Thirty-four excellent kiwi kids’ books ripe for reading – The Sapling’s picks


Children’s book website The Sapling has released its inaugural Best Books List over the past week, listing 34 homegrown books that cover every reading interest and genre published in New Zealand.

‘Since launching in March, we have read or paid others to read almost every single book published in New Zealand. While even we can think of some more books we might have added, we reckon we’ve provided a list that has something for everybody,’ says Sarah Forster, Editor of The Sapling.

‘A pick for overall book of the year? It’s a tough one, but the strongest category of the year is non-fiction. The factual books produced this year by New Zealand publishers for kids have been excellent. Aotearoa, by Gavin Bishop is flawless, and so is How to Mend a Kea, by Janet Hunt.’

With over 200 articles published so far, the editors of children’s literature website The Sapling are amazed at what they have achieved in the first 10 months of its existence.

Sarah says, ‘We are all extremely proud of what we have created. We have started a kōrero about children’s literature that was absent in New Zealand media up until now. We have examined the wonderful books created for children and opened conversations around dozens of them. And we have got some damned amazing writers contributing.’

Sarah Forster and Jane Arthur started The Sapling in March 2017, with the help of Creative New Zealand and a successful Boosted campaign. In September, they received news that they had been successful in gaining funding for 2018 from Copyright Licensing Limited. Thalia Kehoe Rowden has been co-editor since September, while Jane is on maternity leave with her new baby.


The best 34 books include 10 picture books, 12 junior and middle fiction titles, 7 factual books, and 5 YA titles. The guide for the creation of this list was The Sapling’s first kaupapa: Whakanui/Celebrate: To celebrate the excellence and diversity of children’s books in Aotearoa and abroad.

The pleasure of agonising over such lists has been a theme for the last year for Forster, who was a judge at this year’s New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. The Sapling’s list covers an overlapping but different time period from those awards, focusing on books published in 2017.

This list is proudly Aotearoa-based. Says Sarah, ‘Though we do celebrate some international titles throughout the year, we excluded them from our list, as we think it is important to showcase New Zealand books at this time of year.

‘Buying New Zealand books for Christmas, from a New Zealand publisher, at a New Zealand bookseller maximises the impact your Christmas book spend has on the New Zealand economy. If we want to keep our local book industry pumping, this is the way to do it, and The Sapling gets behind that wholeheartedly.’

Editors Sarah Forster and Thalia Kehoe Rowden will be speaking on Wednesday, 29 November from 6pm at the National Library, for the Christmas celebration of the Dorothy Neal White Collection. All welcome


Find our full list, reviews and age range indicators, online at

Links to lists:

2017 Christmas Shopping List: Picture Books
2017 Christmas Shopping List: Junior and Middle Fiction
2017 Christmas Shopping List: Factual Books
2017 Christmas Shopping List: YA Fiction

For further information, images, and interviews about the list, please contact:
Editor, The Sapling,

About The Sapling:
The Sapling is a website all about children’s books … because books grow humans. The aim of The Sapling is to find conversations nobody has been able to have in the main media about children’s books and give them a good airing.

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