The best children’s and YA books of 2017
Sara Keating and Claire Hennessy select their favourite works for young people
There were many excellent books for children and young people published this year. Photograph: iStock
Ghouls, mermaids and flying grannies bring poetry to life for readers of all ages in Lucinda Jacob’s Hopscotch in the Sky (Little Island and Poetry Ireland, €14.99, all ages). There is a local flavour to the subject matter but a universal appeal that spans poetic forms and will add some classic rhymes to any word-loving child’s repertoire. A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea (O’Brien Press, €16.99, all ages) is a collection of favourite traditional rhymes curated by Sarah Webb with glorious, bold illustrations from Steve McCarthy. Some of the poems will be familiar but others, like James Joyce’s Goldenhair, will take even a grown-up by surprise. Meanwhile, The Wolf, The Duck and The Mouse by dynamic duo Jon Klaasen and Matt Barnett (Walker Books, 4+, £12.99) turns familiar fairy tale tropes on their head to uproarious effect in a stylish classic picture-book package.
In Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth (Harper Collins, 2+, £14.99) Oliver Jeffers attempts to explain the vastness and the minutiae of the universe to a young child. With densely illustrated pages, he captures the immensity and diversity of life, while creating an intimate connection between narrator and young listener. Literary author Emma Donoghue published her debut children’s title this year. The Lotterys Plus One (Macmillan, £10.99, 8+) is a family saga about a sprawling eco-conscious, home-schooled tribe that embraces non-traditional family models. It is smart and funny, and the writing is a both accessible and stylish. The Dollmaker of Krakow by RM Romero (Candlewick Press, 10+, £14.99) is another memorable debut, featuring a toymaker who uses his special powers to smuggle children out of Poland during the second World War: a truly magical historical novel. - Sara Keating
2017 has been a stellar year for YA, with a superb range of gorgeous yet political work published for teen readers. High-flyer John Green’s Turtles All The Way Down (Penguin, £14.99) tackles mental illness in an optimistic but profoundly realistic way while Amy Reed’s The Nowhere Girls (Atom, £7.99) explores rape culture and consent. Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give (Walker, £7.99) eloquently demands empathy with the Black Lives Matter movement, while the poetic talents of Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan combine to recount a love story between two vulnerable teenagers in We Come Apart (Bloomsbury, £12.99). Prolific Crossan also released Moonrise (Bloomsbury, £12.99), a powerful plea for all those on death row.
For high-concept plots supported by exemplary writing, look no further than the glorious page-turner that is MA Bennett’s S.T.A.G.S. (Hot Key Books, £7.99). Not clicking? Try Kendra Fortmeyer’s Hole In The Middle (Atom, £7.99), where teenage ‘emptiness’ is made literal, or Aaron Starmer’s Spontaneous (Canongate, £7.99), in which leaving-school-blues collide with spontaneous combustion, or Adam Silvera’s They Both Die At The End (Simon & Schuster, £7.99), which posits meeting the love of your life the day you’re both scheduled to die.
Saving lyrical wonderfulness for last: the Irish authors have it. Sarah Carroll’s The Girl In Between (Simon & Schuster, £7.99), Moira Fowley-Doyle’s The Spellbook of the Lost and Found (Corgi, £7.99) and Deirdre Sullivan’s Tangleweed and Brine (Little Island, €16; illustrations by Karen Vaughan) offer up haunting and stunning takes on what it means to be a teenage girl. - Claire Hennessy