Payal Dhar: My Favourite Children’s and Teen Books in 2018

Payal Dhar is an author, reviewer and curator of children’s books.

I read a number of outstanding books in 2018, though most of it was catching up on my to-read list from eons ago. Here’s my list of the best (but I reserve the right to change my mind later):

The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas
Age group: 13+
This could well go down as the most stunning young adult book I’ve read this decade. The writing, the voice, the story, the ‘feels’ (as they call it these days) — everything came together beautifully. But what struck me the most was that, I realised how skewed the impression of America we get from pop culture is. The predominantly white ‘Hollywood’ representation is at best a veneer, at worst appropriation. I won’t give much away except to say that if you haven’t read it, stop everything and read it NOW.
I’ll Give You the Sun
by Jandy Nelson
Age group: 13+
A fascinating piece of writing. The story itself was a bit Bollywood in places, but I loved the writing, especially the two voices of the protagonists and how different they sounded.
Adil Ali’s Shoes
by Fawzia Gilani Williams
Illustrated by Niloufer Wadia
Age group: 3+
After racking my brains to come up with a 2018 Indian book I really, really, really liked, I think this one is it. Reason one: I am not a great fan of illustrated/picture books. I only read this because I had to for work. But this still impressed me and I have since showered many niblings with a copy. Reason two: Very few Indian authors/illustrators/publishers actually get the concept of a picture book. This one is a classic picture book, a story and illustrations complementing rather than ‘translating’ each other. Reason three: Loved the story itself.

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