Five Favorite Nonfiction Books

I may have saved the best for last, since I love a good nonfiction book.  This is my final wrap-up of 2019 books.  Now I’ll take a “break” for a few weeks, but don’t worry: I already have ten 2020 books on hold at the library.

 

Pluto Gets the Call by Adam Rex, illustrated by Laurie Keller

Published by Beach Lane Books

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This is kind of nonfiction lite.  Sure, you’ll learn a bit about the planets, but the information is well-disguised in this hilarious picture book about Pluto’s search for meaning after being downgraded from a planet.

 

Free Lunch by Rex Ogle

Published by Norton Young Readers

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Politicians everywhere should read Rex Ogle’s disturbing memoir of his first few months of middle school for a real-life taste of how poverty affects kids and families.

 

Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin

Published by Neal Porter Books

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I love pretty much everything both Miranda Paul and Jason Chin do, so this was a perfect pairing to show kids of all ages what’s going on during those nine months before a baby is born.

 

Born to Fly: The First Women’s Air Race Across America by Steve Sheinkin

Published by Roaring Brook Press

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And speaking of authors who can do no wrong, Steve Sheinkin gave us another compelling nonfiction book to read this year, as hard to put down as any novel I can think of.

 

Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island by Jennifer Thermes

Published by Harry N. Abrams

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If maps are your thing, you’ll want to reserve a good chunk of time to see how the island of Manhattan has changed over time.  A celebration of all things New York.

Five Favorite Early Readers/Chapter Books

Writing a good book for newly independent readers seems deceptively difficult, and I always appreciate finding a good one.

Acorn Books by various authors

Published by Scholastic

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Scholastic’s been dominating the early chapter book market for the last few years with their Branches imprint.  This year they rolled out several new series under the Acorn label, targeting slightly younger readers.  Lots of humor and cartoon-style illustrations with speech bubbles are sure to be a hit.

 

Smell My Foot! (Chick and Brain book 1) by Cece Bell

Published by Candlewick

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What the heck?  Only Cece Bell would think to pair a chick and a brain, but somehow it works, with plenty of goofy humor in the writing and illustrations.

 

What Is Inside THIS Box? (Monkey and Cake book 1) by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Tallec

Published by Orchard Books

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Drew Daywalt simultaneously entertains and raises philosophical questions in this new Elephant-and-Piggie-inspired series.

 

Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas by Juana Medina

Published by Candlewick

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I enjoyed book two of Juana and Lucas every bit as much as book one.  For some reason, I’ve had trouble getting kids to read these books, but I will keep trying in 2020.

 

Frank and Bean by Jamie Michalak, illustrated by Bob Kolar

Published by Candlewick

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Candlewick gets the prize for oddball friendships this year, including this pairing of introverted hot dog Frank and his new jokester pal Bean.

Five Favorite Poetry Books

Lots of good poetry books to choose from this year.  Here are a few that I especially enjoyed.

 

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper, illustrated by Carson Ellis

Published by Candlewick

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As I mentioned in a previous post, I didn’t find many new holiday books in 2019.  This beautifully illustrated version of Susan Cooper’s poem celebrating the winter solstice will be enjoyed for many Decembers to come.

 

I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Published by Lee & Low Books

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Neither the title nor the cover really drew me in, but I loved this book once I got past that.  Poems and illustrations by a variety of writers and artists celebrate childhoods from all around the world.

 

Poetree by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds, illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani

Published by Dial Books for Young Readers

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This picture book celebrates the power of words and would make a perfect introduction to poetry for early elementary students.

 

16 Words: William Carlos Williams and “The Red Wheelbarrow” by Lisa Rogers, illustrated by Chuck Groenink

Published by Schwartz and Wade

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I didn’t know I wanted to read a picture book of William Carlos Williams until I found 16 Words.  Another good one to share with students during a poetry unit, and a nice accompaniment to Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog, which includes the poem “The Red Wheelbarrow.”

 

The Day the Universe Exploded My Head by Allan Wolf, illustrated by Anna Raff

Published by Candlewick

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Now here’s a cover and title that draws you in immediately.  Proves, once again, that poetry can be fun and educational, too.

 

Five more favorite picture books

This is my last set of favorite picture books, I promise!  I don’t know that any of these will win awards, but they have a lot of kid appeal, which sometimes counts for as much or more, in my opinion.

 

Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman

Published by Viking Books for Young Readers

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Pretty sure this the first time an earthworm has ever made any kind of “best of” list on this blog.  I loved Carl’s twin messages of being your best self and taking care of the Earth.

 

Field Trip to the Moon by John Hare

Published by Margaret Ferguson Books

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I do enjoy a good wordless picture book.  This one is imaginative, yet still easy to understand.  And it has aliens.  I’ve had this one in my mock Caldecott election, so don’t count it out for an award.

 

Wintercake by Lynn Rae Perkins

Published by Greenwillow Books

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I didn’t find many great new holiday books this year, but I love this cozy winter tale about friendship and the dangers of rushing to judgement on a person (or animal).

