Let’s Get Outside – March Mindfulness and Nature

Let's Get Outside - March Mindfulness and Nature

There is a lot going on in the bookish world during the month of March so I thought I would strip it right back this month and look at books which really help young readers engage with nature and, where possible, try to get outside and even encourage mindful activities, breathing and yoga. 

There are also books which really focus on nature and the wildlife it contains and help young readers to think about how we can look after this as best we can.  Take a look through these wonderful books which encapsulate a love for the natural world and see if any catch your eye. I have split them into groups for ease: board books, picture books, chapter and middle grade books, non-fiction and activity books. Do keep checking our Instagram page this month for competition copies of some of these fantastic books:

Board Books and books for younger readers

Wild Animals Sound Book – Federica Iossa (Illustrator), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

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We love the format of these sound books in our house.  With gorgeous illustrations of the wild animals, using the touch button on each page, your little one gets to hear the calls of the wild of animals such as a wolf, a bear, a walrus, a hippo, a meercat and a tapir, to name but a few. The sounds are so realistic and not what your child would ordinarily hear (unless you took them to a zoo, perhaps!) and really engage your child.  There are lots of finger holes, textures and finger trails to expand your little one’s hand-eye co-ordination and enhance fine-motor skills.  This is gorgeous book about the natural world which would be a lovely addition to a young child’s book collection.

Bedtime for Duckling – Anna Doherty (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Limited (publisher)

What a sweet board book.  With it’s peep through cut outs on each page and gorgeously cute illustrations combined with sweet images taken from real life, your little one will be fascinated by the natural world while following Duckling’s story.  It’s bedtime and cute little Duckling doesn’t want to go to bed in her usual snuggly bed, she wants to try out all her friend’s beds instead.  Fox’s is too dark and muddy, Frog’s is too cold and wet, Owl’s is too high up off the ground… Duckling quickly realises that the cosiest place in the world to go to sleep is ……? You got it.  Mummy’s nest, snuggled up next to all her family.  Such a fluffily cute bedtime story.

365 First Words – Foreword by Dr. Meredith L. Rowe, Monika Forsberg (illustrator), Magic Cat Publishing Ltd (publisher)

This is a beautifully visual encyclopaedia of words aimed at enhancing your child’s vocabulary from an early age.  Apparently, a toddler is capable of learning a new word every day.  How incredible is that?!  Split into two-page spreads on a particular theme (think shapes, woodland, musical instruments, colours, bedtime, hospital, ocean etc), the colourful pictures encourage your child to want to learn and explore more. This is a great book to use in the outdoors as well to enhance and build upon learning – there are lots of spreads featuring the natural world and the wildlife and nature that can be discovered and explored.  There is also a really useful section at the back of the book to help caregivers reinforce the importance of books and reading with their children.  This would be a lovely addition to any nursery or a great birth present for a new baby.

Picture Books

Hope the Whale – Macmillan Children’s Books (In association with the Natural History Museum), Laura Chamberlain (illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

Did you know that by 1966 there were estimated to be fewer than 400 blue whales in the ocean because they were almost hunted to extinction?  Told through the eyes of a little boy, this is a magical story inspired by the real Hope the whale who was found stranded off the coast of Ireland in 1891.  This story tells of Hope’s journey across the icy seas and ocean to the warmer tropical waters and her life in the deep blue sea as re-imagined by a little boy who is fascinated by her and her species.  The illustrations in this book are an artwork in themselves, so beautiful and hopeful in themselves because of the choice of palette. My children also absolutely LOVED the gorgeously beautiful spread at the end of the book about the real story of Hope the whale, whose skeleton is now one of the most popular exhibits in the Natural History Museum, and learning about the fascinating lives of blue whales and what we can do to prevent their extinction.   This is a beautiful and educational picture book and certainly one for any marine-lift enthusiast or eco-warrior.

The Last Tiger – Becky Davies (author), Jennie Poh (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

Oh Aasha.  What are we doing to you?  Aasha is the last tiger.  The last tiger in a home which has been destroyed.  Destroyed by man.  Aasha’s home used to be beautiful, and rich, and full of wildlife and beauty.  But not so slowly, her landscape and home become unrecognisable and Aasha is forced to leave the rainforest where she once lived to go in search of another more hospitable environment.  On her travels, she comes across the adorable Teman, the orangutan, and they find a new home miles and miles away from man which is untouched and beautiful and this is where they settle.  Hopefully in peace.  The illustrations in this book are exquisite and are alive with the feelings of the animals they are portraying.  We love the note from the author at the back of the book and the information about endangered species, deforestation and what we can do to help.  From one dendrophile (tree lover) to another, this is a brilliant and impactful book about such an important subject.

