By Nicci, The Kids Books Curator
My top picks selected from both new and recently published children's chapter books.
How many of these have you read and enjoyed too? Any you hadn't come across before?
Scroll down for the reviews... or click the quick links to the each book:
The books are listed in alphabetical order (not in order of preference).
A Hero Like Me by Jen Reid and Angela Joy with illustrations by Leire Salaberria (Out 8.6.2023 | Frances Lincoln). For ages 5+
Can You Share, Little Whale? by Jonny Lambert (Out 8.6.2023 | Little Tiger Press ). For ages 3+
Ingenious Edie: Master Inventor of Tiny Town by Patrick Corrigan (Out 1.6.2023 | Flying Eye Books ). For ages 3+
Speak Up! by Nathan Byron with illustrations by Dapo Adeola (Out 25.5.2023 | Puffin). For ages 3+
The Wobblysaurus by Rachel Bright with illustrations by Chris Chatterton (Out 22.6.2023 | Hachette ). For ages 3+
Wild Wild Wood by Anna Kemp with illustrations by Natelle Quek (Out 8.6.2023 | Puffin). For ages 4+
by Jen Reid and Angela Joy
with illustrations by Leire Salaberria
For ages 3+
🌱This is a stunningly produced picture book that has been published two years on to honour the true events of 7th June 2020 that took place in Bristol, when the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston was toppled and thrown into the harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest following the murder of George Floyd in the USA.
🌱Co-authored by Jen Reid, a British BLM activist and educator born to Jamaican parents, who became part of this historical event when a statue of Reid by Marc Quinn entitled ‘A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020’ was installed on the empty plinth without permission and then subsequently removed.
🌱A cross between a philosophical debate and a cautionary tale about choosing ones heroes wisely, this is an emotive and powerful picture book written with sagacity that ensures that it is a story that will be just as effective with a Year 2 class as a Year 6 class. Visually the story references George Floyd RIP, Jen Reid and the events at Bristol Harbour on 7th June 2020, however, the text itself is vastly applicable to any statue repreenting the oppression of Black people and in particular, within the scope of colonisation and Empire.
🌱The authors call into question why we create statues of people, and of the ones that exist currently - readers are encouraged to ask themselves whether these characters represent “Kindness, Courage, Justice, Peace”? The ‘More Information’ section at the end of the book is an age-appropriate account of the events that inspired ‘A Hero Like Me’. For parents, carers and teachers, the ensuing ‘Questions’ section challenges readers to think more deeply about statues of ‘heroes’, to encourage discussion and debate.
🌱‘A Hero Like Me’ is an of-our-time Black-British socio-cultural history book that belongs on our shelves, lest our UK-based Black Lives Matter events be become a distant or blurred memory to be forgotten over time.
(Little Tiger Press)
For ages 3+
🌱Under the vast ocean lives a pod of hump back whales. Little Whale isn’t best pleased when Mum says she can lead the pod one day only to find her friend Blue has beaten her to it. Sulking she returns to Mum. Then she tries to get a fish to to eat from a passing shoal, but a gannet dives into the water and snatches the fish in its beak in front of Little Whale’s eyes with the rebuff “I’m not sharing!”. Blue, older than Little Whale then shares some yummy seaweed with her and this gets Little Whale thinking about the joy of sharing. She heads off on a little adventure across the reef to find Mum with Blue. Sharing the love and attention of a parent with others can be hard for some children, particularly children without siblings.
🌱This is a simple, but sweet story about finding a sense of happiness in sharing. The artwork is particularly delightful.
(Flying Eye Books)
For ages 3+
🌱Small but mighty, Edie is a miniature little girl who lives in an up-cycled village with her creature friends. Inventing away, day after day, she finds little time for anything else! When a pesky magpie starts stealing from their community, and her attempts to catch him with her inventions fail again and again she realises that accepting help from friends is OK! Together they come up with a very cunning plan and the magpie learns his lesson for a happy ending.
🌱A wonderful picture book for preschoolers especially. Colourful and lots to look at within the illustrations. You never know, Edie and her friends might be living on a street corner near you!
by Nathan Byron, illustrated by Dapo Adeola
For ages 3+
🌱A kids picture book about making a difference, by two creators who have absolutely made a difference! The lead character of their best selling series, Rocket, has become a household name, a favourite character to dress up as for World Book Day, and an iconic voice for children when it comes to encouragement to read for pleasure. Very excited to have bagged myself a signed copy from my local Waterstones too! Rocket isn’t just your average kids books character either, she’s a walking talking font of knowledge and in this new title, she’s teaching adults and children alike all about books, inspirational figures from Black history, and libraries with her ‘DID YOU KNOW’ speech bubbles.
