September’s Recommended Reads for Kids

Oooo, it’s a good job the nights are drawing in now because we have a bumper of an edition for you this month.  So many fantastic books have been and are being published this month, and I have reviewed lots of brilliant books for you.  Grouped by book type, take a look at what interests you below…
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Oooo, it’s a good job the nights are drawing in now because we have a bumper of an edition for you this month.  So many fantastic books have been and are being published this month, and I have reviewed lots of brilliant books for you.  Grouped by book type, take a look at what interests you below…

Board Books

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

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Get ready to take your little ones on an adventure (or two)!  Created in collaboration with The National Trust, these two sturdy board books are superb for exploring the big outside world with your young readers.  Each book 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 of either the river or the woods.  The gentle rhyming text in each book is a fun way to allow your child to learn about the birds, animals and wildlife of the habitat that they are exploring. 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 and insects the sweetest of expressions and detail.  Vibrant and engaging, these books are 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.

Stick! -Irene Dickson (author and illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

This is another fantastic board book which is produced in collaboration with The National Trust.  A little boy goes out for a walk with his faithful canine companion (the cutest fluff-ball of a dog you ever did see) and finds a stick along his way.  He quickly realises that it is not ‘just’ a stick – it’s a wonderland of adventure just waiting to happen! He can walk with it and balance with it, he can draw with it and stir with it and so much more.  It’s a super sweet story encouraging children to connect with nature and to be creative and use their imaginations while they are out in the natural world. They might even find a friend along the way to share their adventures with.  The adorable illustrations take up the majority of each two-page spread and provide colour and warmth to go alongside the text.  The sturdy pages are great for little hands to turn while you are reading the story and discussing the pictures.  We are very lucky that we are not short of sticks where we live and we are often using them for all sorts of outdoor adventures so we used this story to collect some smaller sticks and see what we could make with them and our play-dough: hedgehogs and construction sites for our diggers were by far the most popular choice!

An ABC of Democracy – Nancy E.K. Shapiro (author), Paulina Morgan (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

We love this series of “ABC” books in our house.  Bold, bright, beautiful and informative, they are a real winner.  And this one is no exception.  Bringing to the attention of even the youngest of readers that everyone has the right to be treated fairly and equally no matter where they are born, what they look like or who they are, this book is an excellent starting point to explain the complicated concepts relating to democracy.  From explaining the ideas of the right to vote, through the concepts of democracy, justice and government, to name but a few, this book breaks down these words into understandable and manageable language for younger readers and makes this the perfect first introduction to freedom and justice for all.  The illustrations are vibrant and hugely engaging with colourful representations of the word that is being described.  The bright colour tones used throughout the book make it visually appealing and empowering at the same time.  The chunky pages mean it can withstand the fingers of the youngest of readers and be utilised throughout their nursery and school years.  A hugely important, bold, empowering book which is a beautiful addition to any bookshelf.

Bizzy Bear Vet’s Clinic – Benji Davies (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Do you have a little one who loves animals?  Or who is constantly role-playing vets?  Then this is THE interactive board book for them.  Bizzy Bear is working as a vet in his clinic today!  A little puppy comes into his surgery and needs his help. Will he be able to make the puppy feel better before he moves on to assist the other animals in his clinic?  You bet he will!  With a fun, rhyming text, this is a wonderful book to keep your little ones entertained.  The thick cardboard pages are filled with beautifully colourful drawings with so many things to spot on them.  Each two-page spread also has an interactive element: big sliders to pull or little finger-sliders to explore, pushing and pulling, helping to strengthen fine motor skills and to provide maximum engagement with the book.  As with all Nosy Crow board books, you can also scan the QR code on the back of the book to hear the story being read aloud.  We love this feature.

Picture Books

I Believe in Me – Emma Dodd (author and illustrator), Templar Books (imprint of Bonnier Books UK) (publisher)

What a gorgeous book.  On so many levels.  It’s all about self-belief and confidence and I think it could apply to so many adults as well as children.  And, my, is it beautiful!  A baby crocodile learns through the pages of this stunning story that having faith in yourself is an incredibly important gift. That resilience, strength, trying your best and holding your head up high even when you fail are important skills to have.  My little boy is forever saying “I can’t do it…” when he actually can (and I tell him this), he just gives up too easily and this book has been brilliant for him to gain in confidence.  We love the lines, “I believe in me, and you are my biggest fan.  Every time I think I can’t, you tell me that I can!”  The rhyming, lyrical text is brimming with love and confidence and is perfect to instil a gentle sense of self-belief for your little ones and shows them what a wonderful world can be opened up for them if they are brave and confident enough to try.  It’s truly heart-warming.  The illustrations are simply exquisite: pages filled with gorgeously sweet depictions of crocodiles and nature in beautiful colour tones which are burnished with an eye-catching metallic golden touch throughout the pages.  This is a book to treasure and would make the perfect ‘new baby’ gift.

Billy and the Pirates – Nadia Shireen (author and illustrator), Jonathan Cape (part of Penguin Randomhouse) (publisher)

We are HUGE fans of Nadia Shireen books in this house and we have the other two Billy books so when we got the chance to review the latest in the series, we jumped at it!  And what is not to love?!  Billy, Fatcat, Pirates, swashbuckling adventures on the sea…. This book has it all going on.  Billy and Fatcat are nobly exploring the high seas when they come across a mysterious-looking bottle which contains a key and has a label which asks them to return it to Kevin in the Sea of Gloom.  Following the map contained within the bottle, Billy and Fatcat are caught by the fearsome Captain Howl (much excitement from my little boy because he is a wolf and my son loves wolves!).  As the prisoners of the Captain, Billy and Fatcat have to navigate the pesky pirate ship past singing mermaids, hungry sharks and a gigantic kraken.  What will happen to our much-loved heroes?  Will they be made to walk the plank?  Full of humour and fabulous illustrations, this book is a must for any pirate-loving little one.  The story is brilliant, packed with customary fun and the brilliance that we come to expect from Nadia Shireen.  The pages are wonderfully colourful with the most amazing drawings which are full of character and lots of funny expressions.  It’s a huge hit in our house and we hope for many more Billy and Fatcat adventures to come (pretty please!).

