Published: Sunday December 16, 2012 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday July 31, 2013 MYT 7:16:49 PM

Treats this year

Our columnist weighs in on the best children’s and young adult fiction books of 2012.

Picture books

The Big Book Of Words And Pictures, written and illustrated by Ole Konnecke (Gecko Press, 22 pages):

AT first glance this is just another illustrated book of first words, but on closer inspection, you’ll notice the lovely picture details and the amusing little stories inspired by groups of words and illustrations. You’ll want to save this for the grandkids.

Animal Masquerade, written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc (Kids Can Press, 120 pages):

A whole slew of animals parade through the book on their way to a costume party. The disguises are ingenious, hilarious and, often, downright silly as each animal masquerades as the next in line – imagine a zebra as a mouse, or a starfish as a black panther! A great read at bedtime and any time, with plenty of scope for kids to add on their own animals-in-costume ideas.

Foxly’s Feast, written and illustrated by Owen Davey (Templar Publishing, 32 pages):

Is Foxly a friend or a fiend? Find out just how hungry this little red fox is and who he’ll be having for lunch.

This Moose Belongs To Me, written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 32 pages):

Another masterpiece about friendship from the creator of modern classics like Lost And Found and The Incredible Book Eating Boy. This time it’s all about one boy and his moose ... but who does the moose really belong to?

The Onion’s Great Escape, written and illustrated by Sarah Fanelli (Phaidon, 68 pages):

This book keeps mind and hands occupied with activities both conventional and quirky. Set Young Onion free and ponder life’s great and small mysteries. A real treat for children of all ages.

Birds Of A Feather, written and illustrated by Bernadette Gervais and Francesco Pittau (Chronicle Books, 19 pages):

The birds in this book look so real you’ll expect them to take flight. A visually-stunning treasure that’s a keeper!

More, by I.C. Springman, illustrated by Brian Lies (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 40 pages):

A comment on consumerism or just a wise reminder that less is more. The richly-coloured and detailed illustrations leave you lingering over each page and then returning for more – the sort you can handle.

This Is Not My Hat, written and illustrated by Jon Klassen (Walker Books, 40 pages):

I think I love this even more than Klassen’s other hat book, which was on last year’s “best of” list. I swear, as you turn the pages of this one, you’ll hear the theme from Jaws. Sinister and fun – now when did you last see those two words used to describe the same book?

Let’s Make Some Great Fingerprint Art, written and illustrated by Marion Duechars (Laurence King Publishers, 128 pages):

This book is a great excuse to have messy fun (not that we need one). With just your hands and some ink or paint, Duechars shows you how to turn your finger- and handprints into just about anything. Now that’s handy!

Young and middle grade readers

No Kiss For Mother, written and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer (Phaidon, 40 pages):

Look at that face! Which mother hasn’t seen it countless times? Controversial when first published in 1974, Piper Paw’s story will still raise an eyebrow or two even now.

Small And Tall Tales Of Extinct Animals, by Damien Laverdunt, illustrated by Helene Rajcak, translated by Jen Craddock (Gecko Press, 80 pages):

The bare facts about 27 extinct creatures are presented with a dash of speech-bubble whimsy and humour. The dodo really said that? Well, probably not, but now you’ll probably always remember the link between that bird and the tambalacoque tree!

Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account Of Some Of Earth’s Strangest Animals, by Michael Hearst, and illustrated by Jelmer Noordeman, Christie Wright & Arjen Noordeman (Chronicle Books, 112 pages):

This is no joke book masquerading as an encyclopaedia, no compendium of mythological beasts. OK, so they don’t all look super freaky but then there’s other crazy stuff, like pooping cubes. Yes, you know you need to own this book just to find out which weirdo does that!

The One And Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao (HarperCollins, 320 pages):

A heart-breaking but ultimately triumphant book about the inhumanity of man and the healing power of friendship and love.

The Fairy Doll And Other Tales From The Dolls’ House by Rumer Godden (Macmillan Childrens Books, 480 pages):

This collection is heaven-sent for fans of Rumer Godden and any reader who loves stories about dolls and dolls houses. It’s a shame that the original illustrations aren’t included, but as some of the stories were previously out of print, this book definitely deserves a place on this list.

Soonchild by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Alexis Deacon (Candlewick Press, 144 pages):

A strange, disturbing book, with a beautifully mysterious, dreamlike quality and an underlying current of earthy humour that surprises and delights.

Young adult works

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 368 pages):

Oh, the pain of young love! Daniel Handler has the agony down pat and Kalman’s art reminds us that no matter how bad the heartache gets, love is always worth it.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (Dutton, 336 pages): Remember Love Story, or A Walk To Remember?

This is miles, miles better – less predictable, more honest and way more romantic. Read with a box (or two) of tissues.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (Random House Books for Young Readers, 480 pages):

Dragons, prohibited by law to hoard gold, hoard knowledge instead. Hartman’s creatures avoid all the clichés that befall their fantasy fiction brethren and soar off the page with an exciting freshness that makes this book my favourite of the 20 here.

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick (Doubleday, 220 pages):

Based on the boyhood of Arn Chorn-Pond who survived the “killing fields” of Cambodia under Khmer Rouge reign and went on to become a human rights activist working to rehabilitate youth traumatised by war and other forms of abuse, and also to revive Cambodia’s traditional art forms. Powerful, heart-wrenching and inspiring.

Iban Dream by Golda Mowe (Monsoon Books, 285 pages):

This is exactly the book I’ve been waiting for – a fantasy novel that draws on the legends of our land. The author, who is of Iban and Melanau descent, was inspired by the tales she heard as a child in Sarawak and this exciting story draws on Iban mythology as well as the old ways of life that have all but disappeared. I look forward to more from Mowe and hope she will inspire other Malaysian writers to mine our local mythology for stories.

Daphne Lee reads to wonder and wander, be amazed and amused, horrified and heartened and inspired and comforted. She wishes more people will try it too. Send e-mails to the above address and check out her blog at

Tags / Keywords: Books, Lifestyle, Lifestyle, column, tots to teens, daphne lee, children s books, young adult fiction


Most Viewed

Powered by