Every year I, together with my two girls, reflect on our year in books – the ones that made us laugh, cry, connect, ponder and encourage affection. I also usually review my statistics on books borrowed, received for review and bought, but this year let’s just say, it’s hugely extensive, and still counting.
So, once again, of all the beauty, heartbreak, joy and wisdom we’ve so fortunately added to our literary repertoire, here are Miss M (age 7) and Miss A’s (almost 4) top 16 children’s books of 2016 (in alphabetical order).
Australia Illustrated, Tania McCartney (author, illus.), EK Books, November 2016.
OMG! This book is a visual festive celebration, the ultimate pictorial encyclopaedia of our beautiful land. Tania McCartney’s expansive array of detail and design, even if only a snippet, takes us on a wonderful journey around the country exploring major attractions to pockets of hidden gems we may have otherwise missed. My kids loved traveling around Australia; spotting familiarities, discovering new mysteries of the unknown, and giggling along at the cute and quirky nuances. Superb!
Bear Make Den, Jane Godwin & Michael Wagner (authors), Andrew Joyner (illus.), Allen & Unwin, February 2016.
Miss A, in particular, loved this one. Only a few repeat reads had her reciting the story on her own… Every. Night. An adorably sweet and simple narrative with short phrasing, and the strikingly expressive and vivid retro-style illustrations by Andrew Joyner enabled her to feel the confidence and familiarity to engage so many times over. As Bear continued to add to the homeliness of his den, Miss A’s attention to the details grew as she noticed how the building and creating process progressed with the materials Bear possessed. A surprisingly clever and amusing book that literally made a place in our home.
Clarrie’s Pig Day Out, Jen Storer (author), Sue DeGennaro (illus.), ABC Books, March 2016.
Okay, so I’ve lost count of the number of ‘fart attacks’ we’ve had in our household! It has now become a running joke! Thanks, Jen! This book definitely tops our list as one of the funniest, zaniest acts of inventive word-play and twists of language we’ve come across. When Clarrie sets out on a very normal day to the shops and to have coffee with his love-interest, Mrs Winterbottom, his mixed-up kind of speech gets him into all sorts of bothers. But yes, it is that moment when a box, no, fox attempts to eat his frenzied chickens when all-wind, howls and fits of laughter break loose…and it gets them every single time! And the simple colour palette and details in the illustrations are lots of fun, too. Really, it is a very sweet story of an eccentric old man, but oh is it an absolute crack-up! Highly recommended.
Do Not Open This Book, Andy Lee (author), Heath McKenzie (illus.), Lake Press, September 2016.
One of the most popular books this year… Highly recommended for ages four and up. There’s something about breaking the rules, about being rebellious that kids seem naturally drawn to…hmmm. When the creature in the story persists, begs, whines and plays all sorts of socially-unacceptable tricks to stop the reader from turning the page, of course, we can’t resist (yes, I fell into the trap, too!). Comedian and radio presenter, Andy Lee seems to know all the tricks as well, and got himself onto a winner with this idea. And not to mention Heath McKenzie’s brilliantly over-the-top and in-your-face hilarious illustrations. A must have for every early primary reader.
Gary, Leila Rudge (author, illus.), Walker Books, May 2016.
There’s always something endearing about birds in stories, and Gary is no different. Reminiscent of Anna Walker’s ‘Peggy’, we loved this story of a flightless pigeon with a passion for travel…even if it was by accident. Miss A adored the cute and funny aspects, such as the little racing pigeons’ jumpers and when Gary fell off the ladder and into the basket. Leila Rudge has written a heartwarming story of dedication, compassion and adventure, with equally melt-in-your-beak pure and delightful illustrations to match. Love.
Home in the Rain, Bob Graham (author, illus.), Walker Books, October 2016.
What’s a ‘best-of’ list without a Bob Graham book? Miss M is always intrigued by his books (aren’t we all?). This is a gentle and reassuring story of a little girl, so focused on her family (and her soon-to-be sister), whilst the dreariness and uncertainty of the downpour in amongst the traffic rages outside her car window. There were two main elements that got Miss M thinking; the notion of events occurring in the bigger world beyond the security of our own little bubble, and how important realisations can happen at the most unexpected times. Again, wonderfully philosophical elements wrapped in a story of family and love.
My Perfect Pup, Sue Walker (author), Anil Tortop (illus.), New Frontier Publishing, June 2016.
Dogs in stories always capture our hearts, and Miss A in particular was drawn to this one. We lost our beloved little furry baby earlier in the year, and ever since, my girls have craved visiting pet shops and patting every dog on the street. So My Perfect Pup certainly connects on a deeper level. Besides the humorous side to the story of children choosing the ‘perfect’ pet and their attitude being rebuffed in the most glorious way, we also had more serious discussions on the ability of all living creatures to make the best choices for themselves, and of responsible pet ownership. Heartwarming, relatable and with gorgeous illustrations, this one is a keeper.
Penguin Problems, Jory John (author), Lane Smith (illus.), Walker Books UK, November 2016.
