Book reviews - Story Time books

On this page we have brought together a selection of books covering situations and experiences children will encounter. These will be useful in the classroom to familiarise and reassure children. These are all excellent stories to read aloud at story time. Take a look at our Assembly Books page too. Many more book reviews can be found on our Recommended Books pages.

New Experiences

There is a whole page of books dedicated to First Experiences.

Lost and Found (Let's Talk) by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos

The best way to reassure children about new or frightening experiences is to talk about them and this book gives the ideal opportunity to do just that. Big sister tells her younger sibling just how scary she felt when she was lost. It is told in such a way that children will be reassured and it highlights two key points - make sure children know their parents' mobile phone numbers and arrange a meeting place. The page at the end 'Note to Parents' is extremely useful. I highly recommend this book to pre-empt this scary situation and to reassure children. Other useful titles in this series include Let's Talk: Do you have a Secret?, Let's Talk: My Friend has Down's Syndrome

Max's First Day: Dealing With Feelings by Nicola Call and Sally Featherstone

Helping young children to come to terms with their feelings through simple stories is a tried-and-trusted method. Dealing with Feelings is a series of very short books, heavily dependent on the use of illustrations to convey the message, which is ideal for this age group. Max is worried about his first day at school, but soon makes lots of friends; Natasha can do lots of things TJ can't - but they find something to enjoy together; Sunita is a very best friend, who can be very different but always loyal; big brother can do things better than little brother but they still have lots of fun together. Each book includes specific guidance on how to use the book to help children cope with their feelings.

 Going to Hospital (The Big Day) by Nicola Barber

This reassuring book explains to children what happens if they need to go to hospital. With plenty of colour pictures of children and simple text, this shows children what to expect and gived them the chance to ask questions and discuss what will happen. There is also a list of words about hospitals and suggestions for further information. The series also includes First Day at School (The Big Day), A New Baby Arrives (The Big Day) and Moving House (Big Day). They are both an excellent classroom resource and ideal for parents to share with children facing big events in life. 

Starting School by Caryn Jenner and Arthur Robins

The large format of this book means there is pleny of space to include an immense amount of detail. It starts off on a really positive note - 'Lucky you. You're starting school soon.' Cartoon style illustrations and speech bubbles take the reader through a day at school, covering such important issues as routines, playtimes, the toilets, lunches and school rules. This book gives parents and carers an excellent opportunity to familiarise a child with school and to share any concerns. Make sure you introduce it to your child well in advance of starting school and you will have plenty of time to alleviate concerns and ensure a happy start to school. An excellent book - do take a look. 

The Pink Bicycle by Gillian Lobel 

It is important to reassure children when  they are facing new experiences and books are a great way to do this. They give you the opportunity to sit down and share with your child, who can then raise concerns in the context of the story. In this story, Sunita has outgrown her red bicycle and reluctantly goes withe her father to choose a new one - but it has no stabilisers. Only when Blue Rabbit needs help, does Sunita master the new bike. Lovely expressive illustrations complement this reassuring story, which shows how children need support and help from those around them to conquer new things.

Don't Want to Go by Shirley Hughes

Wonderful! A new book by Shirley Hughes and this will be eagerly read by all her many fans. As always, she takes a common family situation and turns it into an enchanting and reassuring story, perfect for sharing and reading aloud. Just look at the expression of the face of the toddler, who doesn't want to go. But when Lily gets to Melanie's house, she finds it's not too bad after all. Wonderfully observed characters which will strike a chord with every family, this addresses the issues of insecurity felt by toddlers and addresses those concerns in an approachable and reassuring way. A lovely book which will deservedly become a favourite in many homes and classrooms. Highly recommended. 


Meeting the New Baby by Sue King

First Experience Sticker Books are a new series from Parragon Books. Each one contains over 50 colourful stickers; more than 20 learning activities and a fun story to help children familiarise themselves with the new experiences every child faces. Brightly illustrated in colour throughout, these books are full of opportunities for discussion and reassurance. In this story, Alexander meets his new baby sister - and he can't wait! He learns that having a baby sister can be fun and his parents are very grateful for his help. Share with Alexander as he goes through the emotions older siblings feel at the advent of a baby.


Topsy and Tim: Start School by Jean Adamson

Topsy and Tim are always finding fun adventures in the real world, and this story is reassuring for young children having first experiences of their own. In Topsy and Tim: Start School follow Topsy and Tim as they learn where to hang their coats, find out all about the classroom and make new friends. A trusted and well-loved pair who can help guide parents and children through 'first experiences', Topsy and Tim books have been beautifully updated with contemporary artwork. Topsy & Tim remain instantly recognisable to parents while in a fresh style that will appeal to a new generation of fans.