Agent Llama – Alpaca Attack – Angela Woolfe (author), Duncan Beedie (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

We absolutely LOVED the first book all about the secret spy charmer, Agent Charlie Palmer, the fluffy llama.  And she is back. Expect gadgets galore, great getaways and nefarious no-gooders in this action-packed picture book adventure.  Her mission is to save the world from a mysterious lookalike whose pasta-splatting ways are causing chaos.  When she finally catches up with what appears to be her double, she finds out that it is no other than Harley Hacker, the rogue agent, and she isn’t stopping her spaghetti splurting ways with Earth.  Oh no! She wants to destroy the sun!  De dah durrr!!  Will Agent Llama save the day?  Can her gadgets get the better of the rogue agent? Will she live to see another day, sipping cocktails on the beach in her fancy gold bikini?  Well, I couldn’t possibly tell you.  All I will say is, we cannot wait for her next mission (please let this series continue forever!!).   My twins have asked for this book on repeat for the last five nights in a row (in fact, I have had to steal it away from them to write this review) and it is easy to see why.  With superb illustrations filled with colour and fun, flashes and zig zags throughout the pages to split up the pictures and text into comic-style agent/villain mode and a hilarious, super-slick rhyming spy story, this book is sure to be a huge hit with your little ones.  Hooray for Agent Llama!

Poo  in the Zoo – The Island of Dinosaur Poo – Steve Smallman (author), Ada Grey (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

If you want a book to ensure a giggle a minute with your little ones then look no further!!  My children love this series all about excrement (we have the other two books) so you can imagine how excited they were when they found out there was another new book on the scene, and this one is all about another one of their greatest loves: dinosaurs!  Little Bob McGrew and Hector the Poo Collector are off on holiday with the animals from the zoo.  Travelling by poo ship (No 2), no less, to the island of Kerplink, they are sure to have lots of messy, smelly fun along the way! And how can they not when the island is also known as the Land of Living Poo!?!  But what will happen when they arrive?  Will Hector manage to find his living poo?  Or will the dinosaurs be less than welcoming?  I am not giving away anything but there is a really fun, very sweet ending to look forward to.  This book might be our favourite in the series yet!  Packed full with humour and silly fun, brilliant and bright illustrations to go with the bouncing rhyming text, this story is a laugh out loud tale sure to bring a smile to your little reader’s face.

Cars, Cars, Cars! – Donna David (author), Nina Pirhonen (illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

We absolutely loved Trains, Trains, Trains!, so we were very excited to be able to review this bold, bright beauty of a book!  With its fun, repetitive, rhyming text, this is a colourful book all about cars. Which one will be your little one’s favourite?  Each car is numbered which is hugely helpful in our house at the moment as my twins are learning number recognition past ten.  It also helps with counting and maths and the children don’t even know they are learning because the pictures of the book are so playful and fun.  Not only that, there are ‘road’s on each page of the book which your children can run their fingers along, strengthening fine motor skills and hand eye co-ordination.  But the absolute winner: the fold out ending at the back of the book which details every car (and its number) depicted in the book. With playful illustrations and colourful spreads, there is so much to discuss in the book – fast cars, slow cars, funny cars….. your little ones are bound to find a favourite.  There’s even a “Did you Spot…?” section at the end of the book which my twins love because they love looking for details in the illustrations (there’s no reason why you can’t add to these yourself as well).  We also love the hints and tips for parents and carers which are provided at the back of the book about how to read together and about discussion points that might stem from the racing adventure itself.

The Huddle  – Sean Julian (author and illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)

In my opinion, this is genuinely one of the most beautiful picture books ever written.  I had a huge lump in my throat and my voice was thick with emotion the first time that I read it.  And when I read it to my four-year-old twins, my little girl went all silent at the end of the story.  When I looked at her, she was blinking back tears.  But in a good way.  I asked her why and she said because “it was such a nice story, Mummy”.  And if you don’t want to take our word for it, let me tell you a little bit more about it….  Alba is a young albatross, ready to leave the nest and fly the open skies.  But one day, a huge wave knocks her from the sky and she wakes up on an icy shore with a broken wing and unable to move.  All alone and fearing the worst, Alba starts to despair. Until that is, a penguin-shaped ball of hope waddles into Alba’s life!  Alba doesn’t speak penguin and the penguin doesn’t speak Albatross but they soon manage to communicate with each other through deeds and kindness.  The penguins’ actions fill Alba with love and hope and the story resonates with the idea that even the smallest acts of kindness, such as sharing food and giving cuddles, can be the most unforgettable and far-reaching.  With stunningly beautiful illustrations to match the endearing words of the book, you can almost feel the warmth and love coming out of this story.  It’s a book to truly treasure.  I hope you love it as much as we do.

Broccoli’s Big Day!- Mike Henson (author), Sandra De La Prada (illustrator), Happy Yak (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

My children adore this book!!  And so do I!  Not only does its fabulously funny text (with lots of puns and brilliant alliteration which my children find hilarious) tell a brilliant story of little ol’ Broccoli but it also helps children recognise lots of different fruit and vegetables through its gorgeous illustrative depictions of them.  Broccoli receives an invitation to the Annual Vegetable Awards for this year’s best vegetable, and although Broccoli doesn’t think she will win, her friend Carrot is going along and she would really like a catch up with her. So off she cycles, down Vege-Table Mountain, over the Super Stinky Swamp (rescuing Mrs Plum’s cat along the way) and into town, all part of a normal day for her.  At the meeting, your little readers are introduced to Carrot with her super swishy hair, a space-travelling Rocket Leaf, peas who go on an adventure through the Wobbly Wild Woods and a super-strong potato! But, in the process, we all realise that maybe Broccoli isn’t so super average and normal after all!  In fact, she just might be a super vegetable! With colourful and bright illustrations and the cutest depictions of vegetables ever, this is a brilliant book to speak to children about how super vegetables are for us.  I am lucky, my children eat most fruit and vegetables (although Fennel was one they had never come across) but I can see this book being a really great one to use to try and encourage the consumption of more fruit and vegetables into a little one’s diet.  Mine though, love the story of the super-veg Broccoli and find this a laugh out loud book, particularly the Anatomy of Broccoli on the final page of the story.  Fresh as a vegetable, vibrant and fun, we love it!

How to Spot a Dinosaur – Suzy Senior (author), Dan Taylor (illustrator), Farshore (an imprint of HarperCollins) (publisher)

We have some huge dinosaur fans in our house so I knew that this gorgeous picture book would be a hit! Written by one of our favourite children’s picture book authors, with gorgeous illustrations to boot, this is a super-fun story full of dino delights.  The rhyming text brings bouncing fun to the story which is all about two little dinosaur enthusiasts who are determined to spot some prehistoric creatures in the park.  Is that a Triceratops behind the bush? Or a Spinosaurus near the pier?  How about a T-Rex by the gate?  (Oh yes, you will learn lots of types of dinosaur if you didn’t know them already!)  Will the little dino-hunters be disappointed in their quest?  Or will they find some dinosaur delights?  Shhh, no spoilers here but we absolutely love the cheeky, fun ending of the book.  This rhyming romp is a funny, exciting adventure with some of the cutest dinosaur illustrations around.  It’s colourful, engaging, full of energy and is educational at the same time providing the names of lots of different dinosaurs.  A delightful dino story for every young dinosaur enthusiast!

