Cosy Night In Reads for Kids

Cosy Night In Reads for Children | Recommended by Mini Travellers

The nights are drawing in, the weather is turning cold (and wet!):  it’s the perfect time to light the fire, get some blankets out and cosy on down with your little readers to escape to another world ….  Here are our favourite cosy night in reads.

Board Books

Houses – Okidokid (author), Liuna Virardi (author), Little Tiger Press Ltd) (publisher)

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Beautifully colourful in the brightest of tones, this handy sized board book will entertain your little one with a world of opposites using different types of houses as its base.  From new houses to old houses, small houses to tall apartment blocks, still houses to moving houses (caravans in case you were wondering!), country houses to town houses and strong houses to fragile houses, your little ones can hone their fine motor skills by lifting the different sized flaps throughout the book to showcase further beautiful artwork.  Our favourite page is the final one because it is such fun (but I am not going to give away anything!).  The pages are chunky and able to withstand those exploring little fingers.  It’s also a really great size to pop in a changing bag or the bottom of a pushchair so that you can take it out and about with you if you need to.  Adorably illustrated, vibrant and fun, this is a sweet book to snuggly in with and explore opposites in an engaging way with your little one.

Houses – Okidokid

No More Tantrums and Let’s Brush our Teeth – Campbell Books (imprint of Pan Macmillan) (publisher)

We love this series of books in our house as they deal with real-life toddler struggles and give helpful hints and tips to parents and caregivers.  In “No More Tantrums”, we meet Mabel.  Mabel is very angry and frustrated because she does not want to go to the park. As Mabel tries to remain angry, her Mummy and Daddy find all sorts of things to distract her until the feelings of anger and frustration pass and she feels calmer.  Your little one can enjoy this relate-able story whilst also developing their fine motor skills by lifting the various flaps and spinning the cardboard wheel.  In “Let’s Brush our Teeth”, Priya and Arun (my twins think these children are them – bless!) are learning all about brushing their teeth well.  This engaging story, full of flaps to lift and an interactive wheel to turn, brings to life the fun of brushing teeth and how it can be made more interesting by role-playing on a teddy or playing a song while brushing.  We love how there are so many useful hints and tips for adults in these books, like how to distract your child when they are having a meltdown and praising children for good behaviour to lessen future outbursts, or using a reward chart to motivate your children to clean their teeth well.  These pointers provide assistance to parents and caregivers who might just have run out of ideas (that would be me!).  These board books are engaging, interactive, fun and full of bright colours and bold illustrations which are hugely visually appealing to toddlers.  Brilliant books to share with younger readers.

No More Tantrums and Let’s Brush our Teeth

Picture Books

Timid – Harry Woodgate (author and illustrator), Caterpillar Books (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)

Oh my, what a beautifully warm and inclusive picture book this one is.  Just look at that cover!  It positively sparkles with colour and magic. And this book is truly magical. It’s about finding the courage and bravery from within.  It’s about overcoming shyness (something all my children suffer with) in a gentle way and it showcases some of the most exquisite artistry around.    The story follows a non-binary character, Timmy, who dreams of taking to the stage one day and sharing their stories.  But there is one big problem:  Timmy is painfully shy.  Timmy’s shyness is portrayed as a huge imaginary lion who appears out of nowhere and roars away what little of Timmy’s confidence they have.  Poor Timmy.  So, when Mr Stevens tells the class about an upcoming play, Timmy does not feel happy or excited at all because Timmy knows they will be too scared to perform.  Timmy is so shy they sit alone at lunch but a classmate, Nia, who is also shy comes to talk to Timmy and, together, they make a deal that they will help each other.  Timmy will help Nia make an amazing costume for the play and Nia will help Timmy tame the lion so they can perform in the play.  Can the new friends work together to overcome their fears and shyness?  This is an exquisite book on every level.  There are so many beautiful things within it, not least the stunningly beautiful illustrations which provide colour and magic on every page.  We love how Nia and Timmy focus on various techniques to overcome their shyness, like meditation and writing encouraging notes, and I love how encouraging Mr Stevens their teacher is and how he gently helps them boost their confidence.  These are wonderful techniques to share with any child who struggles with their shyness and wants to boost their confidence (and they are super techniques for my youngest who has a stammer).  For me, this book is magical- a beautiful story of friendship, kindness, overcoming shyness, inclusion and courage.  Seeing little children coming out of their shell and empowering them to feel like they can take on the world: what could be more magical than that?! Stunning.

Timid – Harry Woodgate

A Practical Present for Philippa Pheasant – Briony May Smith (author and illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

What a heart-warming book about a plucky little pheasant!  It’s perfect reading for this time of year, just as the leaves are falling from the trees because the beautiful bucolic scenery in the story depicts that it is a similar time of year.  Philippa Pheasant is a bright little bird who lives in the woods near the village of Fairhurst.  But Philippa keeps getting very cross because every time she tries to cross the lane to feast on the tasty blackberries, she almost gets flattened by a car fizz-whizzing past.  One day she sees the lollipop lady outside the village school helping the children cross the road safely and fearless little Philippa realises that she needs to do something similar for her animal friends.  So, Philippa has an idea: she will make her own bright little outfit and create a lollipop stick to help all her friends cross the lane.  Can it work? Can she help her friends?   What about when the mayor’s cat, Darling Treasure, becomes lost and afraid?  Can Philippa help her get home without being squashed pancake-flat?  This is such a heart-warming story about resilience, persistence and community spirit.  The artwork is adorable in the extreme, as you would expect from Briony May Smith: gorgeous autumnal colour tones are used and the delightful drawings of all the animals and people in Fairhurst really bring the warmth of the story to life.  Don’t miss that final page so you can find out who might be helping plucky Philippa out on the night shift as she gets some shut-eye! A gorgeous book to read at this time of year, which would also make a wonderful gift.

A Practical Present for Philippa Pheasant

Who Will Kiss the Crocodile? – Suzy Senior (author), Claire Powell (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

We love a good twisted fairytale here and this one is one of the best!!  Snuggle down under the blankets and cuddle up close for this fantastic re-telling of the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty.  Expect much laughter, lots of teeth (well, it is about a crocodile, after all), some heroic cleaning grannies and lots of eighties colour and cheer!  Will royalty never learn?!  You’d think they would know by now to invite everyone to the ball (sharing is caring!) but, sadly, for poor little Princess Liss, someone wasn’t invited.  And sure enough, that someone was a fairy who just happens to curse the princess and turn her into a crocodile in the interim.  A helpful little pixie is able to modify the curse and let little Liss only fall asleep (rather than die – eeeek!) until she could be rescued by a kiss. A hundred years and plenty of princes trying to rescue the sleeping princess from the castle later, and Princess Liss is still asleep because each prince was put off by the toothy snoring grin of the princess-crocodile!  Enter: the Handy-Grans!  They chop down the briar bushes and clean that castle spick and span, pop some antiseptic on the princess-crocodile’s knee and blow her a kiss ‘night night’.  Hooray!  That obviously wakes up the entire castle and much joy and merriment and partying (to a 1980’s theme – I totally approve!) ensues.  This is such a feel good, happy, colourful book that you just can’t help smiling as you read it with your little ones.  The story is hilarious; the pages are filled with bold and vibrant colours and the illustrations are just superb: Claire Powell has captured the faces of the characters involved in the most humorous and engaging of ways.  If you are looking for a bit of colour and fun to brighten these dark November days then this is the book for you and your little ones.

