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 bestseller chart of kids’ books.
1 The Noisy Board Book by Soledad Bravi (Gecko, $25, 0-3)
Board book, a big chunky cool one. Crucially, it’s about noise, it does not make noise.
2 Atua: Māori Gods & Heroes by Gavin Bishop (Puffin, $40, all ages)
Bishop’s best ever. (Big call.)
3 Skunk & Badger by Amy Timberlake & Jon Klassen (Allen & Unwin, $26, 4+)
Anything that has Klassen’s name on it is solid gold top tier etc etc, but this series also has the endorsement of Hera Lindsay Bird, so.
4 Big Ideas for Curious Minds: An Introduction to Philosophy by Alain de Botton and Anna Doherty (Affirm Press, $40, 8+)
Good for teaching your child how to argue better. On the other hand, also good for demonstrating that you take them seriously.
5 The Explorer by Katherine Rundell (Bloomsbury, $19, 8-12)
“Fred, Con, Lila, and Max are on their way back to England from Manaus when the plane they’re on crashes and the pilot dies upon landing. For days they survive alone, until Fred finds a map that leads them to a ruined city, and to a secret.”
6 Peekaboo Moon by Camilla Reid, illustrated by Ingela P Arrhenius (Nosy Crow, $17, 0-2)
Spoiler: there’s a mirror at the end.
7 At This Very Moment by Matthew Hodson (Cicada Books, $35, 2-4)
Adorable board book, won’t annoy you with dumb rhymes or cloying sentiment. Sample text:
At this very moment
There’s a mouse
There’s a small mouse waking up in the early morning sun.
And at this very moment
There’s a whale
There’s a huge whale singing whale song deep beneath the sea.
8 Inside the Suitcase by Clothilde Perrin (Gecko Press, $33, 3-6)
A lift-the-flaps book – but much more storied and grown-up than you’re thinking.
“Footloose readers will come away understanding that packing is not an exact science, and it’s always wise to leave a little room in the suitcase … a surreal or, perhaps, metaphorical journey, rich in surprises” – Kirkus Reviews.
9 The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate Dicamillo, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Harper Collins, $28, 8-12)
From the author of The Tale of Desperaux, “a fantastical meditation on fate, love, and the power of words to spell the world.”
10 Listified! Britannica’s 300 Lists That Will Blow Your Mind by Andrew Pettie (Walker Books, $48, 8-12)
Eg Ten of the brainiest breeds of dog. The James Webb space telescope in numbers. Ten animals that seem to have super powers.
1 The Adventures of Mittens: Wellington’s Famous Purr-sonality by Silvio Bruinsma, illustrated by Phoebe Morris (Penguin, $20, 3+)
Mittens is cool and great and so are the illustrations, but picture books are bloody difficult to write, as Eirlys Hunter pointed out the other week:
Their few words should read like poetry, paying attention to rhythm, assonance, sibilance and all the other language techniques. There must be a story, a reason for turning to the next page. But not a word too many, and each one should roll around the tongue and be a pleasure to say: “The-night-Max-wore-his-wolf-suit and-made-mis-chief-of-one-kind and-an-other, his-mo-ther-called-him-wild-thing …”
This book is nearly there – Bruinsma, one of Mittens’ owners (or “guardians” as the book says) makes a better fist of it than some professional writers. But I itched for a red pen. Sometimes deleting a few words would’ve made all the difference: “On Thursday, Mittens rode the lift to the top of an office block. He nabbed a spot to rest on the boss’s desk, then quit at five o’clock.” Try it as is, then try it without “to rest”. Elsewhere it feels like words are used as filler: “He hailed a car to a salsa bar … but then it was time to go.”
But I’m being picky. Like an infuriatingly picky cat. It’s Mittens. Have at it.
2 Starfish the Star by Elaine Bickell, illustrated by Daron Parton (Scholastic, $20, all ages)
From an interview over at Booklovers: “My youngest child Greta has just turned seven and, even though of course she has no social media accounts, she knows all about them! I also regularly find her selfies on my cell phone, she’s got the pout and the camera angles and I always wonder how she knows this stuff but I think she is just absorbing the world around her along with the help of her two older brothers. I wanted to write a book that was suitable for young children that speaks to the ‘look at me’ nature of our modern era fuelled by social media. What better character than a starfish in an aquarium? By its very nature the creatures in the aquarium are on display and are there to be looked at!”
3 Uprising: The Mapmakers in Cruxcia by Eirlys Hunter, illustrated by Kirsten Slade (Gecko Press, $23, 8+)
Hunter taught children’s writing at the IIML for 12 years and is best known for her 2018 bestseller The Mapmakers’ Race. It’s an exceptionally warm, intelligent adventure story about a bunch of brothers and sisters who enter a race to negotiate and map a remote mountain pass. They spend a month in the mountains, fending for themselves and having (often) a jolly good time. But the frights and anxieties feel real.
Uprising is the just-as-good sequel. Now the goal is to find their father, and free him.
4 Spark Hunter by Sonya Wilson (The Cuba Press, $25, 8+)
A capable, clever girl finds fairies and adventure in the forests of Fiordland.
The writing is exceptional, the story’s a ripper, there’s a wise, green soul to it – honestly, we’re reminded of Jack Lasenby.
Here’s Wilson writing for us about Fiordland and her book, and how she’s a giant nerd.
5 The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charles Macksey (Ebury Press, $40, all ages)
If you boiled the Wellington top 10 lists down to their essences, their clingiest of stubborn hangers-on, the adults’ list would reduce down to Imagining Decolonisation, and the kids’ to this book of Insta-born sketches and wisdoms.
6 Atua: Māori Gods & Heroes by Gavin Bishop (Puffin, $40, all ages)
7 Draw Some Awesome by Donovan Bixley (Upstart, $30, all ages)
Big fan of Bixley – this book of drawing tips and ideas is at once sympathetic to kids who feel like they suck, and ambitious for those already confident.
8 A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson (Hardie Grant, $23, 14+)
A selection of reviews via Goodreads:
“this story is giving off such strong ‘Serial’ vibes that I can only imagine how amazing listening to the audiobook version would have been” – Jessica
“Still shaky, blubbering … nail-less, confused, dizzy but also smiling and happy!” – Nilufer
“an insanely addictive ya mystery book and a real page-turner and I don’t regret choosing to read this book to ignoring some of my homeworks instead” – Charmel
9 Big Shot #16 Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (Puffin, $18, 6+)
I’ve heard that athletes are born with special genes that make them good at sports. Well, whatever those genes are, I guess I was born WITHOUT them.
10 Little Yellow Digger & the Big Ship by Peter Gilderdale (Scholastic, $20, all ages)
Via RNZ: “The grounding of the massive container ship Ever Given in the Suez canal back in March drew comparisons to the rescues of The Little Yellow Digger in the popular children’s stories by Betty and Alan Gilderdale.
Peter Gilderdale – their son – thought so too, and he quickly got to work on The Little Yellow Digger and The Big Ship.”