The Beastly Bunch – Leisa Stewart-Sharpe (author), Pippa Curnick (illustrator), Puffin Books (publisher)

Flo the Flamingo is fabulous and she is throwing the most perfect pool party in town.  Of course, everybody wants to come.  Don’t they?!  Flo’s parties are legendary… set in a perfect pink paradise, they are the place to be.  But Flo only invites the sparkliest of guests to her party.  No bitey, smelly, spitty or dirty guests are allowed!  They have to stay on the other side of the fence, away from her perfect party.  But as Flo’s guests start to realise that her exacting standards and bossy behaviour means no fun, they quickly start to think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence where the “Beastly Bunch” are having their own bash.  And what a bash it is as everyone is welcome and everyone joins in the fun.  As Flo looks around her empty pool yard, she realises that she might just have been wrong about the Beastly Bunch.  She begins to understand that it is what is inside that matters and that she should not have judged the animals on how they looked and that she didn’t take her friends’ feelings into account at her party because she was so focussed on everything looking perfect.  This is a riotously fun story about not judging by appearances and the importance of kindness and inclusion.  For as every fabulous person knows, being fabulous is all about how you treat others and how you feel and nothing to do with how you look.  The illustrations are just as fabulous as Flo herself: vibrant, colourful and fun and filled with the most hilarious depictions of the animals in the story.  A delightful dancing disco of a story with a sweet message and a fun-filled ending, this is a must-have for your little one’s picture book library.

The Circles in the Sky – Karl James Mountford (author and illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

Oh my!  What a picture book.  It’s bold and it’s beautiful.  It doesn’t shy away from the experience of death and the complex emotions and feelings surrounding loss and grief but it does so in the most sensitive and moving of ways.  And, most importantly, it leaves us not feeling bewildered or lost but it creates a feeling of hope.  No one really knows how to talk about death or to help someone process their complicated feelings of grief but if we find ourselves in a position where we have to talk to children about this then this book is one of the most powerful and moving tools out there.  Fox is disturbed one night by the birds making a raucous noise.  When he goes to investigate (through pages of beautiful illustrations), he finds what turns out to be a dead bird.  Fox doesn’t really understand what he is looking at and tries to wake up the bird, to no avail.  A wise Moth, who has been watching Fox, begins to impart some advice to the Fox about where bird is but Fox becomes confused and angry and thinks Moth is talking in riddles.  Ever so gently, Moth breaks it to Fox that Bird is dead.  And here, right here, are some of the most beautiful words I have read: ““I was trying to be kind”, said Moth. “Sad things are hard to hear.  They are pretty hard to say, too.  They should be told in little pieces.”” Fox’s tears fall, even though he didn’t know Bird very well.  The two friends sit in grief and realise that they can remember their friend together.  There is so much comfort and hope in the words of this book.  In the fact that we all grieve differently and in varying degrees of intensity and there is no right or wrong, even in terms of how we view death or loss – we don’t all have the answers: “A rabbit or an owl might believe something different”.  Add these moving thoughts and words to the most stunning of illustrations (this is genuinely one of the most pictorially beautiful books we possess!) set out in the sombre colour tones of nature and gaining light as the sun rises and hope soars.

Nibbles – The Bedtime Book – Emma Yarlett (author and illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

Nibbles is up to his loveable, roguish, escapologist tricks in this fun, interactive bedtime story.  It’s time for sleep.  But where is Nibbles?  Why, he’s munching his way through other people’s traditional bedtime stories of course!!  He chomps his way through The Ugly Duckling, Cinderella and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star causing chaos along the way…. Will Nibbles manage to settle down and drift off to sleep? No spoilers, but there is a super-sweet interactive ending for our favourite cheeky chomper.  We do love these stories and this one has really captured my twins’ imagination because they love books within books and fairytales are their favourite.  Add to that how fun and cheeky Nibbles is as a character, and the fact that this book is so interactive – there are flaps to lift, pages to turn, a search and seek to do and laser cut-out holes to explore – then you are on to a total winner.  There is also a little bit of number recognition and basic counting in the book so your child can do some learning without even realising!!  Bonus.  As ever, the visuals are stunning too, with riotous illustrations of the adorable Nibbles and beautiful depictions of the bedtime fairytales which are ruined by Nibbles! If you have your own cheeky monster at home who likes to avoid the bedtime routine (I have two!), you couldn’t find a better book!

Hello Autumn – Jo Lindley (author and illustrator), Farshore (imprint of HarperCollins) (publisher)

As Summer passes the weather crown to Autumn, join the four Little Seasons in a fun-filled seasonal picture book adventure!  A glorious season filled with autumnal activities and colourful, fun-filled adventure awaits for the friends but poor little Autumn can’t seem to join his friends in the excitement.  Instead of partaking in stuffing his belly full of berries like his friends, or kicking and playing in the crunchy fallen leaves, Autumn is paralysed by questions of “what if” and plagued by worries about what might happen…. Until something happens to show him that he is braver and stronger than he thinks.  This is a wonderful book, full of fun and promise for the season to come but also a brilliant book about feelings.  If you have a child who is anxious about joining in activities or who is always overthinking things or has one hundred “what if” questions (I feel I could take note from this!) then this book is absolutely perfect for them.  It shows how, when all the worries pile up, they seem insurmountable but, really, each worry is very small and when friends are in need, they just blow away like autumn leaves.  It’s a lovely story with fun at its heart and it provides a very reassuring message for any worriers (children and adult!) out there.  The illustrations of the Little Seasons are adorable and the colours used are gorgeously autumnal.  It really makes us want to get outside and go and kick those leaves!  What better way to chase your worries away?!

