Favorite Books of 2015, Part II: This One is for the Kids

29 Dec

These are my favorite picture books I read this year, not necessarily books that were published in 2015.


Home by Carson Ellis

[****] Beautiful illustrations of what a home is and means to everyone. I enjoyed the touch of whimsy in this picture book. I hope this wins a Caldecott!


Fred by Kaila Eunhye Seo

[****] This has become one of my favorite picture books this year, another tale about an imaginary friend. A coming of age story of what we leave behind and what we should hold on to.


Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

[****] This is a book that transcends age.Kids will love it because it’s fun and creative. Adults will love it for the same reasons and because it’s smart and the message is full of wisdom that is only acquired through years of living. Or maybe we know it as children and forget it for awhile and hopefully the lucky few of us remember that “just because a friendship is imaginary doesn’t mean it’s not real.” I can’t wait for everyone else to read this.


The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes

[****] One of my favorite recent picture books. What a great message of doing the best you can despite the overwhelming odds and being pleasantly surprised that there’s others out there doing their best as well.


Rufus the Writer by Elizabeth Bram, Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

[****] This is my new favorite picture book I’ll be recommending at the store. I love books about writing and writers and Rufus the Writer is definitely one of the better told stories. A boy sets up a story stand in the summer. I enjoyed Rufus’s imagination and creativeness- and you can read the three stories he writes for his friends and his sister- and his generosity in regards to what payments he’ll receive.

tough guys

[****] Great book about masculinity and emotions.

The Bear's Surprise by Benjamin Chaud

The Bear’s Surprise by Benjamin Chaud

[***] A delightful new addition in this series by a talented illustrator I enjoy. It’s spring time and Little Bear searches for his Papa in unlikely places only to find more than he was looking for. A pleasant surprise ending.


Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna PavlovaSwan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a special book readers will want to add to their collections. The flowing text and the graceful art come together in a beautiful dance telling the story of Anna Pavlova, a young girl in Russia whose life is forever changed after her mother takes her to watch a ballet performance. There, she would find her calling. And realizing her dream, she would bring the beauty she found with many others until her unfortunate death.
View all my reviews

Growing Up Pedro: How the Martinez Brothers Made It from the Dominican Republic All the Way to the Major LeaguesGrowing Up Pedro: How the Martinez Brothers Made It from the Dominican Republic All the Way to the Major Leagues by Matt Tavares
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Amazing! I don’t even like sports but this is more than a story of baseball, it’s a story about brothers and hard work and not forgetting where you came from. A sure home run!
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Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African AmericansHeart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A creative look at African American roles in the shaping of our country told through a fictional character’s perspective. Basing it on historical events and personal family accounts, the narrative comes alive. And, each of the oil painting illustrations are visual masterpieces. Amazing!
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Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future!Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future! by Kate Schatz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book deserves all the buzz it’s been getting. A must-have for every library- home and school- this unique alphabet book introduces “rebels, trailblazers, and visionaries who shaped our history.” It’s only a good thing to be reminded of- or introduced to- the people mentioned here. This book also invites readers to be rad themselves!

Check out the website for more resources:
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Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead CalaverasFunny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An impressive book chock-full of information including mini printmaking techniques, the Day of the Dead celebration, and, of course, a biography of Posada with an intensive author’s note, glossary, art credits, and even a list of places where Posada’s works are displayed.

Invites readers to ponder what the calvares mean.

Illustrations were varied too from his signature collage style (that I actually forgot about since I had gotten so used to it by now. And it seems I either hate it or love it depending on the book but I’m in the latter category for this one.) from Posada to Manuel Manilla, another creator.

I can’t imagine this not getting at least a Pura Belpre honor if not the medal itself.
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All About the Philippines: Stories, Songs, Crafts and Games for KidsAll About the Philippines: Stories, Songs, Crafts and Games for Kids by Gidget Jimemez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’m still excited when I find a book about my culture (even kids books) that doesn’t seem boring or textbook-sy. All About the Philippines is a great title to have in any classroom library and is apparently part of a series that focuses on other Asian countries. I know I will definitely seek them out as well.

Readers follow three cousins from the Philippines as they learn about their country- from origin folk tale stories, traditions, values, and history. It’s actually very comprehensive in a not overwhelming of a format. There are even instructions to make a couple crafts and recipes for some dishes!
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This Day in JuneThis Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
What’s great about this picture book that recently won the Stonewall Book Award is neither the text in verse that flows smoothly or the the illustrations full of details and color, but the back matter that talks about the significance of each page. Additional tips on how to talk to kids of various ages about this subject are also included.
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We Need Diverse Books & Favorite New Illustrator

last stop

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena, Illustrated by Christian Robinson

[****] Christian Robinson has become an illustrator whose books I always look forward to reading. This one is no exception. Matt de la Pena writes a wonderful story about the beauty of one’s city told through the relationship of a boy and his grandmother.

Favorite Song Turned into a Picture Book & Most Festive

All I Want for Christmas is YouAll I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
4 out of 5 Snowflakes!

I’m so excited that Mariah Carey’s ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU is available now! Her classic yuletide song becomes an adorable picture book from Random House Children’s Books. Colleen Madden’s illustrations are visions of cute too! As I told my boss so we can carry lots of copies at our store: “It may just be the cutest Christmas story ever in the history of everything.” 😀
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Most Festive Runner-Ups

A Christmas MemoryA Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Truman Capote shares a festive memory about him and his best friend (an elderly distant relative) during one Christmas season. A perfect read for the holidays.
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[****] Amazing beautiful celebration of human kindness.

Least Favorite Song Turned into a Picture Book


Happy! by Pharrell Williams

[**] I liked the song. A song sometimes needs to remain a song and not a picture book.


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