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Not all great books come through big publishers. Check out some of our favourite indie books on the market.
Inspire the next generation of leaders in STEM with The Adventures of Lillicorn in WooWoo Land, the first in a series of STEM children’s picture books for children 4 to 8 years old. Meet Lilli, a fearless little girl, who is intrigued by science, and loves to conceive new experiments and inventions. In her dreams at night, she transforms into Lillicorn, a superhero, and teams up with friends to travel to distant lands and figure out innovative solutions that save the day. The rhyming storybook is designed so that children can solve ten different STEM quests and earn collectable charm tokens (provided in the book). It’s an exciting way for children to learn fundamental STEM skills at an early age, as well as develop 21st-century learning skills (the 4Cs – critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication).
This is an utterly charming little gem of a book which I found incredibly moving. It traces in rhyme format the joy of a mother welcoming her baby into the world and the impact that this is to have have upon her life. The beautifully detailed and nostalgic illustrations are a sheer delight and match the text so well. This would be a perfect book for a mother-to-be to place in a treasure box for her child or perhaps for a new granny to buy for her daughter. It is absolutely gorgeous. Val Rowe, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill is a new adventure that develops the brilliant ideas firmly established in Grimly Darkwood’s first Vale of Strange book. Late in the summer, following Peter and Amanda’s adventures in the Vale of Strange (covered in The Shop on Peculiar Hill) it becomes clear that Peter will have to return once more with a new friend, Mala, short for Guatemala. Her father is an explorer and has gone missing. The sudden outbreak of strangeness is the first of their problems but not the last and it seems that something big is going on. Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill follows on from the end of The Shop on Peculiar Hill. However, as the book starts it recaps the previous events and there’s enough detail for it to be read as a standalone story. I haven’t read the first book but I felt that everything was explained well enough for me to know what was happening. After reading, I’m sure children will be racing to enjoy the adventure in The Shop on Peculiar Hill if they haven’t read it already. I liked the interaction between Peter and Amanda, their disagreements in the library help to demonstrate their character while also explaining the world of Peculiarshire. I also liked Mala, I thought her joke was quite funny. I like that there was a contrast in the two female characters and I enjoyed watching the three of them team up towards the end of the book. This is an exciting adventure that will certainly be a page-turner for all of those that love all things, weird and wonderful. I think that the humour throughout helps to counteract some of the scarier bits. I also found that the discussion at the end of the book about adults keeping their promises was quite poignant. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
A mysterious art thief, a 12-year-old undercover agent and a Parisian patisserie. Simone La Fray is a unique character, old beyond her years and discreetly training as a covert agent, with the support and encouragement of her mother, a successful operative. Simone also works to help her Father at their patisserie, what a busy life! The descriptions of all the delicious confections made me very hungry as I was reading. The other descriptions throughout were nice and detailed and I could believe I was following Simone through the streets of Paris on the hunt for the Red Fox. I liked this story and I was intrigued at how Simone's first field operation would go. I also thought that the other characters in the book were detailed and it would be interesting to see if Simone and her mum team up in future books, would her sister Mia ever find out about her secret life? I don't quite know when this book is set, it appears quite modern and I did briefly wonder why Simone didn't seem to go to school, but I enjoyed the story nevertheless. I think that this book is just the right amount of believable and exciting spy adventure and I feel that younger readers will like this book and be interested in finding out more about Simone’s adventures in later books. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
I am becoming very fond of Justine Avery's eclectic collection of books. She has the ability to consider issues relevant to children and young people that many adults would fail to recognise. This bright and colourful little book almost acts as a little aide-memoire reminding us that when we encounter problems, we need to trust in our abilities, thoughts and ideas and 'think outside the box'. The artwork is attractive and feels new and fresh and the text is professionally constructed. A delightful addition to an already pleasing series. Val Rowe, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Whilst Simi's parents are away, she has the opportunity of staying with her Grandmother who lives in Lagos. There she is introduced to the world of traditional animal stories told by her grandmother. When I saw the bright and colourful cover of this book, I was keen to read on and when I read the preface which states: "I hope this book appeals to the child in you," I was enticed even further. The descriptive quality is excellent and I found myself completely engaged visually. Although the book has a traditional ambience, The themes of the benefits of outdoor play, the sense of awe and wonder and family values are increasingly valuable within our modern society. We learn a lot about everyday life in Jalingo and the animal stories which make up the bulk of the text contain messages for life. At the end of the book Simi's grandmother encourages her to go and play outdoors with her new friends in order to "make new memories", and the book concludes with "In the eyes of a child, life is always so beautiful, she thought to herself. It felt good to be reminded of that." Indeed this book made ME feel good and it is perfect for grandmothers to read aloud to their grandchildren. Val Rowe, A LoveReading Ambassador
