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The Best Books of 2021: Children's Books

Posted on 3rd November 2021 by Mark Skinner

Whether it's tracking the Greenland shark with Kiran Millwood Hargrave, battling an evil pet poisoner with Noel 'Supervet' Fitzpatrick or unlocking your potential with Marcus Rashford, the quality of children's publishing this year has been truly astonishing. Covering fiction and reference books for 5 to 12 year olds, pick the perfect present for all junior bookworms courtesy of our wide-ranging blog.    

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Bursting with festive charm and imagination, this magical adventure written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Field, revolves around a boy’s determined quest to find his missing toy pig before Christmas Day.
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Tom Fletcher’s joyous festive series finds the Christmasaurus on a mission to show children languishing on Santa’s naughty list the error of their ways.
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The nation's beloved Supervet pens his first novel for young readers with the thrilling tale of a vet specialising in bionic animal care and his dastardly nemesis bent on poisoning dogs and cats throughout the land.
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From the bestselling author of The Day I Fell Into a Fairytale comes a hilarious body-swap comedy crossed with a compelling adventure as George and his dog Midnight magically take on each other’s identities.
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Co-written by astronaut Tim Peake, this pulsating middle grade sci-fi adventure finds humanity in danger from a supposedly benevolent alien hive mind and only Danny and his best friend Jamila can avert catastrophe.
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The third instalment of Dominique Valente’s exhilarating fantasy series finds Willow Moss enrolling in school and uncovering a deadly conspiracy perpetrated by the dastardly Brothers of Wol.
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The heartwarming and hilarious debut children's novel from national treasure Lenny Henry sees average kid Tunde suddenly sprout wings during a football match, embarking on an exciting and sinister journey of discovery.
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Set in an alternate future world where the terrifying Dragon of Death reigns supreme, the third immersive adventure in Katie and Kevin Tsang’s bestselling series finds our heroes desperately trying to save humanity from a chilling fate.
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The authors of the former Waterstones Children's Book Prize nominee Kid Normal return with a wildly imaginative and funny tale of a devastating dream device and a group of resourceful kids who must rescue a professor from inside a living nightmare.
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A rip-roaring supernatural adventure with a lovable lead character, Alston’s gripping debut features a missing brother, a sinister organisation and a thoroughly evil magician.
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Bringing together all the adventures of the iconic skeleton detective Skulduggery Pleasant and his protégé Valkyrie, this stunningly illustrated compendium also features with a dark new story, plenty of surprises and an indispensable reference tool for navigating the entire wild cast of characters in the series.
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Blending fairytales and cultures in a witty and playful story of strong-willed female protagonists, Hafiza crafts a world of magic and enchantment with immense skill.
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Magical milliners abound in this endlessly inventive and thoroughly charming debut about enchanted headwear, vanished ships and the dark rumblings of war.
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A prequel to Torday’s Last Wild trilogy that is every bit as luminous as those beloved children’s classics, The Wild Before is a stunning mix of folklore, adventure and environmental awareness.
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Packed full of humour, excitement and lots of crazy creatures, O’Grady’s children’s debut sets a boy who can talk to animals on a quest to thwart the dastardly plans of Amsterdam’s premier supervillain.
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From the beloved author of Our Castle by the Sea comes a mesmerising story about six sisters living with their frightening father on a remote farm and what happens when a circus brings an enigmatic puppeteer to town.
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Set amidst a vividly evoked, smoke-stained underworld beneath Battersea Power Station, Ghostcloud is a wildly imaginative debut about friendship, courage and finding your freedom against all odds.
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The follow-up to Wegelius' immersive children's masterpiece The Murderer's Ape finds the redoutable gorilla Sally Jones on the trail of Glaswegian jewel smugglers in an enthralling adventure sweeping from Shetland to Lisbon and beyond.
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The first part in an exciting new series from the multi-award-winning children’s author and illustrator ‘Draw with Rob’ Biddulph whisks the reader into the world of Peanut Jones as she searches for her disappeared father and finds her pen charged with magical powers.
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Poisoned copies of The Wizard of Oz and journeys from the Emerald City to Venice keep Milo and Tilly busy in this mesmerising fourth instalment in Anna James’ bestselling series, perfect for all bibliophiles.
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Brimming with hope and gorgeously illustrated by Tom de Freston, Julia and the Shark is a mesmerising story of a family, a lighthouse and a quest to find the elusive Greenland shark from the award-winning author of The Girl of Ink & Stars.
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The finest practitioner of historical fiction for children writing today, Emma Carroll delivers yet another enthralling adventure, this time set in 1960s England as the Cuban Missile Crisis and a runaway girl threaten to expose a shattering secret.
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Inspired by E. Nesbit's evergreen novel, this moving, beautifully crafted tale from the bestselling author of the Tracy Beaker series tells of Phoebe, her mother and her siblings who must adjust to a new life after the beloved father of the family suddenly disappears.
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Stunningly illustrated by Jon Klassen, Sara Pennypacker’s much-awaited, heart-warming sequel to the bestselling Pax sees Peter and his pet fox, both in need of solace and sense of belonging in their now separate lives, turn to each other once more.
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The bestselling author of the Percy Jackson series serves up a mesmerising adventure revolving around a leading academy for underwater explorers, where deep secrets and age-old rivalries are about to resurface.
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Both absorbing animal adventure and subtle commentary on climate change and the plight of endangered species, The Last Bear revolves around April, the daughter of an Arctic researcher, and her chance encounter with a lone polar bear.
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A group of children are stranded on an uninhabited island with a mysterious treasure map in this typically assured and delightfully funny tale from the author of Millions and Framed.