Watch out, Wolf!  There’s a Baddie in your Book – Jude Evans (author), Lucy Semple (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

My son loves fairy tales and the thing he loves the most about them is the wolf.  He adores them.  So, any story with a wolf in is a winner in his eyes but this book is a great hit with both my twins.  We love a twist on traditional fairy tales and this book has a great one.  Meet Mr Wolf.  He is big and he is determined to be bad.  And he keeps trying really hard to be bad and scary but none of the characters in his book seem to be afraid!  Why aren’t the three little pigs bothered about him huffing and puffing?  Why isn’t Granny scared of him and why does she want him to help her in her garden?  She should be terrified?!  It appears that a bigger and badder baddie has broken into Mr Wolf’s book.  Will Mr Wolf find out who this baddie is?  Will he be able to return to his nefarious ways?  You will just have to have a read and see! And you will not be disappointed. Not only is this book a wonderful twisted fairytale about discovering that you are never too bad to be good but it is also hugely funny.  Added to all of that are the interactive flaps to lift, turn and open, as well as the cut outs in the pages which make this book a really engaging and fun read for my twins.  The illustrations are brilliant: adding humour and warmth to the story and providing colour and fun on every page.  A superb, lift-the-flap twisted fairytale adventure, we love Mr Wolf and his book!

Biff, Chip & Kipper – Going to the Hospital – Roderick Hunt and Annemarie Young (authors), Alex Brychta (illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)

If your child is learning to read with Biff, Chip and Kipper then this series of first experiences is just fantastic.  Going to the hospital is an experience we really hope we don’t have to introduce our children to but sometimes these things are all too necessary.  Unfortunately, that is the case in my house as my son has a heart condition and has had and will need surgeries in relation to this.  This book, however, we used to introduce his twin sister to the idea that she was going to have to go into hospital for a hernia operation.  The story is sensitively written and even has moments of humour and lightness to keep children from worrying about the experience.  In this book, poor Chip hurts his leg playing football and he has to go to the hospital to get it checked out.  He has an X-Ray, gets a temporary plaster cast on and learns to walk on crutches before getting a new cast put on at the fracture clinic.  The illustrations depict the hospital setting and help the reader to visually understand what they might be experiencing or have to experience.  There are some tips for reading the book with your child at the beginning of the book and a very helpful page at the end of the story setting out tips for going to the hospital.  The book doesn’t explain surgery/operations to children but it is a wonderful starting point for discussions, using characters that they are familiar with and love and introduces the concept of going to hospital in a gentle and sensitive way.  My daughter loved reading it, even at the hospital!

When You Joined Our Family – Harriet Evans (author), Nia Tudor (illustrator), Caterpillar Books (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)

This book is a joyful celebration of adoption and belonging.  From joining the family, “I knew you were just who I’d waited and wished for”, and first beginnings, this book gently explores the adoption experience and helps children feel the sense of love and belonging which is displayed within the families in the book. It’s a special celebration of the love and special moments that new families are building and creating now that they are all together.  This book gently shows, through its encouraging words and gorgeous illustrations, that what matters most, and what truly binds a family together, is love.  When I read this book to my twins they had lots of questions which were all prompted by the pictures and words within the book and I feel that they now have a greater understanding of children in similar situations.  I also like the fact that it does not gloss over the difficult: “I might not always have the answers, but we can seek them together.”  The illustrations are bursting with love too – each illustration of each family is just exquisite: filled with warmth and joy.  This is a very special book and would be fantastic for those people embarking on the adoption process or with recently adopted children but is also a gorgeous book to read with any child so that they also appreciate that what really matters for our sense of belonging is love and trust and the comfort that that brings.

The World at your Feet – Karl Newson (author), Clara Anganuzzi (illustrator), Studio Press (an imprint of Bonnier Books UK) (publisher)

Who? What? Where? Why? Children have a LOT of questions swimming round in their heads.  Who will they be? Where will they go?  What will happen in the future?  What if….?   This book is a gorgeously uplifting picture book following a child and lots of animal friends as they explore new experiences and possibilities together.  They discover the beautiful natural world around them and begin to realise that it is okay to try things and not know how they will turn out, so long as you are giving things your best shot. This book is a beautiful reminder to children (and adults) that it is okay not to have all the answers and that you cannot always win or succeed at everything you try.  It encourages children to realise their potential, try their best and, above all, to always be true to yourself.  The lilting rhyming style gently reinforces the messages of the book and the illustrations are superb, painting a picture of a natural world full of possibilities and opportunities just waiting to be explored.  This a beautiful story, full of encouragement and empowering messages, and is a joy to read aloud with your children.

Chapter Books

Woodland Magic – Deer in Danger – Julie Sykes (author), Katy Riddell (illustrator), Piccadilly Press (publisher)

Ooo, we were very excited for this, the second in the Woodland Magic series, because we absolutely loved the first.  The Keepers are a magical tribe of little people who care for the environment and help it thrive when Ruffins (aka humans to you and me!) are less than careful with it.  Young Keepers Cora and Jax are desperate to prove themselves and become fully trained Keepers, caring for the countryside and nature and re-wilding it.  They are sent to the Big Outside and given the task of building a hedgehog highway in the newly built homes on the housing estate by the wood and they come across a poor deer who has become startled and trapped in the building site.  They run back through the Bramble Door and have to take items from the Keepers’ stores to try and help the deer.  But it is a race against the clock!  Will they be able to help the deer and also complete their hedgehog highway?  Or will they run out of time and be trapped in the Big Outside?  Or, worse still (in their minds), sent back to school?! This is a gorgeously sweet story combining sprinkles of magic, animal rescue and nature conservation with a fast-paced, exciting plot.  There are plenty of wonderful black and white illustrations interspersed throughout the larger sized font to keep your chapter book reader fully engaged with the story.  We also loved the instructions at the back of the book to create our own hedgehog highway! Perfect for newly independent readers and lovers of nature and magic, this is a wonderful new series and we hope for many more.

Sherlock Bones and the Curse of the Pharaoh’s Mask – Tim Collins (author), John Bigwood (illustrator), Buster Books (an imprint of Michael O’Mara Books Limited (publisher) (recommended age range 7-9 year olds)

Sherlock Bones and Dr. Catson are BACK!!! Having absolutely LOVED the first book in this detective puzzle book series, my eldest daughter and I were so excited to receive this second adventure and couldn’t wait to get stuck into it.  And it doesn’t disappoint.  Set in Egypt, when Bones and Catson are supposed to be taking a well-earned rest from their crime-solving schedules, not only does this book have a super storyline but it contains 25 games and puzzles to crack along the way.  While Bones and Catson are visiting the sights in Egypt they are alerted to the fact that a precious mask has been stolen and that the finger of blame is being pointed at them!  Whilst they are trying to figure out what has been going on, they become trapped in the tombs of the ancient cat kings and have to survive a trio of death-defying tests in order to make it out alive.  Will the detective duo be able to solve the mystery of the missing mask and locate its whereabouts and who will be the mastermind behind the plot?!  That would be telling!  With its delightfully fun plot, engaging story and series of puzzles and games to solve, your young reader really immerses themselves in this book.  There are maths problems, coding puzzles, spot the differences and lots of other fun puzzles to help your young reader solve the mystery, as well as lots of fantastic and humour-filled black and white illustrations interspersed throughout the adventure.  Completely absorbing and very clever (with its nods to the traditional Sherlock Holmes stories), we have loved this adventure and we cannot wait for the next one!

