The Hug
Eoin McLaughlin (text) & Polly Dunbar (artwork)
(Faber & Faber)

Hedgehog is feeling very sad, and could really do with a hug. But no one is willing to oblige, worried about the prickles on its back. Tortoise is also feeling very down and is not having much luck either, because of its hard shell. But as a wise owl tells them both, there is someone for everyone! This is a heart-warming tale of love and friendship and finding one’s meaningful other, with a lovely message about it coming in all shapes and sizes. Dunbar’s artwork itself is like a big hug, all soft shapes and colours. The use of format is very clever, splitting the narrative in two using the flipbook form, with a joyous, middle double-spread, which uses the space vertically (something I am very partial to). The negative space as background allows readers to focus solely on characters and their expressions. A big hug of a book, perfect for reading at bedtime.


The Kiss
Linda Sunderland (text) & Jessica Courtney-Tickle (artwork)
(Little Tiger Press)

When Edwyn blows a kiss to his grandma as she leaves his house to go home, he unknowingly starts a chain of events which spreads kindness across the community. But soon a rich, hard-hearted man decides he wants to keep it to himself. A truly uplifting tale, this  is a great example of a contemporary story that draws from the traditional fairy-tale format and makes it pertinent to today’s young readers. This is particularly evident in the ‘villain’, how he and his home are depicted visually and how he  eventually is redeemed. There is nothing didactic about the tale however; just a beautiful story full of positivity and kindness, with an extra sprinkle of enchantment thanks to the richly detailed and coloured artwork. With a lovely message that kindness does not cost a thing yet can have life-changing ramifications, this really is a gorgeous book to share, far and wide.


Steve Antony
(Hodder Children’s Books)

The most impactful way to create children’s books that celebrate diversity and inclusivity is to do so covertly, thus emphasising the message that there is nothing ‘different’ about those characters. Steve Antony demonstrates this effortlessly in this wonderful story about a little boy and his pet dragon. Readers follow the inseparable pair as they go about their favourite activities: playing hide-and-seek and basketball, singing, dancing and all sorts! Zibbo the dragon can do it all, and why shouldn’t he? It is uplifting, heart-warming, clever and huge fun, with a final spread that might just bring a little a lump in your throat. Antony’s signature uncluttered, super child-friendly style and short narrative carry this positive message astutely. An amazing book indeed!