If you're looking for the best new kids' books in 2019—well-written, high quality books that are not only great reads but also teach kids something about the world around us—turning to some of the 2019 prizes awarded to outstanding children's books is a great place to start. Judges scour thousands of books to find the best books, a better system for finding a good book than just buying the one Amazon's algorithm has chosen for you.
Below, the eight fabulous books that made the 2019 shortlist of the UK's prestigious CILIP Carnegie Medal, awarded every year to the best children's book written in English. Three of the books, including the winner, The Poet X, were written in verse—but read as smoothly as novels.
The books are targeted at a variety of age groups, but most probably sit most easily in the 'tween' (age 9-12) age range. We've tried to give a bit of guidance on age range in our descriptions:
The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo
*** Winner of the 2019 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature***
***Winner of the 2019 Carnegie Medal***
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo has also won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and the Pura Belpré Award, which celebrates a "Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience."
It's about a girl (with a twin brother) coming of age in Harlem in New York City. Her mum is religious and would have preferred to be a nun. "If Medusa was Dominican and had a daughter, I think I'd be her," says the narrator, Xiomara, who eventually finds herself through poetry and the support of an inspiring teacher.
The Land of Neverendings
by Kate Saunders
The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders (who won a Costa award for one of her previous books, Five Children on the Western Front) is a fantasy novel for tweens (ages 9-12). It's a classic toys-come-to-life story, but dealing with the issues of grief and loss: "Emily had grown up saying 'My sister is disabled' and now she had to get used to saying, 'My sister is dead.'"
Long Way Down
by Jason Reynolds
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is a novel in verse, aimed at young adults. As well as becoming a New York Times bestseller, Long Way Down has won a string of prestigious awards, including a Newbery Honor. The action takes place in sixty seconds, as a 15-year-old boy called Will decides whether or not to shoot the person who killed his brother.
The book is "dedicated to the young brothers and sisters in detention centers around the country, the ones I've seen and the ones I haven't. You are loved."
Things a Bright Girl Can Do
by Sally Nicholls
Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls is a work of historical fiction, set at the time of the Suffragette movement in the early 20th century. It's 400+ pages in length, and seems to be targeted at young adults/teenagers in terms of age group. The book is a really useful way of looking into the past, and understanding how much has changed over the past century in terms of what women can and can't do with their lives.
A Skinful of Shadows
by Frances Hardinge
A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge is a historical fantasy novel set in the reign of Charles I. It's aimed at young adult (13+) readers and a good way to learn about life in 17th century England and the civil war that tore the country apart. Hardinge previously won the Costa Book Award for her book The Lie Tree and A Skinful of Shadows was shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year in 2017.
by Candy Gourlay
Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay is an adventure story, aimed at the tween age group (10+), and set in a remote village in the highlands of the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century. The hero, Samkad, belongs to a tribe of headhunters, whose world is about to be overturned by the arrival of the Americans. Bone Talk was shortlisted for the 2018 Costa Book Awards.
The House With Chicken Legs
by Sophie Anderson
The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson is a fantasy book ideal for the tween age group (9-12, approx), especially kids with a taste for the macabre. It's 300+ pages in length and opens with the narrator, Marinka, making a fence out of bones and skulls. Her granny is a guardian between this world and the next, and they move from place to isolated place. 'I wish my family was a normal family, too,' says Marinka.
by Kwame Alexander
Rebound by Kwame Alexander is a children's book, aimed at tweens (ages 10-12 or so), and written in verse. It's about a boy recovering from his father's death and finding meaning in life through basketball. Kwame Alexander already won the Newbery Medal, America's biggest literary prize for children, for his book Crossover. Rebound is the prequel to that story. It's long, 400+ pages, but because it's written in verse, there's not too many words on each page, so the book's length shouldn't put off more reluctant readers.