2015 Best Children's Books of the Year: A List of Lists and Awards

It's raining books, hallelujah!

The holiday season means an abundance of online "best books" lists, and here on Chicken Spaghetti I collect the ones for kids' books. The focus is on material published in 2015, although you'll find that a few lineups also incorporate titles from previous years. Some of them cover way more than children's books; a mention here means that somewhere on the list is at least one kids' category. I plan to update the big list regularly.

©Susan Thomsen, 2015.

Be sure to see the magnificent list of all 2015 book lists at Largehearted Boy. And my list-loving Irish friends at St. Columba's College English Department have started their annual roundup, too. Travis Jonker, over at School Library Journal's 100 Scope Notes blog, writes about "2015 Children's Lit: The Year in Miscellanea."

AAAS: SB&F holiday gift guide. (AAAS=American Association for the Advancement of Science. SB&F=Science Books & Film review journal)

AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize finalists. Science books. 

Abby the Librarian. Favorites.

The Age. Same list as Sydney Morning Herald. (Australia)

A.V. Club. One-shot comics and graphic novels, a few for kids. Same with ongoing and serial comics.

Air & Space Magazine (Smithsonian). Aviation- and space-themed books.

Alaska Dispatch News. Favorite Alaska books include a couple for younger readers.

Alex Awards. Adult books appropriate for teens.

All the Wonders. Nonfiction.
All the Wonders. Picture books.

Alligator's Mouth (UK)

Amazon. Children.
Amazon. Young adult.

Anorak Magazine. Picture books. (UK)

Asian Pacific American Library Association (APALA) Literary Award. Via the Lee & Low Books blog.

Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). Notable books of the year.

Atlantic. One YA book on the list.

Audubon Magazine. Bird books, with a couple for children.


Autostraddle. "Top 10 queer and feminist" books and runners-up include a few YA titles.

Bank Street Center for Children's Literature: Children's Book Awards

Batchelder Award. For children's books in translation.

Ben Clanton's Squiggles & Scribbles

Birmingham Mail. Christmas books. (UK)

Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension. Teacher Pernille Ripp's YA gift list.

Blue Peter Book Awards. Shortlists. (UK)

BN (Barnes & Noble) Teen Blog

Boing Boing. A few kids' books in the gift guide.

Book Chook (Australia)

Book Dragon (Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center blog). Books for adults & children.

Book Riot. List includes YA. Same with another Book Riot list, best books "you might have missed," and audiobooks.

Book Voyagers. Young adult and new adult, mostly.

Booklist. Religion and spirituality.
Booklist. Arts.
Booklist. First novels.
Booklist. Romance fiction.
Booklist. Science and health.

BookPage. Children and teens. Plus, gift books.
BookPage. YA.

Books for Keeps. Gifts. (UK)

Books Live. A couple of titles for younger readers on a long list of reviewers' favorites. (South Africa)

Booktopia. Scroll down on the list. (Australia)

Bord Gáis Energy (BGE) Irish Book Awards shortlists. Junior and senior. (Ireland)

Boston Globe. Kids.
Boston Globe. Young adult.

Boys' Life Book Zone

Brain Pickings. Art books, including one kids' title. Same with science books.
Brain Pickings. Children's books.

British Comic Awards. Shortlists & longlists. (UK)

Brown Bookshelf

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. Blue Ribbons, for best books of the year.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's books. Gift guide (PDF). 

Bustle. Best YA book covers.

BuzzFeed. "Beautifully illustrated" picture books.
BuzzFeed. Fantasy books, including a few for kids.
BuzzFeed. Gifts for "activisty families."
BuzzFeed. Young adult.

Caldecott Medal

Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards

Carnegie Medal. For children's video.

CBC/Radio-Canada. List includes a few books for kids. (Canada)

Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature (Pinterest page)

Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) UK

Centro Voices. "Essential Boricua Reading for the Holiday Season" includes some kids' & YA books.

Charlotte Zolotow Award

Chen Bochui Awards (China). Via the Bookseller.

Chicago Public Library. Fiction for older readers (3rd through 8th grades).
Chicago Public Library. Informational books for older readers (3rd through 8th grades).
Chicago Public Library. Informational books for younger readers (Kindergarten through 3rd grade).
Chicago Public Library. Picture books.
Chicago Public Library. Teen fiction.
Chicago Public Library. Teen graphic novels and manga.
Chicago Public Library. Teen nonfiction.

