Best of 2017: Books for Children

Today we share with you all of our picks for the best in Children’s Fiction, Non-Fiction, Picture Books and Graphic Novels from 2017. Place your holds now! Also, remember to check out the Library Newsletter for all of the library staff’s recommendations.

Children’s Fiction

The Princess and the Page by Christina Farley

Keira used a magic pen to write a story and win a trip. Keira was mad at her mom, and wrote an “unhappily ever after” story. Now she has to try to change the story to save herself, her friend Bella, and her mom.

I really like fantasies and fairy tales, so this was a fun book. It had just enough twists and turns to keep me wondering what would happen next.  –Linda

The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla

Charlie is a boy with autism and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder who loves birds and struggles with life. He must leave the comforts of home on a road trip to see his father, a journalist who suffered brain injuries while on assignment in Afghanistan. Charlie, his siblings, and their caregiver set off on a mission in this road trip story about war, peace, birds, family, loss, and hope.

I picked up this book because I am a birder, and I love road trips. I stayed because the characters are all so real and human.  –Julie

Patina by Jason Reynolds

As a newbie to the track team, Patina “Patty” Jones must learn to rely on her family and teammates as she tries to outrun her personal demons.

Last year I recommended Ghost, about a boy trying to outrun his troubles. Patina is the second book in this series, and it focuses on his teammate. With too heavy a burden for any person, Patty’s story is heartfelt and well-written. Teamwork, trust, and friendship are key.  –Andrea

My Kite is Stuck! and Other Stories by Salina Yoon

Loud and in-charge Big Duck, quiet and clever Little Duck, and friendly and gentle Porcupine are back in another charming trio of stories.

This is a collection of stories for early readers , focusing on friendship and cooperation. The three characters’ personalities shine brighter than ever. I found myself laughing out loud while reading!  –Andrea

Restart by Gordon Korman

Chase does not remember falling and hitting his head, in fact he does not remember anything about himself. He begins to learn who he was through the reactions of the others–trouble is, he really is not sure he likes the Chase that is being revealed.

This book shows that it may not be too late to define who you are and who you will become. Korman does a beautiful job of creating plausible characters and laugh-out-loud scenes while dealing with the serious subject of bullying.  –Andrea

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

This is the sequel to The War That Saved My Life. Eleven-year-old Ada is still adapting to her new life during World War II.

These books would make a wonderful movie or television series, in the style of Downton Abbey or Homefires–Julie

The Good For Nothing Button! by Charise Harper

Yellow Bird has found a button and wants to share it with Red Bird and Blue Bird. This is just an ordinary button. It does not do anything when you press it. But, yes it does!

From the Elephant and Piggie Love Reading series, this easy reader is funny and fun.  –Leslie

Children’s Non-Fiction

Penguin Day: A Family Story by Nic Bishop

A story in photographs featuring a family of three Rockhopper penguins. The penguins are followed through a day in their life.

Beautifully photographed and accompanied by brief, concise text explaining how the mother penguin gets food for the baby and how the father penguin saves the baby from danger.  –Margaret 

Botanicum by Katie Scott and Kathy Willis

This book showcases dozens of full-color plants from around the world in a gallery format. Images are complemented by identifying information and brief descriptions.

This is a fascinating and gorgeous book.  –Leslie

Two Truths and a Lie: it’s Alive! by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson

Each chapter presents three stories of truly bizarre and befuddling natural phenomena. The catch is: two stories are true and one is (mostly) make believe. Readers must use critical thinking skills to figure out the truth.

My son and I loved reading this together. We learned about many weird and intriguing things, and we enjoyed talking about why we thought each story was true or false.  –Mindy

That is my dream! : a picture book of Langston Hughes’s “Dream variation” by Langston Hughes & Daniel Miyares

This picture book is an illustrated version of Langston Hughes’s poem “Dream Variation.” A young boy lives the words written by Hughes, contrasting the boy’s day in a segregated town with a day of true freedom from oppression.

