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Best of 2018: Children's Books

Updated: January 26, 2019

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 Baby Monkey, Private Eye
Baby Monkey, Private Eye
Selznick, Brian
Call Number: xz IR

Pre-K - Grade 2

He’s a baby! He’s a monkey! He’s a private eye! Will he ever get his pants on in time to catch the thief? Read this clever and funny book to find out!



Book cover for Be Prepared
Be Prepared
Brosgol, Vera
Call Number: x GN

Grades 4 - 8

Vera wants to do all the cool things her wealthier friends do, like have sleepovers and vacations to exotic places. So when she gets the opportunity to go to the one place her mother can afford, Russian summer camp, she jumps at the chance. Not knowing just how unprepared she is for dating drama, outdoor toilets, and some truly wild adventures.

Book cover for The book of Boy
The book of Boy
Murdock, Catherine Gilbert,
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 7

This medieval adventure starts with a hunchbacked orphan named “Boy” and a somewhat sinister pilgrim who recruits him to go on a journey to collect the sacred relics of Saint Peter. Twists and turns abound as neither of them is who they appear to be. An engaging battle of good versus evil ensues.


Book cover for The Cardboard Kingdom
The Cardboard Kingdom
Sell, Chad
Call Number: x GN

Grades 4 - 7: A charming, fun graphic novel about a group of neighborhood kids coming together as they build their fantasy world full of unique characters. Kids use cardboard to build awesome costumes and transform themselves into anything they want to be. By building their fantasy world, they learn to accept each other and work through their issues.

Book cover for The city on the other side
The city on the other side
Scott, Mairghread,
Call Number: x GN

Grades 3 - 6

Isabel is spending the summer in the countryside outside of San Francisco with her distant father, when she stumbles through a veil into a war between two fairy tribes. The art and character design of this story are wonderful, inviting the reader to imagine the stories of each character, happening just off panel.


Book cover for The Creature of the Pines
The Creature of the Pines
Gidwitz, Adam
Call Number: x

(Grade 2 - 5) The first entry in a new series written by Gidwitz and various co-authors, and delightfully illustrated by Hatem Aly, introduces the Unicorn Rescue Society. On his first day at a new school, Elliot Eisner makes a friend (the intrepid Uchenna Devereaux), meets eccentric social studies professor Mito Fauna (DVM, Ph.D., EdD, etc.), and goes on a field trip to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, which may or may not contain carnivorous plants and dangerous mythical beasts.

Book cover for The Day You Begin
The Day You Begin
Woodson, Jacqueline
Call Number: xz

Woodson’s lyrical text and Lopez’s vibrant illustrations work in tandem to create a sense of empathy and understanding between characters who feel outcast because of their different backgrounds and experiences. The day we are brave enough to acknowledge and embrace what makes us different, we can begin to connect to the shared humanity of others.—K - Grade 3

Book cover for Drawn Together
Drawn Together
Le, Minh, 1979-
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 2

How will a young boy who only speaks English connect with his grandfather who only speaks Thai? This is a heartwarming intergenerational tale with minimal text, where beautiful illustrations take center stage.



Book cover for Dreamers
Morales, Yuyi
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 3: Yuyi Morales delivers another classic in this autobiographical story of her immigration from Mexico to the United States with her small son. The library is an entry point for literacy, wonder, and Morales’ future career as an author/illustrator. A celebration of finding your creative self in dual languages.

Book cover for Ducks Away!
Ducks Away!
Fox, Mem
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 1: A mother duck is followed by her five ducklings onto a bridge. The ducklings fall off the bridge one by one, clearly illustrating subtraction and addition. A handy way for preschoolers to learn mathematical concepts, with a lot of repetition, that makes for a fun read-aloud.

Book cover for Front Desk
Front Desk
Yang, Kelly
Call Number: x

Grade 4 - 6: Mia and her parents, immigrants from China, are excited to have jobs and a place to live when they start managing a motel. But their new boss won’t make repairs on his building or pay the family what they have earned. In her efforts to improve her English, Mia learns what a well-written letter can do to help her family.

Book cover for The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science
The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science
Sidman, Joyce
Call Number: x 92 M561Si

Grades 3 - 8: Sidman’s signature poetry and love of nature shines through in this exquisitely researched, highly attractive and entertaining biography of Maria Merian, a revolutionary and groundbreaking “citizen-scientist” in the 1600s.


Book cover for Grow up, David!
Grow up, David!
Shannon, David
Call Number: xz

Grades 1 - 3

A new adventure in Shannon's picture book series about a very mischievous boy! This one focuses on David’s relationship with his older brother, who generally thinks David is a pain. But when David needs help, his brother comes through and allows for a tender moment.