Christchurch City Libraries (New Zealand)

Charlotte Huck Award. For fiction; sponsored by NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English).

Cleaver Magazine

Comics Alliance. Teens.

Conversations Book Club

Cool Mom Picks

Cooperative Children's Book Center. CCBC Choices. (PDF)

Coretta Scott King Book Award

Cosmos Magazine. Illustrated science books, with several for children. (Australia)

Costa Children's Book Award. Shortlist and winner. PDFs (UK)

Culture Whisper (UK)

Cuyahoga Public Library. Gifts & "great books for kids."

Cybils (Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards). Finalists in eleven categories. Winners to be announced Feb. 14, 2016.

Daily Beast

Daily Express (UK)

Daily O (India)

Denver Public Library. Gift guide.

EarlyWord. Spread sheet of various lists of best kids' books.

Edgar Awards. Sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America. Nominees, including "juvenile" and YA books. Winners to be announced April 28, 2016.

Elle UK. One kids' book on the list.

Entertainment Weekly. Comics, some for adults.
Entertainment Weekly. Gift guide: teens.

Entropy. Best fiction list includes a graphic novel for young adults.

Everything Zoomer. Gifts. (Canada)

Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award. See YALSA, below.

Ezra Jack Keats Awards. To be announced April 2016.

Financial Times (UK)

First Book

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

A Fuse #8 Production (School Library Journal blog). Librarian Elizabeth Bird's 100 Magnificent Children's Books 2015.

#GayYABookClub. 2015 Favorites from a Twitter chat, via Storify.

GeekDad. Gift guide, kids & adults.

Geisel Award. Beginning readers. Announced Jan. 11, 2016; link coming soon.

Globe and Mail (Canada)

Good Reads with Ronna. Picture books.

Goodreads Choice Awards. Graphic novels and comics. Some, not all, for children.
Goodreads Choice Awards. Middle grade.
Goodreads Choice Awards. Picture books.
Goodreads Choice Awards. Young adult fantasy and science fiction.
Goodreads Choice Awards. Young adult fiction.

Governor General Literary Awards. For children's literature, text (English and French), and illustrated books (English and French). (Canada)

Gransnet (UK)

Guardian. Best kids' books of the year. Plus, some author, editor, and reader favorites.
Guardian Children's Fiction Prize. Shortlist. Winner. (UK)
Guardian. Christmas books. (UK)
Guardian. Various authors' favorites of the year. See Lauren Child's picks for some children's books. (UK)
Guardian. Young Critics Competition winners. (UK)

Heavy Medal, A Mock Newbery Blog. Shortlist.

Herald (Scotland). Picture books. (UK)
Herald (Scotland). YA. (UK)
Herald (Scotland). Younger readers. (UK)

Horn Book Magazine. Fanfare, year's best.
Horn Book Magazine. Holiday High Notes, new holiday books.

Hudson Booksellers

Huffington Post. Picture books.
Huffington Post. YA.

Imagination Soup. Board books.

Independent. Books for babies. (UK)
Independent. Picture books.
Independent. Readers aged 8 to 11.
Independent. Young adult. (UK)

Indigo (Canada)

io9. Science fiction and fantasy, including some YA books.

Irish Times. Robert Dunbar's favourites. (Ireland)

Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger. Gifts recommended by a Lemuria Books staffer.
Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger. Top Mississippi books, including books for kids.

Japan Times. Books on Japan, including several for children. (Japan)

Jefferson County (Colorado) Public Library. Best monster books. Now we're talkin'.

Jewish Journal. Hanukkah books.

Jewish Press

Kansas City Star

KCUR/Johson County (Kansas) Library

Kid Lit Frenzy


Kirkus Reviews. Middle grade.
Kirkus Reviews. Picture books.
Kirkus Reviews. Teen. Plus, columnist Leila Roy's "stand-out YA" books of the year.

LA Weekly. LA books, one YA.

Latina Book Club. Some kids' and YA titles on the list.

Latin@s in Kid Lit

Latinas for Latino Lit

Literary Hub. Booksellers' favorites, with a couple of titles for younger readers.

Londonist. Best London books, with a couple for kids. (UK)

Lone Star Literary Life. Texas books for younger readers, and Texas YA.

Los Angeles Public Library. Children.
Los Angeles Public Library. Teens.

Lucie's List

Marin Mommies

Masala Mommas. South Asian kids' books, with some older titles. (Canada)

Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List, from the Texas Library Association.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. List includes two kids' books.

