This year has been an amazing year for choice in childrens literature. The variety of subjects and quality of writing on offer within childrens fiction has been consistent throughout the year which has enabled me to select titles for my bookshelves that have not disappointed myself or the children that have gone on to read them through my purchasing choices and recommendations. The following are my top reads of 2018 as they have proven memorable, have a captivating storyline, are relatable and honestly kept me up later then I would have intended through my need to reach the end of a chapter only to then need to know what happens next!
The Girl, the Cat and the Navigator – Matilda Woods (Scholastic £6.99)
The second book written by Matilda, this book follows on from her successful debut “The Boy, the bird and the coffin maker”. Although not about the same characters and location I was delighted that this book was written in the same style I became familiar with when I fell in love with her debut title – so much so I ran a successful book group dedicated entirely to it!
The Girl, the Cat and the Navigator is a story focused on main character Oona – an unwanted and unloved girl born in the village of Nordlor at a time when only boys had any importance and were given every opportunity for success. Not taking no for an answer Oona finds ways to ensure she is just as capable as any boy her age growing up, without being caught by anyone (least of all any one of her multiple sisters). It is this determination to prove she has so much potential that leads to Oona going on the adventure of her lifetime, and what an adventure it is – complete with Nardoo that swim through the night sky! I thought this a beautifully written story of bravery and determination as we accompany a young girl on a journey of self discovery all the way past the Northern lights!
Secrets of a Sun King – Emma Carroll (Faber £6.99)
This book takes you back to 1922 to become acquainted with a curious and clever young girl – Lillian, who dotes on her family, especially her grandad. When he suddenly becomes ill Lillian is determined to help in any way she can beginning with feeding her grandads cat, aptly named Nefertiti. This leads to a discovery that makes Lillian start to believe in an Ancient Egyptian curse and her determination to uncover the truth will see her go on an unforgettable journey and reinforce the importance of family and friends throughout the ages. I could not put this book down as each chapter took me further into a mystery centred around a curse with characters I felt a connection with, and Emma Carrolls vivid style of writing left me feeling as though I had travelled to Egypt and shared in the experiences Lillian and her friends had, right down to meeting two fabulously named Camels. I too felt a draught, glimpsed at stars in a dark night sky, heard the whistle of a steam train and felt the sway of the ocean, all from reading this enthralling book.
All the things that could go wrong – Stewart Foster (Simon&Schuster £6.99)
Written in a dual timeline format, this is a compelling account of the two sides to bullying. This book also really does justice to understanding OCD in young people, the day to day battle of which we witness first hand through the character Alex, a boy that fears germs on everything,everywhere. Alex has cut himself off from friendships and much needed allies to bullying in school as he feels unable to leave the house without completing behavioural patterns that he feels reassured by, which in turn make him late to everything, even school. It is at school that Alex crosses paths with Dan, a boy that is struggling to accept that his brother isn’t around. Dan admires and depends upon his brother and conflicting emotions of loyalty and betrayal this creates in Dan leads to him venting in Alexs direction, and we see typical bullying behaviour at school and on the route home from Dan towards Alex. Then something most unexpected happens – the boys mums meet and make plans for the boys to hang out and share in a mutual hobby during an upcoming school holiday. What ensues is both heart warming and nail biting in a story that i found gripping to the very end.
Sky Song – Abi Elphinstone (Simon&Schuster £12.99)
The most magical of books, Sky Song lets you follow the story of Eska, a girl captured by the Evil Witch that now rules over Erkenwald – a place where children hide for fear of also being taken by the witch and her dark magic, like so many already have. What begins with Eska having a chance encounter that benefits her situation massively, then spirals into an adventure beyond imaginable as Eska does all she can to understand who she is, and where she truly belongs. This is an unforgettable story that draws you in through use of magical creatures, bravery, loyalty, determination, the bond of friendship and all within a landscape your left feeling as though you are familiar with as Abi Elphinstone has you holding your breath and watching your step! I couldn’t get enough of this book and devoured chapter after chapter in awe of the sheer attention to detail and the vastness of the voyage held within.
Snowglobe – Amy Wilson (Macmillan £6.99)
Without doubt a magical story from cover to cover, this story follows Clementine, a young girl that looks for answers about her mother that she never knew, so as to discover more about herself too. Having been gifted her mothers diary and finding no answers inside it, Clementine sets off for a walk through her home town in an attempt to clear her head. Along the way a house that looks distinctly like the one drawn in her mothers diary appears before her and curious as to the significance Clementine sneaks inside to explore. Here inside the house she sees row upon row of Snowglobes, they fill every inch of space inside each room and corridor, and trapped inside one Clementine spots a boy from school – Dylan. What follows is an unbelievable adventure that flows from one snowglobe landscape to another and never stops reminding us of the importance of family, friendship and feeling as though you belong.
