2018 has been a yet another wonderful year for children’s books. The increasing range of high quality books available is a joy to children’s book lovers such as me. However not all my favourite reads of the year were published in 2018 so rather than create a ‘best of 2018′ list that would miss out some of my personal favourites that have made this year such a rewarding reading one I want to mention my personal highlights of the last year instead.
The year got off to a wonderful start with Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone. Sky Song is a shining example of why children’s books matter. Courage, kindness, acceptance & hope are wrapped up in a thrilling adventure. My favourite of all this author’s books so far. You can read my full review here.
I love it when a book surprises me and The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day definitely did. This is a different but very satisfying read. The world of science combines with the unbreakable bonds of true family love in a well written story. The parallel timelines work brilliantly in my opinion and the reader is left guessing right until the end. Link to my review and teaching resources here.
Since my teens I have loved historical fiction and Emma Carroll has for the last few years been my favourite author of this genre for children. The ten year old me would have adored her books and I still enjoy them very much. This year we were blessed with two excellent titles to savour. I loved both SkyChasers, set in France during the 18th century with a delightful cast of characters, and Secrets of a Sun King, a cleverly plotted story exploring the Tutankhamen curse and England in the years just after the First World War. Another historical novel I can also recommend is Goose Road by Rowena House set in France in World War 1 and a story of an epic journey made by a young girl in an effort to save her family farm.
As a school librarian I have long been a fan of the publishers Barrington Stoke. They consistently produce high quality books by prestigious and popular authors that are accessible to a wide range of readers. My favourites this year have included Run Wild by Gill Lewis and Race to the Frozen North – The Matthew Henson Story by Catherine Johnson. Tom Palmer’s wonderful Armistice Runner is a definite highlight of the year. It manages to combine the trauma of World War 1, a family dealing with an elderly grandparent with Alzheimer’s and a contemporary heroine in an immensely readable story that has considerable impact.
There were so many other books I read and enjoyed this year including impressive debuts such as Kick By Mitch Johnson and The Explorer, an exciting and thoughtful adventure by award winning author, Katharine Rundell. The continuing rise in the range of fiction available for newly confident readers is very encouraging and I think The Boy Who Grew Dragons by Andy Shepherd is an excellent example of the sort of story that captivates young readers at this crucial stage in their reading development.
Still with historical links one of my favourite reads of the year was Across the Divide by Anne Booth. This is a thoughtful story about family, friendship and finding the courage to speak up for what you believe in. The historical element is movingly portrayed and in this excellent story the author shows young readers that they can make a difference.
However as the year closes there are three books in particular that, although very different to each other, typify the remarkable range and quality of children’s literature available at present and are my own favourites of the year.
They are, in order of reading: Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo, The Lost Magician by Piers Torday and The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay.
All three of these wonderful books contain characters that I grew to care about, felt that I knew and now remember and think of still, long after I have turned the final pages. That is the magic of children’s fiction, it can make you genuinely care. It also has a knack for conveying and highlighting simple truths and important values that can sometimes get lost in the business of adult lives. Kate DiCamillo, Piers Torday and Hilary McKay speak to children, and to the child within the adult reader, in a way that comforts and reassures as well as entertains. A rare gift indeed and one I greatly appreciate.
2018 has been an immensely rewarding year reading wise and I am looking forward with great anticipation to see what the coming year will bring.