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Best Books from around the World in 2015   

Deborah Hallford selects some of the best books
published in 2015

You can download this list by clicking on the PDF 




Under 5

I Want Spaghetti
Stephanie Blake
Translated from French by Linda Burgess
Gecko Press

I Want Spaghetti is another delightful offering from Stephanie Blake about Simon, the cheeky and mischievous little rabbit.  Readers may have already encountered Simon in the hilarious bestselling Poo Bum (2012), followed by Stupid Baby (2013), A Deal’s a Deal (2013) and I Don't want to go to School (2014). This time Simon has a passion for spaghetti; in fact, he has a spaghetti addiction because he won't eat anything else!  As ever, with Blake's books there is a surprise at the end of the story.

Rufus the Bat who Loved Colours
Tomi Ungerer
First published in German

Rufus is a very curious bat. He's discovered that he is attracted to colour. Inspired by what he sees, and, with the help of an abandoned paint box, Rufus paints his own wings in an array of bright colours. However, not everyone is ready for a multi-coloured bat! First published in 1961, this classic story, by the internationally acclaimed Alsace writer and illustrator Tomi Ungerer, is amusing, but also has a serious message of being comfortable with who you are and of being different and accepted.

The Snowman and the Sun
Susan Taghdis
Illustrated by Ali Mafakheri
Translated from Persian by Azita Rassi
Tiny Owl Publishing

As the sun comes out the Snowman begins to wonder what will happen to him when he melts. Narrated from the Snowman's viewpoint, this charming modern-day fable by Iranian author Susan Taghdis explores, in a gentle humorous way, how our attachment to people and things live on, though they change and sometimes disappear. The child-like artwork from Iranian illustrator Ali Mafakheri on a graph-paper background, are vibrant and colourful with lovely humorous touches. A perfect book to share and read aloud with plenty to engage a young child.


Azizi and the Little Bird
Laila Koubaa
Illustrated by Mattias de Leeuw
Translated from Flemish by David Colmer
Book Island

Azizi lives in the land of the Crescent Moon governed by two despotic, greedy rulers. Free speech is stifled and the people live in abject fear. When a decree is issued that all the blue birds in the land must be captured and locked in a big cage in the courtyard of the palace, Azizi knows he must find a way to help them.  This contemporary fairy tale by Laila Koubaa is a timeless story with the traditional elements of good versus evil and a modern-day twist which makes it so appealing.



The Big Adventure of a Little Line
Serge Bloch
Translated from French
Thames & Hudson

While taking a walk one day, a small boy, (the narrator), discovers a little line lying on the ground.  He picks it up, puts it in his pocket and takes it home with him.  Then he forgets about it, but the little line has other ideas. He comes to life and soon he and the boy are inseparable.  Renowned French cartoonist and illustrator, Serge Bloch has created an unusual, philosophical story with amusing minimal artwork. It is a thought-provoking celebration of inspiration, imagination and originality.

The Marvellous Fluffy Squishy Itty Bitty
Beatrice Alemagna
First published in France
Thames & Hudson

Five and a half year old narrator Eddie, overhears her sister saying the words “present ... Mum ... birthday ... Fluffy ... Squishy ... Itty ... Bitty ...” The only problem is that she is not entirely sure what it is or how she is going to find one! From one of France's most prolific author/illustrators Beatrice Alemagna, comes this charming story with winsome and captivating illustrations. The medium of crayon and watercolour is different to Alemagna's usual collage style, so well-known in her other work, but these images are really rich and earthy with so much fine detail. 

When I Coloured in the World
Ahmadreza Ahmadi
Illustrated by Ehsan Abdollahi
Translated from Persian by Azita Rassi
Tiny Owl Publishing

With a box of coloured crayons and an eraser, a child begins to imagine how to change the world.  She rubs out the word 'darkness' and writes 'light' and 'Yellow', creating a blaze of light as light bulbs illuminate a yellow background – "With my yellow crayon I made lights come on all over the world! I gave the world yellow". Iranian poet Ahmadreza Ahmadi has created a beautiful, simple concept with a profound message.  The eloquent prose translated by Azita Rassi, flow and meander across the pages, enhanced by the exquisitely colourful illustrations of Ehsan Abdollahi. A picture book to savour and one that should be read not just by children but adults too.


Bronze and Sunflower
Cao Wenxuan
Translated from Chinese by Helen Wang
Walker Books

Set in rural China in the late 1960s at the time of the Cultural Revolution, Chinese author Cao Wenxuan has written a beautiful novel which is a joy to read due to the effortless and flowing translation by Helen Wang. Bronze, who has been mute since a traumatic childhood experience, lives with his family in Damaidi in rural China.  Sunflower has come to live with her father at the Cadre School (labour camp) on the other side of the river. Despite the river that separates them, Bronze and Sunflower become friends. When fate intervenes and Sunflower is orphaned she is taken in by Bronze's family and treated like one of their own. Life in Damaidi is hard and Bronze and Sunflower must work together to survive but the love of her new family is worth far more than all the hardship. 

