By Nicci, The Kids Books Curator
My top picks selected from both new and recently published kids chapter books (for ages 5+ and 6+).
How many of these have you read and enjoyed too?
Any you hadn't come across before?
The books are listed in recommended reading age then alphabetical order (not in order of preference).
'Adventuremice: Otter Chaos’ by Philip Reeve, co-written + illustrated by Sarah McIntyre. Published by David Fickling Books. For ages 5+
🌱This kids books mega-awsome collaborative duo are back with a new series for young readers. McIntyre’s vivid and almost textural illustrations are the perfect compliment to the never-a-dull-moment plots by Reeve. Fans old and new are going to love these adorable and bold ‘Adventuremice’. Young mouse, Pedro leaves his home seeking adventure one day, yet it doesn’t all quite go to plan as he ends up needing to be rescued as he bobs about on the sea atop his suitcase! Thankfully help is at hand, he can’t believe it, he’s being rescued by seaplane, flown by… another mouse!?!! Once safe and sound, back at the pilot’s base, he discovers a crew of mouse rescuers, all experts in their own fields - skipper, pilot, engineer, and more. WOW! Can Pedro prove himself as a valuable member of the crew? Perhaps a grumpy otter, on the prowl for some mousey snacks might be the opportunity he needs. Of course, though, it doesn’t exactly go to plan!! With a happy ending, new beginnings and eco-conscious messages about our oceans, this is a gorgeous new series. Bravo! (Book 2 in the series ‘Adventuremice: Mermouse Mystery’ is out in June)
‘Bear and Bird: The Picnic and Other Stories’ by Jarvis. Published by Walker Books. For ages 5+
🌱This first edition is a hardback book with what I would describe as an earthy palette, calming and inviting with off white gloss-finished thicker pages, illustrations throughout and larger text, spaced wider apart for younger readers embarking on their first chapter book journeys, sumptuous end papers. Jarvis’s artwork is peacefully colourful and cuteness. Bear and Bird are unfussy, expressive, relatable and engaging. The book contains four short stories: ‘The Flower’, ‘The Picnic’, ‘The Painting’ and ‘The Blanket’. Each story demonstrates the ups and downs of Bear and Bird’s (best) friendship dynamic, featuring growth mindset themes of forgiveness, jealousy, kindness, and change. The first story in the book is ‘The Flower’. Bird accidentally falls into a flower! After a while, Bear wanders outside to find Bird ready for a new day’s adventure, but can’t find her. Then Bear hears something that sounds like crying coming from a rather large flower nearby. In rather comedic sketch style prose, the reader enjoys Bear’s attempts to cheer up a sad flower, and come to terms with the fact that a flower can talk! Unfortunately for Bear, he tries to cheer up the flower by telling stories about how ‘ SO silly’ his best friend Bird can be sometimes… well… you can guess the innocent flaw in his plan. So much fun!! I loved all the other stories too. Verdict? Great for reading out loud with lots of expression and fun dialogue - children will LOVE this in class and for bedtime stories. Can’t wait to read more ‘Bear and Bird’ feel-good stories. I feel like I’ve found treasure!!
‘Emerald and the Ocean Parade’ by Harriet Muncaster, illustrated by Mike Love based on Harriet Muncaster’s original artwork. Published by Oxford University Press. For ages 5+
🌱Yay! Emerald has her own series… it’s aqua ocean sparkly wonderful and the first solo story in this series doesn’t disappoint. Is there no end to this Isadora Moon empire???? I hope not, because whether it’s Mirabelle, Isadora, or Emerald, all the books are fantastic. What sets apart Emerald’s series from Isadora and Mirabelle, isn’t just the underwater nature of the adventures, but that the family is a blended family. Emerald lives with her mum and her new step-mer-dad, King Auster and his bubbly and excitable daughter, Delphina. Her dad is mentioned in the story, although not featured visually. It’ll be interesting to see whether future stories delve more into the experiences Emerald might have as the child of separated/divorced parents. Living at the palace is still very new for Emerald, she really doesn’t feel like she fits the ‘princess’ mould, and what’s more she really misses her friends. The ocean parade is coming up - an event Emerald usually attends with her friends, however this time she’s expected to ride in the dolphin-pulled carriage, and to wave a certain way at the onlooking crowds. Heading out to buy a special headdress for the occasion is all too much. Emerald has her identity and she want’s to be herself. Inspired by her octopus pet Inkibelle and with the help of her best friend Oceana, she finds a way to honour her new place in the royal family as the same time as feeling herself. A wonderful story with so much to take away from Emerald trying to cope with huge change in her life. Looking forward to the next story. Activities and fun after the story to keep young readers busy and inspired. (Book 2 in the series ‘Emerald and the Sea Sprites’ is out in August!!)
