Favourite Books of 2018

The Booksfortopics Best of 2018
What a year 2018 has been for children's books!


This month we asked our community of teachers, TAs, authors, librarians and book lovers to nominate their favourite children's books published in 2018.

This is what they told us... 

Pages and Co: Tilly and the Bookwanderers

Anna James

Nominated by: Joanne Clarke (@bookloverjo), School Librarian & blogger at and also by Jackie Butler, Primary School Book Club Manager


Joanne says: "Since the disappearance of her mother, Tilly has lived in a bookshop with her grandparents, where she has found comfort amongst the pages of her favourite books. When she discovers her special ability, she realises this could hold the key to finding out what really happened to her mother. But she is unnerved by the appearance of the mysterious Enoch Chalk who turns up in the most unexpected of places, taking an unusual interest in Tilly and watching her very closely. Spellbinding and truly magical, I was totally enchanted by the world that Anna has created."


Jackie says: "This book encapsulates what every single reader has dreamt at some point in their life. Tilly lives in a bookshop and without spoiling anything, I can say she has adventures in books with characters in books! I would love to be a book wanderer. This is a gem of a book that you will want to share. Imagination runs riot throughout."

Also featured on: Reading for Pleasure Blog

The Storm Keeper's Island

Catherine Doyle

Nominated by: Laura (@Crowther79Laura), Year 3 Teacher


"I simply loved this book. From the start I was captured by the characters, the magic and the mystery. I loved the relationship between Fionn and his grandfather and towards the end it brought me to tears. All in all a fast-paced, exciting adventure. I can't wait to read Catherine's next book."

The Skylarks' War

Hilary McKay

Nominated by: Erin Foote (@erinlynhamilton), Reading Advocate



"The Skylarks' War by Hilary McKay is a lovely story set in the midst of the First World War. We know how harrowing this war was and how tough it was on the men sent to the front lines but also for those at home. Clarry is a wonderful girl who has boundless hope. She shows true determination throughout the story of her, her brother Peter and her cousin Rupert. I was laughing in places with the stories from Rupert and had tears streaming down my face in others. Such a beautiful story of love and hope in the face of adversity. The author captures some intense moments of battle, fear and agony in such a way to make it understandable for children reading the book. I was captivated throughout the whole book. I loved the characters, the storyline and the ending!"

The Restless Girls

Jessie Burton & Angela Barrett

Nominated by: Sophie Anderson (@sophieinspace), children's author of The House With Chicken Legs (available here)


"I love fairytale reimaginings and The Restless Girls is one of the best I've ever read. Beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated, the story smashes all the stereotypes in the original tale and sings of resistance, perseverance, strength and freedom. Perfect for sisters and brothers, boys and girls, young and old...I adore it!"


Vashti Hardy

Nominated by: Lots of you! Here are a few featured comments from Caroline Bews (@Mikeysgirl71) - Year 4 Teacher, David Keyte (@Mr_K_Teacher) - Year 4 Teacher and Justine Laismith (@justinelaismith) - children's author.


Caroline says: "A fantastic story following twins Maudie and Arthur Brightstorm who endeavour to complete their father’s dream of reaching South Polaris by going on an airship adventure. A lovely story with amazing characters, and a real sense of excitement and drama. Truly gripping from start to finish."


David says: "A thrilling adventure story that has a little bit of everything, Brightstorm is a book that I won't forget in a hurry. Vashti Hardy has you rooting for Arthur and Maudie throughout their journey to discover the truth about what has really happened to their father."


Justine says: "I have been looking for books with female STEM mentors and I am very pleased to find one here. Harriet is a great role model. She designed and made the sky-ship that does not drain natural resources nor pollute the air. She imparts her engineering and navigation knowledge to Maudie, who shows great interest in all things mechanical. Despite her intelligence, Harriet is thoughtful of her crew members. I enjoyed the narratives on the ship and the various expeditions. This book is a mixture of several stories I've come across: Captain Scott, Lieutenant Hornblower, The Golden Compass, Oliver Twist. The author has taken bits from them and come up with something of her own."

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Sky Song

Abi Elphinstone

Nominated by: Anna Tomlinson (@scoutfinch_75), Teaching Assistant



"Sky Song is an action-packed, magical adventure set in the icy North. Eska has been imprisoned by the evil Ice Queen who wants, more than anything, to steal her voice. Enter Flint, a member of the Fur tribe, who accidentally frees Eska. What ensues is a high stakes chase, in which both children will find out who they really are and where they truly belong. An enchanting read!"