Leonora Bolt – Deep Sea Calamity – Lucy Brandt (author), Gladys Jose (illustrator), Puffin Books (publisher)

Fizzing with fun inventions and adventure, we loved the first Leonora Bolt book (Secret Inventor) and so we couldn’t wait to read the next book in this series. The story gives a super recap of the events of the previous book and so this can easily be read as a standalone adventure as well.  Leonora is in hiding from her evil Uncle Luther (who has parentnapped her Mum and Dad and is, well, generally a down-right wrong ‘un).  She is supposed to be lying low and not drawing any attention to herself.  So, turning squirrels luminous pink and building a submarine in a tree isn’t *exactly* sticking to that plan!  But Leonora is hatching a plan to rescue her parents from their deep-sea location.  Unfortunately for Leonora, when disaster strikes, she has to put her plan into action sooner than anticipated.  Can she manage to pull it off? Will all her wacky and wonderful inventions work for her? Off she sets on the most daring of adventures, with her gorgeous otter Twitchy and her good friends for company.  Will she manage to thwart her evil Uncle Luther’s plans?  Will she find her parents?  Your reader will have great fun finding out in this hilarious underwater adventure.  Fishy fun, seas and submarines combine with brilliant inventions and fabulous facts (thrown in as brilliant asides – we did love the Free Fishadvisor!) in this marvellous maritime adventure.  There are superb (and hilarious) black and white illustrations interspersed throughout each chapter of the book and these serve to enhance the story and provide the reader with a brilliant sense of the silly fun of the book.  But don’t be fooled, for at its heart is a wonderful story about friendship, love and faithfulness and a girl with a big imagination and a huge amount of inventiveness and skill.  We can’t wait for the next adventure.

Middle Grade

Always, Clementine – Carlie Sorosiak (author), Ben Mantle (cover illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Ok, so I think I am going to call this one.  This book is definitely one of my favourite reads of the year!!  Whilst the premise of the book might seem heavy (a lab mouse that has never seen the light of day and that has been tested on by humans), this story seems anything but.  Somehow, the author has worked some kind of magic and got the balance just right.  I was instantly sucked in by the engaging style from the first letter of the book and I genuinely could not put it down.  I read it in 24 hours and through my tears of apprehension (what would happen) and joy, I did NOT want it to end.  What makes this book so special, I hear you cry?! Well, Clementine of course.  She’s a genius in mouse-sized proportions.  She’s adorable, sweet, optimistic, engaging and truly, amazingly unique and wonderful.  When she is freed from the lab with one of the other mice by one of the lab workers, she has to find a way to use her genius brain to survive in the world.  Luckily for her, she makes some amazing friendships along the way and comes to realise that humans can be thoughtful, and loving and compassionate.  Can she find a way to earn her new-found freedom?  Will she be able to change the fate of the other animals trapped in the lab, particularly her best friend, Rosie the chimpanzee?  I would not dream of spoiling the ending to this endearing story.  All I will say is, get out the tissues.  But in a good way.  My heart sang at the end of the book and I felt uplifted.  Although the subject matter is serious, this book manages to be hugely engaging and even funny at times and is a unique and heart-warming tale.  It’s perfect for animal lovers and will remain in your thoughts for a long time after you turn that final page.

The Lizzie and Belle Mysteries – Drama and Danger – J.T. Williams (author), Simone Douglas (illustrator), Farshore (imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) (publisher)

A captivating, fast-paced mystery, I was truly fascinated by this story from start to finish.  In fact, I really didn’t want to put it down!  Set in the city of London in 1777, this gripping mystery follows the story of two girls who live very different lives on the face of it. Lizzie Sancho works at her family’s lively tea-shop in Westminster and Dido Belle lives in one of the most exclusive houses on Hampstead Heath: the magnificent Kenwood House.  Their worlds come together when they both witness an attempt on Lizzie’s father’s life at the Theatre Royal on opening night of his performance of Othello.  Together, the girls form a strong friendship while trying to solve the mystery of why someone would want to kill Ignatius Sancho.  But there are dark deeds afoot in Georgian London and it is an extremely dangerous place for two young girls, as they soon find out.  Some things are just worth fighting for though.  I loved this book.  It’s cleverly written with utterly absorbing historical details and is an absolute page-turner of a story.  The wonderful black and white illustrations add depth and intrigue and I loved the pages of correspondence and case notes included, making this a great text for those who struggle with pages and pages of detailed text.  Themes of friendship, love, bravery and a sense of community and strength balance out the darker themes of human trafficking, enforced slavery and racism.  I love that a book that you literally want to race through can also provide such a superb talking point for conversations about fighting for freedom, women’s rights and, even more particularly, the rights of Black women and girls.  A superb book, I can’t wait for the next one!

The Book of Stolen Dreams  – David Farr (author), Kristina Kister (illustrator), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

What a book! What a storyteller!  This is novel is absolutely fantastic.  It’s one of those middle grade books that make you wonder why the whole world isn’t reading it.  Because they should be (and I know you shouldn’t start a sentence with because!!).  It’s a fast-paced page turner of a book following Rachel and Robert Klein who become guardians of The Book of Stolen Dreams, a book that everyone is searching for, including the cruel and tyrannical President Charles Malstain and his army of thugs.  Desperate to survive, the children meet various characters, both good and bad, along the way and must decide who to trust on their journey to stop the magical book falling into the wrong hands.  As captivating as it is fabulous, this is a must-read of a book for any adventure seeker.

Alice Éclair, Spy Extraordinaire – A Recipe for Trouble -Sarah Todd Taylor (author), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Ooooo, we do love a secret code and a good mystery in our house. Perfect pastries and mysterious messages abound in this fabulous book by Sarah Todd Taylor.  Alice Éclair is one of Paris’ youngest and most talented pastry chefs around and while you might marvel at her macarons by day, you would be amazed by her night-time capers!  Skillful spy by night, she leads a very exciting double life.  A secret message sends Alice on a mission on board France’s most elite and luxurious train, The Sapphire Express.  Posing as dessert chef and employee on the train, Alice comes up against a tight timetable to try and uncover an enemy agent who is working against France before the journey terminates.  Her uncle has told her to “trust no-one” but everyone on the train seems to be acting suspiciously and hiding something.  Is her uncle really what he says he is?  Can she uncover the truth before it is too late? Armed with her whisk and her wits, Alice has just got to try.  This is a fast-paced gripping adventure which twists and turns as much as the train journey the characters on.  I have to confess, and sticking with the train terminology, I did not see the final destination coming!  It’s a concoction of confectionary, cooking, codes and ciphers and we cannot wait for the next engaging adventure with Alice Eclair.

