A young girl reads a book in a treehouse built in a flowering cherry tree – clouds of pink blossom around her.
(Photo: Donald Iain Smith / Tetra images via Getty)

BooksOctober 4, 2021

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

A young girl reads a book in a treehouse built in a flowering cherry tree – clouds of pink blossom around her.
(Photo: Donald Iain Smith / Tetra images 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 Unity’s bestseller chart of kids’ books.


1  Atua: Maori Gods & Heroes by Gavin Bishop (Puffin, $40, all ages)

We raved about this beautiful big hardback in our latest Book Report, calling it Bishop’s best book yet, a masterwork.

“My boy grabbed it the moment it arrived and gasped, ‘Is this for kids?’

“It is, but it’s also for adults, and it’ll make them gasp too.”

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

Children love it when you take them seriously and this book really does. Recommended.

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

A resource that’ll grow with your kids – toddlers will endlessly play “find the tūī”, while older ones will use it when they’re stuck on a word – and it’ll look splendid on your bookshelf, too.

4  The Pōrangi Boy by Shilo Kino (Huia, $25, 10+)

Kino won the YA category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults with this debut. We very much hope she has another in the works.

5  Shadow and Bone Box Set by Leigh Bardugo (Hachette, $40, 13+)

A big boost thanks to the Netflix series.

6  Roald Dahl: Revolting things to Touch and Feel by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake (Puffin $21, 1+)

If you have a toddler you’ve touched many more revolting things. Still, this tactile board book is a nice change from the fluffy duck-tummies and shiny dog-noses that dominate the genre.

7  Rescuing Titanic: A Tale of Quiet Bravery in the North Atlantic by Flora Delargy (Wide Eyed Press, $23, 11+)

“This exquisitely illustrated story of quiet bravery tells in rich detail how the little ship Carpathia saved 705 passengers of the Titanic from the icy waters of the North Atlantic” – the publishers.

8  My First Words in Māori Flash Cards by Stacey Morrison (Puffin, $25, 3yrs – adults)

Please picture me holding up flashcards:




9  In Our Own Backyard by Anne Kayes (Bateman, $22, 13+)

A new YA that ties in Covid-19, Black Lives Matter and the Springbok Tour. Selling its socks off.

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

Graphic version of the mega-hit book Sapiens, which somehow was first published a whole decade ago.


1  Adventures of Mittens by Silvio Bruinsma & Phoebe Morris (Penguin, $20, 3+) 

Merry Christmas, all of the children of Wellington. 

2  Atua: Māori Gods & Heroes by Gavin Bishop (Puffin, $40, all ages)

3  Skinny Dip: Poetry edited by Susan Paris & Kate De Goldi (Annual Ink, $30, 10+) 

Warning to Aucklanders: these poems (about school) will make you extremely nostalgic for normality. 

4  The Tiny Woman’s Coat by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Giselle Clarkson (Gecko Press, $25, all ages) 

Enthusiastically recommended by a panel of expert judges – my six-year-old, my two-year-old, and me. The tiny woman has a huge snail friend and there are massive ploppy raindrops and a mushroom repurposed as an umbrella. 

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

Wellington loves these wise little pen-and-ink critters almost as much as it loves Mittens.

6  Te Tuna Wātakirihi Me Ngā Tamariki o Te Tiriti o Toa (Watercress Tuna and the Children of Champion Street) by Patricia Grace, illustrated by Robyn Kahukiwa (Pengun, $20, all ages) 

Twenty bucks has never bought you a better picture book. Get amongst. 

7  Charlie Tangaroa & the Creature from the Sea by TK Roxborogh, illustrated by Phoebe Morris (Huia, $25, 9+) 

Newly-crowned winner of the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year; a very good story about a boy who lives in a tiny coastal town and has a big (supernatural) adventure. 

8  Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (St Martin’s Griffin, $33, 16+) 

Is there a movie of this? There must be one in the works (indeed there is – ed.). Plot: the hot son of the US President falls in love with the hot prince of England, politics and angst and lots of hot pashing ensue. 

9  The Hug Blanket by Chris Gurney, illustrated by Lael Chisholm (Scholastic, $22, all ages) 

An earnest, sweet and rather long picture book about a grandmother who adores her grandchildren, takes them on lovely low-key adventures, and knits special blankets for them. When she dies, the children are disoriented and sad, but the blankets are a huge comfort. 

10  One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (Piatkus, $35, 16+) 

Not as good as Red, White & Royal Blue but still really really good! This one’s about a teenage girl who falls for another girl on the subway. Involves time travel, pancakes and an amazing cast of flatmates.

Keep going!