New Books for Children this April

New Books for Children this April
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Spring has sprung, the Easter holidays are upon us, there is plenty of time to immerse yourselves in the wonder of a book or two. There are SO many fantastic books out this month ….Take a look at my  choices for this month and see if there is anything that catches your eye ….

Board Books

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Fingerwiggly Easter Bunnies – Usborne Publishing Limited (publisher)

OH MY GOODNESS!  This board book is just the definition of Easter and springtime cuteness.  I can’t cope with how adorable it is.  Little children, or big children (aka adults!!) can push their little fingers through the cut-out holes in this cardboard book so they become the ears and paws of two fluffy little bunnies as they hop through the woodland looking for brightly coloured Easter eggs.  With a sweet, rhyming story, much like the hoppity-hop of the bunny rabbits, this fun Easter book follows the delightful bunnies on their search for Easter eggs and your child will have great fun telling the story with their own fingers as the ears and paws of the bunnies.  The illustrations in the book are joyous: vibrant Spring colour tones mix with adorable spreads of sweet, Springtime animals to make this such an eye-catching read.  There are other laser cut-out holes in the book for little fingers to explore and enjoy.  A perfect size to take with you out and about; sturdy, adorable in the extreme, interactive and lots of fun, this is a wonderful first Easter book for very little children.

Where’s Baby Bunny? – Ingela P Arrhenius (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

This series of hide and seek board books is super sweet for sharing with the tiny person in your life and this spring-time edition is just gorgeous.  With super-soft felt flaps which are in bold and vibrant colours, your little one has to lift the flap to find where baby puppy, baby mouse, baby duckling and baby bunny are hiding.  Each felt flap is uniquely-shaped, providing interactive fun for your little one.  And who is hiding behind the final flap?!  Why, baby of course!  We love the joyful mirror ending of this book.  With adorable illustrations of cute animals in bold, beautiful colours, this book is a joyful hide and seek bundle of fun to enjoy with your little ones.  The chunky pages are superb for little exploring hands and it is a brilliant size to pop under the pushchair or pop into a nappy bag to take out and about with you to entertain your little ones.  Bold, bright, interactive and fun, this board book is sure to be a hit.

All Change – Linda Tordoff (author), Harriet Evans (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Limited (publisher)

Terrific transformations take place in the pages of this sturdy board book as your little one uncovers some of the most mind-blowing mysteries from our natural world as they lift the flaps in this brilliant book.  Concepts of change from the surrounding environment are explained in simple terms so that your little one can begin to understand the idea of transformations.  From Winter to Spring, Summer to Autumn, tadpoles to frogs, caterpillars to butterflies, sunrise to sunset, full moons to crescent moons, tide in to tide out, egg to animal, baby to adult, threatened to threatening… there are so many amazing transformations from the natural world for your little one to pore over and lift up the uniquely shaped flaps to explore the change.  It’s a sleek and stylish lift the flap book in muted and soft colour tones with the most gorgeous illustrations of the nature which surrounds us and these serve to bring to life the wonder of the natural world for you little ones.  It’s a brilliant book to take out and about with you because it is a handy size to pop under a pushchair or slip into a changing bag and it will provide lots interactive entertainment for your little one, as well as introducing them to the science and beauty of the world around us.  A beautiful board book.

If it’s Easter and you know it …. – Katrina Charman (author), Angie Rozelaar (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Get your children in the Spring-time spirit with this gorgeous sing-along story.  They will be moving around and having fun to the tune of “If you are happy and you know it” but with the a brilliant, Easter-themed twist.  Your little bunnies can follow the words of the song and move through the vibrantly colourful pages of the book, interacting with it in the most fun of ways by pushing and pulling the interactive sliders.  Your little one can feed a chick, stroke a bunny (our personal favourite!), plant a flower and, of course, find an egg.  The illustrations are joyful, matching the fun and excitement of the story song itself and providing maximum engagement because of the adorable drawings and bold and striking colours.  You can also scan the QR code to hear the bright and happy song; it’s sure to make your little one smile and join in the fun.  This sturdy board book makes the perfect gift for your little lambs this Spring time.

Big Outdoors for Little Explorers – Farm – Anne-Kathrin Bell (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Published in collaboration with the National Trust, we love this series of books by Nosy Crow Ltd.  They are a brilliant introduction for the very young to the world around us and this, the latest in the series, is no exception.  Your little ones can discover the big outdoors with this first farm book for little explorers.  With its gentle, rhyming story, your little one can explore who they will find on the farm in the most interactive and fun ways.  There are sturdy finger sliders to push and pull, helping to develop those fine motor skills, and a brilliantly fun wheel to spin to make the sheep in the field hop, skip and jump and around. This chunky board book is a great introduction to the animals that you would find on a farm and their typical behaviours and the sliders make it a very fun way to explore that world.  The illustrations are adorable: each chunky two-page spread is filled with a riot of colour and illustrations of the sweet farmyard animals and scenery.  It’s a beautiful board book to make you want to explore the outdoors and, with its handy size and chunky pages, it is certainly a book that you can take out an about with you on your travels …. To the Farm, hopefully!  A joyful, Springtime read with your little one.

Eggs – Katie Dale (author), Jenny Lovlie (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

What an eggs-cellent book – ha ha, see what I did there?!  This is a gorgeous lift-the-flap rhyming story book which is such fun for small (and big!) children.  The lovely rhyme counts up from one to five hatching out the most adorable oviparous (it means they hatch from eggs!) animal babies from the brilliantly interactive eggs in the book.  Little hands will adore this book as your young ones will have to hatch out the animals themselves by opening the egg-shaped flaps.  From platypuses, to octopuses, crocodiles to chicks, the illustrations are so sweet and the animals are adorable.  Each sturdy two-fold spread is filled with colour and fun and we particularly love the fact that the other side of the opened flaps includes the numbers from 1 to 5 in both written and numerical form which is wonderful for introducing and reinforcing maths in these early years.  Like all Nosy Crow board books, we love that you can scan the QR code so that your little one can listen to the story as an audio book as well.  Vibrant and interactive, fabulously fun, this is a brilliant board book for younger readers.

Picture Books

The Eyebrows of Doom – Steve Smallman (author), Miguel Orodonez (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

What an excellent, eyebrow wriggling tale of fun and impishness!  I can see my twins now blaming every little cheeky act on the eyebrows of doom!! This is a hilarious rhyming romp of a picture book, all about a pair of evil, bushy eyebrows and their misdemeanours as they attach themselves to various creatures.  In some woods, in a cave, a bear called Dave is sweeping with his broom when up wriggle the eyebrows of doom and leap onto his unsuspecting face!  After they have caused Dave to commit havoc and mayhem, they move on with their ‘fun’ to a seagull called Ron (cue hilarious laughter as Ron “peppered the people with poop!”, a rhino named Rover and a hippo named Bud, to name but a few. Each time becoming cheekier and bolder in their pranks.  But when Dave and the zookeeper chase them all over the zoo, they really pick the wrong place to hide!!  Will that be the end of the eyebrows of doom?  Or might there just be a funny ending to the story?  I couldn’t possibly say but you really do need to read this brilliantly fun book with your little ones.  The rhyming words mean that it is a super read aloud, as you will race through the story, trying to keep up with the eyebrows and their outlandish behaviour.  The illustrations are superb – the expressions of the evil eyebrows and the animals that they land on are just hilarious, adding yet more humour to an outrageously funny story.  The colours used in the illustrations are bold and bright, really making for an eye-catching read.  You might want to check that your little one isn’t wearing the eyebrows of doom after you have read this one to them.  A vibrant, rhyming romp of a picture book which will have you laughing out loud. Superb.