A high-stakes quest. A magical kingdom. A boy in possession of a coveted power. This mythology-rich novel for 10+ year-olds has all the ingredients of an epic adventure. Ankido is a twelve-year-old British-Iraqi boy with a passion for words. So much so, his beloved grandmother calls him her “Word Boy”. One morning, his grandmother announces the terrible news that Ankido’s father, an eminent archaeologist, has gone missing on a field trip in Iraq. When she leaves to search for his dad, she entrusts him with a special book: “The cover was made of fine, gold-inlaid leather. The title read, The Land of Mesopo. Ankido wondered why it was so special but thought it best not to ask.” Left with his aunt and uncle, Ankido is destined to be sent to boarding school, but not before he’s forced to burn Grandmother’s special book when his aunt tries to take it from him. He knows the book is special - “When I started reading it, it felt so real. Almost as if it was calling me to step inside “ – and indeed it does turn out to be special. Rather than end up at boarding school, he finds himself in the Library of Nineveh after being pursued by “a creature of the dark” who “feeds on words. And she knows that you can make your own words.” Ankido’s quest to find his father, and to save the fantastical word-world of Mesopo as the Kingdom’s newfound Tale Smith is sharply evoked, and packed with heart-pounding peril, mysterious atmosphere and intriguing characters, among them scribes, princes and magicians. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
A beautifully written book that you read in your mind as to a child as you settle them into bed. It sets them up to have sweet dreams in a long sleep. The illustrations match the journey that the children take to go to bed. It is an ideal and most parents would be delighted if that happened every night. You can definitely hear yourself read it out loud as a bedtime story! Cathy Small, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
This is a very heartwarming story about friendship. Mimi is very shy and doesn't like to speak to people. She loves to go for walks with her Nana, but when she stops to talk to her friends, Mimi hides behind her Nana. She notices that when they leave the people that her Nana has spoken to, they seem to be sad. She doesn't understand why. Her friends, Tulu and Lulu, invite her to the playground. She goes with them but wants to talk instead of playing. She explains how sad everyone seemed after they spoke to her Nana. They said, “sometimes nice words can make someone's moods much better, like saying HELLO.” Tutu suggests Mimi uses “BRAVE MAGIC”. She finds a twig which becomes a magic wand and says “1,2,3, 1,2,3, that's brave magic.” Try it and see what happens. She tried it first with Mr Mole. It worked. She tried it again and it worked again, but she forgot to use the Brave Magic. From then on, she was able to speak to everyone she met. When she tells her Nana, she gets a big hug and is told how very proud her Nana is of her and her Brave Magic. This book shows how friendship can help encourage us to do things that frighten us. With the help of friends, we can do anything. The illustrations are exceptional in this book. The colours are so vibrant. Diana Mason, A LoveReading Ambassador
This section - the first part of the story - introduces us to Maisha and her family and focuses upon the main message that she has learnt at school; she is so traumatised by the fact that her species is in danger that she needs support to communicate it to her herd. The section ends with her being teleported back to the school with the prospect of her partnering with another wild animal in order to work towards their protection. There is a lot to like about this introductory part of the story. It is well written and focuses very clearly upon the lifestyle of elephants and the danger that is facing them by man's intervention. I especially enjoyed the dedication to living creatures and the fun element of the 'Note to Big 'People'. The illustrations are delightful and match the text well. If the story continues as positively, I can envisage that this would be a good text for teachers to read aloud to their lower junior aged classes or to be used in themed assemblies on wildlife protection. I look forward to reading the rest of the book! Val Rowe, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
'Picco Puppy Loves Football' is a simply written tale about a puppy who finds things difficult, doesn't give up and who's perseverance is rewarded by success in the end. It is written in a way that small children will be able to understand. There is a suggestion in the introduction that Picco faces specific challenges which make keeping going more difficult for him but these adversities are left vague, allowing the readers to apply the message of the book in all circumstances. The illustrations are clear and uncomplicated, portraying a diverse collection of characters; I think they will appeal to small children - as will the charming story. Jane Welby, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
