Kids Summer Holiday Reading


Summertime is synonymous with reading and there are so many brilliant books to entertain your children over the summer holidays this year. So, whether you have young babies, or older children, are looking for activity books or fast paced page turners, we have you covered this summer. Take a look at the fabulous books we have reviewed and enjoy some peace and quiet while your child is absorbed in a book …

Board Books

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Let’s be Brave – Leah Osakwe (author), Becky Paige (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher)

Join the Little Voices friends in this self-courage board book as they take on new challenges and never let their fears hold them back. This inspirational board book will encourage a growth mindset in your little ones as they explore all the different ways the friends in the book try to be brave. From daring to try new things, to standing up for yourself, exploring new places to making new friends, being brave means different things to different people and this bold and beautiful book is confidence boosting and empowering for little minds.

The illustrations are bright and colourful, showcasing and emphasising the empowering words of the book. If you have a little one who is nervous about starting school in September then this would be a wonderful book to read with them. 

What’s Scarier than a Shark? – Amelia Best (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher)

Your little one will have oceans of fun with this vibrant, underwater lift-the-flap adventure. Your young reader might think that crabs and killer whales, swordfish and sharks are scary but, oooo, just wait until they lift the flaps to play peekaboo with some truly terrific terrors of the seas!! 

With bright and vibrant illustrations filling the pages of this sturdy board book, this is a truly funny read to share with your little ones. The crossed out text brings humour to the words and the illustrations are joyful and filled with fun.

A great board book for summer: take it to the seaside and have fun with it. The cute creatures will transform into terrors before your eyes and make your little ones laugh out loud. It’s peekaboo with a difference! Enjoy. 

Picture Books

Never Ever Ever Ask a Pirate to a Party – Clare Helen Welsh (author), Anne Kathrin-Behl (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

The cake is iced, the bunting is up, your party hat is on…. It’s the perfect party. But if you want the perfect party, be very careful not to ever, ever invite a pirate… or a dragon, or a unicorn or, heaven forbid, a spaceship full of aliens!!! They will just make a mess, destroy all the decorations, make outrageous demands and steal all the presents. But, even if they do all that and wolf down your birthday cake, well, meh, who wants a perfect party anyway?! A party is not a party without all your raucous friends. Well, maybe not ALL of them! 

We love this laugh out loud picture book. It’s a great guessing game with your children – my twins have loved trying to shout out who might be knocking at the front door next and there were giggles galore at the humorous ending (which I couldn’t possibly give away)! The illustrations are superb: bold, bright and beautiful and filled with the warmth and humour of the story. The girl in the story may not have the perfect party but this is the perfect picture book to spark joy and fun when reading with your little ones. We have particularly enjoyed scanning the code to hear this one being read aloud- a superb feature of all Nosy Crow picture books. 

The Ocean Gardener – Clara Anganuzzi (author and illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher)

Ayla lives on a beautiful tropical island in the middle of the gorgeous sea. The sea is full of stunning, brightly coloured coral. Ayla and her mum, who is a marine biologist, visit the coral reef every single day. Until one day, they notice that the fish are leaving because the coral has turned pale and washed out. The fish leave to look for a new home and Ayla’s mum has a brilliant plan to try and save the coral and try to entice the fabulous fish back. Can mum and Ayla save the coral and create an ocean garden again, filled with colour and life?

This is a stunning book, based on real-life events. There are some amazing fact pages at the back of the book, introducing your little ones to Chloe Pozas, a marine biologist, and the work she does on restoration projects around different islands in the Seychelles growing coral in nurseries. There are photographs to look at and more facts about coral reefs and their importance, giving children (and caregivers) ideas as to how to protect coral.

The story itself is wonderful: a super tale (should that be tail??) highlighting the plight of our oceans while also engaging your child with beautiful, striking and colourful illustrations of marine life. A brilliant blend of fact and fiction all wrapped up in an exquisitely illustrated story with a very important eco-message. 

Two Wheels – David Gibb (author), Brizida Magro (illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

A little boy wants nothing more than to be able to ride a bike with two wheels like the rest of his family. Follow his progression from the tricycle with three wheels, the balance bike with two wheels and the training bike with four wheels until he eventually learns to ride with two big wheels. ALL. BY. HIMSELF.  This is a warm and hugely heartfelt story which follows the journey of the young boy and how he wants to be just like his bicycle-obsessed Daddy. He just can’t wait to ride a bike of his very own so that the whole family can go off on adventures together. The little boy learns that it isn’t easy learning to ride a bike but with practice, patience and a lot of determination and grit, he might just achieve his dream. 

This book would be hugely useful for any child who is learning to ride a bike – although, can I just say, I was amazed how quickly children pick up pedalling on a pedal bike after learning to ride a balance bike – and needs an extra boost of confidence. This book is warm, empowering and filled with familial love and the possibility of adventure. 

With striking illustrations depicting moving and joyful scenes, and a gorgeous warm palette which evokes days in the sunshine, this book is a must for any bike-obsessed little one.

When Dinosaurs Walked the Earth – Sean Taylor (author), Zehra Hicks (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Thinking can be a problem when you are a Smallasaurus dinosaur and you have a brain the size of a walnut. Or can it? Well, maybe not if the meat-eating Badasaurus hunting you has a brain the size of a peanut! So begins the hilarious game of “cat and mouse” (or big versus small Dino) where the two dinosaurs chase each other all over the pre-historic place! But they better watch out … they might attract the attention of the ravenous meat-eating Worseasaurus dinosaur… and what she really fancies for breakfast is a choice of two dinosaurs! Will she go for the small, plant-eating Dino, or will she plump for the larger Badasaurus?! I couldn’t possibly tell you!

But what I will say is this is a roarsome romp of a picture book – hilarious in the extreme, packed with funny repetitions, laugh out loud false endings and humorous page turns. The illustrations are superb: bright and bold colour tones combine with funny depictions of the faces of the dinosaurs. For any little Dino lover, for any child who adores a giggle-inducing story, this is the perfect summer read. We adore it.

This is a School – John Schu (author), Veronica Miller Jamison (illustrator, Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

A gorgeous book in bold and vibrant colour tones which showcases the community that is a school. A school isn’t just a building. It is corridors and rooms and they are filled with people. People who play together, work together, learn together, create together. It is a place for exploration and learning, for discovery and possibilities, for helping and sharing, for asking questions and being ok with not knowing all the answers. It is a place of hope and healing, even when not everyone can be together because it forms strong bonds. 

This is a book. A beautiful book. A simple book in some ways and yet so powerful in others. It’s a warm and moving celebration of the power of school and the community within it. It is the perfect book to read with your child if they are starting school in September after the holidays. It’s colourful pages, filled with gorgeous illustrations of the warmth and joy of the school community, cannot fail to engage your young reader and hopefully get them excited about their own school journey. Look at this book, read this book, enjoy its pages and allow your child to soak up the message that they will become an important part of a school one day too. 

Cake! – Ellie Patterson (author), Gabriela Gil (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher)

Ooo, I do love a cover which draws your little ones in. And what could be more inviting than a delicious looking cupcake on the front of a bold and vibrantly colourful cover page?! 

Who ate all the bunnies’ birthday cake? Surely it wasn’t Tiger? Or Rhino? Or it couldn’t possibly have been that Flamingo all covered in icing, could it?! Let your little ones follow the beautifully cute bunnies as they hunt for the cake-guzzling culprit! This is a laugh out loud whodunnit story about right and wrong. And cake, of course. 

We love how the funny story gently encourages young minds to think about right and wrong and making amends. Drawn in the most vibrant and colourful of tones, the illustrations of the cheeky animals are superb and filled with character and charm. Gently nudging young readers to think about acknowledging when they have done something wrong and showcasing the joy and happiness it can bring when they make amends, this is a fun story with a super message. Oh, and a hilarious ending. Icing, sprinkles and humour abound and we hope you get hold of a copy this summer.