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£7.99 £6.99
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Harrison Beck undertakes another locomotive mystery in the fourth instalment of Leonard and Sedgman’s thrilling Adventures on Trains series, as a cursed family of railway tycoons high in the German mountains makes for a sinister supernatural mystery.
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As the Second World War escalates and bombs start to fall, Joseph is charged with protecting Adonis the gorilla in this nerve-shreddingly tense thriller based on a true story.
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Continuing the stories of the characters from McKay’s acclaimed The Skylarks’ War, The Swallows’ Flight is a compelling and thoughtful depiction of young people from different countries growing up as the world races to war once more.
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One of the UK's all-time leading goal scorers Ian Wright draws from his own life and together with author, poet and musician Musa Okwonga, tells the inspiring tale of thirteen-year-old Jerome who despite his difficult home life dreams of becoming a superstar striker.
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Deftly exploring the drama and complexities of World War II through the prism of three childhood friends, Kessler’s searching, powerful book is perfect reading for fans of Private Peaceful and The Book Thief.
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Blending a story of extraordinary discovery in present day Ithaca with a gripping tale of heroic wartime exploits, the celebrated author of War Horse delivers an unforgettable hymn to personal courage and the legacies of storytelling.
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Adorned with colourful illustrations, this adaptation of Hislop’s bestselling novel for younger readers focuses on the experience of children on the Greek island of Spinalonga and reflects the ways we treat those who are different.
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£14.99 £7.49
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Walliams and Ross return with the sequel to one of their most popular books, as a spate of jewel heists bearing the unmistakable mark of the infamous Black Cat gets Ben wondering whether his granny could possibly be responsible.
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Can Greg Heffley score a slam dunk after he unexpectedly winds up on his school’s worst basketball team in the hilarious 16th instalment of the mega-selling Wimpy Kid series?
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The acclaimed picture book author embarks upon a seriously silly series for middle grade readers featuring two runaway foxes, a ferocious street-cat called Princess Buttons and a wild wood packed full of hilariously weird animal characters.
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The author of A Series of Unfortunate Events invites readers to solve the mystery of his own demise in this unique volume full of surprises, delight and bewilderment, perfect for all fans.
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A new Tom Gates novel is always a cause for celebration and his nineteenth outing proves why the series is such a hit as the laughs come thick and fast when Tom is forced into the slow lane by a broken ankle but will stop at nothing to make sure he gets his dream doughnut.
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Adding 13 more storeys to their already gargantuan treehouse, Andy and Terry embark on a restful breaking on the camping holiday level – with predictably side-splitting results.
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The author of A Boy Called Christmas delivers the irresistibly charming tale of a resourceful, cheese-obsessed rodent on a grand adventure.
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The debut children's book from comedian Rosie Jones is the endearing and laugh-out-loud story of the eponymous Edie; a schoolgirl with cerebral palsy and a love of performance.
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The author of The Parent Agency and Head Kid spins another side-splitting story, as unremarkable Billy Smith becomes an overnight sensation when his class presentation goes viral.
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Fighting crime and spreading the love; everyone's favourite cartoon canine returns for more comic-strip high jinks in the blockbuster tenth book of the popular series.
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The inimitable Clarice Bean returns in this warmly funny festive story from former Waterstones Children’s Laureate Lauren Child, as our young heroine is forced to adapt to having a quiet Christmas.
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The fifth instalment of the popular children’s series finds our lovable duo faced with a mean icebear with designs on becoming king in a charming story about being unafraid to seek help from others.
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Brimming with fascinating historical detail, magnificent maps and vivid illustrations, this gorgeous compendium tells the story of our globe from ancient history to the present day through twenty-five major cities from around the world, from Baghdad to Beijing, and from St Petersburg to Sydney.
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Marcus Rashford has proven himself to be a remarkable role model for the nation’s children, and now he delivers an inspirational volume to help develop the game-changers and ethical crusaders of tomorrow.
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Boasting full-colour illustrations, this beautiful edition of David Olusoga’s essential guide to Black British history for younger readers is an accessible, informative volume that shines a light on countless neglected stories and influential figures.
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An ideal gift and every collector’s dream, this sumptuous, magical volume invites the reader on an incredible visual journey into the world of Harry Potter through Jim Kay's iconic illustrations and never-before-seen pencil sketches and character studies, coupled with unforgettable quotations from J.K. Rowling's novels.
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From Ida B. Wells to Naomi Osaka, this illuminating addition to the Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series spotlights one hundred Black women and girls from around the world and across the centuries, retelling their inspiring stories for a young audience.
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