Six of the best

From thoroughly modern takes to gentle nostalgia, Antonia Charlesworth looks at some of the best children's books to occupy those long summer days

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UnknownMidnight at the Zoo
Faye Hanson
(Templar, £6.99)
A disappointing school trip comes good when siblings Max and Mia get left behind. The animals that were hiding in the daytime come to life at midnight and a carnivalesque adventure ensues. From lush greens and midnight blues to fiery reds and oranges, each double page is thematically coloured by illustrator and author Faye Hanson in minute detail, allowing children to pore over the pages for hours.

Ada Twist, Scientist?61NJBFYW7HL
Andrea Beaty, illus: David Roberts?
(Abrams, £10.99)
Told in simple but smartly crafted rhyming couplets, the third instalment so far of a series to profile Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck tells the story of a little girl with a brilliant mind. Ada doesn’t say a word until she turns three – observing the world but not making a sound. When she finally opens her mouth to talk, her favourite word is “why?” Her parents are frazzled by the incessant questioning but work hard to understand her even though she’s different. Featuring well-known characters as well as new ones, drawing links to previous instalments brings a familiarity to a book packed with new ideas.

UnknownHocus Pocus It’s Fall

Anne Sibley O’Brien, illus: Susal Gal
(Abrams, £7.99)
If you can get past the irritating Americanisation of autumn you’ll find a warm and tactile book about the changing seasons that, although referring to school terms is probably suited to pre-schoolers. O’Brien demonstrates the wonders of nature through the use of magical syntax and rhyme, and creates a dreamy trip through the most enchanting of seasons.

The Knight That Wouldn’t Fight9781407163253
Helen Docherty, illus: Thomas Docherty
(Scholartastic, £6.99)
If the message that little girls must be sweet and princessly is damaging, then so is the message to little boys that they must be brave and knightly. It’s a myth this wife and husband team are attempting to bust with the story of Leo, the mouse-knight who would much rather read a book than carry out his dragon-slaying duties. By reading to the creatures he is destined to slay he creates a harmonious society and becomes a hero nevertheless. The vibrant illustrations and flawless rhyme make it an engaging picture book for children as well as a comfortable read for parents.

They All Saw a Cat_FCThey All Saw A Cat
Brendan Wenzel
(Chronicle, £10.99)
This debut picture book from author and illustrator Brendan Wenzel explores the power of perception with a simple story and inspired images. To the mouse the cat is a ferocious beast with beady yellow eyes and deadly claws and teeth. The bee sees the cat through a prism of circles. The skunk sees it in soft focus black and white and to the goldfish it is distorted by the water. With minimal words it’s an easy book for young readers to tackle alone as they consider each perspective.

Happy Birthday Old BearHappy-Birthday-Old-Bear-copy
Jane Hissey
(Scribblers, £11.99)
To celebrate 30 years of Old Bear, author and illustrator Jane Hissey has created a new picture book for a new generation of children. The toys, based on real ones owned by the author, are getting ready for a party – wrapping presents, baking a cake, making balloon animals – and there’s a fair share of comedy moments. It’s a gentle, nostalgic read most appropriate for very small children.

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