Best of 2016: Children’s Fiction & Picture Books

Today, we continue our staff picks of the best of 2016 with children’s fiction and picture books. For a full listing, check out the Library Newsletter.

Children’s Fiction

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The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Regan Barnhill
An epic fantasy about a young girl raised by a witch, a swamp monster, and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, who must unlock the powerful magic buried deep inside her.

I made myself slow down while reading this book. It wasn’t just about finishing the story; it was a world with rich characters and imagery. I enjoyed how critical thinking, empathy, and legend were interwoven in this magical fantasy. -Andrea’s pick

The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde by Shannon & Dean Hale
It’s a case of monstrous cuteness as the Princess in Black encounters her biggest challenge yet: a field overrun by adorable bunnies.

The Princess in Black series just right for children almost ready for chapter books. With bright and colorful illustrations, short chapters, and an appealing plot, the books will entertain readers and make them want more. -Andrea’s pick

Kingdom of Wrenly: Pegasus Quest by Jordan Quinn
As Lucas and Clara set out to investigate some mysterious happenings in Wrenly, they discover a horse with wings that is lost and in danger.

This is an adventurous beginning chapter book series, with the right balance of illustrations and excitement to keep a new reader going. -Andrea’s pick

Poison is Not Polite: a Wells & Wong Mystery by Robin Stevens
A tea party takes a poisonous turn, leaving Daisy and Hazel with a new mystery to solve in the second novel of the Wells & Wong Mystery series.

Book 2 in a series I’m obsessed with takes us back to 1930s England with boarding school besties Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong. Sort of a Sherlock Holmes for middle grade readers, it’ll capture your interest and heart. -Carol’s pick

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The Classy Crooks Club by Alison Cherry
Twelve-year-old AJ is dreading spending the summer with her uber-strict grandmother–that is, until she’s recruited to join Grandma Jo’s madcap band of thieves.

Entrapment meets The Golden Girls! What more do you need? -Carol’s pick

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Fifth grader Deja is in a new school, and it’s a good one for the first time. That’s the only thing going right in her life: she lives in a shelter; her dad is sick, and her mom, stressed. It’s 15 years after 9/11, and she is just learning about the tragedy.

I listened to the audiobook version which is read by the author. While the narration is a little shrill at times, I appreciated the intensity of feeling the author put into Deja’s voice. It is a believable tone for someone who has had a tough life. -Elizabeth’s pick

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz
In the year 1242, a peasant girl and her recently resurrected dog become unlikely friends with a suddenly orphaned Jewish boy and a giant of a boy who is studying to be a monk, and he just happens to be black.

We don’t always see a lot of racial and cultural diversity in children’s historical fiction, and there are reasons for that. Historically, not all countries were as diverse as they are today. -Emily’s pick

The Book You’re Not Supposed to Have (Timmy Failure Series) by Stephan Pastis
Timmy and his imaginary (?) polar bear friend, Total, are amateur detectives with good intentions but not much common sense. So, Timmy’s mother insists he close down his detective agency, Total Failure.

This author also writes and illustrates the comic strip “Pearls Before Swine.” The humor in this book is dry, wry, and full of sly cultural satire.  -Emily’s pick

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Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
Lily is a transgender girl whose differences make her a target. Dunkin is desperate to fit in and hide his bi-polar disorder.  After meeting one summer, they must figure out if their friendship can survive the cruel realities that surround them.

This is a beautiful, heartfelt and narratively compelling story. But it is also a marvelously empathetic work that does an incredible job placing the reader in the shoes of these two unique, resilient characters. -Jesse’s pick

Word of Mouse by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Isaiah is a very smart mouse that gets separated from his family while escaping the “horrible place.”  He joins another mischief of mice that help him in a grand adventure to rescue his family.

