Well, hasn’t this been nice?! The weather in the UK has been glorious for a change and it has provided plenty of gorgeous opportunity to have a sit outside in the sunshine and catch up on your favourite book. Whether it be board books or middle grade, non-fiction or chapter books that piques your interest, we have looked through a whole host of glorious, sunshine-filled pages to bring you reviews for some of the newest and most fabulous books on the market at the moment. Take a look and see what takes your fancy ….
We All Belong – Becky Davies (author), Fernando Martin (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)
“No matter what the music, no matter what our name. No matter what our language… our smiles are the same!”
What a joyful little book with a powerful punch this one is! Your little one can turn the pages of this interactive, chunky board book and be surrounded by the squishy loveliness of the messages that this book exudes: kindness, empathy, compassion and love. For we all belong.
Not only does it have empathy and love at its core but it is visually stunning too. From the front page, with its gorgeously appealing squishy foil-flecked rainbow, to the unique laser-cut, peep-through shapes throughout the pages of the book, to the bold and colourful illustrations, your little ones will be captivated by the beautiful pages which go hand in hand with the jolly rhyme of the book. And I won’t spoil the ending for you but that last spread is just glorious. With its comforting message of inclusion, equality and belonging, this is a board book to truly treasure.
Trains – Johnny Dyrander (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
Do you have a little one who is obsessed with trains? Then this is THE board book for them. Your young reader can learn all about four different types of train – a steam train, a freight train, an underground train and a high-speed train – through a simple and colourful diagram labelling key features and then “drive” the train on the tracks cleverly set out on the opposite page. Not only is the book hugely informative for readers of a young age, providing details about different trains (and set at the appropriate level), it also asks your little one questions throughout, such as the colour of the train, or how many people your child can count making this book hugely engaging as well. The interactive nature of the book, with its terrific tracks on each page, make this a superb board book for developing those all-important fine motor skills as your child moves the train along the tracks with their fingers.
The illustrations are bright and beautiful with lots of details being provided in each train setting and lots of wonderful colours used which really brings to life the chuffing, puffing world of these trains.
Chunky, easily transportable, engaging, informative and great fun, this is a brilliant board book for any little train enthusiast. You could even take it on a train journey!
Who’s there, Spot?- Eric Hill (author and illustrator), Puffin Books (publisher)
When I was little, my favourite thing to do at the library was to go and seek out all the Spot lift the flap books I could find! I used to adore them and young children these days are just the same. There is something so loveable about this iconic adorable little pup!
Spot is having a busy day and meeting lots of characters. Your little one can follow Spot on his sweet adventure and lift the uniquely-shaped flaps to see who Spot is having fun with. Not only that, but each character and their activity is accompanied by a noise word so that your child can have fun guessing who Spot might be meeting, or the activity that they are doing, as well as recognising different animal sounds. Whether Spot is looking at the tweeting birds in the tree, or finding the croaking frogs in the pond, he is certainly having lots of fun and your little one won’t be able to resist joining in lifting the vibrant flaps as they turn the pages of this sturdy board book.
The illustrations in Eric Hill’s iconic style are colourful and adorable in the extreme and your little reader will be captivated by the bold and bright scenes on the pages.
This is a superb book to pop into a nappy bag or under a pushchair to take with you on your travels to keep your little one entertained. Classic, bold and bright fun; we love it.
Nibbles Shapes – Emma Yartlett (author and illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)
Does your little one love Nibbles? The cheeky chappy is a firm favourite in our house and my twins, even at the grand old age of five(!), adore this latest edition to the series: a brilliant board book all about shapes. And this time, our loveable chomping chap is munching his way through different 2-d shapes. From circles to triangles, diamonds to rectangles, he chews his way through this book of shapes, teaching your little one how to recognise them without them even realising they are learning. But there is one extra-special shape at the end just for your gorgeous little one! I won’t spoil the ending for you but it is adorable (combined with a generous pinch of mischievous monster fun!).
The illustrations are cute and colourful, bringing to life the fun and cheekiness of the loveable Nibbles and the vibrant, sturdy pages make for superb engagement with the story.
With cut-out holes in 2d shapes and funny antics from the playful Nibbles, this chunky board book is an interactive introduction to basic shapes and early numbers and counting which your little one is sure to enjoy.
Did You Do This Poo? Lucy Rowland (author), Gareth Conway (illustrator), Scholastic (publisher)
My twins adore this laugh out loud whodunnit book, all about one of their favourite giggle-inducing subjects: poo!
When a poo appears in a tuft of grass, an inquisitive and sprightly young unicorn is left wondering who on earth could have done it. And so begins a super-sleuthing search to find the mystery poo-er as unicorn interrogates all the animals in the wood: “Did YOU do this Poo?” From badger to bear, unicorn is determined to find the culprit. But maybe unicorn isn’t quite so blameless as they seem! And so there is such a funny, surprise ending in store for your little reader!
We love the bouncing, rhyming text of this story which goes hand in hand with the hilariously fun illustrations. The pages are bright and colourful and filled with the cutest illustrations of the woodland animals. We love how you have to turn the book on its side at various points in the story, making this an engaging and fun read. But we also love how clever this book is: your child learns about different animals and their pooping habits in the most hilarious and interesting of ways. The endpapers are even laugh out loud informative, showing the illustrations of the animals featured in the story and their poo. This book is a real hit in this house and I cannot recommend it highly enough for any child who loves to laugh and enjoys a cheeky read.
The Goat and the Stoat and the Boat – Em Lynas (author), Matt Hunt (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
My twins have been learning all about the “oa” sound in phonics at school at the moment so this book could not have come at a more perfect time for them. And guess what, it’s phonics in a fun way, so they don’t even realise they are learning!
This laugh out loud picture book comes from the dynamic duo who created The Cat, the Rat and the Hat and this superbly silly story is just as much fun. The tongue-twister of a rhyming tale follows Goat who wants nothing more than to join Stoat in the boat so that they can float on the moat. But is there really room for both Goat and Stoat in the bright neon boat?! Or will their squibbling and squabbling send them both overboard with an almighty splash!?
My twins have had giggles galore with the slapstick humour of this clever rhyming book. They have been able to read lots of the words, and some of the sentences, using their phonic knowledge and I have seen them both grow in confidence because of this. What better way to engage a child in reading and phonics than by making it extremely funny and engaging?
The vibrant neon colour tones used in the hilariously funny illustrations also help with reading engagement and my twins have chortled away at some of the chaos and mayhem contained in the fun and quirky illustrations. We love how you have to turn the book around at various stages to continue with the story and this all adds to the sense of silliness and fun in the tale.
If you are looking for a humorous book then this is it. But it is so much more than that. It’s also a superb tool to reinforce phonics and encourage children to have a love of reading which will last a lifetime. We cannot rate it highly enough.
- Em Lynas (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 32 Pages - 05/04/2023 (Publication Date) - Nosy Crow (Publisher)
Sammy Striker and the Football Cup – Catherine Emmett (author), Joe Berger (illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)
Well, this book has been a huge hit! Both my twins love football but I actually think my little girl enjoys it more than her twin brother (but let’s not compare, right?!) and so she particularly loved seeing a book which centred around a female footballer.
Sammy Striker lives and breathes football. Ever since she was a toddler, she has carried her football with her everywhere and practiced her ball skills. One day while she is playing football with her friends at the park, Sammy gets spotted by the legendary coach, Melissa McDream. Sammy’s skills are superb, her dribbling is delightful, her passing perfect, but as the most important match of her life so far looms, her goal shots go a bit curvy! But maybe a different approach is just what this team needs to win the cup?
The rhyming romp of a story makes this book a superb read aloud, while the empowering story with its messages about the importance of friendship, self-belief and embracing our individuality mean that this book is perfect for kicking off sunny summer days filled with football.
The illustrations are bright and wonderfully detailed, really showcasing the love and support that surrounds Sammy from her family and friends. We loved that the story’s protagonist is a female footballer – go Sammy – and that the coach was also a woman who gently reassured and supported Sammy to reach for the stars. A fantastic, football-filled, follow-your-dreams-and-shoot-for-the-stars kind of a book, if you have a football-mad youngster then they are sure to love it!
- Emmett, Catherine (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 32 Pages - 06/08/2023 (Publication Date) - Macmillan Children's Books (Publisher)
Honeybee – Candace Fleming (author), Eric Rahman’s (illustrator), Pushkin Press (publisher)
Gosh! What a phenomenal and absolutely fascinating book! I had no idea about the amazing awesomeness, the brilliant brilliance, of an Apis Mellifera’s short life. What does she achieve in her lifetime of around 35 days?! So much.
