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The Best Children's Books to Look Forward to in 2021

Posted on 28th December 2020 by Mark Skinner

With new books from Liz Pichon, Julia Donaldson and Jacqueline Wilson on the horizon, 2021 is shaping up to be an exceptional year for children's literature. From picture books to Young Adult novels, here is our pick of the top titles to look out for.

 

Older Fiction

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Liz Pichon’s schoolboy hero returns in ten side-splitting tales featuring ant-infested underwear, a seriously delicious chicken pie and the enigmatic Wafer Boy.
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Greg Heffley’s best buddy takes the reins once more for this gloriously ghoulish compendium of tales that will have readers shaking – with laughter.
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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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Can one hare alone change the world? The captivating animal adventure destined to be loved by readers of all ages. A stunning hardback edition from the bestselling, much-loved author, Piers Torday.
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Another rollicking Victorian yarn from the inimitable Jacqueline Wilson, as a lonely rich girl finds contentment and adventure in the bustle of London with a feisty street performer.
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£14.99
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The penultimate, rip-roaring instalment of Derek Landy’s bestselling Skulduggery Pleasant series finds our charismatic anti-heroes faced with a dreadful decision which could mean the difference between survival and annihilation for humanity.

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An enthralling wartime adventure perfect for fans of Emma Carroll and Ross Montgomery, Parr’s debut children’s novel centres on a lonely evacuee and a spooky discovery in a Welsh village.
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The author of former Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month The Girl Who Stole an Elephant serves up a sparkling Sri Lanka-set adventure featuring a mysterious shipwreck, a strange child and a big, blue whale.
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The sequel to the roarsome former Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month, Dragon Mountain, finds Billy and his buddies soaring through the Dragon Realm and Ancient China in a bid to save their friend Dylan from the Dragon of Death.

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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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A startlingly accomplished children’s debut from Ella Risbridger, The Secret Detectives finds the freshly orphaned Isobel attempting to solve a heinous crime aboard the SS Mariana in a pitch perfect homage to Golden Age crime writing and children's classic The Secret Garden.
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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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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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Pairing an orphan bent on avenging the death of her parents with an awkward newcomer, Bethell’s compelling tale of deadly sharks and the humans who would master them is an exotic, evocative delight.
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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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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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The author of Time Travelling with a Hamster returns with a wildly imaginative tale that combines laugh-out-loud comedy with a poignant reflection on illness and the unbreakable bonds of friendship.
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The multi-talented Ben Bailey Smith delivers a winningly funny and highly relatable story about a teenage comedian and the lengths he is prepared to go to to get a laugh.
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Packed with heart and humour, Dean’s soaring debut follows young Archie Albright and his best friends on a determined quest to understand his parents' separation following a revelation from his father.
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Teenage & Young Adult

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The second instalment of the Last Hours develops the enthralling action of Chain of Gold, as Cordelia and the Merry Thieves pursue a vicious killer through the streets of Edwardian London, all the while battling with their own inner demons.
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Nick and Charlie may officially be boyfriends but that doesn’t mean an end to the drama in this warm-hearted and emotionally generous fourth instalment of Alice Oseman’s phenomenally successful graphic novel series.
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£16.99
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The iconic YA series reaches its thrilling conclusion as Jacob Portman, Miss Peregrine and the peculiar children reunite in Devil’s Acre for the final clash with the villainous Caul.

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Set seventeen years before the events of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize-winning The Hate U Give, Concrete Rose focuses on Starr’s father and his attempts to do the right thing as a young dad.
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The first in a magical realist series set in Shakespearean London and written with the kind of lyrical dexterity and power that one would expect from Akala, The Dark Lady references the Bard’s sonnets as well as crafting an uncompromising picture of street life in Renaissance England.

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The author of Am I Normal Yet? and The Places I’ve Cried in Public delivers a smart and sassy high school drama in which the editor of the yearbook serves up some incendiary truths about the school’s mean girls.
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Set in a West African-inspired Ancient Kingdom under oppressive patriarchal rule, Forna’s breathtaking novel follows sixteen-year-old Deka and her quest to discover her destiny as a near-immortal with magical powers.

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Deliciously eerie and unsettling and blessed with a haunting gothic atmosphere, House of Hollow centres on the mysterious disappearance – and even more mysterious reappearance – of three glamorous sisters possessed of a chilling charisma.
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The thrilling conclusion to the Cursebreaker trilogy ups the ante on regal intrigue as Grey competes for the throne of Emberfall and Lia Mara is forced to decide where her loyalties truly lie.

