I, Gigi Little — I alone! — can judge and thereby decree which books are the very best children's books of the year!
OK, maybe not. The truth is, there are so many great, so many amazinghilarioushappysadexcitingwonderful kids' books out there that one person's opinion is just not enough to put together a definitive list. To be more thorough, and have some fun in the process, I asked some of the smartest Powell's booksellers I know what their favorite kids' books were this year. So, without further ado and in no certain order, I give you our list of best kids' books of 2015:
Mr. Postmouse's Rounds
by Marianne Dubuc
"Fans of Richard Scarry
rejoice! This is such a sweet and engaging story with so many hidden details that you will be poring over Mr. Postmouse's Rounds
for hours. Every time I read it, I can't help but giggle at the little characters and subtle references I missed the previous time around." – Brandon
As a Richard Scarry fan myself, I think I loved this picture book as much as Brandon did. So much to look at, so many details to hunt for. And those details not only teach you about the habits and habitats of animals, but they're tiny clues to hidden stories you can follow along with as Mr. Postmouse goes about his rounds. The comparison with Scarry is definitely worth making, but I just want to declare that I am a Marianne Dubuc fan, too!
Rutabaga the Adventure Chef, Book 1
by Eric Colossal
"In this fun graphic novel, a little boy travels the world with his companion, a cooking pot, creating real and imagined recipes. Rutabaga the Adventure Chef
is an original read for both kids and adults." – Kim
This one's great! Our hero's a swashbuckling daredevil chef named Rutabaga! With a cooking-pot pet… named Pot! And they're off on kooky adventures, hunting down dragons and seeking out delicious new food ingredients. Like pop-shrooms. And mud leeches. And king's head squash. This book is totally weird — in just the right way.
Friends for Life
by Andrew Norriss
I think Richard's comments on this great middle reader novel speak for themselves:
"Friends for Life
is a beautifully touching story of four friends: Francis, a boy who wants to be a fashion designer; Andi, a girl who is big and tough; Roland, who is huge; and Jessica, who is dead. Only this group can see Jessica, and they form a unique friendship that helps each to overcome and rise above their fears of being 'different.' A novel about bullying and the importance of friendship and self-confidence, this is truly a wonderfully written tale full of warmth and surprises, with touches of humor along the way." – Richard
The Only Child
I'm a picture book fanatic, and this lovely story is like a picture book times 10. With over 100 pages of illustrations, it bridges the gap between picture book and graphic novel. But what I really love about this beautifully told, beautifully paced book about a young girl lost in the deep woods is the sweet, plush majesty of its art.
Lizard from the Park
by Mark Pett
Another picture book I loved this year! The combination of finished and beautifully unfinished art zeroes in on the intimate relationship between Leonard and his pet lizard, Buster, in this story of friendship and letting go. There's a lot of great subtlety here and a clever, surprisingly dramatic ending. Lizard from the Park
is also a great portrait of a city, with New York playing as big a part in the story as Buster (who, trust me, gets pretty huge, and wait till you find out why).
by Pam Muñoz Ryan
"Wow! Such a gripping tale that will pique the interest of literally any middle reader. Ryan beautifully weaves together music, historical fiction, magic, fairy tale, mystery, adventure… you name it. I rarely if ever reread books, but this is one that I will surely come back to time and again, and a book I already love loaning out to friends. I will be shocked if it doesn't win the Newbery. Excellent, excellent read!" – Brandon
I checked this one out on Brandon's recommendation, and wow! There's intrigue and heart and drama and enchantment as we follow a harmonica (yes, a harmonica) through some very harrowing periods in recent history and through the lives of some very memorable characters. When the Newbery comes up, I'll be watching to see if Brandon is right.
by Kevin Henkes
"A great book that teaches patience, anticipation, and community. Waiting
is a lovely, lovely read." –Kim
Oh my, I loved this one, too. There's a sweet sense of stillness in this picture book, but Henkes's quiet, whimsical art is also very entertaining, and there's a great surprise ending.
Serafina and the Black Cloak
by Robert Beatty
"Serafina can move like a cat, all silent in the night, and she lives with her pa in the basement of a Southern mansion where he warns her never to go into the forest or have contact with the people who live upstairs. A hauntingly beautiful story of friendship, courage, evil, and love with an ending that brought tears to my eyes." – Richard
This historical novel is set in 1899 and takes place in and around the famous Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina. It's perfect for middle-grade readers interested in history, mystery, and magic.
by Torben Kuhlmann
A story about moles is going to get me every time, but this picture book pulled me in instantly with its rich, dark, fascinating art. It's essentially the story of civilization — its blessings and curses, its rise and fall — told with moles. Neighborhoods grow, inventions spring up, ages pass. The world above ground starts to suffer. Moletown
is a cautionary tale about progress and conservation, but it doesn't feel preachy. Its message creeps up on you as you're busy studying the gorgeous, detailed, mostly wordless pages, and Kuhlmann offers a bit of hope at the end. The book is a great way to start a conversation between adults and kids about taking care of the world, but as an adult, I'm intrigued by the fact that the hope moment in this story comes essentially after the end — in the endpapers of the book. Which seems to ask the question, when is repair possible and at what point does hope and effort come too late?
The War That Saved My Life
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
"This lovely, touching World War II novel has a wonderful heroine and is definitely a Newbery candidate." – Richard
Uh-oh. Looks like Richard and Brandon are going to have to see which of their picks wins that Newbery Award. This is a great middle reader about 10-year-old Ada and her fight for freedom from a cruel, repressive mother — and her journey toward eventually learning to accept love after years of abuse.
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More Best Books of the Year from Powell's: