How to Count to ONE by Caspar Salmon and Matt Hunt (Nosy Crow, £6.99)
A sly, interactive picture book that tries, with transparent duplicity, to trick its small readers into counting numbers higher than one. Bold colours, naive images and a strong, sustained shared joke make for a counting book with a delightful difference.
The Comet by Joe Todd-Stanton (Flying Eye, £12.99)
Nyla is sad when she and Dad move to the city, away from trees, stars and the sound of waves. When she sees a comet race across the sky, she feels a sense of home – but will Dad understand as she tries to trace its path? A luminously beautiful picture book, full of bittersweet farewell feelings, about learning to welcome the new.
A Dress With Pockets by Lily Murray and Jenny Løvlie (Pan Macmillan, £7.99)
In her quest for the perfect dress, Lucy needs one thing – pockets. But will she find the frock of her dreams in the Fabulous Fashion Store, with its sparkly, frilly, itchy, witchy wares? Playful rhyming dialogue and intricate, enticing pictures perfectly convey the need for children’s clothes with inbuilt freedom to explore.
Big Cats: A Day in the Life by Tyus D Williams and Chaaya Prabhat (Neon Squid, £7.99)
Ideal for 5+ fans of Owen Davey’s wildlife books, this fascinating documentary-style look at panthers, cheetahs, snow leopards and mountain lions strikes the ideal balance between gripping factual text and absorbing graphic illustration.
Gaia: Goddess of Earth by Imogen and Isabel Greenberg (Bloomsbury, £14.99)
For 6+ mythology fans, this story of the Greek goddess who created Earth – then watched, dismayed, as generations of gods ravaged it – is thrillingly told and illustrated in comic-style panels, with the three Fates commenting snarkily from the borders.
All to Play For by Eve Ainsworth, illustrated by Kirsti Beautyman (Barrington Stoke, £6.99)
Lewis’s dad died tragically young on the pitch, so it’s no wonder his mum is anti-football. But when Lewis is offered the chance to shine, how can he turn it down? A moving, engaging story for 7+ football fans, from a “super-readable” accessible publisher.
The Aquanaut by Dan Santat (Scholastic, £9.99)
A diving suit driven by sea creatures, a bereaved girl, an absent uncle and a failing theme park are the bizarre but brilliant ingredients of this funny, poignant, atmospheric graphic novel for 7 or 8+, from the Caldecott-winning author of The Adventures of Beekle.
I Got This by Cara Mailey and Chrissie Sains (Scholastic, £6.99)
Erin has achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, but there’s nothing small about her singing voice – or her dreams. When her favourite pop group runs a competition offering a chance to star in their new music video, Erin is determined to enter. But is her best friend and video director truly on side? Drawing on Mailey’s own experience, this bubbly tale for 8+ has a gutsy, appealing narrator.
Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by AF Steadman (Simon & Schuster, £12.99)
Skandar has always wanted to be a unicorn rider, bonded for life to a dangerous, glorious steed. But a terrifying revelation about Skandar’s magic, and the theft of the island’s most powerful unicorn, soon catapult him into an adventure even more perilous than his training. This satisfyingly fat and fast-paced novel revives well-worn tropes with compulsive readability – 9+ fantasy fans will be hooked on sight.
Ajay and the Mumbai Sun by Varsha Shah (Chicken House, £7.99)
Ajay lives in a railway station, but he’s determined to become a journalist – and when he finds an old printing press, he and his friends seize the chance to start their own paper. When the Mumbai Sun speaks truth to corrupt power, though, can it survive the fallout? Never glossing over the realities of life for Mumbai’s slum children, Shah’s compelling debut is an addictively lively and heartfelt story for 9+.
Say No to the Dress by Keren David (Barrington Stoke, £7.99)
Miri used to be confident in her body until puberty and Covid stole her self-belief. Now she’s grown in all directions and two of her siblings want her to be a bridesmaid. How can she dodge the frills, the fat-shaming – and the dreaded spotlight? A short, sweet, funny and warm-hearted story of self-discovery for 11+.
Truth Be Told by Sue Divin (Pan Macmillan, £7.99)
On a residential trip in County Down, Tara, daughter of a Catholic single mum, is shocked to meet Faith, the child of strict evangelical Protestants – and Tara’s exact double. Sifting the secret of their relationship will shake up all their certainties about who they are and where they belong, not to mention bringing their own secrets to light. Set in contemporary Northern Ireland, Divin’s second YA novel boasts all the power, humour and heartbreak of her Carnegie-shortlisted debut.
Blood to Poison by Mary Watson (Bloomsbury, £7.99)
In 17-year-old Savannah’s Cape Town family, one woman in every generation dies young. The curse started with Hella, their ancestor, an enslaved woman whose anger brought its magic to life. Now Savannah too is angry – with catcallers, her mother’s boyfriend, everyone – but death creeps closer with every outbreak of fury. Can she find the formula to help her break the curse? Or will the city’s grim veilwitches steal her power – and her life? A fierce battle cry of vindicated anger, set in a richly textured world of everyday magic.