The second part of this year’s children’s titles preview provided some useful challenges. Where do we draw the line between the huge age-range a picture book could satisfy, with what we call chapter books and then the start of middle-grade fiction? Where are the dividing lines amongst ‘Children’s Younger Fiction’? In some ways we’d rather not draw those lines. In the shop we have picture book, junior fiction, teen and YA sections that all end up having complex relations with each other, plus an array of other spaces… children’s classics (an open question as much as an evergreen area), non-fiction and a number of shelves to pick out recent highlights across all categories.

We know that children need to be excited about what they are reading and that there are many reasons for that excitement which are not tied to age. However, for the purposes of this preview I’ve drawn some shoddy lines…  

Junior readings – chapter books, a few additional picture books and young non-fiction…

Aged 5-7

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February

Swapna Haddow and illustrated by Alison Friend, Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise (Stripes Publishing)
Part of a new series of titles aimed at emerging readers, this animal story is written by Swapna Haddow, author of the extremely funny Dave Pigeon series, and features adorable rabbity artwork from Alison Friend.

 

March

Francesca Simon and illustrated by Tony Ross, Horrid Henry: Up, Up and Away (Orion Children’s Books)
Some new Horrid Henry stories will brighten up the Spring for junior readers. Horrid Henry still has a huge appeal with youngsters who inhabit our children’s section so this is one for us.

David Walser and illustrated by Jan Pieńkowski, The Odyssey (Puffin)
Distinctive visual style and storytelling applied to Homer’s classic, as the partnership of Walser and Pieńkowski turns out another fascinating work.

Owen Davey, Fanatical About Frogs (Flying Eye)
All the amphibian facts you could possibly want in this ribbit-ing fifth book in the series. Detailed research and brilliant, appealing design.

Jen Green and illustrated by Claire McElfatrick, The Magic and Mystery of Trees (DK).
Another title hinted at on the extraordinary day I had at DK HQ last year…  a collaboration with the Royal Horticultural Society, this reflects and digests all the wonderful new insights into the importance of trees and their habitats. Global in its outlook and with reliable educational input, another great book to look forward to!

 

April

Clair Rossiter, KEW: Growing Things: A Sticker and Activity Book (Bloomsbury)
The relationship between Kew and Bloomsbury has been wonderful. The lift and look board books have been really quality items which children and grown ups alike have appreciated. This new sticker activity book expands some solid creative publishing…

Nikki Dyson, National Trust: Beetles, Butterflies and other Minibeasts (National Trust Sticker Spotter Books) (Nosy Crow)
… not unlike book four in the series that the National Trust have developed with Nosy Crow. Our bias is clearly outdoorsy but the mix of factual information, illustration and play that these books offer makes them great value. No cover to be found for this at present but the Hedgehogs… title above gives you an idea of the look.

Chris Butterworth and illustrated by Charlotte Voake, The Things That I LOVE about TREES (Walker)
The paperback edition of this stunning collaboration between Chris Butterworth and Charlotte Voake. Coming on the back of Charlotte’s Eden Project guides to flowers and trees which were so popular, the watercolour images in this book continue to snare readers. Chris’s writing delivers some stealth facts and encourages fun-filled observation.

Laura James and illustrated by Emily Cox, Fabio the World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective: Mystery on the Ostrich Express (Bloomsbury)
Flamingo Fabio and his associate Gilbert turn their detecting skills to the railway for their second adventure. Naturally Fabio’s bold, bright, clever first adventure was a favourite with younger readers last year, so I hope they spend their free time this year trying to work out what’s going on aboard the Ostrich Express…

Pip Jones and illustrated by Ella Okstad, Squishy McFluff: Tea with the Queen (Faber)
Book seven in the epic invisible cat saga. I know younger readers are addicted to this, as time spent at the bookshelf counting aloud which stories have been read already can attest to. I never saw the Queen getting involved though, so this will be a bit special. Ella Okstad’s illustrations are excellent as ever, and do so much for the projects she is involved with – see also Morag Hood’s Sophie Johnsonbooks.

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May

Bella Swift and illustrated by Artful Doodlers. The Llama Bridesmaid (Orchard Books)
Traditionally used as guardians of sheep, and here as a guardians of a whole farm, and their family dynamics. Sounding like a haywire Hallmark movie, will this be the start of further ‘llama drama’ to come? Also, if Bella Swift is a pseudonym… who is Bella Swift?

 

June

Katie Clapham and illustrated by Kirsti Beautyman, The Missing Bookshop (Stripes Publishing)
THE book we’re all waiting for in the North-West. Storytellers Inc’s Katie Clapham finds inspiration amongst the bookshelves to produce this magical sounding tale. We hope that this will lead to many meta storytimes in St. Anne’s, and also become a firm favourite of all our junior bibliophiles.

