Children's Books of the Year 2017
By Katherine Woodfine | 31 December, 2017
Following our 2017 Christmas Special, here's our list of our favourite children's books of 2017!
Melissa: Thornhill by Pam Smy
Ruth: Oi Cat by Kes Gray & Jim Field
Louise: On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna translated by Jill Davis
Piers: The Worm & the Bird by Coralie Bickford-Smith
Katherine: Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers
Ruth: A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond illustrated by Peggy Fortnum (new gift edition)
Melissa: Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure by Alex T Smith
Piers: A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe
Louise and Katherine: The Explorer by Katherine Rundell
Young Adult fiction
Ruth: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Piers: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
Melissa: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
Louise: Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais, translated by the author herself
Katherine: A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge
Melissa and Piers: The Lost Words by Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris
Louise: Little People, Big Dreams: Agatha Christie by Isabel
Sanchez Vegara and Elisa Munso, translated by Raquel Plitt
Ruth: Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
Plus - here are our favourite new discoveries (or rediscoveries!) of 2017:
I often feel it's a shame that in this country we don't read as much American children's literature as we could.
They certainly read a lot of ours. Books I wish I'd read as a child include From The Mixed up Files of Mrs Basil E.Frankweiler and A Wrinkle in Time. Now I add to that list my discovery read this year, Half Magic, the first in a series by Edward Eager. It tells the charming, enchanting tale of a family who find a magic coin on a sidewalk. It grants wishes but only *half* a wish, so you must always wish for twice as much to get what you want. Not only does this lead them into some brilliant, classic and very funny scrapes, it is also a very good rule for life.
This year I finally bit the bullet and spent the three minutes required to understand how to sign up to (and then use) Audible. The whole thing has been a bit of a life-changer and I am now fully evangelical about the magic of audiobooks. The one credit a month has been brilliant for picking up books I just know I won't get round to in print form (Sapiens anyone?) and it has meant I can "read" while cooking or doing my make-up, which to a compulsive multitasker, is very appealing. There are also Daily Deals where you can get audiobooks for a mere ninety-nine pence (Rebecca! The Ruby in the Smoke!) plus it's a new ways of discovering much-loved classics or favourite authors (The Book of Dust audiobook is really something special, read with great flair by Michael Sheen).
However, the biggest discovery of all has been that finally, after a decade of pretending to be an expert in children's literature, I have got round to Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. It will come as a surprise to no one reading this to hear that this book is indeed excellent. The audio version I have is read by Michael Hordern and it has been great for cosying up with at bedtime this cold winter. I'm so glad to have discovered it - though have not quite had my head turned so much that I am willing to agree it is a better book than Winnie-the-Pooh, a claim made in a
national magazine recently. Bunkum!
So this was the year that I finally read Harry Potter, and all I will say is: 3, 7, 4, 6, 5, 1...............2. My other discovery of the year was Crongton Knights by Alex Wheatle: catching a group of kids just on the cusp of adulthood as they embark on a quest that will take them to uncharted territory beyond their estate where monsters lurk, this is an astonishing novel - tender, inventive, bold and snappy. It won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, but it should have won everything else too.
My team has a children's book club on a different, specific theme once a month and we had one on picture books as they'll grow into our readers. The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle was one of those choices and it was universally loved. I have since given it to lots of parents and children as a gift. I love the detail in it and the fact that whatever age you are you spot something new each time you read. I love the clever rhyme and the lovely message.
One of the authors I’ve enjoyed rediscovering this year is Leon Garfield. I remember reading one or two of his books when I was growing up, but recently I stumbled on an old Puffin paperback of John Diamond in a second-hand bookshop, which proved to be a real treat. With shades of Charles Dickens and Joan Aiken, this surreal, funny and exciting adventure follows our naive young hero William through the murky streets and rooftops of 18th-century London, and even into a disreputable tavern where he gets drunk on sherry (something you’d be unlikely to find in a middle grade book published today!) Garfield’s London is a wonderfully sinister and perilous place, full of urchins on the ‘snick-and-lurk’ and mysterious gentlemen who may be either friends or foes. Next up I plan to revisit Smith - his classic tale of a pickpocket who witnesses a murder.