Reading Resolutions for Kids

Reading Resolutions for Kids
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Have you made any resolutions this year?  How about for your children?  To get out and about more?  To read more?  To enjoy life to the full?  Well, if you have made a resolution that you are trying to read more with your children, or to encourage them to pick up a book but you are struggling to know what is around at the moment then look no further because I am here to help!  There are some FANTASTIC books being published this year and there are some spectacular ones already out or being published this month.  Take a look below and see if there is something which catches your imagination…. 

Board Books 

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You Are So Loved – Isabel Otter (text), Lynn Giunta (illustrator), Caterpillar Books (imprint of Little Tiger Group) (publisher) 

Oh my!!! If you are looking for a book to brighten up your entire year then look no further!! Never mind this being a book for little children, I would happily gift this book to every adult and child I know because everyone deserves such a wonderfully cheerful and positive book in their lives.  Each two-page spread in this sturdy board book is full of colour and life and vibrancy, from the adorable illustrations to the wonderfully impactful words.  With phrases such as, “Choose happiness and your joy will echo back to you”, which will empower you and your little ones, this book has been created to uplift and brighten your day.  Created with beautiful paper-cut artwork in the most vibrant and uplifting of colour-tones, this book, with its adorable affirmations, is guaranteed to spread joy and happiness, wherever your little one takes it.  I would love to be able to get these spreads printed to place all around our playroom.  This is a gem of a book which shines as brightly as the heartfelt messages it contains. 

Bizzy Bear- Chinese New Year – Benji Davies (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Does your little one love Bizzy Bear books?  This, the latest in the series, is a visual delight of colour, traditions and fun.  Your young child can join in the celebrations for the Chinese New Year with Bizzy Bear and his friends.  Each sturdy page of this board book has a superb interactive element to really engage your little reader with the fun and celebrations.  They can push up the sliders and watch the fireworks burst into the sky, they can spin the wheel to make the delicious meals on the table pass between different family members, and they can pull the tabs to watch the colourful dragon run through the streets, and so much more.  There’s a riot of colour and fun on every page and there is so much to see, comment on and explore together in this robust little book.  Add to all of this, the sweet, rhyming text which accompanies the adorable illustrations and you can see why this book is such a brilliant board book to explore the celebrations of the Chinese New Year with the very young.  Interactive, vibrant and fabulously fun, another brilliant Bizzy Bear book.

Don’t Mix Up My Dinosaur – Rosamund Lloyd (author), Spencer Wilson (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher) 

Interactive, fun and filled with dinosaur drawings, what’s not to love about this mix and match board book?!  Which dinosaur will be your little one’s favourite?  There are five mix and match touchy-feely options to choose from and your little one can get their fine motor skills working by turning the chunky wheel to find the appropriate body part for each brightly-coloured dinosaur.  What will the horn of the triceratops look and feel like?  How about the tail for the Velociraptor? Or the crest for the Parasaurolophus?  Your little ones can learn about dinosaurs in the most fun and interactive of ways through this bright and beautiful book.  Each chunky two-page spread is filled with a riot of colour and the drawings of the dinosaurs are fun and engaging.  Your little one can even make up their own dinosaur by mixing and matching different options and I am sure that much hilarity will ensue.  This is a fabulously fun board book and is perfect for little dinosaur lovers everywhere. 

Picture Books 

Frank and Bert -The One Where Bert Learns to Ride a Bike – Chris Naylor-Ballesteros (author and illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

We ADORE Frank and Bert!!  When I told my twins that a new book had come through the post for us to review, there was much excited squealing and cries of “Where is it, Mummy?!”  I don’t know whether my twins love Frank and Bert so much because they are quite similar in personality to the loveable pair, or whether it is because the author manages to portray such relatable and fun characters, but every time I open the books, they are a guaranteed a giggle.  In fact, I think my twins found this book more hilarious than the first (and I would have to agree).  Frank and Bert are going on a long bike ride.  But, the trouble is that Bert is not so *great* at riding his bike.  He wibbles and he wobbles and often ends up falling over or causing mayhem around him! Maybe Frank can help his friend?  Or maybe he won’t get it right and he will let him down?  Maybe, just maybe though, they will both learn that you can do anything if you know that your friend is right behind you.  We absolutely love this laugh out loud animal adventure.  The story is such a heart-warming one and has the most adorable message of supportive friendship and love.  The ending is absolutely hilarious but, ssshhhhh, no spoilers here, you will just have to get hold of a copy to find out what happens.  With its gorgeous pastel colours and pops of neon in the adorable and funny illustrations, I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed if you do.  Long may the adventures of these lovable, bestest buddies continue… we will be right there cheering them both on.

