Dig in for spring, a feel for words and amazing memoirs by various authors – children's book reviews -

Discover the fun and easy way to grow your own fruit and veg, share your emotions with some wise words, share adventures with a boy lost in time and enjoy machines, mysteries and mayhem with an intrepid boy-inventor in a selection of dazzling children’s books.
The No-Dig Children’s Gardening Book by Charles Dowding and Kristyna LittenThe No-Dig Children’s Gardening Book by Charles Dowding and Kristyna Litten
The No-Dig Children’s Gardening Book by Charles Dowding and Kristyna Litten

Age 7 plus:

The No-Dig Children’s Gardening Book

Charles Dowding and Kristyna Litten

If you thought that growing your own fruit and veg meant lots of back-breaking digging, then innovative gardener Charles Dowding is here to weed out the fascinating facts about his amazing no-dig technique!

So put away those heavy spades and forks, forget digging and endless weeding and discover the perfect way to create an exciting and soil-friendly family garden whether you have a garden, a balcony or even just a window box.

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All these brilliant gardening projects have been collected together to inspire budding young gardeners and are based on Charles Dowding’s popular no-weed, no-dig technique... meaning less hassle for parents and more fun for kids.

Dowding, an organic grower since 1983, has built up a large and dedicated following on YouTube where he presents videos teaching practical skills. His weed-free methods are about growing more easily, in less time, by understanding and working with natural processes.

The simple and achievable gardening projects are perfect for parents and young children to do together. All are based on Dowding's trademark no-dig technique, which perfectly lends itself to gardening with little ones who can’t manage heavy digging and who will quickly grow bored with endless weeding.

Projects are broken down into easy, step-by-step processes, designed to be carried out by children, and the full-colour photography and fun illustrations are supplemented by factual spreads as well as extra little facts about plants and wildlife, and things to look out for when you’re outdoors.

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With detailed advice on how to create your own compost, a guide to planting and harvesting, a planting chart for year-round fruit and vegetables, photographs of Dowding’s own garden, and the richly detailed illustrations of Kristyna Litten, this is the perfect book to encourage children to watch their plants grow and then discover just how good they taste.

From pots on the windowsill to a dedicated small space, the whole family will be harvesting in no time at all!

(Welbeck Children's Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 6 plus:

My Heart is a Poem

Various authors and various illustrators

Everyone has feelings... but how do you express them? There is no right or wrong way to ‘feel,’ and just experiencing emotions and feelings is a cause for celebration.

So dip into this wonderful collection of poetry and, through the words of wise poets, explore the different variety and intensity of emotions which are all part of what makes us alive, and learn how different situations bring these emotions to the surface.

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My Heart is a Poem – written by a diverse selection of today’s most exciting voices and brought to life by the vivid and stirring artwork of an array of talented artists – is a book of powerful verse for everyone to enjoy.

Featuring powerful poetry from Mandy Coe, Laura Mucha, Nikki Grimes, Naomi Shihab, Nye Debjani Chatterjee, Coral Rumble, Kate Wakeling, John Agard, Karl Nova, James Carter, Valerie Bloom, Janet Wong, Joseph Coelho, Ken Nesbitt, Jack Prelutsky, Nikita Gill, Jay Hulme, Rachel Plummer, Ruth Awolola and Elaine Laron, and the awe-inspiring artwork of Annalise Barber, Mariana Roldan, Masha Manapov and Nabila Adani, these poems are the perfect start to a lifelong love of poetry.

From feelings of uncontainable excitement and giddy happiness to gentle calm and the ache of sadness, and from the electricity which surges from anger and pride to the feelings of toe-curling embarrassment, the poems in this anthology perfectly put into words all the different things we feel in our hearts.

With its rich, colourful and vibrant illustrations giving extra meaning to youngsters as they read the text and explore the visual representation of words on the page, the poems are tailor made to be read aloud or enjoyed while curled up in a quiet corner.

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A book to share and cherish... and an invaluable starter for a lifelong love of poetry.

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 7 plus:

The Lost Diary of Charlie Small Volumes 1 & 2: Gorilla City and Pirate Galleon

Nick Ward

Are you ready for the most incredible journey ever experienced? Let young imaginations take flight with Charlie Small, the boy who is 400 (at least!) years old, can’t stop having adventures... and would really like to go home!

Welcome to the wonderful world created by author and illustrator Nick Ward, the amazing setting for his alter-ego Charlie Small and his twelve action-packed volumes of unbelievable but completely true adventurous memoirs.

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These brilliant tales of inventions, monstrous creatures and evil villains have been republished by Guppy Books for a new generation and are dream reading for young adventurers who can lap up page after page of fun illustrations, maps, clever inventions and lots of wild and wacky exploits.

So meet Charlie Small who might be centuries old but has never grown up. It’s because when he was twelve years old, he fell through a gap in space and time and found himself catapulted into a series of adventures which he records in a diary format. Charlie’s first adventure takes him to Gorilla City where he is captured by gorillas and meets the mighty gorilla Thrak. Charlie will have to battle for survival but could he finally end up as king of the jungle? It seems no adventure is too big for Charlie Small but he’d really rather like to get home to his Mum who thinks he’s just out playing!

