There have been lots of fun, new releases over the month of August, here’s a selection of the fabulous books we have been reading. I do hope you find something you enjoy:
Where’s Frida Kahlo? – Text by Nosy Crow Ltd, Ingela P Arrhenius (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
Bold, vibrant, beautiful, interactive and educational. What more can you and your little one possibly want from a board book?! It’s bright and brilliant and filled with wonderfully tactile felt flaps which will hugely engage your little reader and encourage those fine motor skills. Not only are the illustrations fabulous and the designs super but the pages are sturdy and the book is a perfect size to pop in a nappy bag or put in the stroller to entertain your little ones while you are out and about. The colours used really draw your child in and they will also get to learn a little bit about each particular artist’s style as they hunt for Pablo Picasso, Yayoi Kusama, Andy Warhol and Frida Kahlo between the fabulously interactive felt flaps. We just love the end of the book too- who doesn’t love a peekaboo lift the flap mirror?! A joyful book and one for your little one to truly treasure.
What Can You See? In Space – Kate Ware (author), Maria Perera (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)
Blow your little one’s mind with the amazing wonders of the universe in this interactive, fact-packed book! My children are particularly fascinated by space and the night sky at the moment so we took this book on holiday with us and they found it amazing to use it to look up into the starry sky (they stayed up way past their bedtime!!). They really enjoyed relaying some of the stellar facts they learned from this book to us when we were watching the various stages of the moon. The sturdy pages are filled with interactive cut out cardboard peepholes and there are so many brilliant facts in small, digestible sections which are perfect for the target audience as a first introduction to space and its amazing wonders. Did you know that Jupiter has 79 moons?! Or that there are BILLIONS of galaxies in the sky (of which the Milky Way (our galaxy) is only one!)? This blows my mind, never mind the children!! The colours used on the chunky pages are atmospheric and the illustrations are wonderful. We’ve loved exploring this fun fact book with its super peep-through pages. It would be a super book for use as a text in any early years learning topics on space and the solar system.
How to Catch a Rainbow – Naomi Jones (author), Ana Gomez (illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)
What a wonderful book to make you cherish the beauty of the outside world and how to make the most of magical moments. Freya loves rainbows. She REALLY wants one of her very own. So, she decides that the thing to do is to go and catch one. Things don’t go quite to plan for poor old Freya but she does not give up. She uses a dollop of determination, a cartload of creativity and her incredible imagination to make her wish come true and create a rainbow of her very own. I won’t spoil how she manages it but it is really very special. We love this book. We love the vibrant and humorous illustrations. We love the fact that it subtly teaches our children about different colours and how to recognise them in the natural world. We love that it focuses on the beauty and splendour of the environment and the colours of the natural habitat which surrounds us. We love how it encourages creativity and imagination and perseverance and determination. But most of all we love how it inspires us to be creative ourselves. To colour, to draw, to get outside, to go on a rainbow hunt (we did and we LOVED it)… to live life. Never mind a rainbow, Freya has certainly captured our hearts!
For more on How to catch a rainbow do read our blog post here.
Which Bum’s Mum’s? Jonny Leighton (author), Mike Byrne (illustrator), Buster Books (imprint of Michael O’Mara Limited) (publisher)
Come on, let’s face it, what young child doesn’t want to laugh out loud when they hear the word “bum”?! And this riotously fun picture book is just full of bums! Young zebra Ziggy accidentally causes a huge stampede and, before he knows it, he is lost in the savannah and desperate to find his mum again. But how can he find her? Why, by looking for her unique zig-zagged bum of course! Along the way he encounters bums of every variety: smelly bums, hairy bums, large bums, tall, spotty bums, scaly bums, he seems to find them all! But can he find his mum? This book has my twins in stitches. The rhyming descriptions of the different bums are cheeky and fun providing much hilarity for my two. The artwork is equally humorous with fun, vibrant illustrations of the animals of the savannah. It’s a firm favourite in this house for its cheeky humour, fabulous rhyming text and total understanding of what appeals to young readers.
Mr. Men, Little Miss – Discover You Stories: Be Kind, Worries, All Different and Try Again – Farshore (publishers)
These are the first four books in a fantastic new series exploring and supporting children’s mental and emotional health and wellbeing. Apparently almost 1 in 18 pre-schoolers are affected by mental health problems and this has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. This series uses the fun and well-known characters from the Mr. Men and Little Miss series to help children understand more about their own emotions and to encourage discussion around the way they are feeling. There are four books out now (with more to come in the New Year) and each of these focusses on something different. Try Again is book all about resilience and persistence and follows the story of Mr Bump and Little Miss Brave who try hard to be brave and are resilient enough to bounce back when things go wrong. Worries is a book about feeling anxious and follows the story of Little Miss Shy and Mr Worry whose friends have some very helpful and wise words for them. Be Kind is a book about kindness and this book looks at Mr Mean who finds it the hardest of the Mr. Men characters to be kind. Can Mr Happy and Little Miss Giggles help him to learn that little acts of kindness can bring much happiness? All Different is an empowering book celebrating diversity and is a great way for children to realise that we are all different but we are all uniquely amazing in our own way! Each book has engaging questions to encourage conversations between you and your little one and there are tips at the back of the book on how to read them with your child. Sensitive and engaging, these books are a wonderful tool to read with your child before going back or starting back at school, or to bring out any time they are experiencing one of these emotions.
