The ‘Educational equivalent to Michelin’ launches latest edition of The Good Schools Guides for London
The Good Schools Guide, long favoured by parents to help them see the wood for the trees when choosing schools, launches its latest publications today. The Good Schools Guide: London North and London South cover the best state and independent schools north and south of the river. The Good Schools Guides: London offer in-depth and straight-talking reviews to give parents an invaluable insight into the competitive world of London schooling. The new editions include the latest exam results and articles on many aspects of the London education scene. The aim is to help parents choose the best school for their child.
At this point it’s worth noting that The Good Schools Guide is the only impartial guide to London schools. Each school included in a guide has been visited by a writer who has interviewed the head, spoken to pupils and parents and analysed results and marketing hype. Schools can’t buy their way in, there are no mates rates, advertisers don’t get a free pass. A school is only included in the pages if the writers think it worthy. It’s why schools are desperate to be included, and why The Good Schools Guide has been established and respected by parents for over 30 years. Apart from asking around, posting in Facebook groups, where else can parents get unbiased information about a school, its values, ethos and contribution to a community?
London North is a hefty tome of 220 schools, with London South feeling slimmer but still offering hundreds of reviews. Expect to see comment on junior and senior, independent and state settings as well as information and advice on fees, entry requirements, school atmosphere, academics, SEN and more.
In addition to the London guides, The Good Schools Guide also offers a consultation service, and The Good Schools Guide 22nd edition is available with a free month’s subscription to the website. The guide includes 1200 in-depth reviews of leading state and private schools for children aged 3 to 18 in the UK.
It’s never too early to help children to understand the world around them and the impact they can have on its future. Sharon Jones reviews three super books that make a great starting point. Her full edit can be found in our Spring issue here.
1. WHEN WE WENT WILD by Isabella Tree, illustrated by Allira Tee
Printed in the UK and made with 100% recycled paper this wonderful story tells the tale of Nancy and Jake, two farmers who use harsh chemicals to raise their cows and pigs. Upon noticing the animal’s sadness, they decide to make a drastic change, much to the disapproval of the neighbouring community. Loosely based on the experiences of the author who is also a farmer and has real-life rewilding experience, this book will definitely get young minds thinking about their surroundings.
2. FORESTS by Jess French, illustrated by Alexander Mostov (Ivy Kids)
Why do forests matter? Because without them the world would struggle to function. This coffee table book explores the power of trees, their importance to two-thirds of the world’s animals who need them and how their destruction is having a devastating impact on the planet. Including great tips on what you can do to change your habits in order to help the forest, this book is simple for young children to understand and empowers them to take action.
3. CLIMATE CHANGE by Tom Jackson and Cristina Guitian (QED)
For teenagers with an interest in the environment, this book aims to answer the broad questions around the topic of climate change. Not only that, it helps with critical thinking using history, science and social considerations to explore the subject from a range of angles. Engaging graphics by Cristina Guitian bring arguments to life like: Who is responsible? How do we move to a circular economy and discussions to help young people form their own opinions. Informative, engaging and tackling big theories in a way that makes you want to find out more.
And just like that, as every parent readjusted to having the house to themselves again, the weekend happened! Add a touch of magic, music and heaps of creativity at the shake of wand (or click of a button).
1. FIRST PIANO ON THE MOON LIVE ONLINE WITH PERTH THEATRE
Join half-man half-piano Will Pickvance for First Piano on the Moon, a live online show about Mozart, music and the moon. Written and performed by pianist and storyteller Will, the show combines storytelling with music and is suitable for ages seven plus.
2. CURSE OF THE CRACKLES ONLINE AT SHOREDITCH TOWN HALL
Go on an audio adventure with interactive show Curse of the Crackles, streaming online with Shoreditch Town Hall. Riff the puppy needs your help. The world is in chaos after all the sounds in the universe got mixed up. Now it’s up to you and Riff to put them back and save the day. The immersive sonic quest is suitable for ages 7 to 11 and features three-dimensional sound technology.
Instilling a lifelong love of books is on the parenting tick list. St Benedict’s Librarian, Emma Wallace tells us how to get our children reading
What were your favourite books as a child?
The first series that I remember really loving was the Secret Seven by Enid Blyton. This was about seven friends who formed a detective club and went on various adventures trying to solve mysteries. I loved the sense that they could roam free in woods, hills and manor houses and investigate mysteries together, from train robbers, car thieves and mail heists. And then when I got a bit older it was Judy Blume’s novels, when I read every one of her books, from Deenie to Tiger Eyes. These books were about real-life problems that we face growing up, at school, home and in relationships. I was such a massive fan that I wrote to Judy in America and she posted me a signed poster!
Your favourite children’s author?
My favourite children’s author is Neil Gaiman. He has a wonderful imagination, writing both novels and graphic novels that evoke fantastical and intriguing scenarios, coupled with often terrifying and obscure characters, much like Roald Dahl. I particularly love his book Coraline, which has been turned into a comic and film as well.
A new book that will stand the test of time? The 2019 Kate Greenaway picture book award winner The Lost Words: A Spell Book by Jackie Morris. This book of enchanting illustrations celebrates the natural world we share the planet with and can be enjoyed by any age. It focuses on the loss of words on nature from children’s language (such as bramble, dandelion and acorn), and also their imaginations, while helping to remind us of the magic and importance of these wild things still today.
What is your all-time favourite book? It’s got to be Madam Bovary by Gustave Flaubert! I read this over ten years ago and nothing has taken its place as my number one favourite novel since then. While reading it, I couldn’t get over how modern, realistic and even contemporary it seemed, even though written in 1857!
If you could invite any author to St Benedict’s – living or dead – to meet you and your students, who would you choose, and why? I think Mary Shelley, who died in 1851, would be a fascinating person for our pupils to meet! Her book Frankenstein, named the first ever science-fiction story, still captures the imagination of children today over two hundred years later and is such a brilliant read. The Frankenstein monster has had a massive impact on popular culture, but there is so much more to this tragic character and I would love to know more about Mary’s thoughts behind this. I also think she would have provided many insights into what it was like to be female in the nineteenth century, going against many social conventions to publish a book.
Tell us why you think reading is a valuable thing for children to do: Aside from the many academic benefits to reading, there are the huge social and emotional benefits, from better sleep, improved memory to lowered levels of stress. It is through reading fiction books that the unique, wonderful and transformative experiences can occur, helping children to feel happier and more connected in their lives. A novel can transport us to an exotic island or magical land, allowing us to escape into our imagination, away from the day to day worries and stresses of our lives. We may discover a character who is going through a similar experience to us, something that is life affirming and makes us feel a little less alone and isolated.
In recent online library lessons during lockdown, we have been talking about how reading is a brilliant way to help develop empathy skills, as we put ourselves in a character’s shoes and imagine what they’re thinking and feeling. This immersion into a book character helps pupils’ build understanding and compassion towards others, something that is more important than ever in these difficult times.
