(Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari / Photodisc via Getty; Design: Tina Tiller)
(Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari / Photodisc via Getty; Design: Tina Tiller)

BooksMay 1, 2022

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

(Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari / Photodisc via Getty; Design: Tina Tiller)
(Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari / Photodisc via Getty; Design: Tina Tiller)

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 Unity’s top-selling kids’ books.


The Noisy Book by Bravi Soledad (Gecko Press, $25, 0-2)

Key point: this very cuboid very cool board book does not in fact produce any noise, aside from the odd indecipherable gurgle from bub, maybe. Could be delight, could be a mangled burp, could be a cutting comment on the graphic design choices, who knows.

2  The Pillars of Civilization: Sapiens, A Graphic History, Volume Two by Yuval Noah Hara with David Vandermeulen and Daniel Casanave (Jonathon Cape, $48, 11+)

The juggernaut that is Sapiens rolls on, now in graphic novel form. Includes a ditty about the beginning of agriculture that doubles as a lament for humankind: “More, more, more, they always wanted moooooore … ”

3  If the World Were 100 People by Jackie McCann and Aaron Cushley (Harper Collins, $23, 6+)

Blurb: “There are almost 8 billion humans living on Earth, but it’s tricky to picture so many people! So instead, let’s imagine the whole planet is a village where 100 people live – each person representing around 80 million people in the real world.”

4  The Lighthouse Princess by Susan Wardell and Rose Northey (Puffin, $20, 3+) 

The picture book that’s renewed our faith in NZ children’s publishing. From our review the other day:

“The Lighthouse Princess is a perfect book. It’s full of cosy nooks and light touches – there are chocolate fish in the sea, friendly penguins that pop inside for a bath – but it’s also hardout feminist, in a matter-of-fact way that sits so much better than all those strident girl power books the shops are flooded with. It begins:

The princess lived in a tower by the sea.

She wasn’t sad, and she wasn’t stuck.”

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

The pitch:

“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.”

6  1 to 20 Animals Aplenty by Katie Viggers (Lawrence King, $25, 3+)

A very good example of the counting genre, this book is full of white space (yay) and faultless rhythm. Three llamas wearing pyjamas, four sharks on their marks, five goats wearing coats, etc.

Crane Guy by Sally Sutton (Picture Puffin, $20, 2-5)

Sally Sutton rulz and I’ll read my kid anything she writes.

8  Finding My Calm by Rebecca Lipp and Craig Phillips (Wildling Books, $20, 3+)

Haven’t seen it but I bet it’s exceptional – ever since Aroha’s Way, Wildling has been absolutely owning the market for picture books that help kids deal with emotions and anxiety.

9  My First Pop-Up Dinosaurs by Owen Davy (Walker Books 4+ $23)

If you’re going to buy a pop-up book this is a very good option. The highlight is the T-Rex mouth that raaahhs and rises off the page.

10  Animal BFFs: Even Animals Have Best Friends! by Sophie Corrigan (Frances Lincoln, $28, 3+)

Via the New York Journal of Books:

“How do crocodiles clean their teeth? Plovers fly into their mouths and eat the stuff trapped between their choppers.

Why do frogs and tarantulas lay their eggs in the same burrow? So that the frog can eat the ants that feed on tarantula eggs. Tarantula could eat the frog but chooses not to, to save her babies from ants.

There are all kinds of amazing animal pairings like these. The ostrich and the zebra, squirrels and song birds, egrets and water buffalo (the book says buffaloes), burrowing owls and rattlesnakes, hermit crabs and sea snails, etc.

Each pair gets four pages of information. Plus, there is comedy.”


The Adventures of Mittens: Wellington’s Famous Purr-sonality by Silvio Bruinsma, illustrated by Phoebe Morris (Penguin, $20, 3+)

Hear that? Definitely a satisfied purr.

2  Counting Creatures by Julia Donaldson and Sharon King-Chai (Two Hoots,$25, 3+)

Julia Donaldson, hallowed be her name, has hooked up with a new illustrator (she’s best known for her books with Axel Scheffler) and the result is spectacular: this picture book has gorgeous latticey cut-out pages and foldy bits and a bat’s wing that swoops up and down. Plus, because it’s JD, the words are bang-on.

3  The Lighthouse Princess by Susan Wardell and Rose Northey (Puffin, $20, 3+) 

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

One of those picture books you can buy for adults too. Especially when they’ve just been broken up with. It’s a book of sketches and wisdoms, via Instagram.

5  On Purpose: Cat Kid Comic Club #3 by Dav Pilkey (Scholastic, $19, 4+)

If your kid’s a Dav fan they’re already nagging you for this one. If they’re not, they will be.

6  Escargot by Dashka Slater and Sydney Hanson (Macmillan, $18, 3+)

A picture book but also a horror story, we begin:

Bonjour! I see you are staring at me!

I don’t mind.

My name is Escargot, and I am such a beautiful French snail that everybody stares at me.

Right now, I am travelling to the salad at the end of this book…

7  Māori Picture Dictionary: Te Papakupu Whakaahua by Margaret Sinclair and Ross Calman (Puffin, $30, all ages)

Puffin’s answer to Kat Quin’s big beautiful 2020 hardback, this one’s a paperback and it covers 1400-ish te reo words, organised in alphabetical order with bright, breezy illustrations.

8  Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy Board Book by Lynley Dodd (Puffin, $16, 0-5)

Reminder: Hairy is not Scottish and neither are these books.

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

All over Netflix, and all over these lists for what feels like forever.

10  One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus (Puffin, $21, 12+)

Five teens walk into detention, only four survive. Netflix, again.

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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