Not Now Noor! – Farhana Islam (author), Nabila Adani (illustrator), Puffin Books (publisher)

This is a beautiful, heart-warming and truly funny book which celebrates wonderful Muslim women and also highlights how amazing a child’s openness and curiosity is. Noor is full of questions.  She is full of curiosity.  And what she really wants to know is why the women in her family all wear a hijab.  She loves all the hijabi women in her family but wonders why they all wear headscarves.  Can it be to hide snacks for later?  Or maybe it’s so they don’t catch nits!  Or possibly to hide their super-spy identity?  Or perhaps to hide a bad hair day?  Curious Noor sets out to find the answer to her conundrum but her family are all too busy to answer the question which is burning a hole in Noor’s brain.  She’s almost ready to give up on her quest until she realises that the perfect person to ask is her Ammu, her mother, who knows everything and can explain things in the most perfect way.  Noor’s Ammu explains more about their culture and the meaning of wearing a hijab and how they make Muslim women feel more confident and serve as a reminder of their identity.  We love this story.  Written and illustrated by Muslim women, it is brilliant to see a celebration of culture in this picture book and I love that my children can see other cultures than theirs represented in the books that they read.  The stunning illustrations are brimming with joy, colour and positivity, highlighting the fun, cheeky and curious nature of little Noor and the wonderful women in her family.  Each two-page spread is filled with glorious illustrations and lots of vibrancy and warmth.  It brings a smile to my face just to look at the cover of this book, and my twins have laughed out loud at Noor and her wonderfully curious mind.  A heart-warming, funny celebration of Muslim culture, familial love and childhood curiosity, this book is an absolute stunner.

An Artist’s Eyes – Frances Tosdevin (author), Clemence Monnet (illustrator), First Editions (Quarto Group) (publisher)

Have you ever tried to look at the world from a different viewpoint? This is the story of Mo and Jo. Their eyes look the same but they don’t see things in the same way. Mo has artist’s eyes. She sees the world in a riot of technicolour and descriptive shades. Jo sees “bright yellow” where Mo sees “mellow yellow of melons and the pale pastel of primroses”. Jo becomes increasing frustrated that he cannot see the natural world around them in the glorious tones that Mo does. But Mo asks him to look, to really use his eyes, and describe what he sees. He sees points, and swirls and squiggles and feathery fans and yet Mo can see none of these. Both of them look at the same scenery and see things from a uniquely different, yet equally beautiful, viewpoint. This is a lovely message for any young reader – that we don’t all have to be the same and that each way of looking at things is beautiful – and I particularly liked Mo’s encouragement of Jo to keep going and to try and look at the world using his eyes, rather than giving up. The illustrations are stunning – lots of strokes of colour, light and depth used in each spread and there are so many details to notice on further readings of the book. This is a super story to spark your little one’s creative imagination.

Squishy McFluff’s Camping Adventure! – Pip Jones (author), Ella Okstad (illustrator), Faber & Faber Ltd (publisher)

Squishy McFluff is an invisible cat!  She’s Ava’s invisible cat.  Ava is going off camping with Squishy and her Dad and she cannot wait to have fun.  But camping is a serious business, Dad says!  So, Dad is not impressed when they arrive at the beautiful campsite without the tent because Ava has repacked Dad’s bags with all her fun things and forgotten to include it!!  There’s nothing for it but to build a den instead.  Luckily, Idris and his cute puppy Farida are staying at the same campsite and are expert camp-builders.  Better than Ava and Squishy?! Well, who knows!  The children and their animals pitch (pun intended!) against each other to competitively build the best camp until Ava uses her imagination to come up with a cunning plan to win the day (grrrrrrrrr!).  Maybe though, the children will realise that everything is much more fun when you work together.  With lashings of laughter, this rhyming story is full of charm and cheekiness which will enthral your young reader.  The mischievous Squishy McFluff and his owner are such fun and will resonate with any young child who has devolved responsibility for mishaps and mischief to an imaginary friend (that’s a wolf in our son’s case!).  The illustrations are fun and full of colour and charm, really bringing to life the impish behaviour of Squishy McFluff and Ava.  They are vibrant and eye-catching, spreading colour and warmth across the pages and inspiring young readers to want to go off on a camping adventure of their own.  We love the sweet ending to the story and the sing-song rhyming words make this the perfect read-aloud (preferably round a camp fire while toasting marshmallows!).

The Lost Leopard – Jonny Marx (illustrator), Xuan Le (illustrator), Caterpillar Books (imprint of Little Tiger Group) (publisher)

What a superb work of “faction” (a blend of fact and fiction) this book is!  Join Flora, Fauna and little baby Bud, the world’s greatest explorers, on the expedition of a lifetime!  Your little one can join this amazing, adventurous family as they go off in search of the elusive clouded leopard and trek across wild habitats, including rivers, foothills, mountains, caves and rainforests.  And mud.  Lots of mud!  The story meanders its way through the stunning natural world, encountering fantastic wildlife (and the birds and animals are pointed out throughout the story), twisting and turning, much like the journey itself.  Your little ones will really feel like they are travelling with Flora and Fauna as they have to turn the book at various points to enjoy the story.  There are flaps to lift, facts to read and absolutely amazing scenery to bask in through the illustrations of the story.  The piece de resistance is a huge central fold that opens out to display the stunning scenery of the Himalayan mountain range in all its glory.  Superb!  We were shocked as we read through the story to find out just how much rubbish is being dropped in this area – the facts tell us that special organisations have been set up to remove the rubbish on Mount Everest!!  Unbelievable.  Find out whether Flora, Fauna and Bud ever get to see the wild cat they were searching for on this really wild adventure.  We adore this book. Not only is it incredibly engaging, with its interactive elements, but it is fascinating in the extreme with its blend of fact and fiction.  The book is an artwork in itself: the illustrations are mind-blowingly stunning.  So detailed and beautiful that you really feel like you are experiencing that part of the world along with the family.  We love the facts about leopards provided in the book, as well as the information about the other animals encountered and we appreciate how the book highlights the escalating problem of litter and provides information and facts about this.  A book for any animal lover, a book for any adventurer, a book for any eco-warrior, a book to be loved and passed on for others to do the same.  Amazing.

Mr. Men Little Miss – Be Yourself; Mr. Men Little Miss – Sharing – Farshore (publishers)

The latest in this fantastic new series exploring children’s mental and emotional health and wellbeing, I can’t recommend this series highly enough.  These are the two newest titles which use the jolly, well-known characters from the Mr. Men and Little Miss series to help children understand more about their own emotions and to help encourage conversations around the way that they are feeling and the impact of their actions on others.  “Be Yourself” is a story all about confidence.  It gently encourages your little ones to discover and appreciate who they are and to have the confidence to share that with others.  Mr Quiet is not as confident and loud as he would like to be but he begins to realise that being loud and cheeky, like Little Miss Naughty, or funny, like Mr Funny, is not necessarily what you need to believe in yourself and your abilities.  He realises that you sometimes just need to realise, through good friends, that you are liked and accepted for who you are and that just might make you feel more capable and confident.  It’s a wonderfully inspiring story which celebrates differences and empowers children to feel more confident and in control.  “Sharing” is a book we really need in our house!  My twins have to learn to share everything so this is a brilliant book to help them understand the joy that sharing can bring.  Little Miss Sunshine and Mr Cool love to share but not everyone does and it can be difficult for some.  Little Miss Stubborn and Mr Grumpy have a thing or two to learn about sharing, for example!  From their sharing and caring friends though, they realise that there is a whole world of fun to be had when you take part and share.   We love these books.  In particular, we love how engaging they are for young children.  Not only are the illustrations in a familiar Mr. Men and Little Miss style – full of striking, bold pictures and colours – but the books encourage conversations with your little one because they ask direct questions of your little one throughout the stories, asking them to give examples of behaviour or comment on how a character in the story is behaving.  We also love the ideas at the back of the books to help parents and caregivers bring these books to life for young readers. Sensitive and engaging, full of bright, gorgeous illustrations, these books are a wonderful tool to read with your child at any time, in particular if they are struggling with these emotions or behaviours.

