Favourite Books of 2020

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The Booksfortopics Best of 2020

2020 has been a year full of twists and turns - but our to-be-read piles have kept us going throughout the year.


We asked our community of teachers, TAs, authors, librarians and book lovers to nominate their favourite children's books published in 2020. 

This is what they told us... 

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The Midnight Guardians
Ross Montgomery
Nominated by: Kate Geraets (TA in Y3/4), Helen Byles (primary school librarian) & Rachel MacInnes (Year 5 teacher)

Kate says, "Wonderful use of language and an exciting but relatable storyline."

Helen says, "It's the best book this year because it has everything - family, friendship, adventures and magic. It makes you open your eyes to believe that there is someone who will always have your back no matter what."

Rachel says, "This book is just perfect. The humanity of the characters, the pacing of the plot and the detailed world building combine to make a book that was thoroughly enjoyable for my class to read and rewarding for me to analyse, deconstruct and teach!"

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The Wild Way Home
 Sophie Kirtley
Nominated by: Fleur Hitchcock (children's author) and Matthew Rice-Humphries (Year 4 teacher)

Fleur says," Great book, simply beautiful."

Matthew says, "A fabulous story telling which explores difficult themes in a very sensitive way. The characterisation is fantastic and the pacing is excellent, moving the plot along but not at the expense of the settings or characters."

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 The Book of Hopes
Various (Ed. Katherine Rundell)
Nominated by: Vicky Taithe (Y3 Teacher & English Lead)

Vicky says, "The idea behind The Book of Hopes was inspired and it is testament to the co-operation and joint efforts of so many children’s authors, illustrators and organisations, notably the National Literacy Trust. Making it available online during the lockdown when books were so needed by isolated children was just wonderful. It gives us all some hope."

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The Castle of Tangled Magic
 Sophie Anderson & Saara Soderlund
Nominated by: Eibhlín Ní Chearbhaill (librarian) and also by Rosanna Kinsella (Assistant Headteacher and SENCO)

Eibhlín says, "Exciting to read. The house with the chicken legs appeared late on in the book...much to my delight. I love talking to the children about Sophie Anderson's books. There is so much going on in this wonderful book"

Rosanna says, "A magical adventure of courage and love, rooted in folklore."

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Orphans of the Tide
Struan Murray & Manuel Šumberac
Nominated by: Alison Leach (founder of BooksForTopics)

Alison says, "Original and enticing, this is one of the best fantasy stories I have read for a long time. There’s a mix of peril and intrigue in all the right proportions, a strong female lead and a well-constructed fantasy world with its own haunting mythology that really does immerse the reader from the start. The twists and turns in the plot are delightful, with secrets, surprises and delicious ‘penny drop’ moments that kept me turning pages late into the night."

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The Egyptians
Jonny Marx & Chaaya Prabhat
Nominated by: Bertie, age 5 (resident lift-the-flap expert at BooksForTopics HQ)

Bertie says, "I liked learning about the Egyptians and it was exciting to find out about the pyramids and the mummies. It's a big book with so many flaps to lift and facts under each one and the pictures are so cool!"

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 The Highland Falcon Thief
M G Leonard, Sam Sedgman & Elisa Paganelli
Nominated by: Marion Park (Y6 teacher)

Marion says, "A great introduction to the whodunnit genre for children. The story is well paced and features characters which the reader grows to love."

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Anisha Accidental Detective: School's Cancelled!
Serena Patel & Emma McCann
Nominated by: Dan Norton (Y3/4 teacher)

Dan says, "School's Cancelled is a wonderful second book in the Anisha Accidental Detective series. It’s a race against time for Anisha to prove that it was not her who caused the foam explosion that flooded the school. The mystery is engaging until the very end and there are twists and turns throughout. The world that has been created is inclusive and vibrant and any event that involves Anisha’s family is sure to be fun!"

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My Life as a Cat
Carlie Sorosiak
Nominated by: Alison Leach (founder of BooksForTopics)

Alison says, "I was totally charmed by this middle grade novel by Carlie Sorosiak. A witty, moving and thought-provoking story about finding and claiming your place in the world - I just couldn't help but love this other-worldly adventure."

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October, October
Katya Balen & Angela Harding 
Nominated by: Jo Clarke (Assistant Headteacher & BooksForTopics Review Panel member), Rachel Caddick (teacher, book blogger and BooksForTopics Review Panel member) and Barbara Valentini (primary teacher on career break).

Written in Katya Balen's heart-stoppingly emotional style, this book is a feast for the senses, filled with the woodsmoke smell of crisp autumn mornings and the sound of wellies squelching in river mud - exploring what it means to be wild.

Barbara says, "Lyrical, touching and beautifully written."


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When Stars Are Scattered
Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed
Nominated by: Sarah Merchant (Teacher/SLE Y6)

A heart-wrenching true story in graphic novel form, all about life in a Kenyan refugee camp. This book is set to restore your faith in real-life happy endings.
Sarah says, "A graphic novel like no other. Timeless and timely. Essential reading for all."

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A Story About Afiya
James Berry & Anna Cunha
Nominated by: Alison Leach (founder of BooksForTopics)

Alison says, "A beautiful picturebook about the wonder and magic of noticing and celebrating what we find around us. Afiya's dress becomes a blank canvas for the experiences that she has each day. Glorious sunflowers, delicate butterflies and fierce tigers all become imprinted onto her dress The gentle use of magic realism helps readers to identify what is magical about their own natural surroundings and explores how a beloved item of clothing brings joy to its young owner."

