This time of year the colour supplements and review sections of newspapers always feature articles I enjoy, with authors recommending their favourite reads of the past year. But these articles rarely feature authors and illustrators whose work is enjoyed by the 0-teens. Whilst the Children’s Laureate or a media-genic YA/Crossover author might be included, the fact that children’s books make up almost 25% of booksales (in the UK) is definitely not proportionally reflected in these round-up articles. So this year I decided to do something about that, and produce the sort of article I’d like to read in the review section: Favourite reads of 2013 as chosen by (children’s) authors and illustrators.
So here goes! Maybe you’ll discover a few books you’ll want to read or perhaps you’ll be shocked by what’s been chosen… Either way, do let me know in the comments – and do share your favourite reads this year! As with all the authors and illustrators below, the book you choose need not have been published this year, simply discovered by you this year.
‘Once’, ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ by Morris Gleitzman.
“I’ve always been a Morris Gleitzman fan. I cried through ‘Two weeks with the Queen’ and laughed along with ‘Too big to fail’. I love his writing voice and his gift for making even the macabre funny. But, for some reason, I only got round to reading the Once/Then/Now/After series this year. The books are set in the second world war and follow the story of a Jewish boy who escapes from an orphanage and crosses Poland to find his parents. The books are at the same time sad, funny and exciting and they are a wonderful introduction to their genre. I devoured all four and passed them on to my 12 and 9 year old who came back to me with loads of questions about the time period.”
Abie Longstaff (@AbieLongstaff) has several books coming out in 2014: ‘Just the Job for Dad’ published by Scholastic in May, illustrated by Lauren Beard, ‘The Fairytale Hairdresser and Snow White’ published by Random House in June, and a Fairytale Hairdresser Christmas book in November.
‘Fly By Night’ by Frances Hardinge
“My favorite read of 2013 has got to be Frances Hardinge’s ‘Fly By Night’, I devoured it. It’s a wonderful tale with floating coffee house battles, a secret letterpress and a mad king. Between the two heroes Mosca Mye and Eponymous Clent you’ve got some magnificent words spewing out at you every which way and the murderous pet goose Saracen is something wonderful. There’s a sequel too, thank goodness.”
“See the world from a fly’s point of view in this colourful combination of zaniness and rigorous scientific accuracy, drawn in ‘strip cartoonist of the year’ Mike Barfield’s inimitable style. Great for bed-time reading for primary-aged children – but don’t expect to get very far at one sitting as each double-page spread is teeming with things to look for, point at, read out, be amazed by, argue about (which fly-eating plant would you prefer to be caught by?) … This is science with a smile!”
Anneliese Emmans Dean (@theBigBuzzNews) is currently working on ‘Flying High’, a book about birds which is a companion peice to her book ‘Buzzing!’, a National Insect Week recommended book and was also nominated for this year’s Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for 2013’s Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize.
Favourite Picture Book: ‘Help! We Need a Title!’ by Herve Tullet
“I am fascinated how books can influence children’s creative play. Children are natural story-tellers and often provide running narration during their games. I love the way Herve Tullet builds this directly into his books, making them objects of creative play themselves.”
Favourite Children’s Fiction: ‘The Poison Boy’ by Fletcher Moss
“This is a cracking tale of two young food-tasters who are trying to find out who killed their friend. It is packed with action, mystery and adventure, with a complex but rock-solid plot that ties together beautifully by the end of the story.”
Caryl Hart (@carylhart1) has several books due out in 2014: ‘How to Catch a Dragon’, illustrated by Ed Eaves, published by Simon & Schuster, ‘Foxy Tales – The Cunning Plan’ and ‘Foxy Tales – The Road to Fame and Fortune’, illustrated by Alex T Smith, published by Hodder, ‘The Princess and the Presents’, illustrated by Sarah Warburton, published by Nosy Crow and ‘Whiffy Wilson, the Wolf who Wouldn’t go to School’, illustrated by Leonie Lord, published by Orchard.
‘Pirates ’n’ Pistols: Ten Swashbuckling Pirate Tales’ by Chris Mould
“A gripping read and a visual feast for adventurers of all sizes! The illustrator is a draughtsman of the greatest virtuosity in the Tenniel, Rackham, Wyeth tradition; the author writes with gusto and a steady hand on the tiller. The fact that author and illustrator are one and the same person is, to be honest, very jealous-making.”
Clara Vulliamy (@claravulliamy) has two books out in 2014: ‘Martha and the Bunny Brothers I Heart Holidays’ (July 2014) and ‘Dixie O’Day and The Great Diamond Robbery’, written by Shirley Hughes and illustrated by Clara (August 2014).