This beautifully illustrated book does a masterful job presenting Hughes’s vision. The message is delivered with subtlety, allowing discussion with a young reader to develop as the reader grows. –Jesse

Children’s Picture Books

Emma and the Whale by Julie Chase

Emma, a young girl with an affinity for the ocean, finds a baby whale beached on the shore and tries to save her.

Absolutely beautiful painted illustrations adorn a touching tale of conservation and empowerment. Highly recommended.  –Alan

A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins

A groundhog and a greyhound meet each other and decide to be friends as they play and run around together.

The words are slightly tongue twisty, and the unlikely friendship between these animals grabbed my attention. The illustrations are cute and simple and tell the story well.  –Margaret

If I Had a Little Dream by Nina Laden

Children and parents alike will delight in the simple cadence of this whimsical book depicting a young child’s dream wishes.

The swirly blue cover art and gold embossed lettering instantly attracted me. This wonderful story of a young child gives voice to universal dreams full of hope, joy, and contented relationships. I guarantee you will smile the whole way through!  –Margo

Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins

A silly and fun picture book, with cartoonish mice discussing and writing a wordless book with funny dialog.

Such creativity and silliness, it made me giggle and laugh out loud. Another favorite to add to my list of special kids’ books.  –Margaret

The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt

From the Kingdom of the Backyard, Rock searches for an adversary that might best him, meanwhile Paper and Scissors set off on their own quests for competitors.

This hilarious picture book is from the author of The Day the Crayons Quit.  It will entertain young ones and even elementary school age kids.  –Leslie

Hooray for Birds by Lucy Cousins

In an exuberant display of color, Lucy Cousins invites little ones to imagine themselves as brilliant birds. Birds of all feathers flock together in a fun, rhyme-filled offering by the creator of Maisy.

I love the artwork and the rhythm of the text. A wonderful picture book.  –Leslie

The Alphabet from the Sky by Benedikt Groß, Joey Lee

The whole family will be totally fascinated by this book! Using aerial photography, the authors ask you to identify accidentally or naturally occurring letters of the alphabet. Each photo is labeled with its location including latitude and longitude.

It’s like a real life “Where’s Waldo” with letters. Awesome! — Mona

The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson

There’s something in Rabbit’s burrow and all of his friends try to help him get it out.

I love this new picture book. It has everything going for it: animals, rhymes and a surprise ending.  –Leslie

Reach for the Moon, Little Lion by Hildegard Muller

A little lion is teased by animals who tell him that real lions are so big that they can touch the moon with their paws, a claim that saddens the little lion until a wise raven helps him fool his tormentors.

Beautiful painted faux-naive art that appeals to young eyes, a message of perseverance and pride, and minimalist poetry for the text. What’s not to love?  –Alan

Now by Antoinette Portis

With words and art that are simple, yet eloquent, this book shows the way children feel their favorite thing is whatever they have or are doing at that exact moment. Or, in other words, now.

The art and the story are touching and sweet.  –Mona

Children’s Graphic Novels

Hilo 2: Saving the Whole Wide World by Judd Winick

The extraterrestrial robot boy is back, with his human friends by his side. As usual, the adults have no clue Earth is about to be wiped out by beings from another dimension.

Funny dialog, running gags, puns, and visual humor will appeal to fans of Captain Underpants. Adults may appreciate that there is less potty talk than in Dav Pilkey’s books.  –Emily

Swing it, Sunny by Jennifer Holm

Sunny is back, adjusting to life with her brother away at a strict military school. Letters and calls to her cool grandpa in Florida don’t tell the entire truth. Her new neighbor is a great mentor who teaches her more than just flag twirling.

Set in the 1970s, Sunny and I have a shared past and present. But she is way cooler than I ever was.  –Julie

Real Friends by Shannon Hale

Calling all Raina Telgemeier fans! A young Shannon traverses the difficult friendships she has at school and home. Shannon learns about true friendship and what it means to be a friend.

