This year has been brilliant for children’s books. One in three books sold in 2018 were children’s books – and it’s probably not just children who are reading them.
The range available is wide: picturebooks, novels, graphic novels, non-fiction and poetry are all there for the taking.
Here are just a few of the brilliant books for primary children published this year, whatever type of literature you’re looking for.
Books featuring BAME characters
The 2017 Reflecting Realities report by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) – based on a survey of ethnic representation in children’s books – found that only 4 per of the children’s books published that year featured black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) characters.
The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson (Kelpies) is one book that bucks this trend. It tells a heartbreaking tale of a Syrian refugee trying to integrate into life in Glasgow.
There was also the uplifting The Girls by Lauren Ace (Caterpillar Books), which chronicles the developing relationship between four girls as they grow up, while Knights and Bikes by Gabrielle Kent (Knights Of) is a rip-roaring, fantastical adventure story which follows the magical escapades of two new friends.
On the non-fiction front, Alastair Humphreys' Great Adventurers by Alastair Humphreys (Big Picture Press) looks at explorers from around the world and throughout history.
And a graphic novel reboot of an old comic strip, Roy of the Rovers: Kick Off by Rob Williams and Ben Willsher (Rebellion Graphic Novels), updates the story by portraying Roy’s best friend and teammate Lofty as a young black man.
Books that reflect reality
You’re Snug with Me by Chitra Soundar (Lantana Publishing) is one of the most beautifully illustrated books this year – and its fictional account of a mother polar bear caring for her cubs is rooted firmly in fact.
Animals in books are always a hit with children and Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me by Eloise Greenfield (Tiny Owl Publishing) is a brilliant collection of vividly illustrated poems.
On the non-fiction shelf, we have the short, easy-to-read Race to the Frozen North: The Matthew Henson Story by Catherine Johnson (Barrington Stoke), which tells the story of an African-American man who was purportedly the first man to reach the North Pole. There is also Peace and Me by Ali Winter (Lantana Publishing), an introduction to some of the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize; Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson (Wide Eyed Editions), a collection of short biographies of black heroes past and present; and Planetarium: Welcome to the Museum, by scientist Raman Prinja (Big Picture Press), a sumptuous and in-depth book about space.
Adventure is a staple of children’s literature and 2018 did not disappoint on this front. The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson (Scholastic) blurs the boundaries between reality, imagination and the supernatural.
Historian Janina Ramirez sets her crime thriller Riddle of the Runes (OUP Oxford) in Scandinavia during the age of the Vikings, and Ross MacKenzie’s The Elsewhere Emporium (Kelpies) swaps between the Lake District in the present day and Victorian London. Meanwhile, Sophie Anderson’s folklore-inspired The House With Chicken Legs (Usborne Publishing) is timeless and takes place in an unknown Slavic landscape.
Fairy tales and animals
This year, two authors drew inspiration from the story of Little Red Riding Hood in their books: Chris Riddell with Once Upon a Wild Wood (Macmillan Children’s Books) and Marie Voigt with Red and the City (OUP Oxford).
Animal characters were also as popular as ever. Picturebook Charlie Star by Terry Milne (Old Barn Books) explores obsessive-compulsive disorder, while Come Home Already! by Jory John (HarperCollins) deals with friendship and loneliness in a humorous and relatable way.
Books that encourage reading for empathy
Set during the First World War, Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer (Barrington Stoke) sensitively deals with old age and Alzheimer’s, while SE Durrant’s Running On Empty (Nosy Crow) gives the reader a glimpse into the life of a child whose parents both have learning difficulties.
The Mystery of the Colour Thief by Ewa Jozefkowicz (Zephyr) and The Girl Who Thought Her Mother Was A Mermaid by Tania Unsworth (Zephyr) both perfectly tackle themes of loss, grief and friendship, as well as being beautifully told and intriguing stories.
Sweep by Louise Greig (Egmont) is a great picturebook that will help children to cope with their own bad moods and empathise with those who are feeling angry.
Finally, The Dam by David Almond (Walker Studio) explores how the loss of a precious place might affect people.
Aidan Severs is a deputy head at a primary school in the North of England