Helen Rutter’s debut book is inspired by her own son who has a stammer and it explores the life and thoughts of eleven-year-old Billy who has become increasingly worried about his stuttering voice, how it hinders his hopes and dreams and how the world perceives him.
Eleven-year-old Billy is looking forward to a fresh start at Bannerdale High School. Most of his primary school classmates won’t be joining him and that’s a good thing. He has a stammer and rather than being known as the boy who stutters, he is going to reinvent himself as Billy Plimpton, the funniest kid in school. Popularity, fitting in and LOLs await, There’s only one minor problem, he has decided that he won’t talk until he has gotten rid of his stammer. With a list of ‘foolproof’ ways to fix his voice, he is determined to fly under the radar until he can flawlessly deliver a punchline to bring down the house. And if he can’t fix his stammer then he’ll have to choose a career that doesn’t involve speaking. Because that’s the best thing to do…right…
This is such an important book and Billy’s story needs to be shared to develop empathy and understanding. It is a story for everyone who has ever felt like they didn’t fit in for one reason or another, for people like Billy with his stammer or one of his friends who each have their own challenges including ADHD, a hearing impairment and the trouble with being much taller than everybody else. As Billy slowly begins to accept himself, he observes that many people feel different and everyone has their own difficulties and challenges to overcome.
Although many of the issues tackled throughout the course of the story are serious and won’t simply disappear with a magic tea, it is consistently heartfelt, very often hilarious and always hopeful. Told in first person, things rattle along at a sprightly pace as Billy charts the ups and downs of life with sincerity, honesty and a huge amount of wit. The funniest boy in school effortlessly encapsulating feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, determination, despair and optimism. Particularly powerful is Billy’s commentary on the way people react when they meet someone with a stammer - are you a waiter, encourager, mind reader or joker?, his valuable insights into the challenges of life and his various coping strategies. Underneath the jokes and the happy facade is a young adolescent who is struggling and desperately wants to fit in with his peers. A frustrated child who has difficulty expressing himself, so much so he is willing to go to often extreme lengths to try and cure his problem.
Billy’s plan to avoid speaking at school was always destined to fail and whilst the obvious challenges rear their head - the inevitable bully coming in the form of William Blakemore who himself is dealing with his own issues that provide an interesting insight as to why a bully may act the way that they do - Billy finds patience and understanding in his wonderful form tutor. Mr Osho, the host of the lunchtime jazz club for misfits that evolves into the ultimate school hangout, is cool, kind and caring and encourages Billy in so many ways. His most valuable advice, a person is not defined by just one of their characteristics - if readers take only one thing away from Rutter’s story then please let it be this. Harnessing this advice, Billy gives the reader a climatic will he or won’t he ending at the school talent show when a disastrous turn of events sees him on stage all alone and with an expectant audience eagerly awaiting his next move - will Billy and his voice bring laughter to the masses?
Plenty of other delightful characters make up the cast, the adorable Granny Bread, Billy’s number one comedy fan, is an absolute delight and provides constant support and smiles before her sad death (yes, you’ll need a tissue).
Extremely readable, highly entertaining, endearing and emotional, The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh is the ultimate story about growing up and accepting yourself, and for Billy, having a good laugh about things along the way. With each chapter beginning with a joke and with frequent laugh-out-loud moments, this tender and touching story is a fabulous read with the most wonderfully positive of messages.
Recommended for 9+.
Prepare to be amazed as you discover the story of the most famous boy-king and one of the most incredible historical finds ever.
Tutankhamun lead a short but interesting life. The son of King Akenhaten and one of his many wives, Tutankhamun was ruling Egypt before he was ten and died before he was twenty. The discovery of his magnificent burial tomb by Howard Carter, which had lay untouched for centuries, would ensure the boy who became king would have his name immortalised into the history books. Tutaknhamun is the most famous ancient Egyptian who ever lived and this is his story…
History is vividly brought to life within these pages and children with a passion for Egyptology are in for an absolute treat with this wonderful work of non-fiction that is sure to satisfy curious minds. Presented as a hybrid of comic, picture book and narrative, The Story of Tutankhamun is a captivating and intriguing read that will really appeal to children who are fascinated by significant events from the past and is an essential accompaniment to any Egyptian primary school studies.
In reality, little is known about Tutankhamun but what is out there is superbly presented and curated in this fascinating read that, to steal a line from Howard Carter, is full of ‘Wonderful things.’ Presented as an over-sized hardback and featuring stylish endpapers, this is a book that has been produced with great care, attention to detail and where a passion for the subject matter leaps from every page. Lavishly illustrated, throughly researched and expertly told, it contains pretty much everything that is known about the the boy king and is sure to shock, amaze, wow and be met with gasps of disbelief in equal measure.
Across three distinct sections spanning several thousand years, it digs into and unpicks what is known about Tutankhaumun’s life, Howard Carter’s extensive searches in the Valley of the Kings and his incredible discovery of the King’s undisturbed burial tomb, and the latest forensic discoveries and archaeological research. Simple yet thorough, it offers a rich, rewarding and accessible introduction to one of ancient Egypt’s most famous kings and it makes for compelling reading.
Often raising more questions than it answers, children will thoroughly enjoy speculating on the mystery of Tutankhamun's mother, what caused his untimely death and was a curse really killing people connected to the discovery of the tomb. Learning about the unusual process of mummification and how to write in hieroglyphics all add to the fun in this treasure trove of delights. And with maps, storyboards, artefacts, quotes, letters, newspaper headlines and character profiles all helping to bring the enthralling story to life, there is plenty to keep readers engrossed.
One of my favourite books about this particular historical subject.
Recommended for 9+.
From the creator of the Amelia Fang books comes another delightful series. Laura Ellen Anderson delivers a feast for the eyes and the imagination with a sparkling story and her trademark artwork adorning almost every page.
