Tess’ Top 10 of 2019
by Steven Jenkins and Robin Page
Everything you’d want to know about frogs with full-color, gorgeous illustrations. According to the book, there are 6,000 species of frogs. Several are represented here, along with snippets on how they protect their eggs, their diet, and their defense mechanisms. Kids who enjoy learning facts and dropping knowledge will love this book. Even adults can amaze friends with obscure frog facts. Like, did you know a group of frogs is called an army? Or that the desert rain frog lives in sand dunes and gets all its water from fog? There is also a table in the back listing all the frogs in the book, their diet, size, and range, which is handy for fact-loving readers.
by Nick Caruso and Dani Rabaiotti and illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths
This book teaches about the ins and outs of the digestive system. And it is HILARIOUS. One of our regular moms here told me her kids were LOL’ing so much at bedtime while reading this book, and she highly recommended it! Each page features a different animal, and asks the age-old question, “Does it fart?” Answers are on the back. My favorite “Does it Fart?” question is a tie between the Spider and the Unicorn, but I won’t spoil the answers!
by Frank Murphy and illustrated by Kayla Harren
This story encourages boys to celebrate all facets of their personalities and love themselves. In the author’s note, Murphy wrote that as a youth basketball coach he saw boys struggling with society’s confusing messages on masculinity. He wanted to show boys that being strong also means being thoughtful, kind, attentive, and helpful. Some of my favorite lines are, “Fear and bravery are partners. You can’t be brave without first being afraid.” Great book to share with all the kiddos in your life.
by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
“When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl…But Aidan didn’t feel like any kind of girl. He was really another kind of boy.” Aidan learns he will be a big brother, and he is worried about making his new sibling feel welcome right from the start. The story follows Aidan and his family while they prepare for the new baby. Great story about welcoming a new sibling with thoughtful transgender representation. I really enjoyed the illustrations and Aidan’s loving family! Lukoff himself is Trans and this book is part of the #OwnVoices movement that recognizes books written by a member of a community represented in the work. Be sure to read his touching author’s note in the back of the book too!
by Blair Thornburgh and illustrated by Scott Campbell
This book is fantastic! It looks like a graphic novel with the chunky, fun illustrations. The text is pretty simple, which makes it a fun read-aloud too, but the back matter contains lots of great info for those who want to dig a little deeper into the subject.
I love both of these picture books so much, and I just could not decide between the two. Since they both focus of spending time with loved ones, I am including them together but not to diminish the specialness of either in any way.
In Saturday, a child and her mother intend to spend the day together doing their favorite Saturday activities. Mom only has one day off a week, so Saturdays are their day! But, as so often happens, things just don’t go according to plan. I appreciated the parenting realness Mora shows when Mom starts to melt down (because, as a parent, who hasn’t been there?) and also the super-sweet conclusion.
Our Favorite Day is a lovely, gently paced book about a grandfather’s daily routine compared to his routine on Thursday, the day his granddaughter visits. I love the water-color collage illustrations and the simple, beautiful story. Great representation of the special relationship between grandparent and grandchild.
4. August Isle
by Ali Standish
This book had me hooked! It reminded me a lot of Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Miranda has grown up seeing postcards from August Isle, where her mom spent summers as a child. She soon travels there to and begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding the seemingly perfect town and her mom’s life. Mysterious and emotional story of loss and friendship.
by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Kana Urbanowicz
This book really surprised me! I thought the story of ramen noodles would be pretty dry (ha ha!), but this book was anything but. It tells the story of Momofuku Ando and his drive to create a nutritious, affordable, easy-to-prepare meal in post-WWW II Japan. Lots of lessons in perseverance and helping others. The illustrations are fantastic and bring the story to life.
2. New Kid
by Jerry Craft
Seventh grade is tough. It is even tougher to be the new kid. Jordan Banks, a gifted student and artist, is not only the new kid at his fancy prep school, but one of the few students of color. This graphic deals with some complex issues on race and socioeconomics while being totally enjoyable, relatable, and funny! As Jordan’s school year progresses, he tries new activities and makes friends, and we see his unique perspective on the situations in his drawings that are interspersed with the action of the story.
by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This ode to African-American resiliency was originally performed as a video poem for ESPN’s The Undefeated website and was made into this superb children’s book. Nelson’s oil-painted figures are incredible and so life-like. Alexander’s poem is powerful, and the book’s pacing with the accompanying images are just perfect here. My favorite picture book of the year. You can see the original video poem and read more about it here.