Isabel Otter and illustrated by Hannah Tolson, Turn and Learn: Weather (360 Degrees)
Publishing in time for the holidays, the younger visitors to the Lake District will probably have much cause and opportunity to discuss the weather. What better way to address that than with some fun, interactive learning?

Joan Aiken and illustrated by Quentin Blake, Arabel and Mortimer Stories (Puffin)
A snazzy reissue of the classic stories in a brand new puffin edition. ‘Nevermore!’

Aged 7+

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January

Samuel J. Halpin and illustrated by Hanna Peck , The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods (Usborne)
The story of Poppy Slub’s holiday visit to her eccentric Gran in a small northern town, known for clothmaking, called Suds. Besides the everyday life of Gran, with noisy miniature pig and crackling fire, there are more quirky rules. The sugar must be locked away for one thing, and this all has something to do with the peggs… but who are the peculiar peggs? Fantastic and funny in equal measure.

 

February

Gillian Cross, The Demon Headmaster: Mortal Danger (OUP)
The Demon Headmaster is still a scary man and he’s re-emerging in this, the eighth book in the series… as an aside, we’d love to know what oversight has failed to keep this villain reoffending (maybe a companion adult novel from an Ofsted mole?).

Gillian Cross and illustrated by Sarah Horne, The Ghost Tower (Barrington Stoke)
This looks delightful and is again such a tribute to a small press like Barrington Stoke that amazing authors are producing work for them. A neat more compact size book for all readers, they always come with the bonus accessibility features of unique font and page tinting.

Emma Carroll, When We Were Warriors (Faber)
We always keep an eye out for new Emma Carroll work, and this short story collection features some treats of its own with a return to the era of World War II, and a tale about an ‘animal rescue service’ promised. What half-term is made for.

Abie Longstaff and illustrated by James Brown, The Trapdoor Mysteries: Thief in the Night (Bk3) (Orion Childrens) [and The Lost Treasure (Bk4) out in June]
Follow-up tales in Abie Longstaff’s Trapdoor Mysteries series about ‘Tally, a code-breaking, animal-loving servant girl and her best friend, a squirrel named Squill, who solve mysteries with the help of a secret library.’ Everything about the series is winning.

 

March

Dave Shelton, Emily Lime: Librarian Detective: The Book Case (David Fickling)
A striking paperback re-positioning of Dave Shelton’s excellent librarian detective. The illustrations and creative storytelling really draw young readers in, and I’ve regularly heard enthusiasm for Dave’s books from junior customers in the bookshop.

Teddy Keen, The Lost Book of Adventure: from the notebooks of the Unknown Adventurer (Lincoln Children’s Books)
A standout book based on notebooks reportedly discovered by Teddy Keen in the Amazon. Designer and outdoor enthusiast Teddy edited these alongside the Francis Lincoln children’s team to produce a colourful, accessible guide to camping, exploration and survival skills.

 

April

Gwyneth Rees and illustrated by Becka Moore, Super Cats (Bloomsbury)
Pitched to us as ‘imagine if your cat had super powers’… which is both a frightening and amazing idea. I can’t wait to see how this plays out. The cover certainly hints at some pretty different approaches to the super-powered life.

Lucy Owen and illustrated by Rebecca Harry, The Sea House (Firefly Press)
Firefly are producing some really interesting titles at the moment, and this sounds compelling. A girl who cries so much her house fills with seawater, but a magic flood with friends and enemies vying for her attention. The balance of emotional and fantastical seems perfectly pitched.

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May

Justin Davies and illustrated by Kim Geyer, Help! I Smell a Monster (Orchard Books).
A debut from Justin Davies with a plot involving sniffing out a missing monster. Can’t wait to see how Kim Geyer tackles this premise…

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June

A.L. Kennedy and illustrated by Gemma Correll, Uncle Shawn and Bill and the Not One Tiny Bit Lovey-Dovey Moon Adventure (Walker)
More llama cameos in this third book celebrating a Uncle Shawn and his best friend Badger Bill. No cover for this third adventure as yet, so instead enjoy the French edition where Badger Bill becomes Billy Blaireau.

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Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve, The Legend of Kevin Book 2?
Reeve and McIntyre’s inspired Legend of Kevin: A Roly-Poly Flying Pony Adventure (OUP Oxford) introduced us to a heroic pony with a biscuit-fixation, filling all kinds of reading niches that we didn’t know existed. Now we would love more, so we’re hoping that before the year’s end we’ll see those tiny pony wings in flight again. Even if we don’t, this is an elaborate excuse to reproduce here Sarah McIntyre’s illustration of Kevin greeting the new year from the Reeve and McIntyre Productions Facebook page.

End of part 2. To come in the concluding part 3… 9+ and YA