Best of 2013: Children's Books

Updated: January 28, 2014

The best children's books of the year, as selected by LAPL librarians. Perfect for holiday gift-giving!

Book cover for The animal book : a collection of the fastest, fiercest, toughest, cleverest, shyest-- and most surprising-- animals on earth
The animal book : a collection of the fastest, fiercest, toughest, cleverest, shyest-- and most surprising-- animals on earth
Jenkins, Steve, 1952-
Call Number: x 590 J524-10

Incredible facts and gorgeous illustrations of all kinds of amazing animals.

Book cover for Battle Bunny
Battle Bunny
Scieszka, Jon.
Call Number: xz
As librarians we recommend this with some trepidation – it makes taking a felt tip marker to a less than wonderful story and doing a little, um, editing so very appealing. A boy named Alex reimagines a ooshy, gooshy picture book, with hilarious results. Grades 1-5.

Book cover for Bo at Ballard Creek
Bo at Ballard Creek
Hill, Kirkpatrick.
Call Number: x
Five-year-old Bo’s family is a little unusual, and she didn’t become part of it in the usual sort of way. In 1920s Alaska after the big gold rushes, two tough gold miners are asked to transport a baby to the nearest orphanage, but by they time they get there, they decide to raise her themselves, with the help of the other miners, the dance-hall girls, and the Eskimos from the nearby village. A little grittier than Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods, but with much the same feel, filled with the fascinating details of the everyday (helping with breakfast) and the unusual (being chased by a bear). LeUyen Pham’s charming illustrations add warmth and humor. Grades 3-6.

Book cover for Child of the Civil Rights Movement
Child of the Civil Rights Movement
Shelton, Paula Young
Call Number: x 323.1 S545

Paula Young Shelton, daughter of Civil Rights leader and later U.N. ambassador Andrew Young, presents an intimate, moving story of a child’s experience living under racist, Jim Crow laws and participating in the Civil Rights movement. Raul Colón’s bright, warm illustrations complement Shelton’s free-verse poems to convey both the comfort of family and a tight-knit community of caring adults, and the gravity and danger of the work of these uncles and aunts who were also leaders in the struggle for Civil Rights. Grades K-3.

Book cover for Count the monkeys
Count the monkeys
Barnett, Mac.
Call Number: xz

Easier said than done, what with the King Cobra, crocodiles, grizzly bears, and lumberjacks all getting in the way - by the time you make it to the monkeys, it’s too late. 

Book cover for Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
Grabenstein, Chris.
Call Number: x

Kyle isn’t particularly good at sports or school, but he truly excels at board games, especially those created by Willie Wonka-esque game creator (and local hero) Luigi Lemoncello, who has designed the town’s new library, and who is hosting an invitation-only overnight lock-in. Getting into the party turns out to be the easy part – it will take superior game-playing, library smarts, and cooperation to be the first to get out, and beat Mr. Lemoncello’s newest and most complicated game. A celebration of libraries and a fun mystery with loads of heart and humor. Grades 4-7.

Book cover for Exclamation mark
Exclamation mark
Rosenthal, Amy Krouse.
Call Number: xz

Exclamation mark doesn’t seem to fit in amongst the other punctuation marks. But then he meets a similarly shaped friend! Humor, simple text, and emotive illustrations all combine to make a point about fitting in, standing out, and finding happiness in where you belong. Grades PreK – 1.

Book cover for The eye of the whale : a rescue story
The eye of the whale : a rescue story
O'Connell, Jennifer, 1956-
Call Number: xz
This is a wonderful depiction of a 2005 humpback whale rescue off the coast of San Francisco. O'Connell's straightforward narrative and illustrations underscore the real drama and mystery of the rescue divers' remarkable experiences. Did the whale help the divers by staying still and calm as they cut the lines or was she just exhausted? How do we explain the whale nudging all the divers, then looking directly at them? The story nurtures a sense of wonder and curiosity at, and respect for, the natural world. Grades 1-3.

Book cover for The fantastic adventures of Krishna
The fantastic adventures of Krishna
Call Number: x 294 D378-2

The boy Krishna’s life unfolds in a gorgeously illustrated story with color paintings of his life beautifully balanced with text. A fine introduction to a story from the Hindu religion. Grades PreK-3

Book cover for Ghost Hawk
Ghost Hawk
Cooper, Susan, 1935-
Call Number: x

Gr. 4 & up. At the end of a winter-long journey into manhood, Little Hawk returns to find his village decimated by a white man's plague and soon, despite a fresh start, Little Hawk dies violently but his spirit remains trapped, seeing how his world changes.

Book cover for Hoop genius : how a desperate teacher and a rowdy gym class invented basketball
Hoop genius : how a desperate teacher and a rowdy gym class invented basketball
Coy, John.
Call Number: x 796.3 N158Co

The story of James Naismith, frustrated gym coach, and his attempt to engage a class of rowdy schoolboys with a soccer ball and some peach baskets, accidentally inventing one of the most popular sports in the world. Striking illustrations by Joe Morse and the simple but effective narrative should keep younger sports fans engaged. Grades 2-5.

Book cover for Jinx
Blackwood, Sage.
Call Number: x

In a magic forest, never step off the path! Jinx knows this, just as he knows all magicians are evil - until he realizes that magic is a lot more complicated than he thought. A funny, quirky book for all fantasy fans. Grades 4 - 6.

