The Best Books of 2021: Kids & YA

by |December 3, 2021
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We started the year in children’s books with Day Break by Amy McQuire and Matt Chun — a moving story of a family making their way back to Country on January 26.

A few months later, as the entire country was debating the effectiveness of milkshakes and tacos as educational tools, Yumi Stynes and Dr Melissa Kang rode to the rescue with Welcome to Consent (arguably one of the most timely releases of the year!).

Over the past few months we have seen a fabulous line-up of gorgeous, uplifting picture books like Tomorrow is a Brand-New Day by Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys, and Rosie the Rhinoceros by Jimmy Barnes and Matt Shanks (both of which made me cry tears of joy!)

It’s also been an absolutely marvellous year for First Nations children‘s books. As well as Day Break, we had the bestselling First Scientists by Corey Tutt, as well as Gary Lonesborough’s beautiful debut YA novel, The Boy from the Mish.

Last but not least, we had some magical, whimsical and breathtaking stories for middle grade and young adult readers from a cavalcade of amazing authors like Rebecca Lim, Jaclyn Moriaty and Lynette Noni, not to mention the thrilling finale to the Aurora Cycle from Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

—Sarah McDuling, Kids & YA Category Manager

Rosie the Rhinoceros

by Jimmy Barnes and Matt Shanks


Who is Rosie? Is she a fun-loving rhinoceros who is always up early and ready to greet the day? Or is she a magical unicorn who skips through the savannah on her dainty hooves? Either way she’s perfect.

Buy it here

Tomorrow is a Brand-New Day

by Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys (Illustrator)


Read a Q&A with Davina Bell here.

Good or bad, the things you do are all a part of being you – of learning how to take your boat on stormy seas and stay afloat. From the creators of All the Ways To Be Smart comes a message of hope- hard days come and go, but love is with us always. A healing and uplifting tribute to learning and growing – to making mistakes and making amends.

Buy it here

Aurora’s End

by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff


Read our review here and listen to our podcast with Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff here.

The thrilling finale to the internationally bestselling Aurora Cycle series sees the return of Squad 312 in an explosive battle across time and space. When we last saw Squad 312, they were working together seamlessly (aka freaking out) as an intergalactic battle raged and an ancient superweapon threatened to obliterate Earth. Everything went horribly wrong, naturally. But as it turns out, not all endings are endings, and the team has one last chance to rewrite theirs. Maybe two. It’s complicated.

Buy it here

Tiger Daughter

by Rebecca Lim


Read a Q&A with Rebecca Lim here.

Wen Zhou is the daughter and only child of Chinese immigrants whose move to the lucky country has proven to be not so lucky. Wen and her friend, Henry Xiao – whose mum and dad are also struggling immigrants – both dream of escape from their unhappy circumstances, and form a plan to sit an entrance exam to a selective high school far from home. But when tragedy strikes, it will take all of Wen’s resilience and resourcefulness to get herself and Henry through the storm that follows.

Buy it here

The Boy from the Mish

by Gary Lonesborough


Listen to our podcast with Gary Lonesborough here.

It’s a hot summer, and life’s going all right for Jackson and his family on the Mish. It’s almost Christmas, school’s out, and he’s hanging with his mates, teasing the visiting tourists, avoiding the racist boys in town. Just like every year, Jackson’s Aunty and annoying little cousins visit from the city – but this time a mysterious boy with a troubled past comes with them…

Buy it here

Day Break

by Amy McQuire and Matt Chun (Illustrator)


Day Break is the story of a family making their way back to Country on January 26. The story refocuses the narratives around ‘Australia Day’ on Indigenous survival and resistance, and in doing so honours the past while looking to the future. Confronting yet truthful, painful yet full of hope, Day Break is a crucial story that will open up a conversation on truth-telling for the next generation.

Buy it here

The Astonishing Chronicles of Oscar from Elsewhere

by Jaclyn Moriarty


Listen to our podcast with Jaclyn Moriarty here.

The magical fourth book in the rich and whimsical world of the Kingdoms and Empires about a non-magical boy called Oscar who finds himself caught up in a surprisingly urgent quest in an even more surprising world.

Buy it here

The Prison Healer

by Lynette Noni


Read our review here, read a Q&A with Lynette Noni here and listen to our podcast with her here.

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer. When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally ill woman alive long enough for her to undergo the Trial by Ordeal. Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order – Don’t let her die. We are coming.

Buy it here

How to be a Real Man

by Scott Stuart


Scott Stuart encourages boys to embrace who they truly are in this empowering and funny story, smashing age-old assumption about what it means to be a man. Encompassing boys and men from different backgrounds, and told in irresistible rhyme, How to be a Real Man is a must-have picture book for all young readers.

Buy it here

Welcome to Consent

by Yumi Stynes and Dr Melissa Kang


Watch a Q&A with Yumi Stynes and Dr Melissa Kang here.

Adolescent health experts Dr Melissa Kang and Yumi Stynes have written the only guide you need to figuring out the rules of consent. Whether you’re a curious 11 to 14-year-old, or the parent of someone with a bunch of questions, this book is reassuring, interesting, and full of the info you need!

Buy it here

The First Scientists

by Corey Tutt and Blak Douglas (Illustrator)


Read an extract from The First Scientists here and watch our Facebook event with Corey Tutt here.

Have you ever wondered what the stars can tell us? Did you know the seasons can be predicted just by looking at subtle changes in nature? Maybe you have wondered about the origins of glue or if forensic science is possible without a crime scene investigation. Australia’s First peoples have the longest continuing culture on Earth and their innovation will amaze you as you leaf through the pages of this book, learning fascinating facts and discovering the answers to life’s questions.

Buy it here

The Edge of Thirteen

by Nova Weetman


Read a Q&A with Nova Weetman here.

Clem Timmins can’t wait to see her best friends after being apart all summer holidays. But when they get back together, things have changed. Bridge is boy-crazy and acting like a different person. Ellie is wearing a bra and having a real-life romance. Clem feels left behind. When she makes friends with Tom, suddenly everyone’s gossiping about whether they’re going to be a couple. Clem’s got no interest in having a boyfriend. Or does she?

Buy it here

We’re rounding up the Best Books of 2021 — check it out!

The Best Books of 2021
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About the Contributor

Sarah McDuling is Booktopia's Category Manager for Children's and Young Adult Books. She has been in the bookselling game for almost a decade and a dedicated booklover since birth (potentially longer). At her happiest when reading a book, Sarah also enjoys talking/writing/tweeting about books. In her spare time, she often likes to buy a lot of books and take photographs of books. You can follow her on Twitter and Instragram @sarahmcduling

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