I think the first book on this list will remain a favourite for many years. I also fell back in love with David Almond this month – his newest novel is fantastic.
49. Graeme Baker-Smith – The Rhythm of the Rain
Beautiful words, beautiful illustrations and beautiful colours combine to tell the story of the water cycle. A book to promote awe and wonder.
50. Victoria Jamieson – Rollergirl
A coming-of-age story about Astrid, a young girl who is trying to find her place.
Her interest is piqued by the local roller derby club, but joining means threatening a lifelong friendship, lying to her mother, and the realisation that she’s not that great at skating.
Ultimately a story that shows that teenage years can be difficult, filled with what seem like life-changing decisions and a desperation to be loved and to succeed.
51. Gail Honeyman – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Universally acclaimed and so doesn’t need my two-penneth, but here it is anyway: the story of Eleanor is at times harrowing, at times laugh-out-loud, and one that sheds a sorry light on how ‘outsiders’ are treated by the majority – whether co-workers mocking behind people’s backs, or how Eleanor’s struggles to communicate ‘normally’ are met by strangers. Eleanor’s tale is heroic and desperate at the same time, but should make you stop and think.
52. David Almond – The Tale of Angelino Brown
Bert the bus driver thinks his time his up when he feels a fluttering around his heart, but is shocked (and pleasantly surprised) to find an angel in his breast pocket. He takes it home to his wife, Betty, and the two of them name him Angelino.
Angelino attends school, where he plays football, becomes the focus for art lessons, and farts music. He brings happiness to all – but others are hunting for him.
The social commentary on what is happening in our schools is brilliant, as the children are shown to thrive in exploration of a variety of subjects, rather than the narrowed-down education that the school inspector wants to bring. Angelino inspires the children and even some of the adults, while Betty and Bert’s story is equally warm and heartening.
Humour with a thoughtful message.
53. Kwame Alexander – The Crossover
Written largely in free verse and narrated by Josh, twin to Jordan, the narrative explores the difficulties of growing up – loving sport, but finding love elsewhere. How can the two be combined?
Meanwhile, Dad, a former pro basketball player, is hiding his own struggles whilst living vicariously through his sons’ successes in the court.
Packed with emotion, action and drama, a great read for anyone who likes their fiction served a little differently.
54. Elizabeth Laird – The Fastest Boy in the World
An easy-to-follow short story of Solomon and his grandad. Grandad decides to take a trip from their village to the capital, Addis Ababa – on foot.
What seems like a pointless journey is given poignancy as Grandad reveals secrets of his past before falling ill, at which point Solomon decides to run all the way home for help.
Solomon’s relationship with his grandfather is warm and loving, and the story shows the (literal) lengths families will go to for one another.
55. Elizabeth Laird – Oranges in No-Man’s Land
A very short story that follows Ayesha’s journey across no-man’s-land as she fetches medicine for her sick grandmother. Lebanon is divided, but on her travels Ayesha encounters the true essence human spirit – sharing, kindness, empathy and goodwill.
56. Various – Make More Noise
Ten short stories that celebrate females overcoming the ignorance of their male counterparts.
Featuring authors such as Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Emma Carroll, M.G. Leonard and many more, the stories show female characters battling against others in their quest for what is right – whether to be treated equally to men in competition, or in interests, or in strength (physical and emotional).
Lots to enjoy here – my favourites were Emma Carroll’s story about otter hunting, and Ella Risbridger’s ghostly tale.
57. Jo Cotterill – Looking at the Stars
A fictional world that reflects much of what is happening in the world today. Amina and Jenna become refugees after warescalates in their country, under a regime that makes women second class citizens. They get separated from their family in varying circumstances, and the two have to survive how they can – for Amina, this means telling stories.
Her stories entertain other camp-dwellers, give hope to those who have lost it, and allow those who are suffering to escape, even it is just for a few short minutes. Through her story-telling, Amina’s confidence grows, which helps the girls propel themselves to their ultimate goal of finding their family.
58. Ally Sherrick – Black Powder
A fictitious account of the infamous Gunpowder Plot, featuring all of the real protagonists (Fawkes, Catesby et al) alongside Tom Garnett, a young boy whose father gets mixed up in the religious upheaval of the time.
Tom gives the game away to the local constabulary, and the hunt for his father begins – Tom determines that the best course of action is to follow him and warn/help him. On his way, he comes across a mysterious character who refers to himself as The Falcon; Tom starts to trust him – but at what cost?
Lots of historical insight into the class divides as well as well as the religious background to the Gunpowder Plot – fast-paced and twists and turns abound.
59. David Almond – The Colour of the Sun
A warm and wondrous read.
Almond’s semi-autobiographical story sees Davie walking away from his hometown after the murder of Jimmy Killen. On his journey, he encounters various characters who help him see the simplicity and beauty of life.
As he walks, Davie starts to come to terms with his recent loss, and it is this thread that really pulls the story together.
As ever, David Almond’s writing is full of contrast – simplicity in its structure with a depth of meaning that few other writers can reach. There is a beauty here, an acceptance and acknowledgement of life being full of wonder if we let it be so.
60. Linda Sue Park – A Long Walk to Water
A dual narrative, told from the perspectives of Nya (2009) and Salva (1983), both living in Southern Sudan.
Nya has to walk each day for water: a long, thankless and often fruitless task.
Salva is caught in the middle of a civil war and is separated from his family, making his way to a refugee camp in Ethiopia, then Kenya. We follow Salva’s story as he gets older, where he makes a life-changing decision.
It was fascinating to read from the point of view of those who need fresh water, and the story has a beautiful and fitting end.
The afterword from both Salva and Linda Sue Park hit hard too.
61. Joe Todd-Stanton – Arthur and the Golden Rope
A really enjoyable picture book/graphic novel-lite that follows Arthur, a a young boy widely regarded as an odd-bod due to his interest in the unusual.
He is quickly blamed for bringing misfortune to his town, and resolved to sort it out himself. He approaches the Norse gods to ask for their help, and is set a series of tasks.
Ultimately, it is Arthur’s eye for the unusual that saves him, and the townsfolk learn to appreciate him for who he is.