April 2021: Children's Previews
Selected by Fiona Noble

As I write this, The Bookseller is reporting on “submissions fatigue” due to the backlog of titles impacted by the pandemic. I keep resolving not to comment on the size of my previews, but the volume of new titles publishing really is unprecedented. My April preview comes in at around 160 titles, putting it on a par with October; it’s 60 books more than I featured in April 2020. Bear in mind, this is by no means everything that will be published.

It is, however, one of those high-calibre months where any one of my Editor’s Choices would be a worthy Book of the Month. I’ve gone for the sheer entertainment and escapism of Jonathan Stroud’s The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne, first in a series, and the perfect tonic to January lockdown. Other Fiction highlights include David Almond’s ethereal Bone Music and Starboard from rising star Nicola Skinner.

Picture book fans are particularly well served this month. The inimitable Jon Klassen returns with The Rock from the Sky; Lauren Ace and Jenny Løvlie’s The Boys is full of heart and wisdom; and Nadia Shireen deftly captures the nation’s mood in Barbara Throws a Wobbler. Look out too for much-needed disability representation in What Happened to You? by James Catchpole and Karen George.

Please note, given the present COVID-19 situation, all publication dates are subject to change.

Book Of The Month

  • Book of the month
    Teenage & YA

    The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne

    by Jonathan Stroud

    In a future England, the country is changed forever after a series of catastrophes. Cities are no more and London is but "great ruins" in a lagoon. The surviving population has retreated to fortified hill towns, where traditional values are stringently upheld. Those who do not conform are killed or driven into the wilds... The forests are full of lethally mutated beasts and, worse still, the Tainted.

    Against a Cotswolds backdrop more akin to the Wild West than well-heeled market towns, we meet Scarlett McCain, a formidable teenage outlaw who survives on bank heists and nifty gun skills. When she discovers a wrecked coach, Albert Browne, a seemingly nave boy, is the only survivor. She agrees to escort him to safety, but before long new enemies are in pursuit. What is the secret of Albert's past?

    As author of the acclaimed Bartimaeus and Lockwood series, Stroud's talent for creating astonishing yet utterly believable literary worlds is well known-and this is another triumph. This adventure-starring a pair of charismatic anti-heroes, intensely cinematic action laced with characteristically dry wit, and a mash-up of genres-is crammed with gun fights, monsters and shadowy government operatives. Pitched for younger teens, but I expect discerning readers of 10 and up to devour it.

    Walker Books Ltd, £7.99, 1st April 2021, 9781406394818

Browse April 2021: Children's Previews

  • Top sellers

    The Whale Who Wanted More

    by Rachel Bright

    Field's underwater world shimmers with life in a new rhyming animal story of friendship, community and the environment from the team behind The Lion Inside.

    Orchard Books, £12.99, 29th April 2021, 9781408349236
  • Top sellers

    Cat's Cookbook

    by Donaldson, Julia

    The first brand new Tales from Acorn Wood story for 20 years. The gentle lift-the-flap board books have, Macmillan says, sold 1.3 million copies since they were reissued in 2015.

    Macmillan Children's, £6.99, 29th April 2021, 9781529034363
  • Top sellers

    The Woolly Bear Caterpillar

    by Julia Donaldson; Yuval Zommer

    Donaldson collaborates with Zommer for the first time in a minibeast twist on The Ugly Duckling Story. Includes a removable non-fiction book written by the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

    Macmillan Children's , £12.99, 24th June 2021, 9781529012187
  • Top sellers

    The 130-Storey Treehouse

    by Andy Griffiths; Terry Denton

    The 10th title in the delightfully bonkers Treehouse series. Now in paperback after a stellar hardback run.

    Macmillan Children's, £6.99, 1st April 2021, 9781529045932
  • Top sellers

    Dead or Alive

    by Derek Landy

    Skulduggery and Valkyrie face their most epic test yet in the 14th, and penultimate, novel in the Skulduggery Pleasant series.

    HarperCollins, £14.99, 1st April 2021, 9780008386290
  • Top sellers

    The Day I Fell Into a Fairytale

    by Ben Miller

    Now in paperback, the third children's book from the actor and comedian follows siblings who discover a portal to a fairytale world.

    Simon & Schuster Children's, £7.99, 1st April 2021, 9781471192449
  • Top sellers

    Love Frankie

    by Jacqueline Wilson

    Frankie is almost 14 and navigating the ups and downs of teenage life, including her own emerging feelings for another girl. A superb story of first love, now in paperback.

    Corgi Childrens, £7.99, 29th April 2021, 9780552577915
  • 0-5

    Baby Touch: Happy Eid!

    by Ladybird

    A seasonal addition to the interactive novelty board series.

