If you’re short of things to do this Summer then nip down and support your local independent bookshop. You can’t go wrong. Even if you’re not a huge reader there’s often a café, things for the kids to do, and lots of lots of alternative books to browse that you may not have ever considered looking at. The best ones, especially when you have young children, should feel like a portal into the adult/real world. I get strength from them that, yes, your brain still works and you can have an intelligent conversation whilst your kids are occupied elsewhere in the shop.
Simply Books in Bramhall, Cheshire is a great example. The owners, Sue and Andrew, are always on hand to stop and chat, and will always give up their time to pass on advice and recommendations. They clearly care about you and your needs and have a wealth of knowledge to go at. You don’t get that on-online!
So with Summer in mind, I cheekily asked Sue to help me pick out a few of her favourite and most popular reads for children aged 4-6, and 8+. These are books that might actually keep your little one entertained just long enough for you to sit down next to the pool in peace. Ok, well, maybe. We’re not miracles workers!
1 – Hide and Spot: Zoo on the Move – Lo Cole
Basically it’s a spotting book with a cool red lens that makes the image visible once you hold it over it. It’s kept my youngest entertained throughout our holiday. It’s just brilliant. That’s all I can say. One up from your usual spotting book, and in hard back it’s just lovely to have on your shelf. The down side is that if the lens goes missing the book is pretty useless so it might be one to look at together! Every illustration throws up a surprise and there are loads, so you will definitely feel like you have got your money’s worth. I really love this one, and if it hadn’t been for Sue I wouldn’t have ever found it. The story of the creator, Lo Cole, is really interesting too. In the past he’s drawn for Vogue, The Times and Sony amongst loads of others. A really different, fun book that everyone will enjoy.
2 -Big Brown Bear’s Cave – Yuval Zommer
To be honest I only had a quick flick of this one, but my little one loved it and Sue recommended it as one with lovely pictures and a really good message. It’s all about the value of friendship and has lots of humour in it. Yuval Zommer is a lovely illustrator too, ‘One Hundred Bones’ and ‘One Hundred Sausages’ are previous favourites of ours! I think it’s the perfect bedtime read on holiday as it gives you a chance to calm your child down before bed.
3 – The Koala who Could – Rachel Bright & Jim Field
Ok, so anything with Jim Field’s name on it is a winner. His drawings are just beautiful, funny, cute, whatever you want to call them; they are simply joyous to look at. Rachel Bright’s stories also always have a lovely message, and this one is no exception. They’ve worked together previously so they are clearly a reliable partnership to deliver you a great story. A huge thumbs from my little one!
4- Danny McGee Drank the Sea -Andy Stanton and Neal Layton
A really witty book which really tickles my daughter every time she reads it, and she’s read it a lot as it has been part of a project at school! Now, anyone who has enjoyed the wonders of ‘Mr Gum’ (see previous post) then you might have a little inkling of how clever this book is. The pictures are great too, Neal also illustrated the Emily Brown series so you might recognise his style.
5 – Supertato – Sue Hendra
This series has been a bedtime favourite of my youngest for a while now, so I had to pass on the recommendation. They are just completely wacky stories about an evil pea and a super hero potato who always saves the day – what more can I say! I think it appeals both to boys and girls and will keep them entertained over and over again.
Thanks to Sue for all these ideas, we both really hope you like them. Now onto the 8 +! Together, we chose a range of books that are for both the eager reader, or the much more reluctant one. I’ll point out which is which as I go.
1 Knitbone Pepper Ghost Dog – Claire Barker and Ross Collins
This has been a surprise hit, as interestingly my daughter said she didn’t want to read it as she thought it was a spooky story. However, after the author came to her school she changed her mind! Funny, beautifully illustrated and with a dog in it. Can’t go wrong, especially as there is a series to go at. It’s quite wordy, so might scare off an unsure reader but I think the pictures help draw potential readers in. Check out the signed copies at Simply Books too!
2 There’s a Werewolf in my Tent – Pamela Butchart
This is the latest in a really funny, edgy series that have been read from cover to cover by my oldest. Now, it looks scary on the front, which it kind of is, so one perhaps best to avoid before bed/at sleepovers etc (that’s sound advice from my daughter who was woken with a bad dream at her cousin’s house after reading it !*!) However, it’s not in anyway really scary, just humorously so. Interestingly the marketing blurb with the book says it is for the ‘newly confident reader’ so would be a good one for children who need a little push to get started. A good one for boys too. If they like this one, the rest of the series is just as good, and features the same characters.
3 – Fantasically Great Women Who Changed the World – Kate Pankhurst
Now, Sue said this is a book simply everyone should have. As the title so clearly states, this is a non-fiction book about really important women through history. It’s beautifully put together, and as you can see by the author’s name it has a real personal touch to it. It’s one you can dip in and out of, but essential reading for all kids. This could really go in both ages groups as it is accessible to both due to the illustrations. I think this one would throw up lots of questions, so on a wet day in Wales you could have fun doing a bit of research together.
4- Claude on Holiday by Alex T. Smith
This series was chosen for a number of reasons. Sue says they are really popular, and perfect for a reader put off by wordy books. Also, they have been picked up by Disney Junior and turned into an animation, so we’re thinking they are soon going to be really big! My oldest one, who is a strong reader, felt they were a bit young for her so I think they would be a great read for children who don’t usually enjoy books. The drawings are fantastic and Claude himself is a real treat. In this one he gets into all sorts of trouble when he meets pirates and finds treasure! Obviously, a great one for the beach.
5 – Knighthood for Beginners – Elys Dolan
This one is on our recommendation list because Sue herself has been bowled over by the response from her customers. Children have been coming in and asking for it, and due to its popularity Simply Books have done some signings with Elys and said she was great fun, or ‘bonkers’ as she is described on the front! (Hence the signed copies still in stock if you’re quick!) This is a brilliant read for boys, has great illustrations and a really unusual hero in Dave the dragon and his friend, Albrecht the goat. It’s off the wall, will make anyone laugh out loud and a real joy to have in your collection.
Phew, Ok, so there are some, I hope, really interesting ideas for your hols. I can’t tell you how important sticker books are too, always great to have in your bag whilst out and about on holiday, or simply for the journey. They keep my lot happy for a fair amount of time, filling that gap when they are really tired out but don’t want to admit it.
A huge thanks to Sue at Simply Books – check out upcoming events at http://simplybooks.info or on Facebook.