Who Will Kiss the Crocodile?

All the Animals were Sleeping – Clare Helen Welsh (author), Jenny Lovlie (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

What a gorgeous, lyrical bedtime story this one is!  Guaranteed to make your little ones feel warm, safe and cosy and all ready for a good night of sleep (fingers crossed!).  On the dry, grassy plains of the colourful Serengeti, a young little mongoose makes his way home to bed.  On his way he passes giraffes nestling down, vervet monkeys hugging the trees, zebras settling down in the glow of the setting sun, elephants in the sand, saddle-billed storks resting in their nests, a monitor lizard lazily lying down, butterflies in a restful roost and cheetahs snoozing in branches and bushes as all the animals prepare to for a restorative night of sleep.  Visually stunning, right from the gold-foil cover which draws you in, with adorable illustrations of the gorgeous animals and stunning savannah, this book is a warm and reassuring bedtime read with your little ones.  It’s perfect for young animal lovers, featuring amazing animals and their bedtime routines and these are really brought to life by the exquisite illustrations.  We also love the fact that this book contains some fabulous facts at the end of the story, providing a paragraph of information completely appropriate to its target audience about the animals the story details.  I even learned a thing or two, never mind the children! I didn’t know that butterflies roosted or that most big cats, such as lions and leopards, are nocturnal but that cheetahs are active during the day.  My youngest daughter loved learning about how to tell the difference between cheetahs and leopards (it’s all in the spots!) and my son was amazed that giraffes only sleep for about 20 minutes per day!!  Poor mummy giraffe!!   A wonderful warm and cosy story for this time of year with a fantastically educational twist.

All the Animals were Sleeping

What Feelings Do When No One’s Looking – Tina Oziewicz (author), Aleksandra Zajac (illustrator), Pushkin Press (publisher)

You know when you instantly fall in love with a book, right from the first page?!  That’s what happened right here. With this book.  It is absolutely exquisite.  Not only is a brilliant, new way to talk to children about feelings, but it really is the most adorable and visually beautiful read. But I am getting ahead of myself – you are probably wondering what it is about!  Well, imagine if feelings were the cutest furry little grey creatures, what would they be doing when no one was looking at them?  That’s it, that’s what it is about.  So simple really and yet so, so, brilliantly clever.   I first read it to my seven year old and she loved it – agreeing with what each emotion was doing and querying when she didn’t understand what that emotion might mean and it prompted lots of discussions about feelings and how they felt to her.  She even made up her own little furry feeling and drew a picture of what it was doing.  Her favourite feeling?  “Calm strokes a dog.”  My four year old twins were up next and whilst I don’t think they understood every feeling described, they adored the illustrations and agreed with the pictures about the emotions and feelings that they understood (“ha ha, yes, anger does look like that, Mummy”).  Their favourite emotions? “Joy bounces on a trampoline” and “Love is an electrician”.  It has come at a brilliant time in our house when emotions are running high because the children are tired after long days at school.  It’s the perfect way to wind down and discuss feelings in a calm manner with your children.  Clever, fun and fascinating, I cannot rate this book highly enough.

What Feelings Do When No One’s Looking

When the Storks Came Home – Isabella Tree (author), Alexandra Finkeldey (illustrator), Ivy Kids (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

We love birds.  So does Beanie.  We have been on a journey of education with Beanie in this book. It’s amazing!  When Beanie becomes a big sister, her mother tells her that people used to tell fairy stories about white storks bringing new babies to their houses (having had twins, if only it was that easy, eh?!) and Beanie is fascinated to learn that the village that she lives in used to be famous for white storks but they have long since disappeared.  Beanie is very sad about that and she does some research about the birds. She then begins to form a plan to re-introduce storks to the village.  With the help of her friend Andy from the nature reserve and the whole community, Beanie’s plan begins to hatch.  Will she be able to succeed?  This is such a heart-warming story about nature and friendship and community-spirit.  It’s about one girl’s determination to succeed and how she goes about it with the help of the community.  It’s an inspiring and uplifting story for any child to read to realise that they can succeed with their dreams if they really try.  The illustrations in this book are fantastic: huge, colourful drawings of majestic animals and wonderful people leap out of the page at you as they work together in harmony to try and bring back what has been destroyed or scared away from our region.  We read the ‘non-fictional’ pages of the book in absolute awe as we realised that this story is based on real-life events at Knepp in West Sussex and we were blown away reading about this “White Stork Project”.  It’s incredible and we will be viewing the webcam of the stork nest on the chimney.  We loved the photographs of the ‘real life’ wild storks which have really helped bring this story to life for my children.  Inspiring and uplifting, this is a wonderful read.

When the Storks Came Home – Isabella Tree

When Mino Took the Bus – Simona Ciraolo (author and illustrator), Flying Eye Books (publisher)

Meet Mino! The most supe-cute chipmunk around!  Mino knows that he must take the bus to the last stop, plant his seeds there and find his new home.  He’s so impatient to arrive, all fidgety and eager (remind you of any toddlers in your life, anyone?!) and his journey seems so long and boring.  He utters the phrase all parents and caregivers dread “Are we there yet?” to Guido the gentle and patient bus driver.  Guido suggests to Mino that often the journey we are going on is just as important as the destination which flummoxes poor Mino.  But with these wise words, Mino takes the time to get to know each and every passenger who boards the bus, talking to them all, sharing memories and stories (and all-important snacks!), making friendships and memories along the way through many small and special moments.  We love the many wise words in the book – not only those of Guido the bus driver, but also the message that memories stay with you forever and you can just keep collecting them, and the message that it’s the small things, rather than grand gestures that linger on in everyone’s hearts.  Combined with the exquisite artistry in this book, with its adorable illustrations of the animals and its soft brushwork and beautiful scenes of nature, love, friendship, hope and possibility, you can see why this book is a wonderful read with your little one at this time of year.  Cosy up with a blanket, snuggle into each other, warm your hearts with this sumptuous picture book. For it is the small moments of love and security like this that you and your children will remember forever.

