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Best Books This Month – July 2023

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best childrens books july 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 July 2023.

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Jenny Pearson
 & Katie Kear
Chapter book

Told with Jenny Pearson’s care and attention to detail, this new story set in Scotland weaves humour through complex themes of grief, friendship and moving on from things lost to the past.

When Benji and Stanley’s parents go missing at sea, they have to go and live with their Uncle Hamish, whom they have never met. Uncle Hamish lives with his dog, Mr Dog, on the shores of Loch Lochy and Benji soon realises that all is not ok for Uncle Hamish. When he meets local girl Murdy, Benji sets out to prove that the Loch Lochy Monster is real, so that tourists will come back to Loch Lochy once more.

There are lots of laughs in this story, mainly around Benji and Murdy’s attempts to capture an image of the Loch Lochy Monster. Their friendship is a strong focus, particularly Murdy’s support for Benji after what he has been through, along with their relationship with Mr Dog, who also provides the emotional support that pets are sometimes able to do in their own special way.

Sitting alongside the humour there are darker undertones that provide depth and complexity to the narrative. On the surface, Benji is a fun-loving boy who wants to help Uncle Hamish’s business to survive. But underneath, has he really come to terms with the loss of his parents? His brother, Stanley, is facing his own battles – he was on the boat when it capsized and his parents went missing. Uncle Hamish is facing the loss of his business, which has been in the family for years. Murdy is the target of local bullies. Yet this is a story with a lot of heart and, ultimately, with messages of hope.


Helen Peters
Chapter book

Historical setting – tick. Dastardly villains -tick. Mansion house setting – tick. Poor girl -tick. Rich girl – tick. Yes, this book has all the ingredients for a fantastic, edge-of-the-seat historical spy adventure.

The combined themes of war and espionage will make this book one that children will want to read and a good addition to the canon of World War 2 stories suitable for slightly younger readers. It is a bit of old-fashioned daring-do, coupled with real historical detail and jeopardy. The tension is palpable throughout the story and the desperation of the heroines feels real. There is nothing here that slightly younger KS2 readers would find difficult, with only mentions of what is happening to Jews in Germany at the time and the violence is at a minimum.

The interesting part of the story is about the differences in the lives of the two girls due to their class and circumstances. The postscript at the end of the book makes it clear how the upper classes were really able to get away with things due to their standing in society and the two girls are like a microcosm of this class divide.

This is a tremendously exciting read, one I could not put down and read all in one go.

Paula Harrison
Chapter book

If you have children who enjoy a fractured fairy tale, then this fast paced, illustrated chapter book is one they’ll love. It’s got everything you want in a fairy tale – magical settings, mythical creatures, a magic carpet, a talking toad and the triumph of good over evil – with three strong female protagonists and some ninja moves mixed in for good measure!

Red, Goldie and Snow lead very normal lives, but Red longs for adventure beyond the bounds of their home town. One day, they discover that their dance teacher, Madame Hart, is more than she seems and she begins to teach them sword play and ninja moves under the guise of ballet. When young Prince Inigo goes missing and Madame Hart is framed for the crime, the girls head into the Shadowmoon Forest; where they must use all their courage, imagination and self belief to catch the real villain.

This fun story would make a great read aloud alongside a traditional tales topic and gives lots of ideas for creating your own tale with a twist.

Lu Fraser
 & Sarah Warburton

With the tagline “There’s a bright spark of braveness inside us all!”, who could fail to be won over by this book?

Told in rhyme, this is an utterly delightful story. The quality of the rhyme is just wonderful; when rhyme works like this, nothing forced, just clever use of language, you can tell this is a book that is destined to be a classic.

The story is about finding courage, told through hilarious farmyard escapades with a fun cast of characters. The chicken who knits (her friend Marge wears a fantastic jumper!) is scared of everything. She is such a wonderful character, the reader can’t help but fall for her. The chicken with the tractor ranks as my favourite; no-one would mess with her. It brings to mind the Aardman films with Shaun the Sheep and the Chicken Run, mainly because of the force of personality that shines out from the illustrations.

There is something to enjoy in this book for all ages and I am very much hoping we will see more of Mavis in the future.

David Wolstencroft

What could you do with an extra hour a day? Ailsa Craig, late to absolutely everything since the day she was born (two weeks late, at midnight), discovers the Magic Hour in the wake of her parents’ split and her house blowing up. Thankfully, she was late for that too.

Chased through a portal into an alternate, magical Edinburgh, Ailsa rapidly finds herself spinning her life around. With the extra time, her grades improve, enemies become (almost) friends, and it’s all just so intriguing and exciting that Ailsa doesn’t realise, at first, that anything too good to be true comes with a cost. And the costs are mounting up in a frightening way.

The Magic Hour is a fast-paced adventure packed with mythology and guided by the scientific method which will appeal to curious children in upper KS2 and Y7. Fans of The Train To Impossible Places, The Nowhere Emporium and Wonderscape will find much to enjoy here in a debut novel where the brakes are most definitely off…

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Many thanks to our review panel members Esther Brown, Jacqueline Harris, Julie Bennett and Caroline Wood for reviewing this month’s selection.

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