    Ladybird, £5.99, 1st April 2021, 9780241463130
  • 0-5

    Change Starts With Us

    by Sophie Beer

    Practical suggestions to help save our planet, in a beautifully bright board format.

    Little Tiger Press, £6.99, 1st April 2021, 9781838910655
  • 0-5

    Look After Us

    by Rod Campbell

    Lift the flaps to discover five endangered species in a timely introduction to environmental issues in the popular Dear Zoo format.

    Macmillan Children's , £6.99, 1st April 2021, 9781529045741
  • Editors choice
    Picture books

    My Dad Is A Grizzly Bear

    by Swapna Haddow; Dapo Adeola

    Could this boy's dad really be a grizzly bear? He has fuzzy fur, enormous paws and loves the outdoors... My top pick for Father's Day is this big-hearted look at family life, seen through the eyes of a little boy with a big imagination, replete with humour and warmth, and playful, energetic art from rising star Adeola. From the author of the Dave Pigeon series and art by the Waterstones Prize-winning illustrator of Look Up!

    Macmillan Children's, £6.99, 29th April 2021, 9781529013979
  • Editors choice
    Fiction 9-12


    by Ele Fountain

    In a remote snowbound village in the Arctic tundra, the traditional way of life is threatened by the changing ice, which melts faster every year. Meanwhile, a girl's father begins a new job for an oil company. Soon, their worlds collide. Fountain has a real talent for thought-provoking contemporary fiction with strong child appeal, and this is a tense, high-stakes survival adventure, underpinned with the urgent issue of climate change. Her earlier novels, BOY 87 and LOST, both come highly recommended.

    Pushkin Children's Books, £7.99, 29th April 2021, 9781782692881
  • Editors choice
    Teenage & YA

    Bone Music

    by David Almond

    In the wild and extraordinary landscapes of Northumberland, a teenage girl reconnects with the ancient past and discovers what it really means to be young in the world today. This is a breathtakingly beautiful and lyrical novel from the Carnegie Medal-winning author of Skellig, touching on themes of beauty, rewilding and mental health. Although it's a standalone work, it is a cousin, of sorts, to The Colour of the Sun and A Song for Ella Grey, both of which come highly recommended.

    Hodder Children's Books, £12.99, 1st April 2021, 9781444952919
  • Editors choice
    Picture books

    The Boys

    by Ace, Lauren & Løvlie, Jenny

    Follow the lives and friendships of four very different boys, from a care-free childhood day at the beach, to maturity and their own families. This is a companion title to The Girls, which won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and is every bit as joyful. Rooted in the power of friendship, The Boys pushes back hard at messages of toxic masculinity, with a memorable cast of inclusive characters. Ace's lyrical text is a perfect fit for Lvlie's rich, textured art.

    Little Tiger, £11.99, 1st January 1970, 9781838911591
  • Editors choice
    Fiction 9-12


    by Nicola Skinner

    When 11-year-old reality TV star Kirsten takes a school trip to Bristol's "SS Great Britain", the last thing she expects is for the ship to escape the dry dock and take to the high seas-with her as the new captain. Skinner is one of the most original middle-grade writers around; her plots sound, frankly, bonkers, but she pulls it off in huge style every time. A fabulously entertaining, hugely inventive novel of epic adventure, friendship and bravery.

    HarperCollins, £12.99, 1st April 2021, 9780008422400
  • Editors choice
    Picture books

    Barbara Throws a Wobbler

    by Nadia Shireen

    Barbara is having one of those days. It started with a sock problem, and at lunchtime there had been a strange pea... Before she knows it, Barbara's Wobbler is out of control. But how can she get rid of it? Goodness knows this is a book we can all relate to at the moment; I particularly enjoyed "Bad Moods; A Very Useful Guide", which sits at the end of the book. Picture book genius from Shireen, whose commercial, inclusive books deserve to be so much better known.

    Jonathan Cape Ltd, £6.99, 15th April 2021, 9781780081366
  • Editors choice
    Picture books

    The Rock from the Sky

    by Jon Klassen

    Turtle really likes standing in his favourite spot. But now his friend Armadillo is standing there, he has a bad feeling about it. A new Jon Klassen is always a treat, and this deadpan gem will make you simultaneously laugh out loud and marvel at his visual wizardry. This is a longer-format picture book of 96 pages, divided into five chapters. This is Not My Hat, the first book in the Hat trilogy, won both the Kate Greenaway and Caldecott Medal.

    Walker Books Ltd, £12.99, 13th April 2021, 9781406395570
  • Editors choice
    Teenage & YA

    Destination Anywhere

    by Sara Barnard

    Sometimes you have to leave your life behind to find your place in the world. After five friendless years at secondary school, Peyton King's fresh start at Sixth Form college doesn't go to plan. With nothing but her sketchpad and backpack, she buys a one-way ticket and gets on a plane. Pitched by Macmillan as "Eat Pray Love for the YA generation", I absolutely loved this coming-of-age story of one lost girl's quest to find herself. Barnard's backlist is reissued this month a new look, including 2019 YA Book Prize winner, Goodbye Perfect.

