2017 Favorite Books for Young Readers

It’s that time of year agaiiin! 

When I mentally glance at all the books I read in 2017 and think, which ones of these do I still remember? And still get excited about, and want to share with everybody? Yep, those are the ones that make this list.

THE USUAL DISCLAIMERS: This list does not include mega-bestsellers that you’ve probably already heard of. I do think The Hate U Give** and Turtles All the Way Down** and La Belle Sauvage** and Refugee** are definitely amazing and worth reading, but I figure they don’t need any further attention from me.

This is far from anything like an extensive survey of the 2017 publishing year. I simply can’t read ’em all. If you’d like a comprehensive Alls The Books You Needs to Read List, click here.

Please remember: not every book is for you. Like many librarians, I have very wide-ranging reading tastes and enjoy books from pretty much every genre. Most readers are not this way, so please forgive me if you pick up a book from this list that doesn’t mesh with your tastes. I’m always, always happy to do individualized book recommendations (I get a request like that about once a week, no kidding.)

Books with double asterisks (**) contain content that is better suited for the 12+ crowd, or even the 15+ crowd. Parents might want read up on the book’s content before handing it to a young person.

Just How Was The 2017, Publishing Year, Brooke?

2017 was kind of an odd year for the children’s book world. Picture books had a lot of strong contenders — and the quantity and variety of picture book biographies continues to grow. 2017 was the year that gave us a picture book biography of the guy who invented graphs. Graphs. They were invented by a singular someone! I kid you not.

Like 2016, there were an unusual number of picture books about foxes (some of which are on my list) and several books about narwhals. (Who knew that American kids would suddenly decide that narwhals were The Thing?) There’s also a stunning number of international picture books that made my list. Many thanks to publishers for bringing translated versions to the U.S.

Meanwhile, middle grade fiction was incredibly meh this year. I haven’t the foggiest clue what book will win the Newbery Medal. Novels for the 8-14 set were just kinda not-so-stellar. It’s the kind of year when you can write a 500+ page fantasy novel about the frickin’ Brontë siblings and have it be a standout from the pack. Yeeesh.

(Truly, I have nothing against The Glass Town Game. It’s well written. I just say . . . good luck getting someone in elementary school to read that thing.)

As for YA, I don’t focus on books for that age group (12-18) too much, so what you see listed here is the thinnest of surveys of what’s available for teenagers. Again, click here for a longer list of the Good Stuff.

In other words: 2017 was the wacky publishing year that gave us THREE different novels about orphans abandoned on islands (oh, why?), and my favorite book turned out to be a YA biography of Vincent and Theo Van Gogh. The End.

PICTURE BOOKS (Buckle up, this list is long)

Absolute Favorite Picture Book of the Year: Crown: Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illus. Gordon C. James

crown ode to the fresh cut

Best Read-Aloud Escargot by Dashka Slater. Illustrated by Sydney Hanson


Best Over-the-Top-Can’t-Stop-Staring-At-the-Wackiness-Illustration Accident! by Andrea Tsurumi


Accident! also wins because of the owl librarian:

I mean COME ON

Trippiest Illustration AND Best Tribute to Works of Lewis Carrol: Mrs. White Rabbit by Gilles Bachelet

mrs white rabbit

Best Wordless Book: Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin

little fox in the forest

Eh, Probably Most Likely To Win Caldecott Medal: Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

wolf in the snow

In Which Being Eaten Alive Is the Best of All Possible Outcomes: The Wolf, The Duck, & the Mouse by Mac Barnett, illus. Jon Klassen

wolf duck mouse

Best Book About Being the Quirky “Different” Person in a Community: Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima

not quite narwhal

Best Heartwarming Immigration Story: A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illus. Thi Bui

a different pond

Basically “How Green Was My Valley: Picture Book Edition” Town is By the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illus. Sydney Smith

town is by the sea

BEST BIRTHDAY BOOK EVER: When’s My Birthday? by Julie Fogliano, illus. Christian Robinson

when's my birthday

It’s So, So, Hard to Come Up With An Original Premise for an Alphabet Book, so Double Kudos to You, Patrick McDonnell: The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABCs (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell

little red cat who ran away

Sometimes Cats Die, and You Need a Good Book to Cope: Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper

big cat little cat

Sometimes Dogs Die, and OKAY, OKAY, WE’RE ALL CRYING NOW: Stay: A Girl, A Dog, and a Bucket List by Kate Klise, illus. M. Sarah Klise