‘Isadora Moon and the New Girl’ by Harriet Muncaster. Published by Oxford University Press. For ages 5+
🌱Isadora Moon books are such comforting reads. Isadora may be a half-fairy, half-vampire, but she faces real world worries, learns how empathy for others, and experiences friendship ups and downs that children can relate to. Children of any age once they are at this reading level will enjoy them. In this new story, Isadora learns how to welcome and get to know a new girl in her class. Ava comes across as moody, unkind, withdrawn and secretive to her new classmates. Of course as an adult looking on, we can see how frightened Ava must be having moved to a new school, starting over again making friends, and not knowing if she’s going to be accepted for who she is. Isadora knows all about this and she had to contend with the reveal around her magical powers too! Isadora’s parents are very encouraging of her to invite Ava to a party for Pink Rabbit, but there never seems to be the right moment to give Ava her invite. On an evening flight with her vampire daddy, Isadora spies Ava and her parents in the park and realises they’ve more in common than she thought. A lovely story about new friendships. With a quiz and a craft activity after the end of the story, you certainly get your money’s worth. Love anything the very gifted author:illustrator Harriet Muncaster creates for children - everything is always so full of life and sparkle!!
‘Maggie Sparks and the School of Slime’ by Steve Smallman, illustrated by Esther Hernando. Published by Sweet Cherry. For ages 5+
🌱[Ad-Review Copy] I can’t believe we’re on book 4 already! Maggie and Arthur are a brilliant best friends duo in these stories. Maggie is a bit bull in a china shop, but she’s brave and fun - what’s more she has a magic wand! Arthur is the nervous type, with encyclopaedic knowledge, loyal and kind. Their school has to close due to subsidence, which of course is a complete disaster for Arthur…how ever will he learn enough to become an astronaut if he can’t go to school?!?! The bigger problem though, is that they have to go to a different school (thankfully together). Change isn’t easy at the best of times, but if your new school teacher is probably a vampire, and some of the girls in the class are making sure that they don’t feel welcome, perhaps a bit of magic might come in handy to save the day… BUT, a volcano experiment in science ends up erupting in never-ending green slime Eek!! School-based capers and giggles, fun especially for Year 3s I feel. (Book 5 in the series ‘Maggie Sparks and the Alien Invasion’ is next!!)
‘Secret Beast Club: The Unicorns of Silver Street’ by Robin Birch, illustrated by Jobe Anderson. Published by Puffin. For ages 6+
🌱[Ad-Review Copy] Inspired by the real life story of Pablo Fanque - the first Black circus owner…I’ve been really looking forward to finding out whether I’d enjoy this new series after the cover reveal last year!! And I wholeheartedly love it!! The awesome children’s fiction production machine - Storymix - are behind this series for Puffin and I just love seeing Storymix plugging gaps in inclusive children’s literature for all age groups and underrepresented groups. Go Storymix!! Aisha loves to spend time on her tablet, and Jayden might be bookish, but together, these life-long buddies have forgotten what it is to be outdoors, in nature, experiencing the fresh air beyond their Hackney apartment block. They spot a mysterious canal boat called ‘The Narrow Escape’ outside one day with pictures of unicorns and a message on the side that peaks their interest ‘The Secret Beast Club: Guardians of Wild Magic’! Reluctantly investigating it with encouragement from their mums, they find out that instead of it being rather a boring floating classroom… it’s actually the HQ for a magical beast protection team and what’s more it turns out that Aisha has the magical ability to see ‘Bewilder Bubbles’ - windows into the magical home world of unicorns and more!! With unicorns being hunted by a group of baddies, the children join the Club for a daring rescue of a baby unicorn. Contemporary fiction with otherworldly, nature-loving, and timeless magic - a winning formula and I love the format with Jayden’s sleuth-style checklists and Anderson’s plentiful illustrations. You’ll love this! (Book 2 in the series ‘Secret Beast Club: The Dragons of Emerald Yard’ is out in July)
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