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Best Books This Month – June 2023

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best new books june 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 June 2023.

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Zohra Nabi
 & Tom Clohosy Cole
Chapter book

The Kingdom Over the Sea is an action-packed adventure story that is bound to grip and enthral many readers. After Yara’s mother dies, she discovers a letter with instructions to a magical off-the-map kingdom called Zehaira. Despite being a land of magicians and deep magic, all is not well in Zehaira as magic has been banned and the alchemists under the rule of the Sultan are devising a nefarious plan.

The story idea itself is unique, interesting and refreshing – I have not read a story of origin quite like it before. It was easy to picture the magical world of Zehaira and to see it come alive through the words on the page. It is definitely a place that readers would want to visit! There are some many interesting and relatable layers to the society of Zehaira – children could certainly use this world to discuss themes such as fairness, equality and justice. Zehaira would be a great example of a fantasy world that children could use as inspiration for writing their own stories similar to the genre.

The weaving of shimmering magical elements throughout the book is achieved in a most exciting way and adds an element of fun, but also danger. Seeing spells written in a poetic-like form and displayed in different fonts was a particular highlight of the book for me.

The characters in this book are likeable, relatable and diverse. The main character, Yara is a prime example of standing up for what you believe. This book was a really enjoyable read and is bound to be a huge hit.

Erika Meza

There are currently around 13 million child refugees in the world – each own with their own story.

With masks on their faces, a family leaves their home. This picturebook story is cleverly told through the vehicle of an older sibling creating a game for her younger brother as they travel – avoid the monsters and don’t get caught. In this long game of ‘tag’ they must be fast and brave; travelling on buses, hitching lifts and often walking alone.

The story is so poignant. It shows the hardships faced on the long journey; the tiredness, the danger, the longing for home and for safety. Drawn in grey tones, the pink and yellow masks highlight the anonymous figures and hidden voices of those seeking sanctuary over an invisible line. Although this story focuses on children crossing the border into the USA, this beautiful book opens up discussions about why families might leave their homes and what life might be like for them as they seek a safer place to settle. The book provides a starting point for discussing themes of displacement and migration with primary school children. The sibling relationship is beautiful and there is essential factual information and additional personal stories within the back matter.

Ibtihaj Muhammad, S. K. Ali
 & Hatem Aly

This is an absolutely beautiful book – one that is positive and empowering. In the author-illustrator team’s previous book The Proudest Blue, we saw the beautiful bond between sisters Faizah and Asiya and heard the supportive and uplifting words of their mother. In The Kindest Red we see this again throughout the story as we ponder the question posed by Faizah’s teacher, ‘What kind of world would you like to live in?’ A beautiful world? A strong world? A kind world?

Faizah and her friends spend the day showing acts of kindness and seeing them spread until the whole class is beaming. However, it’s school photo day and when it comes to her turn to step up with Asiya, she needs a small act of kindness herself which her friends gladly give. The central theme of ‘passing things on,’ between family members, and to friends and strangers, is beautifully woven through the story, along with the idea of sharing kindness with others. The author’s note beautifully links the theme to her faith too, causing the reader to think about the impact of our actions and behaviour on others around us.

Laura Noakes
Chapter book

What a fabulous book! Cosima Unfortunate is a new type of heroine for Middle-Grade readers. Cosima and her friends Diya, Mary and Pearl live in a Home for Unfortunate Girls, locked away from the eyes of the world. However, there is certainly nothing ‘unfortunate’ about them! When a mysterious visitor turns up at the home, Cos overhears a conversation that sets a series of events in motion that will change their lives forever; a chain of events that includes sneaking out, stealing and even mortal danger.
Nothing is too much though for Cos and her friends. Diya is a brilliant inventor, Mary is a great planner and Pearl is a talented artist – all skills that will be needed if they are to stop the evil plans of Lord Fitzroy and save the day.
The story highlights how people who are perceived to be different can be treated. In this book, however, differences are not a hindrance. I really loved the characters, and children who see themselves as different will enjoy being represented as the heroes and heroines of the tale.

Pari Thomson
 & Elisa Paganelli
Chapter book

Pari Thomson’s debut novel takes the reader into an imaginary world of nature, mystery and magic.

This gripping tale weaves through the many adventures and challenges of Daisy Thistledown, who discovers the spellbinding world of Greenwild, following the strange disappearance of her mother. When entering a hidden doorway, Daisy is faced with a mysterious, yet magical setting, where she is acquainted with milk chocolate trees, zither roots and a rare, but deadly, ghost-moth orchid. Here, while grieving from a terrible loss, she creates precious friendships which go on to change the world she thought she knew to a different place entirely.

While juggling solving the mystery of her mother’s disappearance, Daisy attempts to learn green magic and navigate the land of Greenwild as much larger, darker mysteries begin to unfold. Not all is as it first seems in Greenwild, and the author has seamlessly created a tale brimming with twists and turns.

This book will leave the reader scratching their head with curiosity, on the edge of their seat with shock and sobbing with heartbreak by the end of their journey through ‘The World Behind the Door’. Thomson creates an incredible balance between the luscious, botanical beauty described, and that of deep evil and darkness; her imagination is truly commendable. Readers of Greenwild will not be left disappointed as they experience a journey of friendship, growth and good vs evil. I would highly recommend this for Upper KS2 readers and adults alike, in a book that teaches us that ‘Nature is wilder and stranger than you know, more miraculous than you can imagine’.

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Many thanks to our review panel members Hayley Warner, Esther Brown, Tami Wylie and Claire Sleath for reviewing this month’s selection.

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