Minneapolis Star Tribune. Critics' Choices include one book for children.
Minneapolis Star Tribune. Middle-grade and YA books by Minnesota authors.

MPR (Minnesota Public Radio)

Morris Award. For debut young adult fiction. Finalists. Winner.

Motherland. Books for preschoolers. (UK)

Mountain Xpress. Kids' books by local Asheville, NC, area authors.

Multnomah County Library. Kids.
Multnomah County Library. Picture books.
Multnomah County Library. Teens.

NAACP Image Awards. Nominees in many categories, including outstanding literary works for children and for youth/teens.

Nashville Lifestyles. Southern titles, with one picture book on the list.

National Book Award for Young People's Literature

National Outdoor Book Awards

National Science Teachers Association. Outstanding science trade books for students K-12.

NBC News Latino. Latino books from small presses; one kids' title on the list.

Nerdy Book Club. Early readers and chapter books.
Nerdy Book Club. Fiction picture books.
Nerdy Book Club. Graphic novels.
Nerdy Book Club. Middle grade fiction
Nerdy Book Club. Nonfiction.
Nerdy Book Club. Nonfiction picture books.
Nerdy Book Club. Poetry and novels in verse.
Nerdy Book Club. Young adult fiction, Part 1 and Part 2.

New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards

New Scientist. One kids' book on the list. (UK)

New Statesman. Critic Amanda Craig's selections. (UK)

New York Public Library. "100 Notable Titles for Reading and Sharing."
New York Public Library. Teens.

New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books
New York Times Notable Children's Books

Newbery Medal

News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

Nonfiction Detectives

Not My Typewriter. List includes a few books for kids.

NPR. Kids.
NPR. Young adult.

Odyssey Award. For audiobooks.

Oklahoman. Gifts.

Orbis Pictus Award. For nonfiction; sponsored by NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English).

Pages & Pages (Australia)

Parents Magazine

Parents' Choice Awards

Parnassus Musing. Gift list for children and teens.

Paste. Comic books, some for kids. 
Paste. Young adult.

Peaceful Reader

Penn GSE [Graduate School of Education] Newsroom. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas's picks.

Picture Books Blogger (UK)

Planetary Society. Books about space.

Port Huron (Mich.) Times Herald. Gifts.

Powell's Books. Plus, "picks of the season" for adults and kids.

Prime Minister's Literary Awards. Shortlists. (Australia)

Printz Award. Announced Jan. 11, 2016; link coming soon.

Project Eve Moms. Picture books.

Publishers Weekly. Comics. Some, not all, for children.
Publishers Weekly. Middle grade.
Publishers Weekly. Picture books.
Publishers Weekly. Young adult.

Pura Belpré Awards

Queensland Literary Awards (Australia)

Quill & Quire (Canada)

Rainbow List. GLBTQ books.

Raising Arizona Kids

Reading Is Fundamental

Reading (MA) Public Library

Reading Rockets. Gift guide.

Readings. Emily Gale's picks for her family. (Australia)
Readings. Junior fiction. (Australia)
Readings. Middle fiction. (Australia)
Readings. Picture books. (Australia)
Readings. Young adult. (Australia)

Red Magazine (UK)

Rich in Color. Favorite diverse books from K. Imani, Jessica, Crystal, and Audrey.

Rookie. Gifts (teens).

Royal Society Young People's Book Prize. Science books. (UK)

Sakura Medal. Nominees. (Japan)

San Francisco Chronicle. Gift guide include books for children.

San Jose Mercury News. Middle-school readers.
San Jose Mercury News. Younger readers.

Sarah Webb (Ireland)

Schneider Family Book Award. Announced Jan. 11, 2016; link coming soon.

School Library Journal. Adult books for teens.
School Library Journal. Middle grade.
School Library Journal. Nonfiction.
School Library Journal. Picture books.
School Library Journal. Top 10 audiobooks
School Library Journal. Top 10 graphic novels.
School Library Journal. Top 10 Latin@ books.
School Library Journal. Young adult.

Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. Via Read Roger at the Horn Book.

Seattle Review of Books. Teens.

Shelf Awareness

Sibert Informational Book Award

Slate. Laura Miller's list includes a kids' book.