This picture book follows the staggeringly short but immensely important life of little Apis. Who, in her days, cleans, nurtures, tends, builds, guards, flies, collects nectar in her special “honey stomach” and visits over 30,000 flowers!! And I am not going to lie, I shed a tear for the amazing powerhouse that is Apis at the end of the book. Exquisitely illustrated with the most stunning and large drawings which fill the pages of the book, this is a visual wonder for the eyes as well as being absolutely fascinating. The four-page central fold which opens out is just jaw-droppingly beautiful.
The details, the fascinating facts, the gorgeous illustrations following this bee’s poetic journey make it one of the best bee books published in my opinion. We love how it also gently explains the circle of life in a reassuring way. If you have a little bee enthusiast then this is the book for them.
Sheldon’s New Shell – Lily Murray (author), Sam Caldwell (illustrator), Buster Books (publisher)
Published in association with Surfers Against Sewage, an environmental charity dedicated to protecting oceans, beaches and wildlife, this fun, rhyming picture book has a gorgeous, heart-warming story and combines it with a gentle message about the ecological issues which are affecting our marine life around the world.
Little Sheldon the hermit crab is not so little anymore. He has outgrown his shell. He needs to find another one, without it, he’ll just be “a quick seagull snack”. But everywhere that Sheldon looks, everything he tries out for size, turns out to be rubbish. From tin cans to plastic bottles, it is all dangerous rubbish. Luckily for Sheldon, he has some brilliant beach friends to help him out and one determined little girl who is dead set on cleaning up the beach for good.
We have adored this fun book with its marvellous message. The rhyming story laps itself over you like the waves on the beach and makes it the perfect read-aloud with your children. It’s a superb story to prompt conversations about plastic-waste, the importance of recycling and not littering. The final page of the book has some bullet point ideas for children about to help the environment and explains a bit more about the Surfers Against Sewage charity.
The illustrations are bright and beautiful, evoking images of glorious sunny, summer days, making this the perfect ecological beach read for this summer. We love it.
Ingenious Edie – Master Inventor of Tiny Town- Patrick Corrigan (author and illustrator), Flying Eye Books Ltd (publisher)
Do you have a little inventor in your family? A child who loves gadgets and gizmos? A child who adores STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths)? Then this is the brilliant book for them!
Little Edie is a tiny inventor. She lives in a tiny town coming up with big ideas, great gizmos, clever contraptions…. But she always keeps her inventions a secret. She works alone…. Because, after all, that’s what all the best inventors do, don’t they?!
One day though, Edie comes across a problem that she cannot solve alone. A mischievous magpie with a penchant for pilfering shiny stuff is plaguing the tiny town and, no matter what Edie does, she cannot seem to find an invention to help out. She soon realises that she is going to have to work with the whole town to create a contraption to capture the feathered felon.
We love Edie. In fact, she really reminds me of my youngest daughter in her independence and spark. We love her creativity and ingenuity, her love of science, engineering and innovation (promoting STEM for younger readers, and girls in particular) and we love her can-do positivity- girl power! And yet this book also has a lovely lesson: that teamwork makes the dream work! Everyone needs to ask for help sometimes and it can truly make a big difference. It’s not weakness, it’s strength.
The illustrations in the story are glorious. Superb spreads of detailed drawings bringing the story of Edie and the tiny town to life in the most wonderful of ways. A brilliant book!
Sunny Side Up – Clare Helen Welsh (author), Ana Sanfelippo (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher)
Do you know, I have taken a LOT from this picture book. I am rather sad to say that, although I try not to be, I am a glass half full kind of a person most of the time because I am always thinking about the “what ifs…” And yet, I find this book just so uplifting. Never mind the children!! Ha ha!! I have said it before, and I will say it again, I think adults can benefit such a lot from children’s picture books.
This beautiful book is CBT-inspired and empowers children (and adults) to choose how they look at the things around them: “because when you change the way you look at the world, the world you look at changes.” So simple and yet so true. This gently reassuring book encourages a slight shift in perception to change boring to fun, sad goodbyes to new adventures and hellos, anxieties and fears into exciting surprises, loneliness into togetherness and the impossible into the possible, all by putting your sunny-side specs on.
Yet, this book is not too simplistic or patronising. It acknowledges sadness and unhappy times but emphasises that these times will pass and that, in the end, “the more sunny things you find, the sunnier you will feel”.
The illustrations in this book spark pure joy. They are wonderfully colourful and filled with gorgeous emotions and feelings which prompt superb talking points with your children about these differing emotions. Not only that but we love the peep-through holes, the interactive flaps and fold out surprises, making this a joyful and very special read.
You need no sunny-side specs to see the benefits of this book for your children. Promoting a positive mindset, using CBT-inspired techniques, creating a world full of possibility, excitement and wonder, all wrapped up in an interactive book filled with summery, joyful colours and exquisite illustrations, what’s not to love!?
Holey Moley – Bethan Clarke (author), Anders Frang (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)
Who can resist a funny, tongue-twister of a read aloud? Not us, that’s for sure. And especially not one with such a hilarious plot, a bold and bright yellow cover, and fantastically fun illustrations.
Meet Gus the Goat. Meet Mavis the Mole. Can Gus guess where Mavis lives? Hmmmm, well she is a mole so surely she must live in a hole? Well, here’s a hint: she’s a mole who most definitely does NOT live in a hole!! But Gus is on a roll (ha ha!) and is in a rhyming mood now so he just has to find everything that rhymes with “moley”… including all manner of foodstuffs from guacamole to sausage rolly!!
This is a super silly, tongue-twister of a picture book which is just made to be read aloud. It will produce giggles galore whilst also helping your young ones grasp the concept of rhyming words. The illustrations are absolutely hole-arious – the expressions on Mavis the Mole’s face while Gus is playing his guessing games are just superb – and each two-page spread is filled with humour and lots of gorgeous detail. My twins have asked for this book on repeat lately because they love this little roly-poly moley. We cannot recommend this picture book highly enough: bright, full of fun, crammed with chuckle-inducing rhymes and illustrations, we guarantee your little one will have a hoot!
Captain Looroll – Matt Carr (author and illustrator) Farshore (imprint of HarperCollins) (publishers)
She’s super long and super strong, she’s Captain Looroll!! My twins have laughed out loud with this brand-new trusty toilet adventure series featuring everyone’s favourite new superhero!!
The only problem for Captain Looroll is that it is pretty boring in the toilet under the stairs and it’s hardly the place for high octane adventure! But, one day everything changes when along comes the villainous villain, the pungently stinky ToiletTroll. Having fallen down the toilet previously, ToiletTroll is determined to make every toilet roll as stinky and disgusting as he is. So, with her trusty band of bathroom bandits – Ray the Spray, Victoria Sponge and Barbara Bogbrush – Captain Looroll must use her 3-ply powers to save the world from a smelly end (quite literally!). Can she manage it, or will the malodorous ToiletTroll win out?
With toilet gags galore and pongy puns peppered throughout, we have laughed along with this hugely clever and funny picture book. The illustrations are just superb: colourful and cool, bringing to life the hilarious superhero-and-arch-nemesis plot with fun and humour. Each two-page spread is alive with vibrant illustrations in all the colours of the rainbow and makes this such an engaging story for young readers. If you have a child who loves a giggle and always has a chortle over the mention of a number two then be sure to check out this new Number One superhero, Captain Looroll.
- Carr, Matt (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 32 Pages - 04/13/2023 (Publication Date) - Farshore (Publisher)
What a Day – Emma Ballantine &Matk Strepan (authors), Harriet Hobday (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
I don’t know about you but my children are really struggling to go to sleep at bedtime at the moment! Whether it is the combination of the warm weather, or the light nights, I am not sure but this gentle bedtime book is a lovely, relaxing wind down for young children into a good night of sleep.
This gorgeous picture book explores what an action-packed, adventure-filled day your little one has had. Running through their day, from the moment they woke up, to the moment their heads touched the pillow, their little hands and minds explored and touched and experienced with such wonder and awe. It captures beautifully how young children are so happy in the moment, exploring and feeling the world around them. Not only does this book capture the imagination of young readers, with its gorgeous brushstrokes of colourful illustrations and lilting text, it also captures the hearts of parents and caregivers as they see the world through their children’s eyes. It allows for mindful moments of thought and reflection as it prompts, “let’s take a moment to think about what made us smile today” and encourages both young and old to be grateful for the day and the world around us.
This gently soothing book helps to create a sense of calm before bedtime to encourage a sound night of sleep. It also includes some expert advice at the back of the book from a sleep consultant and I found this to be fascinating reading. Encouraging a calm and restful night of sleep, this book is a lovely wind-down and a soothing, mindful bedtime read.