Reluctant readers will find so much to enjoy in these exciting, illustrated stories which serve up action aplenty, giggles galore, intriguing maps and illustrations, and a cast of unforgettable animal and human characters.

And also available now is Charlie’s second adventure, Pirate Galleon, which takes him on to a pirate ship as cabin boy for some fearsome and ferocious pirate women. Will they make him walk the plank or will their skeleton enemy be the worst of them all?

Adventure with a capital A!

(Guppy Books, paperback, £7.99 each)

Age 4 plus:

The Swing

Britta Teckentrup

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A swing on a hill overlooking the sea plays the starring role in an evocative meditation on childhood, growing older, friendship and loss from renowned German author and illustrator Britta Teckentrup.

Filled with visual and verbal beauty, and powerful thoughts on youth, age, change and life’s rich and timeless experiences, The Swing is a book that speaks powerfully and resonantly to readers both young and old.

From youthful days when children look out to sea, wait for something to change... for something new, something exciting but find that every day seems to be the same, to the discovery that as seasons change and years pass, things do change, this is a book that celebrates the whole cycle of life.

We watch as friends come and go, lovers meet and kiss, spring turns to autumn, and the swing grows creaky with age. And all of these changes are gorgeously portrayed by Teckentrup’s signature collage paintings that use soft, radiant colours and simple yet powerful compositions.

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With its equally enchanting text, readers of every age can experience time as a gentle but inescapable force, bringing about new emotions and experiences. And as the narrator grows older and wiser, readers themselves will understand that life’s most important memories can never disappear.

The perfect way to experience life’s swings and roundabouts...

(Prestel Publishing , hardback, £19.99)

Age 7 plus:

Rainbow Grey: Battle for the Skies

Laura Ellen Anderson

There’s a rainbow-coloured adventure full of wit, wonder and magic just waiting to be enjoyed in the third and final book of creative author and illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson’s sky-high series. These are thrilling adventures full of colour, fun and imagination as Anderson transports us into the world of Ray Grey and her adorable Cloud Cat Nim who live in the magical kingdom of Celestia in The Weatherlands, high up in the sky. After a forbidden trip to Earth on the back of Nim, Ray’s life changed forever. She is now Rainbow Grey and a Rainbow Weatherling with astounding weather power at her fingertips, and although she’s only ten years old, the future of the Kingdom of Celestria depends on her! In her farewell mission, Ray needs the help of her loyal friends Snowden Everfreeze and Dropletts Dewbells to figure out what her ultimate magical gift is and stop Tornadia Twist before she becomes the Storm Queen and destroys both the Weatherlands and Earth. With epic adventures, magic galore and everything at stake, the battle for the skies is on! Anderson, whose bestselling Amelia Fang books have enchanted young readers, delivers another rip-roaring, colour-infused tale of bravery, storm-filled action, kindness and warm-hearted friendships. A gallery of fun-filled illustrations add an extra layer of humour, charm and entertainment in a story that will delight young newly independent readers… come rain or shine!

(Farshore, paperback, £7.99)

Age 7 plus:

Ollie Spark and the Exploding Popcorn Mystery

Gillian Cross and Alan Snow

You’d better be on your mettle as an intrepid boy-inventor makes a speedy return for more machines, mysteries and mayhem! If you haven’t already met Ollie Spark – star of top team author Gillian Cross and illustrator Alan Snow’s thrilling adventure series – then buckle up now and enjoy the all-action ride. After the epic fun of first book, Ollie Spark and the Accidental Adventure, we join Ollie – who loves mending machines and solving mysteries – and his adorable best friend, Gasket the dog, on their most exciting outing yet. Their destination is a fancy food festival on a far-flung island where mysteries await, and in no time at all, Ollie’s encounter with a very suspicious Grand Duchess leads him on an undercover spying mission filled with daring and danger. Cross’s story is filled with fun, heartwarming kindness and a cast of larger-than-life characters whose antics celebrate friendship, bravery and just being yourself. Packed with award-winning author and Illustrator Snow’s brilliantly distinctive illustrations which bring all the action to life, and plot themes that cleverly encompass problem-solving and engineering in an engaging and accessible way, this is a series that entertains and educates in the most delightful way.

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Adventuremice: Otter Chaos

Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

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Youngsters are going to love these meeces to pieces! The dream team of author Philip Reeve and illustrator Sarah McIntyre pool their talents again for a simply delightful new early reader series which has all the fun of TV hit Paw Patrol, and the charm and whimsy of classics like The Wind in the Willows.

With its focus on fun, friendship and kindness, Adventuremice features a timid little mouse determined to be brave enough to join the heroic team who protect the Mouse Islands from danger but ends up being swept out to sea!

So meet Pedro. He’s tiny but while looking for a BIG adventure, finds himself floating on the ocean on the lid of his suitcase. Fortunately, Pedro is rescued by the Adventuremice... the courageous team who keep all the Mouse Islands safe from harm. Pedro’s dream is to show he is brave enough to join their ranks and he soon gets the chance to prove himself... when a big scary otter starts causing trouble in the waters nearby!