I enjoyed this book for many reasons: the honest depiction of friendship between girls, the poignant yet imperfect relationships Shannon has at home and the integration of her Mormon upbringing.  –Serena

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

Imogene has always been homeschooled, but this year she will go to middle school. Not only has she been homeschooled, but her family actively participates in the town’s local Renaissance faire and refers to themselves as Rennies.

This story perfectly captures the difficulties of navigating friendship, bullying and popularity during the middle school years.  –Serena

Summer Reading for Everyone!

It is a busy time of year for Youth Services Librarians! We know how hard students work all year to strengthen their reading skills, and we don’t want them to lose those gains over the summer. This is one of the main reasons why we are so enthusiastic about our Summer Reading Program!  We want youths to read for at least 30 minutes every day so that they continue to build their reading skills and we have designed our summer program around this goal. We take this so seriously, our very own Andrea even wrote a song about it!

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Have any questions about our reading program? We have answers!

Who can participate?
Our Youth Summer Reading Program is for anyone going into 12th grade or under. We also have a separate adult summer reading program that anyone else can sign up for.

What counts as “reading?”
For our youth program, we really like to emphasize that any form of reading counts including but not limited to reading on your own, stories read aloud by someone else, reading to younger siblings, listening to audiobooks, and of course, reading graphic novels and comics.

How does the program work?
For our youth program, we are challenging readers to read a total of 24 hours over the course of the summer. This can be broken down into half-hour segments. On our reading log, each half of a book represents one half-hour of reading. Starting on July 10 readers can bring their logs in for prizes. Prizes are awarded at 12 hours and 24 hours, and will be available until August 31 (or until we run out).

  • 12 hour prize: pick a prize from our Mystery Box!
  • 24 hour prize: choose a free book!

If they complete the full 24 hours by August 18, readers will also receive an invitation to our end of the summer party, where they get to meet Mayor Ray Stephanson and they get entered into a drawing for a chance to win a grand prize which varies depending on their age.

Adult Summer Reading is a bit different. The reading log has eight reading challenges. Complete one and return the log for a chance to win an Everett Public Library coffee mug. Complete at least seven, and be entered to win one of two Everett Public Library tote bags!

I like prizes! How do I sign up?
To sign up, just pick up a reading log at any one of our reference desks. Logs are already available, and students can begin the reading challenge as soon as their school ends for the summer.

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Like I said, we take this seriously! And we want to make sure that we get as many opportunities to tell students about this program and get them excited about all the great books they can read this summer. That’s why we spend several weeks in May and June visiting schools. During these school visits, we talk about the Summer Reading Program but we also do a lot of book talks. Book talks are exactly what they sound like – we bring a bunch of books and we tell the students about them. The majority of my visits this year are to Middle Schools and I have included several of my book talks below.

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The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson
Matthew has a cruel nickname, the goldfish boy. This is because he never leaves his house and rarely leaves his room. He suffers from an extreme form of OCD and the world beyond his four walls is too overwhelming for him to handle so he stays in his safe place, like a goldfish in a tank.

Because he can’t leave the house Matthew spends a lot of his time watching his neighborhood, noting people’s coming and goings, their habits and their quirks. It’s through this hobby that he happens to be the last person to see a young neighbor’s toddler before the child is shockingly kidnapped.

Matthew is certain that he is the only one who can solve the case, since he was the last one to see the boy. But Matthew soon realizes that his neighbors have secrets, and that they are all suspects. So Matthew must figure out how to save this child, all while facing his fears, controlling his anxiety, and stretching the boundaries of his world.

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The Pants Project, by Cat Clarke
Middle school can be a scary time for anyone. You have to make new friends, face a ton of new teachers, and manage way more homework. Who wouldn’t feel overwhelmed!? But when Liv starts middle school he has even bigger issues. See everyone believes that Liv is a girl, because that was his assigned birth gender but he knows that he is actually a boy.  Considering that not even his friends or family know about this yet, it adds some stress to his life but not as much stress as a rule at his new middle school – all girls must wear skirts.