There’s No Such Thing as Dragons – Lucy Rowland (author), Katy Halford (illustrator), Scholastic (publisher)
Have you read any of the other books in this series? We have There is No Such Thing as Elves and it is a firm Christmas favourite so I knew we should jump at the chance to review this rhyming romp of a picture book.
When a little boy is told by his grandpa that there is no such thing as dragons, he obviously doesn’t believe that for a second!! Of course dragons exist. Surely?! They are always mentioned in his books. So, off he goes on a quest to find a dragon and prove his grandpa wrong. Maybe you can help him to find one too?! But he doesn’t seem to have much luck climbing up hills, or looking in the forest… maybe he will find one at the zoo? He can’t seem to find any proof. Do dragons really exist? You will just have to have a look yourself to find out.
This is such a favourite in our house with my twins at the moment. They love spotting the cheeky baby dragon on almost every page of the book, they love the fun-filled bright and brilliant illustrations, they love the rhyming story which is just made to be read aloud, and they love the cheeky ending to the story. They spend ages poring over each wonderfully detailed and gorgeously colourful two-fold spread of fantastic illustrations and find something new every time they look. If you have a little one who is obsessed with dragons, or a child who loves cheeky, fun-filled books, then this is the picture book for them. And just look at that sparkly gold foil cover! What’s not to love?!
- Rowland, Lucy (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 32 Pages - 04/13/2023 (Publication Date) - Scholastic (Publisher)
Thunderboots – Naomi Jones (author), Rebecca Ashdown (illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)
Ooo, I do love a bright yellow book! I find them so visually appealing. Top this off with a super girl on the cover and I am hooked. And I am very happy to report that not only is this book visually striking, but it is an absolute stunner of a story. A real superpower-house (I may have made that word up!) of a picture book.
Trixie is the loudest little person in Primrose Tower. She has fizzing energy and enthusiasm and brings joy to the neighbourhood. Everyone knows when she is around. So much so, they nickname her Thunderboots. Trixie approaches school with the same enthusiasm that she applies to everything: she loves it. At first. But when she starts to learn to read, instead of Trixie doing the dancing, the letters are the ones having all the fun, dancing on the page in front of Trixie’s eyes. That makes Trixie feel sad and like she doesn’t want to go to school anymore. Dad notices that Trixie isn’t as bubbly as usual and asks her why and it all comes tumbling out: that learning letters is hard, that listening to Miss Fry’s instructions is hard, that writing is hard. So, the teachers make a plan with Trixie to help her find new ways to learn the things that are tricky for her. Soon, Trixie gets her spark back – she realises that everyone is different, that we all learn differently and that the way that Trixie learns things is her own special superpower. Go Trixie!
This is such a heart-warming, wonderful book which raises awareness of neuro-diverse children. It celebrates everyone’s unique abilities and talents and provides gentle reassurance to children that we are all different but that that is a good thing. I, personally, haven’t come across a picture book which raises awareness of dyslexia so specifically and this book is the perfect, empowering, confidence-boosting read on this. We love the joyful illustrations which are brimming with beauty and fizzing with the fun and sparkle of Trixie Thunderboots. I also really enjoyed reading the heartfelt and encouraging message at the beginning of the book from the author, telling our children all about her dyslexia diagnosis.
Terrific Thunderboots. Please do yourself a favour and get hold of a copy of this book!
Hello Summer – Jo Lindley (author and illustrator), Farshore (publisher)
As Spring passes the weather crown to Summer, join the four Little Seasons in a fun-filled seasonal picture book adventure! A glorious season filled with summer activities and colourful, fun-filled adventure awaits the friends but poor little Summer is feeling all hot and bothered, even if the friends are on their way to the cooling seaside. First, Summer gets cross at all the animals overrunning their picnic, then he becomes angry when the ball they were playing catch with gets popped on a tree branch, but when they make it to the beach and start building sandcastles, Summer begins to relax and have lots of summer fun. Until, that is, the waves roll in and destroy their sensational sandcastle….. Will Summer be able to get his emotions under control and contain his frustrations and anger so he can join in having fun with his friends?
This is a wonderful book, full of fun and promise for the season to come but also a brilliant book about feelings and managing your emotions. If you have a child who is quick to anger or gets frustrated easily (don’t all young children?!) then this is a superb book to demonstrate a way to deal with this and to allow compassion for ourselves and others. It’s perfect for any little reader who is trying to manage and deal with big emotions. It’s a lovely story with fun at its heart and it provides a very reassuring message for children. The illustrations of the Little Seasons are adorable and the colours used are gorgeously summery. It really makes us want to get outside, go to the beach and play in the sand and surf: what better way to help manage our emotions than to connect with nature?!
- Lindley, Jo (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 32 Pages - 06/08/2023 (Publication Date) - Farshore (Publisher)
Luna and the Sky Dragon – Bethan Woollvin (author and illustrator), Two Hoots (imprint of Pan Macmillan) (publisher)
Are you or your children fascinated by the night sky? Does its vastness, wonder and beauty blow your mind (I hope that is not just me and my children!)?
If so then this is the book for you to read with your children. Inspired by the Ancient Greek astronomer, Aglaonice, who lived over a thousand years ago, this story is a celebration of a brilliant woman and her brilliant scientific mind, as well as a magical blend of myths and legends, science and curiosity.
Luna loves the night sky and adores studying all the wonders she can see above her. But the villagers she lives with cannot stop worrying about what they believe is the mythical Sky Dragon: a fire-breathing, fearsome creature who lives in the sky and sends ominous warnings to the villagers about their behaviour. Luna thinks that the villagers are just ignorant and afraid. Can she use her calculations and research to show the villagers how she sees the night skies and can she have empathy for their viewpoint and make way for their beliefs? Maybe the Sky Dragon won’t turn out to be as ferocious as they feared, after all!
We have absolutely adored this stellar (see what I did there?!) picture book which blends storytelling, stargazing and science together within its stunningly beautiful pages. It brings to the fore, and celebrates the minds of, scientific women in history while also providing a guide to some famous constellations and some fascinating facts about astronomical phenomena. It’s exquisitely illustrated with bold and vibrant drawings which engage the reader right from the cover page and it contains some of the most funny and interesting endpapers ever! It’s clever, it’s insightful, it promotes STEM in a picture book format, it’s stunning in detail and drawing and it also provides that little bit of magic that makes up all the best books. A wonder.
The Planet in a Pickle Jar – Martin Stanev (author and illustrator), Flying Eye Books (publisher)
When two grandchildren go to visit their grandma, they think she is dull and boring. The meals she makes are dull, the stories she tells are dull, her house is dull, the things she does are dull…. Until, one day, grandma goes missing and strange, wild animals start popping up all around her house…. Maybe their grandma is not quite as dull and boring as they once thought? Maybe they were the ones lacking in imagination and adventure!
This is such a beautiful, unique, magical picture book. Flicking through the pages alone will bring you and your little ones pure joy as the illustrations captivate imaginations and the artwork is vibrant and full of wonder and excitement. It’s a glorious work of art for sure, but this picture book also holds a magical story about the beauty and wonder of our planet. It also explores the family relationship, in particular the love and warmth of the intergenerational bond. This story combines both of these themes, wrapping them both up together to embrace and protect, to cherish and celebrate our families and our wonderful Earth and hints that when we do this, we can have the best adventure of all. It’s a stunning debut about cherishing each other and the wonderful world we live in. We hope you get your hands on a copy.
The Gardening Dog – Cindy Wume (author and illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)
Do you know, this might just be one of my new favourite picture books. It is absolutely adorable. Listen to this…..
“….if you just wait, something wonderful will always happen.”
Well, it did. We read this beautiful book.
No one at the rescue centre knows the Gardening Dog’s name. They just call her the Gardening Dog because she spends her time quietly nurturing plants and helping them to grow. She never gets chosen to go home with a family (sob!). One day, she meets a quiet boy called Lewis who loves to spend his time drawing and noticing the world rather than running around at full speed like his classmates. Together, the Gardening Dog and Lewis spend a wonderful day and from this bond, they create a community garden near Lewis’s house for everyone to share. As the garden grows and shoots spring up, so the friendship of this patient pair deepens. Their friendship blooms like the flowers they have tended to, but will the Gardening Dog be left to go back to the rescue shelter all alone now their work for the community is done?
This is such a heart-warming and beautiful story. My twins have adored it. From the gorgeous story, with its important messages of love, friendship, mindfulness, self-acceptance and following your passions, to its stunning illustrations which fill each page of the book with vibrancy and beautiful colour. It’s utterly delightful. Now… how can I train my pups to become Gardening Dogs?!!!
An Adventure for Lia and Lion and Little Echo – Al Rodin (author and illustrator), Puffin Books (publisher)
Have you read these stunning picture books? They are literally works of art in themselves. They are absolutely beautiful. Mesmerising.