Ning and the Night Spirits -Adriena Fong (author and illustrator), Flying Eye Books (publisher)

Ning is a quiet boy who lives in a quiet, lush village surrounded by forests and mountains.  He has heard tales of the night spirits that the whole community have said were terrifying.  So terrifying that the villagers light lanterns every night to keep the spirits away. But Ning is a curious boy.  He wonders if the spirits really are terrifying?  Surely, they can’t be as scary as trying to make friends with other children?!  When Ning finds himself alone in the forest one night, he meets an adorable creature who introduces him to the secret world of the spirits and he discovers that they are not scary at all…. In fact, they are scared of the bright flames of the lanterns that the villagers put out which hurt their eyes and have caused them to retreat far away from the humans.  What will Ning do to try and help his new spirit friends?  Will he have the courage to speak to other children and ask them for help?  This is a stunning story by debut picture book author, Adriena Fong.  It’s a book about being brave, about growing in confidence, about believing in yourself, about confronting your fears, about friendship and love with a huge sprinkle of magic and make-believe thrown in there too.  The references to Asian culture and mythology are wonderful: we have loved learning more about them and seeing them represented in this picture book is just superb (I am very conscious that I want my children growing up seeing lots of different cultures other than their own being represented in the books that they read).  The illustrations are absolutely exquisite (the night spirits are just beyond adorable): gorgeous depictions of a magical world and a celebration of culture, and courage, and colour, and finding your voice.  A brilliant bedtime adventure, filled with marvel and magic, we love it.

Walter the Wonder Snail – Neil Clark (author and illustrator), Happy Yak (imprint of Quarto Group) (publisher)

Walter is sooooooooo bored.  He’s bored with his life of leaves, leaves and more leaves.  He wants to climb high, travel far, move fast and see the world.  But that’s not what snails do, he is told.  His friends are perfectly happy munching their leaves but Walter wants more.  So, he packs his shell and slides off into the unknown, on an adventure.  His incredible journey is full of challenges and difficulties but he meets some unlikely friends on his travels who encourage him to fulfil his dreams and he sees some wonderful sights.  Will he set out to do all he wanted?  If anyone can, then Walter the Wonder Snail can!  This is such a sweet and fun book with some empowering messages for young children.  It encourages them to see that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and that you can push forward with boundaries and dreams so that the world really does become your oyster.  It’s a book about thinking big, even when you are really small, and to not be afraid of change or doing something different because you will always find a way.  The illustrations are stunning: the colour palette used is bold and vibrant and the drawings inject even more humour into the fun storyline.  The drawings of the animals are just gorgeous and serve to make this book a visual delight for the senses as well as a wonderful read-aloud.  A story of bravery, courage, dreaming big and pursuing your dreams, this is a super picture book for your little ones.

Rabbits Don’t Lay Eggs -Paula Metcalf (author), Cally Johnson-Isaacs (illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

What a bright and fun book for Easter this one is!  Rupert the rabbit was bored all alone in his field, watching the farm animals from afar so he decided he wanted to go and live with the farm animals and dug a tunnel all the way to the farmyard.  But Dora the duck tells him that every animal on the farm has to have a job….. and try as he might, Rupert just can’t seem to find anything useful to do.  He can’t keep the birds away from the seeds like the scarecrow (he just eats them!!), he can’t cock-a-doodle-doo like the cockerel (my twins laugh out loud at his “Socky-poodle-poooooo!” attempts), he can’t lay an egg (again, the laughter that ensues here with Rupert’s output is just hilarious!), so what can he do?  Can he manage to make himself useful and stay with his new-found friends on the farm?  Rip-roaringly funny, this is a hop-skip and a jump of a rabbity Easter tale which my twins have absolutely adored. The story is giggle-inducing and engaging and the illustrations are gorgeous.  The colours on the farm have a spring-like vibe, making this the perfect seasonal read at this time of year and the drawings of the animals are both cute and humorous, adding even more fun and excitement into this eggs-cellent story.  A brilliantly fun picture book which would make the perfect present for Easter.  We hope you enjoy it as much as us.

Farah Loves Mangoes – Sarthak Sinha (author and illustrator), Flying Eye Books (publisher)

What a joyful, uplifting book.  Just looking at the cover makes me happy!  Farah loves mangoes.  I mean, why wouldn’t you?! She could eat them all day long, she could swim in an ocean full of them… you get the picture.  Farah is not a little obsessed with these juicy, ripe, lovely fruits.  Every year when she visits her Grandpa they always pick the abundance of ripe mangoes off his mango tree but, this year, the tree bears no fruit.  With humorous spirit, Farah and Mali the dog do their very best to make the tree grow more mangoes (the watering scene is our absolute favourite – can you guess what Mali the dog uses to water the tree?!) but nothing works.  Meanwhile, Grandpa seems unbothered, working away with ropes and wood.  Perhaps Farah will realise that the tree is not so useless after all and that there is more to it than just the fruit it bears?  We adore this brilliantly fun picture book from debut author/illustrator Sarthak Sinha who has created a superb picture book with a fun, diverse heroine.  The illustrations are joyous: exquisitely beautiful, heart-warming and colourful, bringing to life the playful tone of the book. I also loved the details – the names of the different types of mangoes on the endpapers of the book are just brilliant.   It’s a book about the beauty and wonder of nature, a book about family relationships and traditions, a book about seeing things from a different perspective, a book about learning to love the unexpected; it’s a book to warm your heart, make you laugh and to fill you with warmth and love.  It encourages us all to slow down, look at the details and to enjoy the life and beauty that nature has to offer.  A dazzling debut.

Monsters in Trucks -Laura Baker (author), Nina Dzyvulska (illustrator), Happy Yak (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

What a bright and beautifully fun picture book this one is.  If you have a monster-loving toddler then this is the book for them.  There are so many fun monsters on each page: there is a “bonk monster, honk monster piled up high with cars, fancy monster, dancey monster driving superstars”, a “hidey monster” and a “tidy monster cleaning up the street” (we could do with one of those in our house!!).  The rhyming words of the book serve to make this such a fun and funny read aloud as your little one will pore over every brightly coloured monster on the pages as they match them up with the hilarious descriptions.  Each monster is driving his own unique truck which provides even more fun and hilarity.  My twins love the “jiggly monster” and the “thief monster” the best but they find more to point out and laugh about each time they read this book – it’s a bit of a favourite at the moment.  On each two-page spread there is also a ladybird to find in every scene so they both love trying to spot that before the other one too!  The monsters build a city which gets bigger and bigger as the gentle rhyming story goes on but the thief monster is on the loose so they have to watch out!  With so much to spot and laugh about, a playful rhyming story and vibrantly colourful visuals, this is such a fun picture book. We love the hilarious illustrations of the monsters in their tremendous trucks and the bright colour tones used throughout to make this a book which not sounds super but is visually appealing to young ones everywhere.

My Momma Zo- Kelly & Zoey Allen (authors), Tara O’Brien (illustrator), UCLan Publishing (publisher)

Happy families come in all kinds of shape and sizes and Molly’s includes Mommy Kel, Momma Zo, George her brother and Ziggy the dog.  They take trips to the beach and drive into the countryside. They support each other to be confident and happy.  Because Momma Zo wasn’t very happy before she became Momma Zo, when she used to be called Daddy.  This is an empowering story about families going through change and about how the family in the book support one another through the difficult, challenging times, as well as through the happy and joyful times.  It promotes kindness, inclusion, acceptance and belonging, as well as encouraging children (and adults) to remain open-minded and to nurture accepting behaviour. I love how it encourages children to look at what a person is really like on the inside and promotes a loving family relationship, the members of which support each other to feel more confident in their skin and to be comfortable in who they truly are.  The illustrations are glorious: a riot of colour and fun, adding joy and warmth to this eye-catching picture book.  Inclusive, relevant, promoting kindness, empathy and acceptance, this is wonderful resource to young readers and a great addition to any book shelf.