What are your top tips for encouraging young teens to read?
Choose a book that you want to read. Reading for pleasure is all about making our own choices and reading books that you think you will enjoy, by authors, genres and in formats that you love or want to try.
If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book” as JK Rowling says. It’s absolutely fine to stop reading a book you’re not enjoying and try something else. Reading a book is an investment and it’s important to keep trying different authors and genres until you find something that you really enjoy.
Make it a regular habit to read, setting aside a certain time each day or weekend to read – ensuring it becomes part of your weekly routine.
Put your phone down (or use a setting on your phone to turn off the Apps for a certain period every day!). It’s important to have time away from the screen, without any distractions, so you can just relax and focus on the story.
Find a quiet space to read, away from other sounds or music, such as the TV or people having a conversation. It is really important your imagination is fully engaged whilst reading (see phone point above)
What makes a really good school library? So many things! But I think the most important thing is the school librarian. Without a librarian, the school library is really just a room with books in. It is the librarian who brings the space to life, creating inspiring displays, collating contemporary print and online resource collections, recommending and discussing novels with pupils, running inspiring book events, competitions and craft activities, along with teaching library skills to ensure pupils are effective independent learners, both now and in the future.
Do you have a favourite library event in the school year? At St Benedict’s, we have a rolling programme of library events throughout the year to mirror the school curriculum and to support the annual book celebrations and national awareness days. I try to make sure that we’ve got an exciting programme scheduled for different year groups and interests, to ensure everyone finds something to enjoy and get involved with. But I must admit that my favourite event is World Book Day in March! As a school librarian, this is always a big focus of the year and really allows me to experiment and be creative with the authors we invite in to talk to pupils and the events we run on the day. Past events include a murder mystery in the library, read dating, Drop Everything and Read, a ‘Short Story in a Day’ and redesign your favourite book cover.
Describe a typical day in the life of the St Benedict’s librarian:
No day is the same for a school librarian. Whilst we follow the school day timetable we can perhaps be more flexible than teachers, ensuring that the whole school community is supported and engaged in the library. My day might start with brainstorming ideas and activities for the year 8 library lesson programme, checking the library catalogue for a certain topic area a teacher may have requested, locating these books on the shelves or perhaps placing an order for more books on this topic. I may look at the most recent pupil book suggestion forms and bestseller lists to update and buy for our own collection. At break and lunchtime, it is usually direct involvement with the students, checking out and returning books, discussing and helping pupils find books, answering information enquiries about research or homework topics, or sorting problems with a computer or printing. In the afternoon I might research the latest digital collection of resources to see if it is something that would support our pupils and curriculum and teach a lesson to a class to help with their understanding of how to use the library. There is also the need to create new displays, update book promotions and generally tidy up the library ready for the next day!
International Women’s Day is round the corner, not that we need a dedicated day to rave about the bravery and strength of girls! We’ve curated a list of books that are a great starting point for teaching young girls and boys why we celebrate women, drawing in on great female figures as well as books which feature a strong female lead. Each book has a valuable story to tell.
Women in Sport: Fifty Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win
By Rachel Ignotofsky (Author and Illustrator)
Wren & Rook
Women in Sport celebrates the success of the tough, bold and fearless women who paved the way for today’s athletes. The sportswomen featured include well-known figures like tennis player Serena Williams and broadcaster Clare Balding, as well as lesser-known pioneers like Gertrude Ederleand Keiko Fukuda.
Women in Art: 50 Fearless Creatives Who Inspired the World
By Rachel Ignotofsky (Author and Illustrator)
Women in Art is an EMPOWERING and INSPIRATIONAL celebration of some of the most iconic and fearless women who paved the way for the next generation of artists. From well-known figures such as Frida Kahlo and Dame Vivienne Westwood to lesser-known artists including Harriet Powers and Yoyoi Kusama, this charmingly illustrated and inspiring book highlights the achievements of 50 notable women in the arts.
“You really are remarkable – more than you’ll ever know!” The Little Girl or Boy Who Dared to Dream is a dazzling personalised story based on the letters of your child’s name. Send a child on a magical journey to discover nothing’s impossible, if they dare to dream.
by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (Author), Anke Weckmann (Illustrator)
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
From the empowering Little People, Big Dreams series, the Greta Thunberg edition is about the inspiring school girl from Sweden who started a global movement against climate change, and how she even made politicians listen. It’s a very child-friendly biography, with quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline, great for inspiring kids that they too can make a difference.
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
By Rachel Ignotofsky (Author and Illustrator)
Wren & Rook
A gloriously illustrated celebration of trailblazing women. Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, from both the ancient and modern worlds. The book also contains fascinating infographics and an illustrated scientific glossary.
By Ibtihaj Muhammad (author), Hatem Aly (illustrator), S. K. Ali (author)
Asiya’s hijab is like the ocean and the sky, no line between them, saying hello with a loud wave. It’s Faizah’s first day of school, and her older sister Asiya’s first day of wearing hijab – made of a beautiful blue fabric. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful. In the face of hurtful, confusing words, will Faizah find new ways to be strong? This is an uplifting, universal story of new experiences, the unbreakable bond shared by siblings and of being proud of who you are, from Olympic medallist Ibtihaj Muhammad.
By Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (Author), Manal Mirza (Illustrator)
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
When Malala was born in Mingora, Pakistan, her father was determined she would have every opportunity that a boy would have. She loved getting an education, but when a hateful regime came to power, girls were no longer allowed to go to school. Malala spoke out in public about this, which made her a target for violence. She was shot in the left side of her head and woke up in hospital in England. Finally after long months and many surgeries, Malala recovered, and resolved to become an activist for girls’ education. Now a recent Oxford graduate, Malala continues to fight for a world where all girls can learn and lead. This powerful book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the activist’s life.
By Katherine Halligan (Author), Sarah Walsh (Illustrator)
Instead of just studying history, let’s think about HerStory too! In this uplifting and inspiring book, children can learn about 50 intrepid women from around the world and throughout history. Telling the stories of their childhood, the challenges they faced and the changes they made, each gorgeously illustrated spread is a celebration of girl power in its many forms.
By Lisbeth Kaiser (Author), Ana Sanfelippo (Illustrator)
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Meet an inspiring women’s rights activist who changed the world for future generations of women. As a child, Emmeline Pankhurst was shocked at the inequality of men and women that she saw all around her. When she grew up, she never stopped fighting for women to get the vote, inspiring other women to demonstrate, go on hunger strike and protest for the cause.
We’re lucky to be sent a lot of beautiful picture books each week. A few have caught our eye recently, so we thought we’d share them with you.
We’re suckers for good, old-fashioned stories and beautiful illustrations. Our picture book edit includes debut books, experience story-tellers and some timely messaging.
This debut book kicks off a series created to tackle words that children find difficult. Parliament tells the story of Eddie, a cheeky, young owlet who is helped on his journey by a wise parliament of owls.