The Truth About Yeticorns – Rachel Morrisroe (author), Ella Okstad (illustrator), Puffin Books (publisher)

Sisters Bea and Edie are frequently falling out because Bea can’t stop telling fibs when she does something wrong! Fairy cats wiped mud on the floor, wild octoponies flooded the bathroom… a giant, green Yeticorn has crashed Edie’s bike and gobbled up her sweets. But one morning, Bea wakes up to find that her imaginary Yeticorn has come to life! He’s on the loose and causing havoc and Bea keeps getting the blame for his bad behaviour because he won’t own up to his misdemeanours. Will Bea be able to find the courage to stop fibbing and start telling the truth? 

All of my children have, at some point, struggled with saying sorry. My little boy will often say that his imaginary wolf has done something wrong so this story resonates hugely in this house! It’s a gorgeous tale about sibling friendship, filled with imagination and humour, and has a brilliant message about owning up, telling the truth and saying sorry. The illustrations are vibrant creations, really showcasing the fun of a child’s imagination and bringing to life the hilarity and mayhem that the Yeticorn brings. We also love the tips from Yeticorn at the back of the book about how to say sorry and the gorgeous guide to inventing magical beasts by Bea which highlights a child’s creativity and the power to use your imagination for good. A fun-filled read for summer with an important message. 

Don’t Disturb the Dragon – Rhiannon Fielding (author), Sian Roberts (illustrator), Puffin Books (publisher)

Roll up brave knights, a brilliant new bedtime adventure by the author of the best- selling Ten Minutes to Bed series has hit the shelves!

This rhyming romp of an adventure story is a huge hit in my house! The princess’s little brother has gone missing, right before bedtime so she must go on a quest to find him. But she has to avoid the huge beast with the giant claws and great big eyes! She’ll have to tiptoe her way around Wingbeat Island, being careful not to wake the fearsome dragon. Can your little ones help the princess find her brother? He might just turn up in the unlikeliest of places!! Whatever you do though, do not disturb the dragon!!!

This is the perfect interactive adventure story to read out loud with your little ones at bedtime. My twins laugh out loud and shout the refrain! It is funny, rhythmic and full of repetition which is sure to engage and entrance your young readers. Combine those wonderful and humorous words and refrains with the colourful pages of sweet and funny illustrations and you have yourself a brilliantly fun bedtime book. And one with a great ending to boot! Make sure to get your hands on a copy of this one this summer, you won’t regret it. 

The Happy Hut – Tim Hopgood (author and illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

Wow! Does the cover of this book make me happy. All blue skies and white fluffy clouds and sunshine. And family. A family having fun. And in many ways that is what this book is about. 

Grandpa Martin’s beach hut is a Happy Hut. It’s bright yellow, a colour he chose so that it looked like the sun. The little boy in the story enjoys many happy memories and experiences lots of happy adventures when be spends time with his family staying with Grandpa Martin at the hut. Your little reader can turn the pages, through the seasons, and enjoy the inter-generational family fun at the beach. But when Grandpa Martin gets sick, the hut stands alone and unused. When the family visits the following Spring without Grandpa Martin, it feels sad and very different. But the happy memories that they have made in the happy hut live on, and the family remember these, drawing on them for courage and strength in their sadness and allowing Grandpa Martin’s legacy of happy adventure to live on through the newly renovated beach hut.

This is a heart-warming and ultimately uplifting story touching on some deep themes for young children. We love the scenes of the intergenerational relationship between Grandpa Martin and the three young children, and this is portrayed so beautifully in the exquisite illustrations which are filled with joy, vibrancy and love. It’s a superb book for helping children to not only come to terms with and try to understand the death of a beloved grandparent but it also portrays very poignantly the seasons of change and the cyclical nature of Mother Earth. The illustrations are stunning – colourful and vibrant during the happy memories of life and stormy and moody during the sad times, wonderfully depicting complex emotions. Ultimately though, this is a book about life. About hope. About making the most of your life and enjoying the adventures. It’s about trying to remember all the reasons we have to be happy and enjoying the moment. A moving and powerful book. 

Everybody’s Equal – Patricia Hegarty (author), Greg Abbott (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher)

We adore the message of this beautiful book: “Everybody’s equal, l’m sure you will agree. I’m as good as you and you’re as good as me.”

Mouse and his friends live harmoniously and happily in their woodland home. Until the day that their peace is shattered by stoat building a fence to keep mouse out. Mouse feels that this is not right so he calls all his friends together to try and hatch a plan to get stoat to change his mind. Will Mouse and his friends be able to convince him? Let’s hope that tragedy does not strike before he begins to realise that everybody is equal and friendship is truly important. 

This is such a sweet picture book with different sized, layered pages and die cut shapes which my twins have adored exploring in the story. The messages of love, friendship and equality are just beautiful and are clear and understandable for younger readers. Drawn in the muted colour palette of a leafy woodland, the illustrations are superb: cute drawings of adorable animals which really help to bring the story to life. We hope that this book helps to teach our children that a world without fences between humans would be a truly wonderful world to live in. Everybody’s equal. 

This Rock is Mine! – Kaye Umansky (author), Alice McKinley (illustrator), Alison Green Books (an imprint of Scholastic) (publisher)

What a hoot this book is!! Two frogs, one rock and a whole heap of funny quarrelling!  Ahhh, isn’t life lovely, sitting on a rock, minding your own business. Until, that is, you realise that someone else is sitting on your rock and they think that it is theirs too! That’s what happens in this rhyming romp of a read aloud. The two frogs each lay claim to the slab of rock – whether it’s because their sandwiches and fishing gear are on it, or their “folding chair, ..flask of tea.. my underwear” (cue much giggling from my twins!) – each frog thinks it is THEIR rock and they fight and squabble furiously over it. But when a hungry heron swoops down looking for something tasty to gobble up, the two frogs realise that it is definitely time to find another rock and that it might just be best to do it together. Because life is always better when there is someone looking out for you.

From fighting to friendship, with lots of laughter and fun along the way, we adore this rhyming picture book which bounces along like a hippety- hoppety frog. We love the message of friendship and resolution which really hits home with young children because of the superb verse and the laugh out loud illustrations. Each two fold spread is packed with humorous detail and lashings of colour and vibrancy. Not to mention the hilarious expressions on the faces of the two froggy friends. With echoes of There’s a Bear on my Chair, this is a sensational summer read of a story. If your child loves a laugh then they will love this book. 

The Quickest Bedtime Story Ever! – Louise Fitzgerald (author), Kate Hindley (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Oooo, this is a super-fun book!! But don’t be fooled. It’s no where near the quickest bedtime story ever!!! Ha ha. So, roll-up, roll-up… settle yourselves down for a cosy night of sleep after the quickest bedtime story ever. It’s only ten whole words long. But, hang on! There are a few very important things your little one must do before we can begin…. Stretching, plumping up the pillows, serious page turning, toy-tucking in, all kinds of magical instrument noise-making… you know the drill!! All to read those wonderful ten words. And if you are lucky, there might just be time for one last story!! 

We adore this ingeniously funny picture book. It’s interactive, it’s joyful, it’s fun and it’s playful. It encourages interaction and engagement at every stage of the story and is a real hoot. Combined with the hilarious illustrations from Kate Lindley, the colourful pages and superbly fun storyline of this book make it a guaranteed bedtime favourite – my twins have giggled throughout. What a winner. 

A Boy, His Dog and the Sea – Anthony Browne (author and illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

What a beautiful book! 

Danny was bored and a little bit sad. He wanted to play with his brother, Mick, but he had gone out with his friends. So, very reluctantly, Danny takes Scruff, his dog, on a walk to the beach. But he thinks the beach is boring. Until he really stops and notices things. When he wanders along the beach further, he notices a figure out in the sea, waving at everyone back on the shore. Something doesn’t feel right to Danny and so he sends Scruff out to investigate, not imagining what might happen next and who Danny and Scruff might save.