The Kiss  – Eoin McLaughlin (author), Polly Dunbar (illustrator), Faber & Faber Ltd (publisher)

Awww, what a heart-warming book.  Tiger is feeling sleepy, as sleepy as can be.  So sleepy in fact that only one thing could help……. A goodnight kiss.  Crocodile is also feeling sleepy, as sleepy as can be.  So sleepy in fact that only one thing could help…. A goodnight kiss. They each try to find an animal who will help them out and give them those snoozy bedtime cuddles and kisses but none of the other animals seems to want to help!  Sob.  Maybe it is those fierce claws or sharp teeth that is putting them off.    Then, they each see a sharp-toothed shadow coming towards them…… aargh!!!  What could it be?  Don’t worry, it’s nothing scary, it’s just Daddy Crocodile and Mummy Tiger coming to kiss their little ones night, night.  This is such a fun and clever flip-book story.  We love how Baby Tiger and Baby Crocodile meet in the middle to snuggle down with their parents for a good night of sleep.  It is such a snuggly story (although we do feel a little sorry for Baby Croc and Baby Tiger when no one wants to kiss them!) with the most adorable ending – in the middle of the book!  It is a gentle, sweet story which also subtly teaches children about blended families and finding kindred spirits.  The illustrations are absolutely adorable throughout and we love the soft palette of colours used through the pages which subtly calms and encourages a restful night of sleep.  A fun, unique, flip-over book.

A Pinch of Love – Barry Timms (author), Tisha Lee (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

What a gorgeous book!!  Lashings of love, oodles of warmth and colour and wonderful rhyming words make this one of our new favourite picture books of 2023.  It’s also a brilliant book to do some picture book play with and we have been baking and making love hearts for each other all morning which has been just adorable.  This really is the sweetest book about a boy and his grandmother who share a love of baking.  They share a loving family home and inject love and care into all that they bake but they want to spread this joy to the community.  Can they add an extra bit of love and warmth into other people’s lives?  We adore the powerful message about love conquering all … whether that love takes the form of helping out a neighbour, or a friend, or anyone you meet…. It can really help to lift a person up and make their day better.  We adore the rhyming text which makes this book such a superb read-aloud, together with the vibrant and colourful illustrations which are uplifting just to simply look at.  The adorable drawings of the people and the love portrayed through these pictures is just joyful.  The messages of kindness, sharing, community spirit, empathy and, above all, love, make this a very special book and there are so many topics of conversation you can have with your children about it.  If there was something you could do to make a difference to someone’s day, what would it be?  Who might need a little pinch of love in their life this week?  We have much more than a pinch of love for this book.  We have trayfuls!

Mr. Men, Little Miss Series – Finding Calm and Feeling Sad – Farshore (publisher) 

I have written before about this fantastic new series exploring children’s mental and emotional health and wellbeing and I can’t recommend them highly enough.  These are the two newest titles in the series which uses the fun, well-known characters from the Mr. Men and Little Miss series to help children understand more about their own emotions and to help encourage discussions around the way that they are feeling.  “Find Calm” is a fantastic book about mindfulness (my twins adore this because they go to ‘mindfulness club’ at school and were very excited when I read this title out loud!!) and follows the story of Little Miss Busy who has taken on a little bit too much.  And she does not feel calm (I can relate, Little Miss Busy!!).  Can Mr Calm pass on some hints and tips to help Little Miss Busy breathe and take in the moment?  “Feeling Sad” is a book about coping with sadness.  It follows the story of friends Little Miss Curious and Mr Jelly who try to lift each other’s mood when the other one is feeling down.  Each book has engaging questions at various points throughout the story to encourage conversations between you and your little one and there are tips at the back of the book on how to read the books with your child.  Sensitive and engaging, full of gorgeous illustrations and bright colours, these books are a wonderful tool to read with your child at any time, in particular if they are experiencing these emotions. 

I Love You Forever and a Day – Amelia Hepworth (author), Tim Warnes (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher) 

From the creators of “I Love You to the Moon and Back” comes this heart-warming story of love and laughter.  If you could imagine a day for you and your little one, what would it be like?  Would you be outside in nature?  Would you be snuggled up together reading at bedtime?  This gorgeous tale follows the perfect day of a parent and child bear through the adorable artwork depicted on each page which combines with the gentle lilt of the rhyming story to make this one of the sweetest picture books of the season.  Each two-page spread is filled with heartfelt illustrations of the most adorable kind, and wonderful words about the day that parent and child are enjoying together.  There is such fun, colour and love portrayed on each page through the drawings, the colour-tones used and the rhyming words.  It’s a celebration of the most magical moments of love and life and laughter than can exist between a parent and their child and makes a wonderful story to read aloud at bedtime to calm your child down and make them feel surrounded by love and family.  A perfect picture book. 

I Really, Really Love You So – Karl Newson (author), Duncan Beedie (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher) 

We have a lot of love for this story!  From the creators of “I Really, Really Need a Wee” comes this super-sweet story all about saying “I love you”.  How do you show someone that you love them?  By writing it in the snow on the tallest mountain?  Or by wrestling a crocodile? Or how about by building them a rocket?  Bush Baby is back in this gorgeous sequel exploring the perfect ways to show how much he loves someone special. He even tries copying other animals.  Who is it that he wants to tell how much he loves and will he be able to show them?  We love this humorous rhyming story.  It’s full of fun and jam-packed with the most adorable illustrations (Bush Baby’s eyes on the final few pages just melt our hearts) and colourful pages.  It’s the perfect book to snuggle up with your little ones and read and enjoy those cuddles.  If it is not too early to mention it, it would make a lovely gift for Valentine’s Day if you celebrate it.  Bringing us some heart-warming joy in a wet and rainy January, this gorgeous rhyming story is a lovely read aloud and has prompted some hilarious discussions with my twins about how you show someone you love them (one of them said “by wiping their bum!” (sigh!)).

