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Not all great books come through big publishers. Check out some of our favourite indie books on the market.
A lovely story of courage. Dennis has moved house and is scared of going to sleep in his strange new room. Thankfully Mum is on hand to deliver a positive and soothing message about the strength that everyone has within themselves to face the things that worry them, the Lion in their heart. Through beautiful and bright illustrations by Anil Yap and simple but flowing text from R.C. Chizhov, ‘The Lion in your Heart’ touches not only on having the courage to face your fears but also to reach for the stars, sometimes literally, and follow your dreams. This is a lovely picture book, the text and the illustrations work brilliantly together. Dennis’ questions about all the times that his Lion might be with him offer an additional positive and motivational aspect to the novel as I’ve already mentioned, about having courage to achieve anything, as well as facing more immediate challenges, like spiders or sleeping in a strange new room. This would be a great picture book to read with young children, who will no doubt love the story and illustrations and may also want to talk about all the different times that their Lion is with them. A wholesome, and charming picture book. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Fantastical adventures abound in this spirited, richly-layered epic. If you were to judge this book by its beautiful cover, you may well expect an exciting, character-driven adventure with a classic flavour, and you’d be exactly right. Henry Chancellor’s epic (both in scope and size) Jack Joliffe Goes Forth tells the exhilarating tale of a 12-year-old girl (“Why am I called Jack? I don’t know. That is one of the many mysteries in my life”) who’s unexpectedly summoned to be a Royal Keeper at St James’s Palace. The novel is narrated in Jack’s jaunty, whimsical voice as she discovers the strange, secret world that exists beneath the palace. A world of fantastical creatures (dragons, fairies and jabberwocks), and a young prince who insists he doesn’t want to become king. A world in which Jack finds herself embroiled in palace intrigue and ancient magic. Though smartly paced and packed with action, at almost 600 pages, this is most likely to be enjoyed by more committed readers, with the glorious hardback format and characterful illustrations making it an ideal gift for 9+-year-olds who like to be well and truly absorbed by fantastical adventures set in richly-detailed worlds. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
What a delight! This book is appealing on so many levels. There's the rhyming storyline which is always nice to read to young listeners. The drawings that can be coloured in. The educational aspect of the life cycle of the bees - who knew there were so many species - which is interesting for all ages and a future reference point. Also, the idea of making a wild flower garden to put all that is in the book into practice. This is a wonderful book for youngsters to engage with nature and understand the importance of bees in our world. Definitely recommended. Maureen Gourlay, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
When two siblings explore their new home they begin an exciting fantasy adventure. We meet Nyree and Elias exploring woods near their new home and as they stumble upon a mysterious ruin. From here, ‘Summer Sorcery’ by Brandon Lim is a tale of magic and adventure with a cast of fae and other creatures. I found the pacing of this adventure story quite good. There's plenty for the reader to learn, alongside Nyree and Elias, about different types of magic but there’s new characters to meet, things to try and problems to solve that allows the plot to keep moving forward. I enjoyed the incorporation of traditional folklore and fairy-tale beings and I thought that the author managed to use them in order to create a story that is unique and entertaining. I also enjoyed the differences between the siblings, with Nyree being more methodical and cerebral, and Elias being more spontaneous and enthusiastic. I’m sure that readers will have their favourite character, that they can relate to most, but I think these differences between the siblings also share the message that there’s more than one way to solve a problem, or be successful. There’s a nice theme throughout celebrating differences, and teamwork to solve problems. I think that ‘Summer Sorcery’ is a great start to a wider adventure series that will have readers eager to learn more about the mysterious prophecy and what lies in store for the brother and sister.
