School's out: Top children's books for summer 2018

School may be out, but the learning doesn't have to stop there. This summer, our essential family holiday reading list focuses on the printed word. And we're seeking the sacred: attention-grabbing books that might, just, steal eyes away from screens…

By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Published 28 Jul 2018, 09:00 BST, Updated 14 Jul 2021, 16:12 BST

Any family summer survival guide will extol the virtues of the books — they entertain, they educate, they occupy, they amuse. But our list of top children's books this summer celebrates the reads that offer a world perspective, a pioneering spirit and an adventurous slant to travel. And there's plenty to choose, from revisited classics to brand new books curated by today's explorers, and brave, globe-trotting novels for young adults.

You can't start your infant adventurer on a better path than by teaching them a foreign language, and Leslie Patricelli's seminal board books (Candlewick Press; RRP: £5.30) now come in bilingual English-Spanish versions, offering playful takes on everyday encounters with food, visits to the farm and, er, trips to the potty (a language essential at any age).

On a more poetic tip, we're looking forward to What Is A River? by Monika Vaicenavičienė, winner of the New Talent prize at the 2018 World Illustration Awards, which takes a dreamy, meandering look at what our waterways mean to us and our planet. And, for older readers, American author/publisher/renaissance man, Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), has turned his experimental hand to children's literature with The Lifters (Scholastic; RRP: £12.99). For a slice of American life and a loose, Journey-to-the-Center-of-the-Earth narrative, this book will probably prove to be escapist beach reading for young adults and adults alike. But for our very top picks of the picture books, and beyond, read on…

What: Best Little Word Book Ever! by Richard Scarry
Why: This bestseller, introducing young children to a bright, busy new world of vocabulary, is now available as a board book.
Tell me more: New — and possibly heavy-handed — readers can join Scarry's classic characters Huckle Cat, Lowly Worm, and Goldbug as they travel to an airport, a farm, along busy roads and more, taking in some 200 words as they go with this illustrated classic made (almost) indestructible. You can grab a copy from September.
More info: Penguin Random House; RRP: £5.99

Infant school
What: Around the World in 50 Ways by Dan Smith
Why: It's a game! It's a book! It's a multitasking winner!
Tell me more: Bored in the back of the car? Tetchy on that packed train/plane/boat? Then let your little reader take a tour of the world from their seat. Setting off from London, the idea is to travel the globe choosing a favourite route and mode of transportation, then try to make it back home again. From a bus around the Tower of London to tuk-tuks, sleds, steamboats and hot air balloons in all manner of exotic locales, the choice is theirs, with plenty of facts to collect as souvenirs.
More info: Lonely Planet Kids; RRP: £11.99

Junior school
What: Alastair Humphrey's Great Adventurers by Alastair Humphreys
Why: This lively, illustrated guide to 20 of the world's most impressive explorers, past and present, is a joyful read for those aged seven and up.
Tell me more: Selected by Alastair Humphreys, who was crowned National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2012 for his work on the microadventures concept, this new book aims to explain big adventures to mini explorers. Cartoon strips, madcap maps, dynamic diagrams and lively bite-size chunks of text take readers on the road with everyone from 14th-century explorer Ibn Battuta to solo sailor Sarah Outen, with plenty of pioneering mountaineers, aviators and astronauts in between. This is a reference book that's anything but repetitive.
More info: Big Picture Press; RRP: £16.99

Young adult
What: Colour Me In by Lydia Ruffles
Why: A new offering from the bright young author of The Taste of Blue Light.
Tell me more: With anxiety and mental health issues affecting a sharply rising number of young adults, this brave and pertinent book takes readers to the most unexpected places, following the journey of 19-year-old Arlo who escapes his broken life armed with only a sketchbook of maps and the company of fellow traveller, Mizuki, thousands of miles from home in Japan. But will he run so far from himself that he can't find his way back? This is artful, itinerant teen angst rooted in travel.
More info: Hodder & Stoughton; RRP: £12.99


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