Best of 2012: Children's Books

Updated: April 5, 2013

The best children's books of the year, as selected by LAPL librarians. Perfect for holiday gift-giving!

Bad Kitty for president
Bruel, Nick.
Call Number: x

(Grades 2-4) Kitty decides to run for President of the Neighborhood Cat Club. Let's hope he’s registered! There may be a surprise winner thanks to Old Kitty's absentee vote! Includes hilarious glossary of election terms.

A black hole is not a hole
DeCristofano, Carolyn Cinami.
Call Number: x 523 D298-1

(Grades 3 and up) The strange and mysterious world of black holes explained simply and with humor. Covers the life cycles of stars, the formation of black holes, and the weird optical and physical effects associated with them. Captivating illustrations, stunning photographs, and explanatory diagrams will appeal to all ages.

The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Our National Parks
Rosenstock, Barbara.
Call Number: x 92 R781Ro

(Grades 1-4) Rosenstock’s accessible text and Gerstein’s vibrant illustrations pair well to tell the story of a little-known historical camping trip that spurred the creation of national parks and protected public wilderness. Gerstein’s illustrations admirably capture Roosevelt’s exuberance, Muir’s passion, and Yosemite’s awe-inspiring beauty.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flies again
Cottrell Boyce, Frank.
Call Number: x

(Grades 4 and up) A new family continues the legend that is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with wild adventures, improbable coincidences, and no small amount of humor. First in a trilogy.

A dog is a dog
Shaskan, Stephen.
Call Number: xz

(K – Grade 1) This charming picture book debut features rhyming text and a series of surprises as the dog turns out to be a cat in a zip-up dog costume, who subsequently is actually a squid in a zip-up cat costume, who unzipped again becomes a moose, and at last returns to being a dog again! The heavily outlined animals have loads of personality reminiscent of Kevin Sherry’s creatures, but with a slightly retro woodcut style. An imaginative delight!

Extra yarn
Barnett, Mac.
Call Number: xz

(K – Grade 3) Annabelle, a young girl living in a black and white town, finds a magical box with yarn in every color. Annabelle knits herself a sweater and, finding herself with extra yarn, begins to knit sweaters and cozies for the people, animals and houses of her monochromatic world. Will the evil clothes-loving Archduke put a stop to her generosity?

Go, go, grapes! : a fruit chant
Sayre, April Pulley
Call Number: xz

(PreK – Grade 2) Companion to last year's Rah, Rah, Radishes!, featuring a variety of fruits. Delicious fun!

Goldilocks and the three dinosaurs
Willems, Mo.
Call Number: xz

(K-Grade 3) Unlike the bears of the original tale, these dinosaurs are actively plotting to get a visit from young Goldilocks (using clever signage and chocolate pudding). Hysterically funny, from start to finish!

Seeger, Laura Vaccaro.
Call Number: xz

(PreK – Grade 2) When you ask a child for a color, it is extremely rare that they speak in shades of color. In this unique concept book, “green” shades of color are presented to children in an easy to understand way. Children learn about the many different shades of green, and the creatures, places, and objects they color. Fresh and fabulous!

Hades : lord of the dead
O'Connor, George.
Call Number: x GN

(Grades 4 and up) This fourth book in O’Connor’s Olympians series about the Greek gods shows what happens when the Lord of the Underworld sets his sights on Demeter’s daughter for his bride.

Here come the Girl Scouts! : the amazing all-true story of Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low and her great adventure
Corey, Shana.
Call Number: x 369 C797

(Grades 1-4) Informational, engaging, and empowering, this book truly captures the Girl Scout spirit. Includes an appended biography of founder Juliette (Daisy) Gordon, quotations from the first Girl Scout Manual, and a list of sources.

I don't want to be a pea! : this is a story of Hugo and Bella
Bonwill, Ann.
Call Number: xz

(PreK – Grade 1) Hippo and bird best friends have a fairy tale dress up party to attend, but both have strong opinions about which of them should be the lowly vegetable from The Princess and the Pea.

I like old clothes
Hoberman, Mary Ann.
Call Number: xz

(PreK – Grade 2) “What a story these clothes could tell!” In this time of austerity, many families are trying to stretch every dollar. I Like Old Clothes is a thoughtful book that presents second-hand purchases in a new light. These children revel in their used wardrobe, making what might be economic necessity fun and exciting.

Island : a story of the Galápagos
Chin, Jason, 1978-
Call Number: x 986 C539

(Grades 3 and up) Simple yet stunning, Chin illustrates and explains the 6 million-year evolution of the unique islands that would become known as the Galapagos. Includes brief information on Charles Darwin’s exploration and the unique species of plants and animals that live there.

