Recommended kids books for January 2024

Recommended kids books for January 2024
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Beat those winter blues with some cosy books. We have all sorts for you… books to make you laugh out loud, books to keep you on the edge of your seat, and works of non-fiction to blow your mind. Grab a blanket and a cuppa and have a browse ….

Board books

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Big Outdoors for Little Explorers: Snow,  Anne-Kathrin Behl (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Get ready to take your little ones on an adventure in the big outdoors! Created in collaboration with The National Trust, this series of sturdy board books are superb for exploring the big outside world and having fun with your young readers.  The latest in the series, Snow, is hugely interactive and encourages your child to hone their fine motor skills with fun sliders to push, pull and spin to uncover more about the natural world around them when it is covered with a snowy landscape.  The gentle rhyming text in the book is a fun way to allow your child to learn about the birds, animals and wildlife and what they do during the wintry weather. 

The pages are chunky, allowing those little fingers to be able to grip and turn them, and the illustrations are both colourful and completely adorable, giving the animals the sweetest of expressions and detail.  Vibrant and engaging, this board book is  perfect for little animal lovers everywhere and a handy size to pop in a changing bag or bottom of pushchair to take on your adventures out and about.

Big Outdoors for Little Explorers: Snow,  Anne-Kathrin Behl (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
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National Trust: Big Outdoors for Little Explorers: Snow
  • Anne-Kathrin Behl (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 10 Pages - 10/12/2023 (Publication Date) - Nosy Crow (Publisher)

I Spot a Duck – Kay Vincent (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Produced in collaboration with The National Trust, this first spotter’s guide is a brilliant board book for little hands.

If your little reader loves birds and is fascinated by nature then this is the interactive board book for them. There are large and uniquely-shaped flaps to lift on the chunky, bright pages and your little one can find the answers to questions about where certain birds live, what their young are called and what noise they make. The birds that are detailed are ducks, seagulls, woodpeckers, pigeons and owls.

The illustrations are adorable: vibrant in colour and filled with sweet drawings of the natural world and the birds involved. We also love that the book encourages young ones to spot the ladybirds throughout the pages of the book too.

Strong and sturdy, this is a wonderfully educational and engaging interactive book for little nature enthusiasts.

I Spot a Duck -
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National Trust: I Spot a Duck (My Very First Spotter's Guides) (National Trust: My Very First Spotter's Guides)
  • Kay Vincent (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 14 Pages - 01/04/2024 (Publication Date) - Nosy Crow (Publisher)

Picture books

This is NOT a Polar Bear! – Barry Timms (author), Ged Adamson (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Bright, bold and fun, this is the third in the “this is not…“ series of books and we might just love it even more than the first two (but that is a tough call to make!)! 

My favourite animal is a polar bear and I think I have passed that love on to my children, so this book, with its inviting, colourful cover, 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 polar bear might you be? A trying-not-to-giggle bear (definitely my twins!)? A get-you-out-of-trouble bear (needed for my twins!)?  A dizzy-disco-dancer bear (me!!)? A save-the-world-together bear? A snowy-world-of-WONDER bear!? 

There are so many fun options in this book and I am certain that your little ones will love it. With its striking and humorous illustrations and super-sweet ending, we hope you get your hands on a copy of this one. Uplifting and fun, what’s not to love?! 

We sure do hope that there are more to come in this series of picture books. Pretty please. With sprinkles on top. 

This is NOT a Polar Bear!
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This is NOT a Polar Bear!
  • Barry Timms (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 32 Pages - 10/12/2023 (Publication Date) - Nosy Crow (Publisher)

The Best You – Nima Patel (author), Cally Johnson-Isaacs (illustrator), Little Tiger (publisher)

Who do you want to be when you grow up?! For me, kindness is key. 

This wonderfully bright, thought-provoking picture book celebrates not what children may aspire to be when they are older but WHO they want to be and the qualities that they would like to possess. For my little boy, he wants to be adventurous like an astronaut and also brave. My little girl wants to be caring like a doctor and brave to travel round the world. Awwww.

This inspirational and uplifting book is a celebration of the qualities that children need to thrive and gently encourages them to ask themselves whether they are being the best that they can be. It encourages a blossoming of wonderful qualities such as kindness and fairness from the inside out and helps them develop positive character traits, particularly when these are emulated by their care-givers. 

This is a book which is made to be read aloud. Yes, the illustrations are wonderful: adorable and expressive. But the words are even more powerful when they are spoken and talked about with our children. Real superheroes are born with the help of books like this- books which inspire, encourage, show that failure is normal, and uplift. Books which show that the best version of ourselves is already inside of us and we just need to allow those positive character traits to flourish.

