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.

Five Newbery predictions

In case you haven’t been keeping track, for the last two years I’ve predicted the Newbery honor books, but the actual medalist has not made my list.  I have a funny feeling I’m not getting it right at all this year.  It just didn’t seem like there was a lot of Newbery caliber, and some of the authors I’ve picked already have a medal of some color.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate.  Published by Feiwel and Friends.

Feels like a bit of a long shot to me, but it’s a beautiful story with a timely message, and it has a lot of younger kid appeal, which, as an elementary librarian, I appreciate.  Link to Amazon


The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  Published by Dial Books.

One of my two favorite middle grade novels of the year.  But will the committee give an award to a sequel of an honor book?  Link to Amazon.


Patina by Jason Reynolds.  Published by Atheneum.

Last year, I was hoping Ghost would win.  This year, I am hoping Patina will win.  Next year, I may be hoping Sunny will win (due out in April, 2018).  Link to Amazon.


Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder.  Published by Walden Pond Press.

A beautifully written, mysterious story of orphan children living on an mist-shrouded island.  I am still hoping there is a sequel that answers some of my questions. Link to Amazon.


Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk.

My other favorite middle grade novel of 2017.  Lauren Wolk was just honored last year for the equally good Wolf Hollow.  Will she do it again?  All will be revealed on the morning of February 12.  Link to Amazon.




Wrapping up the year

This is how I feel at this time of year: after reviewing six books a week for the last year, I keep seeing lists of “the best of 2017” and realizing how many books I DIDN’T get to read this year.  I’m resisting the urge to hole up all week and try to fit in as many of those books as I can!  This week I’ll be posting my own “best of” lists; then I’m going to take a few weeks off in January to catch up on some non-blog reading and let the 2018 books start to pile up.

As always, I’d love to hear from any followers about how Kids Book a Day has helped you this year, what you’d like to see here in 2018, or just a general hello.  I look forward to another year of reading and sharing books, and I wish each one of you the best in the year ahead!

Merry Christmas, Mary Christmas! By Laurie Friedman, illustrated by Kathryn Durst

Published by Carolrhoda Books

Summary:  The Christmas family–Ma, Pa, Chris, Holly, Mary, and dog Rudy–love everything about Christmas, and do it in a big way.  All of them, that is, except Mary, who thinks their tree is too big (it pokes through the roof), their lights are too bright (they cause the lights on the rest of the street to go out), and their presents are too plentiful.  She consults with Santa, who tells her plenty of people would love her Christmas and that he’s sure she can find a way to appreciate it as well.  On Christmas Eve, Mary comes up with her plan, and on Christmas morning, she convinces her family to pack up the tree, lights, and gifts, and throw a huge party for the rest of the town.  Everyone in her family and the town is delighted, and when Mary settles down that night, she finally feels like she has had a merry Christmas.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Cheerful cartoon-style illustrations of garish Christmas excesses complement the story about learning to share holiday abundance with others.

Cons:  What, is my name Ebeneezer Scrooge?  Merry Christmas to all!

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

A Christmas for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

Published by Candlewick

Summary:  Bear has never celebrated Christmas, but his research has shown him what the most important element is: pickles.  When Mouse comes over on Christmas Eve, he can’t help searching the house for presents, even as Bear is reminding him that pickles and poetry are what will make their holiday special.  They sit down to the pickle-centered feast, and Bear begins reciting “The Night Before Christmas”.  When he gets to the line about the stockings, he repeats it several times, growing increasingly loud, until Mouse realizes there ARE stockings behind the tree, and one of them has…a present!  Mouse races outside to use his new telescope, and there, under the tree, is a sled for Bear.  Bear struggles a bit, but manages to let Mouse know that he is Bear’s best friend.  48 pages; ages 5-9.

Pros:  Another winning tale of the unlikely but sweet friendship between Bear and Mouse.

Cons:  I was sweating it out about the presents; I don’t even like pickles.

If you’d like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Stay: A Girl, A Dog, A Bucket List by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise

Published by Feiwel and Friends

Summary:  Eli has been Astrid’s canine companion since she came home from the hospital.  The summer she is six, Astrid notices that Eli is getting old.  She decides to make a bucket list of things for them to do together.  Eli rides on Astrid’s bike, gets a bubble bath, and goes to a movie and to a restaurant for spaghetti and meatballs.  He enjoys it all, but finally he is too old and tired to do anything but stay home and remember their happy times together.  The last page: “Being with Astrid was the only thing left on Eli’s bucket list.  It was the only thing that had ever been on Eli’s bucket list.”  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A sweet story, both the text and illustrations.  Eli’s thoughts as he is taken from one bucket list item to the next are amusing.  Aging and unconditional love are both addressed, but with a light touch.

Cons:  If you can read that last page without choking up, you are a stronger person than I am.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.