Top 10 of 2018: #1




A Big Mooncake for Little Star

by Grace Lin

A simple, beautiful story about Little Star trying to resist eating the Big Mooncake that Mama has hung in the sky to cool.  Little Star wakes in the night and takes a tiny bite.  She does this each night until you see the full moon waning to the new moon.  Text and pictures tell this story lovingly.  A great book to share with your little ones.


We Don’t Eat Our Classmates

by Ryan T. Higgins

It’s the first day of school and Penelope Rex is ready with a new backpack.  When she discovers her classmates are children this causes a few problems because “children are delicious.”  After eating her classmates (and spitting them out thanks to the teacher), Penelope does learn how to be a friend.

This book has a good bit of slobber in the pages, which just add to its appeal!


I Hate Everyone

by Naomi Danis

I actually didn’t read this book until I was in the process of writing this list and loved it so much it immediately bumped my previous #1 title.  Danis perfectly describes the contradictions of children: “Don’t look at me.  No!  Look at me!” Several pages made me laugh aloud and the illustrations alone are so great once I finished I flipped back to the beginning and started again to pay better attention to them.


The Serpent’s Secret

by Sayantani Dasgupta

I loved this audiobook!  Just an average 12-year-old girl from New Jersey who happens to be a demon slayer –  no big deal!  Dasgupta creates such a fun, relatable hero in Kiranmala, and I loved the Indian folklore mixed with fantasy elements.  The audiobook is read by the author and she is a fantastic narrator!

Great read for fans of Rick Riordan or fantasy… or anyone!


Willa of the Wood 

by Robert Beatty

This book is just so beautifully written.  It brought me right back to the feeling I’d get as a kid when I’d fall in love with a book in that deep, profound, genuinely sad when it is over way.  I listened to this audiobook and was sucked right into the world that Beatty created.  The world of the Faeran is magical but dangerous.  Willa, a night-spirit, is trying to find her way in her clan but the clan is changing.  Through a tragic chain of events, Willa comes to realize her clan is no longer her family and that she doesn’t truly have a place there.  On her own in the world she befriends a man named Nathaniel.  Though Willa and Nathaniel have a tenuous relationship at first, they form a bond that goes well beyond what Willa expects.  Nathaniel becomes family to her and she becomes family to him.  When she discovers a secret about Nathaniel’s children, she realizes that she can help him and his children but very much at her own peril.  Read my full review of this amazing book here.  For fans of fantasy, this book is a must-read, but it also is a good read for animal lovers and adventure readers.


Top 10 of 2018: #2


Thank You, Omu!

by Oge Mora

Omu is cooking a thick red stew on the top floor of her apartment building.  As it cooks, the smell brings people from the street to her door.  She shares her stew with each person until it is all gone.  This book reads like a folktale complete with a wonderful ending.  The visually attractive collage pictures help to tell the story of sharing and community.


No Truth Without Ruth: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

by Kathleen Krull

This short biography tells of Ruth’s determination to become the person she wanted to be and to help others achieve fairness in their lives. She grew up in a time that women were told to hide their intellect and were expected to marry, have children and take care of the home. At the time there were few opportunities for women to have careers. She wanted more for herself and others. The book gives a time line of her life, career, challenges and accomplishments.


She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein 

by Lynn Fulton

A lightly fictionalized version of Mary Shelley’s creation of Frankenstein.  The spooky and atmospheric art is perfect for the story of the invention of science fiction!


A Parade of Elephants

by Kevin Henkes

“Hooray! The elephants are here.  Get ready!”

This one is destined to be a bedtime storytime favorite!  Lots of concepts like counting, shapes, opposites, and directions all in a short, simple, beautiful book.


Smiley: A Journey of Love

by Joanne George

This book was one that warmed my heart and was a feel good book that stuck with me all year.  It tells the true story of Smiley, a golden retriever who was born with no eyes.  Smiley was born in a puppy mill and rescued by the book’s author who knew exactly what help Smiley needed to live his best life as a one-of-a-kind therapy dog.  Real pictures of Smiley and his family are throughout the book.  Every elementary-aged kiddo I recommended this to fell in love with Smiley and his story.


