Best books of the year for children – all picked by authors
Published on: 18 December 2017 Author: Emily Drabble
Whether you're looking for a Christmas present or an idea for next year's reading list, here are the best books of 2017, as vouched for by many of the most well-known and much-loved authors and illustrators out there.
So many fabulous books were published in 2017: how to choose your favourites from such riches? Well, we asked authors and illustrators the impossible question: what was your best book of the year?
Get your notepad or online list ready: you won't want to forget these must-reads for your child, whether they're teeny or teenager. Happy reading!
One of the books that really got me in 2017 is Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. This is a beautiful book about loss. I was really struck by it.
Chris Priestley's Maudlin Towers is a book after my own heart. It is beautifully paced, brilliantly illustrated with pen and ink drawings by the author and very, very funny. I can't wait for the next instalment!
My book of the year is Daemon Voices by Philip Pullman – this collection of essays on storytelling is full of insight and wisdom about the whole process of making stories, and shows us yet again why Mr Pullman is our best living writer (bar none!).
I'll go for Rapunzel by Beth Woollvin. Fantastically stylish artwork and huge child appeal. Woollvin's snappy story-telling, quirky sense of humour and delightful visual jokes make this absolutely perfect for a young audience.
My favourite book of the year is one I feel sure will feature on many lists. It is Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers. I love it as a parent and writer and ex-kid. I think it captures perfectly and beautifully the sense of responsibility that can be almost overwhelming for parents. I think this book will be staple on many bedside lockers for years to come; I would insist though that parents must read it in an Irish accent for the full effect.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is a classic book that was re-published this year in a brand-new 30th anniversary edition. It's the tale of a young boy who crash lands in the Canadian wilderness and must use all his courage and ingenuity to survive until rescue. If anything will spark a love of the outdoors in someone, this book will!
I'm going to pick His Royal Tinyness: A Terrrible True Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones and David Roberts. The story's a poignant look at an older sister feeling supplanted by her needy baby brother, with parallel illustrations that she draws herself in crayons. For some hilarious reason, David Roberts has set it in the 1970s, with brilliant outfits and furniture, including an enormous wicker peacock chair. Love it!
It’s got to be Beatrice Alemagna's On a Magical Do-Nothing Day. Beatrice Alamagna is one of the very best illustrators working today. In this book about finding something to do – which isn’t a smartphone game – on a rainy day, her drawings are madly beautiful. Made with coloured pencils and with multiple lovely abstractions and patterns, they’re almost Rousseau-esque in their evocation of nature. It’s a beautiful, poetic book – I can’t stop looking at it.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave
My favourite book of 2017 was Where The World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean. A consistently brilliant writer, this is her best book yet. Based on real events, it follows a group of boys and men seemingly abandoned on a stac near St Kilda. I read it on the Isle of Harris amid midsummer Scottish storms, but know it would have the power to transport me there any time I open its pages. It could be a bleak tale, but in McCaughrean’s hands it turns into something hopeful: shining and beautiful as sea glass.
I love Jon Klassen's picture books and they just keep getting better! I think We Found A Hat by Jon Klassen is the best one yet and definitely my favourite book of 2017 (it's even secured a place in my top ten picture books of all time!). Two turtles find a hat. They both want it but decide to leave it where they found it for the sake of their friendship. But one turtle can't stop thinking about it. Absolutely gorgeous and completely hilarious.
My book of the year is one I haven’t actually read yet but I have been waiting to for several years. Now it is actually here, I have been saving it up for Christmas like a favourite chocolate in a selection box – Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust. Cannot wait.
A book I loved this year was Lauren St John's The Snow Angel, illustrated by Catherine Hyde. It's the story of a Kenyan girl, Makena, who loses her family to Ebola and has to build a new home in the Scottish highlands, with the help of a mysterious white fox. It's a book so full of hope and heart, you can almost hear it breathing.
Picture books were stand-out this year, and I particularly loved Tom Percival’s Perfectly Norman, an impactful yet gentle story about a boy who sprouts multi-coloured wings but must keep them hidden from everyone, including his parents. It is relevant and perfectly pitched.
S F Said
I'd like to recommend The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris, a mesmerising celebration of the natural world in words and pictures. It's one of the most beautiful children's books I've ever seen, and would make a perfect gift for Christmas, or any time of year!
My book of the year is The Lost Words by Jackie Morris and Robert MacFarlane is a book of natural magic. The gorgeous spectacle of the illustrations combines with the spell-like poems to create a completely immersive experience which adults and children can share together. This book opens a door that can reconnect a generation of children and parents with the deep delight of the nature that surrounds us. An instant classic that families will treasure and curl up with for decades to come.
