We’re excited to share St. Louis Public Library’s staff picks for the best kids’ books of 2015! In the list below you’ll find picture books, beginning readers, chapter books and graphic novels published in 2015 and why we think you should check them out.
Fire Engine No. 9 by Mike Austin
Follows a fire engine and its crew through a very busy day, using mainly sound words.
Why we love it: Preschoolers love the action, colors and clamoring noise of firetrucks. This picture book captures the drama and heroism of fire fighters perfectly. [Picture Book]
The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton
Princess Pinecone would like a real war horse for her birthday, instead of which she gets a plump, cute pony–but sometimes cuteness can be a kind of weapon, especially in a fight with dodgeballs and spitballs and hairballs and squareballs.
Why we love it: A non-traditional pony for a non-traditional princess plus fart jokes! What’s not to love?! [Picture Book]
Black Cat, White Cat by Silvia Borando
A black cat who only ever goes out during the day and a white cat who only goes out at night meet in the middle and start a beautiful relationship together.
Why we love it: A fun story for storytime and young school age children. The illustrations are fantastic and really add to the story. But the surprise ending is my favorite, and the cutest, part. [Picture Book]
The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Rory Rooney likes to be prepared for anything, but when he inexplicably turns green and finds himself in an experimental hospital ward with his nemesis, school bully Tommy-Lee “Grim” Komissky, everyone is baffled but Rory believes he and Grim have become superheroes.
Why we love it: A funny adventure story about two enemies learning to work together toward a common goal. Also, you can never be prepared for absolutely everything, no matter how much you try. [Chapter Book]
The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Bradley
A young disabled girl and her brother are evacuated from London to the English countryside during World War II, where they find life to be much sweeter away from their abusive mother.
Why we love it: I was skeptical of another WWII story, but the quiet heroism of this girl won me over. I just loved how the pet pony becomes an integral part of her growth. [Chapter Book]
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De la Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson
A young boy, CJ, rides the bus across town with his grandmother and learns to appreciate the beauty in everyday things.
Why we love it: The story slowly shows the boy’s awareness of his own material poverty, and the way the grandmother refocuses him on his other blessings. In the end, the boy realizes what it means to be truly rich, surprising readers’ assumptions about who gives and receives charity. The illustrations by Christian Robinson are fun and funky, upbeat and positive in a way that’s totally in sync with the story. [Picture Book]
Edmond: the Moonlit Party by Astrid Desbordes, illustrated by Marc Boutavant
Edmond the squirrel shares a tree with George, an owl who loves costumes, and Harry the bear, who throws wonderful parties that turn out even better when Edmond overcomes his shyness and joins in.
Why We Love It: Adorable animals, fantastic illustrations, and a relatable plot – there’s a lot to love about this picture book! Shy or anxious readers will relate to the quirky squirrel, Edmond, and his reluctance to break out of his routine, sharing in his triumph when he does. [Picture Book]
Francine Poulet Meets The Ghost Raccoon by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
When she confronts a screaming raccoon that may or may not be a ghost, animal control officer Francine Poulet questions her abilities.
Why we love it: This was a fun adventure for younger elementary kids who are just beginning chapter books. [Early Chapter Book]
Stella By Starlight by Sharon M. Draper
When a burning cross set by the Klan causes panic and fear in 1932 Bumblebee, North Carolina, fifth-grader Stella must face prejudice and find the strength to demand change in her segregated town.
Why we love it: This is a good historical fiction for kids, especially those interested in Civil Rights. Stella’s character has a great voice. [Chapter Book]
Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, illusrated by Zachariah OHora
When her parents find a baby wolf on their doorstep and decide to raise him as their own, Dot is certain he will eat them all up until a surprising encounter with a bear brings them closer together.