Bedtime Little Mouse – Magali Mialaret (author), Carmen Saldena (illustrator), Buster Books (publisher)

Not only is this a super-sweet story but this book is also a bit of a godsend for us.  Practising mindfulness techniques with your child/children at bedtime, this book aims to calm and ease your child into a restful night of sleep.  We read it with our eldest (who is six and a half) last week because she had got herself so worked up and over-tired after a long day at school and it really did help to calm her down. The story, with its gorgeous illustrations, follows Little Mouse who has had an eventful day outside and cannot relax at bedtime as thoughts of her day, and the storm she encountered, rush in.  The story encourages you, as the caregiver, to focus your child’s mind on their breath and the joys of the day.  There are some superb mindful activities (all bedtime appropriate, of course) to do with your child if they don’t feel ready to drop off after the story.  Even my four-year-old twins (who share a room and are generally feral) benefitted from the calming vibe of the story and were rested enough to do a short breathing exercise at the end of it.  For any child who struggles to get off to the land of nod, for any child with worries or anxieties, for any over-tired child, heck, for any over-tired adult, this is an amazing book and resource.  We love it.

Every Bunny is a Yoga Bunny – Emily Ann Davison (author), Deborah Allwright (illustrator), Nosy Crow Limited (publisher)

Yo-Yo the bunny is a fidgety bum (we have a few of those in our house!).  She is too jiggly and wiggly and giggly to feel calm, especially at bedtime.  This adorable story focusses on Yo-Yo and her siblings and how she learns the art of yoga and mindful breathing to help her when she gets hopelessly lost after chasing a butterfly.  Not only are the illustrations in this book very cute and colourful, with a beautiful Spring-like palette, there are some gorgeous drawings which accompany the wonderful step-by-step instructions of yoga exercises that feature in the story at the back of the book.  You and your little ones can stretch, move, breathe and feel calm, just like Yo-Yo and her siblings in the story.  This is such a clever and effective way of introducing yoga, mindfulness and a calming environment to children.  Top marks from us!

Slow Down Monkey! –  Jess French (author), Eefje Kuijl (illustrator), Buster Books (imprint of Michael O’Mara Books Limited) (publisher)

Monkey is always swinging through the jungle in a huge rush.  It’s her birthday soon and she is speeding vine by vine to meet her various friends who are helping her set up for her party but everything seems to be going wrong.  Sad and frustrated and filled with bouncing energy, she comes across super-chilled-out Sloth who teaches her how to slow down and appreciate the world around her.  As soon as she starts to really look at her surroundings and breath them in, she realises the fun that can be had, the beauty of the nature around her and the importance of just being with your friends.  This story is a fun rhyming text, set to a jumping, jungle beat and really emphasises to your young reader the importance of calmness, slowing down and practising a bit of mindfulness.  The illustrations are just adorable (we love super-cute Sloth) and we love the ‘factual’ piece at the end of the book which teaches children about the real, endangered species which are depicted in the book.  Who knew a sloth only goes to the toilet (well, ok, not a toilet but you know what I mean!) once a week!? Just fascinating.  And if that wasn’t enough, the final page of the book is a lesson in mindfulness with Sloth, directing you and your child to feel more grounded through a look, breathe, listen and feel technique.

The Fussy Flamingo – Jonnie Wild (author), Brita Granstrom (illustrator), Otter-Barry Books (publisher)

This is a super picture book on so many levels.  It’s a gorgeous and colourful introduction to African wildlife, it’s a great story to reinforce colours with your children, it’s a wonderful tale for fussy-eaters to read, but most of all, it deserves huge brownie points for supporting wildlife conservation in Africa because the author’s royalties will be donated in support of wildlife habitat conservation projects in Africa.  This is a delightful story about the very fussy Baby Flamingo.  She doesn’t want to eat her Flingo Weed but as Baby Flamingo (or Flingo as my twins call her!) walks through the rainforest in search of other, tastier treats, she has to watch out in case she becomes a tasty treat herself!  My children love the colourful Baby Flamingo and the fun ending to the story (but no spoilers here!).  There is also an informative short paragraph at the end of the book about what flamingos do like to eat in the wild and why their feathers are so pink – we love a good fact or two!

