Children's books: the best reads for autumn

Emma Dunn and Sarah Mallon round up the best new books for children aged 0-12
Bears Love SquaresBears Love Squares
Bears Love Squares

0-5 Years

A bold exploration of the ocean, Zoom: Ocean Adventure by Susan Hayes and Sam Rennocks (What on Earth Books, £10.99) follows Noah as he journeys under the sea to find many splendid creatures of the deep. The bright colours of the underwater world pop, and the die-cut pages of this sturdy board book are great for little ones to get their hands on.

In Bears Love Squares (Caryl Hart and Edward Underwood, Bloomsbury, £11.99) no other shape will do for the titular hero: not rectangles (too long and thin) not triangles (too pointy), not even circles (too curvy). Racoon tries his best to persuade Bear that the other shapes are just as good, but with stubborn toddler-logic, Bear refuses to like any others. This hilarious story is a fantastic tale of friendship with some subtle learning thrown in, and the rhyming text and super-cute illustrations make it ideal to read aloud.

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In What Are Little Girls Made Of? by Jeanne Willis and Isabelle Follath (Nosy Crow, £9.99) did Georgie Porgie kiss the girl and make her cry? No, she made him cry for trying to kiss her in the first place. These are nursery rhymes as you have never heard them before – the magnificent Jeanne Willis has rewritten many of the old classics for our current times and this time the girls take charge: Little Miss Muffet makes friends with the spider, Jill mends Jack, and Little Bo-Peep rescues her sheep. Ingenious and empowering, these are a must-read for girls and boys.

It can be hard to make new friends sometimes, but in Tom Percival’s charming new book Meesha Makes Friends (Bloomsbury, £11.99) little Meesha discovers a lovely way to connect with others by sharing her skills for making things. Percival’s illustrations are stunning, and using different shades of grey and colour, he superbly captures Meesha’s emotions as she navigates the challenges of fitting in. Sensitively told, it is both beautiful and uplifting, and perfect for small children to voice their fears about new situations, and ways to overcome them. ED

6-9 Years

Following the success of the beautiful nature poetry anthology I am the Seed that Grew the Tree, anthologist Fiona Waters and illustrator Britta Teckentrup bring us the stunning collection Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! (Nosy Crow, £25) Choosing an animal poem for every day of the year is no mean feat, but the selection is sublime and varied, featuring poets from 22 different countries writing about a huge assortment of creatures. This is a book that families can revisit again and again for moments of laughter, connection and wonder.

For more animal action, join alligator special agents Mango and Brash as they go undercover to solve the mystery of a missing chef in InvestiGators (Macmillan, £9.99). This is the first in a new graphic novel series from seasoned comic creator John Patrick Green, and it’s a hilarious ride with great wordplay, bright illustrations and plenty of twists and turns – lots to keep young readers engaged. Keen illustrators will also enjoy Green’s bonus drawing tips to create their own InvestiGators.

The Wolf’s Secret (Orchard, £12.99) is an intriguing new fairy tale written by Myriam Dahman and Nicolas Digard, with illustrations by Júlia Sardà. In the middle of a forest, a beautiful singing voice casts a spell on the wolf, but when it vanishes his life isn’t the same, and he must find it again. With themes of friendship and the importance of challenging our first impressions woven into an atmospheric, richly illustrated story, this book definitely earns its place alongside well-known tales and fables.Many children dream of being superheroes, but maybe it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Meet Pizazz (Simon & Schuster, £6.99), the title character and reluctant superhero of this engaging story, written and illustrated by Sophy Henn. From wearing the same outfit every day to having really embarrassing powers, things aren’t always easy for Pizazz, but can she find her own way of being super? This is a fun read which celebrates the ordinary and extraordinary ways that we can change the world. SM

9-12 Years

As an alien hurtles towards Earth to begin his research mission in a human body, something goes wrong and he becomes… a cat. Chaos ensues as the cat, named Leonard by the kind human who takes him in, tries to get to grips with his new furry existence. My Life as a Cat (Nosy Crow, £6.99) by Carlie Sorosiak is by turns hilarious, moving and eye-opening, providing a thought-provoking impression of our world from a character on the outside looking in.

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It’s time for an epic adventure in Natasha Farrant’s new release, The Voyage of the Sparrowhawk (Faber, £7.99). Ben and Lotti are each alone in the world after the First World War but they dream of finding home and family rather than being stuck in boarding school or, even worse, an orphanage. Together they set off on a risky and exciting journey, dodging the authorities at every turn as they chase their dream. You will be cheering on the lovable, brave characters in this compelling story.October, October written by Katya Balen and illustrated by Angela Harding (Bloomsbury, £12.99) is a modern classic. It tells the story of October, who lives in the woods with her dad, away from modern technology, crowded cities and noise, until a serious accident changes everything. For children who have reconnected with nature or lived through big changes and the emotions that come with them during lockdown, this story is relevant, comforting and life-affirming.

For help understanding and coping with the worries and anxieties we’re all facing at the moment, children can turn to The Worry (Less) Book (Wren & Rook, £7.99) by Rachel Brian. Its comic book style and relatable examples make it an accessible introduction to the topic for young people who struggle with their worries, or want to support friends who do. This essential book combines key information with great tips and strategies to empower children when things feel overwhelming. SM

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