There are so many super books around at the moment, have a scroll through the different sections, split up according to age range, for our top picks:
Touch and Learn: Space – Becky Davies (author), Mei Stoyva (illustrator), text and Illustrations copyright, Little Tiger Press Ltd, Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)
This is a gorgeous, interactive board book all about space. My twins are fascinated with the planets and our solar system at the moment so this book could not have come at a better time for them. We love how bright and colourful this book is, …we love the gorgeous illustrations, … we love the interactive finger trails and the fun textures of the colourful felt fabric which all add up to provide ultimate engagement and interest for young readers. There is just the right about of information for little brains to absorb and lots of interaction with the “can you spot?” questions on each page which encourage your little one to learn new words and engage with the book. It’s a great work of non-fiction for younger readers, with the perfect combination of text, illustrations and interactive fun.
No More Dummies – Marie Kyprianou (illustrator), Campbell Books (publisher)
This is the perfect book for any parent who is trying to get their toddler to give up, or minimise time with, their dummy. This sturdy board book is fun and interactive with its brightly coloured lift the flaps in various sizes and shapes. It uses the concept of a dummy fairy and the little girl in the story, Molly, leaves her dummies for the dummy fairy and in return receives a present from the dummy fairy the next day. Your child will love how interactive this book is – there are lots of flaps to lift and a moving wheel to turn and these all help to develop fine motor skills for your young reader as well as providing maximum engagement in the book. We also love the practical tips on each page which are given to parents and carers to provide help and support to them. The pictures are fun and bright and very engaging for a young reader. A great guide for helping your little one give up that dummy. If only they could make one for thumb-sucking, my dreams would come true!
The Odd Fish – Naomi Jones (author), James Jones (illustrator), Farshore (publisher)
Bob along with us and explore this fin-tastic (see what I did there) new book.
There’s a strange new fish in the neighbourhood and helpful Little Fish is puzzled. This strange fish doesn’t look like any other fish she has seen before and he doesn’t seem to have any family with him. So, kind Little Fish embarks on a journey across the ocean to try and help Odd Fish find his family and friends. On the way, they encounter lots of sea creatures that are in dire need of help. Poor Octopus has got her tentacles caught in a fishing net. Turtle has tumm-ache. Perhaps the cause is the plastic bag that she has been snacking on?! Eventually, Little Fish and her friends and family find Odd Fish’s family and it is much bigger than expected! It’s a very sad moment when we meet Odd Fish’s family – will your little ones understand why? Will they see that Odd Fish’s “family” is made up of lots and lots of plastic bobbing around and “swimming” in our ocean? We just love this book. All of my children loved it and understood the message it conveys. It educates and introduces young children to the huge problem of plastic pollution in our seas in such a clever and powerful way, encouraging them to spot for themselves the effect of this problem. We love the illustrations – super cute, colourful and hugely funny, particularly when combined with the hilarious little asides written next to them. We also love the practical two -page spread at the back of the book suggesting ways that young children might like to help clean up our beaches and seas and encouraging them to spot the problem of plastic pollution and to try and do something about it themselves. I can see this being a great resource in schools when looking at this topic. This is a fun, warm and clever story with a hugely important message about looking after our seas and oceans and is another triumph by the brilliant husband and wife author/illustrator combination @naomiandjamesjones. It is sure to make a splash on the bookshelves this year!
The Mystery of the Golden Pyramid – Adela Norean (author), Aaron Cushley (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)
What a brilliant book! My youngest daughter, who is only four, is absolutely fascinated with the Egyptians. So, this book is a dream come true for her. However, her twin brother who is not particularly interested in ancient Egypt or mummification, equally adores this unique lift the flap adventure. And there are so many reasons why……. A talking dog named Ari, mystery, intrigue and hugely fun interactive parts to the story. Sophie meets a talking dog named Ari who informs her that she is King Nebra’s heir and that only she can help him with the mystery of his missing amulets. Sophie and Ari embark on a unique adventure, packed with humour and warmth, to find the missing treasure. We love how interactive this book is, not only because of the brilliant lift the flaps which are in different shapes and sizes throughout the book but also because of the finger trails and riddle contained within it.
We also love the fact that it feels as if you are back in the Ancient Egyptian world, the illustrations conjuring up wonderful images of hieroglyphics, sarcophaguses, pyramids and Egyptian treasures. The illustrations are wonderful in this story: funny (particularly combined with some of the asides in the speech bubbles), bright and colourful, really bringing to life the heat and brightness of Egypt. This is a brilliantly engaging read for any young reader, particularly those who do have an interest in Ancient Egypt. We hope for many more adventures from Sophie and Ari. Pretty please.
Martha Maps it Out – Leigh Hodgkinson (author and illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)
I can’t tell you how much my twins, and, in particular, my little boy, love this book.
Rather strangely, my boy loves pylons (well, he loves spotting them and then explaining all about electricity and how you will get “electric-shocked and die” (!) if you touch them so this book combines some of his greatest loves: maps and pylons! But I fear I am digressing: a penchant for pylons is certainly not a pre-requisite for this book (indeed, they play a minor part to be honest, it’s just my son was so excited to see them!). Martha’s world is so clever. Mind-blowing, in fact. She starts in outer space, zooms through the solar system (again, anything to do with space is a huge winner in my house at the moment!) to Earth and focuses in on her city. Then her street. Then her flat. Then her bedroom. Then herself. Then she zooms back out again into a universe full of possibilities. At each stage there are fun facts, details and notes and the amazing maps are wonderfully colourful with fun, bright illustrations. It’s a brilliantly simple book in some ways but it is also filled with brilliantly big ideas and concepts which make it so clever. There are so many talking points and things to point out on each page that it makes for a fantastic bonding experience for you and your young readers, like all the best books. It’s a firm favourite here and we hope you enjoy it too.
