It’s the time of year when the nights are drawing in, the wintery weather is arriving and you just want to immerse yourself and your family in a good book. Picture yourself snuggled in a cosy armchair by a roaring fire with a hot chocolate (with lashings of cream and marshmallows) by your side and maybe a Labrador curled up by your feet and settling down into one of the recommended cosy night-in reads with your young reader. Most of these books I would even recommend reading by yourself they are so good!
Every so often, a book comes along which just captures your heart. And for me, this is one of them. Everything about this book is beautiful. The words, the message, the soft illustrations …. It’s simply captivating. It’s a gorgeous tale of a shy panda, Chi, and her courageousness in helping a young boy and ultimately finding a life-long friend. This story positively emits warmth and love and is a perfect cosy-night in read with your little one at bedtime. Simply stunning.
This story is too cute. Mini is small and Hardly is even more minute. They cannot wait until they are grown up unicorns and can have big adventures. This beautifully illustrated tale (I mean, I really think these are the cutest unicorns I have ever seen) follows Mini and Hardly on their adventure out into the big wide world where they realise that, actually, life is pretty good when there is someone there to help look out for you. It’s a lovely story of love and friendship but also one of enjoying the here and now and living in the moment. Because, ultimately, right now is what is important. We get a lot of “When I am a grown up, can I ….?” in this house and this book has somewhat stopped those questions. This is a must for any unicorn lovers out there and also for anyone who has a child (or children) who just cannot wait to grow up.
This book made me cry. Set against the backdrop of the pandemic, this is a true story of resilience, bravery, courage and hope. Michael Rosen became very ill with Covid in 2020 and this is the story of his journey to recovery with the aid of his faithful friend, Sticky McStickstick. It’s such a powerful and moving book and really helps explain to children the effect that illness can have on a person and, perhaps more importantly, the power of hope and resilience when you, or someone you love, becomes ill. It’s a very personal one for us in this house because my husband has prosthetic parts in his leg and has to use his “Sticky McStickStick” some days to help him walk and our little boy has some open-heart surgery to face in the future so it is superb text to help explain illness and the recovery from it. With wonderfully human and often funny illustrations, this is a must for every bookshelf and one of the great books of the year.
This is a cute little tale about a little princess called Shiloh who doesn’t fit in with the rest of her royal sisters because she can’t sing. What she can do though, is rap. In fact, she is excellent at rapping. But poor, confused Shiloh, just wants to fit in and be able to sing. With funky drawings in vibrant colours which match the text perfectly, this is a lovely story about finding yourself and embracing the talents that you have and celebrating them because they make you uniquely you.
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This is such a sweet book about inclusion. Bear and Squirrel think they make the perfect pair. They don’t think they need anyone else. But Chicken wants to join their delightful duo and they don’t seem very keen to expand their friendship group. But when Chicken gets into danger when he goes off into the woods by himself because they haven’t welcomed him in, they see that three can be better than two, that “three is a team, three is a pack”. This is a brilliantly illustrated text which simply highlights to children the true joy of belonging, friendship and team-spirit. And what a wonderful message that is to convey at this time of year in the run up to Christmas.
Granny Sylvie knows a lot about nature. She takes us on a wonderful journey outside where the world seems frozen and everything seems dead. But everything is not always as it seems. This is a super story to teach children about the wonder of hibernation in the animal world and the illustrations are just beautifully evocative of this winter wonderland. There is also an additional brilliant factual section at the back of the book where your children (and you!) can learn all about hibernation and what you can do to help animals over the winter season. This is a great book for all animal enthusiasts and definitely one to curl up in a chair with to read with your children over and over again.
