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Top 20 New Releases and Great Reads for January

Top 20 New Releases and Great Reads for January

There have been some fabulous books released towards the back end of last year and during this month.  Here are my twenty great reads and new releases for the New Year:

Board Books

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Dear Zoo – Celebrating 40 years gold edition – Rod Campbell (author and illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

A glorious gold boardbook edition of this much-loved interactive classic has been published this year. This story is an absolute must for any nursery and is one of the best lift the flap books around.  It’s a super introduction to various animals and guaranteed to get that hand-eye co-ordination going and fine motor skills into play as your little one lifts the flaps of varying sizes and shapes.  Will they ever receive the perfect pet though?  Of course they will.  This gold edition is simply stunning and a beautiful book to gift to any young child.

Dear Zoo – Celebrating 40 years gold edition
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Picture Books

Little Glow – Katie Sahota (author), Harry Woodgate (illustrator), Owlet Press (Publisher)

What a beautiful book.  This is a picture book to pull on the heart strings and warm your insides.  A book of celebration, a book of acceptance, a book of togetherness.  What better way to start the New Year with the sense of inclusion, boldness, love and light from within that this book celebrates?  Little Glow sees the light in the world from his window ledge.  The light of various cultural and religious celebrations, the light of the stars, the light of the world and wishes that he could make such a big impact.  But Little Glow realises that the house in which he lives is full of light.  The light of love and togetherness and warmth which he is a part of.  He realises that he need never be lonely and can be truly happy exactly where he is.  This book is a superb introduction to different religious festivals and cultural celebrations and is truly a book to treasure.  I also love the candle safety page at the back of the book.  Very useful for my disobedient twins!!

Little Glow – Katie Sahota (author), Harry Woodgate (illustrator), Owlet Press (Publisher)

A Hero Called Wolf – Lucy Rowland (author), Ben Mantle (illustrator), Bloomsbury (publisher)

My son has a new favourite book and this is it.  To be honest, it’s like all his dreams have come true.  Superheroes and wolves combined.  His two favourite things.  What’s not to love?  Yet even if your child doesn’t like them more than a sticky bun with the proverbial cherry on top, you certainly need to get hold of a copy of this book.  Why?  Because it is fantastic.  Why can’t a wolf be a superhero?  Why is he always portrayed to be the baddie?  Turning all of the fairytales on their heads, this clever book is a masterpiece in rhyme.  Giving the message to the young reader to be kind and follow their dreams, to make their own destiny and write their own pages to the script of their life, this is set to be one of the best books of the year.  Capes off to Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle.

A Hero Called Wolf

Wolf Girl – Jo Loring-Fisher (author and illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Beautiful words, beautiful illustrations and a beautiful message.  Poor Sophie feels alone and scared.  She doesn’t know how to fit in, how to talk to or play with the other children at school.  She feels happiest and strongest when she is wearing her wolf costume and one day, after a particularly difficult and sad day at school (which is heart-wrenching to read as a parent), she dreams of being part of a wolf family and of being brave and strong and, above all, kind.  Was it all just a dream? Or could it be something more magical?  She carries the feelings of bravery, warmth and kindness from the ‘dream’ into school and begins to overcome her shyness and slowly starts to make friends.  But there is something familiar about a particularly quiet boy – has she seen that owlish little boy somewhere before?!.  This is a magical story of friendship and bravery with the most enchanting illustrations.  My son is lupine-crazy so this is fast becoming a favourite of his and I love the way it invites discussions about empathy and feelings.  It would be a great book for any child needing that little bit more reassurance at the moment in these very strange times, or for those who struggle going back to school after the holidays.