Never Brush a Bear – Sam Hearn (author and illustrator), Happy Yak (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
What’s not to love about a book whose main character is called Herschel?! This bright and bouncy rhyming picture book is a huge hit in this house. Herschel is a pet pamper extraordinaire! He loves to brush all kinds of pets with tender loving care (I’m a poet and I didn’t know it!). But the one animal he would really love to brush is a bear! A bear is not a pet, I hear you clamour! And all Herschel is ever told, is that you should never brush a bear because they are fierce and ferocious and scary. Throwing caution to the wind, Herschel goes off in search of a bear but the bear he finds is not wild and scary, he’s polite and kind. As Herschel begins to brush all the parts of his body, a whole host of fun ensues. This is a brilliant book for young readers because it encourages you to read the words out loud and do the actions on your little one. So, as you can imagine, how much hilarity there is when the bear lifts up his armpits to be brushed and it all ends up in a tickle! It’s a great book to teach even younger ones about the various parts of their body, as well as reinforcing the deeper message that you should not judge a book by its cover, or judge people (or bears!) for what they look like. The illustrations are very cute: Herschel is just adorable and the bear is very sweet and we love how colourful each page looks, making us feel all warm and happy inside.
Nursery? Not today! – Rebecca Patterson (author), Nikki Dyson (illustrator), Farshore (imprint of Harper Collins), (publisher)
What a bright, bold and brilliant book! It is absolutely hilarious, really portraying to perfection the emotions and characterisation of a headstrong young toddler. It’s Monday and Rosa feels like a big girl – she is going to go to nursery today. She has a brilliant time making friends, singing, painting, playing with her friends and being a star pupil (or has she?!). She is amazing at going to nursery! But on Tuesday, Rosa does not want to go to nursery again. She has done nursery! How can daddy get Rosa back to nursery again? Well, no spoilers here but that’s all down to her little brother Alby! This is a colourful and hilariously fun book. Daddy has all of my empathy and, in my book, the patience of a saint! We love the vibrant, fun drawings contained on each page throughout the story which perfectly complement the text. This book is packed full of fun and laughter, there is as much to enjoy for an adult as there is for a child, and it would be a wonderful book to start reading now if your little one is preparing to begin nursery after the summer. It’s a real hoot, we love it here!
There is more than one way to be ……Strong -Clara Anganuzzi (author and illustrator), Caterpillar Books (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)
When you think about dragons what springs to mind? Tough, ferocious, powerful, maybe?! But you don’t know everything about dragons because you haven’t met Maurice. Maurice is not like the other dragons: he is small and gentle and quiet and he adores flowers. Every year, there is a dragon competition to find out who is the strongest dragon of them all and Maurice‘s brother, Gruff is usually the winner. Gruff is large and loud and rough and certainly not interested in flowers. He is interested in blowing fire and flames but this is a skill that Maurice does not possess and it makes him sad. In an effort to win the competition and prove that he is the strongest dragon, Gruff flies off into some incoming dark, stormy clouds. When he does not return, the other dragons begin to worry about him and it is gentle Maurice who has an idea of how to help his brother get back home again. From that moment on, the other dragons all see Maurice for the skills he possesses and the true strength that he owns, in being true to himself. At last, Maurice realises that his strength comes from within.
This is such a gorgeous book, empowering young children to truly believe in themselves and to realise that everybody is different and we should celebrate people for being the way that they are. There is true beauty and magic in all kinds of different talents. The artwork is simply stunning: bold and creative, with bright images of the dragons and the cutest representations of gentle Maurice.
The Robber Raccoon – Lou Kuenzler (author), Julia Woolf (illustrator), Faber and Faber Limited (publisher)
This is such a gorgeous night-time adventure featuring the cutest little raccoon in town. Rosie Raccoon is a robber, a robber who is up to no good and she’s out and about after midnight in the grand neighbourhood (I love the rhyming there!). But what is Rosie doing? Is she stealing all the jewels and antiques in the poshest houses in town? Or is something else afoot? She better watch out though because the police are on her trail and it’s not long before the Sniffer Dog Squad has caught up with her. Has Rosie really been up to no good? Is she really the baddest burglar in town? You won’t find any spoilers here but I promise you that you will just love the recycling twist ending to this cute caper of mystery and fun. We love the illustrations in this book- they are absolutely exquisite – Rosie is really the cutest raccoon you have ever seen and each two-page spread is just adorable, filled with beautiful colours and amazing artistry. I also love the way the book is made interactive by having to turn it sideways on various occasions throughout – a total winner with my twins. For any child who loves a cops and robbers story, for any child who loves mystery and mayhem, or for any child who is a little eco-warrior, this would be the perfect book for them.
Shoo! – Susan Bower (author), Francesca Gambatesa (illustrator), Pushkin Press (publisher)
When I asked my son what he thought of this book, he said, “read it again, it’s hilarious Mummy!” So, there you have it, a review by my four-year-old boy!
But I entirely agree with him: this book is absolutely brilliant. A real hoot. Mrs GoLightly is a total grump. She does not like animals. So you can imagine how delighted she is when a zoo moves in as her next door neighbour! Throughout the week, she is visited by various furry friends from the zoo and, each time, she issues the refrain “Shoo! Shoo! I don’t like you! Go back to the zoo!” But when she animal-proofs her house, she realises it is very lonely and very quiet. So, what happens when she finds the zoo animals partying in her garden on a Saturday night? Of course, she joins in! This book is a riot of fun on so many different levels. It has had my twins giggling out loud with the humour of the words and the hilarious illustrations. Not only is it such fun, it is also a brilliant book to emphasise the days of the week and also excellent for phonics with its raucous rhyming text. It will remain a firm favourite in our house.
The Wild Garden – Cynthia Cliff (author and illustrator), Prestel Varlag (publisher)
Full of beauty and the magic of the seasons, this book is truly beautiful. From the exquisite artistry to the wonderful message of community spirit, togetherness and letting nature do its work, this is a very special story. We follow Jilly and her grandpa through the neatly manicured communal garden in the story, over the wall and outside the village into the tumbling wonderful wilderness of nature, full of woods, ponds and meadows. A beautifully wild place full of hidden treasures. We see the distinction between what happens in the garden and vegetable plot contained within the village, and what happens outside in the wilderness, throughout the seasons. But when the villagers join together to plan for more neatly manicured gardens and vegetable plots, Jilly and her grandpa become worried. They do not want bulldozers ploughing over the wilderness, the animal dens and the berry patches. So, Jilly and her grandpa show the villagers just how beautiful the wilderness is and the whole community sees the treasures that it contains. After that day, a new kind of garden emerges, for both the people and the wildlife: the wild garden of Mirren. And, oh my, it is beautiful! This is such a gorgeous book which truly emphasises friendship, community spirit, the joys of every type of garden and the wonder of the natural environment. The illustrations are sublime: from the depictions of the animals hibernating during winter through the images of the wildlife and the flora and fauna, to the pictures of the community all coming together, the artwork is a celebration of life and beauty in itself. This would be a lovely book to read outside, going right back to nature. I can also see it being used to discuss the different fruits and vegetables it contains and to have discussions on healthy eating. A book to truly treasure.