When Mino Took the Bus

Eight Nights, Eight Lights – Natalie Barnes (author), Andrea Stegmaier (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

What a beautiful book! Full of warmth and love and celebration.  We love this book and the message it contains: “People can be scared when they see differences in others that they don’t understand.  But we are all different….that’s what make everyone special.”  But what’s the book  about though?  It’s a beautiful celebration of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, and it is told across the eight nights when the eight lights are lit.  It’s a time for togetherness, for family, for fun, for love, for eating and sharing; a time for being together and shining light and love into the darkness.  And this book showcases that with the most gorgeous story.  The illustrations are just as warm and cosy: magnificent drawings using bright and beautiful colours which literally send out feelings of happiness and family and community togetherness.  The light and love shine out of the pages through these exquisite illustrations.  Not only is it a lovely story but it is also hugely educational for those (like us) who do not celebrate Chanukah.  We love the first page which explains, through drawings and labels, all about the menorah and the candles it contains.  The story of Chanukah is re-told in easy to understand language which is perfect for its target audience.  The ending of the story is so full of light and love.  This makes it a very special book and the perfect book to sit down and read with your little ones on a dark November or December evening.  We are going to use it to do some Chanukah themed crafts on our next rainy, cold day.  A heart-warming picture book, we love it.

Eight Nights, Eight Lights

I REALLY Want to Share – Simon Philip (author), Lucia Gaggiotti (illustrator), Templar Books (imprint of Bonnier Books) (publisher)

We all know that sharing can be difficult (for adults as well as children – my husband never wants to share his chips!) but this story is a brilliantly funny take on sharing.  The little girl in the story finds out from her parents that she is about to become a big sister.  What follows are her hilarious trials and experiments in learning how to share, with very mixed results!  It’s a story which brings to life the all-too-real insecurities and feelings that children may have when a new sibling comes along and the challenges that this may bring but it is also a story of acceptance and learning and love: “There’s always love to share”. My children adore the laugh out loud funny ending (ssshhh, no spoilers here but I’m pretty sure they find it so funny because they have done it themselves on numerous occasions behind my back!) and it is so endearing to hear them talk about all the things they can share after listening to the story.  The illustrations are vibrant and colourful, echoing the playful nature of the book and depicting the scenes of childhood experiences in the most hilarious of ways.  For any child who is about to become a sibling, or for any child who is struggling with the concept of sharing, this is a joyful, relatable story about growing families with acceptance at its core.

I REALLY Want to Share

The Bear and her Book There’s More to See – Frances Tosdevin (author), Sophia O’Connor (illustrator), Uclan Publishing (publisher)

What an adorable book!  The first title in this series, “The Bear and the Book” was published last year but we read this book as a standalone, without having read the first.  It’s the perfect book for this time of year as Bear goes off in search of a bear who looks like her but who lives under Artic skies.  Bear follows the call of her itchy paws and goes off on her travels in search of adventure and a bear who looks just like her.  With her book as her guide (well, it does tell her how to be wise!), she fixes problems and makes friends as she journeys on her way to the frozen landscapes of the Artic. The stunning icy scenery depicted in the exquisite drawings will make you snuggle down even more under that duvet with your little ones.  Bear’s travels take her to the snowy world where the polar bears live and just as she becomes lost and begins to lose heart, she finds the lonely white polar bear and the two animals form the most beautiful friendship.  The ending of the story is so heart-warming and fun but there is no way I am going to give it away.  This really is the most wonderful of books though.  The story is beautifully told in its lilting and uplifting rhyming verse and it’s filled with a sense of adventure, a sense of inquisitiveness and love of learning and lots and lots of love and friendship and kindness, as well as a sense of fun.  The illustrations are simply divine: we could get lost in those gorgeous brushstrokes of colour and the drawings of the animals, particularly the bears, are both adorable and sublime.  A wonderful wintery wonderland of an adventure story for little book lovers everywhere.

The Bear and her Book There’s More to See

Balloon to the Moon  – Becky Davies (author), Jennica Lounsbury (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

Ooo, if you want a book to snuggle down with your little one to lull them off to sleep with then this is the book for you. Just my daughter flicking through the pages brings on a yawn from me because it is like being enclosed in a fluffy cloud cuddle!  So, come on, cuddle in close, you must be feeling sleepy:  you are safe and soft and snug.  “Your arms and legs are feeling heavy.  Your breathing calms, so deep and steady. In and out.  You’re getting sleepy. Safe and soft and snug.”  You and your little ones will go on the magical and warm sleep journey with this softly lilting rhyming book.  It uses meditation and mindfulness techniques to calm your child and to help them relax and switch off from their busy days.  This gentle story uses these techniques to ease your child into a relaxed state, from their fingers to their toes, so that they drift off into a deep and contented night of sleep (and therefore so do you!).  It’s a great book to try if you have a child who is anxious about anything, or if they are having difficulty switching off (often my eldest’s brain is so busy whirring away after a day of school that she can take a long time to get off to sleep) because it is so calming and gentle.  The incredible illustrations only add to this: gorgeously magical brushstrokes of colour lift and sweep your child away on this magical journey to slumberland.  Beautiful twilight colours are used and starlight and soft, fluffy clouds abound.  This is a very special book.  I only wish they made a version for adults!

Balloon to the Moon

Time to Move South for the Winter – Clare Helen Welsh (author) Jenny Lovlie (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

The sparkly silver foil detailing draws you immediately into this book, right from the cover page. It’s a brilliant book to read at this time of year, snuggled under blankets with your children, reading them a story all about the incredible animals that make their journeys across the globe, in search of their own form of snuggly blanket (also known as warmer weather).  Over the cold, glassy, freezing waters of the Artic, a tiny tern sets off in search of summer in the sky as she moves south for the winter. Her journey takes her (and your children) past humpback whales, climbing caribous, flocks of Canada geese, leatherback turtles and beautiful butterflies, each on their own journey in search of warmer weather.  And what happens when she gets to her final destination?  Well, when long, sunny days make way for dark and cold nights, it’s time for her to head back north for the summer, to have her own little tiny tern!    Not only is this book exquisitely beautiful from a visual perspective, because the pages are filled with the most stunning illustrations of each incredible animal it mentions, it is also the most beautiful story about an amazing animal and all the amazing animals she meets along the way.  It is fascinating in the extreme to read the story and then learn about details of each animal’s migration in further detail, using the informative two page spread at the end of the book.  My children were blown away by the fact that a single tern flies the equivalent distance of three trips to the moon and back in its lifetime!! Whoa!!  We also loved the final illustration at the end of the book detailing the migrations of the animals on the gorgeous drawing of the globe: it’s an amazing visual representation for young children to appreciate the scale of these incredible journeys.

Time to Move South for the Winter

Pick a Story – A Pirate and Alien and Jungle Adventure – Sarah Coyle (author), Adam Walker-Parker (illustrator), Farshore (imprint of HarperCollins) (publisher)

Oooo, we love being masters of our own destinies!  This sparkling new picture book draws you right into its excitement from the eye-catching sparkly silver font of the cover page.  Here’s the premise: three stories, lots of endings, why don’t you pick your own?  It’s such a fun concept for young readers to be able to put themselves in charge of the story. My son, in particular, loves it.  In fact, as I am typing, he is taking the book off my desk and asking if we can read it again because “I love this one Mummy, it’s so much fun!”  There you have it, a review by a four, almost five, year old!  So, snuggle on up with this fantastic storytime adventure! No longer will you be asked to read the same thing over and over again because there are so many endings with this book.  With hilarious characters and brilliant twists and turns depending on which adventure your little one chooses, this is a fantastically fun book.  Can your little one help Vincent find his dog (aptly named Trouble!)?  And just in case you were wondering, you can choose a nice happy ending if you want to …. Or can you?  The graphics are colourful and bold and the drawings are laugh out loud funny at times and adorable in the extreme at others.  This book is a whirlwind of a colourful adventure with pirates, through jungles and other-worldly aliens, and is a perfect read for any little adventure seeker.