It's a lovely, sweet story and quite unusal. The illustrations were very good, although they would be better in colour. Ferdinand is a very friendly dragon and this comes across both in the story and in the illustrations: I don't think any child would perceive him as being scary. My only concern is that the language is a little grown up in places and doesn't always flow although I don't think that a child would necessarily notice this because they would be too interested in what is happening in the story. As well as being an entertaining story, I think it teaches a child about sadness and hope and the importance of friendship. I think adults will enjoy reading this story too, I certainly did. Pauline Braisher, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
In 'The Traveller's Stone', S.J.Howland has created a wondrous fantasy world, inhabited by the creatures of myth and fairy tale. Any fan of J.K.Rowling, C.S.Lewis or Philip Pullman will immediately feel at home in this fantastical place called Haven. Haven is a world parallel to ours, where giants, fairies, hobgoblins, fauns and brownies co-exist, more or less amicably, alongside humans. Amongst the humans, it is only the Travellers who are gifted with the ability to pass between the two worlds. The book recounts the story of Xander King, a 14-year-old Londoner, who is transported to Haven by a Traveller's stone in the British Museum. But why has he ended up there? Is he really supposed to save this ailing, alien world from both external and internal attack, when he has no knowledge of it's history or culture, where he doesn't feel he can belong? This is a classic rite of passage story, well written and beautifully describing the feelings and emotions Xander goes through as he faces no end of trials to gain his place in this multifaceted society before returning home, a much stronger and more confident person. I really enjoyed reading this novel and was so pleased to discover that this will not be the end of Xander's adventures. 'The Traveller's Stone' is only the first of a planned series of five books and I personally can't wait for the next one in 2020. Drena Irish, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
My five year old son and I absolutely loved Don't Drink the Pink. In fact, he made me read it to him twice, one straight after the other, partly because he loved it and partly because he wanted to read it the second time after taking on board what happens in it. The book begins on Madeline's first birthday. Her beloved grandfather is always busy in his workshop cooking up, as it turns out, wonderful potions that give Madeline a superpower. Each year, on her birthday, she gets to choose a new potion but each time her grandfather tells her "just don't drink the pink". She gets to be tiny, to be a giant, to be able to move faster than a locomotive and, my personal favourite, to be able to build rollercoasters for herself and her friends. So many things about this book make it special. Firstly, it all rhymes which I think gives it a rhythmical flow that really keeps children (and their grown ups) interested. Secondly, the rhyme about not drinking the pink is the same for every birthday and it gave my son the opportunity to join in with the "just don't drink the pink" line with a big smile on his face. He can read perfectly well himself but it made it a nice joint endeavour. Thirdly, the story is fun and magical. There's a sad element to it but it's tempered by an uplifting ending. Finally, the illustrations are gorgeous and complement the story perfectly. They're colourful and give an accurate depiction of what is happening in the story. I really can't praise this book highly enough. Be aware, it does deal with the death of a relative but it's sensitively done and although my son did feel a bit sad at that bit, he bounced back with the ending. It's a fabulous little read for the 3-8 age group. Nicola Smith, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
The story follows little Turtus as he hatches and makes his way towards the sea along with the other little turtles. However, he does not feel that he is like his brothers and sisters and this is confirmed as his journey continues. Eventually, he encounters his mother who explains that his father was in fact a giant land tortoise and assures him that he will meet him one day. This is a charming picture book using an effective, fairly natural and simple rhyme format which tends to appeal to young children. The illustrations are varied and appealing and match the text extremely well. Intrigue draws us in at the onset with the mystery of what is a 'Turtus' and reappears at the end of the tale when the reader is left with the expectation of eventually meeting Turtus' father in the next book. The story is also effective on other levels with its educational value and as an introduction to the fact that we are all different and can have a variety of different family situations. My granddaughter is 7 and really enjoyed this story and wants to know what happens next! Val Rowe, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Written for children but will appeal to young adults and adult readers also. The author tells the story of two differing boys and what brings them together, they both have an interest in habitats and badgers living in a wood near to where they live. It shows how friendship is important regardless of status or where they have come from. I found myself in the treehouse whilst the boys looked into the badgers and the beautifully drawn illustrations added to this. The author writes well and has a great understanding of nature and the natural world, and I literally could not put the book down and boy was there an ending. Moralistic which again will apply to both young adults and grown-ups. Recommended read. Jane Brown, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador