Children’s and teens roundup – the best new picture books and novels | Children and teenagers
I Am Angry by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Robert Starling, Walker, £7.99
This kitten is angry – angry enough to “bang all the bones”, “smash up stones”, “burst a balloon” and “squash the moon” before falling asleep, exhausted. A funny and affectionate picture-book account of a small person’s enormous rage from the ever-adept Rosen, heightened by Starling’s illustrations.
Rainbow Hands by Mamta Nainy, illustrated by Jo Loring-Fisher, Lantana, £11.99
During the long days of the Indian summer, a little boy paints his nails to match his mood. Sometimes his Papa frowns, but his grandfather knows he will shine bright in this sweet, poetic picture book celebrating self-expression and acceptance.
The Worry Tiger by Alexandra Page, illustrated by Stef Murphy, Two Hoots, £12.99
The prospect of show-and-tell makes Rory anxious about school – but when his Worry Tiger materialises, encouraging him to smell the night air and stretch up high to climb a tree, his fears become more manageable. A gentle, reassuring picture book, with subtly incorporated mindfulness exercises.
Dadaji’s Paintbrush by Rashmi Sirdeshpande, illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane, Andersen, £12.99
Dadaji teaches everyone to paint, but his lessons mean most to his grandson. After Dadaji dies, the boy puts away his special brush, unable to face painting without his grandfather – but when a little girl begs him to teach her, he discovers the ways in which Dadaji’s legacy lives on. Best for four- or five-and-up, this touching picture-book story of love, loss and acceptance is illustrated with glowing tenderness and warmth.
Lands of Belonging: A History of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Britain by Donna and Vikesh Amey Bhatt, illustrated by Salini Perera, Nosy Crow, £14.99
Examining India’s complex history and Britain and India’s long and tight-bound relationship, this beautifully illustrated book for 7+ asks questions about identity and belonging in straightforward, accessible language. Carefully balanced between celebratory and thought-provoking, it’s a must for classroom libraries in particular.
Rewilding by Dr David A Steen, illustrated by Chiara Fedele, Neon Squid, £12.99
For seven- or eight-and-up, a down-to-earth guide with a clear and hopeful message: humans have damaged the natural world, but with care, time and resources, we can make amends. The fascinating details of rewilding – creating misting systems for endangered toads and hand puppets for feeding condor chicks – combine with broader overviews of how ecosystems work in this vibrant and richly textured book.
Starlet Rivals by Puneet Bhandal, illustrated by Jen Khatun, Lantana, £7.99
Bela dreams of Bollywood stardom – but can a girl from her less than privileged background have a chance of winning the national Dance Starz competition, and a place at a prestigious Mumbai stage school? A deliciously readable addition to the stage-school story canon for song-and-dance fans of 7+.
The Mab, edited by Matt Brown and Eloise Williams, illustrated by Max Low, Unbound, £18.99
Featuring 11 Welsh authors, including Nicola Davies and Darren Chetty, and a foreword by Michael Sheen, this collection of retold stories from the legends of the Mabinogi is funny, strange and magical, from Blodeuwedd the flower-woman to the dream of Emperor Maxen. Max Low’s illustrations strike just the right note of bizarre wonder, and Bethan Gwanas’s Welsh translations add the perfect finishing touch.
Sadé and her Shadow Beasts by Rachel Faturoti, Hachette, £7.99
When Sadé’s mother dies, she retreats to a lush imaginary world with candy-floss sky and colourful creatures – until her refuge is compromised by shadow monsters, who creep into her real life too. An online support group helps Sadé begin to manage her anxiety, but can she find her voice and perform her poetry at the school show? An imaginative and moving debut for 9+.
Never Forget You by Jamila Gavin, Farshore, £8.99
At an English boarding school in 1937, four girls from very different backgrounds become friends: rule-breaking Dodo, gentle Noor, gutsy Gwen and secretive Vera. When war breaks out, their tight-knit group is dispersed, but each has their own part to play, from flying planes with the Air Transport Auxiliary to secret operations in Nazi-occupied Paris. A compelling story of friendship and courage for 10+, featuring a fictionalised Noor Inayat Khan, from the award-winning author of Coram Boy.
Once Upon a Fever by Angharad Walker, Chicken House, £7.99
Readers of 12+ with gothic tastes will relish this vision of a world in which excessive feeling leads to outbreaks of disease. Sisters Payton and Ani live in St Jude’s hospital, where their father works night and day to find a cure for their mother’s grief-induced fever. Payton wants to follow in her father’s footsteps, but Ani’s anger may be endangering her in turn … A dark, clever, enthralling fantasy, with a vividly imagined setting.
Her Dark Wings by Melinda Salisbury, David Fickling, £7.99
In a world where Olympian gods are still worshipped, on a remote island near the entrance to the Underworld, teenagers Corey and Bree are best friends – until Bree betrays Corey, and dies. Grieving and angry, Corey is drawn to the land of the dead, and to its arrogant ruler – but also to the terrifying, powerful Furies who tell her she belongs with them. A strong modern retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth for 14+, filled with grief, self-discovery and forgiveness.
This Place Is Still Beautiful by XiXi Tian, Penguin Random House, £7.99
Seventeen-year-old Annalie is looking forward to a summer of love – until a racist slur is painted on her house, and her firebrand sister Margaret returns from college, intent on bringing the perpetrator to justice. This assured YA debut interweaves uncompromising truths about prejudice, identity and belonging with sweet, heady romance and a nuanced depiction of sisterhood.
Something Certain, Maybe by Sara Barnard, Macmillan, £7.99
Rosie is thrilled to be starting university. Everything is planned out: a four-year degree and a settled, stable career to follow. Then she discovers that she doesn’t like her flatmates, her lectures, or anything about being there – except maybe kind, fascinating Jade. But is first love enough to keep Rosie going? A thoughtful and empathic exploration of what happens when the best-laid plans go awry, and how to accept uncertainty and change.