Book reviews: The best books for younger readers this Easter

AL Kennedy
AL Kennedy
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The beautiful illustrations and compelling stories in this selection will transport younger readers during the Easter break, writes Jane E Sandell

Dear Dinosaur (Scholastic, £6.99) is a fun collection of letters between young Max and a terrifying T Rex. They meet when Max and his family visit a museum. Max has lots of questions but little time and so the correspondence develops. Chae Strathie writes an engaging story with remarkably well-developed protagonists and it is delightfully illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne in warm and vibrant colours. The whole book is well designed and will delight all young dinosaur lovers.

What’s in a name? Quite a lot, one little girl thinks. When a cat turns up on her doorstep and makes it clear he’s there to stay, she is quite pleased, but she struggles to find a name for him. Finally, however, the right one presents itself. I Don’t Know What to Call My Cat (Simon & Schuster, £6.99) by Simon Philip and Ella Bailey is a simple and warm story and augmented by cute pictures in gentle pastel shades. The dynamic characters jump off the page and into the imagination.

I Love You (Nearly Always) (Templar, £14.99) is a beautifully produced interactive story of friendship. Through a series of pop-ups, tabs and flaps we are introduced to Roly and Rita – a woodlouse and a firefly. They are very different but they are friends until, one day, their differences start to annoy each other. Anna Llenas has created a simple story with engaging characters and a profound message for small children. The illustrations, with their strong colours and characterisations, enhance the tale as do the pop-ups, which actually form part of it, rather than being there just for novelty value.

The Lost Kitten (Gecko Press, £11.99) is a charming and engaging picture book by LEE and Komako Sakai. Hina and her mother are surprised when a cat appears on their doorstep and seems to be asking them to take care of her tiny kitten, but they take on the task. When her mother goes to buy some cat food, Hina is left in charge. An adventure and a fright ensue for both but all ends well and Hina is finally able to name the new kitten. The delightful illustrations perfectly capture the emotion of this gentle tale.

6-10 years

Chris Riddell’s hope for his new book is that it will warm the hearts of those who read it, and 100 Hugs (Macmillan, £9.99) will do just that. It is a collection of beautiful black and white line drawings of hugs. Some are between characters you will recognise. Alice is there with the White Rabbit in one of my favourite drawings and Ottoline’s friend, Mr Monroe, is reunited with some family members in another. But there are new characters too, like the little mouse caught in the embrace of a tree. This beautiful small book would make a wonderful gift for someone you love and will cheer you up too.

Michael Foreman’s Travels with my Sketchbook (Templar, £17.99) is exactly what it says. Inside you will find illustrations from some of his many books alongside sketches and watercolours of places as diverse as Aztec Mexico, war-torn Vietnam and the far north of Norway. It’s a wonderfully evocative book that different generations can enjoy together, and it is sure to lead back to Michael’s extensive selection of other titles.

We meet Bill Badger as he realises that his troubles are just beginning. How does he know this? Well, he’s trapped upside down in a bag being bumped along a dusty road. This can only be BAD. Read Uncle Shawn and Bill and the Almost Entirely Unplanned Adventure (Walker, £8.99) to find out if Uncle Shawn can save the day. And to find out how four sad llamas fit in. This is a stylishly funny story written by AL Kennedy, enhanced by Gemma Correll’s quirky and informative illustrations. Ideal for discerning young readers.

When the Jones family wins the Montgomery Book emporium in a raffle, it seems too good to be true. And, of course, it is. What at first seemed like a thing of wonder turns out to be anything but. However, with the help of a ferocious kitten and her own powers of observation, young Property saves the day. The Bookshop Girl (Scholastic, £5.99) by Sylvia Bishop is a clever, funny romp ideal for reading aloud or for confident readers to enjoy alone.

9-12 years

Until We Win (Barrington Stoke, £6.99) is Lizzy’s story, set in the run-up to the First World War but detailing a different conflict. The fight for the right to vote for women is at its height with the Suffragettes, led by the redoubtable Emmeline Pankhurst, prepared to do and risk anything to win. By chance, Lizzy meets Julia and Elsie and is drawn into the campaign. Linda Newbery has a wonderful ability to get under the skin of her characters and she demonstrates that here. This may be a short novel, but it is engrossing and compelling.

Colouring-in has become a hugely popular pastime for all ages. Colour Your Own Historical Maps (Pavilion, £9.99) is published in association with the British Library and contains 22 maps from its cartographic collection. The sheets are complex and intricate and the colouring is not for the faint-hearted. But they are also fascinating and full of details about the world as it was in earlier times.

With no time to consult the books in the library, prepare a plan or collect provisions, Princess Anya is forced to start off on a dangerous, perhaps deadly, quest with only Ardent, one of the royal dogs, for company. As their journey progresses, the nature of the quest develops and grows until finally Anya accepts that only she can prevent a takeover by a group of wicked sorcerers. Frogkisser! (Piccadilly, £10.99) is an exciting and entertaining modern twist on traditional fairytales by that master of storytelling Garth Nix.

In Welcome to Nowhere (Macmillan, £9.99) Elizabeth Laird tells Omar’s story. Omar is a 12-year-old from a fairly average Syrian family who hates school and has great dreams for the future. As the novel unfolds so does the civil war, and slowly life as Omar knows it begins to unravel.Laird is unsurpassed in her ability to personalise stories of global catastrophe, allowing her readers to empathise with, and therefore, understand the situations. Without ever going to extremes, she is both truthful and hopeful in her account of the struggles of Omar and his family. Based on her own experiences of working in Syrian refugee camps her novel is powerful, heartbreaking and compelling. n