Granny Came Here on the Empire Windrush- Patrice Lawrence (author), Camilla Sucre (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
This book is an absolute must have for your child’s bookshelf. It’s heart-warming, beautifully illustrated and covers the incredibly important period of Caribbean and British history to ensure that it is never forgotten. At school one day, Ava is asked to dress as an inspirational figure for assembly. Ava worries about this at her granny’s house and they chat through some figures from history that Ava might admire. Together they look at some inspirational figures like Winifred Atwell, Mary Seacole and Rosa Parks but Ava’s classmates have chosen those figures before her. Ava finds a suitcase hidden between her granny’s clothes and her granny explains to her how this was her “grip “– a trunk that she brought with her from Trinidad on the Empire Windrush. When they look inside they see the wonderful items that her granny brought with her from her home long ago. An empty jar. A smooth grey pebble. A little blue hat. A pair of lace gloves. Each one of these held treasured memories and feelings of love and laughter for her granny. Granny then shares her story of coming to England and how she felt when she arrived and how she was treated. After hearing her granny’s story, Ava knows just who she will dress up as at her school assembly. This is an incredibly moving story, full of history and emotion. Not only does it include a wonderful, non-fiction element by retelling the lives of some trailblazing women in black history but you can almost feel the love and admiration that Ava has for her granny as she empathises with the difficulties she encountered and shares in the joy she felt. The illustrations are simply stunning: beautiful pictures filled with emotion and colour-tones matching the text of the story. A book to truly treasure.
The Greatest Treasure/El Mayor Tesoro – Aleida Gomez de Caso Villar (author), Paloma Perez (illustrator), Peculiar Press (publisher)
How are your language skills? We have reviewed this fantastic bilingual edition of The Greatest Treasure which is a little bit like the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. This unique book has the Spanish written in one part or half of the page and the English written alongside it on the other half or part of the page. So, you and your children can get to practice your language skills as you read the story. You can choose to read the whole thing in English, the whole thing in Spanish, or read a few words or sentences or two at a time in your chosen language and then go to the other language for the translation. The story itself is incredibly sweet. Based on the idea of Jack and the Beanstalk, in this story Jack climbs up the Beanstalk to meet the giant Traganduco who is very mean and grumpy and has locked a little child called Eden in his castle. Eden plays the harp for the giant when he comes back from hunting, to help him fall asleep. Jack decides to help his new friend escape from the clutches of the giant and, together they make it back down the beanstalk. Rather than climbing back up the Beanstalk again to find the giant’s treasure, this story has a much more wonderful ending. Jack, his mother and Eden realise where true happiness lies, and that it is worth much more than gold and jewels. We love this book, we love learning and trying to practice the sounds of the Spanish words, as well as the storyline. The pictures are very sweet and the colour palette used is wonderful.
This would be a great book for any parent wishing to introduce a second language to their child, or to take on holiday to a Spanish-speaking country. There are other books in this bilingual range, and we will certainly be checking them out!
The Journey Home – Fran Preston-Gannon (author and illustrator), Pavilion Children’s Books (publisher)
This picture book is simply stunning. With bold, visually impactful artwork and thought-provoking words and imagery, this is a book to really get your young children thinking about the world we live in and the effect that we have on it and the animals that we share the planet with. This is the specially published 10th anniversary edition of the book and it is absolutely gorgeous, with a beautiful, heartfelt letter from the author at the beginning of the book and lots of suggestions for discussions with your children about the animals contained within the book. The story begins when a poor, sad polar bear looks around and realises that his home and habitat has melted away and he decides to swim off. He finds a boat along his journey which he climbs inside and the boat takes him around various vistas, meeting more sad, lonely and endangered animals upon his journey. The animals eventually wash up on an island which is inhabited by a dodo and as the animals are worrying how they will ever get home again and whether they have travelled too far, the dodo says that of course they can return home. They can return home “when the trees grow back and when the ice returns and when the cities stop getting bigger and when the hunting stops”. These words are hugely impactful. The story ends with a message of hope though: let’s see what tomorrow brings. I truly hope that by having books like this and reading them to our young children that the future for these vulnerable and endangered animals will become ever more hopeful. We not only love the premise of the story but we also love the bold and bright illustrations on each page, sensitively depicting the beauty and feelings of the animals discussed. We also love the questions at the back of the book and the hopeful messages of good news in relation to the particular animals. There is also a helpful project ideas page at the end of the book which would work really well in a classroom environment or when homeschooling your child.
This is NOT a Dinosaur! – Barry Timms (author), Ged Adamson (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
Bright, bold and fun, this is the second in the “this is not…“ series of books and we might just like it even more than the first (but that is a tough call to make!)! I have three dinosaur-loving children in my house and so this book is a firm favourite on our bookshelves. It really is an entertaining and funny rhyming book with the most visually appealing artwork to match. There are wonderfully vibrant colours on each page which pop out at you and go hand-in-hand with the fun words and images of the story. What kind of not a dinosaur might you be? A supersonic-kick-osaur? A sleep-osaur (definitely me!)? An ENTER-IF-YOU-DARE-OSAUR? A sail-the-ocean-wide-osaur? Or a make-a-better day-osaur? There are so many fun options in this book and I am certain that your little ones will love it.
We sure do hope that there are more to come in this series of picture books. Pretty please. With sprinkles on top.