Liv hates skirts and can’t imagine wearing them every day. He also believes it is unfair to others. Plenty of girls, he figures, would rather be able to wear pants and they should be allowed to!  So he starts a movement to get this policy changed. Unsurprisingly, he meets plenty of resistance and Liv must decide if he is willing to stand up for himself and for his beliefs, even if it means exposing his personal secrets to his new school and even the wider world.

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Empress of a Thousand Skies, by Rhoda Belleza
Intrigue, murder, war, deceit, BUT ALL IN SPACE!

Rhee is the last of her line. Her family has been killed and Rhee believes it was intentional, but she is about to assume the galactic throne and as Empress she will finally have her revenge. Then Rhee is brutally attacked and nearly killed. She escapes with the help of a strange and ruthless ally but must go into hiding unsure of who to trust, fearful of who might betray her next and determined to finally exact her revenge.

Alyosha, a soldier turned reality TV star, is no stranger to contempt. He is from a planet of dark-skinned refugees and has overcome bigotry through hard work and determination. When Rhee is attacked, he is framed for her attempted murder and his life falls apart. Like Rhee, he is on the run, unsure of who to trust or how to clear his name. With the help of old comrades and new allies, Rhee and Aly must find a way to discover their betrayers and reveal them to the world. And they need to act fast if they want to prevent a disastrous interplanetary war!

The Left-Handed Fate25774386, by Kate Milford
The year is 1812, America and Britain are at war once again and Oliver Dexter, a 12-year-old American sailor, has just gotten his first (accidental) command- a captured pirate ship.

On this ship are several prisoners including Lucy the daughter of the privateer captain and Max a young man who believes he is close to discovering a weapon so powerful that it would not only end this war, but all future wars as well. Although Oliver is determined to follow orders, he is tempted by both the friendship and the mission of Lucy and Max. So Oliver chooses to help his two young companions jeopardizing his standing in the navy and the safety of his crew, although he is not certain whether he is doing so because he believes in their cause or to ensure that this mysterious weapon is destroyed before it puts his own young country at risk.

This book plays with a fun and exciting time in history but it does not stick to the rules. Instead it flirts with the mystical and mythological, giving otherworldly qualities to a mostly real world.

51f+8+iExbL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_In the Shadow of Liberty: the Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives, by Kenneth C. Davis
In school we learn a lot of deservedly great things about the founding fathers of America. At times it is far too easy to overlook the fact that many of these men were slave owners, while many more profited off the labor of slaves. This book tells the stories of five people, Billy Lee, Ona Judge, Isaac Granger, Paul Jennings and Alfred Jackson who were owned by Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Jackson.

Beyond telling their stories, Davis goes to great effort to give us the information we need to understand the times they lived in. For example, Ona Judge was a woman who was owned by George and Martha Washington. At the time, the US Capital was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where a law decreed that if any slaves of a certain age remained in the state for six months they were freed. To prevent his own slaves, like Ona, from being freed, Washington would move his slaves from the Capital to his Virginia plantation before six months had gone by. It is certainly difficult to reconcile this behavior with some of the more positive stories we learn about Washington.

Davis also shows how these oft-forgotten individuals, who were considered property, had complex relationships with the Presidents who enslaved them and often had sufficient influence to shape history in profound ways. This book is an unflinchingly honest depiction of the ways our early leaders, though supposed champions of liberty, were deeply entwined in a system that enslaved and exploited millions.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe51SpFoMEW3L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_, by Ryan North
Squirrel Girl is exactly what she sounds like. A teen with the incredible power of squirrels! She has squirrel strength and super senses and she can speak squirrel, so she has an army of squirrels that she can summon. Oh, and she truly is unbeatable. She’s taken down many of Marvel’s greatest villains who make the grave mistake of underestimating her powers.

