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2017: A year in children's books

Written by · Published Nov 30, 2017

Oi Cat, Nature, Moon

2017 has been an exciting year for children’s books, with standout stories, stunning fiction and non-fiction picture books, titles that draw attention to the achievements of women and the plights of refugees and authors and illustrators from around the world publishing great work. If you’re looking for something to read over the Christmas holidays, or some Christmas present inspiration, look no further than this list.

Bold picture books

2017 has been a bumper year for brilliant picture books.

Oi Cat!, by Kes Gray & Jim Field

The hilarious follow-up to Oi Frog! and Oi Dog!:

“According to Frog: cats sit on gnats; dogs sit on logs; raccoons sit on macaroons; armadillos sit on pillows; and chicks sit on bricks.

“But wait! Cat doesn’t like sitting on gnats, they keep biting his bottom! Will Frog and Dog help him change the rules?”

We Found a Hat, by Jon Klassen

“Two turtles have found a hat. The hat looks good on both of them. But there are two turtles. And there is only one hat!”

Goodnight Everyone, by Chris Haughton

A book that put us all to sleep this year - in a good way:

“A series of exquisitely coloured cut pages of increasing size introduce woodland families - bears, deer, rabbits and teeny, tiny mice - who are all beginning to feel really tired! ‘Dear me’, says Great Big Bear, ‘it must be time for bed!’. But Little Bear is certainly not sleepy - he’s wide awake!”

Max the Brave, by Ed Vere

“This is Max. Max the Brave, Max the Fearless, Max the Mouse-catcher. But, in order to be a Mouse-catcher, Max needs to know what a mouse is, so off he goes to find out.”

Evil Pea Rules, by Sue Hendra & Paul Linnet

In the latest Supertato title:

“It’s all very well being a superhero and saving the day - but what if there was no one there to cause the chaos? To provide these heroes with their chances to shine? Would we even need superheroes?! Fortunately, this isn’t something we will have to worry about any time soon. The Evil Pea is back! And this time he has his biggest, most dastardly plan yet to take over the supermarket!”

I Can Only Draw Worms, by Will Mabbitt

This has been described as one of the funniest books of the year:

“I can only draw worms. You might think worms are boring - but you’d be wrong. These worms have incredible adventures! I can’t draw those bits, though, so you’ll have to imagine them. “

Beautiful non-fiction

Publishers such as Flying Eye have continued the trend for producing wonderfully illustrated children’s non-fiction. A timely alternative to reading information on a screen, these books remind us of how captivating and beautiful a book can be.

Crazy About Cats, by Owen Davey

“Did you know that the fishing cat has partially webbed paws for catching fish? Or that pumas can leap over 15 feet into trees? There are roughly 38 species of cats today, each one superbly adapted to their environment - whether that be in the rainforest or the desert!”

The Ways of the Wolves, by Smriti Prasadam-Halls & Jonathan Woodward

“Majestic and fierce, proud and strong, the wolf has always been a source of fascination - and fear. It remains one of the most misunderstood of all creatures, frequently cast as our mortal enemy. The truth is that wolves and humans are more closely connected than we dare to admit. With beautifully lyrical language, Smriti Prasadam-Halls explores the lightning speed, echoing howl and family life of these mysterious animals, revealing astonishing facts and overturning misconceptions as she does so.”

The Lost Words: a spell book, by Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris

“From bestselling Landmarks author Robert Macfarlane - an illustrated collection of spell-poems to re-wild the language of children.”

Under Earth, Under Water, by Aleksandra Mizielińska & Daniel Mizieliński

“Dive below the surface, and find out what happens under the earth and under the water. From early submarines and deep-sea life, to burrowing animals and man-made tunnels - you will never look at the world in the same way again!”

Nature, by Thomas Hegbrook

“Delve into the natural world with this beautifully illustrated book of wordless nature stories. Nature explores and depicts a selection of the wondrous stories found every day in nature, from penguins ‘proposing’ to the dangerous lure of a venus flytrap. Children will have hours of fun learning to read stories in images as well as understanding more of the world around them.”