Gretel the Wonder Mammoth – Kim Hillyard (author and illustrator), Ladybird Books (publisher)
It’s a Tuesday morning and a large ker-rack sounds out through the peaceful air! Gretel, the woolly mammoth, who had been asleep for a very long time, woke up! Everyone loves Gretel, she is so fluffy, so gentle and kind, so strong and so unique. Everyone tells Gretel what a wonder mammoth she is. But Poor old Gretel does not feel like a wonder mammoth. She finds the world that she has woken up in to be fast and loud and very confusing. Poor old Gretel felt scared and sad and anxious all at the same time. She doesn’t want to tell her friends how she feels, she wants to be strong and pretend that everything is fine. But it is very difficult to keep your feelings all bottled up. Gretel just wants to be alone but she comes to realise that this makes her feel much worse. When her friends come to find her, she does something very brave, she tells them that she is not okay and that she feels very alone and very scared and very sad. Her friends help Gretel as much as they can and, soon, she finds other things that made her feel happy and wonderful and excited. Gretel really does feel like the wonder mammoth she truly is. This is a wonderful book to explain feelings of anxiousness, worry and loneliness to a young child. If there are ever any situations where your child might feel overwhelmed, or scared, this would be a brilliant book to read with them. It allows a child to realise that it is truly brave to ask for help and that the worst thing you can do is to keep your feelings to yourself. I can see this being a really useful book for children who are feeling anxious or worried about starting school and might be a great place to start with over the summer to help them talk about those feelings. The artwork in the book is absolutely fantastic: bright and colourful when Gretel is feeling happy and excited and interested in the world. When she is feeling sad and lonely and upset, the illustrations and the colours used really portray the emotions involved and fully allow your young reader to understand how Gretel might be feeling. A wonderful book about a wonderful mammoth.
The Upside Down Detective Agency -Ellie Hattie (author), Brendan Kearney (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)
Stella and Stan are the newest super sleuthing sloths around, fighting crime and keeping our streets safe! Someone has stolen Lady Veronica Velocity Speed’s Diamond Warp Drive from her super speedy racing car. She will never win the big race without it. Can the sloths save the day and find the Diamond Warp Drive? Can they find the thief? You bet they can! But can you? We love how interactive this picture book is. Your young reader is encouraged to become a little detective themself, by using clues in the super-cute and fun pictures. At each stage, the text in the story encourages your reader to spot certain clues or find pieces of information which might help them solve the mystery of the missing Diamond Warp Drive. Your reader will go on a speedy chase to catch the criminal as they follow the trail throughout the storyline. We love how bright and colourful this book is and how clever it is.
It encourages your children to not only pay attention to the words of the storyline but also to look in intricate detail at the illustrations which are vibrant and colourful. And not to give too much away, we think that the ending is such fun! This is a great story to encourage your children to really engage with both the pictures and the words in a story and also to encourage lateral thinking. It is very clever how the book reinforces the idea that sometimes we just need to look at things from a different perspective.
The Baker by the Sea -Paula White (author and illustrator), Templar Books (imprint of Bonnier Books)(publisher)
Without doubt one of the most stunningly beautiful books we have encountered this year! This story, set against the backdrop of a seaside fishing village on the east coast of Suffolk, is packed full of the most exquisite artistry. To go alongside it, this is a wonderful tale, lyrical and lilting, exploring the traditional way of life of the fishing village. A young boy watches the grown-ups in his hometown, all busy going about their daily work and lives. To him, the most important of all are the fishermen who bring in the catch every day. Facing storms and waves, braving the harsh weather and conditions of the sea. The little boy dreams of being a fisherman when he grows up. His father, however, is not a fisherman. When the little boy watches what his father does – making bread and buns and biscuits to keep the community happy, warm and healthy – he realises that his father plays a very important role within the community. This is a sublime story in both imagery and poetry, a timeless reminder that everyone is important within a community and that all relationships matter. We love the fact that there is a recipe for hot coconut buns at the back of the book so that you can sample the taste that the fisher girls in the story would have enjoyed at 11 o’clock every morning. We also love the fact that the leaf of the book contains some information about the beach village, which is the subject of this tale, and how it was, for over 100 years, home to a thriving fishing community. We found this information really fascinating.
The Marvellous Doctors for Magical Creatures – Jodie Lancet-Grant (author), Lydia Corry (illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)
From the fabulous author/illustrator combination behind “The Pirate Mums” comes the most marvellous, magical adventure. Come with me to meet Ava, her doctor daddies and the magical creatures they look after…. Whether you are a mermaid with the measles or a dragon with a sore throat, or a fairy with a broken wing, the way to get yourself fixed up well is by seeing the marvellous doctors for magical creatures namely Ava and her daddies. Poor old Glitterbug the unicorn keeps getting horrible tummy aches but Ava’s daddies cannot find any medical reason why. So Ava, who loves a good mystery, decides that she should spend some time with Glitterbug to work out what is wrong. She has a wonderful time partying with the unicorns but it doesn’t seem to be solving the mystery of Glitterbug’s tummy ache until she truly studies her new friend. In the process, they both come to realise that Glitterbug needs to listen to herself and embrace what truly makes her happy. This book is a riot of colour, fun and wonderful, heartwarming messages. It gently explores the theme of anxiety and how that might make a person (or indeed a unicorn) feel and it celebrates inclusion, kindness, friendship, love and, importantly, acceptance. These are such wonderful messages for our young children and my twins just love this book, cheering loudly when Glitterbug changes her colours and becomes happy in her true self. The illustrations are simply wonderful: vibrant, sweet and full fun I designed to bring a big smile to your face. In fact, I defy you to read this book and not break out in a smile by the end of it. A truly wonderful book, thank you.
That’s My Daddy! -Ruth Redford (author), Dan Taylor (illustrator), Egmont UK Limited (publisher)
What’s so amazing about your daddy? Can you describe what is so special about your daddy? In the morning is he grumpy, or is he noisy and full of fun? What kind of hair does your hard daddy have, does he have lots of hair or no hair? And what about his nose? Or his feet: are they smelly, are they sweet?! Do you know what your daddy does for a job? What does your daddy wear every day? And how does he get to work? Do you know what your daddy’s personality is like? Is he funny? Is he kind? Is he serious? And what does he like to do with you for fun? Does he give huge cuddles, or let you walk on his toes? And how about the housework? What does he do? Does he make the breakfast, wash the windows, walk the dog, or stack the dishwasher? What does your daddy do at bedtime: does he read you a story or sing you a lullaby? This is such a lovely book. I really enjoyed reading it with my twins and my older daughter enjoyed it too as I asked her the same questions. I also found it hilariously funny how they described their daddy and some of the things that he does and also really sweet at the same time. It is a brilliant book for engaging in lovely discussions with your young reader about your family life and, in particular, about their father figure. This is a bright and colourful book, full of humour and the illustrations are brilliant, providing humour and warmth to go along with the questions.
