Here at CBCA Reading Time we are very fortunate to have a cornucopia of excellent reviewers. When we put out the call for personal top three’s of 2021 we should not have been surprised by the overwhelming response. For the next three days we will present our reviewer’s favourite books from 2021. Enjoy!
Wandi by Favel Parrett
A story about an alpine dingi pup called Little who is separated from his family. Written with sparse, perfectly pitched language, it draws the reader in with its quiet voice and gentle plea for all of us humans to protect these unique and precious creatures.
Dragon Skin by Karen Foxlee
Karen has this wonderful skill of creating real, dirt-under-the fingernails stories but with a touch of magic and possibility. I loved this story of a young girl whose life is in turmoil when she finds something mysterious by her favourite waterhole.
Eliza Vanda’s Button Box by Emily Rodda
I loved the very real world setting and the otherworldly scenes in this book that set the scene for this story about a young girl who meets an eccentric seamstress who sends her on a magical errand.
Oddity by Eli Brown
This is a really different and unusual fantasy set in an alternate history setting where the Unified States is fighting the French and where owning magical and mysterious oddities is dangerous. The heroine, Clover Elkin, is on a quest to find the most necessary oddity of all while staying ahead of her father’s killers – with the help of some very strange companions. The originality and inventiveness of the plot is amazing.
The Grandest Bookshop in the World by Amelia Mellor
This Australian title takes a real place, real people and real events and weaves an intriguing fantasy around them. Based on the family of Edward William Cole who founded Cole’s Book Arcade in Melbourne, it takes the tragic death of his daughter Ruby as the event driving the evil machinations of the Obscurosmith. Two of Ruby’s siblings, Pearl and Vally, set out to defeat him and save their beloved home. Because so much of the setting is historically true, the plot feels real and the characters come to life. And the book cover is beautiful.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
This wonderful, whimsical, gentle story about the friendships and relationships between a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse (who can all talk to each other) is brilliant. The creator, Charlie Mackesy, is an artist and the text which accompanies the artwork looks like it is written by brush and ink. Reminiscent of the philosophical musings of Winnie-the-Pooh which was and still is a childhood favourite of mine.
A Girl’s Guide to Puberty and A Guy’s Guide to Puberty by Michelle Mitchell
As some of our family members graduate from picture books, it’s time for books with age-appropriate information about the next stage in life. These books were inhaled by my tween girl and boy and I can’t recommend them highly enough. I had planned to sit down and read them with the kids, but there was no need. The information is honestly, kindly and logically presented which means I have two newly-crowned puberty experts.
Philip Bunting books
Can anyone do a welfare check on Philip Bunting? He must be working around the clock as he seems to release a new book every month. I think our favorite for 2021 is Another Book About Santa, as it puts a humorous spin on what the abundance of Santa-themed books is doing to Santa’s sanity. The illustrations are magically delightful and we will always want to read Philip’s books.
Series we re-read
Due to lockdowns we were slightly limited in access to libraries, but new books in series we already loved gave us the motivation to go back through old favourites. Matt Stanton’s Prank Aliens, Prank Ninjas and Run, Odds, Run lead to my kids re-reading the Funny Kid and The Odds series. During lockdowns in 2020 we read our way through Kes Gray’s Daisy and the Trouble With… series and the arrival of Daisy and the Trouble With Unicorns meant the books got re-read in 2021 lockdowns. We added You Choose: Fairy Tales to our collection of Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt You Choose books plus The Whale Who Wanted More to Rachel Bright and Jim Field’s wonderful rhyming series. Sara Pennypacker’s wonderful Pax was followed up in 2021 with the sequel, Pax: Journey Home and was just as heart-warming and enjoyable.
My three top reads of 2021 are for all of you with those big wild animal-loving hearts!
The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo
This gentle and powerful mystery had me enthralled, because of its medieval atmosphere and a fierce and funny goat. Although it seems historical, it treads deeply into big modern global issues including the education of girls, injustice and cruelty driven by belief, ignorance, and reluctance for change.
October, October by Katya Balen and Angela Harding
One for wild hearts with owls, woods, wonder and love! I fell for breathtaking storytelling that conjured up my own deep memory of the wild places — vast and small — that have grown me. A moving read for animal lovers, of any age, who has experienced a great rift of change.
once at the edge of the sea by Sue Saliba
Written in dream-like poetic prose, this was a human story, connected to the extraordinary lives of endangered shorebirds, Hooded Plovers. This story was special for me because I have begun to help with monitoring the impact of human behaviour on Hooded Plovers on my local shores. What struck me was the stewardship of human relationships, interconnected with wild species that we have in our knowledge and power to protect from our ourselves.