The Girl who Planted Trees  – Caryl Hart (author), Anastasia Suvorova (illustrator), Nosy Crow (publisher)

Oh my!  What a book!  It has certainly planted itself firmly in my heart.  This is so beautiful, on every level.  One small girl.  One big mountain.  No more trees.  While looking through her grandfather’s old book, a little girl finds a picture of a lush, green mountain. She is astounded to realise that it is the barren mountain behind her village.  She decides the next morning to plant her fruit seeds on the mountain. Undeterred by the elements and every obstacle which seems to get in her way, she enlists the help of others to plant more and more seeds and grow more and more plants which are eventually successfully transferred to the mountainside.  This is a wonderful story of resilience, perseverance, hope and community spirit which will lift your heart and make your senses sing.  Echoing the wonderful words of hope, the illustrations are vibrant and beautiful in all the right places.

Why not PIN this post Children’s Book Recommendations March 2022

Why not PIN this post Children's Book Recommendations March 2022

I Love You, Blue – Barroux (author and illustrator), Otter Barry Books (publisher)

This is such a beautiful picture book about a love story between a whale and a lighthouse keeper named Jonas.  When Jonas is rescued from the perilous and stormy sea by a whale (Blue), they become the best of friends.  It’s not long before Jonas has to help his best friend though.  Poor Blue is suffocating because his stomach is full of plastic bags which he keeps eating, mistakenly thinking they are jellyfish.  Jonas helps Blue by cleaning out all of the plastic rubbish and Blue is a much happier whale.  This is such an impactful and powerful book.  There aren’t many words and yet the message is put across to children loudly and clearly.  The illustrations work wonderfully with the storyline and are very moving.  We also loved the text box at the end of the book providing some hugely informative words about protecting whales and marine life and ways in which we can help to prevent further pollution of the seas and oceans.

When We Went Wild – Isabella Tree (author), Allira Tee (illustrator), Ivy Kids (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

This is a beautifully told story about conservation and sustainability based on the real-life experience of the author.  Nancy and Jake are farmers but their farm yields less and less crop and their animals seem listless and unhappy. Even the trees and hedgerows seem droopy and sad.  But why, when they have been spraying their land with chemicals and using machinery diligently to help on their farm?  One day, they had an idea.  An idea to go right back to the land.  Back to basics.  No machinery, no chemicals… just go wild.  What follows are beautiful pages of idyllic illustrations and gorgeous descriptions of how the wildlife returns to the area and the benefits that ensue because of that.  We also loved the two-page spread at the back of the book with the photographs of the breathtakingly beautiful wildlife and the note from the author on ‘rewilding’ land.

Thank You for the Little Things – Caryl Hart (author), Emily Hamilton (illustrator), Bloomsbury Children’s Books (publisher)

Thank you for this book.  I honestly think I got just as much out of it as my children.  In a crazy, busy world where we are often rushing around and not taking the time to appreciate the little things, this book is a beautiful reminder to stop, look and breathe.  And say thank you for the little things.  Because they are really the big things.  The most beautiful things.  From a tiny ladybird landing on your hand, or the beauty of a daisy, or the wind rushing through your hair on a swing, or muddy puddles, to icky-sticky ice-cream, this book is a gorgeous way to encourage your child (and you!) to appreciate all the wondrous things in the world which make them smile.  So, if they are feeling sad, or lonely, or scared, they can try and conjure up all the little things which make them feel happy.  Like this book.  What a powerful tool to pass on to your children, the gift of hope, happiness and meditative focus.  And I can’t sign off without mentioning the illustrations: they are exquisite bundles of happiness on a page.  For us, this book is a big thing to feel thankful for.

The Fairy Garden – Georgia Buckthorn (author), Isabella Mazzanti (illustrator), Ivy Kids (an imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

What an exquisite book.  They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but I knew my children were going to love this book, just by looking at the front page.  The illustrations are absolutely glorious: beautiful, vibrant colours reflecting the nature depicted in the story.  And what a story! Mimi reeeallly wants to see some fairies in her garden.  So, she tries her hardest to make it as perfect as possible by making it immaculate and tidy and, well, un-natural.  Late at night, just when she is really despairing, she is visited by some gorgeous winged friends and comes to realise just what the fairies want.  It’s a lovely story about re-wilding but we also love the ideas at the back of the book about how to make a fairy-friendly garden and a cosy fairy-house.  I know what we will be doing this weekend!!