In this issue, which is a great place to dive in, she is accidentally cloned. At first this is great- double the crime fighting squirrel girls! But her clone is determined to destroy mankind after concluding that most problems are caused by humans, while very few are caused by squirrels. So it is up to the REAL squirrel girl to save the day with a little help from the Avengers.

Goldie Vance, by Hope Larson51JS3Wqvz4L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_
Goldie Vance is probably the coolest character that I’ve encountered this year. She’s 16 years old and lives with her Dad at a resort he manages in Florida. Although she has tons of skills, including being a top-notch car-chase driver, her true gift is solving mysteries. Her dream is to become the resort’s official detective. She gets her chance to prove her value when a guest complains that a piece of priceless jewelry was stolen from his room. Before Goldie knows it, she’s been swept up into exciting Cold War intrigue complete with rocket scientists, Russian spies, and much more.  This is an ongoing series that I am really really excited about.

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

Best of 2015: Children’s Fiction & Graphic Novels

Tis the season for best of the year lists. These lists always come in handy for finding great gifts for yourself and others. The only problem? There sure are a lot of them. To help you avoid ‘best of year list fatigue’ let us humbly suggest you look no further than our Best of 2015 list.

Our list is put together by the dedicated staff of the Everett Public Library who know a thing or two about all the great books, movies and music that have come out in 2015. Not only do we select these materials for the library collection, but we are avid consumers ourselves. As you might suspect, our list is a tad long so we will be publishing our selections a day at a time for a week here on A Reading Life. If you want to see the complete list in all its glory, take a look at the December Newsletter to get the PDF.

So, without further ado, let’s get this list started. Today we will be taking a look at all the great fiction and graphic novels for children that came out in 2015.

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Waiting by Kevin Henkes

An owl, puppy, bear, bunny, and pig wait for marvelous things to happen.

Kevin Henkes has the soul of a poet and the precision of a scientist. His books are warm, lovely, and philosophical. The twist in this one, involving a nesting doll, is breathtaking…and the lesson is patience and gratitude in minutiae.  -Alan’s pick

How to Grow a Friend by Sara Gillingham

In bold, adorable wood block prints, the author describes in toddler-friendly detail (very few words) how friendship works.

Gillingham analogizes growing a friend to how things grow in nature with ample talking points for the storyteller (“don’t let your friend get stuck in the weeds”). -Alan’s pick

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

With spare text and breathtaking oil paintings, If You Plant a Seed demonstrates not only the process of planting and growing for young children but also how a seed of kindness can bear sweet fruit.

The illustrations of this simple tale are whimsical and beautiful. The animals are so very expressive. -Andrea’s pick

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Such a Little Mouse by Alice Schertle

Every season a little mouse pops out of his hole in the meadow and explores his world, gathering the food and supplies he will need when winter comes.

This charming story is told in rhymes and is a delight. -Leslie’s pick

Smick! by Doreen Cronin

Smick is a very minimally drawn dog in a children’s book. He retrieves a stick (done with a photo) and  meets Chick (made from a photo of a petal and drawn upon).

With very simple line drawings, Smick is portrayed as being very lively, cute, and good. He plays well with Chick, and he stole my heart. A charming book for ages 2 and up, Smick uses simple rhyming text to tell the story. -Margaret’s pick

Superworm byJulia Donaldson

Our super hero is a worm! “Superworm is super long! Superworm is super strong! Watch him wiggle! Watch him squirm! Hip Hip Hooray for Superworm!”

I love all of Julia Donaldson’s books (The Gruffalo is awesome), and this one doesn’t disappoint. -Leslie’s pick

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Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens

At an English boarding school in the 1930s, crime-solving friends Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells struggle to find an exciting mystery to investigate. They hit pay-dirt when Hazel discovers the dead body of Miss Bell, the science teacher.