Detective Gordon: The First Case
Ulf Nilsson, Illustrated by Gitte Spee
Translated from Swedish by Julia Marshall
Gecko Press

Someone is stealing the squirrel’s nuts that he's stored away for the winter – 'monstrous plunderers' he shouts as he rushes to the police station. Squirrel discovers Detective Gordon, Chief of Police, a rather plump toad and the only policeman in the forest, fast asleep over his paperwork surrounded by cake crumbs. However, once awoken Detective Gordon springs into action and heads out to investigate the crime. Award-winning Swedish author Ulf Nilsson has created a warm and funny story, simply and beautifully told, translated by Julia Marshall, and enhanced by the enchanting pen and ink watercolour by Gitte Spee.


Fuzz McFlops
Eva Furnari
Translated from Portuguese by Alison Entrekin Pushkin Children’s Books

Fuzz McFlops is a famous rabbit-poet and writer, but ever since he was teased at school by his classmates about his lopsided ears he’s led a lonely and reclusive life, which is reflected in his writing. When Fuzz receives a large eye-catching violet letter tied up with a silk purple ribbon from a fan who dares to suggest that she doesn’t like some of his poems and stories Fuzz is outraged. Brazilian author Eva Furnari has written a truly delectable book full of wry exchanges throughout the correspondence and Alison Entrekin has done a superb job with the translation capturing all the wit of the text.

Meet at the Ark at Eight
Ulrich Hub, Illustrated by Jörg Mühle
Translated from German by Helena Ragg-Kirkby Pushkin Children’s Books

When a large white dove appears to tell a group of penguins that she has a message from God: there is going to be a great catastrophe so they must hurry as there is only space on Noah's Ark for two penguins and they must be there at eight o'clock. A quirky tale and a new take on the traditional biblical story of Noah's Ark from the Old Testament by German playwright Ulrich Hub, translated by Helena Ragg-Kirkby.  Full of tongue-in-cheek humour and the fine black and white artwork by Jörg Mühle enhances the witty text further. There is a lot to relish and mull over in this little gem of a book, and is one that adults are sure to enjoy reading just as much as children.

The Secret of the Blue Glass
Tomiko Inui
Translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemo Pushkin Children’s Books

Written in 1959 by award-winning Japanese author Tomiko Inui the story is set in Tokyo, 1913, when young Tatsuo Moriyami is entrusted with the task of looking after the Little People by his English teacher Miss MacLachlan who is returning to England. There is only one thing they need to survive – a nightly glass of milk, served in a sparkling blue goblet. As the years go by both Tatsuo and the Little People, Fern and Balbo who are just four inches high, have families of their own and the responsibility of the milk in the blue glass goblet is passed down to Tatsuo’s children.  When the Second World War comes to Japan the Little People begin to fear for their lives in a country torn apart by war.  An unusual and deeply moving book.



The Disappearing Children
(Prime Minister Father and Son, 1)
Joachim Grimstad
Translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Siân Mackie
Phoenix Yard Books

Teddy Popps, an ex-taxi driver, has formed ‘The More Party’ whose manifesto is simple: to give people more of what they want and less of what they don’t want.  Norwegian former footballer turned writer, Lars Joachim Grimstad has woven a clever, witty novel of political satire that is full of a wonderful array of colourful characters and a tongue-in-cheek pop at politics which is excellently translated by Don Bartlett and Siân Mackie. Although there is plenty of adventure and humour for children to enjoy, this is a crossover novel that adults, and especially anyone interested in politics, will definitely enjoy too.


Finnish thriller series by Salla Simukka
Translated from Finnish by Owen F. Witesman
Hot Key Books



As Red as Blood
As White as Snow
As Black and Ebony

Seventeen-year-old Lumikki, whose name means Snow White in Finnish, has a motto – the easiest way to get by in life is to interfere as little as possible. Lumikki is cool and dispassionate, her attitude concealing secrets from her past that continue to haunt her. These well-crafted novels by Finnish author Salla Simukka are exceptionally atmospheric; Own F. Witesman’s translation captures all the tension as the stories evolves as well as the descriptive prose, particularly of the freezing, relentless Finnish winter and the searing heat of a hot summer in Prague. The novels have all the key ingredients of a good thriller intertwined around topical subjects such as the murky criminal underworld, dangerous cults, stalkers and obsession.


Non Fiction

Adrienne Barman
Wide Eyed Editions

Within this handsome, 216-page pictorial encyclopaedia by Swiss illustrator Adrienne Barman, young readers will discover an amazing array of animals from around the world. Meet a colourful cast of more than 600 creatures showcased as you’ve never seen them before. The appealing, rich, colourful, cartoon-like illustrations are glorious and packed with detail. Most of the illustrations are humorous, but there is a serious message too. Barman has created something truly special in this wonderful, original guide to the animal kingdom full of eclectic facts and engaging illustrations.


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