Among the picture books this month, We’re Going to Find the Monster! (Puffin, £6.99) by Malorie Blackman and Dapo Adeola stands out. A riotous reimagining of the family home as a dangerous fantasy landscape, it follows two small explorers on a pre-breakfast monster hunt, unearthing a terrifying tickler (sleeping elder brother) in his lair. Words and pictures are full of lively mischief and intergenerational warmth.
Imagination also runs riot in Constance in Peril (Two Hoots, £12.99) by Ben Manley and Emma Chichester Clark. Edward’s favourite toy Constance tumbles continually into trouble until his big sister saves her, from thieving dogs, beastly bullies, a reedy river … Manley’s gothic, deadpan text marries delightfully with Chichester Clark’s autumn-mellow images.
Meanwhile, Eoin McLaughlin and Ross Collins’s Inspector Penguin Investigates (Hachette £6.99) is pure slapstick joy. When Baron von Buffetworth’s diamond is stolen from its safe, who better to retrieve it than Inspector Penguin – if he can only stop being sidetracked by fish. Intricate, absorbing scenes and a plot worthy of Agatha Christie.
For 7+ readers, Grimwood (Simon & Schuster, £12.99) is a first foray into full-length fiction from acclaimed picture book creator Nadia Shireen. Fox cubs Ted and Nancy, forced to flee the Big City after alienating boss street cat Princess Buttons, take refuge in Grimwood, full of thespian ducks, murderous eagles and squirrels obsessed with a game called Treebonk. Could this really become their new home? It’s hysterically bonkers, especially the illustrations.
Trivia fans will relish Everything Under the Sun (Ladybird, £25), based on Molly Oldfield’s popular podcast, which answers a selection of 366 questions, from why baboons have bare bottoms to the most dangerous thing in the desert. Showcasing the merits of meticulous research while remaining absorbing and readable, it’s colourfully illustrated by Momoko Abe and Richard Jones, among others.
From debut author-illustrator Flora Delargy, Rescuing Titanic (Wide-Eyed, £14.99) is a tour de force – a gripping account of the Titanic’s sinking and the Carpathia’s rescue mission, told via spare, well-judged text and delicate but powerful illustrations. Vignettes of crew and passengers evoke both individual stories and the scale of the tragedy.
Readers of 8+ who like big, immersive fantasy will love Aisling Fowler’s Fireborn (HarperCollins, £12.99), the story of friendless, indomitable Twelve, who has pledged her life, name and formidable fighting skills to the Hunters who keep the clans’ peace. But Twelve has a grim secret – and when a surprise attack on the Hunting Lodge forces her to set out on a rescue quest, she may be compelled to reveal it in this atmospheric, fast-paced debut.
Julia and the Shark (Hachette, £12.99) is a poignant collaboration between author Kiran Millwood Hargrave and artist Tom de Freston. Julia’s scientist mother is determined to find the great Greenland shark, so the family decamps for the summer to a remote Shetland island. Dreamily poetic, full of black depths and star-washed skies, this story of sorrow, love and hope is lightened with down-to-earth humour.
Finally, The Week at World’s End (Faber) by Emma Carroll shows the queen of historical fiction at her finest in a 1960s setting. In World’s End Close, almost nothing happens; so when Stevie finds a girl in her coal shed, she and best friend Ray are excited. But when Anna says she’s being pursued by poisoners, things become increasingly serious – as does the news, when US and Russia clash over Cuban missiles. Subtle characterisation and a compelling evocation of time and place.
by Laura Bates, Simon & Schuster, £7.99
As they return from a basketball tour, a plane crash leaves seven teenagers stranded on an island. At first, both cheerleaders and squad focus on first aid and survival – then, as a sinister pattern emerges, they realise the repercussions of the last-night tour party have pursued them. Tense, gripping and atmospheric, told from the point of view of reluctant cheerleader Hayley, this compelling thriller from the founder of Everyday Sexism asks some sharp-edged questions about victim-blaming and consent.
by Meg Grehan, £8.99, Little Island
Immy’s existence has spanned centuries, with many lives, many loves; but until Claudia, the girl in the flower shop, she has never loved like this. It’s a unique feeling for Claudia, too – she has never loved a vampire before. Will Immy hold out against the urge to feed? With superb skill, using understated repetition and blank space to create ambiguous, powerful meaning, Grehan’s verse novel skilfully charts uncertainty, temptation and the course of a strange, desperate love, as Immy tries to hold on both to Claudia and herself.
Splinters of Sunshine
by Patrice Lawrence, Hodder, £6.99
When Spey’s ex-con father Benni appears for the first time on Christmas Day, Spey is less than thrilled. But when he receives half a raggedy flower collage from his friend Dee – which they made together as children – he realises she is in trouble, entangled in the world of drug gangs. Maybe Benni can help him track her down … Livening humour and reflective depth shine out in this wintry road-trip mystery by an award-winning author.