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Buried secrets burst into the open at an exclusive high school in this explosive thriller which doubles as a blistering critique of institutionalised racism.
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Tackling the contentious theme of teenage pregnancy with sensitivity and intelligence, The First Day of My Life is another compellingly authentic read from the author of The Art of Being Normal.
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A brilliantly clever novel from the author of Opposite of Always, Forever Ends on a Friday channels science fiction to invest a tale of second chances and forced goodbyes with enormous emotional power.
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After Ash is killed in a car accident she must choose between becoming a Reaper gathering souls for the afterlife or seeing her first love Poppy again, in this impossibly quirky and affecting supernatural romance.
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Taking a mature and unflinching look at living with HIV, Rocha’s thoughtful novel explores not just the physical effects of the disease but also its impact on personal relationships and social standing.
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A blazingly original collection of short stories linked by towns in Alaska and the American West, Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town perfectly captures the experiences of young people living a frontier existence.
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Picture Books 

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From the author and illustrator of the bestselling The Lion Inside comes a heartwarming rhyming tale about a whale on the hunt for the one trinket that will make him feel complete.
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Following up the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize category-winning The Girls by tracing the paths taken through life by a quartet of young boys, Ace and Lovlie craft another charming and inclusive picture book which encourages difference and love.
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The evergreen tale of the ugly duckling gets a minibeast spin in this adorable picture book from the legendary Julia Donaldson, in which an unremarkable caterpillar is about to undergo a fabulous transformation.

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Once more unafraid to tackle complex themes in picture book form, Tom Percival delivers a deeply moving and inspiring tale of a young girl living at the edge of society and a message of hope and understanding for young and old alike.
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The author/illustrator of A Bit Lost and Shh! We Have a Plan tempts a trio of monkeys with a tantalising mango tree in this joyous picture book packed with youthful cheekiness and boundary pushing.
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A brand-new lift-the-flap board book to join the iconic Acorn Wood series, Cat’s Cookbook finds our feline friend on the hunt for the perfect recipe guide.
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Pip and Posy must learn to value each other’s skills and needs in a triumphant return for Axel Scheffler’s lovable bunny and mouse duo.
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Zadie Smith teams up with acclaimed poet Nick Laird and debut illustrator Magenta Fox to produce a marvellously funny and warm-hearted story about a rather unconventional guinea pig.
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The beloved poet and author pays tribute to the wonders of the natural world in incandescent verse, accompanied by gorgeous illustrations from Nila Aye.
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Boasting vibrant illustrations, Harkness’s story of a very hungry creature on the prowl for something tasty is fantastically funny reading for all little ones with rumbling tummies.
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With a wry sense of humour and bold illustrations, Haddow and Adeola’s riotous, vibrant tale of bears in the family is a wonderfully warm-hearted tribute to dads the world over.
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Younger Fiction

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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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Appearing in a riot of colour and zany charm, this new series from the Amelia Fang creator introduces Ray Grey whose transformation into the magical Rainbow heralds some endearingly comic adventures.
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Meet intergalactic sleuths Connor and Ethan in the fun-filled first instalment of a new series illustrated by Waterstones Children’s Book Prize-winner Dapo Adeola.
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Reference & Activities

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The third volume of art and crafting fun from the viral drawing sensation and author/illustrator of Odd Dog Out and Blown Away promises more inventive, interactive ways to enhance your illustrating skills.
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A reassuring and accessible guide to the minefield of puberty from the beloved TV medic Dr Ranj Singh, Grow Up and Feel Amazing is essential reading for boys aged 10 and older.
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Boasting intricate and immersive illustrations from Alessandra Fusi, this exhaustive compendium of dragon lore, species and locations is perfect for all devotees of fire-breathing beasts.
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Another brilliantly executed entry in the Little People Big Dreams series, Vegara’s simple text combines with Holmes’s bright and bold illustrations to illuminate the fascinating and inspiring life of supermodel and drag artist RuPaul.
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Vegan cookery prodigy Omari shares his favourite plant-based dishes in this fun and accessible recipe guide designed to encourage the next generation of vegan cooks.
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Encouraging children to keep fit at the same time as learning about their favourite animals, former Blue Peter presenter Radzi Chinyanganya’s fun, vibrant book models exercise moves from the animal kingdom.
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