The House with Chicken Legs – Sophie Anderson (Usborne £6.99)
Marinka lives in a beautiful house with a fence around it just like most girls her age, but she long to be more normal. That is because the fence surrounding her home is made of bones and skulls, and the house she lives in has Chicken legs! This means that Marinka frequently moves from one place to another as the house takes both her and Baba Yaga, her grandma, to a variety of places in order to provide a service to the dead that have yet to leave this world. Baba Yaga is keen to teach Marinka her skills that see her prepare food and entertainment for the dead spirits that arrive each night, attracted to the house via the lit lanterns, before being guided through the gate to the land of stars. Marinka has other ideas, she wants friends, routine, and not to be given the responsibilities her grandma has that mean the only company she has is that of dead people. With this in mind Marinka makes some decisions that will have some massive consequences for everyone including the house! The book does justice to Slavic folklore (Baba Yaga), breathing life into a character most have forgotten or not heard of, whilst introducing Marinka to us in a heart warming, compelling read that touches sensitively on death and reminds you to not take anyone in your life for granted. I throughly enjoyed reading this book and among the many themes threaded throughout the book such as the importance of family, friendship and betrayal I felt it balanced the importance of both life and death majestically.
Boy Underwater – Adam Baron (HarperCollins £6.99)
Prior to his classes first swimming session at the local pool Cymbeline Igloo, the books main character, declares that he is a most efficient swimmer and even goes so far as to take up a swimming challenge from the class bully. The trouble with all of this is Cymbeline has never been swimming, in fact any suggestion of visiting any where that you would find water is quickly dismissed by his mother. Cymbeline doesn’t tell his mother he has swimming at school and sneaks his own kit into school. Armed with snippets of swimming technique information gathered online and a confidence that swimming can’t be too difficult, he soon finds himself ready to leap in and what follows is a series of events that conclude with us having an understanding as to why Cymbelines mother is so protective of him. This book will take you on an emotional rollercoaster being both funny and sad, whilst reminding you of the importance of family, friends and making the right choices! Such a throughly enjoyable read.
The 1000 Year Old Boy – Ross Welford (Harper Collins £6.99)
This is the story of a boy called Alfie, who lives in a house in the woods with his mum, and at first glance looks like any other 11 year old boy. Alfie however is different – he is 1,000 years old and counting. Along side his mother he chooses to stop ageing and due to a mishap while completing the process that makes this possible Alfie and his mother agree they will always be there for each other as they have nobody else and neither wants to be left alone. Then one day two inquisitive children that live nearby to Alfie stumble into his life and then a disaster befalls Alfies home leaving him facing the one fear he always carried with him – being alone. Alfie finds himself dependant upon these two children for his very survival and before long he has a decision to make, does he want to remain 11 years of age forever or is it time to create his own destiny, and if so how will he avoid all the attention that he has gained from the authorities since the disaster that took his mother from him? Hilarious at times, heart wrenching at others, this book takes you on a journey through the ages that reinforces the importance of trust, sacrifice, family and friendship.
Wed Wabbit – Lissa Evans (David Fickling, £6.99)
This story takes you to the weird and wonderful world of Wimbley Woos for an unforgettable adventure. Midge has a younger sister called Minnie who routinely asks to be read a bedtime story of the Wimbley Woos and who will go no where without Wed Wabbit, her all time favourite toy. One day while out shopping Midge gets irritated about things and ends up kicking Wed Wabbit away, only to find Minnie has seen her do it and in chasing after him Minnie gets hit by a car and ends up in hospital. This leads to Midge being sent to stay at her aunties with her strange cousin, and while there during a thunderstorm Midge and her cousin find themselves transported to the land of Wimbley Woos – where Wimbleys only talk in rhyme and have characteristics determined by which colour they are, all of whom are being dictated to by Wed Wabbit himself! Do Midge and her cousin Graham have what it takes to over throw the dictator and return home? A hilarious story that reminds us of the importance of friendship, home, and for taking responsibility for your actions.
Those are my most memorable book choices of 2018. Whilst I have read other books too I have tried to ensure these are all 2018 release date relevant. I have had such unfogettable journeys through the books I have been priviledged to have read and I feel a sense of companionship with the characters I have accompanyed along the way.
A huge thank you to anyone that has recommended a title to me, loaned me a book, and shown faith in me as I take on reading books for reviewing.
I look forward to adding to my blog in the new year, when I will kickstart 2019 with a review of The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods by Samuel J Halpin. It’s already looking to be an unforgettable year of books. Whatever you choose to read, Enjoy!