Monday 18 December 2017

Best summer reads for young bookworms

Sarah webb picks her favourite titles to keep all the kids - from tots to teens - occupied over the summer

Grandad's Island
Grandad's Island
Finding Audrey
only Eva
The Wordsmith
Oi Frog!
Mabel Jones
A Bed for a Bear
Demolition Dad
I'll Give You the Sun
Simon Vs the homosapiens
The Silly Book

What are lazy summer days without a book? Curling up in a rug on wind-swept sand dunes, or lying in a tent as the rain splatters down, Irish summers are made for reading.

Record numbers of children are enjoying reading for pleasure - the figures are at a nine-year high and growing, according to new research by the National Literacy Trust in the UK. Children are loyal, ferocious readers and love physical books, proven by the 9pc increase in the children's book market last year.

So, here are my top picks for the summer, starting with the youngest readers.

My favourite picture book of the season is Grandad's Island by Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster, e9.99). Syd loves visiting his grandad. One day grandad takes him through a secret metal door in the attic, onto the deck of their very own ship, and to a magical jungle island where Grandad isn't old anymore. The book is beautifully designed and the unusual, lush colours leap off the pages. It's a wonderfully inventive and comforting story about enduring love from an outstanding talent - don't miss it.

In A Bed for Bear (Harper e11.50), Belfast man Clive McFarland's debut picture book, Bear is looking for the perfect place to sleep. The forest-coloured mixed-media illustrations give a strong nod to Canadian picture book guru Jon Klassen.

If your child likes funny picture books, Oi Frog! by Kes Grey and illustrated by Jim Field (Hodder, e11.05) is an excellent choice. Cat is determined to explain how the world works: Cats sit on mats, hares sit on chairs and frogs sit on logs. But Frog isn't happy with this. Great fun.

If you have a long journey planned, The Silly Book of Weird and Wacky Words by Andy Seed, illustrated by Scott Garrett (Bloomsbury, e8.99) will keep any child aged 7+ entertained. It's full of jokes, riddles and word games. It even covers football lingo ('hairdryer treatment') and estate-agent speak.

Judi Curtin is back for readers aged 8+ with Only Eva (O'Brien Press, e7.99). Eva is determined to find out why new girl Aretta is hurrying home from school every day. Meanwhile, Eva befriends Gigi, an elderly lady who hates her nursing home. Curtin has a light touch but does not shy away from strong themes, in this case the treatment of elderly people, and direct provision centres and the difficulties children face living there.

If your reader likes the humour of Dahl and Walliams, they will love Demolition Dad by Phil Earle, illustrated by Sarah Ogilvie (Orion, e9.99). Jake Biggs's dad is a mild-mannered builder by day, but by night he's the Demolition Man, a Spandex-wearing wrestler. When Jake persuades his dad to enter a pro-wrestling competition, things don't exactly go as planned. A thoughtful and jaunty tale about the bond between sons and dads.

Mabel is the spirited young hero of The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones by Will Mabbitt, with exuberant illustrations by Ross Collins (Penguin e9.99). At the start of the adventure she's kidnapped by pirates who gasp in horror when they realise she's a girl. But she out-pirates even the boldest of them. Full of larger-than-life characters and brilliantly funny word play, it's perfect for reading aloud.

Out of print for many years, I was delighted to see From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler (Pushkin, e12.65) back in bookshops as EL Konigsburg wrote such original books. As a girl and the eldest child, Claudia Kincaid is fed-up of being treated unfairly by her family so she decides to run away to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, taking her practical brother Jamie with her. They sleep in a medieval bed, use coins from the cafe fountain to buy food and there's also an art mystery to solve concerning a Michaelangelo statue. It's often hard to find books for smart eight-year-olds that are 'suitable', but this fits the bill perfectly.

Teen readers are spoilt for choice, as YA (young adult) publishing has never been more varied and inclusive. In Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (Penguin, e10.99), Simon is 16 and deeply in love with an anonymous boy called 'Blue' he writes to on the internet. But when another student discovers their emails, he threatens to tell everyone Simon's secret and starts to blackmail him. Written by an American clinical psychologist, it's a poignant, funny and ultimately uplifting read for all teenagers and their parents.

Fantasy lovers will lap up these two books. The Wordsmith by Galway writer Patricia Forde (New Island, e9.99) is a clever book about 'Ark' where words are rationed and Letta, the young wordsmith who must fight to save the world from 'Wordless' silence. Resonance by Celine Kiernan (O'Brien e7.99) is a dark Gothic fantasy for older teens set in Dublin in 1890.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (Doubleday, e14.99) of the Shopaholic books fame is a surprisingly touching and poignant novel about bullying, mental health and first love, written with verve and heart.

Finally, I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Walker, e10.99) features teenage twins Jude and Noah. After a tragic accident, the siblings find it hard to cope and stop communicating. An immersive read about love, grief and sculpture, Nelson, who started out as a poet, writes beautifully. Let's hope her title is prophetic.

Sarah Webb's latest book for young readers is The Songbird Cafe Girls: Mollie Cinnamon is Not a Cupcake (Walker Books)

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