Children’s and teens roundup – the best new picture books and novels

Spyceratops by Alex Willmore, Farshore, £7.99
When a little dinosaur suspects her grandad is up to no good, it’s time for Spyceratops to investigate. A funny, energetic picture book to delight small spy and dino fans, culminating in a slyly satisfying twist.

Gina Kaminski Saves the Wolf by Craig Barr-Green and Francis Martin, Little Tiger, £12.99
Gina isn’t happy at hot, smelly school – and now the story of Red Riding Hood has three big mistakes in it. It’s up to Gina to visit fairytale land and put them right in this warm, engaging picture book with a self-reliant autistic protagonist.

Mama’s Sleeping Scarf by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (writing as Nwa Grace-James) with illustrations by Joelle Avelino, HarperCollins, £12.99
Chino misses Mama while she’s at work, so Mama gives her the silky scarf she ties round her hair at bedtime to play with. A joyful, acutely observed picture-book account of imaginative adventures with family, a beloved soft toy, and, of course, Mama’s scarf.

The Oak Tree by Julia Donaldson and Victoria Sandøy, Alison Green Books, £12.99
As a tiny acorn grows into a mighty oak, generations of children and creatures find shelter and joy in its branches – until the tree finally falls, and the cycle begins again. A richly poetic picture book from the team behind The Christmas Pine.

How to Spaghettify Your Dog by Hiba Noor Khan and Harry Woodgate, Bloomsbury, £8.99
Lively, humorous and stuffed with enticing images and outrageous puns, this colourful guide to the “science secrets of the universe” has immediate appeal for junior physicists aged 7+.

Kevin the Vampire – A Most Mysterious Monster by Matt Brown and Flavia Sorrentino, Nosy Crow, £7.99
When Kevin Aurelius, 10-year-old vampire, arrives in Lower Drudging with his family’s travelling carnival, they disturb a terrifying creature that unleashes havoc. But will the town’s human residents ever accept their help? This first instalment in a new series for those aged 7+ is full of hilarious, highly illustrated mayhem (and increasingly absurd character names).

Brilliant Black History by Atinuke and Kingsley Nebechi, Bloomsbury, £12.99
From its initial question – “Did you know the first Britons were black?” – to an inspiring list of the Black people who “make Britain great”, this powerful, vividly illustrated book proudly reframes Black British history for readers aged 7 or 8+.

The After-School Crime Club by Hayley Webster, Nosy Crow, £7.99
After her beloved Nan dies, Willow’s mum enrols her in an after school club in spite of her protests. Trying to impress tough leader Tay, shy, friendless Willow carries out a series of dares – but where will she draw the line? A short, understatedly moving novel for those aged 9+, full of complex feelings, moral dilemmas and learning to be true to yourself.

Finding Wonder by Lauren St John, Faber, £7.99
When Roo’s father bequeaths her a lottery ticket and leaves her in the care of her eccentric aunt Joni, her daydream of owning a prize-winning showjumper might just come true. But when Wonder Boy is stolen, Roo, Joni and their new friend Skylar are swept into a desperate quest to recover him – and other famous horses who have also started to disappear. Featuring spectacular line drawings by Marie-Alice Harel, this glorious equine mystery for 8+ sets a galloping pace throughout – and packs a hugely satisfying emotional punch.

Impossible Creatures by Katherine Rundell, Bloomsbury, £14.99
Visiting his reclusive grandfather, Christopher is amazed to discover a portal to the Archipelago, the secret home of all mythical beasts – a beautiful realm, under mysterious attack. When Christopher meets Mal, a wild girl with a flying coat who is in pursuit of a baby griffin, he joins her in her mission; but neither knows what their journey will cost them. Rundell’s first foray into fantasy is both a deft, rich homage to the greats of children’s literature and an absorbing, profoundly poignant quest story for those aged 9+ – quite possibly her best yet.

Adia Kelbara and the Circle of Shamans by Isi Hendrix, Usborne, £12.99
In the remote Swamplands, Adia’s uncle and aunt are afraid she is an ogbanje: a child possessed by demons. When Adia manifests strange destructive powers, she starts to share their fears, and escapes to the renowned Academy for Shamans – only to discover that everything there is not as it seems. Enlisted by an irritable goddess, Adia must join forces with a time-travelling warrior girl to save her world and discover who she really is in this gripping, incisive post-colonial 9+ story of magical education with a difference.

Wise Creatures by Deirdre Sullivan, Hot Key Books, £8.99
As a child, Daisy heard “wise creatures”, telling her things she had no way of knowing; since she shut them out, she’s taken great pains to be normal. But when something hurts her beloved cousin Nina and weird things start to happen in the house, it’s only a matter of time before the creatures break their bounds… Deeply unsettling, sad, tender and sweet, this story of family love at war with forbidden knowledge is a compelling psychological horror for those aged 14+.

Everyone’s Thinking It by Aleema Omotoni, Scholastic, £8.99
In the privileged English world of Wodebury Hall, being Nigerian and dark-skinned leaves cousins Iyanu and Kitan at a disadvantage. Talented photographer Iyanu prefers to observe from behind her lens; Kitan does her best to blend in with the popular crowd, accepting bad behaviour so as not to make waves. But when Iyanu’s photos are stolen, and scattered over the school grounds scribbled with spiteful secrets, Wodebury’s underlying malice is brought to a head. An intensely readable young adult mashup of Mean Girls and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Yours from the Tower by Sally Nicholls, Andersen, £14.99
In fin-de-siecle England, Polly, Tirzah and Sophia, best friends from boarding school, have taken very different paths: Sophia hunting for a wealthy husband, Polly teaching in an orphanage and Tirzah immured as her strict grandmother’s companion. Their letters to each other – comic, angry, despairing and joyous – and their lives and loves are woven elegantly together in an addictive, romantic epistolary novel for 12+.

You Could Be So Pretty by Holly Bourne, Usborne, £8.99
In the dystopian world of Bourne’s new YA novel, there are two routes for girls – be a Pretty, like Belle, follow the rules, and hope to be crowned at the Ceremony and earn lucrative contracts; or be an Objectionable, like Joni, wear no makeup, and hope to win freedom via the far-off Education. The two girls despise each other, even as they compete – but could a new future await them if they combine forces? A furious, fast-paced feminist commentary on a “post-equality” world, ideal for fans of Louise O’Neill and Laura Bates.