    Macmillan Children's Books, £7.99, 25th June 2020, 9781529003581
  • Ones to watch
    Teenage & YA

    Witches Steeped in Gold

    by Ciannon Smart

    Heir of an overthrown and magically-gifted dynasty, Iraya has spent her life in a cell. Jazmyne has grown up with stolen magic at her fingertips. The two young witches enter a deadly alliance to take down the woman who threatens both their worlds in a stunningly realised fantasy set in a Caribbean-inspired landscape. First in a duology from a dbut British author; Hot Key calls it "epic, fierce and magnetically addictive".

    Hot Key Books, £8.99, 20th April 2021, 9781471409585
  • Ones to watch
    Picture books

    This is NOT a Unicorn!

    by Barry Timms

    Meet the most fantastic unicorn ever. But wait: this unicorn has a magic horn which can turn into the most incredible things, from a magic wand to a helicopter, and even a space rocket... Unicorn books remain as popular as ever, their glittery escapism much needed in these troubled times. Timms and Adamson put a genuinely fresh spin on the genre with irresistible word play, a joyful read-aloud text and gorgeous feel-good art.

    Nosy Crow Ltd, £6.99, 1st April 2021, 9781839942884
  • Ones to watch
    Fiction 9-12

    The Wizard In My Shed: The Misadventures of Merdyn the Wild

    by Simon Farnaby

    When a warlock from the Dark Ages is banished to the 21st century, 12-year-old Rose helps him to navigate the confusing ways of the modern world. The children's fiction dbut from the actor, writer and comedian who is best known for the "Horrible Histories" TV series and Paddington films. Quirky, inventive and properly funny with a brilliant case of characters, this is now in paperback after strong sales and reviews in hardback.

    Hodder Children's Books, £6.99, 29th April 2021, 9781444954388
  • Ones to watch
    Fiction 9-12


    by Radiya Hafiza

    "Rumaysa, Rumaysa, let down your hijab!" Brown girls take centre stage in the stories of Rumaysa, Cinderayla and Sleeping Sara as Hafiza puts a playful new spin on three classic fairytales. Set in a magical version of South Asia, three narratives are woven into a funny, empowering adventure of sisterhood as Rumaysa escapes her tower and journeys through enchanted forests to find her own power and team up with the other girls. Cover art is by Areeba Siddique.

    Macmillan Children's, £6.99, 1st April 2021, 9781529038309
  • Ones to watch
    Teenage & YA

    Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town

    by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

    From the small towns across the rural American West come a tangle of teenage voices in a series of stories, woven together in the most surprising ways. Each story is a coming-of-age vignette "blazing with secrets, rage and love," the connections deepening as the pages turn. Hitchcock is a beautiful literary writer with real crossover appeal; her dbut The Smell of Other People's Houses was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal.

    Faber & Faber, £7.99, 20th April 2021, 9780571350421
  • Ones to watch
    Children's non-fiction

    Silence is Not An Option: You can impact the world for change

    by Stuart Lawrence

    An empowering guide to help children aged 10 and above to navigate the world and help to create a positive society. The author is a motivational speaker and the younger brother of Stephen Lawrence, the teenager murdered in London in 1993. Lawrence works closely with the charity Blueprint for All and draws on his own life experiences to help young people harness the good in themselves, and to use that fire of positivity to create change in their lives.

    Scholastic, £9.99, 7th April 2022, 9780702305788
  • Ones to watch
    Fiction 5-9

    The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.

    by Jen Carney

    Carney breathes new life into the illustrated diary format in the first title in a major series acquired in a heated auction. Ten-year-old Billie Upton Green-a.k.a. BUG-chronicles school and family life with an emphasis on diverse families, including that of Billie, who has two mums. Expect whip-smart observations, a sparky, relatable protagonist, and oodles of doodles. Carney is both writer and illustrator, and a second book will follow in August.

    Puffin, £6.99, 15th April 2021, 9780241455449
  • Ones to watch
    Picture books

    What Happened to You?

    by James Catchpole

    Imagine you were asked the same question over and over. Imagine if that was a question that didn't evoke the happiest of memories. This is the experience of one-legged Joe. Based upon the author's own experience of being a visibly disabled child, Faber calls this the first ever picture book to address how a disabled child might want to be spoken to, and it fills a real gap in representation. George's previous work includes Freddie and the Fairy with Julia Donaldson.

    Faber & Faber, £6.99, 1st April 2021, 9780571358311