Blue – Sarah Christou (author and illustrator, Faber & Faber Ltd (publisher)

January can be a tough month for children as well as adults.  They have just (hopefully) had a lovely time over the Christmas period, celebrating with family and friends, and often they can struggle going back to school or nursery after such quality time.  In fact, my little boy didn’t want me to leave him at drop off this morning because he was worried he might miss me!!  This warm hug of a book encourages children to open up about how they are feeling and to discuss it with others. The little girl in the book carries around a secret… it’s big, and blue and monster-like and it prevents her from joining in and makes her feel all twisty and scared inside.  Soon, however, she realises that “Blue” does not have to be a monster and that he doesn’t have to be kept a secret.  If she opens up and talks to her friends and family about how she is feeling then things don’t seem to be quite so bad.  The story has a wonderful message of self-acceptance and courage as it allows children to recognise their own feelings and share them with others.  It’s a gentle read with gorgeous illustrations in muted colour-tones which enhance the soothing feel of the book.  Perfectly accessible for its target audience, it is a wonderful book to begin discussions with your little reader on different emotions and the colours that they feel go with those emotions. 

Pick a Story – A Dinosaur and Unicorn and Robot Adventure – Sarah Coyle (author), Adam Walker-Parker (illustrator), Farshore (publisher)

This is the second title in this pick your own picture book adventure series and we were really looking forward to it because we adored the first book.  If anything, we love this book even more because my boy/girl twins seem to really relate to the three fun-filled worlds of this pick a story book.  If you have not come across this type of book before, there are decisions for your little reader to make on each page, making them masters of their own stories and taking them on a fun-filled whirlwind of an adventure of their own choosing.  It is so interactive and so much fun because each time you read the story it can be different because there are so many different story arcs.  I mean, what is not to love about a bright and beautiful picture book which combines such favourites as unicorns, robots and dinosaurs?!  From the very first page, your little one has to choose what to do when we find out that Gwen’s cake has gone missing.  It’s a superb book to read when you are reading to more than one child too (like me!) because they can take it in turns to decide what happens next and where the adventure will take us.  There are so many options, so many challenges, so much adventure.  When you combine that with the gorgeous illustrations which are bold and bright and pop out of the page at you to bring the adventure to life even more, you can see why this  book will be such a favourite with young children everywhere.  We were sucked into the adventure right from the cover page with it’s vibrant illustrations and rainbow foil font.  What a winner.  We hope you enjoy it too.

A Pack of Your Own – Maria Nilsson Thore (author and illustrator), Pushkin Press (publisher)

This is a heart-warming, funny story all about friendship and fitting in in a dog’s world.  A lonely little sausage dog dreams of having a friend and being part of the pack but feels left out and thinks that the other dogs are just so strange.  Who wants to sniff other dog’s bottoms?  Why do they always run around on all fours?  Why don’t they love coffee and crosswords?  One day though, after another unsuccessful trip to the park, the little sausage dog finds that a friendly poodle turns up on the doorstep. A poodle who isn’t exactly the same as the sausage dog but who just wants to have fun, wag tails and be friends.  This is such a sweet book which emphasises in the most adorable way, through the thoughts and feelings of the little sausage dog, that the best way to fit in is to just be yourself.  It celebrates differences, friendship, fun and love through its beautifully illustrated pages.  The drawings are exquisite – perfect pencil-strokes of detail and genius which perfectly bring to life the humour, fun and friendship in the story.  For any little animal lover out there, this would be a gorgeous addition to their bookshelves.  Amazing artistry and wonderful words, I would happily display it on my coffee table!

What the Macaw Saw – Charlotte Guillain (author), Sam Usher (illustrator), Welbeck Editions (imprint of Welbeck Children’s Limited) (publisher)

What a beautiful book!  It follows the life of a stunning scarlet macaw as she is born, grows up and begins to raise her own family in the Amazon rainforest.  What does she see? She sees the verdant, lush rainforest destroyed by wildfires, roads and deforestation; she sees poachers come to take chicks from their nest.  But she also sees humans who appreciate the wildlife and the beauty of nature and who try to protect chicks.  She wonders what her chicks will grow up to see?  So do we.  This is a gorgeous rhyming story which educates young readers about the rainforest and the threats to the wildlife there.  It’s heart-felt and emotional and yet ends on a hopeful note and encourages the reader to want to protect the beauty of nature.  The illustrations are exquisite, truly doing justice to the beauty, vibrancy and splendour of the rainforest and these beautiful birds.  We adored not only the lyrical story but the fabulous facts provided in the final few pages of the book.  There are gorgeous two-page spreads detailing all about the scarlet macaw, the threats to these beautiful birds (including a marvellous map) and also information on how children can help by being a friend to the rainforest and also helping closer to home, by being a local ‘wildlife hero’.  Inspirational, impactful, stunningly visual with a storyline which packs a punch, this is a very special picture book.