Ten-year-old Ray Grey lives in the magical Weatherlands. But unlike most of the other Weatherlings that surround her, Ray does not have any magic of her own. A forbidden trip to Earth changes everything and Ray finds herself empowered with rainbow magic, something that hasn’t been seen in the Weatherlands for hundreds of years. Rainbow Grey has magic and rainbows at her fingertips and with the Rogue Weatherlings threatening Earth, a hero is needed more than ever…
Rainbow Grey is the perfect book to sit down with when you need cheering up on a grey day; it is sure to leave you feeling as bright as a rainbow. The fantastically fun-filled, weather-themed adventure full of friendships, self-discovery, hope and lots of wonderful rainbows dazzles from start to finish as Anderson wraps her own magical spell around readers.
With its gloriously creative world, fabulous cast of characters, weather puns, wonderful foods - just be sure to eat the rumblebuns before they explode - and a cloud-cat that could also pop at any given moment, Rainbow Grey will easily capture the imagination of its readers and keep them entertained throughout. It is hard not to fall in love with the idea that up above the clouds are magical Weatherlings controlling our weather and that storms are created by the Rogue Weatherlings (I look forward to the day when I get to witness a knicker-nado).
Sweeping readers along on this rollercoaster of a ride is a lively and fast-paced plot that fizzes with fun, brims with excitement and peril, and throws up plenty of twists and turns along the way as secrets and truths are revealed. A gripping conclusion wraps up book one before a cliffhanger epilogue perfectly sets up book two and further ramps up the excitement levels as another Rogue Weathering hints of a plan to whip up a storm like no other.
Ray is a brilliant character, it’s not easy being the only one without magical powers and the discovery of a magic that was previously thought lost forever just makes things a whole lot more complicated. If anyone is up to the challenge though, it is Ray. The girl with the rainbow-coloured hair is determined and courageous, and ably supported by Snowden and Droplett, her two best friends, there is nothing that will stop her from shining brightly.
A joyous treat!
Recommend for 8+.
Under Your Feet: Soil, Sand, and Everything Underground; Royal Horticultural Society, illustrated by Wenjia Tang
You may not pay much attention to the ground underneath your feet but down in the dark there’s an incredible ecosystem teeming with life. Soil cities and beautiful bogs are home to shoots and roots, wonderful worms and marvellous moles, brilliant bugs and creepy critters, funky fungus and magnificent microorganisms. And these aren’t the only ones dependent on soil, we need it too; for the crops we eat, to absorb harmful gases and to help slow global warming. Soil, it’s more than just dirt…
Soil is essential and this fabulous non-fiction book from the always reliable DK Publishing leaves readers in no doubt as to just how important it is. There is so much to dip into and explore on this journey of discovery that will expand knowledge of the natural world. Featuring everything you never thought you needed to or wanted to know about what lurks below, it (carefully) digs around in the ground and dishes the dirt on everything from soil to sand, minerals to nutrients, critters to roots, food to fungus and a whole a lot more.
Readers are going to love getting all clued-up with the fascinating world of soil and with an abundance of truly impressive information, it is sure to spark the curiosity of many. Did you know that a teaspoon of soil contains more microbes than there are humans on Earth? Or that with many still undiscovered, there could be up to five million species of fungi? And that it takes 500 years for one inch of soil to be formed? When the brain is all soiled out, there’s some fun experiments and how-to guides for those keen to get their hands dirty.
Visually engaging with great facts nestled around colourful illustrations, it offers a unique encounter with an incredible ecosystem that is essential to the survival of our planet. Young plant experts, bug lovers, geologists and anyone who is curious about the ground they walk on will thoroughly enjoy this non-fiction read.
Recommended for 7+.
Animals up to no good are always a hit with children and this one will have little ones laughing out loud as charming but cunning cat Monty gets the better of honest and well-behaved Tiddles in a delicious story.
Tiddles' and Monty’s owner has baked the most delicious looking cake, complete with extra chocolate and bonbons. She is sure that she can trust her handsome moggies to look after it for just a moment. But what will happen when she returns to find the cake has gone? Who would commit such a dastardly crime? Surely it couldn’t be goodie, goodie four paws Monty…could it…
We all know that once their owners are out of sight cats get up to no good. And Monty certainly has his cake and eats plenty of it in this glorious cat caper. Full of naughtiness, Oh Monty! is a delightfully devious story about the antics of mischievous moggie Monty and the exasperated Tiddles, who gets the rap for Monty’s bad behaviour thanks to an owner who clearly has their favourite.
Firmly staking his claim for the most dastardly picture book character of the year, Monty raises the old aged dilemma, if no-one was around would you eat the cake? And if you did, would you then blame your actions on someone else? FYI, I know my sister would! Monty getting away with his crime will prompt lots of discussions around an owners mis-placed trust (she is sure that butter wouldn’t melt in her dear Monty’s mouth), fairness, owning up to your actions and letting others take the blame.
The fun is beautifully brought to life by Nici Gregory, with Monty’s and Tiddles’ personalities leaping from the pages. Zany and energetic illustrations perfectly capture the chaos as cakes are eyed-up, plates are clawed at and paws are pointed. The craftiness and cleverness of Monty is a particular highlight - who has mischief in his eyes right from the get-go - as he dives into the cake one moment and then raises his paws in complete innocence the next.
This genius story of temptation and getting away with it will be gobbled up by lovers of cats and cake.
Recommended for 3+.
Look out, look out! There’s a mammoth on the loose, a mammoth who has no idea where he is and who desperately wants to find his herd.
When an Ice Age mammoth awakens from his icy slumber, he finds that his herd has long gone and has been replaced by a strange and unfamiliar world. He is unsure what to make of the creatures in the meadow, the birds in the sky, the gleaming forest, the strange smells, even stranger sounds and the unfriendly cavemen. There’s only thing one for it…to find his herd. Surely there’s another like him…
Very amusing and fabulously illustrated, Mammoth is a sweet and funny picture book that follows the adventures and mis-adventures of an Ice Age mammoth who, after an extraordinarily long sleep, has stumbled into the twenty-first century and finds himself on the streets of modern day New York. Definitely a fish out of water, or in this case a mammoth out of ice, plenty of laughs follow as the mammoth and the confused locals become acquainted.
