As 2021 draws to a close, I want to look back at my top picks of the year. There have been so many incredible children’s books published in 2021, it has been incredibly hard to decide.
Grandad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate
This breath-taking picture book made me so emotional, it left me lost for words. The book captures a granddaughter’s visit to see her Grandad, who is mourning the loss of the love of his life, Gramps. The end papers are nothing short of spectacular and give me goosebumps every time I look at them!
During the course of story, we realise that Gramps has sadly died. Now, her grandparent’s beloved camper is gathering rust in the garage. Grandad explains it hasn’t felt the same travelling without Gramps. But the little girl has a plan. Perhaps the camper has more adventures after all…
This beautiful story has universal messages of love, loss, grief and togetherness. But what I adore most about this book, is that it explores these themes whilst celebrating a multi-ethnic family with grandparents in the LGBT community. I loved every single inch of this book, from cover to cover. I could look at Harry’s artwork all day, and their words are just as moving as their illustrations. Grandad’s Camper is one of my top picks for 2021 (and probably the decade!). Read my full review here.
Published by Andersen Press, 6 May 2021
The Forgettery by Rachel Ip and Laura Hughes
The Forgettery is a magical adventure by a little girl and her granny about the beauty of memories and the memory of this book will stay with you long after you finish reading it. We all forget things, from being a baby to where we put our keys or the time – the list could go on! After sharing this magical adventure with her grandmother, Amelia figures out how to cherish memories with Granny.
For those who believe, The Forgettery is a place where anyone can find everything they’ve ever forgotten. Let me tell you, Laura and Rachel have made me a believer and I want to visit! Everyone has their own room. And this is when the story really begins to tug on your heartstrings.
Rachel has explored memory loss with such a gentle touch, that while The Forgettery could be read to a child who has a family member living with dementia, it is not “a picture book about dementia”. Laura’s illustrations are out of this world – they make The Forgettery feel like a real place you can visit in the forest. I wish I could step inside this book and visit The Forgettery! This breath-taking picture book made me laugh, cry and tingle all over. It is one of the best picture books I’ve ever read. You can read my full review and interview with Rachel here.
The Forgettery is published by Farshore Books, 18 March 2021
Hey You! by Dapo Adeola with Jade Orlando, Reggie Brown, Chanté Timothy, Sharee Miller, Diane Ewen, Onyinye Iwu, Gladys Jose, Bex Glendining, Dunni Mustapha, Charlot Kristensen, Camilla Sucre, Jobe Anderson, Joelle Avelino, Nicole Miles, Kingsley Nebechi, Derick Brooks, and Selom Sunu
There are some books that you just KNOW are going to be special from the moment you hear about them. Hey You! is one of those books. It is a celebration of inclusive storytelling on so many levels. This is Dapo’s first authored picture book, and it is the first ever picture book to feature 18 Black illustrators. Alyissa Johnson created the typography and the other 17 illustrators created a spread each.
At the start of the book is a letter from Dapo, explaining how he wrote this book in response to the events of 2020. This lyrical picture book is a message to our children, to show them how much we love and cherish them. To remind them they can achieve anything and be proud of their Black heritage and stand together.
Reading this with my girls, I felt incredibly emotional. This is the book I wish I’d read as a child, and I feel so grateful to be able to read it with my children now. Dapo speaks from the heart and the way the illustrators have brought his words to life blew my mind. Each artist has used their own unique style, but there is a connectedness that binds this book together. Each spread flows into the next, and the power of the words grow with every page turn. The ending is perfect. Read my full review and my interview with ALL the illustrators of Hey You! here.
Hey You! was published by Puffin, 10 June 2021
How to Spot a Mum by Donna Amey Bhatt and Aura Lewis
I chose this as my first top pick of 2021, and it’s stayed in my heart all year long. How to Spot a Mum is a true celebration of mothers and I personally feel every mother should own a copy to share with their family!
At the start of the book, there is a lovely poem about what a mum is. Importantly, it says that while everyone has a biological mum, some people also have adopted mums, foster mums or step mums. This book is truly inclusive, featuring mums with disabilities and mums from many different parts of the world.
Between these heart-felt pages, Donna has masterfully woven snippets of comic genius. I loved the “anatomy of the mum”. It is SO true that a mum’s nose is excellent for sniffing out mischief! This warm, witty, and spookily accurate(!) book identifies all the different types of mums out there, from the sporty mum to the online mum; the organised mum to the last-minute mum. You can read my full review and interview with the author here.
How to Spot a Mum is published by Quarto, 2 February 2021
Scissorella: The Paper Princess by Clare Helen Welsh and Laura Barrett
Scissorella is one of the most spectacular re-imagined fairy tales we’ve ever read, blending the magical world of Cinderella with a real-life female inspiration: German film director Lotte Reiniger. It is one of my top picks for 2021.
I knew we were going to adore this book the moment I saw it. Laura’s illustrations are exquisite and encapsulate Lotte’s real-life fascination with silhouette puppetry. What my daughter and I loved most about Scissorella, is that Lotte is her own fairy godmother. She creates her own masterful dress using her paper-puppet-making skills.
Clare and Laura have created a one-of-a-kind picture book that wraps up all of the warmth of a traditional fairy tale with a true-life story and 21st century relatability. It maintains all of the joy of Cinderella whilst giving the main character a strong, independent personality. Scissorella is a book you will want to read over and over again. Read my full review and fascinating guest post by Clare here.
Scissorella is published by Andersen Press, 4 November 2021
How to Survive Without Grown-Ups by Larry Hayes, illustrated by Katie Abey
I had to include How to Survive Without Grown-Ups in my top picks because it is out of this world. This middle grade is explosive right from the start.
The sparkling cover and catchy title draw you straight into the opening chapter where we first meet ten-year-old Eliza and her genius little brother Johnnie. It’s not the best day for introductions. The world has just ended as they know it, and they are setting off to rescue their parents from Mars in a car, that has a bomb in the boot.
Katie’s graphic-style illustrations take this book to another level. I was laughing out loud so much it brough tears to my eyes. The hilariously-wacky-but-oh-so-believable events in this book are captivating. I loved it! Read my full review here.
Published by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK, 19 August 2021
I am very grateful to the publishers for providing me with complimentary copies of these books. This voluntary feature contains my honest opinion.