Monday, December 31, 2018

Favorite Reads of 2018

This year I did not get to do as much reading as I would like because of school demands, and much of it what I did read was playing catch-up on 2017 books after the YMA awards. So instead of three separate lists for picture books, middle grade, and teen reads like I did last year, I'm just doing one list with a few favorites of each category, mostly books published in 2018, but I might include a few from 2017 that I didn't read until 2018.

Picture Books
Surprisingly, this is my weakest category this year. I just did not come across very many new picture books that really caught my attention, and the ones that did tended to be more non-fiction. I just don't think this was a very good year for good storytime books (at least the ones that fit my style); everyone seemed to be much more focused on jumping on the social issues bandwagon than writing books kids would really enjoy, plus I'm not doing as many storytimes now, so I don't get the chance to try them out like I used to.

Everybunny Dance! by Ellie Sandall

My absolutely favorite storytime book of those I discovered this year (thanks to jbrary!) was actually published in 2017, but it's so good I have to include it. This is a highly interactive book that I have the kids stand up and act out. They clap, twirl, dance, sing, pretend to play musical instruments, run, and hide with the bunnies, and at the end they can even do the bunny hop.

A must-have for any storytime collection!

Shark Nate-O by Tara Luebbe & Becky Cattie, illustrated by Daniel Duncan.

I'm always on the lookout for new shark books, so this caught my eye immediately, though it's really about a boy who can't swim and is apprehensive about trying. What I really loved were humorous little references to the notorious Sharknado and classic Jaws movies for the adults. A good lesson in overcoming fears and perseverance, plus some shark facts.

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ekua Holmes.

While a cataloging conundrum (picture books, 811's, or 523's??), this book is a lyrical poem describing the big bang, likening it to the birth of a child, accompanied by Ekua Holmes absolutely AMAZING illustrations. I cannot tell you how much I love this book! 

Probably not a good choice for storytime, but excellent for a one on one lap read.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

This beautiful story is inspired by Yuyi's real-life experiences as an immigrant and mother of a young child, and her discovery of the public library and how much it helped her and her son.

I don't usually get emotional reading picture books, but this one got me a little teary-eyed and gave me chills when she talked about finding this wonderful place where everyone was welcome, and turning the page to see it was the library. I thought this was going to be a political statement about immigration policy, but instead it was a wonderful tribute to public libraries and librarians.

Secrets of the Sea by Kate Baker, illustrated by Eleanor Taylor

This is a true non-fiction picture book, exploring the different regions of the ocean and focusing on very small creatures, or small details of larger creatures. The text is full of factual information, and the illustrations are absolutely beautiful and detailed. A very gorgeous "coffee table" type book for kids or adults.

Middle-Grade Fiction
I did read several great middle-grade novels published this year, plus some from last year, too.

Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes

The parents of avid reader June object to a book she got from the school library, and they go to the school to complain. This one complaint grows into mass hysteria and extreme censorship, both at June's home and school. She finds a Free Little Library and begins to supply other students with banned books. 

Some have complained about how unrealistic and exaggerated the censorship was, but I didn't mind the hyperbole to make a point and loved the book as a tribute to children's librarians everywhere.

Squirm by Carl Hiaasen

I love Carl Hiaasen's books, and this one did not disappoint. Just like all the others, this one has humor, adventure, and a message about conserving nature. The one difference about this one is that at least half of the action takes place outside of Florida. 

This is a great, fun read, perfect for someone who wants something that is not fantasy or sci-fi, is a little lighter but still has plenty of adventure and no romance, and likes to see jerks and bullies get what they deserve.

The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Jacobson

Lowen and his family need a fresh start in a new place after one of Lowen's friends is killed in a convenience store robbery. They decide to buy a foreclosed house in a dying town for $1, but while some of the town welcomes them with open arms as expected, others treat them with suspicion and resentment.

There is a lot going on in this book, but it is all pulled together together fairly well. It's about dealing with guilt, overcoming obstacles, and working together for the common good. Highly recommend.

My Year In The Middle by Lila Quintero Weaver

This is a great story of a young Argentinian-American girl in racially-polarized 1970 Alabama, who feels she doesn't really quite fit in on either side, and cautiously navigates the no-man's land in the middle, while also dealing with bullying resulting from jealousy over her new-found running talent and changing friendships.

A story about friendships, racism, and pursuing one's talent and passion.

Like Vanessa by Tami Charles

In this semi-autobiographical story set in 1983, 13-year old Vanessa is thrilled when Vanessa Williams is named Miss America, paving the way for future African-American beauty queens. Vanessa dreams of one day being Miss America, and soon finds herself in a school pageant.

This is a great story about learning to be comfortable in your own skin and re-defining "beauty". I loved this book, and it reminds me very much of Rita Williams-Garcia's work, but for whatever reason it doesn't seem to have gotten much attention. However, I highly recommend it, so give it a try!

And finally I'm just going to quickly mention this year's Pura Bel Pre honor book, The First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez. This is another great book that has been overlooked by many. It deals with with some of the unique issues biracial/multicultural children deal with in figuring out who they are and how they want to express their cultural identities, but also has several issues all kids can relate to: starting over, fitting in, mean girls, forming new friendships, and school dress codes. 

YA Fiction

Puddin' by Julie Murphy

Sequel to the hit Dumplin', I think this one is even better! This book picks up where the last one left off, but focuses on Millie and Callie, two girls who seem to have absolutely nothing in common, but when circumstances force them to work together, the begin to find common ground and form an unexpected friendship.

I like that not only do we see Millie fight for her goals, but we get to see another side of Callie and understand what is behind her "mean-girl" bravada.

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

This sequel to The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue continues where the last one left off, but now following Felicity, though Percy and Monty do make an appearance.

This story is full of strong, independent women, with a clear "girl power" message. Overall I really enjoyed it, though I wish Percy and Monty had had slightly larger roles, but just like the first, I really could have done without the odd, forced bit of fantasy added to the story. I felt it added nothing, and only detracted from the story.

I did not read a lot of YA published this year that I really liked, so I'm going to include a couple from 2017 that were really exceptional.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

This was such a well-done, powerful story told in verse (so it's a quick read). Will is planning to avenge his brother's recent death due to gang violence, and is convinced he knows who did it. But as he rides the elevator down, at each floor someone from his past gets on, and they all have something else in common. Besides knowing Will, they were all victims and/or perpetrators of gun violence. Will he change his mind?

A great story, well deserving of its many awards and honors.

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

This is a wonderful book that is at times painful to read due to the emotional abuse Kiko's mother inflicts on her because of being half Japanese. It is heartbreaking and maddening to see what Kiko puts up with before she FINALLY finds her spine and her voice. 

Highly recommended, Kiko's mother is a very unsympathetic character one will love to hate!

Well, that's the best I can come up with. If you want to see the other middle-grade and YA books I read, check out my Goodreads 'Year In Books'

I know I missed out on a lot this year, so please, tell me about your favorites in the comments, especially any good storytime books I've missed!

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