Wolf Girl – Jo Loring-Fisher (author and illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Isabelle and the Crooks – Michelle Robinson (author), Chris Mould (illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

There is something about robbers and thieves that my children are just fascinated by.  I don’t think it is just my children though.  In the space of two days, I have been asked to read this book no less than twenty times because my twins love it so much!!  Why, you may ask?  Well, it’s EVERYthing to do with the fantastic illustrations, evocative of a type of humorous Dickensian England, and the fabulous tale of the villainous family Crook who eventually see the error of their ways after something very precious is taken from them.  No spoilers here but I will say the ending of the book is fun and cheeky.  I also hugely appreciated the reinforcement of the days of the week throughout the story – a great way to get young readers to learn them without realising it because they are having fun listening to the story!  Win, win.  We’d be very happy to see the Crooks have some more cheeky adventures here please!

Isabelle and the Crooks

Colour and Me! –  Michaela Dias-Hayes (author and illustrator), Owlet Press (publisher)

What a riot (of colour and fun) we had with this book.  To compliment the book, we made lots of messy pictures with the colours we had mixed, just like in the book. Not only is this rhyming text a wonderful introduction to, or reinforcement of, different colours (and what colours are made when the primary colours are mixed together), it is a joyful and empowering book about how brown skin is beautiful. My children all loved the vibrant pictures, which are oozing with love and happiness, and the heart-felt message that every colour is special and unique.  Such a clever book with such an important message, and we love Myrtle the Turtle too!

Colour and Me! -

This Tree is Just for Me – Lucy Rowland (author), Laura Hughes (illustrator), Bloomsbury (Publisher)

This is another stunner of a rhyming book by the fantastic Lucy Rowland. Out on 20th January, it’s a beautifully illustrated book in bold and vibrant colours and celebrates the power and effect of friendship and love.  Jack has found a lovely, quiet spot to read his new book in peace: a lovely, leafy tree in a calm corner of the garden.  The only problem is, he keeps being interrupted by all manner of wonderful animals.  He has fun with every one of them but eventually chases each of them away, saying that the tree is just for him and he is trying to read his book.  After one particularly rude and loud outburst from him, his lovely animal friends slink away and leave him by himself.  It is then he realises that the tree, much like life, is so much more fun with friends in it and books are so much fun to read aloud to your nearest and dearest.  This is a lovely, feel-good book and a great way to start the New Year with such a positive message.

This Tree is Just for Me

Chapter Books

Mike Falls Up – Candy Gourlay (author), Chris Ballesteros (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Limited (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)

Mike and his dog, Bowow, live in the sunny and dry Chocolate Hills. Kaneisha and her dog, Foofoo, live in a cold and snowy London.  So how do they both meet and end up being invited to a rock monster’s birthday party?! By just falling up, of course!  This is a lovely, colourful story of unexpected friendships and fun, interspersed with vibrant illustrations which are perfect to keep a reluctant reader, or those starting out on their reading journey, engaged.  It’s the first chapter book that my four year old twins have actively engaged with and they really enjoyed reading it over the course of a few nights.

Mike Falls Up – Candy Gourlay (author), Chris Ballesteros (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Limited (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)

The Adventure Club: Tiger in Trouble – Jess Butterfield (author), Kirsti Beautyman (illustrator), Orion Children’s Books (imprint of Hachette) (publisher)

Publishing on 20th January, this is a brand-new series packed full of illustrations and adventure and is perfect for early readers.  It’s the second in the series following The Adventure Club and their exciting and, at times, dangerous trip to a wildlife sanctuary in India to locate the whereabouts of Tilly’s adopted tiger cub (and its Mummy) when they wander beyond the sanctuary’s boundaries.  Written in a diary format, which resonated so well with my six-year-old daughter who loves to write in her diary, the text is broken up with cute little tiger cub symbols and some gorgeous drawings of various animals. Will the tiger cub be saved?  My lips are sealed but this is a great book for any animal lover out there.  We also loved the suggestion at the back of the book to help animals here in the UK by making a hedgehog highway in the back garden.  It’s certainly an activity my six year old is keen to add to our to-do list.  We are looking forward to more in the series.

