Free by Sam Usher

This is a hug in book form. A warm and gentle text with a repeated refrain that echoes the lovingly rendered relationship between a child and his grandad. It is cosy cups of tea and shared triple decker sandwiches and a quiet visitor who wants to join the fun.

Boy and Grandad take care of a little bird. When it gets better, Grandad puts it outside, but it keeps hopping back into the house, following Boy wherever he goes.

Boy wants to keep it, but Grandad says it must return to its natural habitat in the wild where it can spread its wings and be free. And so begins an exhilarating journey into the rainforest! The first in a new quartet of enchanting picture books where a boy and his beloved grandad discover the wonder of the natural world.

Sam Usher’s beautiful illustrations will leave you wanting to gather your family together, set up a tea party and begin your own nature adventure.

We love this book and can’t wait to see where Boy and Grandad go next.

You can get your copy here.

Be More Bernard by Simon Philip and Kate Hindley

Perfect for fans of Jim Field, Rabbityness, Dogs Don’t Do Ballet and Giraffes Can’t Dance. Be More Bernard is a fabulously funny story about finding your own groove and being yourself, encouraging us all to chase our dreams and embrace our differences. We love Kate Hindley’s comic illustrations and have all been inspired to get our dancing shoes on.

When the other bunnies bounced, I bounced. When they hopped, I hopped. When they slept, I did too. Like them, I dreamed. But MY dreams weren’t the same. They were less . . . rabbity.

Bernard has decided that he’s not going to be like all the other bunnies any more. He’s not going to twitch his nose and prick his ears. And while others might dream of carrots, Bernard’s dreams are altogether more…disco!

He starts small, but when he finally gets to groove with grace and jive with joy at Bertie and Brenda’s Bunny Ball, Bernard shows the world that being yourself is the very best thing a bunny can be. From the author of the Sainsbury’s Book Award-winning You Must Bring a Hat and the illustrator of the brand-new Treacle Street series!

You can get your copy here.

All the Ways to be Smart by Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys

Smart is not just ticks and crosses, smart is building boats from boxes. Painting patterns, wheeling wagons, being mermaids, riding dragons. A joyful ode to all the unique and wonderful qualities that make children who they are.

We love this bright and positive book that celebrates the rainbow of talents that each child brings to the world. With engaging illustrations throughout and a colour palette filled with bright greens and oranges, this is fun and appealing for a range of ages. A beautifully inclusive book that celebrates children being children and all the ways they bring joy to their world. This is a brilliant antidote to the test-driven world todays children are living in.

The Girls by Lauren Ace and Jenny Lovlie

Four little girls meet under an apple tree and form a bond that grows as they share secrets, dreams, worries and schemes. This beautifully illustrated tale charts the girls' lives through ups and downs and laughter and tears. Find out how their friendship flourishes as the years pass by and the girls become women.

We love this beautifully diverse and inclusive book celebrating friendship and shared experience. A brilliant book for children of all ages, this is a picture book that offers more as you return to it, with lots of detail in the illustrations and layers in the text. Perfect for PSHE and inclusion.

You can get your copy through our online shop here. 

Billy and the Dragon by Nadia Shireen

Our fearless heroine Billy is back! Whilst at a fancy-dress party, something terrible happens: Billy’s loyal sidekick Fatcat is kidnapped by a fire-breathing dragon. Uh-oh! But luckily for Fatcat, Billy won’t stand for that: off she goes on a brave rescue mission… Join Billy for a fairytale adventure with a twist.

We love Billy and her amazing hair where she keeps all her useful things. We're so glad she's back to inspire more children with her strength and positivity. Full of fun and mild peril, and with Fatcat begrudgingly along for the adventure, young children will be transported to a land of danger and dragons and savage fluffy bunnies. Never too scary, Nadia Shireen cuts through the peril with exquisitely timed humour, creating a brilliantly paced story that will have young children bouncing along in delight.

You can order your copy from our online shop here

Clem and Crab by Fiona Lumbers

Clem is an explorer, a collector, a protector of the seas!

Treasure hunting on her beloved beach, she stumbles across Crab, his claw stuck in a plastic bag.

Crab will be much safer and happier in the city with Clem, but doesn’t he belong on the beach?

