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What To Read Next: From The Storybarn

Written by Rachael Norris, 9th May 2020

The Storybarn, based at The Reader’s headquarters in Calderstones Park in Liverpool, is an immersive and imaginative play space where a dedicated team of Storyhunters are always on hand to create exciting, innovative reading experiences for young children. Kara Orford, Head of Children & Young People at The Reader, recommends some brilliant books that have got the Storybarn team talking.

This article is taken from issue 71 of The Reader Magazine, newly relaunched for 2020. For more brilliant books and bookish things, for readers of all ages - become a subscriber. 


This Little Piggy by Jarvis

Walker Books, ISBN 9781406385212, £6.99

Age range: 1-4 years

Counting books for little readers are always well thumbed (and well chewed!) in The Storybarn, and we’re constantly on the lookout for ones that are a little bit different. This Little Piggy by Jarvis is just that: it’s silly and surreal and never fails to raise a smile. Everyone knows the little piggy that went to market, but what about the piggies with superpowers? The piggies dancing for hours? Bright, bold and beautifully illustrated, this is a counting book that is definitely worth checking out.

It’s a Book by Lane Smith

Macmillan Children’s Books, ISBN 9780330544023, £6.99

Age range: 3-5 years

Ape and Donkey are spending the day together. Ape is trying to read; techwhizz Donkey doesn’t quite get it. ‘Does it Tweet?’ he asks. ‘Does it scroll down?’ The Ape’s patience is tested in this hilarious and fantastically illustrated book. As appealing for grown-ups as it is for children, the concept is simple, the message is strong. Technologies will come and they will go, but there will always be a place in the world for a book!

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Puffin Clothbound Classics, ISBN 9780241411162, £12.99

Age range: 8-12 years

Classic children’s books are a firm favourite with our storyhunters and we’re always looking for ways to combine those classic stories with another of our favourite things: the incredible park space that we’re lucky enough to have on our doorstep. The wonderful walled gardens of Calderstones Park lend themselves perfectly to an atmospheric reading from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. The recently published hardback, clothbound edition by Puffin is particularly special and it’s great to be able to continue sharing such enduring stories with a new audience of readers.

Also an Octopus by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by Benji Davis

Walker Books, ISBN 9781406373387, £6.99

Age range: 3-5 years

Here at The Storybarn we are always especially intrigued by stories about stories. Inspiring, imaginative and incredibly creative, Also an Octopus takes us on a journey into story-building. How do stories work? Where do we begin? We’re told that every story starts with ‘just a little bit of nothing’ and page by page we discover how to create a story. At the end it’s over to us: ‘So what happens next?’ Also an Octopus is a reading experience of endless possibilities that will keep young imaginations fired.

Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Walker Books, ISBN 9781406386288, £7.99

Age range: 8-12 years

Gripping and full of suspense, Thomas Taylor’s Malamander is absolutely everything that a classic adventure story should be. There’s mystery and magic and that all important quest – in this case, to uncover the secret of a legendary sea monster named The Malamander. From Mr Mollusc, Lady Kraken and Sebastian Eels to our heroes, Violet Parma and Herbert Lemon, this is a story bursting with vivid characters that have you smelling the sea air and feeling the sea breeze with the turn of each page. With just the right balance of darkness and threat (the menacing old sea captain with a boat hook instead of a hand proves a convincing villain), Malamander is one of the most thrilling stories we’ve come across for a while.

Suffragette by David Roberts

Two Hoots, ISBN 9781509839674, £18.99

This brings the women’s suffrage movement to life with meticulously researched content and captivating illustrations. David Roberts’ Suffragette is accessible, engaging and simply brimming with tales of courage and passion. It is rare to come across something so clearly a labour of love, a serious non-fiction book for children that is also a thing of beauty. Packed with portraits and vignettes that complement the text perfectly, Suffragette is one of those extraspecial books that should be on every child’s bookshelf.

Michael Rosen’s Book of Play by Michael Rosen

Profile Books in association with The Wellcome Collection, ISBN 9781788161909, £14.99

Given the spirit of The Storybarn, we were extremely excited to hear of the publication of this book. Written in response to reports that children and adults have less and less time available for imaginative play, this is an exploration of why play matters; how it contributes to an individual’s creativity, builds resilience and has a key role to play in nurturing our sense of well-being. We love the interactive prompts for activities and the inviting doodle pages. In a culture increasingly dominated by screens and solitary activities, this book is truly refreshing.

I am the Seed that Grew the Tree, compiled by Fiona Waters and illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon

Nosy Crow, ISBN 9780857637703, £25

Surrounded by the beauty of Calderstones Park, it often feels as though we have a front-row seat to the changing seasons. There’s nothing more reliable and reassuring than the leaves slowly changing colour, the inevitable bareness of our trees through the winter and the first shoots in spring. Amid all of these transformations, I am the Seed that Grew the Tree is the perfect companion. A rich anthology with a poem for each day of the year, this is a wonderful collection to return to again and again. The poems themselves are varied and beautiful, some are long, some are not, some poems are much loved and well-known favourites, while some are entirely anonymous. A gift of a book to be treasured and enjoyed by children of all ages.

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