April 2023 book club picks

April 2023 book club recommendations

April 2023’s set of recommendations for book clubs features a memorable stash of magical fiction set in strange worlds, middle-grade school life, the hidden world of the night, discussion starters for PSHE and picture book positivity. April 2023’s picks include titles by Derek Keilty and Magda Broll, Angie Morgan, Na’ima B. Robert, Varsha Shah, Lela Nargi and Xuan Le, Emma Dodd & Maddy Bard, Pip Jones & Christina Matula.

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April 2023 book club recommendations

Be Happy! by Maddy Bard & Emma Dodd

Two adorable dogs, Hucky and Buzz, guide young readers through a multitude of ways to improve self-esteem and confidence. The practical tips and life hacks will resonate and inspire 0-5 years olds, and each page is a perfect discussion point. ‘Be Happy!’ is a charming picture book story to help younger children keep in touch with and embrace their feelings.

0-5 year-olds

Be Happy! by Emma Dodd & Maddy Bard

Small Stanley’s Big List of Scary Stuff by Angie Morgan

Small Stanley is determined to emulate a superhero and act as if he’s frightened by nothing. But when he encounters creepy crawlies, things in the dark and the horrors of getting lost, he begins to lose his confidence. Grandad has other ideas and comes up with a clever idea to create a list of all his worries to help Stanley understand and conquer his fears. With vibrant illustrations, relatable situations and eye-catching typography, this is a wonderful book to read, share and discuss with younger children and EYFS classes. Highly recommended.

3+ year-olds | Author’s website

Small Stanley's Big List of Scary Stuff by Angie Morgan

Squishy McFluff’s Camping Adventure! by Pip Jones, illustrated by Ella Okstad

When Ada sets off on her first camping trip, she remembers to pack her teddy but forgets the tent. Luckily experienced Idris and Farida can help to save the day! Full of action, adventure and a memorable bear, this picture book romp is full of fun. With big bold illustrations, diverse characters, and fun onomatopoeia to read out loud, ‘Squishy McFluff’s Camping Adventure will inspire 4-8-year-olds to explore the outdoors and sleep under the stars.

4-8 year-olds | Author’s Twitter | Author’s website

Squishy McFluff's Camping Adventure! by Pip Jones, illustrated by Ella Okstad

A Child Like You by Na’ima B. Robert, illustrated by Nadine Kaadan

Inspired by activists such as Greta Thunberg, Yusra Mardini, Marley Dias and Iqbal Masih, ‘A Child Like you’ will encourage children in KS1 upwards to empathise with and speak out for those in the world who are oppressed and dispossessed. The four main characters will be both relatable and accessible to younger readers. Sensitively exploring issues such as climate change, refugees, free speech and child slavery, this powerfully illustrated picture book is highly recommended for primary school libraries. Endorsed by Amnesty International for upholding children’s rights.

5+ year-olds | Author’s Twitter | Author’s Wikipedia

A Child Like You by Na'ima B. Robert, illustrated by Nadine Kaadan

Day and Night by Lela Nargi and Xuan Le

Blending a timeless and lyrical text with immersive illustrations packed with information and flaps to explore, this exposition of life over 24 hours glows when the sun sets. ‘Day and Night’ will make a wonderful gift for 5+-year-olds or a showstopper book to share and discuss in the classroom. The glow-in-the-dark pages are a real highlight.

5+ year-olds | Author’s Twitter | Author’s website

Day and Night by Lela Nargi and Xuan Le

Ivy Newt and the Storm Witch by Derek Keilty and Magda Broll

When Ivy’s parents, the King and Queen of the Sand Witches carry out a spectacular birthday magic vanishing act surprise for her, there’s a problem – Ivy cannot find them anywhere. So she teams up with Tom to search the lands of Miricula on broomsticks and flying carpets. This quirky and immersive illustrated short chapter book will engross newly independent readers in KS1 and is perfect for group reading with lower-ability KS2 children.

5-9 year-olds | Author’s Twitter | Resources and videos

Ivy Newt and the Storm Witch by Derek Keilty and Magda Broll

Ajay and the Jaipur Moon by Varsha Shah

Ajay races to be the first to find a meteor that’s crashed to Earth, hoping it will propel him to win a big competition. The sequel to the Carnegie shortlisted Ajay and the Mumbai Sun, ‘Ajay and the Jaipur Moon’ is a gripping and realistic adventure, underpinned by important real-world issues such as fake news and fair play. Ideal for socially aware students in KS2, this is a great text to discuss in book clubs.

9+ year-olds | Publisher’s website | Read a free extract

Ajay and the Jaipur Moon by Varsha Shah

The Not-So Uniform Life of Holly-Mei by Christina Matula

This middle-grade novel follows one girl’s life upheaval starting a new school in Hong Kong where not everything goes according to plan. Frenemies and culture shock are on the horizon. Can Holly-Mei put the sparkle back into her soon-to-be teenage life? ‘The Not-So Uniform Life of Holly-Mei ‘ is the perfect light-hearted fun, true-to-life, middle grade, upper primary / lower secondary summer term book club read.

9-12+ year-olds | Author’s Twitter | Author’s website

The Not-So Uniform Life of Holly-Mei by Christina Matula

Themed day / social media opportunities for April 2023

These hashtag days might provide current and relevant talking points for secondary-aged pupils aged 13+ in KS3, KS4 and KS5, especially when linked to related literature.

  • Stress Awareness Month is celebrated in April. Mentally Healthy Schools offers free toolkits for primary and secondary schools that will be helpful in the run-up to SATs, GCSE and Level exams.
  • EarthDay is held each 22nd of April. The official website hosts a variety of free projects and toolkits suitable for schools, including packs on climate literacy, individual action and civics.
  • Lesbian Visibility Week  – held in the last week of April. Stonewall’s Lesbian hub offers a range of articles and information that will be useful for secondary schools.
  • World Autism Awareness Day – UK Autism offers a free learning resources pack which schools can sign up for.
  • International Children’s Book Day – the IBBY website features a series of links and downloads that will be useful to educators.
  • Shakespeare’s Birthday – April 23 – can be celebrated by taking part in ‘Talk Like Shakespeare‘ day. Try dismissing your class at the end of a lesson with such lines as “Out of my sight! Thou dost infect mine eyes!
  • International Haiku Poetry Day – the Haiku Foundations has a great range of free resources for teachers.
  • Finally, April hosts ‘Say Hello with Jazz Hands Day”  to celebrate Jazz Day at the end of the month. A great idea to introduce in assemblies – students, staff and parents can greet each other with Jazz Hands all day.

Extension activities:

Other recently released titles to have a look at:

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About Tom Tolkien

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Tom Tolkien is a highly qualified (BA Hons, PGCE, QTS) children's literature expert and teacher with over 25 years of experience. He has led inset courses, developed curriculum materials, spoken at conferences, advised on longlisting for several international children's literature literature awards and written for educational publishers including contributing to a BETT award-nominated app. Social profiles: Twitter | Linkedin