Updated: Jan 22, 2021
There are lots of wonderful books that have already been published this year and lots coming up that I want to share with you! I'm going to start with the ones that are already published and then move onto those being released in February. I mean, that's just logic - isn't it?
Once you've taken a look at the list be sure to head to my Bookshop where you can purchase any of these titles, peruse my other reading lists and support independent bookstores!
Have you read any of these? Let me know!
And if you don't feel like reading a blog (why are you here?! 😂) why not have a look at my highlights video at the top of my page!
THE BROKEN RAVEN by Joseph Elliott (Walker Books)
This is a sequel to one of my top books from last year: The Good Hawk, and is the second book in the trilogy.
This is a thrilling adventure series for ages 12 and up set in a Viking adjacent version of England and Scotland, that follows Agatha and Jaime as they try and save their clans. Of particular note is that Agatha has Down's Syndrome, a condition that the world of the novel doesn't have an understanding of. This allows for a really beautiful exploration and discussion of not only all the things that make people with Down's Syndrome powerful and wonderful, but also they daily hurdles they face from the rest of society. Joseph has written the character of Agatha from experience, having grown up around children with Down's Syndrome - and you can really tell: the tone is celebratory, sensitive and illuminating.
I haven't been able to read The Broken Raven yet - but I can't wait to spend a day curled up on my sofa with a hot chocolate and go on a wonderful adventure!
OVER THE SHOP by JonArno Lawson and Qin Leng (Walker Books)
Over the Shop is a magical thing! It's a well-rounded, funny, uplifting, dramatic, sad and hopeful story - told with absolutely no words! It's the Marcel Marceau of the picture book world!
I was instantly charmed by the gorgeous books, which sees a young girl teach her Grandmother (and her neighbours) the beauty and joy of accepting people for who they are! The narrative is stunningly clear - but it will allow you to engage your fellow readers in discussions about what is happening in the story, which will hopefully lead to further conversations about how the simplest of actions can make a huge impact on someone's life and therefore the world.
I TALK LIKE A RIVER by Jordan Scott and Sydney Smith (Walker Books)
I'm a very confident talker. I love the sounds that words make as they leave my mouth and I love hearing my voice speaking. Sometimes, in company I can be stuck for words to say and that can make me quite panicky - but I'm safe in the knowledge that it's going to be OK.
I Talk Like a River is about when it's not okay and feels like it never will be. Adults will discover at the end of the book that its author, Jordan Scott, wrote this story from very personal experience - and I think that makes it a vital read for any young people experiencing difficulties with speaking, especially, in this case, with a stutter. It will tell them that it is safe, that they are loved and that they are as natural as one of natures most wonderful things: a river.
For those of us that have never experienced having a stutter, it will serve as a great tool to help us understand what is being experienced. Jordan explains at the end that for a lot of us listening to a stutter can be very difficult, because it goes against the natural flow of conversation and language - but this book allows us to sit by the stutter, watch it flow and see the beauty in its twists and turns - just as we would a river.
CONCRETE ROSE by Angie Thomas (Walker Books)
This is the prequel to Angie Thomas' extraordinary The Hate U Give. It's aimed at readers who are 14+ and deals with drugs, prison, murder and teenage parenthood. It's also about building beyond that, making your own future and taking control of your dreams.
I can't wait to read it!
OLD MACDONALD HAD A PHONE by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross (Andersen Press)
I am a HUGE fan of Jeanne Willis - if you've ever seen my live you've almost certainly seen me read Frockodile, which is my favourite book of hers! She has an incredible way of finding the gently surreal in situations, but never stretching something beyond credibility.
Tony Ross (as a writer and here as an illustrator) is very similar and the energy of his pictures is a fabulous match for the energy of Jeanne's writing.
Old MacDonald is the fourth in this team's series of books that quietly educates children on internet safety - whilst being a huge amount of fun. It was no surprise to me that I laughed out loud at a Jeanne Willis book - but I was surprised to find myself reconsidering my relationship with my phone too!
