Do you want to be sure you’re getting top-shelf books for your favourite people this Christmas – or on any gift-giving occasion? We are making it easy for you! Here is our selection of the very best New Zealand junior fiction books of 2018.
The Mapmaker’s Race, by Eirlys Hunter and Kirsten Slade
Eirlys Hunter and Kirsten Slade invite their readers to come on an adventure with the Santander family, across the hills and mountains of a land where the dots of towns have not yet been connected by road nor rail, where there are railway lines that run up fabulous verticals, and steam-powered tractors.
The joy of adventure is palpable in Hunter’s writing, showing a passion for cartography paired with a love of the outdoors. Slade’s beautiful illustrations take us ahead on the journey, and show the emotions of the children as they travel. The tone of the writing and the illustration are matched perfectly. Recommended for ages 7-14.
Flying Furballs: Kit-napped, by Donovan Bixley
This book sees our hilarious heroes off to rescue C-four, their narcoleptic tech expert. As always with Donovan Bixley, the book is saturated in laugh-out-loud puns and the illustrations are plentiful and work well to keep young readers engaged in the action, even when they aren’t entirely familiar with the setting. The expressions on the faces of the dogs and cats are pure Bixley fun, adding another layer of humour to the text.
One of the lessons that Bixley sneaks into these books is not to judge a character by how they look – not all dogs are DOGZ. Recommended for ages 6-12.
Lyla, by Fleur Beale
Fleur Beale’s character Lyla is gutsy and determined, and keeps her neighbourhood together while her parents and the teenagers help in other spaces around the city after the Christchurch earthquakes. Beale makes Lyla brave, but not super-human, and keeps our attention in the right places in this fantastic book. This book is a great choice for the older junior fiction / early teen reader, 10-14+.
By Fleur Beale
Published by Allen & Unwin
The Fire Stallion, by Stacy Gregg
The Fire Stallion is the modern day story of Hilly, a New Zealand girl who ends up on a movie set in Iceland after a tragedy. This is a book with the relationship between a girl and a horse at the centre of the narrative, but the plot offers much more. The unusual location of Iceland offers an entry to a new world, somewhere readers are unlikely to be familiar with.The Fire Stallion is so well written that for a lot of the time, I forgot that I was reading a book pitched at a much younger audience. I’d definitely recommend this book for readers aged 10 and up, as it feels quite sophisticated to me – and it’s certainly not just for the horse lovers. – Rachel Moore
Whetū Toa and the Magician, by Steph Matuku
Reading Whetū Toa and the Magician reminded me of falling into one of the unexpectedly great Apple books that came from the Lucky Book Club. Our protagonist Whetū and her mum go to look after a Magician’s house while he travels in Europe, and all sorts of unexpected things happen while he is gone, thanks to a tricksy rabbit who wants to be the star of the show. There are some wonderful talking animals, including a sheep with a golden fleece, and animated house contents reminiscent of Beauty & The Beast. Perfect as a read-aloud for kids 5+.
Whetū Toa and the Magician
By Steph Matuku
Published by Huia Publishers
Dawn Raid, by Pauline Vaeluaga Smith
Smith has nailed the internal drama of a 13-year-old girl, while ensuring she gets the point of the story without relying on big blocks of explanation. This is a horrific true story of the open racism of the Muldoon Government, but the humour Smith brings into Sofia’s voice ensures it is still suitable for its target age group.
By Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith
Published by Scholastic