Children's books: butterflies, cakes and Horrid Henry's Jubilee moment

By Angela Kiverstein, May 22, 2012

Butterflies represent the souls of the dead, according to the ancient Greeks. And lepidopterous lore becomes a fascination for 12-year-old Becky in Butterfly Summer, by Anne-Marie Conway (Usborne, £5.99). Becky spends her days by the lake in the village butterfly garden, where she makes a new friend, Rosa May. While Rosa is obsessed with holding her breath under water, Becky has a horror of swimming and only the charm of local boy Mack can persuade her to learn. But what is the reason for Becky’s phobia? And why has her mum been hiding a photo of a baby? As the mystery develops, Becky is torn between the heady atmosphere of the butterfly enclosure and the modern swimming baths; bossy Rosa and patient Mack. Conway drops clues deftly into the water with hardly a ripple — re-read this gently nostalgic mystery and you will be astonished at what you missed the first time. Age 10 to 15.

Apple and carrot muffins with sunshine lemon icing, green pea picnic-time tarts and rainbow sprinkle cookies. These and other goodies are on the menu when Florentine and Pig Have a Very Lovely Picnic (Bloomsbury. £10.99). Eva Katzler’s energetic text encourages the reader-aloud to savour every word — and youngsters can savour the cooking too, using the easy recipes (by Laura and Jess Tilli). Jess Mikhail’s illustrations combine drawing with a collage effect, with attention to the tiniest detail. Age up to five for the story; three to 11 for the recipes and accompanying craft ideas.

What if you turn 18 and then discover you have been living Someone Else’s Life (Simon and Schuster, £6.99)? When Rosie’s mum dies of Huntingdon’s, she has to decide whether to be tested for the hereditary disease, with a 50 per cent chance of a positive result. But as she agonises, she is faced with another shocking discovery. Age 12 up.

Francesca Simon’s schoolboy terror has a Jubilee moment in an early-reader version of Horrid Henry Meets the Queen (Orion, £4.99), when he asks the visiting monarch a very important question. What could it be?

Last updated: 11:13am, May 22 2012