“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
As children’s authors, it’s important that we’re always reading to immerse ourselves in great quality writing.
During 2017, I read some great books and really enjoyed them all. I’ve made a list of my favourite children’s books so that you can experience the fantastic writing too.
1.The Explorer by Katherine Rundell
If you want a fast-paced, action-packed story, I highly recommend ‘The Explorer’ by Katherine Rundell. Author of other critically acclaimed books such as The Wolf Wilder, she delivers another fantastic story that will delight audiences everywhere.
Set in the Amazon jungle, The Explorer tells the story of four children who are stranded in the rainforest following a plane crash. Fred, Lila, Con and Max find themselves forced to adapt to their new, dangerous surroundings quickly, in order to stay alive.
Faced with everything the jungle can throw at them, including an encounter with piranha and a forest fire, the children begin to realise that they need to get home and fast.
The Explorer is full of wonderful characters, but my personal favourite is Con. First impressions count, but Con tries to convince the reader that she doesn’t care what you think about her. Her character gradually softens as the story goes on and you realise why her personality is the way it is.
As well as a superb storyline and brilliant characters, The Explorer is full of the most wonderful descriptions of the Amazon rainforest itself. From ants that can stop a bee sting to caiman keeping a watchful eye on the children from afar, you are immersed in jungle life from the very first page.
Whatever the reason you have for picking up this book, just read it. You can thank me later.
2.Letters from the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll
Letters from the Lighthouse, beautifully written by Emma Carroll, tells the story of a young girl evacuated during WW2. Weaving historical facts into a moving storyline, Carroll expertly immerses you in the sights and sounds of 1940’s Britain, as well as hooking you in to the plight of young Olive Bradshaw.
After experiencing the full force of the Luftwaffe and the disappearance of her sister, Olive is evacuated to the Devon coast with her brother Cliff. Upon arrival, her illusions of a friendly, warm reception are shattered and she finds herself struggling to adapt to her new life in the country.
She soon makes an enemy of the formidable Esther, but remains determined to find out what has happened to her sister, Sukie. Before long, Olive realises that her new home is full of secrets and mysteries. Her determination to get the answers she wants, no matter the consequences, makes her a likeable heroine.
Letters from the Lighthouse breathes a fresh perspective into this period of history and Carroll continues to write with such skill that, when the end comes, you wish you could experience it for the first time all over again.
3.The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
Faith Sunderly is an inquisitive girl, with a natural curiosity for science and finding the truth. When her father dies, she is convinced, unlike the rest of the island of Vane, that he has been murdered. It is down to her to find out the truth before it’s too late.
First let me start by saying that The Lie Tree is a spellbinding novel. It’ so wonderfully crafted that I couldn’t put it down – the twists and turns kept me captivated and the intricate plot meant the pace was spot on.
And what a character Faith is! What a heroine! Battling against the typical stereotypes of the age, Faith is a determined girl. Her resolve to seek the truth drives the story forward, no matter the difficulties she faces.
Historical fact is woven brilliantly into a fantastic tale and yet it’s dark and creepy in places, keeping the reader hooked. You’re desperate for Faith’s mother Myrtle to see how brilliant her daughter is yet you feel sympathy for Myrtle herself. A woman who was never truly loved or appreciated by her husband, you see her at her most vulnerable as the facade of family life finally unravels.
A beautifully written book with wonderful descriptive detail, The Lie Tree is certainly one to recommend – you’ll be captivated.
4.A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan
What a debut novel by Helena Duggan! Everything from the rose-tinted spectacles to the bravery of our heroine blew me away. I smiled so many times at the sheer genius of the concept and the wonderful way it’s written.
When Violet Brown moves to Perfect, she soon realises that something strange is going on. The tea she drinks, the glasses she has to wear and the rules she has to live by are just downright weird and Violet isn’t happy about it. Before long however she meets Boy, who opens her eyes to the town’s secrets and lies, and persuades her to uncover the truth about this so-called perfect place.
A Place called Perfect sent shivers down my spine. The dystopian twist to the tale was superb – how something as innocent as tea could be the downfall of a community is expertly woven into the plot. I liked Violet, but I loved Boy more, becoming so invested in his quest to find a family, to feel as though he belonged.
I am a true fan of character-driven stories, but found myself torn between the characters and the plot that became thicker and thicker as the story moved forward. What I do know is that I can’t wait for the sequel, as I’m desperate to know how the next part of the story unfolds.
5.The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwood-Hargrave
Isa is determined to one-day venture beyond the town of Gromera and discover the mysteries of the forbidden lands beyond. When her best friend Lupe goes missing, Isa takes it upon herself to find her and soon she is leaving Gromera behind, and her adventures truly begin.
A beautifully written story about friendship and bravery, The Girl of Ink and Stars is a must-read for children’s authors everywhere.
Isabella is a character full of determination, resilience and persistence. Despite having to disguise herself as a boy and encountering mythical beasts, she will not give up on her search for Lupe.
Lupe’s character arc is also a pleasure to read. As the governor’s daughter, she is determined to throw off the ‘rotten’ label that Isa gives to her during an argument. Her character shows just how selfless she is and how important friendship is to her. The relationship between the two girls warms your heart.
It’s not hard to see why The Girl of Ink and Stars is an award-winning book. It’s an opportunity to explore wonderful new places, a rich vocabulary and, most importantly, an exciting new author.
6.The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood-Hargrave
A beautifully written book, The Island at the End of Everything is a wonderful story. I loved The Girl of Ink and Stars, so I wondered if I’d love this as much, but dear reader, I did. Maybe even a little bit more.
Ami lives with her mother on the beautiful island of Culion. Despite its stunning scenery, no one ever visits. For this is the island at the end of everything. An island for those who are ‘touched’ by leprosy.
When Ami is forced to leave her mother behind and sail to nearby Coron, she knows that she may never see her again. When threatened with the workhouse, Ami decides to escape and make her way back to her mother, despite the perilous journey that lies ahead.
The Island at the End of Everything not only showcases Hargrave’s talent for story writing, but also her vivid descriptions. Ami’s love for her mother shines through this story like the flame of a burning candle. Not even the evil Mr Zamora can extinguish it no matter how hard he tries.
I admire authors who can move you to tears with their prose. Carefully chosen words, beautifully woven together, describe the most poignant parts of this story. I can visualise the silence in a classroom as the story reaches its climax, all eyes on the storyteller, all ears straining to hear every detail.
A stunning second novel that has certainly put Kiran into a league of her own. I can’t wait to read what comes next.
So which children’s books have you enjoyed recently? Share your suggestions in the comments…