50 best chil­dren’s books of 2018

The Lis­tener’s an­nual list of 50 top reads for chil­dren and young adults, as cho­sen by Ann Packer.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - by Ann Packer

The Lis­tener’s an­nual se­lec­tion of top reads for chil­dren and young adults.

LEGACY by Whiti Hereaka


A rivet­ing read to round off this year’s World War I com­mem­o­ra­tions is the story of Riki, who’s been read­ing his great-great­grand­dad’s oral his­tory tran­scripts and di­ary. Hit by a bus, Riki is trans­ported back in time to Egypt and a no­to­ri­ous 1915 in­ci­dent in­volv­ing An­zac troops.

THE GOOSE ROAD by Rowena House (Walker)

This epic jour­ney through 1916 France to the no­to­ri­ous Éta­ples Bri­tish Army base by a farm girl de­ter­mined to sell her prized geese at a pre­mium re­veals a coun­try­side rav­aged by war – and worse, when dy­ing wild­fowl raise dis­ease alarms. A mon­u­men­tal de­but novel.

A DIF­FER­ENT BOY by Paul Jen­nings (Allen & Un­win)

Set im­me­di­ately post-war and based on Jen­nings’ ex­pe­ri­ences as a mi­grant, this novella fol­lows An­ton, who ab­sconds from an or­phan­age and stows away on a ship bound for Aus­tralia. He’s shel­tered by a woman with an in­tel­lec­tu­ally hand­i­capped son – and se­crets of her own.

ASH ARIS­ING by Mandy Hager (Puf­fin)

More a slow burn than the in­can­des­cence of award-win­ning

The Na­ture of Ash, this se­quel sees re­luc­tant ac­tivist Ash Mc­Carthy and his friends forced to de­ter­mine who their al­lies are and who they dare not trust – right up to the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment. Ash’s brother Mikey re­mains the most en­dear­ing Down syn­drome char­ac­ter in YA fic­tion.

THE SUR­VIVAL GAME by Nicky Singer (Ha­chette)

In a world be­set by cli­mate change and over­run by refugees, Mhairi is on her way home to Scot­land with only an un­loaded gun, iden­tity pa­pers and a mute child in tow. She’s sur­vived dis­ease, de­ten­tion, as­sas­sins, heat and cold. But what’s to come is even more test­ing. Bleakly beau­ti­ful prose with a chill­ing twist. AFTER THE LIGHTS GO OUT by Lili Wilkin­son

(Allen & Un­win)

“Sur­vival is ev­ery­thing and fam­ily comes first,” says Pru Palmer’s dad, a dooms­day prep­per. She and her sis­ters live with him on the edge of an Aus­tralian out­back town, their bunker equipped to with­stand the worst dis­as­ter. But Dad’s away at the nearby mine when the lights go out – and no­body’s car will start. Ter­ri­fy­ing, be­liev­able and ul­ti­mately re­demp­tive.


Sharon Ker­not


The line be­tween life and death wob­bles in this exquisitely crafted verse novel ex­plor­ing loss. Fol­low­ing her mother’s death, Lot­tie col­lects and pre­serves spec­i­mens of Aus­tralian birds, rep­tiles and small an­i­mals, much to the con­ster­na­tion of her Ger­man aunt – though her fa­ther and grand­mother are un­der­stand­ing and sup­port­ive.

THE ANGER OF AN­GELS by Sher­ryl Jor­dan


In a spec­tac­u­lar re­turn to YA fic­tion after a long hia­tus, award-win­ning Kiwi writer Jor­dan ex­cels her­self. Ro­mance, in­trigue and bru­tal­ity jos­tle for at­ten­tion in the story of Gio­vanna, daugh­ter of a court jester, who falls in love with Raf­faele, brother of a mu­ral­ist

(think poi­sonous pow­ders) in a fic­tional Re­nais­sance Italy. The pe­riod de­tail is breath­tak­ing.

A WIN­TER’S PROM­ISE: THE MIR­ROR VIS­I­TOR, BOOK 1 by Chris­telle Da­bos (Text)

Where to start with this phe­nom­e­nal fan­tasy, which topped best­seller lists in France? De­but au­thor Da­bos cre­ates the first in a quar­tet about Ophe­lia, a young ar­chiv­ist who reads the per­sonal his­to­ries of ob­jects through her fingers and can move through mir­rors. Sump­tu­ous.

MY BRIGADISTA YEAR by Kather­ine Pater­son (Walker)

Fidel Cas­tro’s am­bi­tious 1961 em­ploy­ment of an army of vol­un­teer teach­ers so cap­ti­vated the Bridge to Ter­abithia au­thor she wanted to tell the story of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary teens who turned an il­lit­er­ate coun­try into one that re­mains al­most to­tally lit­er­ate to­day.

Some died; all were changed. An in­spir­ing com­ing-of-age story.

CHANG­ING GEAR by Scot Gard­ner (Allen & Un­win)

Aussie school leaver Mer­rick takes off fol­low­ing fi­nals on a head-clear­ing, soul-cleans­ing, road trip on a vin­tage mo­tor­bike. Poorly pre­pared for

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