Regular readers of the blog will know I’m a huge fan of illustrated fiction books. They are perfect for newly confident readers allowing them to gain confidence without being overwhelmed by pages of text. Here is my round up of my favourite recent reads all guaranteed to enthral and entertain younger readers. They would make wonderful additions to any primary school library.
The Exploding Life of Scarlett Fife – Maz Evans, illustrated by Chris Jevons
Having been a huge fan of Maz Evan’s writing for a long time, I was thrilled to discover she was bringing her comedy brilliance to younger fiction, in the form of ‘The Exploding Life of Scarlett Fife.’ Scarlett has BIG FEELINGS and since her mum has had to work harder and longer just to Make Ends Meet, she’s found it almost impossible to keep them under control. With William U making her life a misery at school, being chosen to play the Swedish Yule Goat in the school play and the cancellation of her birthday party at Stuff-a-Squishie, she’s pushed to her limit. The more she tries to squash down her feelings the more carnage she creates and she doesn’t know what will happen next. A brilliantly funny and heart-warming look at the impacts emotions play in children’s life. With a thoughtful insight into the problems that hiding your feelings away can create, it shows by sharing your worries it can be a great start to dealing with them. Maz excels in observational comedy turning the everyday moments of real life into pure comedy genius moments. I particularly love all of the things Scarlett gets confused about with the snippets of adult conversations she overhears. Chris’s illustrations perfectly capture the chaos and carnage caused by Scarlett’s explosive behaviour, the wonderful detail really brings this story to life. An entertaining and thoughtful start to this new series.
Genie and Teeny Make a Wish – Steven Lenton
Steven Lenton makes his first foray into younger fiction as an author/illustrator in the delightful, ‘Genie and Teeny Make A Wish.’ Grant is a hapless but endearing genie whose penchant for word confusion causes him to be cast out of Genie World after accidentally turning the Queen into a birthday snake rather than conjuring up a birthday cake! Luckily he bumps into another lost soul, Teeny the puppy and they soon become the best of friends. But when Teeny is dognapped by the purple-loving and dastardly Lavinia Lavender, it’s up to Grant to outwit this fiendish villain. I was totally enchanted by this delightful and magical tale. You can’t help but chuckle at the mishaps Grant seems to find himself caught up in, I know that kids will be utterly charmed by his quirkiness and the relationship between Genie and Teeny. The interactive elements of the books bring children in to the heart of this story allowing them to take part in this rollicking adventure. Stunningly produced with the most gorgeous illustrations from Steven, this book is an absolute treat from start to finish.
The Smidgens – David O’ Connell, illustrated by Seb Burnett
I adored David O’ Connell’s, ‘Dundoodle Mysteries,’ so was intrigued to discover he had a brand new series coming from a world not to far away in, The Smidgens.’ For Smidgens are exactly like humans except for one tiny difference, they are so small that if you were ever to see one you might suspect you’d spotted an extra large spider or an unusual looking bird. They are everywhere, hidden away in places you can’t see trying to stay out of sight. Gafferty Sprout thinks her family is the last of the Smidgens until one day her curiosity gets the better of her and she sets out to explore the world beyond her house, unwittingly putting her family into grave danger. David has created a richly imagined world that feels completely believable and realistic, it makes you want to peer through the cracks in your skirting boards to see if Smidgens are hidden away. A story of adventure, bravery and self belief, I was completely entertained by this adventure containing just the right amount of peril for younger readers. Seb’s illustrations are delightfully detailed, capturing this miniscule world marvellously. I can’t wait to read more in this series.
Rainbow Grey – Laura Ellen Anderson
Laura Ellen Anderson is back with a brand new series that is bound to delight her Amelia Fang fans. Ray Grey lives in The Weatherlands, home to all sorts of wonderful Weatherlings who each have their own type of weather magic but sadly Ray hasn’t found hers yet. A chance encounter with a dark crystal on a forbidden mission to Earth changes Ray’s life forever when she discovers a new type of magic and becomes Rainbow Grey. But Ray’s magic is unknown and her fellow Weatherlings are suspicious especially when dark forces threaten everything their way of life. It’s up to Ray to find a way to control her new powers and defeat this mysterious enemey. This book is bursting with delicious and delightful details that will enchant younger readers. Laura has assembled an amazing cast of characters, that children will love spending time with, I particularly adored Nim, her exploding cloud cat. The perfect mix of adventure and peril, Laura has created the most sublime and wondrous world which she brings to life through her marvellous illustrations.
Harley Hitch and the Iron Forest – Vashti Hardy, illustrated by George Ermos
I’ve long been a fan of Vashti Hardy’s epic and thrilling adventures so was excited to discover she was bringing her richly imagined storytelling to younger fiction in the first book in a brand new series, ‘Harley Hitch and the Iron Forest,’ illustrated by George Ermos. Harley Hitch has a habit of always managing to find herself in trouble, when she’s late on the first day of school and accidentally bumps into Cosmo things go from bad to worse. Their town Inventia relies on the technology that blooms in the Iron Forest but when Harley spots an unusual fungus that is spreading out of control, their way of life is at risk. She is determined to find a solution and get the much coveted Pupil of the Term in the process. But Harley’s good intentions cause more damage than good, can she save the Iron Forest before it’s too late. Vashti has once again created a most intriguing and fantastical world where every detail is cleverly constructed. She creates characters you genuinely care about, especially Harley who despite being rash always has good intentions at her heart. George’s illustrations bring the story to life capturing all the wondrous elements of Inventia brilliantly while showcasing the ups and downs of this compelling story. I’m looking forward to seeing what adventures Harley gets mixed up in, in the next installment.
Llama on a Mission – Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan
Yasmin and Levi are back in another hilarious and heartfelt story that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Now that Yasmin has found her voice life should be getting much easier but holding her feelings inside for so long means that she can’t always find the best way to express herself and she keeps getting into heaps of trouble. Levi, her magical llama is tasked with a secret mission that is vital for both him and Yasmin. Can he help her find a way to finally let people know how she feels before it’s too late? This story is hugely entertaining and likeable, there are so many moments of chaos and carnage that make you want to cringe as the mission spirals out of control. Allen’s illustrations are bold and lively, the characters just leap off the page and demand to be noticed – especially Levi! Superb characterisation and a cracking plot makes the mission of delivering a fabulous follow up a complete success.
Thank you to Farshore, Hachette, Scholastic and Steven Lenton for sending me gifted copies. All of these books are available to buy or pre-order online by clicking on the the title. If you can please support your local independent bookshop you can find your nearest one here.