Why we love it: Learning to trust someone can be a very frightening thing for both kids and adults. Dot is a cautious skeptic who does not accept things just because her parents say they are so. She slowly comes to understand the meaning of family: when things are tough and dangerous, you stick up for your brother. Even if he is a wolf who ate up all your carrots. Also, the pictures are adorable, and there are not enough picture books out there that have a sight gag involving head lamps. [Picture Book]
The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein
Sylvie the cat persuades her boy to go into the darkness very late at night, where they’re greeted by the shadows of roses and other flowers, and by nocturnal animals who whisper, “It’s almost here.”
Why we love it: I love how the boy’s calm embrace of the darkness as part of a cycle gives bedtime readers different perspective to sleep and night. The illustrations of the dark are my favorite, all smoky and mysterious. [Picture Book]
Mustache Baby Meets his Match by Bridgit Heos, illustrated by Joy Ang
A play date goes awry when Baby Billy and his mustache meet Baby Javier and his beard.
Why we love it: Honestly, it’s just hilarious. [Picture Book]
Last of the Sandwalkers by Jay Hosler
When field scientist Lucy defies the law of her safe but authoritarian home on an oasis by leading a team of researchers into the desert to learn about the greater world, what she finds will change everything, beginning with the knowledge that beetles are not the only living creatures.
Why we love it: Hosler is an expert at seamlessly melding exciting plots, well rounded characters and science facts. [Graphic Novel]
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
A graphic novel adventure about a girl who discovers roller derby right as she and her best friend are growing apart.
Why we love it: I totally related to Astrid and her struggles with her best friend Nicole; I think that most people who have been to middle school will too. My favorite part, however, was watching Astrid learn to be herself and not just who she thinks people want her to be. [Graphic Novel]
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones, illustrated by Katie Kath
Through a series of letters, Sophie Brown, age twelve, tells of her family’s move to her Great Uncle Jim’s farm, where she begins taking care of some unusual chickens with help from neighbors and friends.
Why we love it: Chickens with SUPERPOWERS!! Recommended for fans of Roald Dahl. [Chapter Book]
Masterminds by Gordon Korman
A group of kids discovers they were cloned from the DNA of some of the greatest criminal masterminds in history for a sociological experiment
Why we love it: I am SO EXCITED for the next book in the series to come out next year. The reason I couldn’t put this book down? Twists and turns that I did not see coming! [Chapter Book]
Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson, illustrated by Natalie Andrewson
Eleven-year-old Tabitha Crum, whose parents were just about to abandon her, is invited to the country estate of a wealthy countess along with five other children and told that one of them will become her heir.
Why we love it: This book is full of suspense and is a great introduction to the “mystery” format for kids. Kids will enjoy seeing characters their age being the investigator and using their sleuth skills and teamwork to solve the mystery. [Chapter Book]
A Handful Of Stars by Cynthia Lord
When her blind dog slips his collar, twelve-year old Lily meets Salma Santiago, a young Hispanic girl whose migrant family are in Maine for the blueberry-picking season, and, based partly on their mutual love of dogs, the two forge a friendship while painting bee boxes for Lily’s grandfather–but as the Blueberry Queen pageant approaches Lily and Selma are confronted with some of the hard truths of prejudice and migrant life.
Why we love it: Lily and Salma help each other understand the meaning of true friendship. They are lively, realistic characters. [Chapter Book]
Peanut Butter and Brains: A Zombie Culinary Tale by Joe McGee, illustrated by Charles Santoso
Unlike the other zombies in Quirkville, Reginald would rather eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich than brains, but getting his hands on one–and keeping the other zombies’ hands off the girl who is carrying the sandwich–will not be easy.
Why we love it: A great story about being yourself. [Picture Book]
If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson
While planting seeds in their garden, two animals learn the value of kindness.
Why we love it: The simple story, captivating illustrations and tension between the “have’s” and “have not’s” make for a good classroom read-aloud. [Picture Book]
Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats by Alicia Potter, illustrated by Birgitta Sif
Miss Hazeltine opens her home to cats who need help learning how to be brave, and their new skills are put to use when she finds herself in a bind.