South Coast Today (MA)

Spectator. One kids' book included. (UK)

Spinoff  (New Zealand)

Stonewall Book Award

Sunday Express (UK)

Sydney Morning Herald. Plus, Colin Steele's gift picks, which include a couple of kids' and YA books. (Australia)

Sydney Taylor Book Awards. Sponsored by the Association of Jewish Libraries. (PDF)

Tablet Magazine. Marjorie Ingall's roundup of the best Jewish children's books.

Teaching for Change

TD Canadian Children's Literature Award shortlist

Tejas Star Reading List. Bilingual English/Spanish books, and books in Spanish.

Telegraph. Young adult. (UK)


Today's Parent. Picture books. (Canada)

Tor.com. Staff favorites include some YA.

Toronto Public Library. Books for children under 5. (Canada)

Tri-City News (Canada)

USA Today. Christmas books.

Vampire Book Club. Some YA books on the list.

Victorian Premier's Literary Awards  (Australia)

Vikki VanSickle (Canada)

Vox. Comics, some for kids.

Vulture (New York Magazine). Graphic novels, some for kids.

Waking Brain Cells. Fiction.
Waking Brain Cells. Graphic novels.
Waking Brain Cells. Nonfiction.
Waking Brain Cells. Picture books.

Wall Street Journal. Gifts. Also, a "Best of the Best-of Lists" includes YA. And Meghan Cox Gurdon's list (behind a pay wall).

We Need Diverse Books/B&N [Barnes and Noble] Teen Blog

What Do We Do All Day? Picture books: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. Plus, middle grade books.

Washington Post. Children's books.
Washington Post. Graphic novels. Some, not all, for kids.

Waterstones' Book of the Year (UK)

We Need Diverse Books. Middle grade.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. Finalists. Winner. (YALSA = Young Adult Library Services Association) 

YALSA lists

Zooglobble. Best kids' music. Not books but still fun.

Reading Aloud, or Yay for Second Graders!

Good morning! Sheesh, Chicken Spaghetti is pretty dusty, and needs some tidying up. But before I do that, let's talk books. 

I had a really fun year reading to second graders at a nearby city school. I visit the class once a week, share a story, and then we talk. Sometimes we stay on topic.

The class favorite of 2014-2015 was the very funny Book with No Pictures, by B.J. Novak. I could have read it 52 times, and the kids would have been happy. It's a goof on the grown-up doing the reading, forcing her to utter lines like, "My only friend in the whole wide world is a hippo named Boo-Boo Butt." I read it in January, and in June that sentence was still being remembered fondly. 

Right up there with The Book with No Pictures was Rude Cakes, by Rowboat Watkins. Another hilarious title, this one led to the kids writing their own Rude stories, including one about a Rude Valentine. "On Sunday, the Rude Valentine interrupted church." I love it. 

Here are some of the other selections:

Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, by Laurie Ann Thompson & Sean Qualls

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman, written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by David Diaz

ZooBorns! Zoo Babies from Around the World, by Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland

Pecan Pie Baby, written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Madame Martine, written and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

Tia Isa Wants a Car, written by Meg Medina and illustrated by Claudio Muñoz

Creature Features: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do, by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Kat Kong and Dogzilla, by Dav Pilkey

The Three Cabritos, written by Eric A. Kimmell and illustrated by Stephen Gilpin

For the next school year I am considering reading only folk tales and fractured folk tales. It could be really fun. Think of the vast 398.2 section in the library. Endless possibilities! 

Libraries, Peanut Butter, and Bears

School has started, and with it, I'm back in the classroom once a week, reading to second graders. So far we have read these picture books:

Tomás and the Library Lady, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Raul Colón. A friendly bookseller at Manhattan's charming La Casa Azul recommended this one, which is sprinkled with Spanish words. Tomás, the child of migrant Texas farm workers, find a place of refuge in an Iowa library and enjoys the attention of two mentors in the "library lady" and his grandfather. It's based on the childhood experiences of Tomás Rivera, who went on to become a university chancellor.

Peanut Butter and Homework Sandwiches, written by Leslie Broadie Cook and illustrated by Jack E. Davis. A silly tale of a kid who just can't get it right, homework-wise, through no fault of his own.

The Three Bears, written and illustrated by Paul Galdone. Before hearing Mo Willems' parody Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, the second graders needed some familiarity with the fairy tale, and Galdone's is a straight-forward rendering. Of course some knew the story already, but the discussion afterward was our longest so far. Among the kids' contributions were Destiny's keen observations about the illustrations and Miguel's announcement of his birthday. Oh, and Huynh will soon have a baby brother or sister.