In An Adventure for Lia and Lion, Lia is off on an adventure. In another corner of the meadow, Lion is off on an adventure. They both want to find a pet of their own to adventure with. What will happen when they meet up with each other? Will they work out to how share experiences together?
In Little Echo, Little Echo hides away in a cave, shy and retiring and infinitely lonely. All she does is echo the noises around her….until the day she meets Max. Max is off on an adventure, searching for treasure. Will Little Echo find her voice and help Max out? Maybe treasure isn’t jewels and gold, maybe true treasure is in the friendships we make and the experiences we share.
These books are both so heart-warming. They are about adventures and experiences. About looking at the world through another’s eyes and appreciating the richness of shared experiences and friendship bonds. Lia and Lion is also about not trying to tame other people and developing a friendship based on acceptance and love for who a person truly is. Little Echo is also about courage and finding your voice as well as forming those strong friendship bonds.
The illustrations in both books are simply stunning. In Lia and Lion, the oils used create lush, vibrant dancing meadows and gorgeous brushstrokes of colour and excitement. In Little Echo, the combination of acrylic paint, watercolour and collage makes for the most breath-taking picture book, filled with strikingly beautiful illustrations.
These are books to truly treasure. I love them.
Rita and Ralph’s Rotten Day- Carmen Agra Deedy (author), Pete Oswald (illustrator), Scholastic (publisher)
Oh, I adored this book! We try to tell our children that they should not go to bed cross and angry with anyone and this book is a gorgeous example of conflict resolution for children.
Rita and Ralph are best friends. They live near each other. Every day they go down the hill, and up the hill, and down the hill, and up the hill, to meet in the shade of their favourite apple tree to play fun games together. But one day, the two best buds decide to play a new game called sticks and stones. And it does not go well! Ralph hits Rita on the head with a stone and they both run back home feeling sorry for themselves. Rita is NOT happy with Ralph and Ralph is NOT happy with Rita. Will Rita and Ralph be able to put their differences aside and learn to say sorry so that they can meet back under the old apple tree and play nicely together again?
This is such a funny, heart-warming picture book about friendship and reconciliation. It captures the moods and emotions of two young children perfectly. My twins even laughed out loud that they pull some of the faces that Rita and Ralph do, so perfectly has the illustrator portrayed this. The drawings are wonderfully bright and colourful and are sketched with such emotion and precision. Enjoyable and fun with a sweet storyline, it’s a beautiful book about learning to say that you are truly sorry and learning to forgive and forget. We also loved learning about how the story was based on the hand game “Mr Wiggle and Mr Waggle” and we now read the story with the accompanying fun hand gestures (which are detailed in the book if you don’t know them).
Snug as a Bug – Karl Newson (author), Alex Willmore (illustrator), Happy Yak (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
If your child loves a fun, rhyming romp of a story then this is the picture book for them.
Meet Bug. He is tucked up in his blankets in bed as snug as a bug in a rug. Until, that is, the doorbell rings and he answers the door … suddenly, he is off on a wild and crazy adventure! He’s clearly just too lip-smackingly tasty because animal after animal wants to eat him – from snake to crocodile – and bug has to avoid coming to an untimely end! Will he make it back to his bed without being gobbled up by the other animals? And what will happen when his doorbell rings again?!
This book is a laugh out loud adventure story about the most adorable, lovely little bug who really wants nothing more than to be tucked up snug as a bug in a rug. The fun, lively, rhyming story makes for a hilarious read-aloud with your children while the illustrations explode onto the page with vibrancy, fun and colour. From its joyful yellow cover to its interactive rotate-the-picture-to-read-the-story element, this book is a brilliantly fun and engaging read with your little ones. We have put on voices, had giggles galore and generally had a super-sweet time with this bug.
My Bollywood Dream – Avani Dwivedi (author and illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)
It’s Friday night and our protagonist is off to the cinema with her family to see a Bollywood film. As the family travels through the bustling streets of downtown Mumbai, the little girl captures the glorious sights and sounds of the city itself with her camera and she pretends that her own Bollywood movie is being played out before her eyes. When the family reach the movie theatre, the atmosphere is filled with excitement and electricity as the viewers are dying to see the film and it is time to get up and dance!
What a vibrant, joyful book this one is! I could almost taste the smells and see the sights of the busy streets of Mumbai, so great was the descriptive talent of the author of the book. It celebrates Bollywood and draws on the author’s memories of Mumbai whilst also creating a strong female protagonist with a fiercely rich imagination and powerful dreams of her own. This story takes the reader on a beautiful, warm, winding journey through Mumbai and is a joyful celebration of the fun and unifying power of Bollywood films.
The illustrations are stunning: warm, rich, deep, colourful and beautifully expressive. Featuring some Hindi words throughout the story, this is an exquisite and heartfelt love-letter of a book from the author to Mumbai and Bollywood and we have adored its warmth, energy and beauty.
Izzy the inventor and the Unexpected Unicorn – Zanna Davidson (author), Elissa Eldwick (illustrator), Usborne publishing Limited (publisher)
Well, we do love a book that promotes females in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and this early chapter book reader mixes magic and science in this fizzing, fun new series from author Zanna Davidson (think Billy and the Mini Monsters fame!).
Izzy adores sciences. She does NOT believe in magic (boo hoo!). But her matter of fact, scientific approach to life changes when her Fairy Godmother appears and whisks her off to Fairytale Land to save the day! Izzy doesn’t want any part in it but she can’t escape the land until she has rescued Prince Charming from the Mountain of Doom. Izzy will have to put all her science skills to the test and her knowledge about snotty slime and creative crystals (!) will be needed to overcome the fairyland beasts. Her quest takes her on a journey of fun and friendship with the most loveable and enthusiastic unicorn and she begins to learn that not everything is black and white. Maybe the Prince doesn’t want to be rescued ….. maybe life is better with a little sparkle and magic ….and maybe having great friends beside you makes for a much more exciting adventure!
This fun book fizzes with science and magic. It is sure to ignite a love of STEM in younger readers and the larger font size and plentiful black and white illustrations make it a superb new series for those setting out on their independent learning journey, as well as appealing to older readers. And what is even more amazing, and has been a HUGE hit in our house, is that there are fun science experiments at the back of the book so that your little reader can try these at home and really bring the book to life. Perfect for fans of Isadora Moon, we cannot wait for the next instalment in this spectacular science-filled book.
- Davidson, Zanna (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 128 Pages - 05/11/2023 (Publication Date) - Usborne Publishing Ltd (Publisher)
Wigglesbottom Primary – The Sports Day Chicken – Pamela Butchart (author), Becka Moor (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
Have you read any of the books in this series before? If not, then you are in for a treat. My twins are really into this book, which is the first that they have read in the series. There are three perfectly pitched school stories told for those readers ready to move on from chapter books or starting out on their own independent reading journey.
In this book there are three short stories centred around the hilarious goings-on at the never dull Wigglesbottom Primary School. In the first story your child can enjoy the fun-filled feather antics of a sporty chicken who just wants to join in at the school sports day! The second story sees the class marvelling at Anne-Marie Moor and her superpower of having seemingly turned into the new Queen Ant while in the third laugh out loud story, the children are sure that the dinner ladies are trying to poison them with toxic green slime for pudding!
Not only are the stories incredibly humorous but they are written in an engaging manner, with lots of capitalised words and brilliant spacing and a larger font size, designed to maximise engagement for early chapter book readers. There are superb, side-splittingly funny illustrations on each page, bringing the stories to life and we adore the colour tones of grey, black, white and neon green used throughout the stories really adding a pop of colour and fun to the text. We are sure to be joining Class 2R again in their next set of adventures and we hope you manage to get yourselves a copy of this book for some sensationally silly school-filled fun.
Peggy Little-Legs – Pip Jones (author), Paula Bowles (illustrator), Barrington Stoke (publisher)
Well, this is the most woof-tastic, tail-wagging adorable animal adventure there ever was!
Perfect for any pup-loving young little reader out there, this chapter book is just the cutest canine adventure ever.
Peggy the little sausage dog pup is excited and nervous as she goes off with her friends to the Puppy School Adventure Weekend. She starts to feel really sad though when she finds that her small legs make it difficult to compete in the challenges set for her and her friends. Her short legs and long body make running fast tricky and jumping high even harder and she becomes despondent that she is not good at anything. But when her puppy friend Wisp has a dangerous fall, it’s little legs Peggy who can fit down the hole to perform a daring rescue mission. Heroes really do come in all shapes and sizes!
