Best of 2017: Children's Books

Updated: January 31, 2018

The best books of the year, as selected by Los Angeles Public Library staff. Perfect for holiday gift-giving! More books for children are at LAPL Kids Path.

Book cover for 7 Ate 9: the Untold Story
7 Ate 9: the Untold Story
Lazar, Tara,
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 3

Seven ate Nine... or did he?  Private Investigator I is on the case.  A mathematical mystery chock full o' puns, jokes, and more.

Book cover for After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)
After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)
Santat, Dan
Call Number: xz

Pre-K and up: Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat (The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend) writes and illustrates the story of a familiar children’s classic character, Humpty Dumpty, imagining his life after the accident; after the fall. Understandably, Humpty is now afraid of heights. Can Humpty overcome his fear? Young readers will cheer him on as he tries and tries again. 

Book cover for All Birds Have Anxiety
All Birds Have Anxiety
Hoopmann, Kathy
Call Number: x 157 H788

Pre-K and up: Do you have trouble sleeping at night? Are anxious thoughts keeping you from trying something new? Is life stressful? Turns out, that birds feel the same way. And they have some ideas for you to leave anxiety behind.

Book cover for All's Faire in Middle School
All's Faire in Middle School
Jamieson, Victoria, author, illustrator.
Call Number: x GN

Grades 4 - 7

Imogene takes on two huge challenges – the role of Squire in the local Renaissance Faire (where she basically grew up) and her first time in public school, after being homeschooled her whole life.  What could possibly go wrong?

Book cover for Animal ark : celebrating our wild world in poetry and pictures
Animal ark : celebrating our wild world in poetry and pictures
Alexander, Kwame,
Call Number: x 590 A376

All ages

More than 50 creatures are presented in stunning, intimate photography, against a black or white background, to the accompaniment of three-line poems, celebrating their beauty, prowess, and very existence.  A lovely collaboration of word and image

Book cover for Another Way to Climb a Tree
Another Way to Climb a Tree
Scanlon, Elizabeth Garton,
Call Number: xz

Pre-K and up

When a young avid lover of trees gets sick, she has to stay indoors and is unable to climb her favorite branches, or can she? This is a books for tree climbers and dreamers, young and old.


Book cover for The bad seed
The bad seed
John, Jory,
Call Number: xz

Pre-K and up

The main character of Jory Johnson’s (Goodnight Already) new book is a seed. A bad seed. A line-cutting seed. A never-ever-wash-their-feet seed. All the other seeds talk about how bad the bad seed is - which doesn’t make the bad seed feel so good. What happens if a bad seed doesn’t want to be bad any longer? Can a bad seed change for good?

Book cover for Beyond the Bright Sea
Beyond the Bright Sea
Wolk, Lauren
Call Number: x

Grades 3 - 7: Crow was rescued as a baby by Osh, a loner. They live on isolated, stark Cuttyhunk (part of the Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts). Crow loves Osh but wants to find out where, and from whom she came. She discovers that she probably came from a nearby island, Penikese, a former leper colony. With the aid of her neighbor and fiercely loyal friend, Miss Maggie, Crow sets out to investigate a mysterious fire and her own mysterious past, uncovering danger, her identity, and her family, both past and present.

Book cover for Boat of dreams
Boat of dreams
Coelho, Rogerio, illustrator.
Call Number: xz

Grades 2 - 4

This stunning wordless picture book depicts the story of a young boy and an elderly man corresponding via messages in a bottle. The story can be interpreted in many ways and stretches the reader’s imagination.

Book cover for Chasing space
Chasing space
Melvin, Leland, 1964-
Call Number: x 92 M5315

Grades 4 - 7

Not many people can say they played professional football, flew two shuttle missions, starred in popular TV shows, wrote songs with Pharrell and, and more!  Includes three STEAM experiments.

Book cover for Come With Me
Come With Me
McGhee, Holly M.
Call Number: xz

Pre-K and up. A young girl watches the news and is frightened and upset by what she sees: “people against people.” She asks her father what she can do to make the world a better place. “Come with me,” he says...With simple illustrations and text, this picture book touches upon serious subject matter, with heart and an empowering message that the small things we do matter.