🌱Rocket looks forward to Fridays, because after school she heads there with big brother Jamal (jokes for days) and Mum to check out the new books that have landed in the library that week. Many children will be familiar with Rocket’s experience of her library with it’s child-centric spaces and author/illustrator events, but there are so many children who might not be familiar with what a library can offer them, and that’s why it’s so important for books like this to be in nurseries and schools so that children then go home and ask for a trip to their local library after school or at the weekend… and soooooo their reading journey continues on an upward trajectory!
🌱Back to the story...Disaster strikes! Rocket arrives at the library to find out that it is getting closed down! By speaking up at school, she manages to get the support of her classmates and teacher, then the parents help too. They all head to the library with their banners and signs to save their library (loving the characters dressing up as Rocket in her astronaut costume from 'Look Up!' for the protest). Inspiring people around the world by her campaign she manages to save the library!! She may not have changed the world yet, but she’s well on the way.
🌱This is an extremely loveable, relatable and inspirational children’s picture book series, and you’ll be pushed to find a bookshelf in a school or library in the UK that doesn’t have a copy of any or all of them. With ‘Look Up!’, ‘Clean Up!’ and now ‘Speak Up!’ I wonder what adventure Rocket gets up to next… Whatever it is, I can’t wait.
Also in this series:
'Look Up!' (Puffin, 2019)
'Rocket Rules - Ten Little Ways to Think Big! - World Book Day 2022' (World Book Day, 2022)
by Rachel Bright, illustrated by Chris Chatterton
For ages 3+
🌱It’s book 4 in the super cute DinoFeelings series by two of the UK's bestselling children’s books creators. I remember when The Worrysaurus first published. My young son and I used to read it again and again!! It was also a bestseller at the bookshop too. I’m so pleased to read yet another dino-cuteness overload of a story that helps children with for a first experience.
🌱Who taught you to ride a bike? Did you learn when you were a young child? I remember my father taking me to the park on my Raleigh Budgie and running along with me holding onto the back time and again until I was whizzing along thinking he was there only to turn around and fine he was back at the start. A lovely memory!
🌱For little Wobblysaurus, it was the day of the big bicycle race, and wouldn’t it be amazing if she could ride her bike too, maybe even win a medal or two! Practicing again and again she falls off, bumps about on the seat and just can’t get it right. Oh dear. It’s her Grannysaur to the rescue - woohoo… with her specs and spotty scarf, and handbag...so stylish an entrance!
🌱The rhyming text throughout is so catchy and you can almost feel the bumps and scrapes each time Wobblysaurus falls off… we’ve all been there! Her lovely Grannysaur manages to cheer her up. Gannysaur may be incredibly whizzy and marvellous at riding her bike now, but she was once like Wobblysaurus and she shows her the photos to prove it. It’s time to try, fail, try again, maybe fail again, then succeed and have a super amazing fun time riding her bicycle at the end of the story.
🌱Perfect for a youngster to receive along with a first bicycle or for a nervous cyclist. Also great for everyone who is already fantastic at riding a bike, because it’s always important to empathise with those future-cyclists who haven’t quite mastered it yet!
Check out the other books in the DinoFeelings series:
'The Worrysaurus' (Hachette, 2020)
'The Hugasaurus' (Hachette, 2021)
'The Stompysaurus' (Hachette, 2022)
by Anna Kemp, illustrated by Natelle Quek
For ages 4+
🌱Anna Kemp is a household name when it comes to much-loved children’s picture books… I only have to mention a couple of her previous bestsellers like ‘Dogs Don’t Do Ballet’ illustrated by Sara Ogilvie (Simon & Schuster, 2010) or ‘The Worst Princess’ illustrated by Sara Ogilvie (Simon & Schuster, 2012) for you to know what I’m talking about! Natelle Quek is a stellar children’s illustrator who has been creating the most incredible artwork for children’s picture books and middle grades for books by Kelly Yang and Maisie Chan in the USA, and, Mark Sperring and Annemarie Anang in the UK, and more. Anna Kemp and Natelle Quek were first paired together for the very popular ‘The Little Mermaid: A magical reimagining…’ (Puffin, 2021) inspired by Quek’s Chinese-Malaysian heritage.
🌱Standing proud on the super tactile, lively and engaging front cover, is a very triumphant looking mole. Mole is in the middle of the woods holding a protest banner high above his head surrounded by fellow woodland friends also holding up their banners… one with a digger crossed out, one with lots of trees in a row. This looks straight away like a success story. A story told through captivating rhyming text that gathers pace as the drama builds!
🌱One morning Mole wakes to discover that the forest has been sold to developers and in his wisdom he decides to write to the real estate developer, a Mr Barry Bristlethwaite, to ask him kindly to leave their home alone. With money more valuable to the developer than a mole and his creature friends, let alone the forest itself, the attempt to stop the diggers is merely scoffed at.
🌱In order to save the forest and all the homes of his friends, Mole is going to have to find within himself a stronger and louder voice. When he finds his super powers, well… that small person in the distance running away from utter chaos and calamity caused by the forest? That’s the human losing to nature. What an exciting story, an absolute feast for the little grey cells!
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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.