Best Books of 2019: Lynne Babbage


Shaun Bythell, Confessions of a booksellerProfile Books, 2019, ISBN 9781788162302 

A follow-up to the previous title, Diary of a Bookseller, in which the author took to a Kindle with a shotgun, this diary for 2015 continues the saga of a second-hand bookseller in Wigtown. Shaun Bythell’s bookstore is the largest second-hand bookstore in Scotland, stocking 100,000 volumes and selling over 20,000 per year. In his dry, self-deprecating style, he recounts the amusing and ridiculous requests and behaviours of his many customers, visitors and neighbours. Anyone who has ever worked in a library or bookstore will sympathise and find themselves smiling and laughing at their shenanigans. 

Stephanie Owen Reeder, Story Time Stars: Favourite Characters from Australian Picture Books, NLA Publishing, 2019, ISBN 9780642279408 

This book has been written to accompany the fabulous exhibition at the National Library of Australia called, ”Story time: Australian Children’s Literature”, which is on show until February 2020. While the exhibition begins with 19th century titles, including the first book published in Australia for children, the book is an overview of favourite characters from 1910 onwards. Divided into seven time periods, each double-page spread features one book character with information about it, publication dates, overseas editions, stage or screen adaptations and awards. But it is the humorous writing style which appeals. For example, under the Magic Pudding entry the text states that “Albert has been rude to people in lots of countries including China, France, Germany, Japan, Korea and Spain.” 

Katherine Rundell, Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise, Bloomsbury, 2019, ISBN 9781526610072 

Written by an award-winning children’s book author, this essay has been published in an attractive, small hardback, only 63 pages long and approximately 11×15 cm in size. It is an impassioned plea to not be embarrassed at being seen to read children’s books because of the wonderful benefits of doing so. Catchphrases such as “children’s books are not a hiding place, they are a seeking place” and “it’s not escapism: it is findism” abound.  

Mo Willems, The Pigeon Has to Go to School, Walker Books, 2019, ISBN 9781406389012 

Who doesn’t love Mo Willems’ pigeon? In this latest episode of the series, the pigeon comes up with many reasons why he doesn’t need to go to school. He tries any excuse to get out of going, from claiming that he knows everything already to retreating from this position by worrying about having to do maths. The worries and concerns grow until he finally asks how he is going to get to school. The answer is obvious – on a bus! This totally reverses his negative attitude and he can’t wait to get on board. From a double page spread of empty desks at the beginning of the book, the end shows every seat occupied with a range of animal characters, many of which are from other titles in the series. 

Lynne Babbage

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