2023 has been another brilliant year for children's and YA fiction. I am always in awe of every author's and illustrator's work I have had the pleasure to read. My Top 20 includes titles published in 2023, some previously, that are masterfully crafted, memorable, enjoyable, are windows or mirrors, promote empathy or take the reader to unexpected places. Some titles I have picked are ones that demand more attention, some from exciting debut authors. Some might argue that lists are unnecessary, but I like to reflect on which books have stayed with me and enjoy the debate that follows.
This year my Top 20 seems to be dominated by fantasy that uses fairytale and myths to challenge our world views and have an environmental message. Sinead O'Hart's wonderful 'The Silver Road' evokes the low-fantasy of Alan Garner, while Katherine Rundell's 'Impossible Creatures' is huge in scope and Tolkien-inspired. And Zohra Nabi's impressive 'The Kingdom Over the Sea' makes her a debut fantasy author to watch. There are tender-hearted, real-life stories that help us see how other people live: 'Sunshine Simpson', 'My Life on Fire', 'Quiet Storm' and 'What the World Doesn't See'. Then there are tales of survival: the shocking and gripping YA Carnegie winner 'The Blue Book of Nebo' and Ele Fountain's powerful 'Wild'. But the book I've placed in No.1 is Tania Unworth's classic-in-the-making 'Nowhere Island' about children surviving on their own by a motorway - utterly beautiful, heartfelt and extraordinary. The ending will stay with me forever. Click on the books below for my reviews..