Kids running enjoying summer

BooksDecember 11, 2015

Week-Long New Zealand Kids Book Special: Xmas Shopping Guide to the Best Kids Books of 2015

Kids running enjoying summer

Sarah Forster chooses the year’s best books for kids.



Yak and Gnu by Juliette MacIver and Sarah Davis

Juliette MacIver and her flawless rhyming verse have become one of the perennials of the NZ book world.  Her latest picture book is her twelfth in five years, and is illustrated by the equally flawless Sarah Davis. (ages 2-6)

Haka by Patricia Grace and Andrew Burdan

Grace and Burdan are the A team for children’s picture books in this style. The story is superb, and some of the full-page illustrations are so true to life its staggering. I’d go to an exhibition of this work in a gallery. (ages 3+)

Zoo Train by Sally Sutton and Daron Parton

A great chugga-choo on the miniature train through the zoo, with monkeys upsetting the day for our hero. Well worth investing in for that train-lover in your family. (ages 3-6)

Little Bo Peep and More by Donovan Bixley

Bixley is New Zealand’s king of expressive illustration. His sheep in Little Bo Peep and More are hilarious, and his illustrations of kid’s classics Wheels on the Bus and Old MacDonald’s Farm are brilliantly original. (ages 0-5)

Rustle Up a Rhythm by Rosaline Malam and Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson

Rustle Up a Rhythm celebrates every day activities in perfect rhyme that dances all over the page.  I recommend this for any child who likes to slow down and observe the world around them; for any child who likes the magic of music; and for any child who likes to play with words. (3 – 6 years)

First to the Top: Sir Edmund Hillary’s Amazing Everest adventure by David Hill and Phoebe Morris

An  inspiring re-telling of the Edmund Hillary story. David Hill is in top form, warming to his new role as picture-book author, and new illustrator Phoebe Morris’ work captures the grandeur of the Himalayas beautifully. (4 – 9 years)



Dragon Knight by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley

The Dragon Knight series began early in 2015, and it is already four books strong. These books are full of silly laughs for lovers of Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, with a bit of Horrible Histories.

Cool Nukes by Des Hunt

Hunt specialises in action-packed, environmentally-conscious writing, and this is no exception. Introducing us to the concept of cold fusion, his teenage maths heroes go on to solve one of science’s biggest conundrums.

Bloodtree Chronicles by Elizabeth Pulford

Pulford takes her readers into another land with her latest offering for junior readers. The series begins with Sanspell, and is perfect for the magic-loving kids in your life.

The Girl Who Rode the Wind by Stacy Gregg

This is the third in the based-on-a-true-story books that Gregg has produced for this age group in the past few years. The Girl Who Rode The Wind tells the history of the world’s most dangerous and famous horse race, the Palio de Siena. My 9-year-old reviewer raved about it.

The Knot Impossible by Barbara Else

Barbara Else pulls together all of our favourite characters for a final fantastic adventure in her fourth and final book set in Fontania. Our hero, Rufkin is a failed actor, left by his famous family to be cared for by an elderly couple in a salvage yard. He’s not there long, before a cry for help catapults he and his neighbour into a grand adventure on the high seas.



Timeline by Peter Goes

This is a book that fills a very important niche: history for lively, curious minds. Get this if you have a curious kid, or if you are a curious adult, or whether you have studied history, have a passing interest, or just love big luxurious books. Just get it.

Changing Times by Bob Kerr

Check out my feature earlier in the week.

In the Bush by Ned Barraud and Gillian Candler

A delightful fact-filled story about the bush, helping children to recognise common flora and fauna found in New Zealand’s unique bush.



From the Cutting Room of Barney Kettle by Kate De Goldi

Heroes Ren and Barney are making a documentary about their unique part of Christchurch, when they start finding mysterious zines.  Kate De Goldi is a spectacular wordsmith, and her characters are so alive on the page that to read their story is to experience it.  Phenomenally good.

Lullaby by Bernard Beckett

Would you say yes or no to a new brain for yourself? How about if it was for the person you love more than anybody else in the world? Think about it. Short, sharp, and cleverly told, this is another fantastic book by the always brilliant Beckett.

Havoc by Jane Higgins

A well-plotted, and extremely tightly written post-catastrophe story, perfect for anybody who loves writing by the likes of Patrick Ness. Don’t forget to read The Bridge beforehand, as this is the second in a series.

Being Magdalene by Fleur Beale

Once again Beale enter the mind of a child who is a member of the fundamentalist sect The Children of the Faith. I urge you to read this brilliant book about how the human spirit can triumph against adversary, and how people can heal themselves better than they realise. A universal tale, told with clarity and grace.

Almost certainly all of these titles, and stacks more great kids books, are available at Unity Books in High St, Auckland, and Willis St, Wellington.

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

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