The Adventure Club: Tiger in Trouble – Jess Butterfield (author), Kirsti Beautyman (illustrator), Orion Children’s Books (imprint of Hachette) (publisher)

The Worst Class in the World Dares You – Joanna Nadin (author), Rikin Parekh (illustrator), Bloomsbury (publisher)

Class 4B is the worst class in the world! Yup, it really is.  But it might also be one of the most fun classes in the world too.  This book is a laugh out loud romp through various disasters which befall the class – think nits, creepy-crawlies and dangerous dares, each one more disgusting than the last!  Bursting with brilliantly humorous black and white drawings, the book is filled with hilarious catchphrases, loveable (yet pick-your-nose-kind-of-disgusting) characters and lots of raucous antics. With so much fun and mayhem from the class, it’s a brilliant book to showcase to children of the joy and fun of reading.  We also enjoyed the list of Mrs Bottomley-Blunt’s rules and the fun quiz at the end of the book to see whether you would be suited to join the Worst Class in the World (we were more Class 4A kind of people, sadly!). A great early chapter book. 

The Worst Class in the World Dares You – Joanna Nadin (author), Rikin Parekh (illustrator), Bloomsbury (publisher)

The Homesick Kitten  – Holly Webb (author), Sophy Williams (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Limited (an imprint of Little Tiger Group) (publisher)

My eldest daughter, who is a huge animal lover, just adores these books.  She reads them really quickly as the adorable black and white illustrations break up the text of the book nicely.  This latest in the series sees Sammy, the cute little kitten, go missing as he ventures back to his old stomping ground after Harper and her family have to move in with their Gran to look after her.  My daughter said that the description of Sammy feeling homesick made her feel really sad and we had to read past that bit together.  Never fear, all is well that ends well and Sammy, Gran, Mum, Harper, and her little sister Ava, all end up adjusting really well to their new living situation.  Sammy even manages the stairs! This is another lovely book from Holly Webb.

The Homesick Kitten  - Holly Webb (author), Sophy Williams (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Limited (an imprint of Little Tiger Group) (publisher)

Middle Grade Books

Mort the Meek and the Monstrous Quest – Rachel Delahaye (author), George Emos (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Limited (an imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)

We have so much love for Mort.  Mort, the founding member of the Pacifist Society of Brutalia.  Mort, the Brave.  Mort, the Peace-Lover.  While the rest of Brutalia are out on a mission to find treasure befitting their goddess-queen, Mort is simply trying to locate his missing family: his beloved (yet typically, violently Brutalian) Father and twin siblings.  His quest tests the limits of his Pacifist Promise, sees him coming face-to-face with a violent sea-monster and forming an unlikely friendship with a spiky rock-crusher called Punky.  The marine jokes and puns at the start of each chapter are laugh out loud funny and the brilliant illustrations really bring the text to life.  We cannot wait for the next adventure in the series.

Mort the Meek and the Monstrous Quest

Dragon Storm – Tomas and Ironskin – Alistair Chisholm (author), Ben Mantle (illustrator), Nosy Crow (publisher) (recommended reading age: 7 plus)

This new chapter book fantasy series is going to take the children’s reading world by storm.  Pun intended.  It has roared onto the scene with this first book, Tomas and Ironskin, and we cannot wait to read the others in the series when they are published.  Set in the fantastical land of Draconis, where there are no longer any dragons (allegedly), this first book follows the story of Tomas, the forger’s son, who possesses a very special and unique gift: he can summon his very own dragon!  Tomas joins a special secret guild of dragon-seers and has to begin to learn to trust the people around him, his power and, above all, his dragon.  Can he have all the things he loves in his life, or will he have to choose between them?  This is a great book to the start of a series that we hope to see more of.

