Twins, squirrels, love and more - for Christmas and long after

The best books of the year for children and young adults will make good reading at any time

After Iris: The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby
By Natasha Farrant
Faber, £6.99
Bluebell narrates, in diary style,
her family's efforts to accept the
death of her twin sister.
(Best age for this book: 14)


Arthur Quinn and Hell's Keeper
By Alan Early
Mercier, €8.99
Arthur and friends take on the evil and destructive Loki, resulting in some highly dramatic encounters. (10)


The Boy with 2 Heads
By Andy Mulligan
David Fickling, £10.99
A fascinating insight into contrasting young male personalities, by turns humorous and serious. (12)


The Brave Beast
By Chris Judge
Andersen, £5.99
Brave Beast confronts apparent
monster: a terrific blend of
exuberant artwork and verbally
exuberant text. (4)

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The Day the Crayons Quit
By Drew Daywalt,
illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
HarperCollins, £12.99
Young Duncan's crayons go on strike, but colourfully mischievous artwork eventually wins through. (6)


Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
By Kate DiCamillo,
illustrated by KG Campbell
Walker, £10.99
A squirrel, almost consumed by a vacuum cleaner, takes to writing poetry. The madness continues. (10)

Ghost Hawk
By Susan Cooper
Bodley Head, £12.99
Native American meets English settler in a superbly written historical novel in which friendships and loyalties are severely tested. (12)


Hagwitch
By Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
Orion, £8.99
The magic and mystery of theatrical life vividly drawn in a novel moving between the London of yesterday and today. (12)


Heart Shaped
By Siobhán Parkinson
Hodder, £6.99
Contemporary Dublin provides the setting for the engaging story of a young teenager and her efforts to recover from her nightmares. (12)


Help! We Need a Title!
By Hervé Tullet
Walker, £12.99
Zany picture book that invites reader participation in challenging our understanding of such basic words as "characters", "story" and "book" itself. (6)
If You Find Me
By Emily Murdoch
Indigo, £9.99
A teenage girl, a younger sister and a wayward mother just about survive in the Tennessee woods – and then threatening strangers arrive. (16)


Jake & Lily
By Jerry Spinelli
Orchard, £9.99
Growing up can mean growing apart, as twins Jake and Lily discover. (10)


Journey
By Aaron Becker
Walker, £12.99
A wordless picture book relating a little girl's adventures as she draws and enters a magic doorway. (4)


The Keeper
By Darragh Martin
Little Island, €10.99
A thrilling story mixing Irish myth and contemporary life. Can the forces of the evil Morrigan be defeated? (10)

The Middle of Nowhere
By Geraldine McCaughrean
Usborne, £9.99
Adolescent friendships in the Australian outback of the 19th century come under threat from older tribal prejudices. (12)


Missing Ellen
By Natasha Mac a' Bháird
O'Brien Press, €7.99
In a sequence of letters and diary entries a young teenager relates what ensues when her best friend disappears. (14)


More Than This
By Patrick Ness
Walker, £12.99
A teenage boy drowns, wakes up, finds himself in somehow familiar surroundings. Mysteries mount and explanations dazzle. (16)


Mouse Bird Snake Wolf
By David Almond,
illustrated by Dave McKean
Walker, £9.99
Inventive, beautifully written and dramatically illustrated variations on creation stories. (12)


Oliver and the Seawigs
By Philip Reeve,
illustrated by Sarah McIntyre
Oxford University Press, £8.99
A boy's hilarious sea search for lost parents, involving talking islands, weird wigs and other marine treats. The year's funniest children's book. (8)


Picture Me Gone
By Meg Rosoff
Penguin, £12.99
Twelve-year-old Mila accompanies her father as he travels to North America in search
of a missing friend. (14)


The Ransom of Dond
By Siobhan Dowd,
illustrated by Pam Smy
David Fickling, £9.99
The story, imbued with the atmosphere of Celtic mythology, of 13-year-old Darra and the cruel sacrifice expected of her. (10)

Rebecca Rocks
By Anna Carey
O'Brien Press, €7.99
Rebecca, Alice and Cass rock through a summer music camp and begin to understand the many faces of young love. (14)
Rooftoppers
By Katherine Rundell
Faber, £6.99
A young girl in search of an allegedly drowned mother enjoys many adventures among the Parisian
rooftops. (10)


Rules of Summer
By Shaun Tan
Lothian, £12.99
There can be alarming consequences – suggested in a sequence of occasionally scary illustrations – if rules are
disobeyed. (8)


Sea of Whispers
By Tim Bowler
Oxford University Press, £12.99
Insular landscapes are the setting for exploring a teenage girl's relationship with her inward-looking community. (14)


The Sleeping Baobab Tree
By Paula Leyden
Walker, £5.99
Set in Zambia, this is an atmospheric and thought- provoking story in which ancient and modern worlds collide. (12)


Stay Where You Are & Then Leave
By John Boyne
Doubleday, £10.99
A young Londoner watches his father and family live through the horrors of the first World War. (14)


Tinder
By Sally Gardner,
illustrated by David Roberts
Indigo, £9.99
A young soldier's experiences in
the 17th-century Thirty Years War inspire a powerful exploration of some of the themes of maturing adolescence. (16)


The Tiny King
By Taro Miura
Walker, £11.99
Colourful cut-outs and collage add flavour to the enchanting story of what happens when Tiny King meets Big Princess. (4)