Published by Barrington Stoke, whose books are tested for children by children, it is a superb chapter book: plenty of gaps between the paragraphs, short text blocks of story and lots of vibrant and beautiful illustrations by Paula Bowles interspersing the wonderful words. We also love the fun facts about sausage dogs (or dachshunds) at the beginning of the book, providing your animal lover with lots of more detail about this gorgeous breed of dog. This book is fun and uplifting, filled with friendship and warmth, and it gently introduces the ideas of self-worth, self-confidence and self-appreciation and wraps them all up in a delightful doggie adventure. We will be sure to check out the other titles by this dynamic author/illustrator duo in this superb series.
Princess Minna – The Best Princess – Kirsty Applebaum (author), Sahar Haghgoo (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
This bright and beautiful series of early chapter books is a total winner in our house. With full colour illustrations, they are vibrant, fun and bold – perfect for your little ones starting on their independent reading journeys. Although this is a series, each book is standalone so you don’t need to read the books in any particular order. We love this latest instalment…. it might be our favourite yet!
Princess Minna lives in Castle Tall-Towers and when all is well in her world, the doves swoop and make soft cooing noises. When all is not well, big seagulls descend and make the kingdom all stinky with a seaweed smell. In this story, the mirror on the wall lets Princess Minna know that she is not the best princess in the land because a neighbouring princess, Princess Sky-Blue, is in town! What follows is a hilarious tale of the jealous Princess Minna crossing her “angry arms” and trying to rid Princess Sky-Blue from the land by using various far-fetched schemes. That is, until she realises that Princess Sky-Blue is not a threat; she just needs to shift the way she looks at things. When she does this, she realises that we all have our own unique strengths and talents and we need to recognise this and celebrate our own talents and the talents of others.
We love the message of this book. A message is self-acceptance, love, friendship and support. This is such a joyful book, filled with the funny adventures of the (ultimately) kind and caring Princess Minna; the illustrations are super bright and cheerful and the chapters are short and engaging for your young reader. The pages have a larger-sized font and there are words which stand out, or are in a bigger font, which provides even more engagement and excitement for young readers.
We can’t wait for the next adventure, pretty please!
Middle Grade books
Bridget Vanderpuff and the Baked Escape – Martin Stewart (author) David Habben (illustrator), Zephyr (publisher)
Fun and frivolous, filled with lashings of love and exciting escapades, I adored this book, the first in a new series by Martin Stewart.
Bridget Baxter and her best friend Tom have lived at the Orphanage for Errant Child’s, run by the grotesque Miss Acrid, for as long as they can remember. When Tom is placed with a Loving Family while Bridget is locked away in the dungeon, Bridget knows it is time to get away from the foul Miss Acrid and her fish-smelling breath. So, when the famous baker, Mr Vanderpuff, visits the Orphanage to take Bridget to live with him, Bridget is not going to let Miss Acrid stand in her way. She manages to whisk (see what I did there?!) herself off with Mr Vanderpuff and it seems like her luck has changed.
But, when Mr Vanderpuff tries to teach her, the girl who can do anything, how to bake, everything starts to go wrong!! Explosions, screams and mayhem ensue. It turns out that Bridget is the world’s best worst baker! Will Mr Vanderpuff really want to let her stay, she worries?! And when Miss Acrid seeks the ultimate revenge on Bridget, she will have to put her worst bakes to the test!
I loved everything about this book. From the echoes of the Miss Trunchbull-esque evil headmistress, through the hilarious escapades of the brave and capable Bridget, to the mouth-wateringly delicious descriptions of the baking world. I loved the elements of magic and fun and especially the characterisation of Bridget. She’s clever, fun, brave, inventive, loving, caring, capable and adventure-loving. A girl who is both rescuer and rescuee all at the same time. I also loved the fun black and white illustrations dotted throughout the story, really bringing the adventures of Bridget and Mr Vanderpuff to life. And there are even yummy recipes at the back of the book. What’s not to love?! I cannot wait for the second book in the series which is out later in the summer. Five big fat stars from us!
Lost on Gibbon Island – Jess Butterworth (author), Rob Biddulph (illustrator), Orion Children’s Books (imprint of Hachette Children’s Books) (publisher)
Ooo, I could not put this book down! I was captivated, right from the word go. I loved the diary format and the heart-in-mouth writing of twelve year old Lark. You see, Lark has been shipwrecked on a desert island. She has no food, no water, no heat (apart from the blazing, brutal sunshine) and she is terrified. Well, you would be, wouldn’t you?! As a 42 year old woman, I would be out of my mind, never mind as a 12 year old girl. But Lark has a remarkable spirit. She has tenacity, she has resilience and she is, above all, a caring soul. Through the records in her diary, Lark tells us that the shipwreck of her boat was no accident: someone crashed into it on purpose, sending Lark, a baby gibbon and the driver of the boat, Vanna, into the ocean to fight for their lives. Lark and the gibbon have washed up on a desert island together but there is no sign of Vanna. Lark forms a beautiful bond with the baby gibbon, Goldie, but how long can she survive without proper food and water? Will she ever find Vanna? Or get off the island? Or find out what an Earth has been going on? You will just have to read the book to find out.
I was genuinely enthralled. My heart was in my mouth at times! So superb was the writing that I genuinely felt I was on the island, parched and sunburnt, contemplating eating ants! This book has some important themes at its heart- such as protection of the environment, the dangers that many environmental journalists are placed in and the effect of traumas on a person’s mental health – but it deals with these issues in a sensitive and moving way. To say that it takes place on a small island off the coast of Cambodia, it’s a fast-paced, page turner of a book and I highly recommend it is a superb summer read. Just maybe don’t take it on a boat trip!! Five stars from us.
Just Like Everyone Else – Sarah Haggerston-Holt (author), Usborne Publishing Limited (publisher) (recommended reading age ten plus)
Aidan loves running. It gives him a sense of freedom and allows him to think clearly, away from the crowded confines of the house he shares with his parents and four loud, younger sisters. He sometimes feels he can’t breathe properly with them all around, being noisy and touchy-feely and always wanting him to talk to them about how he is feeling. But what if he doesn’t want to? Because he doesn’t know himself how he is feeling? When his mum announces that she is going to have another baby, but this time, she isn’t going to be keeping it because she is going to be a surrogate for gay couple Atif and Justin, Aidan wishes that his family could be just like everyone else’s. He’s angry, and embarrassed and cannot see why his family have to draw more attention to themselves. And why do they always have to over share?! He’s spent his whole school life trying not to be noticed, so why would his family want to do this?!
But underneath it all, Aidan is also very scared. He thinks that he might be gay but he is not sure. After all, he isn’t an extrovert and he doesn’t like glitter and sparkles and nail varnish like his best friend Jack (who is getting picked on at school for being different). In fact, he likes doing sport and getting muddy … so what does it all mean? Aidan is definitely not ready to come out and Justin and Atif make him very uncomfortable, no matter how nice everyone else thinks they are, because what if being around them exposes him as gay?! When his mum’s pregnancy becomes a little more complicated than her other births and Aidan explodes in front of Justin and Atif, he begins to realise that running away from himself and what is happening in his life is not going to do him any good this time! Maybe it is time for him to stop wishing he was just like everyone else. Whatever that means.
I devoured this book over the course of a weekend. It was a real page-turner because it was infinitely believable and so well written: the characters, the dilemmas, the portrayal of chaotic family life…… Everything. It is a wonderful story of empathy and acceptance as well as self-love and identity. I loved Aidan’s character and how he grew throughout the story and ultimately came to accept himself and others around him, even loyally standing up for what he believed in. It’s warm, funny in places, loving, sensitive, relevant and inclusive. A well-written, engaging coming of age story about acceptance and love in all its guises. I loved it.
The Feeling Good Club – Say How You Feel, Archie – Kelly McKain (author), Jenny Latham (illustrator)
Set out in diary format (complete with doodles and all!), my eldest daughter and I love this fun book exploring emotions and encouraging children to talk about how they are feeling.
When it comes to spending quality time with his Dad, Archie feels like he is the lowest in the pecking order, the last on the list, after his Dad’s work and his twin brothers. His Dad always seems stressed and busy and when Archie’s Dad forgets to come and see the exhibit he worked so hard on at the science fair, Archie is really disappointed. He tries to pretend that he is fine but his anger and annoyance at the slightest thing show him that he isn’t. With the help of the other members of The Feeling Good Club, his friends Bella and Shazmin, he tries to plan a fun camping trip to spend some time with his Dad. But when his plans don’t come to fruition, will he be able to confront his emotions and talk to his Dad about how he is feeling?
Your young reader can join in with The Feeling Good Club as they support each other and do various mindful activities to help each other deal with their feelings and cope with their fears and worries. My eldest daughter really loves these books – this is the second in the series but it can easily be read as a stand-alone- and she has started writing and drawing in this style in her “diary”. It’s so relate-able and sure to be a huge hit with its target audience, especially those who are struggling to work through their feelings about a particular matter or have fears that they want to face.