Book cover for Journey
Becker, Aaron, 1974- illustrator.
Call Number: xz

In a wordless picture book akin to Harold and the Purple Crayon and the drawing style of David Wiesner, a lonely girl draws herself a magical red doorway into fantastical worlds. What will the girl discover in her joyful romp through castles, airships and waterways? Will she make friends or find a way home? The book, a joyful romp through the imagination, will amuse in Becker’s detailed, yet at times sparse but always whimsical drawings. Grades K-4.

Book cover for The kindhearted crocodile
The kindhearted crocodile
Panzieri, Lucia.
Call Number: xz

A crocodile that longs to be a pet sneaks into a house, hides in the pages of a picture book during the day, and comes out at night to do kind and useful things for the family while they sleep. Illustrations are reminiscent of Quentin Blake's. Grades PreK - 2.

Book cover for A little book of sloth
A little book of sloth
Cooke, Lucy, 1970-
Call Number: x 599.3 C772

An adorable photo-essay that combines vivid images of the photogenic resident of Costa Rica’s Sloth sanctuary with lively information about baby sloths.  Readers will want to chant the unofficial sloth motto: "Just chill." 

Book cover for Monster on the hill
Monster on the hill
Harrell, Rob, .
Call Number: x GN

What if every village had its own special friendly monster to guard over it and pretend to be scary for tourists? In this boisterous graphic novel, a timid monster named Rayburn has to learn to be brave and fierce if he wants to protect his village from the scariest monster yet. Grades 3 - 6.

Book cover for Mr. Wuffles!
Mr. Wuffles!
Wiesner, David
Call Number: xz

The story opens with the titular character, a no-nonsense looking tuxedo cat, unconcernedly passing a row of untouched cat toys until a new and interesting object catches his fancy. A close-up of the object reveals it to be a tiny spaceship whose crew is soon thrown into a tumult as Mr. Wuffles paws, licks, and nuzzles this fascinating new toy. Wonder and hilarity ensue as the aliens venture out to seek materials to repair their damaged craft and commune with a group of insects who help them evade the giant furry menace and safely return to their ship. Phew! Grades PreK-3.

Book cover for Niño Wrestles the World
Niño Wrestles the World
Morales, Yuyi
Call Number: xz

(Gr. K-3)  Niño! Yuyi Morales’ pint-size, briefs clad, masked luchadore is guaranteed to win you over as he defeats foes like la momia Guanajuato, the Guanajuato mummy, with such surefire moves as the Tickle Tackle! Particularly endearing is his conciliatory approach to his final contenders: las hermanitas, his boisterous baby sisters. The book includes brief explanatory notes on lucha libre.

Book cover for The Odd Squad : bully bait
The Odd Squad : bully bait
Fry, Michael, 1959-
Call Number: x

Fry, co-creator of the comic strip Over the Hedge, makes his children's book debut with an illustrated novel, first in the Odd Squad series, starring 12-year-old social outcast Nick. Fry humorously mines the world of middle school as seen through the eyes of bullied Nick to answer the question: Can three oddballs team together to take down the school bully? Will appeal to Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans.  Grades 3-7

Book cover for Take me out to the yakyu
Take me out to the yakyu
Meshon, Aaron.
Call Number: xz

A Japanese-American boy with family in two countries describes the customs that surround baseball in America and Japan. The bright and cheerful acrylic illustrations feature shades of blue for the U. S. and reds for Japan. Perfect for all baseball fans. Grades K-2

Book cover for Tea Rex
Tea Rex
Idle, Molly Schaar.
Call Number: xz

When one wants to host a successful tea party, there are many things to consider. Especially when one of the guests is a dinosaur! The narrator’s matter-of-fact rules, which make up the story’s text, are at hilarious odds with the elaborate, precise pastel illustrations depicting what might happen at a tea party attended by a very non-threatening and fairly well-behaved tyrannosaurus. Ages 3-5

Book cover for The thing about luck
The thing about luck
Kadohata, Cynthia.
Call Number: x

12-year-old Summer usually likes spending her summers traveling around Kansas helping farmers harvest wheat, but this year her parents are in Japan, leaving Summer to deal with a frail grandpa, a cranky grandma, a pesky little brother - and a bunch of trouble. Grades 5 - 7.

Book cover for This little piggy
This little piggy
Harrington, Tim, 1974-
Call Number: xz
We all know the story of the little piggies who went to market and ate roast beef and so on... but what about the other foot? Those piggies were dancing, flying planes, and exploring the universe! Not to be outdone, the original piggies try new activities as well, and then all the tired little piggies go zzz… all the way to bed. Grades PreK - 2.

Book cover for The Tree Lady
The Tree Lady
Hopkins, H. Joseph.
Call Number: x 92 S493Ho

A charming picture book biography about the life and times of Katherine Olivia Sessions, the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science and who became known as the "Mother of Balboa Park" for her dedication to gardening and planting trees in San Diego. Colorful and encouraging. Grades K-3.

Book cover for Unicorn thinks he's pretty great
Unicorn thinks he's pretty great
Shea, Bob.
Call Number: xz

Bob Shea, author of the rambunctious Dinosaur Vs… series, returns with the story of Goat, who is feeling a bit sorry for himself ever since Unicorn came to town. After all, Goat can’t fly, or make it rain cupcakes. But Goat soon learns not only that Unicorn isn’t just showing off, but also that we are all different and we all have something to offer. A bright, fun addition to storytime. Ages 2-6

Book cover for The year of Billy Miller
The year of Billy Miller
Henkes, Kevin.
Call Number: x

Billy starts 2nd grade with a bump on his head - not a good beginning - but by the end of the year, he has weathered poetry slams, an attempt to stay up all night and many little-sister problems. Funny and genuine. Grades 1 - 3.