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Not all great books come through big publishers. Check out some of our favourite indie books on the market.
‘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
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
‘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
‘Valletta and the Year of Changes’ by Simone Mansell Broome is a chapter book with beautiful illustrations that follows a fiery little mouse called Valletta Stowaway and her family. The first thing that struck me was the lovely illustrations by Cerys Susannah Rees, on the cover and of the family tree. I think that young readers will find them enchanting. The story flows well, we see the Stowaway clan have to come to terms with the lockdown, as the humans do above the floorboards of 46 Spring Blossom Road. Focusing on positivity, kindness and family support this book covers a lot of the feelings I’m sure lots of young readers would have been feeling during the initial stages of lockdown, from a lack of uncertainty to cabin fever and frustration about not being able to go on holiday. I like the Stowaway song that’s repeated throughout the story and I could see younger readers joining in with it throughout. A very relevant picture book to the events of the past 18 months but with larger messages about family support and community. With entertaining characters and lovely illustrations, I see this book having a wide appeal. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
‘Seaside Countdown’ is a bright and engaging fully illustrated book that will take young readers on a seaside adventure as well as support their learning as they count the various items and animals along the way. Counting down from 10, each double page spread has different aquatic creatures to spot and count, with plenty of other animals to look at and talk about as you move through the pages. The text is clear and the rhyming is easy to follow or tackle for more confident readers. At the end of the book there’s fact sheets, featuring the animals from the book, but with high quality photographs replacing the illustrations. I like the addition of these facts, as it elevates the book a bit further from a counting book to one that can be enjoyed again before a trip to the seaside. ‘Seaside Countdown’ is a brilliant dual-purpose book perfect for animal and sea-loving young readers. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
What a clever idea, a children's picture book about the No 10 cat. We've all seen Larry, the Downing Street cat on the news , watched him walk nonchalantly in and out of the black door, and been amused by him. Now Larry gives us the lowdown on what happens inside Number 10. We have Boris and the arrival of Dilyn the dog, lots of important people, such as The Queen, coming and going, and Larry's opinion of the other cats nearby. I found this very amusing and liked the gentle fun poking at all the 'important' people. Of course there's a bit of drama too, but I won't spoil the story too much. Interesting use of 'cat' language and bright, amusing pictures which young children will love. I can see that more stories of Larry might be forthcoming, maybe even a cartoon series on tv? Chris Woolfenden, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
A curious girl is eager to explore the new activity in her home. ‘Naji and the Mystery of the Dig’ by Vahid Imani is a lovely story of an inquisitive and imaginative Naji, eager to learn more about the giant hole that’s being dug in the courtyard of her family home. This is a very eventful day for Naji and her family, with plenty of tasks and chores to be done. But all Naji wants to do is learn more about the hole that’s being dug outside. Switching from curiosity to fear of monsters and Looloo, mythical creatures that lay in wait to snatch away children, Naji’s duty takes us through her day to day life at her home in the Iranian capital city of Tehran, and her speculation about what can be found in the murky depths of the washing pool or the new hole that’s being dug. I loved all of the cultural details throughout the book, young readers may be able to see themselves represented by Naji and her family, and the story provides insight into the daily practices of Islam and details about Iranian culture. Naji is universally lovable, displaying a curiosity, fear of the unknown and love of the ice cream man that all children will be able to identify with. In all, a really nice story driven by a young girl's curiosity and imagination. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
'Eve's Ducklings', written by Maria Monte and illustrated by Emelie Wiklund, is a lovely picture book aimed at three to five year olds. It starts with an experience that almost every young child will relate to, that of going to the park with a much loved older family member, and takes us through all the emotions Eve feels there and how she learns and grows because of them. When Grandpa takes Eve to the lake for the first time, they are delighted to see that the duck family has two ducklings. Eve runs to try to catch and hold them, hug and pat them but grandpa warns her that their mother will not be happy about that. On every visit she still tries to show them her love in the only way she knows but the ducklings just retreat to the middle of the pond until one day Eve falls in the water in her efforts to reach them. This makes her really start to think about her approach and, taking a step back, she scatters sunflower seeds for them instead. Before long, the ducklings come for the seeds and Eve is at last able to see them close to. This book is an excellent encouragement for children to start thinking about their relationship with wild creatures, how to show them respect, give them their own space and love and care for them in a suitable and responsible way. A charming and inspiring story. Drena Irish, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
