’s stellar rise from a go-karting kid to his Formula 1 championship wins that make him a racing idol and living legend.  It’s packed full of inspirational quotes (“My Dad told me when I was six or seven years old never to give up”), impressive statistics, brilliant timelines and even a good-old quiz to entertain and engage your young racing enthusiast.  Your reader will learn about the greatest moments in Sir Lewis Hamilton’s life, track through his successes and failures and follow the journey that has led to him being one of the UK’s most successful sportsmen.  For any F1 enthusiast, this is a brilliant book.  Do look out for more in this Sports Superstars series in the future: golden girl, tennis ace, Emma Raducanu, is the next to feature in a hard-hitting (pun intended) page turner about her.

Do Baby Elephants Suck Their Trunks? Ben Lerwill (author), Katharine McEwen (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

How adorable is it that baby elephants suck their trunks?! This might be the cutest fact we now know.  This book is a bright, gorgeous work of non-fiction for younger readers inviting comparisons between them and the animal kingdom.  Children will love exploring how similar they are to the young of all kinds of different species.  Like baby orangutans who are carried around by their mothers for years, or baby whales who can drink enough milk every day to fill two bathtubs!!  Very sweet and colourful illustrations match the bite-sized text blocks of fascinating information in this mind-blowing book which explores some of the ways children are very similar to some amazing animals.  We also love the message at the end of the book: “The things that make us the same are as special as the things that make us different” and the brilliant discussion question on the final page which prompts some fun chats around what animals we would all like to be.  We love this book, It is perfectly pitched for its target audience (an age range of around 2- 5 years) and it would make a brilliant addition to your child’s non-fiction collection as an interesting and fun book.

Beyond Belief – Alex Woolf (author), Jasmine Floyd (illustrator), 360 Degrees (imprint of Little Tiger Group) (publisher)

Wow! This book is bold, it is bright, it is colourful and it is full of ideas, inventions and possibilities about the future. We are living in exciting and yet fast-moving times where technological advances and advances in science and medicine are happening every single day.  This book is full of vibrancy  – of wonderful illustrations, yes, but also of infinite possibilities for advancement in those areas.  Lots of these ideas come from science fiction and yet some of these futuristic versions of the world are not that far-fetched and could potentially be a reality.  This book looks at ideas such as teleportation, superhuman beings, digital simulations, virtual reality, time travel ….. It puts across lots of thoughts and potential scenarios and also poses deep questions for you and your child to ponder and discuss. If your child likes a ‘why’ or a ‘how’ and is fascinated by science and technology then I think this book will blow their mind!  A great book for deep thinking and examining the potentials of the science of the future.

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

What a unique work of non-fiction!  No spoilers from the title, this book is all about the incredible things that trees can do, from their roots to their leaves and everything in between.  There are see-through pages on each two-page spread of the book and they are an absolute winner in this house as a wonderful, interactive visual aid to what is happening above and below the ground, allowing your child to take a closer look at trees through the ever-changing seasons. This wonderful book looks in detail at each part of a tree – from flowers, seeds, pollen, bark, leaves and roots – and some of the animals and insects that it can provide a home for.  The pages are full of colour to match the season being explored and there are gorgeously detailed illustrations and wonderfully drawn diagrams to emphasise and enhance the bite-sized text blocks of information.  We love seeing how a tree grows by using the see-through pages and we have been fascinated to learn about the different parts of a tree that work together to keep it growing strong and proud.  We also loved the final page of the book about taking care of trees and the reasons why it is important for us to do so.  Full of colour, digestible facts and simple labels, this book is a superb non-fiction read.