Beyond the Frozen Horizon – Nicola Penfold (author), Stripes Publishing Limited (imprint of Little Tiger Press Ltd) (publisher)

What a haunting tale of frozen landscapes, fierce friendships and protecting our planet this book is.  I was truly captivated from the first page.  This story is set in the future, when the endangered animals of the world are beginning to thrive again after wilderness statuses were set up to protect land and wildlife and scientific organisations are researching innovative new ways to support human life sustainably. Rory’s mum is a geologist and is sent on a trip of a lifetime to the Artic to assess the impact of one of these pioneering projects. Rory is very lucky to be joining her and cannot wait for her adventure.  Set against the backdrop of the frozen landscape, Rory quickly learns about the tragedy that befell the people of that landscape years before and how they do not believe the project is all that it seems.  Rory trusts her instincts and begins to question what is really going on as she sees sick reindeers and learns about what is at stake for the people of the land and the way that they live.  Will she be able to help and uncover the truth about Greenlight and their Svalbard project before it is too late?  Will she find out who keeps leaving her gifts and appearing at her window?  This is such a beautiful story.  I wept tears of hope and joy at the end of it.  It’s crafted in the most wonderful of ways: plenty of intrigue, plenty of action, plenty of examples of conservation and eco-friendliness and just the right mix of haunting spookiness.  Set that against the snow-filled landscapes of the northern-most tips of the hemisphere and you have a story that is both thrilling and chilling at the same time!  Wonderful.

Mouse Heart – Fleur Hitchcock (author), Ben Mantle (cover art), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Set in the times of Queen Anne II (I had to google check that there was no Queen Anne II!), during the imaginary early eighteenth century, I was blown away by this masterfully-crafted whodunnit adventure.  I instantly fell in love with Mouse, an orphan raised by the players of the Moth Theatre.  When her good friend Walter is arrested for a bloody murder, Mouse knows that he couldn’t possibly have done it.  Nor would any of the characters in the Moth Theatre.  Or would they?   When more bodies begin to appear, it seems that someone in Mouse’s circle of trust is hiding a deadly secret.  With the foundations of everything she believes beginning to crumble, she has to figure out who she can truly trust.  Can she find out the truth before even more blood is shed? Obviously, I am not leaking any spoilers here!  What I will say though is that I was on the edge of my seat with this book and almost read it all in one sitting (I mean, if I didn’t have children to look after (pah!) then I definitely would have!!) because it was such a gripping, fast-paced adventure and was unlike any other middle grade book I have read this year.  Fleur Hitchcock weaves a wonderful web of imaginary historical life intertwined with mystery and intrigue and set against a backdrop of “all the world’s your stage”!  I adored Mouse with her strength and resilience of character.  I could almost feel myself with her, every step of the crowded, dirty, unsafe way as she fought for love and freedom. Bravo! I will certainly be looking out for more books by this author.

Monster Hunting for Beginners – Ian Mark (author), Louis Ghibault (illustrator), Farshore (imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) (publisher)

The back of this book says, “Warning! This book contains: Ogres! Bogeymen! Zomblings! Crusted Hairy Snot Nibblers!”.  What it should also say is, “Warning! This book is monstrously funny!”  Because it is.  Ian Mark’s humour and engaging writing style pull you in right from the beginning page and you will find yourself not being able to put this book down.  It’s packed full of funny adventures, hilarious stories and laugh out loud asides, not to mention its superb black and white illustrations which bring the fun of the story to life with their brilliant depictions of the monsters involved.  If you have ever wanted to know what a Giant Fartdoodle looks like (and, let’s face it, why wouldn’t you?) then look no further!  Following the story of young Jack and how he became to be a monster hunter alongside his ‘teacher’ Stoop and his new friend Nancy, this book delves into the adventure that befalls Jack when his father goes missing and his Aunty Prudence comes to ‘look after him’.  Your reader will gobble up the adventure, reading all about the different types of monster and how Jack and his friends deal with each of these.  It’s a wildly funny book, from the illustrations down to the style of writing (I LOVED all the asterixes) and is engaging on both a visual and a story-telling level.  I loved the short chapters, the excerpts from the Monster Hunting for Beginners book and all the fantastic drawings which also make this a wonderful book for any reader who struggles with huge blocks of text.  I can’t wait for my daughter to read it – I think she will devour it: it’s light-hearted, funny, fast-paced, packed full of adventure, full of visual brilliance and a general monster of a masterpiece all round.  And shhhh!, the carrier pigeons told me that there might be another one on the way….. oh, I do hope so!

The Light Thieves – Helena Duggan (author), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

Eeeeek! The Earth has tilted on its axis, a dark mark has appeared on the surface of the sun and the whole world appears to be in danger.  What a beginning to a book!  And goodness, from this earth-shaking start which ensures you are on the edge of your reading seat from the off, this gripping adventure does not let up!  In fact, I think the pace picks up even more towards the final hundred pages of the book when you feel like you cannot turn the pages fast enough!  I was captivated.  But I am getting ahead of myself, let me tell you more …. Picking up where I left off… the world is in peril but hugely rich and popular tech-genius, Howard Hansom, thinks he has a plan to save the Earth.  When Grian’s sister runs away to Hansom’s purpose-built, dazzling, teched-up city to help save the world, and his Grandad goes missing while searching for her, Grian knows that he must go off to look for them.  Pursued by some very creepy floating creatures, Grian and his friends, techy Jeffrey and in-touch-with-nature Shelli, try and track them down but begin to discover that the reality that Howard Hansom has created is not quite as it seems.  Why is everything so secret? What is the mysterious White Rose?  Where is Area 13?  What is really happening to the sun?  So many questions, so little time to get to the bottom of them.  And with the shaded area of the sun getting darker and darker, it’s a race against time!  Gripping and fast-paced, I loved this unique and imaginative world written out in the most creative and engaging of ways by Helena Duggan.  It’s fantastical, full of adventure and friendship and Ieaves you on one heck of a cliffhanger!!  I, for one, cannot wait for the next book!!