It was a really fun book, and has a happy ending (of course!) Kids will enjoy Isaiah’s “can do” attitude, and his optimism and words of wisdom are inspiring. -Linda’s pick

Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg
It’s 1934 and times are tough, but opportunity and adventure await when young Terpsichore and her family move to Palmer Alaska. Terpsichore meets adversity with determination, gaining community support and new friendships along the way.

A delightful and witty story interjected with historical facts. Terpsichore’s youthful spirit is refreshing. She brings life and enthusiasm to her new surroundings. -Margo’s pick

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
Catrina and her family have moved to the northern coast of California for the sake of her little sister, Maya, who has cystic fibrosis. Cat is even less happy about the move when she’s told that her new town is inhabited by ghosts, but Maya sets her heart on meeting one.

I snagged an advance copy from our head of Youth Services, who was also eager to read this one. It is heartwarming, fun, endlessly optimistic– I bought my own copy so I can re-read it whenever I miss my family. -Carol’s pick

Children’s Picture Books

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The Hueys in What’s the Opposite? By Oliver Jeffers
Quirky egg-shaped creatures known as the Hueys explore the concept of opposites.

It’s hard to make a concept book interesting, but Oliver Jeffers is clearly up for the challenge. His adorable art and elliptical story arc add tremendously to the book’s teaching value. -Alan’s pick

A Hungry Lion, or, a Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Members of a large group of animals, including a penguin, two rabbits, and a koala, disappear at an alarming rate but the hungry lion remains.

Takes the “once upon a time” story structure and twists it until the narrator becomes part of the story, and the lion. Really, almost too clever, but lots of fun for older toddlers and preschoolers as they “get” what’s going on… -Alan’s pick

When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes & Laura Dronzek
Animals and children watch as the world transforms from the dark and dead of winter to a full and blooming spring.

Henkes and Drozek previously collaborated on Birds, a lovely paean to nature delivered in a style both exacting and emotionally satisfying. Henkes delivers a lovely message for older toddlers and preschoolers. -Alan’s pick

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There is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith
Simple text follows a young boy and the many animals he meets on his adventure through the jungle.

Connecting kids with nature is critical for their spirit as well as education. This perfect little book runs somewhere between an adventure and an education, with expressive images of the boy meshing with different creatures until a satisfying end. -Alan’s pick

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems
This is the very last “Elephant and Piggie” book to ever be written, and it is a wonderful one.

I used it at all of the elementary schools I visited to talk about summer reading.  Thank YOU for being a reader! -Leslie’s pick

Rules of the House by Mac Barnett
Ian always follows the rules and his sister, Jenny, never does. But when Jenny angers some monsters while breaking all the rules of their vacation house in the woods, Ian first runs away, then realizes there should be a rule about protecting your sister.

There’s a rule against pinching!  It’s a tad bit scary but that’s okay. -Leslie’s pick

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One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree by Daniel Bernstrom
Gobbled by a snake, a crafty boy finds a find a way out of his predicament by encouraging the snake to eat an increasing number of animals.

This is another slightly scary book, and it’s well written. -Leslie’s pick

Extremely Cute Animals Operating Heavy Machinery by David Gordon
Cute animals are bullied by other animals and then solve the problem in an extremely unique and surprising way.

The title grabbed me, the story was creative and unexpected, and you learn the use of the word extremely, if you didn’t already know it. -Margaret’s pick

Bloom by Doreen Cronin and David Small
This is an encouraging fairytale about an unusual fairy, a crumbling castle, and who can finally rebuild the castle before it’s too late!

I’ve always loved fairytales, and it’s been a long time since I’ve read a new and very different one like this story. Very creative and appealing; encourages confidence in one’s abilities as well. Fun illustrations besides!  -Margaret’s pick

Gingerbread Christmas by Jan Brett
It is the well-known story about the gingerbread man but done with Brett’s own creative and unexpected twist to the story, with a little search thrown in for extra fun.

Jan Brett’s books are all very special, with their amazingly detailed and colorful illustrations, as well as engaging stories. I’m very happy to see a new addition to her wonderful collection for children to love. -Margaret’s pick

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