Joyful January Reads

Children’s publishing has started 2022 with a bang! There have been some incredible books published this year already and my January round-up features some of our favourites, as well as a few books from 2021 that we read over the festive break. It includes my first top pick of 2022!

Colour and Me by Michaela Dias-Hayes

First up is a bright and beautiful story that put a huge smile on our faces. Told in first person, a little girl explores the colours she creates when she mixes finger paints. My daughter loves art and instantly connected to the story.

What happens when she mixes red, yellow and blue? She gets BROWN! Which is her colour. Oh my goodness this spread has such a powerful and wonderful message. I wish I had had a book like this when I was a child!

Colour and Me is the first in a two-book series that champions and empowers children of colour in a beautifully simplistic way, and we can’t wait to read book two.

Published by Owlet Press, 25 January 2022

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ISBN: 978-1913339388

Alex and Alex by Ziggy Hanaor and Ben Javens

We read this book over the festive break and I will be shouting about it forever more! Alex and Alex is the perfect way to explore gender neutrality and gender non-conforming to children. It follows two friends called Alex, neither of whom identify as a boy or girl and each one enjoys a variety of stereotyped ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ toys, activities, and colours.

Alex and Alex are good friends. As we go through the pages, we see that they have lots of things in common, but they also like lots of different things. Even when they argue, they always make up because Alex really really really really really really REALLY…. likes Alex!

Alex and Alex is brilliant in its simplicity. My four-year old read the book to me, and it was magical to see her reading this book which shattered gender stereotypes on every page. This is an excellent resource for schools, libraries and communities as well as a book to be shared at home. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Alex and Alex is my first top pick for 2022!

Published by Cicada, 19 August 2021

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ISBN: 978-1800660113

Yes You Can, Cow by Rashmi Sirdeshpande and Rikin Parekh

The nursery rhyme ‘Hey diddle diddle’ is a family favourite in our house and both of my girls delighted in meeting the real cow who had to jump over the moon. The nursery rhyme is about to be performed, but Cow is having second thoughts. She’s too scared to jump! What if she crashes? Will everyone laugh?

Told through the quirky voice of the show’s narrator and director, this picture book will have you laughing out loud whilst simultaneously tugging at your heart strings. Rikin’s illustrations are triumphant, and fit the story perfectly. We were rooting for cow and recognised those relatable nervous feelings, and the weight of expectation on Cow to deliver the perfect jump. The curtain’s almost up and the audience are waiting. Can Cow overcome her fear of failure and become the star of the show?

You’ll have to read it to find out! Yes You Can Cow is a joyful and uplifting picture book about the power of “yet” and doing your best. It is such a clever concept, perfectly executed. Rashmi and Rikin are a perfect picture book duo and I hope we see many more books co-created by them.

Published by Faber & Faber, 3 February 2022

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ISBN: 978-0571359660

Daisy’s Dragons by Frances Stickley and Annabel Tempest

I am a huge fan of Frances Stickley and Annabel Tempest and together they have created a lovely picture book promoting wellbeing. This playful picture book explores the importance of understanding our emotions and learning how to deal with our feelings in different situations. Oh, and it contains… colourful dragons!

Daisy has some very unusual pets – six emotional dragons that no one can see but her. Daisy’s dragons are her feelings and one tricky day they become too much to handle. Sad keeps growing and growing, and Angry is breathing fire at everyone and everything. Daisy has had enough! She doesn’t want bad dragons. But what if Angry, Sad and Scared weren’t there anymore? How would she feel? Could it be that to feel truly happy, calm and brave, Daisy needs all of her dragons together?

Daisy’s Dragons is a playful but powerful metaphor that helps children to understand that it is okay to feel ALL our feelings. After all, you can’t be brave if you’re not frightened first. This is a brilliant picture book celebrating emotional wellbeing!

Published by Studio Press, 19 August 2021

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ISBN: 978-1787418974

I Spy Island by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

My daughters loved this book SO much it disappeared from my review pile and became an instant family favourite – I didn’t realise I hadn’t reviewed it! As a family, we are huge fans of Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, as you can see from our reviews of Oh, Christmas Tree, Egg, Christopher Pumpkin, and Supertato, and I Spy Island is no exception.

In the middle of the ocean, miles from anywhere is a living Island who loves to play I Spy with their friends… just like my daughter! When a curious chest washes up on the Island, everyone is wondering what could be inside. What follows is a sunny adventure of fun and friendship.

This is a classic Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet picture book, that will delight their picture book fans all over the world. Their illustrations are as bold and bright as ever and we loved the ending of this latest adventure-packed story!

Published by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK, 8 July 2021

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ISBN: ‎ 978-1471196270

Tales from the Ocean by Chae Strathie and Erin Brown

For regular readers of my reviews, you’ll know that my four-year-old is obsessed with the ocean and loves sea-themed books. So, it has been a delight to share Chae and Erin’s ocean tales.

