So even though I don't get to read as much as I'd like or feel like I should, I still thought it would be fun to put together a quick list of some of my favorite reads of this year. Just keep in mind that these are just my personal favorites from a relatively small selection, I'm not by any means suggesting these are necessarily the best of the best. Most of these came out in the last year or two, but there may be a couple of older titles in the mix.
Favorite Picture Book
How to Hug a Pufferfish by Ellie Peterson, April 2022
This is a great storytime book! Not only is it a really cute, fun read aloud with bright, colorful illustrations, it also incorporates an important message of consent and respecting others' personal boundaries and preferences, encouraging asking if it's okay to hug first and offering other alternatives to hugging. The consent message is subtle enough that it does not feel too preachy or heavy-handed nor take kids out of the story. We all loved this one!
Honorable Mentions: A very close second is Monsters In the Briny by Lynn Becker and Scott Brundage, a clever book based on the old sea shanty "What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor", but with child-appropriate lyrics about legendary sea monsters, such as "What do you do with a grumpy Kracken..." It is super cute and I really liked the rhythm and word play, with rhyme and alliteration. Some others I particularly liked were Dear Librarian by Lydia M. Sigwarth and Romina Galotta (very touching), Bodies Are Cool by Tyler Feder (body positivity/diversity), I Am a Baby by Bob Shea (hilarious portrayal of the trials of new parents from the POV of the baby), and That's Not My Name by Anoosha Syed (loving your name, respecting names).
Favorite Non-FictionHere We Go Digging for Dinosaur Bones by Susan Lendroth & Bob Kolar is a non-fiction book that can be sung! Based on the tune "Do You Know the Muffin Man", this book is a fun way for younger kids to learn about paleontology as each verse covers a different step in the process of finding, digging, preserving, and displaying fossilized dinosaur bones.
Honorable Mention: Yoshi and the Ocean by Lindsay Moore
Middle Grade Fiction
This is a really hard one to decide. I loved the anti-censorship messages in both Attack of the Black Rectangles by Amy Sarig King and Answers in the Pages by David Levithan, and the message about body shaming in Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone and enjoyed reading them. I found Wild Ride by Keith Calabrese to be pure light-hearted fun and adventure, reminiscent of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Adventures in Babysitting. But, if I had to pick a favorite, I think it would be:
Ophie's Ghosts by Justina Ireland was published in 2021, but I didn't get a chance to read it until early 2022. This is a historical fantasy/murder mystery that also deals with racism. Though it takes on some serious subjects, it is actually a fairly light read that is engaging and entertaining.
Young Adult Fiction
This is another category that is hard to decide, as I read several very good books. For overall quality, I'd have to go with Jeffrey Zentner's Wild Ride, the story of a shy, small-town boy adapting to a very different environment when he accompanies his best friend to a private prep school up North. Live, Laugh, Kidnap by Gabby Noone is a nice, light fun read if you need a break from all the heavy issues, dark themes, and epic fantasies characteristic of YA fiction. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is an older titled (2015) that I never got around to reading until recently, and I loved it! It's a great fantasy/adventure/heist story with wonderful ensemble cast of diverse, interesting characters. The Lesbiana's Guide to Catholic School, by Sonora Reyes was another favorite.
But, for overall pure enjoyment, Jennifer Mathieu's Moxie from 2017 wins, hands down. While reading some of the incidents of harassment and assault that the girl's had to deal with, and the school administration's lack of appropriate response, made my blood boil, I loved the overall "girl power" and "down with the patriarchy and toxic masculinity" message.
I also really enjoyed the Netflix movie adaptation, even though they changed a lot of things that didn't need changing.
Unfortunately I don't get the chance to read many "grown-up" books, and the three I read this year were all historical fiction with female librarians as the protagonists, two of which were both set during WWII. The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin is a bit of a misnomer, since the librarian was only half the story and wasn't really a spy in the typical sense, but it was still a great story, and with strong, female protagonists.
The Book Woman's Daughter by Kim Richardson continues the story of the pack horse librarians in Appalachia, some twenty years or so after the events of her first book. Being a librarian from Kentucky and having Appalachian ancestors, this book certainly had a special place in my heart. But overall, if I had to pick a favorite of the three, it would be Addison Armstrong's War Librarian, with it's multi-generational storyline and strong message of anti-censorship.
If you'd like to see all the MG and YA books I read this year, check out my Goodreads Year in Books.
What were some of your favorite reads this past year?