Books

The best kids' books for summer 2023

From horror and sci-fi to rap battles, there are thrilling adventures to be found in tchildren's literature this summer.

Kids books: illustration of The Wall Between Us by Dan Smith.

‘Spies and paranoia begin to dominate lives in the newly divided city’ The Wall Between Us by Dan Smith.

The summer holidays are a perfect time for adventurous children to travel to other worlds in the pages of a book. Let Big Issue books editor Jane Graham be your guide to the best kids’ books for the warmer months.

Looking for our picks for adults? Here’s the hottest fiction to read in 2023

best kids books: The Skull by Jon Klassen

The Skull by Jon Klassen 

Out on 11 July (Walker Books, £14.99) 

If you’re weighing up whether or not to read The Skull, consider how much you liked the thrillingly creepy film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. Author and illustrator Jon Klassen is cut from a similar ‘domestic noir’ cloth to Gaiman – both are drawn to the sinister shadow under the bed, the unsettling persistent whistle outside the window, and are inspired by myths and folklore. Oh, and Klassen was an illustrator on the masterful Coraline movie too. This is a delicious little horror, inspired by a Tyrolean folk tale, about a lonely, abandoned skull who plays host to a very brave little girl. It has surprises, a clever wit and some knockout illustrations. 

best kids books: Billie Blaster and the Robot Army from Outer Space by Laini Taylor and Jim Di Bartolo

Billie Blaster and the Robot Army from Outer Space by Laini Taylor and Jim Di Bartolo 

Out on 17 August (Amulet Books, £12.99) 

Author of the much-loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, Laini Taylor teams up with her talented illustrator partner Jim Di Bartolo to create this bright, fun graphic fiction novel aimed at six- to 10-year-olds who can’t get enough of intergalactic robot wars. It’s the classic old story – supersmart scientist schoolgirl must stop her own genius invention from destroying the galaxy after evil nemesis irresponsibly casts it into space with all the forethought of Boris Johnson throwing an impromptu cheese and wine. Bemused goat looks bemusedly on. We’ve all been there. But hey, wasn’t it a blast? (Not @ you Boris.) 

best kids books: Kofi and the Rap Battle Summer by Jeffrey Boakye

Kofi and the Rap Battle Summer by Jeffrey Boakye

Out now (Faber & Faber, £7.99) 

If you ever wondered how 8 Mile would play had it been written by an eight-year-old (less potty mouthed probably), Kofi and the Rap Battle Summer is the book for you. Writer/kids’ teacher Jeffrey Boakye’s ode to words perfectly blends a riotous classroom romp, a warm celebration of friendship and a subtle social message. Kofi is a dynamic entrepreneurial whizz kid. Kelvin is clever but shy. Ostensibly they’re polar opposites, but in fact they’re best friends who hit upon a brilliant business plan which makes the most of both of their awesome skills. The adventure begins. And all the way through Boakye’s love of hip-hop, and its potential to unite people, gives this story its joyful thrust.  

The Wall Between Us by Dan Smith

The Wall Between Us by Dan Smith

Out now (Chicken House, £7.99) 

Ideal for kids learning about the Cold War at school, or just especially interested in history, Dan Smith’s portrait of two cousins in ’60s Berlin divided by a barbed wire fence is a compelling read for nine- to 12-year-olds. Spies and paranoia begin to dominate Anja and Monika’s lives as tension builds in the newly divided city. Can the cousins find a way to carry on their friendship, or does it mean the end? 

You can buy or pre-order these titles from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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