My book of the year is Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give. Her novel sums up vividly what it is like to be young, black and female in America today.
In collaboration with my teenage daughter, we recommend Luna Loves Library Day by Joseph Coelho and Fiona Lumbers. It's a vivid reminder of how libraries are spaces to make and share stories, but also recalls the sadness of family separation. We were also stunned – in a wonderful way – to see a mixed heritage family so beautifully depicted.
A Story Like The Wind by Gill Lewis is my book of the year. It’s a story of great beauty and humanity about the trials of refugee people... A story that sings of hope and freedom. The writing is full of heart and music and the moon-scape illustrations capture the mystery and wonder of the universe.
Alex T Smith
A Dog with Nice Ears by Lauren Child is utterly charming and completely hilarious. A lovely, warm and very stylish book (with fantastic endpapers). It is without doubt my favourite and number-one best book about nice ears.
My choice is I Can Only Draw Worms by Will Mabbitt. When your child turns seven and brings home long multiplication homework, there is a sense that perhaps the days of counting books are over. That was until my son and I happened upon I Can Only Draw Worms. With bright illustrations and worms nipping to the loo, this is more than a counting book and is guaranteed to have you roaring with laughter. We can’t wait to see more from Mr Mabbitt, and we’re excited to hear that he’s branching out into horses.
One of my favourite books of 2017 is King of the Sky by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin. Laura Carlin’s artwork is always stunning and the warm and hopeful story resonates with me in the current climate.
I'm sure I won't be the only one to choose The Murderer's Ape by Jakob Wegelius, translated from Swedish by Peter Graves and published by Pushkin Children's Books. Set in Lisbon, it's a captivating and unusual adventure story, brilliantly told from the point of view of Sally Jones – a gorilla and ship's engineer – who must try to help her friend and partner The Chief when he is wrongfully arrested for murder.
I’m going for The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. It’s a beautiful book with language that will weave around your heart. The wild forest and the weather are as much characters in this book, wound around the fairytales of Russia, as the people. Vasya is a heroine as feisty as Lyra, and its roots are in the same place as Northern Lights, but somehow, in The Bear and the Nightingale, they grow deeper. It's a book to read aloud, slowly, beside a fire, while you feed the spirits of your house.
I think my favourite book this year is I Want to be in a Scary Story by Sean Taylor and Jean Jullien. Hilarious to read aloud and great, bold illustrations. Hoot Owl, by the same author and illustrator, was one of my favourite picture books of the last few years; this is just as good.
I choose Hilda and the Runaway Baby by Daisy Hirst. I love Daisy’s work: her illustrations have such a unique style that is all her own. They look simple and effortless, but are actually very sophisticated, which is such a difficult thing to do! I also love the story of this book, which is very funny, but also has a warmth about it which for me captures the slightly chaotic feeling of being a parent of young children. Sometimes I wish we had Hilda to help out in our home!
My best book of the year is the hardback edition of The Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth written by Ellie Hattie, along with any other book illustrated by Karl James Mountford.
I’m choosing If I Had a Dinosaur by Alex Barrow and Gabby Dawnat. It’s a lovely, imaginative picture book about a little girl dreaming of having a dinosaur for a pet. I loved the witty rhyme and the fact that all the characters represent various races and cultures!
Thornhill by Pam Smy is a spell-binding and suspenseful wonder of a book. Two stories unfold: one a diary, the other in atmospheric multi-layered pictures. A triumph of storytelling and a monochrome marvel!
Town is By the Sea by Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith is my book of the year. It really swept me off my feet and I've actually been carrying it around in my backpack so that I can feast on Smith's paintings that capture Schwartz's heart-in-throat story.
"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents". Opening with an unforgettable Christmas scene, Little Women has been my cherished Christmas read from childhood. It's a story charged with humanity and heart on every page - and if that isn't the spirit of Christmas I don't know what is!!
Picture book favourites include the hilariously grumpy innkeeper in Jesus' Christmas Party by Nicholas Allen (I can totally relate to annoyance over last minute seasonal shenanigans) and Jan Pienkowski's mesmerising King James Version of The First Christmas.
Topics: 0-1 year, 2-3 years, 3-4 years, 5-8 years, 9-12 years, 12+, Early Years professional, Health professional, Librarian, Local authority professional, Parent/carer, Publisher/bookseller, Teacher (primary), Teacher (secondary), Writer, Press, Early Years, Foundation (Wales), KS1, KS2, KS3, Primary, Secondary
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