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.
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.
THE ART OF TAXIDERMY by
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