Tales of Ancient Worlds – Stefan Milosavljevich (author), Sam Caldwell (illustrator), Neon Squid (publisher)

Are you ready to dig into the soils of the Ancient World?  Your reader will travel back millions of years in this brilliant work of non-fiction focussing on how archaeology can help us explore how our ancient ancestors lived. Split into relevant and easy to navigate chapters, you will discover what we have learned about our early ancestors, what life was like during the Ice Age and the mystery of Stonehenge in the first chapter, which focusses on the first humans.  The age of the humans will take you to see magical treasures such as the tomb of King Tutankhamun and the terracotta army, taking you on a journey round the globe to visit these amazing achievements.  You will explore ancient empires, and their strengths and weaknesses.  You will encounter fascinating and mind-blowing images, such as that of the Nazca Lines made by the incredible engineers thousands of years ago in Peru (in fact, there are apparently a thousand of these still left to uncover!!)  There are all sorts of interesting stories laid out because of archaeological discoveries made, including the discovery of a preserved Viking poo (queue much laughter from the children) and what it can tell us about life back then.   You can decide to dip in and out of the book, picking up tales which intrigue and captivate you, or read the book in order, depending on your wont.  The illustrations are equally fantastic, bringing to life and fabulous colour the tales depicted and amazing discoveries made.  This is a book truly worth digging into – it contains huge amounts of treasure that you will surely want to get your hands on.

Once Upon A Big Idea – James Carter (author), Margaux Carpentier (illustrator), Caterpillar Books (imprint of Little Tiger Group) (publisher)

Are you an ideas kind of a person?!  Sadly, I have about as much inventive spark as a plank of wood (although, I am sure the innovative among you could create something amazing out of that!).  This is the story of inventions.  This is an inventive story.  This book is so clever.  Taking your young reader on a fabulous journey from the Stone Age to modern times, this book uses a fantastically fun and fizzing rhyming text to allow your child to discover the inventions and ideas that have helped shaped the world that we live in.  From rocks and stones, to wood and metals, this book emphasises how the materials in the natural environment have helped craft useful objects that have changed the lives of humans and introduces your child to some of the key inventions in the world. We love the emphasis at the end of the book on recycling and re-using as well as the information in the end matter and the thinking question posed of: “what’s your best invention ever?”  The use of the fast-paced rhyming text is such an innovative way to allow children to explore the great inventions of our world, from the pyramids to books, and make this one of the most unique works of non-fiction around. This is such a fun, celebratory book with riotous illustrations of bold colour and design which will fill your heart with joy to look at. 

Around the World in 80 Trees – Ben Lerwill (author), Kaja Kajfex (illustrator), Welbeck Editions (imprint of Welbeck Children’s Limited) (publisher)

Trees are the oldest living things in the world, in fact some trees are thousands of years old (if you picture that they have been standing in the same spot since the days of the Roman Empire then you can truly appreciate how awe-inspiring that is!).  With stunningly beautiful illustrations, this book is not only a visual celebration of these incredible plants but a wonderland of information just waiting for you to explore.  From trees that look like alien broccoli (the dragon blood tree), and trees that look like umbrellas (the umbrella thorn tree) to the beautiful cotton candy pink coloured cherry blossom tree, this book will take you on a journey across the globe painting pictures of and providing fascinating text blocks of information about 80 of the world’s most terrific trees.  We love how the central gatefold opens out into a stunning family tree of all 80 trees and how they relate to each other.  There are also chunks of absorbing information about the different types of trees, and their various parts, the life cycle of trees, pollination and their importance to us.  We also love the two-page spread at the end of the book explaining why trees need our help and what we can do to assist them to have a healthy future.  Your child will absolutely learn something new and mind-blowing: like how trees can warn each other that they are at risk of disease, or that the tallest tree in the world is larger than Big Ben, or the oldest tree was 300 when the pyramids were being built in Egypt!!  Bursting with life and exquisitely stunning on all levels, this book is perfect for any nature enthusiast.