As a caregiver, I loved how the messages of mental and emotional well-being were emphasised and reinforced throughout the whole book. The cartoon-like and sometimes incredibly funny black and white illustrations support the text and provide engagement with the story. We also love the suggestions at the back of the book containing some of the mindful activities detailed in the story – we have twins that are just as feral as Archie’s two brothers so we are desperate to give the silent and silly walking a go!
- McKain, Kelly (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 224 Pages - 05/11/2023 (Publication Date) - Little Tiger (Publisher)
Indiana Bones and the Invisible City – Harry Heape (author), Rebecca Bagley (illustrator), Faber & Faber Ltd (publisher)
Doggy detective Indiana Bones and his best friend human Aisha are back for the third and final clue-sniffing, tale-wagging adventure to prevent peril! Even though this is the third in the series, and we have read the others (in fact my daughter re-read the second book only the other day) this story can be easily read as a stand-alone story because there is a fantastic explanatory prologue written by the hilarious author which quickly summarises the escapades of the first and second books. We have thoroughly enjoyed this book: it’s fast-paced, fun, filled with quick witticisms, funny, made-up words and phrases and cute canines.
The magical, talking Indiana the dog and his BFF, Aisha, are in a race against time to try and unravel the clues to stop the nefarious, slithery Serpent diving the world into danger. But when you are an ace archaeologist and detective, there is always a bit of woof sailing (see what I did there?!) – Indiana’s mind is not totally on the task at hand and everyone is going to sail into deep water unless his friends can help out! Will they find the lost treasure?! Does it matter? Sometimes, as they realise, some things are much more important than lost treasure. Sometimes treasure can mean something completely different.
We are so sad that this particular adventure searching for the lost treasure is over but this book leaves your reader with one of the best endings ever: “ keep reading, keep reading, keep reading, for books are the real treasure and have magic in their pages”. This is a wonderful summer read – filled with history, fun, magic and humour. We adore the wonderfully funny language used throughout the story and the black and white illustrations which are full of humour and comedy and bring to life the hilarity of storyline. Together with the action-packed adventure, they make this story hugely engaging for its target audience. Five stars from us.
Willodeen – Katherine Applegate (author), Charles Santoso (illustrator), Welbeck Flame (imprint of Welbeck Children’s Limited) (publisher)
Have you read any Katherine Applegate books before? For us, she is a go-to author. She writes the kind of books that when they come out, you stop what you are doing and open your new book with a sense of excitement and wonder. This latest middle grade read is no exception. We devoured it.
Eleven year old Willodeen lives in a harsh and uncompromising landscape. It’s like Mother Earth seems angry. There are fires and mudslides, droughts and fevers in Perchance, the village where she lives with two neighbouring women called Mae and Birdie who took her in after her family was killed in a raging fire. Willodeen is fascinated with nature and adores creatures of all kinds, particularly any kind of underdog. In fact, Willodeen has a soft spot for the most unlovable animals of all – the strange and stinking creatures known as screechers. The villagers hunt them believing them to be pests and nuisances but Willodeen comes to realise that they serve a vital role in the cycle of nature around Perchance.
The annual migration of the cute hummingbears has been dwindling and no one seems to understand why. There are no more shimmering bubble nests perched atop the beautiful blue willow trees and no visitors want to come to Perchance because of it. And when Willodeen’s birthday gift from local boy Connor magically comes to life, she is absolutely determined to speak out for the screechers she loves and maybe, just maybe, she will solve the mystery of the missing hummingbears.
We just loved this book. From the half-magical, surreal world it is set in, to the characterisations – Willodeen is fierce and determined and yet flawed and fragile all at the same time. There are wonderful themes surrounding the importance of protecting nature and our fragile planet, maintaining nature’s equilibrium, same sex relationships, love and friendship, as well as some darker themes of loss and the effect of tragedy and post-traumatic stress on an individual. Yet it is a truly magical, hopeful book. Richly written, beautifully evocative and truly imaginative. The pages of text are interspersed with the sweetest black and white images which really bring the magic of this story to life. Willodeen: a wonder.
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Applegate, Katherine (Author)
- Spanish (Publication Language)
- 192 Pages - 02/03/2022 (Publication Date) - Océano Gran Travesía (Publisher)
Clarity Jones and the Magical Detective Agency – Chris Smith (author), Kenneth Anderson (illustrator), Puffin Books (publisher)
What a magical mystery this middle-grade book is! “Prepare for mystery, magic and mayhem” the front cover says – the three “m”’s, what could be better?!
Mutt loves a miserable existence, barely scrabbling together enough food to eat, running all over town doing errands with no shoes on his feet and being bullied by the students of Rillia’s Knight’s Academy. So, after being chased across town by these students one day, he can’t believe his luck when he stumbles across a sign outside the detective agency for an apprentice to enquire within. Surely he couldn’t become an apprentice to Clarity Jones’ Magical Detective Agency?! Why, that would be impossible! But this book is all about never eliminating the impossible!! He is determined to prove his worth to the ex-princess Clarity, a wooden chest named Smyll, a snow gnoblin and a notorious (almost retired) assassin who make up the members of the Detective Agency. And he will be pitted against the agency’s toughest and most puzzling crime yet – the mysterious case of the vanishing jester. When Clarity is set up by the Underduke and locked up in the castle’s dungeons, it is up to the rest of the agency to come together to find out what is really going on. Will Mutt and the rest of the team be up to the challenge?
We adore this book: the writing style, which is filled with humour, vivid imagery, funny asides and strong characterisations, the illustrations, which serve to make this a memorable and humorous read for all children and the action-packed, exciting adventure. It’s magical, it’s marvellous, it’s a rip-roaring page turner of a book.
We have absolutely adored the magical ride this book took us on and we hope to see much more of Clarity Jones and her unlikely team of detectives! Five fabulous stars.
The Magician’s Daughter – Caryl Lewis (author), George Ermos (illustrator), MacMillan Children’s Books (publisher)
My eldest daughter and I adored Seed, the best-selling book by this award-winning author, and so I couldn’t wait to pick up this magical story.
After a disastrous magic show, the latest in a line of fiasco shows, Abby’s dad decides that it is time to give up on magic for good. It was Abby’s mother who was the real star of the show, the true light and magic and now that she has died, performing just doesn’t feel the same. But magic just isn’t willing to leave the family so easily.
Abby stumbles across a battered old book in her mother’s belongings and it calls out to her. It speaks to her and makes her blood fizz and her body alive so when her dad finds a job at a local care home, they decide to use the spells that the book contains to inject a little magic back into everyone’s lives!
The magic sparks joy in the community: an elderly lady feels young again when she is lifted off her feet dancing, two children realise that the world is their oyster and anything is possible as they take to the skies… Dad and Abby are determined to use the final spell to light up people’s worlds with magic when they put on their final show in London. Will it all go to plan though? Will people pull together to show that real magic is all around them? In their relationships, in the love they have for one another, in the connections that they make?
I loved this story. It was easy to read, fun, joyful and filled with magic and wonder. And yet, it also delves into some deep topics such as grief, and loss, and bullying, and deals with them in a sensitive way. Life has its troubles, yes, but this is ultimately an uplifting book about magic and all that it means. The magic of illusion and trickery, the magic of family, friends, community and connections and that all important fizzing, sprinkle of true magic that we all want to believe in. A real joy.
Deadlock – Simon Fox (author), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
Action-packed, adrenaline-fuelled… this was a tense, heart-pounding middle grade adventure and a half!
Since his mum died suddenly, Archie Blake and his police officer father have race nights. I mean, what better father/son bonding can take place then racing each other to crack open safes or pick locks the fastest?! Archie thought it was all just a bit of fun but when his dad is arrested for stealing a diamond necklace, everything changes. Archie is on his own and on the run. Refusing to believe that his dad would have turned into a criminal, Archie sets out on his own journey to prove that he is innocent. But when he stumbles across a dangerous and dark criminal underworld which begins to close in around him, he realises that not everything can be undertaken alone. Through clues that his dad has left, Archie is led to Bunny, the daughter of a convict who is trying to turn good, and they both need to learn how to trust again. Easier said than done when the lines between right and wrong are continually blurred. Will Archie be able to help his dad, or will the dangerous criminals catch up with him and Bunny? Will Archie be able to untangle the web of deceit?
This book was unputdownable! The words explode onto the page and the pace of this thriller just doesn’t let up. It’s action-packed and full of heart-in-mouth moments and I completely adored it. It explores emotions of anger, grief, sorrow, trust and friendship in a sensitive and completely relatable way and without slackening the pace of the thrilling adventure. If you have a bookish adrenaline junkie, then this is the story for them. Superb.
