For kids who want to have fun!
It's the time of year when children all over the UK and many other countries around the world, are dismissed for the summer, with a bag full of to-do's. Obligations masquerading as things like "the great summer reading challenge" (I mean, please). These range from reading a selection of books, to mastering timetables in preparation for the new school year.
For some children, the summer reading challenge is a great way of keeping their minds active over the summer holiday, but, for many more, it is nothing more than a chore that sets them up to start the new school year with a feeling of failure. When their new teacher asks the class "How many books did you all manage to read over the summer?" the children are immediately pitted against one another. And so begins a new school year of half the class being praised for ticking off content, and the rest feeling like they aren't enough, should have tried harder, etc.
Now, this isn't a dig at the voracious child readers out there. After all, I was one of them! I loved reading (and I was precocious with it), but most of us want our children to be busied by things that make them smile. And those things don't often take the form of a reading list from school. We recognise that childhood is precious and should be honoured - especially over the holidays.
With this in mind, here are the Picture-This Books pick of children's books that your child really will want to enjoy over the next 2 months. Children's books that are created to support, entertain and inspire.
I've resisted grouping these books by age bracket because, WHY? Why do so many book shops and book reviewers do this? Let them read whatever they want to read. There should be no room for shame or discouragement when it comes to our child's development - whether that's in the classroom, with their latest hobby or favourite toy, and certainly not when it comes to what they're reading. Note, I've read all of these books - these are honest reviews and there are no ads/paid placements on our website.
In no particular order (and excluding ourselves because you've obviously already got us on your radar and have one of our books primed and ready for the summer holidays, right?) a summer reading list for kids who want to have fun:
Barbara Throws A Wobbler, by Nadia Shireen
Barbara is in a very bad mood. She won't admit it, but she is. She has a problem with a sock, and at lunchtime there's a strange pea... And even though she's at the park with her friends, it all just gets a bit much. Suddenly Barbara's WOBBLER is out of control!
But what if Barbara and her Wobbler can work together, so she can be cheerful again?
This is a great book for helping children understand and work through their emotions and introducing it over the school holidays means children are likely to be calmer and more receptive to its message.
Weirdo, by Zadie Smith & Nick Laird
Meet Maud: a guinea pig who inexplicably wears a judo suit - and not everyone understands or approves. When Maud is thrown into a new and confusing situation, it takes brave decisions and serendipitous encounters for her to find her place and embrace her individuality. Stop it, I LOVE it. This picture book is the actual picture book of dreams for anyone who has ever felt a bit, well, you know...different.
Great Family Days In, by Claire Balkind
This is the ultimate rainy day bible of fun, written by the awesome Claire Balkind - founder of Family Lockdown Tips & Ideas.
Every house needs a copy...especially with the summer holidays fast approaching!
The Great British Staycation Activity Book, Ms Livi Gosling, Rachel Dixon, Claire Saunders
Discover the best of the United Kingdom with The Great British Staycation Activity Book! A full colour activity book, packed with facts about every inch of this Sceptred Isle, and a kaleidoscope of 50 activities including colouring, puzzles, quizzes, and more.
The HappySelf Journal - from ages 6 -adult! Daily journals to promote happiness, develop positive habits and nurture enquiring minds. I love this brand and I've followed the journey of founder Francesca Geens, with pleasure over the past few years. What better way to prepare your child for a new school year and give them the tools to check in with their own emotional health? Shop HERE.
The monthly children's book subscription box, that's FINALLY shaking things up.
Find out more HERE.
A friend recently told me that her 6-year-old daughter hates getting her hands dirty, and it made me really sad. I know there are plenty of sensory challenges that can lead to children developing an aversion to mud, sticky stuff, etc. but, in this case, it was nothing to do with that. The child just didn't like playing outside. I mean, where do you send them, when you've had enough of them!? Anyway, this book is brilliant. And it'll encourage your child to get their hands dirty and explore the world beneath their feet. Shop HERE.
The Forest of Moon and Sword, by Amy Raphael
Okay, forgive me - this one is a favourite with teachers and has been recommended loads on those reading challenge lists that I was moaning about earlier BUT it really is an enthralling read. You know that escapist literature you crave over the holidays? Well, this is it - for your kids (but also sort of for you too - trust me, it's epic. "When Art's mother is accused of witchcraft and captured, she is determined to get her back - at any cost. A lyrical adventure with folklore at its heart.
Change Sings, A Children's Anthem, by Amanda Gorman & Loren Long
In this stirring, much-anticipated picture book by presidential inaugural poet and activist Amanda Gorman, anything is possible when our voices join together. As a young girl leads a cast of characters on a musical journey, they learn they have the power to make changes - big or small - in the world, in their communities, and in most importantly, in themselves. With lyrical text and rhythmic illustrations that build to a dazzling crescendo by No.1 New York Times bestselling illustrator Loren Long, Change Sings is a triumphant call to action for everyone to use their abilities to make a difference.