The Hotel for Bugs   – Suzy Senior (author), Leire Martin (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

This book just might be a brand-new favourite in this house.  I picked it partly because it subtly teaches your little ones about different types of insects, partly because it has THE most adorably sweet and funny illustrations of those insects (bugs and slugs), partly because it has such a wonderful, fun rhyming text but mainly because it has the most gorgeous message about inclusivity and diversity.  The new Hotel for Bugs is open and it looks fabulous, darhling.  The spa looks fancy, the buffet looks tasty, the sofas are bouncy and everyone is welcome.  Everyone that is except slimy old Slug.  Poor Slug. He is turned away by the ladybird manager. Until a little tiny bug with a big, brave voice asks: what is wrong with slugs?  The bugs realise that they are all rather weird and wonderful and that this should be celebrated.  So, the slug is welcomed back to the hotel and given the nicest room and all the bugs and slug party all night long.  What a riotous and colourful celebration of inclusivity and fun this book is.  We heart bugs and slugs.

Eyes that Speak to the Stars – Joanna Ho (author), Dung Ho (illustrator) Harper (imprint of Harper Collins Publishers) (publisher)

What a beautiful book.  A little boy is hurt and upset when he comes home from school because he notices that his eyes look different to his peers’ after his friend has drawn a picture of them all.  He talks to his Baba and he realises that his eyes lift towards the skies and speak to the stars which are filled with the most wonderful surprises.  The young boy sees that his eyes are just like his father’s, his grandfather’s and his younger brother’s, all of whom he worships. In a powerful and moving ending of the book, the little boy realises that he is so powerful, he is the master of his own destiny and he sees a bright future in the stars and will fight to make that real, in celebration of inclusion and diversity.  This is such an empowering book for children, not only rejoicing in diversity and acceptance, but also reminding children to have self-belief and love for themselves.  The illustrations are just as exquisite as the words: beautiful, natural and powerful.

Daddy’s Rainbow  – Lucy Rowland (author), Becky Cameron (illustrator) Bloomsbury Children’s Books (publisher)

Grounded in nature, this is a tear-jerking, lump-in-your-throat kind of book about grief and loss.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who has to try and explain those concepts to young children because, not only is this book so beautifully written, it is also illustrated in those most clever way with sumptuous drawings.  Erin’s Daddy saw all the colour in the world.  He was one of life’s ‘when it rains, let’s look for rainbows’ kind of guys and while Erin’s Daddy was still alive, her world was full of colour too.  But when Erin’s Daddy gets poorly and dies, the illustrations, like Erin’s life, are without colour.  Little by little, as Erin is told, and remembers, stories about her Daddy, the colour returns and Erin sees her Daddy in nature: in the seeds that she plants with her Mummy, in the leaves that she crunches and throws, and in the biggest and brightest of rainbows – Daddy’s rainbow.

Rabbit’s Pancake Picnic – Tegen Evans (author), Paula Bowles (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

The perfect book for Shrove Tuesday and beyond!  Rabbit wants to make pancakes (mmmmm) and skips off into the outdoors to have a perfect pancake picnic.  But poor Rabbit has left her recipe book behind and desperately tries to remember the recipe all by herself.  She won’t accept help (anyone got any young children JUST. LIKE.THIS.?!) from the other animals and the ingredients she uses are a disaster.  It all becomes too much and Rabbit runs way from the mess she has made.  Bear stumbles upon the exhausted and sad Rabbit and it’s a good thing he does too!  He has found her recipe book.  So, they both race off to the clearing and suggest that all the animals make delicious pancakes together.  And they do just that, each of them taking on a different but equally important job.  This is a sweet (see what I did there?!) book with a lovely message about the help that friendship and teamwork can provide.  The illustrations are utterly adorable and really bring the story to life.  Oooo, and we also loved the reinforcement of counting backwards from ten in the book as Rabbit stirred in her ingredients.  We will certainly be trying the recipe for perfect pancakes at the back of the book, and we will be sure to keep the bananas and strawberries as toppings rather than making the same mistakes as Rabbit!

All the Nonsense in My Teeth – Mike Henson (author), Barbara Bakos (illustrator), Happy Yak (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Have you got a child that dislikes brushing their teeth?  This is the book for you.  It’s such fun, a real giggle.  With a hilarious rhyming text, your little one will laugh out loud at all the unlikely things that can be found in their teeth…. An aeroplane doing a loop the loop!  What’s that doing there?  An elephant from Timbuktu and hippos striding two by two!  Huh?  That’s crazy!  The illustrations are so bright and colourful and the story is so engaging that your little one(s) cannot fail to be captivated.  We used it as a great excuse to clean their teeth (while we read it out loud) for the duration of the story.  I also love how it really subtly teaches children about the names of the different teeth they have in their mouth (and you can use this to brush those teeth when they are mentioned!). We are all left smiling (and with sparkly, clean teeth).  Win, win.