Mammoth gets plenty of funny looks from the locals as he takes in Tiffany & Co, bathes in a fountain, joins locals at a diner with a copy of Vogue, and has ill-fated attempts at sport (tusks and basketball do not mix). I especially enjoyed the clever scenes of near-misses where the mammoth thinks he may have found his kind only to be foiled; a road sweeper is mistaken for a trunk and some wooly boots are mistaken for wooly legs.
This is more than just a very enjoyable read though, scratch the fur of the wooly mammoth a little bit deeper and you will reveal a character who is trying to make sense of a completely foreign environment. Universal messages of feeling out of place, finding a herd to belong to and being misunderstood will all resonate with young children who often face similar challenges. Anyone who has ever felt like the odd one out, for whatever reason, will sympathise and empathise with mammoth. A heartwarming ending teaches children that we can all find our herd if we look hard enough.
Right from the beginning, readers have one up on the mammoth as they will know full well that the wooly protagonist has woken up millions of years after his kind went extinct yet that won’t stop them from rooting for him to find his herd and a place to trumpet loudly.
Recommended for 4+.
For those who love reading, the library can be the most wondrous of places. I could happily spend a day lost in books but for some children the thought of picking up a book does not fill them with happiness and excitement.
Zach is adamant that books are not for him and that he does not need them in his life. Books are too long, he finds them boring, they make him sleepy and he definitely doesn’t want to read one. He’d much rather watch television or play video games. Ro loves everything about books and she is convinced that Zach could catch the reading bug too…if only he would take the time to find the right book…
Told in rhyming prose, The Library Book is a glorious celebration of the magic and wonder of books of all kinds. As a primary school teacher and blogger of children’s books I don’t need telling about how awesome kids literature is. I truly believe that there is at least one book out there for every child and that for even the most reluctant of readers it is a case of simply finding them the right book.
Zach is a child who has yet to discover the right book but with the help of Ro, a passionate lover of books and definite future librarian, he discovers that books aren’t quite as dull and boring as he first thought. This is hardly surprising with Ro introducing him to a mind-boggling assortment of books with everything from adventures to superheroes, ancient legends to buried treasure, fairytales to fantasies, football to food, poems to comics, long ones and short ones, funny, thrilling and gory tales. Every child needs a Ro in their life - whether it be a teacher, a friend, a parent or librarian - who can help ignite a passion for reading and books that will last a lifetime.
Bursting with colourful illustrations, books and stories are well and truly alive within these pages as pirates, dinosaurs, princesses, dragons, witches, animals, wizards and rockets sweep across the fabulous spreads providing a visual feast that will have children desperate to search the bookshelves for their next read. If only all libraries could be as colourful and as wondrous as the one that Ian Morris has drawn up.
For those children who love to read and for those children that need a little nudge in the direction of the bookshelf, The Library Book is a fabulous ode to the joys of reading and the wonders that can be found within the children’s section of the local library.
Recommended for 3+.
Eisha's father is no longer around but the memories of him are still strong. Inspired by the time she picked lemons with him, she crafts a shape out of clay and paints it the colour of lemons. The object is perfect until it breaks and shatters into tiny pieces. Eisha knows that it will never be a lemon again but maybe it doesn’t have to be and her mother knows just how to rebuild it…
Touching and tender, Many Shapes of Clay is a gentle tale of love, loss and the healing power of creativity. Weaving a story of the loss of a parent with the breaking of an inanimate object, Kenesha Sneed sensitively explores those things that cannot be fixed no matter how much we want them to be, instead, the healing process involves change, acceptance and building something new. Eisha learns from her mother to address and deal with her grief rather than ignoring it and about the need to move on when unfortunate and upsetting things happen. Coping with change and how we react to situations out of our control are valuable skills to impart on children
Given the state of the world over the last couple of years, many children have experienced loss in many forms - relatives, friends, time at school, playdates, social activities, the everyday normality of life. Eisha’s ability to learn to live with loss and to rebuild something out of what is left is heartwarming and uplifting. This is a message that will resonate with many children who themselves will be trying to pick up the pieces of the last two years and rebuild their lives. It ultimately says to them, life may be difficult and the pieces may fall apart but they can be put back together one way or another; we all have the ability to heal, rebuild and create something new.
Very much a metaphorical book on loss and grief, this is one that may be lost on younger readers and would be better appreciated by middle-graders. The simple text and beautiful artwork convey those thoughts, feelings and emotions that can be oh so difficult for all of us to put into words and really open the door for thoughtful and meaningful conversations.
Powerful and poignant, this subtle exploration of healing after a loss offers vital messages that many of us, not just children, need.
Recommended for 5+.
Sarah Noble’s debut picture book is something rather special.
Little bear may not be big yet but one day they hope to be big and strong like all of the other bears because everyone knows that there’s nothing stronger than a bear. Mama thinks differently though. And whilst she can teach her cub where to find berries, how to fish in the river and how to pick out the ideal tree to scratch your back on, not everything can be taught. Somethings just need to be learnt because it’s the most important lessons that get passed on in other ways…
Underpinned by a beautiful moral and important life lesson, a brown mama bear teaches her young cub the things they need to know to survive and thrive in the wild in this touching and tender animal tale. Told through the innocent and excitable eyes of the cub, As Strong as the River explores the wonders of nature and the importance of nurture through a loving and special relationship that exists between a mother and her young.
Like many young children and animals, little bear is keen to grow up and to become the biggest and the strongest. But there is more to life than just being big and strong and as mama and cub forage and hunt, fish and scratch, the cub learns the value of patience and the need to respect nature’s power and beauty.
Filled with breathtakingly beautiful illustrations, gorgeous wild landscapes and sweet words, each page is a feast for the eyes and will make you feel as warm and fuzzy as the aforementioned bears. It is quite possibly the most beautiful picture book I have ever read of a young animal learning the ways of the world from their mother.
