IoS Books of the Year: Children's books age 8-12

This year's best children's fiction is high on adventure, full of colour and imagination, and imbued with a touch of magic

The Magnificent Moon Hare by Sue Monroe (Egmont, £5.99) introduces P J Petulant ("P J" does NOT stand for "Pyjamas"), a grumpy princess who wishes for a Moon Hare. When he obligingly appears, the two of them, and a dragon called Sandra, fly off to rescue P J's father, who is imprisoned in the next-door kingdom. Funny, pacey and filled with memorable, colourful characters, it's a delightful debut for younger readers. A sequel is already out, with more to come.

Sarah Garland's Azzi in Between (Frances Lincoln, £12.99) uses a graphic-novel format to tell the story of Azzi and her parents, who are forced to flee their war-torn home. Her sensitive handling of it masks the weight and significance of the subject which Garland is introducing to her young readers.

Talking of marvellous pictures … the long winter nights are perfect for sinking comfily into a beloved classic, many of which are now being re-imagined by contemporary illustrators, as gifts for new generations to discover. There's Ursula Moray Williams's Gobbolino, the Witch's Cat, brought beautifully to life by Catherine Rayner (Macmillan, £9.99); a new edition of Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking illustrated by Lauren Child (OUP, £7.99); and Neil Gaiman's creepy Coraline which has illustrations by the genius Chris Riddell (Bloomsbury, £12.99). But my favourite of this crop must be The Wind in the Willows (OUP, £12.99), visually revived here by the always-brilliant David Roberts.

More improbable is an experiment in the opposite process: new words written to classic pictures. Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, first published in 1984, comprises 14 pictures with titles and captions but no written story, and is one of the best things I know for sparking a reader's imagination: a true original, and a masterpiece of picture-book art. Now, 14 US writers have taken one picture apiece and spun stories around them. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick (Andersen, £14.99) can't replace its predecessor, but it is a fascinating complement.

One of my favourite US children's novels of recent years is Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me. Now she's back with Liar and Spy (Andersen, £9.99). Georges moves into a new apartment and befriends upstairs neighbour Safer. Safer has an unusual family, a spy club, and a secret. The boys learn from their friendship with each other, and Stead's readers will grow from knowing them, too.

Barney, meanwhile, is having a miserable time at school. And home isn't so great, either, not since Dad disappeared. Oh, how much simpler to be a cat, he wishes. Ah, big mistake. I loved Matt Haig's To Be a Cat (Bodley Head, £10.99), a terrific yarn with just the right mix of humour, surprise and page-turning peril.

When Eva Ibbotson died in 2010, we thought One Dog and His Boy would be our last chance to relish her storytelling. Now there's one final gift, The Abominables (Marion Lloyd, £10.99), a novel found posthumously among her papers. Young Lady Agatha is abducted from her tent by a yeti (below). But yetis are charming, smiling vegetarians, so she isn't eaten; instead she teaches them to talk. A poignant reminder of why its author was so loved, The Abominables brims with character and wit.

Philip Reeve is one of those writers who seems incapable of producing a bad book. (Or, for that matter, a bad sentence.) Goblins (Marion Lloyd, £6.99), in which we join Skarper and his fellow goblins in grim Clovenstone Keep, has all the imaginative sparkle we've come to expect. Dave Shelton's A Boy and a Bear in a Boat (David Fickling, £10.99) is indeed about a boy and a bear in a boat, but in every other respect is entirely unpredictable. It's an indescribable fable of friendship, trust, adventure; odd, innocent, and quite wonderful.

Finally, in Nicky Singer's The Flask (HarperCollins, £10.99), Jess's mother has just given birth to conjoined twins. Will Jess's discovery of a glass flask belonging to her late Aunt Edie somehow help her newborn brothers' chances of survival? It's a story about the connections between people, and about the things we can and cannot explain. Emotionally sophisticated and imbued with magic, this one stays with you.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?