We have a lot of love in this house for Scruff the dog. What a dog! What a legend! We also have a huge amount of love for this powerful book about looking and seeing. It’s a story which will hugely resonate with children at this time of the year as they have broken up from school and the prospect of long, boring days is ahead of them. But it’s a story which reminds us that nothing is really dull if we just open our minds and keep our eyes open. The world is full of wonder and possibility. We love the illustrations in the story – every time we read the book we see something new (shapes of clouds in the sky, different faces in the pebbles), and the two page spread without words is so powerful and beautiful. This is a story about being mindful and looking at the world with wonder but also a story about the beautiful bond between brothers, the healing nature of animals and the companionship and love that they bring. Not to mention their hero status! We love it. 

The Starling’s Song – Octavie Wolters (author and illustrator), Pushkin Press (publisher)

Stunning. That’s the word I would use to describe this strikingly beautiful and moving picture book. 

A starling flies through the sky, over fields, and forests, rocks and mountains and marvels at the wonder and beauty of the world around him. He is desperate to sing about the beauty so that he doesn’t forget it. Along the way though, he meets lots of other birds who tell him of other glorious beauties that they appreciate and they ask him not to forget to sing about those wonders too. So Starling sings. He sings of snow capped mountains, night with all its colours, the way that flowers wither and the fields blanketing the rolling Earth, to name but a few from this lyrical book. Can you see it too?

This is an exquisite book, filled with beauty and the most striking artwork I have seen in a picture book. The black and white ink cut illustrations of the book are bold and visually stunning, really drawing your young reader into the story of the starling and the wonder of the world. It’s lyrical and beautifully poetic in its language and we love the message which reminds us that there is beauty in the world around us, in the little things, so long as we remember to really look for it and listen to it. We adore the clever ending, and the beauty of the final page which contains every bird the Starling has come across on his travels, only if you look closely enough. Bold, striking and beautiful, this is an exceptional picture book with a mindful message and a true understanding of the beauty that can be found in the natural world.

Chapter books

The Ghost Cat who Saved my Life – Pamela Butchart (author), Monika Filipina (illustrator), Barrington Stoke (publisher)

I have said it before, and I will say it again, I am a huge fan of this series of Little Gems books by publisher, Barrington Stoke. And this one is the most wonderful, whisker-filled adorable animal adventure there ever was! 

Fabulous for any feline- loving young little reader out there, this chapter book is just the cutest cat adventure ever.

When Liam and Sav hear loud meows coming from the empty flat upstairs, they begin to suspect that a ghost cat is haunting the building. Sav and Liam just have to go and investigate but adventures don’t always run smoothly when you are chasing a phantom feline. Sav would love to capture her to keep as a her own ghost cat because her mum is allergic… but will they ever find the feline friend? 

Barrington Stoke, test all their books for children by children and this one is a superb chapter book filled with sweet surprises. There are plenty of gaps between the paragraphs, short text blocks of story and lots of vibrant and beautiful illustrations by Monika Filipina interspersing the wonderful words. We also love the fun spot the difference pictures at the back of the book, providing your little animal lover with even more ways to engage with this sweet book. This book is fun and uplifting, filled with sweet surprises, friendship and warmth, and it gently reinforces that the adults in the story have put boundaries and rules in place for the safety of the children involved. We love the books in this series and they are perfect for those starting out on their independent reading journey or those wanting a longer story than a picture book.

Hotel of the Gods – Beware the Hellhound (book one) and Vikings on Vacation (book two) – Tom Easton (author), Stephen Brown and Advocate Art Ltd (illustrator), Orchard Books (imprint of Hachette, part of Hodder & Stoughton)(publisher) 

Well, these two books are a barrel of laughs that my eldest daughter and I have adored! In the first book, Atlas is so excited to be moving into the Hotel of the Gods. His mum and dad have just got new jobs running the place. There are palatial rooms, an outdoor pool, a salon … it seems like a dream come true. But the guests at the hotel are a little different. They really all are gods from ancient times. They might be awe- inspiring and really interesting but they can be a little terrifying as well! And when Atlas goes to the basement and befriends Hades, a whole load of mayhem ensues when he accidentally lets out the monsters of hell! Can he manage to get them all under control so that his parents don’t lose their jobs? His new friend the trickster Maui doesn’t seem to be much help!

In the second book, Atlas is ecstatic when the mischievous Loki checks into the hotel for a brilliant midsummer celebration. Pranks, practical jokes and tricks abound because two gregarious, trouble-making gods (well, technically Maui isn’t a god!) equals twice the fun, right?! It turns out that there might only be room for one trickster at eye the Hotel of the Gods so who is it going to be?! 

Not only are these books huge page-turners with their fast-paced, humorous plots but your child will learn so much from them about ancient gods and mythology from around the world – from Greek gods, to Norse mythology, Egyptian deities to Polynesian pranksters… there is so much history and culture dropped casually into the laugh out pages of this new series  that your young reader cannot fail to learn! The stories are fun and engaging and the hilarious black and white illustrations are plentiful and truly bring the fun of the stories to life. We cannot wait for the next one in the series! These are five star reads for us. 

Tiny the Secret Adventurer – Aisha Bushby (author), Kubra Teber (illustrator), Usborne Books (publisher)

Tiny is a small creature with a huge heart living in a magical sunflower at the bottom of the school garden. But not everyone is happy with Tiny living in the garden: her animal friends turn on her, make fun of her and don’t like her because they think she looks like a human and will destroy their environment. They think humans are scary, loud, messy and destructive so they are scared of them and mean to Tiny. All except Frog that is. When Frog finds himself in trouble because his pond has been upended by a stray flying football, little Tiny is determined to do everything she can to help him. Even if that means joining forces with the very animals that have been cruel and unkind to her. Can Tiny rescue Frog and will she ever win the animals over? 

This is a sweet chapter book proving that you don’t have to be big to be brave. It’s a cute, heart-warming story with themes of friendship and harmony overcoming mistrust of new-comers and those with differences. The black and white illustrations are adorable, bringing Tiny and her miniature world to life in wonderful detail. A sweet new inclusive series for chapter book readers.

The Lost Bear Cub – Holly Webb (author), David Dean (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher) 

If you have been following this blog for a while, you will know that we are big Holly Webb fans in this house. We loved The Dawn Seal the last book we read in this series for older chapter book readers (around 7-9 years) and this new book does not disappoint (Mummy was especially pleased because it is set in Canada where we went on honeymoon!).

Lucy is very excited for her summer holidays to Canada but she soon starts to get fearful when she realises that she will be staying near a forest where wild bears roam free. Lucy learns a lot about what to do in different scenarios and where there are different types of bear around so when she comes across a bear cub on its own, she remembers all the advice and is scared. She soon realises though that the little cub is lost. Can she reunite it with its mother and return safely to tell the tale herself?! 

With bears and cougars and all manner of fabulous Canadian wildlife contained within it, this was a fast-paced page turner of an animal adventure. We love all the fascinating facts the story teaches you (I have seen bears up trees you know) and we were swept along with the make-believe story. The black and white illustrations are superb: dotted throughout the story, they bring the animals and characters of the story to life with verve and brilliance. A superb summer read for the holidays. 

Carrie and the Roller Boots (author), Jess Rose (illustrator), Barrington Stoke (publisher)

I have said it before, and I will say it again, I am a huge fan of this series of Little Gems books by publisher, Barrington Stoke. And this one book is a super-sweet, wheely fun story of Carrie and her best friend Sidney.

Carrie and Sidney love watching the TV show Entertain Us but Carrie begins to wonder what her special talent might be. Sidney has his tap dancing. What might she be good at? After seeing a glamorous skater on the show and passing a pair of roller boots in a charity shop window, she decides that roller skating is for her and is thrilled when her dad buys her the boots. Sidney wants to show off his tap dancing skills during Friday Fun time at school and Carrie is determined to join in with her roller boots. She plans an amazing routine of twirling and jumping on her skates. But, it turns out that roller skating is harder than it looks and Carrie keeps avoiding practice. Will their performance end in disaster or will they pull together, support each other and dazzle the audience?

