Best books for seven year olds: picture books
Leaf by Sandra Dieckmann
(£8.99, Flying Eye Books)
When a polar bear washes up on the edge of the wild wood, the other animals avoid him. He is ignored, vilified and mistreated by the other animals. Why is he there? What does he want? The polar bear spends his days collecting leaves and the animals decide to name him Leaf – not only for his odd habit but also because they want him to leave.
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Then one day the animals watch in awe and astonishment as the white beast tries to fly away, using the leaves for wings. The animals discover that he is desperately trying to get home and immediately feel silly for not talking to him sooner. Eventually, with the help of the crows, Leaf makes his way home and the animals promise to share his story, in the hope that no polar bear will ever be lost again.
This is a beautifully illustrated book full of vibrant colours and intricate details. The language is simple, yet powerful and this stunning picture book would also offer a good starting point for discussions around displacement, global warming and how we treat others.
Freefall by David Wiesner
(£5.32, William Morrow)
When he falls asleep with a book in his arms, a young boy dreams an amazing dream. It is a dream of kings and queens, human chess pieces, dragons, dark forests, castles and even huge pigs! There is plenty to talk about in this wordless picture book as every double page spread is so detailed and cleverly presented. Wiesner plays with perspective and size so that our journey through this fantasy world becomes exciting and disorientating. Each landscape is fresh and new and the young boy’s excitement and confusion as he travels through an eerie, strange world is beautifully captured. It is interesting to see that each double spread is cleverly linked to the next through a series of minor, but important, details and there is much to look at and explore when the boy finally returns to his bed. An intriguing, bizarre book that will take young readers on a captivating journey.
The Whisperer by Nick Butterworth
(£6.99, HarperCollins Children's Books)
Two gangs of cats live on the edge of the city and fight constantly, which is perfect for the Whisperer, the narrator of this brilliant picture book. The Whisperer is a scheming, devious rat and he likes nothing more than to see the cats at each other’s throats – after all, when they’re fighting, they’re leaving him alone! But one night, the Whisperer observes something that could spell disaster for him… Two cats in love! This feline version of Romeo and Juliet is a delight; the chaotic and dark nature of urban life is vividly brought to life through detailed illustrations. There’s a great message too about true love conquering all and the ending, where the Whisperer finally gets his comeuppance, is both funny and rewarding. Children will enjoy the sly humour and the twist at the end of this engaging picture book.
Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett
(£6.99, Walker Books)
“Happy birthday, Alexander! To my little birthday bunny on his special day. Love, Gran”
When Alexander receives a sickly sweet book from his Gran about a lovely little birthday bunny, he is disgusted! Through scribbles and his own cartoonish illustrations, he transforms his birthday present into something he actually wants to read: Battle Bunny! Instead of a syrupy tale about fluffy woodland animals, Alex creates a new story about an evil bunny and his dastardly plans to build a monster rocket and take over the world. This new story is full of action, guns, explosions, spies and secret plans. This is a great book to explore together – one of you could read the original more traditional story while the other reads Alex’s new anarchic, exciting adventure scribbled over the top of each page. Battle Bunny is an engaging, fun, complex, multi-layered book that children of this age group will definitely enjoy exploring. There’s even a website where young authors can create their own book in a similar style.
The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield
(£6.99, Frances Lincoln Children's Books)
One day in a forest, a young bear cub finds a strange object… a piano. Tentatively he touches the piano and it makes a terrible sound. He comes back and practises every day for years, until the sounds coming from the piano are beautiful. Every night a crowd of animals gather to listen to the bear’s magical melodies and one night a young girl and her father invite the bear to play in piano in the city. In the city, the bear becomes famous but something keeps tugging at the bear’s heart. Despite the fame and fortune, the bear misses his home and friends. On his return to the forest, the bear finds out that his friends have kept his beloved piano safe and that true friends will always be there for you, no matter how far you stray. This is a haunting, magical picture book and the sunlit, dappled forest is stunningly portrayed. There is a lot to talk about too – fame, success, hard work, friendship and loneliness. An exquisite book perfect for this age group.
