Today I’m starting a new blog series, The year’s favourite books, in which authors and illustrators contribute guest posts about a favourite book (or books, if they can’t choose just one!) which they read this year. The books don’t have to be new (though it might be, of course!) or in any particular genre, or for any particular age group–just books that my blog guests enjoyed reading and/or that are special to them in some way.
I’m kicking off the series with two of my own favourites this year (yes, I couldn’t choose just one and even two was hard to keep to!), one for adults, one for children: the adult one by an eminent Australian author whose books I’ve always enjoyed; the children’s book by a Canadian author-illustrator I’ve only just discovered, despite his having published several immensely popular and award-winning books.
So here they are:
This beautiful, gripping and evocative collection of short stories, that came out in mid-2018 but which I didn’t catch up with till early 2019, shows Robert Drewe’s light yet precise touch at its most masterly. The sea, in all its simplicity yet mystery, has been at the centre of much of his writing, and this collection is certainly no exception, with stories set on islands and on the coast, and at different periods of time, with the sea always more than a mere backdrop to human dramas, comedies, crimes and mysteries, but in fact often a trigger, a catalyst, for them. I just loved this book, which I read over several days in summer. Beautiful writing, unpredictable twists, vivid characters and a satirical eye that is never misanthropic: these are some of the great pleasures of this collection, which is one to savour over the holidays.
I first came across this picture book(originally published in 2011) by chance one day this year, browsing in a city bookshop for a present for a certain beloved little person. I was startled and gripped by the story and by Klassen’s unique style of illustration, which combines sophistication and simplicity. The cumulative text, around a bear who has lost his hat and is looking for it everywhere, shows those twin aspects too, and its ending has quite a twist–what exactly, well, you’ll have to see for yourself! In an interview in 2016, Klassen mentioned that the publisher had wanted him to change the ending, but that he’d stood his ground. When you read the book, you can see why there’d been that initial nervousness(though the book went on to be hugely successful). In our family, I Want My Hat Back aroused quite a bit of discussion, with different opinions expressed as to the underlying theme: and that ending! (Mind you, the little person for whom it was intended just enjoyed it unreservedly).