author with book

Reading around the virus

The worldwide pandemic continues to deliver twists and turns of bad news and good. Perhaps, though, it’s not too early to start to put together a group of books that reflect the times we’re living through.  Here are some stories and some non-fiction books aimed at a range of readers, from the very young to early teens (and older).  Please let us know of any recommendations you have to add to this group.


front coverMalachy Doyle, Molly and the lockdown, illustrated by Andrew Whitson (Graffeg, 2021)

When the virus strikes, Molly’s island is locked down, and Molly’s father is stranded on the mainland.  Molly is a helpful and cheerful child who feeds the chickens and looks after the dog whilst her mother helps others on the island. The plot is straight-forward; the difficulties of the restrictions and the worry of being apart from loved ones are balanced by a quiet enjoyment at time at home, with ‘just her and the dog and the ducks and the chickens’.

An informative and reassuring story, suitable for newly independent readers, or to read aloud to younger children who will enjoy Andrew Whitson’s engaging illustrations as you turn the pages.


front coverTony Ross, Wash your hands (Andersen Press, 2001 – reissued in 2017 as I don’t want to wash my hands)

Tony Ross’s exuberant illustrations and humorous way with words bring the Little Princess – after many questions why – to an understanding of germs and hand hygiene.  As usual, the Little Princess manages to have the last word.

Interest age: 2+, reading age 5+


front coverMichael Rosen, Sticky McStickstick, illustrated by Tony Ross (Walker Books, 2021)

One of the best-known figures in the children’s book world, this multi-award-winning creator of children’s books, poet, performer, broadcaster and champion of children, schools and teachers has written a book about his own experience of Coronavirus.

In March 2020, Michael Rosen became ill with Covid-19 and was admitted to hospital. He was so ill that the doctors put him into an induced coma for 47 days.  When Michael woke up, he had to learn to walk again, and this picture book chronicles his recovery at a rehabilitation hospital and his eventual return to his family with his walking stick, which he names Sticky McStickStick.  This moving picture book, illustrated by Tony Ross, tells a story of perseverance and hope, and conveys the author’s heartfelt thanks to the many people who helped in his recovery.

This astonishing capacity to address pain with humour is what gave rise to his new book: Sticky McStickstick a picture book written with levity that nevertheless prompts a lump in the throat.                                                                                Books for Keeps

Interest age 4 – 8


front coverKim Sung-hwa, Kwon Su-jin and Kim Ryung-eon, The good germ hotel: meet your body’s marvellous microbes (What on Earth publishing, 2021)

Bad germs and bacteria are in the news. This book helps children learn that not all bacteria are bad and introduces them to all the good germs in the body that help us fight viruses and infections. The dialogue around good gut health has been gaining traction in recent years, so The Good Germ Hotel is the perfect place to visit to get to know your gut microbiota.  Illustrated in a comic book style with considerable detail, a conversation between a human host and a colonic bacterium examines digestion and gut health, immunity and antibiotics, as well as providing context for infections such as Covid-19.

The intricate and humorous visual style makes complex science accessible and exciting.  This book is a great way to introduce children to all the wonderful good germs that keep us healthy.

Interest age 6 – 11, reading age 8+


front coverJoseph Coelho and Sam Usher, Thank you (Frances Lincoln, 2020)

Inspired by the outpouring of thanks to keyworkers during the coronavirus pandemic, this simple tale embodies the appreciation and sense of community that emerged in response to the CV-19 crisis.

Tatenda thanks his Mum and Dad for making breakfast, thanks the post lady for delivering his comic and his teacher for marking his work.  But lately, everyone is preoccupied with worries and uncertainties. So Tatenda makes his thank you so huge and so colourful that everyone will have to notice it.  And all their smiles will make the thank you grow even bigger and brighter until it can be felt in every corner of town.

A celebration of all the unsung heroes of our lives; from bin men to doctors and delivery drivers to bus drivers who keep our world running smoothly.

Interest age 3 – 6, reading age 6+


Draw with RobRob Biddulph, Draw with Rob (Harper Collins, 2020)

As well as exercising with Joe Wicks, a lot of us got creative during the early lockdown, some of us inspired by internet sensations like Rob Biddulph.  When the coronavirus pandemic quarantine period began in Spring/Summer 2020, Rod Biddulph (Odd dog out, Sunk, Kevin) realised that lots of people were going to find themselves at home with their children, looking for things to do, so he decided to post a draw-along video every Tuesday and Thursday that parents could watch with their kids and, hopefully, make some nice pictures. They proved very popular, garnering millions of views across the world. The instalment on 21st May 2020 broke the Guinness World Record for the largest online art lesson.

Interest age 7 – 10


front coverKate Milner, It’s a no-money day (Barrington Stoke, 2019)

Kate Milner (who wrote and illustrated the acclaimed My name is not refugee, and has illustrated Joseph Coelho poetry books) sensitively depicts an all-too-real family’s need to use a local foodbank.

With food poverty rising during the pandemic, this is a timely examination of the impact on one family by a sympathetic and thoughtful writer.  The visuals – spare text, line drawings, subtle, muted colours in drab hues, facial expressions telling of a range of thought and emotion – calmly match the simple power of the tale of one family’s day.

Interest age 4 – 9, reading age 6+


front cover of bookMichelle Paver, Skin taker (Zephyr, 2021)

For slightly older readers, the latest in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, Skin Taker is set just after the Ice Age, some six thousand years ago.  Small clans of hunter-gatherers in northern Scandinavia need all their survival skills after a devastating meteorite strike causes worldwide destruction.  The exploration of human endurance and the strength of community spirit in the face of death and adversity are timely.  The idea for the story came to Paver before the pandemic struck.

I wanted to write about the effect of a worldwide disaster on Torak and his people.  I had no idea that by the time I finished writing Skin Taker, most of the world would be in lockdown, battling the threat of Covid-19.

This fantasy-adventure is a gripping page-turner with spectacular storytelling and detailed world-building.

Interest age 9 – 14, reading age 9+


front coverKatherine Rundell (ed), The Book of Hopes (Bloomsbury, 2020)

Short stories, pictures, poems (all under 2 pages) to be shared with children who are housebound through lockdown or illness that may impact attention span yet increase the need for entertainment and distraction, this fabulous book is arranged by topic – animals, aliens, dogs, cats, dreaming – and has contributions from more than 110 children’s writers and illustrators, including Lauren Child, Anthony Horowitz, Michael Morpurgo, Liz Pichon, Axel Scheffler, Francesca Simon, Jacqueline Wilson – and Katherine Rundell herself.

Categorised as for 7 -11 year olds, but excellent reading for teens and adults, too.  This would make a great Christmas present.


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