See? I Told You There Were a Lot of Beautiful Foxes in Picture Books This Year: All Ears, All Eyes by Richard Jackson, illus. Katherine Tillotson

all ears all eyes

Cubans In Cars Getting Coffee: All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle, illus. Mike Curato

all the way to havana

Best Spiritual/Inspirational Book: In Your Hands by Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. Brian Pinkney (Also basically #BlackLivesMatter: The Picture Book)

in your hands

Gorgeous, Trippy Illustrations, Part Deux: The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater, illus. Eric and Terry Fan

antlered ship

Original Folktale + Out of This World Folk-Art Style Pictures: Deep in the Woods by Christopher Corr

deep in the woods

Best Book for Father’s Day: Little Wolf’s First Howling by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

little wolf's first howling

Sometimes Dropping Your Phone in the Pond is the Greatest Thing That Can Happen to You: On a Magical, Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

on a magical do nothing day

Picture Book Equivalent of Soothing Herbal Tea at Bedtime: This House, Once by Deborah Freedman

this house once

A Picture Book from BRAZIL!!! (And it’s SO PRETTY) Along the River by Vaniva Starkoff and Jane Springer

along the river

This Book Has the Best Subtitle Ever: Baabwa and Wooliam: A Tale of Literacy, Dental Hygiene and Friendship by David Elliot, illus. Melissa Sweet

baabwaa & wooliam

Most Hilarious, Laugh-Out-Loud Premise: Claymates by Dev Petty, illus. Lauren Eldridge


Teachers Are The Most Beautiful People and I’m Not Crying, YOU’RE Crying! A Letter to My Teacher by Deborah Hopkinson, illus. Nancy Carpenter

a letter to my teacher

You Needed a Book About a Luchadora Superhero. You Just Didn’t Know It: Lucia the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza, illus. Alyssa Bermudez

lucia the luchadora

This Book’s Title Is Pretty Much What I’m Mentally Shouting At People All The Time: Read the Book, Lemmings! By Ame Dyckman, illus. Zachariah OHora

read the book lemmings

Yes, I Did Only Include This Book Because I Have a Cute Son Named William: William’s Winter Nap by Linda Ashman, illus. Chuck Groenick

williams winter nap

Yes, You CAN Write a Story With Just One Word: Mine! by Jeff Mack


Absolutely Most Eye-Popping Beautiful Illustration, Hands-Down: The Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler (I’d say it deserved the Caldecott Medal, but it’s from FRANCE, sigh)

the blue hour

Katie’s Personal Favorite. The Adorableness Is Strong With This One: Chirri & Chirra In the Tall Grass by Kaya Doi (be sure to check out the other titles in this series!)

chirri chirra

For the Where’s Waldo? Crowd: Find Me: A Hide and Seek Book by Anders Arhoj (Seriously, guys. The interiors of this book are my everything.)

find me

find me interior

Most Silly Premise: Danny McGee Drinks the Sea by Andy Stanton, illus. Neal Layton (Also: Big Sisters Rule the World)

danny mcgee drinks the sea

The Origin Story For Our Time: The Legend of Rock Scissors Paper by Drew Daywalt, illus. Adam Rex

legend of rock paper scissors

Most Inspiring True Story: Manjhi Moves a Mountain by Nancy Churnin, illus. Danny Popovici

manjhi moves a mountain

Best “Awwww” Book About Parenting: Me Tall, You Small by Lilli L’Arronge

me tall you small

FINALLY! A Fairy Tale About Facts vs. Emotion and Fake News! Prince Ribbit by Jonathan Emmet, illus. Poly Bernatene

prince ribbit

When You Can’t Get Your Shirt Off, and Decide to Just Say “Well, I Guess This Is My Life Now” Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake

still stuck

Anthropomorphic Shapes Play Pranks On Each Other. Need I Say More? Triangle by Mac Barnett


Best Bedtime Book: The Way Home in the Night by Akiko Miyakoshi

way home in the night

Reminds Me of Contemplative, Classic Picture Books Like “Owl Moon,” When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illus. Matt James

when the moon comes

Supremely Silly Story: Firefighter Duckies! By Frank W. Dormer

firefighter duckies

Best Halloween Story: How to Make Friends With a Ghost by Rebecca Green (Okay, okay — I also admit that The Pomegranate Witch is also a great Halloween story from 2017, but How to Make Friends With a Ghost has an adorable ghost! I’m so easily swayed by adorableness.)

how to make friends with a ghost



Best Book Written About This Topic In a Long, Long Time: Tell Me About Sex, Grandma by Anastasia Higgenbotham** (Also wins the prize for Best Raised Eyebrow On a Children’s Book Cover)

tell me about sex grandma

“Tears Are Only Acceptable at Funerals and the Grand Canyon”: Grand Canyon by Jason Chin

grand canyon

Necessary, Touching Poetry About a True American Hero: Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illus. James E. Ransome

before she was harriet

For When You Wish You Could Take Your Naturalist’s Sketchbook On Safari: How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild by Katherine Roy

how to be an elephant

Personal Favorite Picture Book Biography: Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel, illus. Nancy Carpenter