Pick a Story – A Pirate and Alien and Jungle Adventure

Everybody Feels Fear – Ashwin Chacko (author and illustrator), Dorling Kindersley Limited (publisher)

Snuggled up with a book is sometimes the best place to start conversations with your children about their thoughts, feelings and emotions.  This bold book encourages children to acknowledge fear and gently encourages them to face up to it if they can.  The quirky illustrations and text help to add a little humour and encouragement into what can be a very difficult emotion for children to talk about.  We love how vibrant and colourful this book is in its expressions of how weird and wonderful fear can be and we also love how the colours and graphics of the book change tone (to black) when fear seems to be all-consuming.  My children love the fact that the words aren’t all written in a straight line and that they are typed around the illustrations at times, making this a fun and interactive read.  Children and adults can learn a lot from this book: being brave is not about not feeling fear, but it’s about being able to carry on and move forward even through the fear.  And then maybe the fear diminishes just a little as we feel empowered.  And that is what this book is – empowering.  It’s vibrant, it’s captivating, it’s reassuring, it’s funny, it’s encouraging, it’s uplifting and overall, it’s empowering.  We love how it acknowledges that everyone feels fear in different ways (and some of those can seem very funny to other people) and that it is ok to be afraid at times – it shows that we are alive and we are human.  This is ultimately a joyful and playful book, full of visual brilliance and insightful words and one which I think will be a very useful starting place for conversations with your children.

Everybody Feels Fea

My Dog Hen – David Mackintosh (author and illustrator), Prestel (publisher)

This book is a piece of artwork in itself! Just look at those drawings!  The colour palette used is just superb – neon red, blue and brown tones really pop against the black and white monochrome used and I haven’t even mentioned the most adorable little sketched dog, Hen (who massively reminds me of the gorgeous David Hockney studies).  This is a brilliant book on so many levels, not least a visual one.  It’s perfectly relatable for anyone who has got a new dog, particularly a pretty destructive one (owning two Labradors, my children were laughing out loud at some of Hen’s antics because they could see their youngest dog doing just the same things).  It’s a brilliant book to showcase intergenerational relationships in families.  And it’s a brilliant book to highlight thriftiness and recycling.  When Hen is brought home from the animal shelter by the family, he eats everything (he hasn’t eaten the walls yet  – unlike our youngest Labrador!!) and his little owner buys him more toys after more toys to try and entertain him until he has spent all his money.  His parents won’t give him any more and just when he is beginning to despair, his wise and thrifty granny shows up with the most hilarious monster of a toy for Hen, made out of all the old bits of things he has chewed up and spat out!  Will this one prove to be indestructible?  You bet. Not only is this a lovely, fun story, filled with lots of familial love and love for your pets, as well as emphasising the usefulness and importance of being thrifty, but with its striking artwork, it’s one of those books that should really be showcased on a coffee table.

My Dog Hen – David Mackintosh

Chapter Books 

The Missing Book Shop – Katie Clapham (author), Kirsti Beautyman (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Ltd (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)

We adore these fully colour-illustrated first chapter books published by Stripes Publishing and this latest book is no exception.  In fact, I had lump in my throat and a tear in my eye as I was reading this one to my twins because it is so poignant and beautiful.  Milly loves her local bookshop. She loves listening to old Mrs Minty’s stories, she loves sitting on the rainbow carpet and she loves that Mrs Minty knows just the perfect book for every occasion.  One day, however, Milly and her Mummy arrive at the bookshop and it is not open.  A ‘For Sale’ sign appears on the door and it seems as if the lovely, irreplaceable bookshop will be closed down forever.  Milly is so sad.  What will happen to the bookshop?  What has happened to elderly Mrs Minty?  No spoilers here.  This is a heart-warming story all about the importance that books have in people’s lives.  It’s a story about community and coming-togetherness, a story about love and support and, above all, an uplifting tale about the magic that stories and books can weave in our hearts.  Each page is beautifully detailed and colourful and filled with the most gorgeous illustrations which reflect the characters in the book and the emotions that they are feeling with the upmost skill and care, really bringing to life this special story.  It’s a beautiful book to read with your children, allowing them to really appreciate the power of the written word.

The Missing Book Shop – Katie Clapham

Cosmic Creatures – The Helpful Hootpuff – Tom Huddlestone (author), Sophy Williams (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

This gorgeous series all about extra-terrestrial animals is huge hit in our house.  This is the third book we have read (and I am sure there is a Christmas one on the way!) and we love the cute little animals it depicts and the fantastical world of Planet Vela.  Aimed at readers age five and above, this series is perfect for those children starting out on their own independent reading journey, or those children who are looking for the next step up from a picture book.  In this book, things are not going quite as planned on Planet Vela – the power supply to First Landing is failing – and Captain Robertson starts drilling to search for a better power source.  When this drilling disturbs the wildlife in an amazing underground cave and Charlie’s robot friend Random goes missing and an adorable little fluffy chick turns up in Random’s place, Charlie knows that she needs to help out.  Charlie and her brother realise that the local birds must have been scared by the drilling and accidentally taken Random in their frightened flight, instead of their little chick.  They name the species of birds “hootpuffs” for the noise that they make.  They know that they need to act quickly to get the chick back to its family and help save their beautiful and unusual underground home.  But as well as them trying to re-unite the little bird with its family, it also turns out to be very helpful for Charlie and her brother.  Combined with the unique creative cosmic world, the gorgeous black and white illustrations generously interspersed throughout the story, the short chapters and larger font size, this story is sure to capture your little reader’s imagination right from the beginning of the book.