The Elephant Detectives – Ged Adamson (author and illustrator), Nosy Crow Limited (publisher)
We love the colour and palette used in this fabulous book, from the front cover to the final page, it really draws us in. It was a perfect kind of day for Alan and his elephant until Alan’s balloon flew out of reach and his elephant went missing! But luckily for Alan, ace elephant detective extraordinaire, Edie, is around to save the day. Edie says she knows just where to look for Alan’s elephant friend….. but does she? After trailing round the city all day, they don’t seem to be any closer to finding his elephant! Will Alan find something else along the way though…another friend perhaps? (And don’t worry kids, elephants never forget you know so Alan just might see his elephant again!) We love this super story here. It’s full of vibrant illustrations filled with fun and humour and it leaves you with such a lovely glow because of its gentle message about friendship and togetherness and its sweet, heart-warming ending. My twins find it hilarious to point out the ‘lost’ elephant on every page and shout out what it is up to. We have also hugely enjoyed listening to the story out loud using the QR code contained on the front cover of the book (a brilliant feature of all Nosy Crow picture books).
The Roar – Eoin McLAughlin (author), Polly Dunbar (illustrator), Faber and Faber Limited (publisher)
Everyone’s favourite characters Hedgehog and Tortoise are back, this time helping children explore the emotions of feeling cross, irritated and angry. Tortoise wanted to do so many fun things. There were games to play and rocks to climb…. Until Tortoise got stuck. On his back. And being stuck made Tortoise (understandably) cross. He is so unhappy that even a hug from Hedgehog does not sound like a good idea. Tortoise is very cross and when you are cross, you roar. Poor Hedgehog does not know what to do to help his friend so he asks Owl who suggests that Hedgehog tries to understand how Tortoise is feeling. So, Hedgehog sits and waits and then makes Tortoise laugh, taking time to let the moment and anger pass and acknowledging how Tortoise feels. This is such a charming book, gentle and patient and really touching in its simplicity and also its cleverness, accurately portraying childhood tantrums and how children can work through these and deal with these big emotions. My twins love the adorable illustrations which make them laugh out loud. We have used this book to talk about feelings of anger and being cross, even coming up with examples of what has made us feel like Tortoise (the fact that I didn’t know what book my son was trying to tell me about – it had a tiger in it and we *might* have borrowed it from the library – shout out if you know! and when I opened the Yo-Yo when my daughter wanted to do it herself!!). I can see this being a super text for use on a topic about feelings in an early years setting.
The Smile – Marie Voigt (author and illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)
“A smile is a beautiful gift. From one face to another.” I could not agree more. My favourite thing about people is their ability to smile. It lights up a person’s face (and even boosts endorphins!). I love that phrase “turn that frown upside down” and I am frequently saying it to my children when they are having a strop. So, this really is the perfect book for us in our house. This is the sweetest book about the joy of a smile. Smiles that can bring happiness (and smiles to more faces) to people near and far. Smiles that come about because of kindness. Smiles that come about because of acts of love. Smiles that travel thousands of miles. We love the exquisite artistry in this book – the drawings are so sweet and heart-warming that they bring a smile to your face just to look at them. We love the imagery of a smile used as golden pieces of warmth and glitter which radiate through each page of the book like the little pieces of happy magic that they are, really emphasising that smiles can make the world go round. We love the final page which is basking in the glow of a sunshine yellow smile and asks the question, “Where will your smile go?”. We also used this book to draw our own smiles. It was so cute to see the children’s pictures! We have so much love for this book. It’s the ultimate depiction of a smile all bundled up in the pages of a book.
Our Tower – Joseph Coelho (author), Richard Johnson (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
This exquisite book follows the story of three children living in what they perceive to be a grey, dull, bleak tower block. They embark on a fantastical adventure which helps them to see their home in a completely new light, full of colour, full of love, full of friendship and full of community spirit. With echoes of Alice falling down the rabbit hole, the children enter a new world through the root of an old, wise tree and this magical wonderland and the tree-grown man contained within it help them realise that the magic and wonder that they had been searching for is also contained within their tower block. I love how the colours in this book start off so dark and sombre but as the magic of the world and the love and community spirit is released before the children’s very eyes (and with the beautiful artistic imagery of swooshing yellow light and leaves through the pictures of the book), the colours flood the story. The illustrations are absolutely stunning, evoking awe and magic and wonder. The poetic narrative is perfectly complemented by the artistry and colours used throughout. The more I read the book, the more I get out of it and fall under its enchantment. My eldest daughter (who is seven) enjoys it much more than my four year old twins though. I think it is one which they will grow up with and grow into. It might be one of those books that adults enjoy even more than children – I think it is totally captivating.
Goodnight Toucan – Joanne Partis (author and illustrator), Little Tiger Press Limited (publisher)
Generous Toucan wants to throw the best ever sleepover party for his friends. Everyone was very excited to receive their invitations but, as the day of the party approached, Toucan began to worry that things were not quite perfect enough, or special enough. He rushed through the jungle collecting and foraging and quite literally weighing himself down with ‘things’ until he couldn’t fly any longer and landed ‘splash’ in some water. Dripping wet and sad, he arrives back at his jungle to find his friends waiting for him. At that moment, he realises that the twinkling fairy lights (they have the stars), the decorations and the food don’t matter – what makes the party truly special and fun for his friends is simply having him there with them. This is a lovely story with a very sweet message about friendship and what is important in life. My twins love the beautifully bright illustrations of the adorable jungle animals (the sloth is their favourite) and they were very pleased with themselves that they realised what might make the party truly special before Toucan himself. A colourful book with adorable artwork and an endearing message for young children.