A New Friend – Lucy Menzies (author), Maddy Vian (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
One book, two lovely stories! Joe has just moved into the neighbourhood and is the new kid on the block. Mae is really excited to meet the new child at school and has written him a letter. Joe starts at school and feel sad and alone and like nobody can see him or cares that he is around. Mae can’t seem to find the new boy and give him her letter and when she does, she worries that he does not want to be her friend or to play with her. Will the two children eventually meet and make friends? This is such a special, heart-warming story filled with love and the power of friendship. We love the way that you can read each story – either Joe’s or Mae’s -by itself and then flick to the other story or you can read the stories together, side-by-side. It is such a clever concept. The artwork in this book is so sweet, full of colour and vibrancy in each illustration and really echoing the feelings and thoughts of the children. A very special book with a very sweet message of inclusion, acceptance and friendship.
The Dawn seal – Holly Webb (author), David Dean (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Limited (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)
The latest book by the best-selling author, Holly Webb, and the writer who really got my eldest daughter into reading by herself, this chapter book is one of our favourites to date!
There is something so adorable about seals and so I knew that we would love this book from the get-go. Lissa was so excited to be spending the summer on her dad‘s new houseboat but when her dad takes on a new job, and he’s not around as much as he promised, she begins to feel lonely and starts to miss her mum and sister back home. One morning, when she is out paddle boarding with a new friend, Alfie, a lost young seal pup comes up to her and lies on her board. From that moment, she does all she can to research seals and why they might come up the river and she starts waking up at dawn every day to catch a glimpse of this beautiful young creature. But when the seal, who she names Pup, does not appear for a few mornings in a row, Lissa becomes very concerned and she and her new group of friends rally around to try and save the young seal.
This is such an endearing story, full of compassion for animals and nature, full of friendship, full of love…. I could almost feel myself with them alongside the river. A truly sweet book which will be enjoyed by both you and your young reader.
Action Dude- Andy Riley (author and illustrator), Welbeck Flame (publisher)
This is a hilariously fun graphic novel aimed at readers 7+. When robots in the new theme park go haywire, the city needs a new hero. First name… Action, second name… Dude (just be sure you never call him Charlie). Action Dude lives for danger and excitement and he’s up for any adventure, always happy to come to the rescue. Follow the escapades of Action Dude, our unlikely hero, in this laugh out loud book which packs a huge punch. There are lots of laughs, daring missions (think getting eaten by a deadly tiger robot, crossing lakes of molten lava and fighting baddies, to name but a few) which are all in a good day’s work. The comic strip style drawings and chapters make for a brilliant read and this book would be perfect for any child who struggles with huge blocks of solid text and who is looking for a new adventure. We can’t recommend highly enough the funny illustrations – the characterisation really comes across in the pictures – and our particular favourites all involve Action Dude and spiders (he’s not afraid of them, honest!). This book is good fun: a great graphic novel.
The Thief who Sang Storms – Sophie Anderson (author), Joanna Lisowiec (illustrator), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)
Brought to you by the spellbinding storyteller and bestselling author of “The House with Chicken Legs”, this book is a magical wonderland waiting for your reader to explore. Set on the island of Morovia, humans live on one side and bird people (the alkonosts) live on the other. Their lives sadly built upon mistrust of one another. But it wasn’t always like that. Linnet wishes she could sing magic and bring the peoples back together again but her singing magic has not come in. She misses her old life, her mother (who has passed away), the man her father used to be when her mother was alive, and all her old friends. When Linnet’s father is captured for taking a precious jewel, Linnet embarks on a journey to rescue him, meeting new friends along the way. She learns a huge amount about herself along the way and realises that things are not always what they seem. Will Linnet be able to rescue her father? Will the islanders ever be united once again? Never mind whether Linnet finds her singing magic, one thing is sure: this book will weave its magic around you and will make your heart sing. It handles heavy topics such as grief, loneliness, displacement, racial differences and many more with sensitivity and compassion and provides such a wonderful message of hope and unity at the end of the story that your reader cannot fail to be uplifted.
Indiana Bones and the Lost Library – Harry Heape (author), Rebecca Bagley (illustrator), Faber and Faber Limited (publisher)
Doggy detective Indiana Bones and his best friend human Aisha are back for a second clue-sniffing, tale-wagging adventure in search of lost treasure. Even though this is the second in the series, my daughter and I read this as a standalone book (which can be easily done as there is a fantastic explanatory prologue quickly summarises the escapades of the first book) and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s fast-paced, fun, filled with quick witticisms, funny phrases and cute canines. The magical talking Indiana and his BFF Aisha are still on the hunt for the Lonely Avenger’s lost treasure and, to find it, our archaeological amigos are tasked with an epic trek across Europe. When you are an ace archaeologist and detective, it’s always woof sailing (see what I did there?!) as the pair must rescue Aisha’s father from the evil grasp of the slippery Serpent and his smelly minion Ringo along the way. Will they find the treasure? Will they rescue Aisha’s father? My lips are sealed. What I will say is that this book ends on a massive cliff-hanger and will leave you and your young reader wanting more!! This is a wonderful book: both me and my daughter enjoyed the ride across Europe, learning about various historical cities of significance, and the wonderfully funny language used throughout the story. The black and white illustrations are full of humour and comedy and bring to life the hilarity of storyline. Together with the action-packed adventure, they make this story hugely engaging for its target audience.
The Breakfast Club Adventures – The Beast Beyond the Fence – Alex Falase-Koya (author), Marta Kissi (illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)
If you are looking for a fun, nice-paced read that will make you feel all warm and fuzzy after you read it then this is the story for you/your children. It’s just lovely. Engaging to read, with gentle messages about making the right choices and supporting your friends and packed with wonderfully fun black and white illustrations to optimise engagement.
