The Top 20 - My Children's Books of the Year 2011

It's that time of the year again! I'm currently writing my piece on children's books for Christmas for the Irish Independent which will be published in early December, but here is a longer version, in which I've included all my favourite books of the year. Hope you enjoy it. Do let me know which books you loved in 2011. And thank you for reading my blog. I love writing it and I will continue to share my thoughts on books and writing in 2012.

Yours in writing,

Sarah X

Picture Books 

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, HarperCollins

A hardback picture book with stand out illustrations from the wonderful Oliver Jeffers. When Floyd’s kite gets stuck up a tree he throws up his shoe know it down, but that gets stuck too, along with a pot of paint, a ladder, the kitchen sink a whale and many other amazing things. 

 The Lonely Beast by Chris Judge, Andersen Press

Winner of the Junior Category in the Irish Book Awards, this is a fantastic book with stunning, beautifully coloured art work. When a beast gets lonely, he goes on a quest to find new friends with surprising results.

Picture Book of the Year:

Marshall Armstrong is New to This School by David Mackintosh, HarperCollins

Strong artwork, lyrical writing and exceptional design combine to make this a picture book in a million. Marshall is not like other boys, but soon the young narrator begins to realise that this is not altogether a bad thing. Brave and highly original, my picture book of the year.

 It’s a Book by Lane Smith, Macmillan

A great book about, well, books! Simple artwork and witty text.

Sally Go Round the Stars: Rhymes from an Irish Childhood by Sarah Webb and Claire Ranson, illustrated by Steve McCarthy, O’Brien Press  

Yes, it’s one of mine, but I’ve really included it for the artwork. Steve’s illustrations are stellar – warm, funny, touching and very clever indeed. A talent to watch out for in the future!

 Books for Younger Readers 

Marco Moves In by Gerry Boland, illustrated by Aine McGuinness, O’Brien Press

A sweet, warm book featuring the friendship between a young boy, Patrick, and Marco, a grizzly bear who appears on his doorstep one day. Original and highly readable, it would also make a great read aloud.

Penny Dreadful is a Magnet for Disaster by Jo Nadin, Oxford University Press

Laugh out loud funny, this clever, mischief prone character is Horrid Henry with bells on!

Gangsta Granny by David Walliams, Harpercollins

A very funny book, with great illustrations by Quentin Blake. Ideal for Wimpy/Mr Gum/ Horrid Henry fans.

Books for Confident Readers

Skulduggery Pleasant: Death Bringer by Derek Landy, HarperCollins

Derek Landy is a world class writer and this fantasy-horror adventure about a skeleton detective and his teenage side kick is a hilarious, rip roaring read. It’s book six in the series, so if your young reader isn’t a fan yet (and they will be!), best to start at book one.

 Eva’s Holidayby Judi Curtin, O’Brien Press

Curtin has a deliciously warm touch and this book is perfect for girls of 8+. Eva loves fashion and hanging out with her friends, so when she has to spend the whole summer in a cottage down the country, she’s not happy. But soon she finds out that there’s more to life than clothes and having the right friends. Highly recommended.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney, Puffin

I love Greg Heffley and his family. Hilarious!

Spirit of the Titanic by Nicola Pierce, O’Brien Press

A beautifully written and highly original book about the ghost of a boy who is killed while building the Titanic. Recommended.

 Novel of the Year for Age 9+:


When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Andersen

I LOVE this wonderful book. Part time-travel novel, part family and friendship drama, it’s original, compelling and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s set in New York too, and I love books set in NYC. David Maybury also recommended it in his round up in the Irish Times this week. It's a cracking read. Please give it to every child you know for Christmas!

Marshmallow Skye by Cathy Cassidy, Puffin

Another cracking, warm read from Cathy.  

 Books for Teens

YA Novel of the Year:

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness,Walker Books

I also LOVE this book. It made me cry, a lot. It’s sad, gripping and at times almost unbearable to read. It’s about a boy whose mum is dying of cancer. A monster starts to visit him every night in the form of the yew tree in the back garden. Exceptional illustrations. Read it!

 Flick by Geraldine Meade, Little Island

A wonderfully honest coming of age story about a gay teenager called Flick (Felicity), by a debut Irish author.

 A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle, Scholastic

Unusual ghost story about four generations of women who go on a road trip. Beautifully written and very touching.

Angel Kiss by Laura Jane Cassidy, PuffinIreland

Excellent family/romance drama with a supernatural twist.

The Real Rebecca by Anna Carey, O’Brien Press

Funny, sweet story about Irish teen, Rebecca and her embarrassing mother. Won the Senior Children’s Category at the Irish Book Awards. 

 And By the Way by Denise Deegan, Hachette

Strong drama set in Dublin by an experienced Irish writer. Funny and touching, with a great teen voice.

 Bruised by Siobhan Parkinson, Hachette

Gritty teen drama by an award winning Irish author and the current Children’s Laureate.

Another Brilliant YA Novel:


Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, Speak (Penguin USA)

One of the best YA novels I've read in years. It came out in 2010 so it's not strictly new, but I only read it this year and it rocks, big time. If you have a son or daughter of 15+, or you yourself are looking for a funny, touching, gritty read about the most honest and most odd teenagers you're every likely to meet, this is the book for you. I found it on It is truly wonderful.