I Want the Moon – Frann Preston-Gannon (author and illustrator), Templar Books (imprint of Bonnier Books) (publisher)
Oh my, how my children have adored this book. Especially my four year old little boy! Maybe he sees himself in the little boy who wants it all!?! Exquisitely illustrated with stunning and impactful drawings, this rhyming picture book really packs a punch. It makes you think, it makes your little ones think. It emphasises good manners and highlights how greed and power can be the downfall of mankind but also contains a heart-warming ending. A spoilt little boy is given everything he demands by his parents. He is a child who wants everything (including the moon!) and his parents decide it might be a good idea for him to play with other children to stop his spoilt behaviour. But when the boy next door comes to play, he makes an enemy rather than a friend as the two spoilt little boys fight over everything. The spoilt little boy grows up into a spoilt, rich and powerful man. He has everything he wishes for, apart from the moon! So, he decides to try and obtain his childhood wish and works his employees to the bone to try and create a machine to get him there. But when he arrives, who should turn up at the exact same moment but the little boy’s foe! They fight and argue over the moon, pulling and pushing until it falls down to Earth and shatters into a million little pieces. With some great thinking and some brilliant community spirit, the innocent children realise they can fix the moon with glue and the adults join in too to mend the damaged moon. The ending is thought-provoking and captivating in equal parts, allowing some great discussions surrounding redemption, all-consuming greed and selfish behaviour, as well as allowing your child to think about the consequences of their actions.
Kitsy Bitsy’s Noisy Neighbours – Polly Faber (author), Melissa Crowton (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
Park View Rise is home to all sorts of animals. Normally their high-rise home is calm and quiet but today there is a lot of noise and, well, a bit of a riot going on! I wonder why? Well, it all started when Honky Tonk sang a bit too loudly which made Tippy Toes’ baby howl and that disturbed Smart Alec’s writing so he decided to try some DIY drilling instead which made the light swing so Rocky Locky cut off more of Big Wayne’s mane than she meant to and his scream blew all his hair out of the window onto Sugar Plum’s cooling cakes so he tipped them out … all over Fiddle Faddle. Oh dear. What a ruckus. Thank heavens Kitsy Bitsy is around to save the day and bring everyone together again, reminding them of their community spirit and how kindness and thoughtfulness can bring everyone together. This book is a joy to read aloud. The rhyming text rolls off the tongue and my twins love all the names of the animals involved as well as the bright and funny illustrations on each page. We also love how you have to turn the book around to read one of the pages. A hilarious cake-filled caper, this one is a story my twins just keep coming back to. There is a recipe for honey cake at the back of the book so we are going to give that a go on our next rainy day!
Turtle Bay – Saviour Pirotta (author), Nilesh Mistry (illustrator), Otter-Barry Books (publisher)
There is nothing I don’t love about this gentle, patient, heart-warming story. Taro and Jiro-San are friends, despite their age difference. Jiro-San showed Taro how to feed crabs, dive for sponges and be in tune with nature. But Taro’s sister didn’t like Jiro-San very much – she thinks he is strange, particularly because her friends say that he swept the beach with a brush last year. One day, Taro sees Jiro-San sitting on a huge rock just listening to nature and when Taro asks him what he is doing, he says he is waiting for his old friends to come to see him. When he asks Taro to help him sweep the beach of broken glass and rubbish, Taro begins to doubt his wise old friend. Eventually, after much waiting, Taro and his sister are rewarded by seeing some turtles come to lay their eggs on the beach. What a privilege! And after even more patience, 8 weeks later while the children watch from a rock under the cover of dark, the baby turtles make their way back to the ocean. This is such a gorgeous book with an important message about turtle conversation. It also contains some wonderful examples of patience, mindfulness and being at one with nature that young children are fascinated to hear about. The illustrations are exquisite, really bringing to life the beauty and wonder of the natural world and the seas and oceans around us. It’s a beautiful book on every level.
Captain Cuddles – Maudie Powell-Tuck (author), Julio Antonio Blasco (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)
There’s a new superhero in town and he has a special power. The power of cuddles! He’s the softest, squishiest, snuggliest of superheroes and he manages to turn baddies into goodies with the power of a good huggle! But when Wicked Flea decides to rid the world of Captain Cuddles and persuade all the baddies to return to their terrible ways, it might just be the end for our cuddly captain! Or will it? Maybe all the baddies like their new lovely lives and maybe they will rescue Captain Cuddles. Maybe Wicked Flea will realise that no one is too teeny for cuddles in the end. Let’s hope so, hey! This book is a huge hit with my superhero – loving children. It’s fun, it’s humorous, it’s bright, it’s filled with super cartoon-style speech bubbles and the story is sweet and engaging. I always love the chance to practice my super villain and superhero voices!! The illustrations are brilliant: colourful and funny to match the text. My children have also loved how interactive the book is, with lots of different sized lift the flaps and cut out spaces in the book, there is something to keep them hugely entertained on every page.
Peter Rabbit: Hide and Seek – Rachel Bright (author), Nicola Kinnear (illustrator), Puffin Books (publisher)
Based on the adventures of the mischievous Peter Rabbit, Peter is hopping off on a new adventure in this colourful picture book inspired by Beatrix Potter’s iconic cheeky character. My twins love this delightful rhyming story of Peter Rabbit and his friends outwitting the wily Mr Tod in a game of hide and seek. Peter gets his inventive cap on and his creative juices flowing to make an invisibleness cloak to outsmart the old fox. But Peter becomes a little too loud and boastful in his efforts! Will he be caught by Mr Tod or will he manage to outrun him? I couldn’t possibly tell you! This is such a wonderful book. The rhyming text trips off the tongue and adds to the fun and fast-paced adventure and we love the gentle moral of the story, reminding children of the perils of being boastful and proud. The illustrations are mischievous and fun, much like Peter himself, and we love the adorable depictions of each of the characters as well as the colour tones used. It really puts us in the mood for autumn days where the leaves are turning red, gold and orange. It’s a beautiful and fun new adventure in this series and a superb re-imagining of everyone’s favourite cheeky rabbit. We can’t wait for more (fingers crossed, pretty please with a cherry on top!).
When a Dragon Comes to Stay (Caryl Hart) (author), Rosalind Beardshaw (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
We love these “When a Dragon …” books and this delightful story is no different. In fact, my twins have declared it their favourite of the ones that they have read! With its adorable illustrations and clever rhyming text, it’s easy to see why. So, what happens when a dragon comes to stay then?! You might be expecting bad behaviour but you would be wrong. In fact, when a dragon comes to stay, “she’s polite, not rude. She takes her empty plate and cup…and sometimes even washes up!” (Can she come here please?!) She doesn’t shout, she’s nice and helpful, always remembers her manners, brushes her teeth and gets ready for bed without any fuss…… she’s a model dragon. We love the adorable and funny ending (I’m not giving anything away) and the clever way that the rhyming story reinforces good manners and great behaviour without your little ones even realising it! For us, mealtimes can be a real struggle (they won’t sit through a meal, they won’t use their cutlery…. You know the drill!) but this is a great one to remind them about, asking them whether a dragon would do that?! We love the refrain that is repeated throughout the book in large letters: “Why, no! Dragons don’t do that!” as my twins love to join in that part each time. The illustrations in the book are just so cute and the colour palette used is so bright and fun that your little ones can’t help but be engaged. We definitely can’t wait for a dragon to come to stay here!
The Worry Jar – Lou John (author), Jenny Bloomfield (illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)
“Frida worries all the time. Big worries. Small worries. All-the-time worries.” I can relate to Frida and I think that lots of young children can too. I love that there are stories helping children to work through important emotions to help them feel supported and this one is truly special. Poor Frida feels so weighed down by her worries that they stop her from enjoying her every day activities. When Frida worries, she picks up a pebble and she pops them in her pockets. But the worries, like the pebbles, were weighing Frida down. One day, her Granny suggests the best idea to her: instead of worrying about her worries, she could put her worry pebbles in the jar, a pebble for every worry and soon she feels much lighter and begins to be able to see the fun and enjoyment in each day. Her last worry pebble goes into the jar when her beloved cuddly toy Rabbit is found. This is a wonderfully heart-warming story designed to gently support children (and adults!) and help them to understand that everyone has worries. The illustrations are stunning, perfectly portraying the emotions of Frida throughout. It would be a brilliant book to read with any children that are anxious or upset about starting or returning to school in September or for any child who feels worried about anything and I can see it being a super text for use in schools around topics exploring emotions.
Kitty and the Star Stone Robber – Paula Harrison (author), Jenny Lovlie (illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)
If you haven’t read any of these books previously, they are perfect for those children starting out on their independent reading journey, or those children wanting a longer story than a picture book. This is the latest in the fabulous series all about Kitty (a superhero in training with cat-like superpowers) and her Cat Crew. My daughter loves cats (we don’t have one) and so any story about a girl by day and an adventurous superhero-in-training-cat-by-night will instantaneously grab her attention! When artefacts and relics go missing from the City Museum’s display cases, Kitty races across the rooftops to investigate. She thinks she knows just who has been doing the thieving but could she be wrong? This is a magical moonlight adventure, following Kitty on her search for clues. With its beautifully adorable illustrations, black, white, grey and orange colour palette and larger sized font, it is a super book to keep your young reader engaged and interested. The chapters are short, the pictures are plentiful (and wonderful) and the storyline is full of adventure and intrigue. We also love the super facts about cats at the back of the book. We’re feline (#sorrynotsorry) good about this book and cannot wait for more in the series.
