Want the kids to read more? 15 modern classics for all ages

From greedy dogs to shimmering dragons and from dance competitions to grisly murder – these books can inspire a lifetime of reading

The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Guillian and Yuval Zommer (Words and Pictures)
A concertina-book that falls open in yards of pages, taking you to the centre of the Earth and back again; good for budding geologists, treasure-hunters, archaeologists and those who aren’t too keen on traditionally book-shaped books.

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Clive King obituary

Author of Stig of the Dump, the children’s classic that has never been out of print since it was published in 1963

Clive King, who has died aged 94, was the author of several children’s books and is best known for Stig of the Dump, the original and imaginative fantasy story of the friendship between Barney, a boy of the modern era, with Stig, a boy from long, long ago who lives in a nearby chalk pit in a home created from things he can creatively and skilfully repurpose from waste, including a chimney from tin cans and windows from glass bottles.

Taking place without any adult supervision, the two boys’ adventures – some contemporary and some in a time-slip back to Stig’s prehistoric time – are underpinned by the childhood delights of play and friendship: they quietly challenge conformity and celebrate the freedom to live differently.

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Salley Vickers on Stoke-on-Trent: ‘Thanks to my upbringing, my books have a tenderness for misfits’

The former therapist and novelist on her ‘committed communist’ parents, seeing Paul Robeson sing and her abiding love for the Potteries

I was born in Liverpool, my mother’s home town, which was bombed during the second world war. But my father was warden of Barlaston Hall near Stoke-on-Trent, a residential adult education college, founded by Josiah Wedgwood, and run jointly by the WEA (Workers’ Educational Association) and the TUC.

Related: Lisa O'Kelly talks to therapist turned author Salley Vickers

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The Lifters by Dave Eggers review – a strong first children’s book

The plot may not be very original, but Dave Eggers can’t write a boring sentence - kids will love this tale of dark underground forces

Twelve-year-old Granite Flowerpetal, hero of Dave Eggers’s first book for children, is having a rough time. His mechanic father is struggling to make enough money to support the family, which also includes Granite’s mother, who uses a wheelchair, and little sister Maisie. Dad’s solution is to move hundreds of miles to the town of Carousel, where things start going wrong as soon as they arrive.

Granite is worried about being the new kid at school, and hopes to make that easier with a slight name change, from the hard-edged moniker given to him by his father to balance the family surname to “Gran”. But nobody is interested in his name, or anything about him, and before long he discovers that something strange is going on ...

The Lifters by Dave Eggers review – a strong first children’s book

The plot may not be very original, but Dave Eggers can’t write a boring sentence - kids will love this tale of dark underground forces

Twelve-year-old Granite Flowerpetal, hero of Dave Eggers’s first book for children, is having a rough time. His mechanic father is struggling to make enough money to support the family, which also includes Granite’s mother, who uses a wheelchair, and little sister Maisie. Dad’s solution is to move hundreds of miles to the town of Carousel, where things start going wrong as soon as they arrive.

Granite is worried about being the new kid at school, and hopes to make that easier with a slight name change, from the hard-edged moniker given to him by his father to balance the family surname to “Gran”. But nobody is interested in his name, or anything about him, and before long he discovers that something strange is going on ...

Book clinic: what titles might help children deal with grief?

The Bookseller’s children’s and YA previews editor selects three titles offering a variety of perspectives on bereavement

Q: What books do you recommend for children aged four and up to prepare for, and deal with, a death in the family? What are the best kids’ books on grief?
Postdoctoral student, two book-loving kids (four and eight) and a terminally ill, much beloved relative

A: Fiona Noble, children’s and young adult previews editor for the Bookseller and member of 2017 Costa book awards judging panel
Talking about death can be overwhelming for adults; where to start with a child? Books are an invaluable way to open dialogue. Rebecca Cobb’s Missing Mummy is a straightforward but warm, tender look at the loss of a parent through the eyes of a small boy. Cobb excels at capturing a child’s perspective and a whole spectrum of emotions: anger and guilt, sadness and confusion. The child finds solace in being ...

Tracy Beaker, please never grow up | Claire Armitstead

Jacqueline Wilson’s bolshie girl is now a single mum on a council estate. Raymond Briggs’s wordless Snowman is becoming a book for ‘a new and older audience’. Why can’t we leave kids books for kids?

Stop the world, I want to get off. On 10 March, it was announced that Tracy Beaker has grown up and become a single mum, in a sequel to Jacqueline Wilson’s beloved trilogy aimed at adults and teenagers as well as preteens. And now it’s been announced that Raymond Briggs’s Snowman is flying towards a similar fate with a retelling by the (admittedly admirable) Michael Morpurgo that will transport the heart-melting carrot-nosed snowman to a “chapter book” for “a new and older audience”.

A chapter book! I ask you! The whole point of The Snowman is that there are no words. He exists in the magical storytelling space that enfolds parents and the smallest ...