Illustrator Dorien Brouwers’ picture book explores the notion of finding lessons in challenging situations, touching on subjects like helping children with their mental health, building resilience and adopting a growth mentality. Available from April 15th.
If he wasn’t already, Rob Biddulph has become a household name during this pandemic (one of the positives!), and his 10th picture book will be another favourite. Teddy loses his human and worries about him being on his own.
The mental health of our children is top of our priorities right now, and this series from Oxford aims to give kids tools to navigate their emotions. Calmness explores words for children to use to describe how they are feeling as well as offering activities to invoke calm.
One for the heart strings and a social consicience, The Invisible is the story of a young girl called Isabel and her family who don’t have much, but they have what they need to get by. The key message is to care about everyone in society, especially those who are overlooked and made to feel invisible. We all belong.
It’s been a long month already, and keeping the kids entertained and finding five minutes to yourself requires some very creative parenting. We consider this free audiobook from Banjo Robinson to be answering all the SOS calls, as well as putting smiles on your little ones faces.
It’s a lockdown January… What better time to start an enchanting round-the-world trip with a globetrotting CAT? Banjo Robinson sends personalised letters and creative activities to children ages 5+ twice monthly from a range of exciting destinations. Kids all over the world are already receiving his activity-filled letters – and writing back to him too!
Little explorers can start their adventure with a picture book that introduces Banjo and explains why he travels the world writing letters to his friends. Now Pandora Sykes, journalist and podcaster reads this story which explains explains where Banjo Robinson came from and why he’s the most fantastic explorer of all time. The accompanying video also shows the illustrations created by Ruki Chuki.
Banjo Robinson’s letter subscription is another screen-free lockdown activity which encourages reading, writing and creative play, all delivered straight to your door.
If your little one loves Banjo’s backstory, you can sign up to receive any of his letter subscriptions with a 50% discount, applying the code: MAGIC50 at checkout on their website. Limited time offer. You can also purchase the hardback picture book here.
We’re challenging super cool City Kids families to take some time out from the usual daily routine to explore outdoors and hunt down these rather festive things.
Don’t worry, there’s no need to venture off into the deep, dark woods, although you’re so welcome to do so if you wish. Most of these things can be spotted walking around the block or on the school run. Woolly hats, gloves and scarves are a must – it’s getting cold out!
On your street
Count the number of chimneys on your street
Spot a house with an extravagant Christmas display
Discover the coolest Christmas wreath
Find a good parking space for Santa’s sleigh
Out and about
Find a reindeer
Dig around for a really large acorn
Can you see some holly and ivy?
Collect some cool twigs perfect for snowman arms. Keep them handy
Gather ingredients for Santa’s favourite snack and drink
Vote on your favourite Christmas advert
Ask all members of your family to share the funniest Christmas joke
Tell your family which is your favourite Christmas tree decoration
Do draw, snap or document your findings, we’d love to see them. Send us pictures over on our Instagram.
9 great Christmas Books for little kids and big kids
If you haven’t already, now’s the time to swap the usual bedtime stories for something a little bit more Christmassy.
As with the rest of our usual Christmas traditions, all things 2020 and COVID have crept their way into some of the storybooks. Here are some of our favourite Christmas Books which we think will suit a range of ages.
Toys and books to use to discuss diversity with kids
Vese, the brains behind Philly & Friends took over our instagram to discuss her challenges with finding toys and books that represented her daughter and how it inspired her to build her own brand. She recommends four fab toys and books to use to discuss diversity with kids at home.
Super Sapiens – 3 in 1 card game
The Super Sapiens 3 in one is the perfect pocket-sized empowerment game. It can be played 3 ways: Snap, Memory, and Super Guess? It’s a fun way to encourage conversations on real-world issues.
These Rosa & Bo Nesting Babies offer interactive play but also make a gorgeous decorative piece in any nursery. Babies and toddlers will be drawn to the bright colours as well as the friendly and diverse faces.
Vese’s book ‘Who Do I See in the Mirror?’ is a simple yet powerful book about Philly, who goes through a journey of discovering what makes her truly special. This gorgeous, colour-illustrated book concludes with a strong message that it’s what is on the inside that counts. As well as this empowering message, the book ends with a lovely finishing touch – a certificate that each child can hang up on their wall.
We’re celebrating the publication of Furry Purry Beancat’s adventures with a Furry Purry Beancat giveaway of five signed copies.
Just like every other cat, Furry Purry Beancat loves a catnap but unlike other cats, she wakes to find herself in a different one of her nine lives! Each book follows our hairy heroine as she embarks on a new adventure. Whether saving a train from disaster as a railway cat or creating purrfect potions as a witch’s cat, Furry Purry Beancat saves the day. And we have five signed sets of this double publication of Furry Purry Beancat to giveaway.
In her first adventure, The Pirate Captain’s Cat, join the furry (and purry!) heroine as she sets sail aboard a pirate ship, helping her captain and his shipmates fight a rival crew in an epic battle at sea! Can Furry Purry Beancat help save the day?
And in the second story, The Railway Cat, join Beancat and her friends as they uncover secrets and spies on the tracks. Who is the ticket-swapping, train-hopping stranger? Is Beancat’s beloved railway in danger? It’s up to our furry (and purry!) hero to solve the puzzle, before it’s too late.
This new series is written by Philip Ardagh, bestselling author of The Grunts series and Eddie Dickens adventures, and illustrated by Rob Biddulph, award-winning creator of Draw With Rob. Puuurfect for fans of Alex T. Smith, Pamela Butchart and Laura James. Suitable for children aged five and above.
We have five bundles of these first two books in the series to giveaway.
Ts & Cs The decision of City Kids is final. No cash alternative. If the winner does not claim the prize pithing 24 hours of notification, City Kids reserves the right to draw a new winner. One entry per person. Entries close Wednesday 14th October at midnight. UK entries only.
The death of George Floyd has sparked many questions from children and all of us. City Kids spoke to children’s author, Mark Lemon, who says conversations about race must continue.
My name is Mark Lemon. I live in Bristol with my wife Simone (personal stylist) and our two children, Otis (9yrs) & Thea (5yrs). I’ve been thinking about how I can contribute to the tragic and senseless murder of, George Floyd – it stopped me in my tracks, and has made me re-evaluate how I view my children’s future in this world.
In 2015, I made the important decision to write stories for my mixed-race children, Otis & Thea. Disillusioned with the lack of diversity in children’s books, I decided to create a series of storybooks with non-white characters.
I wanted to create children’s books with characters that looked like my own children. My first book Otis Lemon & The Spectacular Submarine was awarded the Platinum Junior Design Award 2016 in the Children’s Book of the Year category. I wanted BAME children to feel represented in the mainstream bookstores.
