Puddle's Big Step by Amber Stewart and Layn Marlow (OUP, £10.99) is a beautiful book for spring with its fresh colours dominated by yellows and greens.
Puddle is looking forward to starting duckling school but, as his first day approaches, he begins to think that staying at home might be better. His feet drag on the way there but run home lightly at the end of the day as he discovers that the step is not too big after all. This delightful book is perfect for reading with children about to take a first step into the unknown.
If you're going to school, it can be hard to know what to wear. In Too Purply by Jean Reidy and Genevieve Leloup (Bloomsbury, 5.99) a little girl goes through her wardrobe, discarding clothes because they're too scratchy, too stripy, too strappy. Eventually she finds the ones that are just right. With its funny pictures and strong, bold colours this book is just right for small children choosing what they like to wear. And make sure you look out for the co-ordinating tortoise on each page!
Emily Gravett gives us more colour in Blue Chameleon (Macmillan, 10.99). Poor blue chameleon is lonely so he tries to look like things around him – a yellow banana, a brown boot, a stripy sock – until, at the end of the book he meets a colourful friend. This is another quirky book from Emily Gravett with clever and funny interplay between the words and pictures. It's a beautifully drawn, simple introduction to colour and shape sure to delight children and adults alike.
Another delightful book is Angelina and the Royal Wedding written by Katharine Holabird and illustrated by Helen Craig (Puffin, 6.99). This is the first new Angelina Ballerina story for five years and sees our heroine go to the Royal Palace of Mouseland to be a bridesmaid at the wedding of Princess Eliza. Angelina is very excited to be sharing the day with her friend Princess Sophie, but, when they get trapped in an old tower, only little Henry can save the day. This is a gentle happy story with charming pastel-coloured illustrations that will delight little girls.
Setting the scene for this selection is a First Atlas (OUP, 6.99). Concentrating mainly on the British Isles, it has bright colours and clear illustrations alongside descriptive themed maps. There are information boxes containing simple facts, as well as questions to which children can find the answers in the book. Altogether, this is a good introduction to the world and map skills.
The Isle of Struay somewhere off the west coast of Scotland is home to Katie Morag. In this re-issue of Katie Morag and the Dancing Class by Mairi Hedderwick (Red Fox, 5.99) the eponymous heroine is sent by her two grandmothers to learn ballet. But somehow Katie Morag is always late for the class until one day she is so late that she strays into the tap lessons. This appealing story with its charming and evocative illustrations is sure to delight a new generation of young readers.
Annie and Jack find themselves slightly further west in Voyage of the Vikings by Mary Pope Osborne (Red Fox, 3.99). In this story in the Magic Tree House series, the siblings must travel back in time to the Dark Ages in Ireland to rescue a story from a monastery. This proves simple enough but before they can get home they have to dodge a Viking attack. Full of snippets of historical fact, this easy story is an introduction to adventure for newly confident readers.
Back at home, Milo makes the amazing discovery that My Mum has X-Ray Vision (Scholastic, 10.99). Written by Angela McAllister and illustrated by Alex T Smith, this is a witty, bold and engaging book. Milo is sure that his mum must have superpowers; she always knows what he's up to. After discussing it with his friend Lola, Milo decides to set a test for his mum. Will she turn out to have x-ray vision? The simple, funny story is well balanced by the dynamic illustrations and the layout of both together makes this an inviting book.
From Ally Kennan comes Sparks (Scholastic, 6.99). Carla's Grandpa dies suddenly leaving his family devastated. Carla draws comfort from Valkyrie, the boat Grandpa had just finished building, and it is this boat that becomes the focal point of the story. As Carla, her brother and sister wonder what Grandpa would like to happen to it, a daring plan evolves in Carla's mind. Her mother is arranging a conventional funeral but the children start planning something altogether more adventurous. Ally Kennan is a wonderful storyteller and she draws the reader in to this novel with its excellent characterisation and bittersweet plot.
Lob by Linda Newbery with illustrations by Pam Smy (David Fickling Books, 10.99) is another story about the aftermath of a grandfather's death. Lucy has always loved visiting Grandpa Will and helping him in the garden. His stories of Lob have intrigued her and she is delighted when one day she catches sight of the little green man. But what will happen to Lob now that Grandpa Will is dead? And where will Lucy find another garden? Linda Newbery tells her story beautifully, evoking empathy and emotion without ever straying into sentimentality. And Pam Smy's pictures well depict the atmosphere of the developing plot.
Grim Gruesome, that Viking Villain, is back in Trolls' Treasure by Rosalind Kerven (Talking Stone, 5.99). In his latest story Grim Gruesome is terrifying the inhabitants of Orkney, tricking and bullying three children in order to capture some hidden treasure. Rosalind Kerven has described a very believable Orkney of a thousand years ago and created a strong cast in this fast-moving adventure. David Wyatt's maps and pictures enhance this enjoyable story.
Emily loves ice-skating and wishes that she was able to have lessons. One day while she is pretending to skate, she is whisked off to the magic Land of Ice and Winter. White Skate Wishes (Puffin, 4.99) is one four titles in Linda Chapman's new Skating School series that sees 15 girls chosen to compete for prizes and the chance to become Ice Princess. This simple story with its clear prose and illustrations by Nellie Ryan will enchant children starting to enjoy reading on their own.
If you know one thing about the Second World War in Norway it's probably the mission to blow up the heavy water plant in Telemark. In Mission Telemark (Walker Books, 7.99), Amanda Mitchison has used much of the actual history of this event to write a gripping thriller while creating her own story. Looking for an extra element of surprise, the Special Operations Executive selects four teenagers to carry out this daring raid. After training in Scotland, they are dropped into Norway in the grip of winter, there to battle the elements as well as the Nazis. Who (or what) will win? The plot is fast, the characters engaging and Richard Collingridge's illustrations and inserts are a brilliant addition.
Another teenager on a mission is Liam O'Connor in Time Riders by Alex Scarrow (Puffin, 6.99), plucked to safety from the Titanic to join a small group of survivors. They have all been saved for a purpose: to protect history. Somewhere in the future a successful time machine has been created. Now it is the responsibility of the time riders to prevent the unscrupulous and the curious from changing the past. This compelling and complex adventure sees the disparate group grapple with the 20th century. But at what cost to themselves?
There's more time travel in Beswitched by Kate Saunders (Scholastic, 5.99). Spoilt, self-absorbed Flora is sent to boarding school when her parents are forced to travel abroad. But something happens on the train journey and when she arrives it is not at the expensive comfortable school she expects but rather at St Winifred's in 1935. This is a classic school story, echoing the 1930s novels of Elinor Brent-Dyer and Dorita Fairlie Bruce, but with a contemporary twist. It's well written, balancing some strong emotional engagement with laugh-out-loud humour. And the ending, tying up the plot, is cleverly handled.
Travel of a metaphorical kind is the message of Michelle Obama: the making of a First Lady by Dawne Allette (Tamarind Books, 5.99). This short biography tells the story of Michelle Obama's life so far, from her ordinary family life in Chicago, through her academic success and growing sense of social responsibility to her current position of wife, mother and First Lady of the United States. The text is clear, informative and extremely readable, encouraging young readers to make the most of their opportunities. The book is enhanced by fact files on various subjects and photographs of Michelle through the years, making it an excellent introduction to her life.