Cosmic Creatures – The Helpful Hootpuff

Bedtime Stories – Incredible Irish Tales from the Past – Rachel Pierce (author), Donough O’Malley, Erin Brown, Eva Byrne, Jennifer Davison, Linda Fahrlin, Lydia Hughes, Roisin Hahessy and Una Woods (illustrator),  Scholastic (publisher)

We bought the “Bedtime Stories Beautiful Black Tales from the Past” a while ago and have absolutely loved it so we were so looking forward to reviewing this gorgeous treasury of tales from Irish history.  It’s not ‘technically’ a chapter book but I have put it in this section because the stories are aimed at readers aged 6 and above and the stories are of the perfect length to read one or two at bedtime, as you might do with a chapter of a book.  It’s a book which can easily be read by dipping in and out of the stories, any time your child is in the mood for a motivational and inspiring story, or it also works well to read it over bedtimes and snuggly reading sessions.  It has some brilliant stories based on important figures and events in Irish history and it is so tricky to try and pick a favourite. Instead, we decided to highlight some of the stories we loved: there’s the story of paddy the fearless pigeon who flew a ridiculously long and important journey and became a decorated war hero for bravery; the story of operation humpty dumpty all about Lord Nelson’s statue having a great fall; the story of the paddleboarders, the fishermen and Taylor Swift (my daughter was very impressed with this one!), and (if we HAD to choose, this would probably be our favourite), the story of the last pingin which is written by a very clever and talented young girl, aged 11.  Each story is also accompanied by the most beautiful of artwork in bold and bright colours which truly help to bring the stories to life.  We also love the section at the end of each story which provides a sentence or two about how your young reader can explore the particular story in more depth if they would like to use it as a springboard for further research.  With its gorgeous cover artwork, gold foil, eye-catching illustrations and inspirational Irish tales from the past, this book is a celebration of joyful stories to read on cosy nights in.

Bedtime Stories – Incredible Irish Tales from the Past

Pippi Longstocking Goes Aboard – Astrid Lindgren (author), Lauren Child (illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)

We are HUGE Pippifans (yes, I made that into all one word!) so being asked to review this gorgeous edition of Pippi Longstocking Goes Aboard was an absolute delight, as you can imagine.  We love Lauren Child’s bold and quirky illustrative style and we are lucky enough to have the other edition of Pippi that she has illustrated.  Pippilotta Victoriaria Tea-Cosy Appleminta, Ephraim’s-daughter Longstocking still lives in Villa Villekulla and, with her stash of gold coins,  she still lives the most unruly life with her horse and her monkey, Mr Nilsson.  Pippi has the best time ever living by herself and her adventures in this book are just as exciting – what child hasn’t dreamed of buying ALL the sweets in the sweet shop?!  But when Pippi’s father returns home unexpectedly one day (it turns out, he really has been ruling over the Koratutt people on a remote island far away!), will that be it for Pippi’s adventures with her friends, Tommy and Annika?  Will she set sail with her father for sandy beaches and unknown shores? You will just have to read this beauty of a book to find out!  Lauren Child’s vibrant and fun illustrations, which pop out of the page at you, are just the icing on the cake, bringing Pippi’s vivacious, quirky and unique personality to life in the most superb of ways.  This is a large book, with bigger sized font which, at times, is spread out across the page, allowing maximum engagement and fun for your reader as they have to turn the book around to read it at times.  Given the book’s size, the vibrant illustrations are also large, providing maximum impact and allowing Pippi’s adventures to jump out of the page at your reader.  This a wonderful wintry read with your young reader: what better way to while away the long, dark nights, than to be carried away into a world of adventure and fun?!

Pippi Longstocking Goes Aboard –

Luna – Holly Webb (author),  Britta Teckentrup (cover art), Jo Anne Davies (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Limited (imprint of Little Tiger Group) (author)

What a magical, wintry read this book is.  Holly Webb books really got my eldest daughter into reading (and I am sure they will also work their magic on my twins when the time comes), so we always jump at the chance to review her latest books and this one might just be one of our all-time favourites.  Hannah and her family go off to visit the Christmas markets in Dresden where Hannah spends all her money on a wooden bear puppet.  She is immediately drawn to it and knows there is something rather wonderful and magical about it.  When the toy gets broken after a tussle with her little sister, poor Hannah drifts off to sleep sobbing ……. But when she wakes, she finds that she has travelled back in time and is sleeping in a stable with a real bear cub!!  With the help of her new friend, Matthias, that she makes along the way, Hannah tries to rescue the little bear cub and return her to the wild where she belongs.  But it’s winter, and it’s cold, and Luna (the name they give to the little bear cub) no longer has a mother because she was killed by the bear hunters.  What will Hannah and Matthias do?  Will they be able to re-wild Luna?  Will Hannah ever be able to return to her world?  You will just have to read the story to find out!  It’s the kind of story that makes you very glad for the warmth of the fire and the hot drink in your hand: I could almost feel the snow and chill seeping into Hannah’s bones in the story.   A wonderful wintry tale, filled with friendship, snow, beautiful bears, an important message about animals being left in their natural habitats and that perfect sprinkling magic which warms your heart at this time of year.

Luna – Holly Webb (author

Middle Grade

Pages & Co – The Treehouse Library – Anna James (author), Marco Guadalupi (illustrator), HarperCollins Children’s Books (publishers)

You know that feeling when a book gets published that you were just dying to read? Yeah, that.  For this book. Even though we are quite new to the Pages & Co books (my eldest really got into them over the summer), we were soooooooo excited to be able to read this latest instalment in one of the best book series ever written for middle-graders.  This time, the fantastic story centres on Milo Bolt and his new best friend Alessia as they set off on the Quip (or the Sesquipedalian to give it its Sunday name), a book-smuggling train, to try and find the Botanist who can hopefully help them to find a cure to the enchanted sleep that Milo’s Uncle Horatio has been placed into by the power-hungry Alchemist.    Their fantastical journey leads them to Hadrian’s wall, the old border between Scotland and England and the home of the magical Treehouse and the Botanist herself.  Together they travel on a page-turning, other-book worldly hunt for the cure, spending time in The Secret Garden, confronting the terrifying Jabberwock and even persuading the do-gooder Robin Hood to do, well,… more good!  But just as they think they are getting to the end of their quest to find all of the ingredients in the cure, disaster strikes Pages & Co.  The Alchemist, it seems, will stop at nothing to unlock the powerful secrets of The Book of Books that the Botanist is protecting.  It really is a fight for survival for Tilly and her family, Milo, Alessia and the Botanist.  It’s up to them to try and protect the whole world of imagination and bookwandering, leaving you, the reader, on one heck of a cliff-hanger as they forge forward to do so…..  Wow!  This is a fast-paced, page(s & co) turner of a book which will keep you gripped on the edge of your seat throughout.  We love how Anna James weaves the world of books into her storylines and the whole fantastical bookwandering world she has created is so clever and so magical.  The black and white illustrations are superb, bringing to life the enchanting storyline and we also love how the font changes size and shape when bookwandering takes place.  We loved Anna James’s book recommendations at the back of the book and will certainly be checking out some of those while we eagerly wait for the next instalment on this brilliant bookwandering series.

