The 10 best children’s books of 2016 − as chosen by children

The TES published its top ten children’s books of 2016, as voted by children. You may read the full list here, reproduced below;

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This year, TES started a series of weekly pupil-written reviews of books for children. Here are the 10 that most impressed our classroom critics.

Children’s books do not get much attention from newspapers and magazines. So, in February, a group of children’s authors, led by SF Said, set up a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #CoverKidsBooks. The aim was to encourage newspapers to increase and improve their review coverage of children’s books.

TES responded almost immediately. We’d been talking about setting up a children’s book-review page on our website for a long time, and this was the incentive that we needed.

We asked teachers to review books, but we didn’t simply want adults to give their opinions; this seemed to miss the point. Surely it would be far more effective to ask children to review books that were intended for their eyes. So that’s what we did.

Here are 10 books that our reviewers − both teachers and students − loved this year.

1. The Accidental Secret Agent 

by Tom McLaughlin
(OUP Children’s) 

A book about…a clumsy 13-year-old boy called Kevin, who is mistaken for a secret agent and ends up getting armed with an arsenal of James Bond-style gadgets to tackle a supervillain.

“When I read this book, it lured me in like magic. I could not wait for the next page, and when my mum told me to go to sleep I was really annoyed, as I was extremely wrapped up in the story.”

Aidan, 9,  from Whitchurch Church of England Primary, Hampshire

2. Max

by Sarah Cohen-Scali
(Walker Books)

A book about…a young German boy living in Nazi Germany between 1936 and 1945, and how a Polish boy challenges his dedication to the Hitler Youth.

“Heart-wrenching, devastating and groundbreaking – it’s impossible not to fall in love with this book.”

Edith Reavley, Year 9 pupil at Fortismere School, North London

3. Anna and the Swallow Man

by Gavriel Savit
(Bodley Head)

A book about…a young Polish girl who is led away from the danger of the Second World War by a mysterious man, who is known as “The Swallow Man”.

“This is a perfect novel from the undoubtedly talented Gavriel Savit. It makes you want to read more and more. It is very well structured and beautifully and carefully written. I would have rated it 15 stars if it was possible, but really I would rate it five stars.”

Fuhaira Chaudhary, Year 10 pupil at Central Lancaster High School

4. Malkin Moonlight

by Emma Cox, with illustrations by Rohan Eason
(Bloomsbury Children’s)

A book about…a small black cat who falls in love and then battles to bring peace to a recycling centre full of other cats.

“I really enjoyed this book and it was very ‘popping’. My favourite part was when Malkin and Roux travelled to the recycling centre. I would recommend this to a confident reader.”

Shreyas, 9,  from Chalk Ridge Primary School, Hampshire

5. Steven Seagull, Action Hero

by Elys Dolan
(OUP Children’s)

A book about…a bird, closely modelled on the actor of a similar name, who saves Beach City from all sorts of miscreants.

“When I asked the children if they enjoyed the story, Leon called out: ‘Ding! It’s a tick!’

“Across the board, the children scored this 10/10 on their hands.

“Well done, Steven Seagull. You have made it onto the Butterfly Class’ favourites shelf. And you made this teacher laugh a lot, too.”

Alice Edgington, deputy headteacher at St Stephen’s Infant School, Canterbury, Kent

6. Ada Twist, Scientist

by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
(Abrams Books)

A book about…the power of curiosity and a child who opts to use science to understand the world around her.

“I enjoyed this book, because it made me appreciate all of the scientists’ hard work.

“It also shows you how even young children can love and nurture their interest in science and the world around them. This is why you should check this book out – it will inspire you to do something you love.”

Abbi, 13, from Linton Village College, Cambridge

7. Lydia: The Wild Girl of Pride and Prejudice

by Natasha Farrant
(Chicken House)

A book about…Lydia, a girl who falls for a soldier and follows him to Brighton where she tries to find out what she really wants from life.