The Best You
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The Best You
  • Hardcover Book
  • Patel, Nima (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 32 Pages - 01/04/2024 (Publication Date) - Little Tiger (Publisher)

Little Wolf – Peter Donnelly (author and illustrator), Hodder & Stoughton (publishers)

My son absolutely loves wolves so there was no question of us not reviewing this book! We simply had to. And it is just adorable. A real treat. 

Little Wolf lives with his brothers and sisters in a deep valley, surrounded by pine trees and rocky mountains. But there is a special event on the horizon – the Howling Ceremony – and every pup will have to practice their very best howl to prove they are ready to join the pack. While all his brothers and sisters are loudly howling away, all Little Wolf can manage is a tiny squeak. But with courage and perseverance, he realises that even the smallest voice can make the biggest impact and have the sweetest sound. Even if that sound is totally different from the rest of the pack.

This is such a wonderfully uplifting and heartwarming book. The illustrations are just joyful: adorable depictions of the cute wolf cubs with the colour tones used matching the emotions of Little Wolf. It’s a stunner of a story for any child who is feeling a little lost or out of place and who needs to find a bit of self-confidence and self-belief. Inspiring children to find their voice and allowing them to realise that standing out from the crowd can be a beautiful thing, this is a new favourite with my twins. 

Little Wolf - Peter Donnelly
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Little Wolf
  • Hardcover Book
  • Donnelly, Peter (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 32 Pages - 10/12/2023 (Publication Date) - Hodder Children's Books (Publisher)

Usborne Good Behaviour Guides – Sharing for Sheep – Zanna Davidson (author), Alison Friend (illustrator), Usborne Publishing Limited (publisher)

Olive and Ernie are very competitive sheep. They both want to win the knitting competition (“did you know when you’re not looking, sheep are knitting lots of things…”) and they are both sure that their blanket is the biggest and the best. But disaster strikes our woolly friends when they realise that they are both trying to finish off their woolly work by using the same ball of yarn. Neither of them wants to give it up and what follows is a hilarious chase of the bouncing ball of wool around town. Will these two silly sheep learn the gift of sharing?

This is a funny and engaging picture book which is made to be read aloud. The bouncing rhyme of the text provides even more humour to the story. You can also scan the QR code on the back of the book to hear the story being read aloud which is a wonderful feature of this hardback book.

The illustrations are brilliant: bold, bright and fun, really honing in on the expressions and behaviours of the animals making this such an engaging read. 

This is a wonderfully woolly work to encourage sharing and show the benefits of sharing with others and being kind. 

 Sharing for Sheep
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Sharing for Sheep (Good Behaviour Guides): A kindness and empathy book for children (Usborne Rhyming Stories)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Davidson, Zanna (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 32 Pages - 11/09/2023 (Publication Date) - Usborne Publishing Ltd (Publisher)

Meet the Wildlings – Gwen Millward (author and illustrator), Templar Books (publisher)

We have a new favourite picture book in our house!! Why?! Because it is light-hearted, funny and totally on point. This books hits the nail right on the head mimicking squabbling siblings’ behaviour perfectly. My boy/girl twins can see themselves in the pages of this book. And that is what makes this such a great story.

Meet Poppy and Max. All was going well with their day until Poppy wouldn’t give Max his truck back and then Max did something that he knew he shouldn’t: he grabbed the truck. Tempers were high…. Crash, flash, fizz … suddenly, Max and Poppy turned into Wildlings. And we all know that wildlings just cannot behave.  Can Poppy and Max learn to get on with each other and work as a team to get back to their less wild selves? 

This is a really humorous story emphasising just how tricky sharing can be. We love the page at the back of the book on how to spot a Wildling (we have at least two in our house), with its laugh out loud tick list! The illustrations are colourful and fun, bringing to life the humour of the story in all its glory. A brilliant book, encouraging children to learn to share and get along with their siblings. 

Meet the Wildlings
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Meet the Wildlings
  • Millward, Gwen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 40 Pages - 01/04/2024 (Publication Date) - Templar Publishing (Publisher)

I Love You More – Clare Helen Welsh (author), Kevin and Kristen Howdeshell (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

What a beautiful book of familial love this one is! Little Rae snuggles into bed with her Mummy for bedtime cuddles. Her Mummy tells her just how much she loves her…

Like the penguins waddle in the snow, like humpbacked camels love the desert’s softly shifting sand, like tiny tree frogs love to leap up high, like lions love to race and roar, like leopards love their tree.. perhaps even more than words can say. But there is always all that… and more. 