Some years ago I found Galdone's work through the recommendations in Esmé Raji Codell's How to Get Your Child to Love Reading. Along with Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook, Codell's guide is a must-have resource for people who share books with young children.

Second Grade: Thumbs Up for "The Incredible Book Eating Boy"

Another June, another school year coming to a close. Up here in New England we keep 'em in class until almost the end of the month. I've been a volunteer classroom reader for a while now, and I love it, even the unpredictable nature of the last few weeks of the academic year. I read in the afternoon, and sometimes the second graders are almost sleeping, exhausted from the heat (no a.c. at this school) and other times they are buzzing around the room like bees in a hive. They are always ready to listen to a read-aloud, though.

Earlier this week I shared Oliver Jeffers' picture book The Incredible Book Eating Boy because the kids asked to hear something funny. Until it dawns on him to read books, the protagonist, Henry, eats them. Things get out of hand, naturally, before Henry's epiphany. The back cover and last few pages are missing a bit-sized chunk, and we readers talked a lot about that. I had to walk around the room and show everyone. Henry really bit it! Or did he? I'm going to buy one for the class so that the kids can pore over all the fun details. (I had to return my copy to the library.)

Other books that the group enjoyed include Harry Allard and James Marshall's Miss Nelson Is Missing!, Meg Medina and Claudio Muñoz's Tia Isa Wants a Car, Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri's Dragons Love Tacos, and Dav Pilkey's wacky Dogzilla and Kat Kong. Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin's Giggle, Giggle, Quack garnered the most guffaws.

I run into alumni—third, fourth, fifth graders—all the time at the school. "Remember when you used to read with us?" they ask. The kids grow up so quickly. What a gift I've been given to be able to spend time with them and talk about books.

June 26, 2014. Edited to add: I forgot to mention Peter Brown's subversive Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, another big favorite.

Chicken Spaghetti's Best Kids' Books 2013: A List of Lists and Awards

6a00d834516d9569e200e550070a188834-150wiYippee! It's "best books of the year" season. Once again I'll be gathering the online lists of best kids' books right here. The Chicken Spaghetti compilation features books published in 2013, no matter when the list or awards are announced. Readers can expect to see this post amended many times, especially over the next few months.

Looking for older titles? Since this blog has been around a while, you'll find more Chicken Spaghetti lists at the following links: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Don't miss Largehearted Boy's amazing annual roundup of all the best-book lists.

And please do give me a holler if you see any I've overlooked, via Susan_Thomsen on Twitter or c_spaghetti AT yahoo DOT com.


AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books: Finalists and winners

Air & Space magazine/Smithsonian: Aviation- and space-themed children's books

Alex Awards

Amazon: Ages 0-2 (board books)
Amazon: Ages 3-5
Amazon: Ages 6-8
Amazon: Ages 9-12
Amazon: Editors' picks, including teen and young adults

Amelia Bloomer Project (feminist books for children)

American Indian Youth Literature Award

Arthur Ellis Awards. Presented by the Crime Writers of Canada, prizes include a children's/YA category.

Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) Awards

Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC): Tween Recommended Reads (PDF file; books from 2012 and 2013)

Band of Thebes. 92 writers recommend best LGBT books of the year, including a couple of YA titles. (Some older books on this list, too.)

Bank Street Children's Book Committee Awards

Bank Street College: Best Children's Books

Barnes and Noble

Batchelder Award (for books in translation)

Bellingham (WA) Herald

Belmont (MA) Public Library Children's Room

Blue Peter Book Awards shortlist (UK)

Boing Boing Gift Guide: Books (some YA and kids' titles in a longer list)

Book Diaries: Picture books

Bookie Woogie

Booklist: Arts
Booklist: Audiobooks
Booklist: Black history
Booklist: Crafts and gardening
Booklist: Religion and spirituality
Booklist: Science and health
Booklist: Sports


Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. Titles from 2013 and 2014.

Brain Pickings

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. Annual gift guide (PDF) includes 2013 titles and older books. Also, Blue Ribbons (best-of-the-year books).

BuzzFeed Books


Continue reading "Chicken Spaghetti's Best Kids' Books 2013: A List of Lists and Awards" »

Reading with Second Graders: A Squirrelly Story

Eastern Grey Squirrel


School has started and with it my volunteer gig as a classroom reader in a city school. After a year with third graders, I am back with the second grade. I follow the same teacher wherever she goes. If Ms. B. heads to kindergarten next year, I'll tag along.

