Book reviews - fiction age 2 to 5 (page 24)

These are richly illustrated books and they are not just for young readers. Although we have given the ages 2 to 5 as a rough guide, many will appeal to older children. Some are thought-provoking titles from which all ages can gain pleasure. You're never too old for a picture book! Plenty here for all ages to share and enjoy.

The most recent reviews are at the top of this page - so these are generally the most recently published books.

Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss

Dr Seuss can always be relied on to bring us books that reflect children's lives and interests and this super book is no exception. This book is perfect to mark events in children's lives, from fun times and triumphs to lurches and slumps. Dr. Seuss takes his own inimitable look at the adventures that life may have in store for any of us. Whether for everyday reading or to celebrate those important life events such as graduations, weddings, christenings or changing school, this deserves a place in every child's library..

Secret Agent Elephant by Eoin McLaughlin

Being a spy is rather challenging when you're an elephant - it's hard to be inconspicuous! But Secret Agent Elephant does have one essential attribute of all good spies... he's very handsome in a tuxedo! It's time to join the world's biggest, clumsiest super spy on his first mission. He's off to find feline supervillain Vincent le Morte and stop him from destroying the world. Superbly comic lines flow through the book, guaranteeing laughs for children - and the adults lucky enough to be sharing this book with them. Superbly illustrated by Ross Collins, this is wonderful fun with a superb hero.

Small World by Ishta Mercurio

This lyrical story shows how a child's world expands as she grows. When Nanda is born, her mother is her world. Through Jen Corace's vibrant illustrations, we follow Nanda's journey... as she grows, so her world grows too. As her world expands, so does her appreciation for all the wonders that surround her, especially in the underlying shapes and structures patterning it: cogs and wheels, fractals in snowflakes. Wonders we can all observe, enjoy and appreciate. These marvels lead Nanda to become an astronaut and see the small, round shape of Earth far away. A wonderfully reflective book.

The Secret Path (A Percy the Park Keeper Story)​ by Nick Butterworth

Percy the Parkkeeper really needs no introduction - Nick Butterworth's wonderful series has been a staple of children's reading for 30 years and his appeal never wanes. Today, it’s a beautiful spring morning and time for Percy the park keeper to trim the overgrown maze. But we all know what happens in a maze, and when Percy’s animal friends decide to have some fun, chaos ensues! To add to the fun, there's a fabulous fold-out maze poster for children to enjoy.A delightful story which will capture children's attention with its gentle suspense.

The Treasure Hunt (A Percy the Park Keeper Story) by Nick Butterworth

Treasure hunts are always exciting and the animals can't wait to get started when Percy plans a treasure hunt. There's a trail of clues around the park and the first one to reach the end will find the treasure! The books are all illustrated by the author, and reflect the joy and exuberance of the stories. Percy is always happy, and this is reflected in the pictures which show him going about his busy life in the park. Animals are always at the heart of the stories, and the pictures repay close attention as we enjoy the marvellous expressions that he gives each and every one. The park landscape is depicted with equal love and care, with lots of attention to detail.

Percy’s Bumpy Ride (A Percy the Park Keeper Story)​ by Nick Butterworth

What has Percy been busily doing in his workshop? Maybe he's making a bird table, or a park bench? No, it's something much more unexpected and exciting, as the animals discover when Percy suddenly emerges sitting on top of a very strange machine. The animals jump aboard for what turns out to be a very bumpy ride... in a flying mower! But then things start to go wrong - but luckily, there's help in an unextected place! Another lovely gentle story with gorgeously depicted characters that everyone loves.

Aife and Stray: Seven Style Secrets for a Perilous Party by Stevie Westgarth

Aife and Stray are an unlikely pair of friends who live a simple life together, so when they are invited to a party by the ultra-trendy Prunella Bonbon, they don't know what to wear. Looking for new clothes, they visit seven interesting characters who paint Aife and Stray's world in their own unique colours. When they find this makes them like everyone else, they decide to make a big change - which proves very successful. This vibrantly illustrated rhyming story teaches a valuable lesson in judgement, friendship and love and learning to like who you are and how you look. great fun.

Claude: Anyone for Strawberries? based on the books by Alex T Smith

This enchanting new Claude story is based on the Disney Junior TV show. Claude and his friend Sir Bobblysock are looking forward to their Tuesday breakfast of strawberries - but there are none to be found. They've all been taken to the Pawhaven Tennis Championship. There's only one way to get some of those strawberries - Claude has to win the championship! It's an exciting match, with a very unexpected end. A lovely story about two gorgeous characters who enjoy some very special adventures.

