The top 10 best-sellers of the year at the Little Unity bookstore for kids in High St, Auckland.
1 Maui & Other Legends by Peter Gossage (Penguin Random House, $40)
6+. “Peter Gossage was a true household name in New Zealand, because almost every family read and loved his picture books,” Paula Morris wrote at The Spinoff, in 2016, to mark his death at the age of 69. “He wrote and illustrated more than 20 titles, endering Māori myth vivid and dynamic.” Maui is a kind of greatest hits, and will remain a New Zealand classic for all times.
2 Aotearoa: The New Zealand story by Gavin Bishop (Penguin, $40)
7+. A new classic, possibly; Bishop, our most awarded kids illustrator of the modern age, went all-out to tell the story of New Zealand’s history from prehistoric times through to Māori arrival, colonialism, and beyond. “Everyone should read Gavin Bishop’s Aotearoa with their kids,” as Donovan Bixley wrote in the essential site of kids literature, The Sapling. “It’ll send them leaping off on their own voyages of discovery.”
3 Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo (Particular Books, $40)
4+. The book that kicked off a global movement of gathering gorgeously illustrated profiles of remarkable women; it was a monster hit of 2017, and just keeps selling.
4 Go Girl: A Storybook of Epic New Zealand Women by Barbara Else (Puffin, $45)
4+. Excellent New Zealand version of the Goodnight Stories franchise, with illustrated profiles of Dame Whina Cooper, Janet Frame, Xena, Kate Sheppard, Lorde, Te Puea Herangi and others.
5 Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different by Ben Brooks (Hachette, $40)
4+. A fairly tepid but functional version of the Goodnight Stories franchise, this time aimed at boys, with illustrated profiles of Taika Waititi, Harry Potter, Nelson Mandela, Lionel Messi, Galileo!, Galileo!, Galileo!, Scaramouche, Bismillah and others.
6 Badjelly the Witch by Spike Milligan (Puffin, $20)
3+. “Spike was incredibly disciplined,” Milligan’s daughter Jane told the Guardian in an interview in 2010. “He would get up early, swim in the pool and have a cup of tea and a slice of toast, and then work all day in his bedroom. This was his bunker. The walls were lined with books on all his favourite topics – war, archaeology, jazz – and on the shelves on one side were every gift or drawing his children had ever made. In the afternoon, he’d take a short break, have another piece of toast and a cup of tea, and then we would all watch terrible TV in the evening and he would provide a hilarious running commentary. Bedtime involved lots of storytelling. He painted a wall in blackboard paint, and covered it in chalk-drawn stories and drew figures.” One of her favourites, in 1973, was about a witch called Badjelly.
7 Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins, $30)
3+. Each beautifully illustrated spread highlights aspects of life on Earth – the solar system, people and animals, the way time can seem to move slowly or quickly – with a core of kindness. Glorious.
8 Top Secret Undercover Notes of Buttons McGinty by Rhys Darby (Scholastic, $18)
7+. Name recognition got Darby in the door and a good boisterous story, told through our hero’s notebook jottings, does the rest. Fun, with more fun on the horizon: it’s the first in an intended series.
9 I Am Jellyfish by Ruth Paul (Puffin, $20)
3+. Utterly charming bedtime story in pictures and verse.
Chased to the depths of the bottomless blue
What does a tiny Jellyfish do?
10 The Ice Monster by David Walliams (HarperCollins, $25)
8+. Walliams, ugh. Dahl-lite, he cranks them out, they’re all POOH and YUCK and WHEE, but they do the business, they get the kids laughing, they work. The Ice Monster is a guaranteed Xmas hit.
All titles are available at our wonderful and life-giving sponsor Unity Books.
The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books.