Book cover for Harbor Me
Harbor Me
Woodson, Jacqueline
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 8: Six kids facing challenges at home and in school come together each week to talk about their lives without adults listening in. They discuss everything from deportation to parental incarceration to racial profiling to bullying. Together they discover the strength to face these challenges and the support they need as they enter adolescence.

Book cover for Hello Lighthouse
Hello Lighthouse
Blackall, Sophie, author, illustrator.
Call Number: xz folio

Pre-K - Grade 2

Journey to an isolated lighthouse perched far out to sea on a tiny, rocky island. Meet the keeper and follow him through his daily tasks of polishing, refilling and winding the light that keeps ships safe. Masterful illustrations expertly capture the mood and seasons of a bygone era. Perfectly enchanting.                                                                                                               


Book cover for Hello, Hot Dog!
Hello, Hot Dog!
Murray, Lily,
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 1

In this hilarious picture book we follow along as one hot dog attempts to avoid its fate of being lunch.  The text is told in dialog between the hot dog and a bumblebee who happens to be buzzing by and tries to help. The illustrations (colored with bright mustard yellows and ketchup reds) pair perfectly with the text.


Book cover for I Am a Cat
I Am a Cat
Bernstein, Galia
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 1: Simon, a small grey cat, announces that he is a cat. Lion, Cheetah, Panther and Tiger disagree, with the help of Simon they realize they are all part of the same family.

Book cover for Imagine!
Colon, Raul
Call Number: xz

Grade 1 - 4 

A boy on a skateboard and images from three works of art at the Museum of Modern Art share a magical day in New York City in this glorious wordless celebration of art and creativity.


Book cover for Jack (not Jackie)
Jack (not Jackie)
Silverman, Erica.
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 2

Susan loves her little sister, Jackie, but has trouble understanding when her sibling prefers boys’ clothes and short hair, and when he asks to be called Jack instead of Jackie. Love prevails in this warm, gentle story, which encourages children to talk about gender identity with sensitivity and acceptance.



Book cover for Julián is a Mermaid
Julián is a Mermaid
Love, Jessica
Call Number: xz

Pre-K and up: A simply gorgeous picture book about identity, imagination, and the importance of loving acceptance. On a routine subway ride with his grandmother, Julián sees three women dressed up as mermaids. He then decides/discovers that he is a mermaid and with the help of his imagination (and his grandmother) he becomes one.

Book cover for The law of finders keepers
The law of finders keepers
Turnage, Sheila,
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 8

Last in the series following Newbery Honor Three Times Lucky, Sheila Turnage brings the plucky group of Desperado Detectives together to search for pirate treasure. Spirited sixth grader Mo LoBeau and her good friends Dale and Harm, along with almost all of the residents of Tupelo Landing, get swept up in pirate fever searching for the rumored Blackbeard’s gold. At the same time, new clues have come forth about Mo’s Upstream Mother, lost in the same hurricane that brought Mo as a baby to her adoptive parents Miss Lana and the Colonel. Will the tiny town survive the treasure hunters and Blackbeard’s curse? Will Mo finally find her Upstream Mother and leave her beloved friends and family?  Follow all the endearing characters in this humorous, heartwarming, and really exciting conclusion to the Southern-flared Mo & Dale Mysteries.


Book cover for Love
de la Pena, Matt,
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 2

The assurance of love is magnified through people, senses, and within, especially in times of unease. The book conveys that the acceptance of love allows for the reader to love others, in return.


Book cover for Making friends
Making friends
Gudsnuk, Kristen, author, artist.
Call Number: x GN

Grades 4 - 7

When Dany inherits a sketchbook from a great-aunt she hardly knew, she doesn’t suspect that it is full of magic. When she discovers it will transform her drawings into real things, she creates a super cool new best friend to help her get accepted by the “in” crowd at school. But it doesn’t turn out to be the easy road to popularity she had imagined!


Book cover for Mixed : a colorful story
Mixed : a colorful story
Chung, Arree, author, illustrator.
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 2

When a Blue and a Yellow fall in love, they create a whole new color, and they name her Green.  Green is bright like Yellow and calm like Blue, but really, she’s her own color. Soon other colors begin to mix, and a colorful new world is created.


Book cover for My Year in the Middle
My Year in the Middle
Weaver, Lila Quintero.
Call Number: x

Grade 4 - 6

Luisa “Lu” Olivera, a sixth-grader in Alabama in 1970, is stuck in the middle. An Argentinean immigrant, she literally sits in the middle row that divides white and black students in her recently integrated classroom. She also feels caught between old friends and new; between her desire to run track and her mother’s ideas about how girls should behave; and between her childhood self and the kind of person she wants to become.