Why not PIN this post Children’s Book Recommendations March 2022

Why not PIN this post Children's Book Recommendations March 2022

Chapter Book and Middle Grade Fiction

The King of the Copper Mountains – Paul Biegel (author), Sally J. Collins (illustrator), Pushkin Press (publisher)

This is an endearing, timeless classic.  A story of wonderful stories, each grounded in nature and the animal kingdom.  King Mansolain is old.  No, scrap that, he is very old.  A thousand years or thereabouts and his heart is winding down and he is becoming tired of his life in the Copper Castle.  Only stories can keep his heart still beating and while his doctor searches for a cure from the natural world, creatures from all across the kingdom come to re-tell their tales to the old king.  Each tale, from the tiny beetle to the huge lion, breathes life into King Mansolain and fills his imagination and spirit with hope and wonder at the enchanting world.  But will this new found family of animals be able to keep the king alive while the cure is found?  You will have to read the book to find out.  I would absolutely encourage you to do so.  It’s a heart-felt and endearing story which would work really well to read aloud a chapter a day to a classroom or to your child at night.  A story made to be read aloud and which will fill your child with wonder.

Agent Zaiba Investigates – The Smuggler’s Secret – Annabelle Sami (Speckled Pen Limited) (author), Aniela Sosa (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Limited (imprint of Little Tiger Group) (publisher)

Set around the seaside, this story will transport your young reader to a part of the English coastline which was famous for smugglers hundreds of years’ ago.  The latest in the series which focuses on Zaiba and her friends, who form the UK branch of the Snow Leopard Detective Agency, this is a suspenseful detective story for young readers.  It has echoes of a modern day “Famous Five” for me (but I am probably showing my age there!) as Zaiba and her gang visit a historical shipwreck off the coast and are desperate to see the priceless artefact which was found on board.  When the artefact goes missing (I am not telling you what it is!), it is a race against time and tide to try and locate it.  Will Agent Zaiba manage to save it from being lost forever?  This is a really enjoyable mystery book for independent readers, with super black and white illustrations to complement the story.

A World Full of Nature Stories – Angela McAllister (author), Hannah Bess Ross (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Inspired by the great outdoors, this treasury of 50 stories features fairy tales and legends from every corner of the globe.  Split into sections to honour the beauty of the natural world, your reader can enjoy stories about leaves and trees, seeds and flowers, animals small and large, lakes, rivers and oceans, to name but a few.  There are classics such as The Little Fir Tree and Jack and the Beanstalk which my children instantly recognised and gorgeous tales such as How the Sun was Made and The Big Dipper Brothers which were new to us.  Each story enjoys sumptuous illustrations which evoke the wonder and magic of the awe-inspiring world around us. This book is a beautiful keepsake and one that can be read over and over again, picking a story for the weather or the season.  I can really imagine the reading some of the sky, moon and star stories on a moonlit summer’s night or sitting reading Little Daughter of the Snow on a winter’s day.  It’s a book for all seasons.  It’s a keeper of a book for all time.

Rainbow Grey: Eye of the Storm – Laura Ellen Anderson (author and illustrator), Farshore (an imprint of Harper Collins) (publisher)

The wonderful weather world of Rainbow Grey is back in this fantastic book, the second in the series which fizzes with colour and fun.  The first rainbow weatherling in over a thousand years, Ray is trying to learn to master her magical rainbow gifts but everyone in The Weatherlands just thinks she is out to cause mischief and trouble.  When the cloud-creatures in The Weatherlands start to disappear, and mayhem ensues, the weatherlings all point their lightening fork sized fingers at poor Ray.  When a pigeon called Coo La La turns up and declares that Tornadia Twist, the worst Rogue in history, has returned, Ray fears that some very dark weather magic is at play and she is determined to do her best to stop it.  With atmospheric illustrations and pages of white text on black paper, this book is a magical genius of a weather wonderland.  We loved all the tiny details creating a believable world of weather make-believe and the laugh out loud pages of humour stemming from the head of B.U.M.S. (!) and colourful trails of contrail cobbler.  Yes, this is a story full of colour and humour but it is also, importantly, a story about love, friendship and kindness and the choices and sacrifices that sometimes have to be made.  But ssssshhhhh.  No spoilers here.