Everyone loves a Christmas story and this really is a packed one! It tells the story of Jill and Edward who find themselves, a little like Hansel and Gretel, lost and heading to a cottage in the woods. This is where the story differs as Aphrodite, the lady of the house is a welcoming, kind and very colourful character. As the story unfolds more characters are introduced and the 'Grumps', the mischievous elves, are continually referred to. Whilst Jill absorbs the atmosphere, the snow and the Christmas jumpers, Edward remains an aloof little boy who does not like Christmas. The story is told through an advent calendar, where each date and door reveals a new character and a new adventure. As the characters appear, everyone from the Little Drummer boy and the elves to the abominable snowman, the adventure unfolds. This story is deceptive. On the surface it appears to be a typical Christmas story with all the traditional characters, but in fact, it is much deeper. The vocabulary is quite sophisticated and the characters and plot are complex. The descriptions are wonderfully vivid and in some cases, amusing. It is also quite a long story that needs a certain level of concentration and reading fluency. The true meaning of the story is not revealed until the last chapter, when all the seemingly unrelated storylines and characters come together in a wonderfully warm and magical ending. A true Christmas story. Rosie Watch, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Five siblings set out on a fantastical quest. Five, strong and smart orphan siblings are trusted to help Lucky, a strange, diamond being escape their miserable city of Lowdar and embark on a magical, fantasy quest. ‘The Lucky Diamond’ by Valinora Troy plunges the reader into a strange world, with great world-building, and transports us across foreign lands as the siblings and Lucky set out on their quest. The inhabitants of Lowdar know that to go beyond the town walls is certain death, but when the siblings must work together and do just that to help Lucky get home, sparkling adventures begin. The beginning of a new series this book reminded me of The Chronicles of Narnia. Each sibling is unique, has a strong character and their own ability, helped by the strange gifts left to them by their mother, to allow them to help in any given situation. I can see young middle grade readers picking their favourite characters out as they read. The story flows well, with lots of things to discover with every turn of the page, new characters (and monsters) to encounter, and evils to overcome. I think that this would be a hit for any middle grade readers who like magical quests and fantasy. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
‘Everybody Toots’ by Justine Avery follows in the same style as previous books in the series, ‘Everybody Pees’ and 'Everybody Poops’. There’s humorous details to spot on the cover which I’m sure will have young children giggling from the outset. As with the other books mentioned, ‘Everybody Toots’ is a great picture book for normalising bodily functions, and encouraging children to be more confident in their body and what it does. The light-hearted words take you through an extensive list of people and animals who all have one thing in common: they all toot. The illustrations by Naday Meldova are bright and colourful, with lots of amusing facial expressions and scenarios depicted. Another fun book that could help to start the conversation of why we toot with younger readers as well as a way to give confidence and reassurance when needed. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Created in order to help children create healthy lifelong habits, ‘My First Animal Moves’ by Darryl Edwards is a picture and activity book that encourages both parents and children to learn about animals through movement and play. The illustrations are bright and colorful, with funny quips from Lola the dog as Nathan learns the new actions in Animal Moves land. This is a great concept to encourage young people to establish healthy habits around exercise. There’s an enthusiasm throughout that I think could encourage young readers to get excited and try all of the different moves as their parents or a teacher reads to them. Filled with lots of basic movements that are well described, I think that most children would be able to carry out each animal move with little difficulty. Like a P.E obstacle course with no equipment necessary, and no specific order required, this could be a nice story to read followed by a “Simon Says”-style game, for a quick burst of exercise at home or at school. A great concept and interesting new way to get children moving.
‘The Pug and the Hen’ is a picture book by Diane K. Yorke that is filled with charming and bright illustrations. Hetty Hen is in training to lay eggs, but she’s bored and wants to “fly the coop” and have an adventure. So she and her friend Pug set off to explore, meeting a new character on their journey. A part of the ‘Puggy Tales’ series, this book is focused on friendship and adventure while sharing messages of kindness, gratitude, and tolerance. I loved the illustrations throughout and the slight twist in expectations at the end. In this fifth book in the series, Hetty Hen is definitely the main character, ‘The Pug and the Hen’ follows her dreams of freedom and adventure. I would have liked to know a little bit more about Pug, and perhaps hear from him a little more in this story, but I’m sure we'll learn more about him by reading the other books in the series. This is a charming story, with great images that I think will capture young readers’ attention. There are nice messages in here that are subtly delivered, and I’m sure both parent and child will have fun reading through this series together. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
‘You Will Always Be in My Heart’ by Arlene Nikita Mensah and beautifully Illustrated by Mauro Lirussi is a story about big life changes through a young person’s eyes. Cookie’s Mum and Dad get married and Cookie and her mum move from Trinidad to England so that they can all live as a family. This is the first of many changes for Cookie and each time she remains strong with the help of her faith. This book has a light hand while dealing with a lot of sensitive subjects, from moving to a new country to divorce and abuse. Throughout the emphasis is on keeping faith and hope, with quotes from the International Children’s Bible at the start of each chapter. I felt that this was a well structured and well-written book, with lovely illustrations. I think that this would be an interesting read for any child going through significant upheaval, but I would echo the advice in the Author’s Foreword and use this book as an opportunity to start a conversation with a parent or relative about what’s happening in the story and any feelings brought up by the narrative. A sensitive, autobiographical tale about change, loss and separation, told through the eyes of a young girl with the powerful message that no matter how you're separated from a loved one, they’ll always be in your heart.
