Books We Love in September 2023

The Boy in the Smoke

A selection of books we love from September 2023

  • Jodie

    Author: Hilary McKay Illustrator: Keith Robinson
    Publisher: Barrington Stoke
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 8+

    A ghost story that creeps up on you slowly and says a lot about humanity and kindness. Especially suitable for reluctant readers.

  • Monster in the Woods

    Author: Dave Shelton
    Publisher: David Fickling
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 8+

    A brilliantly funny, and gloriously rambling, historical hunt for a monster with a great twist at the end and a subtle message about not judging by appearances.

  • Read, Scream, Repeat

    Author: Various authors. Curated by Jennifer Killick
    Publisher: Farshore
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 10+

    Curated by Jennifer Killick - author of the Crater Lake and Dread Wood horror-comedy series for middle-grade readers - this spine-chilling anthology features spooky stories from a diverse range of authors such as Kirsty Applebaum, Jasbinder Bilan, Aisha Bushby, Joseph Coelho, Rachel Delahaye, Kat Ellis, Phil Hickes, Polly Ho-Yen, Sharna Jackson, Jennife…

  • One Little Word

    Author: Joseph Coelho Illustrator: Allison Colpoys
    Publisher: Frances Lincoln (Quarto)
    Interest age: 5-6
    Reading age: 6+

    This is a poignant picture book about the power of friendship and knowing when to say sorry. The gentle, lyrical text from Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho handles the familiar heightened emotions of playground-fall outs in a way that feels sincere and authentic.

  • Animal Homes: Rainforest

    Author: Amelia Warren Illustrator: Natasha Durley
    Publisher: Templar Books
    Interest age: 2-3

    This charming board book is a lovely introduction to the rainforest, with grabbable and durable layered board pages that mimic the low-to-high layers of the rainforest itself.  Natasha Durley’s art is colourful and attractive for little ones, with the names of the animals printed near to their pictures so that adults can point them out.

  • I’m Going to be a Princess

    Author: Stephanie Taylor Illustrator: Jade Orlando
    Publisher: Nosy Crow
    Interest age: 4-5
    Reading age: 8+

    On her way home from school, Maya announces that she wants to be a princess when she grows up. Mum encourages her to consider other professions, but Maya won’t change her mind. Though maybe it’s not a fairy tale princess she’s thinking about. A witty story about inspirational black women.

  • Lenny Has Lunch

    Author: Ken Wilson-Max
    Publisher: Alanna Max
    Interest age: 3-5
    Reading age: 5+

    It’s lunchtime at Lenny’s house. Whilst Mummy is at work, Lenny and Daddy – and dog Wilbur – have some quality bonding time in the kitchen together. 

  • I Am You Are

    Author: Ashley Harris Whaley Illustrator: Ananya Rao-Middleton
    Publisher: Ladybird Books
    Interest age: 4-7

    A joyous and empowering celebration of disability. This gorgeous book also explores tricky concepts and words in a simple and upbeat way. Powerful and important. 

  • In the Shadow of the Wolf Queen

    Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
    Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 9+

    When Ysolde’s sister is kidnapped, to get her back Ysolde strikes an impossible bargain with the terrifying Wolf Queen. An immersive, fairytale-like adventure that is an immensely enjoyable read.

  • Finding Wonder

    Author: Lauren St John Illustrator: Levi Pinfold and Marie-Alice Harel
    Publisher: Faber
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 9+

    Thanks to a lottery win, Roo is suddenly able to buy a horse – but the horse she wants is stolen. Can she solve who is stealing prize horses? Beautifully written and utterly thrilling.  

  • Welcome to Dead Town, Raven McKay

    Author: Eibhlís Carcione Illustrator: Ewa Beniak-Haremska
    Publisher: Everything with Words
    Interest age: 12-14
    Reading age: 10+

    When Raven’s parents mysteriously disappear, she is sent to live in the sinister town of Grave’s Pass, where the dead coexist with the living. As she is drawn deeper into the menacing world of ghost, ghouls and zombies, Raven is in danger of losing everything. This macabre tale, enhanced by atmospheric gothic illustrations, is a chilling read.

  • I, Spy: A Bletchley Park Mystery

    Author: Rhian Tracey Illustrator: David Dean
    Publisher: Piccadilly Press
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 9+

    When war is declared in 1939, Bletchley Park becomes a hive of covert activity and Robyn is tasked with looking after the homing pigeons. Suspecting there is a spy in their midst, she is determined to uncover the truth in this thrilling mystery adventure.