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The Boy Who Grew Dragons

Andy Shepherd


Nominated by: Lots of you! Here are a few featured comments from Hayley Chapman (@misschapman101) - Year 3 Teacher, Andrew Murray - Year 3 Teacher and Jo Salmon (@missj_s) - Year 2 Teacher.



Hayley says: "An enjoyable, funny read which my class loved. So many opportunities for work related to the text and a real imagination kick-starter."


Andrew says: "What's not to like? It has dragons! Tomas picks a fruit from the tree when helping Grandad clear his jungle of a garden. What happens next includes explosive dragon poo, fun and laughter. This is the first of 3 books in the series and the last one goes on sale in January 2019. The author is great at responding on Twitter and by post...the kids loved that."


Jo says: "Thanks to this book my entire class are now dragon crazy! We absolutely adored reading this book as a class - the storyline and descriptive language had the children enthralled."


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The Visitor

Antje Damm

Nominated by: Simon Smith (@smithsmm), headteacher and blogger at


The Visitor is a wonderfully simple picturebook focussing on the joy children bring into our lives. The use of colour brings a joy to the tale. It has been a book I've found myself returning to often and every time I've left with a huge smile and a cosy warm glow. A magical book with a big heart.


Knights and Bikes

Gabrielle Kent, Rex Crowle & Luke Newall

Nominated by: Dean Boddington (@misterbodd), Year 1 Teacher and also by Andrew Murray, Year 3 Teacher


Dean says: "You'll want to devour this book in record time. Perfect to share aloud with a class or family.

Nessa and Demelza are the heroes that we need in our lives; curious, brave and hilariously funny! They build a great friendship and solve an ancient mystery whilst doing so. This 80s inspired brilliance will be loved by parents/teachers as much as the kids. Also, Captain Honkers (a pet Goose) steals the show (you'll want your own)."



Andrew says: "A honkingly great adventure story with 2 girls as lead characters. Action, friendship, a quest, a goose, bikes, 80s references, clues. My class was absolutely hooked. The author got in contact through Twitter and answered the children's questions too. That really made their day."


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The 1000 Year Old Boy

Ross Welford

Nominated by: Jayne Gould (@JayneG60), Primary School Librarian



"Alfie is like any other nearly teenage boy - except he’s a thousand years old and can remember the last Viking invasion of England. When Alfie finds himself alone in the world following the death of his mother, he has to learn to trust newly found friends if he is going to succeed on his quest to grow old naturally. A compelling, thoughtful race against time with moments of laugh out loud humour, heartbreaking grief and high octane action; a touching, truly unforgettable story of finding friendship and acceptance."


The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day

Christopher Edge

Nominated by: Jo Cummins (@BookSuperhero2), English Manager/Year 3 Teacher and blogger at


"I’ve nominated this book because I love the seamless way that Christopher Edge blends complex scientific theory with a gripping story in a way that’s totally accessible to middle grade readers. This of all his books, is the one which got to me the most and had me asking the most questions. A true master of science fiction writing in a modern and relevant style. I can’t wait to see what he publishes next."


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Loved to Bits

Teresa Heapy & Katie Cleminson

Nominated by: Kate Scott (@KateScottWriter), author of children's books including Giant (available here) and Just Jack (available here) and also by Jayne Gould (@JayneG60), Primary School Librarian



Kate says: "A classic in the making, this is a warm, funny and poignant story about a teddy which has been loved into a state of dilapidation. Reminiscent of The Velveteen Rabbit, this is very much its own book and is pitch perfect in tone and message. A perfect marriage of words and pictures, this is a completely charming and enchanting book."

Jayne says: "Stripy Ted is a very special bear, accompanying his young owner on all sorts of adventures. But these have taken their toll, and poor Ted is rather worn out and missing quite a few parts. This doesn’t matter at all, he is still just as loved as is clear in this utterly charming, tender and heart-warming picture book tale."