Only a very small percentage of British children’s books feature a main character who is black or minority ethnic. In a research project that was the first of its kind, and funded by Arts Council England, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) asked UK publishers to submit books featuring BAME characters in 2017. Of the 9,115 children’s books published that year, researchers found that only 391 – 4% – featured BAME characters. Just 1% had a BAME main character, and a quarter of the books submitted only featured diversity in their background casts. This compares to the 32.1% of schoolchildren of minority ethnic origins in England identified by the Department of Education in 2016.
Racism comes in many forms, and to still see such a lack of representation in the publishing industry is wrong on so many levels. I was speaking with Otis yesterday about George Floyd and why he died – it’s incredible how children think and their viewpoint of the world – and he was asking me why the police knelt on George Floyd for 9 minutes, and why they didn’t just talk to him about it. As we talked the news came on, and we continued the conversation over breakfast. And this is what we must do to continue the conversation as parents or guardians. Continuing to have these conversations at home is where education starts for all of us. Schools must get better, but as parents, we are obligated to teach our children, and ourselves, at the same time.
I understand that I must do better to educate myself, my children, and my friends & family. I want my children to grow up in a world where they feel equal to their peers. But, the Black Lives Matter movement has taught me that there is still a long way to go before this happens. Businesses and organisations must change at the root and introduce an equal playing field, and we must ensure that diversity is represented across all elements of our lives.
This conversation isn’t just for one day, a week, or more, but it should be a continuous conversation to educate ourselves behind the squares of our social media. I understand that I will never understand. However, I stand. I stand for my children, my wife and my friends of colour across the world.
Black squares and hashtags are all well and good. Promising to educate yourself, also. Actioning those promises is what’s needed, and knowledge is going to help you and your kids take action. That’s why we’ve put this edit of anti-racist books for kids together.
City Kids has put together a collection of books for children and their parents who are committed to making a positive change. Our anti-racist book list for kids features stories with black characters in central roles as well as highlighting leaders of colour and those who have stood up against prejudice through the years.
“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength”. Maya Angelou
This small list of what’s available is just the beginning…
AN ABC OF EQUALITY By Chana Ginelle Ewing 0-5yrs (Board book)
THE MEGA HAIR SWAP By Rochelle Humes 3-5yrs
LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET By Matt de la Peña 3-5yrs
THE NEW SMALL PERSON By Lauren Child 3-6yrs
LOOK UP! By Nathan Byron & Dapo Adeola 3-7yrs
LITTLE PEOPLE BIG DREAMS Featuring Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, Josephine Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Harriet Tubman, Jesse Owens, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Evonne Goolagong 4-7yrs
ELLA QUEEN OF JAZZ By Helen Hancocks 4-8 yrs
THEA LEMON AND HER SUPER SPORTY FAIRY GODMOTHER By Mark Lemon 4yrs+
LEON AND BOB By Simon James 5yrs+
ADA TWIST’S BIG PROJECT BOOK FOR STELLAR SCIENTISTS By Andrea Beaty 5-7yrs
THE SILENCE SEEKER By Ben Morley 5-7yrs
SOMEDAY IS NOW: CLARA LUPER AND THE 1958 OKLAHOMA CITY SIT-INS By Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich 6-9yrs
DEALING WITH RACISM By Jane Lacey 6-8yrs
40 INSPIRING ICONS: PEOPLE OF PEACE: MEET 40 AMAZING ACTIVISTS By Sandrine Mirza 7-10yrs
LITTLE GUIDES TO GREAT LIVES Featuring Nelson Mandela and Maya Angelou 7-11yrs
YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK: MEET 52 BLACK HEROES FROM PAST AND PRESENT By Jamia Wilson 7-10yrs
40 INSPIRING ICONS: BLACK MUSIC GREATS By Olivier Cachin 7-10yrs
THE POWER BOOK: WHAT IS IT, WHO HAS IT, AND WHY? By Claire Saunders, Georgia Amson-Bradshaw, Minna Salami, Mik Scarlet, and Hazel Songhurst 7-11yrs
LESSONS FROM HISTORY, ELEMENTARY EDITION: A CELEBRATION IN BLACKNESS By Jawanza Kunjufu 7yrs+
LITTLE LEADERS: EXCEPTIONAL MEN IN BLACK HISTORY By Vashti Harrison 8-12yrs
LITTLE LEADERS: BOLD WOMEN IN BLACK HISTORY By Vashti Harrison 8-12yrs
BLACKBERRY BLUE By Jamila Gavin 9-11yrs
THE YOUNG MAGICIANS AND THE THIEVES’ ALMANAC By Nick Mohammed 9-11yrs
WHO ARE REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS? WHAT MAKES PEOPLE LEAVE THEIR HOMES? AND OTHER BIG QUESTIONS By Michael Rosen & Annemarie Young 9-17yrs
IGGIE’S HOUSE By Judie Blume 9-12yrs
SPEAK UP!: SPEECHES BY YOUNG PEOPLE TO EMPOWER AND INSPIRE By Adora Svitak 10yrs+
THIS BOOK IS ANTI-RACIST: 20 LESSONS ON HOW TO WAKE UP, TAKE ACTION, AND DO THE WORK By Tiffany Jewell 11-15yrs
THE HYPNOTIST By Laurence Anholt 12yrs+
WATCH US RISE By Renee Watson & Ellen Hagan 12yrs+
NOUGHTS AND CROSSES By Malorie Blackman 12yrs+
THE LIFE OF STEPHEN LAWRENCE By Verna Allette Wilkins 13yrs+
Alex Scheffler, well known for his work in The Gruffalo, has illustrated a free information book for children about the coronavirus. Alongside expert advice from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the aim of the publication is to reach every child around the world.
The book answers key questions about the pandemic in simple language appropriate for 5 to 9 year olds:
What is the coronavirus?
How do you catch the coronavirus?
What happens if you catch the coronavirus?
Why are people worried about catching the coronavirus?
Axel Scheffler, illustrator of The Gruffalo, said:
“I asked myself what I could do as an children’s illustrator to inform, as well as entertain, my readers here and abroad. So I was glad when my publisher, Nosy Crow, asked me to illustrate this question-and-answer book about the coronavirus. I think it is extremely important for children and families to have access to good and reliable information in this unprecedented crisis, and I hope that the popularity of the books I’ve done with Julia Donaldson will ensure that this digital book will reach many children who are now slightly older, but might still remember our picture books.”
Professor Graham Medley, Professor of Infectious Disease Modelling at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:
“This pandemic is changing children’s lives across the globe and will have a lasting impact on us all. Helping children understand what is going on is an important step in helping them cope and making them part of the story – this is something that we are all going through, not something being done to them. This book puts children IN the picture rather just watching it happen, and in a way that makes the scary parts easier to cope with.”
To celebrate national Read a Book Day, we have a bundle of six amazing books to give away. We have story books, an anthology, award-winning books, beautiful illustrations and books by the famous. Entry details are below!
