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Best Books This Month – April 2023

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best new books april 2023

It’s easy to feel lost in the flood of so many new children’s books available. Each month, our review panel reads scores of new books and we highlight five of our recently published favourites.

Check out our Review Panel’s top books for you to read in April 2023.

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John Patrick Green
 & Pat Lewis
Graphic Novel

We are big fans of the InvestiGators graphic novel series. This pun-filled action series is a hit with younger fans of the graphic novel format and has hooked in lovers of Dog Man and The Bad Guys through its full-colour animal antics, funny cases to solve, and clever wordplay.

Now, a new standalone spin-off story featuring Cilantro the Chameleon has landed. Cilantro is a newly appointed Agent of S.U.I.T (Special Undercover Investigation Team), and as she faces her first big case involving a sheep revolt and an alien cover-up, she learns to step up and prove her place on the team.

We love the good, clean fun of this series, and parents and teachers know that young graphic novel fans are in good hands with these books. Author John Patrick Green said of the series, “Of all the comics I’ve created in my professional career, making InvestiGators has come closest to recapturing that feeling of being 11 years old, drawing comics in my bedroom, with the sole intention of making my friends and classmates laugh.” John’s commitment to child-centred visual humour and puns has clearly paid off and is reflected in the popularity of this series, which teachers and librarians tell us is flying off primary bookshelves at lightning speed. For children, the books are funny from the get-go, and pun-loving grown-ups like us can’t help but smile at the non-stop wordplay woven through the action scenes, too.

This new series of standalone adventures sees appearances from familiar faces from the previous InvestiGators books, while new characters are fleshed out too. The end of the book hints at adventures to be continued with new agents taking centre stage, and we’re already looking forward to the next mission.

Smriti Halls
 & Steve Small

A heartwarming but funny and brilliantly illustrated story of friendship and having a best friend who is always there for you no matter what!

Bear and Squirrel are back in the third book from the ‘sticking with..’ series of tales written by Smriti Halls. The pair are throwing a party this time, and Squirrel is the party expert! He is confident this will be the best party ever and has LOTS of big ideas, but Bear is not so sure. His tummy is feeling a bit funny, and he’s feeling a bit shy; he’s definitely having a wobble. But as the party starts, it’s not Bear that’s so worried. Where is Squirrel? Together they help each other out, working through their wobbles and grumps, realising the power of their friendship and that together they are stronger.

This is such a lovely story of friendship and being there for one another, and the wording in rhyme makes it an excellent read-aloud title. The feel-good story is made even better with Steve small’s illustrations that add wonderful emotion and humour.

Various authors
 & Various illustrators

Many classrooms have poetry book with the classics – which are fabulous – but this collection really celebrates modern, diverse poets and their poetry.

The poems in this book will directly relate to children’s experiences of life and the emotions they will have felt. Some poems tackle more challenging emotions that arise from bullying or sadness and one poem tackles an often unspoken emotion – embarrassment. Some of these poems may need to be introduced sensitively, but the language and range of poetry styles make them accessible to explore as well as providing useful springboards for the discussion of feelings.

Some of the poems lend themselves to being spoken out loud and poems such as ‘Stomp’ and ‘It’s like this’ in the collection almost demand performance. Others are well suited to quiet reflection. The poems are written by a wide and diverse range of poets and this collection makes it a good introduction to some of the great children’s poets of today.

At the back of the book, there are photographs and short biographies of each of the poets. What this makes explicit for children is the diversity of poets as well as their achievements. Many of the poems would work well as models for children’s own poetry writing, with clear patterns that could be followed. For example, the first poem ‘If you could see laughter’ asks us to see laughter as a colour and something we can visualise. Each poem is illustrated in a different style and children could easily identify their favourite illustration. This is a great collection for any classroom.

John Dougherty
 & Thomas Docherty

Bertle and Hertle (one a turtle, one a hare) are the best of friends and are always found together, having fun, playing and helping each other. That is, until one day, when Hertle disappears, leaving only a black hole where he should have been.

Bertle looks for his friend everywhere, getting angry at the hole and pleading with it, until he eventually lets his sadness at the missing Hertle surround him. Luckily for Bertle, the wise and kindly Gerda the bear understands what he is feeling and encourages the turtle to fill the hole with all the amazing memories he has of Hertle and their time together.

The Hare-Shaped Hole is a beautiful, touching and poignant book that accurately depicts what it feels like to lose someone or something very important to you. The heart-warming ending, full of colour, could bring the most stoic of readers to tears. As someone who has both lost a parent this year and supported a child losing their own, this book was particularly on-point and I have yet to read another which so accurately depicts the feelings of grief and memories of loved ones.

I would highly recommend this as a book for children who are experiencing loss  – and to adults too! I shared the book with several colleagues, all of whom read the book cover-to-cover in one sitting, many of them stating they wished there were books like this when they were young. The illustrations are beautiful, highlighting the feelings and emotions of our characters. The ‘hare-shaped hole’ changing in colour is particularly effective. The story is written in rhyme, which helps to keep the gentle tone throughout. A beautiful story of love, loss and grief.

Philip Reeve
 & Sarah McIntyre
Chapter book

In this short, illustrated chapter book, Pedro is an endearing main character. His longing to have an adventure, and the obstacles to achieving that, will strike a chord with many KS1 children. They will be cheering him on, through danger and disappointment, to his enrolment as a fully signed-up member of the Adventuremice team.

Teachers will enjoy sharing this gentle tale in a classroom setting and children will miss out if they cannot clearly see the bright and breezy illustrations. For this reason, perhaps it’s best recommended as a library book which children – and their parents – can read at home or even on holiday. It’s a book to inspire (day-)dreams and great ambition.

A small book (a little over 100 pages) with a big heart that carries a message about humans looking after the marine environment, and about what courage and kindness look like in practice. Either, or both, could be the starting point for some interesting discussions.

The final pages – a map of The Mouse Islands, ‘How to Draw Pedro’ and ‘About the Authors’ – are a great addition to this latest book from the talented Reeve-McIntyre duo, which reflect their humour and their generosity.

Support independent bookshops

Many thanks to our review panel members Gabby McConalogue, Suzanne Booth, Jane Rew and Jane Carter for reviewing this month’s selection.

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