This perfect bedtime story is gorgeous in every single way.
Recommended for 2+.
Have you ever wondered what goes on in the world while you’re fast asleep in bed? It may be dark outside but towns, cities, roads and seas are a hive of activity as people and animals are all hard at work under the blanket of darkness; baking, driving, sweeping, sorting, delivering, hunting, scavenging and cleaning are all happening. And around the world, other children are busily playing, learning, eating and reading. Because while you are sleeping the world never goes to bed…
While You’re Sleeping is a gorgeous picture book that brings to life a night-time world of activity that children might be completely unaware of. Every turn of the page is sure to be met with awe and wonder as readers see bakers baking fresh breads and cakes, doctors and nurses caring for patients, mail workers sorting the post, cleaners sweeping the streets, drivers delivering fresh produce and firefighters waiting for the bell to ring. Mums and dads tend to new-borns whilst nocturnal animals - foxes, owls, bats and hares - prowl the streets and countryside, on the hunt for food.
Written as a poetic non-fiction narrative and featuring sumptuous double page spreads, it is an utterly fascinating and mesmerising exploration of a hidden world that unless children have been out late at night and seen for themselves they will be experiencing for the very first time and there is something truly special and magical about that.
This treasure chest of delights, complete with beautiful cover and endpapers, is a wonderful read that opens children’s minds to all of the things that happen whilst they are sleeping. With its calm and soothing tone it is perfect for sharing together before sleepy heads drift off to sleep filled with magical dreams about everything wonderful that is happening in the world under the cover of darkness.
Recommended for 4+.
Have you ever passed a homeless person by? Pretended to not see what is staring right at you? I know I have. But what could happen if we all stood up and took notice?
No-one pays any attention to the homeless woman and her dog living on the corner where a house was never built. One little girl notices though and in her eyes the lady is a Queen; one who fought in battles, faced dragons and explored the world. Sadly, many people don’t see the Queen for who she really is and wish she would go away. Full of kindness, the little girl and her ma offer food for the Queen and her royal hound to eat and blankets to keep them warm. In return the Queen shares incredible stories. When, one terrible night, danger comes to the street and the Queen sounds the alarm, the little girl needs a way to thank her. But will the community come together to help…
The Queen on our Corner is a splendid picture book with beautiful illustrations that gently introduces the difficult topic of homelessness to young children. Through a feel-good, heartwarming and hopeful story, children are asked to show empathy towards and understand those who find themselves living in difficult circumstances. We are reminded that we never know the story of others and to not make judgements on appearance or situation; everyone deserves to be valued.
Finely treading the line between reality and fiction, readers are opened to the experience of those living homeless who often find themselves ignored by many. It takes a child to notice what others miss; children have a wonderful innocent view of the world and are often the ones that are willing to open their hearts and minds when supposedly better-informed and more life-experienced adults will not. Whilst the Queen on the corner is ignored and seen as a nuisance by most, it only takes one act of kindness from a child to make a difference.
The homeless lady faces many challenges but ultimately has a happy ending. Whilst this isn’t the reality for most homeless people it does show what can happen when a community recognises those in need within their neighbourhood and come together to make a difference to the life of someone else.
Representation and inclusivity matters in children’s books and I love the diverse, multicultural neighbourhood that is represented; young and old, people of different races and ethnicities, a blind person with a walking aid, a child in a wheelchair.
A lovely and heartfelt author’s note provides insight into Lucy Christopher's inspiration for the story and implores us all to take notice of those living rough and to spot the ‘kings and queens’ who hide in doorways, parks and carparks. Offering much food for thought, I’m sure many children will be left thinking about the kind and generous things that they can do to support those living without roofs over their heads.
Recommended for 4+.
Hair-obsessed bear discovers there’s more to life than looks in this vibrant and energetic debut picture book from Joseph Namara Hollis.
Pierre the bear loves hair; buzz-cuts to bunches, bobs to beehives, mullets to mohawks, pigtails to ponytails, you won’t find a style he doesn’t love. He also loves roller skating and when his favourite roller disco team - The Poodle Squad - announce a competition to find the best skate team, he and his mates get straight to work on a performance to dazzle. On the day, a troublesome quiff threatens to spoil everything and with Pierre running late will skating dreams end in disaster…
In a world where everyone presents themselves as ‘insta’ perfect, Pierre’s New Hair is a refreshing, imaginative and fun-filled story that pokes a bit of fun at trying to look flawless and rather encourages children to learn to love themselves, accept how they look and to do what makes them happy, even on bad hair days. Heart-warming messages about teamwork, friendship and following your dreams are also explored.
Full of laughter and surprises, the story is very enjoyable and the colourful, exuberant and hilarious illustrations will have readers smiling and giggling, especially the scenes that capture the trials and tribulations of getting your hair to behave on an important day and Pierre’s eventful journey across town.
Recommended for 4+.
Wherever she is, Charlie loves to dance, pirouetting, gliding and sliding though life. Her favourite place to dance is under the moon with her grandma. When family tragedy tears Charlie’s world apart, she wonders if dancing will ever feel the same again. With the biggest show of the year approaching, she needs grandma more than ever. Will the words, ‘If you miss me, look at the moon,’ be enough for Charlie to find her dancing feet and give the performance of her life…
Losing a loved one is hard and for many children the loss of a grandparent can be their first experience of family tragedy. Tenderly capturing the highs of life and the sorrows of loss, Jocelyn Li Langrand’s debut picture book, If You Miss Me, is a beautiful story about love, loss and grief and is a comforting reminder that those we hold dear are never truly gone. It is heart-warming, heart-breaking and ultimately heart-healing.
A tough subject is handled with so much care and sensitivity, Li Langrand offering a comforting hug to readers who, like Charlie, may be dealing with the sadness of losing a loved one. The text is filled with emotion and meaning and the gorgeous artwork transcends the depths of love and loss. The special relationship between Charlie and grandma leaps from the early pages while the latter pages of a child saddened by loss and lost in grief will bring a tear to many an eye.
