Item List

May 2022
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 May 2022.

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Michelle Paver

This is the much-anticipated grand finale to the prize-winning 'Wolf Brother' adventure series.

The time has come for Torak to go head-to-head with the Demon Naiginn, but could it cause disastrous consequences for him and Wolf? Torak must hunt down the demon before the demon finds Wolf and eats his soul, giving him ultimate   powers. Naiginn also has a new tool to help him – Wolfbane – also known as the wolf killing plant. Protecting Wolf becomes even more of a challenge when he gets lost on the ice. Will Torak find him before it’s too late? Will they escape the newly discovered Kelp clan?

This is the last book in the suspenseful adventure series that follows Torak and his companion Wolf. Having read most of the books in the series, I was excited to read the final adventure and I was not disappointed. You do not have to have read every   story in the series to be able to enjoy the narrative. There are links to the other story lines in the final book so that it is easy to understand. The story is filled with drama, adventure and cliff-hangers, which keep the reader engaged. The plot ends with a satisfying conclusion, which I will not divulge so as to keep the ending a secret for new readers.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves an adventure story and it is most likely to be enjoyed by children in Upper KS2, either as a standalone adventure or as part of the well-loved series.

Reviewer: Natasha Kendrick

Recommended Age: 9+

Format:  Chapter book

Publication Date: 26 April 2022

The Aquanaut

Dan Santat

The Aquanaut is a graphic novel by Caldecott Medal winner and New York Times bestselling author-illustrator Dan Santat.

This 245 page full colour graphic novel explores themes of loss, family, friendship, and environmental issues.

Sophia’s father, a marine biologist, was lost at sea when his research vessel sank. Sophia lives with his science partner and brother, her Uncle Paul, who is struggling to both take care of her and continue the important work he and his brother started. At the mercy of investors, the ‘Aqualand’ marine reserve they founded to protect sea life and continue their research is getting slowly but surely turned into a theme park, where the funders only care about how much money they can make out of the creatures even at the expense of their health and happiness.

One day, a strange being in an old fashioned diving suit emerges from the ocean searching for ‘Aqualand’. When they meet Sophia there, it is revealed that the suit is piloted by four friends from the ocean who, having found her father’s journal near his shipwrecked vessel, are wowed by the promise of a safe haven where they can be protected from the dangers of the ocean. Sophia becomes firm friends with these brave little creatures, and in their humorous adventures not only do they help Sophia with her science project, but together they save ‘Aqualand’ and make it into the haven it was always supposed to be.

This is a beautiful graphic novel which shows how important chosen family and friendships can be. It also highlights the damage done to the ocean by humans as we dump our waste without care and fail to appreciate the value of sea life. This would be an ideal book to explore and learn about ocean life and protection of the environment, as well as loss and the different forms family can take.

Reviewer: Amy Cross-Menzies

Recommended Age: 8+

Format: Graphic novel

Publication Date: 3rd March 2022

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

Nicola Davies & Jenni Desmond

On the night before Earth Day, as the clock strikes midnight in Greenwich, two children take an imaginary journey around the world to see what is happening in each different time zone. 

They travel to the Arctic Circle, where we learn about melting ice. They watch a family of elephants in Zambia, where it is 2am. They see the baby sea turtles make their journey into the waves on the beach at India. They hear the morning song of gibbons as they pass through Gaoligongshan National Nature Reserve in China, at 6.30am. They dive down into the ocean in the Philippines as we watch whale sharks have their breakfast of plankton. In Australia at 10am, kangaroos and their joeys find shade under the gum trees. At 12 noon they are in Antarctica, where melting ice again makes things difficult for its inhabitants, the emperor penguins, who rely on it to raise their chicks. Heading into the afternoon, they pass through Hawai’i where they see that humpback whales are thriving now that humans no longer hunt them as we once did. At 4pm in California, they wander through a beautiful meadow of flowers and learn how important the insects pollinating them are to all life on earth. As evening falls, they come to Ecuador, home to owl monkeys, insects, birds, and bats - but only for as long as humans resist the temptation to drill for oil here. In Brazil jaguars are endangered, but changes to farming are helping to protect them. Late into the night at 10pm, they pass over Bird Island, South Georgia, where albatross parents risk feeding their chicks plastic in the mouthfuls they return home with. As the last chime of midnight sounds, they return home, back to their human world of plastics, oil, roads and lights.

