Fire up the imagination this Spring with the pick of new books for younger readers, write Emma Dunn and Sarah Mallon
0-5 Years: It makes sense to build a wall to keep out an ogre, right? Especially one that lives in a book. As the little knight in The Wall in the Middle of the Book (Scallywag Press, £12.99) explains, the wall protects one side of book from the other, and it protects the knight from the ogre who might gobble him up. There’s just one problem – things on the knight’s side aren’t looking too good, and the wall is starting to feel more like a prison than a protector. In one of the most powerful picture books of the year so far, Jon Agee makes us question the perceived order of things in this smart, timely and playful tale.
Nibbles the mischievous book monster is back in Nibbles Numbers (Little Tiger, £7.99). Nibbling his way through each page, he eats number after number. Can anyone stop him? Nibbles Numbers is an excellent way to introduce counting, and children will love tracing their fingers over the textured holes as Nibbles chomps his way through the book.
A cautionary tale for young readers, #Goldilocks (Andersen Press, £11.99) is a rib-tickling retelling of the classic Three Bears story. From the fantastic duo Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross comes another brilliant book full of sharp wit and lively illustrations. Desperate for more “likes” on social media, Goldilocks ransacks the three bears’ house, breaks chairs and eats their porridge, all for her followers online. Cue some angry bears and a sorry Goldilocks, but will her reputation ever be the same? A fitting story for our digital age.
The Light in the Night by Marie Voight (Simon and Schuster, £12.99) is a sweet and heart-warming story about overcoming the fear of the dark and appreciating the joy of night-time. Betty loves the night, but her friend Cosmo isn’t convinced – and since he has come straight out of the pages of a book, Betty uses her imagination to take them on a magical adventure. - Emma Dunn
6-9 years: Take your child on an adventure around the world with The Usborne Book of Planet Earth (Usborne, £14.99), written by Megan Cullis and Matthew Oldham. Beginning in the enchanting Galapagos Islands, readers can take in the bright lights of New York City and explore the depths of the Pacific Ocean on this exciting journey, with vibrant illustrations from Stephanie Fizer Coleman. The perfect way to spark conversations about different places and ways of life.
In the futuristic world of A Moon Girl Stole My Friend (Andersen, £6.99), plenty of things are different – it’s totally normal to have robocats as pets, for example, and for stickers to walk around the room. However, some things never change, and Lyla’s experience will strike a chord with today’s readers as she struggles with friendships, fallouts and her embarrassing younger brother. Writer and illustrator Rebecca Patterson uses a sci-fi setting to breathe new life into school drama in this funny and touching story.
It’s the day of the Royal Cookie Contest, and someone has stolen the recipe for Koko Dodo’s Super-Secret Fudge Sauce – he can’t make his award-winning cookies without it! Thankfully an aspiring detective is on the case, although her daring plans are pretty risky… In Didi Dodo, Future Spy: A Recipe for Disaster (Amulet, £8.99) author and illustrator team Tom Angleberger and Jared Chapman get this new series off to a great start, with plenty of hilarity and action to enjoy.
Anna Atkins’ childhood was full of wonder as she learned about the world around her, from flowers and plants to numerous types of insect. Author Fiona Robinson captures and celebrates this instinctive curiosity for the natural world in her picture book biography, The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs (Abrams Books for Young Readers, £12.99). Young readers can follow Anna as she develops from artist to scientist and finally photographer, preserving her discoveries for generations to come. - Sarah Mallon
9-12 years: Struggling to make ends meet in London, the Pringle family theatre troupe are off to find fame and fortune somewhere new. Their brilliant plan didn’t account for a rival performer trying to win over their audience, however, or the suspicious Olio Sleevery’s attempts to ruin their show, but the family know that the show must go on, no matter what. The Steam Whistle Theatre Company (Walker, £6.99) by Vivian French is storytelling at its best, with adventure, lovable characters and a bit of Shakespeare thrown in for good measure – a classic in the making.
The Day I was Erased (Scholastic, £6.99) follows 11-year-old Maxwell, who has a talent for causing chaos. When everything seems to be going wrong, he wishes that he had never been born in the first place, but he never imagined that he would actually be erased from his own life. It’s up to him to put things right and reverse what’s happened, discovering all of the positive things he has brought to the world along the way. This is a sensitive and thought-provoking read from bestselling author Lisa Thompson.
When an envelope slips through Emily’s letterbox in the middle of the night, she has no idea of the dangerous and exciting quest which is about to unfold, one which will take her into a magical Victorian London which is frozen in time and under threat. In The Midnight Hour (Chicken House, £6.99), authors Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder have created a vivid world full of intriguing creatures and monsters, along with a story bursting with humour, suspense and mystery – a sensational read.
On the banks of the Jari River, illustrator Teddy Kean uncovered a treasure trove of sketchbooks and survival guides belonging to an unknown traveller, preserved in a metal container. He edited these together to create The Lost Book of Adventure (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, £20), the perfect guide for adventures close to home and further afield, with tips for tree house building and sleeping beneath the stars. This beautifully illustrated book is essential for any budding explorer. - Sarah Mallon