‘Charlie’s Ark’ written by Mike Payne, Illustrated by Adam Prescott and Mike Payne is a collection of stories following the events and adventures Charlie has with the magical new ark he’s inherited from his grandmother. There’s 24 different stories, all written in rhyme and based at different times of the year, making this a brilliant book to come back to again and again. Each poetic story has a soothing rhyme that would make this a great selection of bedtime stories. The soft pastel colours and the shorter length of each story also help to make this a brilliant bedtime read either for younger children to listen to, or older and more confident readers to read for themselves. Beautiful illustrations and beautiful stories. I think that this book will really appeal to young children. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
How could you not want to read a story about a black dog with an emissions problem called Stinkerton McPoo, especially if you own such a hound yourself. Based on one of his own pets, the author, Stephen Hodgkinson-Soto, treats us to an entertaining story in rhyme, which is full of action and appeal. Colourfully and amusingly illustrated by JotaLumi Sketches, a conglomerate of freelance artists, 'Stinkerton McPoo Goes Exploring' is the first of what looks like being a very welcome series. Taking advantage of the opportunity to escape his family's garden when the gate is accidentally left open, Stinkerton embarks on an adventure. Gravitating to the local butcher's shop, he makes off with a string of sausages in true cartoon style. All and sundry chase after him to retrieve his loot, a frantic and hilarious procession as in the story of the Gingerbread Man. Finally arriving at the pond in the park, Stinkerton rescues a distraught little girl's kitten, which is floating away on a log. Suddenly, he is no longer the villain of the piece but a brave hero, who is allowed to keep the sausages as a reward. This is a great story to share with little ones and for younger children to read themselves, as the rhythmic text and help from the rhymes will give early readers confidence. Also the family in the story is diverse in both gender and colour, which means that a wider audience will be able to relate to it. I do hope that the author realises his ambition to bring us more in the very near future. Drena Irish, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Having already read and thoroughly enjoyed 'Everybody Poops', I think that this text will once again have widespread appeal to children - (and adults) - especially those who are at an age when everything connected with bodily functions seems hilarious. The cover illustration showing the inside view of a house with various family members in the act of having a pee is an immediate draw and children will have fun spotting the dog who is also joining in. Having shown the reader a glimpse of our internal organs, the book goes on to reveal an eclectic mixture of people and animals having a pee in various settings. I was however a little surprised to see that males were depicted sitting down - surely for most men that is generally not the case - and wondered whether children would have any experience of seeing women wearing rollers in their hair nowadays. Despite that it is a great, fun book that I am sure would be reread frequently. It ends with the surprise that even the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Santa need to have a pee and I loved the fact that the author and illustrator are seen sitting on the loo too. Val Rowe, A LoveReading4Kids Amabassador
‘Eudora Space Kid: The Great Engine Room Takeover’ by David Horn is an exciting space adventure with Math and Science at its heart. Eudora loves maths and science and is always wanting to use them to engineer new and exciting things on her home space-ship, Athena. Alongside the adventures (and trouble) that Eudora gets into while experimenting on the Athena, the story also focuses on honesty and responsibility. I think this is an entertaining space adventure that would appeal to 7-9 year olds. I liked that the main character of this STEM led story is a girl and I think these types of stories will help young girls reading them to feel more confident about being interested in maths and science. This is the first of a new series. I think young readers will find it entertaining and will enjoy the conversational and highly descriptive writing as well as the friendly and appealing illustrations. ‘Eudora Space Kid’ is the beginning of a fun sci-fi adventure series that will have wide appeal to younger readers. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
'I Love You More' - a beautifully written and illustrated book answering the almost impossible question of why a mother loves her child so unconditionally. Each page is gloriously sentimental and packed with detailed pictures. The mother bear attempts to tell her cub how much she loves it by comparing her love to various images in nature, her love being gentler than snow and brighter than the stars. It would be a lovely book to keep as a memento, or to give as a present to a new baby. As I read it, I was really reminded of 'Can't you Sleep' by Martin Waddell and 'Guess How Much I Love You' by Sam McBratnay. Definitely out of the same stable and equally lovely. Rosie Watch, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
‘Azalea Fern and the Last Ruin of the Extinct’ by Becci Murray is an entertaining middle-grade adventure. A fantasy story based after the demise of the Sapiens, Azalea and her friend Oak-Lea stumble across old technology and a secret that could change everything. Azalea, the main character in this new fantasy series, is a precocious and curious girl. I liked her confidence, even when it was luring herself and her best friend into trouble, and I think readers will find her very endearing. As this is a fantasy story, there’s lots of descriptions of the setting and the strange animals that are found in the grove. I found the setting and world-building very immersive and I think that younger readers will have a lot of fun outside of reading the story creating their own ideas of what these strange and new animals like Buttermoths look like. This story is full of mystery, as Azalea explores and uncovers a secret that could change everything. Merged within this family story are themes of friendship, family and community as well as posing some important questions about how humans treat the world around us and our attitudes to its other inhabitants. The ending is complete but leaves the reader with lots of questions that will hopefully be answered in later books. A great middle-grade book with short and easy to follow chapters, an entertaining storyline and some fantastic fully dimensional characters. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
‘Cry of the Norwolf’ by Ian Young is an interesting adventure series that I think will have wide appeal among middle grade readers. Arkyn, a ten year old boy has his world transformed when he stumbles across an injured norwolf pup. A predator that’s the stuff of fear and folklore, Arkyn’s path will change forever if he chooses to help the injured animal instead of killing it. A new fantasy series that is set in a more primitive world than our own, I found ‘Cry of the Norwolf’ really easy to follow and I thought that the story flowed well. The plotline moves quickly which I think will keep readers entertained and eager to know what comes next in the book and in later books in the series. The black and white illustrations at the start of each chapter are clean and detailed. As a personal preference I would have considered having more chapters to include more of these header illustrations instead of the asterisk dividers. However, the more flowing structure of the book does add to its fast pace and encourages the reader to keep going and see what happens next. ‘Cry of the Norwolf’ is a really entertaining read that I think would have broad appeal, especially to readers of Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother series. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
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