The Lost Whale – Hannah Gold (author), Levi Pinfold (illustrator), Harper Collins Children’s Books (publishers) (recommended reading age: 8 plus)

I raved about the wonders of Hannah Gold’s debut novel, “The Last Bear”, earlier in the year and I will sing like a whale about how absolutely fantastic and touching this story is.  I raced through the book because I couldn’t get enough of it.  There is something about Hannah’s writing that draws you in, right from the first words in her books.  Following the story of Rio, an eleven-year-old boy who is sent to live with his Grandmother off the Californian coast while his mum recuperates in a clinic in London, this is an incredible tale of hope, determination, friendship, support and love.  Rio feels completely adrift and lost when he arrives in California but he finds friendship in the most unlikely of places in the form of the red dungareed (I know I made that word up!) Marina and her father, Birch.  He becomes fascinated with their marine world and whale watching and has the most incredible encounter with a floating tree, a gentle giant of a grey whale, by the name of White Beak.  White Beak had made his mother’s heart sing when she was younger (she makes my heart sing, right now!) and Rio feels an immediate affinity with her.  When White Beak goes missing from the course of her usual migratory path, Rio sets out on a mission which, in his head, means he must save her, find his true self and somehow help his unwell mother.  There isn’t a barnacle in the ocean which would make me give away the ending to this story but it’s whale-y amazing (sorry, I won’t do that again!).  I loved the author’s note and resource ideas about how to help save our oceans at the back of the book and the insightful words and resources for children who might suffer from mental health issues or have loved ones who do (like Rio’s mother in the book).  My copy of the book was an uncorrected proof copy without pictures and I am absolutely convinced that Levi Pinfold’s illustrations will make this book even more stunning.  I shall be rushing out to by my illustrated copy when this book comes out at the end of March.

The Forest of Moon and Sword – Amy Raphael (author), August Ro (illustrator), Orion Children’s Books (imprint of Hachette) (publishers)

This book is a healer of the soul.  At a time when we have all been struggling with worry and anxiety about various lockdowns and a global pandemic, this book strips things right back and looks to nature as a healer.  From its tense opening pages, this book ensnares you like a hawthorn bush.  The writing is so gripping that you are pulled into a dark and intense world, a world where women are scared for their lives and being anything other than traditional can get you killed.  A world that is a reality for Art and her mother, living in the mid-1600s.  When Art’s mother is captured and taken away to be hanged for being a witch, Art is left to fend for herself with only her majestic horse, Lady, and her mother’s herbal recipe book to guide her.  She sets out on a journey to rescue her mother and what ensues is a journey of self-discovery for Art as she realises her own power and strength and has to learn who to trust in a wilderness that is foreign to her.  Will she save her mother?  Despite the themes of grief, loss and suppression that this book portrays, it really is a wonderfully powerful book which, much like the hawthorn itself, heals the heart with its themes of female bravery, natural healing, friendship, trust, love and self-belief.

The Butterfly Club: The Ship of Doom – M. A. Bennett (author), Welbeck Flame (imprint of Welbeck) (publisher)

How wrong can Luna be?!  She thinks her aunt’s butterfly club sounds boring!  In fact, far from her imaginings of butterflies pinned in glass cases, the secret Butterfly Club is not what it seems: it is a time travelling society that helps itself to future wonders and inventions of the world.  Sounds intriguing, right?  Well, add into the mix that Luna and her companions are riding the travel train all the way back to what we know as the ill-fated voyage of HMS Titanic, throw in all manner of mechanical wonders to give you a steam-punk vibe, a good bit of mystery about the identity of one of the main characters of the book, and lots of suspenseful twists and turns and you will realise why you are ripping through the 350 pages of the book so quickly.  There are lots of themes to explore with your middle grade reader in this book, such as the impact of time travel, the choices that that might require us to make, the morals involved within that, the history of the Titanic and the idea of being true to yourself and what that might mean.  I can’t wait for more in this series, pretty please!

Non-Fiction Books

Animal BFFs – Sophie Corrigan (author and illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (an imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

This book is so good that my eldest daughter devoured it in one sitting!  At over 150 pages, that’s no mean feat! Not only is it absolutely fascinating, it is full of the cutest drawings imaginable of animals from all around the world.  The book has a brilliant explanation at the beginning of how it works and explains the technical words for the basis of the animal relationships it features.  So, the book is divided into sections – Animal BFFs (some animals like ostriches and zebras have a mutualistic relationship where they both help each other out in the wild), Friends from Afar (golden jackels and tigers, for example, even though they are canine and feline, have a relationship best described as commensalism because the tiger provides the jackal with a  meal in the form of its leftovers) and Animal Enemies (such as drongo birds and meerkats who have a parasitic relationship because the drongo bird steals the meerkats food in all kinds of sneaky ways).  See, I told you you would learn something! I now also can’t stop repeating a helpful phrase to recognise a poisonous snake, which is just one of the fascinating facts packed into this amazing book.  I know I mentioned the illustrations earlier.  But I just don’t think I gave them enough praise. They are superb. So cute.  With its cartoon-style speech bubbles and bite-sized chunks of informative text, I cannot rate this work of non-fiction highly enough.  In fact, I am going to make it one of my BFFs.

Let’s Go for a Walk with Ranger Hamza – Kate Kronreif (illustrator), Ivy Kids (imprint of Quarto Group) (publisher)

The outside world is one great, big adventure for little children.  This book really enhances that adventure and sense of fun for them.  The premise behind it is to take the book on a walk so that you and your children can have great fun spotting lots of the things that the book contains.  The book is a super tool to use in any kind of outdoor mindful activity where children are encouraged to really take notice of their surroundings.  It’s a tour of the senses, as are there are things to spot, things to smell and things to hear.  It’s also a great reinforcement of colours, early numbers and letter recognition.  I love the fact that the book can be used all year round because it contains suggestions for each of the seasons.  This is a brilliant tool to be used with children to explore and really engage with their natural surroundings.

The Extraordinary World of Birds – David Lindo (author), Claire McElfatrick (illustrator),Dorling Kindersley Limited (publisher)

Fly into the fascinating avian world with this fabulous book.  Soar with the world’s most daring hunting birds, spread your multi-coloured wings with the noisy parrots from all around the globe, freeze your flippers with the penguins of the extreme climate of Antartica, this book will take you on a swooping journey through skies, trees, mountains, ice and water and leave you with a love for our feathered-friends. It’s packed with superb facts about how amazing birds are: their birdsong which they use to recognise species and territories, what they eat and how they are able to fly (or not!).  With gorgeous illustrations and real-life pictures of the world’s most extraordinary birds, this is a brilliant book to encourage your child to engage with nature.  We love the spread about how to help birds in the wild, wherever you live, and we have been fascinated to learn the feathered species that various countries have chosen as their national birds.

How to Help a Hedgehog and Protect a Polar Bear – Dr Jess French (author), Angela Keoghan (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

My eldest daughter asked me yesterday whether I thought polar bears were going to die out in her lifetime. Sniff.  I said I REALLY hoped not.  With books like this one around, I feel even more hopeful.  This is such an empowering book which encourages children to try to help endangered animals and try and make the world a better place.  The book explains that there are plenty of little things that we can do to make a big difference. Split into different habitats (such as gardens, woodlands, wetlands, oceans, mountains …), there are colourfully illustrated fact files about each type of habitat and a full page for each on what you can do to help. My eldest daughter loves this book and is fascinated by the things she can do to pass on this knowledge and power and help save our beautiful planet.  What more could a book hope to achieve than to inspire a generation.  Powerful stuff.

Dinosaurs Rock – Dougie Poynter (author), Macmillan Children’s Books (publishers)

My eldest daughter (who is a HUGE dinosaur enthusiast) absolutely devoured this book.  The mixture of fun facts, true or false questions, hilarious prehistoric life-form jokes, history of time on earth, interviews with dino experts and Dougie’s dino profiles have made this one of her favourite books about dinosaurs.  You really do learn something new (did you know that velociraptors were actually pretty small (Jurassic Park really needed better researchers!!) or how many calories a T-Rex would need to consume in a day?) and the facts are broken down into digestible chunks and relatable and fun examples.  It’s packed with scientific facts and fun chunks of information and we now have a new favourite dinosaur joke in our house.  But I will save that for a rainy day.  This is a brilliant book for any dinosaur enthusiast.

Little People, Big Dreams – Gloria Steinem – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Lucila Perini (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

One of the latest additions to the fantastic Little People, Big Dreams series, this book about Gloria Steinem is so empowering for young children, showing them that they have the ability to do anything they set their minds to.  Young Gloria thought that she could do anything as a child.  But as she grew up in a world that did not seem to value a young girl’s hopes and dreams, she realised that she needed to take action to change this way of thinking.  This superbly colourful and sublimely illustrated book follows the real-life story of just how Gloria set out achieving her dream and making it a reality. In the process, she has inspired millions of women to make the most of whatever talents they possess and to never stop believing in themselves.  We love the message at the end of the book.  No matter who you are, whatever gender you identify with, “what matters is that your dream is only yours to determine”. 

