July - Books of the Month

The Booksfortopics July 2018 Top Picks

Five of our top recommended new children's books this month.

The Girl Who Thought Her Mother Was a Mermaid

Tania Unsworth

Stella Martin can remember how happy everything seemed at home before her mother died but now she feels increasingly alone and isolated. When a new girl called Cam arrives, Stella is happy to enjoy a blossoming friendship. 


Stella is pleased to have a friend to confide in as there is a lot on her mind, especially when she begins to suspect a highly unusual secret about her mother. Why is there such a strange family relationship with water? Are Grandma’s odd comments about mermaids just part of her dementia or is there more to them? What does the picture of a mermaid drawn by her mother mean and why had it been hidden away? Stella decides it is time to investigate her suspicions and she sets off on a mission to uncover the truth.


What follows is a thoroughly gripping adventure with dark twists and turns, fascinating characters and just the right amount of suspense to keep readers' eyes glued to the pages until a resolution has been reached (I read this in one sitting). The difficult themes of bereavement, dementia and abusive relationships are handled with due sensitivity and there is nothing too frightening in this unusual story, with plenty to feel optimistic about at the end.


With a highly original concept, mesmerising storytelling and a beautifully portrayed exploration of character identity and relationships, I highly recommend this for Years 5-6.

This book also features on:

Run Wild

Gill Lewis

This is a thought-provoking novel that explores the connection between children and the natural world, published in Barrington Stoke’s ‘super-readable’ and dyslexia-friendly style. The book is short and unintimidating and taps into important issues that interest and concern young readers, making it a suitable choice for children in the 7-9 age bracket and also for older, less confident readers.


Izzy and her friend Asha live in London and feel like there is no space to play. Looking for a new space to roam freely, the friends stumble across a derelict gasworks building and soon discover that among the rubble there is a growing miscellany of wildlife already finding shelter there, including a wolf. Unsure whether to approach the wolf, the children can see that the creature is suffering an injury and is in desperate need of help. The children need to tap into their connection with the wild as they attempt to save the wolf and speak up for creating a new nature reserve in the city.


The bond between children and nature is strikingly portrayed in the story and there is an encouragement too for young people to make heard their unique perspective when it comes to 'rewilding'. Gill Lewis has created an important and moving story about how essential it is to retain dedicated outdoor spaces for people and wildlife to roam freely within the context of busy urban landscapes, because there is a little bit of wild inside us all that otherwise risks being lost in the crowdedness of modern life. 


This book also features on:


A First Book of the Sea

Nicola Davies & Emily Sutton

 Poetry meets science and art in this beautiful picture book from popular children’s author Nicola Davies and illustrator Emily Sutton.


Each double page spread explores a different aspect of the sea, from pebbles and sandcastles to whales and puffins to lighthouses and sailors. Each new aspect is drawn out in beautifully poetic language that makes the reader reflect with awe at the natural and man-made wonders of the sea, the pleasure it provides and the unanswered questions it holds.


Every new concept is described in a manner to which even the youngest children can relate. The beam from the lighthouse, for example, is described as “light’s long finger" pointing into the darkness, speaking repeated words of warning to the seafarers among the storm. The frozen sheets in the Antarctic Ocean become “ice pancakes” for the penguins.


The anthology is generous in both its size as a book and in terms of the number of poems it contains. The poems vary in length but share a richness of vocabulary and depth of imagination that make them a pleasure to use in the classroom.


Accompanying the poems are watercolour illustrations that sing of the joyful act of simply looking at the sea. The pictures and text playfully work together, each giving way to the other as best fits. I enjoyed, for example, the page entitled ‘Rockpool’, which contains a very short two-line poem and the rest of the space is given over to a mesmerising image detailing the natural treasure trove of wildlife just below the surface of the rockpool. At other times the pictures and words work together to provide all of the necessary information; as exemplified by the poem about a puffin with ‘silver whiskers’ which, the image shows, are actually the bird’s catch of shiny fish sticking out of its beak.


This is a joyful and informative anthology that deserves a place in every primary library.


This book also features on:



The Dog That Ate The World

Sandra Dieckmann

The Dog That Ate The World is a beautiful and alluring picture book with a somewhat unusual story about a dog with such an appetite that it gradually consumes everything in the world.


The story starts in a valley where different animals dwell, living peaceful but separated lives. Birds play with other birds, foxes perform music for each other and bears frolic together among the river’s shallow waters.


When a dog appears things begin to change. The dog is hungry and takes what he pleases to eat and drink. One by one he swallows up the different animals and their habitats. The dog grows in size as he works his way through several species and also the trees, mountains and eventually even the sun.


Inside the dog’s cavernous belly, the animals refuse to let hopelessness prevail. They begin to work as a community to make the most of their new environment, happily playing together like never before and safe from the destructive threat of the greedy dog.


The story has the feel of a folk story or fairy tale, requesting that the reader quickly suspend their disbelief and instead engage with the underlying concepts of community and optimism in the face of adversity. In the midst of a crisis that could seem so bleak, hope never dies and what emerges at the end is a brighter and stronger community than ever before. We all need books like this that champion the spirit of hopefulness and positivity in the face of the darkest times.


What makes this book so triumphant is the stunning illustrations that give a real celebratory feel to the story. The patterns and textures of the natural scenes add to the playfulness and joy that defines the community of animals and you can almost hear the music coming out of the pages. With deeply vibrant hues and cheerful patterns filling the community scenes, the theme of light overcoming darkness is beautifully portrayed as even the gloominess of the disturbing black dog is barely noticeable by comparison.  


This is a beautiful picture book with an interesting story and a powerful theme of community and optimism in changing times.

The Polka Dot Shop

Laurel Remington

The Polka Dot Shop was for me a very enjoyable read, exploring themes of friendship, family, mental health and valuing entrepreneurialism among young people.


13-year-old Andy is the only pupil in her school who is not keen on the new no-uniform policy. While her classmates talk endlessly about fashion and look forward to weekend shopping sprees, Andy has to wear pre-loved clothes that come from her mum’s run-down vintage boutique.


One day, Andy finds a bag of high-quality designer clothes at the back of the shop and suddenly she spots an appealing outfit and begins to see a renewed potential in the pre-used fashion business. But in order for her plans to come to fruition, Andy will need a little help from her friends, a dose of business acumen and huge amounts of determination to find a way to transform the boutique and keep everyone happy along the way. Andy and her mum also need to find a way to bridge their growing divide by beginning to see things from each other’s perspectives, which is not an easy journey for either of them.


I really enjoyed the way that young entrepreneurialism was presented so positively in this story. There is a lot of warmth in Laurel Remington’s writing and the characters are hugely relatable with realistic relationships portrayed, plus a hint of budding romance. This book is suitable for upper KS2+.


This book also features on:


Read Laurel Remington's guest blog post on the link between polka dots and diversity in children's books. 

Please reload

You can buy these books online by clicking on the links provided, or from your local book shop or library.

More new releases for July
Click each book cover to view on Amazon.
The Storm Keeper's Island
The Cook and the King
The Mapmaker's Race
The Boy At the Back of the Class
Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: The Missing Masterpiece
Splash Day
The Great Sea Dragon Discovery
A Stone for Sascha
Baby Goes to Market
You're Called What?
Pony on the Twelth Floor
Wild Facts About Nature
Riddle of the Runes
Who Owns These Bones
Show More
You may also like our booklists
Best of 2017
Growth Mindset
Show More

Join our newsletter to find out about our brand new booklists, reviews and updates on new children's books.

Click here to sign up.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram Social Icon

Affiliate disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, BooksForTopics earns from qualifying purchases.  Click here to learn more.