The Big Book of Bugs, and The Big Book of Beasts, by Yuval Zommer

Find out how to become a young bug spotter and spot wild animals too with spectacular scenic spreads.

‘Balancing the bookshelves’: books about amazing women

“One study of 5,000 children’s books found that a quarter had no female characters, and less than 20% featured a woman with a job. But a new wave of books and writers is helping to fix that disparity.”

The Guardian, March 2017

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 tales of extraordinary women, by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo

“What if the princess did not marry Prince Charming but instead went on to be an astronaut or an activist? What if the jealous step sisters were supportive and kind? And what if the queen was the one really in charge of the kingdom?

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls introduces us to 100 remarkable women and their extraordinary lives. From Marie Curie to Malala, Ada Lovelace to Zaha Hadid, it brings together the stories of scientists, artists, politicians, pirates and spies.”

The most highly-funded original book in the history of crowdfunding aims to break through gender stereotypes in children’s books and “show the true variety of fields, disciplines and jobs, just to show the full capabilities of women and to inspire young girls to believe they can try to do anything.”

Little People, Big Dreams series, by various

A growing series of illustrated biographies of women who have achieved incredible things, having started as little children with dreams. We particularly recommend Frida Kahlo, by Isabel Sanchez Vegara, Gee Fan Eng & Emma Martinez, Maya Angelou, by Lisbeth Kaiser & Leire Salaberria and Emmeline Pankhurst, by Lisbeth Kaiser & Ana Sanfellippo.

Three Cheers for Women!, by Marcia Williams

“Join Marcia Williams as she celebrates incredible women from around the world and throughout history. From writers to warriors and astronauts to activists, discover their awesome stories and be amazed by their achievements. Marcia Williams’ much-loved comic-strip style will encourage even the most reluctant reader to enjoy this inspirational book packed with facts, quotes and jokes.”

Women in Science: 50 fearless pioneers who changed the world, by Rachel Ignotofsky

“A gloriously illustrated celebration of trailblazing women. Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, from both the ancient and modern worlds. The book also contains fascinating infographics and an illustrated scientific glossary.”


As the refugee crisis continues, books have brought to light the suffering caused by displacement and detention to help understanding and empathy.

The Journey, by Francesca Sanna

Winner of the 2017 Klaus Flugge Prize:

“With haunting echoes of current affairs, this beautifully illustrated book explores the unimaginable decisions made as a family leave their home and everything they know to escape the turmoil and tragedy brought by war.”

Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys

Winner of the 2017 Carnegie Medal:

“It’s early 1945 and a group of people trek across Germany, bound together by their desperation to reach the ship that can take them away from the war-ravaged land. Four young people, each haunted by their own dark secret, narrate their unforgettable stories. This novel is based on a true story from the Second World War. When the German ship the Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk in port in early 1945 it had over 9000 civilian refugees, including children, on board. Nearly all were drowned.”

Illegal: a graphic novel telling one boy’s epic journey to Europe, by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Dinkin & Giovanni Rigano

“This is a powerful and timely story about one boy’s epic journey across Africa to Europe, a graphic novel for all children with glorious colour artwork throughout.

“Ebo: alone. His sister left months ago. Now his brother has disappeared too, and Ebo knows it can only be to make the hazardous journey to Europe. Ebo’s epic journey takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and finally out to the merciless sea. But with every step he holds on to his hope for a new life, and a reunion with his sister.”

A paperback edition is due to be published in January.

My Name is Not Refugee, by Kate Milner

“A young boy discusses the journey he is about to make with his mother. They will leave their town, she explains, and it will be sad but also a little bit exciting. They will have to say goodbye to friends and loved ones, and that will be difficult. They will have to walk and walk and walk, and although they will see many new and interesting things, it will be difficult at times too.

“This powerful and moving story draws young readers into each stage of the journey, inviting the chance to imagine the decisions he or she would make.”

The Arrival, by Shaun Tan

“What drives so many to leave everything behind and journey alone to a mysterious country, a place without family or friends, where everything is nameless and the future is unknown? This silent graphic novel is the story of every migrant, every refugee, every displaced person, and a tribute to all those who have made the journey.”

