Children's books round-up: the best reads this autumn

From a brave young bat facing his fear of the light to an exploration of the unseen world of microbes, this autumn’s best books for kids cover some unusual territory. Reviews by Emma Dunn and Hannah Sycamore

When I See Red, by Britta Teckentrup

Ages 0-5 The Cat and the Rat and the Hat by Em Lynas and Matt Hunt (Nosy Crow, £6.99) is a tongue twisting triumph. When a sly cat wants to steal a rat’s big hat chaos ensues – then throw in a bat with a fancy cravat who also wants the hat, and the fun really starts. Fantastic rhymes, repetition and vibrant artwork combine to make this a standout picture book.

When I See Red is a beautiful and engaging book from the fabulous Britta Teckentrup (Prestel, £10.99). The little girl in the story is furious, and her anger tears through the book in a blazing, red-hot mist that whips up storms and churns the seas. Teckentrup’s illustrations brilliantly capture all these tumultuous emotions in gorgeous red and black, slowly making way for lighter, calmer tones as the rage passes. Feelings can be overwhelming but this important book will help little ones understand their emotions and the power they bring.

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The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess by Tom Gauld (Templar Publishing, £12.99) is a superb modern fairytale, full of twists, turns and mild peril. Both magically made out of wood, the robot and the princess serve as adopted children to the king and queen. When the log princess is accidently tossed out of the window one morning (having returned to log form when she sleeps) the little wooden robot sets off on a quest to get her back. Gauld’s deadpan humour shines through, and his distinctive style makes for a witty and charming story of sibling love.

Scaredy Bat

In Scaredy Bat by Jonathan Meres and Anders Frang (Little Door, £6.99) Little Bat doesn’t like the daytime because it’s full of strange sounds which stop him from sleeping. Determined to prove he isn’t scared of the light, he braves the daylight hours outside the cave – but he’ll need to watch out for the Bogey Bat... With delicately rhyming text, Little Bat swoops, whooshes and fizzes his way through a story which manages to be both funny and heart-warming. This brave bat will allay children’s bedtime fears, and show that even big bats can be scared sometimes. ED

Ages 6-8 Written by David Sundin and illustrated by Alexis Holmqvist, The Book that Did Not Want to be Read (Puffin, £12.99) took Sweden by storm in 2020 and has been translated into English by BJ Woodstein to be enjoyed by British readers. Perfect for fans of The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak, this entertaining picture book brings children and grown-ups together for a unique reading experience and demands to be read aloud.

For a heart-warming story of sisterly love, meanwhile, look no further than Ayisha Malik’s Seven Sisters (Little Tiger, £12.99). Beautifully illustrated by Erika Meza, this is a joyous story of living life as your truest self. Cleverly told, it is also a story about learning to work together, celebrating individual differences and learning to harness one another’s strengths. A book to treasure and ideal for sharing.

Another book perfect for reading together is Microbe Wars by Gill Arbuthnott and Marianna Madriz (Templar Books, £14.99). Exploring microbes – bacteria, viruses, protists and fungi – this is the story of how humans battle against microbes, but also how we utilise them for good. An important read for the current moment, this book shows that the unseen world around us is not always as terrifying might seem.

Seven Sisters, by Ayisha Malik

Martin Brown is best-known for illustrating the Horrible Histories series, but Nell and the Cave Bear (Templar Books,£6.99) is his first fiction story. Following the adventures of Nell and her pet bear, the books’s gentle humour will tickle any reader. With its core message of friendship and bravery, it is also a charming and comforting read. HS

Ages 9-12 Mega Robo Bros: Power Up by Neill Cameron (David Fickling Books, £8.99) is the perfect blend of superhero action and family drama. Set in a futuristic London, with flying tube trains and underground robot labs, the story follows Alex and Freddy – robot brothers adopted by regular parents. However, when sinister Robot 23 appears on the scene, things start to get dangerous... An unmissable read, this is jam-packed full of adventure, but a subtle humour will have readers young and old laughing out loud.

Illustrated by Elina Brasliņa, Cloud Soup by Kate Wakeling (The Emma Press, £8.99) is a delightful collection of poetry and the sequel to her CLiPPA Prize-winning debut Moon Juice. Uplifting and thought-provoking, poems such as “The Water in the Glass You are Holding Right Now” encourage us to think about the interconnectivity of the natural world, while the cleverly written “The Poem Says No” and “Weird Cake” should raise a smile.

The Amazing Edie Eckhart (Hodder Children’s Books, £6.99) is a stunning debut from comedian Rosie James. Entertaining and heartfelt, it follows Edie as she starts at secondary school, with all the trials and tribulations of friendship, first love and starring in a school play. Edie is a real and relatable character, flawed, fearless and funny, who just happens to have a disability. A hugely enjoyable read. HS

Nell and the Cave Bear by Martin Brown

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