I have SO much love for these books. We have adored “The Bear and the Piano” and “The Bear, the Piano, the Dog and the Fiddle” and were so excited to review the latest in the series and it definitely does not disappoint. The story begins when Bear’s time of playing the piano to large and grand audiences has fizzled out and he has returned home to the forest. Another wonderful adventure begins when Bear becomes a father to Little Bear. She finds the piano in the woods, hears the story of her father’s fame and sees the sadness on his face. In order to cheer him up, she invites his old friend Hugo to the forest to play with Bear again. But what happens is much more magical than even Little Bear could imagine. This book, much like good music, will stay in your hearts forever. It’s the perfect accompaniment at this time of year to snuggle down with a hot chocolate and a blanket and get lost in the magic and the beauty of the pictures and words. Fantastic as ever David Litchfield.
A hilariously funny tale (with laugh out loud illustrations to boot), the story of Ted and Nancy the Big City fox cubs run out of town by the “really horrible” cat, Princess Buttons, will have you and your little ones desperate to turn the pages to find out what happens. With squirrel wars, a wacky woodlouse, games of ‘treebonk’ and an eagle that can’t stop eating everyone, this is everything and more you would expect from Nadia Shireen. A great read to cosy up with your little ones and read now the dark nights have drawn in (or for an early chapter book reader to read by themselves).
What a truly special book. Your heart will be purring like the proverbial cat who got the cream by the end of it. Set in wartime London, it follows the story of a (real-life) cat, Morgan, who makes his home in the Faber & Faber offices during the Second World War. Morgan loses his family at the beginning of the story and lives on the war-torn and bombed streets until he finds a warm and paper-filled home in the Faber & Faber offices. Feline fun and adventure abound in this gentle and warm book which sensitively shows the reader how every-day life was affected during the war. My cat-mad daughter absolutely loved it, although her mind was blown by the fact that a child might not have tasted a banana back then! With gorgeous illustrations which brilliantly portray the foibles of the feline world, this is the one of the most wonderful books of its type I have ever read and it is a definite must for a cosy winter read.
Bad Panda – Swapna Haddow (Author), Sheena Dempsey (Illustrator), Faber & Faber (publisher)
Lin, the Bad Panda, would hate me for saying this but what a cute book! This is a brand-new series from the award-winning author and illustrator duo of ‘Dave Pigeon’ and is hilariously funny. Lin really dislikes being cute. In fact, she really wants to be a total grotter of a rotter of a panda. Packed off to the zoo at an early age because of how adorable she is, she is determined to get back to her family by becoming the ‘baddest’ animal in the zoo. What follows is a hilarious tale where Lin thinks up more rebellious plans, the bigger and badder the better, joined by the animals she (unwantedly) befriends upon the way. With brilliantly funny drawings and some comic-strip style pages, this is a wonderfully visual read as well as a pandaful (I know, I made that word up, but I like it!) piece of funny fiction. A great one to laugh out loud with during these dark nights.
Here are two absolutely delightful tales in one book which take you back to the Russia of long ago and which are perfect to snuggle up with on a winter’s night. My son is lupine-mad. So, a book with a wolf in is his idea of heaven. These two stories are just so heart-warming. They follow the relationship of a “man-child” called Sasha, who has been told that wolves are bad and dangerous, and a cheeky wolf called Ferdy, who has been taught exactly the same thing about humans by his pack. A shared sense of humour and fun, a love of good food and dancing forge an unlikely friendship between these two and together they set about making a world where wolves and humans can live in harmony and companionship. With gorgeous, cosy illustrations, these are absolutely enchanting tales evoking winters past, deep in the Russian forest, best enjoyed with a mug of warm milk and a biscuit. We have loved them.
Middle Grade Reads
This book had me in tears. And yet it is one of the most beautiful, heart-warming books I have ever read. It’s not a new book – this is the ten-year anniversary edition with a fabulous cover and a super introduction from the author. Set in the wilds of the Scottish highlands, this is a wildlife adventure and a half. Following the life and journey of Iris, the Osprey, and her human friends, this is such an evocative and moving tale of friendship, love, strength and loyalty, connecting people and nature all over the world. Be prepared to have your heart touched and your mind captivated by this inspiring and unforgettable book. A superb one to read by a cosy fire on a winter’s night.