There’s something odd going on at school … when Marcus kicks his treasured football over the school fence, it seems like he will never get it back because nothing ever comes back when it goes over that wall! Marcus decides to join a mysterious new group of Breakfast Club Investigators and his sole aim is to get his ball back – he doesn’t care about what the other members want. But when he is caught up in an exciting adventure to find the lost objects over the wall, half terrified and half-fascinated by a scary-looking beast, he begins to realise that he might just be making new friendships along the way.
This is such a warm, fun story, full of friendship and intrigue such that your young reader will not fail to be engaged. This first title, The Beast Beyond the Fence, (and I hope there will be many more The Breakfast Club Adventures books!), is the third work in the popular Marcus Rashford Book Club. It published at the end of May so is available to buy now.
Escape to the River Sea -Emma Carroll (author), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)
I just loved this book! It was fascinating, it was fast paced and it was a joy to read. Take yourself back to Britain at the end of the Second World War. It is 1946 and Rosa Sweetman, a young Kindertransport girl is left by herself at Westwood, a huge, rambling country pile in the north of England where she had been given shelter and refuge prior to the outbreak of war. With the arrival of a family friend, Yara Fielding, Rosa’s life is about to become a lot more interesting! Yara takes Rosa on the adventure of a lifetime, deep into the wild and luscious beauty of the Amazon rainforest in search of a giant sloth to try and prove that the creature is not mythical. Rosa feels like she has found a second family after she spends time with Yara’s family and friends but things are not always what they seem. People are complex and there are many secrets hidden in this beautiful landscape. There is trouble in paradise as Rosa begins to realise when she overhears a certain conversation! Can Rosa and her friends help out Yara? Will Rosa ever be reunited with her family. No spoilers here!! Packed with hugely interesting historical facts and a twisty, turning plot-line, this book is a fabulous read. Even if your child isn’t necessarily into historical fiction, the intrigue, adventure and lush rainforest imagery will be sure to keep them captivated. It’s a five-star read from us!
The After-School Detective Club-The Case of the Smugglers Curse – Mark Dawson (author), Ben Mantle (illustrator), Welbeck Flame (imprint of Welbeck Children’s Limited) (publisher)
Ooooo, I have so much love for this book. Lucy, Max, Joe, Charlie, and her lovable dog Sherlock, make up the After-School Detective Club. This is the first book in what promises to be a brilliant series (you can read a preview of the second book, The Secret of Ragnar’s Gold, which is out this month, at the back of this book) and is full of adventure and intrigue. The four children are very different but a special bond grows between them when they spot a ghostly figure walking on the beach one winter’s evening. They are thrown together to unravel a secretive smuggling mystery of epic proportions. Packed full of exciting adventure – daring escapes, speed boats, tracking devices and distress flares abound – the After-School Detective Club has to pitch their wits against a ruthless gang of renowned smugglers. Can the friends work out what the gang is smuggling? Without the police on their side, will they be able to stop them? You will just have to read the book to find out and I thoroughly recommend that you do! It’s a wonderfully fast-paced adventure, easy to read and engaging at every plot twist and turn. I love the characterisations of the Club (and I feel there is so much more to explore with their backstories here too) and how Max, Lucy, Joe and Charlie are so different but become firm friends throughout the book.
The black and white illustrations are fantastic, really bringing to life the characters of the children and the plot of the storyline. It’s like a modern day “Famous Five” and I, for one, cannot wait to read more!
Looking for Emily – Fiona Longmuir (author), Nosy Crow (publisher)
What a brilliant debut from Fiona Longmuir! With its fast pace, gripping storyline and fantastic plot twists and turns, I raced through this middle grade read. Twelve-year-old Lily moves to the (apparently) boring seaside town of Edge and thinks that nothing exciting is ever going to happen to her again. Until she stumbles across a secret museum right in the heart of the village, that is. From there, she begins to realise that there is more going on in this sleepy pile of sand dunes than she first realised. The Museum of Emily is filled with the belongings of a little girl who disappeared from the town many years ago without a trace. Lily forms lasting friendships with Sam and Jay and, together, they are determined to solve the mystery of Emily’s museum and her disappearance. We loved all the different types of love in the book – from the loving relationship of Sam’s two daddies and their love for their family, through the sisterly love of Emily and her sister to the new found love of the friends. Full of salty air, marvellous mystery, fantastic friendships, loving families and amazing adventure, this book is as warming as a poke of chips on a blustery day at the seaside. It is an absolutely gripping read and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
The Shark and the Scar – Sarah Moore Fitzgerald (author), Orion Children’s Books (publisher)
I zipped through this book like the proverbial boat cutting through the water! Bubbling with intrigue, a fast-paced storyline, the rugged coastline of Ireland, and wetsuits and surfboards galore, this book is a hugely compelling read about relationships and family secrets. Jay wakes up in a hospital bed in huge amounts of pain. His father tells him he has been scarred for life because he was the victim of a shark attack in the waters off the coast of the south of France. Jay‘s father does not want Jay to speak to anybody about the accident, and he cannot remember the details himself. Jay and his father move away from France and back to Jay’s father’s costal hometown in Ireland where they begin life again without any form of social media or communication with the outside world. Jay forms a friendship with a local girl called Jess and together they take on the huge waves off the coast. But every time Jay tries to ask his father for more details about his accident, he becomes more and more cagey. Jay begins to doubt the details that father has told him. If you cannot trust his dad, who can he trust? What if his father is lying about the accident and what happened on that fateful day? No spoilers here but I didn’t see the ending coming! This is one book your middle grade reader will just have to read this summer. It’s hugely addictive and I’m sure that they will race through it.
Zo and the Forest of Secrets – Alake Pilgrim (author), Knights Of (publisher)
Whoa!! What a fantastical debut novel from middle grade author Alake pilgrim! Zo is running away from her new, blended family – she finds her mother’s partner, Jake, irritating and her new baby brother, Tayo, hard work when he is crying all the time. So, Zo decides to run off into the jungle to give everyone a fright. However, as she journeys through the familiar forest, it is Zo that begins the most frightening episode of her life. Terrifying beasts and creepy critters, unlike anything she (or you!) has ever seen before, seem to have taken over the forest. There is a hugely scary creature, (or is it a machine?) snapping at her heels which is terrifying the life out of her. Despairing and bewildered, she meets a mysterious boy along her journey who also appears to be lost. In this surreal landscape, Zo must try to unravel the secrets of the forest before she becomes forgotten about forever. What are all of these strange animals? Could a mysterious abandoned facility in the heart of the forest hold all the answers? I love the characterisation of Zo in this book and also the themes of friendship and working together which come across in the story. There’s also an undercurrent around making sure that we appreciate the environment that we live in and respect the balance between humanity and nature. Full of futuristic twists and turns and plenty of fantastical beasts, this is a fast paced read from start to finish. Beware though, there’s a huge cliff-hanger at the end of the book! I really hope we find out what happens next.