Barrington Stoke, test all their books for children by children and this one is a superb early chapter book filled with friendship and determination. There are plenty of gaps between the paragraphs, short text blocks of story and lots of cute, colourful illustrations by Jess Rose interspersing the wonderful words. We also love the fun spot the difference pictures at the back of the book, providing your little reader with even more ways to engage with this sweet book. This book is filled with fun and friendship and we enjoyed the message that practice makes perfect and that you have to not give up just because something is difficult. The ending is also very funny as Carrie decides that roller skating might not be her “thing” after all!  We love the books in this series and they are perfect for those starting out on their independent reading journey or those wanting a longer story than a picture book. A sweet summer read, especially for those practising their roller booting skills, like my little girl! 

Dave Pigeon (Kittens!) – Swapna Haddow (author), Sheena Dempsey (illustrator), Faber & Faber Ltd (publisher)

If you haven’t read any of the books in this series, they are so easy to pick up and are hilariously funny. They are by the award-winning author and illustrator duo of ‘Bad Panda’ (a great favourite in our house) and this, the latest in the series is laugh out loud fun. You don’t need to have read the others in the series to enjoy it. In this book, pigeons Dave and Skipper have kitty trouble. Not only is Mean Cat meaner than ever but there is something weird about her. AND there is an even meaner cat on the block!  When Dave and Skipper realise that Mean Cat is acting so strangely because she is about to give birth, they realise that their lives are going to become more problematic. But they never expected to become attached to the little fluff balls, nor to form a brief truce with Mean Cat to save everyone’s skin, feathered and fluffy….

With brilliantly funny black and white drawings and some comic style speech bubble pages, this is a wonderfully visual read as well as a brilliant piece of funny feathered fiction.  A great one to laugh out loud with during these long summer days. 

Dirty Bertie books – Dirty Bertie Splash! – Alan McDonald (author), David Roberts (illustrator), Paul Hammond (interior illustrator)

Dirty Bertie – Mighty Mishaps (3 books in 1) – Alan McDonald (author), David Roberts (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher) 

If your child likes a laugh out loud story, filled with grubbiness and toilet humour then Dirty Bertie is the hilarious series of early chapter books just for them! Bertie is dirty. He is disgustingly dirty. Like nose-picking, bogey-eating disgusting. He is full of crazy ideas and masses of mischief and if there is one thing you can always be sure of: when Bertie is around, trouble is never far behind.

Whether he is weeing in bottles, teaching babies their first words (“bum”), or eating illicit ice-cream, my twins have giggled throughout at the toilet humour and chaos Bertie brings in each story. 

There are three books in one in the Mighty Mishaps book and each book – Yuck!, Loo!, Toothy! and the separate book Splash! – contains three wickedly funny short stories about this loveable grubby little boy!

The hilarious black and white illustrations are plentiful and are interspersed throughout the pages, making these brilliant books for those beginning their independent reading journeys, or those children who are ready for longer text than a chapter book. The illustrations are so funny that they add to the stories and make the books even more engaging and really bring the disgustingly dirty habits of this little boy to life. 

For laugh out loud fun this summer, these are the books for your young reader.

Graphic Novels 

Peanut, Butter & Crackers – Puppy Problems – Paige Braddock (author and illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Butter and Crackers are the cutest rescue pets ever. Butter is a slightly cantankerous cat who loves food, time alone and napping. Crackers is a sensitive yet excitable dog who loves his home, napping on the porch and dislikes squirrels (my dogs would be with him on this!). They are used to each other and living their best, quiet lives. Until one day, their human brings home a pocket-sized puppy force to be reckoned with! Their home is upended!! There is mess, there is carnage, there is endless noise – the whining, the yapping, the shredding- the two friends realise that nothing will ever be the same again. So, maybe they should see if they can get rid of little Peanut the pup?! Or will they remember what it feels like to be all alone?

This is such a fantastic animal filled adventure of a graphic story. All my children have loved everything about it. From the “meet the characters” page at the beginning of the book, through the hilarious illustrations and words which really nail the idiosyncrasies of dogs, cats and puppies, to the bonus stories and “how to draw” and “behind the scene” sections at the end of the book. The story is laugh out loud and the illustrations are superb, really bringing to life the pet personalities with joy and colour. A perfect pet adventure for any little animal lovers out there. We adore this book and hope for many more adventures from this terrific trio.

Middle Grade books

Calling the Whales – Jasbinder Bilan (author), Skylar White (illustrator), Barrington Stoke (publisher)

Tulsi and her best friend Satchen live by the sea in a coastal town in Scotland. One night, they spot something unusual off the coast in the sea and they decide to investigate the next day. After rowing out to a nearby island, alone in their boat, they discover a humpback whale which has become ensnared in fishing nets and has lost its pod. The two friends become embroiled in a daring rescue mission to save the young whale but when a storm begins to brew and their boat capsizes, they think all is lost. But hope can come from the most amazing of sources!

At 72 pages, this is a fast-paced, heart in mouth rescue mission to save a wonderful whale. It’s a heartwarming tale of determination and bravery as well as being a powerful story to highlight the danger to marine life that is being caused by human actions. It’s a tale of love and kindness which is brought to life through the gorgeous black and white illustrations interspersed throughout the pages and will resonate with any child who cares for and values the ocean. We also adored the additional educational content at the back of the book so your reader can learn more about humpback whales and how they can help protect marine life and help clean up our beaches and seas. As with all books by this publisher, this is a superb book to provide a satisfying achievement for those who have to work harder at reader as well as a hugely enjoyable and engaging story for more confident readers. Super.

Zeina Starborn and the Sky Whale – Hannah Durkan (author), Orion Children’s Books (publisher)

I was blown away in the best way possible by the fantastical debut by Hannah Durkan, Zeina Starborn and the Sky Whale because the world that Zeina Starborn inhabits is nothing short of superb.  Aboves and Belows don’t mix in Zeina’s world and as a Below, Zeina spent most of her days dreaming of a life above the smog-filled city of Ravenport.  A life of adventure, a life of freedom, away from respirator masks and back-breaking hard work.  In this, the second book, which is a continuation of the first (so you do need to read them in order), Zeina and Jackson Willoughby are on the run. Through the first story, they have seen the cruel truth about the Aboves and their nasty treatment of the sky whales. They are working with a group of rebels to set free as many sky whales as possible. Their adventures take them to the frozen ice palace in the North, where they have been invited by the Emerald King and the friends hope that things might be changing for the better. But things aren’t quite right and Zeina and Jackson find themselves facing some familiar foes as well as some new adversaries in this ice-filled adventure.

These books are an absolute must-read.  After I had got my head around who was who again (I read the first book last year), I zipped through this second book in the series. Each book has strong themes of friendship, love, caring for the environment and the animals within it (whatever they may look like) and this is a tale (or should that be tail!) of invention and adventure like no other. There are discussions to be had around social class systems, stem, the environment and so much more. A stellar series.

The Horse who Came Home -Olivia Tuffin (author), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

My daughter loves horses so we jumped (pun intended) at the chance to review this excellent equine adventure. 

Hannah helps out at her father’s highly respected stables where ponies are bought, trained and sold on with a huge price tag. As Hannah’s dad was a former Olympic show jumper, the stables are all about the brand and his great reputation. Hannah’s sister Millie also helps out, constantly bringing in more business and famedom by constantly posting on her social media accounts and growing her massive following. 

But Hannah rescues a beautiful yet uncared for Connemara pony, Bella, who, with her unkempt appearance, doesn’t seem to belong at Heartwood stables. And yet, why does she seem so familiar? Hannah goes on a journey of discovery into Bella’s tragic past and begins to realise that not everything at Heartwood stables is as glossy as it seems! Hannah is torn between her love of ponies and the fight against cruelty and injustice against them, and the love and loyalty to her family. Just what will she choose?

With its gripping plot and fast-paced storyline, we cantered our way through these pages. This equine adventure is filled with friendship, family and fillies. There’s a heart-in-mouth, daring rescue and plenty of pace in this pony-filled ride of a book and we loved Hannah’s spirit and resilience in her fight for justice at the end of the book. If your young reader adores horses and ponies, or they love a great animal adventure, then this is the book for them. We loved it. 

