Keep up to speed with our latest children's book reviews, recommendations and fun activities for kids of all ages.
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Nov 28, 2021: It's the first Sunday of Advent and so it's the perfect time to share some of our favourite Christmas stories! Our festive books are out ready for cosy evenings and read aloud together. There are so many wonderful Christmas books to choose from, but here are a few that we return to again and again:
Dasher, by Matt Tavares (3+) The beautiful story of a little doe with a wish in her heart, who takes off in pursuit of the life she wants to live with the help of a powerful Christmas wish.
A Boy Called Christmas, by Matt Haig (7+) Fantastically funny and wonderfully magical, the first in Matt Haig’s brilliant Christmas trilogy is a perfect festive read.
Tinsel, by Sibeal Pounder (9+) This gloriously Christmassy tale of friendship and adventure is very funny, with a feminist message and a huge heart; we loved every page.
How Winston Delivered Christmas, by Alex T Smith (3+) Featuring the most charming illustrations, this Christmas adventure story has 24 chapters to be read each night throughout advent, along with a festive craft or activity for each day. It’s guaranteed to be a family favourite for years.
Christmas in Exeter Street, by Diana Hendry (3+) This beautifully illustrated and atmospheric picture book about a house packed full of guests on Christmas Eve perfectly captures how this very special time of year is all about giving and sharing.
Pick A Pine Tree, by Patricia Toht (3+) An irresistible Christmas picture book brimming with the excitement of the festive season, this is a rhythmical read-aloud with wonderful illustrations celebrating all the delightful rituals of decorating the tree.
Grandpa Christmas, by Michael Morpurgo (3+) A powerful message about protecting the environment is at the heart of this beautiful story about a grandpa’s wish for his granddaughter to live in a better world.
Belle and Boo and the Very Merry Christmas, by Mandy Sutcliffe (3+) A beautifully illustrated, old fashioned tale about how kindness and sharing make Christmas special.
The Christmasaurus, by Tom Fletcher (5+) A thrilling magical adventure that’s all about friendship and families, packed with sleigh bells, singing elves and flying reindeer.
The Night I Met Father Christmas, by Ben Miller (9+) This is a modern Christmas classic, full of magic and wonder, complete with flying reindeer, elves and a secret North Pole workshop.
Nov 18, 2021: We're very excited to have been featured in a range of media and Christmas Gift Guides already this year! For example you can find A Pocketful of Books reviewed and recommended in these fab guides at Every Mum, at Bonafide Bookworm, The Grumpy Olive, Twin Mummy and Daddy and at Meme And Harri. We are so happy to have been chosen!
Nov 8, 2021: If you’re looking for a gift with a difference this year then look no further! Our subscriptions make a wonderful gift that continues to bring excitement each month beyond the festive season; kids just love getting parcels in the post! Naturally if you purchase a gift from us for someone special at Christmas time, we will include your personalised gift message in a handwritten card and gift boxes will arrive with festive wrapping! Please take note of our Christmas Posting Dates for this year:
We recommend ordering for Christmas gifts as early as possible as postal services are often disrupted or subject to delays during the festive season. Of course, we will happily take last minute orders after the above dates, and will post your first box as soon as possible and will also provide an electronic gift card that can be printed at home. PLUS We have a fantastic offer for early bird shoppers again this year: between now and November 21st you can SAVE 10% on our subscriptions with coupon code JINGLEBELLS10.
Nov 3, 2021: Back by popular demand, our limited edition Christmas Eve Boxes are available again this year, each one comprising one of our regular brilliant book boxes PLUS extra festive goodies, including Christmassy socks, a delicious hot chocolate kit, a tree decoration and more. Available in all three of our reader levels, they make a fantastic gift or the perfect seasonal treat for your own young bookworms! Find to more.
Nov 1, 2021: My First Book Of Microbes by Sheddad Kaid-Salah Ferrón and Eduard Altarriba: This is a totally fascinating book that was packed full of facts and interesting information that I didn’t know! Science is fascinating and this book makes the topics of microbes, viruses, fungi and bacteria really accessible, easy to understand and fun to learn about, with bite sized information and super illustrations. And with our experience in this current pandemic it’s a really timely book, helping children to understand more about what is going on around them. The book includes explanations about how viruses spread, the role of antibodies and the importance of vaccines throughout recent history.
