Friday, 20 December 2019

Our Picture Book, Chapter Book and Comic / Graphic Novel of the year winners for 2019

Well one thing's for certain, 2019 has been a memorable year for both good and bad reasons. But 2019 has definitely been a memorable year for children's books, with some truly stunning books making our task of picking a handful of favourites extremely difficult every week. Now our task is even trickier - choosing the very best books (in our opinion) of 2019 across three categories.

This year, as in previous years, we've both picked a Picture Book of the Year, a Chapter Book of the Year and a Comic / Graphic Novel of the Year. These have been selected from our massive list of Book of the Week winners, shortlisted, narrowed down and distilled into (in our opinion) six incredibly special books.

So without further ado, let's get on with it.

So for our Picture Book of the Year winners - C first...

C's Picture Book of the Year - "Board Games to Create and Play" by Kevan Davis and Viviane Schwarz (Pavilion Children's Books)

It's a bit unfair to call this a picture book, but it stands as one of the most impressive titles we've reviewed this year - and a book that gave both of us a huge amount of enjoyment. For C, an activity book that goes way beyond the usual fairly disposable activity book stuff, providing a ton of amazing insights and information by two folk who are obviously hugely passionate about board games, and know exactly how to pass on that enthusiasm to their readers.

We created our own game, and had so much fun doing so - building something that we both play regularly, and are always thinking of developing and improving. Board games have an amazing power to bring people together in co-operative and competitive ways, taking us away from our screens and tablets and giving us something tangible back. Good for kids and adults, covers a wide range of ages, easily one of our favourite books of the year so glad C chose this one!

My Picture Book of the Year: "The Apartment: A Century of Russian History" by Alexandra Litvina and Anna Desnitskaya, translated by Antonina Bouis (Abrams Books)

Yes yes, I know I've gone on and on about this one - on the blog and on Twitter and basically to anyone who will listen but it's easily Book of the Year for me, a book that I really hope we see becoming a 'thing' for 2020. Narrative-led non-fiction puts us in touch with the human stories around a particular subject and Alexandra, Anna and Antonina have done so with such elegance and charm in a book packed to the gills with such exquisite levels of detail. If you've ever had any interest in what life was (and is) like in Russia, this book lays it out in page spread after page spread of glorious colourful illustrations packed with nuggets of information. Absolutely stunning!

And so, on to Chapter Book of the Year 2019...

C's Chapter Book of the Year: "Dork Diaries: Spectacular Superstar" by Rachel Renee Russell (Simon and Schuster Children's Books). 

I could have predicted C would pick this one, the moment it dropped through the letterbox and the parcel was torn open, there was a whoop of glee - and then silence as C proceeded to wrap herself in reading this book from cover to cover - at least half a dozen times (and I'm pretty sure that she'll go back in and read the entire Dork Diaries series over and over again).

It just hits the nail on the head with her, Nikki Maxwell's crazy chaotic life could have almost been written for C's age group of girls, fusing together all the frustrations, joys and dorkish behaviour you'd associate with tweens and early teens. Brilliantly funny, subversive and just downright good fun!

My Chapter Book of the Year: "Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut's Story" by Michael Collins (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
The unsung hero of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon is a creative and artistic guy who can write up a storm. In a year where we all finally ticked off visiting the amazing Kennedy Space Centre from our Bucket Lists, we soaked up a huge number of different space books - picture books and chapter books as releases came thick and fast in the run up to the 50th anniversary of the first moon landings back in July.

"Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut's Story" is far from the usual dry scientific account of what it's like to become an Astronaut. It's a very personal view of what that momentous mission meant to Michael, as well as what it felt like to watch his comrades Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin disappear into the inky blackness aboard the lunar landing module, on their way to making history. He writes with a wry humour and sometimes a wicked glint in his eye and each and every account of the groundbreaking moments of his life are detailed brilliantly. A fantastic book for children and adults who want to read "the other guy's" view of that amazing mission.

Last but not least let's dig into our Comic / Graphic Novel of the Year winners.

C's Comic / Graphic Novel of the Year: "Akissi Volume 2: More Tales of Mischief" by Marguerite Abouet and Mathieu Sapin (NoBrow / Flying Eye)

This category caused us both a huge amount of soul-searching. In a year when there have been so many excellent comic and graphic novel releases, it's virtually impossible to pick winners but C went straight for the funny bone - and why wouldn't she, as we said in our review, everyone really needs a comic collection like "Akissi: More Tales of Mischief"

The energetic and mischievous little girl has her second collected outing, with Marguerite and Mathieu coming up with another beltingly brilliant selection of hilarious strips. Inside you'll find superheroes, icky gross stuff, crazy teachers and even crazier schoolfriends as Akissi and her pals get up to all sorts of awesomeness in a humble township in Africa. We've said it before and we'll say it again, there's no better entry point for kids who want to get into comics than these and it's quite something to see Akissi kicking Hilda and Looshkin aside and nailing C's top honours.

My Comic / Graphic Novel of the Year: "Stig and Tilde: Vanisher's Island" by Max De Radigues (NoBrow / Flying Eye Books)

Double top-honours to NoBrow / Flying Eye Books, and again such a tough decision to pick just one amazing graphic novel out of a fairly huge list of truly stunning books and comics this year but "Stig and Tilde: Vanisher's Island" addressed something I'd had concerns about in kidlit for a while - that books have become too fluffy, too cosy, too "safe" and not nearly dark enough.