  • A Hero Like Me

    Author: Angela Joy & Jen Reid Illustrator: Leire Salaberria
    Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
    Interest age: 6-8

    An important picture book with an positive message about recognising modern heroes, A Hero Like Me is a must-read.

  • Shiver Point

    Author: Gabriel Dylan
    Publisher: Piccadilly
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 9+

    A short, snappy rollercoaster of a horror story with a skilful build-up of tension from ‘This sleepy town is so bland, nothing ever happens here’ to ‘Aargh, we’re all going to die!’.

  • When Cookie Crumbled

    Author: Michelle Robinson Illustrator: Tom Knight
    Publisher: Scholastic
    Interest age: 4-5

    Michael the cookie loves standing out from the batch, but the other cookies disapprove. Can Michael find a way to be himself? Funny rhyming text and fabulous illustrations, with themes of friendship and acceptance.

  • Shine

    Author: Sarah Asuquo Illustrator: Nadia Fisher
    Publisher: Scholastic
    Interest age: 6-8

    Kai wishes he weren’t so tall, and didn’t have a scar on his cheek. His parents say that everyone is different, but can he find the confidence to be different? A charming, gentle story about low self-esteem, forgiveness and building confidence.

  • Our Earth is a Poem: poetry about nature

    Author: Various Illustrator: Annalise Barber; Mariana Roldán; Masha Manapov; Nabila Adani
    Publisher: Little Tiger
    Interest age: 6-8
    Reading age: 6+

    A stunning collection of poems, beautifully illustrated, that explores and celebrate nature in its various magnificent forms. Perfect for reading aloud, and for curling up with.

  • Deep, A story of love through the Generations

    Author: Stephen Hogtun
    Publisher: Bloomsbury
    Interest age: 4-5
    Reading age: 5+

    Follow a whale and its mother through the deep ocean as it grows up and learns how to survive on its own. Breathtakingly beautiful and deeply moving.

  • NOT just another book about: Things That Moove

    Author: n/a Illustrator: Jake McDonald
    Publisher: Noodle Juice
    Interest age: 4-5

    This funny, informative picture book for young children, presented by a witty cast of cows, explores different modes of transport. Bursting with bold, humorous illustrations, the book also contains a multitude of cow-related jokes to keep readers entertained.

  • Moo!: Play-city Rattler

    Author: Make Believe Ideas
    Publisher: Make Believe Ideas
    Interest age: 0-1

    A sturdy board book with a rattle, introducing farm animals and their various sounds. A fun introduction to farm animals and the concept that books can be interactive like toys.

  • April’s Garden

    Author: Isla McGuckin Illustrator: Catalina Echeverri
    Publisher: Graffeg
    Interest age: 6-8

    This stunning story about a mother and child starting again is very touching, and could possibly represent the experiences of mothers and children forced to flee abusive homes, or of refugees starting again in a new country. Echeverri’s illustration begins with dark, scribbled pages of rain and darkness, and gradually get lighter as the story progresses and …

  • Saving H’Non: Chang and the Elephant

    Author: Trang Nguyen Illustrator: Jeet Zdung
    Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 12+

    Created by environmental activist Trang Nguyen and award-winning manga artist Jeet Zdung, this is a great story that will delight young animal activists and enthusiasts, based on a true story.

  • Huxley and Flapjack Race to the Rescue

    Author: Alan Macdonald Illustrator: Francesca Gambatesa
    Publisher: Little Tiger
    Interest age: 6-8
    Reading age: 6+

    Meet Huxley the irrepressible koala and Flapjack the cautious penguin. Together, they have lots of adventures, but can they catch a thief? A fun chapter book packed with energy and brilliant colour illustrations.

  • Tales of World War II: Amazing True Stories from the War that Shook the World

    Author: Dr Hattie Hearn Illustrator: Margarida Esteves
    Publisher: Neon Squid
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 9+

    Dr Hattie Hearn’s fascinating book of true stories from World War II, which begins with the reasons the war began and takes the reader through the main events and on towards peace, focuses on the human stories behind such a bewildering global event.