Carnival of the Spider – Kieran Larwood (author), Sam Usher (illustrator), Faber & Faber Limited (publisher)

I was blown away by the first two books in this series, “Carnival of the Lost”, and “Carnival of the Hunted” so you can imagine my excitement when this third book dropped through my front door for review! And it does not disappoint.  Kieran Larwood is one of my favourite-ever middle grade fiction writers.  His writing is so unique, the world he creates so innovative and captivating – think: Charles Dickens writes fantasy for children meets carnivalesque steampunk meets PJ Barnum’s all rolled up into one fast-paced, gripping adventure and you might be there. Sort of.  I might lack the descriptive talents to tell you how fabulous these books are, but I will certainly give it a go!  In this, the third book, our old friend Sheba the wolf girl and her friends travel across the channel from

the grimy underworld of London in the 1870s to the bright lights of Paris. When Remy, the vampire boy turns up on her doorstep, Sheba learns that her old friend Sister Moon is being held by the Spider and it’s gang of mechanical monsters. So, the Carnival immediately set sail on a rescue mission of epic proportions. Deep underground in the dark and creepy catacombs of Paris, there is a map that they must retrieve and trade for Sister Moon’s freedom. But what is so special about an old map? And who is the Spider and why do they want it? Set against the backdrop of a city under siege from Prussian soldiers, the Carnival will need to use all their skills to get themselves safe and save their friend, whilst also keeping the Spider’s mechanical henchmen at bay. And how will they ever manage to return to England? 

I cannot rate this book highly enough. It’s a fast-paced page turner, full of grime and greed, carnival and colour, mystery and mayhem: descriptions of Victorian London and Paris under siege as its very best (or worst!).  The brilliant black and white gothic illustrations by Sam Usher just top this book off, adding atmosphere and fabulous detail to what I think is one of the best middle grade series by one of the best authors.  I am praying for many more!

Friend and Traitors – Helen Peters (author), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Golly gosh, this book ticks all the boxes for me! Step back in time to discover spies, stately homes, secret passageways and Spitfires in this sensational story set in the summer of 1940.

Britain is on the brink of a German invasion and Sidney Dashworth’s school has been evacuated to Stanbrook House, a huge stately home in the middle of the countryside owned by Lord Evesham. There, she meets Nancy, one of the Earl’s housemaids and the girls take a dislike to one another. But a series of strange and secret events brings the unlikely pair together: Sidney sees something being smuggled into the stables in the dead of night, and Nancy overhears the Earl having a clandestine conversation.  Something sinister is going on and the girls must put aside their differences and work together to uncover the perilous plot. The dangerous deeds that they uncover could shape the very course of history and the war, but who will believe them? A housemaid and a school girl?

Oooo, I raced through this sensational spy thriller. It was fast-paced, filled with history and had a gripping storyline which did not relent. I loved the characterisations of Nancy and Sidney, as well as some of the more peripheral characters such as the Earl’s mother. I enjoyed the heart in mouth moments and the sense of danger and peril which is written so well in the story. The story also deals with the complex emotions of grief, anxiety, worry, loss (which were all too prevalent during WW2). It also explores the sense of injustice and unfairness for women during the war (and before it!) and also looks at social standing and the differences and injustices between the classes which I thought was thought-provoking and was handled really in the book. A five star read for me! 

Finally Seen – Kelly Yang (author), Knights Of (publisher)

 My goodness, what a book! I cried tears of joy and pride at the end for the inspiration and resilience that the characters in this book embody. I was captivated by the story..  let me explain why….

Lina was five when she was left behind by her parents to stay with her Lao Lao in China. Lina is fed up of having to “sew up half her mouth” and is desperate to join her family in America. So, after years of living with her grandma in Beijing, and being teased at school for being the girl who got left behind, she jumps at the opportunity to go and live with her parents when they send for her. But, she quickly realises that America is not like all the episodes of The Simpsons that she has watched. Her family does not live in an idyllic house (unlike the postcards they sent her), her parents are constantly working, there are money worries over payment of a back rent and stresses over their green card. And that is just home life! Lina has to also navigate the tricky world of school…. Which is difficult at the best of times … but when you are worried about being humiliated for making a tiny mistake in your pronunciation, it is almost impossible. After Lina is laughed at for mispronouncing words in class, she vows to sew up her mouth with invisible thread once again and never speak in class. But when one of her favourite graphic novels, that she has found empowering and helped her feel less alone, is called into question and the read aloud in her class is halted, she realises she needs to get over her fear of speaking out and use her voice to choose a future where she is finally seen.

This is such a stunning book. It is about family, it is about friendship, it is about love, it is about guilt and loss, it is about the power of books, it is about immigration, it is about the power of belonging. It is filled with courage, resilience, hope, love and laughter. It is the kind of book that makes the reader truly empathetic. It gives a window into another way of life for some and a mirror of representation for their own way of life for others. 

It shows how books have the power to speak to children and to help them have the tools of empathy and understanding that are so important to create an inclusive world. A gripping five star read from me. 

The Wonder Brothers – Frank Cottrell-Boyce (author), Steven Lenton (illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

Cousins Middy and Nathan are The Wonder Brothers. They love magic so much and spend long summers together cape swirling, dazzling audiences (even if it is just their family!) and pulling rabbits (very big ones to be fair!) out of hats. So when the world famous Blackpool Tower dramatically vanished on the night of the Big Switch On of the illuminations, showy-offy Nathan announces on TV that they will magic it back home!! And what follows is a magical mission of an adventure: operation retrieve Blackpool Tower. Middy, Nathan, their cousin Brodie and his massive rabbit Queenie somehow end up in Las Vegas hunting down the tower which was vanished by Perplexion, the world’s greatest illusionist and magician. With illusions come mysteries and nothing is quite as it seems … can Middy and Nathan really return the north’s treasure, Blackpool Tower, back where it belongs?

Sticks of rock, surprises, sparkly capes and lashings of laughter abound in this magical mystery adventure. It’s funny, it’s heart-warming, it’s filled with wonder and it will not only encourage your reader to keep turning the pages but will also inspire them to find the magic and wonder in every day life. The brilliantly humorous black and white illustrations from one of my all-time favourite illustrators, Steven Lenton, add even more magic and sparkle to this spell-binding story. Filled with love, magic, glitter, laughter, adventure and fun, this is the perfect story for every little adventure seeker this summer. We loved it. 

Yomi and the Fury of Ninki Nanka – Davina Tijani (author), Adam Douglas Bagley (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher)

Yomi has grown up hearing stories all about African folklore. She’s been told stories all about Nkara – magnificent beasts who roam the African continent. Little did she know that they are about to come to life!! 

Yomi and her brother, Kayode, are on a trip visiting their uncle Olu in The Gambia when they see the Dragon Ninki Nanka being chased and kidnapped from the sky. The siblings are determined to save him and in doing so they uncover lots of secrets and come face to face with magnificent creatures. Will they be able to work together enough to save the Dragon Ninki Nanka?

This is a richly imaginative adventure tale, steeped in African folklore which provides a captivating read, particularly for those children with an interest in mythology. I had not come across tales from African mythology previously so I found this a fascinating and fast paced read. The brilliant black and white illustrations add atmosphere and really bring the story to life.  For any adventure lover, this is a pacy story for them – and who doesn’t love a powerful dragon?!

The Boy in the Smoke – Rachel Faturoti (author), Hodder Children’s Books (an imprint of Hachette Children’s Group (publisher)

Isaiah is a thirteen year old boy who has some heavy burdens that he does not want to share with his friends. He hides behind his ready smile and his smart brain – he always has a witty comment or two for his teachers and he is great at fixing things and making people happy. But Isaiah is struggling… his dad is in chronic pain, his mum is living in Berlin and Isaiah feels he has to care for his dad, do his school work and also see if he can make some money for rent so that he and his dad don’t get evicted from their flat. That’s a lot for a 13 year old to carry. Then Isaiah meets the boy in the smoke in the old fireplace in the basement of the block of flats he lives in, which just happened to be the site of an old Victorian workhouse. This boy, Jacob, is trapped in the workhouse and suffering miserably. Can Isaiah help him find his father and help him get out? And in doing so, maybe the two boys can help each other out? Maybe Isaiah can change his own life for the better too?

