The best children's books for the summer holidays

Knitting caterpillars, jam-loving aliens and culinary sleuths all feature in the pick of this summer’s books for children. Reviews by Emma Dunn and Hannah Sycamore

Tisha and the Blossom by Wendy Meddour
Tisha and the Blossom by Wendy Meddour

Ages 0-5: Pablo is an adorable little chick who is ready to hatch but doesn’t want to leave his shell just yet, so in Pablo by Rascal (Gecko Press, £8.99) he taps out small holes for his eyes, beak and legs so he can explore the world around him from the safety and comfort of home. Using a palette of mainly black and white, Rascal uses a sweet and simple story to explore themes of uncertainty and new experiences, with some subtle learning about shapes, direction and senses thrown in too.

Benjamin Zephaniah’s Nature Trail (Orchard Books, £12.99) is a poetic ode to nature and a beautiful book to treasure. Lyrical rhyming text takes the reader on a magical journey through a garden as the narrator spots all kinds of creatures in their natural habitat. With partying insects and caterpillars who like to knit, the cute illustrations by Nila Aye are perfect for the littlest readers, who will be drawn to the bright colours and friendly expressive characters.

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Is There Life on Your Nose? by Christian Borstlap (Prestel, £12.99) is a fascinating look at microbes and how they play a very important role in our existence. This brilliantly quirky book brings a lesser-known and potentially difficult topic to life in an accessible and thought-provoking way. Borstlap’s wry humour is evident throughout and his striking, graphic style makes each page feel like a mini work of art. Ideal for the curious reader, both young and old.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon James

In Tisha and the Blossom by Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egnéus (Oxford University Press, £6.99) Tisha is a little slice of calm in a very busy world. While everyone is telling her to hurry up, she just wants to stop and appreciate the sights and sounds around her. Egnéus’s vivid watercolours cleverly show Tisha’s perspective, from chaotic classroom life to floating tree blossoms, and the many things there are to take in when you are small. This charming story is a lovely reminder about how important it is to slow down take the time to share moments together. ED

Ages 6-9

Published in the UK for the first time, Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon James (Walker Books, £12.99) is a joy to read. Barnes’ words bounce off the page and ooze cool, and he perfectly captures the magic of a fresh haircut, and the self-esteem it confers. Alongside James’ powerful illustrations, this is a joyous book, perfect for sharing.

Also ideal for sharing is 24 Hours in the Stone Age by Lan Cook, illustrated by Laurent Kling (Usborne, £7.99). Step back 20,000 years and join Auri for a full day of Stone Age life. Told in a light hearted, tongue-in-cheek manner and with comic-book style illustrations, the facts and information are easy to absorb.

Pablo: not scared now

Written by Chrissie Sains and with captivating illustrations by Jenny Taylor, An Alien in the Jam Factory (Walker Books, £6.99) is a humorous and fun-filled read. McLays Jam is the best, thanks to the wondrous inventions of Scooter, but can he prevent these top-secret recipes from falling into the wrong hands?

Illustrated by Gill Smith, Maria’s Island by Victoria Hislop (Walker Books, £10.99) is a poignant and emotive historical fiction story, with messages of resilience and courage in the face of prejudice. Smith’s beautiful illustrations help ground the story on the Greek island of Spinalonga. Maria knows that people are sent to the island for leprosy, and as the story unfolds, we see how she and her family are tied to the island. A thought-provoking read, and a powerful story of hope and determination. HS

Ages 9-12

Bright and bold, Protest! How People Have Come Together to Change the World by Alice and Emily Haworth-Booth (Pavilion, £14.99) is filled with historical examples of non-violent activism and the stories of individuals and groups who have made a difference. The diversity of movements included is impressive, incorporating everything from the Abeokuta Women’s Revolt in Nigeria to the Solidarnosc Movement in Poland to the Stonewall Riots in New York. This is a book that will inspire and empower, showing readers that they too can peacefully take a stand and change the world for the better.

Children of the Quicksands by Efua Traoré (Chicken House, £7.99) is a magical and thrilling fantasy adventure. Simi is sent to spend the summer with her grandmother in a remote village in Nigeria. However, all is not as it seems and before long, she finds herself drawn to the forbidden lake. A stunning debut, Children of the Quicksands draws on Yoruba myths and legends, and will introduce readers to a wealth of Nigerian culture, traditions and experience.

In The Cookery Club Detectives by Ewa Jozefkowicz (Zephyr, £7.99) Erin and her team of culinary sleuths are trying to prevent the sale of their community centre and save the services it offers. Sensitively tackling themes of online bullying and food poverty, this is a heartfelt story about the importance of community and the power of food to connect people. With recipes dotted throughout the story, The Cookery Club Detectives is also perfect for encouraging children to get active in the kitchen.

For those looking for a sci-fi mystery, The Time-Thief by Patience Agbabi (Canongate, £6.99) is a must-read. The second book in The Leap Cycle series, it follows Elle as she travels back in time to retrieve the stolen Infinity-Glass. Filled with thrilling twists and turns, and with a relatable main character, this a spellbinding mystery that will keep readers gripped to the final page. HS

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