When a fascist majority has control of Parliament, certain groups of people are considered illegal, from there we follow a family looking to escape the patrols, finding others in underground hideaways, where they can work to fight back. 'The Fifth’ by Chris Sykes is a split narrative, focussing on siblings Jenny and Jack, separated early in the book, and their paths as part of rebel forces. The story is set in York, and as a northerner I liked to be able to follow the characters down recognisable streets made unfamiliar in the author’s world. I found that this book is well-written and, although it begins as a dystopian thriller, soon develops strong sci-fi elements that aren’t to be missed by science fiction fans. Dealing with a host of delicate subjects (with a trigger warning that also includes a message of hope at the start of the book which I appreciated) I feel that the author navigates this story well. It is very well-written and I was immersed in the character development of both Jenny and Jack, following on with Jenny’s missions and hoping for improvements for Jack. This story is action packed, with twists that I could never have predicted and I would recommend for readers in the older YA market. I was eager to find out exactly what was happening and wanted to read the book in one sitting. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
‘Brielle’s Birthday Ball’ is a creative and interesting new take on a story that includes actions and movements to encourage young readers to join in with the characters. Created by Once Upon a Dance, the story follows Brielle as she celebrates her birthday. The illustrations in this book are lovely and detailed, and the instructions for the movements for each page are clearly separated from the storyline with a purple background and photos for dancing inspiration, there’s even some separate little songs to sing while doing the actions. I really liked the concept of this book and the time taken on every aspect. The inclusion of the actions doesn’t take away from the large and detailed illustrations or the simple to follow and enjoyable story. I would say that the creators have tried really hard to make sure that the inclusion of the additional interactive element isn’t done at the expense of any other aspect of the book. A story filled with delight and birthday fun, I think that this would be a brilliant book for any child that doesn’t want to sit still when listening to a story, or just loves to move and dance. It could also be read with out the movements for a pleasant birthday-themed bedtime story! Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
‘Perfect: A Self-Love Adventure’, created by Suzanne Wylde is a book all about encouraging self-love. Written in rhyme, with a diverse cast of characters in the illustrations, this book contains the highly positive message that every child is perfect the way they are and whatever they may be feeling at the time: they are enough. I liked that throughout the book there’s also an interactive element noted by a ‘Try it with me’ star and helps to integrate breathing exercises and positive affirmations into the story. The Illustrations are clear and vibrant helping to depict times of difficulty and unhappiness as well as joy and positivity. I think the inclusion of these different situations in the illustrations can lead to further discussions about differences and being kind to others and yourself. ‘Perfect: A Self-Love Adventure’ is a sweet picture book with a worthwhile and positive message for young readers. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
‘No,No,No!’ is another great picture book by Justine Avery. A book aimed at younger readers to help them learn manners, safety and general good behaviour. With very little text that is repeated throughout the book, the pictures take the lead and allow you to perhaps start a discussion with younger readers about what is happening, problems with the ‘No, No, No!’ behaviour and how best to act. Bright and colourful full-page illustrations will grab the attention of young readers, and the bad behaviour in the picture may horrify and entertain adults reading this with their children in equal measure. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
‘Hair’ by L.A. Shaw is an amusing and irreverent children's fiction book. The main character Teddy Wackett as he spots a strange man stealing the hair off dogs in a local park and uncovers a larger, hairier mystery. As the reader we are taken around the town and introduced to the rather eccentric hairdressers and what’s so great about hair and why it’s the focus of this mad-cap story. This book is adventurous, and there’s plenty of action to keep younger readers entertained from the first page to the last. I liked Teddy, and I’m sure that some younger readers will relate to his aversion to showering. The whole cast of characters are colourfully described with detail. I think readers will find the plot of this book funny and enjoyable. I personally particularly liked Mr Wackett’s reaction to his sudden surge of hair growth. Throughout ‘Hair’ there’s plenty of amusing illustrations by Sarah Reeve that I think will have wide appeal, in a style I found quite similar to Quentin Blake or Tony Ross. I think the combination of the short chapters and engaging illustrations could make this a book that could be read as a family, with younger siblings following the pictures or parents helping with the text. At around 80 pages ‘Hair’ is a relatively short story but perfectly formed and packed full of adventure, humour and entertainment that I’m sure readers from 8 upwards will enjoy. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