The many tongues of Lost in Books, the only bookstore in Fairfield

Most of Fairfield, in Sydney’s west, speaks a language other than English – and now it has a bookstore to match

Walking into Lost in Books is a little like walking into a daydream. Models of hot air balloons float near a ceiling covered in billowing white fabric. Bookshelves line one wall, murals adorn another. The gently sloping floor is carpeted in bright colours. A pile of cushions and soft toys is heaped in a corner beside some armchairs and a piano sits opposite. It’s a stark contrast to the hot concrete and brick of the Fairfield street on which it sits.

The multilingual children’s bookstore is the only one of its kind in the western Sydney suburb – the only bookstore, that is. The area hasn’t had a bookshop at all since Angus and Robertson turned its back on bricks-and-mortar outlets, and Kmart aside, the closest storefronts dedicated to ...

Amelia Edwards obituary

Founding art director of Walker Books who oversaw some of the company’s great children’s classics including We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Amelia Edwards, who has died aged 77, was the art director of Walker Books and one of the most important influences on children’s book publishing in the 20th century. Working with some of the best illustrators and writers of the age, she built a list of classic titles that shaped the reading experience of generations of children.

In 1978 the entrepreneurial Sebastian Walker invited her to join him as the first employee of his fledgling company, Walker Books. It rapidly became Britain’s leading independent children’s publisher.

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Fiction for older children reviews – snow quests, standup and skullduggery

A well-plotted comic quest from Harry Hill, a treat of a seafaring saga, and a Dickensian dystopia in which a fox leaves an orphanage in search of home

Snow flurries blow across ice palaces, and a penguin or seven crops up in this season’s stockingful of books. Best enjoyed with a mug of sustaining cocoa, Alex Bell’s The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club (Faber £6.99) – probably the start of a series – delights in sleety detail. Twelve-year-old Stella Starflake Pearl dreams of being an arctic explorer like her adoptive father, a derring-doer who disdains club rules about moustaches and not taking girls along on expeditions. Soon Stella is questing through the Icelands. Inadvertently stumbling across the uneasy secrets of her childhood, she forges unlikely friendships. Big on tiny enchanted penguins, pygmy diplodocuses, moustache wax, unicorns and compassion, Bell’s book also packs some fairytale-calibre grimness (hence the need for strong cocoa).

Another ...

Jill Barklem obituary

Creator of the Brambly Hedge children’s books

Jill Barklem, who has died of pneumonia aged 66, was the creator of the Brambly Hedge children’s titles, a richly imagined and beautifully illustrated series of stories that are a fine example of the pastoral tradition in children’s books. Inspired by her observations of the countryside around Epping in Essex, where she grew up, Jill created the series on the underground as she commuted to her degree course at St Martin’s School of Art in central London. Hating the overcrowded trains, she transported herself to a place of her own imagining that offered peace, space and friendliness, populating it with a community of mice.

The first four Brambly Hedge books – each set in a different season – were published simultaneously in 1980, thus creating from the outset a year-round introduction to Jill’s wonderfully imagined, small-scale world. Together, and mostly in the illustrations ...

Move over, Hermione Granger – now girls have real-life heroines to read about | Lauren Chassebi

Children are revelling in books that showcase female role models from Virginia Woolf to Venus Williams. Such non-fiction has never been more needed

Children’s stories have often followed the same pattern: a girl is in trouble and enlists the help of a boy to get her out of this or that sticky situation. Then they live happily ever after. You only need to look at the classic fairytales to see this is the case. Of course, some fictional heroines have broken away from this mould. Anne of Green Gables, in the series by L M Montgomery, is inquisitive and bright, and Roald Dahl’s Matilda is famously brave and wise beyond her years. But, in picture books for younger readers, heroines such as these have always been few and far between.

As a child, the characters I looked up to were Disney Channel stars such as Lizzie McGuire, who I ...

Children’s books roundup: the best new picture books and novels

Scary stories for Halloween, the transformative power of education … and fish-finger sandwiches

Ghoulish goodies abound for picture-book fans this Halloween, including I Want to Be in a Scary Story by Sean Taylor and Jean Jullien (Walker). Asked what sort of story he’d like to be in, Little Monster demands a scary one. But a spooky forest and haunted house prove too perturbing – and he wants to be the one doing the scaring … This is beautifully structured for reading aloud; a vibrant, viewpoint-flipping picture book that should lessen small readers’ fairytale fears.

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The Explorers by Katherine Rundell review – wildly exciting adventure

The gripping tale of four youngsters plunged into the Amazon forest will delight with its warmth and wisdom

From the whimsical streets of Victorian Paris in Rooftoppers to the frozen white plains of Russia in The Wolf Wilder, Katherine Rundell conjures an extraordinary sense of place in her novels, no more so than in the lush Amazon rainforest of her latest. Readers are plunged, quite literally, into a wildly exciting adventure when four children crash-land hundreds of miles from civilisation after their pilot suffers a heart attack. They are alone and in absolute peril, without food or water, at the mercy of the ferocious jungle. But it’s also a place of wonder: Rundell’s rich, descriptive prose will transport her young readers to a mesmerising world where they can swim with river dolphins, eat a tarantula and discover a ruined city. The mystery deepens when the discovery of a map ...