We love this gentle wind-down to bed story which will flood your little ones with warmth and love as they drift off the sleep. We love how  it subtly educates young children on different animals and their habitats. We love the beautiful illustrations which are stunning spreads of colour across the pages. We love the warm and fuzzy feeling it leaves us with. A great gift for Valentine’s Day for your little one, or as a Mother’s Day present from child to mother.

I Love You More
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I Love You More
  • Clare Helen Welsh (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 32 Pages - 01/04/2024 (Publication Date) - Nosy Crow (Publisher)

A Horse Called Now – Ruth Doyle (author), Alexander Finkeldey (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Is your child (or you?) one of life’s “what if”-ers? If so, then this is the book for them.

Meet Now. A beautiful, strong horse who just loves living in the present moment. Now enjoys the singing of the birds and all the beauty and wonder of the natural world. But Rabbit and her babies fear being chased by Fox.  Sheep and her lambs are scared of the New Dog – “he might have fangs as long as spears”. When a thunder storm rolls in, Now the horse leads the other animals to safety and explains that all is well and that there is nothing to be afraid of. She passes on calming and reassuring advice to the other animals about what to do when they are afraid and assures them that nothing lasts forever: “My mother told me that even the wildest storms will always end”. Now helps her animal friends to realise that everyone is afraid sometimes but that that feeling will pass and that not everything is as frightening as it first seems. On top of all that, wise Now quashes the “what if” questions and the mights and the maybes by grounding herself in the now where all is well.

Oh, I wish I was half as wise as Now!!! I genuinely believe that adults as well as children could benefit massively from this book. The stunning artwork adds to the aura of calm and beauty surrounding this story and it would be such a wonderful and gentle conversation starter with children to open conversations about fears and worries. A beautiful and very important book. 

A Horse Called Now - Ruth Doyle
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A Horse Called Now
  • Ruth Doyle (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 32 Pages - 01/04/2024 (Publication Date) - Nosy Crow (Publisher)

Snail – Minu Kim (author and illustrator), Pushkin Children’s (publisher)

This is a very sweet picture book, filled with exquisite illustrations, all about taking life at your own pace and enjoying it all the more for doing so.

With minimal words in the story, your young reader follows a little boy who gets left behind by his older brother and his friends while they are on a bike ride. His big brother tells him to go back home because he is too slow to keep up. The little boy feels sad at first but ends up having his own adventure after falling off his bike and having to push it up a hill: he makes friends with a snail and realises that life can be fun if you take things at your own pace. 

The illustrations are beautiful in this book and we love how the colour suffuses the pages once the boy has realised he should take things slow. The minimal words make for great discussions with your children as to how the characters in the book might be feeling, or what is going to happen. Sweet and enjoyable, this would be a great read for any child with older siblings that they are trying to keep up with. 

Snail - Minu Kim
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Snail: the moving Korean picture book
  • Hardcover Book
  • Kim, Minu (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 44 Pages - 12/07/2023 (Publication Date) - Pushkin Children's Books (Publisher)

When the Fog Rolls In – Pam Fong (author and illustrator), Greenwillow Books (imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) (publisher)

The sweetest little puffin gets lost in the fog. It happens to us all. On a clear day, it’s easy to see where to go and what to do, but when the fog rolls in, it can be hard to find your  way. 

Poor little puffin is lost and confused in the fog. They stumble, they are muddled, they encounter the unexpected … they are lost in unfamiliar and scary territory. Staying still doesn’t clear the fog. It can even be dangerous. But, if the puffin looks a little closer then they can see more and soon they realise that the fog lifts and the wonderful world is waiting for them. 

This is such a sweet and gentle book, filled with gorgeous, reassuring words of wisdom and encouragement. Through its text children and adults can talk about lots of different emotions that this story evokes – feelings of despair and feeling lost or uncertain, as well as finding it hard to make decisions and even being open to make choices which will broaden horizons. 

The illustrations add to the charm of this book. They are wonderfully atmospheric and beautifully drawn (who doesn’t love that little puffin?!). Sensitive and reassuring, this would be a brilliant book for any child who is feeling uncertain or upset, with its message that these emotions can be worked through and the world is waiting for you to be ready for it in your own time.

When the Fog Rolls In
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When the Fog Rolls In
  • Hardcover Book
  • Fong, Pam (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 32 Pages - 11/09/2023 (Publication Date) - Greenwillow Books (Publisher)

Chapter books

Sidney and Carrie have a Party – Lisa Thomson (author), Jess Rose (illustrator), Barrington Stoke (publisher)

As I  sure you all know, we are huge fans of this series of Little Gems books by publisher, Barrington Stoke. Carrie and her best friend Sidney are back! And this time they want to have a joint birthday party.