Brenda is a Sheep by Morag Hood

Could it be that Brenda isn't realy a sheep? Although she insists she is a sheep, those long pointy teeth and the grey coat are a bit of a giveaway! She loves to play with her friends... but children will revel in spotting what lies behind her interest in sheep in this gloriously funny picture book. But there's a fabulous twist to the story as all Brenda's sheep friends prepare their own special surprise. After that, she just has to change her plans! Fabulous illustrations complement the witty text in this heart-warming story of friendship and acceptance.

I Have an Idea by Herve Tullet

This is a book which really stretches children's imaginations, and encourages them to put their own interpretation on the drawings. The book explores the creative process, drawing children in along the way, from an initial tentative inkling, to the frustration of chasing the wrong notion, to finally the exhilaration of capturing―and nurturing―just the right idea. Patterns and lines and squiggles adorn the pages, showing how ideas develop from the simplest of ideas. This is a beautifully presented book with a traditional cloth and paper binding - one to treasure and a book which can be read over and over again, bringing fresh ideas every single time. Fascinating.

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

This is very much a book for adults to share with children, with its touching exploration of loss and sadness. When something terrible happens, all the animals have their own ways to try and help Taylor. None of the ideas, despite all being well-mrant, works, until the rabbit arrives, and listens, which is just what Taylor needs. Whether read in the wake of tragedy or as a way of comforting others, this is an effective and memorable story sure to offer consolation.

Umbrella by Elena Arevalo Melville

Clara has nobody to play with in the park, but then she finds an umbrella. Being a thoughtful little girl, she puts it on a bench - and is really surprised when the umbrella says `thank you' and invites Clara to make a wish. This is just the start of a series of unusual events where kindness and forgiveness go hand-in-hand. An unusual and empathetic story about getting along with others, with quirky artwork in a muted colour palette which is very effective..

The Happy Lion by Louise Fatio

The attractive retro styling of this hardback book makes it stand out from the more garish offerings so often found on the market today. The very happy lion in the French zoo has many friends in the town. So it's only natural that, when he finds his cage door open, that he decides to visit them in his turn... But where is everyone going? And why are the firemen all around him? Luckily, along comes a friend and all is well in this charming story. The illustrations by Roger Duvoisin hark back to another age and show the characters and the little French town to perfection. Wonderful to see this lovely feel-good book reissued over 50 years after its first publication.

Humperdink Our Elephant Friend by Sean Taylor

Humperdink the baby elephant is definitely out of place at the children’s playgroup! He seems really friendly and soon the children are trying to get him to share in their games, but things don;t work out...especially when he breaks the slide. But the children don't give up and with a little patience and understanding they soon discover that Humperdink is good at some things – especially if they use their imaginations. This is a charmingly told story, which encourages acceptance and tolerance, and celebrates the joys of friendship. Claire Alexander's gorgoeus illustrations are a delight, making this a perfect picture book.

Christopher Pumpkin by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

Bright, brash and bold (and just a little bit spooky!), this is an eye-catching book that young ones will love. The witch is determined to hold the biggest, spookiest party ever - but she can't do it all on her own. So it's time to bring the pumpkins to life... But Christopher Pumpkin just can't bring himself to hang cobwebs and cook curried slugs - he's much more into bunting and fairy cakes! What's he to do? A superbly told rhyming story with a twist at the end to delight readers, illustrated by Nick East.

The Same but Different Too by Karl Newson

We are all special and we are all different, but we all have our place in the world - that's the message of this thought-provoking book. The children and animals in this colourful book are all very different from one another other. Some are big, some are small. Some are gentle, some are rough... but everyone is playful. This is the perfect picture book for little ones who are just beginning to make sense of their place in the world, and to find out how they relate to others. A lovely book to share with children, especially in a class situation, to encourage acceptance and diversity, and to generate discussion on these themes.

Goodnight World by Nicola Edwards

All around the world, children are settlin down to sleep. Learn how to say goodnight in a variety of world languages as you share this gentle rhyming bedtime read with your little one. The lyrical rhyming text flows across the pages as we enjoy the illustrations by Hannah Tolson of children of all nationalities going through that familiar bedtime routine. Each one shows us how to say 'goodnight' in their own language, complete with pronunciation guide. The wonderful details on the illustrations offer plenty to spot and talk about. A lovely soothing bedtime book.