Each story is beautifully illustrated with fishy facts delicately woven into the tales. We love the little rhyming verse at the end of each story. One of our favourite stories was Keep Nibbling, Parrotfish.

Tales from the Ocean is a charming compilation of sea-themed stories that are the perfect length for bedtime reads!

Published by Little Tiger Press, 2 September 2021

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ISBN: 978-1788952255

Why? Rhyming Guide to Rainbows and Emma on Mars by Dr Billy Dunne, illustrated by Rhys Jefferys and Vanessa Port (resp.)

It’s safe to say that as a family we are obsessed with rainbows. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been lots of wonderful rainbow-themed books published, and Why? Is up there as one of our favourite rainbow-themed picture books.

This ingenious rhyming tale is laid out in that all too familiar conversation style of a child asking their parent “why?” over and over again. The dad explains the science behind the rainbow in more and more detail. The illustrations are fantastic and scientifically accurate which made my heart sing. Why? Rhyming Guide to Rainbows is clever, relatable, accessible and absolutely BRILLIANT! We LOVE this book!

Having discovered Billy’s first book on rainbows, we couldn’t wait to dive into his latest book, Emma on Mars, illustrated by Vanessa. It is another science-based picture book and it didn’t disappoint. Emma is cross with her parents. They’ve made a mess of Earth and say they’re too busy to sort it out! Emma decides that the only sensible plan is to find a new planet to live on.

We loved the mixture of fantasy and the climate change element running throughout the book. We really hope to read more books in this series.

Why? Rhyming Guide to Rainbows was published by Maverick 6 October 2020

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ISBN: ‎ 978-1848866485

Emma on Mars was published by Maverick Arts, 2 March 2021

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ISBN: ‎ 978-1848867055

Winter Sleep by Sean Taylor, Alex Morss and Cinyee Chiu

We really enjoyed reading Busy Spring last year, so we couldn’t wait to read Winter Sleep. In this cosy bedtime story, a little boy and his grandma explore the frosty, quiet forest, and observe the animals that go to sleep for winter.

My daughter loved spotting all the different sleeping animals. We particularly liked the clever illustration of the little boy looking through the ice of the frozen pond! There are also several brilliant pages at the back of the book that tell you more about each of the animals from the book.

Winter Sleep is a beautifully illustrated and gentle guide to hibernation. A perfect book to share with children this winter!

Published by words & pictures, 28 September 2021

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ISBN: 978-0711270152

The Book of Labyrinths and Mazes by Silke Vry and Finn Dean

From famous labyrinth designs to maze-related number puzzles and patterns in the human body, this fascinating book is the one-stop-shop for labyrinths and mazes.

Split into four chapters, this book covers every aspect of labyrinths and mazes. From what sets them apart, to what to do if you get lost inside one. Using a combination of photographs, drawings, and puzzles, this book will answer questions you didn’t even know you wanted answered: How do mazes and labyrinths appear in mythology? What can nature tell us about lines, spirals, and patterns?

My daughter loved the pages on how to make your own mazes and tangled paths. Reading this book as an adult, I found it intriguing, and my younger self would have been captivated by the fascinating history of mazes and labyrinths, the differences between them and modern-day puzzles. This is a lovely coffee-table style book that would make the perfect gift for puzzle-loving children and adults.

Published by Prestel, 7 September 2021

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ISBN: ‎ 978-3791374741

Roar! by Amelia Hepworth and Jorge Martín

This board book has given my two-year-old countless hours of fun over the past few months, and my four-year-old finds it hilarious too.

Which animal has the loudest roar? It won’t be who you expect! The final page of this board book has a very loud and roarsome twist! There’s only one page with a sound, but it’s worth the wait.

Roar! would make a lovely gift for a toddler who is learning to look at books independently.

Published by Little Tiger Press, 5 August 2021

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ISBN: ‎ 978-1788818964

Mightier Than the Sword by Rochelle Melander and Melina Ontiveros

The final book of the month is a real treat. This wonderful collection of 40 biographies includes rebels, reformers, and revolutionaries from a diverse range of backgrounds who changed the world through their writing.

Each biography has a writing caption: Write to Explain (Wang Zhenyi); Write to Persuade (Martin Luther King); Write to Read (Louis Braille). I love that the book takes these inspirational writing features one step further by encouraging children to try writing challenges of their own, including pages to help them with their own forms of writing, like Write to Revise.

Mightier Than the Sword is a beautifully illustrated, inspiring collection of biographies that showcases the power of words – this would be an excellent resource to use across a range of subjects at school.

Published by Beaming Books, 21 September 2021

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ISBN: ‎ 978-1506466408

I am very grateful to the publishers for providing me with complimentary copies of these books. This voluntary feature contains my honest opinion.

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