The Best Children's and Teens' Books We've Read in January 2017

Girl reading picture books on a snowy day

January is nearly over, and the days should be getting brighter very soon. But there's already some brightness on the horizon with our monthly reading recommendations!

Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman (YA)

Neverwhere cover
Under the streets of London there is a world most people cannot even dream of, a world where an aging Earl holds court on a Tube train, a real-life Angel called Islington resides in a candlelit cloister and the terrifying shepherds of Shepherds Bush are best not even mentioned. Our hapless hero, Richard Mayhew, is thrown into this fantastic and dangerous world by an act of kindness towards a young girl with the power to open doors. Cut off from his old life, Richard has to journey through the perils of London Below to find his way back home. But what he finds isn’t exactly what he was looking for. Witty, weird and full of wonder, this book will leave you breathless.

Beth Goodyear, Schools Events Manager, @betbott


Spellchasers: The Beginner's Guide to Curses, Lari Don (8-12)

Spellchasers cover
Molly doesn’t believe in curses, spells, witches or fairies, but she cannot explain why she turns into a hare whenever a dog appears. She begrudgingly attends Mrs Sharpe’s ‘Curse Lifting Workshop,’ which she runs under the guise of a farm shop. Molly soon discovers she is definitely cursed, Mrs Sharpe is a witch, and that fairies, Kelpies, Dryads and Sphinxes also exist as she is swiftly catapulted into a magical quest to free herself of curse. Completing the witch’s mysterious homework tasks as well as some hard labour howking up her tatties might be tough, but gaining the trust of her suspicious new magical friends proves the real challenge. When they discover Mrs Sharpe can only lift one of their curses, turning them against each other, can newly forged friendships prevail?

This is an instantly engaging and gripping fable set in Speyside, with strong and likeable characters on an exhilarating quest with plenty of twists and a fast-paced narrative drawing on mythological creatures from Scotland and beyond.

Check out our Lari Don learning resource for some great ideas inspired by this title and others by Lari!

Thomas Jefferson, Schools Events Administrator, @TomJeffo


Dear Dinosaur, Chae Strathie, illustrated by Nicola O'Byrne (3-7)

Dear Dinosaur cover
After a trip to a museum, Max writes a letter to his favourite dinosaur, the mighty T-Rex, and T-Rex writes a frightening letter back! Max isn’t scared, though: he knows T-Rex is just showing off, so he writes again and soon the two of them become firm friends. This is a really lovely interactive picture book about friendship, beautifully illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne, and filled with some excellent dinosaur facts. Did you know that T-Rex was longer than a bus, had teeth longer than a ruler and is none too keen on sausages?! Chae is one of my favourite picture book authors and this book is really brilliant.

Beth Goodyear, Schools Events Manager, @betbott


Aidan Abet Teacher's Pet
, Guy Bass (8-12)

Aiden Abet cover

Aidan Abet is taunted daily by the bullies at school. But he's got a survival strategy: by helping out his teacher with everything from collecting homework to taking the register, he's created a key ally to keep the bullies at bay. However, one day a new teacher, Miss Vowel, shows up with a menagerie of unusual animals. When the animals seem to be trying to warn Aidan about something, he soon discovers a horrifying secret...

This is a frightfully good fun dose of Dahl-esque grisly humour! With plenty of unexpected twists and turns, and a bit of an anti-hero in the snivelling, servile Aidan, this book offers something a bit different.

This new title from Guy Bass is published by Barrington Stoke, which specialises in super-readable, accessible books that are often great for reluctant readers and children who struggle with reading.

Chris Leslie, Schools Resource Developer, @ChrisLeslie2


Check out our book lists for more fantastic recommendations for all age, or have a look at our other Book Recommendations blog posts.

Image: Jessie Wilcox Smith, 'Picture Books in Winter' from 'A Child's Garden of Verses'. Flickr Creative Commons.