Chapter Books and Early Readers 

Blanksy the Street Cat – Gavin Puckett (author), Allen Fatimaharan (illustrator), Faber & Faber Limited (publisher) 

This book is perfect for those children transitioning from picture books to early reader books.  Written entirely in rhyme, this hugely entertaining story follows the tale of a street cat and his friend, Pete the busker.  Pete and his cat go busking together, whatever the weather, to spread a little joy and happiness to the people in cities around the country.  But Blanksy gets frustrated that people are not stopping to listen to his friend and begins to use his amazing artistry to paint murals and draw bigger and bigger crowds to make his friend rich and famous.  But is money really what makes Pete happy?  And is fame really worth it after all?  This is a heart-warming story with a wonderful message.  My twins have adored it:  this is perfect for them because, at five, it is just the right length to hold their interest and they loved the rhyming story which is so easy to read aloud.  Each page has black and white illustrations which are engaging and humorous and really keep a child’s interest in the story.  The font used is dyslexia-friendly and the layout is wonderful: not too much text crammed on the page (which can be hugely overwhelming for an early reader).  This is a fantastic feline caper, perfect to read aloud and great fun to share with the little reader in your life. 

Puppy Club – Coco Settles In – Catherine Jacob (author), Rachel Saunders (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher)

Being dog-mad in our house, we loved the first book in the series of ‘Puppy Club’ so we were like the proverbial dog wagging its tail excitedly when we found out there was a new one in the series!  Although we have read the first book, you could very easily read this one as a standalone, although we would thoroughly recommend going back to read book number one.  This story follows another member of the Puppy Club – Elsa.  Elsa and her friends are all puppy mad and have formed a club which is the perfect place for them to exchange puppy facts, share stories and test their puppy knowledge.  They each have one of the litter of puppies from Lulu, a dog from the Underdogs rescue centre.  Elsa adores her puppy, Coco, but her two cats, Lupo and Juno, are not so keen and it is stressing out the entire family.  The puppy club come up with some great ideas for the animals to bond but with Milo, Elsa’s brother, leaving his items all around the house for Coco to chew and forgetting to close doors, Elsa is worried her mum will want to return Coco.  Added to that, the puppy club have a big school project to pull off.  Can they manage it and will ‘Operation Friendship’ be a success?  This book has been a huge hit in our house.  It’s the perfect chapter book for dog enthusiasts as it is filled with fun facts about puppies and dogs (including a very useful list of toxic foods for dogs).  The black and white illustrations are adorable, with lots of doggy drawings of cute puppies and sweet shared puppy clubber moments.  My daughter also loves the quiz at the back of the book and the ‘how to draw a puppy’ section.  Amazing for animal lovers, this is a fun, informative, sweet chapter book with gorgeous illustrations and fun activities.  What’s not to love?!

Lizzie & Lucky -The Mystery of the Disappearing Rabbit – Megan Rix (author), Tim Budgen (illustrator), Puffin Books (publisher)

Did you know that a group of rabbits in the wild is a called a ‘fluffle’?  How cute!!  Or that Houdini, the greatest escape artist in the world, learnt both British and American sign language and used them when he performed for Deaf audiences?  What a legend!  Written by Megan Rix, who draws on her own experiences from living with partial deafness, this wonderful chapter book features Lizzie, a young girl who is growing up with hearing loss, and her adorable dalmatian pup, Lucky.  This is the first in the series that we have read and we adored it.  When Lizzie and Lucky go off to a magic show to watch the Astonishing Lady Azeena and her rabbit Rudy, strange goings on start to unfold.  During the performance, Rudy goes missing mysteriously and it is up to Lizzie and Lucky, the detective duo, to put their skills to the test and try and solve this mystery.   Can they get to the bottom of who stole the rabbit and why?  With its gorgeous black and white illustrations which are interspersed plentifully throughout the text and its larger font size, this is a super chapter book for animal loving adventurers.  We love the tips on how to keep your bunny happy at the end of the book, as well as the activities on how to be a detective.  What we really adored, however, were the pages on British sign language and using that to spell out words set out in the book.  We will certainly be hunting out the other books in this animal loving detective duo adventure series.

Two Sides -Polly Ho-Yen (author), Binny Taleb (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Ltd (imprint of Little Tiger Group) (publisher)

We adore these gorgeous full colour illustration chapter books because they are the perfect books to transition from picture books with your little one.  Each page is filled with bold and bright colours and the text is split out into manageable sized-chunks and different font sizes for your reader to engage with.  This sweet story follows the tale of Lulu and Lenka.  Lulu and Lenka are complete opposites – Lulu likes talking; Lenka likes observing and drawing; Lulu loves dogs while Lenka adores cats – but they complement each other and they are best friends.  Until the day when they are not. One day, Lulu forgets to return Lenka’s coloured pencils which she borrowed for a surprise for Lenka.  Lenka becomes cross and upset and the two girls end up not speaking to each other or playing with each other.  They are both horribly sad about it but they don’t know what they can do.  Will it stay that way forever?  Happily not, I am pleased to report! This is such a sweet, relatable story, particularly for its target audience – my twins are often coming home saying things like “X says he’s not my friend anymore” – and it not only explores the bonds of friendship and love but it also celebrates differences too.  The illustrations are gorgeous: adorable depictions of the characters involved and the emotions that they are experiencing.  A wonderful book about kindness and friendship for those seeking something a little longer than a picture book or beginning their independent reading journey.