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong speak to the large portion of my soul still in love with all the Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew stories. We have a bit of a delay getting the U.S. versions (book 4 is already out in the UK), but it’s going to be worth the wait! -Carol’s pick

Auggie and Me: Three Wonder Stories by R.J. Palacio

These stories are an extra peek at Auggie before he started at Beecher Prep and during his first year there. Readers get to see him through the eyes of Julian, the bully; Christopher, Auggie’s oldest friend; and Charlotte, Auggie’s new friend at school.

This book is a companion to Palacio’s Wonder. These chapters were not included in the original book, because Wonder was Auggie Pullman’s story. This is a glimpse of the lives of three more people whose paths crossed with Auggie’s. -Andrea’s pick

A Boy and His Horse by Nate Cosby

Story of a young bounty hunter determined to send his entire outlaw family to jail. He travels the Old West on a horse that ain’t his, and won’t stop til every one’a his kin’s in the clink.

From the Old West slang and drawl to the adorable illustrations, this graphic novel aimed at a younger audience will have adults like you and me enthralled as well. -Carol’s pick

Lumberjanes Volume 1: Beware the Kitten Holy & Lumberjanes Volume 2: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen

At Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hardcore lady-types, things are not what they seem.

Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves.  Anagrams. The Lumberjanes are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer.

I picked up issue 1 of this comic book series at Everett Comics on a whim. Little did I know how quickly I would fall in love with this magical series. Get caught up on these hardcore lady-types before the movie comes out (yep, film optioned!). -Carol’s pick

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Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock: Journey to the Everspring by Kate Leth

When the water supply of Fraggle Rock mysteriously runs dry, the Fraggles will have to journey deep in the caves of Fraggle Rock to find the fabled Everspring where adventure awaits and no Fraggle has ever gone before! Dance your cares away!

I was raised on Fraggle Rock and have come to be completely obsessed with Kate Leth. This is a match made in heaven, perfect for the young and young-at-heart. -Carol’s pick

Punky Brewster Volume 1 by Joelle Sellner

Punky Brewster has been abandoned by her mother and lives on the streets of Chicago with her puppy sidekick, Brandon. Punky thinks she doesn’t need help, but after getting picked up by the police, she enters a foster home and searches for a new family.

When I was growing up, Punky Brewster was the one TV show my friends and I all watched religiously (well, as religious as a small child can). She was the friend we all wanted, and this comic brings me back to those days of wonder. -Carol’s pick

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Astrid becomes infatuated with roller derby after attending a bout with her mom and best friend, Nicole. The girls sign up for a roller derby boot camp, and Astrid soon realizes she’s in over her head.

Fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile will eat this up. -Sarah’s pick

Best of 2013: For the Kids

Today we explore all the great picture books, fiction, how-to and much more in our list of the best books for children in 2013. Cats work construction? Who knew?

Children’s Fiction:

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That is not a Good Idea!  |  Mo Willems
A surprising lesson about the importance of listening to one’s inner gosling ensues when a very hungry fox issues a dinner invitation to a very plump goose.

This is another genius picture book from one of my favorite authors. Told in the format of an old silent movie with villains and innocent damsels, this story builds suspense and ends with a surprise. Great for storytimes! – Andrea

Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses  |  James Dean
Pete the cat is feeling glum, and a friend cheers him by giving him a pair of “magic” sunglasses that help him transform his world. A grouchy squirrel, an upside-down turtle, and a grumpy alligator want the glasses too.

Expressive paintings and lots of action make this a story that will help young children understand their own emotions. – Esta

Not Your Typical Dragon  |  Dan Bar-el
A young dragon tries to breathe out flames, but instead snorts out whipped cream, party streamers, and other hilarious things.  Other dragons are upset, but a knight who is also an oddball becomes his good friend.