 

Truman by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

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Truman the turtle may be my favorite character of 2019.  Keep this book in mind next August when the first day of school rolls around again.  Another one that was in my mock Caldecott activity.

 

Who Wet My Pants? by Bob Shea

Published by Little, Brown Books

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I can’t entirely disagree with Amazon reviewers who felt this missed the mark on delivering the “right”message to kids.  But come on, it’s hilarious, and we all know that person who can’t admit they’re wrong.  The cover alone probably has more kid appeal than the other four put together.

Likewise, it’s not just the Newbery

Just like yesterday’s post, this list gives me an excuse to highlight more of 2019’s rich offerings, this time in the writing category.

 

This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

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I really enjoyed this book when it was released in early January, but then it kind of slipped off my radar screen.  I’ve seen it on a few Newbery prediction lists, though, and that or a Coretta Scott King award (or Sibert, for that matter) would be well-deserved.

 

Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace by Ashley Bryan

Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

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Although I think the appeal of this book for kids may be limited, it’s a real work of art, and I’d love to see 96-year-old Bryan recognized with a Coretta Scott King award (or, again, Newbery or Sibert).

 

Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya

Published by Kokila

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A book about a girl connecting with her father over welding didn’t really spark my interest (ha, ha), but I’m glad I overcame my initial resistance and read it before the end of the year.  I loved all the characters in this book, and hope it’s recognized by the Pura Belpré folks.

 

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée

Published by Balzer + Bray

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Shayla generally avoids trouble at all costs, but incidents in her community turn her into an activist.  What could be more timely at the start of 2020?  Debut author Ramée should be considered for a Coretta Scott King award.

 

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

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Another debut author and another one I had to kind of force myself to start (I’m not a huge fan of the cover, although I appreciated it more after reading the book), but this ended up being one of my favorites of 2019.  Coretta Scott King or Newbery, I hope.

It’s not just the Caldecott

Although we in the children’s literature world tend to focus on the Newbery and Caldecott, check out the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards to see all the other categories that are recognized at the same time.  Here are a few picture books that I believe are worthy of consideration for some of those.

 

Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Published by Versify

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I love Kwame Alexander’s poem, but I think it’s illustrator Kadir Nelson who is most likely to be recognized with a Coretta Scott King award this year for his amazing portraits of the African Americans Alexander writes about.

 

The Women Who Caught the Babies: A Story of African American Midwives by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Daniel Minter

Published by Alazar Press

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This one could go either way for the Coretta Scott King award: both the poems and the illustrations are pretty amazing.

 

Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou by Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Tonya Engel

Published by Lee & Low Books

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Pity that Coretta Scott King committee who has so many worthy contenders to choose from this year.

 

¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market! by Raul the Third

Published by Versify

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I will be pretty surprised if Raúl the Third doesn’t get some sort of Pura Belpré recognition for his Richard Scarry-like illustrations of this trip to the market.  I was happy to learn recently that Let’s Go Eat! is coming out in March.

 

A Place to Land: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Published by Neal Porter Books

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And one more Coretta Scott King possibility.  Of course, all of these could be contenders for the Caldecott as well.  Truth be told, I dreamed up this blog post because there were so many I wanted to put on the Caldecott prediction post, and for some reason I always limit myself to five.

Five Favorite Book Club Books

As I move into 2020 with at least 15 book clubs under my care, I’m always on the lookout for good book club books.  I like books with both strong male and female characters, some humor, and a few issues that will lead to some discussion.  I’ve already tested a few of these out, and hope to do more in the coming months.

 

The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin

Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers

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I didn’t love Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish (although everyone else seemed to), so my expectations weren’t super high when I listened to the audiobook.  But I enjoyed all the characters, there was lots of humor, and Caitlyn learned a lot at her unique new school.  I’ve used this with three fifth grade book clubs, and most kids have given it positive reviews.

 

Eventown by Corey Haydu

Published by Katherine Tegen Books

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The premise of this book, with its slightly dystopian feel, made it an easy one to book talk.  Yes, I grew weary of books about grieving children this year, but this one had an interesting take on the theme.  I’ve got my eye on it for a sixth grade book club.

 

Sweeping Up the Heart by Kevin Henkes

Published by Greenwillow Books

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Master storyteller Kevin Henkes tells a funny, heartbreaking, and heartwarming tale in under 200 pages.  What more can I say?

 

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

Published by Disney/Hyperion

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Carlos Hernandez packed so much into this book I kind of felt like he had to break the universe to fit it all in.  Lots of humor, strong male and female characters, and some cool physics make this a book club contender for sure.

 

A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry

Published by Greenwillow Books

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I’ve already used this for three book clubs to great acclaim, and plan to use it for at least one more.  Animal story? Check.  Lots of great illustrations?  Check.  Based on a true story?  Check.  Check it out yourself if you haven’t already.

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