Book cover for Creepy Pair of Underwear!
Creepy Pair of Underwear!
Reynolds, Aaron, 1970-
Call Number: xz folio

K - Grade 3: Kids love books about underwear (Polar Bear’s Underwear, One Big Pair of Underwear, Vegetables in Underwear, Monster's New Undies) and Creepy Pair of Underwear won’t disappoint. Once again Reynolds and Caldecott Honor winner Peter Brown team up to bring back character Jasper Rabbit from Creepy Carrots. Jasper isn’t a baby bunny anymore and wants to pick out his own underwear while shopping with his mother. The pair Jasper picks definitely is not like the others!

Book cover for The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart
The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart
Burgis, Stephanie
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 6: Aventurine is an average teenage dragon with an overprotective family. When she decides to exercise a little independence and leave their safe lair on her own, she finds that humans can be just as tricky and deceptive as her grandfather is always warning. A food mage uses chocolate to change Aventurine into a 12-year-old girl, and she is forced to wander into the nearest town and learn how to survive in her new form. The only upside is that she has discovered her passion in life: chocolate, and she is determined to learn everything she can about it! A fun, engaging story about an incredibly strong heroine determined to thrive and make her family proud, even when she is separated from them.

Book cover for The empty grave
The empty grave
Stroud, Jonathan,
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 6

In this thrilling series conclusion, touched with a bit of humor, Anthony Lockwood, Lucy Carlisle, and their merry yet small band of ghost detectives, set out to finally put an end to the exponentially spreading ghost epidemic. Ghost touch is deadly – but to be successful, Lockwood & Co must brave the Other Side, an upside down realm filled with ghosts.  Not only are their lives in danger from their work with the other worldly beings, but Marissa Fitz, head of the largest ghost detective agency, and arguably the most powerful woman around, has a dark secret she does not want them discovering, but that they are determined to uncover.

Book cover for Fantastic Flowers
Fantastic Flowers
Stockdale, Susan, author, illustrator.
Call Number: xz
K - Grade 3

A great read-aloud which combines some lovely art with scientific facts, and gets in a little poetry too. The illustrations are a faithful portrayal of each flower, yet are also rendered with an imaginative flair that will entertain and challenge readers.  

Book cover for The First Rule of Punk
The First Rule of Punk
Pérez, Celia C.
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 7: The first rule of punk is to be yourself, but 12-year-old Malú doesn't find that easy when she has to move to Chicago with her sometimes disapproving mom (aka SuperMexican). She’s smart, feisty, honest, and very creative, expressing herself in a series of little books, “zines”, filled with art and her thoughts about everything.

Book cover for Flowers for Sarajevo
Flowers for Sarajevo
McCutcheon, John, 1952-
Call Number: xz

Grades 2 and up

A young boy witnesses the violent death of 22 people standing in a bread line in his war-torn city. Afterwards, the man to become known as "the cellist of Sarajevo" plays beautiful music on the bombing site each morning for 22 days. This touching tale of hope kept alive in dire surroundings is based on true events. Back matter provides some history. A CD lets readers hear McCutcheon's own song inspired by the story, plus the adagio played by the cellist. 

Book cover for Forever, or a long, long time
Forever, or a long, long time
Carter, Caela,
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 7

11-year old Flora and her 10-year old brother Julian are former foster kids who have been adopted into what seems to be a permanent home. How can they be sure when they’ve been in so many homes, and had so many “Moms"? So many that they all blend together, and it’s difficult to remember most of the actual people from their past. They’re not even sure where they originally came from as there’s no proof of their birth, baby pictures, anything. When their adoptive mother discovers that there are so many blank memories, she takes them on a family trip to the former foster homes to try to find some answers. Their journey of discovery will evoke so many emotions for everyone. Are they really ready to dig up the secrets of their past?

Book cover for The girl with the ghost machine
The girl with the ghost machine
DeStefano, Lauren,
Call Number: x

Grades 3 - 6

Beautifully moving middle grade novel about a girl, her lost mother, and her heartbroken father. Emmaline is tired of her father ignoring her so he can work on his invention, a ghost machine. Having already lost one parent, she's determined not to lose another.


Book cover for Hello, Universe
Hello, Universe
Kelly, Erin Entrada,
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 7

Virgilio is small and shy and dealing with a bully named Chet, plus a major crush on a girl named Valencia, who is smart but lonely, because her former friends can’t handle the fact that she’s deaf.  Katori is convinced that she’s a psychic, and wants to use her powers for good; her little sister Gen also likes to excel at things, and assists Katori in her fledgling fortune-telling business.  Chet tosses Virgilio’s backpack down a dry well and Virgilio goes after it to save his guinea pig Gulliver.  Will Valencia, Katori and Gen be able to find him?  A diverse cast, a tense situation, and a little magic add up to an irresistible read.

