Children’s books roundup – the best recent picture books and novels | Books

Little Glow village Katie Sahota and Harry Woodgate (Owlet, £ 12.99)

Perfectly timed for the gathering darkness and the world’s many festivals of light, this glimmering, gorgeous picture book features gentle rhyming text, joyous gatherings and a shy candle flame who gradually realizes that a small, quiet glow can light an entire home.

You Can! by Alexandra Strick and Steve Antony (Otter-Barry, £ 12.99)

You Can!  by Alexandra Strick and illustrations by Steve Antony
Illustration: Steve Antony

Follow 14 children as they grow from babies to adults in this inclusive picture book affirming individual talents, needs and rights, the result of asking many different children what messages they would give their younger selves (“Explore new worlds… discover what brings you happiness… tell people what you feel ”). Antony’s humorous, dynamic illustrations delicately develop each child’s story from page to page.

I’m Sticking With You Too by Smriti Halls and Steve Small (Simon & Schuster, £ 12.99)

I'm Sticking With You Too by Smriti Halls and Steve Small 9781471193187.in04
Illustration: © 2021 Steve Small

In the delightful sequel to I’m Sticking With You, best pals Bear and Squirrel are annoyed by Chicken’s persistent attempts to break in on their perfect pairing. When a trap is laid for Chicken, however, Bear and Squirrel find themselves racing to the rescue in this wryly funny look at friendship dynamics and sharing.

Sticky McStickstick: The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Tony Ross (Walker, £ 12.99)
A powerful picture book for five-plus chronicling the much-loved author’s slow recovery from Covid, supported by the stick of the title. Balanced perfectly between the fear and pain of serious illness – brought out in the blue-white tints Ross gives Rosen’s haggard face – and straight-talking joy and humor as the patient’s (wobbly) mobility returns, it will resonate with any reader who has struggled with ill health, or seen a loved one struggling.

Sunday Funday by Katherine Halligan and Jesus Verona (Nosy Crow, £ 16.99)
For seven and up, a gloriously colorful compendium of 52 hands-on nature activities for every season, including egg decorating, growing a secret garden, creating a nature memory jar and making Splendid Soup and cinnamon french toast stars. Lively text and inviting images are infused with contagious enthusiasm and excitement.

Polly Pecorino: The Girl Who Rescues Animals by Emma Chichester Clark (Walker, £ 10.99)
Polly Pecorino can communicate with wildlife – and she’ll need all her skill and kindness when unscrupulous zookeepers steal a cub from the ferocious nearby bears. An adorable first foray into young fiction from the beloved author-illustrator of Plumdog and Blue Kangaroo, with endearing black-and-white illustrations throughout.

Sisters of the Lost Marsh by Lucy Strange

Sisters of the Lost Marsh by Lucy Strange (Chicken House, £ 7.99)
A gripping gothic novel for nine-plus, featuring six daughters and one curse. In a swampland settlement where books are banned, Willa and her sisters have had their fates mapped out for them since birth; each must play the part the curse allots her, or tragedy awaits. Then Grace vanishes just before her preordained wedding. Can Willa save her sister, and reshape her own destiny along the way? Eerie and atmospheric, this is perfect wintry reading.

Ghostcloud by Michael Mann (Hodder, £ 12.99)
Forced to shovel coal under Battersea Power Station, 12-year-old Luke longs only to win his ticket to freedom. Then he meets Alma, a ghost-girl with powers to shape the clouds – powers Luke seems to share. When Luke discovers the terrible truth about the power station’s output, he’s even more desperate to escape – but can Alma help him, and will his own strange, unique nature work in his favor? Fantasy fans will dive headlong into this imaginative, action-packed debut.

The Chime Seekers by Ross Montgomery (Walker, £ 7.99)
Yanni hates his bleak new home, Fallow Hall. He hates what’s happened to his family, and he hates his screaming new sister. But when a charismatic faerie steals the baby, Yanni embarks on a desperate quest to find her, with the help of his nerdy cousin Amy – and the reluctant changeling the faerie left in his sister’s place. Funny, terrifying, full of folkloric strangeness hiding in everyday corners, this sparkling homage to David Bowie’s Labyrinth is just as satisfying as last year’s The Midnight Guardians.

The Hideaway by Pam Smy (Pavilion, £ 14.99)
For readers of 11 or 12-plus, a deeply touching, highly illustrated story from the acclaimed author of Thornhill. Unable to bear his stepfather’s treatment of his mother, Billy runs away to hide in an overgrown cemetery – but when he meets an old man tending the headstones, he discovers there may be hope for him after all. Told both from Billy’s perspective and his mother’s, Smy’s poignant book conveys the small cruelties of domestic abuse and the abiding, ineffable power of love via restrained text and expressive black-and-white images.

The Song That Sings Us by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Jackie Morris (Firefly, £ 14.99)

The Song that Sings Us by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Jackie Morris image

On her mother’s orders, Harlon has always protected her twin siblings, Xeno and Ash, who possess the forbidden power of communicating with animals. When the ruthless Automators attack their home, however, the siblings are split up, and each is drawn separately into an epic fight to save the natural world. Who will sing the song to save us all? This is storytelling on the most poetic scale – strange, bloody, grand and unforgettable.

Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen (Penguin, £ 7.99)
Simidele is a Mami Wata, a mermaid who guides home the souls of those who die in the sea – until she finds a beautiful boy not yet dead, thrown overboard by slaves. Though it endangers herself and others to save him, Simi cannot let Kola die. Now she must make a dangerous journey to ask forgiveness of the Supreme Creator – and to safeguard the whole balance of existence. But what happens if a Mami Wata falls in love with a mortal boy? A compelling, moving YA fairytale, richly woven with west African mythology and vividly evoked color and warmth.

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