There’s a Beast in the Basement!  – Pamela Butchart (author), Thomas Flintham (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Izzy and her schoolfriends are puzzled by the headmaster, Mr Grave’s behaviour. One minute he is crawling the corridors on his hands and knees, the next he is crying in assembly.  I mean, that’s weird behaviour even for a teacher, right?!  Not only that but there are strange noises coming out of the school’s dark and dingy basement.  It sounds kind of like….. a monster growling.  But surely not!  Izzy and her friends just have to find out what is going on.  They will do anything.  Even team up with Gary Petrie in their class! The friends soon realise that they may have misjudged the jokey Gary – he’s a bibliophile and an inventor in his spare time (!)  – and he invents a cat cam to strap to his family pet to find the answers to what is lurking at the bottom of the basement!  Is it truly the horrific beast they all imagine? Or is treasure to be found?!  With plenty of laugh out loud moments and twists and turns in the funny, suspenseful plot, we loved this hilarious chapter book.  Although we have only read another book in this series (and this is the thirteenth book about Izzy and her friends), we thought this book could easily be read as a standalone, because you don’t need any background to follow the fun and humour of this book.  We adored the brilliant black and white illustrations, which are plentiful and add even more hilarity to the story.  The font is easy to follow and friendly to those who struggle to read large chunks of text in one go because it is broken up into different sizes and capital letters, drawings and underlining are all used at various points to emphasise words in the fun plotline.  It’s fast-paced, it’s humorous, it’s filled with cheese and onion, treasure and cats and it makes a fabulously fun read for the little chapter book reader in your life.

Middle Grade Books

Mort the Meek and the Perilous Prophecy – Rachel Delahaye (author), George Ermos (illustrator),  Little Tiger (publisher)

We really enjoyed the humour and fun of the other Mort the Meek book that we have read and so my eldest daughter and I were really keen to get our hands on a copy of this one for review.  Now I have read it, I cannot wait for my daughter to because I know she is going to love it.  Mort lives in Brutalia, a hideous and ferocious place ruled by a suspicious and fearsome Queen.  Which is something of a problem if you are a pacifist like Mort.  The Queen has been forewarned (by way of the soup-sayer!) of enemies attacking the shores of Brutalia so when two visitors, Vita and Genio, turn up on the island one day from tropical lands afar, Mort is really rather worried.  Mort and his best friend (and fellow pacifist), Weed, are sent to the tropical island of Bonrock to investigate.  It seems such a peaceful, luscious kind of a place – surely there is no need to worry?!  But maybe there is trouble in paradise after all?  With its hilarious rat jokes (who knew rodents could be so funny?!) and side-splittingly funny asides, I adored this book.  It’s entertaining, it’s engaging, the adventure is fast-paced and it is so humorous that I really didn’t want to put it down.    The illustrations are superb: black and white creations providing yet more humour and fun to an already brilliant storyline.  We also love the fact that there are lots of lists and changes in font size and breaks in the text to make this a visually engaging read as well.  My daughter (who is 7 (and a half – that’s important, you know!) is going to love it; the light-heartedness, the frivolity, the fun of the characters…..  We can’t wait for more adventures with Mort.

Monster Hunting – Monsters Bite Back – Ian Mark (author), Louis Ghibault (illustrator), Farshore (publisher)

Go and hunt this book out!! It’s a five-star read for us! We would expect nothing less because adored the first book in the series.  You can absolutely read this second book as a standalone but I would highly recommend you go and find a copy of the first book.  “Monsters Bite Back” is an absolute hoot: it’s side-achingly funny, filled with brilliant black and white illustrations and guaranteed to get a giggle from your little readers.  In this seriously fun adventure, Jack, his best friend Nancy and his 200-year-old monster-hunting mentor, Stoop, head off to the wilds of Scotland to help out the Sisters of Perpetual Misery.  These poor nuns (and queue every nun joke you can think of!) have been plagued by some mischievous monsters who are terrorising their abbey.  Jack, Nancy and Stoop have to fight off all manner of monsters causing mayhem along the way – there are fog goblins, strange loch monsters, grumpy ghosts, and naught noggles – whilst also trying to stop a curse coming true and contending with a rival monster-hunting agency! Phew!  All in a day’s work for a monster hunter!  We adore this book.  We love the writing style, with all its brilliantly funny asides and its extracts from the Monster Hunting for Beginners Manual.  We love the illustrations which are many and frequent, and are laugh out loud funny, enhancing the wonderful words of the hilarious story. It’s fast-paced, it’s rip-roaringly funny, it’s wonderfully written, it needs to be hunted down and devoured by your little reader (and then you!).  I hope you get your hands on a copy.