The Farm Shop by Devon Avery is a charming picture book in which we meet Kirelle and her best friend Sam, who is a cat, and follow them on their first trip to a farm shop. The illustrations throughout are lovely, quite muted in colour which I think would make this a peaceful story to read with younger children at bedtime. I like the play on words connecting the animals and the products for sale. As an adult I was trying to guess what would be next, so I’m sure that young readers would have just as much fun trying to guess what was for sale at each store, using the animal noises as clues. This is a lovely story that promoted a message of kindness, selflessness and making and cherishing memories that I’m sure young readers will enjoy. I would recommend this book to young families to read together. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
'#1 Operation Mailman' is the first in a series of three stories (at present) featuring Pablito Bandito, the fastest chihuahua in the mid west, better known as General Pablo to his 'troops'. Illustrated with black and white line drawings by the author, Tomi Hall, in collaboration with Mar Cholula, this is a crazily funny chapter book for young readers. Living on a farm in Illinois, Pablo and his 12 permanent 'soldiers' run a military-style regime to get all the rescue pups that the farm owners take in into shape for rehoming, with varying degrees of success! Operation mailman is a scheme Pablo puts in place to get the new postie, who doesn't like dogs, replaced again by Gene, their previous one, who always brought treats and made a fuss of them but who has now retired. It is a three-pronged 'attack', starting with an aggressive barking reception followed next time by a silent rejection. At least that's the plan! The final prong, liberally decorating the driveway up to the farmhouse with doggy poop, nearly defeats their object, however, when it is not the postman who is the first to arrive. This book is thoroughly entertaining and the incongruous image of a chihuahua giving orders to Alsatians and the like is hilarious, as is the chaos that only large numbers of mismatched dogs can cause. But will they overcome in the end and achieve their goal...you'll have to read it to find out! Drena Irish, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Absolutely beautiful! First of all, the illustrations are superb. They are bright, colourful and draw the eye wonderfully. They help to tell the story well and I adored them. The animals all came to life through the vibrancy and lines of the illustrations. Now to the story. I read this book with three hats on. First, my mum hat, second my primary school teacher hat and finally my bibliophile hat. This book ticked every single box. It was written well, using simple enough but engaging language. It made you want to turn the page to see what was going to happen next. It made you think about possible scenarios, for example what sorts of things might other animals be asked to do? And most importantly, it ended with a big happy smile on my face and a little chuckle. This is definitely a book I would read to my children and also to my class. I love the fact that some of the proceeds go to helping literacy in the Caribbean as well. Amanda O'Dwyer, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
What a wonderful story! Robin finds solace in the tale of a cat called Red. We follow Red through his adventures to find a home, and what scary adventures they are. It is beautifully written and with perfect drawings and sketches. Well recommended - a joy to read. Maureen Gourlay, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
'Tiny Polly: The story of a brave chicken' is a little book with a big message. Written by Jinan Samman and beautifully illustrated in watercolour by Evgeniya Kozhevnikova, it can be shared with young children but is also simple enough to be tackled by beginner readers on their own. Polly lives on a farm with other chickens but because of her small size, she is not included in any of their activities. Desperate to be like the others, she tries to make herself grow but to no avail. It takes a serious occurrence when the farmer is away at market before the flock realises that Polly is more than worthy of their respect and friendship and that differences are to be praised not condemned. Her courage and ingenuity win acceptance in the end and her self esteem is really boosted. Children will more than likely pick up on the bullying by the bigger chickens and relate this to their own experiences, so the story is an excellent way to encourage the sharing of any concerns. Even if this is not a problem though, young children will surely appreciate the lesson the chickens learn in this delightful picture book and will read it again and again. Drena Irish, A LoveReading4Kids Amabssador
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