Sunshine Stables Willow and the Whizzy Pony – Olivia Tuffin (author), Jo Goodberry (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
My eldest daughter is horse mad so she absolutely adores this fabulous series of books all about the equine world. They are filled with horsey adventures which your young readers will just canter through! At Sunshine Stables, dreams become adventures and this latest book in the series does not disappoint. Willow is great at riding her spritely pony Luna and she is also great at running. She’d love to be able to find something which could combine both of her great loves. But Willow hasn’t always had the easiest of times fitting in places and she finds Emily, the daughter of the lady who runs the riding school, insufferable. Unfortunately though, Emily’s pony, Fable, and Willow’s pony, Luna, are the best of friends. When Fable goes missing on the afternoon that Willow and Emily are supposed to be showing off their perfect racing skills, will Willow decide to use her speed to help Fable and Emily? Will the girls be friends after all? This is a lovely story of friendship and harmony. The black and white illustrations are wonderful, capturing the pony club world perfectly and ensuring the maximum amount of engagement with the fast-paced text. We also love the perfect pony pro quiz at the back of the book – my daughter loves a good quiz and she has learned so many superb facts about ponies from these books. Fun, bright and fast-paced, these books are perfect for any pony-loving child.
Puppy Club – Lulu’s Big Surprise – Catherine Jacob (author), Rachel Saunders (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Limited (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)
Jaya and her friends are all puppy-mad! Together, they are the Puppy Club and they get together to share their stories and facts about puppies, large and small. When Lulu, a new arrival at Jaya’s Auntie Ashani’s Underdogs rescue centre, comes in expecting puppies, the club is beside itself with excitement! The six friends make up their own puppy code names and cannot wait to meet Lulu’s new puppies when they arrive. When it is revealed that it looks like Lulu will have six puppies, it seems too good to be true and the friends all set out to try and persuade their parents that now is the time for their families to get a new puppy. ‘Operation Pawfect Puppy’ gets into full swing as, one by one, the members show their parents what responsible dog owners they will be. But will Jaya ever manage to persuade her own mother? She seems like she will never relent. No spoilers here – you will have to read the book to find out. With larger font and adorable black and white illustrations interspersed throughout the chapters, this book is the most endearing chapter book for any puppy-loving or animal-mad child. I would have adored this book when I was younger! My eldest daughter thought it had been written just for her, bless.
Bad Panda – The Cake Escape – Swapna Haddow (author), Sheena Dempsey (illustrator), Faber and Faber Limited (publisher)
We laughed our way through the escapades of Lin the panda in the first book in the series so we were very excited when this book landed on our doorstep for review! If it is possible, we thought this book was even funnier! Lin is on a mission. A mission to find her friend Fu. Fu has gone missing. With the help (?!) of a raccoon named Small Raccoon (and then Genavie!), Lin traces Fu back to the mansion of the Horrid Human (aka Billion, the predator child). How will Lin get her best friend back again? She may be fluffy but fearless she is not! This book is hilariously funny: both my daughter and I laughed out loud at the imagery in places. It’s fully illustrated with humorous drawings and interspersed with comic strip style moments of dialogue which mean that it is wonderful book for those readers who struggle with huge amounts of text in one go. The drawings throughout mean that there are plenty of funny illustrations to complement the hilarity and silliness of the text and make for a unique and fun reading experience. A brilliant second book in what we hope will be a funny new series.
Mirabelle and the Naughty Bat Kittens – Harriet Muncaster (author and illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)
Have you read any of this series of books before? Half fairy, half witch, uniquely mischievous Mirabelle! This is the latest in this magical series but, like the other books, you can absolutely read them as standalone books. Perfect for those readers starting out on their independent reading journey, the text is fast-paced and the magic is real, captivating young readers. Interspersed with lots of fabulously adorable black, white and purple illustrations, these books are a real treat as early chapter books. Mirabelle can’t seem to help causing mischief and magical mayhem. She is so excited to be going on a school trip with her class to a magical creature sanctuary but when she is partnered with the class goody-two-shoes, Lavinia, she thinks that all fun for the day might just be out of the window. She is desperate to see the bittens (that’s bat kittens to you and me!) and is determined that Lavinia will not spoil her day. But when they accidentally let out all of the young bittens from their enclosure, the two girls have to learn to put their differences aside and to work together. Will Lavinia help Mirabelle stay out of trouble? Will Mirabelle show Lavinia that, sometimes, some things are just worth getting into a little bit of trouble for? And that, sometimes, a little mischief can even be fun? Will the girls ever become friends? This is another sweet, fun and engaging story from the world of Mirabelle. We can’t wait for more. We love the magical creature quiz at the back of the book and cannot wait to have a go at making some cupcake-case butterflies.
A Seal Pup Called Pearl – Helen Peters (author), Ellie Snowdon (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
We love this adorable animal series of books in our house. Each book can be read as a standalone and is perfect for any animal-loving young reader. When a newborn seal pup (awwwwwwwww!) is abandoned by its mother because of some selfish and reckless people, Jasmine and her friend Tom are determined to care for her until she is old enough to be released. They may even be a little dishonest to get their hands on another abandoned pup to make sure that Pearl, the seal pup, gets the best experience she can (something Jasmine’s mum is understandably not impressed by!). But when a vicious dog manages to get into Pearl and Silver’s enclosure, will it be the end for the young seal pups? Will Pearl and Silver ever be able to return to the sea where they belong? With larger sized font and adorable black and white illustrations interspersed throughout the text, these are superb chapter books. The drawings are very sweet and serve to break up the larger chunks of the story providing maximum engagement for chapter book readers. We love this sweet story, highlighting how to behave responsibly with animals and to respect nature and wild animals. A wonderful message to pass on to young children.
Space Blasters: Susie Saves the Universe – Katie & Kevin Tsang (authors), Amy Nguyen (illustrator), Farshore (imprint of HarperCollins) (publisher)
Save the universe in this stellar new adventure series! Suzie Wen loves inventing things. She loves gadgets. Unfortunately, her inventions don’t always turn out how she thinks they will! When Suzie invents the Super 3DTV Gizmo, she get transported into Space Blasters!, her favourite TV show! Suzie begins by enjoying her inter-gallactic trip aboard the spaceship with Captain Jane, Spaceman Jack and alien Five-Eyed Frank and has a hilarious romp through the planets – stinky Plant Cheddar anyone?! – but when moons start to disappear, it is up to Suzie to try and save the universe. Can she put her inventive brain to good use and manage to save space?! Will she ever find her way home again? This book is hugely fun: packed with lots of brilliant black and white illustrations providing maximum engagement, slightly larger sized font, fun fact boxes, engaging pages from Suzie’s inventor notebook and lots of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) themes throughout, it’s a superb book for readers aged six plus. The fact boxes are also brilliant for fans of non-fiction. It’s a unique, out of this world caper and we hope for more in the series.
Middle Grade Reads
The Dangerous Life of Ophelia Bottom – Susie Bower (author), Pushkin Press (publisher)
Hugely funny, deliciously fast-paced, full of wit and charm yet with a serious message about plastic waste, I adored this middle grade read. Ophelia Bottom just longs for an ordinary life – to go to school, to live in a house instead of a rickety van, to have parents with ‘normal’, less embarrassing jobs – and when her father has an accident during a performance of the (wonderfully-named) Bottom’s Travelling Theatre meaning that the family is forced to stay in the idyllic town of Stopford, it appears as if Ophelia’s dreams might be coming true. But as time goes on, Ophelia begins to realise that everything is just a little bit ‘samey’ in Stopford and the motto of “Plastic is fantastic, different is dangerous” is just not sitting well. Maybe things are not quite as perfect as they seem! Add to that the fact that someone seems to be deliberately trying to drive them out of town, the Professor at the factory seems rather strange and the sea seems to be filled with every kind of plastic and you can see why you just HAVE to keep turning the pages to find out whether Ophelia can discover what really lurks behind Stopford’s perfect appearance and save her preciously unique family from falling apart from under her nose. I promise you won’t be disappointed! I just loved this book. Full of warmth, humour and brilliant escapades, it’s a joy to read.
Mia and the Lightcasters – Janelle McCurdy (author), Ana Latese (illustrator), Faber and Faber Limited (publisher)
What a book! It’s hugely gripping, fast-paced, highly imaginative and action-packed. Mia had always dreamed of being an umbra tamer until she met a wild creature on the Nightmare Plains that absolutely terrified her. After that, she never trusts umbras fully and prefers to stay safe within the walls of her moonlit city Nubis. But after her parents are taken in a surprise attack and she is left looking after her younger brother, Mia has to face her fears and travel to the City of Light. It seems like an impossible journey, even with friends TJ and Jada to help. Mia has to learn to harness her umbra-taming abilities to complete the quest. Otherwise, the Darkness will overcome everything and she will lose her whole family and the friends she has made along the way. Can she manage it? Is she more special than she believes? This is a fantastical adventure creating such a shadowy magical world inside your own head that it is unputdownable at times. The black and white illustrations dotted throughout the text are bold and magical, bringing to life the fantastical world before your eyes. This book is perfect for fans of “Amari and the Night Brothers” or the “Legend of Podkin One-Ear” and I loved it.
The Feeling Good Club – Kelly McKain (author), Jenny Latham (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Limited (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)
Set out in diary format (complete with doodles and all!), I love this fun book exploring emotions. Bella is not having the best time at school at the moment: her best friend, Rosh, has just moved miles away and left her feeling bereft and left out, she is dreading the class talk where she will have to stand up in front of her whole class and speak and she is worried that Rosh will forget all about her. When she befriends classmates Shazmin and Archie, things start to take a turn for the better. Together, they form the Feeling Good Club and support each other to be their best selves, encouraging each other to feel good, face their fears and practise some brilliant mindfulness activities along the way. I loved how I was taken back to my ten year old self in this book. I could totally see myself writing and drawing these things in my old diary back in the day. It’s so relate-able and sure to be a huge hit with children of this age, especially those who are struggling to work through their feelings about a particular matter. I loved how the messages of mental and emotional well-being were emphasised and reinforced throughout the whole book. The cartoon-like and sometimes incredibly funny black and white illustrations support the text and provide engagement with the story. I also love the suggestions at the back of the book containing some of the mindful activities detailed in the story – we can’t wait to give the mindful cookie-eating a go!!
The Mermaid Call – Alex Cotter (author), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
Let’s start with the cover of this book. Oh my, does it pull you into the shimmering, swirling world of Lake Splendour! But not all the shimmers is truly shiny. The mermaid of the lake has long been a myth, a story to attract coach-loads of visitors to Lake Splendour. The Mermaid Crown is a fun celebration of the legend for the locals of the town to take part in. Or is it? Vivien and her new friend Alice dive into the mystery of the mermaid of the lake, determined to find the mermaid or the truth behind it but are they prepared for what they will uncover?! With its underwater currents of danger and intrigue, this is a gripping read, full of mystery and I read every page quick as a mermaid’s tail’s swish! It’s fast paced and exciting and packed full of history (I found the parts of the story surrounding the suffragettes fascinating) and drama. I was desperate to know what had happened to Alice’s aunty and whether the legend was really true. I also enjoyed the characterisation of the main characters, particularly Vivien, Mimi and Erik and how sensitively the book dealt with Vivien’s Mum’s abandonment of her. And I found the ending to be truly joyful, with just the right amount of sparkle and shimmer for a hopeful future. I hope you manage to dive into a copy of this book this summer.
