The Best Children's and Teens' Books We Read in March 2017

image of boy reading by Andrew Branch on Stocksnap

Cover of A Dangerous Crossing
A Dangerous Crossing
, Jane Mitchell (10+)

The Syrian civil war is raging, and 13-year-old Ghalib and his family are caught in the crossfire. After a particularly close call which leaves Ghalib injured, they decide, like many Syrian families today, to leave their home to find refuge. From this point, the book follows their dangerous journey across Syria and beyond, bringing to light the moments of bravery, hope and despair which Ghalib and his family experience along the way.

Jane Mitchell’s treatment of this topical and serious issue is sensitive and well-researched, drawing from true accounts and paying tribute to real Syrian children who have tragically been victims of the war. The result is a captivating, beautifully written book celebrating the bonds of family and friendship formed and strengthened by terrible circumstances.

Sarah Mallon, Schools Programme Administrator, @sarahmallonxo

Cover of Animal Surprises
Animal Surprises
, Nicola Davies, illus.  Abbie Cameron (3-7)

This lovely, rhyming picture book introduces little ones to the wonderful diversity of life on Earth. A young adventurer treks through the jungle, dives under the ocean, peers at microorganisms under a microscope and visits rock pools teeming with life, encountering myriad creatures along the way. Creatures of all shapes and sizes, some you’ll know and some . . .  SURPRISES!

With beautiful, vivid illustrations by Abbie Cameron bringing each animal to life, this book is a real gem. Perfect for igniting curiosity about the amazing variety of species which live on our planet.

Emma Lamont, Schools Outreach Co-ordinator, @emma_sbt

Incarceron cover
Catherine Fisher (12+)

Within Catherine Fisher’s story, Incarceron was created as a social experiment: a prison cut off from the world in which the prisoners would be rehabilitated and live in a utopia, with the prison itself a living being, providing for their every need. Generations later, the reality for the inhabitants is very different: the prison is ruled by violence and chaos, while the prisoners are consumed by thoughts of escaping to the world outside, despite having no idea what it looks like.

Our protagonist, Finn, is different: he’s seen glimpses of the outside world in visions, and when he manages to make contact with Claudia, the prison warden’s daughter, the potential for escape finally seems attainable. But how can he break out of a prison which is alive?

Catherine Fisher creates a complex world with impressive visual storytelling and exciting twists and turns in this original, thrilling YA sci-fi novel.

Sarah Mallon, Schools Programme Administrator, @sarahmallonxo

Cover of Evil Emperor Penguin Strikes Back
Evil Emperor Penguin Strikes Back,
Laura Ellen Anderson (7+)

Somewhere in the deep snowy bowels of the Earth lives Evil Emperor Penguin, who plots to take over the world. Aided by his unhelpfully cute and fluffy sidekick, Eugene, and his octopus butler, Number 8, this penguin's genius for conceiving diabolical machines and potions is offset by his lack of attention to fine detail, and his plans for Armageddon always end up hilariously in tatters.

This is the second Evil Emperor Penguin graphic novel, and Laura Ellen Anderson's gift for comic timing and visual humour is as sharp as ever. It's based on her weekly stories from The Phoenix comic, and it's easy to see how serials like this have made The Phoenix so popular with young readers.

Check out the first Evil Emperor Penguin if you haven't already, and then read this one immediately. With regular appearances from Evil Cat, who bizarrely continues to cohabit with Evil Emperor Penguin despite their bitter rivalry as evil masterminds, there's plenty of new and genuinely clever stuff in here to entertain readers of all ages!

Chris Leslie, Schools Resource Developer, @ChrisLeslie2


Check out our other book lists and recommendations blogs for some fantastic reading ideas.

Top image by Andrew Branch on Stocksnap.