My favourite books for children from 2018

I read some excellent books for children and young adults last year (I can’t believe I’m saying last year to 2018 already) so making a top ten list was very difficult. Which is why I ended up making a top eighteen list (that’s only nearly a lie; I mostly chose 18 due to template considerations but I bet I could easily make a top twenty-five list. I also spent most of December reading too many books which left me with very little time to write about all the books I’ve been reading. So the blog tragically languished. I’m hoping to find more sustainable reading and blogging (and hopefully-soon-to-be-launched vlogging) habits in 2019 but I’m not going to make it a resolution lest I jinx it. In fact, I’m just not even going to think about it too hard in case I spook the idea away. For more details about why I loved these books, I wrote a blog post for the lovely folks at Duckbill which you can read here.

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What I Read In November

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The Lost Words is full of magical poems and gorgeous illustrations. Since it is imperative to read this book aloud, I decided to read this out to the household cat (since the household boy was working). I borrowed this enormous, beautiful book from the library and I couldn’t trust the Scottish weather to be kind to it if I hefted it outdoors. But it’s a book which is meant to be owned and read aloud during picnics in wild places.

I’m a huge fan of mythological retellings and already love Rick Riordan’s version of Greek gods living in the modern world. Who Let The Gods Out, the first book in a series, does a similar thing but shifts the gods to modern day England. The gods and goddesses are also much kinder and live in the human world. It was a tad unfair that I kept making comparisons to Percy Jackson because this book definitely deserves to be read on its own merit. But in good news for those who love this kind of book, here’s a new(ish) fun, funny series to fill that Percy Jackson-shaped hole in your reading lives (just don’t make the mistake I made in comparing the two).

Bee and Puppycat, Vol. 1 was a part of the Humble Bundle digital comics pack I was gifted several months ago. I’m slowly but surely working my way through them all. This one is a cute, inventive comic series featuring Bee who takes up magical, inter-planetary odd jobs for a living and her curmudgeonly roommate Puppycat who helps her out.

I’m only beginning to explore the world of comic books and graphic novels. I haven’t had much exposure to superhero comics and Ms. Marvel is an excellent, non-intimidating, fun and engaging gateway. The more I’ve had time away from the first volume, the more I realise how much I loved it. Apart from all the complex and diverse representations in this series, my favourite part was how Kamala Khan’s world is so desi. At one point she’s late to a mehendi ceremony of a wedding because she’s beating up a bad guy, and her mom calls her up to shout “Kalmuhi!” at her which made me cackle in glee.

I think I may have enjoyed listening to Doctor Who: The Ripple Effect more had I actually been acquainted with the Doctor and the companion the short story features. I liked the narrative just fine but it was a bit meh-ish. Which is a shame because the Malorie-Blackman authored Rosa Parks episode of Doctor Who earlier this year was one of my all-time favourites.

As I was putting this list together, I realised that I had completely forgotten to add Diggers, the second book in the Bromeliad trilogy. There’s no more room in the image but I really enjoyed my further foray into this non-Discword Terry Pratchett world. It features tiny nomes (who are actually aliens) exploring life in an enormous, unfamiliar human world. I wanted to immediately listen to the last book in this series but someone had very rudely borrowed the library copy.


I picked up The Testament of Loki from my library on a whim and it made for a fun, easy read featuring a smattering of the Norse gods who enter 21st century England through a video game. It was only after I had finished reading it and was shelving it on Goodreads that I realised I had entered this author’s retelling of Norse mythology the wrong way round. This appears to be the second book in the Loki series and while that didn’t get in the way of understanding the narrative, I still wish I’d picked up the first book (because I loathe reading books out of order).

I had been dying to read Circe ever since I’d first spotted the gorgeous cover on various bookshelves in both India and the UK. So I was super excited that it was my library’s book of the month which meant that the ebook could be borrowed by everyone without waiting in queue. And I loved it. Even a few days after I’d finished reading it, I still felt drawn to the mythological Greek world, like I was still a part of Circe’s story. Unlike disappointment-filled October, I’m so happy that so many of my reading expectations were met this month!


I Am Legend isn’t usually the kind of book I would have picked up but my boyfriend had been asking me to read it for ages so I thought I’d give it a shot. It was a really interesting contribution to the genre of vampire novels (and actually predated most of the really famous ones since it was first written in 1954). It could be classified under either horror or science fiction. What it most reminded me of was The Girl With All The Gifts, which albeit featured zombies rather than vampires, but had similar philosophical explorations.

I still don’t know quite what I think of House of Leaves. I was superbly gung-ho about actively engaging with the experimental format of the book even before I read it and that bit was quite fun. This is a book within a book – a postmodern narrative, according to the reviews. I think I enjoyed reading the book within the book more – it was an academic exploration of a documentary about a mysterious house, and sometimes the academic ivory-towerishness of it even made me laugh. And I did enjoy reading the book as a whole too – but when it ended, I sort of felt … unfulfilled? Let down? Hungering for a proper conclusion to the other book? Like I said, I still don’t know what to make of it. I’m glad I read it because it was such a fascinating experience but I don’t think it’s the sort of experience that’s going to make me recommend this book to everyone I meet.