For any child who has lost a grandparent, Charlie’s story will bring comfort and will encourage them to remember the special times, connections and memories they have to help them deal with their grief. ‘If you miss me, look at the moon…Because even when we are apart, the same moon shines for both of us. So when I see the moon, I see you,’ the wise words of Grandma.
Recommended for 4+.
Don't Hug Doug (He Doesn't Like It): A story about consent; Carrie Finison, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman
Ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug? Maybe it’s from a relative, a person that you’re meeting for the very first time, a game-winning hug or a consoling hug? Lots of people want to give Doug a hug but he has a very important message that needs to be heard.
Doug likes lots of things. He likes to sort his rock collection, he likes to try on his sock collection and he likes to draw with his chalk collection. There’s one thing that Doug doesn’t like though…hugs. They are too squashy, too squeezy, too squooshy, too smooshy. He doesn’t need hello hugs, good-bye hugs, game-winning hugs or dropped ice-cream cone hugs. He’d much prefer a high five, a side five, a skinny five or an elbow five. Doug’s body is his and he gets to choose what happens to it because everybody gets to decide for themselves whether they want a hug or not…
Discussing consent and boundaries with young children can be difficult, especially when it comes to hugs, such a natural act for many children. With engaging illustrations and fun and playful text, Don’t Hug Doug delivers a clear message…hugs are not for everyone. It will make the non-huggers feel validated and recognised and help the huggers to understand that not everyone gets that warm and fuzzy feeling when being hugged.
Sweet, gentle, funny and incredibly important, Don’t Hug Doug is a brilliant look at how we all have different levels of comfort when it comes to physical contact. It’s okay to not like to be hugged. It’s okay to set your own boundaries. It’s okay to state your likes and dislikes and what makes you feel uncomfortable. And it’s absolutely okay to say ‘NO’, just like Doug.
Although hugs are usually well-intentioned they should never be given unless the recipient is willing to accept and is comfortable with receiving one. If you’re not sure if it is okay to hug, ask. It is essential that all children understand that they have bodily autonomy and Doug is very effective in driving home the message that hugs and bodily contact are not for everyone. He is a great kid; he is friendly, polite and would be a great mate to have. He delivers his message in such a warm way that you want to give him a hug for his efforts - but don’t, he doesn’t like it. He will quite happily give you a high five though.
An awesome introduction to consent for kids that teaches them about their own personal space and respecting that of others. It will empower and encourage children to set their own boundaries and take control of their personal space from an early age.
Recommend for 3+.
How many people does it take to build a house, a wind farm, a fountain, a roller coaster, a bridge, a book? Probably more than you think. While architects dream up perfect plans, scientists develop incredible ideas and designers let their creativity loose, nothing actually gets turned into a tangible thing unless a team of skilled labourers can come together to ‘build the dream’…
Written in rhyming prose, Someone Builds the Dream is a delightful ode to the workers who get their hands dirty doing the nitty-gritty and putting their blood, sweat and tears in to bringing the dreams of others to life. It is a fitting tribute to those who are involved in the physical labour required to create just about anything from roller coasters to houses, bridges to fountains, wind farms to this very book.
It may be the brains of architects, engineers, artists, scientists and designers that think up fabulous projects and ideas but nothing would ever be brought into fruition if it were not for the workforce of skilled labourers who saw the wood, hammer the nails, smelt the iron, weld the steel, plumb the pipes, steer cranes, drive machines, run the wires, bury the cables and so on. The repetitive use of the refrain, ‘Someone has to build the dream’ leaves readers with little doubt as to who the heroes of this book truly are.
Loren Long’s beautiful artwork is fantastic and bursts with vibrant colours, energy and hard work. Each page is a perfect example of inclusivity and diversity featuring people of different genders, appearances, races, religions and ethnicities; multi-culture and diversity sing from every single page.
This gem of a read encourages children to understand, to value and to recognise the contributions of the many and often under-appreciated labourers and tradespeople. It is a great platform for exploring STEM, different careers and the teamwork involved in creating pretty much anything. The message is strong, whether you want to be dreaming the ideas in the office or out there building things, we are quite simply, all in this together.
Recommended for 5+.
Confession time, I’ll read anything by Shana Jackson so was always going to be drawn to her latest non-fiction book (even though I have little interest in art as a subject). Jackson has become one of my go-to authors when seeking out diverse reads that make all children, especially BAME children, feel recognised and their lives represented in the books that they read. I cannot stress enough that her books, including this one, should be in all libraries and classrooms. As we seek to diversify our bookshelves, Jackson’s books are an absolute must.
Throughout history, Black people have been treated unfairly and have been denied equal opportunities. Black artists have been marginalised and have failed to get the recognition that they deserve. But things are changing and the world needs to hear about Larry Achiampong, Kerry James Marshall, Magdalene Odundo, Faith Ringgold and others. Meet twenty-six Black artists, discover how their art shapes and shares their opinions of the world and be inspired to do the same…
Putting Black artists and their amazing works of art firmly in the spotlight, Black Artists Shaping the World is a brilliant introduction to twenty-six artists from Africa and of African descent who are doing their creative thing around the world. Rich, timely and refreshing, the celebration of the exciting and important work of Black artists offers up plenty of energised inspiration for children and adults alike. Written alongside Dr Zoé Whitley, Director of Chisenhale Gallery in London, Sharna Jackson declares it, ‘A celebration…It’s a party for the many Black artists around the globe.’
Across brightly coloured pages the artists are introduced, their stories are shared, their artistic styles explained, their inspirations explored and a piece of their work is showcased in all its glory. Highly accessible and with just enough information to pique readers curiosity and to have them googling their new favourite artists (a bibliography of websites will be a welcome starting point for many).