That’s fine, right? Surely Sidney wants a frog-themed party with a disco, right? Nope, he wants a tiger-themed party with a magician. Ok, so the cake will be chocolate then, like Sidney wants?! Nuh-uh, Carrie wants vanilla sponge with strawberries and marshmallows, of course! Oh dear. It just seems like the two friends cannot agree! They need to learn to join together to make joint decisions and compromise so that they can have the most wonderful party ever. Will they be able to do it? 

Barrington Stoke, test all their books for children by children and this one is a superb early chapter book helping children navigate the tricky world of friendships, compromise and teamwork. There are plenty of gaps between the paragraphs, short text blocks of story and lots of cute, colourful illustrations by Jess Rose interspersing the wonderful words. We also love the fun spot the difference pictures at the front of the book, providing your little reader with even more ways to engage with this sweet book. 

My twins think that this story was written just for them because they have a joint birthday party each year and they don’t always agree on what they would like, or where they want to go with their friends, so they completely see their lives mirrored in the pages of this story, which is lovely. 

This book is filled with friendship and humour (there was a lot of laughter at Sidney and Carrie’s stroppy behaviour!) and we enjoyed the message that sometimes friendships (or indeed twin-life in our case) have trials and tribulations but if you work together to agree then things can turn out perfectly. We love the books in this series and they are perfect for those starting out on their independent reading journey or those wanting a longer story than a picture book.

Sidney and Carrie have a Party
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Sidney and Carrie Have a Party: Empathy-building illustrated first chapter books for ages 5+ (Little Gems)
  • Thompson, Lisa (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 88 Pages - 01/04/2024 (Publication Date) - Barrington Stoke (Publisher)

A Mouse Called Miika – Matt Haig (author), Chris Mould (illustrator), Canongate Books (publisher)

Miika the mouse just wants to fit in. But living in the Far North, surrounded by reindeer, elves, pixies and trolls can make a tiny mouse feel like he doesn’t belong. Especially when the only other mouse around –  Bridget the Brave – is really rather unkind to him.

He should be able to relax in the company of a fellow mouse friend but Miika realises that Bridget brings trouble. Troll trouble to be precise. He and Bridget go on a quest to take the troll’s delicious Urga-Burga cheese but stealing the cheese brings a huge wedge (pun intended) of strife for Miika’s real friends and their village. 

Can Miika stand up to Bridget the Brave? Will he do what is right? Will he ever be happy to be himself?

This is one very sweet story about a teeny-tiny-twitchy-whiskered hero who learns that there is more to life than cheese!! Ha, just kidding. The story has some of the most empowering words and messages I have read in any book about the gift of friendship and self-worth and self-acceptance. In the words of Nikolas – “But you did the right thing in the end. And it’s how things end that matters.” So, I will end with this: this is a fun, sweet story with fabulous illustrations and some beautiful and uplifting messages, do go and grab yourself a copy. 

A Mouse Called Miika
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A Mouse Called Miika
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Matt Haig (Author) - Natascha McElhone (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 10/07/2021 (Publication Date) - Canongate Books (Publisher)

The Adventures of Billy Shaman – The War of the Heavenly Horses – Roland Chambers (author and illustrator), Zephyr books (publisher) – age 7 plus 

Billy is back! What unique stories these books are and, my, what a unique narrator they have!!

To recap from the first book, when Billy’s rather selfish and globe-trotting, adventure-hungry parents leave him in the care of an elderly couple at Charles Darwin’s old house for the summer holidays, poor Billy thinks he is going to be bored out of his mind. That is, until he sits on a rock in the gardens of the house and stumbles across an exciting discovery. The rock is not a rock at all, but a 237 year old talking giant tortoise who used to be best friends with the real Charles Darwin and knows everything there is to know about the house and the exhibits it contains. He’s also our narrator for the books. From that moment on, nothing is ever the same again for Billy Shaman. 

In this story, Billy time-travels to a Chinese battlefield where he is saved from the stampeding horse hooves of death by a boy called Han. The boys become captured by Emperor Wudi who is at war with the Horse King and who Han feels is his true father. The Emperor wants to take all the powerful and beautiful heavenly horses away from the Horse King and  keep them for himself so the war rages on. Billy and Han are trapped in the middle of it. Billy is supposed to be a shaman and is supposed to be able to help people and animals through his magic. But he is terrified. Will he be able to unblock his powers and get Han to safety with the help of a very special horse?

