AMONG the most engaging picture books are those that explore overcoming the perils or fears of the big, wide world, from the point of view of small, young characters. Two books this season do that particularly well. 

Finn The Little Seal (Kelpies, £5.99), one of a series of books by artist Sandra Klaassen, follows a baby seal who is too scared to follow his mother into the big ocean, so lingers by a rock pool until one day he is swept into the sea by a giant wave. What follows is a long Finding Nemo-like journey in the ocean’s vastness, captured in Klaassen’s gorgeous watercolours.

In Tad, author-illustrator Benji Davies (Harper Collins, £12.99), the creator of Grandad’s Island, brings the intense drama of survival in the wild onto the page. Tad starts out just a glowing eye in the deep blue, or as the story goes, “the smallest almost-a-frog in the whole wide pond”. Davies blends natural history – the wonder of how a tadpole becomes a frog – with a tale of bravery and survival. Tad learns to cope with being in a giant crowd of many Tads, then also being on his own, before finding the urge to jump out of the water at the right time. Naturally, there is a monster too – Big Blub, the scariest fish in the pond. 

Leo And The Lightning Dragons by Gill White and Gilli B (Fledgling Press,£8.99) may seem like another book about knights and mythical creatures, but it tells a real world story that is a powerful reminder of the kind of battles some children face daily. Leo’s dragons are the sensory assaults he experiences every day in this groundbreaking story written by a Fife mother Gill White for her son Leo, who suffers from Ohtahara Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy which causes developmental delay and leads to up to 170 seizures a day. Leo is helped to fight against his terrifying dragons, which assault him sometimes like lightning flashes, by the whole community. But he also finds his own way to deal with them, in this awareness-raising tale of resilience. 

Fun, but a little predictable, is when Peppa Goes To Scotland (Penguin, £6.99), in which television’s favourite pig family puts on some kilts and goes searching for the Loch Ness monster. Essentially this feels like a tourist book, written for Peppa fans on their travels, though it still offers plenty for Scottish readers, who may be entertained by Daddy Pig finding his kilt a little draughty and the pigs’ inability to spot a very obvious monster. 

Two Sides, by Polly Ho-Yen, illustrated by Binny Taleb (Little Tiger, £7.99), is a perceptive and comforting story of the ups, downs and difficulties of friendship. It’s told from the parallel points of views of Lula and Lenka, who have been besties very nearly since they were born, on the same day in the same hospital, though they are like “chalk and cheese”. Naturally, the path of true friendship doesn’t run smoothly. They fall out, end up sitting in different parts of the bus – each hides the tear that rolls down their cheeks from the other.  

Emma Lazell’s Big Cat (Pavillion, £6.99) is best described as an utterly enjoyable piece of feline fan fiction, a hymn to the pleasures of Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came To Tea, even containing a few copies of the original book in the illustrations. Cat-loving Isobel and her grandma come across a big cat in their back garden and, thinking it must be lost, take it in. Different home, different tiger, but the concept is similar and this is an entertaining romp of a story, with a wilder comic feel. 

Young readers in Scotland are bound to fall for Guardians of the Wild Unicorns by Lindsay Littleson (Kelpies, £6.99), an adventure tale that melds the real and the fantastic with warmth and humour, set on the kind of outdoor residential school trip that will be familiar to most Scots. Lewis, dangling on the side of a cliff on an abseil rope, wishing he was back home and fearing for his life, happens to see his first ever unicorn. Thus begins a conservation-themed adventure in which he and his best friend Rhona, an entertaining odd couple who get in plenty of fights but nevertheless have each others’ back, find themselves trying to save the last herd of unicorns.

David Almond is nothing short of a genius, particularly when he’s writing about the mysteries of early adolescence. In Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist (Walker, £10.99) he collaborates again with illustrator Dave McKean – co-creator of Slog’s Dad –  and brings us the story of Davie. We know from the introduction that this Davie is partly Almond himself, that he is back in the territory of Colour Of The Sun, another tale in which he used his own memories of childhood in Tyneside. Again, Davie seems like a child on the cusp, at that moment of looking out into adulthood and trying to make sense of it all. Here, the mysteries are not only poltergeists and religion, but death and loss.

The result is a tale that is moving and profound. Among its many compelling characters is Father Kelly, a chain-smoking priest, who doesn’t believe in God and says of the poltergeists: “Now I’d like to see those boys in action.” Almond’s hypnotic writing is matched by Dave McKean’s wild and dark visual story-telling. A perfect, atmospheric synthesis.

William Sutcliffe’s latest novel The Gifted, The Talented and Me (Bloomsbury, £7.99) is a hugely entertaining satire with plenty of laughs and a bit of teen romance, as well as enough embarrassing, hormonally-driven moments to make clear why the narrator, Sam, has been compared in the book’s marketing to Adrian Mole.

Sam’s parents, on the back of a financial windfall, have moved to London, plucking him and his brother and sister from their average comprehensive in Stevenage, throwing them into an expensive North London School For The Gifted And Talented. Sam is, essentially, like Mole, a kind of every-geek, a misteraverage. But here he is plunged into a world where everyone has to be special, and unleashing your feelings and creative potential is key. You can’t help wondering if Sutcliffe has imagined his childhood self, time-travelled out of the eighties, into the touchy-feely now, and is just as bewildered by it all. 

There is a galaxy full of laughs, too, in the new young adult tale The Princess And The Fangirl, by Geekerella author Ashley Poston (Quirk, £8.99), a riotous romp of a farce set at a fan convention. Jessica Stone happens to be the jaded and unpopular star of its headline show, Starfield. Bored with her role and chasing more serious work, she finds herself in trouble when she dumps the latest script in the bin and someone starts leaking it on social media. Luckily, a fan who is campaigning at the convention looks very like her, and the stage is set for Prince and the Pauper style swap, as Jessica goes in disguise to hunt down the lost script.

A sharp and sassy riff on the idea that film and television stars are now as removed from the world as royalty, and it’s the fans who really know where it’s at. 

But perhaps the most compelling of all YA publications this season is The Burning by Laura Bates (Simon & Schuster, £7.99), founder of the Everyday Sexism campaign. This is not just a novel, it’s an intense and empowering rallying cry, a harrowing book that explores misogyny past and present. Set in the East Neuk of Fife, it follows Anna, who has recently moved after fleeing cyber-bullying and sex shaming at her last school in Birmingham. But just as she is making new friends, she starts to uncover and connect with the story of Margaret, a witch from the area who was burnt in the 17th century. She soon realises the bullies have hunted her down, and the online frenzy begins again. The message is clear: the fevered misogyny of online shaming is similar to the horror of the witch hunts. 

But where Bates is at her best is in turning the story around, showing the ways in which solidarity and support -and the calling-out of shaming - can be the antidote to such horror. The joy is that she makes her characters say the things we wish they would say, calling out bad behaviour in the way today’s #MeToo and #everydaysexism are helping give people a voice to do so.