Book Review

BEST BOOKS: Ross Jeffery picks his best books of 2018

I have had the great pleasure this year of reading some of the finest children’s fiction around. I’ve also dabbled in reading some classics too and with having two young children it has been a delight in discovering the next big series or book that I can put on the shelf and share with them when they get older. So without further delay here are the best books I’ve read this year for STORGY KIDS in no particular order…because that my friends is hard as they have all blown me away!

A Darkness of Dragons
By S.A Patrick


A Darkness of Dragons by S.A. Patrick is in my opinion the next big series in children’s fiction. It’s a great book with layer upon layer and oodles on top of your noodles of goodness trapped within its pages that act like a Pandora’s box of delights. This book had me falling in love with a fabulously detailed world that Patrick has painstakingly created, the characters are all well thought out and developed (each offering much to the story) that the reader can’t help but become friends with, the story is set up to continue running for a long while yet, so get in on the ground floor! It gives hope to all those people trying to survive in a world without a pubescent wizard…with the all magic and wonderment you could expect from a book written by J.K. Rowling but this isn’t her…it’s S.A. Patrick, remember that name! If you like magic, if you love folktales if you can’t get enough of dragons and a fabulously deep story you can lose yourself in then you need look no further than A Darkness of Dragons.

Review here.

The Way Past Winter
By Kiran Millwood Hargrave


As a huge fan of Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s work, I was delighted this year to hear that she was releasing her next book The Way Past Winter. Told in the delectable voice of one of this generations greatest storytellers Hargrave puts us under her spell yet again, delving deep into folklore and bringing an unforgettable tale that quite literally kicks and screams onto the page. I love how Hargrave writes, how she doesn’t sugarcoat things for her middle grade audience and with The Way Past Winter it sees her delivering a story that you would be mistaken for believing has been shared around a campfire for a millennia. The Way Past Winter is rich and deep, masterfully delivered, utter brilliance and in my opinion will become a modern classic for children. Hargrave has the ability to transport her readers to another time and place, delicately persuading us to take the journey with her cast of characters as we search for The Way Past Winter.

Review here.

 The Pied Piper of Hamelin
By Russell Brand


Russell Brand delivers a ripper of a book with The Pied Piper of Hamelin. I read this book with my children one afternoon and came across some of the best musicality in writing I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Brand’s words seem to trickle off the tongue in a delectable and tantalising way, it has a rhythmic quality to it which leaves the reader and the listener under a spell (much like listening to the Pied Piper himself). It was a delightful read with many a rude joke or a phrase to bring on the giggles…my favourite was Bum Custard – when talking about the rats pooing on those in the town and smearing rat graffiti over the walls with their poo. I hope that he does more of these Trickster Tales as they are something quite sublime – also this features some epic illustrations by Chris Riddell another favourite of mine!

Review here.

The Last Chance Hotel
By Nicki Thornton


As a child that grew up in the 80’s / 90’s a game that I enjoyed playing again and again was Cluedo and Nicki Thornton has delivered a book that is reminiscent of Cluedo as the reader struggles to discover who committed a murder at The Last Chance Hotel but this story has something different, something the game didn’t have…and that my friends is magic. With The Last Chance Hotel Nicki Thornton has delivered a truly spellbinding book and in doing so has created a thriller that all middle grade readers will love, especially those reluctant readers out there – it keeps you second guessing throughout…but Thornton masterfully keeps the secret from the reader until the very end! If you like wizards and magic and things that go bump in the night then take a look – another fabulous offering from Chicken House Books!

Review here.

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf
By David Almond


Mouse Bird Snake Wolf is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read this year, both as a story and with its artwork. Mouse Bird Snake Wolf combines the brilliance of what we expect from novelist David Almond, but incorporates the fabulous art work by Dave McKean and in doing so this story becomes more than that, it becomes a masterpiece. It reminds me of fables of old grounded in folklore, but with a modern message, there are dark undercurrents within the story which are expertly picked up by deft touches by McKean’s artwork…especially the final image of the book. The words and illustrations that litter the pages work in harmony, creating an experience the reader will never forget…it is beautiful…you should read it!

Review here.

