We are now very firmly in the second half of the Summer Holidays, and that means we’re getting our second wave of young visitors, where all the kids who’ve read their way through their holiday books already are back and looking for more. Same kiddos, same. 

That makes it the perfect time to look at some rainbow reads for younger readers! Hilariously, in going for diversity, I accidentally chose two books with a protagonist called Billy/Billie who has two mums! Thankfully they’re both brilliant. 

Let’s start with Pirate Mums! I love this one because we get a fair number of customers coming in asking for picture books that aren’t just the ‘it’s possible two have two mums or two dads’ narrative. This is exactly that. Billy wants his mums to be more normal, but not because they’re both mums. They listen to weird music and wear weird clothes and they don’t even have a dog or a cat like everyone else, they have a parrot! (Their name is Birdbrain and they’re my favourite). But when a school sailing trip goes awry and the captain gets locked in the toilet, Billy’s pirate mums are there to save the day! 

The Pirate Mums is right in the middle of the picture books spectrum, with a good couple of lines of text per page, but fairly easy language (and very recognisable piratical terminology), and everything is fully illustrated. I love the humour and heart of this one so much. I also love the artstyle! There are so many wonderful little details in it. The shark hedge and Birdbrain’s expressions are some of the best. I also love kids’ books illustrated in crayon-style because they’re such a readily available resource for kids, and seeing what they’re capable of creating with them can be so inspiring! I would have loved crayon ships to copy. I mean who am I kidding, I still would.

Our next Billie is from The Accidental Diary of B.U.G. This is a chapter book for slightly older readers. It’s still very heavily illustrated (or doodled on, I should say, a la Wimpy Kid). Billie has co-opted her spelling journal to use as a diary. In it she documents her spelling woes, her suspicions about the new girl who keeps doing splits, and gets excited about her mums’ upcoming wedding (or Bridesmaid Day, as Billie refers to it). She’s a silly, charming and little bit naughty narrator who isn’t afraid to write to the prime minister to complain about spelling tests and The Biscuit Laws.

It had me cracking up. The tone and content is perfect for that 7-8 range, and it’s especially good for less confident readers. Billie has a wicked sense of humour, but isn’t quite so sure she knows how to deal with some more difficult things, like being treated differently because she’s adopted, and having your best friend stolen. I had so much fun reading it and am so excited to read the second one which comes out – today (Aug 19th)!

Finally we have a recommendation for 10-12 years. The Strangeworlds Travel Agency has all of my favourite things about children’s fiction; it balances that joy of magic and childhood with those first steps of responsibility, grey morality, and how you can still choose to do the right thing even when you’ve made mistakes. Which, as an adult, is something I wish we got outside of children’s fiction more often.

The world-building is so much fun and so full of possibility, which is great because I fully intend to read any and all sequels (of which, so far, there are two). it’s the perfect holiday read for this year – maybe we can’t go very far in the real world, but there’s a hundred fantasy worlds out there we can visit instead, and Strangeworlds has plenty! This one’s a little subtler on the queer rep, but I think at this age kids don’t need it spelling out for them so much. Plus it’s so lovely having queer characters who are just there, just being people. I devoured the whole thing in a single evening and am so glad I’ve finally caught up with our regulars who’ve been telling me to read it for months. I bow to your excellent taste.

As always, you can see all three of this month’s books here, and see a wider range of recommendations here.