Around the World in 80 Trees

Wild Life – The Extraordinary Adventures of Sir David Attenborough – Leisa Stewart Sharpe (author), Helen Shoesmith (illustrator), Wren & Rook (imprint of Hachette) (publisher)

Oh. My. Goodness.  What a delightful book!  Everything from the subject matter to the exquisitely beautiful illustrations is just beautiful.  It also happens that Sir David Attenborough is just a little bit of legend in my eyes!  This amazing book takes you and your little reader on a journey of discovery into our nation’s best loved naturalist’s truly wild life.  Can you imagine having a gorilla look inside your mouth, being yawned at in the face by a lion, or scuttled over by millions of red crabs?  Or how about travelling to meet presidents, protestors and princes to talk about protecting our wonderful planet?   Or filming in exotic locations such as the Galapagos islands and visiting every continent in the world to bring the creatures of the Earth into the living rooms of amazed viewers?  These are just some of the fascinating achievements of Sir David that you can read about in this wonderful book.  Leisa’s characteristically brilliant way with words weaves a magic blend of story-telling surrounding the true life of Sir David and makes this work of non-fiction so unique.  The illustrations are simply brimming with life and colour, brilliantly portraying the character of Sir David and the animals he comes across so well and evoking fantabulous images of the wonderful world we live in.  Even the end papers are to die for!  We also love the pages at the end of the book introducing us in a bit more detail to the animals described in the book and encountered by Sir David, as well as the plants and animals featured in his mini-museum.  This book would be a perfect gift for any animal lover, eco-lover or budding naturalist and it is so beautiful you might even just want to put it on display! A triumph.

Little People Big Dreams – Florence Nightingale -Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Kelsey Garrity-Riley (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Part of this fantastic series discovering all about the lives of outstanding people, this book about The Lady of the Lamp is just as outstanding as you would expect.  In Florence’s day, it was expected that wealthy young ladies would find a husband and settle down (my daughter finds this the most hilarious concept!!) but she made up her mind from a very early age that that was not what she wanted out of life.  She realised very quickly that her life would be most satisfying if she took care of others and, much to her family’s protestations, she decided to train as a nurse.  When war broke out in the Crimea, urgent help to look after the injured soldiers was required and Florence travelled across the seas to assist and to put in place much better standards of hygiene and cleanliness in the hospitals, thereby saving thousands of men.  A work of non-fiction, this book reads like a story, with Florence Nightingale as the true heroine (as she indeed was).  The illustrations in this book are just superb, simple yet brilliantly evocative of the personalities involved and full of colour and activity portraying the details of the time.  We are also huge fans of the timeline and real-life photographs at the back of the book giving even more detail about the life of Florence Nightingale.

The Hospital – The Inside Story – Dr Christle Nwora (author), Ginnie Hsu (illustrator), Neon Squid (publisher)

Like all of the Neon Squid non-fiction books, this book is brilliant.  Looking at the round the clock care the teams within a hospital give, this unique book offers a look at the inner workings of a hospital to help children understand the different terminology used in medical settings, the places that they or a loved one might have to visit and the equipment that might be used.  This book is a wonder in de-stigmatising a hospital, its wards and theatres and various procedures (such as taking blood and operations) and explains the unique positions that medical members and support staff in a hospital hold and how they all try to work together to provide thorough care for patients and their families.    Your reader will go on a tour of a hospital, ride in ambulance and meet the incredible people who help keep us healthy, from psychiatrists to surgeons, physiotherapists to cleaners, and will, along the way, have the science behind various machines and procedures explained to them in uncomplicated language.  The illustrations are incredible too, so life-like and engaging that you really feel like you have stepped inside a hospital setting.   My son is four and has a heart condition for which he had to have surgery a month or so ago and whilst a lot of the information in this book is too detailed for him (it’s aimed at children who are a little bit older – around 6 plus), we used lots of the pictures and diagrams to explain his operation and the operating theatre to him.  I can see this being a brilliant tool to help any child who has to go into hospital for any reason, whether that be for themselves or to visit a relative or friend, to help them understand the process and feel more comfortable with their surroundings.  It would also a brilliant book to use in schools to support STEM learning.

