Books

Children’s and teens roundup – the best new picture books and novels | Children and teenagers

Be Wild, Little One by Olivia Hope and Daniel Egnéus (Bloomsbury, £ 6.99)
This luminously beautiful picture book is filled with tender, thrilling exhortations to embrace wildness: diving into the deepest blue, swinging along with chimpanzees or wishing on every star.

The Boy Who Sailed the World by Julia Green and Alex Latimer (David Fickling, £ 6.99)
A little boy loves the sea so much that he builds a boat and sets sail in it, weathering sea currents and storms, making friends, and finally sailing home – before a new voyage beckons. Words and images are rich with wonder in this lovely picture book, based on the adventures of the author’s dauntless son.

Mouse’s Wood by Alice Melvin and William Snow (Thames & Hudson, £ 14.99)
With a brief, evocative verse for each month of the year, this inviting book is full of flaps that reveal the cozy, patchwork-quilted little homes hidden in Mouse’s Wood, where the trees are bright in spring and twilit bare in winter.

Mouse's Wood by Alice Melvin and William Snow
Mouse’s Wood by Alice Melvin and William Snow. Photograph: William Snow

What a Shell Can Tell by Helen Scales, illustrated by Sonia Pulido (Phaidon, £ 16.95)
Young shell-hunters of 6+ will adore this jewel-bright, fascinating work of nonfiction by a marine biologist and a seaside-dwelling artist. Learn what a shell’s color, texture and shape might mean; discover the cone snail’s toxic teeth or the clusterwink snail’s green light; and find out what shells can tell us about the past – and the future.

The Boy Who Grew a Tree by Polly Ho-Yen, illustrated by Sojung Kim-McCarthy (Knights Of, £ 5.99)
Timi’s Mum is having a baby, and Timi is unsettled by the change. When he discovers a tiny sapling growing in a closed-down library, he begins to tend it – but the tree grows so fast that Timi won’t be able to keep the secret for long. Simply and sweetly told, this deft little tale for 5+ packs a punch beyond its page count.

The Boy Who Grew a Tree by Polly Ho-Yen, illustrated by Sojung Kim-McCarthy
The Boy Who Grew a Tree by Polly Ho-Yen, illustrated by Sojung Kim-McCarthy.

Future Hero: Race to Fire Mountain by Remi Blackwood, illustrated by Alicia Robinson (Scholastic, £ 6.99)
Jarell loves to doodle a complex fantasy world – but when he discovers his imaginings are real, and that Ulfrika, the world of his ancestors, is in trouble, he is drawn headlong into danger. Can he accept his destiny and work with clever young warrior Kimisi to defeat the evil sorcerer Ikala? Fast-paced and accessible, this thrilling new series is perfect for 7+ readers with a taste for magical quests.

The Good Turn by Sharna Jackson (Puffin, £ 7.99)
When she learns about the first US scout troop for Black girls, 11-year-old Josephine is determined to set up a local equivalent. But when the “Copseys” try for their camping badge in the woods, strange lights in an abandoned factory alert them to a neighborhood mystery. For 9+ readers, this gripping, thoughtful update to the Blytonesque “secret society” genre engages squarely with racism and social injustice.

Wished by Lissa Evans (David Fickling, £ 12.99
Ed and Roo are appalled to be packed off for half term to their neighbor Miss Filey (and Atlee, her distressingly pungent cat), but everything changes when they discover a box of birthday candles in her cupboard. For the candles are wishing candles – although some of the wishes belong to someone else. Nuanced characterization, dry humor, sarcastic felines and far-ranging misadventure add up to an instantly engaging story for 9+, elegantly balanced between classic and contemporary.

Fake by Ele Fountain

Writes of Passage: Words to Read Before You Turn 13 by Nicolette Jones (Nosy Crow, £ 12.99)
A welcome antidote to stale “must-read” lists, this compendium of “words to read before you turn 13” by the Sunday Times children’s critic is warm, challenging, inclusive and exciting, rather than prescriptive. Featuring short, intriguing extracts from musicals, poems, speeches and books, Jones’s footnotes provide insights into context and invitations to discover more – both about the writers and the developing reader. A treat for bookish kids of 9+.

Fake by Ele Fountain (Pushkin £ 7.99)
In a near-future world where everything is obtained online, teenage Jess is off to school in “real life” for the first time. Many of her peers have trouble adapting to in-person education, but Jess has bigger problems: her sister’s life-saving medicine is becoming unaffordable. When she uses forbidden hacking skills to try to find a solution, though, she winds up mired in more trouble. A compelling and provocative novel for 10+, asking searching questions about our own online ways of living.

Rebel Skies

Rebel Skies by Ann Sei Lin (Walker, £ 7.99)
Kurara is a servant in the floating sky city Midori, until her knack of bringing paper to life wins her a place as a Crafter on board a sky ship. Here her reserved tutor teaches her to hunt shikigami, the wild paper spirits sought by the imperious Princess Tsukimi. But are shikigami merely mindless slaves – or do they have souls? A vividly imagined fantasy with an enticing Studio Ghibli feel for 12+ readers.

Needle by Patrice Lawrence (Barrington Stoke, £ 7.99)
Charlene loves two things, knitting and her little sister, and though she hasn’t seen Kandi in months, she has been working on a special gift. But when her foster mother’s grownup son destroys it, Charlene stabs his hand with a knitting needle and plunges herself deep into trouble. Can she apologize when her freedom is at stake, even though she’s not remotely sorry? A profoundly poignant YA story of an angry, hurt young teenager enmeshed in an inimical system, by an award-winning author.

Gay Club!  jacket

Only on the Weekends by Dean Atta (Hodder, £ 7.99)
Fifteen-year-old Mack can’t believe his luck when Karim, his long-term crush, reciprocates his interest. But Karim wants to keep their relationship quiet, and when Mack moves to Scotland for three months, his loyalties are tested by charismatic, sexy Finlay. This honey-sweet, warm and thoughtful verse novel by the author of The Black Flamingo plots the pitfalls of first loves and self-discovery.

Gay Club! by Simon James Green (Scholastic, £ 8.99)
Nerdy, ambitious Barney is a shoo-in for president of the LGBTQ + society – until his sneaky arch-rival opens voting up to the whole school. Cue ruthless political maneuvering, fake dating, dirty tricks and a host of romantic entanglements in a novel full of Green’s irresistibly comic drama and passion for LGBTQ + teen rights.

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