Category: Elementary School

30 Best Children’s Books of 2016

What a great year for children’s books! Here are my favorite 2016 reads for elementary and middle-grade readers.

As Brave As You Beautiful Blue World

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LeFleur

The Best Man The Best Worst Thing

The Best Man by Richard Peck

The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane

Booked The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle

Booked by Kwame Alexander

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox

Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science Full of Beans

Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins

Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm

Ghost (Track, #1) The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The Goblin's Puzzle: The Adventures of a Boy With No Name and Two Girls Called Allice The Haunting of Falcon House

The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew S. Chilton

The Haunting of Falcon House by Eugene Yelchin

Hour of the Bees The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz

Juana and Lucas The Land of Forgotten Girls

Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly

The Lie Tree Maybe a Fox

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Allison McGhee

Moo Ms. Bixby's Last Day

Moo by Sharon Creech

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

Raymie Nightingale The Poet's Dog

The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

The Sandwich Thief The Secret Horses of Briar Hill

The Sandwich Thief by André Marois, illustrated by Patrick Doyon

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd

Soar Some Kind of Happiness

Soar by Joan Bauer

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

Unbound: A Novel in Verse When Mischief Came to Town

Unbound by Ann E. Burg

When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad

The Wild Robot Wolf Hollow

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

10 Best Graphic Novels of 2016 for Children and Teens

I didn’t manage to read as many graphic novels as I would have liked this year. In fact, I still have some on my to-read shelves that I hope to get to. I love the bridge that graphic novels form for children and the incredible artistry that is found in them.

27414462 Giant Days, Vol. 1 (Giant Days, #1)

The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo by Drew Weing

Giant Days Volume 1 by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, and Whitney Cogar

Hilo Book 2: Saving the Whole Wide World Hippopotamister

Hilo: Saving the Whole Wide World by Judd Winick

Hippopotamister by John Patrick Green

Little Dee and the Penguin March: Book Three (March, #3)

Little Dee and the Penguin by Christopher Baldwin

 

March: Book 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Mighty Jack The Nameless City

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke

The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks

Snow White: A Graphic Novel Sweaterweather: & Other Short Stories

Snow White by Matt Phelan

Sweaterweather & Other Short Stories by Sara Varon

10 Best Nonfiction Books for Children in 2016

It was a wonderful year for nonfiction books for children, particularly those with a focus on diversity. I only wish I had managed to read more of them. Here are the ones I enjoyed most this year:

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The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

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The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome

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Preaching to the Chickens by Jabari Asim, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

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The Secret Subway by Shana Corey, illustrated by Red Nose Studio

Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Boris Kulikov

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Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet

Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice and Hope in a New Land by John Coy, photographs by Wing Young Huie

5 Best Poetry Books for Children in 2016

Here are my picks for the top poetry books of 2016. They are powerful reads that demonstrate the importance of words and their ability to stir and transcend.

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Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Brya

28957208 Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems

Somos como las nubes / We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta, illustrated by Alfonso Ruano

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka

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When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Julie Morstad

The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

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The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli (InfoSoup)

Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli tells the story of a girl who lost her mother as an infant and grew up as the daughter of a prison warden. Cammie isn’t a girl who is silly and lots of fun. In fact, she is fast moving and fast talking, exactly why she has the nickname Cannonball Cammie. Cammie is actually angry most of the time. Her best friend has developed faster and seems to be 17 instead of 13 sometimes. She wants to get on Bandstand and be famous. Cammie though is more interested in riding her bike around town and playing baseball. Cammie thinks that her life would be better with a motherly figure, so she begins to try to get the prisoner assigned as their housekeeper to be more like a mother to her. Then there’s Boo Boo, the prisoner who acts motherly towards Cammie but hides a dark secret. Her father too is a mystery, both present and not there, sometimes at the same time. It’s all a confusing mix of emotions for Cammie, who will need to deal with her own grief both past and present before she can do anything but be angry at the world.

Spinelli has written a completely captivating story in this middle grade novel. The setting is richly created with the prison, a full city and community, and one moment after another where Cammie sets it all ablaze with her anger and acting out. Throughout though, Cammie is far more than just as angry person, she is humanity personified, a girl in search of herself even as she spends her time looking for solutions in others. It’s a compelling story, one that is filled with moments of joy and despair.

Spinelli writes like a wizard, unveiling truths slowly and beautifully. As Cammie storms through her life, she also reveals the truths of others around her. And without revealing the entirely riveting and humbling ending, she creates opportunities where others become more than they have ever been before. It is a staggeringly rich novel that is written with such skill that it manages to read in an accessible way.

A masterful book about loss, childhood and recovery by a master of books for children, this is a must-read and a must-buy for libraries. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Alfred A. Knopf and Edelweiss.

 

One Last Word by Nikki Grimes

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One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes (InfoSoup)

Released January 3, 2017.

Master poet Grimes has created a book of poetry that celebrates the poets from the Harlem Renaissance who influenced her. Through her amazing skill, she pays homage to their original poems by creating her own from their words. Using a form called Golden Shovel, she takes lines from their poems and uses them as the final words in the lines of her poems. Both the Harlem Renaissance poetry and Grimes’ speak to the experience of African Americans and for Grimes, African American children and teens. These are poems about difficulties, about racism, about hate and about love.

As I read these poems, I realized over and over again how very skilled Grimes is. It is most stunning when you remember the form she is using, because her poetry flows and dances as if entirely unrestricted. Still, the bold words tie the two poems together and one remembers the strict form she is using and the grace with which she handles it. Grimes speaks directly to children and teens of color in this book, making sure they see themselves and their experiences on the page. That they see the racism, the bullying and the dangers around them. She also makes sure though that they see a strong community, voices to raise in protest and the familial love around them.

The book is beautifully designed with each page washed with yellows and sometimes lined in blue. It is illustrated by some of the top African-American children’s book illustrators working today. It is a stunning collection of art, filled with emotion, pain and endurance.

Masterful, skilled and very timely, this book of poetry elevates us all and sings to the skies that African-American children are valuable and vital in this world. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from ARC received from Bloomsbury.

27 Magic Words by Sharelle Byars Moranville

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27 Magic Words by Sharelle Byars Moranville (InfoSoup)

Kobi knows that her parents are still alive. When they sailed off on a two month adventure five years ago and didn’t return, Kobi was still able to see them when she used the magic word “Avanti!” It is one of 27 words that her writer mother gave her when she was little and told her were magical. Kobi and her older sister lived with their grandmother in Paris but now are heading to Des Moines, Iowa to go to school for a few months and live with their Uncle Wim. As Kobi tries to adapt to her new environment, she finds herself telling lies defensively as her classmates ask her questions. As the lies begin to catch up with Kobi, she is forced to realize that she has been lying to herself as well.

Moranville has written a book that is a blissful read. She uses small moments to speak to larger issues, captures details that bring the world she has created fully alive. There is Norman who wears clothes to blend in and not be noticed. There is Kobi’s older sister who is struggling with OCD. The entire family fills the pages with art, gardens, food and color. It is a beautifully built world.

The writing throughout the novel is exceptional. There are paragraphs that are completely exquisite. This one appears on page 108 and is about a woman struggling with Alzheimer’s:

Ms. Hancock was like a beautiful picture that had been rained on, then driven over by a car, then left under a pile of leaves to be nibbled by squirrels, and the only beautiful bit left was a tiny patch of incredible blue in one corner.

A strong novel that blends grief, lies, loss and the potential for real magic. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.