Ella moves house by Angela Hassall

This is a lovely reassuring book, about how to adapt both to a new family and to a new home. Ella doesn't want to go to a new house with her mum and Joe but she comes to terms with the move when Joe saves her doll, Mollie, will find out when you read this enchanting story with its vivid illustrations which are full of fascinating detail.  

Talking it Through

Dyslexia (Talking It Through) by Althea 

A succinct book, this is an excellent starting point to explain about dyslexia to both parents and children. It explains the symptons and effects of dyslexia in a factual and easily understandable way. The different ways in which dyslexia can affect children are explained in a child-friendly manner, which will reassure and open up opportunities for further discussion. Six children tell their own stories and explain the strategies that help them cope. Children will be reassured to learn that they are not alone and reading this colourfully illustrated book will help them greatly. I would also like to see it shared with all children, so they can understand and support their peers.Althea is a very experienced writer of books to help reassure and familiarise children with a wide range of experiences. 

Be Careful (Talking It Through) by Althea 

We can tell children to 'be careful' over and over again, but sometimes they don't learn until they have done something. This book, which features young children and their toys, is an excellent way to encourage children to heed the wise advice of adults. Practical situations, such as cooking, illustrate the potential dangers and show some very sensible children always taking the right course of action. Children will enjoy reading this as a story and at the same time they will be learning. Colourfully presented and packed with sensible and practical suggestions, this is a valuable book for home and school. RoSPA helped in the production.

I Can't Hear Like You (Talking It Through) by Althea 

It is hard for hearing children to understand the world of a deaf or partially hearing child, and too often such children (and adults) are treated as being less intelligent. Hearing problems re experienced by many children and yet they are not talked about on a regular basis - this short but meaningful book helps address that issue. Sensitively written from the viewpoint of a boy who wears a hearing aid, children learn to understand the difficulties he faces and how they can help others in a similar situation - and we see the boy helping another, who is profoundly deaf. An excellent classroom resource to help understanding.

Lunch Boxes (Talking It Through) by Althea 

A topical subject and one which can raise quite strong emotions amongst parents, who often resent being told how to feed their children. This practical book would be an excellent resource for teachers, either to show parents or to share with children, who will then pass on the healthy eating message. The book looks at some healthy lunch boxes and tells us why certain foods are good, and why some should be avoided. Much attention is also given to various dietary requirements, and this is a good way to help children understand what others are eating. The importance of breakfast is shown! A practical and entertaining read.

Your Body: A Guide to Healthy Living (Talking It Through) by Althea Your Body

Another practical book in this series for young readers. As with all the books in this series, it is easy reading for children and offers valuable insights for adults, in the way they are helped to understand how children perceive things. The body is an amazing thing, and this book takes children on an exciting journey through the body and explains clearly the marvellous things that take place. A key feature of the book is how to take care of our bodies and this is presented in a way that will appeal to children. 

Emotions and behaviour

Wait Your Turn, Tilly (You Choose!) by Lisa Regan

One in a series of books which presents children with different scenarios based on common situations and encourages children to choose which they think is the right thing to do. Like so many children, Tilly is impatient and sometimes she just can't wait! She wants the toy someone else has; she wants her party bag NOW, she wants to tell mum and dad what she has been doing... These and other situations are experienced and then three possible ways of handling the situation are given, and this gives adults and children plenty to discuss and consider while the child decides which is the right action to take. It's a child-friendly approach which will work well both in the classroom and at home.

Samuel Scaredosaurus (Dinosaurs Have Feelings, Too) by Brian Moses

A light-hearted series of books which nonetheless explores important issues for young children. Brian Moses uses friendly dinosaurs to convey his message. In this story, we meet Samuel Scaredosaurus who is scared of lots of things - the dark, being bullied,getting lost... His parents reassure him - they too used to be scared of things and they come up with some very practical ideas to help Samuel face up to his fears. An enjoyable story and a good way to convey the reassuring message. Includes notes for parents and teachers on how to share this book to help children learn about their emotions.

I'm Feeling ... Shy by Lisa Regan

Each book in the 'I'm Feeling' series looks at different scenarios provoked by a different set of feelings, and provides information to help children handle each in a positive way. Extensive research was carried out with children and experts, and the text was built around their responses. It's a really constructive series which would make an excellent basis for classroom discussion as well as for use in the home. I'm Feeling... Shy shows how a variety of situations can make a child feel shy - for example, being praised. Children are shown, in a sensitive and straightforward manner, how to manage these situations.