‘And the Cars Go…’ by William Bee
“Although it’s a book for younger readers, it’s great fun to read aloud to my baby boy. The illustrations have a graphic quality that he really responds to, while I can appreciate their retro charm and satisfying detail. I’m sure it will be a long lasting favourite!”
Three books which Ed Eaves (@ed_eaves) has illustrated which are coming out in 2014: ‘How to Catch a Dragon’ by Caryl Hart (Simon and Schuster, January), ‘Jumbo-Bumbo Fly’ by Paul Bright (Simon and Schuster, June) and ‘Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon’ by Rachel Valentine (Bloomsbury, March).
‘Monsters’ by Russell Hoban and illustrated by Quentin Blake
“This is a reissue. It was first published in 1979 but it looks as if it was done yesterday. I love the way Russell Hoban writes – How Tom Beat Captain Najork is another favourite. He doesn’t write cosy humdrum stories with a moral to learn and he writes sparingly, using unusual words. But the stars of this book are the monsters drawn by the child – John.
You might think it would be easy to do child-like drawings of monsters but in fact it’s extremely difficult. Each one is an exquisite invention of wickedness and savagery drawn in a variety of materials on coloured paper. They are hilarious and ingenious, rampaging out of control, which is unnerving for John’s increasingly anxious parents.
I don’t know what it’s all about! Perhaps it’s about trying to express something… maybe there is never a piece of paper big enough… perhaps John finally reveals his largest demon and leaves it in the safe hands of the psychiatrist – Dr Plunger – who, at last, understands what he is on about.
It ends with the line, ‘“Drawings?” said John as the door behind him slowly opened. “Who needs drawings?”’
And, for the first time, he is really smiling.”
Fans of Emma’s Plumdog blog will be delighted to know that a book based on the blog will be coming out with Jonathan Cape (on the adult list) in October 2014, whilst ‘Bears Don’t Read’, written and illustrated by Emma, will be published by Harper Collins in September.
‘Wild’ by Emily Hughes
“Initially I was just so drawn to the book because of the lovely earthy, intricate style of illustration. It’s just beautiful. The overgrown feel of the cover really does reflect the title, but I didn’t see the inside of the book until I got my own copy. It was very much worth the long wait. The book pages are absolutely stunning. It’s so cleverly designed and each page is a complete surprise after the other. I was just itching to turn each one. I really love the obvious differences between the wild world and the normal world too. After reading the book I had to go back and just look at it very slowly, because there are so many hilarious little details to be appreciated.
More than anything though, I really love the main character herself. She’s so adorable and I couldn’t help but feel so sorry for her when she was taken away from everything she knew and loved. I was so pleased to see that she put up a good fight though. An incredible picture book about staying true to yourself!”
‘Moby Dick (an Ocean Primer)’ by Jennifer Adams & Alison Oliver
“This is from a series of board books called Baby Lit. Taking classic novels and turning them in to primer books for babies. They have just published Anna Karenina (fashion primer) and Sherlock Holmes (Sound primer). But so far the Moby dick one is my favourite.”
‘Rosie Revere Engineer’ by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts
“This also has great little details; like the ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ doll and Alessi Lemon Juicer. It is similar to their first book (‘Iggy Peck Architect’ – he is even in the book) but I like this as it has notes of past pilots/engineers – who are all female and makes the emphasis on failure not being a bad thing. And the hardback cover is great too!”
’13 words’ by Lemony Snickett and Maira Kalman
“This is funny and such a great idea. It includes words such as Despondent, Goat, Haberdashery and Panache. The illustrations/paintings are brilliant as always (I would recommend any book illustrated by Maira Kalman).”
‘How your body works’ by Judy Hindley, illustrated by Colin King
“This is a new edition of a book I loved as a child, and I’ve just bought it for my own children. I have such strong memories of this book and its fascinating illustrations, it was really exciting to see it again! And I’m sure it taught me much more than GCSE Biology ever did…”
Holly Webb (@HollyKateSkeet) has 13 books due out in 2014! These include ‘The Kidnapped Kitten’ in January, ‘Maisie Hitchins and the Case of the Feathered Mask’ and ‘Emily Feather and the Chest of Charms’ in February, and the first of new series with Nosy Crow, ‘Maya’s Secret’, in May.
‘Radiant Days’ by Elizabeth Hand
“The story is about a painter who drops out of college and Arthur Rimbaud, the French poet. But it is more than a fantasy about their curious meeting across time. It’s about the nature of words and images, truth and beauty. It’s about making, whether that be music or poetry or art. It’s tangled in the legend of the Fisher King, a radiant and beautiful book.