Miss Dotty’s Potty School – Tracey Corderoy (author), Ali Pye (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

Is your little one about to, or ready to, embark on their potty-training adventure?  If so, then this is the book for you!  Miss Dotty the dung-beetle runs Miss Dotty’s Potty School and she is here to show the animals in her class how to say goodbye to their nappies and hello to doing “pee-pees and poo-poos” in their potties.  Packed with humour and mishap, Miss Dotty tells the young animals all about the five stages of potty training, recognising that accidents do happen.  Packed with pee pee and poo poo, this laugh out loud book is perfect for sharing with your toddler as it explains the benefits of using the potty (particularly for poos, which can often be a sticking point (no pun intended!)) in the most gentle and encouraging of ways.  The illustrations are fantastic: warm, funny and adorable. The drawings of the young animals and the antics that they get up to make for such a fun and engaging read.  We love the injection of humour in the book – the pants on the head, the drawings of the different types of animal poo- and it serves to encourage little ones to want to use their potties.  Vibrantly colourful, gently encouraging, packed with humour and fun, this is a brilliant book to help children with their toilet-training journey.

Small Stanley’s Big List of Scary Stuff – Angie Morgan (author and illustrator), Otter-Barry Books (publisher)

Poor Small Stanley seems to be stuck in a world which is filled with really scary stuff. But Stanley wants to be brave.  He wants to be fearless, just like the superheroes in his books.  So, his granddad comes to the rescue and tells him to write a list of all the things he is scared of…. Like centipedes, and getting lost, and the dark, and monsters under the bed… and Santa.  The more he thinks about it, the longer his list grows and it seems to turn into an extra worry which means that he finds it hard to play with his friends and have fun.  Poor Stanley.  So, off he goes to see granddad again who comes to the rescue by suggesting a nice walk.  While they are out walking, whooooooosh, the wild wind blows the list right out of Stanley’s hand and it flies up, up and away!  Stanley realises that without the list, he can’t remember what he was scared of and off he goes to join in with the fun games with his friends.  Wild winds, great grandpas and fabulous friends are the antidote to conquering Stanley’s fears.  This is such a brilliant book for addressing lots of common childhood fears (quite a few of the fears on Stanley’s list resonate with my children) and dealing with them in a gentle, reassuring manner.  It’s a gorgeous story with a wonderful message about overcoming your fears and worries and not being afraid to talk about them with your friends and family.  We love Stanley’s helpful hints about fears on the final page of the book as they are encouraging and empowering for young readers.  The inter-generational relationship depicted between Stanley and his grandfather is gorgeous and we love how the text and illustrations work together on the pages of the book to make this a visual masterpiece.  The illustrations are fabulous: superb sketches filled with vibrant colour and emotion which bring to life the way that Small Stanley is feeling throughout the pages of the story.  A brilliant picture book about dealing with big emotions.

Chapter Books

Budgie – Joseph Coelho (author), David Barrow (illustrator), Barrington Stoke Ltd (publisher)

What a moving chapter book! We adored it!  Miles and his friend love climbing the trees outside their tower block.  Old Mr Buxton is always cross and shouting at them for doing so though so little does Miles realise that one day, he might have more in common with Mr Buxton than he realises.  One day, Miles finds a budgie, lost and alone, on the estate where he lives.  He manages to capture it and bring it inside to care for it, and even names it Pippin, but the budgie is old and fragile and, sadly, it passes away. Miles is devastated.  When Mr Buxton turns up on his doorstep, Miles is puzzled and doesn’t understand why…. But Mr Buxton has some things to tell Miles and the two of them form a beautiful bond, brought together by a budgie.  Dealing with the loss of a pet very sensitively and movingly, this book is absolutely beautiful.  Published by Barrington Stoke, whose books are tested for children by children, it is a superb chapter book: plenty of gaps between the paragraphs, short text blocks of story and lots of vibrant and beautiful illustrations interspersing the wonderful words. We also love the spot the difference on the back page of the book, as well as the short, fun facts about budgies at the beginning of the book (who knew budgies poo as often as every 20 minutes?!).  Poignant and yet uplifting, filled with friendship (in the most unlikely of places) and love, inclusive and relevant, this is a superb early chapter book and I can see it being an incredibly useful tool to help any child who has lost a beloved pet.

A Rabbit Called Clover – Helen Peters (author), Ellie Snowden (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Do you have a little animal lover at home?  Then this is THE series of chapter books for them!  This, the latest in this set of cute animal adventure books, is all about some mischievous escapologists: Dandelion and Clover, the rabbits.  Jasmine discovers all too quickly that it is not easy to try and rescue two young, frightened pet rabbits, especially when they have been enjoying their taste of freedom and sampling all the delicious food and vegetables around them!  Eventually Jasmine manages to catch the furry friends and takes them back to the farm to begin the hunt for their owners.  But Clover turns out to be a bit of an expert at digging and escaping and, by morning, the two rabbits have disappeared again.  Let’s hope grumpy Mr Morrison doesn’t catch them in his garden.  Or, worse still, that the fox doesn’t get them!  With the owners coming to pick up the fluffballs of fun later that afternoon, it’s a race against time for Jasmine to try and find them before they really come to some harm.  This is a sweet, exciting page-turner of a chapter book for animal lovers everywhere.  There are some fascinating facts about rabbits and guinea pigs interspersed throughout the storyline so your little reader will also learn a thing or two about these gorgeous pets as they read through the book.  The black and white illustrations are adorable – cute depictions of the rabbits and lovely scenes of the storyline are sketched throughout the pages, breaking up the text and making this book a visual delight as well. It’s a story that is filled with playful escapades of the sweet rabbits but also has family, caring for animals and others, friendship (at an intergenerational level) and empathy at its heart.  A brilliant addition to this chapter book series and definitely one for little animal lovers everywhere.

Middle Grade

The Starlight Stables Gang – Esme Higgs and Jo Cotterill (authors), Hannah George (illustrator), Puffin Books (publisher)

I don’t think words can do justice to how much the 11-year-old girl in me absolutely ADORED this book!  Yes, I am a huge horse fan and have been since the age of 11 but this book would appeal to any child who loves animal stories, mystery, or stories about friendship and fun.  In fact, I have a stack of middle grade books to read and yet, when this one arrived, I bumped it right up the list because I just knew I would adore it and so would my horse-mad eldest daughter!  And it does not disappoint.  Summer has just moved to the area and is lonely at her new school where she has not managed to make any friends.  Her best friend is a horse she walks past every day on her journey to school.  Summer dreams horses.  She would love to have a pony to ride and look after but riding and horses are expensive and they certainly don’t have the room in the one bedroomed flat her and her Dad share.  Summer meets Jessie one fortunate day.  Jessie owns her own horse up at the Starlight Stables and her and Jessie bond over their equine excitement and soon become firm friends.  Jessie takes Summer to see her pony, Angus, at the Starlight Stables and Summer is in heaven.  It’s a dream come true helping out and she even finds out the name of the pony she befriended on her walk to school: Luna.  But there is trouble in paradise when Luna gets stolen from the stables.  There’s a thief on the loose and Summer and her friends are seeing suspects round every corner.  It’s up to Summer and her friends to try and rescue Luna before it is too late for her. Will the Starlight Stables Gang succeed? I adored this first book in this brand-new animal adventure series from equestrian influencer Esme Higgs.  Yes, it’s an amazing animal adventure story but there are some weighty themes of complex family relationships, adults making bad choices, struggles with dyslexia, loneliness and familial responsibility.  There’s a diverse cast of characters and strong themes of inclusion, empathy, friendship, love and adventure which I think are well written in the story.  The Starlight Stables Gang creates a world that young animal-lovers everywhere will adore and my eldest is going to squeal with excitement when I hand it over to her.  We cannot wait for more in this excellent equine adventure series!  Five stars from us.

