By Joseph Coelho, illustrated by David Barrow, Barrington Stoke
Miles loves climbing the trees on his estate, but he’s always being told off by a neighbour, Mr Buxton. When Miles finds a lost budgie, he discovers he and Mr Buxton have more in common than he could ever have imagined. This is a really lovely story about empathy and intergenerational friendship, told simply and lyrically by award-winning author Joseph Coelho, the children’s laureate. The text is supported by bright illustrations by David Barrow, which capture the warmth and sensitivity of the story beautifully. Barrington Stoke publish super-readable, accessible books that help every child enjoy the experience of reading, with particular consideration for reluctant readers and children who struggle to read due to dyslexia or visual stress. Budgie is part of the fantastic Little Gems collection. These books have a chunky format, beautiful colour illustrations, and well-spaced text, to help make reading a pleasure.
Be More Dog
By Caroline Crowe, illustrated by Carlos Vélez, Floris Books
This book is joyous. Sam, the dog, knows just how to be happy; it’s his superpower. When Dad leaves for work and Sam’s young owner feels sad, the boy realises that to find happiness again, all he needs to do is be a bit more dog. The pair absorb themselves in the simple things – breathing in smells of grass and fresh air, leaping to catch a ball, feeling the wind on their faces. The heart-warming story shows us the benefit of being present and staying alert to the world around us. Sometimes, you just need to sit quietly and get stuck into an activity – like chewing a toy – or you could try drawing instead! Vélez’s illustrations of Sam are wonderful; with his scruffy coat and lolling tongue, he is so full of character, and the bond between him and the boy is beautiful. A charming story that reminds us how to keep our tail wagging!
By Anna Walker, Scribble
In this engaging and humorous book for ages 0+, we follow a young frog as it explores its environment. There is peril, adventure and joy as the frog splishes and splashes in the water, escapes the snap of a crocodile, and tiptoes past an owl. The words and images together create a sensory experience. The minimal onomatopoeic text is wonderful to read aloud and to encourage call and response, and the bold illustrations, rich in colour and texture, evoke the lush jungle habitat of the little amphibian. A fun, soundscape adventure for the smallest readers.
The Truth Detective: How to Make Sense of a World that Doesn’t Add Up
By Tim Harford, illustrated by Ollie Mann, Wren & Rook
This is a brilliant book that encourages young people to develop an attitude of thoughtful questioning towards information presented as truth. Written by Tim Harford, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s More or Less, The Truth Detective is fascinating, compelling, engaging and entertaining. Harford is an economist, and much of the evidence under scrutiny in this book comes from numbers and data. Harford makes complex concepts easy to understand by investigating them through real-life case studies. For example, he looks at inflation through the work of Jack Monroe, a campaigner against food poverty, who tracked the rising costs of the cheapest food in supermarkets. The book raises interesting ethical questions, such as how we measure poverty and wealth, and how our biases impact our willingness to believe some ‘facts’ over others. A great book to get children thinking about the way the world is presented and to help them avoid the pitfalls of misinformation.
My Bollywood Dream
By Avani Dwivedi, Walker Books
This book sings with the energy of Bollywood, and the sights, sounds and smells of Mumbai. A little girl is on her way to the cinema with her family, dreaming of one day creating the unifying, celebratory Bollywood film experiences she so loves. As she travels through the city, she imagines a film camera in her hands and casts the people she sees around her in her own film. With horns honking and monsoon clouds overhead, a choreographed Bollywood dance sequence bursts from her imagination. The book draws on the author’s childhood memories of growing up in Mumbai, and the colours and Hindi words throughout immerse the reader in the vibrant world of the story.
People Power: Peaceful Protests That Changed the World
By Rebecca June, illustrated by Ximo Abadia, translated by José Enrique Macián, Prestel
This is the tale of human dignity and strength in the face of injustice. From the Mud Marches of 1907 when British women campaigned for the right to vote, to the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, this book chronicles over a century of people coming together peacefully to effect change. Each action described is deeply moving, such as Gandhi’s Salt March, in which he and his followers walked 240 miles to a coastal salt mine in protest against British exploitation of India’s natural resources. “When they finally arrived at the mine, Gandhi picked up a handful of natural salt from the ground in defiance of the law.” The stories are told over colourful double-page spreads, with large-scale, striking illustrations that give space for the world-changing moments to resonate. People Power elucidates important issues and will help to inspire a generation of young people, already minded to make their voices heard, to take action for a better future.
Young, Gifted and Black, Too
By Jamia Wilson, illustrated by Andrea Pippins, Wide Eyed Editions
This book celebrates 52 heroes of colour from around the world from a whole host of fields. Included are designers, lawyers, musicians, artists, activists, surgeons and more. As well as telling their stories, many of the entries includes inspiring quotes, like this one from the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart: “If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own.” There are many such provocations in the book that urge children to step into themselves. If you can see it, you can be it, and by shining a light on the extraordinary and varied achievements and talents of Black leaders and changemakers past and present, children are encouraged to chase their dreams, whatever they may be.
I Can See Nature’s Rainbow
By Vicky Woodgate, Scholastic
Eleven glorious and vibrant colours found in nature are celebrated in this book. Each double-page spread focuses on a different colour, and we learn about the plants, animals and other natural phenomena that appear in the various hues. The book is packed with interesting facts about the well-known and lesser-known plants and animals featured. We learn why soil is brown, why red can signal danger, and why flamingos are pink. And did you know, polar bears are not really white? They have black skin, and “because their fur is see-through, it reflects the light so it looks white”. There is much to explore in this book, and children will enjoy trying to spot the camouflaged chameleons hidden throughout.
Earth’s Incredible Places: Amazon River
By Sangma Francis, illustrated by Rômolo D’Hipólito, Flying Eye Books
The Amazon River and surrounding rainforest is home to the most incredible eco-system, and this wide-ranging guide is packed with information about South America’s wildlife, people, geography and history. We discover how the river is, in fact, three rivers – there’s the surface river (the one we think of), but there’s also an aerial river in which water sucked up by the rainforest is released into the air and flows towards the mountains, and an underground river, the Hamza, 4km beneath the surface. It is fascinating to learn about the animals that live in the most biodiverse place on Earth – like the pink river dolphin, the Amazonian manatee, and the poison dart frog, and about the importance of the river to the people who live in the Amazon, and to all of us. The illustrations are vibrant and luscious – the river and the rainforest live and breathe in this book. There is so much of interest here.
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 84 of JUNO. Accurate at the time this issue went to print.