From a classic odyssey retold and an exploration of trees, to mazes and labyrinths, myths and monsters of Ancient Greece and a comic tale of weird witches, here’s our top picks.
The Wonderful Wizard of OzBy L. Frank Baum (8+)
Illustrated by MinaLima.Harper Design, £25
This landmark story (with even more iconic film) has been reimagined in a beautiful edition illustrated by design studio MinaLima – they are the creatives who created the graphic universe in Harry Potter films. The story remains as charming as ever, while the extraordinary artwork – with interactive elements including an unfolding and pop-up yellow brick road – are there to entice a new generation of readers. It’s most definitely a collector’s treasure, the eighth children’s classic in this Harper Design series.
Everyday Magicby Jess Kidd,9+
A deliciously comical story, Everyday Magic is the debut children’s book from award-winning writer Jess Kidd, and it opens with a belly laugh. Who, after all, can resist Alfie Blackstack, the orphaned hero whose zookeeper mother died in a tragic dare involving dancing in a lion’s cage wrapped in pork sausages? When his ornithologist father meets a similarly avoidable fate. Alfie is shipped off to Little Snoddington to live with his aunts, who just happen to be witches. He finds a friend and ally in fearless Calypso Fagan from the travelling circus. When Calypso’s sister Nova disappears, the race is on to rescue her and also stop the next witch war.
The Book of Labyrinths and Mazesby Silke Vry,7+
Illustrated by Finn Dean
This mind-expanding book is all about the weird and wonderful world of paths designed to get you lost or help you find yourself. Tracing the history of our fascination with labyrinths and mazes and covering some of the most famous examples, it also looks at the symbolism, spiritual and magical elements associated with them. Author Silke Vry is an archaeologist and art historian, so the book is packed with fun facts and details (such as two foolproof escape plans for any maze), while also challenging readers to think about why these puzzles of the landscape and our mind exist.
Ruffles and the Red, Red Coat by David Melling3+
This picture book, written and illustrated by David Melling is all about a cute puppy who loves just about any messy and mucky dog activity going but hates everything about life in his new coat. With fun drawings supported by clear and simple text, it introduces young readers to lots of new words. All ends well as Ruffles – with the encouragement of his puppy pal Ruby – learns to love the coat that keeps him warm and dry. This is the first in a series that introduces an irresistible character, richly drawn.
Pop! by Mitch Johnson12+
The author of Kick has delivered a dystopian adventure based around one girl’s discovery of the secret recipe to the world’s most popular and addictive fizzy drink (Mac-Tonic), washed up on a beach in California. With the shelves empty of pop, the Great Thirst begins. A pop ‘addict’ herself, Queenie de la Cruz is swept up in rollercoaster action and adventure, as she is hunted by people who will stop at nothing to get that secret recipe back. It tackles some big themes – corporate greed, environment, poverty, addiction – but the resolution is satisfying.
A Field Guide to Leaflings byOwen Churcher & Niamh Sharkey7+
This collaboration between design tutor Owen Churcher and former Children’s Laureate of Ireland Niamh Sharkey is a wonderful non-fiction find that packs in a lot of nature information as well as introducing us to the magical leaflings, guardians of the trees. Each leafling has a distinct character and role – Hiroki prepares the trees for blossom while Flann minds the web of roots that connect trees to their brothers. This is an absorbing and brilliantly designed book to spark imagination and curiosity about the wonderful (and global) world of trees.
Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson8+
Illustrations by Katie Hickey
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Austrian-born British novelist Eva Ibbotson’s bestselling book, this lavish new hardback edition contains glorious colour illustrations by Katie Hickey. The original book won multiple prizes and commendations at the time of publication and so this is well worth revisiting or gifting. The plot remains evergreen, as orphan Maia journeys up the Amazon in search of distant relatives who will be loving and fun to be around. They aren’t, but a mysterious boy she meets takes her on a journey into a beautiful new world.
Myths, Monsters & Mayhem in Ancient Greece by James Davies8+
If you have a child who wants to know more about the Greek gods, ID the ancient mythical and deadly creatures or head off to the underworld, this is the book to give them. The format blends comic strip-style storytelling with digestible factual pages and it’s a combination that packs in a lot of information in a pleasingly easy-to-read format. We particularly love the comic-strip treatment of the Perseus and Medusa story and the useful map of the real places where Greek myths were set.
The Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess by Tom Gauld8+
This modern fairytale written and illustrated by renowned cartoonist and illustrator Tom Gauld tells a charming story about the family bond between brother and sister. When the log princess goes missing, her wooden robot brother goes on an epic journey to bring her back. The combination of ancient and modern elements – our heroine and hero were created by a witch and an inventor – make this a fresh take on comfortingly traditional lines.
Nell and the Cave Bear by Martin Brown7+
The illustrator of the Horrible Histories series has turned his hand to writing too – and with the bonus of lovely pictures – in this heart-warming large-font tale about a little girl and her pet cave bear who go on an incredible adventure down the mountain. Nell’s runaway mission is in order to save her bear from being given away by her tribe, and in the journey that ensues the friends overcome trials and danger in order to stay together.