Dragon Storm - Tomas and Ironskin

The Week at World’s End – Emma Carroll (author), Faber & Faber Limited (publisher)  – (recommended reading age: 8 plus)

Set against the background of the Cuban missile crisis, I just LOVED this historical fiction by Emma Carroll.  Nothing ever happens at World’s End Close, apparently.  Until, that is, one day a mysterious girl in a bobble hat turns up in Stevie’s coal bunker saying she is being chased by people who are trying to poison her! What follows is a wonderful story which pulls on the heartstrings and is full of intrigue, courage, bravery and friendship.  The themes of bereavement, loss, racial tension and illness are dealt with very sensitively in the book and are brought to life with the rich characterisation of the main protagonists.  In Emma’s writing, you can almost feel the tension and nervousness of the world being a push of a button away from extinction and how that impacts life across the world, including at World End’s Close.  Can Stevie and her best friend help the girl in the coal bunker?  Should they?  You will just have to read the book to find out.  What I can tell you is that you won’t regret it.  This is children’s historical fiction at its finest.

he Week at World’s End

The Last Bear  – Hannah Gold (author), Levi Pinfold (illustrator), Harper Collins Children’s Books (publisher)

Oh my! What a book.  A could not put this one down and I read it in a day.  I was simultaneously desperate to know what was going to happen and yet praying that it would not end.  As I turned the final pages with tears in my eyes, I knew that this was a book that would stay with me forever.  It’s a stunning debut of a novel by Hannah Gold, full of dazzling descriptions of Bear Island and its inhabitants.  Following the story of April and her father who must spend six months on Bear Island, a beautiful but harsh landscape just outside the North Pole, this is a tale which will pull on your heart strings (in a good way) and really focus your mind and attention on the melting of the ice-caps and our behaviour towards the planet.  April has been told by her father that there are no longer any polar bears on Bear Island because of the melting of the ice over the past decade but she spots a lonely and famished polar bear at the start of her trip.  The bond that develops between them is portrayed through Gold’s evocative and powerful writing.  This is a book for EVERYONE, not just for children.  With beautiful illustrations to match the enchanting writing, this is a book which will transport you to an ice-capped island but will warm your heart.  The message of bravery and conviction that one small person can start saving the planet is so timely and also so inspirational.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

The Last Bear  - Hannah Gold

Non-Fiction Books

Little People, Big Dreams: Pablo Picasso – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Teresa Bellon (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (an imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

This book was made to make you feel happy.  The colours, the fantastic illustrations, the gorgeous text about Picasso’s life and the wonderful message at the end of the book: “all children are artists – we just need to keep believing it once we grow up”.  We are huge fans of this Little People, Big Dreams series to educate young readers about great, inspirational people and this book about the life of Pablo Picasso does not disappoint.  It explains, in simple language, all about Picasso’s styles of art and the experiences in his life which shaped his artistic creations.  Bold and vibrantly beautiful, this is a piece of artwork in itself and a wonderful book to add to your collection (or start it with).

Little People, Big Dreams: Pablo Picasso – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Teresa Bellon (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (an imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Mummies Unwrapped –  Nosy Crow (author), Tom Froese (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

The mysteries of the Egyptian world lie behind this tantalisingly beautiful gold cover.  This fantastic book answers many gruesome questions surrounding mummification and takes a deep (sandy) dive into that ancient Egyptian custom.  Do you know exactly how mummies were made? Have you any idea what was stored in canopic jars?  Did you know that there was a team of embalmers involved in the process?  The answers to all of these questions, and many more, are provided in this wonderful work of non-fiction.  Some of the detail is not for the faint-hearted (I actually like that the process is not sugar-coated) but my children seemed to love it!  The illustrations are fantastic and compliment the text throughout.  If you have an ancient Egyptian enthusiast then this is certainly the book for them.  It would be an ideal book to support any school learning on the subject.

Mummies Unwrapped

We Go Way Back  – Idan Ben-Barak (author), Philip Bunting (illustrator) Allen & Unwin (publisher)

A bold and bright scientific book about how life on Earth began.  With interesting, short sentences of text spiralled and interspersed through the pages and colourful illustrations, this is an informative introduction for a young reader to try and understand how and when life began and what it is.  This is a great book to assist with those “but how….?” and “but why…?” questions which come thick and fast in those early years of childhood.  We love the introduction of ‘big’ concepts in an entertaining and uniquely colourful way but what makes this book really special is that it doesn’t shy away from the fact that the scientists do not know everything but that this is ok.  My children also love the three page pull out evolution tree at the end of the book containing the most fabulous illustrations.