Children’s books roundup: the best new picture books and novels

From a retelling of Rapunzel to a tentative romance, there is something for all ages from toddlers to teensAuthor-illustrator Bethan Woollvin returns to enthral picture-book fans with a retelling of Rapunzel (Two Hoots) in her characteristic, starkly beguiling graphic black and white. The contrasting waves of Rapunzel’s hair, in over-saturated buttery yellow, light up a heroine every bit as defiant, quick-witted and tough as Woollvin’s award-winning Little Red. Another strong-willed girl features in Sean Taylor and Kasia Matyjaszek’s I Am Actually a Penguin (Templar), in which the narrator dons a seabird persona along with her beloved new costume and refuses to behave in any way unbefitting a penguin. It’s warm, hilarious, with acutely observed behaviour and a delightful twist. Continue reading...

Children’s books roundup: the best new picture books and novels

From a retelling of Rapunzel to a tentative romance, there is something for all ages from toddlers to teensAuthor-illustrator Bethan Woollvin returns to enthral picture-book fans with a retelling of Rapunzel (Two Hoots) in her characteristic, starkly beguiling graphic black and white. The contrasting waves of Rapunzel’s hair, in over-saturated buttery yellow, light up a heroine every bit as defiant, quick-witted and tough as Woollvin’s award-winning Little Red. Another strong-willed girl features in Sean Taylor and Kasia Matyjaszek’s I Am Actually a Penguin (Templar), in which the narrator dons a seabird persona along with her beloved new costume and refuses to behave in any way unbefitting a penguin. It’s warm, hilarious, with acutely observed behaviour and a delightful twist. Continue reading...

Fiction for older children reviews – tales of the cities

London and New York both feature strongly in stories from both sides of the pond, while Room author Emma Donoghue makes her children’s fiction debutIn the UK, you wouldn’t want under-12s to have much contact with doormen – ours being burly negotiators who remove the ill-behaved from nightclubs. In New York, however, doormen are the guardians of gracious apartment buildings and, thus, civilisation itself. One such building is the star of The Doorman’s Repose, by Caldecott Medal winner Chris Raschka (Faber, £11.99), an urbane collection of New Yorker-ish short stories. It begins with a new doorman – who, disastrously, knows nothing about baseball – taking up his post. Otis, the elevator, plays matchmaker; Liesl, the boiler, loses her va-va-voom; the mice are into jazz and psychotherapy, and the humans in these droll, Lemony Snicket-like stories are only slightly less variegated. Continue reading...

Tilly and the Time Machine by Adrian Edmondson review – journey of discovery

The actor’s tale about a seven-year-old pursuing her dad through history is engaging and insightful Children’s publishing is awash with books written by celebrities. In the space of a few weeks this spring, Cara Delevingne, Dermot O’Leary, Alesha Dixon and George Galloway announced debut kids’ books. Meanwhile non-multi-tasking, professional authors complain about celebs cannibalising their marketing budgets and swallowing huge advances. So I felt a bit bad, after reading comedian-and-actor Adrian Edmondson’s enjoyable debut, for having been irked by the copy I received with its boastful cover stamp: “Very Important Proof”. Edmondson is not a novice with an unfair fame advantage: he has a career’s worth of TV writing credits (Bottom, The Comic Strip Presents… etc), and it shows in this sophisticated novel. Continue reading...

Children’s books roundup: the best new picture books and novels

Mole’s missing specs, a new outing for the Little Mermaid, a love song to the planet and Beetle Boy returnsBuds are bursting, lambs are leaping; slough off Easter’s chocolate coma with books about biodiversity, mermaids, battles, beetles, song, ships, grief, star-gazing and growing up. For picture-book fans, Jarvis, master of fabulous foolery, returns with Mrs Mole, I’m Home! (Walker), a worthy successor to Alan’s Big Scary Teeth. Featuring a short-sighted earth-dweller who, mislaying his glasses, tunnels into several erroneous lairs, this delightfully retro book boasts perfectly judged repetition, an appealing palette of blues and reds, and a running joke about the whereabouts of the missing specs; reading it aloud should trigger instant cries of “Again!” Continue reading...

Fiction for 8- to 12-year-olds reviews – cyborgs, sisters and a girl called Owl

Film directors Sylvain Chomet and Bobbie Peers give a fantastic spin to the challenges of the tweenage years, alongside vlogging cats and talking fishPicture books for key stage 2 readers require a balance of graphics and grist – too cute and you’ll insult their sense of maturity. Dancing across the divide from picture- to text-led is Abby Hanlon’s anarchic Dory Fantasmagory (Faber £6.99), for the very youngest in this range. Poor Dory: nobody wants to play with a kid sister whose imagination is matched by her pestiferousness. Hanlon’s cartoons add devilment to the narrative, mostly set in Dory’s imagination. Her siblings make up a baby-stealing bogeywoman to scare her; Dory responds by darting Mrs Gobble Gracker with sedatives. Very funny. Continue reading...