Book cover for Horizon
Westerfeld, Scott,
Call Number: x

Grades 5 - 7

 A plane goes down in the Arctic, and there are only eight survivors, ranging in age from 10-14. However, when the kids step off the plane, they find themselves in an unearthly jungle. The vegetation and wildlife are unlike anything the kids have ever seen, and they find a device that allows them to control gravity. While trying to solve the mystery of how they ended up in this place, even more mysteries arise. An exciting, fast-paced science fiction adventure with excellent world-building and character development.

Book cover for I'm Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups
I'm Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups
Harris, Chris
Call Number: x 811 H313

Grades 2 - 5

Reviews made mention of Silverstein, Seuss, Nash, Lear. This reviewer read it on the train and drew startled glances as she chortled, giggled, snorted, guffawed, and rolled her eyes (not noisily, but at that point, the other riders were already staring). Funny and sometimes thought-provoking, sure to delight fans of the above-mentioned poets. And the pictures are good, too.

Book cover for The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors
The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors
Daywalt, Drew,
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 4

The "true" story of how Rock (champion of the Kingdom of Backyard), Paper (ruler of the Empire of Mom's Home Office) and Scissors (undisputed victor of the Kitchen Realm) meet up for their very first battle.  Put on your battle pants and prepare for a rollicking reading experience.

Book cover for Lesser spotted animals : the coolest creatures you've never heard of
Lesser spotted animals : the coolest creatures you've never heard of
Brown, Martin, 1959- author, illustrator.
Call Number: x 590 B879

Grades 2 - 5

Funny and informative, this entertaining browser introduces a variety of lesser-known creatures: numbat, fairy armadillo, zorilla, banded linsang, hirola, and more.

Book cover for Little i
Little i
Hall, Michael,
Call Number: xz

Pre-K and up

Lower case "i" loses his dot and must find it! Like Hall’s 2015 picture book, Red: A Crayon’s Story, the adventurous tale of Little i is about finding self, belonging, and building confidence.  Little i is also a playful story about growing up that explores bits and pieces of the alphabet and simple punctuation along the way.

Book cover for Mighty Moby
Mighty Moby
DaCosta, Barbara,
Call Number: xz folio

Pre-K -  Grade 1

What seems like a child's retelling of Moby Dick turns into a sea shanty lullaby. 

Book cover for Niko draws a feeling
Niko draws a feeling
Raczka, Bob,
Call Number: xz

K - Grade 3

Budding artist Niko has an expressionistic flair that baffles literal-minded friends and grown-ups, including his parents who are of different races. A new neighbor girl understands his work and they become friends. Simply and beautifully told, with stunning yet child-like illustrations that should make it a contender for the Caldecott Award.  

Book cover for Not quite narwhal
Not quite narwhal
Sima, Jessie, author, illustrator.
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 2

Kelp is different from the other narwhals - then he meets some "land narwhals" (unicorns) and discovers he just might be one of them.  Adorable unicorns?  Check.  Adorable narwhals?  Check.  Acceptance and tolerance?  Check.

Book cover for A Perfect Day
A Perfect Day
Smith, Lane, author, illustrator.
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 1

Which animal is having the perfect day? It depends on your perspective, especially when a bear appears.

Book cover for Pixie Piper and the matter of the batter
Pixie Piper and the matter of the batter
Fisher, Annabelle,
Call Number: x

Grades 3 - 6

In this sequel, Pixie Piper is off to Chuckling Goose Farm to learn more about being a Goose Girl, and to have a magical good time with her friends. She also has to watch out for the return of the vengeful Raveneece, as she navigates all the other usual troubles that kids face. Although Pixie Piper seems to find herself in trouble even when she means well, her bravery and courage help her come out all right in the end. Definite appeal to lovers of magic and wordplay/rhyming.

Book cover for Princess Cora and the crocodile
Princess Cora and the crocodile
Schlitz, Laura Amy,
Call Number: x

Grades 1 - 3

On the day Princess Cora was born, her parents were at first convinced she was perfect, but almost immediately realized that of course she wasn’t perfect, but as heir to the throne, she absolutely needed to be.  Thus Cora’s days are filled with multiple baths, being homeschooled in the most boring subjects, and jumping rope like she’s training for the Olympics.  A wily crocodile, gifted to her by her fairy godmother, gives the adults in Cora’s life a taste of their own medicine, and Cora finds the bravery to stand up for herself.

