A royal wardrobe, countdown dogs and a Gruffalo hunt - book review round-up

Peep inside the Queen’s amazing wardrobe of clothes, join the Gruffalo for fun in the great outdoors, travel to the edge of the world, meet a feisty little flea determined to be heard and learn to count with ten prancing pups in a super selection of new children’s books.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 11:50 am
The Queens Wardrobe: The Story of Queen Elizabeth II and Her Clothes by Julia Golding and Kate Hindley
The Queens Wardrobe: The Story of Queen Elizabeth II and Her Clothes by Julia Golding and Kate Hindley

Age 7 plus:

The Queen’s Wardrobe: The Story of Queen Elizabeth II and Her Clothes by Julia Golding and Kate Hindley

Even though she’s our world-famous Queen, the monarch isn’t always clothed in majesty!

Get up close and personal with the Queen’s surprisingly diverse wardrobe of clothes in a fabulously fun and fascinating picture book from Julia Golding, an award-winning author and former writer-in-residence at the Royal Institution, and star illustrator Kate Hindley.

The remarkable story of the life of Queen Elizabeth II – told through her clothes and jewellery – is both a glorious and stylish celebration of the Queen’s 95th birthday on April 21 and a gorgeous gift to treasure.

With a foreword by Michele Clapton, costume designer for series one of Netflix’s The Crown, this big, beautiful book offers curious youngsters a peek behind the scenes at an imaginative re-creation of some of the Queen’s most famous outfits.

The Queen’s Wardrobe brings to life the story of a young princess who grew into one of the world’s most famous royals, revealing details about the making of her ration-book wedding dress, splendid gowns, trusty headscarves and wellies, the Crown Jewels, the gift of a traditional Maori feather cloak, and even jumping out of a helicopter with James Bond.

Did you know the Queen’s crown weighs as much as a bag of potatoes or that she has her own tartan nobody else is allowed to wear? And did you know that on a visit to Germany in 1965, she wore a hat that became known as the ‘yellow spaghetti hat,’ and that during the war, the Queen trained as a driver and mechanic and dressed in overalls to fix trucks?

Packed with astounding facts about our record-breaking Queen – all revealed in an engaging and accessible way for young readers – Clapton’s insight into the work and creativity behind some of the monarch’s most famous outfits, and Hindley’s richly detailed, humorous and colourful artwork, this is a right royal treat for readers of every age.

(Two Hoots, hardback, hardback, £14.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Gruffalo and Friends Outdoor Activity Book by Julia Donaldson, Little Wild Things and Axel Scheffler

Spring is here so grab your wellies, head off into the great outdoors and join a Gruffalo hunt!

There can be no better place for children than playing and learning outside and here is the perfect activity book to lure youngsters away from screens and inspire them to find fun and creativity in the natural world.

Based on the much-loved picture books of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler – including The Gruffalo, Monkey Puzzle, Room on the Broom and Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book – and created by nature play specialists Little Wild Things, The Gruffalo and Friends Outdoor Activity Book is packed full of fun outdoor activities and ideas for things to make, do and play outside.

Little Wild Things is a Community Interest Company whose mission is to emphasise the importance of children putting away technology and spending time with family exploring the great outdoors.

With easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions, a wipe-clean format, and lots of hints and tips, the whole family can get involved. Stir up a magic mud potion, grow an oak tree, play nutty hide and seek, build a butterfly feeder, make a parrot kite, or go on an exciting Gruffalo hunt.

So what are you waiting for? Rainy days, sunny days, family walks, playing in the garden, or having a party… there’s fun to be found everywhere in nature when you peep between the pages of this inspirational book!

(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £10.99)

Age 8 plus:

Georgia and the Edge of the World by Robin Boyden

If life seems a little dull during those ‘down’ days of the pandemic, sail away to the edge of the world for a fantastical, thrill-filled adventure!

Georgia and the Edge of the World – a gloriously fun, frantic and colourful graphic novel – comes from the pen of author and illustrator Robin Boyden, and is another title in the increasingly successful The Phoenix Presents series, published by David Fickling in partnership with The Phoenix comic.

