Children’s books: the best reads for kids this autumn

Take young imaginations on an adventure this October break with an illustrated book, write Emma Dunn and Sarah Mallon

An illustration from The Runaway Pea
An illustration from The Runaway Pea

0-5 Years With Halloween just around the corner, what better way to celebrate with your little one than to cosy up with Where’s Mrs Witch? by Ingela P Arrhenius (Nosy Crow, £6.99). Little hands will love the soft felt flaps which reveal a friendly Halloween character underneath, and Arrhenius’s artwork is as stylish as ever with an eye-catching autumnal palette.

The Runaway Pea by Kjartan Poskitt and Alex Willmore (Simon and Schuster £6.99) is a hilarious tale, with a fantastic bouncy rhyme that makes it a joy to read aloud. One evening at dinnertime, dreaming of greater things, a pea decides to make a run for it: “he pinged off the plate with incredible force… then slipped and went splat in a puddle of sauce.” Willmore’s expressive illustrations perfectly capture the vegetable mayhem as the little pea bounces around the kitchen, and the story ends with a lovely environmental message.

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The writer of They All Saw a Cat, Brendan Wenzel brings us another visual treat in A Stone Sat Still (Chronicle Books, £12.99), which challenges how we perceive everyday things. With something as simple as a stone, he explores the passage of time in this poetic and moving tribute to the complexities of nature. For a moose, the stone is tiny pebble, for a bug it is a giant hill to climb  – nothing is any one thing and Wenzel celebrates the ordinary with an extraordinary journey that is full of hope.

Almost wordless, Cornelia and the Jungle Machine by Nora Brech (Gecko Press, £11.99) takes you on a surreal journey from the confines of an ominous new house to the wilds of a forest and all the secrets it hides. Drawn with the most fantastic perspectives, from the spooky depths of Addams-family style house to the dizzying heights of the tall trees, each page has something to find. This is a brilliant book that is full of magic and imagination - and creepy enough for Halloween. Emma Dunn

5-8 Years Katherine Woodfine takes inspiration from the life of Sophia Blanchard, the first female hot-air balloonist, in her charming new release, Sophie Takes to the Sky (Barrington Stoke, £6.99). Sophie is presented as a timid little girl whose extensive list of fears are difficult to overcome, until her dream of flying helps her to challenge them. The story is simple and heart-warming, with beautiful illustrations by Briony May Smith, and young readers are sure to be empowered by Sophie’s courage by the end.

When a polar bear asks Mark and Shark for some help with her ice cream business, they are quick to get involved, but before they know it they’re caught up in serious ice cream rivalry and trying to get to the bottom of a mystery, too. In Mark and Shark: Detectiving and Stuff (Oxford University Press, £6.99), kids are in for a hilarious read, with both author John Dougherty and illustrator Katie Abey packing loads of silly humour into the words and pictures to keep them entertained.

Hope (Words & Pictures, £11.99) by Corinne Averiss and Sébastien Pelon is a beautifully illustrated picture book that can help children of all ages to find light in difficult times. Finn and his dog Comet are the best of friends, so when Comet doesn’t want to play together any more Finn knows something serious must be wrong. While Comet is at the vet, symbols of hope shine brightly from the pages amidst Finn’s worries and loneliness in this touching story.

Zanzibar has been an ordinary crow all of his life, but just once he would like to do something extraordinary, particularly something that could get him featured in the newspaper. This leads to his bizarre mission to lift a dromedary. In Zanzibar (Gecko Press, £6.99), author and illustrator Catharina Valckx and translator Antony Shugaar bring to life a quirky and lovable character whose attempts to get noticed are a bit ridiculous, but an absolute delight to read about. Sarah Mallon

9-12 Years Helen Peters tells the moving story of a young girl who flees Germany alone during the Holocaust in Anna at War (Nosy Crow, £6.99). Anna’s sense of culture shock and the prejudice she faces in Britain are sensitively told, but they’re not the whole story. As the danger of the war follows Anna to her new home and her courage is tested, Helen Peters balances adventure and intrigue with this emotional coming-of-age story.

Keen readers of the Beano can learn a host of skills to help them create their very own edition thanks to Beano: How to Make a Comic (Bonnier, £9.99). The team behind this activity book offer great step-by-step instructions on how to draw the famous characters, plan an exciting plot and create an eye-catching front cover, plus fun activities to help generate ideas. This is a highly recommended choice to help comic fans get creative.

Lori is an aspiring detective, but the closest she has come to a real case is tracking down her nan’s missing glasses – that is, until her best friend Max mysteriously disappears and her skills are put to the test. In her first book for children, author Catherine O’Flynn has smoothly combined camaraderie and classroom drama with real-life crime and challenging circumstances. Lori and Max (Firefly Press, £6.99) is a real page-turner, and a joy to read.

It’s difficult to sum up Katya Balen’s debut novel The Space We’re In (Bloomsbury, £10.99) in a way that does it justice. At its heart, it is the story of two brothers: Max, who has autism, and Frank, who is the narrator. As the family prepares for Max to start school for the first time, it becomes clear that this will bring huge challenges. Children and adults alike will experience moments of both sadness and joy within these pages, which are filled with Balen’s honest storytelling and bold illustrations from Laura Carlin. A story that will stay with you. Sarah Mallon