I'm Feeling ... Scared by Lisa Regan

As parents and grandparents, we don't always realise (or remember!) the things that cause children anxiety, so this is a valuable series for adults as it helps them to see things from a child's perspective - and maybe even to pre-empt some potentially difficult situations. The dark, going to the dentist, a sleepover, performing in a school play - these are just some of the situations this book will help a child handle.

I'm Feeling ... Angry by Lisa Regan

Children's emotions are so changeable - they veer from one extreme to another so quickly and much of this is due to being unaware of how to handle situations. In this boo, children are told that it is OK to feel hurt or angry, and how to share those feelings with adults. It takes many common situations and shows children how to handle them - for example, counting to ten and then explaining. Much can be gained from discussing the pictures too, and this is an excellent way to help children explain how they feel.

Manners In School by Arianna Cardel and Rosa Curto

Good manners are so important, but it is easy to overlook the little things sometimes. This series of books shows, in real-life situations, what could be the consequences of thoughtless or careless behaviour, however unintentional. This title is perfect to share with your child when starting school, or for teachers to use at the start of the school year. A fun and colourful story which serves a really useful purpose. Excellent! Try the rest in the series - Manners: At the Park, Manners: On Holidays and Manners: At Parties.

Zoo Girl by Rebecca Elliott

This is a book of very few words but Rebecca's dramatic illustrations, with stunning use of colour, almost tell the story all by themselves, and allow the reader to put their own interpretation on events. THere are also wonderful opportunities for discussion as there are few pre-conceived ideas. A sad little girl is all alone at the beginning of the story, watching families and friends together. But when she is left behind at the zoo, she finds she has lots of wonderful friends. And, best of all, she finds she is WANTED. A reassuring read, this would be a good book to share with those fostering or adopting and also with children who are feeling a bit left out. An excellent book for classroom use.

No! by David McPhail

This almost wordless story conveys a strong message which is accessible to all through the dramatic and thought-provoking illustrations. A small boy sets out to deliver a letter and witnesses acts of war on his journey. But he has had enough when he reaches the letter box and is set on by a bully. 'NO', he says. On his return journey, things are very different. The lack of words opens up a huge opportunity for discussion at home or in the classroom, giving everyone the chance to express their views and feelings. A very sensitive and thoughtful book which expresses the hope that the playgrounds of the world (on whatever scale) will become safer and friendlier places for all.


 Little Grey Donkey by Nicole Snifselaar

Another lovely picture book from TopThat, as ever beautifully presented and illustrated. This story tells how Little Grey Donkey overcomes his fears and goes to find his friend Serafina. He encounters lots of obstacles but his friendship for Serafina gives him the courage to overcome them all. Thoughtfully illustrated by Coralie Saudo, I particularly liked the nigh-ttime picture, with all the beady little eyes and lights showing - simple but effective. A lovely book to share with children who have fears, to show they can be overcome.


Milly the Meerkat by Oakley Graham

Meerkats are hugely popular at the moment, perhaps thanks to a certain TV advert! They are adorable creatures and this book lives up to expectations. Milly learns an important lesson, reminiscent of the lesson learnt by Aesop's The Boy who Cried Wolf. One day, Milly is bored, so she cries 'snake' and then laughs as all the meerkats run to happens again... and again. But the third time nobldy believes her. Luckily, all is well and she learns that friendship can help, but she must tell the truth. Beautifully illustrated in lovely warm colours, this is a most attractive book. The text is great fun as well as conveying an important moral tale.

Grandma and Grandpa's Garden by Neil Griffiths

Grandma and Grandpa loved their garden and spent many happy hours there together, but happiness came to an end. This touching story brought a tear to my eye and is a perfect book to share with a young child who has lost a loved one. It is full of hope, love and importance of sharing memories and feelings. Gabriella Buckingham's beautiful watercolour illustrations really bring the story alive and provide plenty of opportunities to identify flowers, plants and vegetables. A sensitive approach to a difficult subject, written by a gifted storyteller. 

Florence was no Ordinary Fairy by Neil Griffiths 

Neil's books are perfect for young children, with their child-friendly repetitive language. Many of them tackle sensitive issues in a caring and thoughtful way and this is no exception. Florence was not like other fairies. She didn't like anything fairy-like...except fairy cakes, and we all know what eating too many fairy cakes does! So the Queen sends her to a fairy fitness farm. The story helps children understand, in a fun way, the value of a healthy lifestyle and the fact that outward appearances are not important. Enjoy the fun cartoons while sharing this book.


