Top Texts for April 2023

Sue Rook has chosen some delightful picture books for April

I am Nefertiti

by Annemarie Anang and illustrated by Natelle Quek

Nefertiti is a little girl who loves to play the drums. Her father is always telling her how proud she should be of her name and how this gives her inner strength. Nefertiti is very excited on the morning of her first rehearsal with the local town’s children’s band. However, she feels crestfallen when the teacher who leads the band shortens her name for ease of pronunciation. This effects Nefertiti’s confidence, and she shrinks in size and as a result cannot play her drums. This in turn means that there is no beat to keep the rest of the band in unison and musical chaos ensues. The rest of the children see what the problem is and urge the teacher to use Nefertiti’s full name. As soon as the teacher pronounces her name with confidence, Nefertiti grows back to her proper size and can play the drums again – order is restored.

This is a thought-provoking book for children in Reception or Key Stage One as it promotes the message that we should not try to Westernise children’s names as this can impact their sense of identity. It could promote a great discussion within a class about what makes us special. The book certainly sends a salutary message to all teachers!

Princesses Break Free

by Timothy Knapman and illustrated by Jenny Løvlie

In this charming and funny picture book a princess rebels against the common trope of waiting for a prince to rescue them from a perilous situation. Princess Tilly casts off her princess dress and instead adorns orange dungarees. She shows great resourcefulness in escaping from tricky situations and not satisfied with just empowering herself, Princess Tilly then seeks to empower the other princesses as well as other familiar female characters found in fairy tales such as the wicked witch.

This picture book is a humorous twist on the usual princess tale. It refers to a raft of other fairy tales which young children will enjoy spotting. It also confronts the common gender stereo type of the female character relying on the male to solve the inevitable problem that they must overcome. It would be an excellent book to engender discussion among young children in Reception and Key Stage One about the importance of challenging traditional gender roles.

The Barnabus Project

by The Fan Brothers

This visually stunning book by the Fan Brothers is about Barnabus who is part mouse and part elephant. Barnabus lives in a specimen jar in a laboratory underneath the Perfect Pet Store, where the failed pet projects are stored. Sadly, Barnabus is just not fluffy enough and his eyes are too small so he cannot be offered for sale in the pet shop above. There is a sense of camaraderie among the failed pets in the underground laboratory and one day Barnabus decides that they will make a bid for freedom. The failed pets succeed and escape from the lab, but they discover the world is not always an easy place to live in. Despite this, they rely on each other and take solace in the fact that they are now free.

This book which could be used from Year Two to Lower Key Stage Two has some beautiful illustrations. It is quirky and Barnabus is a richly developed character. There are themes of friendship, freedom and acceptance of difference that can be explored. Children could use it as inspiration to produce their own hybrid animals and to generate some rich descriptions of their new creations.

Sue Rook

About this month's reviewer

Sue Rook is a senior lecturer in primary English at Leeds Beckett University. Before taking up this role, Sue was a primary school teacher for seventeen years, teaching in schools in both Leeds and London. While teaching, she developed a real passion for children’s picture books and is now writing up her doctoral research which focusses on the postmodern picture book The Watertower by Gary Crew. To find out more, please email