Franklin and Luna Go To The Moon by Jen Campbell (hardback)
Be More Bernard by Simon Philip & Kate Hindley
How to Find Egyptian Treasure by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves
Story Time by Georgie Adams (hardback)
Lightning Girl Super Power Showdown by Alesha Dixon
Mr Dog and a Hedge Called Hog by Ben Fogle
To enter, head to our Instagram page, follow us, like the post and tell us which is your favourite book in the bundle.
Smallprint: Not run in conjunction with Instagram
There are some fantastic books being released this Spring. Here’s six of the best books for kids of all ages. And we’re giving all of them away to celebrate our 5th birthday issue!
THE WALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK by John Agee (Scallywag Press) £12.99 This is the story of a little knight who is very happy that his wall protects him from the dangers that are sure to lurk on the other side. However, he is too busy mending a hole in his wall to notice the mounting dangers on his own side. This is funny and has plenty to keep readers occupied when they read the book over and again. And I wonder how many books for children are endorsed by Amnesty International?
ALL THE WAYS TO BE SMART by Davina Bell illustrated by Allison Colpoys (Scribe) £11.99 A picture book for children who worry about tests or school performance. “Smart is not just ticks and crosses, smart is building boats from boxes, Printing patterns, wheeling wagons, being mermaids, riding dragons”. This is the third book from Bell and Colpoys, celebrating what makes children who they are.
THE LEGEND OF KEVIN: A ROLY-POLY FLYING PONY ADVENTURE by Philip Reeve illustrated by Sarah McIntyre (OUP) £6.99 Plenty of humorous illustrations and a story that had our not-so-keen reader engrossed until he’d finished. Characters Kevin, a rotund pony, and Max, share a love of biscuits and embark on an adventure to save Max’s home town, soon to be submerged by water. Funny and high-spirited.
THE MEGA MAGIC HAIR SWAP by Rochelle Humes illustrated by Rachel Suzanne (Studio Press) £6.99 The first book from The Saturdays star Rochelle Humes celebrates differences and how to love yourself just the way you are. Inspired by her daughter who asked why all princesses had straight hair, Rochelle has written a story about two friends (one with curly hair, and the other with straight) who think the other has perfect hair.
FERDINAND MAGELLAN: LITTLE GUIDES TO GREAT LIVES by Isabel Thomas illustrated by Dàlia Adillon (Laurence King) £8.99 (April 2019) Ferdinand Magellan led the first expedition to sail all the way around the world, encountering lands and creatures that he could never have imagined. This, and Anne Frank, are the latest in the Little Guides to Great Lives series, accessible guides introducing children to inspirational figures from history.
THE CLOSEST THING TO FLYING by Gill Lewis (OUP) £6.99 Award-winning author, Gill Lewis, tells the story of two young women, one in the present day and one from the nineteenth century. Semira is an Eritrean refugee, and Hen is a repressed Victorian girl, but they both find courage to fight for what they believe in. The Closest Thing to Flying covers discrimination, friendship and empowerment set against a backdrop of women’s rights.
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We chat to the Saturday’s star about becoming an author, motherhood and her amazing career.
When anyone mentions Rochelle Humes most of us immediately think of the gorgeous pop star who rose to fame with girl group The Saturdays and who married fellow singer JLS star Marvin. Or maybe you think of Rochelle the TV presenter, who regularly hosts hit shows such as This Morning.
But ask Rochelle herself what her biggest role is and she will tell you that without question it is being a mum to her two little girls Alaia-Mai, five, and Valentia, nearly two.
And her latest project perfectly illustrates how important her children are to her. The Mega Magic Hair Swap, Rochelle’s new children’s’ book, is published this week and the inspiration behind it comes from her own daughters.
“One day Alaia-Mai told me that she didn’t like her curly hair because princesses always have straight hair. All the images she was seeing on TV or in books were of little girls with long, straight hair. She wanted to know why she didn’t look like Elsa or Rapunzel” explains Rochelle.
“I hated the thought that she wasn’t happy with the way she looked because to me she is beautiful, and I want her to love her amazing curly hair. I explained to her that people can have different hair or skin colour, or be a different shape or height, but that what makes us all beautiful is being ourselves,” says the 29 year-old.
The conversation got Rochelle thinking about how she could help her own children and others to feel confident and proud of their appearance. It was then that she came up with the idea for The Mega Magic Hair Swap.
Story of friendship
The main characters are Mai, who has curly hair, and her best friend Rose, who has very straight hair. Neither are happy and wish they could have hair like the other one. With a bit of magic, they switch and end up with the hair of their dreams. But before long they realise it isn’t all it is cracked up to be and that how their own hair is actually perfect for them.
While the book is aimed at little-ones, writing it also helped Rochelle to embrace her own curls. “Growing up I rarely saw anyone who looked like me on TV. I have really curly hair, but I always felt I had to straighten it to make it look nice. But recently I’ve learned to love my hair. I always want to be a good role model for my girls so it’s important for them to see me being happy with my looks and hopefully they will feel the same way about themselves,” she points out.
So determined was she to show other young women that they should love their natural waves that she has been promoting it to her 1.3 million Instagram followers with the hashtag #curlslikeus.
“The response has been amazing,” says Rochelle. “I think a lot of women feel exactly how I do. Whether it’s their hair or something else about their appreance, they just want to be themselves and not feel pressure to change.”
Once she had the idea for the book Rochelle says it all came together very quickly. “This is my first book and I have loved writing it and working with my publisher. At the moment I don’t have plans for any more, but never say never.”
It’s hard to imagine how Rochelle managed to add ‘author’ to her list of many achievements. After finding fame with The Saturdays and having 13 top-ten hits, she is now a familiar face on prime-time TV presenting shows such as ITV’s Sweat the Small Stuff, Ninja Warrior and the The Xtra Factor.
But while the world sees her glamourous career, Rochelle, just like every other mum, is constantly trying to get the right balance between work and family life.
“Marvin and I sit down every week and plan who is doing what for the next seven days. When one of us is really busy with work the other will try not to be. So, we are lucky that we can be somewhat flexible and one of us is always around to do school pick up, but it takes a lot of organisation,” she explains.
“My mum lives close by and helps us a lot which is amazing. But there are definitely some weeks when we are totally winging it because no two days are ever the same for us. But we get by and the kids are looked after and happy and that’s all that matters – even if we are totally exhausted by the end of the week!”
No matter what her schedule is, Rochelle fits it in around family life and her down to earth approach to motherhood is partly what has gained her so many loyal fans over the years. “I’m always there for my kids when they need me and that’s really important to me. Parenting is hard sometimes, especially as they get older and you realise you are really shaping a little human being. You just want to wrap them in cotton wool, but you can’t do that. All you can do is your best which what all mums are trying to do. We should try not to put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. No one ever is.”
Away from the spotlight
Despite living in the public eye, privacy is very important to Rochelle who loves her supportive social media following but prefers to keep her children away from the spotlight and never posts images of her their faces.