Sammy goes Flying by Odette Elliott

Poor Sammy! He has always dreamt of flying and now his brother and sister are going to an aircraft museum but he is too little to go. But Grandma saves the day with a surprise trip. This would be a lovely story to share with a child who thinks she is missing out, to reassure them that there are lots of ways dreams can come true. This is a warm-hearted story, with a strong family background. Lots to talk about in the pictures by Georgina McIntyre - full of colour and action.


The Little Penguin by Giles Andreae

This is one book in a series of 13 called 'World of Happy'. Each one addresses a key issue common in the lives of all young children and a fun story is used to illustrate the concept. The Little penguin is the story of a penguin who doesn't like the water. His mother gently reassures him and acknowledges that we all have fears, and the little penguin puts his trust in her and overcomes his fears. A lovely reassuring story to share, with children, enhanced by the charming illustrations by Janet Cronin. Each book in the series has a page for children to complete, showing how they responded to the advice in the book . I highly recommend this series, both to cover issues of concern and to pre-empt them. Excellent to share with a class to reinforce any concerns. See all the rest of the series on our 0 to 5 pages.


 Quick, Slow, Mango by Anik McGrory

Kidogo's mum is always telling him to hurry up... Pole Pole's mum always tells him to slow down. But which way is best  -and, more importantly, which way is the best way to get breakfast? A lovely gentle tale, illustrated with really amusing illustrations filled with detail, which tell the story in themselves. Kidogo is floating peacefully in the river when he decides to make a dam across the river - and catches all the mangoes which impatient Pole Pole has knocked down. Not only does he catch mangoes but he catches Pole Pole too. A lovely story about doing things in your own time and getting there in the end.


Star Friends by Tracey Corderoy

Ooogle-Doogle was very cautious - every morning he checked his bedroom to make sure there were no scaries there. Then he very neatly ate his breakfast, and played two games for exactly six minutes each. But his organised life suddenly changes when he meets Boogle. He finds out there is much more to life and learns to overcome his fears. A lovely, reassuring story for sharing, especially for rather timid children, highlighting the importance of friendship in helping to overcome fear of the unknown. Alison Edgson's expressive illustrations bring the story to life and draw us into the world of these charming friends. Tracey's books really express her love of story-telling and help to draw children into the magical world of books.  

Slightly Invisible by Lauren Child

There are always high expectations for a new book by Lauren Child, and this does not disappoint. The multi-award winning author has scored again with Slightly Invisible, which addresses the tricky problem of who Lola who wants to do everything big brother Charlie does -  including playing with his best friend Marv. Charlie loves his little sister and these books are wonderful examples for children of how to get on well with their siblings - something the best of us find hard at times! Charlie and Marv have a very ingenious solution - but you will have to read the book to find out if it works! A perfect story for sharing with your family, and great fun to read together. The use of language will really strike a chord with children, as it reflects the way they think and speak - very clever.


Shaun the Shy Shark by Neil Griffiths

Like all Neil's stories, this is perfect for reading aloud and for sharing with a group.This would make an excellent assembly story on the theme of it is no bad thing to be different. Shaun does not live up to the expectation that sharks should be terrifying, so the other sharks shun his company. But Shaun swims oiff to the bottom of the sea, where he finds the perfect home. Much to his surprise, he makes lots of friends and loses some of his shyness. Beautiful seascape illustrations by Peggy Collins are packed with fascinating detail. 

The Little White Owl by Tracey Corderoy

This is a really thought-provoking book, making us all, adults and children alike, think about our inclination to judge others on their outward appearances. The Little White Owl  may look plain and boring in comparison with his brightly coloured fellows, but he has the most wonderful fund of stories which amaze the other owls and, despite their initial resistance, they take him to their hearts. The story actually brought a tear to my eye at the end. The illustrations by Jane Chapman are fantastic - just look at all the owls huddled together on the tree - and can you believe the range of expressions on their faces? This would be a wonderful bedtime story  and would also be lovely to share with a class and as an assembly book.

Poetry books




Mrs Noah's Vegetable Ark by Elena Pasquali

Noah is busy building his ark and saving all the animals, but what about the plants? Mrs Noah  has spent years sowing, growing and tending her garden and all the plants will be washed away! So Mrs Noah begins to collect seeds and take cuttings which she plants on the ark. The result is a wonderful garden ark which  gives everyone plenty to eat, and means Mrs Noah has a head start in making the world green again. A lovely and novel twist on the story of the ark, this would make a super story for assemblies.  

