Kiddosphere: Favorite 2017 Reads: Picture Books and Graphic Novels

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Wrapping up my 2017 favorite reads with picture books and graphic novels! I wrote this entire thing before I realized that I didn’t do it in the same format as the other posts; too late to change it.

Picture Books/Easy Readers:

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith book cover

I can run hot or cold on Lane Smith books–A Perfect Day is probably my favorite Lane Smith book so far! A perfect day means something different to each of the animals in the backyard; the surprise ending with the bear makes this a standout. On my Caldecott list.

Written from both the perspective of turtle Alfie and his human, Nia, Alfie is a funny and charming tale of a turtle that finds himself temporarily free on the night before her birthday. His reason for his disappearance will melt the heart of pet owners!

I’m ready for Elisha Cooper to receive a Newbery, so I’m hoping that we’ll hear Big Cat, Little Cat announced as one of the Caldecott Honor–or even Medal!–recipients. Pet loss/circle of life stories can be tricky, but it’s one that we’re often asked about, so I’m always happy to find one that addresses the situation with honesty and heart, and without being maudlin. This one definitely might bring a little tear to the eye, but the ending is totally worth it.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut not only celebrates the fine feeling that you get after an awesome haircut, but also the longstanding importance of black-owned barbershops in African-American communities. This is one of a kind, and utterly joyous.

It’s not often that a quiet and tenderly created story about an immigrant family becomes super popular at our branches, but A Different Pond is quite a special case. Bao Phi and his father don’t rise before dawn to fish for fun; they are fishing to put food on the table. In the quiet pre-dawn hours, Bao Phi’s father tells him about the pond at which he fished in Vietnam. As the child and author have the same name, you immediately know that this is a deeply personal story. Quite a winner.

April Pulley Sayre’s books are amazingly gorgeous. It’s high time a photographic picture book won the Caldecott Medal; Full of Fall is classic Sayre, complete with eye-popping photos and text that a wide range of children can enjoy and understand.

Finding something between Biscuit and actual chapter books can be tricky, which is why I’m always stoked to find superb easy readers with genuine chapters. These are especially important when readers are struggling to advance beyond chapter books, but find the readers on their level babyish looking. The King and Kayla series follows a young girl and her trusty dog, King, as they solve mysteries in their community. The stories are narrated by King, which adds a humorous perspective!

Now by Antoinette Portis book cover

Antoinette Portis is also due a Caldecott, so Now is definitely on my Caldecott wish list. There’s not much story to this; a girl shares her favorite things (that exist in the present moment), accompanied by rich and warm illustrations.

Kids are drawn to T. Veg: The Story of a Carrot-Crunching Dinosaur because…hello, dinosaurs! Parents like the emphasis on vegetables (especially if they are vegetarian!) and message of accepting others’ differences. They’ll both enjoy this story of courage, finding oneself, and being yourself.

Life at the beach can be rough if you’re a small pup; there’s lots of things that can be scary, from the rushing tide, big beach balls bouncing around, and lobsters with pinchy claws! However, you can be surprised by your own strength and bravery in the most unlikely situations, as Sukie discovers. There Might be Lobsters’s evocative beach scenes mingle with a sweet story of courage.

Honorable Mention

These books are too awesome to pass up!

Blue Sky, White Stars

Early Sunday Morning


Niko Draws a Feeling

Graphic Novels

I didn’t think I could love All’s Faire in Middle School more than “Roller Girl,” but Victoria Jamieson’s full-hearted graphic novel work continues to astonish. Having been homeschooled since elementary school (and participating in Renaissance Faires for as long as she can remember), Imogene (Impy) wants to try middle school. She quickly finds out that middle school is quite tricky, as the group of girls she initially connects with turn out to not be as nice as they initially seemed to be. When she does something totally against her nature and instinct in order to fit in, her troubles don’t improve. Jamieson totally gets middle school trials and tribulations; this is hilarious, moving and 100% realistic.

George O’Connor is saving his favorite Greek gods and goddesses for the tail end of his Olympians series, so I’m eagerly anticipating his final volumes. Artemis: Wild Goddess of the Hunt is one of his best; lots of action and adventure, with brilliant illustrations.

The uproarius Comics Squad series continues with Comics Squad: Detention!, bringing back the top names in children’s/YA graphic novels. While the previous volumes covered Lunch and Recess, this covers something no one enjoys: detention! Although detention is not supposed to be fun, there’s plenty of adventures in these detention halls.

The Great Art Caper by Victoria Jamieson book cover

Victoria Jamieson continues the funny and adorable Pets on the Loose series with The Great Art Caper, in which class hamster GW finds his pursuit of making a gift for his (human) friend is thrawted by a mouse plot to derail the school art event. Here’s hoping for more classroom pet adventures in Pets on the Loose!

I read the second volume in the Lowriders series before reading Lowriders in Space; luckily, it didn’t matter in the slightest. The opener in this wacky graphic novel series about a low-rider gang in space is deliciously funny and weird, complete with Spanish phrases sprinkled throughout the story.

Based on the Pied Piper legend, Piper is a gorgeously created fairy tale centered on a deaf young woman and the strange man who promises to rid her town of rats. (YA)

I am loving Gareth Hinds’s graphic novel editions of classic literature (have yet to read his Odyssey). Poe is a creepily and hauntingly illustrated presentation of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous works, including “Annabel Lee” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” (YA)

Real Friends is Shannon Hale’s first graphic novel (delightfully illustrated by LeUyen Pham) and her most personal work to date. Shannon finds herself in the midst of friendship issues when her friend starts hanging out with the most popular girl in school.Starting with their first encounter in kindergarten and ending in fifth grade, this is a hugely affecting, distinct and authentic story.

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt is also a second volume in a series, but it’s not necessary to read the first one (which we will get). This is pure silliness and fun under-the-sea adventure.

Jennifer Holm’s sequel to her outstanding graphic novel memoir, Sunny Side Up, is just as endearing, humorous and tear jerking as its predecessor. Swing It, Sunny follows Sunny as she navigates the world of middle school, while dealing with the complications of her older brother being sent off to military school. Based on Holm’s (and brother and frequent co-collaborator, Matthew’s) childhood experience with a troubled family member, this is a must read for Holm’s fans and anyone who loves graphic novel memoirs.

I hope that you’ve found something new to read! I’m hoping to find some of these fabulous books named during the Youth Media Awards on February 12 (yes, a much later announcement this year!).

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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