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The Monsters of Rookhaven
Pádraig Kenny & Edward Bettison
Nominated by: Jo Clarke (school librarian) and Gwyn Hubball (Teacher & reading lead)

Jo says, "The Monsters of Rookhaven is quite simply one of the most breath-taking and thoughtful novels that I have read in a very long time. Páidraig has created a truly extraordinary story filled with a rich darkness and not in the way you would expect. Thematically it feels relevant to the world we live in today in how easily vulnerable members of society can become the target for others' fears and frustrations with their lives. Hauntingly beautiful, I just can’t stop thinking about it." 

Gwyn says, "A beautifully atmospheric tale about a family of monsters who take in a human brother and sister. An examination of what really makes a monster. The characters have stayed with me since reading and I want to know what they are doing now."

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The Night Bus Hero
Onjali Q Rauf
Nominated by: Kate Thompson (small business owner at bringabooktolife.com), Emma Hill (primary assistant head) and Craig Upson (English lead).

Kate says, "A different perspective highlighting the importance of kindness, anti bullying and homelessness issues. A fab read."

Emma says, "Onjali has a gift for writing through the voice of children and in her latest book, The Night Bus Hero, she gives the reader a thought-provoking insight into the mind of a troubled and attention seeking youngster who eventually 'comes good' due to the kindness and selflessness of others. This book also thoughtfully explores the sad but real issue of homelessness and I challenge any reader to not be inspired to act following reading this beautiful and captivating story."

Craig says, "Captivating from the first line. Probably the best first line of a children’s book I have read. The message of the story is so powerful too and inspiring for a number of sometimes forgotten pupils.."

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The Silver Arrow
 Lev Grossman
Nominated by:  Beth Jenkinson (school librarian)

Packed with exciting creatures from the indignant porcupine to the lost polar bear and the adorable baby pangolin, The Silver Arrow is a classic story about saving our endangered animals and the places they live.
Beth says, "I’ve read around 115 books this year but I still think about this one several times a week, it has stuck with me so much! It’s a gorgeously magical story that’s both hilarious and emotional and sends a really important message about protecting our world."

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 I Am Not a Label
Cerrie Burnell & Lauren Mark Baldo
Nominated by: Sophie Anderson (children's author)

Sophie says, "I Am Not a Label is a magnificent celebration of 34 disabled artists, thinkers, athletes & activists, beautifully written by Cerrie Burnell, and gloriously illustrated by Lauren Mark Baldo. Full of heart and positivity, this wonderful book deserves a place in every school, library, and home."

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Sky Pirates:  Echo Quickthorn and the Great Beyond
 Alex English & Mark Chambers
Nominated by: Kristen Hopwood (primary teacher and BooksForTopics review panel member)

The first in the Sky Pirates series, this story introduces us to Echo Quickthorn, who lives in the kingdom of Lockfort. Echo is an orphan, but lives inside the castle after being taken in by the King. Echo yearns for adventure and to find out about her real family. One evening, a mysterious airship carrying Professor Daggerwing lands within the castle grounds, just outside Echo’s window. The Professor talks of his home and adventures from distant lands, which begins Echo’s voyage into the unknown. However, Echo's journey may not be as straight forward as she expects, with rumours of formidable Sky Pirates and their tyrant leader nearby…

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Black and British: A short, essential history
David Olusoga 
Nominated by: Alison Leach (founder of BooksForTopics)

Alison says, "This children's version of David Olusoga's account of Black British history is essential reading - not only an accessible and informative non-fiction read for Upper KS2, but also a book that I would thoroughly recommend for improving primary teachers' own historical knowledge and especially those with input into their school's curriculum design. We desperately need more children's books focussing specifically on Black British history and this one paves the way in providing an excellent step in the right direction."


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Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest
Susan Brownrigg &  Jenny Czerwonka 
Nominated by: Nikki Lamb (children's librarian)

Nikki says, "A gripping mystery story. Ma disappears on the eve of the 1935 Blackpool lights switch on. Blackpool is a great setting and  Gracie, her brother and two friends are wonderful characters."


Thomas Taylor
Nominated by: Jacqui Sydney (Year 5 teacher and English lead)

Jacqui says, "I love both of the Eerie-on-Sea books and my class does too. I’ve never known books to engage children like they do - even my more reluctant readers. Packed with action and brilliantly drawn characters, they are must haves in upper KS2 - well-written with great description and powerful vocabulary that are a joy to share."

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 Crater Lake
Jennifer Killick
Nominated by: Ryan Brydon (Year 5 teacher) and David McBride (primary teacher and BooksForTopics Review Panel member).

Jennifer Killick (well known in schools for the Alex Sparrow books and Mo, Lottie and the Junkers) ventures into a new horror-inspired genre without departing from her trademark style of easy-going humour. The Year Six class at Lance's school is heading off for a residential trip that is supposed to create memories that will stay with them forever...

Ryan says, "I've read this book with a Year 6 and Year 5 class this year and both have said it's their favourite class reader ever. It's exciting and funny from beginning to end!"

David says, "My favourite book of the year was Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick. My class loved it and so did my daughter!"

 Frostheart 2 - Escape From Aurora
Jamie Littler
Nominated by: Shona (SENDCo & parent of a 10 Year old boy)

Shona says, "This series has caught our attention with its fantastic illustrations and thrilling story line. It is a super follow up to Frostheart and we are already eagerly anticipating the final book of the trilogy. It is a book of adventure, friendships and unexpected twists!"

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Blue Planet II
 Leisa Stewart-Sharpe & Emily Dove
Nominated by: Florence, age 7 (resident bookworm at BooksForTopics HQ)

Florence says, "I loved this book because it was so interesting to find out about life under the sea. I have seen Blue Planet on TV and I love having a book version for children to read and understand. You can learn how to help animals in danger too and the pictures make you feel like you are really in an ocean world."

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