The children at number 6 Lavender Lane are keeping themselves busy by making bird feeders with their Mummy. At the same time, a little baby blackbird is getting ready to make his first trip out of the nest. Inside this beautifully illustrated book you will find a step by step guide of how to build your own bird feeder, a guide to British Garden Birds, as well as exclusive access to a downloadable “Garden Bird Detective” colouring-in sheet! SHOP HERE.
"Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara is the author and creator of the inspirational best-selling series Little People, BIG DREAMS. Growing up in the ’70s in Barcelona, her heroines were Pippi Longstocking, Momo and Tinkerbell, and she felt great admiration for the Spanish poet Gloria Fuertes. She dreamed of becoming a poet just like her one day. It took Maria Isabel almost 40 years and most of her savings to make her dream come true. In 2012, after 20 years of working in advertising, she self-published her first book." This series is simply incredible. If you've not already started collecting these, why not make a start over the summer holidays?
How the Stars Came to Be, by Poonam Mistry
The Fisherman's Daughter loved to dance in the sunlight, and bathe in the glow of the moon, but when the moon disappeared for a few nights each month, she worried about her father and how he would find his way home from the sea in the darkness of the night. One night the sun finds her sobbing and so he takes one of his rays and smashes it onto the ground, creating the stars and gives the girl the task of putting them into the dark night sky. This beautifully illustrated story gives us a new folk tale, and a new way to look up at the night sky.
The only book in English for readers of all ages by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Olga Tokarczuk is a beautifully illustrated meditation on the fullness of life.
"Once upon a time there was a man who worked very hard and very quickly, and who had left his soul far behind him long ago. In fact his life was all right without his soul–he slept, ate, worked, drove a car and even played tennis. But sometimes he felt as if the world around him were flat, as if he were moving across a smooth page in a math book that was covered in evenly spaced squares" – from The Lost Soul
A Poem For Every Summer Day, edited by Allie Esiri
Perfect for reading aloud and sharing with all the family, this book dazzles with an array of familiar favourites and remarkable new discoveries. These seasonal poems - together with introductory paragraphs - have a link to the date on which they appear.
Includes poems by Lord Byron, Sylvia Plath, Rudyard Kipling, W.B. Yeats and Langston Hughes who sit alongside Brian Bilston, Michael Rosen, John Agard and Kate Tempest. This soul-enhancing book will keep you company for every day of your life.
The Roots of Rap, by Carole Boston Weatherford & Frank Morrison
Demonstrates how rap evolved from folktales, spirituals, and poetry, to the showmanship of James Brown, to the culture of graffiti art and break dancing that formed around the art form and gave birth to the musical artists we know today. Written in lyrical rhythm by award-winning author and poet Carole Boston Weatherford and complete with flowing, vibrant illustrations by Frank Morrison, this book beautifully illustrates how hip-hop is a language spoken the whole world 'round, and it features a foreword by Swizz Beatz, a Grammy Award-winning American hip-hop rapper, DJ, and record producer.
Once Upon a Big Idea, The Story of Inventions, by James Carter & Margaux Carpentier
Telescopes and clocks and trains - all big ideas from human brains! From bridges and boats to medicines and mobile phones, this book takes readers on a journey of discovery through all the amazing inventions human beings have come up with.
The Lost Homework, by Richard O'Neill and Kirsti Beautyman
Starring Sonny, a traveller child, who devotes his weekend to helping his neighbours and fellow travellers and doesn't get round to his homework. This book is a great way of introducing the traveller community to children, whilst breaking the stigma often attached to children who grow up in an unconventional way. It's funny, heartwarming and a great example of positive representation and non-standardised learning in children's picture books.
Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, by Robert C. O'Brien
It's so old that even my almost 40-year-old self read it (and instantly fell in love with it) at school - and it wasn't new then. There's a reason this classic adventure story continues to be so popular and attracts new fans every year. Beautifully imaginative and full of tenderness and peril in equal measure - the perfect summer read for those who already love to.
Percy Jackson, the Ultimate Collection, by Rick Riordan
This is the series that got my very reluctant eldest son into reading - briefly - and want a series it is. Percy Jackson is an ordinary kid with troubles at home and at school, except, he is far from ordinary. He finds himself at Camp Half-Blood where he discovers he is a demi-God and the son of Poseidon, Greek God of the Sea. Percy's days of worrying about homework and house chores are over as he meets Gods, battles monsters and discovers his true powers as well as embarking on quests for lightning bolts and golden fleeces.
Cosmic, by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Recommended by the awesome Alice of @Alices_magical_library on Insta.
I read darling Alice's recommendation and then got the audiobook for my youngest son. This is a brilliant story from start to finish and makes an accessible summer read for kids who like to read but can get bored quickly. "It's one giant leap for all boy-kind in Frank Cottrell Boyce's out-of-this-world story: Cosmic."
