BooksMarch 10, 2016

Yet another Spinoff literature scoop as we beat everyone else to announce the best children’s books of the year


The 31 best children’s books in New Zealand as selected by Storylines: you read it here first.

The clock has struck 12.01pm, the exact minute that the embargo on the Storylines Children’s Literature Trust annual selection of the best children’s books in New Zealand can be lifted – and here’s your old pals from the Spinoff, at the ready, first with the news.

Storylines is the authority on children’s writing in New Zealand. It’s selected an annual list of the best books of the year since 2000. The list is now regarded by booksellers, school and public librarians, and industry experts as the bible, the holy writ.

The selection panel includes authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians and academics; several have served as judges for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award.

There are 31 titles in the 2016 list, drawn from picture books, chapter books, non-fiction, YAF and things like that.

There’s a mix of cracking yarns, excruciating PC bullshit, only-in-NZ things (a book “by” an All Black), nature studies, and beautiful artwork. The list includes books by veteran authors David Hill and Joy Cowley (ie, old), and three of the most sophisticated and literary junior or young adult fiction authors, Kate de Goldi, Fleur Beale and Anna McKenzie.

The fabulously successful pony-book author Stacy Gregg – right now probably swanning around in Dubai, or London, or Westmere – is represented by her book The Girl Who Rode the Wind.

New authors have also made the list, such as Queenstown writer Jane Bloomfield for her debut novel Lily Max, published by the deeply fashionable Luncheon Sausage Books.

Award certificates will be presented at the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal Presentation and National Awards Day on April 3.

Parents! These are the books you want to be getting for your kids.


Muddle and Mo

Muddle & Mo  written and illustrated by Nikki Slade Robinson (Duck Creek)Roly ANZAC Donkey

Roly the Anzac Donkey by Glyn Harper, illustrated by Jenny Cooper (Penguin Random/Puffin)

Henry Stars

Henry’s Stars written and illustrated by David Elliot, David  (Penguin Random/Random)

Stripes No Spots

Stripes! No, Spots!  written and illustrated by Vasanti Unka (Penguin Random/Puffin)

First to the Top

First to the Top by David Hill, illustrated by Phoebe Morris (Penguin Random/Puffin)

Yak and Gnu

Yak and Gnu by Juliette MacIver, illustrated by Cat Chapman (Walker)

Finding Monkey Moon


Finding Monkey Moon  by Elizabeth Pulford, illustrated by Kate Wilkinson (Walker)

Hush A Kiwi Lullaby

Hush: A Kiwi Lullaby by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Andrew Burdan (Scholastic)

Changing Times cover_300

Changing Times: The Story of a New Zealand Town and its Newspaper, written and illustrated by Bob Kerr (Potton & Burton)


Haka by Patricia Grace, illustrated by Andrew Burdan (Huia)


Lily max

Lily Max – Satin, Scissors, Frock by Jane Bloomfield (Luncheon Sausage Books)


The Girl Who Rode the Wind by Stacy Gregg (HarperCollins)

Bold Ship Phenomenal

The Bold Ship Phenomenal, by Sarah Johnson (Flat Bed)

Ghosts of Tarawera

The Ghosts of Tarawera by Sue Copsey (Sue Copsey)

Pirates and Nightmaker

The Pirates & the Nightmaker by James Norcliffe (Penguin Random/ Longacre)

From Cutting Room Barney Kettle

From the Cutting Room of Barney Kettle by Kate de Goldi (Penguin Random/ Longacre)

Knot Impossible_GeckoPress_hi-res cover

The Knot Impossible (A Tale of Fontana), by Barbara Else, Illustrated by Sam Broad (Gecko)


The Bakehouse by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Joy Cowley (Gecko)

How I Alienated My Grandma hr

How I Alienated my Grandma by Suzanne Main (Scholastic)

Cool Nukes hr

Cool Nukes by Des Hunt (Scholastic)


Evies War

Evie’s War  by Anna Mckenzie (Penguin Random/ Longacre)

Being Magdalene

Being Magdalene  by Fleur Beale (Penguin Random/ Random)

Hucking Cody cover

Hucking Cody by Aaron Topp (Mary Egan)

Heading Dog cvr 300ppi

The Heading Dog Who Split in Half by Michael Brown, illustrated by Mat Tait (Potton & Burton)


Jammin with Steven Adams HR cover

Jammin’ with Steven Adams by David Riley (Reading Warrior)


Exploring Nature’s Pattern Magic  by Dee Pigneguy (Mary Egan)

Samoan Heroes 2

Samoan Heroes by David Riley, illustrated by Michel Mulipola (Reading Warrior)

Beginner Guide to Rugby

Beginner’s Guide to Rugby by Aaron Cruden (Penguin Random/Random)

Beginner Guide to Adventure Sport

Beginner’s Guide to Adventure Sport  by Steve Gurney (Penguin Random/Random)

Whose Beak Is This_cvr 300ppi

Whose Beak is This? by Gillian Candler, illustrated by Fraser Williamson (Potton & Burton)

Waitangi Day Cover Final_CS5.5.indd

Waitangi Day: The New Zealand Story by Philippa Werry (New Holland)

The Spinoff Review of Books is brought to you by Unity Books.

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
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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