Chloe struggles to understand her classmate, Adrian Simcox — he's relentless, messy, and lies. In Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse, Marcy Campbell eloquently introduces complex themes of class and poverty to children in a tangible way. What Chloe learns is that there is real beauty in Adrian's imagination; that it lifts him out of these unfortunate circumstances and gives him hope. Corinna Luyken's beautifully rendered illustrations pair well with this sage story of empathy and kindness. — Kate L.
Julián Is a Mermaid was the Best Book of the Year as soon as it was released. The art and colors alone are goosebumps-inducing. It's also a multi-layered story, as it can be read in a number of ways: it can be about a boy who loves dressing up, it can be about self-discovery and a boy coming out, and it can be about unconditional love — or all of the above. It'll leave you mesmerized by how incredible it truly is. — Jordan S.
This is the story of Inky, an octopus who found his way back to the ocean from an aquarium in New Zealand. Bright, colorful illustrations bring this fascinating true story to life. It’s perfect for curious kids and budding naturalists. — Jen H.
Memory loss is such a difficult subject to explain to children, and I’ve never seen it captured in as beautiful a way as Jessie Oliveros presents it in this lovely picture book. James’s grandfather has one balloon for every precious memory he’s lived in his long life; some of these balloons, James also shares. When his grandfather starts losing some balloons, James knows he must find a way to share his grandfather’s balloons with others so his grandfather’s memories live on. — Kim T.
Petra is one of my new favorite characters (and definitely my favorite sedimentary protagonist)! With the charm of Marcel the Shell and lovely art that reminds me of Carson Ellis, Petra's story of imagination and bravery is sweet, funny, and perfectly adorable.
— Emily F.
With lyrical prose, Jacqueline Woodson perfectly captures the feelings of not belonging and of finding courage. Without being didactic, The Day You Begin explores how, at any age, new experiences can make one feel out of place. This book encourages children to recognize their diversity as a strength, and to be brave and find commonality within our differences. Rafael López brings these feelings to life with expressive illustrations depicting familiar emotions. Lush nature scenes echo the peace we feel when we find connection with others. A perfect book for children headed to school or new experiences. — Kate L.
Jewell Parker Rhodes is an amazing writer and the praise she’s getting for this book is well deserved! Her words are concise and gorgeously presented in this middle reader novel about Black Lives Matter. Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer when the latter mistakes his toy gun for a real one. As a ghost, Jerome seeks to understand injustice with Emmett Till at his side. An important book for every home and classroom. — Kim T.
Every Friday, all six kids in Mrs. Laverne’s class go to the ARTT room to talk about real issues in their lives, including immigration, racial profiling and bullying. I was moved by the honesty expressed by these students and the friendships they form. — Jen H.
For anyone who wants to get a leg up on their aspiration to become an agent of international espionage — or just wants to learn some cool stuff and laugh their head off, this book is perfect. It’s full of actual true spy stories as well as super fun and informative how-tos on such subjects as disguise, lie-detection, and self-defense. Even for non-spies, this book is stuffed full of fascinating facts and lots of wackiness and is just plain fun. — Gigi L.
Kate DiCamillo's new book is incredible — of course it is. It's a companion book to the already outstanding Raymie Nightingale, but you don't have to read it first to love Louisiana — it will just enhance your reading experience. It's at times sad and trying, hopeful and heartwarming, and it's filled with such real characters and told through Louisiana's distinct voice. DiCamillo's books should not only be read by kids, but adults too, and this is no exception. There's so much to love here, with themes of self-discovery and home, expertly told by one of the best writers for kids, ever. — Jordan S.
Felicity the star-watching cat leads readers through the pages of this fun and exceptionally informative book on the night sky. The illustrations are kid-friendly and just realistic enough to familiarize readers with the appearance of the real thing. A Cat’s Guide to the Night Sky presents all the important who, what, when, where, and whys in clear and easy prose that respects the intelligence of its young readers. This book is perfect for a child who loves science, especially stars and space, or a young reader with a curiosity towards the natural world. — Stephanie C.
Set against a backdrop of hockey and pies — with a soundtrack that’s all Beyoncé — # Hockey follows Eric “Bitty” Bittle as he navigates coming to college, coming out, and coming to terms with his feelings for his team captain, Jack. Funny, charming, and honest, Ngozi Ukazu’s heartfelt coming-of-age comic is one of a kind: a genuine gift to the reader and an absolute joy to experience.
— Madeline S.
Take a journey through a mythical Japan inhabited by creatures from folklore and legend. Yumeko, half-human, half-kitsune is entrusted with a mission that will save the land, or just as easily get her killed. Tatsumi, the bearer of a cursed blade, is a deadly shinobi on a mission of his own. When their paths cross, these two become uneasy allies, each guarding their secrets from the other. Joined along the way by an irreverent ronin and a noble samurai, these disparate heroes must outwit and outfight lethal enemies at every turn. Appealing characters, fast pacing, clever dialogue, and great world building made this my favorite book of 2018.
— Stephanie C.
This is one of those books where the cover doesn't match the story. You think you are getting a light and fluffy romance and BAM!… bring on the grief, the bullying, and the betrayals. Such a heartwarming story about a girl learning to live with her father's death and her budding friendship/attraction to a boy with Asperger's. David is an absolute gem! Ditch your idea of normal. — Mecca A.
Captain Caledonia Styx helms the Mors Navis, leading a 53-woman crew wanted for their refusal to bow to Aric Athair’s tyrannical Bullet fleet. But when a Bullet defects, saving a member of her crew and offering information, Caledonia must choose between her uncompromising principles and a chance to save someone she thought she’d doomed. A joyous, futuristic adventure on the high seas, Seafire is a much-needed celebration of sisterhood in the face of adversity. — Madeline S.
This book, by a fresh new voice in YA, covers many topics in a light and approachable way. Darius lives in Portland, works in a tea shop, and soon he’ll travel to Iran with his family for the first time to visit his ailing grandfather. Issues of depression, loneliness, and acceptance mixed with travel writing and family dynamics make this my favorite YA pick of 2018. — Kim T.
Many, many, many years ago, in this small Oregon coastal town, the townspeople accused the Swan Sisters of witchcraft and drowned them in the sea. And every summer since, the Swan Sisters have come back to inhabit the bodies of local teenage girls to mesmerize and lure boys into the ocean to kill in revenge. Shea Ernshaw's debut book is such a well-thought-out whodunit, peppering in clues and really sharp story flourishes along the way. It’s everything you could ask for in a read… and a love story to be swept up in. — Jordan S.
“One day isn't your whole life. A day is just a day.” It's not a romance, but there is a love story. It's about people. Friendship. Family. Love. Loss. Months later and I still think about how wonderful this book is. — Mecca A.