The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei – Christina Matula (author), Inkyard Press (publisher)

I feel like I have read so many amazing, five-star books during this last month.  And do you know what?!  This is another.  I absolutely adored it! Totally relatable to its target audience, brilliantly written, descriptively beautiful (I mean, I was literally drooling over all the tantalising food described in this book) and a genuine page-turner, it is a corker of a book!  Holly-Mei is so excited about moving across the world to Hong Kong for her mother’s new job.  She’s fallen out with her best friend and her life in Canada seems pretty miserable.  Compare that to the new life she will have, with a new school on the beach, a beautiful new apartment, her cousins on hand and glamorous new friends – everything is going to be just perfect straight away …. Right?!  Possibly not.  Despite her optimistic attitude, Holly-Mei misses her Ah-Ma, there seems to be a new set of rules and a hierarchy that she doesn’t understand, or like, and one of the most influential girls in her new school seems to have taken a dislike to her!  Will she be able to think before she speaks and listen to others?  Will she be able to see things from a different perspective so that she can form lasting friendships and enjoy the luxurious adventure that this part of her life now is?  This is a superb debut middle grade novel.  Full of humour, full of heart, full of friendship, soul-searching and self-discovery.  I can’t wait to read it with my eldest daughter because I know she is going to love it. The characters are brilliant: so relatable.  The writing is brilliantly descriptive: I am DYING to visit Hong Kong and my stomach was rumbling the whole time I was reading about the amazing food detailed (and we love the recipes at the back of the book for Ah-Ma’s dumplings and Millie’s Red Bean Creamsicles (going to have to give those a try if I can find the ingredients!!)).  Pure escapism.  We love it – take us there now! Out in paperback at the end of April.

Operation Banana – Tony Bradman (author), Tania Rex (illustrator), Barrington Stoke Ltd (publisher)

This is a fantastic, short middle grade book by publisher Barrington Stoke.  Printed on off-white heavier paper to reduce visual stress, with an accessible layout and spacing and unique font size, this is a brilliant book about the dark days of the Second World War in London. Susan is worried about her mum. She seems tired, and stressed and pretty miserable; she’s working long days at the factory and struggling with not hearing from Susan’s dad, her soldier husband, for months.  So, Susan decides that she needs to cheer her up.  She’s going to get her a treat: commence Operation Banana!  But everything is rationed during the war and German submarines are sinking essential supplies to England, so how is Susan ever going to get hold of something as luxurious and frivolous as a nice, yellow banana?!  This is a sweet story about life during the Second World War and the hardships that British citizens faced every day.  It seems incomprehensible to children today that even something as normal as a banana, or a bar of chocolate, would be seen to be luxurious but that is how life was.  This is a heart-warming, wartime story of family and love but which also does not gloss over the hardship and worry of life during the war.  There are plenty of amazing black and white illustrations interspersed throughout the pages of the story to help to bring the wartime tale to life.  We were also fascinated by the historical note at the back of the book, explaining more about the Second World War and also the information about how money used to be divided up (let’s just say, my eldest daughter and I were glad we didn’t live back then – pennies, shillings and pounds were not the easiest to calculate!!). A heart-warming and sweet historical read, we loved it.

The Great Fox Heist – Justyn Edwards (author), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

Flick Lions is amazing: a marvellous magician who can perform the most jaw-dropping illusions with the help of her accomplice Charlie and their mentor, the Great Fox.  This is the second book in the series, following on from the story of “The Great Fox Illusion” (which we haven’t read) and I think it would benefit readers to catch up with that one first, mainly so they can get the best out of this glittering world of magic and illusion.  Magicians love to hide answers, their whole lives in the spotlight are a trick, but Flick is an illusionist who needs answers.  She wants to find her missing father.  She doesn’t know where he has gone, she doesn’t know what to believe and she doesn’t know whether she can trust the Great Fox.  He seems only intent on winning a huge competition in Switzerland so he can become the new chancellor of the Global Order of Magic and is hiding things from Flick and Charlie.  In order to win the competition, Flick and Charlie must pull off an amazing heist: they have to steal some glittering, priceless diamonds from the vault of one of the most secure banks in the world!  Piece of cake then!  There is a deadly secret being kept hidden, danger lurks round every corner and things are not always what they appear to be.  Flick is up against the clock to pull off this amazing trick and to decide who she is going to believe.  Filled with mystery, magic and action-packed adventure, this is a fast-paced book which will have you turning the pages like cards in a magic trick.  We love style of writing and the structure of the book being set out like a magic trick and the step-by-step guide to performing an amazing card trick at the back of the book is a real winner in our house.  If you have a young magician in your house then this is the series for them.

My Life on Fire – Cath Howe (author), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Ren’s childhood home burns to the ground.  She has nothing left of her former life, other than her little brother, her Mum and her Dad. They are lucky to be alive.  But Ren feels anything but lucky. Mum and Dad are stressed and worn out dealing with insurance claims and business contracts.  The family have to move in with Gran, who is cross and grumpy and not used to sharing ‘her house’, especially with children.  Ren has to share a room with her annoying little brother Petie.  She is sad and cross: why does she have nothing when everyone else seems to have so much?  It seems like everyone else doesn’t even care about the possessions they own.  So, maybe, it won’t matter so much if Ren decides to take them …. They probably won’t even miss them…… maybe they even deserve to lose them …….?  Caspar loves to ask questions.  He notices things.  He’s a curious child.  So, when things start to go missing in class, Caspar notices.  He notices that Jake the artist’s nice fountain pen has been taken.  The whole class notices when Miss Chatto’s hairclip goes missing. He notices that Shabbir’s painted ladybird stone that makes him feel lucky has disappeared.  The burning question (pun intended!) is, what will Caspar do when he finds out who has been taking these precious items?  What will that do to Caspar and Ren’s friendship?  This is a poignant and insightful story which has you turning the pages of the book so quickly.  Written from the perspective of both Ren and Caspar, it is a superb insight into the minds of the characters and their thoughts and feelings.  Ren’s actions will make the reader feel uncomfortable at times whilst also encouraging them to empathise with her.  The ending is heart-warming and full of hope and serves as a reminder that true friends are genuine heroes and that they support us even when we are at our lowest point.  It’s a story about the consequences of our actions; it’s a story about loss, and sadness and anger; but it’s also a story about family, and friendship, and hope, and support.  Powerfully moving, written with honesty and insight, your reader will burn through the pages of this middle grade book.

Olly Brown, God of Hamsters – Bethany Walker (author), Jack Noel (illustrator), Scholastic (publisher)

Oh, I cannot tell you how much I adored this laugh out loud, uncomplicated middle grade read.  Just pure fun.  Olly Brown is hamster obsessed.  He is self-appointed school hamster welfare monitor (!) even though he has never been allowed to take the Year 6 hamster, Sharon, home himself because his dad is “allergic”.  Olly is also painfully shy, hates speaking in public, or to grown-ups, and only has one friend at school (Stan), so he is gutted when Stan volunteers him to help out with the end of year party meaning he will have to communicate with ‘Horrendous Hugh’.  One day, the most amazing thing happens: a cute little hamster with a black box around its middle shows up at Olly’s house anyway.  Olly soon learns to be careful what you wish for though because, soon, his house seems to be overrun by hundreds of hamsters.  And they seem to be really smart.  And also worshipping him?!  How can this be possible?  Where have they come from?  And what is he going to do about them?  And how is he ever going to help plan the Year 6 end of year party when he is dealing with all these secrets and stress?  Maybe he will be able to combine the two for an out of this world send off?!!   This book was like a tonic to my soul.  Hilariously funny, easy to read, fast-paced and extremely engaging.  I loved how fun it was, I loved the laugh out loud illustrations, I loved the communications from “Tibbles” the alien hamster to “Fluffy the 1000th”, his leader, I loved the humorous alien online chat, I literally loved everything about this book.  A five star, fluffy, fun read from me.  I can’t wait to read it again with my daughter.

Flock Horror – Jennifer Killick (author), Farshore (imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) (publisher)

Ok, so I am going to put it out there.  I am a bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to horror stories!  I will freely confess though, after reading this, I think I may have been missing out!  This is the third book in the Dread Wood thrilling horror story series and you can easily read it as a standalone book because you can quickly catch up on what has gone on previously and it doesn’t take a lot to realise that Mr and Mrs Latchitt are seriously creepy!!! Angelo and his friends have defeated some scary beasts in the past but, from the moment this book opens, you know that they are all in for another seriously spine-tingling ride.  Terror fills in the skies of Dread Wood in the form of beastly birds – huge, great, flapping, genetically-engineered, vampire birds!!!  I love birds but do not expect the tweeting, twittering, chirruping kind in this book.  The birds of this book are flocking, attacking, killer-beast kinda birds!  And they are programmed to maim Angelo, Hallie, Gus Naira and Colette (also known as Club Loser!)  when the Latchitts whistle the childhood rhyme, “Sing a song of sixpence…”   (eeek, even typing it is giving me the chills!).  The gang is really left fighting for their lives in this bloodthirsty, goose-bump-raising thriller of a chiller.  Can they all survive this flock of bloodthirsty beasts?  I couldn’t possibly tell you.  But what I can tell you is that you should really read this book (or, better still, all the books in this series).  Fast-paced, heart in mouth, spine-tingling, with a brilliant cast of characters, I adored this book.  I loved the interplay between the different characters, I loved the moments of humour; I loved the heart-in-mouth moments; I was terrified by the Latchitts and the creepy birds (pretty sure I will never quite look at birds in the same way, ever, ever again!!)…. It was just a thrilling ride of a book for me.  Five stars. 

The Boy Who Saved a Bear – Nirzana Farook (author), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Oooo, what an exotic book!  Taking your reader to the lush landscapes and amazing animal kingdoms of the island of Serendib, this is an action-packed animal adventure of the most wonderful kind.  Nuwan has always wanted people to think he is as responsible and trustworthy as his older brother so when he opportunistically gets the chance to do his brother’s job while he is sick, he seizes the chance with both hands.  He is supposed to deliver books to a monk in the King’s City but when he accidentally stumbles across a priceless historical artefact which has been switched out and stolen from the Queen, and the two criminals chase after him, he begins to realise that things might not be as straight-forward as he had planned.  As he hides from the criminals in a bear cave, his adventure becomes even more hair-raising.  The only way he can get out of the situation alive and without bringing shame on his family is to persuade a wild and seemingly ferocious bear to take the artefact to the Queen around her neck.  And so begins their perilous journey ……. Can the unlikely pair make it on time?  Will Nuwan stay safe?  And will he manage to keep the bear safe?  Action-packed and fast-paced, with a totally gripping narrative, I adored this marvellous middle grade.  You can almost feel yourself in the beautiful landscapes it describes with its lush wildlife and verdant greenery.  The story positively dazzles with the Sri-Lankan jungle and captivates the reader with its portrayal of remote island life which is seen as idyllic and dangerous all at the same time.  This is a thoroughly gripping adventure, with a twisty-turning narrative, that I couldn’t put down.  It’s uplifting, it’s empowering for readers, it’s a story of friendship and belonging, it’s a story of self-belief and confidence; it’s a story of wildlife and beauty: it’s a stunner of a book.  Perfect for any animal lover or budding adventurer.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe – Douglas Adams (author), Chris Riddell (illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

“The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” has been blasted out of this galaxy with the face-life it has been given in this sumptuously-illustrated edition drawn by Chris Riddell.  In case you were not aware, this book is the sequel to the huge hit science fiction comedy, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, but can easily be read as a standalone.  Arthur Dent, one of only two surviving humans from Earth, and the crew of the spaceship, the Heart of Gold, plan to have breakfast at Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.  They’ve done their six impossible things, so why not?! The only problem is that the universe seems to be conspiring against them: there’s just the tiny details of having been attacked by a Vogon fleet, Vogons escaping , trying to avoid being carried off to the most evil and villainous planet in the galaxy and, of course, not forgetting teaching the spaceship’s computer how to make a decent cup of tea!  Oh, and has anyone actually made a reservation?! With Douglas Adam’s zany and hilarious writing-style, sci-fi fans everywhere will love boarding this spaceship, on a galactic, gastronomic-filled fun adventure with the unforgettable characters of Arthur Dent,  Trillian, Zaphod Beeblebrox (President of the Galaxy) and Ford Prefect.  The writing style is out of this world, even if you have read this book before, you will be laughing out loud at the wit and dry humour of the hilarious details and descriptions that you missed previously.  The stunning black and white illustrations, which are plentifully dispersed throughout the pages, are filled with comedy and serve to bring to life this galivanting, galactic caper.  Perfect for sci-fi comedy fans everywhere, this book would make an out of this world gift.

Non-Fiction

Fanatical about Frogs  – Owen Davey (author and illustrator), Flying Eye Books (publisher), ages 7-9

Is your little one fascinated by frogs?  Want to be amazed by amphibians?  Then this is the book for you! The latest in this superb series of non-fiction books by author/illustrator Owen Davey, this book is a pond-full of information about these watery wonders.  My little boy has a t-shirt with different species of frog on it so I knew that he would adore this book and I was not wrong.  Written in an engaging style, this book covers everything you need to know about our friends, the frogs.  From croaking styles, to poison darts, warts and all are covered in the perfect amount of detail for the target audience (in fact, my little boy is only five but he gets a lot out of this book). There are so many fascinating facts – did you know that a red-eyed tree frog shakes his bum to win an argument?! (imagine humans doing that, I say to my twins – cue, much laughter!)- and they are presented in a brilliant format for the age range with lots of breaks in the text blocks of information and standout illustrations being used to reinforce ideas and information. There is so much we love about this book – there is a lot of humour, which can often be absent in fact books – but we adore, in particular, the page which details the actual size of various frogs so that the children can really put the information into context and visualise the comparisons.  The stunning and bold illustrations make up so much of this book and they are absolutely amazing: earthy colour-tones are used throughout bringing to mind swampy, damp regions that some frogs love and there is a vibrant explosion of colour when detailing the frogs of Central and South America, really bringing them to life.  A wonder of a work of non-fiction.  We certainly are fanatical about this fact book.