I finished this story with tears in my eyes. But the good kind. Yes, it is a powerful and moving story about poverty, food banks, the threat of eviction and the cost of living crisis (and the parallels of all of this in the Victorian times) but it is ultimately a moving and uplifting portrayal of friendship, love courage, determination and hope. An absolute page turner of a story, this is an important and powerful read.

Me and the Robbersons – Bandit Karaoke- Siri Kolu (author), translated by Ruth Urbom, Little Tiger (publisher)

Maisie is having the most boring summer ever-she’s been sent to a dull music camp, where she is a member of the Baby Sharps and only seems to get carrots for her meals. So, she is so happy when her SOS messaged is answered and she gets rescued from camp by her bandit family. Her summer of sweet treats, bumping down country lanes and camping out on lakeshores has officially begun! And the bandit Robberson family is happy to have Maisie part of their crowd this year especially because her special skills and sharp mind will come in useful at the robbers’ Summer Shindig. The bandit clans are all out for revenge and if the Robbersons want a shot at getting someone appointed the new Bandit Leader, the Robbersons are going to need all the help that they can get….

Full of madcap mayhem, awesomely fun adventures and a lot of sweeties, this is a great summer read (it’s even set during the summer holidays!). It’s the second in the series but it can easily be read as a standalone – I hadn’t read the first book. This book really reminded me of the Pippi Longstocking stories so this book would be super for any Pippi fans.

Evie and Rhino – Neridah McMullin (author), Astrid Hicks (illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

I am going to struggle to put into words how much I absolutely ADORED this beautiful book. Which is actually quite apt because Evie, the little golden haired girl in the book has also lost her words. I am going to try though because this is the kind of book that should be read by everyone….

One stormy night in 1891, a ship transporting a cargo of exotic animals crashes against the waves and tips out its terrified cargo. Aboard were a rhinoceros, six rhesus monkeys, two white cranes and six exotic green parrots. The rhino tries to swim the monkeys to shore while the birds struggle to fly inland in the storm. In their crumbling and dilapidated, once-grand home, Evie and her grandfather sit out the storm together, thinking of how treacherous storms can be on that coast. You see, Evie lost her father and mother, grandfather’s son and daughter in law, in a shipwreck and and she hasn’t spoken since. 

The next day, while wandering the beach, Evie makes an extraordinary discovery: she finds Rhino, fatigued and exhausted on the beach and nurses him back to health. The two form a bond that is stronger than steel and Rhino wins over all the animals in the household, including a curious old coach horse, a cantankerous old cow and lots of clucking chickens, as well as the humans too – he even helps Cook hang out the washing! But Rhino “belongs” to the Royal Melbourne Zoo. They paid a lot of money for him and he cannot possibly be allowed to stay with Evie. What will happen to these two great friends when a member of the zoo comes to take him away?

Oh, this book is just exquisite. It’s my favourite book of the year so far! It’s like being wrapped up in a warm blanket of love while drinking a mug of something hot and a comforting apple pie (these have such meaning in the story and we love that the recipe for them is given at the back of the book). Loosely based on real life events, this is a moving tale of healing, love, friendship and the power of restorative bonds between humans and animals. It’s about empathy, connections, loss and belonging and it resonates throughout every word written on the page. But it is not only the story we adored. The illustrations are exquisite, black and white pencil strokes bringing breath and life to the story and also depicting some fascinating facts about Australian and other native animals and fauna. I cannot wait for my daughter to read this book because I know she will adore it too. A squillion stars for this one! 

Alex Neptune – Monster Avenger – David Owen (author), Usborne Publishing Limited (publisher)

This is the third book in this brilliantly briny adventure series by author David Owen. If you haven’t read the others, I highly recommend that you do – only because we adore them, not because it is a pre-requisite to reading this adventure set on the high seas. 

In this terrific tale, Alex, protector of the seas and all its aquatic animals, has got a rather large problem. The sealife seems to be attacking other humans and behaving strangely. There is definitely something strange in the water which seems to be turning Alex’s ocean friends into crazed monsters! When Alex can’t communicate with the Water Dragon with his magic, he starts to worry that it might have been infected. And that would be a disaster of epic proportions: the whole world would be under threat. So Alex and some of his family and friends go off on a dangerous mission to see if they can rid the oceans of this.


Against the Odds – Alastair Humphreys (author), Pola Mai (illustrator), Templar Books (imprint of Bonnier Books) (publisher)

“Not all adventures succeed. Or at least they don’t always go to plan.” This book is filled with 20 real life extraordinary journeys undertaken by extraordinary adventurers who have tried, failed and sometimes succeeded against the odds. Your reader can join in with explorers adventuring the oceans, the peaks, the deserts, the jungles and even space. Following the footsteps of greats such as Terry Fox, Beth French, Matthew Henson, Karen Darke, to name but a few, this book is inspirational in the extreme. Each adventurer is explored through a marvellous mixture of quotes, comic-style illustrations (think Tintin here), maps and diary extracts. We have loved learning about each of these twenty people who have faced adversity with such determination and spirit. We love the illustrations, which break up the facts of the text and provide colour and life to these exhilarating journeys. We also love the text blocks for each individual saying why they have inspired the author. We hadn’t heard of lots of these people before but we now feel honoured to know more about them and their inspirational journeys. 

To say I enjoyed this book is a huge understatement! But the reason I love it so much is because it is about failure and hardship on the one hand and resilience, determination, courage and hope on the other. Even when you know that you are destined to fail. For it is true spirit and grit that allows a person to keep going even when the odds are stacked against them. A fabulous fact book to inspire your children this summer. 

You are a Star, Jane Goodall – Dean Robbins (author), Hatem Aly (illustrator), Scholastic Press (publisher)

This is the second book in a fantastic new non-fiction series which focuses on this amazing woman and her lifelong mission to understand chimpanzees and to help protect the planet. Beginning by explaining all about Jane’s early life and love of, and empathy with, animals, this wonderful work of non fiction follows Jane’s life and how she came to be a trailblazing scientist truly immersing herself in animal life.

This is a superb book for children aged 5-7 because it uses a mixture of funny comic-style panels, fabulous fact blocks of information, a unique first-person narrator all interspersed throughout the pages with stunning comic illustrations which are bursting with life and colour. 

My youngest daughter in particular loves a non fiction book and I love that she can learn about such inspirational and determined women such as Jane Goodall. We also adore the author’s note and the information at the back of the book about how to be like Jane, as well as the fun timeline and further information. This is a truly fun and engaging work of non fiction for younger readers.

Moving the Millers’ Minnie Moore Mine Mansion – A True Story – Dave Eggers (author), Julia Sarda (illustrator), Walker Books Ltd 

What a tale about a quirky historical event in Idaho in the latter part of the 1800s! We were captivated. 

It all started with a dog, a gopher and lots of silver! Like all the best stories, of course! John “Minnie” Moore built a silver mine and sold it to an Englishman named “Miller”. In the way of things at the time, he then married a lady and built her a mansion – the Millers’ Minnie Moore Mine Mansion. Henry Miller died and his wife was hoodwinked by a banker and lost everything but the mansion. Enter yet more animals: pigs this time. Annie Miller was going to raise them to earn money to keep her and her son alive. But the townsfolk wouldn’t allow piggies in their town. So, of course, she did what anyone would have done. She picked up that house and rolled it four miles down the road! 

Fascinating in the extreme, and told with such wit, humour and flair, this is a wonderful work of non-fiction which will engage young and older readers alike! The illustrations are stunning: muted, earthy tones reflecting the Idaho mining landscapes and the detailed drawings of the people are dark, brooding and comedic all at once. This is a terrific tale of true ingenuity, showcasing how superb works of non-fiction can be. It is filled with humour, wit and lively artwork and contains a hilarious ending (sorry piggies). A stunner of a book. 