“In a fresh take on the fabulous Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Lydia finds herself in a whirlwind of social drama. Natasha Farrant conjures up a romantic atmosphere that might melt your heart. It is a must for all major bookworms out there.”

Teagan McClymont-Dodd, Year 6 pupil at The District CE Primary School, Merseyside

8. Alison Hubble

by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman
(Puffin)

A book about…a girl who suddenly starts creating doubles of herself, and the ensuing chaos that it brings.

“I think that it was double the double the double the fun! It was funny and silly.”

Abigail, a Primary 3 pupil at Auchtermuchty Primary School, Fife

9. The Christmasaurus

by Tom Fletcher, with illustrations by Shane Devries
(Puffin)

A book about…a boy and a baby dinosaur and their adventures at Christmas.

“My favourite part in the book is when the Hunter and his dog, Growler, get involved. I love action parts. When I was reading, I thought to myself, ‘I’ll read one more page’, but I ended up reading six more chapters.”

Romy, Year 5 pupil at Crondall Primary School, Hampshire

10. Knights of the Borrowed Dark

by Dave Rudden
(Puffin)

A book about…an orphan who is drawn into a world of monsters and knights, one in which the true story of where he comes from is buried under half-truths.

“The book glows with flair and humour – clever and different, with no hint of stating the obvious. This is what makes me breathe a sigh of relief. Not at the end of the book – the ‘I’m glad that’s over’ sigh. No. The ‘Yes! Finally a real writer who isn’t dead’ sigh.”

Eleanor, 13, from Exeter Cathedral School

If you or your class would like to write a review for TES, please contact Adi Bloom at adi.bloom@tesglobal.com

This is an edited version of an article in the 2 December edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click hereTES magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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Competition winner

Jess from Deri View Primary School is the delighted winner of Bloomsbury’s writing competition. Congratulations and well done!Cw1GNdKWQAA7CTE.jpg

From the school website;

Congratulations

A big well done to Jessica Withey in Year 6 who won the Bloomsbury’s Malkin Moonlight creative writing competition with her brilliant entry about a fox! Jessica wins a Kindle Fire and a bundle of books as well as £100 of books for our school!

‘Reading is the most powerful gift we can give a child: it puts stardust in their imaginations’

2nd November 2016 at 08:01
reading, children's book week, emma cox, literacy, malkin moonlight
Child readers bring more magic to the party. They can imagine the things they will never do. They can make mistakes, experience untold terrors and even die. Children’s Book Week is cause to celebrate, says this English teacher and children’s author

The clocks have gone back, it’s dark as soon as school finishes and, as fireworks flash outside, I am reminded that the things that happen at night are the most magical. It is Children’s Book Weekand I think that one of the most happy, warm, delicious and magical childhood pursuits is reading. Particularly after dark.

A certain sort of book is better read in bed. Breaking the lights-out rule is one of the happy comforts of childhood. Nighttime reading gives a child the license to be safely afraid, warm and comfy in their bed. It lets magic permeate their dreams; it wakes them up with ideas. There are many different kinds of reading for children: sharing a book with a parent, reading in class with a teacher, finding a book in a library – but perhaps night-time reading is the best reading of all.

Imagining a childhood without books gives me a horrid sense of deprivation. I cannot imagine my childhood without the characters I met along the way. The age you are when you first read a book is vital. As a child reader I certainly brought more magic to the party. I believed in absolutely everything, and reading permitted me to do the things that I was not allowed to do, not yet, and let me imagine the things that I would never do – although I believed that I might.

‘Stardust in their imaginations’

Reading is the most powerful gift we can give a child: it puts stardust in their imaginations, the tingle of possibility in their minds, the knowledge of facts in their brains, the crackle of magic in burnt fingertips that have cast wondrous spells. Books give you a best friend who understands when you really need them to. An animal with warm fur who loves you. The belief you are someone special and that you can overcome difficulties, that the world belongs to you and you can make something wonderful of it. You can also make mistakes, you can walk into danger, you can experience untold terrors, and – with fiction for older children – you can even die.