The second in this series (and it is useful to read the books in order), this is a fantastical adventure filled with fascinating historical details, mind-blowing time-travel, friendship across the ages, and some humour from a tortoise! The story is packed with brilliant black and white illustrations on every two-page spread which really bring the adventure to life. If you have a particularly sensitive child, they might find some of the ideas/ scenes in the story a little scary because there is a darkness running through these books which makes them rich and multi-layered. We found this book to be a fast-paced, historical fantasy blended with time travel and exploration through the ages. I had never heard of the real Han-Dayuan war- it just shows what you can learn from books! Unique, engaging and fascinating, we were gripped! Have a history adventure with Billy yourself!

The Adventures of Billy Shaman
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The War of the Heavenly Horses (The Adventures of Billy Shaman)
  • Chambers, Roland (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages - 01/18/2024 (Publication Date) - Zephyr (Publisher)

Middle Grade books

Marvin and the Book of Magic  – Jenny Pearson (author), Aleksei Bitskoff (illustrator), Barrington Stoke (publisher)

My eldest and I adore Jenny Pearson’s writing: her books are always funny and filled with a warmth of human emotion, so we jumped at the chance to review this title. 

Marvin has given up on magic. After having been embarrassed and badly humiliated on national television because of a cheeky squirrel and been mercilessly teased ever since, Marvin has sworn never to perform magic in public again. But Marvin has got magic in his bones. His old grandad used to say so. So when he comes by an old book of magic that promises to show him how to use magic properly, he decides to take his best friend Asha’s advice, get back in the saddle (or cloak) again and make a comeback in the school talent show. Will Marvin wow the audience with his trickery? Maybe he will realise that one of the most magical things of all is a true friend. 

At 86 pages, this is a fast-paced, funny story with a heartwarming ending. It’s a laugh out loud story of friendship and resilience as well as a tale of familial love, intergenerational relationships and kindness which is brought to life through the gorgeous black and white illustrations interspersed throughout the off-white pages. As with all books by this publisher, this is a superb book to provide a satisfying achievement for those who have to work harder at reading, as well as a hugely enjoyable and engaging story for more confident readers. Super.

Marvin and the Book of Magic  
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Marvin and the Book of Magic: Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week
  • Pearson, Jenny (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 96 Pages - 01/04/2024 (Publication Date) - Barrington Stoke (Publisher)

City of Spies – Iszi Lawrence (author), Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (publisher)

If you have a child who loves historical fiction mysteries then this is the book for them! 

It’s 1780 and 12 year old Aidan Blaise is residing in New York, living under the wardship of Mr Rivington, a business man in Manhattan. Aidan has come to seek his fortune. But war rages in America and the struggle for independence battles in between the colonies of North America and Great Britain. Aidan is convinced that the war will be over soon and that those supporting the rebel colonies are all traitors and in the wrong. He thinks that the might of  King George’s army is bound to win out. But when Aidan stumbles across a letter, written in code, a whole series of events begins to unravel which has him questioning his beliefs and beginning to realise that things are not quite as straightforward as they seem…

Tension runs high in this thrilling spy mystery based on the actual code that the spies used in the American War of Independence. I confess, I didn’t know too much about this period of history beyond the basics and I had to keep flicking to the back to check I understood the references (there’s a handy guide published at the  end of the book). I thoroughly enjoyed reading this soldier and spy filled story and I felt transported back to that time by the author’s writing (I felt particularly aggrieved that Mr Rivington’s daughter, Elizabeth, was basically ignored, being a child and a girl!). A thoroughly enjoyable read, if you like historical fiction mysteries then you should definitely pick this one up. 

City of Spies
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City of Spies
  • Lawrence, Iszi (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 01/04/2024 (Publication Date) - Bloomsbury Education (Publisher)

Stitch – Padraig Kenny (author), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

I think I might just be a little bit in love with Stitch. He is the kind of person that you just want in your life, with his boundless optimism about goodness and his innate kindness. 

But, I get ahead of myself, let me tell you more… Stitch and his friend, Henry, were brought to life by Professor Hardacre during lightening storms. They live in a castle, at the top of a mountain, away from the villagers. When Professor Hardacre’s mean nephew comes to stay with his assistant, Alice, Stitch not only has to deal with the fact that the Professor has passed away but also that his wicked nephew wants to experiment on poor Henry. Henry makes a bid for freedom and Stitch and Alice go on a quest to find him. But what will happen to Stitch and Henry in the outside world? A world which only seems to see them as monsters? 

Inspired by Frankenstein, this is such a heartwarming book. It’s also a complex book in many ways because it explores themes of life and death in a meaningful and age-appropriate way. It also questions what it is to be human and shines a spotlight on kind, accepting and compassionate behaviour. All wrapped up in a gothic adventure story. We loved it.

Little Stitch and Henry will (lightening) storm their way into your heart and leave an indelible mark, so wonderful is this book.

