By Nicci, The Kids Books Curator
My top picks selected from both new and recently published childrens chapter books (for ages 3 and 4+).
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 order (not in order of preference).
'Farah Loves Mangos'
by Sarthak Sinha
For ages 3+
🌱What an incredibly special hardback picture book this is! The cover is so tactile with the stunningly colourful artwork just drawing your eye into the story before you even open the book! I knew this was going to be a treat the moment it came on my radar in January!! Inside the cover are the must delicious illustrations of mangos. I had literally no idea that there are so many varieties. I think I have eaten only two of these in my lifetime, I need to get out more! Feeling the texture and weight of the pages gives the reader the absolutely sense of love that’s been poured into producing this children’s picture story book. Get yourself a copy and just be in the moment with me on this, for real.
🌱Little girl, Farah is such a cutie!! She’s just full of life, smiles and joy. Take a break from self help style children’s picture books for a moment (not to belittle the vital importance of them in the slightest by any means) and just immerse yourselves in the warm glow this tale emits. Grandpa and Farah are buds, that’s for sure, and together with dog Mali, they are enjoying being outside together celebrating everything their back yard has to offer - which includes a huge mango tree. Farah loves mangos so much she dreams of living in one, haha. This summer though, there aren’t any mangos on the tree! While Grandpa is busy with a project in the garden, Farah goes to great lengths to try to solve this problem. Until Grandpa helps her to see things through a different lens. What other joys might the mango tree offer instead?
🌱Delightful, fun, giggly, and uplifting. Lovely to discover a new highly gifted children’s creator too.
'Grandpa and the Kingfisher'
by Anna Wilson, illustrated by Sarah Massini
For ages 3+
🌱What a paring! Anna Wilson and Sarah Massini! Nice one, Nosy Crow! Firstly I’m a huge bird-watching fan and happen to live near a kingfisher family in one of our local harbours here on the Kent coast. They’re such a special bird - the sense of luck and excitement whenever you’re walking along a stream or river and you catch that sunlit glint of aquamarine blue flashing in the corner of your eye, and you know you’ve been in the presence of something rare and beautiful. They’re so iconic here in the UK.
🌱Grandpa and his grandchild (no gender is specified as in previous titles by Anna Wilson) love to be out on the river together. This is their special time together, building memories, breaking away from the world outside, being in nature. Observing the kingfisher family, Grandpa, through the author’s gentle and sensitive storytelling technique, teaches the young child about the cycle of life, birth, having children/chicks, and death - nature in its true essence.
🌱Readers will notice as they turn the pages how Grandpa becomes less able to cope with the heat of the summer sun, or is becoming more tired. Without a death event within the text or illustrations, there is a time lapse to the slightly older child then taking Grandpa’s hat and binoculars out onto the river alone to observe the new generation of kingfishers. It’s a beautiful moment. Massini’s frame-worthy illustrations are wistful and feature many incredibly technical reflection spreads, synonymous with peaceful and reflective state the reader feels upon coming to the end.
'Harriet The Strongest Girl in The World'
by Ben Lerwill, illustrated by Beatrice Blue
For ages 3+
🌱Er… hello! Ben Lerwill, this is an AWESOME story!! Beatrice Blue - you already know I LOVE your illustrations, and again, you’re absolutely on point as ALWAYS!! I absolutely LOVE this book. I’m raving. Yes. You know, readers, there are soooooo many picture books on the market for children to ‘help’ them to just be themselves, or to feel accepted, to find their place. There are incredible ones, and there are some downright horrendous ones… THIS ONE… it’s in it’s element.
🌱Blue’s graphic novel/animé style illustrations bring Harriet’s story for the reader in a larger-than-life way telling a familiar tale. A child has an unusual gift or trait, but is too afraid to be themselves and tries to keep it a secret. However, as what usually happens, trying to cover up who you truly are only results in your friends not knowing the real you, or being able to accept you and celebrate the differences. We all bring something unique to a relationship, job, community…
🌱Harriet is stumbling through life and rather unhappily, because she is just so STRONG!!! She might be physically strong, but her mental health is not. She has loving parents who obviously absolutely adore her, and she has a lovely diverse group of friends. A trip to the ‘Seriously Strong Touring Circus’ one day gives Harriet the hope she has been searching for… that there are others out there like her. Hans the Hairy, Betty Biceps, and Muscleman Max fill Harriet with so much joy. When disaster strikes during a highly complex double decker bus+baked beans+pianos weight lifting act… it’s now or never, Harriet selflessly jumps in the ring to save the day. Her secret’s out and it’s not so scary after all.
