Five favorite biographies

Lots of amazing women this year!


Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal.  Published by Bonnier Publishing.

“Ann thought about what she could do, not about what she couldn’t change.”  This repeating refrain provides words to live by in this gorgeously illustrated biography about the pioneering African-American dress designer who created Jackie Kennedy’s wedding gown.  Link to Amazon.


The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, A Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson.  Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Yes, kids, this nine-year-old girl spent a week in jail in 1963 for participating in the civil rights movement.  Link to Amazon.


Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin.  Published by Roaring Brook Press.

Jim Thorpe, Pop Warner, the Carlisle Indian School, Olympics controversy…so much is covered here, all of it in Sheinkin’s inimitable style.  Here’s hoping this is on the Newbery Committee’s short list, as well as those deciding on the Sibert awards.  Link to Amazon.


The World Is Not a Rectangle by Jeannette Winter.  Published by Beach Lane Books.

Whatever the fate of The Secret Project, Jeannette Winter should also be considered for this gorgeous biography of Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid.  Link to Amazon.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality by Jonah Winter. Published by Harry N. Abrams.

There were  two excellent picture book biographies of Ruth Bader Ginsburg this year, but I only reviewed one on the blog.  This one just caught up with me this week.  Written as a legal argument, it lays out a compelling case for Ginsburg defeating the discrimination she has faced throughout her life.  And it’s by The Secret Project author Jonah Winter, who is Jeannette Winter’s son.  Link to Amazon.


Five favorite nonfiction books

I do love nonfiction, and this year there were so many, I’ve ended up making two lists.  Look for biographies coming tomorrow; that will be my last list and final post for the next few weeks.


Grand Canyon by Jason Chin.  Published by Roaring Brook Press.

Save yourself airfare to Arizona, and just take a long, slow look through Jason Chin’s book instead.  This could also be on my Caldecott contenders’ list.  Link to Amazon.


Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees by Mary Beth Leatherdale.  Published by Annick Press

Compelling stories from the last 60 years that will engage fans of the “I Survived” series.  The text format and collage illustrations make it visually appealing.  Link to Amazon.


How Many Guinea Pigs Can Fit on a Plane? Answers to Your Most Clever Math Questions by Laura Overdeck.  Published by Feiwel and Friends.

Kids clamoring to read a math book?  I’ve seen it with my own eyes.  Link to Amazon.


The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater.  Published by Farrar Straus Giroux.

A hate crime without the hate told with compassion from both sides.  I hope this amazing book gets some award recognition from the YA world.  Link to Amazon.


The Secret Project by Jonah Winter.  Published by Beach Lane Books.

I know there’s controversy about this book.  Be sure to also look at an opposing viewpoint.  It reminds me of A Fine Dessert of a few years ago–I think the controversy will prevent it from winning any awards, but I still find it a compelling read.  Link to Amazon.


Five favorite read-alouds

Some of these could probably be on the Caldecott contenders list as well.  I do admire Candlewick, and it’s interesting that three of these were published there.

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen. Published by Candlewick.

Every time I finish a Mac Barnett/Jon Klassen book, I think, “That was weird.”  Then I read it to kids, they love it, and suddenly, I love it too.  May the bromance continue.  Link to Amazon.


Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall. Published by Candlewick.

The story, pictures, and message of this little book work their way into your heart.  Read it next year on the first day of summer.  Link to Amazon.


The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Adam Rex. Published by Balzer + Bray.

Kids may not get all the humor, but you will be so busy cracking yourself up, you won’t even care.  This was right behind After the Fall as my favorite picture book this year.  Link to Amazon.


A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui.

Should be required reading for anyone making policy around immigration.  It’s more of a read-aloud for older kids, maybe third grade and up.  Link to Amazon.


Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli, illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio. Published by Chronicle.

If I could meet one fictional character from 2017, I think it might be this guy.  Link to Amazon.

Five favorite middle grade novels (plus one)

They may not win awards, but I loved all of these, and have enthusiastically recommended them all year.  I couldn’t cross that last one off my list, so today you get six.


Posted by John David Anderson.  Published by Walden Pond Press.

The power of words to hurt and to heal is the theme of this middle school book about bullying and friendship.  Link to Amazon.


A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting by Joe Ballarini.  Published by Katherine Tegen Books.

What  happens when the monsters under the bed are real?  You become a reluctant superhero, and readers get an extra dose of scary fun.  Link to Amazon.


Superstar by Mandy Davis.  Published by Dial Books.

You know how I feel about the line, “Give this book to fans of Wonder”, but it’s impossible not to recommend that for this touching, funny story of Lester Musselbaum’s fifth grade year, learning to live with Asperger’s and navigating public school for the first time after years of homeschooling.  Link to Amazon.


Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan.  Published by Salaam Reads/Simon and Schuster.

