Email #Phoebespicks
Created: 26th February, 2024

Each month CLPE's Librarian, Phoebe Demeger, will reveal some of her favourite books she has recently added to our Literacy Library.

Discover February's below:


There’s a Tiger on the Train (Faber) pairs debut author Mariesa Dulak with accomplished illustrator Rebecca Cobb; the result is a charmingly engaging tale about an unbelievable train journey, in which a child’s father is too distracted by his phone to notice all the wild and wonderful happenings going on around them. Dulak’s rhyming and onomatopoeic text make this a joy to read aloud, while the book makes dynamic use of font and formatting – in all, a book with a classic and contemporary feel. 

Dim Sum Palace (Pushkin Children’s) is a sumptuously illustrated homage to Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen, and is inspired by author X. Fang’s childhood foodie memories. Liddy is so excited to be going to a dim sum restaurant the next day, that she dreams a nighttime adventure of exploring a busy kitchen, being turned into a dumpling, and sharing dim sum with an Empress. The book’s closing pages tenderly reaffirm this celebration of culture, family, and food.  

Lucy Cousins’ celebrated collection of fairytales Yummy: My Favourite Nursery Stories is being republished in new picturebook editions, beginning with Little Red Riding Hood and Other Stories (Walker), which also contains ‘The Three Little Pigs’ and ‘The Enormous Turnip’. Told in simple language with bold and vivid illustrations, these are the perfect introduction to fairytales for little readers. Look out for more stories from Yummy coming soon! 

Mo’s Best Friend: A Stone Age Story (Bridget Marzo, Otter-Barry) uses up-to-date archaeological research to tell an imagined story about a curious and empathetic Stone Age girl, and the very first dog to befriend humans – it closes with an information panel about the recent discovery of dog pawprints alongside child footprints, The onomatopoeic text, depiction of family life, and friendly illustrations make this an accessible introduction to the Stone Age, ready for further study in Key Stage One.  



Continuing the collaboration between author Nicola Davies and illustrator Emily Sutton that began with Tiny, Lots and Grow is Green: The Story of Plant Life on Our Planet (Walker). Engaging, informative and poetic text guides the reader through the science and evolutionary history of plants on Planet Earth, accompanied by vibrant and intricate illustrations. The book closes with a rallying cry to protect Earth’s green spaces. 

Nikhil and Jay: Flying High (Otter-Barry Books) is the fourth instalment in Chitra Soundar and Soofiya’s popular early chapterbook series Nikhil and Jay. These gently interconnected stories starring two British-Asian brothers are perfect for supporting the social and emotional literacy of young readers, with a dose of warm comedy, and Flying High closes with instructions for making your own kite. An animated Nikhil and Jay series is currently in production. 

A new collaboration between two stars of children’s publishing, Quiet (Tom Percival and Richard Jones, Simon & Schuster) is a fabelic picturebook about a shy little bird and the approaching diggers that threaten her woodland home. Deft language and illustrations come together to tell this story of environmental activism, quiet confidence, and the empowerment of having your voice heard. 

From author-illustrator Adam Stower comes Murray and Bun: Murray the Viking (HarperCollins), a hilarious historical adventure starring reluctant time-traveller Murray the cat and his rabbit companion Bun, in which Murray and Bun are thrown back in time through an enchanted cat flap to the Viking era, where Murray is employed as a troll hunter. With illustrations on every page, and packed with visual humour, this new series is a sheer delight supporting newly independent readers, with more adventures to come. 


Lower KS2 

Pablo and Splash (Sheena Dempsey, Bloomsbury) is a time-travelling buddy comedy, in which exuberant penguin Splash is desperate for a holiday from their icy Antarctic home, whereas Pablo is a little more reluctant – with good reason, as it turns out: through a series of mishaps the pair end up back in the Cretaceous period, escaping from hungry dinosaurs. A wildly entertaining graphic novel, with prehistoric facts threaded throughout and in a closing information section. 

A new picturebook in Andrea Beaty and David Roberts’ Questioneers series is always cause for celebration. Lila Greer, Teacher of the Year (Abrams) joins Ada Twist, Iggy Peck and co. in an inspirational rhyming tale about worries, uncertainties, and the reverberating impact that small acts of kindness – in this case, from a very special teacher – can have on a person throughout their life. 

The Explosive History of Volcanoes (Clive Gifford and Andressa Meissner, Franklin Watts) uses text boxes, longer passages, and boldly graphic illustrations to introduce the reader to the topic of volcanoes, with sections on types of volcanoes, notable eruptions throughout history, and a breakdown of the Volcanic Explosivity Index. A comprehensive and fascinating information book, ideal for the classroom. 

Katie Daynes and Róisín Hahessy’s Can We Really Help...? series from Usborne is collected into a four-chapter volume entitled Can We Really Help the Planet?. Each chapter takes an aspect of the natural world under threat – polar bears, bees, trees and dolphins – and through a diverse cast of children and cartoon illustrations explores the context behind each environmental issue, the wide-ranging human and extra-human effects that the climate crisis is causing, and most importantly, a strong and hopeful focus on what can be done to help. A child-led, informative and empowering guide. 


Upper KS2 

Hercules: The Diary of a (Sort of) Hero (Tom Vaughan and David O'Connell, Scholastic) is a witty illustrated diary, in which hapless Hercules, named for his mysterious birth father and desperate to be cool as he starts secondary school, learns that he may really be the son of Zeus. Great for fans of Loki, filled with characters and stories from Greek mythology, and with a thoughtful underlying story about step-parents and the meaning of family.  

Time Travellers: Adventure Calling (Little Tiger) marks the start of a new novel series by celebrated author Sufiya Ahmed, in which a group of friends is thrown back in time during a school trip to Parliament. This series promises to shed light on hidden histories; here, Ahmed unlocks the intersections between Suffragette history and British Asian history. A pacy, entertaining and informative book. 

From award-winning author Sarah Hagger-Holt comes The Fights That Make Us (Usborne), a powerful exploration of LGBTQ+ histories, narrated by a young non-binary person who is embarking on a school history project, with their narration interspersed with passages from a family member’s diary in the late 1980s. This moving and ambitious novel closes with an extensive Author’s Note highlighting the context behind Section 28, and affirming the importance and empowerment of knowing one’s history.  

Newly translated from Norwegian by Matt Bagguley, Cross My Heart and Never Lie (Nora Dåsnes, HarperCollins) is a warm-hearted and relatable coming-of-age graphic novel about pre-teen girls and first love, presented as an illustrated diary. Tuva feels caught between two sets of friends, those who are starting to fancy boys, and those who would rather play children’s games in the forest, until she meets new girl Mariam and starts to feel something entirely new. The complexities of friendship, love and identity are attentively and tenderly realised, in both the text and Dåsnes’ evocative illustrations.