I’M Zanib Mian, the author of the Planet Omar series. I wanted to share my top picks for children to read over the summer. I loved writing in Omar’s voice, creating a character that I hope kids from all backgrounds will love. I wanted the message to be clear: you can be yourself, even if you’re different, and still be loved! I think that’s an empowering message to give to any child, and particularly, to young readers who might not have seen themselves represented in a book before.”
Ravi’s Roar by Tom Percival: A gem of a book, which helps children to deal with the angry emotions within them that might result in them turning into a tiger, like Ravi. I just love a book that is able to gently convey a life lesson with a great story and spellbinding, emotive illustrations that are so cute, you just want to pick the characters off the page and hug them. This is one of those books. In fact, anything by Percival is a wonderful choice.
Ada Twist: Scientist by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts: Rhymes, perseverance and celebration of female scientists – what’s not to absolutely love here? The cute illustrations provide more fun and laughs along the way.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury: I guess this one will be on every ‘best books’ list I ever write, although it is ever growing and evolving. Why? Because I’ve had hours and hours of cuddled-up fun with my own kids reading this book. Or should I say reciting, because I know it by heart?
Fox in Socks by Dr Seuss: I have utmost respect for you if you can read this tongue twisting, rhyming story, aloud, super fast. I love the silliness and can relate to it. I love the springy, heavily rhythmic prose, which is one of the hallmarks of Dr Seuss’ works. What captivates me most about any of his books is how evident it is that behind the nonsensical words and seemingly silly rhymes is a linguistically great mind.
What Do You Do With an Idea by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom: Everyone should have this book, young and old! This is a story for anyone, at any age, who’s ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd or too difficult. The story powerfully illustrates how magical an idea can be if you embrace and nurture it. The transition of colours on the pages, as the idea takes flight, is also thoroughly awe-inspiring.
How to Catch a Star by Olive Jeffers: A firm favourite in our house. This is a simple, gentle story about possibilities and disappointments. About patience, imagination and resourcefulness. I’m glad I read this to my children over and over again, because if they can approach their goals with half the resolve that this little boy did, I’d be a happy parent indeed.
For older readers
Freedom by Catherine Johnson: This action-packed, cleverly crafted book won the Little Rebels Award in 2019. Slavery is a tough topic to approach with readers of this age group (9-11 years), but Johnson masterfully balances difficult scenes with touching moments of friendship, humour and hope. Books are the most powerful tools available to us, to open a window into the lives lived by people, which we possibly couldn’t imagine otherwise.
Anisha Accidental Detective by Serena Patel and illustrated by Emma McCann: This middle grade debut children’s book features a young girl as the main character, who is from a very colourful family. The story provides lots of laughs and intrigue and is a great insight into Indian culture. Plus, who doesn’t love a bit of mystery?
The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Rauf: My son will absolutely refuse to read any book I bring home for him, but this one captured his attention and held it right the way to the end. This is a warm and thought-provoking book, which deals with the difficult topic of refugees in a way that invokes empathy in children.
The Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster: My son’s all-time favourite! A heart-wrenching read with an incredible capacity to inspire empathy in the reader, as you dive into a world once unknown to you. You’ll never be the same again!
Zanib Mian is the author of Planet Omar: Incredible Rescue Mission published by Hachette Children’s Group. Also in the series are Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet and Planet Omar: Unexpected Super Spy. Twitter: @zendibble & Instagram: @Zanibmian