The best children's books of the year, as selected by LAPL librarians. Perfect for holiday gift-giving!
Paula Young Shelton, daughter of Civil Rights leader and later U.N. ambassador Andrew Young, presents an intimate, moving story of a child’s experience living under racist, Jim Crow laws and participating in the Civil Rights movement. Raul Colón’s bright, warm illustrations complement Shelton’s free-verse poems to convey both the comfort of family and a tight-knit community of caring adults, and the gravity and danger of the work of these uncles and aunts who were also leaders in the struggle for Civil Rights. Grades K-3.
Exclamation mark doesn’t seem to fit in amongst the other punctuation marks. But then he meets a similarly shaped friend! Humor, simple text, and emotive illustrations all combine to make a point about fitting in, standing out, and finding happiness in where you belong. Grades PreK – 1.
The boy Krishna’s life unfolds in a gorgeously illustrated story with color paintings of his life beautifully balanced with text. A fine introduction to a story from the Hindu religion. Grades PreK-3
Master storyteller Cooper weaves a touching and tragic story about the lifelong bond and friendship between Little Hawk of the Wampanoag tribe and a Caucasian boy named John Wakely during the time of the early Plymouth settlement in Massachusetts. Packed with vivid historical detail and drama, this book is haunting and unforgettable. The audiobook read by Jim Dale will leave you entranced. Grades 5-8.
The story of James Naismith, frustrated gym coach, and his attempt to engage a class of rowdy schoolboys with a soccer ball and some peach baskets, accidentally inventing one of the most popular sports in the world. Striking illustrations by Joe Morse and the simple but effective narrative should keep younger sports fans engaged. Grades 2-5.
In a magic forest, never step off the path! Jinx knows this, just as he knows all magicians are evil - until he realizes that magic is a lot more complicated than he thought. A funny, quirky book for all fantasy fans. Grades 4 - 6.
In a wordless picture book akin to Harold and the Purple Crayon and the drawing style of David Wiesner, a lonely girl draws herself a magical red doorway into fantastical worlds. What will the girl discover in her joyful romp through castles, airships and waterways? Will she make friends or find a way home? The book, a joyful romp through the imagination, will amuse in Becker’s detailed, yet at times sparse but always whimsical drawings. Grades K-4.
A crocodile that longs to be a pet sneaks into a house, hides in the pages of a picture book during the day, and comes out at night to do kind and useful things for the family while they sleep. Illustrations are reminiscent of Quentin Blake's. Grades PreK - 2.
An adorable photo-essay that combines vivid images of the photogenic resident of Costa Rica’s Sloth sanctuary with lively information about sloths in general ("Baby sloths are Jedi masters of the hug"). Readers will want to chant the unofficial sloth motto: "Just chill." Grades 2-4
What if every village had its own special friendly monster to guard over it and pretend to be scary for tourists? In this boisterous graphic novel, a timid monster named Rayburn has to learn to be brave and fierce if he wants to protect his village from the scariest monster yet. Grades 3 - 6.
Niño! Yuyi Morales’ pint-size, briefs clad, masked luchadore is guaranteed to win you over as he defeats foes like la momia Guanajuato, the Guanajuato mummy, with such surefire moves as the Tickle Tackle! Particularly endearing is his conciliatory approach to his final contenders: las hermanitas, his boisterous baby sisters. The book includes brief explanatory notes on lucha libre. Grades K-3.
Fry, co-creator of the comic strip Over the Hedge, makes his children's book debut with an illustrated novel, first in the Odd Squad series, starring 12-year-old social outcast Nick. Fry humorously mines the world of middle school as seen through the eyes of bullied Nick to answer the question: Can three oddballs team together to take down the school bully? Will appeal to Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans. Grades 3-7
A Japanese-American boy with family in two countries describes the customs that surround baseball in America and Japan. The bright and cheerful acrylic illustrations feature shades of blue for the U. S. and reds for Japan. Perfect for all baseball fans. Grades K-2
When one wants to host a successful tea party, there are many things to consider. Especially when one of the guests is a dinosaur! The narrator’s matter-of-fact rules, which make up the story’s text, are at hilarious odds with the elaborate, precise pastel illustrations depicting what might happen at a tea party attended by a very non-threatening and fairly well-behaved tyrannosaurus. Ages 3-5
12-year-old Summer usually likes spending her summers traveling around Kansas helping farmers harvest wheat, but this year her parents are in Japan, leaving Summer to deal with a frail grandpa, a cranky grandma, a pesky little brother - and a bunch of trouble. Grades 5 - 7.
A charming picture book biography about the life and times of Katherine Olivia Sessions, the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science and who became known as the "Mother of Balboa Park" for her dedication to gardening and planting trees in San Diego. Colorful and encouraging. Grades K-3.
Bob Shea, author of the rambunctious Dinosaur Vs… series, returns with the story of Goat, who is feeling a bit sorry for himself ever since Unicorn came to town. After all, Goat can’t fly, or make it rain cupcakes. But Goat soon learns not only that Unicorn isn’t just showing off, but also that we are all different and we all have something to offer. A bright, fun addition to storytime. Ages 2-6
Billy starts 2nd grade with a bump on his head - not a good beginning - but by the end of the year, he has weathered poetry slams, an attempt to stay up all night and many little-sister problems. Funny and genuine. Grades 1 - 3.