Welsh books for young people

Welsh Books for Young People – Our Best of 2021

Another bumper year for this category, which is arguably the most important literary genre of all. Can there be a more daunting, but also rewarding, craft than engaging children and young people with the magic of stories, poetry, and prose? Luckily in Wales we have writers who take this work very seriously and have stepped up in 2021 to publish a wonderful variety of treats for us all to enjoy.

10 Stori o Hanes Cymru (Y Dylai Pawb eu Gwybod) / 10 Stories from Welsh History (That Everyone Should Know) by Ifan Morgan Jones  (published by Rily)

The teaching of Welsh history will soon become compulsory, so get ahead of the game and read about key stories and figures of our nation, including Gwenllian Ferch Gruffudd; Owain Glyndwr; Merthyr Riots; the Penrhyn Strike; Race Riots of the 20th c; the Aberfan tragedy, and Devolution. Written by the 2020 Wales Book of the Year winner, Nation.Cymru founder and journalist. Available in both Welsh and English – if you’re a learner why not buy both to help with your reading?

The Song that Sings Us by Nicola Davies (published by Firefly Press)

When animals talk, it’s time humans listened. This beautiful book portrays unforgettable characters in a thrilling and dangerous adventure through the ice fields, forests, and oceans. Widely praised as a tense, uncompromising and hopeful page-turner, this is a stunning environmental epic with cover and chapter illustrations by the award-winning illustrator and writer Jackie Morris.

Wicked Little Deeds by Kat Ellis (published by Penguin)

Wicked Little Deeds is a book of nightmares – in the best possible way. Kat Ellis is the queen of small-town creepiness and dark family secrets. This is horrifyingly good fun, and if you enjoyed her last novel, Harrow Lake, then you’re in for a treat. Dubbed as ‘Riverdale meets The Haunting of Hill House’ this is one you’d definitely want to borrow from your teenagers after they finish it.

Dy Wallt yw Dy Goron/ Your Hair is Your Crown by Jessica Dunrod (published by Lily Translates)

Follow this delightful story about Hope, a little girl who discovers that magical things happen when her Afro hair gets wet, and her curls are unleashed. Beautifully illustrated by Alexandra Tungusova and available in both Welsh and English, this book will take you on an adventure to discover the magic of Wales in a tribute to the author’s Welsh-West Indian heritage.

Pam? by Luned Aaron and Huw Aaron (published by Y Lolfa)

A very funny picture book, by the talented husband and wife team, about an imaginative little boy who is full of questions about the unfairness of life and who yearns to challenge the world. Why can’t he juggle with eggs or hide bugs in his little sister’s dress? His parents seem boring and strict…but are they really? This is the sort of book where the picture tells you the punchline!

Y Pump by various authors (published by Y Lolfa)

In at number five is a boxset of five interweaving short novels following the stories of five friends in their final year at school. An innovative and ambitious project aimed at diversifying Welsh-language fiction for young people, and which pairs emerging young authors with new voices. The books are: Tim by Elgan Rhys and Tomos Jones; Tami by Marged Elen Wiliam and Ceri-Anne Gatehouse; Aniq by Mared Roberts and Mahum Umer; Robyn by Iestyn Tyne and Leo Drayton; Cat by Megan Angharad Hunter and Maisie Awen

The Red Gloves and other stories by Catherine Fisher (published by Firefly Press)

A stunning new collection of stories by the multi award-winning Welsh author. An expert in creating atmospheric, magical, and often chilling stories, she is sure to attract even more fans with her latest book. A bizarre nightmare; red gloves reaching for your throat; a stranger swapping lives with you; and a mysterious ghost in the rain. Catherine Fisher’s writing is described by the Guardian as work “(that) stands out in the mind’s eye like blood drops on snow.”

The Time-Thief  by Patience Agbabi (published by Canongate)

The second in the hugely successful Leap Cycle series, which follows on from The Infinite, which won the children’s category in Wales Book of the Year in 2021. We meet Elle Bibi-Imbele Ifie again, who is a “leapling” with a very rare gift: the ability to leap through time. This time she’s leaping almost three whole centuries back in time, to catch a thief, help her friend and save our future. This is a thrilling, original and inventive book by a brilliant author.

The Short Knife by Elen Caldecott (published by Andersen Press)

An atmospheric and gripping historical novel by one of our best storytellers. Set during the time the Roman Empire withdrew from Britain, this tells the story of Mai, a young girl who has been kept safe by her father and her sister, Haf. But when Saxon warriors arrive at their farm, the family is forced to flee to the hills where British warlords lie in wait. Can Mai survive in a dangerous world where speaking her mother tongue might be deadly, and where even the people she loves the most can’t be trusted? Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, this is a book to devour in one sitting.

Daydreams and Jellybeans by Alex Wharton (published by Firefly)

Our number one choice this year is this fantastic debut by the Rising Stars Wales Award winner writing in the all-important genre of poetry for children. But we think readers of all ages will delight in this collection of funny and magical poems full of curiosity and mystery. Like all great poetry, these poems deserve to be read aloud, preferably in front of a classroom of children. However, the enchanting illustrations by Katy Riddell mean that this book is something to keep and re-read time and time again. Alex Wharton is a deserving winner in an exceptional year for children’s writing from Wales.