Children's books special: titles to delight younger readers

As the long summer holidays begin, Emma Dunn and Sarah Mallon have lots of suggestions to keep children of all ages turning the page

An illustration from My Big Book of Birds by Geraldo Valerio
An illustration from My Big Book of Birds by Geraldo Valerio

0-5 years: Loved by both adults and wee ones alike, the That’s Not My… series celebrates its 50th title this summer with That’s Not My Unicorn (Usborne, £6.99). This bright and durable board book catches the eye with its glittery cover, holographic edges and acres of touchy-feely fun crammed into ten short pages. Each spread features a friendly unicorn with a different tactile element for children to enjoy and a small white mouse for them to spot. Expect your copy to be well read and asked for again and again.

Is it possible for the all the creatures of the forest to live happily under one roof? In Everybody’s Welcome (Caterpillar Books, £11.99), written by Patricia Hegarty and illustrated by Greg Abbott, Little Mouse thinks so. With the help of his neighbours who have lost their homes for various reasons, Little Mouse sets about building his dream home, and each animal helps to make the dream a reality. With rhyming text and half-page flaps, this is a beautiful book for teaching children (and adults) about the joy of friendship and sharing. It reminds us all to embrace difference, and celebrates the power of working together to achieve great things.

Ally Bally Bee (Kelpies, £6.99) is a great book to read to toddlers and a lovely way to engage with the re-telling of this popular Scottish rhyme. The “lift the flap” element extends the story and the flaps are large enough for small hands. Kathryn Selbert’s sweet illustrations tell a story of their own and there’s lots to spot and talk about.

My Big Book of Birds (Wren and Rook, £12.99) is a beautiful non-fiction picture book. Each double page spread is devoted to one particular bird, many of which are native to the UK. Geraldo Valerio uses a collage style of artwork to produce vibrant and interesting illustrations, with just enough detail to make the birds instantly recognisable. Sparse use of text makes it an easy read, and this is a fantastic one to pique the curiosity of young readers. – ED

6-10 years: Good Dog McTavish (Barrington Stoke, £6.99) is a hilarious story about a special rescue dog who makes a difference in surprising ways. The Peachey family have been all over the place since Ma Peachy decided to quit as their mum to “find herself,” so the last thing they need is the responsibility of adopting a rescue dog. Nevertheless, the mischievous and wise McTavish is a dog with a plan and turns out to be exactly what the Peachey family need in this charming read from Meg Rosoff.

Pamela Butchart returns to chronicle the next adventure of Izzy and her friends in her new release, There’s a Werewolf in my Tent (Nosy Crow, £6.99). The class are thrilled to set off on a four-night camping trip which promises to be full of barbecues and campfires in the wilderness, but it’s not long before mysterious things start to happen. Butchart manages to bring humour to the mixture of fear and adventure that children often experience when spending a night away from home.


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When Tilly’s dad makes a real, working time machine, she knows where she wants to visit: her 6th birthday party when her mum was still alive. Her dad thinks it’s probably safest if he tries it out first, but when he gets stuck, it’s up to Tilly to follow him through time and save the day. Tilly and the Time Machine (Puffin, £6.99) is Adrian Edmondson’s first children’s book, and its careful balance of laugh-out-loud humour and touching moments makes it perfect for sharing and reading aloud.

In King Coo (David Fickling Books, £9.99), Ben stumbles upon an amazing forest kingdom hidden under his town, but unfortunately Monty, the school bully, finds out about it too. Monty and his gang are determined to tell the whole town about it, so it’s up to Ben and King Coo, the ruler of the forest, to stop them. Adam Stower’s storytelling and illustrations are fun and bold, bringing to life a hilarious adventure full of tunnels, traps and treehouses. - SM

9-12 years: In the beautiful town of Allora, Alberto the coffin maker lives alone until the appearance of a little boy called Tito, who seems to belong to no one. Tito is afraid of the people in town, but slowly comes to trust the quiet and kind Alberto, who keeps his presence a secret. As they share stories and hopes, Tito’s past starts to catch up with him. putting them both in danger. The Boy, the Bird & the Coffin Maker (Scholastic, £6.99) is an enchanting debut by Matilda Woods.

When Bert’s driving his bus, the last thing he expects is to find a tiny angel in his pocket – it almost gives him a heart attack. Angelino quickly becomes a part of his life, but when Bert sends him off to school, things don’t quite go to plan. Cheeky Angelino makes a real nuisance of himself and the strange new inspector is keeping a very close eye on him. David Almond is a skilled writer who balances humour and a touch of mystery in The Tale of Angelino Brown (Walker, £10.99).

Katherine Woodfine creates an intriguing locked room mystery for her gang of budding detectives to solve in The Sinclair’s Mysteries: The Painted Dragon (Egmont, £6.99). When a priceless painting owned by the King goes missing from the exhibition at Sinclair’s Department store, Lil and Sophie are immediately on the case, but this puts them in serious danger from ruthless villains. This historical whodunnit is full of suspense and will keep young readers guessing throughout.

The Island at the End of Everything (Chicken House, £6.99) is set on Culion Island in the Philippines, a place most people would not choose to visit, yet Ami is desperate not to leave. She was born in the Culion Leper Colony to a mother who has the disease. Now, the authorities insist, Ami and all of the other healthy children are to be deported to avoid further infection, to the horror of Culion’s community. Kiran Millwood Hargrave is an enchanting storyteller who brings glimpses of wonder and beauty to this troubling story, inspired by true events. - SM