Alice Éclair  Spy Extraordinaire – A Spoonful of Spying – Sarah Todd Taylor (author), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

We were so excited when this, the second book in the series, dropped onto our doormat for review because my eldest daughter and I absolutely loved the first book all about Alice, a talented baker by day and spy by night!  In this book, your reader can get ready to take flight and soar to new heights of excitement as Alice’s most recent spy mission sees her at the World Fair in Paris trying to uncover what has led to the disappearance of a missing agent and France’s top aeroplane engineer.  Alice works tirelessly by day to try and gain the trust of some of France’s most elite fashion designers but she has to try and figure out how fashion, aeroplanes and her love of baking can all come together to solve the mysteries for the greater good of France, rather than her acting on some half-baked plan!  Making friends along the way and trusting her instincts, will she manage to discover what is going on?  With lashings of glamour, spoonfuls of spying (hence the title!), plenty of peril and a large dash of adventure and danger, this book is the perfect recipe for any adventure-loving reader to delve into.  We adore the strong female characters in the book, from Alice herself who is an expert baker and spy, to Eva her motorcycling loving model friend, to Sophie, Alice’s incredibly talented young engineer friend.   The plot is fast-paced, full of the perfect blend of fun, fashion and science, and extremely addictive reading.  Chefs hats off for this superb sequel.  We hope for many more in the series.

 The Wildstorm Curse – Eve Wersocki Morris (author), Hodder & Stoughton (publisher)

I was captivated by this book.  And also terrified.  But in the very best of ways! When thirteen-year-old Kallie goes off to summer camp in the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside, she finds out the The Wildstorm Theatre Camp is not as idyllic as it first looks.  Kallie dreams of being a playwright and has won a place at the theatre camp and is determined to enjoy herself and not let her insecurities surrounding her self-worth and her dyslexia get in the way of that.  But almost as soon as Kallie arrives, she realises that some strange and scary things are afoot and she begins to wonder whether they have anything to do with the play that the theatre group is supposed to be performing at the end of the week.  A play by a seventeenth century so-called witch, Ellasabet Graveheart.  But as Kallie and her friends begin to realise, sometimes, there are bigger and scarier beings than witches…. A dark and dangerous creature has awoken and is determined to wreak revenge on Ellsabet’s descendant, putting Kallie, the village, the theatre and all her friends at risk.  Will Kallie be able to find the words to save her new friends?  Suspenseful, spine-tingling and brilliantly bewitching, I adored this fast-paced adventure by Eve Wersocki Morris.  It is a wonderful work of witchcraft, mixing magic with suspenseful shadows and dangerous demons and pitching them against a backdrop of heart-warming friendship, courage, determination and the positive power of words.  It’s not for the faint-hearted – I genuinely had adrenaline coursing through my veins at various points in this book because I was scared (but I loved it!) – but it is truly gripping and absolutely unputdownable.  Another spellbinding story from this author.

Albi – The Glowing Cow Boy – Georgia Byng (author), cover artwork by Levi Pinfold, Angela Cogo (illustrator), Uclan Publishing Limited (publisher) (proof copy)

On a frosty night in January, on a freezing farm near Stonehenge in England, a beautiful milky-white boy calf is born.  He is named Albi and he is going to be extraordinary.  Several miles away, a twelve-year-old boy called Rufus sleeps with a dead bird in his hand.  Rufus is extraordinary in his own way too.  He is alone, without friends and unloved by his family, and is desperate for acceptance in a world that has been harsh to him.  He is desperate to become a hunter and gain the approval of an imaginary family he conjures up.  Albi and Rufus embark on extraordinary journeys which will take them across many lands and provide them with experiences the like of which they could never have imagined.  Rufus is hunting down Albi and Albi is searching for his herd.  Along the way they meet adversity and taste fear but they also encounter goodness and love and beauty.  This unique story follows them on their separate epic journeys and explores the unique bond between the two.  This is a beautiful, fast-paced, page-turner of a book encouraging empathy and kindness for all life-forms.  It allows the reader to think deeply about the welfare of animals, environmental issues and plant-based diets as well as demonstrating love, kindness and encouraging empathy.    These are big topics for readers but the book handles these sensitively (although as a trigger warning some readers may find the hunting and killing of animals an upsetting topic) and the adventure of Albi and Rufus is addictive reading.  We also loved the sweet ending of the book.