Really Wild Families – Little Chimpanzee and Little Whale – Anna Brett (author), Carmen Saldana (illustrator) (Little Whale) and Rebeca Pintos (Little Chimpanzee), Words & Pictures (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Do you have a little non fiction wildlife enthusiast at home? We do! My youngest is fascinated by fact books, particularly those about animals and so these books are perfect for her. This incredible new series follows a day in the life of a little whale and a little chimpanzee respectively, exploring the habitats that they live in, looking at what they eat and spending time with their really wild families. Whether that be grooming with the chimpanzees or diving down into the watery world of the humpback whales, these books are wonderful and fascinating introduction to animal life. 

In Little Chimpanzee, your little one can find out what life is really like in a chimpanzee community in the African rainforest as the picture book follows the movements of a young little chimp. The illustrations are exquisite, perfectly capturing the cute little chimp and its family and the bright colour tones used evoke the verdant and lush jungle. 

In Little Whale, your reader can become absorbed in the watery world of whales as they spend time swimming and diving with an amazing humpback whale pod. The pages are bright and colourful, filled with stunning illustrations of the humpback whales and marine life. 

Each book has its factual information presented in short, easy to digest paragraphs which are perfect for its target audience. We particularly love the fact that once the journey with our little animal friend is over, there is still lots more to do in the book. There are quizzes to take, conservation stories to read (and, I confess, I did not know that chimpanzees were an endangered species (sob!)), activities and spot the differences to do and “make an animal” fun crafts to try.

These are the perfect summer boredom busters for any little animal lovers out there. We absolutely adore them here. 

Earth’s Incredible Places – The Great Barrier Reef – Helen Scales (author), Lisk Feng (illustrator), Flying Eye Books (publisher)

The latest in the fascinating and fantastic “Earth’s Incredible Places” series, this fantabulous fact book focuses on one of the most stunningly beautiful places in the underwater world – the Great Barrier Reef. This book is sumptuously illustrated in bright, coral and aquatic colours to showcase the beautiful world of the reef and the breathtaking beauty of this underwater world which is bursting with life . And yet, this book also showcases that this natural wonder is as fragile as it is magnificent and it does so in the most eye-catching of ways.  Split into five main sections – On the Reef, Reef Dwellers, Neighbours of the Reef, A Human Habitat, and a New Dawn – this book showcases a wealth of information and fascinating facts about this stunning area of natural beauty. Your young reader can explore such things as tropical snowstorms, what they might need to wear to visit the reef, find out why the crown of thorns starfish is bad for the reef, explore the marine mammals, read about legendary tales and so much more.  The illustrations in this book are just exquisite: on some pages there are large, vibrantly colourful spreads depicting the stunning magnificence of the area and, on other pages, there are gorgeous and wonderfully detailed drawings of the wonderful wildlife of the reef, surrounded by text blocks of information about the subject matter.  We love that the facts are split out into chunks of easy-to-digest information, making this a wonderful work of non-fiction which is lively, engaging and amazingly attractive -it’s flamboyant,bright and colourful, much like the underwater world itself.  Short of being able to book a flight and visit this area, this is the best way to learn about this incredible part of the world. There’s even a super helpful section at the back of the book for KS2 teachers with notes and ideas about studying this topic with your students and a QR code to be axle to download worksheets online. Just brilliant. Extremely interesting, exquisitely illustrated, this is a wonderful work of non-fiction – we can’t rate this series highly enough. 

Once Upon an Atom – Questions of Science – James Carter (author), William Santiago (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher)

This is such a fun, inspiring rhyming book for younger readers bursting with all things science. It’s written in playful, rhyming verse throughout and cleverly explains through its rhyming romp what science is and why it has been so important through history. It asks questions that curious little minds are constantly questioning us about, considering things like why leaves turn red and gold, or what makes everything you see, or what keeps a boat afloat upon the sea?  It explains that science tells us why things happen and is a superb STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) book because it also inspires your readers to want to become a scientist. We particularly love the page right at the back of the book which provides more detail about science and encourages children to think about what kind of scientist that they might like to be: the first person to find a cure for a particular disease, an inventor of a cool new piece of technology… the world is your oyster.

Not only is this book a fascinating and fun read aloud but it is also visually stunning with its bold and striking illustrations in vibrant colour tones. A sensational science book for younger children.

How to Spacewalk – Kathryn D Sullivan and Michael J Rosen (authors), Michael J Rosen (illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

Do you have an aspiring astronaut at home (like my youngest daughter!)? A little one who is fascinated with Space and space travel? Then this is the fantastic fact book for them! 

This is an out of this world guide to preparing for and undertaking an amazing real-life spacewalk and it is brought to life by its fabulous facts, phenomenal NASA photos from the first American woman to step into space and incredible illustrations. Your reader will join Kathryn Sullivan, three-time space shuttle astronaut as they report for duty on the NASA space programme and take off on the adventure of their lives. Some of the facts are truly mind-blowing (wait until you find out why astronauts have to wear nappies sometimes, or why are bodies are like a warm, fizzy drink that we don’t want to explode) and my children have loved the insights into the daily schedule for an astronaut and learning all about the amazing inventions that are required for spacewalking. There is detailed information about how to train to be an astronaut, as well as descriptions of the emotions ignited by seeing Earth from space and the information is presented in an engaging and eye-catching way; the stunning illustrations truly bring the realities to life and the photographs are accessible and inspiring.

This is a fantastic work of non-fiction which hugely encourages children to aim for the stars and leaves them inspired and excited about space travel. We are off to play astronauts (again!!).

Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of – Natalie Labarre (author and illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

What do you do for a job? Anything exciting? Well, I have to say that I would have loved this book to have been around when I was younger. It is absolutely fascinating! 

Does your little one know what they want to be when they grow up? (We have a shepherd/astronaut (depending on which day you ask him!), a famous singer (from the most tone-deaf of my children) and an author (maybe!) in this camp.) Well, this book might just help them decide. How about a farmer … of dead bodies? Or a professional sleeper (sounds like my dream job – ha ha, get it?!)? How about an odour tester for stinky armpits? Or a cheese sculptor? I kid you not, these are all legitimate and incredible jobs. This books goes into humorous detail with a short paragraph about each incredible job, from mattress jumpers to dinosaur dusters, and contains brilliantly vibrant visuals on each job description. These illustrations are superb – fun and colourful and really bringing the wonders of the interesting and unusual vocations to life. 

A mind-blowing and fun book to inspire and engage your children, we love it. 

Bees and Beetles – A Flip-Flap Book of Bugs – Molly Littleboy (author), Nia Gould (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher)

This is a fantastic first fact book for children all about the creepy-crawly world of bugs. We are fascinated by them in our house and this unique flip-flap book is a huge hit! 

Your little ones can learn all about different types of bugs – spiders, ants, butterflies, bees, slugs and earwigs to name but a few –  and watch their little worlds change in a turn as they flip the flaps of this fact book. The information on these creeping critters is set out in bite-sized text blocks of information and surrounded by superb illustrations which are filled with life and colour. 

Did you know?

  • Some spiders can be smaller than a pin head.
  • Beetles have two pairs of wings – one to fly with and one for armour!
  • The biggest centipede in the world is as long as your arm (eurgh!) 
  • Bees love to boogie – they do a wiggle waggle dance to show their families where the food is!

This is a superb first fact book for little minds interested in learning more about the insect world. It’s engaging, interactive and fun.  A beaut of a bug-filled book!