The collective of artists are as diverse as their works which are created in a range of mediums from painting to sculpture, photography to poetry, embroidery to ceramics, sound art to installation art. Art not being one of my strong points, I was unfamiliar with most of the names but I was mightily impressed with the assembled cast that includes: Amy Sherald, the portraitist for Michelle Obama; El Anatsui, expert in turning discarded bottle tops into wall hangings; sound artist Emeka Ogboh who captures the sounds of the streets of Lagos; South African ceramicist Zizpho Poswa; and British Turner Prize-winning painters Lubaina Himid and Chris Ofili. Readers will not be disappointed with the creativity represented here.
Captivating and eye-opening from start to finish, Black artists and their works are well and truly alive within these pages of contemporary art. Produced in hardback and on thick paper, the beautifully designed anthology would enhance any primary school art curriculum and is the perfect gift for any budding young artist.
Recommended for 9+.
Her Epic Adventure: 25 Daring Women Who Inspire a Life Less Ordinary; Julia De Laurentiis Johnston, illustrated by Salini Perera
Everyone loves to go on adventures. However, it hasn’t always been possible for women, who throughout history have long faced obstacles and opposition as the expectations of society, and race and gender inequality, have tried to dictate what they can and cannot achieve. Some women though are just born to adventure, from loop-the-loop stunt plane pilots to brave mountain climbers, deep-sea divers to big-wave riders, Antarctic explorers to intrepid hikers, these twenty-five trailblazers prove that anything - and any adventure - is possible…
Her Epic Adventures is a wonderfully inspiring and empowering read, packed full of girl-power and can do attitude. The twenty-five thrilling true stories of female adventurers who never stopped believing in themselves, despite what society said they could and could not do, and achieved the impossible is a fabulous celebration of women and their strength of mind, body and spirt. The next generation of courageous and brave adventurers are about to be inspired, motivated and fuelled with the belief they need to dream big and can do absolutely anything that they put their mind to.
Broken up into five sections - Sky, Peaks, Ice, Land and Water - the intrepid and brave adventurers are grouped according to the environment in which they excelled. Sky, for example, highlights the achievements of Amelia Earhart, an American who became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. Peaks showcases the efforts of Junko Tabei, the first woman in the world to climb the Seven Summits. Water includes the story of Maya Gabeira, a big-wave surfer from Brazil who despite nearly drowning hopped back on her surfboard to set the world record for the largest wave surfed by a woman.
Featuring a diverse cast of women from all around the world including women of colour, the young and the old, Indigenous women, LGBTQ+ women and women with disabilities, each succinct entry highlights the challenges that the various women faced, how they overcame them and what they ultimately achieved. Whilst the range of experiences are varied and different, they all have one thing in common, women who defied expectations and would not let anything get in the way of their dreams, ambitions and goals.
The highly accessible and engaging format will be appreciated by young readers. Easy to read and inviting pages profile the twenty-five women and feature plenty of engaging illustrations which bring life to the different women and their adventures. Spirited biographies share their stories and plenty of other facts and information comes via sidebars, inspirational quotes and ‘Did you know?' boxes. Back-matter includes an interview with modern-day adventurer Lois Pryce, a world map showing the location of each story and shorter profiles for five further adventurers.
Recommended for 7+.
Everyday kid with everyday problems embraces his superhero alter-ego to help him navigate life in Jason Reynolds’ first venture into the world of graphic novels.
Portico Reeves, aka Stuntboy, lives in the biggest apartment building on the block and has one goal in life…to ensure those he cares about stay super and safe. Working in secret, he keeps his identity hidden and uses his powers for doing good deeds. But not everything in Portico’s world is all sunshine and rainbows. His parents are fighting like all the time. With an arch-nemesis on his case and ‘The Frets’ invading his thoughts, can Stuntboy find a way to save his family…
A superhero persona and a loyal best friend come to the aid of a boy dealing with anxiety, bullying and family separation in an action-packed, funny and heartfelt read. Brimming with superhero stunts, plenty of good deeds and full of emotional intelligence, the adventures and misadventures of Black fourth-grader and secret superhero, Stuntboy, are a real treat. For some, it will simply be a story to enjoy while for others it will provide the comfort and reassurances needed as they too navigate the ups and downs of life.
Portico is awesome and everyone will be able to relate to a kid simply trying to keep his family together and who looks out for those he cares about. Many readers will also relate to ‘The Frets’ - the name that he gives to his anxieties and worries. Never weighed down by its big and hard-hitting themes, Reynolds tackles the reality that many kids face in a fun yet real and authentic way and offers a hero to really root for who, even when things get tough, is determined and has kindness and sweetness by the bucket load.
Not a typical graphic novel, the hybrid format of picture book/novel/graphic novel has a bit of everything with all manner of storytelling devices used to keep readers engaged. Presented as individual episodes - think you’re favourite superhero television show - each story begins with theme music, introductory credits and opening line before the frenetic action unfolds in a mixture of traditional text, comic panels, commercial breaks, double page spreads and engaging artwork that all burst with vibrant energy and fun.
Written with understanding and empathy, Stuntboy will speak to many a reader, especially those who are experiencing anxiety, bullying and parental separation. Like Stuntboy, we all have the power to find our inner superhero and with the help of friends all challenges can be overcome.
Recommended for 9+.
Do you know of a child who can think of nothing better than spending a whole day helping and looking after animals? If the answer is yes, then How to be a Vet and Other Animal Jobs is the perfect book for them.
Do you love animals and dream of a job where you can spend every day with them? Do you care for cats and dote on dogs? Are you kind to koalas and mad about monkeys? Do you get excited by elephants and giddy about goats? If you think animals are awesome then maybe you have what it takes to be a vet, an animal trainer, a wildlife ranger, a zoo designer, a snake milker or an animal welfare inspector. Join animal-lover Dr Jess French and discover all about the amazing animal jobs that you could do, the history of veterinary and a whole lot more…
Just like people, animals get sick. And when they get sick they need kind, caring and clever people to help them get better again. How to be a Vet and Other Animal Jobs is a fantastic, child-friendly look at all of the amazing work that children, adults, volunteers and highly trained animal-lovers called vets can do and do do to ensure that pets, captive animals and wild animals can live their absolute best lives.
