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A cushion fort set up in a dark room, with fairy lights, two little boys reading books inside.
(Photo: nazar_ab via Getty)

BooksMay 1, 2021

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

A cushion fort set up in a dark room, with fairy lights, two little boys reading books inside.
(Photo: nazar_ab 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  Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Spooky Stories by Jeff Kinney (Puffin, $187-10)

New from the Wimpy Kid guy.

2  Dog Man #10 Mothering Heights by Dav Pilkey (Graphix, $18, 7+)

There’s this whole sub-genre of junior fiction which is just chaotic: stupendously silly, stuffed full of puns and pranks and tangents. You get to the end of one and think there couldn’t possibly be more but hello, there’s a whole massive series, and suddenly your kid is hooked for the next two years and you’re just sitting there, bewildered.

See the 13-Storey Treehouse series, the (godawful) Geronimo Stilton books and, of course, Dog Man.

3  Sapiens: A Graphic History, Volume 1, The Birth of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari and David Vandermeulen, and Daniel Casanave (Jonathon Cape, $48, 11+)

“Here, a cartoon version of the professor takes other characters (and readers) on something of a madcap thrill ride through the history of human evolution, with a timeline that begins almost 14 billion years ago and extends into the future, when humanity becomes the defendant in ‘Ecosystem vs. Homo Sapiens,’ a trial presided over by ‘Judge Gaia.'” – Kirkus Reviews

4  Locked Down by Jessica Le Bas and Toby Morris (Puffin, $19, 8-12)

A 2011 novel written in the wake of the H1N1 pandemic. This new edition is illustrated by the marvel that is Toby Morris.

Via Penguin: “The deadly influenza pandemic XB276 is sweeping the country. Twelve-year-old Zac wakes up one morning to the news that everyone must stay home … As Zac faces each new challenge living under lockdown, he discovers resources he never knew he had – and mysteries begging to be solved.”

5  Lizard’s Tale by Weng Wai Chan (Text Publishing $21, 9-13)

An adventure story set in Singapore; winner of the junior fiction category at last year’s children’s book awards; dare you to visit Little Unity without buying a copy.

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

Brilliant, clever, silly – we’re extremely delighted to hear there are more in the works.

7  Anatomy: A Cutaway Look Inside the Human Body by Hélène Druvert & Jean-Claude Druvert (Thames & Hudson, $45, 7+)

A big book full of vivid colours and lacy, delicate, laser-cut maps of the human body, eg of the circulatory system, the nervous system, the digestive system. Don’t let the little kids anywhere near it.

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

Even if the other Kuwi books are really not your bag, do give this one a chance. It’s huge and crammed with critters, and everyday everywhere sorts of things like toothbrushes and gumboots.

9  The Bomb by Sacha Cotter & Josh Morgan (Huia, $23, 5+)

Winner of the Margaret Mahy Award the year before last.

10 My First Pop-Up Dinosaurs by Owen Davey (Walker Books, $23, 3-6)

We can’t stop watching the elasmosaur unfurl her lovely neck.


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

From a 2019 Guardian piece:

“When he sat down to draw a boy talking to a horse, the illustrator Charlie Mackesy was working out his own feelings. But his drawing of a horse confessing the bravest thing he’s ever said was ‘Help’ became an online sensation. The book that image inspired is now topping charts on both sides of the Atlantic, with Mackesy’s publisher printing hundreds of thousands of copies to meet demand … ‘We initially costed the book on 10,000 copies,’ said Ebury managing director, Joel Rickett. ‘Two weeks after publication we have 200,000 copies in print and we’re scrambling to find the capacity to print another 100,000.'”

2  Dog Man #10 Mothering Heights by Dav Pilkey (Graphix, $18, 7+)

3  Aroha’s Way by Craig Phillips (Tikitibu, $20, 3+)

The first in a wave of picture books about big feelings. Recommended.

4  They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (Simon & Schuster, $21, 14+)

“Very little actually happens that we don’t know about before starting the book” – Emily May, on Goodreads

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

From the author of Shadow and Bone.

6  Wings of Fire #14 Dangerous Gift by Tui Sutherland (Scholastic, $20, 8+)

From the author’s website:

“Tui? What kind of name is that? Is it short for something?

“Nope. Among the many great things to come out of New Zealand (such as, for instance, my mom) is a bird called the tūī – not as well known as the kiwi, but a heck of a lot noisier!”

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

From the profile we published just after Gong hit the New York Times bestseller list:

“Chloe Gong wrote These Violent Delights in her childhood home in Auckland in May 2018. As in: that month she started writing it, and also finished. She was 19. Seven months later she landed a ‘very nice deal’ with Simon & Schuster – while she can’t reveal the exact figure, not even to old friends like me, the two-book contract is worth somewhere between US$50,000 and $99,000.”

8  The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Walker, $20, 13+)

Frank Cottrell Boyce, writing for The Guardian in 2008:

“This book is on the longlist for the 2008 Guardian children’s fiction prize, along with my own. If I had any sense, I would try to improve my chances of winning by slagging it off. The trouble is, you’d only have to read the first sentence to see how fantastic it promises to be: ‘The first thing you find out when your dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.’

It’s hard to review The Knife of Never Letting Go without spoiling the story. It’s so cunningly written that I was 100 pages in before I even realised what genre it was. I will say this, though: it lives up to the thrill of that first sentence.”

9  The Runaway Girls by Jacqueline Wilson, illustrated by Nick Sharratt (Doubleday, $30, 8+)

Via Penguin: “Lucy Locket lives with her father, the New Mother and the New Baby. They sent away her beloved Nurse and replaced her with a horrid governess. Lucy desperately wants someone to be kind to her, and to have some fun – there’s very little of that in her house.”

10 Diary of a Wimpy Kid #15 Deep End by Jeff Kinney (Puffin, $18, 6+)

We end as we began, with the Wimpy Kid guy.

Keep going!