Love Letters To Jane’s World is a collection of comic strips of Jane’s World which features an irreverent young lesbian woman’s life, loves, friends and jobs. Apparently this strip first appeared twenty years ago and has since accumulated a lot of fans. I received a free review copy in my email many months ago and like most of the books on my TBR, ignored it until I was in the mood for something unfamiliar. It was quite fun and weird (at one point, there’s an alien abduction). I enjoyed the everydayishness of it the framework which allowed for pretty much all manner of random hijinks.


I’m trying to read more about English history since I’m going to be moving down from Scotland in the next couple of months. The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England caught my eye at the library because of the concept. It offered a travel guide to a contemporary visitor to the 14th century and went into great detail about the lives, houses, hobbies, food, diseases and entertainments of the rich and the poor. It was very well executed offering fascinating glimpses – both familiar and unfamiliar to someone from India – into the historical English world. There are two more books in this series which I’ll keep an eye out for.

I borrowed Being a Dad Is Weird: Lessons in Fatherhood from My Family to Yours because I wanted something light and breezy to listen to. I am obviously not the target audience for this being neither a father at the moment nor having any fatherhood ambitions for the near future. I gave it a shot since it featured a comedian writer. I’ve read so many random memoirs by random comedians I’ve had little knowledge of and they’re always a bit hit and miss. This one was fine. Some moments were funny. Some were fun. I was reading other more complicated books at the time plus working on an essay plus hunting for flats so it was exactly what I needed at the moment.

Book List: Children’s books about the Partition of India

I’m not only way behind on my blog duties but also every other thing I do for fun including catching up on my weekly dose of Doctor Who. I’m currently an episode behind (a number which is only likely to increase because I don’t think I’m going to be able to watch it before the next one comes out tomorrow). But I do have a Whoverse inspired book list to keep me going in the meanwhile.

I think the latest season is doing a smashing job with its historical time-travel adventures – the one based on Rosa Parks was one of my all-time favourites and inspired its own book list. After I watched The Demons of Punjab, I followed the discussion on Twitter and discovered that the episode introduced many people to the Partition of India, a part of history that I’ve taken entirely for granted thanks to its dry inclusion in our history textbooks. I, like many others, only began to fall in love with history once I left school. I find it utterly tragic that quite often, schools distill history to its bare bones of dates, facts and figures while ignoring the contemporary connections and all the fascinating stories. And countless children the world over leave school with a faint sense of disdain for history and no understanding about why its study even matters.

On the other hand, children’s texts – books, films, TV shows – have the potential to counter these dull narratives by providing more detailed perspectives. Of course, the perspectives aren’t universal – all of history is subjective. But understanding the same topic through multiple worldviews and diverse experiences goes a long way in resisting singular ways of seeing the world and its people. The Partition of India was an ugly part of Indian, Pakistani and even British history. But among the brutalities of this shared experience of our past, there were also moments of friendship and love and hope.



Mukand and Riaz

“The story is set against the background of the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. But friendship between children knows no barbed wire fencing: all children play games, enjoy ice-cream and feel the loss of friends. Based on the memories of her father, animator Nina Sabnani made this film for the Big Small People Project, Israel, using the art of women’s appliqué work, common to both Sindh in Pakistan and Gujarat in India, to provide a rich and textured visual experience. Mukand and Riaz is essentially about every child’s right to friendship and a home. Through shared memories, shared craft and shared histories, it offers deeply moving layers of meaning with which to identify and from which to draw strength.”

When I first came across this book a few years ago, I don’t think I realised its importance and implications. Since then, I’ve worked with books and young people in various ways and had my thinking shaped and changed while studying for an M.Ed degree in children’s literature and literacies. Now I look back at this simple, gentle book with a fresh new perspective and a lot more respect. It’s the sort of book which can be used in various ways to help young people make sense of history and the world.

chachaji's cup

Chachaji’s Cup

“A china teacup serves as both a memento of troubled times and a bridge across generations in this unusual family portrait. For as long as young Neel can remember, his great-uncle Chachaji has used only his own mother’s old cup at teatime. Why? Because it has a history; his mother’s family was among the many that were displaced when India was “broken” into two countries in 1947, and though she had to leave much behind, she chose to take the fragile cup on the long journey to a new home. Using strong brushwork and deep, rich colors, Sitaraman centers most of her scenes on dark, expressive faces, placing Neel’s extended family in this country, and with dress and other details subtly suggesting the mingling of cultures such families experience. Doubly valuable for its overall theme, and as a surprisingly rare depiction of an Indian-American family, Neel’s story is bound to engage readers, as well as leave them more receptive to learning about their own families’ past.” (Source: Kirkus Reviews)

I haven’t read this book; I only stumbled upon it while researching this post. But I have encountered the author previously. Her book Book Uncle and Me is one of my favourite early-chapter books. And this one seems like an intriguing premise to an exploration of historical events.

one day in augustOne Day In August 

“Kishen’s cow strays away one day in August, leading him and his friend Shagufta into unknown territory. This gentle story of love, friendship, and the innocent wisdom of childhood is set against a time when the partition of India caused immense loss to millions of people.”

I discovered this book in the library of a school I used to visit for a reading programme. I browsed through it when I had some time to kill in between classes and then had to go back and read it again because of how cleverly and gently the topic of Partition was introduced to younger readers.


the night diaryThe Night Diary

“It’s 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.

Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn’t know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it’s too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can’t imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.”

This book took me by surprise. My friend lent me her copy and I didn’t begin reading it with any sort of expectations – good or bad. It turned out to be a superbly beautiful story full of nuanced explorations of one family’s fraught journey from a new country to an old one.