Billy and the Beast by Nadia Shireen (Penguin, £6.99)

This year, as part of York Literature Festival, York Explore is hosting a children’s day (Saturday March 21, from 11am). The day kicks off with Story Time from York St John lecturers and one of the authors they will be reading is Nadia Shireen.

Perhaps time we highlighted her work, then. In Billy and the Beast, Billy and her friend Fatcat go for a walk in the woods and say hello along the way to all their animal friends. When it is snack time, Billy reveals there is more to her awesome afro than just hair: it happens to be a great place to pop all the useful things she might need.

With a friend like Fatcat, you find you need a lot of handy snacks: his tummy has a fearsome rumble. It all seems perfectly marvellous with lots of stomping, splashing and jumping along the way - until, that is, they get captured by a Terrible Beast who has a terrible recipe for terrible soup.

In the true tradition of kid’s books, it is time for Billy to think fast and save herself and her friends. There is great fun to be had in seeing how ingenious she is, in persuading the Beast not to put her animal pals in the pot, but to try pine cones and feather dusters instead.

The text is supported by really bold full-colour illustrations which reinforce the narrative. Billy has some incredibly good expressions on her face. I particularly liked her stern reaction to the Beast’s meal plan, and the “adorable little bunny rabbits” live up to their name. It makes for a fun book to take your time over at bedtime, with lots of things to point out.

It is suitable for a toddler who can manage a slightly longer story, or for a child just starting out reading and wanting to sound a few words out themselves. And if you like this story then follow up it with Billy and the Dragon, in which Fatcat finds himself all dressed up and in grave peril.

Philippa Morris