Astro Girl by Ken Wilson-Max

Astrid wants to be an astronaut. While Mama is away, Papa and Astrid have fun acting out the challenges an astronaut faces on a space mission - eating food from a packet, doing science experiments, living  in near-zero gravity. Astrid can do it all!, as we discover in this lovely story about a loving father-daughter relationship.Then it's time to meet Mama at the airbase. But where has she been?

Why Are there So Many Books About Bears? by Kristina Stephenson

"Have you ever wondered why there are so many books about bears?" Well, if you have, you are not alone - in fact, you are in very elite company as you join the debate in the hallowed halls of Mollusc College, Oxford. All the participants, including William Snakespeare, Albert Swinestein and Mary Shelley, have their own amusing ideas. But how can they have a reasoned debate when someone keeps knocking on the door, offering them tea? Could it be that the answer is behind the door? Open the big foldout page and find out in this hilarious picture book, packed with puns and humpur to delight young readers.

The Marvellous Fluffy Squishy Itty Bitty by Beatrice Alemagna

What a fabulous title! You just have to find out more! The trouble is that, just like you, Eddie doesn't know what a Fluffy Squishy Itty Bitty is, although she knows her mum would love one. So where can she find one? Join Eddie as she tours the whole town, trying to track down the perfect present. She ends up with a lovely collection of goodies as all the shopkeepers show their friendship... and it turns out that all these have a part to play in finding the Fluffy Squishy Itty Bitty. The beautifully detailed scenes of all the shops are a delight and the whole book has a charmingly retro feel. A lovely feel-good story.

My Island by Stephanie Demasse-Pottier

This is a gentle and imaginative book, perfect for escaping from out busy modern world, and winding down. Join the little girl as she imagines a lovely island full of flowers and birds, where she picnics with her animals, plays games, reads, and collects flowers. Have you got the imagination to join her on this beautiful island? Gorgeous, delicately coloured illustrations by Seng Soun Ratanavanh accompany this gentle perceptive story that celebrates the imagination of young readers.

Paper Planes by Jim Helmore and Richard Jones

Best friends Mia and Ben live close together at the side of the lake. They do lots together but their very favourite thing to do is make paper planes, the more elaborate the better. But one day, they get sad news - Ben's family are moving far, far away. How can Mia and Ben stay best friends if they are so far apart? And how will they ever realise their dream of making a plane that can fly across their lake? A magical story of the power of friendship and dreams, delicately illustrated to harmonise with the story.

Some Days by Karen Kaufman Orloff

Share in the ups and downs of a year in the life of a young boy, and discover all the emotions he feels. Some days are good days and some days are bad days and the book is an excellent way to show children that feelings can change and that this is no bad thing. Emotional intelligence is a buzz phrase at the moment and this perceptive book will encourage children to open up about their emotions and to accept them - just as the boy in the story learns to do. It's a lovely evocation of the ups and downs of childhood. Ziyue Chen's delicate and thoughtful illustrations showcase the feelings. Published by Sterling Books, April 2019, ISBN 978-1454926207.

William Bee's Wonderful World of Trains and Boats and Planes

in his books, William Bee perfectly captures the magic that children feel. The joyful exuberance spills over in his pictures, giving children a wonderful experience to enjoy. There's a wonderful collection of all sorts of vehicles to enjoy - his harrier jump jet, which can take off vertically, his World War I fighter plane that can perform amazing stunts, the sea plane that puts out fire and many more. They are all illustrated in fascinating detail and accompanied by interesting facts to amaze children. There's plenty of humour as The Cone family are "helping", as is Sparky. Great fun.

The Big Stink by Lucy Freegard

Charlie is a cheese thief - he ca't resist cheese and that gets him into lots of trouble! He pinched Parmesan, crept off with Camembert and robbed Roquefort, but now he's getting bigger ideas. He plans to steal a cheesy sculpture from The Museum of Art. It's a tough assignment, but finally he reaches his stinky prize. But Officer Rita is soon on the case... with her very sensitive nose! A lovely story with a very surprising ending.

Just read! by Lori Degman

This is a wonderful celebration of the joy of reading told in catchy rhyme which is perfect to read aloud. As the book so joyously shows, reading is something that can be enjoyed everywhere. The book is packed with children of all sorts who enjoy books while waiting and shopping, sliding and swinging, sharing and alone. All sorts of reading too - music and Braille and the signs on the road. Victoria Tentler-Krylov's colourful pictures celebrate the way reading is all around us, and show how important reading is to us all with their exuberant detail. Publsied by Sterling, April 2019, ISBN 978-1454925729.