Book cover for The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!
The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!
Deedy, Carmen Agra
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 3

What seems like a simple folk tale about a small village is actually a weightier story of the power of courage, and the importance of standing up to oppression. A noisy rooster refuses to be silenced by the mayor’s increasingly severe punishments, and inspires the town to speak out on his behalf.


Book cover for The someday birds
The someday birds
Pla, Sally J.,
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 7

12-year-old Charlie is a bit unusual: he loves to sketch and spot birds, he only likes to eat chicken nuggets, and he wants his world to be clean and tidy. But when his journalist father is injured in Afghanistan, Charlie and his family set out on a road trip across the United States in order to visit his father at a hospital in Virginia. But Charlie is faced with more questions than answers at the start of the drive. Who is Ludmila, the tattooed Eastern European woman who is seemingly enthralled with his comatose dad? Will he be able to track down all of the birds he and his father wanted to see in the wild while on this road trip? And will Charlie finally be able to meet Tiberius Shaw, PhD -- recluse, bird expert, and author of Charlie’s favorite books on birding? A charming and quirky book with a big-hearted message.

Book cover for Spirit Hunters
Spirit Hunters
Oh, Ellen
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 7

12-year-old Harper has a lot on her plate – amnesia following a horrible accident that left her with broken bones and migraines, and the move to a creepy old house in a Washington, DC suburb.  Now her little brother is acting very strange.  It turns out he is possessed by not one, but two truly evil spirits.  It also turns out that Harper has inherited the ability to attract and communicate with ghosts.  With the help of her new friend Dayo, her Grandma Lee, and a ghost named Rose, Harper takes on those evil spirits and learns about her true place in the world.

Book cover for Star-Crossed
Dee, Barbara
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 6

This is a middle-grade crush story in which Mattie (Matilda) lends a hand playing Romeo when the male lead drops out of the school production of Romeo and Juliet. As the production progresses, Mattie realizes she likes the supremely likable Gemma (playing Juliet). In addition to all of the usual 8th grade angst, Mattie is now questioning her identity. Her friends and family are supportive, but she’s still not sure what it all means. A charming story that does not move much beyond warm feelings, but progresses in a parallel to Shakespeare’s masterpiece. It will have readers dying to know what’s going to happen and cheering Mattie on to the end.

Book cover for Stay : a girl, a dog, a bucket list
Stay : a girl, a dog, a bucket list
Klise, Kate,
Call Number: xz

K - Grade 3

Astrid has loved her dog Eli her entire life, but as Astrid grows up, Eli ages faster than she does.  When Astrid realizes Eli is slowing down, she creates a list of fun activities for them to do together (such as dining on spaghetti and meatballs in a fancy restaurant).  This gentle picture book, like many classic stories of faithful pets, may require several handkerchiefs, but it avoids being maudlin.

Book cover for Still stuck
Still stuck
Yoshitake, Shinsuke, 1973- author, illustrator.
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 1

Learning to dress, or undress, can be a frustrating task for little hands. This playful picture book by Yoshitake will give youngsters an opportunity to find humor in the concept. A child gets “stuck” in the in-between stage of dress and undress. With his arms up and a shirt half over his head, he wonders and worries if he will be able to eat, drink, and stop the cat from tickeling his belly. What would you do? Readers are sure to be invited to imagine.

Book cover for Stolen words
Stolen words
Florence, Melanie.
Call Number: xz

K - Grade 3

A young girl wants her grandfather to teach her Cree, her grandfather’s language, but he admits he can’t remember it--the words were stolen from him as a child. This is a short yet powerful picture book that balances an all-too-real part of history with hope. 

Book cover for The Three Billy Goats Gruff
The Three Billy Goats Gruff
Pinkney, Jerry
Call Number: x 398 A799-12Pi

(Pre-K - Grade 3) Pinkney's interpretation of the classic tale offers the troll the opportunity to learn his lesson thanks to a monster fish with a taste for trolls.

Book cover for Train I ride
Train I ride
Mosier, Paul,
Call Number: x

Grade 4 - 7

Rydr's journey from Palm Springs to Chicago is filled with both humor and heartbreak, as she finally begins to deal with the deaths of her mother and grandmother, discovers the poet within her, and learns to open herself up to hope again.

Book cover for Two Truths and a Lie: It's Alive!
Two Truths and a Lie: It's Alive!
Paquette, Ammi-Joan,
Call Number: x 508 P219

Grades 4 - 7

Readers are offered the opportunity to figure out which of three quirky science tales are true, and which are false – the stories deal with plants, animals, and humans, and will entertain and amaze fans of both science and the bizarre.