All Four Quarters of the Moon – Shirley Marr (author), Usborne Publishing Limited (publisher)

I adored this heart-felt story about family, sisterhood, belonging, tradition, resilience and love. I found it absolutely fascinating to learn more about the Chinese culture and gorgeous tales from Chinese mythology which are interwoven throughout the story.   The story begins with the night of the Mid-Autumn festival when Peijing is making mooncakes with her Ah-Ma.  She knows that from that moment onwards, everything in her life as she knows it is going to change because her family is moving from their home in Singapore to Australia. Peijing and her sister, Biju face a new school and a new language and their family has to learn to live in a new home in a country where everything is different. Everything changes:  Ah Ma keeps forgetting who everyone is, including herself; Ma-Ma does not want to go outside and Biju needs Peijing to be a loving, dependable older sister.  Peijing sees her family as the four quarters of the mooncake that she wants to protect and keep safe but she does not understand where or how she fits in, particularly in this new life.  This book explores her journey as she tries to work out her place, attempts to fit in and make friends and understand her uncertainties and fears and adapts to her new lifestyle.  It also explores the way the different members of her family adjust to their new life and how Peijing begins to realise that some changes can definitely be for the best.  I loved this big-hearted book with its powerful messages and thought-provoking themes.  Yes, there are some big issues for the reader to handle, such as dementia, anxieties, and childhood abuse and neglect (Peijing’s friend Joanna has a drunk and abusive father in the story) but they are dealt with in a moving and sensitive way so that they never feel overwhelming.  And ultimately, this is a story with hope and love, kindness and caring, and friendship and family at its centre.  It will absorb you in its adventure and truly touch your heart.

Graphic Novels

Agent Moose – Operation Owl, Mo O’Hara (author), Jess Bradley (illustrator), Scholastic (publisher) (recommended reading age 7-12)

This is a new book in this series of laugh out loud, colourful graphic novels and we read it as a standalone book which you can absolutely do.  Agent Moose and his owl sidekick, Agent Owlfred, are secret agents who are making a splash trying to solve the mystery of some strange flash-flooding that is drowning the Big Woods.  Armed with some cunning disguises, the dynamic duo have to try and stop the cunning capers of the villainous villain (and I am obviously not going to tell you who that is!) and to save the Big Woods, Woodland HQ and Madame HQ who has been kidnapped right under their noses!!  Can they wade through all the water and save the day?!  We loved this rip-roaring romp of a book, with its brilliant illustrations which bring to life humorous puns and lots of visual gags.  There’s a chortle in every chapter and we love how engaging the graphic novel style is to read.  It’s perfect for fans of “Captain Underpants” and “Dog Man” (both of which my eldest daughter loves) and we particularly love the agent/espionage element set against the fun and vibrant backdrop of the animal world in the Big Woods.  Colourful, funny and brilliantly illustrated, we love this Agent animal adventure.

Non-fiction Books 

What Can You Spot in the Woods?  What Can You Spot in the Garden? – Andrea Pinnington & Caz Buckingham (authors), Fine Feather Press (publisher)

Who doesn’t love a search and find book?  Well, here are two of the absolute best!  Why, I hear you cry?!  Well, because what your child is searching for is all around them, in the beautiful nature that exists right on their doorstep.  Both of these books provide a window into the world of nature and the environment and are perfect for little explorers looking for their adventures in their own back/front garden or the local woods.  Each book is packed full of gorgeous photographs of the flora and fauna and wildlife which can be found in either the garden or the woods if you only take the time to look.    In “What Can You Spot in the Woods?” there are 190 species to spot and ‘tick off’ in the book and in “What Can You Spot in the Garden” there are 160 species to search, find and tick off making these wonderfully interactive books.  They each feature a fun quiz at the start of each particular section and there is a certificate at the back of the book for finding 50 garden/woodland animals or plants (this can be easily detached from its perforated edges).  Each page has wonderful photographs of the wildlife and is filled with facts on the animals, insects, birds and plants it details.  Life-cycles are detailed, as well information on what the birds and animals eat, the habitats in which they live and the best time of the year to spot them.  Perfect for the whole family, these books can be used for children as young as three and above and we love how much they encourage a love of the outdoors in children and a respect for nature and all its wild beauty.  They are also super for reinforcing or introducing children to science and nature topics which are taught at school.  Fun, fascinating and interactive, my children adore these books.  With the return of the sun at the weekend, we ventured out into the woods with them to see what we could spot and were not disappointed with what we found (although my son was rather upset that we couldn’t find a ‘stinkhorn (I tried explaining that they weren’t in season but…..).

Darwin’s  Super Pooping Worm Spectacular – Polly Owen (author), Gwen Millward (illustrator), Wide Eyed Editions (imprint of Quarto) (publisher) (recommended reading age 6-9 years) 

Funny and fascinating, this book is the amazing story of Charles Darwin and his love for wriggling worms!  Told through the eyes of the worm (although we all know that worms don’t have eyes (well, we do if we read the book!)), there are large amounts of non-fiction on each page (hence me putting it in the non-fiction section of this blog!) which help educate your little reader in the most humorous of ways.  Your child can follow Darwin on his voyage of discovery as he tries to find out what super power worms really do have.  He tries jumping out at them to test their sight, playing a bassoon for them to test their hearing, brought out stinky cheese to test their sense of smell and eventually realised that they could feel the slightest vibration.  He thought worms were wonderful but people began to mock him for his obsession but Darwin didn’t give up… he had to find the superpower that worms have.  And he did.  What is it, I hear you cry?!  Well, you will just have to read the book to find out, although the title is a bit of a spoiler (not to mention hilariously funny to every child!). Hats off to the team involved in this book, how it is possible to make a fact book about worms and poo funny, engaging and interesting to read is beyond me, but that they do.  It’s hilarious in both words and illustrations, it’s vibrant and it is captivating in the extreme and the drawings are simply superb, adding a riot of colour and fun into a brilliant book about piles of poo!  We also love the final pages at the back of the book, providing further worm facts and how to ensure that they remain very much a part of our future. 

