Spring Book Club: seven new books for children

Spring Book Club: seven new books for children

The Fossil Hunter: How Mary Anning Unearthed the Truth About the Dinosaurs

By Kate Winter, Puffin

Dinosaurs hold a particular fascination for children, and this book tells of Mary Anning’s important fossil discoveries over 200 years ago. As well as being full of scientific and historic information, The Fossil Hunter is also a captivating story. Mary, who lived in Lyme Regis, was too poor to go to school. Her father taught her about fossils, and Mary collected them to sell to wealthy tourists. After her father died, she went on to discover the first ichthyosaur, and an almost complete skeleton of a plesiosaur. Her findings paved the way for modern palaeontology. The book raises interesting points for discussion as it addresses the way in which the establishment attempted to take credit for Mary’s work and write her out of history. The illustrations are wonderfully atmospheric. As well as capturing a sense of Georgian England, they also evoke the excitement of Mary’s discoveries that reached back in time to reveal a picture of the prehistoric creatures that roamed the Earth and how they lived and evolved.

The Chalk Garden

By Sally Anne Garland, Sunbird Books

Emma longs for the birds to visit her garden. She can hear them next door. But Emma’s garden is paved over with concrete slabs and has no life to tempt them in. She uses chalk to make her garden colourful and green, but it gets washed away. Then, one day, blades of grass grow up between the cracks. Emma and her dad remove a slab and, slowly, slowly, nature reclaims the space and a tiny ecosystem begins to flourish. This is a lovely book that illustrates Earth’s capacity to heal itself with our gentle encouragement. By standing back, observing and allowing nature to lead the way, Emma enables the ecological restoration of her own tiny patch of land.

Ivy Newt and the Storm Witch

By Derek Keilty, illustrated by Magda Brol, Scallywag Press

It’s Ivy Newt’s birthday and her parents, King and Queen of the Sand Witches, have prepared her a birthday surprise – a disappearing act. But when they fail to reappear, it seems bad magic is at work. To rescue her parents, Ivy sets off on her broomstick with her shape-shifting familiar Tom to uncover the sinister goings-on. The friendship in the book is warm and supportive as the children work together to bring justice to Miracula. Packed with magic and adventure, the story has suspense, intrigue and peril. This the first book in a new, highly illustrated series for ages 5 to 7, and it’s perfectly pitched for new readers, or for reading with children who want more than a picture book but aren’t yet ready to listen to more lengthy chapter books.


By Eduard Altarriba, Button Books

This is an effective book for explaining migration to children aged 8 and up. It provides context for what is happening in the world today and outlines the causes and consequences of the movement of people from one country to another. The complexities of the subject have been made easy to understand with graphic-style illustrations, maps and diagrams supporting clear and objective text. The book looks at the movement of people through history; the creation of borders; passports and visas; European colonisation; the reasons people migrate; refugees; trafficking; hostility to immigrants; the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean; and migration through Central America to the United States. It’s a comprehensive overview that provides much-needed context for world events. Though free of emotive language, this is a powerful book that is helpful in highlighting global inequality. 

The Way of Dog

By Zana Fraillon, illustrated by Sean Buckingham, Chicken House

This is a coming-of age novel for children aged 9 and up in which the protagonist is an orphaned pup, Scruffity. Born into a harsh world, Scruffity is set free by a boy equally sad and neglected, and the pair discover friendship in one another. After the boy has a terrible accident, Scruffity is alone once more, and he sets off to find his lost “Manpup” and to understand “The Way of Dog”. The story, written in verse, is visceral, physical and sensory as we journey through the world with Scruffity from a dog’s eye view. Brutally mistreated by some he encounters, Scruffity forms deep bonds with others. He demonstrates a profound capacity for love and loyalty, which any child who has known the love of an animal will recognise. “We Dogs know / how to calm / how a wet black / snout / in the palm / of a hand / a head in a lap / a paw on a knee / can be all the difference / in the world.” A beautiful, compelling story. 

Kind Crocodile

By Leo Timmers, Gecko Press

In this playful, comic board book for young children, a scared mouse, a frightened hog and a terrified antelope flock to the kind crocodile to escape the dangerous animals chasing them. The crocodile comes to their rescue one by one, until it is he who needs help, and the others must work together to save him. The characters are illustrated with fabulous expression, and the book captures perfectly the terror and excitement children feel when playing a game of chase. 

The Versatile Reptile

By Nicola Davies, illustrated by Abbie Cameron, Graffeg

It’s easy to love a cuddly looking mammal, but this book celebrates the wonderful diversity of reptiles, the strikingly different animals in this class, and their amazing qualities and skills. Accompanied by bold, vibrant and accurate illustrations, the book playfully addresses the aversion many of us have to the likes of snakes and crocodiles by making us look more closely. Marvel at their armour-like scales of an alligator, the camouflage pattern of a python, and the way the draco lizard glides through the skies on wing-like membranes. This is a great introduction to reptiles for young children written in fun and satisfying rhyme.


Reviews by Alice Ellerby

We feature a range of book reviews for adults, teens and children in each issue of JUNO, published bi-monthly. 

First published in Issue 83 of JUNO. Accurate at the time this issue went to print. 

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