Children’s and teens roundup – the best new picture books and novels
Not Now, Noor! by Farhana Islam, illustrated by Nabila Adani, Puffin, £7.99
When Noor asks the women in her family why they wear hijabs, no one will tell her – until her ammu gives her the answers she is looking for. Lively, curious and full of fun, this warm, sweet picture book is steeped in love and pride.
The Big Bad Bug by Kate Read, Two Hoots, £12.99
A big, bullying beetle terrorises the other minibeasts in the garden. Will he ever learn to share? A funny, colourful and boldly satisfying picture book from the author of One Fox.
Bear and Bird: The Picnic and Other Stories by Jarvis, Walker, £9.99
These gentle, wittily illustrated stories of mishaps, hurt feelings, fondness and friendship have a timeless, transporting quality, ideal for 5+ readers.
Secret Beast Club: The Unicorns of Silver Street by Robin Birch, illustrated by Jobe Anderson, Puffin, £7.99
For 6+, this new series of magical beast-finding adventures has an urban setting and a thrilling, inclusive feel.
Thirty Trillion Cells: How Your Body Really Works by Isabel Thomas, illustrated by Dawn Cooper, Welbeck, £14.99
A gorgeous in-depth look at the human body’s building blocks, for readers of 7+.
Jamie by LD Lapinski, Orion, £7.99
Being non-binary has never been a problem for 11-year-old Jamie – until secondary school looms, and the only two options are the boys’ school or the girls’. Suddenly Jamie and their friends find themselves protesting from the rooftops. Will Jamie ever find the place they belong? A sensitive, moving 9+ story about fighting for acceptance and change.
The Táin by Alan Titley, illustrated by Eoin Coveney, Little Island, £8.99
This gutsy, vivid, gruesomely humorous retelling of the seminal Irish myth is perfectly judged for folklore addicts of 8+, with text heightened by brawny, satisfying illustrations.
Where the River Takes Us by Lesley Parr, Bloomsbury, £7.99
It’s 1974, and Richie and Jason have been recently orphaned, plus there are power cuts and a three-day week, and Richie’s struggling to pay the bills. When 13-year-old Jason sees a competition promising £100 for a photo of the mysterious Beast of Blaengarw, he and his best friends set off on a quest that will change them for ever. A poignant, funny adventure for 9+, rich in bittersweet, evocative detail.
The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander, Anderson, £14.99
Eleven-year-old Kofi is a dreamer who loves swimming, his elders’ stories and his friend Ama. When a village celebration leads to sudden death, though, Kofi’s everyday happiness is ripped away, leaving only dreams to set him free. Set in modern-day Ghana, Alexander’s verse novel for 12+ is a visceral, gripping coming-of-age story.
Different for Boys by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Tea Bendix, Walker, £12.99
Featuring black “redactions” of bad language and Bendix’s elegant, minimalist illustrations, this slim, powerful 14+ story of friendship, attraction and internalised homophobia follows Ant Stevenson and his shifting, complex relationships with three boys at school. A quietly unforgettable book from an award-winning author.
Wild Song by Candy Gourlay, David Fickling, £12.99
When Luki’s mountain village in the Philippines receives an invitation from President Roosevelt, asking them to visit the World’s Fair in Missouri, Luki leaps at the chance to defy the village elders. But the US’s welcome doesn’t prove all that she hopes … This YA companion to the acclaimed Bone Talk confirms Gourlay as a brilliantly accomplished and original historical novelist.