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Cross-legged boy reads a book with a stack of books beside him.
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BooksApril 6, 2021

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

Cross-legged boy reads a book with a stack of books beside him.
(Photo: Esther Moreno Martinez / EyeEm 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  Birds of New Zealand | Ngā Manu o Aotearoa Collective Nouns by Melissa Boardman (HarperCollins, $30, 6+)

In picture books right now the only thing more marketable than one native bird is lots of native birds.

2  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+)

From the Guardian:

“Sapiens has already reached tens of millions of readers across nearly 50 languages. Now, in addition to the illustrated version, which will unfold over four volumes, Harari – who last year founded a social-impact company called Sapienship with his husband and agent-manager Itzik Yahav – is planning a history of the world for younger children; there is also talk of a TV adaptation of Sapiens and a touring exhibit. What is it about the book’s message that he feels is so urgent to get to an even wider audience?

‘I think it answers a crucial need,’ he says. ‘Because we live in a global world, you need a big-picture understanding of history now to really understand your own life. Most educational systems basically just teach you the history of your country, your religion, your culture. I went through 12 years in Israeli schools and never heard a thing about the history of China, or about anything prior to Judaism. I don’t think I had a single lesson about the agricultural revolution. So people need this big picture, and Sapiens provides it in a way which we tried very hard to make accessible and interesting and fun.'”

3  The Noisy Board Book by Soledad Bravi (Gecko Press, $25, 0-3)

As emphatically stated in previous lists: the perfect baby shower gift.

4  All the Ways to be Smart by Davina Bell & Allison Colpoys (Scribe, $30, 3-6)

If there’s an older child in your life we highly highly recommend Davina Bell’s new-ish YA, The End of the World is Bigger than Love. Weird, wonderful, singular.

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

“The first time Badger saw Skunk he thought, puny, and shut the front door. Badger didn’t normally shut the door on animals that knocked. But there was too much slick in this one’s stripe, too much puff in his tail. Also, there’d been that grin, and the way he’d stuck out his paw as if he had been looking forward to meeting Badger for a long, long time.”

If only all picture books were written like this.

6  Māui and Other Legends by Peter Gossage (Penguin NZ, $40, 3+)

Classic, staple, etc.

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

The only thing more marketable than lots of native birds is lots of native birds plus baby seals, teaching te reo.

8  Mothering Heights by Dav Pilkey (Graphix, $18, 7+)

The 10th in Pilkey’s widely-adored Dog Man series.

9  Lore by Alexandra Bracken (Quercus, $25, 13+)

Zeus is playing a game. In New York, every seven years, the most savage mortals have a chance to become gods, and unlucky gods are rudely reduced to mortals. Opening lines:

“He woke to the feeling of rough ground beneath him and the stench of mortal blood.

His body was slower to recover than his mind. Unwelcome sensations burned through him as his skin tightened like newly fired clay … A humiliating shiver passed through him, sweeping from scalp to heel. For the first time in seven years, he caught a chill.”

10 Sleepy Kiwi by Kat Merewether (Tikitibu NZ, $20, 0-1)

A board book of black and white illustrations designed to enthrall very little babies; another resoundingly great baby shower option.


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

“Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction – if they don’t kill each other first” – author’s website. Book one of a duology.

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

3  Mothering Heights by Dav Pilkey (Graphix, $18, 7+)

4  Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare (Walker, $30, 14+)

“In true Shadowhunter style, Chain of Iron is an addictive story filled with steamy romantic tension, epic battles against demonic forces, and bonds of friendship that can warm even the coldest of hearts” – a review on The Nerd Daily

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

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

“In 2020 and beyond, the [young adult] industry without a doubt found a marketing tool in the ‘underrepresented-voices fantasy’ formula. Given the volatility of the category, I worry this will see marginalised creators pushed out of the market when it is deemed ‘saturated’ and publishing latches onto something new, like what happened to paranormal romance” – Gong, last month, in a guest post on The Spinoff.

7  Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Halls & David Litchfield (Walker, $30, 3+)

A picture book about optimism. Kirkus Reviews said: “Some readers seeking solace amid similar hardships may find the fairy tale-esque framing frustratingly simplistic; others will be comforted by the rhythmic rhymes and dreamlike illustrations. The child has light-brown skin and straight, black hair.”

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

“The first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy … a thrilling, frightening and heart-wrenching dystopian novel. The story is told through the perspective of an illiterate 12-year-old boy, Todd Hewitt, who lives in Prentisstown. Todd is the youngest boy in the town of only men, and everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant overwhelming ‘Noise’.” – a review on NZ Booklovers

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

A very popular book geared at helping kids calm their own anxiety.

10 The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe (Hachette, $20, 13+)

Massively buzzed thriller about a queer teen con artist called Nora. About to hit Netflix as a film starring Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown.

Keep going!