Kiddosphere: Favorite 2017 Reads: Children’s Novels and Nonfiction

Posted by Aaron on

Continuing with my favorite reads of 2017: children’s novels and nonfiction!

Children’s Novels:

Amina’s Voice

Why I picked it: This sensitively and warmly told coming-of-age story about a Pakistani-American’s struggles with middle school and the vandalization of her mosque is engaging and moving without being didactic.

Read it if: You want a sweet, compelling and timely story.

Dark Shadows: Yes, Another Misadventure

Why I picked it: The Chicken Squad series is a consistently funny series for newly independent readers. This madcap group of chicken detectives is hysterically amusing.

Read it if: You want something funny and clever.

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora

Why I picked it: Arturo Zamora’s quest to save his family’s Cuban restaurant in Miami is heartfelt, funny when appropriate, and compelling.

Read it if: You want a realistic family story with depth, humor and hope.

Jada Jones: Rock Star by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton book cover

Jada Jones series

Why I picked it: I adore this series (book #2 is just as awesome as the first one). Jada is a rock expert, deals with friendship issues, runs for class president, and learns lessons along the way without the writing being too obvious or preachy.

Read it if: You want a read with one of the cutest (but not annoying) fourth graders in recent children’s literature.

Jasmine Toguchi series

Why I picked it: Jasmine is a genuine, spirited and remarkable character! Her Japanese-American heritage and close family unit is a welcome addition to our chapter book series collection.

Read it if: You want something fun and family-oriented.

Let’s Pretend We Never Met

Why I picked it: This is my dark horse for a Newbery Honor pick. Friendship stories are very common in middle grade literature, but this story of a girl who unwittingly befriends the “weird girl” at her new school is honest, relatable and ultimately joyous and hopeful.

Read it if: You want something contemporary, truthful and poignant. I love this one.

Lights, Camera, Cook! (Next Best Junior Chef series)

Why I picked it: This new series about a group of kids vying for the top spot in a cooking competition reality show is pure fun.

Read it if: You want a break from heavy reads!

Lucky Broken Girl

Why I picked it: This can be an emotionally difficult read at times, but this story of a Cuban-Jewish girl in the 1960s dealing with being temporarily bedridden due to an accident is deeply moving and memorable.

Read it if: You want something that might make you cry–or laugh at times. This is also on my Newbery list.


Why I picked it: I adore it and definitely related to it. It’s good enough to be on my Newbery list, even though light-ish reads tend to not be rewarded with literary medals. Its message of inclusivity (one important secondary character has a form of dwarfism) and trying new things comes across without being too obvious or preachy

Read it if: You were a short kid–or a theater kid!

Wedgie and Gizmo by Suzanne Selfors. Illustrations by Barbara Fisinger book cover

Wedgie and Gizmo

Why I picked it: Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. Books narrated by pets are nothing new, but this is by an expert in those type of books.

Read it if: You want something truly laugh-out-loud funny. Or have ever had an excitable dog in your life. (Or a guinea pig plotting world domination.) Also deals with blended families in a sensitive and believable way.

Honorable Mention:

These are so good that I want people to read them. No room to go into details, but you’ll be glad you did:

Genevieve’s War

The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming

Stef Soto, Taco Queen

This is Just a Test

The Sweetest Sound

The Gauntlet


The Losers Club

Children’s Nonfiction:

Becoming Bach by Thomas Leonard book cover

Becoming Bach

Why I picked it: This is a compelling and gorgeously illustrated picture book biography of the famed composer.

Read it if: You want an introduction to this great man who incorporated his faith–and his love of patterns–into his work. (Need a STEAM related biography? Pick this one up!)

Behind the Legend series

Why I picked it: Books about legendary monsters and figures are super popular, but not always well written or worth the money. Thank goodness for this series, which peels back the history of figures such as Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, zombies, werewolves and unicorns!

Read it if: You’ve heard about these legendary phenomenons, but are hazy on the details.

Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History

Why I picked it: Beautifully illustrated by Floyd Cooper and magnificently written by the late great Walter Dean Myers.

Read it if: You want one of the best children’s biographies written about this American hero.

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code

Why I picked it: Laurie Wallmark followed her exceptional Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine with another awesome biography of an important woman in computer history (she popularized computer language written in English and understandable by computers and coined the phrase “computer bug,” among other things).

Read if if: You want to learn more about an inspiring women in STEM history.

Malala’s Magic Pencil

Why I picked it: This is a beautiful and age-appropriate introduction to the young peace activist.

Read it if: You have a youngster not mature enough for her memoir (including the one adapted for young readers).

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of of Light and Lines

Why I picked it: This is the first noteworthy children’s biography of the architect of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It sensitively captures the controversy of the Memorial at the time, as well as her father’s escape from China.

Read it if: You are planning a visit to the Memorial.

Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability

Why I picked it: This isn’t just a worthwhile read for children; adults can learn much from this Q&A guide.

Read it if: You want a honest and age-appropriate book about disabilities. Shane Burcaw is a cool and enthusiastic guy; you’ll really enjoy reading this.

Over and Under the Pond

Why I picked it: I am loving Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal’s nature-themed picture books. Not only are they brilliantly illustrated and written, but they would make for awesome read alouds for elementary grade classes.

Read it if: You want an amazing read aloud about the natural world.

Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire

Why I picked it: Anything Disney history related is a must-read for me. This picture book biography of one of Walt Disney’s favorite artists (and the designer of the It’s a Small World attraction) is an intriguing read.

Read it if: You’re planning a trip to a Disney park you’re a Disney fan.

The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid

Why I picked it: I love reading biographies of people whose achievements are new to me. As a Muslim architect in Iraq (and later in the UK), Zaha Hadid faced challenges in her work. That didn’t stop her from becoming an internationally successful architect.

Read it if: You want a biography that celebrates achievement and overcoming obstacles.

Next week: Wrapping up 2017 with my favorite picture books and graphic novels.

In case you missed it last week: Favorite 2017 Reads: Adult Fiction and Nonfiction.

For program highlights and staff suggestions for children and young adult readers, make Kiddosphere your source for all the latest on what to read and what to do for kids!

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

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