Easter books for kids: the polar-bear prince and the firebird

From a modern-day 'Chicken Licken' to the teenage 'Fifty Shades of Grey', Susan Elkin finds the most imaginative books for youngsters this holiday

Two weeks' school holiday – especially if the cold and wet weather continues – are an ideal time to get your toddlers, teenagers and in-betweeners reading and listening to stories.

For tinies, try Lesley White's The House Rabbit (David Fickling £11.99) with its pretty pale green and lilac, chatty, busy illustrations. It's a cumulative, "Chicken Licken"-style repetitive story about a rabbit who fears that the house is falling down. It includes plenty of splendid, vocabulary-enhancing verbs such as "streaked", "tottered" and "padded". Nat the Cat's Sunny Smile by Jez Alborough (Doubleday £11.99), who has fun with rhyme here, is another anthropomorphic story, about a cat calling, repetitively, on her friends.

The Naming of Tishkin Silk by Glenda Millard (Phoenix Yard, £5.99) is a lyrical story set in Australia, which would read aloud well to a child progressing through primary school. A baby in a large, moderately Bohemian family has died suddenly in infancy. Self-blaming Griffin is the next youngest. Eventually he contrives a way to help his grief-stricken family. In East of the Sun, West of the Moon (Frances Lincoln, £9.99), Jackie Morris attractively retells a traditional story (think "Beauty and the Beast" followed by a quest with a surprise ending) about a girl who comes to love a polar bear which turns into a prince.

Realism for primary-school children floods through Laura Dockrill's Darcy Burdock (Red Fox, £5.99) whose narrator is an appealing, sparky, diary-writing, 21st-century child sustained, when the going gets a tad tricky, by the power of stories and narrative. Elsie, the narrator of Jacqueline Wilson's Queenie (Doubleday £12.99), relies on stories for solace too, when, back in 1953, she finds herself in hospital with bovine tuberculosis, neglected by her appalling mother, and worried sick that her lovely Nan will be too ill to look after her. Wilson, as entertaining as ever, is meticulous about period detail. The historical background is also well drawn in The Victory Dogs by Megan Rix (Puffin, £9.99). I learned a lot from this carefully, plausibly plotted (just about) story of the dogs lost and found and sometimes trained for search and rescue, during the Blitz.

Still in historical mode, but for a slightly older age group, is Smuggler's Kiss by Marie-Louise Jensen (Oxford, £6.99). Its protagonist, Isabelle, is a gloriously feisty heroine – not really believably so, for the 18th century, but that doesn't matter. She has experienced something nasty (we're kept guessing about exactly what right to the end) which leads to an attempted self-drowning and rescue by smugglers. The characterisation is delightful in this exciting, adventure story; especially that of the bear-like Jacob and the enigmatic, dishy Will.

Back in the present, two books about identical twins, grief and friendship should appeal to younger young adults. Me Myself Milly by Penelope Bush (Piccadilly, £6.99) gives us the story of twins Milly and Lily and their single mother. It's a searingly honest, poignant first-person account which keeps the reader intrigued for 150 pages. And I certainly didn't see the narrative surprise coming. Lexiland by Suzanne Moore (Simon & Schuster, £6.99) covers similar territory. This time, the focus for the bereaved twin is the formation of a new friendship at school with the mysterious Lexi.

And so to books for those mid-teenagers. William Sutcliffe's The Wall (Bloomsbury, £12.99) is a powerful account of life in a city divided by religion and a wall. (Sutcliffe is never specific, but we are clearly in the Middle East among warring Jews and Arabs.) Joshua, 13, penetrates the barriers, and thus meets Leila. It's a disturbing and thought-provoking book which simmers with heat, anger and fear, and I loved the symbolism of the olive grove for peace.

For a complete contrast, Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black (Bloomsbury, £6.99) is set in a claustrophobic New York ballet conservatoire. Students are rehearsing Stravinsky's Firebird. Sinister, supernatural happenings gradually beset Vanessa, who is afraid she will simply disappear like so many dancers before her. This is the first part of a trilogy.

Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz (Puffin, £6.99) is different again. This time we're in Los Angeles. Colin has Asperger syndrome and a bent for solving mysteries. The book is wittily didactic and earnest, so, although the main text is third-person, it feels like something Colin might have written himself.

And finally, to Irresistible by Liz Bankes (Piccadilly, £6.99) which is about a sexual relationship between Mia and the rather wooden Jamie, who is supposed to be a teenage take on E L James's Christian Grey (minus the S&M) with a whiff of Messrs Darcy and Rochester. Actually it's pretty mild stuff, with lots of simmering looks and no full sex until page 182. Bankes is much better at characters such as decent Dan and voluble Gabriella. And if all stepfathers were like Jeff, the world would be a much happier place.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London