The Beasts Beneath Our Feet – A Prehistoric Poem – James Carter (author), Alisa Kosareva (illustrator), Caterpillar Books (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)

Come on a prehistoric adventure with us….. Look down to your feet, see the ground below and then think deep, deep, deep underground.  Imagine the layers of the earth and dig down through them to travel back in time to where the prehistoric beasts are sleeping.  This book takes you on a rhyming rollercoaster of a read to meet the prehistoric playmates of the time!  Your little ones can meet the creatures that scuttled and crawled around on the ocean floor, the beasts with mighty croc-like teeth, the biggest bugs that buzzed around the ancient swamps, the feathered wings and fancy tail of the prehistoric birds and, of course, the bone-crunching Tyrannosaurus Rex.  The rhyming text makes for this to be a brilliant romping read aloud and the illustrations are absolutely stunning: vibrant pages of the most exquisite drawings of the prehistoric creatures set out in the most bold and beautiful colour-tones.  We love the images of all the skeletons throughout the book (and on the stark black and white endpapers) and the final two-page spread which details the different pre-historic periods and the brilliant beasts this poem introduces us to is simply superb.  Colourful, clever, educational and fun, this is a brilliant book for any dinosaur lover or budding palaeontologist.

Chinese Zodiac – Kate McLelland (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher), produced in collaboration with The British Museum

How much do you know about the Chinese Zodiac?  Do you know which animal year you were born in?  I was born in the year of the Monkey!   According to this brilliant book, that means I am creative, fun-loving and playful!! I will take it!  This fantastic book, which is produced in collaboration with The British Museum, explains that the Chinese zodiac is an ancient system that pairs calendar years with one of 12 animals.  Each of those animals has certain characteristics or personality traits and so if you are born in the year of a particular animal, it is said that your personality will match that of the year you were born in.  Can you guess which animal is confident, friendly and enjoys taking challenges?  We have a goat and a couple of roosters in our family!  This book is interactive non-fiction in its best form: from rats to horses, goats to pigs, your readers can create their own stunning decorative zodiac animals with this gorgeous collection of striking white and red foil 3D ornaments.  All they need to do is press out each page, (colour it in if they would like to but we preferred ours plain) and slot them together, or hang them up with string, to make the delightful decorations. You can use the book afterwards to store the decorations too, when you are not using them. My children adored the front and back pages of non-fiction explaining the Chinese zodiac and finding out what animals they were using the information provided.  Educational, celebratory and lots of fun, we love this work of non-fiction.

Little People, Big Dreams – Laverne Cox – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Olivia Daisy Coles (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

I have said it before and I will say it again.  We have so much love for this series of books in this house.  We learn so much about a variety of inspirational figures that we would never have learnt so much about, in such an accessible format, without them!  This book is filled with wonderful words all about the amazing actress Laverne Cox.  As a child, the people around Laverne treated her like a little boy but, in her heart, she knew that she was a little girl.  She struggled with fitting in at school but felt that she became alive when she was on stage and performing.  After she moved to the Big Apple, she began to live her life how she wanted to, not how others thought she should live it, and she was so much happier.  She began her acting career that has seen her win countless awards and capture the hearts of many people all around the world.  This is such a wonderful story of a wonderful woman who stuck to what she believed.  It’s an excellent book to help children understand and empathise with transgender people and shows how Laverne has paved the way for a new generation to understand that love is what matters and it is important for people to be able to live their life as their true self. The illustrations in this book are wonderful: empathetic and beautifully detailed with gorgeous colours used throughout each two-page spread.  We also adore the black and white section at the back of the book which details a chronology of Laverne’s life so far and provides further details, facts and photographs. 

Little Book, Big Idea: What is Philosophy? – Noodle Juice (Sarah Walden) (text), Katie Rewse (illustrator), Noodle Juice Ltd (publisher)

Wow!  Philosophy for five-year-olds!! From new publisher, Noodle Juice, whose aim is to produce food for the brain, exciting and educational reads that compete with screens and devices, this book asks some very big questions!  But they are actually the sorts of questions that your young child might ask you (particularly at bedtime if they are anything like mine!!) and you might not really know how to explain.  Like what is truth?  Or, what does it mean to be alive, or to love?  This book uses simple language to explain complicated ideas to younger readers and breaks down the questions into small, easy to digest blocks of text which are accompanied by colourful, engaging illustrations on each page.  It even explains how to say ‘philosophy’ (“fi-loss-uh-fee”).  We love the picture book approach to this non-fiction narrative because it engages the young reader from the outset and helps to focus their attention on these big questions, encouraging them to think big thoughts and develop a life-long love of learning.  Fresh, fun and engaging, this is a visually appealing, thought-provoking and enormously educational work which encourages children to explore the world around them and never stop asking questions. 

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

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