2019 Favorite Books for Young Readers

Greetings and salutations, fellow readers!

To you, 2019 may feel like super-old yesterday’s news, but for my brain and eyes, it’s still very much happening. Which is my roundabout way of saying that I’ve spent the last three weeks cramming my To Be Read pile with as many of the lauded and buzz-worthy books from 2019, all in pursuit of my definitely comprehensive (ha, that is impossible) and definitely unbiased (also impossible) list of Favorite Reads for Young people.

Tomorrow the Youth Media Awards are announced at 8am EST (which means a 5am wake up call for me, yaaaaaay) and we’ll see if all my cramming has lead to a triumphant fist-pumping round of “I knew it!” or a shameful head-shaking “never heard of that one” or an even worse “uggggh, what was the committee thinking with that one?!?” Only time shall tell!

Again, the standard caveats:

  • I can’t put every “good” book on this list because it would be a million miles long(er). Also, not every book here is for you. Like most librarians, I like to read pretty much every genre of literature so it’s all in the mix.
  • I don’t read a lot of YA novels, so that category is skimpy (although I do include other YA books in nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, etc.)
  • Books with troubling, dark, or mature content get a double asterisk (**). Parents might want to take a gander first if they have sensitive kids.
  • Rev up those library cards and have FUN!

Also: here’s a link to a handy Google Doc of the list for your print-at-home pleasure.

 

PICTURE BOOKS

Featuring the World’s Trippiest Shopping Trip: ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market! by Raúl the Third

Best Father-Daughter Book: My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illus. Zeke Peña

Holy Cow, a Celebrity Finally Wrote a Decent Picture Book (and it’s lovely!): The Proudest Blue by Muhammad, Ibtihaj with S.K. Ali, illus. Aly, Hatem

Best Book About Cooking (as opposed to a cookbook, which is, y’know, different):  Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard, illus. Juana Martinez-Neal

Somehow it’s about nature, perspective, history, and ecology all at the SAME TIME:  A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel

Funniest, Sweetest Book About Death in a Long While: The End of Something Wonderful: A Practical Guide to a Backyard Funeral by Stephanie V. W. Lucianovic; illus. George Ermos

So Weird, but Made Me Laugh SO Hard: Mr. Nogginbody Gets a Hammer by David Shannon

I Think We All Feel This Way From Time to Time: The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach

FINALLY, a Good Picture Book about Gender Identity: When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illus. Kaylani Juanita

I Know this book is basically pandering to Librarians but I Don’t Care: How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, illus. Melissa Sweet

Best Seasonal Holiday Book: The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper, illus. Carson Ellis

I suppose you could call this a Valentine Book, but it’s really about selfless giving in all times and places: What Is Given From the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack, illus. April Harrison

If You Don’t This is Fundamentally Funny, You Shouldn’t Be Around Kids: Who Wet My Pants? by Bob Shea, illus. Zachariah O’Hora

In Which We Remeber How Beautiful This Country Is: You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks by Evan Turk

Snuggly Wuggly Critters, Oh My! Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illus. LeUyen Pham

Best Family History (also Katie’s personal favorite of 2019): Home in the Woods by Eliza Wheeler

The Title Says Everything: Llama Destroys the World by Jonathan Stutzman, illus. Heather Fox

Best (Living) Pet Story: Truman by Jean Reidy, illus. Lucy Ruth Cummins

Best Bedtime Book: Just Because by Mac Barnett, illus. Isabelle Arsenault

Probably the Funniest Book on Here if it weren’t for that odd Nogginbody Book: The Happy Book by Andy Rash

Best Interactive Book [slaps page]: High Five! by Adam Rubin, illus. Daniel Salmieri

EASY/BEGINNER BOOKS:

In Which the Elephant & Piggie Reads Series Gets Metafictional: Harold & Hog Pretend for Real! by Dan Santat

