Best of 2015 part two: Children’s books

And now for the second and final part of my books of 2015. Part one covered my top 5 adult books: this is my list of my top 10 children’s books.

Same rules as before. The publication date has absolutely no bearing. This is purely a list of the best books I read in 2015. Slight difference in the format this year – no more Amazon links. Hardly anyone reads this blog anyway, and the WordPress stats show that the few people who do find their way here don’t click on the links, so it’s a wasted effort.

No. 10 – The King of the Copper Mountains, by Paul Biegel

The King of the Copper Mountains

I got this for Christmas last year – it’s a fantastic little fantasy. The king is dying; the doctor is off on a quest to find a cure, but to keep the king’s heart beating until he returns, a succession of animals tells the king stories. The stories are perfectly woven into the framing narrative, and the result is both charming and moving.

No. 9 – The Mixed-Up Summer of Lily McLean, by Lindsay Littleson

The Mixed-Up Summer of Lily McLean

Reviewed on this blog back in April. I met Lindsay in Dundee, where she was shortlisted for the Great War Dundee Children’s book prize. She was already a prize-winner by that point – The Mixed-Up Summer of Lily McLean won the Kelpies prize. No wonder. This is a truly fantastic book, full of heart and character, with a great central concept that I really don’t want to spoil. Highly recommended.

No. 8 – The Nowhere Emporium, by Ross Mackenzie

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Reviewed on this blog back in May. One of those great kids’ books where the magic is done just right. Reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones, which, if you know me, is high praise.

No. 7 – Murder Most Unladylike, Arsenic for Tea, and First Class Murder, by Robin Stevens

Murder Most Unladylike series

I’m cheating again – I couldn’t decide which of these books to put on my list, so I’ve just included all three. Best described as Agatha Christie for kids, these stories of posh schoolgirl detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are packed full of murder, poison, intrigue, spies, secrets, and a whole lot of bunbreaks. Charming and entertaining. The next volume, Jolly Foul Play, is due out early next year, and is a must-buy.

No. 6 – Nightbirds on Nantucket, by Joan Aiken

Nightbirds on Nantucket

Continuing my slow progression through Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase sequence is this, another tale of one of the great heroines of children’s literature, Dido Twite. Funny, exciting, intriguing, and all held together by Dido, who is an utter force of nature. I have to take my time with these books, because the danger is I’d rush through them all as quickly as possible and then have none left…

No. 5 – The Year of the Stranger, by Allan Campbell McLean

The Year of the Stranger

Allan Campbell McLean wrote The Hill of the Red Fox, which is not only one of my favourite books of all time, but a huge influence on my own writing. This books is more myth than adventure, with the stranger of the title arriving after fifty days of rain and bringing the sunshine. A fantastic tale of the Isle of Skye in the 19th century.

No. 4 – The Feathered Man, by Jeremy de Quidt

The Feathered Man

A dark, disturbing, and gruesome tale – genuinely unsettling in places. Klaus the tooth-puller’s boy gets mixed up in a horrendous adventure with Liesel, maidservant to the grotesque Frau Drecht, with crazed Jesuit priests and Aztec horrors.

One thing I see a lot in reviews of Jeremy de Quidt’s work is that it’s not really for children. This is nonsense. Yes, it’s scary and disturbing and horrific, but I’d have loved this book (and The Toymaker, his previous novel) when I was about 11 or 12.

No. 3 – The Dreamsnatcher, by Abi Elphinstone

The Dreamsnatcher

Moll lives in a Romany camp, and her life is good – she is even friends with a wildcat she calls Gryff. But when recurring dreams call her into the forest, where Skull the witchdoctor is waiting, she becomes aware of a prophecy that only she and Gryff can fight back against the dreamsnatcher… Fun, adventure, secrets, magic, prophecies, wildcats and catapults. If that doesn’t make you want to read this book, I don’t know what will. I had to buy two copies of this – I read it on Kindle, but when I was raving about it my partner decided she wanted to read it, too, and as she doesn’t “do” ebooks, it was off to WHSmith for us…

No. 2 – The Wolf Wilder, by Katherine Rundell

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Reviewed on this blog back in September. For a long time I thought this was going to be my book of the year. I was absolutely sure of it, because it clicked with me in so many ways; not least of which was the beautiful art by Gelrev Ongbico and the production design. Anyone who buys this as an ebook should be shot.

But then came my No. 1…

No. 1 – Railhead, by Philip Reeve

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Reviewed on this blog in November. I used phrases like “destined to be a future classic”. I stand by those words. I don’t think I have anything more to say about the subject!

So there we have it, another year, another huge pile of children’s books. According to my spreadsheet (shut I’m, I’m a geek, so what) I’ve read 95 books this year, of which 54 were children’s books. Whittling it down to a top 10 wasn’t easy, and looking over the books I’ve omitted, I could easily come up with another ten books I’d highly recommend.

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