Perhaps it is a young adult book. It’s certainly about two young people on that cusp of leaving home and setting out to make their own lives freed from constraints of family. I found the book by accident when doing a blog post about writer’s notebooks, linking to their blogs, wandering through their notes. A beautiful find.”
‘The Promise’ by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin
“‘The Promise’ is a picture book for all ages. With a palette of colour that blossoms like a forest it is a rare book that begins with a street child picking pockets to live until she steals something that changes her life. The book is thought provoking. It carries the simple message to look after the world, to plant trees, but beneath that is a darker current of questions that need to be asked. It’s a brave and powerful, beautiful book.”
‘My Busy Being Bella Day’ by Rebecca Patterson
“What do I love about this book? Everything! The detail of nursery school life (colouring in a number 2) the quirkiness (Bella’s baby brother Bob loves licking foam from his Mum’s cappuccino spoon) the characterisation of Bella ‘I am the loudest teapot here’) and the touching relationship between Bella and Bob ( although she clearly loves her school she thinks about her baby brother all day). No wonder this book won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. Congratulations Rebecca.”
‘The King of Space’ by Jonny Duddle
“I’m always lamenting the lack of picture books that match the excitement and appeal of films like Star Wars; Jonny Duddle’s ‘King of Space’ is the only book I’ve come across that does this. It’s a brilliantly illustrated, tech-tastic, action packed epic, filled with battling spaceships, menacing warbots and a pint-sized megalomaniac. We need far more picture books like this!”
‘Close Your Pretty Eyes’ by Sally Nicholls
“This tells the poignant story of eleven year-old Olivia, who’s been through sixteen foster homes. Traumatised and full of fragile bravado, Olivia can’t trust anyone even though she wants to, so she tests her foster parents to the limit and beyond. And then she begins to feel the malevolent influence of a Victorian child-murderer who once lived in the house which is her sixteenth placement. Insightful, funny, scary and beautifully written, this one really did leave me with tears in my eyes.”
Kathrine Langrish (@KathLangrish) has ‘All Shall Be Well’, coming out in April 2014. This is part of a short-story collection written by members of The History Girls blog, titled ‘Daughters of Time’. All the stories are about women and girls in British history, aimed at 9+.
‘The Storm Whale’ written and illustrated by Benji Davies
“Author/ illustrator Benji Davies trained as an animator, so perhaps it was the task of drawing an image again and again that helped to develop his exquisite economy of style. In this gem of a picture book, a little boy called Noi finds a baby whale on the beach and cares for it while his father is at sea. This is a story about loving and letting go and it’s unusual to see such a tender tale about the relationship between a boy and his dad. ‘The Storm Whale’ sparkles with vibrant colours and emotions as deep as the sea. Amidst the flotsam and jetsam on the shores of children’s publishing, I was thrilled to discover this treasure.”
Laurence Anholt’s (@LaurenceAnholt) recent titles include: ‘The Orchard Book of Funny Fairytales’ (with Arthur Robins), ‘Two Nests’ (with Jim Coplestone published by Frances Lincoln), ‘One World Together’ (with Catherine Anholt published by Frances Lincoln), ‘Anholt’s Artists Activity Book’ (written and illustrated by Laurence Anholt, published by Frances Lincoln).
‘Pippi Longstocking’ by Astrid Lindgren and illustrated by Lauren Child
“I’m not quite sure how I’d missed this book al my life! I’d never read it as a child. I think something about the book’s original illustrations didn’t appeal to me as a little girl. I’d had the Lauren Child version on my shelf for a while, and decided to read it to my eight year old. We were both immediately hooked! A little girl who lives on her own with her monkey and her horse! What’s not to love? I love the quirkiness and fearlessness of Pippi. She is a great girl heroine. Amazing design and beautiful illustrations. It is my perfect book!”
Forthcoming books from Lydia Monks (@LydiaMonks) include ‘Mungo Monkey has a Birthday Party’ (Egmont, March 2014), ‘Mungo Monkey goes to School’ (Egmont, Sept 2014) and ‘Dragon Pox. A Princess Mirror-Belle Story’, by Julia Donaldson (Macmillan, September 2014).