The Treekeepers – Kieran Larwood (author), Chris Wormell (illustrator), Faber & Faber Ltd (publisher)

Oh my goodness, this story wraps its branches around you and doesn’t let go!  It’s storytelling at its absolute best.  Liska is a shapeshifter.  She is training to become a warrior to protect the sacred city, Arborven, that she lives in.  Arborven is a city like no other you can think of – surrounded by mountains and set within an enormous tree, the Undrentree, it is home to thousands of magical creatures who are reliant on it.  Liska overhears a plan for shadow and death to overcome the city but no one believes her, even when the city comes under attack from some very dark forces.  From this moment on, she knows it is her duty to act to save the city and what follows is the most epic and magical of extraordinary journeys.  With only her friend Lug, who is often dismissed because his only power is to command the earthworms in the soil, and a wraith-like girl named Elowen, whose powers haven’t returned to her, Liska begins a dark and brooding journey across this magical landscape.  Along the way, the friends meet a brave and fearless kittimew (NOT a cat) and encounter danger and destruction in an epic effort to defeat the worst threat their world has ever known.  Will they manage it?  Will all of the friends make it through the journey?  My lips are sealed.  What I will say is that you just have to read this book.  It’s gripping, it’s fantastical, it’s full of warmth, love and friendship and it richly weaves fabulous fantasy with an affinity between humankind and nature.  It’s firmly planted its roots in our heart.

The Treekeepers

The Amazing Edie Eckhart – The Big Trip – Rosie Jones (author), Natalie Smillie (illustrator), Hodder Children’s Books (publisher)

Edie Eckhart is BACK!  And this term, Edie has a lot going on!  Not only has she got a lot on her mind but she is also going on her first trip away without her parents: on a drama camping trip with her friends.  But when the trip seems to shatter, rather than build, the confidence of the pupils and throws up yet more questions for Edie to answer, she really finds herself questioning her abilities.  To Edie, it seems like life just gets more confusing as she is growing up (kinda know how you feel Edie!).  She really starts to question her fundamentals – why doesn’t she know who she really is?  Why can’t she decide what she wants to be when she grows up?  Why does everyone else seem to have it all figured out?  Will Edie be able to answer all these complex questions, or will she begin to realise that it is absolutely ok not to have all of the answers?  I loved the diary style format of the story and the fresh, fun tone to the writing.  It’s relevant, it’s cool, it’s engaging and you just can’t help falling in love with Edie a little bit.  There are quirky black and white illustrations throughout the text, which hold the attention of the reader and also make it a superb story for those readers who prefer blocks of text to be broken up. I, for one, am looking forward to more books because I think she is pretty amazing, just the way she is (and don’t worry Edie, I am still trying to figure out whether I would like to be a dancer or a best-selling novelist when I grow up!!).

The Spectaculars – Jodie Garnish (author), Nathan Collins (illustrator), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

I was so excited to get stuck into this gorgeous proof (which arrived with some fun goodies) about a magical theatrical world and I wasn’t disappointed!  Out at the end of September, the Spectaculars is the first book in a new trilogy and is the perfect book to read, snuggled up with a hot chocolate with lashings of marshmallows, now the nights are starting to draw in.  When three figures show up in a flying canoe outside Harper’s window one night, she might be forgiven for thinking she is seeing things!  Instead, she learns she is a Spectacular  – a magical performer who has been gifted with special powers from the stars.  She needs to hone those capabilities so off she flies to a boarding school with a difference! Harper is thrilled to be part of the Specatulars’ travelling theatre and boarding school and what a fantastical, magical place it is…. Until it all starts to unravel.  Strange calamities keep happening and bizarre sightings are seen, plunging the school and the theatrical world into jeopardy.  With the help of her new friends Trick and Thief, Harper tries to save her new school.  Will she manage it?  Can she get to the bottom of what is happening at the Wondria?  This is a wonderful story, full of celestial splendour, fizz-banging fun and friendship, magic and mystery.  I loved the theatrical backdrop and the characters involved in this page-turner which leaves you guessing until the final few pages.  Truly spectacular!  I, for one, cannot wait for the next book.

Young Adult

Kill Joy – Holly Jackson (author), Electric Monkey (part of Farshore) (publisher)

From the multi-million bestselling author of the “Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” trilogy comes this novella prequel.  Fear not, if you haven’t read the trilogy, this short novel is a great standalone story in itself.  It centres around a murder mystery party that Pippa Fitz-Amobi, the protagonist in the trilogy, has been invited to at her friend’s house.  1920’s themed, Pip is not looking forward to the party, seeing it as a distraction from her homework and, in particular, her EPQ topic which she struggling to decide upon.  But Pip finds herself drawn into the events of the murder-mystery make-believe and the world of intrigue and deception.  As she is playing detective, trying to solve the clues and establish the identity of the killer from the friends that are sitting round the table, Pip begins to realise that the murder of the fictional 1920’s Reginald Remy is not the only case on her mind…  I really enjoyed this book as a separate, murder mystery party tale, full of suspense and atmosphere.  It sets the reader up for the trilogy nicely but is a face-paced page turner in its own right and I found myself think more about the intricacies of the fictional whodunnit than the fact that this novella was laying the foundation stones for how it all began.  Short and suspenseful, it’s a super standalone read.

Non-Fiction

The Earth Book – Jonathan Litton (author), Thomas Hegbrook (illustrator), 360 Degrees (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)

What a wonderful world!  This fascinating book focuses on our phenomenal planet, exploring it in detail in the most interesting of ways.  This work of non-fiction is split into four ‘sections’ -physical Earth, life on Earth, Earth regions and the human planet.  You can dip in and out of each ‘area’ or read the whole section, or book, in one go.  Your child can explore the inner workings of the Earth and how it was formed, learn about the planet’s billions of inhabitants, investigate the rich variety of ecosystems from all corners of the globe, or ponder the human impact on the planet.  The information is set out in bite-sized chunks and each page is filled with superb illustrations of the subject matter involved.  There are gorgeous illustrations of the wildlife mentioned and stunning representations of space and the natural world, not to mention the exquisite depictions of people, cities and influential earthlings.  The snippets of information, together with the stunning visuals in this book mean that it is one of the most appealing and engaging non-fiction reads around.  Mind-blowing (who knew it took a pineapple about three years to fully ripen?!) and awe-inspiring in its facts, interactive (you have to turn the book around at times to read it) and pictorially beautiful, this is a wonderful book about our wonderful world.