The Island, by Armin Greder

“In the morning the people of the island found a man sitting on the shore, there where fate and the ocean currents had set him and his frail raft in the night. When he saw them coming towards him, he rose to his feet. He was not like them.

“This internationally acclaimed, award-winning picture book is astonishing, powerful and timely.”

Alpha: Abidjan to Gare du Nord, by Bessora, Barroux & Sarah Ardizzone

“Alpha Coulibaly is emblematic of the refugee crisis today - just one of millions on the move, at the mercy of people traffickers, endlessly frustrated, endangered and exploited as he attempts to rejoin his family already in Europe.

“With a visa, Alpha’s journey would take a matter of hours; without one he is adrift for 18 months. Along the way he meets an unforgettable cast of characters, each one giving another human face to the crisis.”

International authors and illustrators

2017 has seen a wealth of amazing international authors and illustrators’ work being brought to our shores aided by the work of publishing houses such as Tiny Owl and Gecko Press and Booktrust’s ‘In Other Words’ project.

My Pictures After the Storm, by Eric Vielle & Daniel Hahn

“What happens to a lion after the storm? His mane is swept into a dishevelled mess. What becomes of a pear after an elephant passes by? Pear jam! A frog after a spell? A prince. And the room after a battle? A big mess!”

Yours Sincerely, Giraffe, by Megumi Iwasa & Jun Takabatake

“Giraffe is bored, as usual. He’d love a friend to share things with. So he writes a letter and sends it as far as possible across the other side of the horizon. There he finds a pen pal - called Penguin. Giraffe knows nothing about penguins and his letters are full of questions. What does a penguin look like? Where is a penguin’s neck? And so the letters begin to fly from horizon to horizon.”

Oskar and Mo, by Britta Teckentrup

“Oskar has a new friend, Mo. Featuring the same gorgeous colors and geometric collages that have made Teckentrup such a popular author and illustrator worldwide, this story will speak to young readers, who will learn about the many forms friendship takes while enjoying Teckentrup’s beautiful illustrations.”

Moon, by Britta Teckentrup & Patricia Hegarty

“Have you ever wondered why the moon shines in the night-time sky? As the moon waxes and wanes above, the world below is full of busy night-time creatures; from turtles laying their eggs on white sandy beaches, to migrating birds using the moon to navigate their way to sunnier climes. Turn the peek-through pages to see the moon change shape as it goes through the lunar cycle.”

The best of the rest

The Guggenheim Mystery, by Robin Stevens

The great Siobhan Dowd created Ted Sparks, a boy with an unusual way of looking at the world, for the excellent The London Eye Mystery almost a decade. Sadly, she died before she could write the planned sequel but this year, mystery writer and author of the Murder Most Unladylike series Robin Stevens took up the challenge:

“This is the story of my second mystery. This summer, I went on holiday to New York, to visit Aunt Gloria and Salim. While I was there, a painting was stolen from the Guggenheim Museum, where Aunt Gloria works. Everyone was very worried and upset. I did not see what the problem was. I do not see the point of paintings, even if they are worth £9.8 million. Perhaps that’s because of my very unusual brain, which works on a different operating system to everyone else’s.

“But then Aunt Gloria was blamed for the theft - and Aunt Gloria is family.”

The Wizards of Once, by Cressida Cowell

“Xar is a Wizard boy who has no Magic, and will do anything to get it. Wish is a Warrior girl, but she owns a banned Magical Object, and she will do anything to conceal it.

“In this whirlwind adventure, Xar and Wish must forget their differences if they’re going to make it to the dungeons at Warrior Fort.

“Where something that has been sleeping for hundreds of years is stirring…”

The latest book from the creator of How to Train your Dragon has become a bestseller, and with good reason. It’s an enchanting tale, funny and heartfelt and full of endearing characters, all subject to Cowell’s hilarious and in inventive spin. The amazing illustrations really bring this book to life as they wind and flow over the pages - sometimes dark and creepy, never boring.

This title is also available in eAudio format on Borrowbox.

Sophie Green

Sophie Green

I work for the Suffolk Libraries stock team. I also write children’s fiction, short stories and comedy. Visit my website.