🌱Wonderfully imaginative and relatable.
'The Last Tiger'
by Becky Davies, illustrated by Jennie Poh
(Little Tiger Press)
For ages 3+
🌱As soon as you pick up this paperback, you’ll feel the touch of nature at your fingertips due to the woven cover finish and illustrator, Jennie Poh’s incredible artistic style.
🌱An unlikely friendship forms between a tiger and an orangutan when tiger, Aasha’s forest becomes devastated due to a huge flood. The first few spreads of the book are highly engaging with may examples of different types of birds, butterflies and animals happy and at home. At first the flood was quite fun, Aasha enjoyed swimming about and playing in the water…but soon enough the habitat was ruined and she eventually found herself alone, even her family were lost to her. After searching for them she comes across an area of human deforestation with dangerous diggers and chainsaws! How can she survive, alone, with nothing to eat? A fury flash of orange amongst some logs turns out to be a lost orangutan called Teman, and together they travel to find a new green and fertile home.
🌱Lovely storytelling, a great read out loud story too. Super for discussion at various points and for a wider discussion at the end around conservation and caring for our endangered wildlife.
'the Tree and the River'
by Aaron Becker
For ages 3+
🌱Many teachers, in particular, will be familiar with Aaron Becker’s picture books without words, especially the ‘Journey’ series. Becker is a Caldecott Honour Winner, and an absolute genius in my opinion. Exposing children to his books at the KS1 stage is hugely beneficial. Children’s are at so many different levels of confidence in their reading journey between the ages of 5-7 years old.
🌱Having a story with no text removes the pressure/shame/competitiveness that can sometimes be present in the classroom or library. The illustrations are highly intellectual and intuitive. You can pour over each spread for quite some time before you truly establish the big picture. It’s almost like a game of ‘how-to-avoid-jumping-to-conclusions’ or ‘what’s-really-going-on-here’. I love it. Feeds my brain nicely, thank you.
🌱In this latest work, we are looking at the symbiotic relationship between the continuity of nature, and, the rise and fall of a civilisation. How do a few settlers then come to be invaded and war takes the landscape to a picture of wreck and ruin with a visible reduction in the number of people having survived or stayed. Not only does the human civilisation ebb and flow, but with each progression as time moves forward so does technology, building materials, architecture, transportation, methods of producing power and weapons - none of which can ultimately survive the greatest power on the planet, the elements.
🌱Older children will absolutely enjoy a book like this, there is so much inferred, discussions between adults and children whether at home or at school will produce some fascinating discussions.
'Grand Old Oak and the Birthday Ball'
by Rachel Piercey, illustrated by Freya Hartas
(Magic Cat Publishing)
For ages 4+
🌱Ooo whee…. I love Freya Hartas’s illustrations. Her eye-catching style, filled with nature, colour, and extremely cute characters is highly nostalgic for me. I confess to be a Brambly Hedge addict as a child; and still am kinda to be totally honest… and I know I’m not alone… Isadora Moon creator Harriet Muncaster is with me on this one, and I DM’d the author of this wonderfully collectable and gifty ‘Brown Bear Wood’ series - poet, Rachel Piercey - and she also loves Brambly Hedge!!!!
🌱In a forest filled with woodland friends Bear and his friends ponder how old their great friend, Oak is. When they find out that Oak is 500 years old (!!) Bear decides to plan a big birthday ball to celebrate. Piercey’s delightful poems take the reader through the seasons as the friends’ plans get under way, creating invitations, delivering them, making presents and writing a play. Each spread is complimented by a search and find section, children can look for delightful images of bunnies painting pictures as gifts, or baby squirrels sorting reusables into piles after the party.
🌱Not only can this book be used as a bedtime story, but it is an activity book that can be revisited time and again. The last few pages of the book are filed with tree-life fun and facts, and, how to plan and prepare your very own sustainable nature-themed birthday party!! How adorable and ideal for creative activities at home or school.
🌱I would say this book is very good value for money considering the many ways it can be enjoyed and shared. Lovely birthday present idea!! It’s a keeper!!
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N.B. The tags below don't apply in entirety to each of the above books. The tags are grouped all together at the end of the post to enable readers to find relevant posts within the whole website, a bit like a search function.