Best Books for Kids and Teens » Ages 9-12

Editors’ Picks: The Best Children’s Fiction of 2018

recommended by Zoe Greaves

From World War I to a book with a hint of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Five Books children's editor Zoe Greaves nominates her favourite children's fiction of 2018.

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Zoe Greaves

Zoe Greaves is children's editor of Five Books. She is also a children's author and bookseller.

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Here is my guide to the totally readable, challenging, thought-provoking brilliance that’s been published this year. I’m limited to just five – so massive apologies to all the glorious wonders coming out of the minds of our writers this year. It was very hard to choose. But I’m delighted to shine a light on the titles below. They all deserve it. Please buy them as these are rather important books, books written by writers of excellence and I firmly believe that we should offer excellence to our children. Excellence and love. And jokes and silly hats. Merry Christmas.

1. The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

(Age range: 10-14)

I am a huge fan of Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Even more so since I was lucky enough to interview her earlier this year. She is an exceptional talent, an original thinker, a quick-witted, warm-hearted, poetic intellectual who writes with searing and yet honest clarity. Every child should read her work. So should the grown-ups. Her latest book, The Way Past Winter, reads like a combination of Ursula Le Guin and Neil Gaiman. This is a writer who just keeps getting better. And she started off pretty damned good. Buy this wintery folk tale for your 10-14 year olds – but make sure you read it too!

2. The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay. 

(Age range: 10-14)

This is a human and wholly accessible account of World War I. Both hilarious and heartbreaking. Reading it, I felt very much that this is a classic. The pictures it conjured in my head are so vivid, the characters so familiar – I’m convinced this is a book that will be with us for decades. It makes the 100 years between 1918 and 2018 not seem so very far apart.

3. Between Worlds: Folktales of Britain & Ireland by Kevin Crossley-Holland (author) and Frances Castle (illustrator) 

(Age range: 10-14)

Kevin Crossley-Holland is one of our finest writers and an absolute master storyteller. There is a subtle difference! In these fifty retellings Crossley-Holland gathers all his remarkable historical knowledge and his refined skills as a wordsmith together. Expect eerie and uplifting, dark and witty, poetic and earthy – the contradictions necessary to give ancient tales new life. My advice: order the book, get the fire on and do like we’ve done for thousands of years – share a story!

4. The Afterwards by AF Harrold (author) and Emily Gravett (illustrator) 

(Age range: 10-14)

AF Harrold is an author that fascinates me. He’s never quite what you are expecting him to be, and it’s always a satisfying expectation-defying experience. I cannot recommend his work highly enough. If you don’t have some of his books on your shelves, then I’m afraid you have a glaring gap. Please fill it this Christmas. This story is about a friendship that extends even into the afterworld. It’s powerful stuff, it’s moving and it’s very funny – and, of course, it defies every expectation quite brilliantly.

5. The Train to Impossible Places by PG Bell (author) and Flavia Sorrentino (illustrator)

(Age range: 7-11)

There is just a whiff, just the merest whiff, of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in this book. And that is never a bad thing in a book. It’s a wild, funny and impossible adventure – just the sort of crazy ride that is perfect to sink into during the Crimbo hols.

—Zoe Greaves

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Zoe Greaves

Zoe Greaves is children's editor of Five Books. She is also a children's author and bookseller.