Amina broadened my world a little bit; I connected with her character and learned more about Islam, Pakistan, and life as a first-generation American by reading her story.  Link to Amazon.


The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez.  Published by Viking.

Malu was one of my two favorite narrators this year.  I loved how she consistently made mistakes and misread relationships, but still ended up staying true to herself.  Link to Amazon.


Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan.  Published by Dial Books.

And here’s my second favorite narrator.  Like Malu, Julia doesn’t always have a lot of confidence, but she’s funny and honest, and you can’t help rooting for her.  Link to Amazon.







Five favorite early chapter books

There was plenty in 2017 for those just moving into the world of chapter books.  Here are my favorites:

A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold. Published by Walden Pond Press.

There were a number of books this year with main characters on the autism spectrum.  Bat was one of the most endearing, and his love for animals, especially his pet skunk, shone through.  Look for the sequel coming out in April, 2018.  Link to Amazon.


The Ember Stone (The Last Firehawk, book 1) by Katarina Charman.  Published by Scholastic.

Scholastic’s Branches imprint has another winning series, this one a fantasy that will surely be loved by readers not quite ready for Warriors.  Book 2 is here, with 3 and 4 on their way next year.  Link to Amazon.


Barkus by Patricia MacLachlan.  Published by Chronicle Books.

Easy reader or early chapter book?  However you characterize it, the humorous story line and bright, colorful illustrations are a winning combination.  Book #2?  Due out in June.  Link to Amazon.


Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz.  Published by Candlewick.

Newbery medalist Schlitz teamed up with Caldecott medalist Brian Floca to create this fabulous story of an oversubscribed princess who wishes for a dog…and gets a crocodile with a ton of personality.  I could see this winning some awards in February.  Link to Amazon.


Wedgie and Gizmo by Suzanne Selfors.  Published by Katherine Tegen Books.

More likely to win a “Kids Choice” type award, Wedgie the corgi and Gizmo the guinea pig made me laugh from cover to cover.  And, you guessed it, a sequel is due out in April.  It’s going to be another great year!  Link to Amazon.


Five favorite graphic novels

Graphic novels continue to be popular with kids from the time they start to read all the way into high school.  Here are some that I particularly enjoyed this year.

Raid of No Return by Nathan Hale.  Published by Amulet Books

There’s no better way to learn history than with Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales; add this World War II one to the collection.  Link to Amazon.


The Amazing Crafty Cat by Cherise Mericle Harper.  Published by First Second.

At first, the premise of a girl who dons a cat costume and does crafts seemed a bit odd, but Birdie, a.k.a. Crafty Cat, is a resourceful and funny narrator, and her crafting abilities often save the day.  Link to Amazon.


All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson.  Published by Dial Books.

I’m a Raina fan, but I’m an even bigger Victoria Jamieson fan, and this book is in a dead heat with Roller Girl for my affections.  Her heroines are likeable, fallible, and believable.  I also enjoyed The Great Art Caper for younger readers this year.  Link to Amazon.


Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson.  Published by Balzer + Bray.

A hybrid between a regular novel and a graphic, this introduced a sympathetic character, shy Emmie, and her graphic alter-ego Katie, who seems to be a different character until the end of the book.  Introverts everywhere will root for Emmie.  Link to Amazon.


The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag.  Published by Scholastic Graphix.

The “be yourself” message and questions about gender roles are strongly stated without overwhelming the engaging story about a community of magicians, and Aster, the boy who doesn’t conform to expectations.  Link to Amazon.


Five Caldecott predictions

I tend to be a bit conservative in my picture book tastes.  While I can appreciate the more avant garde styles of Evan Turk’s Muddy and Ed Young’s Mighty Moby, at the end of the day, I’m going to go with something a bit more traditional for my favorites.  Like these:


Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton, illustrated by Victo Ngai.  Published by Millbrook Press.

In his first children’s book, Victo Ngai does an impressive job of capturing the feel of the World War I era as well as dazzling readers with his renditions of the ships.  Link to Amazon.


All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Mike Curato.  Published by Henry Holt.

I’ve loved Mike Curato’s Little Elliot books, and this book was even more spectacular.  This plus Katherine Paterson’s My Brigadista Year made me want to visit Cuba.  Link to Amazon.


Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin.  Published by Schwartz and Wade.

How appropriate that I cannot find words to express how much I loved this enchanting, imaginative wordless book.  Link to Amazon.


After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat.  Published by Roaring Brook Press.

Sometimes I’ll enjoy a book, then look at it again a few months later and realize it was even more fabulous than I originally realized.  This was one of those books; it is my #1 favorite picture book in 2017.  Link to Amazon.


The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater, illustrated by the Fan Brothers.

I’ve seen some questions about whether the Fan Brothers can win a Caldecott, as they live and work in Canada, but I’m pretty sure they are eligible.  Their pigeon crew members on the antlered ship were among my favorite characters this year.  Link to Amazon.