I think that the clear and simple explanations, and the attractive illustrations make this an ideal STEM book for children aged 7 and up, but really it’s also a fascinating read for older children and even adults, because I think it’s a topic many of us don’t know a lot about. It’s definitely a great book for dipping into again and again. My First Book Of Microbes is published by Button Books / GMC Publications.
Emily, age 10, Munich, Germany
Hallowe’en is just around the corner and we are seeing pumpkins and spiders everywhere! We love a good spooky read at this time of year and there are some fabulous books for children that are perfect for enjoying at this time of year. Here’s just a few of our favourites:
Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball by Laura Ellen Anderson: The first in a gorgeous series about Amelia and her somewhat ghoulish friends. The series is gorgeously gothic and wickedly funny, with lovely illustrations and great vocabulary to be devoured by voracious young readers aged 7+
Hubble Bubble: The Super Spooky Fright Night by Tracey Corderoy: The hugely entertaining adventures of Pandora and her Granny Crow, a witch with the tendency to “get excited and go too far” where magic and spells are concerned are perfect for Hallowe’en. The two-color cartoon illustrations add to the atmosphere of benevolently chaotic magic, making this book perfect for readers aged 5+
How to Make Friends with a Ghost by Rebecca Green: A beautifully illustrated picture book that tells what you should do when you meet a ghost—and it may not be what you think! A sweet story for younger readers aged 3+
Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell: Each book in the fabulous Goth Girl series is a wonderfully witty parody of a gothic novel, packed with silly puns, hilarious literary references and, of course, Riddell's amazing illustrations. Featuring vampires, ghosts and more, this will appeal to readers aged 8+ while also, we suspect, keeping parents well entertained!
The Witches by Roald Dahl: Dahl’s dark fantasy about “real” witches is a classic, with wonderful characters and truly terrifying villains! A perfect spooky read for age 9+
Bonaparte Falls Apart by Margery Cuyler: Bonaparte the skeleton is falling apart—both literally and figuratively—but his good friends are at the ready to put him back together again. Kids aged 3+ will love this tale that's more heartwarming than horror.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: Chilling and thrilling this dark story has become a classic, with its eerie setting and captivating plot. A fantastic read for children aged 10+
Sept 2, 2021: It’s that time of year again already! Many children (and parents) are a little apprehensive about the first day of school. Here are a few simple steps you can take to ease their minds and help them get ready and excited for the new school year:
Re-establish a routine: a consistent schedule is so important for kids, especially in the evenings. A week or more before school starts, get back into the habit of earlier bedtimes and re-establish quiet evening activities such as a fun learning activity, regular dinner and bath times, and reading before bed.
Encourage their independence: children who play an active role in preparing for back to school, such as choosing and organising school supplies and books, are more likely to get excited about the new school year. Daily, age-appropriate tasks to help you around the house will also will help your child gain independence.
Talk about it: reassure children that being a little nervous is ok and natural. Let them express their fears or worries, and seek out stories that address this topic. Also review outdoor safety rules together, such as looking both ways before crossing the street.
Limit screen time: going back to school is a great opportunity to re-establish screen time limits. Find some ways to engage as a family without technology, such as board games, reading aloud, or fun fitness activities.
Find time to learn together through play: you can reinforce the idea that learning is fun by playing educational games together, reading together, or exploring nature outside. Re-cap what you have learnt together afterwards, to ensure they realise that as well as having fun, they have learnt something new - just like in school!
If they are new to school, here is a great article recommending some great books that might give reassurance and help make this big milestone a little less overwhelming: https://www.juniormagazine.co.uk/education/five-great-books-for-starting-school/ and here is another useful article with more ideas for easing back to school jitters: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/school/Pages/Back-to-School-Tips.aspx
Aug 03, 2021: I loved Witch For A Week by Kaye Umansky, so afterwards we also read the other three books in the series. They were so much fun! Elsie Pickles is a sweet and kind main character who also has a great sense of humour and the witch, Magenta, is really funny, so is Corbett the Raven! There are loads of great characters in these books and the plot is fun too, so I found myself laughing out loud lots. I liked the mixture of magic and real life. There were some unexpected plot twists and a good storyline but what I liked most was the humour and the characters. I would recommend Witch For A Week to readers aged 6 or older who enjoy funny books.