Kofi and the Rap Battle Summer – Jeffrey Blakey (author), Faber & Faber Limited (publisher)
Ooo, this book took me right back to my youth! Set in the 1990’s, an analogue world without mobile phones, the internet or on demand television but with ALL the tunes, the fun of arcade games and my old favourite game show, “Gladiator”, this book is a superb story of fun, friendship and music.
Kofi is a cheeky chap. He’s often in trouble, usually in detention, or on his way there. But his best friend, Kelvin, is a quiet and shy boy. He’s a boy with a superpower though: he has a photographic memory. Kofi comes up with a genius money-making scheme, using Kelvin’s skills to put together a new fanzine full of song lyrics: Paper Jam. Not all Kofi’s money-making schemes are as successful though. Some of them lead Kofi into trouble and mean that he makes some bad choices and to turn his back on his best friend. Can Kofi turn things round and use his ingenuity and skills to make school a more uplifting place at break time? Will Kofi and Kelvin remain friends? Can music unite them and the school and wider community?
This book was a joy to read on so many levels. Yes, it appealed to my inner teenager with all of its 1990’s reminiscences but it also connects with young readers of that age on so many levels. It appeals to those extroverts like Kofi, but also to those children who are more shy and retiring. It explores friendship bonds, decisions and the consequences of these and family ties. It focuses on the black community and the fun and excitement of long summers full of promise, hope and friendship. It’s a story with music, love, friendship and community at its heart. As a parent, I found it really hear-breaking to read about the treatment of Kelvin because of his stammer (my daughter has a stammer) but I loved his resilience and courage. We also adored the characterisation of the irrepressible Kofi and his fun-filled ideas. This is a book which is fun, full of heart and has music as its soul – we hope you enjoy it.
Greenwild – Pari Thomson (author), Elisa Paganelli (illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)
Wow! What a book!
I devoured this fast-paced, spell-binding book and I am desperate for more!
Daisy Thistledown has wild adventures around the world with her globe-trotting journalist mother but when mum’s latest story sends her off to a part of the world too dangerous for Daisy, Daisy has to attend a dreary boarding school. Daisy realises that something is drastically wrong when her mother does not pick her up from school and she escapes through a hidden doorway in Kew Gardens to the magical world of Greenwild where the wilderness is alive and the lush land bursts with magic.
Daisy has a dangerous mystery to solve and enlists the help of some new friends and a rather magical cat with an attitude! She is confronted by threats and danger which put into peril the green magic in both worlds. Can she manage to channel the power needed to save Greenwild? Will she ever be reunited with her mother?
The plot twists and turns and wraps itself round you like a leafy vine and I really didn’t see the twists coming. I adored the characters, the magical storyline, the emphasis on the environment and the importance of plants and greenery and the gripping pace of the book. It’s a five-star read from us. We hope you get your hands on a copy.
- Thomson, Pari (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 416 Pages - 01/18/2024 (Publication Date) - Macmillan Children's Books (Publisher)
Di Island Crew Investigates- The Case of the Lighthouse Intruder – Kereen Getten (author), Leah Jacobs-Gordon (illustrator), Pushkin Press (publisher)
If you have a mystery book enthusiast or a young budding detective in your household then this is the summer read for them! This is a fun, new mystery series featuring a band of would-be detectives set on a small island off the coast of Jamaica and it can’t fail to give you all the summery feels.
Twelve year old Fayson Dawson has always dreamed of becoming a detective. When she is invited to go and stay with her somewhat estranged twin cousins over the summer, she is less than sure. But when the twins recruit her to their top-secret gang on the island, it seems as though her dreams might be coming true: she has a mystery to solve! The group are led by a bullish and rather unwelcoming girl called Tia, whom everyone seems to be scared of, and they keep getting distracted from their mission. So Fayson takes charge and she is determined to solve the mystery of the strange shadow that keeps appearing in the island’s lighthouse. Squabbles abound and tensions run high within the group on the island and things are not quite as straightforward as they seem. Will Fayson be able to crack the case?
I zipped through this mystery adventure and enjoyed every minute of it. The characterisations (I enjoyed the fact that not everyone is nice all of the time), the complex familial relationships (and the question marks surrounding these) the island life, the mystery and the sense of adventure. It’s a charming book filled with intrigue and mystery and we can’t wait for the next in Di Island Crew series!
- Getten, Kereen (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 224 Pages - 06/01/2023 (Publication Date) - Pushkin Children's Books (Publisher)
Vivi Conway and the Sword of Legend- Lizzie Huxley Jones (author), Knights Of (publisher)
Vivi Conway has grown up in Wales, listening to stories about monsters and magic from the local mythology. But when Vivi becomes a part of that world after she draws the sword Excalibur (you know the legend, right?!) from a murky lake, she starts to think that she would rather not be a heroine, thank you very much!
After a move to London with her Mams, Vivi forms some wonderful friendship bonds with a new group of uniquely talented individuals (not to mention a 1000 year old talking ghost-dog named Gelert (I love him!!)). Vivi learns that she has a magical destiny – she is a Calon and has her soul connected with a witch from legend, as do some of the other children from her new school. But can Vivi learn to trust them and embrace her new found friendships when they are thrown into an adrenaline-fuelled adventure based on the Welsh legends?
This is a thrilling adventure based on magic and mythology (although, I confess, I had to hit the glossary at the back of this book hard!!) but what I loved about it more than that was the diversity, inclusion, acceptance and love it portrays. Vivi is autistic and I loved how her character shone and how she tried to explain some of the difficulties she faces on a daily basis. This book is a thoughtful reflection on the importance of supporting one another’s differences and celebrating these unique traits at the same time. The cast of characters is diverse and inclusive, featuring LGBTQ+ representation, physical disability and a neuro-diverse protagonist. It’s a story that is full of warmth and will capture your heart as well as your imagination.
The Day the Hiccups Took Over – Jo Simmons (author), Lee Cosgrove (illustrator), Barrington Stoke (publisher)
Award winning publisher Barrington Stoke publishes yet another stellar short middle grade novel in this comedic caper by comic genius Jo Simmons.
Frank has a busy day ahead of him – a trip to the dentist, a trumpet exam, a swimming competition and, most importantly, he has tickets to see his knitting hero in his hometown. You see, Frank adores knitting. He is desperate to see his hero perform on stage at the World Knitting Games. But a chronic case of the horrid hiccups is threatening to RUIN his day. They just will NOT stop. Helped by his new friend and confidant, Daisy, Frank tries all kinds of crazy (and hilarious) ideas to get rid of his hiccups once and for all. But will his whole day end in bitter disappointment, or will Frank manage to triumph over his humiliation and calamity?!
This book was non-stop fun. Giggle a minute, groan-and-cover-your-eyes because of his misfortune kind of fun!! The author hooks you in right from the first page and you are taken on a hilarious ride of a madcap adventure in this silly story. And yet even with all the comedy, there are some important messages in this book about true friendship and being true to yourself and not hiding away or being ashamed of who you are and what you like or enjoy which are vital for children to read. Printed on off-white paper with plenty of paragraph spacing, accessible, engaging, filled with hilarious black and white illustrations to bring this madcap caper to life, this is a marvellous middle grade adventure.
Parachute Kids – Betty C.Tang (author and illustrator), Graphix (imprint of Scholastic Inc) (publisher)
It’s 1981 and ten year old Feng-Li cannot wait to discover America on her family’s first holiday there. After a superb, action-packed vacation, Feng-Li’s parents tell her and her older brother and sister that their visas will expire and that they will be returning to Tawain and will have to leave the three children in California ON THEIR OWN!
Suddenly, the three siblings have to learn to adapt to a new life in a strange country with a strange language and a strange culture. Not only that but they have to learn to look after themselves and pull together. And perhaps the hardest challenge: to learn to get along!! Each child faces their own struggles – Jia-Xi (Sis) is determined to study hard for her SAT exams and has to learn to cook and clean for her siblings; Ke-Gang (Bro) is struggling to find his place at school and is full of anger at leaving his home country; and Feng-Li can’t understand the new language and feels isolated and alone in her new classroom. To make matters worse, all Bro and Sis ever seem to do is bicker and argue. They are in an alien world, feeling lost and alone, terrified by the fear of being discovered by immigration and surrounded by hardships, both financial and psychological. But after the siblings are scammed and their money is gone and Bro has an accident and ends up in hospital, the family finally manage to pull together.