Little People, Big Dreams: Dwayne Johnson, Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Lirios Bou (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (an imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

To say I was excited to review this book would be an understatement of the grossest proportions!!  I am a HUGE Dwayne Johnson fan and so to be able to read this book with my children to let them know all about his enthusiastic, hard-working and determined attitude to life has been a pleasure.  You may know about Dwayne Johnson’s much-loved films and cinematic presence but this book tells you and your reader all about Dwayne’s early life, having been born into a family of wrestlers.  His family lost almost everything they had when he was a teenager and this pushed a young Dwayne to control the only thing he could: his body and so he was determined to get fitter and stronger to become an American Football star.  Unfortunately, owing to a sporting injury, he was cut from the professional team he had been signed to and the book tells of how he dealt with this set-back and the depression that followed.  We love the lines: “he realised that strong guys are not those with the  biggest biceps, but those brave enough to accept their own weakness and open up to others.”  What a wonderful message to pass on to our children.  The biography details how he has made his way to stardom, becoming The People’s Champ and being the best-paid actor ever with his magnetic personality and his huge heart.  This is a hugely inspiring story which leaves you with a wonderful feeling about the importance of love, laughter and, most importantly, being yourself.  We also love the black and white fact and photo timeline at the back of the book which provides even more fascinating information about this amazing athlete and actor.  The illustrations are fantastic, providing much brightness, colour and fun into the book.  It’s a real superstar of a book about a real superstar.

How Can We Be Kind? – Janet Halfmann (author), Darla Okada (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

I do love a non-fiction book which is aimed at younger children.  And this one is truly special.  With the most exquisite illustrations of the cutest animals, this book asks your young reader the question, “How can we be kind?” and then looks to nature and the animal kingdom to provide the most wonderful and awe-inspiring examples.  We can share with each other like jackdaws do, or wait for others like African elephants do.  Or, we can make others laugh like orangutans do (this page always makes my twins laugh as they find the word ‘orangutan’ hilarious and the illustrations of the animals on this page are both adorable and funny), or we can help each other shine like blue manakins do.  Not only is this book beautiful in its approach to compassion, kindness, patience and appreciation for others, it also teaches your children about lots of different animals that they may not have come across (in fact, some of them were new to me!) and their behaviours in the wild.  Each animal mentioned is accompanied by the most gorgeous, colourful illustrations to depict their mannerisms which my children adore looking through. Not only that, at the back of the book, there are photographs of each animal mentioned and a short factual paragraph about them.  But the best thing about this book?  The question it poses and the thought-processes it prompts at the end of the book when it asks, “How will you be kind?”  Super sweet, filled with delightful drawings of the animal kingdom, this book is a beautiful invitation for being kind and thoughtful in every-day life.

Little People, Big Dreams  – Wilma Mankiller  – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Alexandra Bowman (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

I am ashamed to say that I didn’t really know very much about this inspirational woman before I sat down to read this book with my children!  That’s another reason why I absolutely love this series of books though: you learn alongside your children about some of the most outstanding people on the planet!  Little Wilma was part of the Cherokee tribe who were forced to leave their homes to settle in San Francisco, a huge city away from nature and their roots.  She was bullied at school for looking different because Wilma and her siblings were the only Native Americans at their new school.  Inspired by daring activists, she joined their cause to fight for her people to give them a voice.  She became the tribe’s first Principal Chief and led her people for ten years, fighting to protect the environment and working towards her people having a fair relationship with the US government.  This is a fascinating read about a truly inspirational woman who provides a wonderful role model for our young children.  As ever, the closing line of the book is superb: “the happiest people are those who care about others, and who stand for something larger than themselves.”  We love the beautiful, colourful illustrations in the story.  They are bold and striking and serve to reinforce the harsh treatment of the Cherokee people.  The two-page black and white picture timeline at the back of the book is also fascinating, providing further information and a great springboard from which your reader could do further research about Wilma Mankiller, the Cherokee tribe and the “Trail of Tears” (which is mentioned in the book).

One Little Bug – Becky Davies (author), Jacob Souva (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

We loved “One Little Seed” so we were very excited to be able to review this latest non-fiction release exploring nature for curious children.  My youngest daughter absolutely loves factual books.  She also loves creepy crawlies of all types so this is just the perfect book for her!  Each two-page spread is filled with the most beautifully colourful illustrations of the insects it details.  Added to this, these vibrant spreads are combined with snippets of information about brilliant bugs and their amazing features, many of which are hidden behind superb lift the flaps to really engage your young reader.  There are so many hidden gems of information behind the uniquely crafted and nature-shaped flaps, such as the life cycle of a butterfly, how to make your own wormery and so much more.  Did you know that fruit flies were the first living creatures to be sent into space?  Or that great water boatman breathe through their bottoms (cue much giggling in our house!), or that mosquitoes are attracted to smelly feet?  This book is hugely interactive and makes learning about the outside world and nature so attractive to children.  It also encourages children (and adults!) to get outdoors: to discover the whole world of bugs waiting outside for them.  This is a perfect book for any minibeast hunter.

Little People, Big Dreams  – Nikola Tesla  – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Alexander Mostov (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

This is the story of a remarkable Serbian little boy named Nikola.  Born in the middle of a storm and ending up lighting up people’s homes.  His imagination and skill knew no bounds as his brain sparked with so many ideas that it lit up the future.  But how did it all begin?  By stroking a cat, of course!  When he stroked his beloved pet one night during a storm, he felt electricity and, from that moment on, he was fascinated.  His imagination and inventiveness went into overdrive and he studied electricity at university before obtaining a job with Thomas Edison (the electric light bulb guy!).  In the interim though he invented a system called an ‘alternating current’ to carry electricity over long distances.  Edison didn’t believe in Nikola’s system, so after two years of working for him, Nikola left Edison’s company and sold his invention to someone else who used it to light up the night sky of Chicago!  It was a triumph for the world and for Nikola.  This is a hugely inspirational story about a small boy with big ideas and a whole heap of inventiveness.  His vision helped to shape the world as we now know it.  My little boy, in particular, is fascinated by this story because he is obsessed with electricity and pylons!  The illustrations are exquisite, as we have come to expect from this wonderful series of books.  The colour tones used and the flashes of electricity and sparks of light used throughout make it as visually appealing as it is fascinating from both a factual and historical context.    We also love the fact and black and white photo section at the back of the book – my twins love the ‘old-fashioned’ photos and enjoy seeing how people have changed throughout their lives.  Another superb one from this outstanding series.

September's Recommended Reads for Kids
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Fiona lives in Yorkshire with her husband and little girl who is 6 months

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