Stitch - Padraig Kenny
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Stitch
  • Kenny, Pádraig (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 208 Pages - 01/04/2024 (Publication Date) - Walker Books (Publisher)

The Minute Minders – Mary Murphy (author and illustrator), Pushkin Press (publisher)

Have you ever heard of a fidder before? Nope, me neither until I read this book. And there’s a reason for that. Humans can’t see fidders and we aren’t supposed to know they exist!

Stevedore (Stevie for short) Clipper is a fidder. She lives and (kind of) works with her dad, whose job it is to help humans. Stevie and her dad are moved to the Minute Minder department and have to help animals and humans work out their problems. Dogs are no problem, cats are a little trickier but humans can be pretty hard to deal with. When they team up to help a lonely little girl called Sandra May Bee, Stevie and her Dad will have to use all their powers of persuasion and think outside of the box in order to help her make the right choices  and work out the best way for a friend to behave. If they can complete this assignment without getting into too much trouble, then maybe they might just get their long-dreamed of holiday to Mexico? Will they ever manage it? Or are there just too many rules in their way?

This is such a delightful book about teeny tiny creatures who help out humans in need. There are brilliant black and white illustrations dotted throughout the chapters really bringing the story and the world of the fidders to life. The story is very sweet, contains some funny episodes and has a  lovely message at its heart about what it means to be a good friend but the thing we really enjoyed most was the ending. I cannot tell you about it (obviously, because that would spoil the secret) but it is soooo clever. 

A cosy, captivating book about a made-up world (or is it?!) of tiny fidders and their work alongside humans. We thoroughly enjoyed this one. 

The Minute Minders
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The Minute Minders: The debut novel from the acclaimed picture book author Mary Murphy
  • Murphy, Mary (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 01/18/2024 (Publication Date) - Pushkin Children's Books (Publisher)

Jane Eyre (abridged for young readers by Patrice Lawrence), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

Do your children read the classics? Have they read any of them? Is the reason why not because they find them inaccessible?

This version of Charlotte Bronte’s classic story has been abridged by Patrice Lawrence and seeks to make the dark, original tale more accessible to younger readers. I confess, I did not read Jane Eyre until I was an older teenager and, even then, I found some aspects of the story uncomfortable reading (I’m trying not to give too much away here if you haven’t read it). 

What’s the book about though? A young Jane has been orphaned and left within the care of her aunt. Mistreated by her cousins, she feels unloved and unwanted. She becomes the governess at the rather mysterious Thornfield Hall and begins to find happiness working for brooding Mr Rochester. But strange things are afoot in her master’s house.. Mr Rochester has a big secret. It will catch up with him and there will be devastating consequences for all concerned. Will Jane and Mr Rochester be able to overcome this, or will it destroy everything?

This story retains much of the details of the original but it is shorter and easier to access. I have loved re-reading the story and I think this book is a great starting point for any middle grade reader to delve into the dark and secretive world of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre (abridged for young readers by Patrice Lawrence
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Jane Eyre: Abridged for Young Readers (Walker Abridged Classics)
  • Bronte, Charlotte (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 01/04/2024 (Publication Date) - Walker Books (Publisher)

Countdown to Yesterday – Shirley Marr (author), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

James does not like the present. He does NOT want to be here. His parents have just announced their separation and, suddenly, James is having to get used to a split life. Two homes, two beds, two routines, two different lives. And he doesn’t like it one bit. He wants to go back to the past. He wants to go back to how things used to he. How he remembers them to be. When mum and dad were happy to spend time together. He harks back to his six favourite memories of them all together as a family. That’s how he wants things to be. 

So, during science week at school, James meets Yan. She’s always carrying some kind of computer programming book and she looks at the world with x-Ray eyes. Through her, James discovers that time travel might not just be a theory. So surely he should go back to the past, when times were just like his memories? But maybe his memories aren’t quite as perfect as he remembers? And maybe he has got more than he realised to stay in the present for?

This was such a page-turner of a story about family love and friendship. It explores the heart-wrenching feelings that come when parents decide to separate and provides reassurance and hope for the future. We loved the big emotions and feelings as well as the science elements in the story. A sensational standalone story exploring important emotions, feelings and ideas.

Countdown to Yesterday
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Countdown to Yesterday
  • Marr, Shirley (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 01/04/2024 (Publication Date) - Usborne Publishing Ltd (Publisher)

Graphic novels

Goosham Grange, The Graphic Novel – Anthony Horowitz (author), adapted by Maxe L’Hermenier, Clement Lefevre (illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

Wowsers, did I love this graphic novel!! I haven’t read the original book (but think I need to go and search it out) but I loved the format of this spooky graphic adaptation and couldn’t put it down.