Calling on all her experience as a vet, author and TV presenter, Dr Jess French provides a friendly, fascinating and fact-filled look at the rich and rewarding job of looking after and working with animals. Fully illustrated in colour by Sol Linero, dedicated animal-lovers are in for an absolute treat as Dr French shares the secrets as to how vets manage to keep animals healthy and happy, all the things that vets do (and there’s a lot), the wide variety of animals that they treat, all the different places that they work and a brief history of veterinary medicine.
Animals large and small, domestic and wild, common and not so common all need looking after. With so many different career paths available you could be caring for animals all around the world and in all sorts of locations from film sets to wildlife reserves to the depths of the oceans. Or if you prefer your home comforts then there’s plenty of animals to look after in your own community too.
Dr French’s love and passion for animals bursts from every page as she takes curious minds from the veterinary surgery to farms and fields, from the laboratories and operating theatres to zoos and wildlife parks. Who knew being a vet could be so varied? As a word of caution, a small part of the subject matter might be a little distressing - slaughterhouses and post-mortem examinations are briefly touched upon - but all is handled sensitively and matter-of-factly. For instance, French writes that a post-mortem is, ‘A sad job for a vet, but it is a good way to learn more about that type of animal and why it died.’
It is such a fun, engaging and educational read. Attractive, colourful and easy to navigate double page spreads are guided by leading questions with bite-sized chunks of information giving readers the low-down. Sure to inspire any child with a passion for animals and is a must read for those who one day hope to have a job working with them.
Recommended for 6+.
Discover the life and times of Charles Dickens - one of the great, renowned classic authors, whose works include Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers and how could I possibly not mention A Christmas Carol - in this cracking mini biography. Today’s young people are unlikely to pick up a novel by Dickens but his life story is well-worth a read.
Born in England when movies didn’t exist, Charles made up his own adventures. He loved watching people and making up stories about them. When a Dickensian twist of fate landed his father in prison for unpaid debts, Charles had to work in a factory. Eventually finding his way out, he tried his luck as a law clerk, then as a performer before settling as a writer and a storyteller. He would become one of the most beloved novelists of all time whose books are still read today…
Charles Dickens’ life story reads like one of the very novels he wrote. One of the fortunate few who was able to attend school, he had to leave and work in a factory when his father went to prison. His life was one of missed opportunities before he eventually became the famous writer that many know and love. He could easily be one of the characters from his own books; persevering through challenging times to ultimately make the most of life.
He was a pioneer in publishing, to make his books affordable to the masses he released many of his works chapter by chapter. Imagine not being able to read a book all at once and having to wait patiently for the next instalment to be in the shops; I couldn’t bear it. He also used his writing as a platform to raise social issues, for example highlighting the struggles of poor children and giving them a voice in Oliver Twist. Several of the pages of this mini-bio are devoted to A Christmas Carol which is the tale that most children will be familiar with, perhaps having been involved in a school production or seeing the film; the Christmas spirit is well and truly alive within these pages.
Despite Dickens living in the 1800’s he can teach today’s children plenty about getting back up after knock-downs and the importance of dusting yourself off and trying again. Hardship certainly made him stronger and more resourceful and his story exemplifies that dreams can always be achieved and that difficult experiences can be used as motivation and contributors to successes.
Isobel Ross’ illustrations are a particular highlight and really bring the Victorian era to life; quills, top hats, metal hoops, castles, ravens, cravats, child labour in factories, velvet curtains, bedside candles and sailors at the harbour all typify Victorian times. Perfectly pitched for young readers, the story is told in short and simple sentences that provide just enough detail to give a flavour of a famous life. At the back of the the book there is a short overview of his life which includes key facts and dates and a historical timeline featuring photographs.
With thanks to Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara and Frances Lincoln Children’s Books for the copy that was received through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Recommended for 5+.
Poems Aloud: An anthology of poems to read out loud; Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Daniel Gray-Barnett
Joseph Coelho brings the cool and fun to poetry as he invites children to perform poems with confidence and passion, equipping them with the tools to deliver the performances of their lives.
Poems are for reading aloud and Poems Aloud is a joyous celebration of just how much fun poetry can be. Coelho’s fabulous collection of twenty-nine rhymes and verse, grouped under twenty broad performance styles, will have everyone from the confident to the shy embracing their inner performer. Written specifically for performance, Coelho’s aim is for children to fall in love with the genre and to get excited about the spoken word, he wants poetry to come alive for both the performer and the audience. And this he does.
There are narrative poems and rhyming poems. Funny ones and more sombre ones. Some are short others are long. There are tongue twisters to tackle and riddles to resolve. Poems to read individually and those requiring a group, There’s even poems that require acting. With so much choice there really is something for everyone to enjoy. Whatever the poem, the emphasis is on enjoyment, performing and reading aloud - be it alone or to an audience.
All of the poems are accompanied by practical suggestions to enhance performance techniques that really get the performer to think about how their voice and delivery can effect the feel of a poem. Taking on the persona of animals - how would a lion or a frog read their poem?; giving voices to inanimate objects - how would a mobile phone feel and speak? What about a pencil case? Or a pot of slime?; acting out verbs; making rhyming words ‘pop’; using voice to alter volume - techniques known as diminuendo and crescendo; nailing comedic timing and the use of emotions, feelings and tone are all actively encouraged.
The Chilly Chilli requires emphasis when reading the homophones (these are helpfully in bold type); Speedy Rocket should be read as fast as you can whilst This Bear benefits from a slower pace, allowing time to pause and reflect; The Shockadile Crocodile demands audience participation whilst On the Streets of New Delhi is best delivered as a group. Adding to the fun are vibrant and playful illustrations filling the pages with colour and energy that are a joyous accompaniment to the words.
It is a fantastic resource for introducing poetry and the all important performance techniques to children. Poetry should be enjoyable and fun and Poems Aloud delivers these in abundance. Perfect for inspiring a love of poetry and performance.
Recommended for 6+.