Book cover for Ocean meets sky
Ocean meets sky
Fan, Terry,
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 3

A beautiful tale about loss, remembrance, and love. A young boy builds a ship to find his grandfather where ocean meets sky.



Book cover for Pearl
Idle, Molly Schaar, author, illustrator.
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 1

A tiny mermaid offers a gentle lesson that small efforts can lead to great results as she patiently completes a task that transforms her world.


Book cover for People don't bite people
People don't bite people
Wheeler, Lisa, 1963-
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 2

Bouncy rhymes and Molly Idle’s charmingly retro images make this a fun choice for storytime, and possibly useful for parents as well.   


Book cover for Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths
Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths
Annable, Graham
Call Number: x GN

K - Grade 3: Ernesto the sloth is compelled to leave his comfortable home (and sloth friend Peter) to see ALL of the sky. With wild abandon, he sets off on a remarkable journey of discovery over bridges, rivers, and oceans. A very reluctant and timid Peter soon sets off after him to bring him back. Charming, tender and satisfying.

Book cover for Prince & Knight
Prince & Knight
Haack, Daniel
Call Number: xz

K and up: The prince hasn’t found what he’s looking for in any of the princesses he’s met. Rhyming text and illustrations by Stevie Lewis move this story along, as it introduces a same-sex couple in an engaging, fun medieval story.

Book cover for The remember balloons
The Remember Balloons
Oliveros, Jessie
Call Number: xz

K - Grade 4: Memories take the form of balloons in this thoughtful story about a child and his aging grandfather. Illustrations are mostly black and white, but the balloons and memories carry a lot of color and life in them. This is a great narrative tool for helping to explain memory loss to young kids.

Book cover for Saturday is swimming day
Saturday is swimming day
Yum, Hyewon, author, illustrator.
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 2

It’s Saturday, but you can tell from her scrunched-up face on the first page that the little girl in this story is not excited about going to her swim lesson. With gentle encouragement from the adults in her life, this reluctant swimmer gradually transforms over the course of a month from sitting at the side of the pool, to grudging participant, to happy floating starfish. Adorable and reassuring for anyone who might be nervous about trying something new.


Book cover for Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World
Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World
Hood, Susan
Call Number: x 920 H7775

Grades 2 - 6

Written in accessible and charming free verse, the lives of 14 girls and women (some well known, others not) are illuminated in this concise and attractive picture book package.


Book cover for She made a monster : how Mary Shelley created Frankenstein
She made a monster : how Mary Shelley created Frankenstein
Fulton, Lynn,
Call Number: x 92 S5445Fu

K and up

A sure hit for aspiring young writers of and lovers of ghost stories! A biography of Mary Shelley.

Book cover for Sometimes You Fly
Sometimes You Fly
Applegate, Katherine
Call Number: xz

Grade 1 and up: An emotional journey through all the milestones of growing up and the future that lies beyond. From the first birthday to graduation, this book tugs at the heartstrings.


Book cover for Summer Supper
Summer Supper
Pfeffer, Rubin
Call Number: xz

A vibrant introduction to growing, selling, preparing, and eating food (and cleaning up afterward!). Scenes include a farm and a farmer’s market to let children know that all food doesn’t start out pre-packaged. A multiracial cast of characters is featured in a digital collage with snappy text using all words that begin with the letter S.

Book cover for Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
Auxier, Jonathan
Call Number: x

Grades 3 - 6. This beautiful story introduces readers to Nan, a chimney sweep in Victorian London, who learned her trade from a beloved man who left long ago. His parting gift, however, a piece of coal, grows into her newfound friend, a Golem. This tale mixes historical fiction and Jewish folklore for a riveting read for both children and adults. This novel speaks of love, friendship, and loss, and it will remain in the reader’s hearts long after the last page has been turned.

Book cover for Water land : land and water forms around the world
Water land : land and water forms around the world
Hale, Christy, author, illustrator.
Call Number: x 551 H161

K - Grade 5

This seemingly simple book describes land and water formations around the world. Striking illustrations, clever die-cuts and rich vocabulary (strait, isthmus, archipelago, gulf) take this book to the next level. Complete with fold-out world map, this is an excellent example of a nonfiction picture book that will appeal to children and adults.


Book cover for What Can a Citizen Do?
What Can a Citizen Do?
Eggers, Dave
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 3:  A multicultural collection of young citizens, beautifully illustrated by Shawn Harris, band together to build a community and make their world a better place.


Book cover for With My Hands: Poems About Making Things
With My Hands: Poems About Making Things
VanDerwater, Amy Ludwig
Call Number: x 811 V2415-2

Pre-K - Grade 2

26 brief poems and an adorable and diverse collection of kids share the joy of the Maker Movement, and all the creative things we can do with our hands.