The Accidental Stowaway – Judith Eagle (author), Kim Geyer (illustrator), Faber & Faber Limited (publisher)
What a joy this book is! Set in the early twentieth century when luxury travel by sea was at its zenith, this fast-paced adventure of the seas follows the story of itchy-footed young Patch who accidentally sets sail on the steamship RMS Glorious. She wasn’t planning to stowaway, it just happened! But, my goodness, does she have one heck of a nautical adventure. She meets the most wonderful characters along the way – friends and foes – and begins to realise that things are not always as they seem at first glance and that people can be very deceptive. In the time to takes for the ship to sail across the ocean to New York city, Patch sees both the glitz and glamour of the passengers in the ‘rich’ dining saloon where all that glitters is not gold, and the belly of the ship where all the hard work takes place. She meets the famous stowaway “Babette” (sssh, I am not saying more on this), creates wonderful friendships and manages to uncover a dangerous criminal plot. Not bad work for a young girl! I just loved Patch: she’s bold, she’s fearless, she’s full of fun. And I just loved this book – it’s got a gripping plot, the writing is fantastic, the characterisations are superb and you just can’t help but fall in love with it. I am desperate to try a trans-Atlantic crossing now. This book has given me itchy-feet!
Diary of an Accidental Witch – Ghostly Getaway – Perdita and Honor Cargill (authors), Katie Saunders (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Limited (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)
We were very excited to review this, the latest in the series all about Bea Black, an eleven year old girl who has moved to Little Spellshire and attends the Spellshire School of Extraordinary Arts, a school for witches. Easily read as a standalone, Bea’s class is going on a school trip this term to the spooky Cadabra Castle. Everyone seems to be very worried about the castle being haunted and ghosts visiting them in the night but Bea has other concerns about her father and his job that are keeping her awake at night. Will Bea and her friends discover what is wandering the castle at night and be able to enjoy their midnight feast? Will Bea be able to tell her friends her worries and talk to her Dad? You will just have to read this wonderfully witchy caper to find out. And you won’ be disappointed if you do. My eldest daughter just loves these books. She loves the diary format, she loves the to-do lists, she loves the brilliant black and white illustrations which are interspersed throughout the pages of the book making it even more engaging….. she loves the storylines and I think she wishes she was Bea Black herself! The drawings themselves are hilarious, really bringing the characters and story to life. Full of chuckles and charm(s), this is a brilliant book in a series that has cast its spell over us.
The Mystery of the Missing Mum – Frances Moloney (author), Pushkin Press (publisher)
This book should not be as hugely funny to read as it is! One morning anxious young Jake wakes up to find that his mother has gone missing. No one really seems that concerned that she seems to have vanished into thin air. His sister is too busy spending hours getting ready for school, his grandma is snoring in the chair…. It’s down to Jake to start the search. Where might she be? Tesco? Prison? Hospital? With his Dad? The EU? The Bahamas? One by one, he slowly starts to tick off these unlikely places off his list but being a detective is hard work, particularly when no one (even your best friend) seems to want to help. Life wasn’t perfect at home before but Jake cannot understand why his mum would simply just run off!! I am not going to give away the ending to this story but what I will say is that this book is a page-turning, hilarious romp through a some very difficult and emotive topics. It is so clever because it deals with the issues of unconventional families and mental health in the most sensitive (yet also laugh out loud funny) of ways. It had me laughing, it had me crying, it had me desperate to find out where Jake’s Mum had gone. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Little People, Big Dreams – Marcus Rashford – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Guilherme Karsten (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
I am so pleased that the Little People, Big Dreams series has published a book about this amazing man. Known for his humanity and compassion as much as his footballing skills, this book is truly special in highlighting the incredible life to date of Marcus Rashford. The book covers Marcus’s early years in Manchester with his siblings and his mother and how Marcus began playing football at a young age as a goal keeper. He went from defending goal to being one of the best and most talented people to attack it and joined Manchester United as one of their star players. Marcus never forgot where he came from though and the book powerfully portrays the stance he took to campaign for free school meals during the pandemic. He became one of the nation’s heroes both on and off the pitch. The story also sensitively deals with the groundswell of support for Marcus and other players after the European Championship Final. We love the ending of this book: “Because stars only become true heroes when they inspire others to stand together for what is right.” Couldn’t agree more. The photo fact section at the back of the book is fascinating, adding even more insight into this inspirational footballer figure. We can’t finish without mentioning the fantastic illustrations. Like the others in the series, they are vibrant, modern and hugely eye-catching, providing maximum engagement with the text about this talented man and outstanding campaigner for social justice.