When Shadows Fall – Sita Brahmachari (author), Natalie Sirett (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Limited (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)
I found this book so intense. So raw, so gripping, so heart-felt. For me, it was slow-going. Not because it was a difficult read but because it was so powerful and so full of heart-wrenching emotion that I had to make sure that I gave each page the justice that it deserved. Kai is caught up in his own overwhelming grief because of the death of his baby sister. His family around him is falling apart. His friends are grieving too but are trying to rally round to support him but he cannot see through his dark cloud of suffocating grief to realise this. He thinks his best friends are too wealthy, too clever or too powerful and that he is not deserving of their friendship and he becomes more and more bitter at the close relationship that develops between his closest friends. While his family (and his father in particular) is battling their own demons, he begins a downward spiral of destruction from which it appears he will never emerge. But will he? Ultimately, this is a poignant and impactful story about the power of friendship and love. It is intense, powerful, sometimes very heavy and emotional, but certainly well worth the read. It contains some very deep (but all too relevant) themes for teenagers and young adults, including the portrayal of intense grief and loss, mental health issues, displacement and homelessness as well as exploring the crimes of drug-taking, different forms of violence, theft and arson. The artwork in this book is simply exquisite. The black, white and grey tones used throughout replicate the dramatic feel of the story and the illustrations deserve huge praise in themselves for truly bringing the story to life. They are worthy of display in an art gallery they are so brilliant.
Blade of secrets-Tricia Levenseller (author), Pushkin press (publisher)
I absolutely loved this fast-paced young adult read. I found it addictive, full of adventure and easy to devour. Ziva has a gift like no other. She spends her days hidden away in her forge, away from people who make her feel very uncomfortable, crafting unique weapons out of iron which she imbues with a special magical power. Each weapon is crafted individually. Each weapon is unique. Much like Ziva herself. Ziva is taken in by the powerful warlord Kymora, who has commissioned her to create a hugely powerful sword. This sword has the power to read people’s innermost secrets and the strength to topple kingdoms. Ziva realises that the warlord plans to use this sword for evil and Ziva and her sister are forced to flee the safety of their own home and the forge Ziva loves. What follows is an epic adventure-filled quest to keep the powerful sword out of the warlord’s hands and to find somebody worthy of wielding it, or a way to destroy it entirely. There’s excitement, fighting, romance between Ziva and the impossibly attractive Kellyn, humour and friendship. I loved the characterisation of the individuals, particularly Ziva and the portrayal of the all-too-real anxiety that she suffers with when she is forced to be around other people. A fast-paced read full of fire, I’m desperate to find out what happens next!
Beasts of Prey -Ayana Gray (author), Penguin Books (publisher)
This book draws you into the fantastical world of Koffi and Ekon, two teenagers bound together to hunt a legendary monster, known as the Shetani, in the greater jungle. For Koffi this means the end of her indentured servitude, for Ekon, it means acceptance into the respected Sons of Six and for the city of Lkossa, it means the end of a dreadful reign of brutal deaths by the creature. This book creates a unique and fantastical world and with its storyline full of twist and turns, the pace really picks up as you read along. The characters also grow throughout the book and as their stories become intertwined, you can really begin to imagine the setting of this unique world which is full of magic and magnificent plants and animals. With some gasp-worthy twists in the final chapters, this is a strong start to the trilogy of books that this promises to be.
Interview with Cleopatra & Other Famous Rulers – Andy Seed (author), Gareth Conway (illustrator), Welbeck Children’s Books Limited (publisher)
This is a wonderfully humorous little gem of a non-fiction paperback. It literally saved our skin earlier this month because we had forgotten all about my daughter’s holiday project to learn about a King or Queen from history. Thankfully, this book arrived to turn my daughter’s frown upside down – she did her project on Queen Elizabeth I and learned some brilliant facts about her. The first in a new series, we loved the format of this book – there are “interviews” with all kinds of figures from history and some of the anecdotes are laugh out loud funny, while others are mind-blowing or jaw-dropping. It’s a unique way to look at history and to engage children with the subject. We loved the idea of being able to go back in time and ask famous rulers all sorts of cheeky questions!
Bite-sized blocks of text in a question-and-answer format, with brilliantly fun black and white illustrations also make this a perfect book for any reluctant reader.
The Little Book of Garden Bird Songs and The Little Book of Wetland Bird Sounds – Fine Feather Press (publisher)
With all this glorious weather lately, it’s definitely the time to be reconnecting with nature and these sturdy sound board books are a superb way to celebrate the natural wonders in our gardens or communal areas. Did you know that a blue tit’s yellow chest colour depends on the number of yellow-green caterpillars it eats?! How cool is that? And I also had no idea that a male swan was called a cob and a female a pan! I have so much love for these brilliant sound books published by Fine Feather Press . I have always wanted to be able to distinguish the different sounds of bird song so these books are a dream come true for me. However, what has taken me by surprise is how much my children love these books. I am not sure why that surprises me because these books were originally designed for young children, aimed to inspire them to enrich their lives with a range of visual and beautifully-illustrated nature-based books. I am in love with the fact that my children can not only differentiate between the different birds but also recognise some of the sounds of the birdsong and hopefully this is a skill that will stay with them for life. These books are hugely informative, with brilliant blocks of text and fascinating facts on each page and my children love the interactive nature of the sound buttons. What is even more amazing, and what I find truly wonderful, is that these books have also been helping dementia patients to relax and feel calm.
I cannot tweet enough (see what I did there!) about how brilliant I think these books are. There are others in the range and I, for one, will be checking them out.