Aww, This Biography is My Other Favorite: Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire by Amy Guglielmo, illus. Jacqueline Torville

pocket full of colors

Continuing the Trend of Books About Women in STEM Fields: Margaret and the Moon by Dean Robbins, illus. Lucy Knisley

margaret and the moon

Yeah, You Read That Right: Pop Up Shakespeare by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, illus. Jennie Maizels (It’s written by the Reduced Shakespeare Company guys!)

pop up shakespeare

Best Picture Book Biography for the 12+ Crowd: Strange Fruit: Billie Holliday and the Power of a Protest Song by Gary Golio, illus. Charlotte Riley-Webb**

strange fruit

My Kids Can’t Stop Reading This One: This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids From Around the World by Matt Lamothe

this is how we do it

Most Hilarious Science Nonfiction: Give Bees a Chance by Bethany Barton (This author’s other book is called I’m Trying to Love Spiders. This tells you everything you need to know.)

give bees a chance



Also Happens to Be Best Folklore Retelling of 2017: Noodleheads See the Future by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton and Mitch Wiess, illus. Ted Arnold (Be sure to check out Noodlehead Nightmares, too!)

Noodleheads See the Future

See? MORE NARWHALS! Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton

super narwhal and jelly jolt

I Swear I Played This Exact Same Game With My Brother: The Good for Nothing Button by Cherise Harper Mericle

good for nothing button



21st Century’s Version of Shel Silverstein: I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris, illus. Lane Smith

I'm Just No Good At Rhyming

This Book Ought to Win the Newbery Medal, but it probably won’t: One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes

one last word

Best Father’s Day Book, Part Two: My Daddy Rules the World: Poems About Dads by Hope Anita Smith

my daddy rules the world

I’m Including This Because William Loves Sloths and When He Saw This Cover He Squealed For Five Full Minutes: Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures by Kwame Alexander

animal ark



Best “Oh, Wow, That’s Just Like My Childhood” Story: Real Friends by Shannon Hale

real friends

At Least Your Embarrassing Parents Aren’t Ren Faire Folke: All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

all's faire in middle school

I Had To Physically Pry This Book Out of My Children’s Hands In Order To Return It to the Library: Where’s Halmoni? By Julie Kim

where's halmoni?

Arthurian Legend Retelling HUZZAH! Yvain: Knight of the Lion by M.T. Anderson, illus. Andrea Offermann**


I Heard It Described As “Misty of Chincoteague Meets The Road Warrior,” and That Is Correct: One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale

one trick pony

A Part of WWII That More People Should Know: The Raid of No Return by Nathan Hale

raid of no return



My Absolute Favorite Book of 2017 (seriously, just thinking about it makes my eyes well up): Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman

vincent and theo

A Biography So Good It Made Me Care About Football: Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team


Book With the Highest Body Count: Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines by Sarah Albee


Best Explanation For Why American Society Is The Way It Is: Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws That Affect Us Today by Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinson

fault lines in the constitution



Probably My Favorite Children’s Novel of the Year: Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

beyond the bright sea

People Grieve In Different Ways. This Kid Needs Blues Music: Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia

clayton byrd goes underground

The “Man In Hole” Plot, In Which There is a Boy Literally Stuck In a Hole: Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

hello universe

Best Sequel: The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

war i finally won

Aww, It Includes Zines! Zines Made By the Protagonist! The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez

first rule of punk

A Retelling of “Cyrano de Bergerac” set in a Middle School (AND IT’S AWESOME): Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail

well that was awkward



In Which an Elevator Full of Ghosts Convinces the Protagonist That Revenge Isn’t the Answer: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds**

long way down

Best Retelling of a Greek Myth: Bull by David Elliott**


Best Mystery Story (Also Best Book With Crossover Adult Appeal): The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein**

pearl thief

Never Be Possessed By Ghosts. Unless You Can Be Possessed By a Bear. Then, Always Be Possessed By a Bear: A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

skinful of shadows

Most Original Fantasy Worldbuilding: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor** 

strange the dreamer

I Can’t Say Enough Good Things About The “Queen’s Thief” Series. READ IT NOW: Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner (Also, Best Adult Crossover and Best Bromance)

thick as thieves

If You’re Going to Write a High School Story, Make Sure It Has a Killer Wardrobe: The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby**

fashion committee

Best Original Folktales, and Best Interior Book Decoration: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo**

language of thorns


Now go fire up them library cards and happy reading!!

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