New Children's Books We Love
It's easy to feel lost in the flood of so many new children's books available. Each month, we pick five of our recently published favourites.
Check out our Review Panel's top picks for you to read in June 2022.
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Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun.
Tola Okogwu & Brittany Jackson
An exciting, edge-of-your-seat adventure.
Onyeka and her best friend, Cheyenne, are both Nigerian living in London. Whilst Cheyenne is confident and not bothered what others think, Onyeka feels like she doesn’t fit in. Her hair in particular causes others to stare. It has a mind of its own and no matter what her hairdresser mum does to it, it’s out of control. Onyeka’s mum doesn’t talk about Nigeria or why they left and least of all, what happened to Onyeka’s dad.
One day, Onyeka’s hair literally has a mind of its own when it glows blue and crackles with electricity when Cheyenne is in trouble. Onyeka’s mum is forced to tell her that she is 'Solari' and has inherited this trait from her dad. When Onyeka struggles to control her power and it starts to make her sick, her mum decides it’s finally time to return to Nigeria and try and locate Onyeka’s dad and learn to control her powers. Despite being surrounded by other Solari, Onyeka still feels like she doesn’t belong. The other children have lived with their powers for years, but Onyeka has only just discovered hers. If only her mum could find her dad and maybe she could get some answers!
‘Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun’ is an exciting edge-of-your-seat adventure with interesting and unique characters. I loved the development of the relationships between Onyeka and the other children as she got to know more about them. I became totally lost in Onyeka’s world and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next.
This story would make a fantastic read for Upper Key Stage 2 children, particularly for those that are fans of superhero stories and films. Tola Okogwu says in the author’s note in the book that she hopes it will “act as both a mirror and a window” in terms of representation, and I think lots of people will agree that it does. What a wonderful book.
Reviewer: Kristen Hopwood
Recommended Age: 9+
Format: Chapter book
Publication Date: 9th June
Flooded is a visually stunning book with a powerful story about learning to face up to problems before they grow too big.
In Flooded, the city faces a problem. It seems like a normal day; the city wakes up to find itself a little bit wet. No one minds at first as it was just a little bit of water, but as the city carries on with its usual rhythm, the smaller animals start to realise that it is all becoming a rather big problem.
Flooded is a fun story illustrating how small problems can grow into bigger problems if we don’t give them enough attention. It is also a story about how problems are easier to solve together and communities that work with a positive common goal can be very powerful.
This book is full of surprises and has a pull-out page at a very significant part of the story, which really creates excitement for younger children as they are reading the book. When sharing this book with my class, it really made them think and predict about how the animal’s problem could be solved. They absolutely loved the artwork featuring gorgeous, blues and blacks as well as yellow shades for a very significant character within the book.
Flooded is a fantastic book to be use in PSHE lessons focusing on teamwork and how to manage problems if they arise with their own friends and families. It could also be linked to the wider world and how places can work together positively and impact one another.
Reviewer: Helen Wilson
Recommended Age: 4+
Publication Date: 3rd May 2022
Another brilliantly honest and empathy-boosting book by the author of Ella On the Outside, Not My Fault and How To Be Me. True to form, this new story explores relatable themes of growing up, friendships, feeling alone and dealing with school worries.
Meet Callie. Callie is super lucky. Her mum is a childminder and her house is filled with children, some of whom have become her best friends. Ted lives next door, and because his mum works, he has been going to Callie’s house every day after school. Callie loves to hang out with her ‘nearly-brother’ and is truly upset when the arrangement comes to an end. But money is tight in Ted’s house, and so he offers to stay home alone.
Without the companionship, however, Ted is left alone with his own thoughts. While sitting up in a tree (watching Callie’s garden), he dwells on the fact that not only is he shy and nervous, but he is also small in stature. Billy at school has been bothering him a bit lately too, so you can imagine his dismay when he sees Billy making himself at home in Callie’s garden room. First Billy humiliates him in front of the entire school and now he has stolen his best friend. Ted vows to get revenge.
What Ted doesn’t know is that Billy has a really tough time at home, and is sleeping at the school while his mum is on holiday. He doesn’t feel comfortable at his dad’s and has built a web of deception that Callie gets dragged into. The catastrophic climax will leave readers on the edge of their seats, and when Callie sees it all unfold in front of her eyes she realises that it really is time to tell the adults everything that she knows. Because sometimes keeping things inside is dangerous.
This is a gripping story told from the different perspectives of the three main characters, and will appeal to children who have enjoyed Cath Howe’s books.
Reviewer: Emma Hughes
Recommended Age: 9+
Format: Chapter book
Publication date: 5th May 2022
You Don't Have to be Loud: A Quiet Kid's Guide to Being Heard
There seems to be a wealth of self-help for children books on the market at the moment and looking for a book that really considers the issue in a suitable way can be is quite overwhelming.
However, ‘You Don’t Have to Be Loud’ pitches itself perfectly in its mission through the gloriously simple yet innovative title.
The book cover looks appealing, with a huge mouth covering the page. The edges of the book itself are curved, rather than pointed, which make it rather soothing to hold.
The book is written in the first person and draws on the experience of the author. It is utterly refreshing to listen to the anecdotes; which are charming, funny and absolutely authentic. There is a balance between advice and support for children and young people who identify as shy, quiet or introverted and an insight into Ben’s journey, navigating the world through his ‘quiet’ viewpoint.
There are also some amazing quotes from famous people, some of whom you may never have considered as being shy. Ben drops these into the narrative regularly and they are really effective in reminding the reader that a change of mindset can be helpful in reframing feelings of shyness.The illustrations are in a red, grey and white colour scheme and red is used perfectly; it highlights the shy characters on the page brilliantly.
The book would be a super addition to a Key Stage Two bookshelf and could be used as part of a mental health collection or as part of PSHE or citizenship.
Reviewer: Claire C
Recommended Age: 9+
Publication Date: 28 April 2022
Vashti Hardy & George Ermos
The Brightstorm Twins are back for the final time, in another thrilling adventure. Book Three wastes no time before plunging the reader straight into the latest exploration undertaken by the Sky Ship Aurora and her undaunted crew. This time, the ship is travelling north to the volcanic islands and the site of the first adventure for Ernest Brightstorm, the twins’ father.
This time the crew have two new members - Gan a princess who just wants to be an explorer and Hugo, a vulcanologist from the North. Also back is their old adversary, Eudora Vane, her mind completely wiped after the last adventure…. or is it?
In this book we are also introduced to new sapients, some of which, like the terrier, seem to deserve entire books of their own. At the centre of the story is a huge bear and there was definitely a Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe moment in the latter half of the story.
There is something about reading the next novel in a series you have particularly enjoyed - is it going to live up to expectations? This one certainly does, raising the high-octane adventure to a new level, with plenty of cliff hangers and new places to discover. Arthur and Maudie, the twins, also find out more about their own family history and of course there are more maps to pore over. I have a love of maps and the maps by Jamie Gregory satisfy nicely, in lovely fold out panels front and back.
The story raises issues over how we treat the Earth (even an imaginary one) and how we view animals. It also looks at growing up and changing and physically moving away from the people we love, a particularly difficult issue for twins. This may be the end of the books about the Brightstorm twins, but it didn’t feel like an absolutely closing and perhaps Vashti Hardy has left it open to return to one day. I hope so.
Review: Jacqueline Harris
Recommended Age: 8+
Publication Date: 5th May 2022