(Photo: Tom Kelley Archive / Retrofile RF via Getty)
(Photo: Tom Kelley Archive / Retrofile RF via Getty)

BooksJuly 31, 2021

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

(Photo: Tom Kelley Archive / Retrofile RF via Getty)
(Photo: Tom Kelley Archive / Retrofile RF 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 In Our Own Backyard by Anne Kayes (Bateman, $22, 13+)

After the launch (featuring speeches by John Minto and Chlöe Swarbrick) Jo McColl of Unity Books called us with a heads-up that this book was going to be huge. It’s a new YA novel that threads the 1981 Springbok Tour together with modern anti-racism protests and Covid-19 lockdowns, and it also nabbed number one in the adults’ charts last week.

2 How Do I Feel? A Dictionary of Emotions for Children by Rebekah Lipp & Craig Phillips (Wildling Books, $40, 3+)

Sold 87,000 truckloads already and on its way to selling 87,000 more, this is a seriously great book and will work beautifully in classrooms as well as at home.

3 Megamonster by David Walliams (Harper Collins, $23, 5-8)


4 Maui and Other Legends: 8 Classic Tales of Aotearoa by Peter Gossage (Puffin, $40, 4+)

Go go gadget Gossage!

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

Big, bright, durable; every household needs at least one copy.

6 The Rock From the Sky by Jon Klassen (Walker Books, $30, 3+)

Solid gold, cannot go wrong, instant classic, funny as hell, buy it immediately, etc.

7 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+)

Turns out kids love Sapiens as much as humankind loves wheat, which if you’ve read Sapiens you’ll know is an awful lot.

8 Aesop’s Fables retold by Elli Woollard, illustrated by Marta Altes (Macmillan, $38, 3+)

“Charmingly retold in rhyming verse, with enchanting illustrations throughout” – the publisher

9 All the Ways to Be Smart by Davina Bell & Allison Colpoys (Scribble, $30, 4+)

Davina Bell is an Australian. She works in children’s publishing and is basically a polymath of children’s writing, blitzing everything from picture books to YA. Highlights: the 2016 picture book Hattie Helps Out, which is set in a house that looks exactly like ours (a tip) and is about a preschooler prepping for a party – and caring for her baby sister – when her knackered mum falls asleep. Bell also wrote one of the most extraordinary YA novels we’ve come across: The End of the World Is Bigger Than Love.

10 Ocean by Hélène Druvert (Thames & Hudson, $45, 3+)

Thames & Hudson say: “Take a deep breath and dive into this gorgeous, large-format book, which uses clever cutouts and laser-cut illustrations to explore the ocean from shoreline and shallows to inkiest depths. A meticulously crafted, die-cut coral theatre presents a wonderful stage on which a teeming underwater world plays. As well as looking at the movements of waves and water, Hélène Druvert brings to life the ocean’s inhabitants: lift the flaps to discover shellfish and crabs hiding under rocks, or zoom in on a giant squid.”

We say: If you’re in the market for a non-fiction hardback with a big squid on the cover, do also consider Te Papa Press triumph Whiti: Colossal Squid of the Deep.


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

A book of sketches and sweet wisdoms that sticks to this chart like Poo’s paw sticks in a jar of honey.

2  In Our Own Backyard by Anne Kayes (Bateman, $22, 13+)

3  One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (Griffin, $30)

You: “Hey what’s a smart, well-written, funny, sexy book I could read before bed that won’t massively ramp up my anxiety but in fact soothe it?”

Us: “OMG have you read Casey McQuiston?”

4  Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (St Martin’s, $33, 16+)

As above.

5  Megamonster by David Walliams (Harper Collins, $23, 5-8)

6  Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell (Macmillan, $20, 14+)

Via Vanity Fair:

“Carry On – the story of Simon Snow (a British boy with magical powers, which might sound familiar) and his Malfoy-esque wizarding-school roommate, rival, and eventual boyfriend, Baz – was published in 2015, and Rowell’s loyal readers didn’t quite know what to make of it.

What they couldn’t have known is that Rowell had written Simon Snow’s story while severely ill. In a recent phone call with Vanity Fair, she revealed that she thought Carry On might be her last book. Ever. The prolific Rowell took an extended break from writing, and eventually learned she had an undiagnosed parathyroid disorder – an insidious and hard-to-identify calcium imbalance that assaults the body and brain at once. While recovering from having a tumor removed, she started work on other projects which meant it was four years before the second Simon Snow book, Wayward Son, debuted in 2019. But in those intervening years, Simon, Baz, and their schoolmates Penelope Bunce and Agatha Wellbelove had found their audience. Wayward Son was a best-selling smash hit. Rowell quickly made good on her promise that readers wouldn’t have to wait another four years and the third and final (for now) Simon Snow book hits bookshelves this Tuesday.”

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

Via Elle on Goodreads (bolds all hers):

“Five solid stars. This book pulled me in from the beginning, to the point where I knew I’d found a favorite before I was halfway through. Here, Bardugo integrates a creative plot, interesting and morally grey charactersgroup dynamics and banter, a great writing style, and some really, really prime romance plots. Goddamn, can Leigh Bardugo write romance. There are very, very few books that I love so wholeheartedly. This series truly is my favorite fantasy series of all time. There’s no competition whatsoever.”

8  How Do I Feel? A Dictionary of Emotions for Children by Rebekah Lipp & Craig Phillips (Wildling Books, $40, 3+)

Let It Go: Emotions Are Energy in Motion by Rebekah Lipp & Craig Phillips (Tikitibu, $20, 5+)

Enjoying a resurgence, probably due to the launch of How Do I Feel? by the same creators.

10 Shadow & Bone #1 The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo (Orion Books, $20, 13+)

Thank you to Marie Claire for this explainer about which Bardugo book to read when, and how it all fits with the Netflix show.

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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