Best Books of 2018 – Lynne Babbage

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Of the non-fiction picture books that I reviewed last year, two stood out. The happiness box: a wartime book of hope, written by Mark Greenwood and illustrated by Andrew McLean, tells a moving tale of a real book created by prisoners-of-war in Singapore in 1942 as a gift for children imprisoned in nearby Changi. The Japanese commandant ordered it to be destroyed (one of the characters was called Winston!) but it was hidden and retrieved after the war. It is now housed in the State Library of NSW and is listed as a National Treasure.

The other was an American picture book about raising chickens called Let’s hatch chicks!: explore the wonderful world of chickens and eggs, written by Lisa Perry and illustrated by Perry Taylor. Told in a narrative style starring Violet, a Lavender Orpington hen living on a farm in Maine, there is lots of relevant information and handy tips for anyone interested in keeping chickens. The six-year-old to whom I gave it is now enamoured with chicks and wants her own.

For one of the cutest book characters you have ever seen, take a look at Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin. This simple chapter book is almost a graphic novel as the level of text is ideal for beginning readers and the visual clues in solving the various cases which Baby Monkey takes on are shown in the pictures, not words.

And for anyone who has ever worked in a bookshop or library, two books to bring a smile to your faces are I can’t remember the title but the cover is blue: Sketches from the other side of the bookshop counter by Elias Greig, about his time working in a Sydney bookshop while he completed a PhD, and Notes from a public typewriter, compiled by Michael Gustafson from the notes left in or by the typewriter placed in his and his wife’s Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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