‘Stanley’s Stick’ by John Hegley, illustrated by Neal Layton
“With his distinctively playful and well crafted wordplay, Hegley shows how imagination can help us value the uniqueness of the everyday. Stanley’s exuberant appreciation of the stick grows as he explores the imaginative possibilities for its use. His excitement is balanced with moments of reflection and loss, but Hegley has such a light touch and silly-somber way with words that moments that might otherwise have been sad, or sentimental, are instead moving and uplifting. Even when Stanley must, at last, part with his stick by letting it be taken by the tide, the moment is marked by the gentle observation: ‘Gosh. What a tiny splosh for something that has been so big in Stanley’s days.’”
‘Time for Bed, Fred!’ by Yasmeen Ismail
“It was really hard to pick out just one picture book from all the amazing work that has been published this year but in the end I went for ‘Time for Bed, Fred!’ by Yasmeen Ismail. The story is simple but very funny, and an accurate reflection of bedtime in many households! The loose quality of the illustrations bring life and exuberance to the character of Fred and the sketches on the endpapers are gorgeous. I love it!”
‘I Want My Hat Back’ by Jon Klassen
“It’s one of the books that everybody, child or adults must love. The illustrations are graphically strong, simple and bold. The whole book is beautifully produced.”
‘Binny For Short’ by Hilary McKay
“Hilarious, brilliant, realistic, sweet – everything you’d expect of a Hilary McKay. More please!”
‘The Feathered Man’ by Jeremy de Quidt
“In a German town, long ago, lives a tooth-puller’s boy called Klaus. It isn’t Klaus’s fault that he sees his master steal a diamond from the mouth of a dead man in Frau Drecht’s lodging house, or that Frau Drecht and her murderous son want it for themselves. He has nothing to do with the Jesuit priest and his Aztec companion who turn up out of the blue looking for it, or the Professor of Anatomy who takes such a strange interest in it. No, Klaus doesn’t want any trouble. But when he finds himself with the diamond in his pocket, things really can’t get much worse – that is, until the feathered man appears. Then they become a matter of life . . . and death.
The Feathered Man is too scary for all but the bravest and oldest of kids. It was definitely too scary for me. But I loved it anyway. I stormed through the pages, heart-racing, half forgetting to breathe. Light a candle, read it in a whisper, then lie back and wait for the nightmares.”
‘The Quiet Book’ and ‘The Loud Book’ both written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Renata Liwska
“This charming duo is my 2013 ‘discovery’ and I love them for their classy sophistication which I think has a universal appeal. A minimalist text explores the quiet and loud moments of childhood – ‘Making a wish quiet’ or ‘Fireworks loud’ – and since the text is only suggestive, much of the actual ‘story’ is visual, and acted out by a tenderly drawn cast of woodlandesque characters. A beautiful balance of understated text and clever, exquisite illustrations… and just so adorable that you want to hug them!”
Sarah Massini (@SarahMassini) has several books out in 2014 including ‘A Recipe for Bedtime’, written by Peter Bently, published by Hodder, and the paperback of ‘Trixie Ten’, published by Parragon Books.
‘Dr Who: Dark Horizons’ by Jenny T Colgan
“It’s wonderfully written with a sharpness and freshness – a historical setting with strong sci-fi punch. And it is possibly the only Dr Who story where we find a character dwell on calories…”
Hot on the heels of ‘Magic Ink’, Steve Cole (@SteveColeBooks) has a new picture book out in February, a new series for 7-11 year olds launching in June, a new comic novel and his first Young Bond book later in the year!
“A very funny book about friendship, jealousy and identity. The artwork is fresh and lively, making it an utterly charming picture book. No surprise then that it won the ‘Read It Again!’ Award 2013, for best debut picture book. I love it.”
Tim Hopgood (@TimHopgood) has three books out in 2014: ‘Hooray for Hoppy’ (Macmillan Children’s Books), ‘Little Answer’ (Picture Corgi) and ‘What A Wonderful World’, based on the song made famous by Louis Armstrong, written by G.D.Weiss and B.Thiele (Oxford University Press).
‘Kummituslapsi’ (The Ghost Child) by Terhi Ekebom
“My favourite read in 2013 was actually a Finnish comic book with English subtitles: ‘Kummituslapsi’ (The Ghost Child) by Terhi Ekebom is a beautiful graphic novel about a woman who moves into a haunted hose by a haunted forest. I lost myself completely in it while reading, and found myself caring about and hoping for the characters – the woman and the odd ghost child who befriends her – and I was scared of the things that howled in that forest. It’s an amazing amount of work, every page a beautifully detailed drawing. I know I would have loved it as a child, as it unites my favourite worries: ghosts and family.”
As for me, to find out my favourite reads of this year, you’ll have to check out this article on We Love this Book, part of The Bookseller and described as “Britain’s brightest and best new books magazine.”
What books have you enjoyed most this year?