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Our top 10 illustrated novels

There has been an exciting increase in the number of illustrated novels for children recently providing an additional and highly engaging dimension to the story telling and the book design. Illustrations add layers to the reading experience, providing lots to savour and talk about and inviting revisiting. Here is a selection of some of our favourites, we hope you and your children enjoy them.

Annie Lumsden The Girl from the Sea 
David Almond illus. Beatrice Alemagna
Walker Books
Age 7-9

Annie Lumsden is a mysterious and magical story about a girl who lives with her mother by the sea. She doesn’t quite fit in at school, struggles to read (the words ‘stuck to the page like barnacles’) and she begins to have mysterious falls. However, she has a strange affinity with the sea. Her mother is a folksinger and storyteller who one day tells Annie a story about her father, a man with a fin who appeared on the shore. Is it true? That remains the mystery of Annie Lumsden who gradually comes to terms with her identity, finding she belongs to both land and the sea. Beautiful lyrical writing with  full colour illustrations throughout which perfectly capture the dreamlike watery quality of the story.

Buy the book here Annie Lumsden, the Girl from the Sea (
See our activity page for The Boy who Climbed into the Moon (David Almond and Polly Dunbar) and the Tale of Angelino Brown  (David Almond and Alex T Smith)

Shane Hegarty, illus. Ben Mantle
Hodder Children’s Books
Age 7-9

Boot is a small toy robot who is lost, with only vague memories of his past. He finds himself in a scrapyard owned by a scary man called Flint who likes to ‘krush em kwik’. Boot tries to find his former owner Beth and, on the way, meets other robot toys who can think and feel just like him. They help him to survive and search for his owner.

With themes of artificial intelligence, friendship, teamwork and memory this is a warm and engaging adventure story set in an all too feasible near future world staffed by robots. Boot is an appealing and inventive main character. The black and white illustrations emphasise the plight of the little robot but are also the underlying warmth of the story.
Buy the book BOOT small robot, BIG adventure: Book 1 (
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Corey’s Rock 
Sita Brahmachari, illus. Jane Ray
Otter Barry
Age 9-11

Isla and her parents have newly moved to the Orkney Islands from Edinburgh hoping a fresh start will help them cope with the recent loss of Isla’s younger brother Corey. Isla finds it hard to cope with her own grief and that of her mother who has become so distant towards her and is reluctant to be the new girl at school where everyone will know about her recent loss.

Isla seeks refuge in her father’s Selkie stories, which merge with her memories of Corey to create dream like sequences where she meets her brother.  In time Isla makes a friend and her mother finds a new purpose in her life.

This is a moving and beautifully written story about grief and coping with change. It includes mystical references to magical creatures and reincarnation. The illustrations perfectly complement the text, evoking both the island setting and the dream like sequences beautifully.
Read a family review of Corey’s Rock
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Eight Princesses and a. Magic Mirror                                                    
Natasha Farant, illus. Lydia Corey
Age 7-11

An enchantress, godmother to a baby princess, transforms her magic mirror into a pocket-sized version sending it on a mission to find out what really makes an excellent princess. 

There follow eight stories set across the world and throughout history linked together by the mirror as it is lost or given away and awaits a new home in the next chapter.

The mirror finds remarkable princesses who challenged stereotypes: they are brave, fierce and loyal with big dreams and big hearts.

The stories are beautifully written in traditional fairy tale style with attractive colour illustrations throughout including a full-page illustration and decorative title page to introduce each new princess and their story. 

A book which would make a lovely gift, particularly for young readers keen to discover that princesses do not need to wait for princes to fight their battles or sweep them off their feet.
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A Mummy ate my Homework   
Thiago de Moraes       
Age 7-11

While Henry is tackling an extra tricky equation on his first day back at school a black tornado swallows him up and he is transported back in time to Ancient Egypt and the court of Seti 1.

Henry isn’t a natural fit with the harsh lifestyle of the Ancient Greeks, but when he and his classmates are sent for a survival test in the jungle and an emergency ensues, his creativity saves the day. But will he ever get back to the twenty first century?

This is an amusing and engaging time slip adventure story packed with information about Ancient Egypt. The back of the book includes extra information about life at the time of Pharaoh Seti First in the form of a survival guide – including how to write your name in hieroglyphics. Illustration is used to great and varied effect throughout adding to the drama and the humour.

