Having read and reviewed some incredible titles for the CBCA over the last twelve months, I am delighted to share my top three books for 2018. Choosing my absolute favourites was no easy task but for me, as a mother and former educator, this little selection spans various age ranges and contains the literary gems I would most highly recommend.
Whichever way we look at it, it’s been another turbulent year for the wider world and it sometimes seems to me as if authors of children’s books are fighting against all odds to show us all the magic and wonder that still exists. As is the way with so many stand-out children’s books, my top three titles offer a different and utterly joyful perspective on life, as well as a gentle yet profound infusion of wisdom. My top three are not only easy to share with children but also allow us as adults to connect with our young readers through a mutual sense of discovery.
As well as humour and a tremendous sense of fun, these titles celebrate the common theme of meaningful human connection, specifically that special bond between adult and child.
My first title is Errol!, a collaborative result of CBCA Notable children’s book author, Zanni Louise and Kate Greenaway Medal-nominated illustrator Philip Bunting.
Aimed at pre-school children (3+) this glorious picture book tells the story of one stubborn penguin and his exasperated mother.
Every parent will have reached this familiar impasse: when a tiny human really digs in their heels, plonks themselves down and refuses to move. This is the hilariously relatable tale of what happens next.
After refusing to follow his mum, a wonderfully independent adventure unfolds for this cheeky little penguin. Told in very few words, the direct speech between Errol and his mum is as sparse as the book’s beautifully painted Antarctic backdrop, opening up the possibility for much dialogic reading.
My second title is Olivia’s Secret Scribbles: My (Almost) Perfect Puppy. Meredith Costain’s second instalment in this Australian series for young girls (6+) follows the adventures of Olivia, the younger sister of Ella from Costain’s bestselling Ella Diaries series.
The diary format is always popular with budding readers and this title’s large, simple font combined with the gorgeous purple illustrations, diagrams, and notations, are sure to engage and entertain young readers, especially those looking to read their first chapter book.
In addition to her sweetly comic adventures, Olivia herself provides a wonderful new role model for younger children who admire compassionate heroics and a naturally inventive spirit. Above all, this book demonstrates the transformative power of fostering good relationships between young and old, animal and human.
And finally, Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables: Fight Back is the second book in the Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables series by Tim Harris. Australia’s funniest new author has managed to create yet another enthralling, often poignant,laugh-out-loud series for upper-primary aged children and beyond, with James Hart’s wickedly expressive cartoon illustrations as the perfect accompaniment.
Class 12B’s quirky students are immediately relatable and Harris’ engaging narratives are jam-packed with adventure, ingenuity, and authentically moving,comic moments. It’s Harris’s masterful understanding of both the classroom and the child-adult dynamic that for me, really make his stories shine.
Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables: Fight Back is the perfect demonstration of what can be achieved when a child is truly valued and accepted, celebrating the fact that being different is what makes us special and a timely reminder for all of us that each child is remarkable and a living story just waiting to be heard.
Looking back over this roller-coaster of a year, I cannot think of a more important or relevant message for readers, young and old.