Atoms – John Devolle (author and illustrator), Pushkin Press (publisher)

This book says it will “blow your tiny mind”!  In fairness, it doesn’t take much with me (ha ha!) but I can absolutely see why with this book.  Imagine: do you think you could actually explain to a child what an atom really is?  I mean, really explain?  I will freely admit, I think I would struggle.  I love that science books are so cool these days.  I mean, this book is so colourful and vibrant and positively bursts with questions and answers to complicated scientific questions in a simplistic yet engaging manner.  This book is the perfect picture book to introduce your young reader to the science behind the what, where and when questions that young children so often ask.  In fact, your little reader will be introduced to some very big ideas, such as the Big Bang theory and the teeny, tiny particles called atoms which basically make up everything in the whole wide universe.  If there are an octillion atoms in one of your eyeballs, think how your young reader’s mind will be blown trying to guess how many there are in a dog, …. or a blue whale, …. or the solar system!!  The illustrations are perfectly tuned to the fantastic facts in this book: they positively burst onto the page with impact, humour and colour.  This is a fully accessible first book of science for younger readers and one that we hugely embrace – we’d love to see more scientific picture books on the market.  This one is truly unique in conveying scientific concepts to younger children in such a colourful and visual way.

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

This is just the sweetest, fluffiest book around about our feathered friends.  It is so clever: you and your children follow the journey of Speedy, the swift, on her travels around the globe as the seasons change.  Along the way, she points out lots of similarities and differences in the avian world and swoops in with lots of fascinating facts.  Did you know that swifts can sleep while they fly, or that the largest owl’s wingspan is longer than a door, or that some birds even sunbathe?  Even if me and my children didn’t love birds, we would find the facts in this book absolutely riveting.  Your child will learn all about the anatomy of a bird, their amazing feathers and beaks, their survival secrets, the songs they sing, the nests they build and so much more.  In between all of that, there are wonderful and spell-binding tales about birds from all around the world which will be sure to captivate your reader.  We love how unique this book is as it breaks up the fascinating facts with bird tales from legends and folklore.  We loved joining Speedy on his journey and we are going to try the apple and sunflower seeds feeder for the birds that the final page of the book suggests.  The illustrations in this book really need to be tweeted (see what I did there?!) about too: they are so adorable, filled with brilliantly cute depictions of various types of birds and wonderfully colourful drawings of the images evoked by the bird tales told throughout the book.  This is a beautiful book about beautiful birds.

100 First Words Nature – Edward Underwood (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Non fiction can start from a very early age.  Introducing your child to first words is where it can begin and this book is a gem of a book to begin their learning journey with.  Using nature as its theme, the gorgeously colourful illustrations of animals, plants and items found in the natural world combined with their words will introduce your young child to the wonder and beauty of the planet surrounding them.  Each picture is eye-catching and bright, really designed to captivate its young audience and reinforce the language used.  There are fun, interactive large flaps to engage with and explore, behind which are further vibrant pictures and words.  Each two-page spread is set out as a natural world ‘theme’, such as the seasons, or the countryside, or the jungle and the pictures and words correlate to that theme.  The big flaps are not only entertaining for your little one but help to develop those all-important fine motor skills. This book would make a gorgeous gift for a newborn or for a child’s first birthday, being bold, colourful, fun and engaging.

BeYOUtiful – Shelina Janmohamed (author), Chante Timothy (illustrator), Welbeck Children’s (publisher)

This is a book about what it means to be beautiful.  We are not talking about how to pout for a selfie, or how to dress well here.  No, this is a book which really empowers the reader to believe in themselves and to truly give themselves the power to say, and mean, that they are beautiful, whatever they decide that means.  I love that it doesn’t gloss over the fact that society seems to value how people look and it acknowledges that how you feel about yourself is important and that can be wrapped up in notions of how we look but it explores the idea of beauty and what it means around the world, allowing the reader to realise and understand that the concept of beauty is a fluid one.  The book takes a look at women’s bodies and hair and skin, exploring how different this can be and how what has been considered to be stylish or beautiful through the ages has changed. I love the chapters of the book which deal with the serious issues of harmful beauty ideals over time and the pages which look at navigating the tricky world of social media and body images and yet still believing in the beauty which is inside you.  There are some wonderful, inspiring stories from real-life women through history interspersed throughout the book to emphasise and bring to life the concepts and ideas within the book.  The illustrations are powerful and bright, bringing to the fore the idea of how strong and wonderful we are when we believe in ourselves.  This book is a powerful companion for any young girl, particularly those who are struggling with identity or self-worth.  It’s empowering, it’s funny, it’s bright, it’s inspirational.  It’s full of practical advice and hints and tips on how to navigate life and the concept of beauty, both offline and online.  It’s a book designed to make your child realise what you already know: just how beYOUtiful they are.

