Animal stories

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For centuries, animal stories have worked a special kind of magic on young readers and there’s a whole menagerie of books out there just waiting to be snapped up.

The very youngest children are often drawn first to pictures and the bright, bold illustrations in We’re Not Sleepy by Joanne Partis (Oxford University Press, paperback, £5.99) are brilliantly eye-catching. Three little kittens go in search of sheep to count because they’re not sleepy but they can’t find a single one. Fun learning for children aged two plus.

Kitty Wells’ lively Pocket Cats books are also sure to cast a spell. In Forever Friends (David Fickling Books, paperback, £4.99), all three of Maddy’s tiny ceramic cats come to life and she finds herself facing a very difficult decision.

And Dr Dolittle isn’t the only one who can talk to animals! In Magic Molly: The Witch’s Kitten by Holly Webb (Scholastic, paperback, £4.99), vet’s daughter Molly Smith must help lost kitten Sparkle to find his way home even if that means going into the spooky wood and the scary witch’s cottage. A gentle and colourful introduction to reading for children aged five and over.

Animals can also be useful tools in teaching life lessons. Holly Webb’s warm and wise Mousemagic (Scholastic, paperback, £4.99), part of an Animal Magic series, combines an exciting adventure with advice on standing up to bullies. Little Lottie has a menagerie of magical pets and she’s never solved a problem without them.

And what about getting down on the farm and discovering all those different animal sounds? Usborne’s illustrated ‘noisy’ board book, Noisy Farm by Jessica Greenwell and Matt Durber (hardback, £12.99), has an attached sound panel ideal for inquisitive toddlers. Press on the different buttons and hear a crowing cockerel, lowing cows, bleating sheep, a neighing horse and many more. Learning has never been such fun!

And from the talented Linda Newbery, author of the popular Cat Tales stories, comes an exciting new animal series starring the lovable Barney the Boat Dog. In his first outing, Very Brave Dog (Usborne, paperback, £4.99), we find Barney on a narrowboat where he lives with his owner Jim. The canny canine loves cruising along canals and rivers, meeting new people and getting caught up in some exciting adventures. Irresistible and warm-hearted stories for young readers.

Find Chaffy by Jamie Smart (Scholastic, paperback, £5.99), an activity book full of amazing illustrations, provides hours of fun for children aged six and over who want a book with some added excitement. Ten fluffy white chaffies have wandered off into the big wide world and the quest is to spot them among crowds of scary ghosts, angry robots and stompy dinosaurs. A new challenge on every page.

Young hearts will melt when they join cuddly Boris the bear on another escapade with his menageries of friends. In Bravo, Boris! by Carrie Weston and Tim Warnes (Oxford University Press, hardback, £10.99), our hero is on a camping trip and comes to the rescue when things start to go wrong. Charming and lovable Boris is a sure fire winner for children aged two and over.