The illustrations in this book are simply stunning - full of movement and colour. The evocative words weave learning about the earth's rotation and time zones into the fascinating journey around the globe. Although we see the destruction human beings are causing to the planet and its inhabitants, we also hear stories of success and change, and the book has a really positive message about how we can make a difference and can do something to protect the planet. 

This would be absolutely perfect to read around Earth Day each year, as well as for general learning about climate change, time zones, animals and places of the world. There is some simple and clear information at the back about what climate change is and how we can do something to help. All in all a fascinating book in both story and imagery.

Reviewer: Amy Cross-Menzies

Recommended Age:  5+

Format: Picturebook

Publication date: 7th April 2022

I Ate Sunshine for Breakfast

Michael Holland & Phillip Giordano

We were thrilled to see a new paperback edition of this gorgeous non-fiction title, I Ate Sunshine For Breakfast from Flying Eye Books. Its subtitle - A Celebration of Plants Around the World – is fitting as the whole book bursts with colour, information and adoration.

The book is split into four main parts: All About Plants, World of Plants, From Breakfast Until Bedtime and The Power of Plants. Sections within these parts range from covering large concepts such as plants’ roles in food chains and foodwebs down to the interesting details about how plants help us look after our   teeth. There are various “DIY” investigations and experiments to try such as making invisible ink and creating bottle gardens. The book is visually stunning throughout and playfully illustrated as a flying insect pops up frequently to guide us through it all. I Ate Sunshine For Breakfast strikes a great balance between the everyday uses and marvels of plants and the science within this. Each page serves to remind the reader of the wonder of plants   which is all around us.

The page layout is such that each section is presented as a double-page spread and this would be particularly useful in schools. It would be easy for teachers to base some great reading lessons around these spreads and, because plants play such a large role in so many things, teachers could link to many areas of the curriculum. There is, for example, a section on how various world flags use plants as symbols and a different one on their role in musical instruments. All this before the more obvious pages you would expect in a book about plants, such as pollination and seed dispersal. 

Plants play a large role in the  primary Science curriculum and this visually appealing book really is a gem that could be dipped into again and again in KS2.

Reviewer: @123_Mr_D

Recommended Age: 7+

Format: Non-fiction

Publication Date: 5th May 2022

The Lost Whale

Hannah Gold & Levi Pinfold

Many of our readers will be fondly familiar with Hannah Gold’s first book The Last Bear - which was voted 'Best Classroom Read-Aloud' in our Books of the Year Award and also went on to win the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize and to take the number one spot in the Children and YA Uk fiction charts. Readers resonated with the strong environmental themes and heartfelt story writing.

Her second standalone adventure, The Lost Whale, is beautifully written and is likely to be just as well received. Like the first book, the story highlights the topic of environmental sustainability but also draws a picture of the wonderful connection that can develop between children and animals, placing hope and empowerment in the hands of the young to make a difference in the planet's future.

In this instance, the story centres on a connection between an eleven-year-old boy, Rio, and a beautiful grey whale. When Rio is sent to California to stay with his grandmother while his mother is in hospital recovering from a mental health crisis, he feels anxious and unsettled - unsure who will care for his mother as well as he does or when he will see her again. He forms a friendship with a friendly local girl called Marina and her father, helping them to run their whale watching trips. Rio is fascinated by the whales and, aside from worries about his mum, the whales become the only thing to fill his thoughts. He’s amazed to recognise one of the grey whales - White Beak - from his mother's old sketches and he also discovers that he has the rare gift of being able to hear the whales.

 As the story unfolds, Rio develops a unique and tender relationship with White Beak. Soon, White Beak needs his help and, determined to help, Rio has to dig dep and bring together all of the resources he can to save her. As he tracks down the whale helps to untangle her from the dumped fishing nets that ensnare her, new and hopeful horizons for his mum's recovery open up and the story ends of a note of optimism.

After reading the story, I considered  the plight of the whales in a new way and gained an increased awareness of the dangers posed to these beautiful creatures by human activity. Hannah Gold's beautifully descriptive prose not only draws out the simbiosis between the powerful natural world and the depth of human emotion, but also strikes the perfect balance between recognising the weight of very real problems of the modern world on a personal and global level, while drawing out how courage, working togather and finding harmony with nature can provide an optimistic way forward.  As the story says,"‘None of us can save the world single-handedly. But together we might just stand a chance.’". The book is tenderly illustrated  by Levi Pinfold who captures the sheer beautifully of the whale as well as the sweeping emotions of the story.

Reviewer|: Alison Leach

Recommended Age: 8+

Format: Non-fiction

Publication Date: 31st March 2022