(Photo: doble-d via Getty)
(Photo: doble-d via Getty)

BooksOctober 30, 2020

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

(Photo: doble-d via Getty)
(Photo: doble-d 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  Neands by Dan Salmon (OneTree House, $24, 12+)

A note on the font: we found it almost impossible to read. Those who’ve persevered seem to be glad they did. This from Sarah Forster over at The Sapling:

“Neands are something like neanderthals, but with modern sensibilities. The humans that turn are still able to go about their everyday lives doing the jobs they were doing before, going to school and church, but they are smelly and hairy, they love fighting and sports, bullying and violence excites them, they are gullibly convinced by religion, and they love picking on humans. Think hard-right Trump followers, with more muscles but just as much religious fervour for conformity …

This book is perfectly pitched to its audience, the climate change generation. I can imagine it garnering Ted Dawe-like levels of hate from certain right-wing groups, due to its placement of (most) religion as base and self-serving, and I really enjoyed it.”

2  I Am the Universe by Vasanti Unka (Penguin, $25, all ages)

The toddler set upon our copy and, chances are, delightedly “posted” it – hopefully not through the gaps in the deck. From what I recall it was fricking gorgeous (of course it was – Unka is the genius behind The Boring Book and Who Stole the Rainbow?) and I want it back.

3  Deadhead by Glenn Wood (OneTree House, $30, 12+)

Zombies; a chapter book with a double page of comic panels dropped in every few chapters. Reviewer Trevor Agnew said: “Deadhead is not for the faint-hearted but offers lively dark humour and stylish writing. It is ideal for someone with a 14-year-old sense of humour.”

4  Kuwi & Friends Māori Picture Dictionary by Kat Quin & Pania Papa (Illustrated Publishing, $35, all ages)

Beautiful and extraordinarily big: in our house it keeps getting used to prop up marble tracks.

5  Hollowpox: The Hunt For Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (Hachette, $20, 8+)

” … a strange illness has taken hold of Nevermoor, turning its peaceable Wunimals into mindless, vicious unnimals on the hunt. As victims of the Hollowpox multiply, panic spreads. And with the city she loves in a state of fear, Morrigan quickly realises it is up to her to find a cure … ” – the publisher

6  The Great Realisation by Tomos Roberts (HarperCollins, $25, 5+)

Not into it. A dad in the future tells his kid about how in 2020 a virus kept us all home and we sang and danced through lockdown and snapped the world out of its capitalist death spiral. Which, charming, but also profoundly untrue on very many levels, so now it just scans as weird and sad. Also the writing is trippy-overy. Grumble, grumble.

Roberts is a New Zealand-born poet who lives in the UK and is known as Tom Foolery. This book got shedloads of press because it started life as an extremely viral video.

7  Numbers, Colours, Opposites, Shapes and Me! by Ingela P. Arrhenius (Walker, $30, 2+)


7  Mihi by Gavin Bishop (Gecko Press, $18, 3+)

A board book that’s bound to become a staple.

9  The Inkberg Enigma by Jonathan King (Gecko, $30, 6+) 

King is running a workshop at Wellington’s Verb Festival next week, “for anyone wanting to create intrigue, tension and excitement to keep readers glued to the page (or screen!)”

10 The End of the World is Bigger than Love by Davina Bell (Text Publishing, $24, 13+)

“A young adult version of Station Eleven” – Books+Publishing


1  Hollowpox: The Hunt For Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (Hachette, $20, 8+)

2  Dog Man #9: Grime & Punishment by Dav Pilkey (Graphix/Scholastic, $19, 6-9)

From the creator of Captain Underpants.

3  No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference by Greta Thunberg (Penguin, $10, 8+)

Let’s hope so.

4  The Great Realisation by Tomos Roberts (HarperCollins, $25, 5+)

5  Egg & Spoon: An Illustrated Cookbook by Alexandra Tylee & Giselle Clarkson (Gecko Press, $40) 8+ years

Very very very very very very good. Recipes and tips that work for kids as well as parents, plus it’s gorgeous. We’ve made the breakfast popsicles, the apple chips, and the roast chook, and have designs on everything else. Why can’t all books for children be so carefully, joyfully put together?

6  Mophead by Selina Tusitala Marsh (Auckland University Press $25, 5+)

Oodles of care and joy went into this one. Judges described Mophead as “perfect” when naming it the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year; the other day, at the PANZ book design awards, it scored a “near-unachievable 39/40 from the four judges” and took out a bunch of prizes, including the overall supreme win.

7  Pirate Stew by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell (Bloomsbury, $25, 5+)

Awesome if you’re one of those parents who can sustain funny voices through a whole book.

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

Sweet line drawings. Suspect they appeal more to the grownups than the kids.

9  The Tower of Nero: Trials of Apollo, Book Five by Rick Riordan (Puffin, $26, 9+)

“At last, the breathtaking, action-packed finale of the #1 bestselling Trials of Apollo! Will the Greek god Apollo, cast down to earth in the pathetic moral form of a teenager named Lester Papadopoulos, finally regain his place on Mount Olympus? Lester’s demigod friends at Camp Jupiter just helped him survive attacks from bloodthirsty ghouls, an evil Roman king and his army of the undead, and the lethal emperors Caligula and Commodus. Now the former god and his demigod master Meg must follow a prophecy uncovered by Ella the harpy … ” – the publisher

10 The World’s Worst Parents by David Walliams (Harper Collins $27, 6-9)


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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