(Photo: Donald Iain Smith / Tetra images via Getty)
(Photo: Donald Iain Smith / Tetra images via Getty)

BooksOctober 4, 2021

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

(Photo: Donald Iain Smith / Tetra images via Getty)
(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.

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

Get The Spinoff
in your inbox