Jazz Age Josephine
Winter, Jonah, 1962-
Call Number: xz

(K – Grade 4)  Illustrations and text introduce children to the life and legacy of Josephine Baker, examining her accomplishments, and describing how she overcame her poor, segregated upbringing to find success as a performer.  

Liar & spy
Stead, Rebecca.
Call Number: x

(Grades 5 and up) Life gets a little better for Georges when he joins a mysterious Spy Club after moving from his childhood home into a small new apartment. However, his new (and only) friend Safer, who runs the club, ultimately demands too much of him. Suspenseful and thoughtful, smart and funny, Stead (Newbery medal for When You Reach Me) has another winner with this one.

Me want pet!
Sauer, Tammi.
Call Number: xz

(K – Grade 2) This story of a cave boy who wants a pet will make a great read-aloud for pet-themed storytimes. Will cave boy get a woolly mammoth? A saber-toothed tiger? A dodo? The happy ending will have everyone saying "Ooga!"

Moonbird : a year on the wind with the great survivor B95
Hoose, Phillip M., 1947-
Call Number: x 598.03 H789

(Grades 5 and up) A riveting account of one small bird’s amazing migratory life - over 325,000 miles flown, the distance to the moon and halfway back! Describes the decline of its species, the threat to its habitat, and the work that scientists, environmentalists, and ordinary citizens are doing to save the birds.

Mousetronaut : based on a (partially) true story
Kelly, Mark E.
Call Number: xz

(K - Grade 2) Authored by Mark E. Kelly, the last commander of LA's own space shuttle Endeavour and husband of Gabrielle Giffords. Besides all that, it's actually a good astronaut and/or mouse themed read-aloud, about a little mouse on board a shuttle mission who shows he has the "right stuff."

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny-- detectives extraordinaire!
Horvath, Polly.
Call Number: x

(Grades 3-6) Witty and irreverent, Horvath spins a fast-paced whodunit revolving around two kidnapped human hippie parents, their young and intelligent daughter Madeline, some very sly foxes, and the bunnies who fancy themselves savvy sleuths. A wacky, laugh-out-loud romp.

Suppose you meet a dinosaur : a first book of manners
Sierra, Judy.
Call Number: xz

(PreK – Grade 1) What might happen when a young girl meets a dinosaur while shopping for groceries? Colorful, action-packed illustrations complement Sierra's delightful rhyming guessing game about the polite expressions we use in daily encounters.

Temple Grandin : how the girl who loved cows embraced autism and changed the world
Montgomery, Sy.
Call Number: x 92 G753Mo

Grades 5 and up.

An inspiring and engaging photo-biography about a girl who, despite the odds, became a scientist and professor while living with autism. With a love and compassion for animals, a fierce determination, and a mind unlike anyone else’s, she created a more humane cattle industry. Includes a forward and advice for kids on the autism spectrum by Grandin, plus bibliography, websites, index.

This is Not My Hat
Klassen, J.
Call Number: xz

(K – Grade 3) Like Klassen's very funny and much-praised I Want My Hat Back, this story involves a hat theft; this time, Klassen ups the ante by having the thief narrate. Darkly hilarious.

The three ninja pigs
Schwartz, Corey Rosen.
Call Number: xz

(Grades 1-3) Told in clever, well-metered rhyme, this spin on the Three Little Pigs features siblings who, fed up with the wolf's bullying, attend various martial arts classes. The first two brothers only go so far in their lessons, but the sister is more dedicated and becomes the ultimate vanquisher. Great pictures, too!

Titanic sinks!
Denenberg, Barry.
Call Number: x 910.4 D392 folio

(Grades 4 and up) Yes, there are lots of books about the Titanic, but design and layout and photographs and interviews all give a feeling of really being there in 1912, reading about the "Queen of the Ocean" and her dreadful fate. A fine look at an always popular topic.

Wolf won't bite!
Gravett, Emily.
Call Number: xz

(Grades K-2) Three little pigs subject a frightened-looking wolf to increasingly humiliating stunts and, believe it or not, wolf won’t bite! Or will he? Emily Gravett’s hilarious, expressive illustrations are utterly delightful.

Palacio, R. J.
Call Number: x

(Grades 4 and up) Though ten-year-old Auggie feels like a regular kid inside, he knows his facial deformities make the world see him as anything but normal. Told through different points of view (Auggie, his sister, school friends, etc.), this makes a satisfying read for all ages, particularly those looking for stories about family relationships, overcoming obstacles, middle school social dynamics, looking past differences, or dealing with bullies.

Z is for Moose
Bingham, Kelly L., 1967-
Call Number: xz

Moose goes from over-eager to unhappy when his place in the alphabet book gets assigned to a mouse.