David Eliot has been expelled by all the schools that could “whip him into shape”. As a last resort, he is sent by his father to the eerie Groosham Grange. He travels there with two other children, Jill and Jeffrey, and they vow to stick together at the strange school. I mean, it really is creepy: they are made to sign their names in blood, they are taught by mummies and werewolves and the pupils are all glassy-eyed and wear strange rings. And just where does everyone vanish to at night? One by one, David’s friends seem to succumb to the school … but will David manage to make his escape?

This graphic novel combines goosebumps with humour to provide a gripping story which is unputdownable. The illustrations are superb, the tones and colours used adding to the chilling atmosphere and the characters are really brought to life through these magnificent drawings. 

I loved everything about this book, and I can’t wait to read the next in this series. 

Goosham Grange, The Graphic Novel
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Groosham Grange
  • Horowitz, Anthony (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 08/06/2015 (Publication Date) - Walker Books (Publisher)

Young Adult books

Northern Soul – Phil Earle (author), Barrington Stoke Ltd (publisher)

Eeek, I don’t think I have ever simultaneously laughed out loud and cringed with embarrassment while I was reading a book before but I just adored this awkward and angsty book from Phil Earle.

Marv is a typical football-mad fourteen year old boy. He has his best friend Jimmy and football and that’s all he needs. Simple. Until , one day, the world tilts on its axis when a new girl called Carly joins school and moves in just down the road from him. He’s smitten. It’s love at first sight. But Carly is never going to notice a guy like Marv, surely?!

Help comes in the most unusual form, in the shape of the king of soul himself, Otis Reading. Will Marvel follow the crooning charmer’s advice? Will the course of true love run smooth for our Marv?

I am smiling as I type this because this book is just so funny and so relatable (I mean, not the part about the spirit of Otis Redding but the awkward teenage romance). The end of this 92 page story is just brilliant – Phil Earle’s wit and humour combines with a heartwarming ending to make this book an unforgettable and all too real a portrayal of young and unrequited love (I am thinking back to my own teenage years!!). An absolute must read. 

Northern Soul - Phil Earle
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Northern Soul: Times Children’s Book of the Week
  • Earle, Phil (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 104 Pages - 01/04/2024 (Publication Date) - Barrington Stoke (Publisher)

Seven Days – Rebeka Shaid (author), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

Two teenagers. Seven days. A whole rollercoaster of emotions.

Meet Noori. She’s sixteen, opinionated, big-hearted and very kind. Since her best friend and cousin died, she’s been no stranger to heartache but she thinks she has figured out who she is, what she wants and what life is all about when, really, she has anything but. 

Meet Aamir. Also no stranger to heartache and loss. He’s great at running away from his life and his emotions. But when boy meets girl on a bench in Bristol, there is no running away from the connection that they have. Noori is kind-hearted and accepting and helps the bedraggled but handsome stranger she finds on the bench. But he just keeps on running: he doesn’t need more complications in his life and the unforgettable Noori seems like one big, beautiful complication to him. 

Will these strangers realise that their lives are connected by strong, invisible threads? Or will it take a miracle for these two to realise what they mean to each other?

I adored this young adult romance. I loved the format: hearing both sides of the story from Noori and Aamir. Yes, the book deals with some tough themes of heartache, loss, grief, bereavement and the actions those can lead us to take (such as drug use, alcohol, unhealthy relationships and more), which are all beautifully written and explored in a heartfelt way, but this book is ultimately an uplifting love story. A love story which believes in hope, positivity and miracles. And we all need a little (or a lot) of that right now.

Seven Days - Rebeka Shaid
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Seven Days
  • Shaid, Rebeka (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages - 01/04/2024 (Publication Date) - Walker Books (Publisher)

Non-fiction books

How do Meerkats Order Pizza? Brooke Barker (author and illustrator), Faber & Faber Ltd (publisher)

This hilarious and mind-blowing graphic-novel style work of non-fiction is sure to be a hit in your house. My girls absolutely love it! The book details fascinating facts about certain animals and the scientists who study them.

There’s a fab map at the beginning of the book which details the animals the book explores and where they can be found around the world. From midges to mussels, macaques to mice… this book follows these animals and many more and reveals uproariously funny details and facts about them and how humans can better understand them.

The brilliant scientists who study them will stop at nothing to help us learn more about the animals we share the planet with – from slurping bugs up a straw to studying lizard poo! There are so many stupendous facts in this work of non-fiction that your young reader won’t be able to stop turning the pages. They can find out how meerkats make decisions, how a whale learns new songs, whether dogs can tell if we are smiling, how Antarctic midges spend 8 months of the year frozen, and how primates are grossed out by food near poo! 

