Joe has been invited to a party but he has lost the invitation with the address. He walks down the road with his mum, looking for the right house, all the while wondering aloud if he even wants to get there.
What If…? really struck a chord with me, as one of those kids whose first reaction to something ‘fun’ was invariably one of anxiety. Anthony Browne is such a master in his surreal rendering of familiar things, and the scale of his illustrations reflect the disproportionate worry that can affect children experiencing something unknown.
What If?…, by Anthony Browne, published by Picture Corgi, is available now.
I love everything about these glorious board books. The diversity, the humour, the art, their feminist manifesto. Seriously, what’s not to love?!
It’s never too early to teach your little ones about equality and they’re also a breath of fresh air for parents besieged with gendered ideas around parenthood, including the clothes and toys (and books) you buy for your baby or toddler.
Feminist Baby and Feminist Baby: He’s a Feminist Too!, by Loryn Brantz, published by Disney Press, available now.
From Elys Dolan, the creator of brilliant picture books such as Weasels, comes a very funny new fiction series for young readers.
Dave is no good at being a dragon. He doesn’t like to eat villages or hoard gold and his knitting is terrible (the skills required to achieve full dragonhood). But Dave loves to read. Having failed his dragon test, he turns to his favourite book, Knighthood for Beginners. With the help of German wunder-goat Albrecht – trusty steed and life coach – can he become a knight despite the teeny, tiny problem that as a dragon, he is their sworn enemy?
Packed with madcap humour in both text and illustration, fun sight gags and a handy German glossary at the back (!), this is joyful storytelling perfect for reading aloud with the opportunity for lots of voices and fun accents!
If writing for this age group requires an endless supply of brilliant, barmy creativity then this series should run and run. Hurrah!
Knighthood for Beginners and Wizarding for Beginners, by Elys Dolan, published by Oxford University Press, are out now.
Picture book makers Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen go back to basics – the elemental shape of a story – in Triangle.
Triangle sets out one day to play a trick on his friend, Square. But does Square have a plan of his own?
Triangle is the first book in a trilogy so it does feel quite open-ended but like the best picture books you can look for your own answers (I personally don’t believe Square).
In a board casing with thick paper pages that feel saturated with Klassen’s colours the book has an iconic look and is a joy to handle.
Triangle, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, published by Walker, is out now.
This is a mopoke.
A small owl native to Australia, Philip Bunting’s imagined mopoke is a sardonic little character who’d like to be left alone, but unfortunately, no matter how high your branch, you can’t always get what you want.
Mopoke is an absolute hoot. In its earthy palette and visual humour it is Klassen-esque (a description I do not use lightly). It is perfectly paced for sharing with children of any age and as you turn the pages the inventive wordplay builds to a satisfying, crashing crescendo.
Mopoke, by Philip Bunting, published by Scholastic, is available in September.
From children’s treasuries to ornate gift editions of much-loved tales, Christmas is the time of the gorgeously illustrated hardback. Here are some original titles to mix with the old favourites.
The Fox and the Star – Waterstones’ Book of the Year no less – is a shining example of this genre. The debut work of books designer Coralie Bickford-Smith, this is a modern day fable about a fox that befriends a star in the sky, and how he copes when his friend disappears. The intricacy of the illustrations and the interplay of the spreads is exquisite. A treat for all ages.
Continuing the theme of unconventional friendships, The Imaginary is a fantastical story by A.F. Harrold about a young girl and her imaginary friend, Rudger. The real and imagined worlds they inhabit are fully realised and the storytelling is confident, madcap and affecting, but it’s the extraordinary illustrations by Emily Gravett that really pulled me in.
Following on from the success of stand-out non-fiction books such as Big Picture Press’ Maps, we have Martin Haake’s vibrant City Atlas. Children are invited to jump in and explore 30 cities through lavishly illustrated maps that pick out key landmarks, prominent citizens and lots of other fun details to search and find.
The Fox and the Star, by Coralie Bickford-Smith, published by Penguin, is available now.
The Imaginary, by A.F. Harrold, published by Bloomsbury, is available now.
City Atlas, by Martin Haake, published by Wide-Eyed Editions, is available now.
Benji Davies, award-winning author and illustrator of The Storm Whale, has created a vibrant and thoughtful tale about losing someone you love.
Syd goes to visit his grandad one day and finds him in the attic. They go through a magical door and from there they set sail for a tropical island. After an adventure exploring the island together, Syd is ready to go home, but Grandad decides to stay behind…
The depiction of the flora and fauna of the paradisiacal island is gloriously colourful and the fun, loving relationship between Syd and his grandad makes their parting genuinely emotional.
The story doesn’t deal with the subject of bereavement as overtly as some other books on this theme – two of my favourites are Oliver Jeffers’ The Heart and the Bottle and the stark, unsentimental Duck, Death and Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch – but it’s a heartfelt, gentle introduction to saying goodbye.
Grandad’s Island, by Benji Davies, published by Simon and Schuster, is available now.