Reeve’s lively and fun-filled storytelling delivers all those ingredients that children love – immersive adventures, lovable heroes, exciting action and plenty of smiles – and all brought to vibrant, colourful life by McIntyre’s exquisitely characterful illustrations.

Destined to be a favourite with mouse lovers of every age!

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Press Start! Game On, Super Rabbit Boy!

Thomas Flintham

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When you’re too young to play video games (every day!) but are eager to get in on the action, have fun and games with Super Rabbit Boy... and enjoy taking on the world!

Get your own game on with Press Start! an action-packed and full-colour series of graphic novels, brilliantly illustrated by Thomas Flintham, and which put young readers in the hot seat. So meet Sunny... his favourite game is Super Rabbit Boy and he loves to pit his skills against King Viking who hates fun and happiness and, in Game On, first book in the series, wants to steal Singing Dog and bring sadness to Animal Town forever! Can Sunny help Super Rabbit Boy get to Level 6 and rescue Singing Dog and restore joy to Animal Town? Only if he defeats the Robot Army, dodges the Robo-Crabs and Lakes of Lava before battling King Viking himself! Has Sunny got the skills and Super Rabbit Boy eaten enough super magical carrots? You'll have to read and find out...

And in Super Rabbit Boy Powers Up!, King Viking is planning to build a Super Robot to destroy everything and Super Rabbit Boy must find the Super Power Up component before King Viking does. He has a map... and his bravery and skills. Can he break the evil wizard’s curse, defeat the gobbling goblins and solve the riddles he finds in the Cold, Cold Caves? Or will King Viking get there first and doom everything?

So what are you waiting for? Join Sunny as he and Super Rabbit Boy take on the world... one move at a time!

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £6.99 each)

Age 3 plus:

Cherry Moon

Zaro Weil and Junli Song

Little Poems Big Ideas Mindful of Nature

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‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever,’ wrote John Keats and that powerful sentiment speaks loudly to a stunning poetry collection from CLiPPA award-winning poet Zaro Weil. The joys of the natural world certainly spring to vibrant and colourful life in Cherry Moon, a book that buzzes with creativity and wonder, and has been spectacularly illustrated throughout by artist Junli Song. Weil’s evocative poems capture eye-popping moments, tender observations and a thousand whimsical reflections on the sheer joy of the natural world. Packed with thought-provoking, sensitive and delightfully original verse, Weil’s words pose big questions about life with poems and other small gatherings of words, encouraging children of every age to explore the power, enchantment and sheer wonderfulness of nature. Discover parades of beast-doodles, preposterous penguins, talking blossoms, playful birds, humble fleas and a host of other exotic and everyday creatures who jump off the page and into our hearts. With the vivid celebration of nature in its many forms – the wind, rain, sunshine, the world of animals, wading through puddles, listening to a nightingale, and even catching the moon – this is an accessible anthology of soaring imagination and dazzling beauty. Inspirational poetry for readers of every age!

(Welbeck Editions, paperback, £11.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Little Lost Kitten

Holly Webb and Abigail Hookham

Enjoy having your heartstrings well and truly tugged in a warm, tender and reassuring story from bestselling author Holly Webb who has written over 130 books for children. Starring an adorable stray kitten which brings together a family, and featuring the evocative, colour illustrations of Abigail Hookham, The Little Lost Kitten is the latest book in the super-readable Little Gems series which brings together leading authors and illustrators, and a host of clever design and finishing techniques, like dyslexia-friendly fonts, to create easy-to-read, first chapter books in a format ideal for little hands, and with some extra activity fun inside the cover. Lucy and her dad are still feeling sad about the death of their lovely cat Patch, who had been part of their family for such a long time. So when a little lost kitten turns up in their garden, Lucy doesn’t want to tell her dad in case it upsets him. But she grows to love the little kitten called Misty and he doesn’t seem to have a home, so Lucy is really upset when he disappears and finally she has to tell her dad the truth. Will her dad be able to help Lucy find the little kitten and can they offer him a new home? The perfect book for youngsters taking the first steps on the path to reading independence.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Let’s Stick Together

Smriti Halls and Steve Small

‘When you feel lost, I’ll come and find you. When you have worries, I’m right behind you.’ Everybody needs a cuddle-up book and what could be better than spending quality time with adorable friends forever Bear and Squirrel? Let’s Stick Together is the latest heartwarming adventure from the creative partnership that brought us bestselling picture books I’m Sticking With You and I’m Sticking With You Too. There are smiles and giggles all the way as imaginative author Smriti Halls and inventive illustrator Steve Small work their special magic on another joyful, humorous rhyming tale about how friends have the power to lift each other up. And this time, the lovable animal pals are ready to party! Squirrel is the expert at throwing parties and knows exactly what to do to make this the biggest and best ever, but Bear isn’t so sure and is feeling a bit shy. Can they find a way to work through their worries and wobbles... and stick together? Halls is on her best rhyming form for this inspirational and gentle story about showing how you’re never truly lost when you have a great friend by your side, while a heart-melting gallery of illustrations bring to life the adorable double act and all their shared humour, fun and antics. Perfect for your own little worriers!

(Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

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