Young reading

Fun and games: Jamela and friends perform a play in It’s Jamela

Fun and games: Jamela and friends perform a play in It’s Jamela

It’s Jamela: The Complete Collection by Niky Daly (Tafelberg)

The Jamela titles have slowly been going out of print, so this complete collection is a very welcome addition to local children’s literature. Bouncy, brave, spirited Jamela,  our very own Fancy Nancy and Amelia Bedelia all rolled up into one delightful, pint-sized African queen, has become a classic character of South African children’s writing. We highly recommend this colourful collection.

South African Animal Portraits A-Z by Nicolaas Maritz (David Philip)

We can never get enough of home-grown A–Zs for children, and what makes this one really special is the stunning, bright, award-winning artwork by Nicolaas Maritz. There are the lions, the leopards and the elephants, but there are also kudus and katydids, inhlekabafazi and xoxo (to deal with that troublesome ‘x’), quaggas and quails and lots more of the unexpected. Winner of the inaugural Exclusive Books IBBY best illustrations award for 2019.

The Best Meal Ever by Sindiwe Magona, illustrated by Paddy Bouma (David Philip)

This book is filled with the heart and soul of two of the greatest contributors to books in this country, writer Sindiwe Magona and illustrator Paddy Bouma. Big sis Siziwe is in charge of feeding her little brothers and sisters. There is nothing to eat, but initiative and luck save the day. 

The Fate of Fausto: A Painted Fable by Oliver Jeffers (Harper Collins)

An exquisitely illustrated fable from the brilliant Oliver Jeffers. This is a timeous tale for children and adults alike. It reminds us of the destructive nature of the human drive to have more; that if enough is never enough, we endanger not only our own moral and physical lives but also that of our precious planet. Jeffers crafts a big message for our age, using simple words and drawings. A collector’s dream.

9-12 years old

Faansie’s Bird Book: A fully fledged guide for kids by Faansie Peacock. (PAVO)

We love birds, and we love birdwatching, and the sooner kids can appreciate the wonders of these jewels of the air, the better. Unlike other dumbed-down guides for children, this one will help your youngster identify every single bird in South Africa. Faansie has cleverly assembled bird groups that will make sense to a child, and the simple layout makes it super easy to navigate. You’ll probably learn a thing or two too.

On the Origin of Species retold and illustrated by Sabina Radeva (Puffin)

This book came out earlier this year, but it is too lovely to skip for the year-end list. A beautifully illustrated and retold version of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, it takes us on a tour of the theory of evolution, explaining in simple language and exquisite illustrations concepts such as natural selection, adaptation, fossils, evolution and much more. Sabina Radeva brings an understanding of Darwin’s finches and the giant tortoises of the Galapagos to magical life for your youngster.

Hidden Planet by Ben Rothery (Ladybird)

The earth and its creatures take centre stage in Ben Rothery’s exquisitely illustrated book. He says of it: “This is my love letter to planet Earth … A celebration of her hidden species, from the bold and the beautiful to the interesting but ugly. I hope that this collection gives a glimpse of the outstanding diversity of nature.” This and other books like it give us hope and remind us that the time for talking is over — our urgent action is required.

The Beast of Buckingham Palace! by David Walliams, illustrated by Tony Ross (Harper Collins)

Revealed at the last moment every year, and outselling everything before it’s even a physical book, the phenomenon of the David Walliams Christmas book is here to stay. Personally, I think Walliams is at his best when his stories involve the queen, the palace or the crown jewels — as this one does. A crowd-pleaser in the best sense of the term.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay (Bloomsbury)

If you have a Potterhead in your family, gifts are easy. A beautiful and collectable must-have, this is the fourth in the stunning illustrated Harry Potter editions. Jim Kay perfectly captures the dark and menacing mood of this story of magic and wizardry, without ever letting us forget that it’s all just fantastical fun.

12+ years old

The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman (David Fickling)

The great Philip Pullman brings us volume two in the Book of Dust trilogy, set in a parallel world to the one created in the His Dark Materials trilogy. It features Lyra Silvertongue, once known as Lyra Belacqua, and like all Pullman’s work, it is thought-provoking, powerful and epic storytelling.

We Are All Greta by Valentina Giannella, illustrated by Manuela Marazzi (Laurence King)

This wonderfully sensible, balanced and accessible book aims to make climate change understood by youngsters, their parents and grandparents. Taking Greta Thunberg’s impassioned plea as a starting point, the author explains everything from fossil fuels to sustainable farming and how to eat right for the planet. Perfect for your young activist.

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell (Macmillan)

This is the must-read for young adults this year: Rainbow Rowell’s sequel to Carry On. You thought Simon Snow’s story was over? Well, there’s loads more to come in this thrilling, sexy and magical novel set mostly in a vintage convertible traversing the American Midwest. — Kate Rogan