Top 10 of 2018: #3



The Season of Styx Malone

by Kekla Magoon

Caleb and Bobby Gene Franklin are in a lot of trouble with their mom after they trade their baby sister for a bag of fireworks.  In their attempt to hide the fireworks they meet their new neighbor, Styx Malone.  Styx is sixteen and is so cool and worldly.  He’s been to Indianapolis which is only 30 minutes away whereas the brothers aren’t allowed our of their suburb.  What’s more Styx promises them away out of their troubles with the fireworks and a bully.  As you read it, you can’t help but wonder what is Styx hiding?

This book is lighthearted and yet there are several levels to it with many opportunities for discussion about race, safety, family, and friendship.  I thought of Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen when I read this.  Many others have mentioned author, Christopher Paul Curtis for comparison.  Either way, it’s a great read.



by Matt de la Pena

Love is about love being everywhere, in faces, sights and sounds. There is loss, but love comes through to hold us. Life changes and children grow and the love grows too. The illustrations help bring the words to life and may pull at your heartstrings. A warm and gentle tale.


The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge 

by MT Anderson

I really like how the interesting use of art in this book shows how your perspectives and beliefs about people can be influenced by propaganda and change over time.  If you enjoy unreliable narrators, political intrigue, or grand adventures with unlikely heroes, then this fantasy buddy comedy/spy thriller is sure to become one of your favorites too.  Read my full review here.


Julian is a Mermaid 

by Jessica Love

Lovely picture book about a boy who wants to be a mermaid and his loving abuela.  The illustrations are captivating and the story is heartwarming.  I loved noticing all the small details in each picture and how fully the characters are developed by Love with her words and illustrations.


We Don’t Eat Our Classmates!

by Ryan T. Higgins

This adorable picture book comes with a lot of giggles.  Penelope Rex is so excited to make friends at school!  Just one problem: she goes to school with humans, and well… HUMANS ARE DELICIOUS!  This books was a hit with my preschool friends this year!  They loved the pictures and story but I loved watching the kids predict Penelope’s actions, shout out when Penelope was being a good friend or a bad friend, and give suggestions on how she could be an even better friend.  Text and illustrations are something kids and adults alike will love sharing with each other again and again.


Top 10 of 2018: #4




The Day You Begin 

by Jacqueline Woodson

Beautifully written and illustrated, this picture book gives courage to every child who feels alone, that there is no one quite like them.  The book acknowledges that it is not easy being different but to take courage, reach out and share your story.  You will being to find others who are a little like you in different ways.  It is a powerful and reassuring book about diversity and becoming accepted.




by Holly Hobbie

Elmore is a lonely porcupine looking for friends and he is having no luck because he is prickly. In this very short book Elmore find friends by giving of himself and helping others.



Winter is Here

by Kevin Henkes

Another winner from the dream team Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek.  Henkes’ text discusses life during the wintertime – the mittens and zippers and scarves and zippers and coats and OH NO PLEASE NOT MORE ZIPPERS – and Dronzek’s illustrations bring color and beauty to an often drab season.  If you’re like me and have always hated winter, this book might just change your mind.


Magnificent Birds 

by Narisa Togo

This book is gorgeous and educational.  The author has studied both ecology and printmaking, and she has combined her knowledge and talent here beautifully.  Great book for kids who love facts and those who enjoy perusing bird and animal books for the pictures.


Chomp Goes the Alligator

by Matthew Van Fleet

This laugh-out-loud board book was one of my favorite storytime reads this year for our birth to two year group.  I actually read this gem the first time on a day when school was out and I had older siblings in the room and it had all of us laughing. Entertaining that many age groups with a single story is not easy so that made it an instant winner for me.  I was easily able to make this story interactive by adding actions to the Alligator’s chomping as he eats many of his friends in the swamp (but don’t worry, everyone is safe and sound in the end).  The early literacy side of me loves this book because there are so many things that make it educational in that sneaky the-kids-won’t-even-know way.  Opportunities to identify animals, colors, rhyming and predicting, practice counting and even motor skills since this book does have a flap that allows your alligator to chomp just to name a few.  For people leery of board books that have moving parts, this book is super sturdy and will provide you and your favorite kiddos many happy reads and stand the test of time.