The House With Chicken Legs

Sophie Anderson


Nominated by: Hilary MacMeekin (@HLMacmeekin), Headteacher and also by Kate Gieler (@Glebelove2read), Primary School Librarian & Teacher


Hilary says: "I have always loved the Baba Yaga stories, loved having them read to me as a child and reading them to my children as a parent. So it should have been no surprise that I loved this book. But this beautiful book is so much more than a retelling of a traditional story. It conjures up the life beyond the role, their day to day lives, the relationships they build. The beauty of these everyday lives. The relationship between Marinka and her grandmother is filled with the everyday challenges of growing up and growing old. It will make you smile and make you cry in equal measures. A book to read again and again."

Kate says: As Mary Poppins tells us, 'The cover is not the book', but as soon as I saw Melissa Castrillon's stunning art work, I knew I would fall in love with this story. Every shape and stroke caught my eye, inviting me to step inside and devour every page. It was a delightful feast of rich language and words that danced on the pages between Elisa Paganelli’s captivating illustrations. Sophie Anderson’s exquisite tale, The House With Chicken Legs, won my heart and my daughter’s as we read it together in the garden on a warm spring day. When I looked up after an hour of reading aloud to my then 6 year old, I saw my neighbour – her head resting on her arms as she leant on the fence top – hooked on every word. The magic in Sophie’s story-telling wrapped around us like a warm hug – bonding us tighter as mother and daughter as we journeyed further with Marinka; living her loneliness, experiencing her grief, finding comfort with her friends and overcoming her challenges with her. My daughter hugged me a little bit tighter in the breath-taking moments, she gasped as I read the scenes at The Gate and when I turned the final page and closed the book, she had tears in her eyes. I was worried it had been too much for a 6 year old (though very much a bookworm already), but they were tears of grief for a lost friend – she wanted more from Marinka and more from Sophie: “She will write more, won’t she?”. Mini-me went on to re-read the story for herself, becoming more a reader with every chapter - fluent in expression, emotion and passion. Her copy has pride of place on the bookshelf above her bed as well as a special place in her heart. I know we will always think of The House With Chicken Legs as, ‘our book’ and for that reason it is my book of the year."


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The Boy at the Back of the Class

Onjali Q. Rauf

Nominated by: Lucy Griffiths (@Lucygriff76 ), Teacher



"A brilliantly written book about a subject that we all need to discuss. Clever, witty and a bit of a weeper too. A beautifully written story with characters who, regardless of age, make changes that make the world a better place. Brilliant, just brilliant. Onjali Rauf has written a future classic."


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The Train to Impossible Places

P.G. Bell & Flavia Sorrentino

Nominated by: Alison (@booksfortopics), founder of


"The Train to Impossible Places is a whizz-pop-bang of an adventure story that will make readers young and old want to jump on board! From the moment the Impossible Postal Express crashes unexpectedly through Suzy’s living room, the plot hurtles on at a hundred-miles-an-hour as it twists its way through imaginative realms. The postal workers on the magical train whisk Suzy along with them on their mission to deliver top secret packages to impossible places, encountering villains, heroes and everything in between along the way. Super imaginative, action-packed and filled with exciting new worlds and fantastical characters, this book has all the ingredients to be a massive hit. Full steam ahead to the sequel!"


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Pádraig Kenny

Nominated by: Jacqueline Harris (@phonicsandbooks), Education Consultant - Primary

"This is the book I wish I'd written. There is just something about it that grabbed me from the first page. It is the story of Christopher, a real boy, and his friends who are all mechanicals and it explores the nature of friendship and being human. It is a very exciting story with richly drawn characters, set in an alternative 1930s. There are echoes of the Wizard of Oz and I think, if there is justice in the world, that it should be a classic and must read for ages nine and up."


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Juliette Forrest

Nominated by: Leanne Woolcock (@Mrs_Woolcock), Literacy coordinator & Year 6 Teacher


"An extraordinary tale about a girl, magic, good and evil and how love and courage can prevail over all."

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Emma Fischel

Nominated by: Fleur Hitchcock (@fleurhitchcock), bookseller and author of children's books including Murder At Twilight (available here) and Murder In Midwinter (available here)



"Smoothly written, clever, warm and funny, this story about families, friendship and divorce really stood out. A quiet book that should have been louder."

You're Safe With Me

Chitra Soundar & Poonam Mistry

Nominated by: Tanya Efthymiou (@TanyaEfthymiou), Primary School Librarian


"Chitra Soundar's book depicting an elephant protecting other animals and explaining how a thunder storm is helpful to nature, is a very beautiful book with a comforting and reassuring message explaining that there is no need to fear storms. The illustrations by Poonam Mistry are Indian-influenced, lavishly coloured and thoroughly worthy of the nomination the book has received for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal. Lantana Publishing is a relatively new, small independent publisher, with a focus on cultural diversity – ‘because *all* children deserve to see themselves in the books they read’ and wonderfully exemplify the movement for more diverse books of very high standards.."