The Wild Life of Animals – Mike Barfield (author), Paula Bossio (illustrator), Buster Books (publisher), Ages 9-11

From the awesome author of the “A Day in the Life of Series” (my review of the latest of these is set out in my February book blog) comes this fun, fantastic work of non-fiction. Split out into sections – Woods and Forests, Grasslands, Mountains and High Places, Deserts, Polar Regions, Oceans, Rivers and Swamps, Nocturnal and Darkness and Urban Environment – this comic-style book contains creatures from all around the world and highlights some fascinating facts about them in the really wild comic strips.  The secret lives of these astounding animals are uncovered in the most unique of ways: each cartoon strip and story is from the animal’s own perspective, making for very funny reading.  So, whether your avid readers are learning about the cheeky Rhesus Macaque’s who steal food from humans, or finding out about the peeing habits of Fennec Foxes (!), or the insatiable appetite of a black bear, the graphic style of the book and the short paragraphs of information mean that this is done in such a relatable and fun format.  The bonkers behaviour of these cunning creatures is described in such a hilarious manner that you reader cannot help but soak up the contents of this book.  The illustrations are superb: quirky, humorous and filled with colour and vibrancy, really bringing to life the WILD life of these amazing animals detailed in the book.  The reading age of the book says that it is for 9 and above but my 7-year-old daughter adores this book, and her five-year-old twin siblings enjoy it too because it is so accessible. Some of their favourite creative creatures are the Arctic Woolly Bear Caterpillar (the ending is hilarious), the Narwhal and the Giant Panda.  The colourful cartoon style of the book makes it such a fun and engaging read that can easily be picked up and put down, dipped in and out of, and read and re-read.  Fun, fascinating, creative and colourful, a gorgeous guide to the really wild life of animals from the mouths of the animals themselves.  Perfect for any animal lover.

Ava Loves Rescuing Animals/ Pedro Loves Saving the Planet -Jess French (author), Duncan Beedie (illustrator), Happy Yak (imprint of the Quarto Group) (publisher) – Ages 4-7

The latest in this brilliant “Nature Heroes” series, these two books are fact-filled adventures simply brimming with animals and ideas.  “Ava Loves Rescuing Animals” is an amazing fact-filled, awesome adventures book bursting with beautiful animals that your young nature enthusiast will love.  Ava lives with her grandparents who run an animal rescue centre.  She takes your young reader through a list of essentials to take on a nature adventure walk and then, off you go, on your walk looking at amazing animals, following their footprints and even pondering poo!  It’s a day in the life of a girl who just adores animals and loves caring for creatures, big and small.  There are so many fascinating facts, in bite-sized blocks of texts, to keep your reader captivated.  There’s information about wild animals and pets, the life-cycle of a frog, different classifications of animal, record-breaking animals, their ecosystems, their homes and habitats and much, much more.  In “Pedro Saves the Planet”, we follow the story of a little boy who is excited about the environment, passionate about the planet and who encourages his friends to be just the same.  Pedro is a member of his school’s eco club and he spends the day at the eco-cabin and your little eco-warrior will learn all about a fantastic range of topics all to do with the planet.  They can learn about renewable energy, the seven “R”’s critical to helping the planet, how to recycle, learn how to sow seeds, discover terrific trees and their importance to the environment and much, much more.  Don’t forget to spot Mini the mouse, and Buzz the bumblebee in the respective books as you work your way through the books (and they have lots of funny asides too). The illustrations are gorgeous: bright, bold and beautiful images of the world we live in, the environment that surrounds us, and the animals that occupy the same space as us.  Any scientific ideas are brilliantly back up with lots of wonderful drawings which simplistically and superbly convey understanding and boost engagement with the words in the books. We love the final pages in each book which are hugely empowering for young children because they are all about how a child can become an animal nature hero and a planet-saver themselves.  These books ignite a passion for our planet and an adoration for its animals. They promote empathy, kindness, community-spirit and a love for learning.  What more could you want out of a book?!

Germs – John Devolle (author and illustrator), Pushkin Press (publisher) – Ages 4 plus

If you have been following this book blog for a while, you will know that we adore this series of books explaining scientific concepts to young minds.  The previous books – Atoms and Planets – are among some of our favourite non-fiction reads because they break down difficult to understand concepts and make them understandable and relatable to younger children.  This book is no exception.  It’s absolutely superb.  I am forever telling my little boy in particular to wash his hands after he has been to the toilet (sigh!) but this book explains why he needs to do that.  It also explains that there are lots of superheroes zooming round your body (antibodies) and this is so relatable to my superhero-mad twins.  It explains why you need to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and why you don’t pick things up off the floor/the inside of your pocket to eat!!  And it does so in the most humorous of ways.  It’s literally laugh out loud funny.  I know, right?!  A book about germs being belly-laugh funny.  Well, it is! I can’t finish without mentioning the illustrations.  They are superb.  Each two-page spread is vibrantly filled with superb drawings in the most eye-catching of colours.  This book is clever, it’s accessible, it’s fun, it promotes learning about STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths)… it’s a must for any little curious mind.*

*Or any parent sick of nagging their child about hand washing/covering your mouth when you cough/not licking windows ……. You know the drill.

What it was like to be a Viking – David Long (author), Stefano Tambellini (illustrator), Barrington Stoke Ltd (publisher)

Printed on off-white, heavier paper to reduce visual stress, with an accessible layout and spacing, and unique font size, this is a brilliant book about what it was like to be a Viking.  Is your child fascinated by the Viking way of life?  Or by their mythology? Or do they want to explore how the Vikings continue to influence our world today?  From the winner of the Blue Peter Book Award comes this wonderful work of non-fiction.  Split into ten chapters and interspersed with plenty of brilliant black and white (well, off white) illustrations, your young historian can learn about life on a Viking farm, the gods and goddesses they worshipped, as well as writing in runes, their raiding way of life, how they explored the world from Iceland to North America, and the legacy they have left behind, as well as many more fascinating facts.  Your little reader will learn that, yes, they were a terrifying force that rampaged the globe and changed history across the world, but they were so much more than that; they were adventurers and artists, skilled shipbuilders and metalworkers, farmers and fishermen, and healers and herders.  The illustrations are superb, really bringing to life what it must have been like back in the time of the Vikings and making this a really engaging read.  We particularly loved reading about the legacy that the Vikings have left behind, including the hundreds of place names in Britain that have Viking names – Scarborough in Yorkshire was once ruled by a Viking king, Skarth, hence the name.  Fascinating, thoroughly absorbing, a brilliant blend of text blocks of information with super illustrations, we love the format and content of this work of non-fiction.

Earth’s Incredible Places – Amazon River – Sangma Francis (author), Romolo D’Hipolito (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 stunning places in the world (and another area that I would LOVE to visit!) – the Amazon River.  This book is sumptuously illustrated in lush and verdant colours to showcase the fertile region and the sheer volume and size of a river which has a tiny beginning and a mighty end!   The book showcases its natural wonder and beauty in the most beautiful and eye-catching of ways.  Split into four sections – From Source to Sea, Wildlife of the Riverbank, People of the Rainforest and Life on the River – this book showcases a wealth of information and fascinating facts about this stunning and life-giving river.  Your young reader can explore the different types of water in the area and the water cycle, as well as the plant life that grows in the flooded forests.  They can explore in decadent detail the flamboyant and beautiful wildlife of the riverbank (including, my favourite, the pink river dolphin!), they can learn about the different civilisations, including the Inca empire, and they can be fascinated by life on the river itself. The illustrations in this book are just exquisite: on some pages there are large, vibrantly colourful spreads depicting the glorious landscape of the area and, on other pages, there are gorgeous and wonderfully detailed drawings of the wonderful wildlife of the area, 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, vibrant and lush, much like the region itself.  Short of being able to book a flight and visit the Amazon basin, this is the best way to learn about this amazing area: you really feel like you are taking a boat trip down the river, languidly meandering your way through the verdant landscape at times and rushing through rapids with jaguars snapping at the riverbank at others. If you are lucky enough to be visiting the region, this would be an amazing guide to take with you.  Extremely interesting, exquisitely illustrated, this is a wonderful work of non-fiction.