Then you can put the book down and live.

Books are an anchor that show children how people cope in difficult situations and how situations can develop outside our control. They are full of knowledge – and a springboard to developing that knowledge. They offer facts and figures (theGuinness Book of Records is absolutely fought over by boys in our school library who can tell you specific page numbers, facts, data…) as well as opinions about things where knowledge runs out. Books are aspirational – and inspirational, providing an insight into human frailty and human strength. Books are a guide to the galaxy. Books are clever – they show us what nature has achieved. Books are funny – they can be really funny – and some of our most loved children’s authors are the funniest of all.

A bookcase of one’s own

And then there is the power of choosing a book. I remember how it felt when a £5 note fell out of a birthday or Christmas card when I was small. I was never quite so keen on a gift voucher. I liked having real money. I liked spending it on Lego (the first and best instructions that we read) and on books.

I think it is lovely to give a child that responsibility. To walk into a book shop with their own money and spend £6 or £7 wisely. It’s a pick ’n’ mix for the imagination, and they get to keep the book for ever. To fill up a bookcase of their own.

We all remember, either clearly or vaguely, the books that imprinted on our imaginations as children. We often have difficulty describing exactly what happened, but we remember the feeling it gave us. ‘There was this book I read as a child…’

It may be a disappointment to find this book now and read it with an adult brain because the colour might have faded, the sparkle dissipated like the words written by a sparkler. But perhaps it may ignite all over again. The alchemy achieved by the little black shapes on a page – not even proper shapes – that build worlds in the mind and make you someone else for the duration is a glorious, high magic.

Walking around I see teenage boys (in particular) wearing t-shirts to show they’ve not quite come back from the brink of unreality. They prefer the worlds of comic books and graphic novels, and they want this world to know that. They believe in what is right and wrong, in super-powers, special mutations.

Need to read

We need food and water, we need to be warm, we need to have hope, and we need to make sense of this world. We need to dare to dazzle and create, and to step outside of ourselves. We need to take risks. We need to be. We need to read.

We need more children’s book reviews, more people like Adi Bloom and Nicolette Jones, who champion children’s literature. We need more libraries in schools and communities, because if a £5 note doesn’t drop out of your Christmas card, a library means you can still go and choose a book. Learning to love a library means learning to be comfortable in one and being confident in using one, so that when childhood is no more, and you say goodbye to those who love you and head off to university or wherever the world is leading you, you can always find a library. You may think, ‘I’m a little lonely, and this is all a little new,’ but you will gather a stack of books and open a computer and think, ‘But I’m in a library, I recognise this. I know about reading, so a part of me is home.’

In time, reading might turn to writing: in all its different forms, from something as small as a tweet to a doctoral thesis. And it is through writing that wonderful new books will be born that will light the touchpaper of inspiration that ignites the brains of our children.

Between here and Christmas is the time of year when the most books are sold. It is dark, it is cold, it’s time to hunker down and light up the fire of imagination. So ignore the lights out rule and give a child you love a book. It is a magical gift, and a unique one, because once those words are mixed with the power of a child’s imagination…well. No other gift could possibly contain as much.

Emma Cox is the author of Malkin Moonlight, published by Bloomsbury. She is head of English at Exeter Cathedral School.

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Fear of immigrants…

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Joanne Cummins is literacy manager at Chalk Ridge Primary School in Hampshire. She tweets as@BookSuperhero2

In her review of Malkin Moonlight published in the TES, she writes;

…. this theme cleverly mirrors the crisis our society is facing at the moment, with fear and distrust of immigrants seemingly being the overwhelming reason that people voted leave in the recent EU referendum. This part of the book would provide an excellent starting point for a discussion with children about the rights of others and the current immigration situation, and about how they think some of these issues could be resolved.

Given that the debate on “Brexit” now dominates the political landscape, it is clearly an issue close to people’s hearts.