I'm finding that I need to readjust to a younger group; some of my picture-book selections so far have been too wordy. And too big-wordy at that. But Earl the Squirrel? Perfect! It's one of my favorites anyway. Published in 2005 (fifty years after it was written), the book is by Don Freeman, of Corduroy fame. The young Earl gains some independence after discovering an unusual way to find acorns. The plot involves a bull who sees red.

Since taking a workshop at the Eric Carle Museum, I've spent more class time with the art, talking about a book's cover, end pages, and so on. Actually I try to get the kids talking and thinking about the book's art. They are great observers and always notice things that I didn't. Freeman used scratchboard for Earl the Squirrel, which features only three colors: black, white, and a very important red. The students got a real kick of the different ways the red color was employed.

The story of how the Earl manuscript was re-discovered in Don Freeman's papers can be found here. 

Photograph by BirdPhotos.com (BirdPhotos.com) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Third Grade Picture Book Read-Alouds

The last school year was a good one for reading aloud with third graders. After participating in an online class on the Caldecott Medal and a workshop on the "whole book approach" at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, I feel like both our class discussions and my book choices improved. 

Here are the best of the books I read aloud in 2012-2013. The children were great about drawing connections and seeing parallels, often coming up with things I had not noticed.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, by Mo Willems (Balzer & Bray, 2012) and The Three Bears, by Paul Galdone (Clarion, 1972). Willems' spin on the classic tale tickled me, but the kids especially appreciated the Galdone version and even laughed more at it. The exact opposite of what I expected—which is one reason I love reading with a group like this. You just never know.

Veronica, by Roger Duvoisin (Knopf, 1961, 2006).  A hippo with a big behind at sea in the big city, where she is most definitely "conspicuous." Fun way to teach everyone a new word. As a big fan of Duvoisin's Petunia books, I want to track down Our Veronica Goes to Petunia's Farm. I didn't realize that the two had ever met.

The Funny Little Woman, written by Arlene Mosel and illustrated by Blair Lent (Dutton, 1972). Winner of the 1973 Caldecott, this Japanese folk tale and another, The Furry-Legged Teapot (Marshall Cavendish, 2007),  provoked long, on-topic conversations. Tim Myers wrote the latter, and Robert McGuire illustrated it. The class loved the oni (ogres) in The Funny Little Woman and the tanuki (raccoon dog) in the other. 

Library Lion, written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick, 2006). The kids pointed out that I favored books about animals who don't fit in at first. Hmm. Little therapists in the making?

Dragons Love Tacos, written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (Dial, 2012). Wonderfully funny.

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems That Squeak, Soar, and Roar, edited by J. Patrick Lewis (National Geographic, 2012). I read five or six short poems, then left it in the classroom for a few weeks so that everyone got a chance to read as much as he or she wanted. Very popular. Large color photographs of animals enhance the book's appeal. 

Me and Momma and Big John, written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by William Low (Candlewick, 2012). Momma is a stone cutter at New York's unfinished Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I chose this one because it was an honor book for the Charlotte Zolotow Award, which recognizes picture book text. The Zolotow winner, Each Kindness (written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis), was also on our list. There was not a huge conversation about it the day I read the book. Months later, though, someone brought it up in regard to another story, and several kids chimed in with details. They really remembered this picture book and its lessons on inclusion well. Each Kindness (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, 2012) also won a Coretta Scott King Award author honor.

Owl Moon, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr (Philomel, 1987), is a beautiful book; in fact, it won the Caldecott Medal. This selection was the biggest surprise to me in that the class did not respond to it much. Too quiet? Too outdoorsy for the screen-time generation? Maybe it works better one-on-one. I remember my own kiddo liking it.

It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw (Lee & Low, 2012). I wrote about our delightful experience with Don Tate and R. Gregory Christie's book earlier back in January.

Broken Beaks, written by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer and illustrated by Robert R. Ingpen (Michelle Anderson, 2003) A touching story about a homeless man and an injured sparrow who befriend each other. It provides an gentle opening for talking about mental illness, too.

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team, written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Steven Salerno (Clarion, 2012), made a fun start to spring. The boys and girls had just read Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates (written by Jonah Winter, with art by Raul Colon; Atheneum, 2005) in class, so they had a lot to say.

Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing, written by Judi Barrett and drawn by Ron Barrett (Atheneum, 1970). I brought something really fun and silly for the last reading of the year, and told the third graders that this was the kind of book they could read to younger siblings, cousins, or friends. After all, it contains many hilarious visual jokes. I reminded the students that they were role models. We talked about what that meant, and everyone piped up with an idea of whom he or she could read to over the summer.

For Picture Book Fans: Charlotte Zolotow Award 2013

9780399246524HThe Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced the winner of the 2013 Charlotte Zolotow Award, which honors picture book text: Each Kindness, written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis. 

CCBC also named some honor books: Flabbersmashed About You, written by Rachel Vail and illustrated by Yumi Heo; Me and Momma and Big John, written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by William Low; and Sleep Like a Tiger, written by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. Nine additional titles were "highly commended." That's a lot of good reading ahead for all of us picture book aficionados.

I plan to share Each Kindness with the third graders and maybe with a couple of fourth-grade friends whose class is having troubles getting along. Monica Edinger, a fourth grade teacher in New York, reviewed the picture book at her blog, Educating Alice, citing its "exquisitely spare and poetic prose."

Bill Traylor & the Third Graders

MainAt the start of the school year in September, I found out that Ms. B. had moved up from 2nd grade to 3rd. Ms. B. was the teacher in the public school classroom where I read picture books aloud for the last two years, and I insisted on following her she invited me along to Grade 3. I happily made the switch. Ms. B. runs an efficient class in which the children seem happy, and she treats her students with respect. There are 30 kids in this year's group, much too big a contingent for the reading rug, which is both good and bad. No more elbow wars among the back-row listeners, but harder for everyone to see the pictures in the book. I try to walk around alot.

Because of weather and consequent half days, delayed report-card conferences, and so on, I've been lucky to read once or twice a month. (As a volunteer, I aim for weekly.) But we've still had a good time. Well, except for the day I read Mrs. McTats and Her Houseful of Cats, a Seussian tale of stray felines, when guffaw-inducing descriptions of dog house-training challenges (completely unrelated to the book) overtook the post-reading discussion. It happens.

Several weeks before, the class and I had had the most fantastic conversation about It Jes' Happened, Don Tate's picture-book biography of Bill Traylor. A self-taught artist and former slave, Traylor (1854-1949) began creating his art in his eighties, drawing from his memories of the Alabama farm where he had grown up and lived. The kids were intrigued, and had lots to say about the book. Since they're citified Northeasterners, I explained what a mule was; the donkey-horse crosses and other animals were some of Traylor's favorite subjects. Ms. B. turned to the computer-connected Smart Board projection system and showed some examples of Traylor's work. 

One boy wanted to know about Traylor's wife: "Is she dead?" (A very third-grade response. I remember my 13-year-old at the same age.) Others wondered what happened to Traylor's children. Were author Don Tate and illustrator Gregory Christie his sons? (No, but wouldn't that be cool?) They puzzled over Traylor's living circumstances; he was homeless at times in Montgomery, AL, and sometimes bedded down in a funeral parlor. Many seemed amazed (and relieved) that museums now held many pieces of Traylor's art.

 As I was leaving the class, one of the girls pulled me aside, and quietly asked, "Are mules really real?" "Yes, " I whispered back. "They are." I loved the idea that someone thought that the hardworking farm animals were in the same magical realm as unicorns and dragons. Maybe Traylor thought so, too.


Mrs. McTats and Her Houseful of Cats
Written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli; illustrated by Joan Rankin
Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2001
(from our personal library of favorite picture books)

It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw
Written by Don Tate; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Lee & Low Books, 2012
(review copy)

For additional information, see  "Guest Post: Don Tate on 'It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw," at the blog Cynsations, and "Jes' a Hit: An Interview with Don Tate," at The Brown Bookshelf.

Best Books Season Begins! Book Lists Galore

Let it snow! For those of us who love a good list, the last two months of the year bring a flurry of online "best of the year" roundups of books. Starting in 2008, I've been collecting the lists for children's books, including links to various newspapers, magazines, journals, and blogs, as well as different literature prizes and awards given out. I update the big list often.

Here is a link to this year's page:

The Best Children's Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards

Also, David Gutowski collects all the "best of" lists for books (for grown-ups and kids alike) at his blog, Largehearted Boy.

Meanwhile, speaking of snow, don't miss Kids' Science Books for Stormy Weather, at Scientific American's Budding Scientist blog.