Top 10 of 2018: #5




The Parker Inheritance

by Varian Johnson

Candice and her mom have moved back to Lambert, South Carolina to live in her dead grandmother’s house for a month while their house is being remodeled.  Life is unsettled with her parent’s divorce and the temporary move doesn’t help things.  While Candice is looking in her grandmother’s attic, she comes across a letter on which her grandmother has written: Find the path.  Solve the puzzle.  Inside the folded letter addressed to her grandmother that describes an injustice done decades ago to an African American woman and mentions a fortune that belongs to the person who solves the puzzles.  Can Candice and her new friend Brandon solve what her grandmother couldn’t?


The mystery gets you hooked into the story, however, the book has another story to tell that includes racial prejudice, segregation, and violence from the 1950’s.  A good book to share with your tween so you can discuss scenes they might find disturbing.  Grades 5 and up.


Be Kind

by Pat Zietlow Miller

A lovely story of a young child wanting to make a friend feel better. While trying to find the way to make the friend feel better the child realizes many ways to show kindness and how those acts of kindness flow into their world.


Stella Diaz Has Something to Say 

by Angela Dominguez

Stella is such a sweetheart, I could read a million more stories about her.  Shy, earnest Stella has speech problems from mixing up Spanish and English and faces a school year without her best friends at her side.  When she finds out a new student is joining her class, she imagines a girl like herself who loves to draw and maybe even speaks Spanish that she could befriend.  But horror of horrors, the new student is… a BOY!  Even worse, he settles in immediately with the cool kids and Stella’s hopes crumble.  But with her supportive family, best friend, and kind 3rd grade teacher to back her up, Stella learns to stand up for herself and finds her voice, making a few new friends along the way.


Aquicorn Cove

by Katie O’Neill

In this graphic novel, Lana moves back to her hometown to clean up after a storm, rediscovers her love of the ocean, and finds a mysterious sea creature called and Aquicorn.  The illustrations in this book made me so happy – the characters and the magical sea creatures are adorable!  The compelling family dynamics and overall message of the importance of conversation here was nice too.  Great read!



by Junot Diaz

Lola left the Dominican Republic when she was a baby and has no memory of her life there.  Her teacher, knowing many of her students come from far away places, gives the assignment to draw a picture of their first home.  Lola is sad since she doesn’t have her own memories however throughout the story she talks to friends, family, and neighbors about the home she left behind, what made it so magical, and why her current community is equally as special.  Darling, bright illustrations bring Lola and her island to life.  Wonderful read for elementary age.



Top 10 of 2018: #6




The Bookshop Girl

by Sylvia Bishop

Property Jones was found in a cupboard at the Whitehart Bookshop.  Netty and Michael were fine with this.  When no one came to claim Property, Netty and Michael adopted her.  Everything is great except for the fact that the bookshop is losing money.  When a contest appears in the paper offering a chance to win the largest bookstore in England, it seems like all their dreams are coming true.  Unfortunately, their problems are just beginning and Property Jones has a secret that is in danger of being revealed.  This book has a bit of everything: quirky characters, tons of action, odd buildings, lots of mystery, suspense, forgeries and even danger!  This fun book is a great younger grade chapter book.  Black and white drawings are scattered throughout.


I’m Sad

by Michael Ian Black

A child, a sad flamingo and a potato are friends. Wondering why sad is a thing, the child and potato try to cheer flamingo up. It doesn’t work, but then a wise crack creates laughter and flamingo feels a bit better. Nice story letting children know that it is okay to be sad.