A stunningly illustrated timely tale of cleaning up our beaches, with the message that every small action helps.

Fiona Lumbers is a Book Nook favourite. We love her beautiful illustrations that bring nature to life with such gorgeous colour and character. Clem and Crab is an uplifting story that encourages working together to make a big difference. Brilliant for inspiring young children to explore and care for their local environment. Perfect for sharing with young children and poring through the illustrations together, sifting through them to find all their beach treasures.

You can get your copy from our online shop here.

The Way to Treasure Island by Lizzy Stewart

Matilda and her dad are very different. Matilda is fast and Dad is slow. Matilda is tidy and Dad is messy, and Matilda is quiet and Dad is very, very loud.

They’re off to find treasure, but Dad keeps getting distracted.

Soon, they’re lost and Matilda is getting crosser and crosser…

Will they ever find the way to treasure island? This funny, adventure-packed story teaches children that even though people are different, they can still have fun together.

By the author of the best-selling There’s a Tiger in the Garden and Juniper Jupiter.

This is a gorgeous hardback picture book filled with illustrations of sea creatures, jungle animals and brightly coloured birds. There’s lots o spot on each spread and a heartwarming story that celebrates imagination and letting go enough to embrace an adventure. We love it! Brilliant for reception onwards.

You can get your copy from our online shop here.

Look Up! by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola

3 ... 2 ... 1 ... LIFT OFF. Let science-mad chatterbox Rocket launch into your hearts in this inspiring picture book.

Rocket wants to be the greatest astronaut, star-catcher and space-traveller who has ever lived, just like her hero Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space. But... first, she needs to convince her big brother Jamal to stop looking down at his phone and start LOOKING UP at the stars.

Bursting with energy and passion about space and the natural world, this heart-warming picture book will reignite your desire to turn off those screens and switch on to the outside world.

This gorgeous picture book is perfect for space and science enthusiasts, and includes brief information about Rocket's hero scientist Mae Jemison as well as facts about meteors and comets. We love the celebration of Rocket's passion and joy. A fantastic new BAME character to inspire and excite children. Great for fans of Caryl Hart's Albie books.

You can get your copy from our online shop here.

How to draw… Sophie Johnson: Detective Genius

Meet Sophie Johnson: outgoing, optimistic and oblivious!

Sophie Johnson studied very hard to become a detective and it’s a good thing she did – there has been a terrible crime! Someone has stolen Lion’s tail. Unfortunately, this means that Sophie doesn’t have time to train her new (and not very good) assistant, Bella. However, is it possible that, while Sophie is busy rounding up suspects, she doesn’t see that Bella may be better than she thinks?

The Sophie Johnson series by Morag Hood and Ella Okstad is perfect for bright young minds and great fun to read aloud as children spot what’s really happening in the story right under Sophie’s nose!

Illustrator Ella Okstad has kindly created this fab ‘How to draw Sophie Johnson’ tutorial for all our budding illustrators.

We’d love to see your detective drawings! Send them to us via our twitter, instagram or facebook and we’ll create a detective gallery and show them to Ella herself! There may even be a prize for our favourite!

Thank you Ella for sharing the tutorial and inspiring future artists.

Ella Okstad loves to draw ghosts, vampires, humans, cats, and all sorts of creatures. She lives and works as an illustrator in Trondheim, Norway. When she’s not in her office creating scary, cute, or peculiar creatures for books, she enjoys spending time with her husband, three boys, and a cat. Visit her at Okstad.com or twitter/instagram – @EllaOkstad

BAME female characters in picture books

Yesterday The Guardian shared their research showing that the top 100 illustrated children’s books last year showed growing marginalisation of female and minority ethnic characters.

We take pride in stocking a diverse range of books and work hard to ensure every child can find themselves represented on our shelves. These beautifully diverse and gender-stereotype-squashing books are out there and this article highlights the importance of independent bookshops and booksellers who can get them into children’s hands.

We’ve put together a gallery of fantastic picture books that fit the criteria, available now or being published in the next few months. Look at them all! Aren’t they stunning. We would be very happy to share these books with you and will be adding them to our online shop over the next week. If you would like to order any now, contact us at the shop and we will work our bookseller magic.

Are there any brilliant books you would like to see added to our gallery? Comment on this post or get in touch via social media and share your favourites.