Children’s and teens roundup – the best new picture books and novels | Children and teenagers

A Day by the Sea by Barbara Nascimbeni cover
A Day by the Sea by Barbara Nascimbeni cover

A Day by the Sea by Barbara Nascimbeni (Thames & Hudson, £10.99)
Mischievous dog Frido is off to the seaside! While his owner naps, he surfs, digs and feasts on ice-cream – but can he get back before he’s missed? A joyful, exuberant, summery picture book.

I am Nefertiti by Annemarie Anang, illustrated by Natelle Quek (Five Quills, £7.99)
Nefertiti’s drumming brings the whole band together – but when her music teacher can’t pronounce her name, shortening it to “Nef”, something happens to Nefertiti’s playing … A deft, empathy-fostering exploration of the importance of names and respect.

Wildflower by Melanie Brown, illustrated by Sara Gillingham (Greystone Kids, £12.99)
Rose says weeds aren’t planted and just get in the way – but just as Daisy is drooping in despair, a strange new plant suggests wildflowers are important too. A blazingly colourful picture book celebrating individuality and the joy of things that grow by chance.

Wildflower by Melanie Brown and Sara Gillingham.
Wildflower by Melanie Brown and Sara Gillingham. Photograph: Sara Gillingham

Princess Minna: The Unicorn Mix-up by Kirsty Applebaum, illustrated by Sahar Haghgoo (Nosy Crow, £6.99)
First in a new series with eye-poppingly colourful illustrations for readers aged 5+, this jolly story features the problem-solving Princess Minna on a day of mix-ups as she fights a unicorn, kisses a dragon and tries to tame a frog. A lovely book for new readers, or to share at bedtime.

Book of Dinosaurs by Gabrielle Balkan, illustrated by Sam Brewster (Phaidon, £16.95)
Ideal for budding palaeontologists aged six and up, this dino guide with a difference asks intriguing questions (“Guess who had the toughest armour?”), then answers them in lively first-person prose (“Tyrannosaurus teeth didn’t bother me, I was built like a tank”). Blocky illustrations also feature raised touch-and-feel skeletons.

The Story of Babur book cover

The Story of Babur: Prince, Emperor, Sage by Anuradha, illustrated by Jane Ray (Scala Arts, £12.95)
For readers aged 7+, this dynamic retelling of the memoirs of Babur, founder of the Mughal empire and Uzbek national hero, features the triumphs and reverses of his military and political career, with richly coloured illustrations.

Spies by David Long, illustrated by Terri Po (Faber, £18.99)
This handsomely illustrated collection of spy stories from the second world war features 27 thrilling accounts of espionage, including wireless operator Noor Inayat Khan, agent-turned-author Roald Dahl, Scotch Lass the dauntless carrier pigeon and Margery Booth, the spy who sang for Hitler. Absorbingly detailed and compulsively readable, it’s a must for spy addicts aged 8+.

While the Storm Rages by Phil Earle (Andersen, £7.99)
When his dad leaves to fight in 1939, Noah promises he’ll look after Winn, their much-loved dog; but when the government advises euthanising pets, Noah and his friends go on the run, desperate to find a safe place for their animals. Funny and heart-wrenching by turns, this gripping 9+ adventure for kids is full of courage and determination.

Book of Dinosaurs by Gabrielle Balkan.
A dino guide with a difference … Book of Dinosaurs by Gabrielle Balkan. Photograph: Sam Brewster

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tolá Okogwu (Simon & Schuster, £7.99)
Onyeka has always been insecure about her tempestuous hair – until she discovers its psychokinetic powers. When she’s whisked away to the Nigerian Academy of the Sun, where kids with superpowers learn how to wield their gifts, Onyeka discovers there’s a deeper threat to their survival. A fast-paced, atmospheric magic-school fantasy for readers aged 8+, woven with deeper themes of identity and belonging.

Our Sister, Again by Sophie Cameron (Little Tiger, £7.99)
Three years ago, Isla’s family lost Flora, her big sister. Now, using AI, they have been offered the chance to have her back. But how will the community on their remote Scottish island adapt to the “new” Flora? Philosophical and affecting, this exploration of grief, layered experience and what it means to be human will appeal to sci-fi fans aged nine and up.

Fight Back by AM Dassu (Sholastic, £7.99)
Thirteen-year-old Midlander Aaliyah is happy where she lives – until a terrorist attack ramps up racial tensions and she and her family become targets for abuse. Rather than hiding away, Aaliyah decides to start wearing a hijab and challenging stereotyped ideas, but then her school bans all religious symbols. This fearless, compelling story of trauma, solidarity and testing which rules are made to be broken is perfect for fans of Patrice Lawrence and Muhammad Khan aged 11+.

Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert (Penguin, £7.99)
Seventeen-year-old Ivy’s summer starts badly – an accident, strange offerings, disjointed fragments of memory – and she and her mother, Dana, have never got on worse. What Ivy doesn’t know is that Dana fell into witchcraft as a reckless teenager, and that some of her dark choices are now bearing fruit. From the author of The Hazel Wood, this atmospheric, powerful YA fantasy is crammed with secrets, lies and ferociously good writing.

The Butterfly Assassin by Finn Longman (Simon & Schuster, £8.99)
Before she made a new life for herself, Isabel Ryans was trained in a brutal programme for child assassins. She has survived alone for months – but when her instincts get the better of her, the guilds, who disapprove of unaffiliated killers, will try to erase or assimilate her. Posing sharp-edged questions about morality and survival, this dark, enthralling thriller is a compulsive debut for teenagers aged 14+.