Serious and entertaining

Children’s books with Angela Kiverstein


Always Here For You, by Miriam Halahmy (ZunTold, £8.99) centres on lonely 14-year-old Holly. Her best friend has emigrated; her father is always working and her mother is preoccupied with needy Gran. A few kids at school are tentatively friendly – and occasionally Holly finds refuge and a home-cooked meal with the affectionately tempestuous Levy family. But it is online that she meets someone who really seems to understand her: Jay. Though he can be moody and demanding, soon she is contemplating meeting him in real life. Essential reading for teens and parents of teens – this book may well save lives.

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed (Simon & Schuster, £7.99) is a light-hearted romance with a serious topical dimension. Jamie Goldberg is feeling hassled. With his sister’s batmitzvah approaching, his grandma becoming an Instagram sensation and his cousin roping him into political canvassing, the only oasis of calm is the supermarket. And there he spots Maya, whom he has not seen since childhood. Maya has her own problems — mid-Ramadan, her parents are having a trial separation. Jamie and Maya are thrown together as they campaign for their local moderate election candidate and experience racism first-hand. An upbeat and entertaining novel, despite its dark side. Age 12 up.

Emperor Hadrian gallops into a village and everyone hides, except an old man planting a fig tree. Although unlikely to see it bear fruit, the man says he is planting the sapling for future generations. A Basket Full of Figs (Green Bean Books, £8.99), retold from the Midrash but in tune with our times, is written by Ori Elon and translated by Gilah Kahn-Hoffman, with illustrations full of character and charm by Menahem Halberstadt. Elon is the author of TV series Shtisel, while Halberstadt produced some of the pictures attributed on-screen to Akiva, its artist protagonist. Age three to 11.

After eating sushi, Aaron and Stella are sent on a magical quest to save mankind from the evil Black Queen. And so begin their Travels with Sushi in the Land of the Mind (by Eduard Shyfrin, Whitefox, £12.99). While Tomislav Tomic’s line drawings are exquisite and the story has a certain C S Lewis atmosphere, Shyfrin entangles so many elements from quantum physics and world religions, the result can be hard to digest. Age 11 to 14.

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