  • Leif the Unlucky Viking: Saga of the Shooting Star

    Author: Gary Northfield
    Publisher: Walker Books
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 8+

    Leif, a hapless Viking wolf pup, embarks on a secret mission to locate a missing shard from Thor’s hammer. This hilarious Viking adventure has oodles of laughs on every page.

  • A Little Monster’s Guide to Positivity

    Author: Emily Snape
    Publisher: Vie Books
    Interest age: 4-5

    This charming picture book from Emily Snape has a simple and reassuring tone for little ones who may also feel anxious about new tasks or not feel very confident in themselves.  It’s practical too with lots of easy and effective activities for parents and carers to try with children.

  • The Story of Conservation: A first book about protecting nature

    Author: Catherine Barr and Steve Williams Illustrator: Amy Husband
    Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
    Interest age: 6-8

    In the twentieth century, conservationists began to understand ecosystems, and scientists started to think about ways that humans could fix the problems that they had created. New technologies can help humans, as well as working with the indigenous communities who have always known how to work with and not against nature.

  • Pedro Loves Saving the Planet

    Author: Jess French Illustrator: Duncan Beedie
    Publisher: Happy Yak
    Interest age: 6-8
    Reading age: 6+

    Pedro and his friends are at the eco cabin, discovering lots of eco-friendly activities. Fact-filled and friendly, this is a useful book for sharing with young school children.

  • The Final Year

    Author: Matt Goodfellow Illustrator: Joe Todd-Stanton
    Publisher: Otter-Barry Books
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 9+

    When he falls out with his best friend and then his little brother is rushed into hospital, Nate’s world is turned upside-down. This incredibly powerful novel, written entirely in free verse and accompanied by thoughtful illustrations, is an emotional read.

  • Keisha Jones Takes on the World

    Author: Natalie Denny Illustrator: Chanté Timothy
    Publisher: Little Tiger
    Interest age: 6-8
    Reading age: 6+

    Keisha wants to be like her inspiring Great Aunt Bee and stand up for what’s right. Her first cause is the price of bunnies in the pet shop. Funny and packed with brilliant illustrations, this will have young readers coming back for more in the series.

  • Musical World

    Author: Jeffrey Boakye Illustrator: Ngadi Smart
    Publisher: Faber & Faber
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 10+

    In a playlist of 40 songs from artists as diverse as Shakira, John Lennon, Billie Holiday, the Spice Girls and Drake, Jeffrey Boakye asks whether music has the power to build bridges and overcome racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination.

  • Finally Seen

    Author: Kelly Yang
    Publisher: Knights Of
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 9+

    After five years of living with her grandma in Beijing, Lina is finally getting to join her Mum, Dad and little sister in the US but, after dreaming about it for so long, the reality isn’t at all what she expected.

  • We Are All Astronauts!

    Author: Kate Pankhurst
    Publisher: Bloomsbury
    Interest age: 6-8
    Reading age: 4+

    Luna and her granny learn how to be astronauts together. Packed with space facts, and brilliantly illustrated, this is inspiring STEM content for any child. 

  • Tapper Watson and the Quest for the Nemo Machine

    Author: Claire Fayers
    Publisher: Firefly
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 9+

    An action-packed, otherworldly adventure story featuring lobster assassins, an interworld organised crime gang, a talking plant who is very fond of eggs and a river that swallows memories.

  • The Boy in the Smoke

    Author: Rachel Faturoti
    Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 9+

    When Isaiah discovers a time portal in the basement of his tower block, he meets Jacob, who lived in the same building when it was a workhouse in the 1830s. This gripping, multilayered time-slip novel explores poverty from both a historical and contemporary perspective.

  • Code Name Kingfisher

    Author: Liz Kessler
    Publisher: Simon & Schuster
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 9+

    In Nazi-occupied Amsterdam in 1942, Hannie joins the Resistance. In the modern day, Liv is trying to cope with bullies at school. Historical fiction of the highest order – heart-breaking, thought-provoking and vital.

  • Adia Kelbara and the Circle of Shamans

    Author: Isi Hendrix
    Publisher: Usborne
    Interest age: 9-11
    Reading age: 9+

    When Adia learns that the Emperor has been possessed by a fearsome demon, she embarks on a dangerous mission to expel the evil spirit and protect the kingdom of Zaria. A thrilling Afro-fantasy adventure with an enthralling cast characters and an imaginative, fast-paced plot.