Book reviews: The best children’s books for Easter

An illustration from Not Yet  Zebra
An illustration from Not Yet Zebra
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From simple and charming picture books to more complicated tales, Emma Dunn and Sarah Mallon uncover delightful books for younger readers to enjoy over the Easter break

0-5 Years

Playful and full of fun, Not Yet, Zebra by Lou Kuenzler and Julia Woolf (Faber & Faber, £6.99) is an alphabet book like no other. When Annie decides to paint her animal friends for each letter of the alphabet, Zebra doesn’t want to be last and thinks up many ingenious disguises to try and fool Annie into thinking he is a different animal. Woolf’s delightful illustrations thoroughly capture all the animals’ personalities, and Annie’s exasperated attempts to keep Zebra in check. Zebra is an adorable character, both cheeky and charming, and by the end you’ll be rooting for him.

I Love You, Stick Insect (Bloomsbury, £6.99) is a hilarious and quirky tale from Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, the author of I’m Going to Eat This Ant. When Stick Insect finds the love of his life he is quick to imagine their perfect life together and all the exciting things they will do, from ice skating to paragliding. However, things are not quite as they seem… With its clever plays on words, there is plenty for both adults and children alike.

Not Just a Book... (Anderson Press, £11.99) celebrates creativity and imagination by showing all the inventive things that can be done with a book – “it can keep a table steady, or prop up a floppy teddy” – while at the same time recognising the power of the written word. Tony Ross and Jeanne Willis are the ideal combination for any picture book: Willis’ rhyming text is spot on as usual, making it a joy to read aloud, and the illustrations perfectly fit the story.

Stylish and beautiful, Surprising Birds (Walker Books, £8.99) is one of a fantastic series of board books for babies and toddlers from Walker Studio. There is great use of black and white for wee ones who will love the high contrast, and each unusual bird has a different colour to discover under a flap. Look out for the peek-a-boo owl at the end. This is set to become a chewable favourite. ED

6-9 Years

In Alice Dent and the Incredible Germs (Chicken House, £6.99), catching a cold becomes a very dangerous thing indeed. When Alice starts to sniffle, she notices some more unusual symptoms like non-stop giggling and attracting all kinds of animals. However, the Best Minister for Everything Nicely Perfect wants children to be seen and not heard, so he’s out to stop Alice before happiness becomes an epidemic. Children and their families will catch the laughing bug in no time with this ridiculously inventive debut from Gwen Lowe.

In the laugh-out- loud Sam Wu is NOT Afraid of Ghosts (Egmont, £5.99), the school bully won’t let Scaredy-Cat Sam forget about his embarrassing moment at the Space Museum, so it’s down to Sam to prove how brave he really is. What follows is an adventure which is equally thrilling and hilarious as Sam and his friends Zoe and Bernard attempt to defeat the scariest creature of all – the Ghost King. Bold illustrations by Nathan Reed combine with a vibrant and realistic voice from authors Katie and Kevin Tsang.

Alexander McCall Smith charms young readers in his heart-warming new tale Hari and His Electric Feet (Barrington Stoke, £6.99). Hari loves to watch Bollywood films and has a natural talent for the routines, but he has no idea that the power of his feet goes far beyond that. As news of Hari’s dancing starts to spread, people try to take advantage of his talent, but Hari wants to use his dancing to bring people together instead. A bright and optimistic read with dynamic illustrations by Sam Usher.

Sam desperately wants a dog, but his parents have said no, and the head of the town council is on a mission to ban dogs. So when a dog called Oscar turns up at his house it’s not really the best timing. It will be a real challenge to keep Oscar a secret – particularly when Sam discovers that Oscar can talk. Alan MacDonald’s Ask Oscar (Egmont, £5.99) is an entertaining read celebrating the friendship between a dog and his boy, brought to life by Sarah Horne’s lively illustrations. SM

9-12 Years

The Dunbar Diamonds have been missing for decades, so most people in town have forgotten all about them. However, when Darius receives a strange and chilling note in the post, he and his friends are dragged into a hunt for the truth about his past, the death of his parents and the location of the elusive diamonds. Who Killed Darius Drake? (Usborne, £6.99) is a thrilling mystery story masterfully crafted by Rodman Philbrick, with plenty of cliffhangers and red herrings to keep readers guessing.

Abi Elphinstone draws readers into a magical frozen world in her new adventure, Sky Song (Simon & Schuster, £6.99). Years ago, the evil Ice Queen sowed division between the tribes of Erkenwald so that she could rule, and now she wants to strengthen her grasp on power using the voice of Eska, a young girl with a magical gift. Eska unites with Flint, a budding inventor, in an exciting quest to save their land at all costs in this celebration of courage, loyalty and the natural world,

In Tin (Chicken House, £6.99) by Pádraig Kenny, the world looks very similar to ours, except for the existence of mechanicals – child-sized robots who act as servants. Christopher has grown up around mechanicals, so he thinks he knows everything there is to know about them. However, when a terrible accident takes place, Christopher begins to question everything he believes to be true. This is an unsettling modern fairy tale which will make young readers think about themselves and technology a little differently.

AJ’s granddad was always the one who held the family together, so when he dies, AJ’s world begins to crumble. He’s just started secondary school and needs to make the cross country team to get one step closer to his dream of running in the Olympic Stadium, but he also needs to look after his parents who have learning difficulties. In Running on Empty (Nosy Crow, £6.99), SE Durrant gives the reader a glimpse into the fragile life of a family held together by hope and kindness. A beautifully written and moving book. SM