Meet Marie Curie, the little girl with a desire to help those in need.
As a young girl, Marie didn’t dream of being a princess, she wanted to be a scientist. Unable to go to university in her home country, she packed her bags and moved to France. Despite studying in an unfamiliar language she was soon the best maths and science student. And it wasn’t long before she would make life-changing discoveries that continue to benefit the world today…
With a distinct lack of female scientists celebrated in children’s books, this highly accessible and child-friendly mini-biography of Marie Curie’s life and work is a must have for the bookshelf. She is without doubt one of the most important scientists of all time. And I stress here, not just female scientists of all time but one of the most important scientists ever; her ground-breaking work discovering radium and polonium was revolutionary. This delightful biography charts her passion for science from an early age to her academic studies through to some of the biggest ever break-throughs in science and the prizes she received in recognition of her achievements.
There is so much to admire about Marie’s story, from studying and working at a time when female scientists were not afforded the same opportunities as men or held in the same regard to overcoming loss to her selfless drive and determination to help humankind through her scientific endeavours. When war broke out her work was used by doctors to help injured soldiers and not just content with what she had accomplished in the laboratory she paved the way for others, especially young girls, to follow in her footsteps through her Parisian institute.
She achieved much in her life and this was acknowledged through the receiving of not one but two Nobel Prizes, she is the only person to this day to win Nobel Prizes in two different scientific fields. The incredibly studious, intelligent and ambitious woman was a trailblazer who made a massive impact in her field and whose legacy lives on long after her death. Driven not by fame or success, Marie’s own valuable advice to her students sums her up perfectly, ‘In life, there is nothing to be afraid of, only many things to learn, and many ways to help those in need.’ What a wonderful message to give to young children.
Marie Curie is a fantastic female role model and her story is well-worth sharing. It presents a lady who achieved in a field dominated by men and proves that girls can do things just as well as the boys. The story is told in short and simple sentences and is delightfully illustrated with bright and bold artwork. At the back of the the book there is a short overview of her life which includes key facts and dates and a historical timeline featuring photographs.
Recommended for 5+.
Little People, Big Dreams: Jane Goodall; Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, illustrated by Beatrice Cerocchi
Some people just belong with animals and Jane Goodall certainly found her home amongst the chimpanzees.
When Jane was little her father gave her a stuffed chimpanzee called Jubilee that would spark a lifelong love of animals. One in particular captured her heart. She loved hearing animal stories and dreamed about seeing chimpanzees in the wild. On a trip to Kenya, her wish would come true. Her observations, work and learnings would forever change our understanding of chimpanzees. With their unique skill set, traits and behaviours, it turns out that we and they are very much alike…
Women have made many key contributions through the course of history and Jane Goodall’s outstanding work on primates and her understanding of our closest animal relatives ranks up there with the most important. A fabulous person, both inside and out, she is widely regarded as the world’s leading expert on chimpanzees and her deserved addition to the Little People, Big Dreams series takes readers on a fascinating journey that is just perfect for introducing children to her life and work.
Childhood dreams at her home in London to observing chimpanzees in Africa to doctorates at Cambridge University to becoming a global ambassador and world wildlife defender, all is lovingly retold in this charming biography. Strong-willed, smart, passionate and independent, Jane Goodall is a role model that kids need and any child with aspirations of becoming a conservationist needs to familiarise their self with her story.
Jane’s dreams could have easily been wrecked by the costs of education, unable to afford to go to university to study she had to come up with her own plan. What she would learn in the wild would be more valuable than any professor, course or text book would have been able to teach her. I love the lesson here, quite simply where there’s a will there’s a way. With the ever-rising cost of education and university courses, inspirational Jane exemplifies what is possible if we are flexible and our desires to achieve our dreams remain strong.
The wonders of nature and the need for animal study will mesmerise young readers but there is more to Jane’s work than her studies of chimpanzees and I loved the important messages on conservation and the need to protect wildlife and their habitats. Even though she may no longer be observing the animals in the wild, Jane dedicates her life to education and conservation and implores the younger generations to care for the planet and the animals that we share it with. She is an all round wonderful human being!
Sandwiched between leafy endpapers is a highly engaging and accessible story told in short and simple sentences accompanied by bright and bold artwork that places readers at the heart of Jane’s chimpanzee work. Her passion for her favourite animal leaps from every page with Beatrice Cerocchi’s gorgeous illustrations capturing animals and a conservationist that are easily at one with each other. At the back of the book there is a short overview of her life so far which includes key facts and dates and a historical timeline featuring photographs.
Recommended for 5+.
Little People, Big Dreams: Ada Lovelace; Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, illustrated by Zafouko Yamamoto
With an absent father and a mother who was often not around, young Ada spent a lot of time at her grandparents house with Mrs Puff the cat for company. With her big imagination, Ada dreamed of flying machines. It would be her love of numbers and ability for solving mathematical problems that would really take flight though and have her go down in history as the world’s first computer programmer…
Ada brings the cool to computing in a life story that shines with perseverance and imagination. Big on girl power, the girl with the mind for maths will empower and encourage other young girls to make a difference in the world of STEM.
As an adult who was born in the 1980’s it is hard to imagine a world without computers, for a child born in the twenty-first century such a thing is an impossibility. However, this was the world that Ada Lovelace grew-up in, one without such technology and where computer code had not been invented yet.
Along with famous mathematician Charles Babbage, Ada not only helped invent a device - the calculator - but developed code that would eventually be used to create the very first computer over one-hundred years later. If you’re reading this on an electronic device, then you have Ada and her creative mind to thank for it.
A visionary she most certainly was, she was creating the language for something that would not be invented until over a century later. Despite many obstacles, including a three-year illness in which she used her time to study and being a woman living in the 1800’s, Ada achieved greatness in her field.
Packaged between mathematical-themed endpapers is a delightfully illustrated story told in short and simple sentences. At the back of the book there is a short overview of her life which includes key facts and dates and a historical timeline featuring photographs.
Recommended for 5+.