Lilian G (age 8), Yorkshire UK
Jul 12, 2021: Great Lives In Graphics are amazing infographic biographies of important figures from history. Each one is filled with lots of fascinating facts and loads of great illustrations. I really like non-fiction books and what I liked best about these ones is that they contain interesting information about the historical events and social ideas of the time, as well as about the figure themselves. There is also a handy glossary at the back of each one. I loved how different all the pages were, there are timelines, maps, fact boxes and more and loads of interesting information about topics like Regency ballrooms, electric currents and the Mexican Revolution. The books are really colourful with cool illustrations so I think they will appeal to readers aged about 8 to 11 years old. I learnt lots of new and interesting information. There are also other titles in the series, including Anne Frank, Stephen Hawking, Cleopatra and Martin Luther King Jnr.
Sophie H (age 10), Munich, Germany Great Lives in Graphics are published by Button Books
Jun 10, 2021: Sailing a paper boat is an easy and fun activity for a summer’s day. To make one, all you need is one sheet of A4 paper, in any colour you like:
1. Fold your paper in half, then fold in half again and open. Fold each top corner to the crease.
2. Fold the strip at the bottom upwards.
3. Fold the two corners of the strip back over. Turn it over.
4. Fold the other strip upwards too.
5. Open the boat slowly from the bottom, then flatten into a square shape.
6. Fold the bottom triangle upwards and crease. Repeat on the other side.
7. Open like in step 5, then carefully take the upper corners and stretch it out and down until you have your boat.
8. Try it out in a safe location!
Jun 01, 2021: We loved this recent article in the New York Times about the power of picture books. It's so important that we don't abandon them too quickly, children can continue to reap huge benefits from engaging with picture books. And we've discovered so many fantastic ones while we research some of the very best to include in our 'mini' book boxes for ages 3-5. Take a read and find out more here: Your Kids Aren't Too Old For Picture Books
May 31, 2021: The Peppermint Pig was one of my favourite summer reads. It is set in the English countryside about a hundred years ago, and follows young Poll and her siblings through a tough year in their life. They have moved from London to Norfolk and have to adjust to a new home and different circumstances. Little Johnnie, the runt of a litter, becomes part of their family for a while and provides both them and the story with plenty of humour. At times the story is a little sad, and it is about growing up and learning new perspectives. The story shows the position of children in a world that is controlled by adults, as they struggle to understand things. The characters are well written and I like Poll and cheeky Theo best. It’s not full of adventure or excitement but it is a lovely story with lots of funny and surprising moments. It’s definitely a modern classic, and I would recommend it to readers aged 7 to 10 years old.
Sara E, age 10, Yorkshire, UK
May 29, 2021: This book was so exciting and interesting to explore. It has amazing illustrations and I really love how each page features a different endangered species with key information and facts about the species and the work being done to try and save them. The environmental issues facing our planet are a really important issue to me so I think this is a wonderful book for any child’s bookshelf. It’s amazing for helping kids from about age 6 and up to understand the importance of all the different species on the planet and the impact that we as humans are having on them and their habitats. This book has brilliant illustrations, a helpful glossary at the back, and really accessible information. It’s a super book to dip in and out of and to come back to again and again.
Rose A (age 11) Munich, Germany 100 Endangered Species by Rachel Hudson is published by Button Books / GMC Publications
May 27, 2021: We are thrilled to be featured in the latest article from the SEN Resources Blog about excellent resources for starting primary school. The writer shares that she was “blown away with the vast range of resources included” in our book boxes! The blog is a fantastic resource for any parents looking for engaging and effective books or resources for pre-school and primary aged children. From phonics activities to outdoor toys to tips and recommendations tailored to different learning needs, there’s a wealth of information in this blog that is really worth checking out.