Little People Big Dreams – J.R.R. Tolkien – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Aaron Cushley (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Little John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was just three years old when he left South Africa and settled in England with his mother and brother.  There, he developed a love of nature and learned to draw stunning landscapes and paint beautiful pictures of our glorious natural world.  When his family moved to the city, he missed the green landscape and he used to make up fantastical worlds to allow him to escape from the crowded city life.  He developed his love of the imaginary and used to make up secret languages and became fascinated with the origins of language.  This continued into his studies at school, where he became friends with a secret society of boys who used to get together to read literature, and further into his studies at Oxford.  After fighting in the First World War, he wrote the story of The Hobbit after creating all sorts of fun and spellbinding tales for his children, and then later, the epic of all fantastical works: The Lord of the Rings.  We love this inspiring read all about the father of fantasy, truly believing the words at the end of the story: “it doesn’t matter where we go, what matters is that we enjoy the journey.”  We have certainly enjoyed the journey that this book has taken us on.  The two-page fact and photograph section at the end of the book is just as fascinating: I had no idea the Tolkien worked as a code-breaker during World War II!  As ever with this fantastic series, the illustrations are just superb, full of expression and feeling and beautifully depicting the scenes of the time.  This is a wonderful addition to the series and one that we will truly treasure.

Spies – David Long (author), Terri Po (illustrator), Faber & Faber Limited (publisher)

Did you know that before Roald Dahl became a world-famous writer, he was a pilot and a spy during World War 2?  I don’t know about you but I am fascinated by the courage and determination of spies.  They must have been so terrified so much of the time and yet they carried on in the face of extreme personal danger.  So, you can see how I snapped at the chance to review this book and it does not disappoint.  Filled with daring, heart in your mouth tales of real-life adventure, this book is a stunning collection of these stories of secrecy and courageous missions.  The book follows the feats of 27 of the most daring spies during the Second World War.  From spies who were sisters (and said nothing about it until after their deaths a host of medals were discovered in their flat), to the singing spy, the first woman wireless operator to skiing spies, your reader will be amazed by the daring escapades written about with clarity and intrigue by the award-winning David Long.  The subject matter and detail are perfectly pitched for the reading age of 9 plus.  The illustrations are just exquisite.  I love the colour palette used and the drawings are a stunning representation of these tales of valour and nail-biting adventure.  And just take a look at that cover!!  Out at the beginning of June, I can see this book being a wonderful resource in schools or for home-learning on the subject of World War II.  It’s fascinating from cover to cover.

Great Elizabethans, HM Queen Elizabeth II and 25  Amazing Britons from her Reign – Imogen Russell Williams (author), Sara Mulvanny (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

What an amazing book to commemorate the Queen’s platinum jubilee and beyond.  Celebrating the life and reign of our current monarch, this book is unique at not only looking back over the past 70 years and all that has taken place in that timeframe but also to look at the lives of some awe-inspiring Britons along the way.  Beginning with a brief introduction and potted history of the momentous events of the past 70 years, this wonderful work of non-fiction then moves on to take a look at young “Lilibet”’s life, her unexpected ascension to the throne and how she has served her people over the years.  There then follows a brilliantly visual timeline marking significant events through the decades. We then take a look at the brilliant Britons that have been around in the Queen’s lifetime.  Exploring the lives of these inspiring history makers, from code-breaking Alan Turing to powerful singer Shirley Bassey, political activists like Aneurin Bevan to environmentalists like Anita Roddick, this book takes us on an amazing and impressive journey looking at the incredible changes that have happened over the past 70 years.  This book is just glorious: positively brimming with colour and celebration, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  My eldest daughter (who is learning all about kings and queens at school) positively adores it and has already taken it into her class to proudly show it off. The illustrations are superb, full of colour, fun and glorious detail.  This is a special book, celebrating not only the life of a special monarch but the lives of some of the most motivational and talented Britons who have contributed to such an impressive 70 years on the throne.  Do try and get your hands on a copy of this book.  You won’t regret it.