The Worry Box by Suzanne Chiew

This is a thoughtful book which really homes in on what worries young children, encouraging them to share their worries and overcome them. They will readily identify with Murray Bear who has lots of worries. What if the waterfall he’s visiting is too loud? What if he’s not very good at climbing? And what if all his friends laugh at him? With the help of his sister, Milly, Murray makes a special box in which to keep all his worries. But can the worry box really help? Delicately illustrated by Sean Julian, this is a practical book with an excellent strategy.

I'm Not Grumpy by Steve Smallman

Mouse is very grumpy - and even more so when he finds his front door blocked by a furry black bottom. But beneath that grumpiness, there's a willingness to help, so he sets off with the little badger to find the badger's mum. Along the way, they gets lots of help in this heartwarming story about the happiness that comes from making friends. With charming animal illustrations by Caroline Pedler, this is a real feel-good book.

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae

This is a lovely 20th Anniversary Edition of the much-loved favourite and it comes with an eye-catching gold cover, worthy of the lovely book that it is. Gerald the giraffe would love to join all the other animals at the great Jungle Dance, but the trouble is, his legs get all tied up. Unlike the others, he can't tango, waltz or two-step? Everyone knows that giraffes can't dance ... or can they? This uplifting book just goes to show that anything is possible with plenty of determination and some good friends. Beautifully illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees.

Stop That Monkey! He Stole Ruby's Lolly! by Ruby Lovell

Along with Ruby, as she discovers more about her multi-cultural background, children will discover lots about diversity and acceptance, fostering understanding. Ruby cis on her first trip to her father's land of Sri Lanka, where she discovers a bright and vibrant country and learns about tuk tuks, coconuts, mangoes, saris... rides on her very first elephant and climbs a huge rock. On her journey, Ruby comes face to face with some very special monkeys - toque monkeys. Vibrantly illustrated by Zara Merrick, this is really atmospheric.

Will You Help Me Fall Asleep? by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant

This is, of course, a bedtime story, and a very special one, especially written to help your child drift calmly off to sleep. Monty the frog has tried everything to get to sleep. Counting sheep doesn't work, his book is far too scary... and the more he thinks about sleep, the more worried he becomes! And then Monty discovers that the best thing to do is to simply take a deep breath and think happy thoughts. Even though they often can't express it, it's often anxiety that can stop children falling asleep, and this book will really help children have happy thoughts to send them off contentedly.


In 1960, two stray dogs, Belka and Strelka went from the streets of Moscow to become space pioneers. The account of their training is fascinating as is their return to earth. What brave little dogs! On their return, they were taken on a celebratory tour of the USSR and became international celebrities. Their lasting legacy was the confidence to send man into space - what a wonderful result. I love the way the story is told, with the two character-full dogs at is very heart - and superbly depicted by Iris Deppe in evocative pictures Based on fact, of course, but I chose to include this here as it will appeal to young readers of picture books.

The Book Without a Story by Carolina Rabei

An intriguing title that will encourage children to pick up the book just to find out what it's all about. A celebration of libraries, books and the joy of sharing stories, perfect for sharing before bedtime. When the library closes for the day and everyone has gone home, the books come alive and tell stories of their adventures. But poor Dusty the book has never been borrowed and dreams of finding someone to share his story with... but happily, he finds his perfect reader. The lovely artwork brings this story alive, celebrating the variety of books. Wonderfully capturing the magic of reading and sharing stories, this is a great book for encouraging reluctant readers and fostering a love of books. This book is a simply wonderful celebration of books and libraries - and one that I, as a librarian, warmly welcome. What a great way to introduce children to the wonders of the library, whether the public library or in school.

Mr Men Go the Dentist by Roger Hargreaves

This is a new Mr Men book, based on Roger Hargreaves' concept and written by Adam Hargreaves in the same wonderful style. Perfect to reassure children before their trip to the dentist - or to read in the waiting room, the Mr Men and Little Miss are off to see Mrs Bright. And even before they get there, there are plenty of useful tips to show children the importance of caring for their teeth. THere's lots of fun to be had with these cheeky characters, and reassurance too. The Mr. Men and Little Miss Every Day series takes Roger Hargreaves beloved characters on trips and activities that children will recognise from their own lives. All the stories have a ‘Where’s Walter’ feature with Walter the worm hiding in every story making for a fun and interactive reading experience.