The House With Chicken Legs
By Sophie Anderson


The House With Chicken Legs has been a runaway success this year (pardon the pun) and there seems to be no stopping the magic that is locked within this book. Delving into Slavic folklore Sophie Anderson brings us a tale that is a joy to behold. A book that deals with a difficult subject matter (death and the afterlife) but written in an engaging and entertaining way that ensures all who read it will fall in love with the re-imagining of this folklore. The world that Anderson creates is rich and full of fabulous imagery which will have all middle grade readers imagining this fabulous world in striking clarity.

Review here.

The Boy His Stories and How They Came To Be
By Oliver Jeffers


‘The Boy – His stories and how they came to be’ is a delightful little book from best selling author and artist Oliver Jeffers. In our house this man can do no wrong, we’ve got all of his books (even those he’s just illustrated), each book is well thumbed and well loved. We share these tales together and go on some remarkable adventure with Oliver Jeffers as our guide – his work is delightful for both children and parents alike. The best bit of this book is that it also comes with never before seen sketches of his works, from inception to completion, sketches of his ideas and how they come to be. It’s a great book to showcase the craft of picture books to children and also a valuable tool for any child, young person or adult wanting to get into illustration – it’s a remarkable book that is both educational  and enjoyable as it features four of Oliver Jeffers books about Boy and his plucky penguin friend.

Review here

The Extinction Trials: Exile
By S.M. Wilson


S.M. Wilson delivers another fabulous action packed outing in The Extinction Trials: Exile. This book has everything the first book had and more, more danger, more action, more depth plus you guessed it more dinosaurs. There is no getting away from the tagline that is plastered on the covers of these books ‘The Hunger Games meets Jurassic Park‘ because that is what it is – it’s in essence a story about survival, about beating those you are competing against (set within a wider dystopian world), whilst trying to survive the dinosaurs that are snapping at your heels. If you want an action packed adventure then look no further than this series…with a new book slated for release in 2019 we are all so very excited to see where this story heads next! Also it wont be long until the powers that been in Hollywood start sniffing around this, so get your hands on the real story before Hollywood butcher it!

Review here.

The Book Of Shadows
By E.R. Murray


The Book of Shadows is the second book in the Nine Lives Trilogy by E.R. Murray. This series surprised me, came out of nowhere and broadsided me. Murray does a fabulous job in creating a world, characters and a mythology that is right up there with what J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter (it seems hard to talk about series of Children’s books without mentioning the great J.K.). But this book in the series was fabulous – I think this is in part to how brilliant the first book was written; Murray has set the scene, introduced the characters and got the reader well and truly hooked with her mythology of the Nine Lives so when you come to the second book, you are in at the deep end. Murray doesn’t have to explain much so you jump right in and the action whisks you away. A series that every middle grade reader will enjoy – memorable, fun and exquisitely written!

Review here.

Beyond the Odyssey
By Maz Evans


I love this series! It is quite possibly one of the greatest children’s book middle grade series of all time! High praise indeed…Beyond the Odyssey is everything I hoped it would be and more. Maz Evans turns this into her Return of the Jedi – upping the terror to epic proportions, the characters are bigger and bolder and the story just gets better and better…until….I can’t talk about it! It’s all too much. At one stage I had to put this book in the freezer like Joey out of friends (Kids if you are reading this then ask your parents who Joey is and what Friends is and they will explain my reference). Maz moved me with this series and this book in particular (I even had glassy eyes at one stage, glassy I said, I wasn’t crying…honestly), and I am so excited that my daughter will be growing up in a world where these books exist, they are fun, heartbreaking, raw and treat her audience with great care and affection – this series is a must read. After the shock, which I am still getting over…I know without a shadow of a doubt that Maz is going to smash the fourth book out of the park and cap off a remarkable series with the best yet!!

Review here.

The World’s Worst Children 1,2 & 3
By David Walliams


As a lover of short stories I couldn’t not include these three volumes of The World’s Worst Children by David Walliams – when the third instalment dropped this year I set about reading all of them again and well it made me laugh, cry, gag, gasp and giggle like a school boy who’d just heard a fart in an exam hall! These are ideal books for reluctant readers as they are gross and funny and can be read in no time at all. Each story gets more outrageous as they go…these are a perfect place to begin if you are looking to get started on some of Walliams’ chunkier, weightier books! This guy is brilliant!

Review of The World’s Worst Children 3 here.

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