“Privacy is key to Marvin and I. Every parent is different and it’s totally up to them what they want to post, but I prefer not to. One day when they are much older the girls can decide if they want to post photos of themselves but right now they don’t even know what social media is.”
The launch of her new book today kicks off what looks to another great year for Rochelle. She is currently working with her high street favourite, New Look on The Rochelle Edit and continues to be an ambassador for John Frieda and HiGlow, her best-selling face and body line available in Superdrug. Plus, M&S recently announced Rochelle as one of their Food Ambassadors alongside Amanda Holden and Emma Willis.
One of the things she is most excited about is working with Marvin on their new music quiz show, Playlisters, due to air in 2019 on BBC1. “We love working together. It’s so nice because we don’t get to do it that often. The show is really fun and I can’t wait to get started on it.”
With such a positive, honest outlook and endless enthusiasm for both her work and her family, it’s clear to see that Rochelle is great role model for young women – regardless of whether her hair is curly or straight.
The Mega Magic Hair Swap, £6.99, is published on 7th February.
Favourite date night spot: Roca – such great food and atmosphere
Desert Island must have: Coconut oil – so useful
Must read book: The Secret – I’ve read it so many times
Night owl or earlier bird: Definitely an earlier bird
Best day out with kids: Regent’s Park Zoo – my girls love it there
For any special occasion, a beautifully designed book or a classic story is a great gift and keepsake. Victoria Evans has a selection for kids big and small.
THE STORY ORCHESTRA: SLEEPING BEAUTY illustrated by Jessica Courtney Tickle (Lincoln Children’s Books) The follow-up to the bestselling The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker. With beautiful, full-page illustrations from Jessica Courtney Tickle. It tells the classic story of Sleeping Beauty, brought to life with music from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet. Hear 10 famous pieces of music from the ballet and be transported into this wonderful fairy tale.
STORY BOX: CREATE YOUR OWN ANIMAL ADVENTURES (Laurence King) Let imaginations soar with these animal themed storytelling puzzle pieces which can be matched in all sorts of ways, for multiple storytelling combinations. Great for the classroom, or as an alternative to traditional bedtime stories.
NOW MAKE THIS (Phaidon) For the young makers in the family is Now Make This, a beautifully designed handbook offering unique and exciting DIY projects for kids. This unusual and engaging book of activities grants children access to world-class design in their very own homes, and may even inspire a few to become designers themselves!
A TREASURE TROVE OF MYTHICAL WONDERS chosen by Michael Morpurgo (Oxford Children’s Books) From brave heroes and battling beasts to mighty gods and magic spells, these are timeless tales to treasure forever. An enchanting selection of classic myths and legends, chosen by the UK’s best-loved storyteller. This is a great choice for shared reading, and for more confident readers to read-alone.
THE INK HOUSE by Rory Dobner (Laurence King) An acclaimed artist, Rory Dobner has created a cast of lovable and magical animal characters, inspired by the objects he collects around his home and on his travels. His ink illustrations have been commissioned by MTV, Disney and Nike, and his distinctive homewares range is available in stores including Liberty and Fortnum & Mason.
POETRY FOR A CHANGE by Kimberlie Birks (Otter-Barry Books) This anthology features new poems by National Poetry Day Ambassadors such as Deborah Alma, Joseph Coelho, Sally Crabtree, Jan Dean, and also a poem chosen by an ambassador to share. Look out for classics by Chistina Rossetti, WB Yeats, Shakespeare and Keats, among others.
With our Autumn issue focussed on getting back into the swing of studies, we’ve chosen books to compliment and inspire learning, whatever the age of the children.
by VICTORIA EVANS
A PILE OF LEAVES by Jason Fulford & Tamara Shopsin (Phaidon) The third in a series of ground-breaking books from the author-artists Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford created in partnership with the Whitney Museum of American Art. This clever book of collage features see-through acetate pages with beautiful autumnal elements, playfully designed to invite young readers to dig through a pile of leaves and uncover the surprises throughout. The clever design also presents the opportunity for children to add their own images between the book’s clear pages.
A YEAR IN NATURE – A CAROUSEL BOOK OF THE SEASONS by Hazel Maskell, illustrated by Eleanor Taylor (Laurence King) This is a fascinating introduction to the seasons, following a family of foxes through the year. The book opens out into a stunning four-part carousel, revealing intricately detailed pop-up scenes of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Follow the boxes as the tiny cubs grow up through the year, and explore the woodland scenes to discover animals, trees, plants and owners.
THIS IS NOT A MATHS BOOK by Anna Weltman (Ivy Kids Books) Discover how maths can be artistic and art can be mathematical with this awesome activity book, full of fun drawing challenges with a mathematical basis. Amazing patterns with a mathematical essence will be revealed as you follow the simple activity instructions. Learn incredible maths facts as you draw the beautiful designs.
ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING: A HISTORY OF EARTH, DINOSAURS, RULERS, ROBOTS AND OTHER THINGS TOO NUMEROUS TO MENTION (October 2018, What on Earth? Books) An up-to-date history of the world covering topics from dinosaurs to robots and everything in-between. Jam-packed with illustrations, photos, timelines and a glossary, index and reference material, Jacqueline Wilson calls it ‘absolutely amazing’ and it gets the thumbs up from Horrible Histories author Martin Brown: ‘from the Big Bang to yesterday’s breakfast, this BOOK OF FUN AND DISCOVERY makes sense of it all’.
LEARNING TO LEARN – A GUIDE FOR KIDS AND TEENS by Barbara Oakley PhD & Terrence Sejnowski PhD with Alistair McConville (TarcherPerigee Trade Paperback) If you can remember your least favourite subject at school, it’s probably the one that you also found most difficult. This book aims to teach kids to train their brains to learn the hard stuff, instead of just assuming they can’t do it. One of the book’s authors and a professor of engineering, Dr Barbara Oakley, struggled with maths at school, until she learned how to learn.
DESIGN FOR CHILDREN – PLAY, RIDE, LEARN, EAT, CREATE, SIT, SLEEP by by Kimberlie Birks (October 2018, Phaidon) This is a book for older, design-savvy and style-conscious kids or those interested in product, lighting and furniture design. It showcases work by contemporary superstars such as Marcel Breuer, Jean Prouvé, Nanna Ditzel, Philippe Starck, Nendo, Marc Newson, Donna Wilson, Kengo Kuma, and Marcel Wanders. It also pays tribute to those who have shaped children’s design and pioneered products for kids.
ABC MINDFUL ME by Christiane Engel (Quarto) With life moving at an ever-increasing pace, it’s never too young to learn about being calm and present. Plus if you can learn your A-Z too, what a bonus. Every letter of the alphabet is coupled with a word that aids young children’s understanding of the fundamental principles of mindfulness, including love, kindness, gratitude and empathy. A sweet book which gives a nice twist on a tried and tested format.