THE LIPSTICK by Laura Dockrill and Maria Karipidou (Walker Books)
Boy finds gorgeous pink lipstick. Decides that it makes him look gorgeous. Thinks it will probably make the rest of the house (and the occupants) look gorgeous too. He's not wrong, but he's not right either.
I feel like everyone has been there - I certainly have! This book will have you howling and wincing in equal measure as you watch the most beautiful intentions go awry.
What I especially enjoyed about this book is that playing with the lipstick wasn't the problem - how it was played with was the problem! It's a hilarious tale about finding the beauty in everything and also allowing children to explore who they are.
This book comes with no agenda and no judgement - it's wonderfully pitched and I loved it!
CAN BEARS SKI? by Raymond Antrobus and Polly Dunbar
Similar to I Talk Like a River, this lovely book explore another problem that children can face and causes a sense of isolation: hearing difficulty. I actually understand this first hand and I was amazed at how familiar the story was. Having a book like this would have been so helpful when I was little!
Bear keeps thinking that people are asking him "can bears ski?" He doesn't understand why they're asking, but it does seem to be the question on everybody's lips. Throughout this particular school day he doesn't understand why people are laughing at lunch time and he doesn't notice his friend saying hello. What Bear does notice is the vibrations around him, created by sounds, but sometimes he doesn't know what they mean until too late - like when his dad wants him to get up for school!
Of course, he's not being asked "can bears ski?" - but I'll let you read the book and find out what he IS being asked!
This is a wonderful story that will help adults and children understand more about the experience of a child that is struggling to hear. It's gentle, funny and absolutely true to life.
WHERE HAPPINESS BEGINS by Eva Eland (Andersen Press)
This book has already been hugely successful in its hardback edition - and now it is available as a paperback!
Eva Eland's book is an exploration of our emotions, what they mean, where they come from and how to handle them. I'm going to say it is a children's book, yes; but I think it is absolutely essential reading for grown ups too! The story doesn't shy away from the fact that even happiness can be a bit confusing sometimes - but it's a beautiful lesson that we don't have to search for happiness and that we DO deserve it. It also helped remind me that we don't have to be happy all the time and there are such valid reasons for not being happy.
I tell you what will make you happy - the illustrations! They have a lovely retro print vibe to them. The whole book is an artistic and emotional work of art!
ALL OUR HIDDEN GIFTS by Caroline O'Donoghue (Walker Books)
Maeve Chambers doesn't have much going for her. Not only does she feel like the sole idiot in a family of geniuses, she managed to drive away her best friend Lily a year ago. But when she finds a pack of dusty old tarot cards at school, and begins to give scarily accurate readings to the girls in her class, she realises she's found her gift at last. Things are looking up - until she discovers a strange card in the deck that definitely shouldn't be there. And two days after she convinces her ex-best friend to have a reading, Lily disappears.
Can Maeve, her new friend Fiona and Lily's brother Roe find her? And will their special talents be enough to bring Lily back, before she's gone for good?
Caroline O'Donoghue is an Irish writer and this is her debut YA novel and it is causing quite the stir! I am SO excited to read it!
GNOME by Fred Blunt (Andersen Press)
One of my favourite books to read aloud last year is about to be available as a paperback and it's quite urgent that you get it! This book is so much fun!
It tells the story of Gnome who is just the biggest grump in the world! He says NO to everything! Then a witch comes along and Gnome learns that it's best to have a slightly wider vocabulary and slightly bigger heart!
Some books are perfect for reading out loud and this is one of them - so long as you can talk through the giggles! Fred Blunt's illustrations are super fun and you'll love looking for all the tiny details!
A FOX CALLED HERBERT by Margaret Sturton (Andersen Press)
Another amazing book from last year that is now available in paperback.
This is all about a rabbit called Herbert who knows he isn't really a rabbit. He just wants to be a fox. His mum has a tough time accepting this and the story really follows her journey as she learns to love her son the way she is. The book is very funny, charming and I'm fairly sure you won't be able to do anything by shed a little tear at the end - from joy not sadness!
Watch out for...
TWO CAN PLAY by Margaret Sturton (Anderson Press)
GRANDAD'S CAMPER by Harry Woodgate (Andersen Press