Cynthia Rylant Proves Once Again That She’s A Master of This Genre: Motor Mouse by Cynthia Rylant, illus. Arthur Howard

Just Cannot Get Enough of This Series: Noodleheads Fortress of Doom by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss; illus. Tedd Arnold

GRAPHIC NOVELS:

**Best Breakup With the Toxic Relationship Story: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki

Probably The Best Overall Children’s Book of 2019: New Kid by Jerry Craft

Best Historical(ish) Fiction of 2019: Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis

Best Friendship Story: Stargazing by Jen Wang

Being Popular Ain’t as Easy as it Appears: Best Friends by Shannon Hale, illus. LeUyen Pham

How? How Does EVERY Part of this Series Manage to Be SO GOOD? Major Impossible by Nathan Hale

NONFICTION & POETRY

Okay, first off — you should know that kids today are SO lucky that we happen to be living in this stunning Golden Age of nonfiction for young readers. Which means that if I could, this would be the longest category with so many titles your eyeballs would pop out of their sockets and go “a-woo-ga!” OBVIOUSLY, I’m not going to torture you all that way, but in case you want more, go see librarian-blogger Betsy Bird’s list of nonfiction picture books. Pretty much everything that’s there should be here, too.

**Best Memoir-in-Verse (well, best memoir overall, really): Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Most Powerful Picture Book/Poetry of 2019: The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander; illus. Kadir Nelson

Cutest Poetry Anthology of 2019 (it’s here pretty much because William loves it): The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog by Paul B. Janeczko (ed.), illustrated Richard Jones

Most Awwwww-inducing Picture Book Biography: The Important Thing about Margaret Wise Brown by Mac Barnett

One of My Favorite Childhood Illustrators Gets a Biography — and her life was FRIGGING AMAZING: It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way by Kyo Maclear, illus. Julie Morstad

Greek Myth Cartoons are the bomb: I Am Hermes! Mischief-Making Messenger of the Gods by Mordicai Gerstein

You Probably Didn’t Realize You Needed a Recommendation for a Book About Crocodiles, But Believe Me, You Do: Beware of the Crocodile by Martin Jenkins, illus. Satoshi Kitamura

Stunning-est Nature Photography: Bloom Boom! by April Pulley Sayre

**Holy COW this story is fascinating and SO well written and researched: The Miracle & Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets by Sarah Miller

Most Tummy-Rumbling Food Origin Story: Magic Ramen: the Story of Momofuku Ando by Andrea Wang; illus. Kana Urbanowicz

MIDDLE GRADE FICTION

I just barely started it and haven’t finished but I’m putting it on here anyway because it’s just that good: Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

Best Immigration Story: Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Why Hello there, 21st Century Update of the Mary Poppins Story: Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

I’ve got a serious soft spot for novels about kids with autism-spectrum disorder: Because of the Rabbit by Cynthia Lord

I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING: Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo

Basically “The Good Place” crossed with “The Giver”: Eventown by Kate McGovern

A standard middle grade friendship drama story intersects with the Black Lives Matter movement — and somehow it works: A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée

Probably My Personal Favorite Book of 2019: Scary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian Heidicker

ALSO: I’d like to put in a collective shout-out for the “Rick Riordan Presents” editorial imprint, which is producing Percy Jackson-ish novels about world mythology, written by authors from that culture. They are all selling like hotcakes and getting all the starred reviews BUUUUUUT because of this, I haven’t been able to get my hands on any of them (darn you, long library waitlists!). But if you’ve a notion (and a good sense of delayed gratification) go check out Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia; Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee; Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez; and Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Choksi

YA FICTION

The One Your Teen Has Probably Already Read: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

My Personal Favorite of 2019: Lovely War by Julie Berry

Most Delicious and Heart-wrenching Novel of the Year: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Best Conclusion to a Trilogy: The Wicked King and The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

I Know it’s 100% Channeling “Howl’s Moving Castle,” but DANGIT I LOVED IT ANYWAY: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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