A Kind of Spark, by Elle McNicoll
"A neurodivergent girl campaigns for a memorial when she learns that her small Scottish town used to burn witches simply because they were different." Yup, all the ingredients of a book that I would love to have read as a child myself. And another one recommended by our Brand Ambassador, Alice @Alices_magical_library on Insta.
It's fast-paced, stars a neurodivergent child and is a great tale of social justice and the strength that can be found in common autistic traits.
Draw with Rob, by Rob Biddulph
The bestselling and award-winning author/illustrator Rob Biddulph is the genius behind the phenomenal, viral sensation that is DRAW WITH ROB – bringing joy to families everywhere with his easy-to-follow instructions and warm-hearted humour. So whether you’re in home education, home-schooling, learning to draw or just having fun, let Rob show you that anyone can learn to #DrawWithRob!
Tales From Shakespeare, Charles & Mary Lamb, for Puffin Clothbound Classics
These tales are the perfect introduction to Shakespeare's greatest plays. Renowned writers and essayists of the 18th century, siblings Charles and Mary Lamb vividly bring to life the power of Hamlet and Othello, the fun of As You Like It and the drama of Pericles. Their accessible writing never loses the feel of Shakespeare's beautiful language and humanity, and conveys all of his wit and wisdom. A great way of engaging children in the works of Shakespeare, from an early age.
Illustrated Stories from the Greek Myths - Illustrated Story Collections
Continuing the theme of making the classics more accessible, this wonderful collection of six classic Greek myths and legends, is specially retold for younger readers. Includes the stories of 'The Wooden Horse', 'The Minotaur' and 'The Odyssey', as well as a guide to the Greek Gods. Beautifully bound in padded hardback, and packed with information, colour and culture, this makes a thrilling read for any child.
The Boy at the Back of the Class, by Onjali Q Rauf
When a new boy joins their class, a group of children try to befriend him. They soon learn that Ahmet is a refugee and has been separated from his family. None of the grown-ups seem to be able to help him, so the friends come up with a daring plan, embarking on an extraordinary adventure. Very few authors are brave enough to tackle such a vital and potentially distressing subject, even fewer manage it with such humour and tenderness. This book is beautiful.
Free To Be Me: An LGBTQ+ Journal of Love, Pride and Finding Your Inner Rainbow, by Dom & Ink
An LGBTQ+ journal for anyone from 13 to 103 - by writer, illustrator and utterly fabulous merman, Dom&Ink. Every rainbow-coloured page is packed with LGBTQ+ activities, advice and attitude. With spreads to colour, scribble, design and glitter, you'll meet dancing drag queens, rainbow doughnuts and the world's sassiest LGBTQ+ dinosaur: Brett the Sassysaurus! Warm, hilarious, caring and insightful, Free To Be Me will fill every reader with self-esteem, confidence, colour and pride.
The Music in Me, by Sophy Henn
If you've read The Imagination Garden, you'll know exactly why this book resonates with me. YOU are the music...
"Have you ever stopped to think about all the different kinds of music that make you, you? There are happy tunes and slow beats, a marching stomp and a sleepy swoon. Maybe, some days, you can't find your rhythm and you feel all out of sorts, and then on other days your music will come together and you'll march to the beat of your own drum. All this music and more is celebrated here."
Write and Draw Your Own Comics, Usborne
Kapow! Boom! An awesome kids activity book for budding comic artists to imagine and draw their own comic strips. Simple step-by-step instructions, with lots of handy tips and hints, show children how to create graphic stories using all the devices employed in 'real' comics. Includes ideas for characters and storylines, sample comic strips and drawing tips. With stickers to add to comic strips for extra colour and detail. Note, Usborne also do a book titled Write Your Own Story Book, I was going to include that one too but it all got a bit Usborne heavy - check it out though - it's equally brilliant.
In o particular order , a summer reading list for kids who want to have fun:
Develop fine motor skills with this colourful book, full of pictures to fingerprint - and with its own inkpad of seven bright colours to paint with. Bursting with fun fingerprinting ideas, from decorating turtles' shells and filling a vase with flowers to printing mice, a scary t-rex or a colourful caterpillar. With fingerprinting tips and extra pages for children to fill with their own fingerprint creations.
US, US, US! Of course! Have you got any of our books yet? Missing any from your collection? We promise we are working on getting book 6 out as soon as possible, in the meantime SHOP Picture-This Books HERE.
Are we missing something? If you've discovered the perfect summer read or activity book for children and you think it should be on this list, get in touch. DM us on Instagram @picturethisbooks and we will check out your recommendation ourselves and potentially add it to this list. If you've enjoyed this article and found it helpful for choosing your child's next book, please share it on social media and leave us a like on here. It sounds daft but it really makes a difference in growing our page without spending a fortune on advertising.