Pages & Co – The Treehouse Library

The Tale of Truthwater Lake – Emma Carroll (author), Faber & Faber Limited (publisher)

I was so excited to get stuck into this book because I am a huge fan of Emma Carroll’s historical fiction.  This book is even more fantastic though because it looks to the future as well.  Split between an all-too-real, scary version of a future set in 2032 where Polly and her family are living with the devastating effects of global warming, and past events set in a village in 1952, this is an absolute page turner of a book.  I was absolutely invested in this time-travelling adventure from the get-go and totally absorbed by the events which took place at Syndercombe and Truthwater Lake in 1952.  But I am getting ahead of myself… how does the future come to look back at the past in this book?  Picture this, it’s 2032 and there is another government-imposed curfew because of a heatwave.  Polly and her brother are sent to their aunt’s eco-lakeside house for the summer.  We all know that the heat makes you do crazy things, right?  Like face your fear of deep water if you are scared of it, like Polly.  Late one night Polly heads out to swim over the newly uncovered lost village at Truthwater Lake and is dragged down, deep underwater, back through a gateway to the past.  What will she discover there?  What can the future learn from past events? I was absolutely pulled under the waves of this unique story.  I loved the slightly beyond belief supernatural idea of the main character assuming another character’s role back in time and I was gripped by the historical storyline as well as the way the story came full circle.  With strong messages of the effect of global warming, as well as being a heart-warming book about determination, friendship, family and loyalty, this book will have you turning the lights down low (see above point about global warming) and snuggling down under your blanket to turn those pages!

The Tale of Truthwater Lake

Cress Watercress – Gregory Maguire (author), David Litchfield (illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

You know when you see a book and you just know that you are going to fall in love with it?  For me, that’s this book, right here.  A timeless classic in the making, this book is exquisitely illustrated with the most breath-taking of images from one of my all-time favourite illustrators.  With echoes of Wind in the Willows and Beatrix Pottter’s books, this is a nostalgic woodland adventure with a modern flair (hence it seems absolutely timeless).  Centring around the main character, Cress Watercress, this is a tale of family, of love, of solidarity, of friendship.  It’s the perfect tale to be read aloud to your children around a roaring fire, or it’s the perfect story to read alone snuggled up with a Labrador at your feet. (I am basically telling you that this is the perfect tale.)  Following the disappearance of Cress’s father after a nocturnal honey-collecting expedition, Cress’s mother moves Cress and her ailing little brother, Kip, out of their family home into the basement apartment of the Broken Arms, a run-down apartment tree.  There, the Watercress family meet a menacing, ‘blind’ old owl who is their landlord, a nosy mouse superintendent, a rowdy family of unruly squirrels and some songbirds who broadcast everyone’s business to the world.  Could these annoying neighbours, and other interesting animals they meet along the way, ever be called friends?  Could the Broken Arms ever be called home?  This book is full of the three w’s – wit, whimsy and wisdom -and casts a magical story spell over all its readers (both young and old) to create the most unforgettable of adorable animal casts within the most stunningly illustrated pages.  Not just for animal enthusiasts, this is a book to truly treasure for anyone who loves a story (and, my what a story!).  Forever.

Cress Watercress

Peanut Jones and the Twelve Portals  – Rob Biddulph (author and illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

I devoured this book in a day!  We loved the first book in this amazing series and so we were desperate to find out what was going to happen next in this thrilling adventure into the magical and creative world of Chroma.  And this book did not disappoint.  In fact, I think I enjoyed it even more than the first!  Packed full of the most stunning black and white illustrations and flipping between black font on white pages and white font on black pages, this book is as visually appealing as it is exciting from a storytelling perspective.  Your young reader will zip through the pages, following every artistic twist and globe-trotting turn along the way.  Famous works of art are disappearing from the world and crumbling into dust. Peanut Jones and her little sister, Little-Bit, and great friend, Rockwell, are convinced that it has something to do with the wicked Mr White and the magical world of Chroma.  They believe it is all part of his dastardly plan to rid the worlds of creativity and colour so they head back to Chroma to make a stand.  There, they discover that their friends in the Resistance are planning to fight back and Peanut and her friends want to join them but can they win?  Can they uncover what Mr White is really up to and will Peanut ever be reunited with her father?  This is SUCH a creative book on all levels – both artistically and from a story-telling perspective and it leaves the reader on a brilliant build-up to the final book.  The world that Rob Biddulph creates is magical and visually brought to life through his stunning artwork showcased throughout the book.  I loved meeting new characters and learning more about the ones we had come across previously, as well as addictively following the storyline of the Resistance fighting the evil Mr White and his plans to wipe out creativity.  The adventure takes place not just in Chroma but also in various glamourous locations (Paris and New York) across our globe.  There is also a glossary at the back of the book which details the artists and artwork the book mentions which is such a brilliant way to culturally educate children.  I cannot wait to share this book with my eldest daughter – I know she is going to love it.  Both of us will be eagerly awaiting the final book in this fantastic trilogy.

Peanut Jones and the Twelve Portals

Edie and The Flits in Paris -Kate Wilkinson (author), Joe Berger (illustrator), Piccadilly Press (publisher)

This is the second book in the Edie and the Flits adventures but we read it as a standalone very easily: you definitely don’t have to have read the first book for it to make sense.  Edie and the Flits are off on an exotic adventure: to ooo la la, Paris!  Edie and her friend Naz are really looking forward to it, until they realise that Naz’s little sister, Sami, has to tag along.  Sami has already annoyed the girls by following Naz to the Flits’ home and making the girls have to reveal their secret and, if that wasn’t enough, she decides to smuggle some of her new tiny friends with her to France!  Edie has no idea how they are going to manage to keep them safe in such a cosmopolitan, bustling city.  Things go from bad to worse when they encounter the sinister Monsieur Rottier, a taxidermist and collector of animals and insects.  When they see the wintery scenes he has created featuring miniature people in glass domes, Edie trusts her instincts and knows that something is not right.  Enlisting the help of her new friend Fabien, can Edie and her friends save the French flits?  And can the crow Pigalle be trusted to assist?  This is a magical story of friendship, family and adventure which also focuses on the importance of noticing the little things in life.  It has a wonderful cast of characters which are brought to life through the warmth of the writing.  It’s an enchanting fantasy of an adventure which will have you on the edge of your seat, eagerly turning the pages to find out what will happen next.  It’s a wonderful tale which reminded me of The Borrowers (which I loved) but also about so much more: it’s about courage, it’s about good triumphing over evil, it’s about the importance of friendship and family and sticking together, it’s about living life to the full in the here and now.  The black and white illustrations are adorable and sinister (Monsieur Rottier terrifies me!!) in equal measures and expressively bring to life the adventure and enchantment of the story.  A magical read for a magical time of year!