Little People, Big Dreams – Neil Armstrong – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Christophe Jacques (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
Another out of this world book from this fantastic series about the lives of outstanding individuals. My children are fascinated about space at the moment and so they were so excited to read this book about “a real-life astronaut”! From Ohio in the USA, a young boy Neil sparked a lifelong love of flying after he went to watch an air show. On his 16th birthday he got his licence to fly and he never looked back. After flying planes in the Korean War and earning three medals for bravery he obtained a job at NASA as an astronaut commanding the USA’s first spacecraft mission. The book tells of the iconic Apollo 11 mission to the moon in July 1969 which Neil Armstrong went on with his fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and how millions of people watched his first footsteps on the moon (which are still there now as there is no wind on the moon to blow them away!). My children found it fascinating to learn how the groundbreaking technology in the lunar module broke down to such an extent that it was only thanks to a pen jammed in a switch that got the astronauts safely back home again!! We love the picture timeline and further fact section at the end of the book to further bring the details of Neil Armstrong’s fascinating and awe-inspiring adventures to life. The illustrations are some of our favourites -full of warmth, comradeship and beautiful lunar landscapes. A truly inspiring read – encouraging us all to reach for the stars.
Celebrate With Me! – Laura Gladwin (editor), Dawn M. Cardona (illustrator), Magic Cat Publishing (publisher)
This book is a joyous collection of recipes, crafts and activities celebrating various festivals and holidays around the globe throughout the year. This unique book focuses on twenty-five imaginative and creative people from around the world who share their favourite festivals and holidays with us so we can learn more about their special days filled with feasting, dancing, rituals and story-telling. Allowing children to see how important and connecting festivals and holidays can be, this book is truly a joy to read. From Lara Lee who explains to us why she loves the Lunar New Year and how to make a Chinese dragon costume, through Leslea Newman who tells us all about her favourite holiday, Passover, and how to make the best Matzo Brei, to Alain Briseno who loves the Day of the Dead festival and the idea behind it and provides the recipe for a mouth-wateringly delicious Mexican Hot Chocolate. With beautifully joyful, bright and vibrant illustrations complementing the fun feel of the book and a spread about how to have more fun with festivals, this book is so unique. I love the fact that your child is learning all about different holidays and customs from around the world but can also be occupied by making a craft item or trying out a recipe to broaden their horizons. The contributors section at the back of the book is also a uniquely personal touch.
The Periodic Table is Weird! and Maths is Weird! – Noodle Fuel (text), Luke Newell (illustrator), Caterpillar Books (imprint of Little Tiger Group)
These two STEM boredom-busting, fact-packed books are just superb for any child interested in maths and science. In The Periodic Table is Weird! your young reader joins the alien scientists of Floortlesnazz Grobblesnot Intergalactic Scientific Institute (this name brought snorts of laughter from my eldest!) as they study the periodic table, taking us through what elements are. The elements are grouped together and each group contains elements with similar chemical behaviours so the book takes a look at these in an eye-catching and memorable way. Covering all 118 elements, the book is packed with brilliant facts, hilarious comments (noble gases are not when a king farts!!) and informative and useful snippets about the elements such as how they were discovered, what they can be found in or used for and how they react. Your young readers can learn so many amazing facts from this book: did you know that you could eat or drink gold?! Or that Lithium is created when stars reach the end of their life and explode?!
In Maths is Weird!, your reader is welcomed into the GigaSmartz Brainbot Academy where the dizzy droids will take them through the fabulously fun world of numbers. What they are and how they can be used. Your reader will be taken through division and multiplication, fractions and decimals, percentages, ratios, probability, measurement, algebra and much more. But in the most fun way possible! My eldest doesn’t love maths but she has found parts of this book fascinating (some of it is beyond her at the moment). There are some jaw-dropping facts – you can learn how many times you need to fold a piece of paper to reach the moon and why the number 0 was banned in Florence.
We love that in both books there are spreads on top 10 weird facts and also some fun activities to complete to provide even more boredom-busting entertainment. The illustrations are superb and really engaging in both books. The cartoon-style robots and scientists are hilarious and provide humour with their funny asides and comments throughout. They serve to break to the text and the information contained within it so that your reader can absorb the facts in the most fun way possible. A superb pair of books and I am so pleased that there are these fantastic resources for allowing children to explore even more about these subjects.
The Pippi Longstocking Activity Book – Ingrid Vang Nyman (illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)
Do you have a child who loves the Pippi Longstocking adventures? Then this is the activity book to keep your young reader occupied in any moment of boredom. Great for long holidays, great to utilise on rainy days, great to pull out of the bag when you hear the cry, “but what can I dooooooo?”! Anyone who enjoys the classic tales of Pippi Longstocking will know that her world is fun, wild and hugely entertaining. This book is inspired by her stories and is packed with hugely fun activity ideas to inspire a Pippi-style adventure. You can set sail on a pirate voyage, make your own peppermint sweets, party like Pippi (complete with Pippi invitations), invent some new Pippi words build a Pippi den and much more. There is a hugely helpful contents page containing a key which will help your little one decide what activity they would like to do, depending on what mood they are in – they can choose from activities, crafting, recipes and games. We love the fact that there are so many to choose from and some activities only require a couple of items (such as a pen and sticky notes, or socks and a bucket!) while others need more materials. There is something for every occasion, depending on how much time you have to spend on an activity. The illustrations are bright and full of fun, highlighting the cheerful world of Pippi Longstocking. We’re off to make some Pippi peppermints now, wish us luck!