Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
This is the book that made me want to write for children. Reeve excels at world-building and his steam-punk adventure is filled with invention. A thrilling dystopian tale with lots of humour, where mobile cities stalk smaller settlements across the ‘Great Hunting Ground’ to cannibalise them in a system that Reeve calls, ‘Municipal Darwinism’. It’s the first in a quartet and then he wrote the prequel Fever Crumb, which is just as good.
Holes by Louis Sachar
Stanley Yelnats has a curse of bad luck and it gets him sent to Camp Green Lake, a youth detention centre in an arid desert where the warden is using the inmates to dig for a legendary treasure. Holes is darkly funny with a wonderful story-within-a-story device. I admire so many of Sachar's books but this is my favourite. If someone fell out of love with reading, I think this book would re-light the spark.
The Murderer's Ape by Jakob Wegelius
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Diana Wynne Jones' books are genuinely enchanting. She creates the kind of worlds I love to escape into with expertly-crafted plots, eccentric but relatable characters and extraordinary settings. I came to her books late and read this story long after I watched the Studio Ghibli anime adaptation – which is one of my favourite films, but as usual, the book's even better.
Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan
This collection of short, illustrated stories about our relationship with animals is the sequel to another great book, Tales from Outer Suburbia. Tan’s words and pictures work together to create a sense of literary magic. I almost never buy the hardback edition but I got this one as soon as it came out. Quirky, eerie and often poignant, these stories make the world seem stranger, more wonderful and more connected than I could have imagined.
Please also see James Phillips' summary of Sophie Green's April event in this issue of BookTalk.