With awards season upon us and predictions about the winners making the rounds and holiday season fast approaching here are my suggestions for distinguished books that would make great gifts and should appear on the Best Of Lists in January.

 

PICTURE BOOKS

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again written and illustrated by Dan Santat
I expect this beautifully illustrated picture book to win all the awards this season. After the Fall is an epilogue to the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme and is about facing the fears and psychological injuries that result from accidents and mishaps. The author’s inspiration was his wife’s struggle with overcoming her anxiety. The artwork is spare and interesting and the perspective keeps changing which is essentially the moral of the book. For kids and adults alike.

 

Read the Book Lemmings! By Ame Dyckman illustrated by Zachariah OHora
Full disclosure: I reviewed this book for a national publication and gave it a starred review because I thought it was charming. The successful team of Dyckman and OHora have collaborated on their most delightful picture book yet. The lemmings have clearly not read the book Everything About Lemmings so they do not know that they are NOT supposed to jump off cliffs. They keep diving off a boat in the arctic sea causing Foxy and Captain Polar Bear to rescue them until they finally realize that the lemmings don’t even know how to read. It is a simple premise, but the bright acrylic illustrations convey the movement and humor of the lemmings. This funny and engaging book holds up over multiple readings.

 

Shelter by Celine Claire illustrated by Qin Leng
This picture book is not eligible for the Caldecott medal because the illustrator lives in Canada but the watercolor illustrations and the inclusive message made the librarians emotional and we read LOTS of books. The animals in the wood prepare for a storm when strangers, two bears who are brothers, appear seeking food and shelter. They are turned away because the woodland animals fear them, but the shelter the bears build out of snow ends up saving everyone from the storm. The pictures and text marry perfectly delivering the message about sharing and trusting others in a gentle but effective way.

 

MID GRADE FICTION

First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez
I heard an interview with debut author Celia Perez on NPR and she was so wonderful when discussing this coming of age book that I immediately went and read it. Malu’s mom, who is fiercely proud of her Mexican heritage moves Malu to Chicago when she takes a visiting professorship away from California and Malu’s beloved dad who owns a music store. Malu is half Mexican American, half punk and the zines she creates and the band she forms on her journey inform her struggle with identity and culture. I especially like that the adults in the book are fully formed with flaws and strengths and that the parents’ divorce was handled realistically. Malu is a unique protagonist and I think kids will relate to her struggle to find her voice.
Available in the following formats:
Print
eBook

 

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
I am not a fan of high fantasy or talking animals, I am a realistic fiction girl all the way so I was surprised at how much I loved this book about a talking tree. Applegate tells a tale about a neighborhood and its community from the tree’s perspective. Every year people hang “wishes” on the tree and the tradition continues even after a hate message is carved into the tree’s trunk when a new family moves into the neighborhood. Magic realism is a tricky genre but Applegate gets this story about people’s stories just right. This would be a great read aloud in classrooms. Definitely a book to share.
Available in the following formats:
Print
eBook

Audiobook (CD) (Playaway) (Download/Steam)

 

TEEN FICTION

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
I am a huge John Green fan, a bit of a stalker of his actually. He graduated from my alma mater and I have followed his career since he won the Printz for Looking For Alaska which remains one of my all-time favorite YA novels. His latest and most personal work, Turtles All the Way Down is about Aza who struggles with OCD and her invasive thoughts. Aza is functional and receives medical help to cope with her disorder and Green does an amazing job letting the reader into her internal dialogue. As is his custom, the book is full of asides about Tuataras and Indianapolis and Applebees and it solves a mystery along the way. It is not his best novel in my opinion but is a very quirky and quotable one and fans of his will enjoy it.
Available in the following formats:
Print
eBook
Audiobook (CD) (Download/stream)

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
This book is a masterpiece of structure and an homage to The Talented Mr. Ripley. If you like characters who grow or who show moral development, this book is not for you. It is a psychological thriller of a ride from beginning to end or as it is structured, end to beginning. It has already been optioned for a film and it should be a good one. How many times can someone reinvent herself? For older teens and adults who enjoy YA fiction.
Available in the following formats:
Print
eBook
Audiobook (CD) (Download/stream)

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
I might love Jason Reynolds even more than I love John Green. Reynolds is having the kind of year most authors dream about with multiple books in multiple genres being published and highly praised. I heard him speak when he was just being noticed a few years ago and he is charismatic and powerful in person. This book is written in verse and follows Will on his elevator ride down to avenge his older brother’s death. Will is visited on each floor by friends and family who have died as a result of gun violence and the “Rules” that accompany it on the street. What will Will do when he leaves the elevator? This is a realistic and powerful depiction of gun and gang culture and the senseless cycle of violence. I expect it to win something as it is haunting and stays with you.
Available in the following formats:
Print
eBook
Audiobook

Sarah Wilsman is the Head of Youth Services at the Bainbridge Branch. She is currently reading I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erica Sanchez. She is currently listening to Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks.
Available in the following formats:
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eBook
Audiobook

 

 

Available in the following formats:
Print
Large Print
eBook
Audiobook (CD) (Stream/Download)