Apr 29, 2021: We were absolutely thrilled this week to be picked by Theo Paphitis as one of his Small Business Sunday #SBS winners! We know that we are in great company with a host of other small businesses whose amazing services, products and initiatives have been recognized. Business and retail entrepreneur, Theo Paphitis, who still considers himself a ‘shopkeeper at heart’, welcomes new #SBS members every week to highlight just how important it is to support small businesses. It’s been fantastic to have our mission to help drive literacy and encourage reading for pleasure recognized. Find out more about Small Business Sunday.
Oct 1, 2020: Amelia and her friends embark upon another adventure in this final installment of the quirky and charming Amelia Fang series. The book opens with Amelia’s excitement about attending her friend’s birthnight celebrations but when her parents are struck down with the Frankenflu, she has to take her baby brother Vincent with her. Amelia has rather mixed emotions about her stinky, snotty little bro, especially once she discovers that babysitting is not as easy as it looks. When Vincent disappears into a mysterious land where all squished toads go, Amelia and her friends have to stage a daring rescue. It’s with trepidation that they set off to The Pond Beyond, knowing that it’s strictly off limits to non-toads and Vincent will be very hard to find.
Nine-year-old Rose rates this series finale as “hilarious, with plenty of disgusting bits, a good amount of suspense and a lovely ending”. I’m in agreement; both she and I really enjoyed the latest escapades of Amelia and her friends, appreciating the blend of comedy and adventure. Florence and Tangine are as funny as ever, and the story benefits from the liberal sprinkling of spooky humour found in the rest of the series as well as an abundance of slime and other nose-wrinkling additions. There are some fabulous new characters in this story, our favourite was Freda Frumpton, and the loyalty and bravery shown between Amelia and her friends throughout their quest makes the story particularly heartwarming; their strong sense of friendship and their ability to see the good in someone is a highlight throughout the series. Amelia’s frustration with her baby brother at the beginning of the book will also be very relatable to many readers. As always, Amelia is a little wiser by the end of the book and takes her readers along on her learning journey.
Of course this book is chock full of Laura Ellen Anderson’s delightfully endearing illustrations (we always find the maps especially appealing!) and with Hallowe’en just around the corner we think it’s a toadtastically spooky read. “I’d toadally recommend this book to any readers age 7 and up, it’s witty, funny and exciting. If only there could be more!” says Rose. Hear hear.
Rose A (age 9) and Louise A, Bavaria, Germany. Amelia Fang and the Trouble with Toads, by Laura Ellen Anderson, is published today (Egmont Books).
Sep 30, 2020: This book, by Susanna Bailey, was totally irresistible, I couldn’t put it down. The main character is 11 year old Addie who is angry and upset because she has been taken to a rural farm in the south of England to stay with a foster family. She really hopes that it won’t be for long. While she is there, the son who lives on the farm finds a foal in the snow and Addie helps him out with the foal. She is determined that she will reunite the foal with its mother, as well as being reunited with her own. The subject matter is heartwarming and it is so well written. I could really relate to the characters even though the story was sometimes pretty sad. The whole story is just so lovely to read and makes you think about others. I loved this book so much that I really recommend it to readers aged 9 or older.
Emily J (age 10), Karlsruhe, Germany
Jun 24, 2020: This story (by Laura Owen and Korky Paul) is about a witch called Winnie and her pet Wilbur who just arrived home from their sister Wendy’s house. Strange and funny things happened with them that afternoon. As soon as they unlocked the door, they were struck with a nasty damp smell. After opening the windows, they checked for food but found nothing in the fridge and cupboard. Winnie had the idea to grow their own food! Winnie waved her wand and instantly corn, cucumber, tomatoes, cows, goats, and chickens appeared. That’s when the chaos started. Several funny incidents happened for which I recommend reading the book.
