From a confidence-building journal and tales to help young people overcome shyness and feeling blue, to a powerful girl penguin and a brilliant time traveller, here’s our pick of great summer reads.
How to Mend A friend, 3+
By Karl Newson
Illustrated by Clara Anganuzzi
Karl Newson’s touching picture book explores how different people react in difficult times. With simple but poetic text, it gives even very young children insights into friendship and empathy. The book explores differences between people, the nature of friendship – why some friendships are there forever and others don’t stay the course. Clara Anganuzzi’s illustrations are comforting and evocative, and there’s extra poignancy in a story that was inspired by the author’s own experience of dark times during illness – and the friends and supporters who helped mend him.
The Dare to be You Journal, 8+
by Matthew Syed
Matthew Syed is well known for his work as a motivational speaker and journalist, but the former table tennis champion has branched out to help children have the confidence to be themselves and this book is a follow on to the hugely successful You are Awesome. Once again, it has brilliant illustrations by Toby Triumph and the easy-to-follow format is fun and full of good advice – from how to get an extension on your maths homework and what to do if life deals you lemons to starting a cascade of kindness. It’s irresistibly positive – with humour and reassurance woven through deftly. There are positive messages for just about every age group (adults included).
The Time-Thief, 9+
by Patience Agbabi
The second book in Patience Agbabi’s acclaimed Leap Cycle is here, and The Time-Thief has all the verve and excitement of the first in the series, and with the same fluidity of prose in the text (Agbabi is an acclaimed poet as well as children’s author). The plot is fast-paced, as Elle goes on an adventure back in time to find the Infinity-Glass stolen from the Museum of the Past – the only way she can clear her Leapling friend’s name. Along the way she meets Samuel Johnson and his black servant Francis Barber, new friends and supporters and an old enemy out to destroy her. It’s a gripping read for children who love adventure and history and, of course, time travel.
Little Elizabeth, 6+
by Valerie Wilding
Illustrated by Pauline Reeves
In a year when the Queen has celebrated her 95th birthday, this delightful picture book offers an insight into her long and incredible life. It is beautifully illustrated by Pauline Reeves and with a strong narrative thread that provides a lot of detail about growing up as a princess, royal traditions, the abdication, wartime work and the journey to the throne. The combination of history, fascinating facts (for instance a photo album of the Queen’s favourite pets) and events that reshaped British history make this full of historical insights as well as fun to dip into. It’s a book that will also inspire young readers to find out more about our history and civic life.
The Greatest Showpenguin, 3+
Poppy the Penguin has performing in her veins, since she comes from a long line of brilliant circus stars. But with the expectations and traditions of her family to manage, her hardest job is not giving up the greasepaint and audience acclaim, it’s telling her Mum that she wasn’t born to perform and would far rather organise the whole show. This sweet and funny story, written and illustrated by Lucy Freegard, parodies The Greatest Showman while also introducing themes of overcoming lack of confidence and managing the adult world’s expectations of who we are born to be.
The Sad Ghost Club, 11+
Lize Meddings’ graphic novel is a fresh way of conveying messages about fitting in, feeling sad and isolated and finding school pressure and life in general a bit too much. In short, it tackles the isolating nature of teen and pre-teen depression. The novel starts at a low point, but the sad ghost (representing the invisibility lonely people feel) meets more ghosts, learns coping strategies and recognises that they are not alone. Lize Meddings’ Sad Ghost Club is on Instagram – with half a million likeminded members – so there’s solidarity within a story well told.