What a Day by Emma Ballantine and Mark Strepan, illustrated by Harriet Hobday, Frances Lincoln, £7.99
This gentle, colour-swirled picture book offers a “mindful moment for bedtime”, wandering dreamily through memories of a joyful day as it encourages small listeners to relax and drift off.
The Frog’s Kiss by James Mayhew and Toto, Scholastic, £7.99
Husbands Mayhew and Toto’s first picture book collaboration is a stylish, sweet retelling, where a lonely amphibian discovers it’s the prince, rather than the princesses, who makes his heart “skip a beat”.
My Bollywood Dream by Avani Dwivedi, Walker, £12.99
Bold, bright and imaginative, Dwivedi’s picture-book debut conjures the excitement of a Friday family trip to a Mumbai cinema: the smell of samosas, the hero and heroine falling in love (“Ew!”), and the “roaring energy” of the dance number that gets the audience on their feet, while a little girl dreams of some day making her own movies.
I Am, You Are by Ashley Harris Whaley, illustrated by Ananya Rao-Middleton, Ladybird, £12.99
This picture book for older (4+) readers is a straightforward, child-friendly look at disability and discrimination, dealing with visible and invisible disabilities, ableism and avoiding assumptions. With its clear layout, colourful pages and accessible text, it should be a mainstay in classroom libraries.
A Dinosaur at the Bus Stop by Kate Wakeling, illustrated by Eilidh Muldoon, Otter-Barry, £8.99
This collection for 5+ readers wanders addictively from the fastest poem in the world to a “sensible” fart poem, from the “pudding space” in your stomach to the treasures you hold before you sleep. Funny, sly, welcoming and filled with unassuming magic.
Michael the Amazing Mind-Reading Sausage Dog by Terrie Chilvers, illustrated by Tim Budgen, Firefly, £6.99
Stuffed with terrible puns, squeaky toys, fabulous waistcoats and pork chops, this blissfully silly story for 6+ stars a sausage dog with a rare talent and big dreams of making it in Hollywoof, despite his reluctant sidekick Stanley Big Dog and his envious nemesis, Susan the peanut-balancing labrador. A must for young canine enthusiasts with a taste for daft humour.
Mermaid Academy – Isla and Bubble by Julie Sykes and Linda Chapman, illustrated by Lucy Truman, Nosy Crow, £6.99
The start of a new series for 7+ features lively Isla, who’s wildly excited to start at Mermaid Academy, meet her new dolphin and dormitory mates, and win the school treasure hunt. But will Isla’s rule-breaking lead her new friends into danger? A magical underwater boarding-school adventure spiced with just the right amount of peril.
City of Stolen Magic by Nazneen Ahmed Pathak, Puffin, £7.99
In India during the 1850s the ruling Britishers are on a mission to stamp out ‘native’ magic like the kind used by Chompa’s beloved mother. Some, though, are eager to exploit it in secret – and when Chompa’s own powerful magic attracts unwanted attention, she finds herself making a dangerous journey overseas, desperate to save her mother and discover the extent of her gift. Exhilarating, thoughtful and rich in evocative detail, this wide-ranging debut for 9+ is easily one of the year’s best books for children.
Fablehouse by EL Norry, Bloomsbury, £7.99
Brave, rebellious Heather lives in a strange old mansion, filled with the “Brown Babies” left behind when their Black GI fathers were sent home after the second world war. But Fablehouse isn’t like other foster homes: there’s magic in the landscape around it. And when Heather and her friends meet the Arthurian knight Palamedes, he warns them of a dangerous world beneath their feet – and a fearsome incursion that threatens their beloved home in this thrilling, atmospheric fantasy for 9+ readers.
Stolen History: The Truth About the British Empire and How It Shaped Us by Sathnam Sanghera, Puffin, £8.99
The bestselling author of Empireland investigates the origins, relationships and long-lasting impact of the British empire for younger readers in this stimulating, straightforward and elegantly provocative history book. Perfectly pitched for nine and up, it invites children to ask awkward questions about where museum artefacts and ancestral fortunes may have been acquired.
Jodie by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Keith Robinson, Barrington Stoke, £7.99
Jodie didn’t want to go on the residential school trip to the wildlife centre, and she definitely doesn’t want to make friends there. But when she heads into the marshes by herself, and hears a dog whining in desperate fear, she realises she may not survive alone … A pared-down, compelling, deftly characterised ghost story for 10+ by the Costa-winning author of The Skylarks’ War.
Just Like Everyone Else by Sarah Hagger-Holt, Usborne, £7.99
Champion fell-runner Aidan is the eldest of five, the sole introvert in a loud, crowded house. He also thinks he might be gay, but doesn’t want anyone to know. When his mum agrees to act as surrogate for a gay couple, though, Aidan’s had enough. Can’t his family just be normal for once? And what if being around Justin and Atif somehow exposes him? Acutely observed, warm and down to earth, Aidan’s gradual journey from denial to self-acceptance is an absorbing read for 11+.
Bite Risk by SJ Wills, Simon & Schuster, £7.99
Sel’s small town is quiet and dull – except on full-moon nights, when the adults turn into starving wolves, forcing their children to lock them up and placate them with slabs of raw meat. The town’s precarious status quo is disrupted when the Turned begin escaping. A riotously absorbing horror-comedy for readers of 12 and up.
Sh!t Bag by Xena Knox, Hodder, £8.99
Freya was looking forward to the perfect post-GCSE summer: hockey camp in Portugal and beach time with her boyfriend. Then she was taken to hospital with ulcerative colitis. Now she’s got an ostomy bag and a horrible new nickname, and finds herself, newly single, at a Highlands camp for kids with bowel problems. Can anything about this summer be redeemed? Funny, direct, real-feeling and romantic, this superb YA debut conveys the reality of managing life with an ostomy.
Family of Liars by E Lockhart, Hot Key, £8.99
On Beechwood Island, where the affluent Sinclairs spend their summers, nothing is allowed to disrupt the idyllic glamour – armoured in privilege, they’ll weather bereavement, betrayal and bloodshed. Any 14+ fans of Lockhart’s We Were Liars will be delighted by this gripping prequel.