What a book! What a storyteller! This is novel is absolutely fantastic. It’s one of those middle grade books that make you wonder why the whole world isn’t reading it. Because they should be (and I know you shouldn’t start a sentence with because!!). It’s a fast-paced page turner of a book following Rachel and Robert Klein who become guardians of The Book of Stolen Dreams, a book that everyone is searching for, including the cruel and tyrannical President Charles Malstain and his army of thugs. Desperate to survive, the children meet various characters, both good and bad, along the way and must decide who to trust on their journey to stop the magical book falling into the wrong hands. As captivating as it is fabulous, this is a must-read of a book for these long winter evenings.
My daughter really enjoyed this book. So did I! Written by Jason Reynolds, a New York Times bestselling author and winner of the 2021 CILIP Carnegie Medal, this story does not disappoint. Stuntboy is created by Portico Reeves and his “best best friend”, Zola, to help him get over the FRETS (anxiety) and to try to keep the residents of his apartment block (ahem, sorry, castle) safe. What follows is a hilarious yet poignant adventure involving some wonderful characters (depicted in very humorous drawings), not least Herbert Singletary the Worst (who turns out to be Herbert the Not so Bad After All). This is an engaging and fantastically illustrated story exploring some really important issues that children often struggle to talk about, including anxiety, emotions, bullying, divorce and separation.
This book is a thrilling adventure filled with magical creatures and suspense which I could hardly put down. The debut novel by real-life vet, Luke Gamble, it is fast-paced and addictive. When Edith Wright has to spend the summer holidays with her estranged uncle, and plagued by mysterious headaches, she is less than enthusiastic about the prospect. However, her uncle, she discovers lives on a secret farm in the middle of the New Forest and is a vet and a guardian some of the rarest creatures on earth. Can Edith solve the mystery of her crippling headaches? Can she help her uncle when he receives a call to assist some fantastical creatures in the Himalayan mountains? With a superb message about caring for animals of all types, immerse yourself this winter in a tale of fantastical beasts, courage, love, bravery and snow-filled scenery. I just hope there are more books coming after this one because I NEED to know what happens next.
I could not put this book down. It is so gripping. The kind of book where you just wish that people would stop getting in your way so you could just read it. And yet, at the same, I did not want it to end. Written by the New York Times bestselling author, Brigid Kemmerer, this is a perfect winter read. Set in a fantasy kingdom, it’s a fast-paced adventure of star-crossed lovers with an epic twist that I did not see coming. To say it’s a re-working of the traditional tale of Robin Hood would not do it justice. Yes, there are echoes of that story in the book but it is so much more than that. With rebellion, outlaws, romance, sickness, duty, love, intrigue and trust, it’s a page-turning treat right from the get-go. If you don’t buy this book for the teenager in your life, I urge you to buy it for yourself.
Looking for a suspenseful and mysterious read to cosy up in an armchair by the fire with? Then this is the book for you/your young teen. The debut novel by Anghard Walker, it’s a darkly atmospheric and brooding book which fills the reader with questions at every turn. A new boy arrives at the house without a name and not being able to remember many details about his life and why he was sent there. He’s soon called Solitude (‘Sol’) and joins the gang of children already living there and trying to abide by the ‘Nicenesses’ that have been given to them. It’s a story of danger, fire, pain and intrigue which ultimately becomes a race to survive and will leave you on the edge of your aforementioned seat at times. In a clever finale, don’t think your questions will all be neatly answered at the end of the story though – they will burn as brightly as The Ash House itself. I loved the artwork in the book too, the illustrations of the children are a perfect mix of innocence and dark, brooding intensity.
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Fiona Eaton is a part time solicitor, full time Mummy (to her four year old twins and six year old little girl) and all-round book enthusiast having graduated from Durham University with a degree in English literature. Her Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/an.eaton.readit/ recommends books for all the family.