Georgia has grown up loving stories of adventure but she’s never allowed to have one of her own. Her adoptive father won’t even let her leave the city of Angleston. So Georgia creates inventions with her donkey friend, Ponky, waiting for the day she will finally be able to see the world outside.

But then everything changes. A strange bottle washes up on the shore of Angleston, promising an adventure that Georgia can’t resist. It will take her on a journey to the edge of the world...

Boyden’s epic tale is delivered in a rainbow-wrapped package of vibrant colour, breathtaking action sequences and fantastical landscapes as the gregarious Georgia and her adorable travelling companion Ponky (a cross between a pony and a donkey!) race through a totally global adventure.

Brimming with imagination and exciting storytelling, this trip to the edge of the world is not to be missed!

(David Fickling Books, paperback, £8.99)

Age 8 plus:

Living the Confidence Code by Katty Kay, Claire Shipman and JillEllyn Riley

‘Being confident means believing that anything is possible.’

Girls the world over are urged to listen to the ‘little voice’ inside their heads that tells them to keep going and chase their dreams in an inspirational new book from the three authors of the bestselling phenomenon The Confidence Code for Girls.

Katty Kay, Claire Shipman, and JillEllyn Riley say the best way to understand confidence is to see it in action and have teamed up again to put together thirty true stories of real girls, pursuing their passions, struggling and stumbling, but along the way figuring out how to build their own special brand of confidence.

From Bali to Brazil, South Africa to Seattle, Australia to Afghanistan, these girls took risks, doubted themselves, and sometimes failed but they also hung in there when things got hard.

And along the way they discovered what really matters to them… everything from protesting about contaminated water and championing inclusive books to the accessibility of girls’ basketball shoes and so much more.

Read the inspirational words of gold-medal-winning Olympic gymnast and author Laurie Hernandez, and meet Amika George, the British activist who campaigns against period poverty, and Clara-Beth Griffin, an autism rights activist from Ireland.

And now even more youngsters are urged to join this growing global community of powerful girls and imagine what they would like to do once they have tapped into their confidence.

This motivational book shows us different goals, different stories and different personalities, but all illustrate the multitude of ways to be confident in the world. Packed with photos, graphic novel strips, and engaging interviews, Living the Confidence Code proves that no matter who you are, or how old you are, nothing is out of reach when you decide to try.

Confidence is your fuel for life… so go out and live it!

(Harper Collins, hardback, £10.99)

Age 5 plus:

Madam Squeaker by Pip Jones and Paula Bowles

Greedy rats get their comeuppance thanks to a small but mightily courageous mouse in a terrific ‘tail’ from Pip Jones, the award-winning author of Izzy Gizzmo.

The ingeniously-named Madam Squeaker is the latest super-readable Little Gem from innovative publisher Barrington Stoke… and it comes from the top team of Jones and talented illustrator Paula Bowles.

A touching, heartfelt and funny story about making yourself heard, no matter how small your squeak is, the undoubted star player is a little mouse determined to save her home… and find her voice.

Crumbs on the counter, morsels on the floor... there should be plenty of food for all the creatures in Hollyhock House to eat. But the Ruling Rats are running rampage every night, taking the best of everything for themselves.

Minetta the mouse has decided enough is enough; it’s time the rats learned to share. But Minetta is so small and her voice is but a squeak ... how will she ever make them listen?

The Little Gems series brings together leading authors and illustrators, and a host of clever design and finishing techniques, like dyslexia-friendly fonts, to create easy-to-read, first chapter books in a chunky format ideal for little hands, and with some extra reading, jokes and activity fun inside the covers.

And this heartwarming, inspirational adventure – brimming with Jones’ enchanting storytelling and Bowles’ vibrant illustrations – is a tasty treat for all the family.

(Barrington Stoke, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

What About Me? Said the Flea by Lily Murray and Richard Merritt

Small is super-strong in a gorgeous picture book that is destined to be a top pick with fun-loving tots.

What About Me? Said the Flea – an empowering story full of imagination, determination and comedy – comes from the exciting pairing of fiction and non-fiction author Lily Murray and talented illustrator Richard Merritt.

The smallest of creatures takes the starring role in this rollicking rhyming story which gives voice to those whose size means they often struggle to be heard, and which will certainly strike a chord with your own little pre-schoolers.