This amazing story cracks along at a heck of a pace, genuinely giving kids a truly amazing slice of escapism the likes of which you won't see this side of the English channel - no of course, as we said in the review, you've got to hand it to the French and Belgian comic creatives to prove what most savvy folk already know - that kids don't mind perilous scares as long as they're tacked to a totally engaging and engrossing story.

Max does wonders here and neither of us can wait till the next adventure (which we'll hopefully see in 2020 - hooray!). This is absolutely fantastic, do not miss it!

WHEW! So there you go, these are our six Book of the Year picks but we'll leave you with the full list of all the titles that made Book of the Week in 2019 (pop any of these into our search box at the top of the site and you'll find our review), and we look forward to seeing what's going to wow us in 2020! If you're an author / illustrator / curator of any of the books below, feel immensely proud, you deserve to!


Design for Children
The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature
Mega Robo Bros Revenge
The Dog who Saved the World
The Human Body - A Pop Up Guide
Conspiracy of Ravens
Polar Bear Island
The Silent Guides / My Hidden Chimp
Mickey Mouse Museum
Mole’s Star
On a Sunbeam
Midnight at Moonstone
The Secret Diary of Kitty Cask, Smuggler’s Daughter


Wisp: A Story of Hope
Animated Classics - The Little Mermaid
Marvel Rising Volume 1
The Chronicles of Will Ryde and Awa Maryam Al—Jameel - A Tudor Turk
The Everyday Journeys of Ordinary Things
The Midnight Hour
Spider-Man Miles Morales Volume 1
Molly’s Moon Mission
The Wall in the Middle of the Book
A Story about Cancer with a Happy Ending
Against All Gods
Hello Lighthouse
Zodiac Starforce Volume 2
Harold Snipperpots Best Disaster Ever
Judges Volume 1


Science is Magic
The Incredible Ecosystems of Planet Earth
The Demon Headmaster - Mortal Danger
The Umbrella Academy Volume 1: Apocalypse Suite
The Brontes - The Fantastically Feminist And Totally True Story of the Astonishing Authors
The Last Chip
Dave Pigeon: Royal Coo
The Lost Book of Adventure
How Not to Lose It: Mental Health Sorted
The Burning
The Green Giant
In the Swamp by the Light of the Moon
Fran of the Floods
Christmas Dinner of Souls
Julian is a Mermaid
The Lion Kids Bible Comic


First Names: Harry Houdini / Amelia Earhart
A Mouse Called Julian
A Smile for Sasquatch
Animated Classics: Dumbo
When the Stars come Out
Brave Molly


Boy Oh Boy
Animated Classics - Aladdin
You’ve Been Werewolfed
Child of St Kilda
Super Duper You
The Maker of Monsters
The Big Book of Birds
Favourite Stories of Courageous Girls
Blood Sweat and Pixels
The Suitcase
Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life
The Naughtiest Unicorn
Me and Mrs Moon
Nell and the Circus of Dreams
Lone Wolf and Cub Volume 1
The Dragon in the Library


D Day untold stories of the Normandy Landings
Albi Learns to Swim
Maresi: Red Mantle
Paper Planes
Planet Fashion
What’s That in Dog Years?
Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse: The Art of the Movie
Secret Agent Elephant
Geek Girls Don’t Cry
Akissi Volume 2: More Tales of Mischief
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
The Jolley Rogers and the Pirate Piper


Fungus the Bogeyman
The Bad Luck Lighthouse
Tammy and Jinty Special
What Makes It Go?
The Happy Lion
Peril En Pointe
When We Walked on the Moon
Where Once We Stood
Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut’s Story
Sweeny Toddler
Powers of a Girl
Max Crumbly Masters of Mischief


The Little Mole Who Knew it was None of his Business
How to think when you Draw
Stig and Tilde: Vanisher’s Island
Hamish takes the Train
Heartstopper Volumes 1 and 2
The Accidental Rock Star
The Runaways
Nordinc Tales
Squirrel Girl Volume 10
Speccy Nation
The Inner Child
The Golden Cage
Hilda and the Mountain King


Mum’s Jumper
Rabbit and the Motorbike
Greta’s Story
The Lights on Cotton Rock
The Fate of Fausto
Small in the City
Scoop McLaren Detective Editor
Song of the River
Board Games to Create and Play
Ant Clancy Games Detective
Internet Crusader
The Misadventures of Frederick
The Wind in the Wall
Flood World
Kai and the Monkey King
TV Noir


Incredible Jobs you’ve (probably) never heard of
Flember: The Secret Book
The World of the Unknown: All About Ghosts
Looshkin The Big Number 2
Grown Ups Never Do that
Dr Seuss’s Horse Museum
Guardians of Magic (The Cloud Horse Chronicles Book 1)
Animated Classics: Frozen
Claire: Justice Ninja
A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks
Strange but True: 10 of the Worlds Greatest Mysteries Explained
The Last Human
The Girl and the Dinosaur
Marvel Museum - The Story of the Comics
The Girl Who Speaks Bear


Hansel and Gretel
The Apartment: A Century of Russian History
Forgotten Fairy Tales of Brave and Brilliant Girls
Asterix and the Chieftan’s Daughter
An Atlas of Imagined Islands
Where’s Gnasher
Worzel Gummidge
Inventor Lab
Black Beauty
Taxi Ride with Victor
Cyborg Cat and the Night Spider
Poems from a Green and Blue Planet
Scouts The Stories that Built a Movement
Dork Diaries Spectacular Superstar 
Planet Rescue
Mr Penguin and the Catastrophic Cruise
The Tunnel
Marge’s Little Lulu Working Girl