Top texts for January

Caroline Sence of charity ‘Read for Good’ recommends entertaining, diverse and accessible picture books for all ages.

Oi Puppies! By Kes Grey and Jim Field

Oi Puppies!, the latest instalment from the Oi Frog and Friends series, is a perfect choice for any primary school child who enjoys silly things! With a contagious rhythm and rhyme pattern, and punchy illustrations, even struggling readers will be able to use context clues to decode the text. A teacher we work with told us she shared a book from this series with a child who had recently come to the UK as a refugee. The child told her that while she was listening to the book it was so silly she forgot to feel sad. And the teacher told us these books provide a great opportunity for rhyming word play – a key skill for learning to read, for all children, including English Language Learners.

Planet Omar Accidental Trouble Magnet by Zanib Mian and Nasaya Mafardik

We know that publishers of children’s fiction strive to reach today’s children with titles that reflect both the ethnic and cultural diversity of today’s society, as well as the issues which affect them. Zanib Mian’s artful debut middle-grade novel Planet Omar, Accidental Trouble Magnet deftly winds together threads of casual racism, playground bullying and a child’s attempts to de-mystify adult behaviour. It’s a page-turner that manages to be both entertaining and completely relatable – our eponymous hero is a boy whose fears of moving to a new area are realised when the school’s bully turns on him and a neighbour reacts with hostility to the new Muslim family next door. Omar’s inner narrative about his family’s bid to beat prejudice with warmth, imagination and empathy, is brought to life by Nasaya Mafardik’s buoyant Tom Gates-style illustrations that any middle-grade child will enjoy. We were delighted to get this feedback from a 12 year old girl in hospital, after she discovered this book on the Read for Good bookcase.

“‘I loved Planet Omar. I liked it because the main character is a Muslim like me. He got bullied for his religion but he even though he was bothered he didn’t fight back. I liked it so much that I finished it in one day.”

Inclusivity, diversity and empathy are all covered, plus it’s compulsive reading – what more could we ask for in a children’s book?

Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer, Michael Moreci, Stephen Gilpin

Artemis Fowl has been given a new look to tie in with the upcoming film, and with thanks to the number of formats it is available in, it’s really accessible. One of my sons is dyslexic, which would normally make this book very tricky for him, but because he loves fantasy, adventure, and magic – and there’s the incentive to read the book before seeing the film – we gave it a go! We started with the audiobook to ensure the story structure and vocabulary were familiar, moved on to the graphic novel which helped my son to link new vocabulary to the written words (while still having the support of the images to aid the narrative), and finally ended with the novel. And the best bit is there’s a new book just released, The Fowl Twins!


About this month's reviewer

One of Caroline’s roles at national charity Read for Good is leading Read for Good’s Big Read pilot intervention in schools, designed to get the hardest-to reach children reading for pleasure. Caroline is a former teacher and undertook her doctoral studies at the Florida Centre for Reading Research, focussing on reading development and vocabulary acquisition. Her expertise in children’s reading for pleasure and reading disabilities such as dyslexia, helps to drive Read for Good’s child-centred approach. Read for Good’s programme in children’s hospitals and its Readathon for schools (see encourage children to read whatever they fancy- from comics to classics – in the belief that if they have a chance to find something they can read, and like reading, they’ll choose to read in their own time. Find out more about the charity at