When a little girl sits down at her desk one day to write a story, she finds it hard to know just what to write about. Luckily for her, there’s a whole host of potential picture-book characters who want to be the star of her story… and make their cases convincingly!

There’s the magical, proud unicorn with sparkly hooves and a glittery horn, there are the big, burly bears hosting a picnic, the lovable llamas in pyjamas, the stylish sloth, the lion, the penguins, and even a roar-some, claw-some dinosaur .

But, unnoticed by the little girl, a teeny-tiny flea is hopping and jumping around, hoping to be the one she chooses to write a story about. ‘What about me?’ it cries. With all the big characters and commotion, will the feisty flea ever be noticed?

Set in fun, rhyming couplets, What About Me? Said the Flea delivers reassuring and funny messages about good things coming in small packages. Add on Merritt’s richly detailed and energetic artwork to bring the story to life, and this joyous, playful book gives everyone the chance to shine!

(Buster Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Duck Who Didn’t Like Water by Steve Small

You might have thought that a duck and a frog would have one thing in common… water!

In his debut picture book as both author and illustrator, Steve Small makes a splash with his wise, wonderful and witty tale about a duck who DOESN’T like water… until a new friendship forces him to face his fears.

Duck is not like other ducks. Duck doesn’t like water and is perfectly fine alone, thank you very much. But then, one dark and stormy night, an outgoing, water-loving, and very lost Frog turns up at Duck’s door.

Can this odd couple find Frog’s home? And will they find friendship along the way?

The joys of unlikely friendships and the rewards that come from conquering your fears are all gently and cleverly explored in this endearing and beautifully illustrated story which youngsters will take to like ducks (well, some ducks!) to water.

(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £12.99)

Age 2 plus:

Ten Little Dogs by Ruth Brown

On the count of ten…

Teach your little ones how to count down with this enchanting, visually stunning picture book which comes packed full of canine capers, furry fun and prancing pups.

‘Ten little dogs, sitting in a line, One chased a butterfly And then there were…. nine’ Count down through eight, seven and then onwards to only one remaining dog as award-winning author and illustrator Ruth Brown takes tiny tots on a playful mathematical journey.

Brown’s clever use of rhyme and page-turn helps children guess and then learn which number comes next… and each page is also a spot-the-difference as we look to see which dog is no longer there.

Ten Little Dogs – featuring a gorgeous gallery of irresistible pups – is a picture perfect, and simple but ingenious, introduction to the basic skills of counting and subtraction, helping to make learning fun.

And with an unexpected and exuberant twist in its tail, Ten Little Dogs is guaranteed to bring a smile to everybody’s face!

(Scallywag Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 2 plus:

All Aboard the Colours Train Illustrated by Sean Sims

You don’t need a ticket to ride when you hit the rails on a first-class journey of learning!

Oxford University Press are ready and waiting at the station with a brilliant series which introduces key early learning concepts through beautifully illustrated and engaging stories which explore colours, numbers, space and so much more.

So hop aboard this thrill-filled train and enjoy a fun-filled lesson with a gang of playful youngsters… and a menagerie of amazing animals.

In All Aboard the Colours Train, youngsters are off to explore colours on a wild and wonderful journey meeting creatures of all different shapes and sizes, learning about all the amazing colours of the rainbow as they go, and discovering lots to spot, remember and talk about on every page.

With Sean Sims’ vibrant, colourful illustrations perfectly pitched for pre-schoolers, and discovery and fun on every page, this unmissable series offers fast-track learning all the way!

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)

From birth:

Crab by Patricia Hegarty and Fhiona Galloway

Discover a world of undersea creatures in a playful board book full of rhyme and colour!

Turn the pages and watch learning spring to life in this charming and innovative book that was just made for reading, sharing and enjoying.

As part of the My Little World series, this sturdy book’s appealing die-cut finger holes will have little ones learning their colours, and snapping along with glee as they join a little red crab on an underwater journey of discovery.

Fhiona Galloway’s bold, bright artwork in a rainbow of colours brings to life Patricia Hegarty’s jaunty rhyming text while the claw-shaped finger holes let your little ones get hands-on with the action.

Learning all wrapped up in one clever, colourful book!

(Little Tiger, board book, £5.99)