Book cover for Us, In Progress: Short Stories About Young Latinos
Us, In Progress: Short Stories About Young Latinos
Delacre, Lulu,
Call Number: x

Grades 5 - 9

The stories are both timely and timeless.  They look at very specific issues faced by Latino kids today, but also deal with very universal themes - the unexpected things you learn about your family and how your family shapes you, in both positive and negative ways.  A stellar collection, beautifully illustrated, with plenty of information at the end to extend the reading experience.

Book cover for The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
Glaser, Karina Yan
Call Number: x

Grades 3 - 6

Five smart, creative, biracial siblings work together (with the help of their parents and entire community) to convince their landlord to let them stay in their beloved Harlem brownstone. Fans of the Penderwicks will love this one.

Book cover for The War I Finally Won
The War I Finally Won
Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker,
Call Number: x

Grades 3 - 7

The anticipated sequel to The War That Saved My Life (Newbery Honor 2016) finds Ada grappling with who she is, and the legacy her mother has left her, after her successful clubfoot surgery. World War II continues to complicate and transform the lives of Ada, Susan, and Jamie, as well as the Thornton family. A new arrival, a Jewish girl from Germany, further complicates things. This sequel is the rarest of books--one that is as fine, if not better, than its predecessor. Have a box of tissues at the ready! 

Book cover for When's My Birthday?
When's My Birthday?
Fogliano, Julie,
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 1

The text oozes with the anticipation and joy that all children feel when it comes to their birthday. 

Book cover for Where Oliver Fits
Where Oliver Fits
Atkinson, Cale, author, illustrator.
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 1

Oliver is a puzzle piece that can’t seem to find where he belongs, because he doesn’t seem to fit in any of the puzzles. To fit in, he changes his appearance and finds a spot where he does fit, only to find that it doesn’t feel right. He loses his disguise, stays true to himself and eventually find his perfect place.


Book cover for Where will I live?
Where will I live?
McCarney, Rosemary A,
Call Number: x 325 M123

Grade 1 and up

With great skill and striking pathos, Rosemary McCarney provides an age-appropriate glimpse into the refugee crises happening all over the globe, including Myanmar, Lebanon, and Kenya. Featuring dramatic color photos supplied by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), this book serves as an important starting point for a family conversation about world events.

Book cover for Wishtree
Applegate, Katherine,
Call Number: x

Grades 5 - 6

Trees make the best storytellers. Ask Red, the tree who grows on the street where a young girl named Samar and her parents live. Red has seen many things and has sheltered many in its branches. But Red will also witness something that will change its life. Simply yet exquisitely told, Wishtree is a story of friendship and love that will stay with you for a long time.

Book cover for The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse
The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse
Barnett, Mac,
Call Number: xz
Pre-K - Grade 3
When a mouse is eaten by a wolf, he makes a new duck friend in the wolf's belly. The two work together to get the wolf to eat and drink, which has the unintended consequence--a bad, loud stomachache that attracts the attention of a hunter. Now, all three have to work together to save themselves. Another hilarious slam-dunk effort from Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. 

Book cover for The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid
The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid
Winter, Jeanette,
Call Number: x 92 H129Wi

K - Grade 5

Explores the career of Zaha Hadid, who became one of the most accomplished and controversial architects in the world. Colorful, fanciful illustrations suggest the scope of her talent. 

Book cover for Yo soy Muslim
Yo soy Muslim
Gonzales, Mark, 1975-
Call Number: xz

Pre-K and up

A father imparts his wishes for his daughter to grow proud of who she is and to always know she is loved.

Book cover for York. Book one, The shadow cipher
York. Book one, The shadow cipher
Ruby, Laura,
Call Number: x

Grades 5 - 8

In a steampunk alternate universe, genius twins Theresa and Theodore Morningstar arrive in New York in the late 1790s and proceed to change the world with their fabulous inventions and magnificent structures.  When they disappear in 1855, they leave behind a city run by solar power, with fantastical mass transit, robots of all shapes and sizes who keep the train cars civilized and the streets clean, and a cipher (in the capable and mysterious hands of their assistant Ava Oneal), which promises treasures and answers to whoever can solve it.  Present day twins Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz (artist and would-be superhero) must decode the cipher in order to save their very unique building from being destroyed by a greedy developer.