(Photo: Nadezhda1906 via Getty)
(Photo: Nadezhda1906 via Getty)

BooksFebruary 1, 2021

The Unity Books children’s bestseller chart for the month of January 2021

(Photo: Nadezhda1906 via Getty)
(Photo: Nadezhda1906 via Getty)

What’s the best way to get adults reading? Get them reading when they’re children – and there’s no better place to start than the Unity Children’s Bestseller Chart.


1  The Noisy Board Book by Soledad Bravi (Gecko, $25, 0-3)

Very good option for a baby shower gift. Pleasingly cuboid. Does not make actual noise.

2  All the Ways to be Smart by Davina Bell & Allison Colpoys (Scribe, $30, 3-6)

This one’s a picture book. We also highly recommend Bell’s recent YA, The End of the World is Bigger than Love: it’s the weirdest thing we’ve read in ages, about teenaged sisters who live alone on an island, and about perception and the psyche and our incredible capacity to cope.

3  The Deep End: Diary of a Wimpy Kid #15 by Jeff Kinney (Puffin, $18, 6-9)

People have Opinions about the Wimpy Kid books but honestly they’re high literature compared to the junior section of your local library. I mean, right now our six-year-old is obsessed with a series about highly gendered mice having highly gendered adventures. Heavy on the cheese puns.

4  Birds of New Zealand | Ngā Manu o Aotearoa Collective Nouns by Melissa Boardman (HarperCollins, $30, 6+)

Very charming and aesthetically pleasing but every kid I’ve read it to is deeply uninterested.

5  Mophead Tu: The Queen’s Poem by Selina Tusitala Marsh (Auckland University Press, $25, 5+)

A sequel to Mophead, which was declared “perfect” by the judges of the Margaret Mahy book of the year award.

6  These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (Hachette, $25, YA)

A masterful retelling of Romeo and Juliet, set in Shanghai, with a monster and a plague.

Gong grew up on the North Shore. Some astonishing metrics: she wrote this novel in one month when she was 19 (she’s 21 now). It hit number three on the NYT bestseller chart in the week of release.

Please see our profile of Gong for more.

7  Big Ideas for Curious Minds: An Introduction to Philosophy by Alain de Botton and Anna Doherty (Affirm Press, $40, 8+)

Consider this note from the publishers a chiding, my fellow useless parents:

“Children are, in many ways, born philosophers. Without prompting, they ask some of the largest questions: about time, mortality, happiness and the meaning of it all.

“Yet sadly, too often, this inborn curiosity is not developed and, as they grow up, the questions fall away.”

8  Lizard’s Tale by Weng Wai Chan (Text Publishing, $21, 8-12)

Adventures in Singapore; winner of last year’s prize for junior fiction.

9  What We’ll Build by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins, $30, 4+)

There are loads of picture books out at the moment about Covid and climate change and how to reassure your kids. Lots of them are twee and saccharine or just badly written. This one is actually really good, largely because it comes at the big scary topics sideways.

10 101 Collective Nouns by Jennifer Cossins (Lothian Press, $20, 3+)

What is the collective noun for a load of collective nouns?


1  The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charles Macksey (Ebury Press, $40, all ages)

Sweet sketches and wisdoms.

2  These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (Hachette, $25, YA)

3  The Wanderer by Peter Van Den Ende (Pushkin Press, $33, all ages)

From the New York Times:

“Our hero meets many colorful characters and experiences great trials and setbacks, as well as violence and despair. At the end, our hero – battered and exhausted – is transformed. But the hero of The Wanderer is a paper boat, and there is almost no language at all.

“Instead, we have 96 pages of black-and-white pen-and-ink drawings. The technical aspect of the work is mind-boggling, especially the masterly crosshatching. Staring at the images, I couldn’t stop imagining Van den Ende, pen in hand, drawing each line, one after the other, creating work that seems to defy the passage of time, and all known resources of patience and imagination.”

4  Charlie Tangaroa & The Creature From the Sea by T K Roxborogh (Huia Publishers, $25, 9+)

Roxborogh is an English teacher and prolific author; she gave this remarkable interview to RNZ a few months back.

5  The Pōrangi Boy by Shilo Kino (Huia Publishers, $25, 9+)

Kino is a journalist and this is her first novel. It’s a blinder. Funny and warm-hearted but with a steel to it; the story follows a boy and a revolution. Expect to see The Pōrangi Boy picked as a finalist in the children’s book awards come June.

6  Lore by Alexandra Bracken (Quercus, $25, 13+)

Gorgeous cover. “Greek mythology meets the Hunger Games,” said Robin, on Goodreads.

7  Kuwi & Friends Māori Picture Dictionary by Kat Merewether & Pania Papa (Illustrated Publishing, $35, 4+)

Lucky it’s a hardcover because this book will last years and years and get absolutely thrashed.

8  Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Hodder, $20, 13+)

“I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes the idea of an intriguing fantasy world, a dazzling heist and protagonists that are resplendent in their individuality and characterisation.” – Nava4, reviewing for The Guardian.

9  Grown by Tiffany D Jackson (HarperCollins, $23, 16+)

Flame emoji flame emoji flame emoji: this is a novel about a teenager (based on Ariel, yes the Little Mermaid) and a predatory rock star (based on R. Kelly).

From Teen Vogue: “Jackson says that while Grown is inspired by R. Kelly’s case, it is really about other things – the abuse of power and a persistent, negligent, and abiding rape culture that has created ‘the pattern of excusing men for their behavior while faulting young girls for theirs.'”

10 Skunk & Badger by Amy Timberlake & Jon Klassen (Allen & Unwin, $26, 4+)

Hera Lindsay Bird frickin’ adores it and that’s good enough for us.

The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books, recently named 2020 International Book Store of the Year, London Book Fair, and Creative New Zealand. Visit Unity Books Wellington or Unity Books Auckland online stores today. 

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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