Why we love it: Feline lovers or not will be pleased and amused as the mild adventure winds to a happily-ever-after ending. [Picture Book]
Robo-Sauce by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri
A special sauce turns a boy into a robot, and he then transforms everyone and everything into robots, including the book.
Why we love it: Who doesn’t love a good robot takeover? Clever book design make this one both an entertaining read and a fun little mind game. Best page/line: “So. that’s what we’re doing now? We’re turning everything into robots? What kind of story is that?” [Picture Book]
The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach
When a sandwich goes missing, it seems that a bear is the unlikely culprit.
Why we love it: The unexpected ending is a great conversation starter (and I’m a sucker for an unreliable narrator). [Picture Book]
First Man: Reimagining Matthew Henson by Simon Schwartz
Explores the life of Arctic adventurer Matthew Henson, offering a fresh perspective on the challenges he faced in his life, including the prejudice he faced as an African American member of an expedition team.
Why we love it: This translated German graphic novel gives a powerful, slightly fictionalized version of the contrasting lives of Peary and Henson, all told from a native Inuit perspective. [Graphic Novel Biography]
The Marvels by Brian Selznick
The journey begins on a ship at sea in 1766, with a boy named Billy Marvel. After surviving a shipwreck, he finds work in a London theater. There, his family flourishes for generations as brilliant actors until 1900, when young Leontes Marvel is banished from the stage. Nearly a century later, Joseph Jervis runs away from school and seeks refuge with a reclusive uncle in London. Albert Nightingale’s strange, beautiful house, with its mysterious portraits and ghostly presences, captivates Joseph and leads him on a search for clues about the house, his family, and the past.
Why we love it: The story movement between past and present is smoothly done and the illustrations are wonderful. Selznick’s books have all been terrific and this may be the best yet. [Illustrated Chapter Book]
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Bridge is an accident survivor who’s wondering why she’s still alive. Emily has new curves and an almost-boyfriend who wants a certain kind of picture. Tabitha sees through everybody’s games — or so she tells the world. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. Can it get them through seventh grade?
Why we love it: Stead tackles a tricky subject in this coming of age novel without crossing the line into “after school special” didacticism. Highly recommended for middle schoolers. [Chapter Book]
My Pet Human by Yasmine Surovec
A cat that enjoys his carefree life gets some treats and backrubs from the humans who have just moved into his favorite abandoned house, then sets out to train them properly, all the while protesting to his friends that he has no interest in being tied down to a human pet.
Why we love it: This cute short story mixes the diary format book with an animal view point. Great book for 1-3rd graders, both boys and girls. [Early Chapter Book]
I Really Like Slop by Mo Willems
Piggie really likes slop. She likes it so much, she wants Gerald to try some! But can Gerald find the courage to do it? Or will the smell alone be too much to handle?
Why we love it: It illustrates, in a very funny way, that being friends sometimes means doing something you don’t want to do. [Beginning Reader]
Gone Crazy In Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia
Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are off to Alabama to visit their grandmother, Big Ma, and her mother, Ma Charles. Across the way lives Ma Charles’s half sister, Miss Trotter. The two half sisters haven’t spoken in years. As Delphine hears about her family history, she uncovers the surprising truth that’s been keeping the sisters apart. But when tragedy strikes, Delphine discovers that the bonds of family run deeper than she ever knew possible.
Why we love it: This third and final book about the Gaither sisters was really terrific. Funny and realistic, this is a great historical novel about sisters and family for kids. [Chapter Book]
Penguin’s Big Adventure by Salina Yoon
Penguin embarks on his next journey–becoming the first penguin to explore the North Pole! Along the way, he says hello to all of his old friends. But when he finally reaches his destination, he realizes he’s all alone in a strange, foreign place. How will Penguin overcome his fears of the unknown and enjoy this new adventure?
Why we love it: I can’t say no to Penguin, I just can’t. Penguin is loveable and adventurous and a true friend. Plus the illustrations are so much fun. [Picture Book]