THE STORY OF TANTRUM O’FURRILY by Cressida Cowell and Mark Nicholas (Hodder) On a wild and windy night, stray cat Tantrum O’ Furrily tells her three hungry kittens a story to distract them from their hunger pangs. We’re introduced to Smallpaw who uses all her courage to find her own next meal. Beautifully illustrated, using a dark palate of colours, it also has a lovely twist in the tale, which is sure to delight young children.
THE RETURN OF THE RAILWAY CHILDREN by Lou Kuenzler (Scholastic) This follow up to The Railway Children will definitely warm the cockles and Kuenzler has not strayed too far from the spirit of the much-loved classic. Set in WWII, 12-year-old Edie is worried about being sent away to live with an aunt she doesn’t know as her mum is a pilot for the Air Transport Auxilliary. Luckily, she gets on well with her aunt and her cousins Gus and Greta but it isn’t long before she’s wondering if the pair are harbouring a dark secret of their own. A clever re-imagining that encapsulates all the joy of the original to a modern audience.
SPLASH by Charli Howard (Nosy Crow) This book packs a punch, tackling the world of competitive sport, body confidence, friendships and family dynamics. Set in Year 6, Molly dreams of being a champion swimmer, but when her best friend pressures her to conform to a particular body type, the real challenges begin. Molly also lives with her grandparents and coupled with a dad she doesn’t know and a mum who dips in and out of her life it’s a lot for young Molly to work out who she wants to be. Author Charli Howard is a body positive campaigner who wants to make the voices of diverse figures seen and heard.
DR CHRISTIAN’S GUIDE TO GROWING UP ONLINE by Dr Christian Jessen (Scholastic) Know your finsta from your rinsta? No? Keep up at the back. It’s fake Instagram vs real Instagram account of course. This book is essential for children (and parents) growing up in a digital world. Famous for his Embarrassing Bodies TV series and the bestselling book Dr Christian’s Guide To Growing Up, this is just what is needed to get to grips with how to keep safe online, online bullying, group chats, your digital footprint and so much more. An absolute essential read for teens navigating an ever-changing digital landscape.
LOOKING AFTER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH by Alice James & Louie Stowell, illustrated by Nancy Leschnikoff & Freya Harrison (Usborne) Whilst we know the benefits of physical health, it’s easy to forget that young people also need to be mindful over their emotional and mental wellbeing. This book empowers youngsters with honest advice about ways of looking after their mental health in a fast-moving world. Using expert advice from the Royal College of Psychiatrists topics tackled include the science of anger, toxic friendships, sex and relationships and so much more.
Here’s a selection of great books for all your budding scientists to get their brains whirring over the holidays.
BIG BOOK OF STARS AND PLANETS
by Emily Bone Age 4+ A large interactive picture book with fold-out pages featuring art based on images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.
£9.99 Non-fiction Hardback
ADA TWIST, SCIENTIST
by Andrea Beaty Age 6+ The latest rhyming offering from the New York Times bestselling author of Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect. Meet Ada, another classmate asking curiosity-led questions, who loves to experiment. In the book she has to solve a household smell problem using science. A beautifully illustrated tale of perseverance.
£10.99 Fiction Hardback
THE USBORNE OFFICIAL ASTRONAUT’S HANDBOOK
by Louie Stowell Age 7+ Shortlisted for The Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Prize 2016 and published in association with the UK Space Agency, this book is a step-by-step, how-to guide for budding astronauts and space scientists. With a foreword by Tim Peake, this is a fun read with fab illustrations.
£6.99 Non-fiction Paperback
KLUTZ: LEGO CHAIN REACTIONS
by Pat Murphy Age 8+ What is Christmas without Lego? Grab some Lego bricks and use in conjunction with this great book of instruction and inspiration. It comes with its own Lego pieces to help young engineers create moving machines which can be used together to create chain reactions.
£12.99 Non-fiction Paperback/Box
FUN SCIENCE: A GUIDE TO LIFE, THE UNIVERSE AND WHY SCIENCE IS SO AWESOME
by Charlie McDonnell Age 13+ By You-Tuber “charlieissocoollike” comes new Fun Science, a journey through science, written and illustrated with humour by a geeky science fan. It is designed to inspire even the least scientifically inclined teen!
With Christmas just around the corner, here’s the perfect excuse to splash out on those sumptuous hard backs you’ve been eyeing up all year.
Dogs In Cars by Felix Massie and Emmanuelle Walker (Flying Eye Books) This is a super fun counting book which incorporates a huge variety of four legged friends all going for a ride in their cars. The illustrations are stylish and cheery as well as being very detailed – perfect for little fingers to try and count all of the dogs. Plus, it’s not just dogs you have to find but bones, mosquitos, and umbrellas amongst other things. Not only will this help your child with their counting, you’ll also learn the difference between a xoloitzcuintlis and a utonagans – perfect knowledge for the pub quiz.
Pandora by Victoria Turnbull (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books) This is an absolutely beautiful gem of a book with a touching message about hope and new beginnings. Pandora lives on her own in a ‘land of broken things’ where other people’s trash is her treasure and she makes a home out of lost things, giving them a new lease of life. Her world is transformed when she discovers a bird with a broken wing. With plenty of TLC the bird is soon back to full health. Only to fly away. Forever. Leaving poor Pandora alone again, but in time she learns that life is worth living again. This is such an excellent book on so many levels, Victoria Turnbull’s illustrations have a retro quality to them and her use of a dark palate convey the sense disillusion of Pandora’s world.
Illuminature by Carnovsky and written by Rachel Williams (Wide Eyed Editions) Make space on your shelves for this big beauty of a book. Using the three magic viewing lenses which are included in every edition, this is a real shared experience as you discover which animals inhabit which environment. This is a really technicoloured experience as the colours literally jump out of the page. Designed by Milan-based partnership Carnovsky and written by Rachel Williams (also author of the brilliant Atlas of Adventures) it’s jam packed with facts from animal from all over the world. This is a really visually arresting book for those curious about nature.
The White Fox by by Jackie Morris (Barrington Stoke) Inspired by a true story of an Artic fox who climbed into a rubbish truck and ended up in Seattle, this is a real heart-warming wintery story which covers grief, bullying, and a road trip which finally bonds a father and son. And all because of a fox. Since the death of his mother, Sol lives alone with his dad, but the weight of grief is so all pervading that the dad has become distant from Sol as he comes to terms with the loss of his wife. School isn’t a happy place either and he spends his days trying to dodge the bullies who tease him, because of his ‘black hair and dark eyes,’ calling him Shamon boy. So Sol spends his time down at the docks and it’s there he spies a white fox – a fox the dockers manage to catch. A fox, he, along with his dad decide to return back to the wild in Alaska, which is where is grandparents live. A place which holds painful memories for the dad but happy memories for Sol. Dreamy illustrations accompany this cleverly woven tale that will really get young minds thinking.
