Looking Glass Girl

The Best of Penguin Children’s Books 2015

3rd April 2015 No Comments

The annual Penguin Children’s books showcase is always as fabulous chance to go and find out what we can look forward to for the forthcoming year. This year due to work commitments I was unable to attend so I sent along my friend and co-director on St Albans Literary Festival Jenny and this is her report:

Last week I was lucky enough to be able to go along to the Penguin Random House Children’s Showcase 2015 where I met some brilliant, inspiring authors and got a sneak peak at some of the very best children’s literature we can expect to see this year.

the book with no picturesB.J Novak was the first to take the stand. He is the author of one of the most talked about children’s books of 2014, The Book With No Pictures. I must admit that I had previously dismissed this as something of a gimmick but listening to Novak speak about why he wrote it I started to understand why this book had become so popular. I was thrilled to take a copy away with me and when I read it to my children that evening there was more giggling and reaction from them than I had seen in a long time. The chants of AGAIN, AGAIN, AGAIN and the frequent re-reads both from myself and amongst themselves since has been an absolute joy. Do not dismiss this book. It is truly brilliant.

Novak compared a child handing an adult a book to read with a film director handing an actor a script. The child, like the director, is in charge, demanding a performance and as the child grows and develops into an independent reader books become the place they can go when they are feeling rebellious. The script therefore is hugely important. The quality must be high and there must be a variety of genres, styles and moods to choose. Penguin Random House have always succeeded in publishing high quality literature for children to choose from and their line-up for 2015 is impressive.

Max the Brave, created by Ed Vere and Pom Pom, a grumpy panda created by Sophy Henn are charming picture book characters to look out for this year and young children will also be delighted by an array of familiar characters from TV.  Personally, I am very excited by the new range of Peanuts books that will be published later this year. Snoopy is a favourite character of mine and I was delighted with the news that there will be a Peanuts film and associated picture books which I can’t wait to share it with my youngest daughter. It is lovely to reminisce about childhood favourites with our little ones and there will be more opportunities for this with a new series of Clangers books by Daniel Postgate, the son of one of the creators of the original TV series.

Looking Glass GirlA look back at familiar favourites is a theme in the Primary age fiction from Penguin Random House this year as well. There will be a number of beautiful publications relating to the much loved Alice in Wonderland throughout the year including a modern re-write by Cathy Cassidy called Looking Glass Girl which I am sure my 8 year old will love. I am also very interested to hear Jacqueline Wilson talk about her re-write of What Katy Did. The book, called Katy, is a modern version of the original but as always, Jacqueline was driven by a desire to raise awareness of real life situations that affect young children, in this case, living with a disability. It promises to be an enlightening read with Jacqueline’s trademark style and I am waiting in anticipation for its publication in August.

Whilst this might appeal to my 8 year old, my son will most definitely be reaching for the latest Dennis the Menace and Percy Jackson publications. I am not sure who was more excited, me, my daughter or my son,  to hear that Rick Riordan is also working on a new series of books based on Norse Mythology which will be published in October. There will be a scramble to be the first to read this in our household.

Hold Me CloserThe real strength in the Penguin Random House catalogue this year however lies in their Young Adult books. Jennifer Niven and David Levithan spoke in conversation about their latest novels and encouraged by Levithan’s humorous and likable discussion I delved into his latest book Hold Me Closer on the train home. Levithan’s humour in real life is apparent in his books and he has a clear affection for his characters which helps him speak about big issues through their voices. It also didn’t take me long to pick up and get lost in Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places. This is moving and gripping and intense and I have no doubt it will be one of the best sellers of 2015.

On a lighter note, Sophie Kinsella’s Finding Audrey, is a brilliant work of fiction for teens. Although the book is the story of teenage girl recovering from social anxiety disorder, this is an uplifting novel which draws some brilliant laugh out loud moments.  Sophie Kinsella said that she always writes about her observations of the real world and this is why her first step into Young Adult fiction will be just as successful as her adult books. Teenagers are certain to identify with the chaotic family life and teenage emotions and I look forward to more from Kinsella in Young Adult fiction.

There are many more brilliant more publications from Penguin Random House this year and this is nothing more than a snapshot. I recommend a look at their website for more titles you will want to add to your reading pile this year. Just make sure you buy sturdy shelves first!

Claire Walsh

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