Prickly Hedgehogs!

by Jane McGuinness

Adorable illustrations of Hedgehog and her babies )did you know baby hedgehogs are called hoglets? I didn’t!) as they hunt for food and prepare for winter.  There’s plenty of information in easy, kid-friendly asides and it also contains a short index, more information about wild hedgehogs, and books and websites to find further information.  A lot of information about a super-cute animal packed into an equally charming picture book.


I Love You More Than…

by Taye Diggs

A sweet affirming story for kids and parents who don’t live together full-time.  The tone is just right – not too sad or cheesy – and I really liked Diggs’ style of writing.  Just a gorgeous way to remind kids that love crosses any distance.  I grew up living far away from my dad although we were very close, and I would have loved to read a book like this as a kid.


Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters

by Rachel Kolar

Judging a book by a cover sometimes does pay off.  Roland Garrigue’s cover illustration of a kindly-looking witch riding a bat pulled me right in with it’s charmingly dark, but not scary vibe.   The text and illustrations inside definitely did not disappoint.  Kolar’s rhymes, fractured versions of traditional Mother Goose rhymes, are perfect to share with prek through school-aged kiddos around Halloween (but could be enjoyed any time of year for those interested in ghosts, goblins, and a good laugh)!  Good for giggles in a group or one on one!

Top 10 of 2018: #7




by Ben Guterson

A wonderful book that combines mystery and magic with lost of puzzle-solving.  For some weird reason, Elizabeth Somers gets to leave her aunt’s and uncle’s house to spend Christmas on her own at Winterhouse while they go on vacation.  Elizabeth is surprised to discover she loves being at WInterhouse but she quickly realizes that the hotel has many dark secrets.  Clues are everywhere including in the massive library at the hotel.  Elizabeth soon finds herself in very real dangers.  Lovers of The Greenglass House by Kate Milford will definitely be drawn to this book. Grades 4 and up.



Drawn Together

by Minh Le

An English speaking grandson visiting his Thai speaking grandfather try to communicate with words, but fail. With nothing left to do the grandson goes off and starts drawing. Grandfather notices and gathers his sketchbook and supplies and the two communicate through their art.


Speak: The Graphic Novel

by Laurie Halse Anderson & Emily Carroll

I first read Speak as a teenager and it made a permanent impression on me.  I had never read a book like it before, and all that I’ve read of Anderson’s work since then has been just as excellent.  I adore EMily Carroll’s work as well – the graphic novel she wrote is sitting on my bookshelf at home – and is a perfect fit for bringing Anderson’s classic to new life.  A stark, lonely, sometimes brutally honest story, but never without hope.




The Wall in the Middle of the Book 

By Jon Agee

“There’s a wall in the middle of the book.  And that’s a good thing.  The all protects this side of the book… from the other side of the book.  This side of the book is safe.  The other side is not.”

You cannot go wrong with a Jon Agee book!  This one is so great.  I love that the readers can see what is happening behind our main character, who is so glad to be on his side of the wall away from the ogee on the other side while the bigger unseen dangers mount behind him.

Super-fun read along for kids and grownups with a great metaphor!



Aru Shah and the End of Time 

by Roshani Chokshi


I’m glad I judged this book by it’s cover and picked it up.  It is the first from the new imprint from Rick Riordan (of Percy Jackson fame).  At first I was little leery since as much as I love Riordan’s twists on mythology, it can get a bit formulaic.  I wasn’t sure if the writers publishing under him would be too similar.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Aru Shah is a lot of things.  A dreamer, a talker, a 6th grader who will spin any story to impress her classmates.  That last one lands her in an awkward position of being confronted at her home in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture by some classmates wanting to settle a score.  Rather than admit that perhaps she had stretched the truth a tad, Aru continues her lies and lights the Lamp of Bharata which is said to be cursed.  By lighting the lamp Aru starts a chain of events that freezes her mom and other loved ones in time.  The only way to get her back is to accept her place as a reincarnation of one of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death.  For the first time ever she will gain real friends on this journey and accept her destiny, finally shaking her insecurities and finally understanding what her mother has really been away working all the time. With a healthy dose of humor balanced with adventure, this book is hard to put down!  It also has an audio version which is also fantastic!