Fantastic Toys by Monika Beisner

A wondrously imaginative look at eleven marvelous might-have-been toys, magical toys that would make the world far more interesting, if only they existed. Based purely on fantasy, how about winged jumping boots, a glowing teddy bear, child-size bath-foam animals or a treasure-hunt letter maze? With a lovely traditional feel and marketing-style descriptions, this is a fun and unusual book to extend the imagination.


The Book Dragon hoards books - and because of her, no books are allowed in the town of Lesser Scrump. As she steals all the books, words can only be written in dirt, or scratched on plants and trees. But Rosehilda wants to bring the joy of stories back to her town. Will she dare to confront the dragon and help her village love reading again? It turns out that the Book Dragon isn't as bad as she seems and a clever solution is found. This enjoyable fairy tale has a feisty heroine and celebrates the joy of stories, as well as delivering a pertinent message about not judging a book by its cover. Published by Sterling Books, March 2019, ISBN 9781454926856.

Bruno and Bella: The Scooter by Judy Brown

Children will readily identify with Bruno, who has just got his new scooter. Bruno can't wait to try out his new scooter and he practises all week. He practises lots and lots (with Bella on hand for advice), until he decides he's ready to go REALLY fast, so sets off down a big hill... only then does he realise he forgot to practise stopping! Gorgeous characters are a sheer delight and the book has a lovely traditional feel. The illustrations really are stand-out - they contain masses of detail to enjoy and appreciate, with lovely touches of humour and lots to encourage conversation.

Mighty Min by Melissa Castrillon

This book has a lovely retro feel which makes it stand out from the plethora of picture books on the market - the feel is enhanced by clever use of almost faded colours which are really effective. Min lives with her aunts in a little house at the bottom of the garden. Every night, the aunts tell stories of their extraordinary adventures. Min would love to be as brave and adventurous as them, but surely she is too small? Then one night, an owl whisks her away on a night of extraordinary adventures, and Min soon has her own stories to tell.

Thomas and the Spring Surprise based on the stories by the Rev Awdry

Before they start on the iconic small format Thomas books, younger children will love this story about the cheeky little tank engine. As ever, Thomas is ready to help out. This time, it's Farmer McColl who need some help. When lambs are born on Farmer McColl's farm one spring day, Thomas has the chance to prove what a Really Useful Engine he is by collecting them fresh straw. But well-meaning Thomas is easily distracted by chooisng other gifts for the lambs - will he manage to fetch the straw in time? A lovely story with many old favourites having a part to play.

A Number Slumber by Suzanne Bloom

Everyone has a different way to prepare for bed, as this beautifully illustrated book shows. In fact, it was the illustrations that first caught my eye with their sleep-inducing blue hues and delicate pastel pictures. The book counts down to bedtime from ten terribly tired tigers to one really weary wombat and each has its own special bedtime ritual as we discover through catchy alliterative rhymes. It's the perfect bedtime story as children count backwards and hopefully are dropping off by the time they come to the one weary wombat. Published by Highlights, ISBN 978162975577, January 2018.

The Bus For Us by Suzanne Bloom

There's plenty going on to enjoy through the pages of this busy book. Tess is one of a mixed crowd of children waiting for the school bus, and as it's her first day, she keeps asking 'Is this the bus for us, Gus?', as a plethora of different vehicles pass by. Children will love to identify all the vehicles that pass by, as well as enjoying the hilarious antics of all of the children waiting at the bus stop. With wonderful touches of humour and a lively cast of characters, this is a great back-to-school book to relish. Published by Highlights, January 2018, ISBN 9781620914410.

Animal Pants by Giles Andreae

If you love the read aloud catchy rhyming text (and I know I do!) - and don't mind being asked for it over and over again - then this is a great book to get for your child. And with loads of humour throughout, it's a joy to read and for adults and children to relish together. 'Bug pants, slug pants, can I have a hug pants?', there is so much fun to be had in this hilarious book. Nick Sharratt's hilarious illustrations are the perfect complement to the text.

The Go-Away Bird by Julia Donaldson

The fine Go-Away bird sits aloof in her nest, thinking herself better than all the other birds. They all try to make friends, as the story tells us in Julia's trademark rhymes and flowing alliterative words, but very rudely, the Go-Away bird tells them to ... Go Away. But she's met her match with the Get-You bird who won't go away. Luckily, the other birds show what true friends they are... If you're thinking the book looks a little different from previous Julia Donaldson books, that's because she has teamed up with an illustrator new to her - Catherine Rayner. The partnership works seamlessly, with the wonderfully vibrant and detailed pictures with their expressive creatures, setting off the story to perfection. A lovely heart-warming story, based on a real bird living in Africa.

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