If the World Were 100 Animals – Miranda Smith (author), Aaron Cushley (illustrator), Red Shed (part of Farshore) (publisher)

Eeeek, how are you with statistics?! We have discussed my pea-sized brain on these pages before so I think you might have an idea how I might feel if you start telling me that the total number of individual animals on Earth is around 20 quintillion (that’s 20 followed by 18 0’s (I counted!!).  This book acknowledges that that figure is just mind-blowingly large and so it imagines the world as just 100 animals and how they are divided into vertebrates and invertebrates (so those with a backbone and those without one).  Clever, huh?! I haven’t even begun.  This amazing work of non-fiction shrinks all the mind-blowing statistics down into an easy to comprehend set of proportional figures with superb visual aids.  So, if there are only 100 vertebrates in the world, 23% of them are birds, 9% mammals, 11% amphibians, 14% reptiles and 43% fish (that adds up, right?!).  This book is truly superb, posing various questions about the animals that live on earth and allowing your reader to understand the numbers involved in much more simplistic terms.  It’s mind-boggling but in the best of ways.  It also highlights some of the dangers that the animals of this world face and what would be lost to the world if this damage continues.  There are also some hard-hitting and thought-provoking questions at the end of the book to encourage your young reader to think about taking appropriate action and making a difference.  Beautiful illustrations accompany the bite-sized blocks of text and impactful statistics making this a stunning visual read too.  We read this book in one sitting because we devoured the contents but it is a book that you could come back to time and time again because it is so powerful in the most beautiful of ways.

A Day in the Life: Big Cats – Tyus D. Williams (author), Chaaya Prabhat (illustrator), Neon Squid (publisher)

Have you ever wondered what a tiger gets up to all day? Or a snow leopard, or jaguar, or cheetah for that matter? This book is full of the coolest cats around and explains their Felidae family tree with the puma branch of the family (containing cheetahs and pumas) being different from the panthera branch of the family (containing lions, tigers, snow leopards, leopards and jaguars)…. See, you have learnt something already!!  Set over the course of a day, your reader will follow how these different cool, big cats spend their days.  From the early morning breakfast of a snow leopard in the Himalayas to the leopard’s lunchtime meal up a tree in Kenya, you will journey across different landscapes around the world discovering how these different cats deal with their daily life in the wild.  This book is packed full of fascinating facts about these feline predators such as why they are such good hunters, how their coats allow them to hide from their prey or the places you can encounter them around the globe (there are no wild big cats in Australia or Antartica).  Short text blocks of information set out the incredible facts in this book, providing maximum engagement for the reader, particularly when combined with the glorious drawings. These illustrations are sublime: beautifully colourful with gorgeous representations of the animals depicted, inviting you into their world and captivating you at every page-turn. This is a truly beautiful and gripping work of non-fiction: the perfect book for any wild animal lover.

How to Make a Book – Becky Davies (author), Patricia Hu (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

This book is simply awesome!  Did you know that different inks are used in a printing press to create a book: four different coloured layers and then a text plate so that the book can be printed in multiple languages?!  My mind is blown.  My eldest daughter and I have learned so much about how a book actually gets from inside the author’s brain, onto a page and then into a child’s hands and all the stages in between.  This has been particularly fascinating for us because my daughter is desperate to publish a book (ha ha, she has big dreams for a six year old!).  This book explains the process from when an author first writes a book to it being picked up in a bookshop by you and all the happy dances, biscuits and coffee along the way.  Its style is so humorous and fun, using funny speech bubbles and flashes of text to emphasise the excitement and teamwork involved from start to finish.  This absorbing book explains the roles of the various people involved in making the book, looking at the jobs of the editors, designers, illustrators, agents, publishers, marketing, sales team and more and when they become involved in the process.  The style is utterly brilliant: fun and colourful illustrations match the humour of the text and perfectly complement the celebratory feel of the coming together of a book.  There are also cute little details to look out for along the way, giving a nod to previous Little Tiger publications.  For anyone, child or adult, who has ever wanted to know more about the whole publishing process, this is a fantastic book about the book business!