Edie and The Flits in Paris

Bramble Fox – Kathrin Tordasi (author), Translated from the German by Kathrin Wirtz, Pushkin Press (publisher)

What a magical treasure trove this book is.  It’s filled with fantasy, other worlds, fairies, magic and adventure.  What can you expect though with salamanders, foxes, fairies, fog kings and rune magic coming into play.  When a golden-eyed fox lures 12 year old Portia to follow him, she can’t resist and trots off behind him into the Welsh countryside.  From then on, her boring summer holiday in Wales with her aunts turns into one of the most epic adventures imaginable.  The author creates a hugely imaginative world of vast proportions (think “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” meets “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, add in a scary Grey King and his huntress and ghostly army and you are getting a little closer to this magical imagining) – wondrous worlds full of mischief and magic lay behind an abandoned old door in the deep, dark woods.  Portia has awoken the sleep of the Grey King who wants to take over the worlds with his ghostly army and her aunt Rose and a boy called Ben have followed through the door behind her to try and save her.  When Rose gets trapped between worlds, Portia and Ben are going to need all the help they can get from their new fairy friends so that they can save both Faerie and the human world.  Will they be able to stop the Grey King?  Will lives be lost upon the way?  Will they ever be able to return home again?  I was absolutely mesmerised by the fantastical worlds created in this book.  It is an unputdownable epic adventure of the most wonderful imaginings.  I could almost touch the worlds I had created in my head, so superb are the details and descriptions given.  This is the ultimate snuggle down under your duvet book and lose yourself in the most fantastical adventure of epic proportions.  It’s a tale of love, of friendship, of togetherness and of strength within and I absolutely adored it.

Bramble Fox

Young Adult

Lord of the Fly Fest -Goldy Moldavsky (author), Electric Monkey , part of Farshore (imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) (publisher)

Ooo, this one sucked me right in!  From the first page, I was so intrigued to find out what was going to happen with this book.  It wasn’t quite what I was expecting (I thought it was going to be a thrilling murder mystery) but even though that wasn’t the case, I massively enjoyed it. Rafi spends her lifetime savings on a ticket for Fly Fest, the hottest festival around and one you absolutely NEED to be seen at, if you are anybody!  But when the influencers and celebrities arrive on the island, there IS no Fly Fest – they have all just been dumped on a desert island.  While the influencers are losing their minds over lack of internet (never mind the lack of food, shelter and water!), Rafi decides to set about doing what she came to the island to do in the first place: investigate River Stone, a famous musician, for her podcast, Musical Mysteries.  Rafi is sure that River is hiding dark secrets.  Can she uncover them even while the people around her are descending into anarchy?  With its cast of wonderfully constructed and, at times, humour-filled characters, this book manages to instil fear and yet poke fun at the same time.  Its world of influencers and celebrities is all too relevant (and slightly terrifying in its outlook!) and modern and yet the author manages to maintain a tongue-in-cheek humour throughout whilst also taking the reader on a thrilling, sweaty, sand-filled ride through the twists and turns in the plot.  I loved the characters of Rafi, Peggy, Jack and River in particular and how the story peeled back the layers and uncovered the many masks that people wear, whilst also showing impressionable young readers the ridiculous things that people will do for ‘beauty’.  A suspenseful page turner of a novel for the young adult audience: I loved it!

Lord of the Fly Fest

Never Forget You – Jamila Gavin (author), Farshore (imprint of HarperCollins) (publisher)

Well, this is a book you will never forget. Unbelievably moving, this is a book to curl up with and appreciate the cosiness of your home as you race through the pages of this heart-breaking and gripping story following the relationship of four friends before and during the second world war.  It’s the kind of book that makes you wish you didn’t have any other responsibilities so that you can just read, and read, and read until you finish the story (and then cry because you no longer have it to read!).  It’s England in 1937.  Four very different teenage girls (Noor, Dodo, Gwen and Vera) with one thing in common: their parents are all abroad, scattered around the globe, and have left them at boarding school in Hertfordshire.  There, they form an intense and unbreakable friendship group.  They think they will always be with each other but then everything changes.  The world is plunged into war once again and the girls’ lives are taken in very different directions – from espionage to flying planes.  Each girl’s life is filled with danger and huge uncertainty in a world in which it seems violence and hatred flourish.  But there is also love, and friendship, and hope.  Will the girls’ friendship survive the ravages of the world war?  Will they all survive to tell their tales? No spoilers here but I will tell you that you will be desperate to find out what happens in this unputdownable read.  My heart was in my mouth at times as I turned the pages of this book.  Yes, it is a story about fear and betrayal and the horror and hideousness of war but it is also a story about love and comradeship, about unbreakable bonds and hope.  It’s a story that I will never forget and I hope you manage to pick up a copy.

Never Forget You

Non fiction

When Dinosaurs Conquered the Skies – Jingmai O’Connor (author), Maria Brzozowska (illustrator), Words and Pictures (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

My eldest daughter is really interested in dinosaurs and we went to a talk last year about them.  It blew both of our minds when we heard that birds were related to dinosaurs.  This book is even more mind-blowing.  We all know that birds are pretty beautiful and amazing; I mean, they run, they fly, they swim, they climb …. but this book takes us right back to the beginning: how did life evolve for our feathered friends?  We step back in time in the pages of this book to look at fossils and the first dinosaur finds, looking at important people such as Mary Anning and Charles Darwin, and their thoughts and ideas, along the way. Since the discovery of the Archaeopteryx, the most important fossil bird ever discovered, scientists have changed the way they think about dinosaurs… Your avid reader can read on to explore this fascinating world of feathered dinosaurs and the link to birds and how the beautiful birds we see today have evolved in the most amazing ways.  Each page is filled with a combination of factual paragraphs, diagrams and text boxes, presenting the factual information in the most appealing and eye-catching way.  Combined with the most stunning illustrations of the birds, dinosaurs, landscapes and people, this makes for the one of the most captivating non-fiction reads around.  What was incredibly moving though, was reading about the sixth mass extinction with my daughter. An extinction that is causing almost three species every hour to become extinct!!  An extinction that is caused by humans.  We found this so sad.  There are a few hints and tips in the book as to how to help which ends this work of non-fiction on a hopeful note but it is a very sombre thought.  A wonderful book to immerse yourselves in to while away the hours on a long, rainy day.

When Dinosaurs Conquered the Skies

Little People, Big Dreams – Anna Pavlova – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Sue Downing (illustrator) Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

What a gorgeous new addition to this inspirational series of non-fiction books.  We didn’t know much about the life Anna Pavlova, other than the fact that she was a world-famous ballerina.  This beautiful book showcases the life of one of the greatest dancers on earth, from her humble beginnings in St Petersburg, Russia, to becoming prima ballerina at the Imperial Ballet and so much more.  Ever since she watched The Sleeping Beauty at the theatre when she was little, she knew that being a dancer was all she wanted to do.  With hard work, determination and lots of practice, she transformed her talent into genius and moved with such grace and lightness that the audience were enthralled by her.  She had legions of fans (called Pavlovatzi) and became the first ballerina to tour the world with her own ballet company, Pavlova Company.  She was kind and compassionate as well: after war broke out in Europe, she helped Russian orphans find new homes.  With a typically encouraging message at the end of the book – “true success doesn’t lie in the applause of others, but in the accomplishment you feel every time you give your best” – this is a wonderful work of non-fiction.  The illustrations are characteristically stunning: bold colours and drawings with each page displaying stark white images which serve to remind the reader of the swan-like grace and beauty of this inspirational woman and dancer.  We love the twopage section of further facts and picture timeline which provides even more detail about the life of this beautiful ballerina and how she accomplished her dreams.

