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Favourite Books of 2019

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The Booksfortopics Best of 2019

2019 has been another fantastic year for children’s books and this year the choice of ‘favourite book’ seems harder than ever!

We asked our community of teachers, TAs, authors, librarians and book lovers to nominate their favourite children’s books published in 2019. This is what they told us…

Katherine Rundell
Chapter book

The Good Thieves transports readers back to the roaring twenties in New York City, complete with its mafia presence, its speak-easy hide-outs and promises of wealth. Vita arrives in New York to find that her grandfather has been robbed of his family home, Hudson Castle, by mafia-linked scammers. Clever and spirited Vita gathers together a crew of unlikely vagabonds to help her reclaim it, becoming the ‘good thieves’ who will carry out a Robin Hood style mission leading to a daring heist scene.

Jenny McLachlan
 & Ben Mantle
Chapter book
The first in a new children’s fantasy adventure series, full of imagination, humour and heart, and with echoes of Peter Pan , The Chronicles of Narnia , The Neverending Story and Jumanji . The Land of Roar is perfect for children aged 8 to 12, and can sit on their bookshelf next to Nevermoor , Wizards of Once and How to Train Your Dragon . Readers can bring their fantasy world to life and meet dragons, unicorns, mermaids and more in this beautifully illustrated children’s book. Believing is just the beginning … When Arthur and Rose were little, they were heroes in the Land of Roar, an imaginary world that they found by climbing through the folding bed in their grandad’s attic. Roar was filled with things they loved – dragons, mermaids, ninja wizards and adventure – as well as things that scared them (including a very creepy scarecrow…) Now the twins are eleven, Roar is just a memory. But when they help Grandad clean out the attic, Arthur is horrified as Grandad is pulled into the folding bed and vanishes. Is he playing a joke? Or is Roar … real?
Sophie Anderson
 & Kathrin Honesta
Chapter book

Fans of The House with Chicken Legs will be delighted to see a new middle-grade offering from Sophie Anderson and this new book is also a thoroughly modern story woven from a tapestry of traditional Russian folktales.

Yanka is a 12-year-old girl who has never found out where she really belongs. Standing out from the crowd by being much taller than the other children in her village and as strong as a bear, Yanka’s sense of displacement is deepened by the fact that she was abandoned in a bear cave as a baby and knows nothing about her real parents. She has always felt a strange pull towards the nearby forest and delights in hearing magical tales about the creatures within.

One day, Yanka wakes up to find that her legs have become bear legs. Horrified, she clumsily hot-foots into the forest and begins an epic quest to discover who she really is. The journey takes Yanka from ice-cold rivers to fiery volcanoes as she meets a mélange of magical characters along the way (including – much to my delight – the appearance of a house with chicken legs who helps out along the way…). As Yanka’s journey to discover more about her identity unfolds, the plot is interwoven with traditional folktales about bears, dragons and wish-granting trees, each one cleverly offering important clues to piece together about Yanka’s origins.

There is so much to love about Anderson’s storytelling. The stories-within-a-story feel like a beautifully crafted pass-the-parcel with delights to unwrap in each layer. The author’s appreciation of the natural world radiates through as the reader experiences the full sensory delights of the forest through Yanka, from the sensation of rolling in fresh pine needles to the realisation that every tree has its own unique scent. The familiar aspects of the forest seamlessly blend with the more fantastical ones, like the ancient tree that grants wishes or the fire-breathing dragon called Smey.

I highly recommend The Girl Who Speaks Bear to upper KS2 for its rich storytelling, its relatable themes and its wonderfully imaginative fantasy worlds.

Jason Reynolds
 & Selom Sunu
Chapter book
Running. That’s all Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons -until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medallist who sees something in Ghost: crazy natural talent. If Ghost can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed, or will his past finally catch up to him? NB Contains strong language.
Kirsty Applebaum
Chapter book

I was hooked from the start by this deeply atmospheric story that is hard to put down and even harder to stop thinking about after you finish reading.

Set in a dystopian near-future, The Middler is a story all about different types of boundaries and discovering which ones are important to protect and which ones are crying out to be broken through.

Middle-child Maggie’s life in the town of Fennis Wick is governed by rules and systems, with only ‘eldests’ given value and voice and anyone from outside the town’s boundaries seen as a ‘dirty, dangerous’, deceitful’ wanderer. As Maggie’s older brother Jed prepares to be sent to camp as a hero, a privilege reserved only for eldests, Maggie begins to call into question everything she has ever known, especially after a rare encounter with a wanderer girl near the town’s boundary.

Told through the powerful voice of middle-child Maggie, this is a truly wonderful narrative that will resonate with many young readers today.

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