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Best new kid’s reads, from picture books to YA

From Olaf Falafel's Blob Fish to the pre-teen adventure novel snapped up by Netflix and Julia Walton's latest YA romance, we've got your family summer reads covered.

Summer’s round the corner so we’ve found you the latest new releases that will while away the hours on that deck chair, lounger or plane, whatever your kid’s age.

PICTURE BOOKS

What do you see when you look at a tree? by Emma Carlisle (23 June)

This gentle and beautifully illustrated book has been created in collaboration with the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. It explores empathy, mindfulness and development through a child’s eyes. If your family loves The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse or Winnie-the-pooh, they’ll love this.

A New Friend by Lucy Mezies and Maddy Vinn (7 June)

An innovative picture book telling the story of Joe’s first day in a new school and Mae, his new excited classmate. It’s a novel format – two books, bound into one, telling the same story from two different perspectives. Kids can read it in any way or order they want. An uplifting and beautifully illustrated book for anyone who is scared and struggling to fit in.

Blob Fish by Olaf Falafel (2 June)

A funny and heart-warming book about the ugliest fish at the bottom of the ocean from this best selling author and illustrator. Blob fish loves to tell jokes and go on adventures, only he has no one to share these with. A meaningful story about finding friends in the most unexpected ways. A message about gently opening up ourselves to friendships intertwined with an awareness of plastic in the ocean.

Just like Grandpa Jazz by Tarah Gear (7 June)

What happens when Frank finds a suitcase full of memories from Grandpa Jazz’s past? It connects him to his Mauritian heritage through adventures and stories. An epic trip brings the two generations closer.

5 – 7 YEARS

Clarice Bean: Scram! by Lauren Child (26 May)

The much-loved Clarice Bean, created by former Children’s Laureate Lauren Child, is back! With her trademark heart and humour, this time she has to find a cure for boredom while also trying to shake off a dog that she’s met along the way.

The Worries: Shara and the Really Big Sleepover by Jion Sheibani (28 July)

In this new addition to The Worries, a series tackling classic kids anxieties, Shara’s Mum goes away on holiday and leaves her and brother Keita to stay with their granddad alone for the first time. Her worries about school and family take over and manifest into one of her furry fantastical friends, Reece Sponsable. Bossy, demanding and on-edge, Reece takes over. For anyone who found Disney’s Inside Out insightful, this is a winner.

Princess Break-Free by Timothy Knapman (7 July)

The stereotypical poised and clean image of a princess is gone – Tilly is wild and adventurous and she is certainly not going to sit around waiting for a prince to come and save her. So Tilly saves herself. News spread fast and across the land, and all princesses start to take their fate into their own hands. This beautifully illustrated book by artist Jenny Lovlie aims to inspire.

Einstein the Penguin by Iona Rangeley (23 June)

When the Steward family visits London Zoo, they are enchanted by a little Penguin named Einstein who unexpectedly turns up at their house the next day. Einstein helps Arthur come out of his shell and Imogen with her detective work and they help him escape a mysterious white-coated man. Perfect for all ages, but suitable for giving young children the reading bug.

7 – 9 YEARS

The Day No One Woke Up by Polly Ho-Yen (21 July)

Something strange has happened in Ana’s town. She is the only one awake. Confused, curious and scared, she begins on an adventure and along the way she bumps into the only other person still awake – her ex-best friend Tio. They have to leave their differences aside and find out what happened . From the bestselling and Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize-shortlisted author of Boy in a Tower, comes a fantastical mystery about collaboration and friendship.

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tola Okogwu (9 June)

Onyeka has A LOT of hair – the type that makes people stop and stare and as much as she tries, she has grown to hate it. Until she finds out it’s magical. Her mother sends her to a mysterious school in Nigeria for children with superpowers, and with new found confidence she’s able to tackle the challenges that come her way. Perfect for lovers of the Percy Jackson series. Soon to be a feature film on Netflix.

Escape to the River Sea by Emma Carroll (9 June)

Based on the classic Journey to the River Sea, comes a fantastical adventure novel set in the 1940s. A young Kindertransport girl is longing for her family to claim her- the war has been over for a while now, but she is the only orphan left. The sudden arrival of a family friend leads her into an epic adventure in the Amazon in search of jaguars, ancient relics and artefacts. Featuring places from Journey to the River Sea, this book aims to raise a new generation on the same lore.

The Fart that Changes the World – Stephen Mangan (26 May)

What child doesn’t love toilet humour? Much loved actor Stephen Mangan and award-winning artist Anita Mangan (the award-winning duo behind Escape the Rooms) bring this high-energy, laugh-out-loud adventure. On the most important day of the year, King Fabian, shockingly… farts! Embarrassed he blames the butler who is sent to the dungeons. The only problem, King Fabian is completely dependent on his butler’s help to organise the celebrations of the big day. Prepare to cry-laugh.

9 – 12 YEARS

A Flash of Fireflies by Aisha Bushby (9 June)

Hazel thought her new life in England would be different, like something out of a fairytale. Afterall, her aunt’s cottage looks like it’s made out of gingerbread and the garden is magical, filled with fireflies whispering quests and adventures. But as Hazel struggles to adjust to everyday life… a darkness lurks in the background. Perfect for fans of Jacquline Wilson and Michelle Harrison.

My Friend the Octopus by Lindsey Galvin (2 June)

From the bestselling author of Darwin’s Dragons comes a thrilling, underwater adventure based in 1893 England. Twelve year old Vinnie Fyfe works at a Tea Emporium in Brighton in the midst of an aquarium craze. Her life is about to change with the arrival of a giant octopus, whom she realises she can communicate with by using her talent for drawing. Together their adventure begins and Vinnie will find out what true courage is. A Victorian mystery with a heart-warming connection.

Stitched Up by Steve Cole

A tough but compelling read, based on real-life events, exposing the truth behind the conditions of fast fashion factories. When twelve-year-old Hanh is offered a job in Hanoi, she is excited. Finally, a way to get closer to her dream of designing clothes and earn money to send back to her family in rural Vietnam. However, she is thrown into virtual slavery in an illegal garment factory. Life lessons for a mature reader.

Clockwork Queen by Peter Bunzle

Sophie Peshka is a chess prodigy having inherited her love for the game from her grandmaster father. When her father is imprisoned in the dungeon of Empress Catherine the Great in St Petersburg, Sophie needs to her strategic chess skills to help him escape. Not easy when the stakes are life or death. A thrilling novel with a strategic flare.

12+ YEARS

Oxygen Mask by Jason Reynolds

An intimate graphic novel set in a family home during the 2020 pandemic. It captures every difficult detail of those same four walls but also a commemoration of the pandemic, the people lost and the protests including the tragedy of George Floyd’s murder. It’s a dark subtext but there’s hope in it too and teens will embrace it as a creative expression of the time.

Fight Back by A. M Dassu

With racial tensions increasing after a terrorist attack, Aaliya goes from being a regular K-Pop loving, fashion-loving Muslim teen, to an activist. She starts wearing a hijab, but when her school bans it, she feels isolated and intimidated. She fights back and speaks out. A bold book that tackles Islamophobia and how to affect change by the critically acclaimed author of Boy, Everywhere.

Rapunzella, or Don’t Touch My Hair by Ella McLeod (7 July)

Ella McLeod’s new genre-bending debut novel merges poetry and prose in a raw and honest exploration of teenager imprisoned in a forest made from her own Afro. The book cleverly weaves together inner-city life and a dangerous mythical universe.

Friends Like These by Meg Rosoff

From the bestselling author of How I Live Now and The Great Godden, is a coming of age book about the summer of 1982 in New York that will change eighteen-year-old Beth’s life. There’s the cockroach-infested flat, the journalist internship and all-consuming friendships… who needs enemies when you have friends like these? This addictive and gritty novel is mostly a story of firsts: love, lies, independence, mess-ups and the inevitable loss of innocence. If you are a fan of Sally Rooney’s work and the book Exciting Times, this is one for you.

YA

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys (4 Aug)

At 17 Cristian has lived his entire life under an oppressive dictatorship. Governed by fear and blackmail, he is faced with two choices: save his Grandfather by informing on his family or risk everything and resist? A heart-breaking book closely based on the Romanian Revolution in 1989 from Carnegie Medal winner, Ryta Sepetys.

All signs Point to Yes by Cam Montgomery, Adrianne White et al

An anthology of short stories telling a love story for every zodiac signs. By showcasing their multicultural backgrounds and their own experiences of romance, all 13 authors put their own spin on their stories, creating a varied and unusual body of work that will resonate with most teens and YAs. 

The Feeling of Falling in Love by Mason Deaver (2 Aug)

What happens when your childhood best friend and friend with benefits admits their feelings for you? That’s the position Neil finds himself in with Josh days before they embark on a cross-country trip for Neil’s brother’s wedding. In need of a new date (and Josh still attending) Neil asks, almost against his will, Wyatt, his roommate to join. A messy and incredibly entertaining new queer book by the author of I wish you all the best. Perfect for fans of Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston.

Bad at Love by Gabriela Martins (2 Aug)

Set in LA about a bad boy rocker and a journalist determined to dig dirt on him. A fun, flirty romance intertwined with an exploration of loneliness under the spotlight. When Daniel moved to become Mischief & Mayhem’s newest member he didn’t think that paparazzi and women would follow him everywhere. And Sasha never thought that she would have to choose between her feelings for Daniel or putting out the best expose story of her life.

Finding Jupiter by Kelis Rowe

Ray has no time for romance. Between dominating the roller rink and writing her poetry, she has eyes only on her future. But Orion is a charmer and never misses. With their families’ past catching up with them, will their stars be crossed forever? A beautiful retelling of Romeo and Juliet filled with secrets, fate colliding and overcoming grief. A debut blending prose and poetry.

On the Subject of Unmentionable Things by Julia Walton (23 Aug)

Phoebe Townsend is a goody-two-shoes, a straight-A student and the last person anyone would suspect to be running a sex ed blog. Until her anonymity is held on the line by her city’s mayor who wants the author revealed as punishment for an assault on morality. Phoebe is not backing down, truth is not scandalous. Award-winning author of Word on Bathroom Walls is back with an open and honest novel about misinformation and sex.

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