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Best Books This Month – November 2023

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best childrens books november 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 November 2023.

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Jackie Morris
 & Cathy Fisher

The Panda’s Child offers a familiar traditional story set in a different culture and context. If readers are familiar with the fable ‘The Lion and the Mouse’, they will hear the resonances in this beautiful picture book.

The illustrations are exquisite and truly draw the reader in. The colours are vibrant in some illustrations and muted in others, to reflect strong changes in mood and atmosphere that enrich the storytelling. Sometimes the illustrations accompany the text and at other times they stand alone, inviting the reader to linger, to immerse themselves into the picture and to ponder on the inferences that can be made that foreshadow the climax of the story to come. There is a perfect arc to this story, which has been crafted into three chapters. This makes the story ideal to share with children either as a read-aloud or as part of a unit of literacy learning. This is a beautifully produced book and one that would be a fabulous addition to any class book library through the primary age range.

The Panda’s Child is the sort of book that requires reading and re-reading and plenty of time to dwell on the pictures and to raise questions about some of the motifs that appear throughout the book – the leaves and the red string, for example. Today, the only natural habitat left for the Panda is in China, but this story is set in the past and children may enjoy investigating where pandas used to live, – Myanmar and Vietnam for example  – and to consider the destruction of their natural environment. The relationship between humans and the Panda in this story mirrors the global environmental issues of today.

A wonderful book.

Mary Auld
 & Dawn Cooper

Little Brown Nut is the newest addition to the series, ‘Start Small, Think Big’ covering growth and life cycles. This non-fiction picture book tells the story of the Brazil nut tree and shows why the rainforest is important to local people and the wider world. The book features full-colour illustrations, a textured cover with a peep-through hole and giant fold-out map, and covers themes of life cycles, tree germination, photosynthesis and habitats,

The reader is instantly transported through the peep-hole cover into the Amazon Rainforest to experience the story of the brazil nut, as told through first-person (or first-nut!) narrative. The journey spans from the nut falling from its tree, to encountering a wide variety of animals on the forest floor and being buried to finally meeting humans, who will use the nuts they gather in the forest in different ways. The non-fiction/story blend explains the life-cycle of the nut with questions for the reader to explore further, such as ‘Can you see…?’ sparking interest and interaction. The interaction continues through to the end pages, with an impressive six-page fold-out section inside the back cover that will go down a treat in the classroom (including a life-cycle diagram and map of South America) and an I-Spy type game to encourage readers to have a second look.

The main text is aimed at emerging readers, with additional information for confident readers and shared reading with an adult. We particularly like learning new vocabulary, eg: agouti (rodent-like guinea pig of the rainforest) and that it’s filled with facts about how something as small as a single brazil nut is so interconnected with both its local habitat and the wider world. Schools will value this as an interactive non-fiction text that immediately captures children’s interests as well as one that aids learning in topics about rainforests, life cycles and habitats.

Perry Emerson
 & Hoang Giang

A beautiful picture book about finding beauty in imperfection.

Maria damages her brother’s favourite book by accident and Bea helps her understand that there are lots of ‘imperfectly perfect’ things in the world. The illustrations are lovely to look at and really detailed – I loved finding all of the ‘imperfectly perfect’ things as I was reading the book, such as a wrinkled smile, a cracked bowl mended with gold tape or flowers growing through cracks in the pavement.

This is a great story to support younger children with the understanding that sometimes things get damaged and accidents happen, but also a message to older children that things don’t always have to be perfect to be beautiful. I think this book would be great inspiration for some poetry about ‘imperfectly perfect’ things and could be used by all year groups in primary schools.

Helen Cooper
Chapter book

A new gentle chapter book adventure from much-loved author Helen Cooper, whose many BooksForTopics readers will recognise from our booklists (like Saving the Butterfly, Ratty Tatty and the inimitable Pumpkin Soup).

Brie is a small mouse who loves to tell tall tales. He and his fellow mice live (and eat) in a cheese shop . . . except Brie is the only mouse who doesn’t like cheese. Unfortunately, his fellow mice just don’t appreciate his stories. Fortunately, Brie soon finds someone who does. One freezing cold night, Brie finds himself shunned by the rest of the mice and curls up, cold and defenceless, in the shop, where he’s soon discovered by the shop’s cat, Gorgonzola.

In order to distract the cat from eating him, Brie starts telling him a fantastical tale of a princess and her cat on a quest to find the princess’s missing family. Fortunately, Gorgonzola loves stories and lets Brie live . . . for now. The other mice soon realize that the shop’s cat is totally engrossed in Brie’s stories and use this to their advantage to steal as much cheese as possible from the shop. Will the mice be discovered? Will Gorgonzola finally eat Brie? And will the princess be able to solve the mystery of her missing family?

This is a beautifully told, modern-day fairytale. Full of magic, cheese and dragons and with beautiful, author-drawn illustrations throughout. A fantastic book for anyone who loves fairytales, adventure and cats.

Yuval Zommer

Popular picturebook creator Yuval Zommer returns with a beautifully illustrated modern fable with an environmental theme, which sees the ‘wild’ take on its own animal-like character (perhaps a dog or a wolf), artistically made up of trees, shrubs, rivers, plains and all sorts of details from the natural world. The Wild faces challenges caused by human activity, and the beauty and freedom of the Wild clearly decline as the story progresses. Despite the striking damage caused to the Wild, there is still scope for the Wild to be cared for and to thrive again if collective action is taken and the tone at the end is hopeful and encouraging in a manner appropriate to the age of the target audience.

I loved the illustrations and that ‘the wild’ is in the shape of an animal. It serves as a really good reminder of how the land is there for living creatures to enjoy but that they also have to respect the wild and take care of it. It then shows how humans have taken advantage of the wild and taken too much from it, damaging the wild rather than caring for it. I also love the message at the end that one voice alone is not enough, but many voices can get across a message about climate change and the damage that has been done to the wild. Too often, you hear people say that one person making a change won’t make a difference to climate change, but the end of the book points out that every change in someone’s home or in someone’s city will make a difference, which is an important message.

This stunningly illustrated story could provide a gentle introduction to climate change for younger children but would also be very thought-provoking for older children, already aware of climate change. The book would be a good choice for assemblies and PSHE time across the whole school, or to include in classroom libraries for children to enjoy and muse upon at their pace.

Support independent bookshops

Many thanks to our review panel members Kate Spurrier, Kristen Hopwood, Jane Carter and Caroline Waldron for reviewing this month’s selection.

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