Why are narcissistic and sceptical characters so loveable? For this one little, sad penguin we just want to take him under our proverbial wing and show him how beautiful the world really is. But Miss M can’t get enough of this grumbling bird complaining about the only existence he’s ever known. The sarcasm and self-deprecating language is too good to not fall in love with. The cartoon pictures and comic-style layouts perfectly complement the humour and meanderings of this character on his soul-searching journey. Just brilliant!
Pig the Elf, Aaron Blabey (author, illus.), Scholastic, October 2016.
You just can’t go past another ‘Pig’ book in this popular picture book series by Aaron Blabey! And when the mischievous little scoundrel returned in a Christmas adventure, my kids were immediately hooked. Pig’s greedy and selfish ways return full throttle when he constructs a mile-long list of gifts and demands one unsuspecting Santa to deliver them at once. But the bits that always crack a giggle or a few is when a hole in Santa’s rear end (ripped by Pig) reveals gingerbread man undergarments, and poor Pig (ok, maybe he deserves it) goes tumbling to his (ironically) angelic demise. Oh, Pig! A must for any time of the year!
Quick as a Wink Fairy Pink, Lesley Gibbes (author), Sara Acton (illus.), Working Title Press, August 2016.
What a gorgeous way to reinforce the bedtime routine, knowledge of colours and the fluidity of rhyming words! And all with a little girl’s two loves – a game of hide and seek, and fairies! Miss A never got ‘tired’ of watching each little fairy make their way to bed with a fun and simple step towards catching z’s. And locating the cheeky, hiding Fairy Pink entertained us every time. Playful and colourful, this book is sure to be a favourite for many girls and boys from age three (just like mine).
Ruby Wishfingers, Deborah Kelly (author), Leigh Hedstrom (illus.), Wombat Books, 2016.
Unicorns, jelly beans and magic… and talking cats. This is how you attract a six year old to your books! Miss M relished bedtime readings when both Skydancer’s Escape and Toad-Ally Magic! were on the bedside table.
Imagination and curiosity sparked at every turn of Ruby’s haphazard adventures as her wishing-fingers’ skills gradually evolved, with much rollicking, magical chaos along the way. Absolutely fun early reader chapter books with themes of responsibility and morality.
Smile Cry, Tania McCartney (author), Jess Racklyeft (illus.), EK Books, March 2016.
I remember reading this for the first time with both girls, and the comment Miss M made was, “I love this book! You can read it all day!”. She was referring to the clever flip-book concept where the smile-cry meet in the middle, but also the fact that it is an utter and pure delight of sensory-, emotive- and cuteness-overload. We all just adore Jess’s sugary sweet illustrations, and Tania’s inventive and refreshing text provided plenty of cheerful role-play and thought-provoking moments. A never-want-to-put-it-down book to make you smile.
Snail and Turtle Rainy Days, Stephen Michael King (author, illus.), Scholastic Press, July 2016.
Such an adorable book of loyalty and friendship, creativity and ingenuity. Miss A and I loved the quirky little connections between Snail and Turtle are Friends and its latest companion. There were so many elements we enjoyed discussing like Snail’s favourite swirls, Turtle loving the rain, and why Snail didn’t. We also talked about Turtle’s cleverness and kindness to help out his friend. The bold and vibrant cartoon illustrations are so visually entertaining as well. Just a brilliant story for children from age three.
The Cat Wants Custard, P.Crumble (author), Lucinda Gifford (illus.), Scholastic, July 2016.
Miss A couldn’t get enough of this book, either. A funny, obnoxious and ever-so persistent cat desperately tries to persuade his owner to give him some custard. He even goes as far as literally spelling it out with his body! But to no avail. Until Kevin, the cat, finally seizes the opportunity when his late-night-snacking owner leaves the fridge door open. Is it the heavenly, satisfying moment he had hoped for? With animated illustrations that are so in your face you can almost taste them, Miss A consistently pleaded for more (as well as a ‘mashed potato’ sequel).
The House on the Hill, Kyle Mewburn (author), Sarah Davis (illus.), Scholastic, March 2016.
Stunning, from start to finish. Davis’ haunting, monochromatic illustrations divinely capture your soul, in both terrifying and heartwarming ways. Mewburn’s poetic stance relaying back to the Edgar Allen Poe of yesteryear is just as brilliantly mesmerising and powerful. Both my girls took advantage of the dark, eerie setting in their rooms each night as we were swept up in the adventure of two children, and their cat, braving each spooky step through a haunted house on a hill. So much creepy goodness for courageous kids from age three!
This is a Circle, Chrissie Krebs (author, illus.), Penguin Random House Australia, March 2016.
Miss A had a ball, and a square, and a circle with this book! With amusing and highly energetic illustrations by Chrissie Krebs and a rollicking rhyming text to match, this book makes it into our top 16 of ‘16. Hilarious characters, including a tap-dancing goat, a song-singing cat, a pant-wearing fox and a wild-looking bear literally chase each other in circles and atop of boxes in a chaotic, romping frenzy, until they discover they’ve gotten themselves into a bit of a quandary. Children from three and up will love the tactile and interactive nature of this book.
So, there we have it for another fantastic year in children’s books. From the touching, to the powerful, from the hilarious to the life-changing, and of course, all absolutely pleasurable. What have been your favourites this year? ☺️ 📚
**This post contains affiliate links to Boomerang Books.