Grandad’s Island by Benji Davies
(£6.99, Simon & Schuster Children's)
At the bottom of Syd’s garden is Grandad’s house, with a key under the flowerpot so that Syd can let himself in at any point. One day, Syd calls round to visit his beloved Grandad and ventures into the attic. Grandad reveals a big metal door, which leads to the deck of a ship. Together they travel to a magical, wondrous island, which is beautifully and colourfully realised. Despite being enthralled by the island, Syd knows they will soon have to leave. But Grandad tells him that he has decided to stay. Across stormy seas, Syd manages to find his way home alone but is saddened by Grandad’s absence – nothing seems the same. The final page of this thoughtful picture book is particularly moving and provides an excellent vehicle for talking about loss and grief. The relationship between Syd and his Grandad is tenderly portrayed and the colourful, cheery illustrations evoke beautifully a mysterious attic, a huge ship’s deck and an exotic jungle. This is a gentle, touching story and comes highly recommended.
Belonging by Jeanie Baker
(£6.99, Walker Books)
This picture book follows the life of a young girl, observed through a window. Each collage shows the passage of time and Baker beautifully captures the changing urban neighbourhood in which the girl lives. We see shops and stores spring up, buildings crumble, gardens cultivated and flowers growing throughout the book as well as a first kiss, a wedding and a birth. It is interesting to note how the characters in this wordless picture book reclaim the built up land around them, creating a stunning oasis of calm in their back garden as the world around them shifts and changes. This book is a wonderful reminder about green issues and the importance of nurturing and looking after our environment, in order to create a sense of belonging. Each page is full of discovery, adventure and exploration, a poignant record of passing time and also a timely reminder of our role in caring for our communities.
Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill
(£14.99, Flying Eye Books)
Winner of the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal, this beautifully illustrated book chronicles the epic journey undertaken by Ernest Shackleton and his crew, across the frozen heart of Antarctica. Born in 1874, Shackleton was the second of ten children. He was also a member of Scott’s famous Discovery Expedition (1901-1904) and realised that after Amundsen had reached the South Pole, there was only one challenge left: to cross the Antarctic continent, from sea to sea. He set out on his voyage, with 26 brave men, on 8 August 1914. This captivating non-fiction picture book details Shackleton’s story and the unimaginable peril and danger he faced. It is also an inspiring story about courage, bravery, team work and endurance. Grill’s illustrations are meticulous – they brilliantly capture the day-to-day struggles faced by the crew and stylishly evoke both the beauty and menace of this frosty and stormy landscape.
Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky
(£12.99, Abrams Books)
‘Her mother was not unlike a spider, a repairer of broken things…’
This beautiful story recounts the life of the well-renowned artist Louise Bourgeois, most famous for her giant spider sculptures made of steel and marble. Just like a spider, her mother was a weaver of tapestries and clearly inspired her artwork. Louise’s family lived along a river, which nurtured their beautiful garden and cleansed and strengthened the wool that Louise’s family used to restore tapestries. At the age of twelve Louise began to learn the trade too, drawing in the missing fragments of a tapestry and learning from her mother about textiles, form and shape. Despite her love of art and textiles, Louise travelled to Paris and began studying maths, enjoying the stability and order they brought to her life. When her mother died, Louise began to paint. To Louise, drawing and art and sculpture were like threads in a spider’s web, connecting her to her beloved mother. Told in gentle, poetic language, this book skilfully captures the life of Louise Bourgeois and movingly tells of her relationship with her mother and how an artist was born. The artwork is outstanding – blues, greys and reds dominate and the textured, intricate, woven patterns are mesmerising too are provide the perfect back drop for this fascinating and touching story.
Leon and the Place Between by Graham Baker-Smith
Do you dare to step into the place between? Pete, Tom and Little Mo don’t believe in magic – it’s only tricks and certainly not real after all! But Leon does. One day, at the circus, in a tent, the curtains slowly part and three jugglers tumble on stage. They are closely followed by a collection of mechanical creatures and a barrel organ and then finally the famous magician Abdul Kazam appears in a cloud of purple smoke. As part of his act, he invites young Leon into a magic box. It is in here that Leon finds himself on a wonderful adventure, full of flying carpets, cards, fluttering doves and forgotten rabbits. This is a deliciously dark picture book full of magic and trickery. The illustrations combine photography, painting and collage to create a dazzling world of glinting magic and mystery. Definitely a book to return to for the gilded, shimmering artwork!