A Year Full of Stories 52 Folk Tales and Legends from All Around the World by Angela McAllister and illustrated by Christopher Corr (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books) (Wide Eyed Editions) Travel the world without leaving the sitting room with this fantastic treasury celebrating 52 stories from across the globe. There’s a tale for every week of the year and each one ties in with popular celebrations, events and seasons including Valentine’s Day, Easter, Harvest, Christmas plus many more. There are stories from every continent, gathering folk tales, myths and traditions which have been bought to life by the award-winning Angela Mcallister. Short enough to keep attention spans going, but long enough to ponder the message and meaning which lies within each story, coupled with Christopher Corr’s beautiful and colourful illustrations, this book is a real must-have that will entertain children and adults alike.
The Song from Somewhere Else by by A.F Harrold and illustrated by Levi Pinfold (Bloomsbury) From the same author as The Imaginary, A.F Harrold returns with another story mixing dark with light, this time looking at the theme of bullying. When Frank’s bike is thrown into stinging nettle by the local bullies, an strange boy called Nick saves the day. From here the pair strike up an unlikely friendship and when Frank finds something magical in Nick’s basement, it all makes sense about his mysterious background. The illustrations are stunning, dark and brooding and compliment this story of differences and what it means to fit in. Quirky and beautiful.
Aimed at the pre-school age Animals Are Delicious, illustrated by Dave Ladd and Stephanie Anderson (Phaidon), is a collection of beautiful fold-out board books that focus on three animal food chains – land, sea and air. With the premise that ‘Everyone is hungry’, we learn that all creatures are somebody’s lunch somewhere down the line. Curious children everywhere will love these books as they’re illustrated in both colour and black and white, and give easy to remember facts about the plants and animals that inhabit the Earth.
Harold’s Hungry Eyes by Kevin Waldron (Phaidon) is just a big win on so many levels. It tells the humorous tale of Harold, a Boston terrier (move over pugs) who spends his days dreaming about food and sleeping on his favourite chair.
Except one day his world is rocked with the rude awakening that his chair has gone missing, and when he sees it being taken by the refuse collectors, it leads to a mission to find it. He ends up getting lost in the city, which not only makes him miss home, but makes him hungry! Bicycle tyres become pretzels, doorsteps become wafers, lorries look like cheese and before long Harold is absolutely insatiable. All is not lost as he eventually finds his way home, and there’s a lovely surprise waiting for him…
This is the fourth picture book from Dublin-born artist Kevin Waldron who shares his studio with Oliver Jeffers and Jon Bergerman. Visually arresting with a zingy colour palate, this will firmly become a favourite. My only warning is I guarantee your audience will be hungry once hearing this story.
Goodnight Tiger by Timothy Knapman and Laura Hughes (Little Tiger) is an endearing story of a young girl called Emily who cannot get to sleep. Why? Because the jungle animals on her wallpaper keep waking her up. Now, that’s an excuse I’ve never heard before. Still, they’re making a racket because they, too, can’t get to sleep, so it’s Emily job to get them all back to the land of nod. So as she encourages them to have a bath, hot chocolate and sings them lullabies she finds her efforts are fruitless until she reads them a bedtime story. A fun tale that reinforces the bedtime routine. A must for the little sleep thieves in your house.
For those who enjoyed the hugely successful Wonder by R J Palacio, The Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster (Simon & Schuster) is a natural choice. Joe is eleven years old and can’t remember a time when he wasn’t in hospital. He has a rare disorder called SCID and his life is spent living in a bubble. Even those who visit him carry the risk of contaminating him with life-threatening germs.
As depressing as this book sounds, it’s an absolutely cracking read. You’ll experience just about every emotion possible as we’re introduced to Joe’s world., which goes from being lived in his dreams, to dealing with extreme loneliness. With only his sister for family, he finds friendship in the form of Henry, who has the same condition but they’ve only Skyped because Henry lives in America, and his new nurse Amir who is a striking character.
Fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid will love Big Nate Blasts Off! by Lincoln Pierce, and as it’s had the seal of approval by Jeff Kinney himself that surely must mean it’s a hit. Big Nate has been around since the early nineties as it started off as a comic strip. Clearly Pierce has stuck true to his roots as there are illustrations on every page, meaning the jokes come thick and fast.
When Nate gets a job on the school newspaper it’s a chance to showcase his artistic skills, that is until he makes fun of Randy, the toughest kid in school and then of course it’s no laughing matter. With most of the action taking place in a school setting most older children will find the various scrapes that Nate gets into funny even if shamelessly American but don’t let that put you off, it’s an easy read with plenty of chuckles along the way.
Red Witch by Anna McKerrow (Quercus) 13+ It’s 2047, and Devon and Cornwall have voluntarily split themselves off from the rest of the UK to form the ecopagan Greenworld, a peaceful and self-contained counterpoint to the dystopian Redworld, governed by private security and at war for the last scraps of fuel left in the world. However, all is not as harmonious as it might be in the Greenworld, and after cursing a boy and girl for murdering the boy she loved, 17 year old witch Demelza Hawthorne runs away across the border to the Redworld in search of a new life. In once-magical Glastonbury, she meets the enigmatic and criminal Bran Crowley, who introduces her to the beauty and riches that the Redworld can offer to the right person; he’s looking for power, and Melz certainly has it. But will Melz be comfortable making a deal with the King of the Underworld? Demelza is a fabulously feisty yet sensitive protagonist as we see especially from her journal entries. The story is packed full of rounded characters that leap off the page, as well as the vivid portrayal of dramatic Cornish scenery, and the powerful vision of a dystopian Glastonbury. This book has it all – adventure, romance and real world magic. Anna McKerrow is a rising star in the UK YA scene – an absolute must-read.
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (Faber) 12+ Amani lives in Dustwalk, a violent and corrupt wild west-esque desert town she’s desperate to leave. Yet the desert plains are full of danger, and the Sultan’s enemies are on the rise. Yet when Amani meets the mysterious Jin, she finds a way out of the oppressive and threatening Dustwalk, only to find that running away from trouble brings her into contact with some terrifying opponents – and magical new friends – in her search for the Rebel Prince. Rebel of the Sands is an original and thrilling fantasy novel full of adventure, myth and magic. Amani is a fantastic heroine: brave, bold and witty. It’s a joy to immerse yourself in the fully developed world that Hamilton creates – a blend of the Wild West and Arabian Nights, with some killer comebacks and sharp dialogue between the sharpshooting, street-smart Amani and the hero and love interest Jin. The original mythology and legends woven into the world building are fascinating. It gives the story depth and authenticity, and the politics of Amani’s world are both familiar and foreign. Highly recommended.
Sharon Fried-Jones is a west London mum, who by day is the Head of Marketing and Digital for the charity BookTrust which inspires a love of reading in children, and by night is an aspiring children’s author with a love of clashing clothes, picture books who longs for a good night’s sleep.