Thirty Trillion Cells  – Isabel Thomas (author), Dawn Cooper (illustrator), Welbeck Editions (part of Welbeck Publishing Group) (publisher) – 7 plus

This book is FASCINATING!! Do you know what you are made of?  Cells.  About thirty trillion of them (to me, that is an incomprehensible number!!).  And they all work together to form one perfect person: YOU!  Isn’t that mind-blowing?!  The building blocks of you are packed within these pages waiting for your reader to discover them and find out how their body really works.  Split into five chapters – from the basics of what is inside a cell, moving through the different cells in the body, to the different complex systems of the body, and how cells can go wrong and finally detailing the other trillions of tiny living creatures called microbes that also call your body home -this book is packed full of fascinating facts and superb illustrations.  Through the pages of this book, your reader can really begin to understand what an amazing beast their body actually is as they can learn how their body moves, how it breathes, how it grows, how it senses things, how it thinks and feels …..  Did you know that end to end, your blood vessels would wrap more than four times around the Earth?!!! Mind-boggling!  Or that your heart makes at least three billion beats (hopefully!) during a lifetime?  The information is set out in a brilliant format: there are lots of amazing illustrations on each two-page spread and the text blocks of factual information are interspersed across the pages, around the detailed drawings, meaning that this book is visually striking as well as being a jaw-dropping wealth of fascinating information.  It’s vibrantly illustrated so is visually appealing, it’s detailed, it’s extremely engaging and it packs a punch with its mind-blowing facts.  For any budding doctor out there, for any child fascinated in the human body, for any child wanting to get up close to the wonderful way our bodies work, then this is the book for them.  I have learnt so much!

The World That Feeds Us – Nancy Castaldo (author), Ginnie Hsu (illustrator), Words & Pictures (imprint of Quarto Group) (publisher) -7-11 years

This bright and beautiful work of non-fiction is all about discovering how our food is produced and where it comes from.  Exquisitely illustrated, educational and fact-filled, this charming book is a guide to sustainable farming all around the world.  Your young readers can discover how farmers grow the fresh and tasty food we eat, from rooftops in New York City to Hawaii and Italy and many more places around our globe. The book begins with a spread on what sustainable farming and green farming are so that your young readers can really understand the concepts involved. This fantastic work of non-fiction is then split up into sections based around the seasons – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter – so that your reader can see what happens in the farming community around the world at different times.  Whether it is chickens laying eggs in the Spring on the farm, or selling fresh food in an aeroplane hangar in Latvia in Summer, or apple harvesting around the world in Autumn, or selecting seeds in Winter, there is so much to see and absorb from this book.  It’s a brilliant book to dip in and out of and you will find yourself picking it up and reading sections at a time.  The way it is formatted is superb – short blocks of informative and educational text are surrounded by vibrant and utterly brilliant illustrations which bring the natural world and the food within it to life.  We love how the facts are mixed in with details like how to make your own apple sauce, or how to plant your own seeds indoors, or the different words used to describe animal noises across various different languages (mind-blowingly, many don’t even sound alike!!).  This book explores fascinating farms and the techniques that are used on them all around the world, including exploring high tech farm machinery such as farmbots.  It’s illustrated in bold, striking colours, it’s educational in an engaging and fun way, and it will take your reader on a journey around the world exploring the importance of food and where it comes from.

Above and Below – Sea and Shore – Harriet Evans (author), Hannah Bailey (illustrator), 360 Degrees (imprint of Little Tiger Group) (publisher)

What wonders lie beneath the waves?  Dive into the watery world of sea creatures and coastlines in this unique split-page, lift-the-flap book that will fascinate your little ones with fabulous fish, colourful coral and marvellous mangrove forests.  Each page of this wonderful work of non-fiction explores a different natural habitat -from the coastline with its fossils and puffins, to the kelp forests with its sea otters and leopard sharks, the coral reef, with its pufferfish and staghorn coral, to the deep sea, with its ancient Japanese spider crab to the fangtooth fish – and is packed with fascinating facts about the wildlife that live there.  Did you know that there are 10,000 different types of seaweed?  Or that coral reefs make up less than 1% of the ocean floor but contain about 25% of the known marine species?!  That makes them like the rainforests of the underwater world!   Your little readers can explore everything from the sandy shallows to the darkest depths of the world’s oceans and this is done in such a unique, engaging way as your reader can interact with the book by turning the split-page flap of the book to find out what is above and below on the sea and the shore.  We love how the factual information is split out into easy to digest chunks of text surrounded by exquisite artistry, making this an extremely engaging read.  Your reader can dip their toe in the water and read a section at a time, or devour the book in one go, it’s entirely up to them.  The illustrations are sublime: stunning works of art depicting the wonderfully water-filled environments in the most beautiful detail.  A show-stopper of a book.

Activity Books

Wipe-Clean Easter Activities – Usborne Publishing Limited (publisher) – ages 3 plus

Do your little ones like engaging, wipe-clean, activity books?  We love these types of books in our house because they are so useful to have fun with to develop fine motor skills (particularly with twins – one has a go and then we rub it out and the other has a turn – win, win!!). This delightful book is filled with brilliant Easter-themed activities which will develop skills in pencil grip and control, as well as encouraging your little one to develop their maths, problem solving, counting and observational skills.  Whether it is solving mazes, spotting the differences, joining the dots, drawing details, matching pairs, or tracing over numbers and pictures, this book has lots of brilliant activities to keep your little ones entertained.  The pages are laminated making them wipe-clean and the special pen is provided meaning that your child is all set to start having fun.  The illustrations are joyful, vibrant and very sweet, making for an engaging activity book: perfect to keep children entertained during the holidays, particularly with its gorgeous Easter theme.  Be sure to pack it if you are going away this Easter!

Easter things to make and do – Usborne Publishing Limited (publisher) – ages 3 plus

Who doesn’t love a gorgeous craftivity book, filled with wonderful, seasonal ideas?!  This beautifully bright springtime book has some eggs-quisitely charming craft ideas for younger children, as well as some sweet activities to do, all based around the Easter theme.  There are blossom finger print pictures to do, tulip cards to make, egg decorations to paint, cress heads to grow, fluffy lamb pictures to make, brilliant bunny hats to craft, egg box Easter chicks to make and so much more.  It’s a superb book for children to have fun with, crafting and busying themselves trying to make things from every day materials and bits that you have around the house.  The illustrations are adorable, lots of pictures of cute, springtime animals adorn the brightly coloured pages and make this as visually appealing as it is packed with fun ideas for the children.  It would make an amazing present as an alternative to a chocolate egg for the little one in your life this Easter.

Poetry Books

Wonder – The Natural History Museum Poetry Book – chosen by Ana Sampson, Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

Ooooo, not only is the cover of this book exquisite (and, yes, I am THAT person: I am often guilty of literally judging a book by its cover) but the inside is just as fantabulous. The poems found inside this treasure trove of a book are inspired by the wonders found in the Natural History Museum.  How awesome is that?!  Much like the awe-inspiring museum itself, this awesome anthology is split into sections or themes – behind the scenes at the museum, space, earth, plants, fossils and dinosaurs, birds, creepy crawlies, mammals, reptiles, oceans and rivers and human evolution and biology – and brings to life the objects and specimens contained within the museum.  Each section has an introduction and there are footnotes about particularly interesting species so your child is also learning while they read.  There are beautiful black and white illustrations of some of the engravings, paintings, sketches and botanical drawings from the museum’s collection which mean that this book is a visual delight as well as being an auditory delight for the senses when you read the poems out loud.  If your child loves wildlife and the environment, is fascinated by nature and our incredible planet then this poetry collection is just for them.  It celebrates our wonderful world and inspires us to try and protect it through the gorgeous poetry contained within it.  There are modern and classic poems mixed in together with verses by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Robert Macfarlane, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, William Blake, John Milton and many, many more. You can dip in and out of it, or curl up with a hot chocolate and a read away until your heart’s content. It would make a wonderful gift for any poetry lover, any animal lover, any planet lover, or anyone with a passion and curiosity for the natural world. It’s a beauty of a book. 

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

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