Hilarious illustrations and a playful yet comforting story about being different. – Esta

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The Long, Long Line  |  Tomoko Ohmura
A very long line of 50 animals is waiting anxiously and asking “What’s this line for?” It’s a wild and wacky roller coaster ride that they all want to try, with hilarious results.

The bold graphics invite kids to count, identify the animals, and talk about the actions that they see. Great for developing a young child’s pre-math skills! – Esta

Llama Llama and the Bully Goat  |  Anna Dewdney
Gilroy Goat bullies others in school — teasing, kicking sand, snatching toys.  Little Llama dares to speak back. He shows the others how to “walk away and tell someone.”  Then the compassionate teacher leads Gilroy into learning how to be a friend.

This gentle story helps young children understand that bullying often derives from the bully’s own unhappiness. This is also a comforting story focused on caring about others’ feelings.– Esta

Ladybug Girl and the Big Snow  |  David Soman
A brave girl in red-spotted boots and ladybug costume explores the outdoors after a snowstorm.  She and her dog Bingo get stuck, build snow creatures, and explore the magic of deep snow.

This daring, spunky little girl always shows her spirit of adventure!  This is the latest in the delightful “Ladybug Girl” series of books. – Esta

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The Snatchabook  |  Helen Docherty
Young animals are reading or listening to stories at bedtime when a little creature called the “Snatchabook” sneaks in and steals the books…but why? He has no-one to read to him!  Brave rabbit figures out a delightful solution to the problem!

Lively rhyme and playful illustrations give this book great appeal.  It’s a sweet and reassuring story about the power and joy of reading. – Esta

Baby Bear Counts One |  Ashley Woolf
A young bear watches all the animals around him prepare for winter, and then sees his first snow.

This author/illustrator’s artwork is superb and dramatic, and young children will thrill as they find and count hidden details and end with snowflakes “too many to count.” – Esta

Construction Kitties  |  Judy Goodwin-Sturges
A lively crew of cats wearing their hard-hats work together with a dump truck, excavator, backhoe and other heavy trucks at a construction site.

Young children will enjoy the action as they see how these machines work.  The cats stop for their favorite lunch: sardines and milk. – Esta

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library  |  Chris Grabenstein
Twelve-year-old Kyle gets to stay overnight in the new town library, designed by his hero (the famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello), with other students but finds that come morning he must work with friends to solve puzzles in order to escape.

As an adult who thinks an awful lot like a 12-year-old, I found this book a hilarious adventure through one of my most favorite institutions: a public library. A “Ready Player One” for the middle-school crowd. – Carol

Children’s Non-Fiction:

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Think Again! : False Facts Attacked, Errors Exploded, Myths Busted  |  Clive Gifford
Organized into five broadly themed sections the human body, the animal world, science, history, and popular culture this book tackles commonly held and commonly repeated mistaken beliefs head-on. Each falsehood is debunked in straightforward and factual explanations grounded in real scientific research, incorporating discussions of why the myth persists.

Colorful illustrations and tons of fascinating information.  You can open to any page and learn something new. – Theresa

The Big Book of Crafts & Activities  |   James Mitchem, editor 
This book is packed with crafts, recipes, games and activities for children who want to get creative and try new things-from growing tasty fruit and vegetables to customizing your furniture.

This book is full of crafts and activities that are fun and don’t require specialized materials or equipment. – Theresa

Myths Busted! Just When You Thought You Knew What You Knew– |  Emily Krieger 
From the origins of fortune cookies to alligators living in the sewers of New York City, this book gives kids the tools to break and bust wild and wacky myths from around the world.

More than 100 ‘myths’ are debunked, first with a suggestion of how they came to be believed and then with the science that disproves them. – Theresa

Star Wars: Science Fair Book  |  Samantha Margles
Presents thirty step-by-step instructions for science projects and experiments based on elements from the “Star Wars” film series, including how to create crystals, make a hydrometer, and move objects with “the force.”

An engaging concept to encourage young scientists with all the tips needed to make a great science fair project. – Theresa