We Are The Romans – David Long (author), Allen Fatimaharan (illustrator), Welbeck Children’s Books (publisher)

If you lived in the Roman times, what would you have liked to be?  A gladiator?  An emperor?  A slave? A scribe?  A priestess?  This engaging book steps back in time to allow you to meet a whole cross-section of society that would have made up the Roman Empire.  I have been fascinated by the Romans ever since as I was tiny because my primary school was built on a Roman fort and my hometown stood at one end of Hadrian’s Wall (its Roman name was Luguvalium).  So, I devoured the contents of this book like the proverbial dog with a bone! With superb introductions to a whole cast of characters living during the Roman times, your reader will find out what these people did, their functions and roles, and how they lived.  These are brought to life by the wonderful illustrations in the book and the colour palette used which evokes a hot, busy and dusty Roman summer.  After having read the book, me and my daughter aren’t really sure what we would have liked to have done back in Roman times, but neither of us would have wanted to be a physician feeding our patients mice as a remedy for toothache!!  There’s also a fantastically visual map showing how far the Roman Empire reached at its peak, a timeline, some pages on key famous Romans and Roman inventions, together with a brief introduction to Roman gods and goddesses.  Your  child can even study a little bit of Latin and learn to count in Roman numerals.  However, my favourite part of the book has to be the recipe at the back, inviting you to bring a little bit of Roman times into your house by baking bread like a Roman.  We will certainly be giving that one a go, mmmmm! 

Women who Led the Way – Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom (authors and illustrators), Otter-Barry Books (publisher)

Packed with amazing real-life stories and fascinating facts about trail-blazing women through history, this is a book to truly treasure. Sumptuous artistry, filled with brilliant brushstrokes and colour depict the fantastic women and their feats who have become such icons to people everywhere.  Set in chronological order, this book explores how wonderful and determined women all around the globe have discovered and conquered, overcome dangers and doubts, and above all achieved in the face of ideas and views that women should sit at home and not take part in such activities.  It looks at such legends as Sacagawea (who, age 16, took her baby boy on an expedition across the Rocky Mountains to guide and interpret for the Lewis and Clark expedition), Nellie Bly (America’s first female undercover journalist and record breaking round the world traveller), Amelia Earhart (the first female pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean), Barbara Hillary (the first African-American woman to reach both the North and South Poles), to name but a few as well as detailing a further, matching female explorer in succinct detail.   These inspirational stories telling of pioneering discoveries in the fields of nature, history, science (and more!) are a truly motivational read for all children.  This book is a wonderful resource to read from cover to cover or to dip in and out of.

Writes of Passage  – Words to Read Before you Turn 13 – selected by Nicolette Jones, Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

This is a book to be dipped into, or a book to be savoured, line by line, a book to devour quickly, or a book to take your time with.  There is no right or wrong, there is only the book and the words it has to say. Words which will hopefully resonate with your child, words which may comfort, inspire, commiserate or give hope.  Words which come from other books, or which have been said by other people, but which are beautiful and wise words nonetheless.  This is a gorgeous collection of over 100 pieces of writing – letters, songs, passages from books, quotations, poems and more – from tennis ace Roger Federer to writer Charlotte Bronte, which are thought-provoking, funny, sage or inspiring depending on the passage.  The book is split into 8 chapters and each chapter focusses on a particular theme, such as kindness and courage, or becoming you and your future, and provides some wonderful choice words from various sources to inspire your young reader’s mind.  Each passage has some commentary by Nicolette Jones to accompany it and to assist your child with interpretation and understanding or to suggest further thoughts and reading.  It’s a really powerful anthology- I found myself welling up reading some of the quotations -and one which should have a place on your child’s bookshelves as they journey into adulthood.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Life of Invention – Jake Williams (author and illustrator), Pavilion Children’s Books (publisher)