Little People, Big Dreams – Anna Pavlova

History’s Biggest Show-Offs – Andy Seed (author), Sam Caldwell (illustrations), Happy Yak (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

What a wonderfully fun way to learn about history!  Have you ever wanted to know which king and queen was the richest with their piles of gold and bejewelled crowns?  Or how about finding out which leader was the most powerful?  Or who the most creative person was?  You can find out the answers to all of this and more in this book.  It uses the most unique and clever of ways to engage your child about history – it makes it funny!  Your reader can choose how to read the book: they can either read it from start to finish, dip in and out, go to the section that they might find the most interesting (like looking at scientists, artists, rulers etc), or they can use the coloured tabs at the top of the pages and find out what show offs from each colour-coded period in history were doing!  With quizzes to take, show off battles to read about, top fives to discover and, our personal favourite, a two-page spread dedicated to the top ten gifts given to Queen Elizabeth II (a chocolate model of Windsor Castle, anyone?!) this is the best book for your reader to immerse themselves into history and learning.  My eldest daughter, who is loving learning about history at the moment, finds this book an absolute hoot!  With bright and humorous illustrations bringing to life the show offs in history and the interactive quizzes and the unique battles of the show offs highlighting their outstanding achievements, it’s easy to see why. It is so engaging that your little reader can get lost in its pages for hours, especially if they are snuggled up with a hot chocolate and a blanket.  It’s fast become one of our all-time favourite non-fiction reads of the year!

History’s Biggest Show-Offs

Little People, Big Dreams – Queen Elizabeth – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Melissa Lee Johnson (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Gosh, we all got rather emotional reading this gorgeous book about our now-deceased beloved Queen Elizabeth II. We read through the beautifully illustrated pages about her life of service to her country and her people with huge pride and a lump in our throats.  Little Lilibet had a carefree early life full of dogs and horses but her world changed when her uncle Edward gave up the crown and her father was made king.  From that moment on her sense of duty was of paramount importance as she was taught how to be the next queen.  The book takes us through her incredible life, from training as a driver in the army, to marrying the love of her life and travelling the globe, all lived with the sense of duty and respect for her people that made her the most admired (and longest-reigning) queen in the world.  The fact and photograph section and timeline at the back of the book are also characteristically brilliant, providing further details about Queen Elizabeth’s life and the legacy she has left behind.  My children only remember her as an elderly lady so they were fascinated by the black and white photographs of her as a girl and a young woman.  This book is a wonderful addition to this series about inspirational figures: it’s a joyful celebration of a life that was lived always putting others first and with a huge sense of duty and honour for her country.  The illustrations are divine, showcasing this amazing lady across the decades in all her wonderful glory, whether that be at home with her corgis and horses and grandchildren, or dressed in her finery shaking hands with dignitaries across the world. A beautiful book about a beautiful lady, in every sense of the word.

Little People, Big Dreams – Queen Elizabeth

Superheroes of Nature – QED (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

After reading this book, there is absolutely no doubt in my children’s heads that the weird and wonderful animals it contains are the true superheroes of our planet!  My twins in particular are superhero-mad at the moment so it was wonderful to see their faces as they turned the pages of this book and looked at nature’s superheroes in all their majestic glory. Now, we all know that all superheroes live an ordinary life by day but are splendid in a crisis and the animals this book details are no different.  It showcases the incredible animals that have mind-blowing powers of self-defence and survival which have evolved over time.  Split up into six sections – fearsome creatures, super workers, masters of seduction, survivors, true originals and rebels – each animal detailed has a fantastic full colour photograph spread across the double-page spread and contains a section on its ‘superhero quality’, ‘super stats’ and a ‘super fact’, together with a few fascinating factual paragraphs on the animal itself.  Our favourite superheroes of nature:  the fearless boxer, the Tamandua, the Blue Poison Dart Frog (I mean, it’s soooooo blue!), the Kangaroo Rat (too cute!) and the African Wild Dog (it’s a wolf and a hyena, what’s not to love?!).  With its stunning photography and astonishing facts, this is a book that you and your children can really enjoy together.  We also love how the book highlights that we need to look after the planet and the animals that it contains to stop these superheroes of nature from disappearing.

Superheroes of Nature

Poetry Books

Werewolf Club Rules – Poems by Joseph Coelho (author), John O’Leary (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

What better way to read some poetry than cosied up by the fire with a hot chocolate in hand and a blanket round your legs?!  This is a glorious anthology of hilarious poems for your child to sink their werewolf-sized fangs into.  With over fifty poems to choose from, it’s a perfect poetry book to dip in and out of, a perfect book to pick up and perform with, a perfect book to cosy up with.  Your little ones will discover the rules of the werewolf club as they howl with laughter and giggle with glee over the funny poems this book contains.  What were our favourites?  My son loved the “School tomorrow  – excuses for Mum” poem – he chortled the whole way through it.  My eldest daughter, who is learning all about language and grammar at the moment, thought the M.O.R.E.R.A.P.S. poem was clever and brilliant.  My youngest daughter was really tickled by “What do monkeys do?” and came up with her own funny suggestions.   This book is just what poetry for children should be like: engaging and fun.  The black and white illustrations add even more humour and vibrancy to this perfectly pocket-sized anthology.  It’s a collection of the most creative, fresh and fun poems around which cannot fail to appeal to your child as you dip in and out of it.

Werewolf Club Rules

Interactive Books

Listen to the Music – Mary Richards (author), Caroline Bonne Muller (illustrator), Wide Eyed Editions (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Part fact book, part fiction, this book is an awesome auditory delight for the senses! Sammy and Pip  and their teddies love listening to music so they decide to take a trip through time to meet some of the most incredible musicians across the ages and listen to their melodies.  Starting with the hymns of Hildegard the nun in 1155, this book travels through time providing some fascinating details about the type of music being played at that time and encouraging your young reader to listen to the rhythm by pressing the button and then suggesting a way that they can interact or engage with the tune.  Each page has the most stunning and detailed illustrations on it, depicting the era that the music comes from and really bringing to life the music of the time.  We also love the final pages of the book.   There’s a section on how to make your own music using items around the house, or your own voice and encouraging children to really engage with melody and music.  The final page contains a paragraph of factual information about each piece of music that your child has pressed the button for, explaining more about the music or the person who composed it.  Which were our favourite pieces of music then?  My twins loved the toe-tapping, quick ragtime music of Scott Joplin while my eldest loved the fun and vibrancy of Georges Bizet’s Carmen.  I am a sucker for the Carnival Fever though – I just love those guitar sounds – and my husband used to be in a jazz band so the jazz music is his favourite.  This is such a brilliant book; it’s a sensory delight on both a visual and an auditory level; it’s interactive and it educates your child on lots of different musical genres and styles. Simply superb.  A great way to spend an hour listening to these wonderful and very different sounds.

Listen to the Music – Mary Richards
Cosy Night In Reads for Children | Recommended by Mini Travellers
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Fiona lives in Yorkshire with her husband and little girl who is 6 months

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