The World’s Most Atrocious Animals – Philip Bunting (author and illustrator), Happy Yak (imprint of Quarto) (publisher) (recommended reading age – 7-9 years)

The third in this delightful series, this book features some of Earth’s most weird and wonderful animals.  To be honest, I am surprised I am actually able to review this book because it went MIA as soon as I had opened the envelope: it was snaffled away by my children and all I could hear was periodic giggles and guffaws as they read through the pages! They kept moving it from room to room in my house, not letting me get a look in!! But why is it so good though, I hear you cry?! It focuses on animals that we might find fearsome or scary, regardless of their size because the creatures we can be afraid of can be creepy, sneaky, slithery, huge or just plain mean! And it does so in the most hilarious of ways. So, let’s take a look at some of the Earth’s real- life vampires, giants, devils, dragons and monsters (there *might* be different names for these)…. There’s the common vampire bat who might help his hungry mate out by vomiting blood in his mouth, or the red back spider who poisons and paralyses its victims before liquifying and sucking out its insides, not to mention the Tasmanian devils who love to snack on dead animals and make a whole host of creepy noises! Each page has had my children in stitches because of the hilarious detailed drawings of the animals, the funny annotations and the laugh out loud made-up Latin names for them (our favourites being ‘chompus chompus’, ‘stinkbombus ferocious’ and ‘antifreezus toothiface’). Each page is filled with colourful and fun drawings and annotations of the craziest creatures on the planet and contains fascinating, quirky and sometimes downright disgusting and terrifying facts about the fearsome animals it throws a spotlight on.  We also love how it reassures children that these animals are not “bad”, they are just doing what they need to to survive and the fun message it leaves the reader with at the end of the book: “ And just like the animals in this book, it is worth remembering that we can all be a little atrocious, from time to time”. One of our favourite non-fiction picks of the year!

Please Don’t Bite Me! Nazzy Pakpour (author), Owen Davey (illustrator), Flying Eye Books (publisher)

Aww, my little girl was stung by a wasp AGAIN the other day! She’s still fascinated by insects though and this book has really helped her and her brother (who has also been stung by wasps, a lot!) understand a bit more about wasps and their purpose. In fact, for any child (or adult!) who doesn’t love stinging, biting insects, then this book is a must read to help you learn more about your sworn enemies! And, if you are fascinated by bugs then you will adore this book anyway! 

Split into six sections on our stinging, biting creepy crawlies- lice, mosquitoes, wasps, cockroaches, fleas and bedbugs- I defy you not to itch yourself at some point while reading this book! Ha ha! It goes into in depth detail about each particular type of insect and provides you with some gruesome and jaw-dropping facts at times. Like, I bet you didn’t know that a mosquito spits, feeds and wees on you all at the same time and without you noticing!! Or that lice have special spit which numbs you so you don’t feel them biting but which actually makes you itch because most people are allergic to it! And perhaps the worst: cockroaches are such un-picky eaters that they even chomp down on finger nails and toe-nails!! Ewwww!!

This book is a mine of fascinating information. Your readers can discover some of the ickiest secrets of some of the most irritating, biting, buzzing, creeping, stinging insects around and then hopefully have you realising that they are not half so bad after all. 

With iconic, bright and beautiful illustrations by Owen Davey bringing these buzzers and biters to life, this is a stunning book of non-fiction to read over summer.

So You Think You’ve Got it Bad? A Kid’s Life as a Viking – Chae Strathie (author), Marisa Morea (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Eww, so your young reader might think they have it bad that you ask them to make their beds in the morning, or put their dishes in the dishwasher (life is so unfair!) but after they have read this they will so glad they live in the age that they do!! 

Imagine being wounded in battle and being fed onion and leek soup to see if you had any holes after battle!! Or trying to avoid falling into the town’s stinky cesspit on a hot, sunny day! 

Produced in collaboration with the British Museum, this wonderful work of non-fiction is split into sections- 

  • clothes and hairstyles,
  • Family life,
  • The home,
  • Diet,
  • Health and medicine,
  • War and warriors,
  • Famous Vikings,
  • Gods and goddesses,
  • Myths and legends, and
  • Fun and games

as well as a hilarious two-page summary spread and a great glossary.  Your reader can find out what life was really like for a Viking child (if they even survived past the grand old age of six!). It’s laugh out loud funny in places, slightly gruesome in others but completely absorbing throughout with its fascinating facts and humorous written style.

The illustrations, which are plentiful and spread throughout the pages, are incredibly amusing, adding to the droll and flippant writing style which cannot fail to make your children smile at even the most disgusting details. It’s colourful, educational, funny and fact-filled. A brilliant book to ensure your children realise that things aren’t that boring for them over the summer holidays! 

Activity Books 

Out and About – Sky Explorer – Anna Susanj (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Does your child become mesmerised by the sky? Do they love watching the clouds drift by or adore spotting the constellations in the night sky? Then this is the book for them!

Produced in collaboration with The National Trust this fantastic guide encourages your children to truly explore the sky. It’s easy to use and has a comprehensive contents page allowing your child to dip in and out of the book if they so choose, or to read it in one sitting. Split into sections of the sky by day and the sky by night, your child can discover the answers to such questions like why the sky is blue, what is a star, and why is lightening forked? There’s even a fantastic quiz at the end of the book to test their knowledge (my eldest loves this feature!). With gorgeous, bold illustrations covering each colourful page and top spotting tips and fun activities to do, this is the perfect book to take out and about with your on your summer holiday adventures.

Dream Sticker Dress Up – Dogs and Puppies – Little Tiger (publisher)

As a child, I loved nothing more than dressing up my paper dolls with different outfits! My children are just the same – because despite the difference in decades, it is still such a fun thing to do, right?! 

In this bright and colourful sticker book, your children can meet up with THE most adorable puppies (and find out their breeds) and dress up their human friends. Your children can join in the fun as they visit the vet, take them training, play in the park, bound about at the beach, play in the snow, have a puppy party and so much more.

With over 200 reusable stickers at the back of the book, there is so much fun to be had with the pups and their pals. It’s vibrant, filled with cute and inclusive drawings of fun scenes and a real boredom buster for rainy day play or any kind of long journey you may have to make over the summer holidays. Just try to resist the urge to get in there and get sticking yourself! 

Pip and Posy Let’s Get Colouring – Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

If you have a little Pip and Posy fan in your house then this is the activity book to keep them entertained during the summer holidays or while you are away over summer break. 

Pip and Posy love to draw and colour and now your little one can get creative and join in the fun with them too. Grab those colouring pens and pencils and let your little one’s amazing artistic talents flow as they help Pip and Posy colour in the pictures. With over thirty scenes to colour in, from pancake pals to splashing around in the puddles, there is so much fun to be had with Pip and Posy in this colouring book. We love that your little ones might just want to replicate the scenes from the book too! There are fifty stickers for little hands to engage with, using those fine motor skills to peel them off and pop them in the correct places in the book and this adds to the fun and enjoyment of this amazing activity book. 

The perfect boredom buster for little minds, be sure to take it with you on holidays or long journeys over this summer break.

Poetry Books

The Big Amazing Poetry Book – chosen by Gaby Morgan, Chris Riddell (illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

52 weeks of poems by 52 poets!! Yes!!  I learned a new word when I started reading this book – “Annualogy”.  It’s what this book is because it contains seven poems (the very clever among you will work out this is one for each day of the week) by 52 brilliant poets.  Wow!  Each poet is introduced by a short biography and then goes on to showcase their seven poems.   

You could dip in and out of this book, read through all your favourite poet’s poems in one go, or read one poem every day if you wanted to.  It showcases a whole world of possibilities, encouraging a love of words and fun and poetry and enticing the reader to say them out loud, to learn them off by heart… to love them.  There are lots of different styles of poetry – riddles, ballads, haikus, sonnets, tongue-twisters, shape poems and raps – so there really is something for everyone.  There are poems about animals, poems about family, poems about food, poems about people…. And so much more.

The amazing artwork on each page is superb, really bringing to life the words of the poem and picking out the detail contained within it.  Combined with these unique and quirky black and white illustrations by Chris Riddell, this would be the perfect present for any poetry lover, or the ideal gift for any child who has a love of words, and language and fun because they can use it to delve into poetry and learn to play with words.  Oh, and what’s not to love about that gorgeous bright and bold yellow front cover!

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

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