While we unfortunately can’t go to Hexham Book Festival this year, we can still enjoy their book recommendations! In this blog post, festival director Susie Troup has put together a list of some of the best children’s books she’s got her eye on this year.

Hexham Book Festival have been finding out exactly what’s hot right now with young people in the North, from pre-schoolers upwards. We’re lucky in the Tyne Valley to have two thriving independent bookshops – Cogito Books in Hexham and Forum Books in Corbridge both with lively children’s sections which helps us programmers enormously . Here are some of this year’s hot picks – starting with the 3-5 age range; the perennial attraction of endearing beasts whether they be dragons, bears or lions just doesn’t seem to fade: some fabulously illustrated and finely crafted stories for littles include Franklin’s Flying Bookshop by Jen Campbell, author/illustrator David Litchfield’s enchanting The Bear and the Piano and Helen Stephens with How to Hide a Lion; endless fun from a local Northumberland author. Continuing with a monster theme for the 5+ there’s the multi- talented Sophie Henn with her Lifesize Dinosaurs and a book about a bad Nana – who doesn’t aspire to behaving badly when you grow a bit older? Kids love Sophie’s wicked sense of humour that permeates her series of books which started with Where Bear and are accompanied by crazy, colourful drawings. Mermaids and witches are favourites that seem to run and run in writing for children and Bad Mermaids and Witch Wars by Sibeal Pounder is just the latest to combine both of these.

Children of eight plus are often the most discerning readers and once they get a taste for an author they can be fiercely loyal – no wonder there are so many successful series about for the 9 –12 age bracket and adventure and fantasy is high on the agenda here; Abi Elphinstone’s Dreamsnatcher trilogy is a must on any bookshelf, while Philip Pullman has added his praises to The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius, describing it as ingenious, moving and charming –  its certainly flying off the shelves in our Festival Bookseller Cogito Books. It’s published by Pushkin Press who have a list of inspiring and original new writers for young people.

The Festival has just run a competition to flag up our events asking people to name their favourite children’s authors – no surprises that Roald Dahl, Shirley Hughes and Julia Donaldson still feature highly alongside some newer names such as Nick Sharratt, Andy Stanton and Helen Skelton. Circus based stories are forever popular and there’s always a fine selection in any bookshop – we love AF Harrold’s Fizzlebert Stump for ages 9-12.  We’re also loving the brand new book based Circus Show – Where Dust Gathers from North East company Circmotif.