 Other Cultures


Fatou Fetch the Water by Neil Griffiths

An enchanting progressive story to read aloud and share. Fatou sets off to the well, but along the way she is given lots of messages to remember. She remembers all the messages but somehow forgets the most important thing... A reassuring read - we have all been there, adults and children alike, and there is always a way to put mistakes right. An interesting insight into the world of The Gambia, the vivid illustrations take you right inside a Gambian village. Encourage children to talk about the pictures and the life depicted. A two-page spread at the end supports and extends the information in the book, making this an ideal book for Foundation Stage and KS1 pupils learning about other countries. 


A is for Arabia by Julia Johnson

There are plenty of alphabet books around, so it is good to find one with a different focus. It is a lovely book to read aloud to younger ones, as the witty rhymes really flow off the tongue. These are complemented by the delicate colour illustrations by Emily Styles, which reflect the culture and incorporate the capital letters. I find the softness of the colours really appealing.  It is also suitable for seven year olds and over to read themselves, and is a lovely introduction to the Arabian world. A really attractive book.



Sometimes by Rebecca Elliott

This story follows on from 'Just Because', where we met Toby and his sister Clemmie. Toby looks after his sister really well, despite her disability. In this story, he visits Clemmie in hospital and together they have some wonderful adventures and hospital becomes a completely different place. It shows us how powerful love is and how wonderful a close relationship between siblings can be. The story is realistic - we see how Clemmie suffers but her courage and that ofher brother shine through, giving the book a really positive and upbuilding feel. Rebecca's vibrant illustrations simply leap off the page at you and bring the characters to life. A wonderfully emotional yet encouraging book.


Ringo the Flamingo by Neil Griffiths

This is a beautifully written story which challenges our preconceptions about disability. Ringo's legs didn't work but the flock always took care of him and he always remained happy. One day, a fire swept across the lakeside and all the rest of the flamingoes flew off to safety, leaving Ringo behind.  But not only Ringo was left behind  - and he was the only one who could rescue the chick. A wonderful story of bravery with a touching ending showing how Ringo has a position of real value in the flock. The shiny pages and stunning illustrations make this a book to treasure - wonderfully produced. An excellent introduction to disability awareness and a thought-provoking story to share with all children and an example to us all.

Just Because by Rebecca Elliott

Toby loves his sister Clemmie, but he can't put into words exactly why - it's 'just because'. This is a lovely book to help children accept the differences between people and to help them learn that everyone is special. It is a heartwarming story of sibling love and will help all young children to understand and accept disability. The warmly colourful illustrations draw the reader into the story. This book deserves a place in all children's libraries and will be excellent in the classroom to enhance understanding. 


Stories to support teaching


Ten Sleepy Sloths by Neil Griffiths

Sing along to this counting book to the tune of Ten Green Bottles and share a lovely experience with your child or your class - they will love to join in and the simple language makes this easy for them. But it's not quite so simple! In a clever twist, children will have to do a sum to work out how many animals remain. This book is packed full of all sorts of animals, all wonderfully illustrated with great humour by Judith Blake - the pictures are huge fun! Downloadable resources to support the story are available from And the book is available with an audio CD from August 2011. 

Creepy Crawly Calypso by Tony Langham 

This book is a great way to wear off some excess energy! Jump and jive from 1 to 10 with a band of energetic mini-beasts and learn to count at the same time. Flowing rhyming text beckons you on through the book, as you meet a group of very unusual instrumentalists - but just imagine, centipedes playing the piano; perfect! Brilliantly coloured illustrations by Debbie Harter bring the musicians to life. Find out more about the creepy-crawly creatures of the Caribbean in this lively book and join in with the song (words and music included) and enjoy the calypso CD. This book crosses many categories - picture book, non fiction book and mucis book - and succeeds on every count.

Who'd be a Fly by Neil Griffiths

Venus was VERY VERY hungry... perhaps she could eat a stripy snail... or a wasp... or maybe a nice dung beetle... but no, she can't eat any of these. Finally she finds something delicious to eat, but, oh no! Look who it is! A shiny surprise greets you at the end. As well as a fun story, this is a chance to learn about mini-beasts and it will be a good classroom resource to support teaching. Doug Nash's brightly coloured cartoon-style drawings really bring the story to life.


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