Da Vinci’s work is jaw dropping: how can one man be able to achieve so much?!  The fact that he painted the Mona Lisa, one of the most iconic pieces of artwork of all time, and also invented a flying machine literally blows my mind.  Inventions, art, music and engineering, he was an ‘all-rounder’ (also known as a polymath) on another level! This fascinating book celebrates his life and his awe-inspiring achievements, as well as a few of his less-successful ventures.  We love how the book begins though: with a message of hope – just because you haven’t finished something, does not mean you have failed.  What counts is that you tried.  This book follows the incredibly talented Leonardo’s life – he was a super musician and singer as well as a sublime artist, a wonderful architect, a hugely ambitious and talented inventor – as well as providing some fascinating snippets of information about him: did you know he was ambidextrous and often wrote passages backwards and from right to left so that they could only be read using a mirror?!  Split into sections detailing his fascination and work within the natural world, his inventions and his works of art, this book is a veritable mine of wonder and spell-binding talent, even explaining what a legacy Da Vinci has left over 500 years after his death.  The illustrations are beautiful: bold drawings to accompany the fascinating text and we love the colour palette used by the award-winning author and illustrator, Jake Williams.  It’s proudly on display in our playroom because it is so visually appealing but its gripping and easy to absorb facts mean that it is a book we keep coming back to over and over again.

The Book of Sisters – Katie Nelson and Olivia Meikle (authors), Neon Squid (publisher)

I have always been fascinated by the relationship and bond between sisters because I don’t have one, being the youngest of three with two older brothers. I love the quotation on the opening pages of the book: “What other kind of relationship is such a complete apprenticeship in love, care, and warfare?”  So, I was so intrigued by this book and, like all Neon Squid works of non-fiction, it does not disappoint.  Each two-page spread is adorned with the most vibrant and breath-taking illustrations of the biographies depicted and these are accompanied by some fascinating text about the relationships and stories of the sisters involved.  This book is a time-travelling, globe-trotting wonder: from the three sisters who were believed to control life in the time of the Ancient Greeks, to the sad tale of the daughters of Emperor Shah Jahan who lived over years ago, to tennis superstar sisters Venus and Serena Williams.  The biographies are rich in detail and full of absorbing information and sometimes heartbreaking realities.   My daughters have been particularly inspired by the Malik twins who are the youngest people, and only siblings, ever to complete the Explorer’s Grand Slam (achieved by climbing the highest peak on every continent and trekking between the North and South Poles!).  Along the way, and in between the various biographies, there are lessons in history, dealing with significant events or situations that people can find themselves in (such as becoming refugees or different empires, wars and revolutions throughout history) and these are fascinating within themselves but serve to explain, highlight and put into context some of the stories depicted in the book.  This book is truly special.  It’s a delight both educationally and visually and I think this would make the most wonderful gift to anyone but particularly to a special sister in your life.

Around the World in 80 Musical Instruments – Nancy Dickmann (author), Sue Downing (illustrator), Welbeck Editions (imprint of Welbeck Children’s Limited) (publisher)

This is the second in this marvellous ”around the world in 80…” series and we hope for many more.  You can read my review of Around the World in 80 Trees above and this book is just as exquisite!  There are so many differences in culture and custom around the globe but there’s one thing that we all share in common: we all make music.  This fantastic work of non-fiction explores the music we make and the instruments that are played in the most visually stunning and beautiful of ways.  We have learned about so many incredible instruments that we never knew existed from this book.  Have you ever heard of a putatara?  I hadn’t either.  It’s a natural trumpet made from a large conch shell!  Not only this but we have encountered some fascinating facts about the world’s most unusual instruments, how amazing our vocals are and all about the make up of a full orchestra.  And yet, this book contains so much more!  There are even pages instructing your young reader about how to make their own types of musical instruments.  However, the piece de resistance has to be the tremendous tree of musical instruments which is set out in a stunning central gatefold which opens out showing you how all these wonderful instruments inter-relate.  This is a globe-trotting expedition of musical magic and we are so glad we took the tour.

Some brilliant recommendations for Children's non-fiction in May 2022


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

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