I can’t recommend this middle grade graphic novel highly enough. Yes, it is a fascinating and eye-opening story about immigration and hardship, and, yes, it is jaw-dropping in its content and emotionally moving, but it is also a book which is funny and comical at times. And it is a book which celebrates the realities of family life (it’s not always perfect, but it is a beautiful bond), celebrates love and friendship, and courage, resilience and hard work and the lighter moments of laughter and fun. I was also absolutely fascinated by the author’s note at the back of the book, all about her own journey. A hugely important read to develop awareness, compassion and empathy. I hope you manage to get your hands on a copy of this book.
How to be a Detective and other crime-fighting jobs – DC Alexandra Beever (author), Sol Linero (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
Does your little one love a mystery? Have they ever dreamed of solving a crime? Then this is the work of non-fiction for them!
Each two-page spread of this beautifully colourful book asks a question about detectives and other crime-fighting jobs and then goes on to provide fascinating details about that particular question.
So, your keen reader can learn what a detective actually is, how to become a detective, what training that involves, what happens when crimes are reported, how a detective looks for clues, what happens in court, what other crime-fighting jobs there are (I’d be useless as a surveillance officer – I need a wee too often 😂🙊) and so much more.
This book is brightly coloured and wonderfully illustrated and the drawings match the text brilliantly, making the book and its contents even more engaging for readers. It’s the perfect book for inquisitive young minds, particularly if your child has ever shown an interest in mystery or crime-fighting…. Maybe you will have the next police dog trainer or crime scene investigator on your hands!
Over the Rainbow – Rachael Davis (author), Wenjia Tang (illustrator), Flying Eye Books (publisher)
Surely I am not the only one who shrieks “rainbow!” in delight every time they see that colourful arc of wonder in the sky?! I think I am more excited than the children. But, truly, they really are the most awe-inspiring of phenomena, don’t you think?! Well, if you have a young reader who is as excited as me about rainbows then this is THE book for them.
It’s split into five chapters, all exploring the science, magic and meaning of rainbows. The first two chapters – the science of rainbows and rare rainbows- are all about the science and are mind-blowingly brilliant. We loved how the scientific concepts were simply explained using a mixture of words, diagrams and amazing illustrations. We have learned so much. Did you know that raindrops are actually shaped like hamburgers? Or that rainbows are really full circles and the best chance you have of spotting a full circle rainbow is from an aeroplane? Or how about the fact that a lunar rainbow (or moonbow) can form at night?!
If that had been all this book had been about, I would have been impressed. But there is more. There are chapters on rainbow myths and legends, including the one we all tell ourselves about the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, and on rainbows in the arts, from The Wizard of Oz to J.M.W. Turner’s painting of Arundel Castle, which are also fascinating. What we really loved, however, was the chapter on the symbolism of the rainbow. From what it meant during the Covid pandemic, to what a bad omen it portrays in Amazonian culture, to the colourful flags in history. The final two-page spread is all about standing proud which highlights the struggle for acceptance by the LGBTQ+ movement and the rights that they still have to fight for. This last section is particularly relevant during Pride month to promote acceptance, love, empathy and inclusion.
The illustrations in this work of non-fiction are sublime. An artwork in themselves. Filled with colour, beauty and detail, they truly portray the wonder and dazzling beauty of these natural phenomena. This book will truly bring light and colour into your world, we hope you get your hands on a copy, it’s a wonder.
- Hardcover Book
- Davis, Rachael (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 64 Pages - 06/01/2023 (Publication Date) - Flying Eye Books (Publisher)
Growing Up – Rachel Greener (author), Clare Owen ( illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
As a caregiver, children can often have very complex questions about growing up and the changes that their body makes. As a child, growing up and the hormones and emotions associated with it can often be quite complex. This book is a brilliantly open, honest and accessible guide to puberty and growing up.
It covers topics such as biological sex (referring to babies born with a vulva and babies born with a penis), puberty, hormones, periods, bodily changes, behaviour and emotions, understanding boundaries and online safety.
It’s written in a friendly yet factual tone and I think it will provide support and comfort for children going through what can be a confusing time: “Your journey from being a child to becoming a grown-up will be as unique and special as you are!”
I really liked how inclusive this book is: “we hear lots of ideas about how people should look, dress and behave because they were born with a penis or a vulva. These are just that: ideas. Everyone gets to decide for themselves what they like.”
The illustrations are bright and colourful and are inclusive, featuring bodies of different ethnicities and recognising all kinds of body shapes making this guide to growing up a really engaging and interesting read. I wish it had been around when I was growing up!
- Hardcover Book
- Rachel Greener (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 32 Pages - 05/04/2023 (Publication Date) - Nosy Crow (Publisher)
We’ve Got This! Rashmi Sirdeshpande (author), in partnership with EmpathyLab, Juliana Eigner (illustrator), words and pictures (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
Empathy is an actual, real-life superpower and we can all do something to boost that superpower every now and again. That’s what this brilliant book aims to do.
Written in collaboration with EmpathyLab, this book is an essential empathy handbook and can help you and your reader supercharge your empathy in an easy to follow six-step process:
Step 1 – know what empathy is;
Step 2 – know how empathy works;
Step 3 – use your empathy out in the wild;
Step 4 – learn to recognise emotions;
Step 5 – be a brilliant communicator; and
Step 6 – become the ultimate empathy hero.
With a moving foreword by Sir Michael Morpurgo, each step in the book has a whole chapter dedicated to it and there are games to play, quotations from amazing authors to read, and awesome activities to try to help your reader understand empathy and emotions better so they can use their superpower while they are out and about. With some really interesting facts (did you know that empathy is like a muscle and the more you use it, the stronger it gets?!), super power check-ins and a handy bonus guide for grown-ups too, this book is a powerful force to be reckoned with. There is also a page at the back of the book which details further resources and help in finding empathy-rich books for our children and more information on the work that EmpathyLab does.
The illustrations are superb: plenty of white, black, grey and yellow colour tones are used in brilliant drawings which bring to life the messages and activities in the book. This book matters hugely. Because empathy matters hugely and the more we give, the more we put out there as a force for good in the world.
Everything you know about Sharks is Wrong! Dr Nick Crumpton (author), Gavin Scott (illustrator), Nosy Crow (publisher)
Did you know that the Megalodon is no longer around (sob!)? Or that even Great White Sharks have their own predators? How about the fact that shark fin soup is not actually very good for you? Ok, well you definitely didn’t know that not all sharks lay eggs, I bet!! We don’t swim away from sharks in this house anyway but this book has actually made us love them even more.
We love the format of this myth-busting colourful non-fiction book (nope, sharks really don’t kill lots of people all around the world- in fact, the common cow is way more dangerous!). It really gets to the truth of these fantastic finned friends and takes everything you think you know about sharks and dispels your illusions in the most interesting and informative way. Many of the facts are truly mind-blowing and the text is set out in short paragraphs, surrounded by the most fabulous of illustrations, so that this book is very difficult to actually put down because you want to keep reading! The artwork is colourful and vibrant, representing the different species of shark to perfection and making us appreciate them for all their special behaviours and powers. This book, like all the others in this series, is inventive, hugely informative, very entertaining and unputdownable! Your little reader will dive down into this watery world and discover all there is to know about sensational sharks – we are all fascinated in this house now!
Welcome to our Table- Laura Mucha and Ed Smith (authors), Harriet Lynas (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
Stinking toe fruit, anyone?! Anyone?! Smacnoho! (Which means “let it be tasty for you” in Ukrainian, in case you were wondering!)
We are in LOVE with this gorgeous book. It’s a feast for our eyes and manna from heaven for our brains! Celebrating the many different foods that people eat in the 195 countries around the world, this is the most fascinating and interesting of non-fiction reads around at the moment. This book will help your own little ones learn about the importance of food: not only does it give us energy but it helps to bring us together and forms traditions and cultures. Your little one will explore the earth, following children around the world as they welcome us to their unique tables. From terrific tomatoes to brilliant beef, oodles of noodles, to pastries and puddings, this book is a mouth-watering guide to the different culinary experiences of children around the world. From how they eat (my children are definitely more suited to living in India and Bangladesh where they use their fingers as their main utensil) to what they eat (including incredible insects – this blew my children’s minds!)), there are fascinating facts and lots of new languages from around the world introduced with phonetic pronunciations.
The facts are set out in short paragraphs of information which surround the stunning illustrations of food and scenery from around the world. The pages are bright and colourful, the drawings popping out from the page because of their detail and the adorable images of sweet children are just so beautiful. There’s a brilliant couple of pages at the end of the book with ways to say “yummy” or “tasty” and “goodbye” in various languages as well as a beautiful two-page spread map of the world for your child to pore over.
We have loved exploring these delicacies and dishes from around the globe, loving the eye-catching and bright illustrations which accompany the fascinating facts and making for a truly engaging and enriching read.
- Hardcover Book
- Laura Mucha (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 64 Pages - 06/01/2023 (Publication Date) - Nosy Crow (Publisher)
Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.