The best children’s books of the year
The Muddy pick of the best kids' reads of the year, from toddlers up to teens
Our edit of this year’s best children’s books should give you ample inspiration for small – and bigger – people’s Christmas presents. Bookmark this pronto!
BEST FOR TODDLERS
Maisy’s Christmas Letters by Lucy Cousins
Classic Maisy, in a book filled with letters to read, cards to send, decorations to hang and more! Maisy is throwing a Christmas party and all her friends are invited…the perfect way for toddlers to join in with the season’s excitement.
Flip Flap Frozen by Axel Scheffler
Axel Scheffler’s illustrations are a quintessential feature of childhood – and not just because of The Gruffalo! This is the seventh volume in his series of Flip Flap books, where split pages can create 121 crazy creatures and very funny rhymes. Perfectly pitched for toddlers.
The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland by Carys Bexington & illustrated by Kate Hindley
The classic Christmas poem is re-worked within Alice’s Wonderland, and the reason for the Queen of Hearts’ atrocious behaviour (“Off with his head!”) is revealed – and cured with Christmas kindness. Clever storytelling combined with Kate Hindley’s always wonderful illustrations deliver the perfect seasonal message.
Meerkat Christmas by Emily Gravett
Sunny the meerkat is on a trip around the world, and sending letters and postcards back to his family and friends in the Kalahari – but what could he possibly send them for the perfect Christmas? Lift the flaps, read the letters and then open the big box to find out! Frankly anything Emily Gravett illustrates is gorgeous and this is no exception.
BEST FOR PRIMARY SCHOOLERS
Rabbit & Bear: A Bite in the Night by Julian Gough & illustrated by Jim Field
The perfect double-act, Rabbit and Bear are back in their fourth hilarious adventure, trying to solve the mystery of the trees which are going missing from their forest home. Rabbit tries to work it out with his normal levels of hysteria, whilst Bear is calm – and confused. These two are always great fun! Suitable for Key Stage 1.
Station Jim by Louis de Bernieres & illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark
Louis de Bernieres brings his considerable story-telling skills to children, in this heart-warming story of a mischievous railway dog which unfolds at Christmas. Charmingly illustrated in colour throughout by the ever-wonderful Emma Chichester Clark, it is a glorious little hardback – an absolute gem. Suitable for age 7+.
The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell
A new Katherine Rundell is always eagerly awaited by both staff and customers, she simply cannot write quickly enough! All her books are modern classics, to be savoured. This is a wild, breakneck adventure set in New York city in Rundell’s usual sparkling style. Another winner from this extraordinarily talented Oxford author. Suitable for age 9+.
Heroes: Incredible True Stories of Courageous Animals by David Long & illustrated by Kerry Hyndman
For as long as there have been wars, animals have been out there saving lives. Courageous dogs, cats, birds, horses, and even a bear have shown courage and devotion, and this book tells 33 incredible stories of animal heroics, from the team that produced Blue Peter Award-winning book, Survivors.
BEST FOR TWEENS
The Fowl Twins by Eoin Colfer
A wild ride with all the high-adrenaline action, whip-smart dialogue, and ingenious gadgets you expect from this author. Myles and Beckett Fowl are twins but the two boys are wildly different. Beckett is blonde, messy and sulks whenever he has to wear clothes. Myles is impeccably neat, has an IQ of 170, and 3D prints a fresh suit every day – just like his older brother, Artemis Fowl. The first in a new series for age 10+.
Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
Winner of the Costa Award for her last novel, Hardinge is a unique writer known for the strangeness of her settings. Her latest, a wild place of underwater Gods, focuses on friends Hark and Jelt, scavengers of Godware from the deeps. Peopled with smugglers, fanatics and priests, this is a complex and compelling story of friendship and loyalty. Suitable for ages 12-16.
Poems to Fall in Love With chosen and illustrated by Chris Riddell
In this volume Chris Riddell has selected and illustrated his very favourite classic and modern poems about love in all its guises. This gorgeously illustrated collection is presented in a handsome little hardback, to match his previous anthology, Poems to Live Your Life By.
Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall & illustrated by Grace Easton & Jessica Smith
A Sunday Times bestseller adapted for younger readers, this helps children to understand key ways in which geography affects how the world works. How did the USA become a superpower? Why do people go to war? Why are some countries rich and others poor? These and a host of other difficult questions are confronted in this engaging book. (Adults might learn something too!)
BEST FOR YOUNG ADULTS
The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
The superb Millwood Hargrave’s first book for young aduIts, this is a multi-layered, dark and ultimately feminist retelling of the Brides of Dracula. Twins Kizzy and Lil are ripped from their Romani community by the feared Boyar Valkar and taken as slaves. When Kizzy is taken as tribute for the notorious Dragon, Lil and fellow slave Mira set off to find her, on a journey where they encounter the undead, and unleash powerful desires. A gothic tale of hope, bravery, and sisterhood. Suitable for age 13 +.
Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deirdre Sullivan
A macabre tale set in rural Ireland, this sees twins Madeline and Catlin move to an isolated Irish town, a place where teenage girls have been disappearing for generations. As Catlin falls in love and Madeline unlocks her spooky powers, the sisters realise that Ballyfrann is full of predators. Folky horror, with some graphic scenes. Suitable for age 14 +.
The Toll by Neal Shusterman
The finale of a popular and clever trilogy which started with Scythe, this is set in a world that has conquered death. Think a dystopian fantasy for fans of The Hunger Games. We recommend the whole series. Suitable for age 11+.
The Harm Tree by Rose Edwards
Fantasy world building from this debut author, which has echoes of the Scandinavian Sagas. Torny and Ebba are friends, too young to remember the civil war that tore apart the kingdom. Torny dreams of the glorious warriors of old, while Ebba misses her home, despite the darkness that drove her from it. Old and new religions fight to gain supremacy and the girls are set on different paths, with heart -wrenching consequences. A huge cast of characters including Gods, spirits, shamans and magic workers, this is Game Of Thrones for teens.