We Go Way Back  - Idan Ben-Barak (author), Philip Bunting (illustrator) Allen & Unwin (publisher)

We Feel Happy – Katie Abbey (author and illustrator), Bloomsbury (Publisher)

What a beautiful rainbow of a book.  It’s a superb exploration into first feelings and emotions and a really useful starting point to discuss these emotions with your young child to help them make sense of the complex feelings they may be experiencing.  Post-Christmas, we have had a lot of ups and downs in terms of mood-swings and behaviour (and I am not even talking about me!), and this book has been a great support to both my children and me to help us talk through those emotions.  A range of feelings are discussed and the colours on the page reflect the mood of the emotion which I think works really well with children.  Each different emotion is wonderfully illustrated using cartoon animals to give examples of the feeling and to gently probe how your young reader might be feeling when they experience that emotion.  There is also a really handy couple of pages at the back of the book about how to prompt discussions about feelings when you are the caregiver or parent.

We Feel Happy – Katie Abbey (author and illustrator), Bloomsbury (Publisher)

Poems Aloud – Joseph Coelho (author), Daniel Gray-Barnett (illustrator), Wide-Eyed Editions (imprint of The Quarto Group) (publisher)

What a joyful book! Poetry can often be overlooked when we are thinking of choosing a book for our children but this book really stands out from the crowd.  It’s colourful, beautifully illustrated with pages of happy and bright drawings and the poems are wondrous.  Such a superb collection of fun and fantabulous poetry.  Poetry to make your heart sing.  Poetry to make you laugh out loud.  Poetry to make you get up and dance. Poetry to allow children to experiment with different feelings.  It’s a book made to be performed and read out loud.  It’s a book to connect children with the music of their voice.  It’s a book to be treasured forever.  Thank you.

s Aloud – Joseph Coelho (author), Daniel Gray-Barnett (illustrator), Wide-Eyed Editions (imprint of The Quarto Group) (publisher)

Rescuing Titanic – Flora Delargy (author and illustrator), Wide Eyed Editions (an imprint of Quarto Group) (publisher)

Move over Leo and Kate.  Forget that film, this is simply THE most beautiful book about one of the most heart-wrenching tragedies in sea-faring history.   I have always been fascinated by the events that took place in April 1912 aboard the Titanic.  I think I have passed on that fascination to my eldest daughter (and hope to do the same for my twins).  We have pored over every last gorgeous detail and fantabulous illustration in this wonderful book. From information on the key crew and passengers, to the panic-driven events after the iceberg hit (that’s not a spoiler, everyone knows the Titanic sank, right?), to the rescue mission by the Carpathia and the sadness of the days that followed, this book is simply un-put-downable.  A true beacon of light shining out on the tragedy of the Titanic.  Beg, borrow or steal it (well, don’t do the latter, it’s illegal).

Rescuing Titanic – Flora Delargy (author and illustrator), Wide Eyed Editions (an imprint of Quarto Group) (publisher)

Little People, Big Dreams – Nelson Mandela – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Alison Hawkins (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (an imprint of Quarto Group) (publisher)

Did you know that Nelson Mandela’s birth name was Rolihlahla? Or that he was imprisoned for 27 long years, just for standing up to the racist government of the time?  This book was an eye-opener for both me and my eldest daughter and I know that my four-year-old twins will love it too because they really enjoy other books from this series. We are great fans of the bite size chunks of informative text which are spread out across pages of colourful and evocative illustrations.  And the message at the end of the book?  We quite agree: “A winner is just a dreamer who never gives up.”  What an inspiration to young readers and to people everywhere.  It’s out on 25th January, be sure to grab yourself a copy.

 Dreams – Nelson Mandela

Why not PIN this post Top 20 New Releases and Great Reads for January

Top 20 New Releases and Great Reads for January
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