The Sea Below My Toes – Charlotte Guillain (author), Jo Empson (illustrator), Quarto Publishing (publisher)
Immerse yourself in a whole world of water! Have you ever wondered what is going on in the sea below your feet? This incredibly beautiful and interactive book takes you on a watery world of adventure down and down and down to the deepest darkest trenches of the seabed. You and your reader will dive down through the zones of the ocean – from the Sunlight zone through the Twilight zone, the Midnight zone, the Abysmal zone and right down to the Trenches – and then pop right back up again like the proverbial cork to the sunlit waves. This amazingly clever book is not only incredibly educational about the different zones of the ocean, named depending on how much light is found there, but also about the marvellous marine life that has adapted to live at the different depths of the sea. I found it mind-blowing that so much of the ocean has never been explored by humans and that there is so much left to discover but this book provides young readers with some fascinating facts about the watery world below their toes. The illustrations are fin-tastic (see what I did there!) showcasing the various sea creatures-from turtles to great white sharks in all their glorious detail. This book is so unique as it folds out to over 2.5 m of double-sided wonderful artwork and brilliant bubbles of facts. It really does feel like you are diving down into this underwater world and exploring this fabulously fishy landscape. With so many awe-inspiring facts about these marine marvels (like lanternfish which glow in the dark and octopi that are completely see-through), this book is not to be missed!
Everything you know about Minibeasts is Wrong! Dr Nick Crumpton (author), Gavin Scott (illustrator), Nosy Crow (publisher)
Did you know that not all bees die when they sting you? Or that honeybees recognise human faces?! Or that emerald cockroach wasps inject venom into their prey’s brains to turn them into controllable zombies?!!! We have never squirmed away from insects in this house anyway but this book has made us love them even more. Even the most skin-crawling, disgusting facts about them because they are actually such phenomenal critters!
We love the format of this myth-busting colourful non-fiction book (nope, you definitely don’t swallow spiders in your sleep (they have more sense!)). It takes everything you think you know about minibeasts and dispels your illusions in the most interesting way. Many of the facts are mind-blowing and the text is set out in short paragraphs, surrounded by the most fabulous of illustrations, so that this book is very difficult to actually put down because you want to keep reading! The artwork is colourful and vibrant, representing the different minibeasts to perfection and making us appreciate them for all their special behaviours and powers. This book is inventive, hugely informative, very entertaining and unputdownable!
Our Time on Earth – Lily Murray (author), Jesse Hodgson (illustrator), Big Picture Press (imprint of Bonnier Books) (publisher)
Spiders that live longer than grizzly bears? Whales that live for a couple of hundred years? Jellyfish which are immortal? This book is unbelievable but true! For some creatures, life means only a few minutes, or hours, or weeks on our beautiful planet, for others their lifespan is centuries. This book follows the time that various creatures have on our lovely earth and is an exquisitely illustrated read, with each picture perfectly capturing the animals in their natural habitat. We have learned about some creatures that we did not even know existed, as well as finding out more fascinating facts and information about some of our favourite insects and animals on the planet. Your child can read fascinating snippets of information about the lives of many incredible creatures, learning about why some animals lives are very short and others are incredibly long. It’s educational, it’s interesting, it’s beautiful, it would make a brilliant book for any nature-loving enthusiast.
Let’s Tell a Story- Pirate Adventure – Lily Murray (author), Stef Murphy (illustrator), Wide Eyed Editions (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
We love the unique idea behind these books! They give you everything your child needs to create their own amazing adventure. They will need to think about all the essentials – what will they take with them on their perilous journey over the seas, what will they wear, who will their crew members be, what terrible incident will befall them, who will their dastardly enemy be…. What will be their reward? With fantastic illustrations really helping your child conjure up the most magical of adventures, this is a superb book to allow your little one to get their creative juices flowing and really let their imagination run wild. And the best bit? If they don’t like how the story is going, they can just start all over again! Wonderfully creative and fabulously fun. Superb for any little adventurer ready to sail the seas!
Poppy and Sam’s Baking Book-Abigail Wheatley (author), Simon Taylor Kielty (illustrator), Usborne publishing Limited (publisher)
Am I the only parent in the world who can find baking with the children quite stressful at times? Surely not! If this has ever been you, then this easy, step by step baking book is perfect for you and your little ones to enjoy. With simple stages of instructions to follow, tasty recipes which can be made egg free, dairy free, vegan or gluten-free (depending on the recipe), this is a hugely fun and colourful guide to baking with your little ones.
Packed with amazing, delicious recipes, which are firm favourites with children- like chocolate brownies, blueberry scones, little pizzas, peanut butter cookies, pumpkin seed oat cakes, pastry snails, to name but a few – these bakes are simple and easy to follow for beginner bakers and also for those little hands who need a little bit of adult supervision. For slightly older children, there is a handy guide to cooking and where a grown up should help at the beginning of the book which is hugely helpful and important. We love the colourful illustrations for each two-page spread recipe which make the baking book more appealing to its target audience. All of the recipes in the book are vegetarian but you can make them vegan, peanut free, gluten free, egg free and/or dairy free using the instructions that follow at the back of the book. We’re off to make some blueberry scones now. I can’t wait to enjoy them with my cup of tea!
Ready for Spaghetti – funny poems for funny kids -Michael Rosen (author), Polly Dunbar (illustrator), Walker books Ltd (publisher)
What a joy! This book is absolutely superb. With joyful poems to tickle and tease and make words and sounds superbly interesting for your little ones, this is a book which is written so that you can have fun with it. The poems are filled with such happy words, rhyming sounds and hilarious sing-songs that they cannot help but bring a smile to your face as well as the faces of your little ones. My twins just love this book. They gurgle with laughter at some of the poems – “hip-hop happy” is one of their current favourites – and it really helps children explore words, copy sounds and discover the joy of language. My youngest daughter has a stammer and she, in particular, is fascinated by the play with words in these poems. She loves the rhymes, and we all enjoy clapping out the syllables to help her with her speech. The illustrations are also fantastic, and worthy of a huge mention because they are full of playfulness, colour and vibrancy, and really just make you feel happy and filled with the joy of childhood when you look at them.
A book to be read aloud, a book to play with and have fun with, a book to treasure forever.
Why not PIN this Recommended Books for Kids | June 2022