Little People, Big Dreams – Amanda Gorman – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Queenbe Monyei (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

This brilliant new addition to the Little People, Big Dreams series really resonates with us in our house because my youngest daughter has a stammer and some speech difficulties.  Yet, she is such a confident little girl and really wants to be a singer and a story-teller when she is “growed up”.  This book gives her that hope and inspiration.  Amanda was diagnosed with a speech impediment and an auditory processing disorder when she was a young girl but this book tells of how she has never let that stand in her way and how she fell in love with poetry at a young age and has inspired millions of people worldwide by performing her work, standing in front of the US Capitol Building at the age of 22 and reciting the poem she had written which set out her hopes for a brighter future for America.  This book celebrates the work that Amanda has produced, aiming to stamp out racism and striving for a more diverse, equal and justice-filled world.  As ever, the illustrations are absolutely fantastic: powerful, bold and moving, just like Amanda herself.

Activity Books

A Walk Through Nature – Libby Walden (author), Clover Robin (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher)

This is a wonderful look at nature encouraging your young children to really appreciate the natural world which surrounds them and to take the time to pause and breathe in their surroundings.  With wonderful, interactive peep through holes and vibrantly beautiful illustrations, this book is a great tool to use to encourage your child to look closely at the magic of nature.  We have used it to go on a walk with to allow the children to mindfully explore the tree bark or the shoots that are sprouting up and will become daffodils (if the deer stop eating them!!) but it would be equally lovely to read indoors because it is packed with so many useful snippets of information about the world around us and the constantly changing seasons and environment.  From the marvels of mini-beasts, through an exploration of the micro-world at the beach, to the nocturnal happenings in the night sky, this is a glorious book and could be used with so many outdoor activities.

Let’s Tell a Story Jungle Adventure – Lily Murray (author), Essi Kimpimaki (illustrator), Wide Eyed Editions (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

We love the unique idea behind this book. It gives you everything your child needs to create their own amazing jungle adventure.  They will need to think about all the essentials – what will they take with them on their fun-times in the dangerous jungle, what will they wear (not sure the roller-blades will help them much but maybe my imagination is lacking!), what (or who) will greet them, who will their dastardly enemy be…. How will they make their way home again?  With fantastic illustrations really helping your child conjure up the most magical of adventures, this is a superb book to allow your little one to get their creative juices flowing and really let their imagination run wild.  And the best bit?  If they don’t like how the story is going, they can just start all over again! Wonderfully creative and fabulously fun.

Colour Yourself Calm- An Usborne Unworry Book

Never mind the children, I loved this book!! It’s a fantastic resource in mindfulness and focus with its intricate colouring patterns to follow.  I think it would work better with children who have good pencil control so that they can colour within the lines but the one of my four-year-old twins who will actually hold a pencil and enjoys colouring (!) loved it too, particularly the colouring by numbers.  It’s a book like no other: it has QR codes to beautiful pieces of music (like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons) to listen to while you colour a corresponding picture and calm any worries or anxieties and pages to complete with colour, texture and feeling as you listen to songs.  It’s a wonderful activity book encouraging peace, focus and relaxation as you colour your worries away.  A great tool for any over-stimulated child or those children who are feeling a little anxious or worried about something.

Make This Book Wild – Jo Schofield & Fiona Danks (authors), Anna Ivanir (illustrator), Wide Eyed Editions (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Do you have a child who loves drawing or sketching, who loves scribbling and writing, who loves the outdoors?  Then this is THE book for them.  Encouraging your child to step outside into the glorious world of nature and take this book with them, there are more than 60 interesting, fun and nature-themed activities to do.   The aim is to make the book look as wild as possible.  Make it dirty, draw in it, stick things from the natural world in it…. have fun with it.  Make wildberry ink and a quill and draw all over the pages with them, feed the butterflies with banana mash and record your findings, make a magic potion, write a story about a tree creature, head out on your own dragon hunt…..  The possibilities for imagination and fun are endless.  And they are all getting your child outside into the open air and encouraging them to really take a close look at the nature that surrounds them.  I know that this book will be a huge hit with all my children but my eldest, in particular, who loves writing and drawing is going to LOVE it.  Let’s face it, what’s not to love.

Why not PIN this post Children’s Book Recommendations March 2022

Why not PIN this post Children's Book Recommendations March 2022
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Fiona lives in Yorkshire with her husband and little girl who is 6 months

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