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

Costa Book Award Winner Announced

The Bombs That Brought Us Together

The winner of the 2016 Costa Children’s Book Award is Brian Conaghan for The Bombs That Brought Us Together.

The Guardian offers this about Conaghan:

Children’s book winner Brian Conaghan, who won with The Bombs That Brought Us Together, offers hope to unpublished writers with piles of rejection slips from literary agents and publishers, having received more than 200 refusals for his debut When Mr Dog Bites, which was published in 2014. The book went on to be shortlisted for the Carnegie medal.

Years as a frustrated unpublished writer had strengthened him, Conaghan told the Scottish Book Trust last year. “I spent years getting rejection after rejection – basically being told my work was rank rotten – so I’m pretty immune to reviews good or bad,” he said. His latest book was described by Costa judges as “a necessary take on modern life in extraordinary circumstances”.

Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell


Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Shadra Strickland (InfoSoup)

Released on January 31, 2017.

In 1955, Richard and Mildred fell in love in the countryside of Virginia, in Caroline County. Their neighborhood was special and people of all races congregated together. As they went to drive-in movies together and started spending time together, the larger community showed its prejudice since Richard was white and Mildred was African-American. The two of them could not attend dances together, even though Mildred’s family was playing the music at the dance. The two of them get married in 1958 in DC, but their marriage isn’t legal in Virginia. Eventually, they are thrown in jail even though Mildred is pregnant with their second child. The two of them are forced to move to DC and never return to see their families together for decades. As Mildred begins to reach out to lawyers to help, she writes to the ACLU who take up their case which becomes a landmark case for interracial marriage in front of the US Supreme Court.

Written in verse, this novel shows the courtship of Richard and Mildred, their lives together and the damage done by the initial judgement against them that forbade them to cross the border into Virginia together. The use of poetry as a format allows readers to see both Mildred and Richard’s points of view as their relationship grows, flourishes and then is challenged. The book inserts other important Civil Rights events in between the poetry, so that readers can keep an eye on the other changes happening in the United States. It’s an important piece of their story, showing that other changes came much faster than theirs.

The illustrations by Strickland are done in limited colors of oranges and blues. There are beautiful moments captured such as the two teens running through the woods together at night, silent and free. There are also bleak moments like being pulled over by the sheriff with a flashlight shining in their eyes. The illustrations move from freedom to constraint much in the way the story develops and are important in revealing emotional elements to the tale.

This verse novel tells the true story of Loving vs. Virginia and speaks to the importance of regular people standing up to unjust laws. Appropriate for ages 13-15.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.



25 Best Teen Novels of 2016

It was a great year for teen novels with lots of wonderful fantasy and realistic fiction. Here are my 25 top picks for the year:

After the Woods The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen, #1)

After the Woods by Kim Savage

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Draw the Line Exit, Pursued by a Bear

Draw the Line by Laurent Linn

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Falling Over Sideways The Female of the Species

Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

The Great American Whatever Highly Illogical Behavior

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Julia Vanishes Learning to Swear in America

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Eagan

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

The Memory of Light On the Edge of Gone

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

The Passion of Dolssa The Radiant Road

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

The Radiant Road by Katherine Catmull

Saving Montgomery Sole Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1)

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

The Star-Touched Queen (The Star-Touched Queen, #1) The Steep & Thorny Way

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

Still Life with Tornado The Sun Is Also a Star

Still Life with Tornado by AS King

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Symptoms of Being Human Thanks for the Trouble

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach

Three Dark Crowns When the Moon Was Ours

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

Vassa in the Night

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

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:

20899295 26240643

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

25664556 24885797

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

28588346 18552623

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

25738883 28186006

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

28114411 26543145

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.

25785628 28954117

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


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