Thiago de Moraes speaks about the book’s creation and demonstrates how to draw an Egyptian God here Draw like an Egyptian with Thiago de Moraes – YouTube

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Ottoline and the Yellow Cat
Chris Riddell
Age 6-9

Ottoline’s spends a lot of time alone because her parents are collectors and are often away travelling. Her main companion is Mr Munro, a very hairy creature from a bog in Norway. She is curious about other residents in her apartment block and likes solving mysteries. When she discovers a spate of burglaries and missing lapdogs Ottoline is keen to investigate.

Children will enjoy solving the mystery with Ottoline. The detailed illustrations of scenes in the story and the characters together with a wonderful array of maps, plans and postcards provide lots to talk about and enjoy.

This is a story to inspire children to find a disguise, a notebook and set off solving imaginary mysteries of their own.

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Phoenix                                                    SF Said, illus. Dave McKean
Corgi Children’s Books
Age 9-11

Wrenched from his quiet life on Phoenix Lucky finds himself aboard a strange alien spaceship in the middle of an interplanetary war between Humans and an alien race. He becomes true friends with Bixa Quicksilver, a fierce warrior and loyal companion.  Together they race across the galaxy searching for Lucky’s imprisoned father, the reason for his affinity with the stars and the meaning of the strange power growing inside him.

This is an exciting Sci Fi story, an epic space quest, complete with dramatic battle scenes. It is also a story about the futility of war and acceptance of those who are different, showing that we have much in common and there is good and bad in everyone. This is a story which may spark interest in Space and in the stories peoples throughout time have used to describe it. Stunning sophisticated illustrations add to the mystery and otherworldliness of the story.

Watch a trailer
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Buy the book here Phoenix (

Pugs of the Frozen North                                                        Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre
Age 6-8

Shen and Sika meet in the frozen north on the first day of True Winter. Sika needs dogs to pull her sledge and help her win the race to the Snowfather’s Palace at the top of the world. Shen, a cabin boy, abandoned by his crewmates when their ship becomes stuck fast in the ice, has 66 pugs he has rescued. They soon team up, but will the small dogs be strong enough to pull Sika’s sledge?

This is a fantastical snowy adventure story about wishes, kindness, loneliness and loss, beautifully told with humour, detail, and poignant moments through a brilliant combination of words and pictures.

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Starfell, Willow Moss and the Lost day             
Dominique Valente, illus. Sarah Warburton
Harper Collins
Age 7-11

Willow Moss is a finder of lost things. Within her family, as magical powers go, hers is less than spectacular. However, when the most powerful witch in the kingdom of Starfell seeks her help, Willow discovers her powers are quite special after all.  There follows a rather unusual quest; to discover how and why the previous Tuesday has gone missing from everyone’s memory. Success requires Willow not only to show bravery when facing danger but also, to face a deeply sad lost memory of her own, concerning someone she loves.

With an intriguing opening and a lively narrative style this is a fast paced and enjoyable fantasy adventure story. The world of Starfell is peopled with appealing, quirky characters. Teamwork saves the day as Willow and her friends rescue the kingdom from an evil being seeking ultimate power.

The story explores a thought-provoking idea, ‘the incredible value and significance of one ordinary day’. The storyworld is highly detailed and the internal black and white artwork brings this to life. The paint box colours of the magical forest of Wisperia are depicted beautifully in the cover illustration.

Watch a trailer and listen to the first chapter read aloud
Starfell by Dominique Valente | #FirstChapterFridays – Bing video
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Zombierella: Fairy Tales Gone Bad  Joseph Coelho and Freya Hartas
Walker Books
Age 7-9

This illustrated verse novel is the perfect story for young readers seeking gruesome tales. The grey scale illustrations have just the right balance of gore and humour.

A librarian discovers a dusty corner of the library with a selection of fairy tales which have gone ‘bad.’ When Cinderella slips and dies the shadow of death breathes life into her body.  For three nights only she becomes Zombierella and is able to attend the prince’s balls travelling in a mushroom coach pulled by her skeletal steed Lumpkin, she seeks revenge on her fake sisters and mesmerises the vampire prince with her beauty.  This is the first in a series for those hungry for more.

Buy the book Zombierella: Fairy Tales Gone Bad (