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The Legend of Kevin

Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre

Nominated by: Florence (age 5), resident book lover at booksfortopics HQ


"I'm choosing The Legend of Kevin because it was a fun story and had awesome pictures. I loved the flying pony because he could fly but was a clumsy pony so he is really funny. I met the author and illustrator and they sang a happy song and let me cuddle Kevin the flying pony!"


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The Way Past Winter

Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Nominated by: Jessica Myers (@Y6miss ), Year 6 teacher

"Full of mystery and descriptive language. I didn’t want to put it down!"


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The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle

Victoria Williamson

Nominated by: Tanja Jennings (@WCBLIBRARY), school librarian

"This beautiful, warm, character-driven book tells the story of a burgeoning friendship against the odds between a refugee girl Reema from Syria and tough Glaswegian Caylin who share a secret. They grow in strength and courage through bonding over shared memories. Williamson crafts an engaging plot employing evocative imagery and imparting a powerful message of the need to treat others with understanding, empathy and respect." 

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The Lost Magician

Piers Torday

Nominated by: ClassBooks (@classbooks1), Librarian



"An enchanting and magical tale with adventure... it's a must read!​"

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Drawn Together

Minh Le & Dan Santat

Nomination by: Simon Smith (@smithsmm), headteacher and blogger at


"With very few words, this book shows us the power of unspoken language. The generation gap between the grandfather and his grandson fades away as they sketch and unite on paper. What starts with dread slowly becomes joy as the generation gap is crossed and grandfather and grandson cross both the age barrier and the language barrier to celebrate being with each other."

A Sky Painted Gold

Laura Wood

Nominated by: Nia Talbot  (@NiaTalbot), Assistant Headteacher and EYFS teacher



"Laura Wood transported me back in time to this beautiful Cornish setting where Lou, the main protagonist, is trying to decide what her life should be. She is swept into a glamourous lifestyle but not everything is as wonderful as people perceive. This book kept me hooked and I very much loved Lou. She seemed so real to me. A definite favourite read for me."



Picklewitch and Jack

Claire Barker & Teemu Juhani

Nominated by:  Andrew Murray, Year 3 Teacher


"An unlikely friendship/partnership between a 'hard-working goody-two-shoes' boy and the young witch (with a penchant for cake) who lives at the bottom of his garden. Much laughter, fun and laughing out loud moments. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it."


Amy Wilson

Nominated by: Fleur Hitchcock (@fleurhitchcock), bookseller and author of children's books including Murder At Twilight (available here) and Murder In Midwinter (available here)


"Beautifully written, a heartfelt fantasy in a convincing world. Gripping and exciting too."

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The Elsewhere Emporium

Ross MacKenzie

Nominated by: Sophie Merrill (@MissSMerrill ), Year 6 Teacher & Curriculum Lead


"A stunning and magical story. A fabulous sequel. Beautifully written, filled with rich and vivid descriptions. Well rounded and engaging characters with a hint of darkness to engage older readers and keep them on their toes. A remarkable piece of writing. Loved it!"

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The Buildings that Made London

David Long & Josie Shenoy

Nominated by: Jayne Gould (@JayneG60), Primary School Librarian

"Take an incredible journey through the streets of London and see beautiful buildings as you've never seen them before! An elegant horizon of historic masterpieces mixed with sleek modern skyscrapers, the familiar London skyline seems to change every year. Using original architectural drawings from The National Archives brought to life by stunning artwork by Josie Shenoy, discover the rich heritage of some of London's most iconic buildings!"

Meet Yasmin

Saadia Faruqi & Hatem Aly

Nominated by: 'A Crafty Arab' (@ACraftyArab), artist and blogger at



"This fictional tale is about a spirited second grader named Yasim, who lives with a multi-generational Pakistani American family.  She has adventures as an explorer, a painter, a builder and a fashionista.
I took the book to my story time at the library and it got a room full of thumbs up... I read them the chapter on Yasmin being a painter.  We then talked about times we were in art class when we feel that we are not any good.  The kids loved that there was a person just like them, who feels that way about their artwork too.  It was such a great discussion about how art allows you to make mistakes."