The colourful illustrations are superb – humorous drawings of animals and people and the graphic novel style drawings and speech bubbles add interest and fun to this fact book. Because if the unique way it is displayed, children are unlikely to feel over-faced  by the factional information they are reading about.

Fun, engaging and wacky, we need more fact books like this one!

How do Meerkats Order Pizza?
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How Do Meerkats Order Pizza?
  • Barker, Brooke (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 200 Pages - 01/04/2024 (Publication Date) - Faber & Faber (Publisher)

Signs of Survival – A Memoir of the Holocaust – Renee Hartman with Joshua M.Greene (authors), Scholastic Press (publisher) (recommended reading age 8-12)

This is a gripping true story of two Jewish sisters and their fight for survival in 1940’s Europe. Told in a captivating and vivid “oral history” format, your reader will meet Renee and Herta, the sisters who faced unimaginable horrors together.

Renee was the only hearing person in her family. Both her parents, and her younger sister, Herta, were deaf and the family used sign language to communicate. Renee had to be the ears of her family and you can imagine how dangerous this was for them, being a Jewish family in Bratislava in the 1940’s. 

Renee and Herta tell their accounts of their life at that time in stark and tragic detail. Renee talks of her having to alert her parents and sister so that they could hide when she heard Nazi boots approaching their house. Soon, however, the family were split up: the parents were sent to a concentration camp (tragically never to be seen again by their daughters) and the girls eventually were sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1944. Relying on each other for support and strength and communicating in sign language, this book tells the real-life stories of the horror that the young girls endured and were witness to: death, brutality, destruction, senseless violence, starvation, illness and so much more. 

To say I was fascinated with this book is an understatement but it also sounds rather wrong to be so absorbed by such a horrific period of history. And yet that is sort of the point of this book. To captivate you, to grip you, to pull you in. So that you never forget. As readers now, we can never truly understand the horror (in fact the author herself says the same, even though she lived through it) but it is our duty not to look away and not to forget. That is the power of this book. An unforgettable work of oral history that will stay with me. 

As an aside, the recommended reading age for this book is 8-12 but I would recommend leaving this for the latter end of that age bracket (and for ages above). My 8 year old daughter would find this too upsetting to read as she very easily emotionally connects with stories and so I will save this for when she is a bit older.

Signs of Survival - A Memoir of the Holocaust
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Signs of Survival
  • Hartman, Renee (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 128 Pages - 01/04/2024 (Publication Date) - Scholastic (Publisher)

Amazing Octopus – Michael Stavaric (author), Michele Ganser (illustrator), Pushkin Children’s (publisher)

I have long been fascinated by octopuses 🐙 and my curiosity about them grows year on year, especially when I read such mind-blowing books as this one.

You and your young reader can learn all about these phenomenally fascinating creatures- from how intelligent they are, to the way they move, where they can live, how they are masters of deception and their superpowers – and so much more. There are brilliant search and find puzzles along the way and lots of interactive elements to really immerse your child in the book. It’s a blend of storytelling and facts which is truly unique. 

There are text blocks of fascinating information for “bright minds”, jokes to tell, spot the differences and so many brilliant details about these amazing animals. 

And not only that but this book is a work of wonder and beauty in itself. The artwork is sublime: bold, beautiful and stark in its black and  white imagery which really pops out of the page. 

This book is a true stunner: much like an octopus, it wraps itself around you and doesn’t let go. A masterpiece.

Amazing Octopus
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Amazing Octopus: Creature From an Unknown World (Amazing Ocean)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Stavaric (Author), Michael (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 144 Pages - 11/02/2023 (Publication Date) - Pushkin Children's Books (Publisher)

The Maps Book – Joanne Bourne (author), Lonely Planet Global Ltd (publisher)

Do you have a child who is fascinated by maps? If they would be lost without looking at them then this is the book for them!

Crammed packed with facts, this unique book looks into the world of maps and goes into detail about the many different kinds. 

Your little one can read about how maps are made, the history of maps, fictional maps and how to map the natural world. They can learn in detail about the different kind of maps- from time zone maps, to global population density maps, to weather maps – and look at various case studies along the way. 

There is also practical advice and tips in the section about how to use maps, understand what they mean and how to use a compass (wonderful for any would-be explorers out there). We also loved the section on how to make your own maps at the back of the book. 

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Lonely Planet Kids The Maps Book (The Fact Book)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Bourne, Joanne (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages - 10/13/2023 (Publication Date) - Lonely Planet Kids (Publisher)
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Fiona lives in Yorkshire with her husband and little girl who is 6 months

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