Winnie and Wilbur are funny and weird at the same time. Winnie is a witch with a big witch hat, a small, magical wand, a long, pointy, pink nose and long untidy hair. Wilbur is a black scary cat with rough fur and pointed ears. Sometimes Wilbur is kind and clever and helps Winnie, for example, when he made a brown onesie from goat wool decorated with chicken feathers. At first, I was scared to read this book because there are so many spiders printed on every page of the book. Then after my mum suggested reading it, I tried the first page of the spidery book and found it so amusing that I continued reading. There are illustrative black and white pictures that helped me visualize the story. The author has beautifully used several adjectives to describe the scenes and has also used rhyming words, like “That’s as cozy as a bug in a rug in a snug hug, that is!” and “yoo hoo snail goo!” I rate this book 9 out of 10 and only deduct one mark for all the spiders in the book!
Arav M (age 7), London UK
Jul 3, 2020: Diversity and inclusion are hot topics in the publishing world at the moment, and while children’s books featuring diverse characters are, overall, on the rise, it is acknowledged that there is still a huge gap. A study in 2013 conducted at the University of Wisconsin in the USA discovered that of 3,200 children’s books released in 2013, only 253 were about people of colour, and only 223 were actually written by people of colour. More recently an Arts Council report in the UK revealed that just 1% of children’s books from 2017 had a black or minority ethnic protagonist.
Why do we feel this is so important? Well, many reasons. Books have the power to encourage and to enlighten, and a lack of diversity in books results in children being unable to see themselves in the stories that they read and unable to chart their future possibilities and ambitions. Children naturally need to identify with characters and settings. But it goes further than that. Of course they need to read about people who think, feel and love the way they do, but they also need to learn that these characters might not necessarily look like them, speak like them or come from the same kind of environment. Kids need to see themselves and people from other diverse backgrounds saving the day, working hard, loving fiercely and overcoming obstacles. Diverse books help promote respect and empathy for all kinds of people. They can take us to places we’ve never been. They satisfy our curiosity about the world. They teach us how other people think, feel, live, dream and thrive.
Whilst it is vital that the publishing industry seek to narrow this gap, librarians, teachers, parents and readers can all help by promoting and embracing stories by and about characters of all types of background. Many of us live in multicultural communities these days, making us ideal ambassadors. There are already many wonderful books out there that reflect and celebrate the rich diversity of our world. Here’s a few ideas to get you started, but we are sure that if you take a look, you’ll find many more.
And for younger readers:
You can find more recommendations in this excellent list by Love Reading 4 Kids.
May 9, 2020: I think this book, by Michael Morpurgo, is very well written and original because it starts in a normal book style but then it twists the story into diary format, which I find makes the book unique and different from others. In the book we hear about the diary of Laura Perryman and how she lives on the remote island of Bryher, and also about her brother Billy, and his adventures. I’d definitely advise you to read this book because it represents the issues of family and life.
Lucie D (age 10), Munich, Germany
Apr 29, 2020: The novel “There´s a Boy in the Girls´ Bathroom” by Louis Sachar is all about a boy called Bradly Chalkers. He really hates to do school work but he also bullies other children and is unkind. He always lies to his mother and father, but he loves to stay in his room and play with his toys. One day he meets the new counsellor, Carla. At first he hates her, but after a while he starts doing his homework and he stops bullying people. She makes a real change in his life. People should read this book because it is entertaining and teaches people an important lesson about being kind. It would appeal to kids aged 9 to 12.
Jana W (age 10), Zurich, Switzerland
Mar 8, 2020: I enjoyed every page of Cookie! and the Most Annoying Boy in the World. It’s a very, very funny book. The main character is a smart, tough and fun young girl who thinks that the world is against her. There are loads of really hilarious moments, like when she uses a whole pack of Mentos in her volcano experiment making it explode and cover her in lemonade. I like that it follows Cookie’s attempts to navigate friendships and learn from her mistakes. I like Cookie best but the other characters in the book are also fun, like her boring teachers and her annoying classmates. Throughout the book there are lots of illustrations and doodles that are also funny and help you to visualise the scene perfectly. I think this is an amazing book because it made me laugh out loud and you just can’t help liking Cookie. She can always admit when she’s wrong, and she’s clever too so I think she’s a good role model. I also really enjoyed the appendix at the end of the book which has instructions for all the fun experiments they do in the book. I would recommend this book to anyone aged 7 to 10 years old, it’s great!
Amelia D (age 8), Munich, Germany