The Girl, the Cat and the Navigator

Matilda Woods

Nominated by: Justine Laismith (@Justinelaismith), Children's Author


"The story is set in a fictional Scandinavian-like place. On one hand there is folklore, superstition and fortune-telling. On another hand, there are constellations, explorations and naval adventure. The main character addresses today's call for female leads. The cat, as any animal would in a middle grade book, has great appeal. It's got swagger, talent, and nine lives. I've always been told cats do not like water, yet here cats are mascots for ships. Creative. Furthermore, the childless old couple is a masterstroke. There are many children's stories with a kind old couple who want nothing more than a child. Incorporating this into the story, together with the folklore and animal, is a winning combination to take on middle grade readers."


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The Eye of the North

Sinéad O'Hart

Nominated by: Helen Peckett (@learnmesummat), Y6 teacher & KS2 leader


"This magical, adventure book is gripping from the start when Emmeline finds her parents have disappeared. Along with her newly made friend, Thing, they encounter kidnappers, a secret organisation and mysterious mythical creatures in the race to find her parents. Both myself and my Y6 class have loved this book this term."


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Begone the Raggedy Witches

Celine Kiernan

Nominated by: Tami Wylie (@twylie68), Year 4 Teacher



"Mup is a typical girl until her father is kidnappped. She then discovers many secrets about her family; her mother is a witch and her grandmother is the Witch Queen. Thus begins an epic adventure to save a father, a family and a kingdom. "


Vanessa Harbour

Nominated by: Janet M Baird, Tutor for KS2/3/4 and middle-grade writer


"This is a classic which will introduce the Second World War to KS2 students and beyond. The story of Jakub and Izzie and their rescue of the Lipizzaner horses adds a new dramatic dimension to the war. Readers will identify with the main characters and there is scope for class topic work on the deeper issues of Hitler and his effects on life in different countries. It will also appeal to all horse lovers!"


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The Light Jar

Lisa Thompson

Nominated by: Alison (@booksfortopics), founder of


"The Light Jar features a boy who is compelled to find coping mechanisms for literal and metaphorical darkness. I loved the way in which the real and the imaginary are seamlessly merged so that the book’s sober themes (including domestic abuse) can be processed through fairytale filters of cottages in the woods, jars of light and mystery treasure hunts. This brave and thought-provoking tale brilliantly captures the feeling of finding oneself caught on thresholds that will seem familiar to readers in upper KS2; childhood versus adolescence, attachment versus separation and reality versus imagination. This is the kind of book that you will read quickly but find yourself pondering over for a long time after."


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Ella on the Outside

Cath Howe

Nominated by: Rosemary Burke (@Rosemarycalm), Year 6 Teacher & Deputy Head


"Ella is the new girl and has a secret. This is a story of how she navigates new friendships and ultimately learns who to trust. I read this to my Y6 class in their final half term in primary. It raised lots of discussion points about feeling different and trying to fit in. The children were able to empathise with the characters and give suggestions of what they would do. Excellent book to use in Y6."

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Louisiana's Way Home

Kate DiCamillo

Nominated by: Anne Thompson (@Alibrarylady), librarian and book reviewer for


"Set in America in the 1970s this somehow still manages to have a feel of a fable or fairy tale about it. Louisiana's journey to find both home and the person she will become is a timeless one and this adds greatly to the book's appeal. Kate DiCamillo has a rare gift as a storyteller; she writes with such care and wisdom that her stories stay with you for a very long time. She has a remarkable understanding of children's emotions and in this book her words will comfort and reassure readers of all ages."

Secrets of a Sun King

Emma Carroll

Nominated by: 'G' via Twitter


"I couldn’t wait to read ‘Sun King’, having so enjoyed many of Emma Carroll’s other stories. I loved it because it combines two of my favourite genres historical and mystery...something we call ‘mystorical’! I like that the story was set in two different historical periods, which lead to double deducing! This is one of my favourite books ever. I can’t wait for more amazing stories from Emma."


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I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree

Various Poets, Fiona Waters, Frann Preston-Gannon

Nominated by: Lande Brown


"I’d recommend I am the Seed because of the sheer variety of poems. Reading one a day exposes children to the many styles and rhythms of poetry. From a personal point of view I’m committed to getting children outside, so love the themes."

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