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Best of 2019: Children's Books

Updated: September 19, 2020

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 Bear Came Along
Bear Came Along
Morris, Richard T.
Call Number: xz

Grades 2 - 3: From it's delightfully detailed end-papers to the endearing forest creatures, this action-packed picture book has it all! Join Bear and his friends on their adventure down a river, where they realize the joy of being on a wild ride, together. "Oh what a ride." They don't realize how the river unites all of them until they go on this adventure together. This is a deeply thoughtful book about life that parents and kids will love. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham.

Book cover for Bloom boom!
Bloom boom!
Sayre, April Pulley,
Call Number: x 581 S275

Pre-K - Grade 2

Perfectly timed to coincide with California’s “Superbloom” in 2019, Bloom Boom! packs a visual punch. Oversized pages reveal stunning, colorful photographs of bulbs, seeds and flowers sprouting, accompanied by simple rhyming text. Informative and appealing.


Book cover for Boom! Bellow! Bleat! : animal poems for two or more voices
Boom! Bellow! Bleat! : animal poems for two or more voices
Heard, Georgia,
Call Number: x 811 H435-1

K - Grade 4

Animal lovers and poets rejoice! Here is a book for more than one voice! Oversized, eye-catching illustrations invite readers in. Let’s begin! Lively, informative poems encourage adults and children to read aloud together. What could be better? 

Book cover for Camp Tiger
Camp Tiger
Choi, Susan
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 3

A family’s annual end-of-summer camping trip turns magical for a young boy, who is about to reluctantly enter first grade. In the woods he meets a tiger, who explains, “I have a cave, but I still feel cold,” and thus begins this kid's adventures of a lifetime as he hikes, canoes, and stargazes with his newfound friend, and gains a renewed sense of confidence. Artist John Rocco, Caldecott Honoree, provides stunning illustrations that perfectly suit the surreal parts of the story, about rites of passage and growing up. It will please parents and children.

Book cover for Daniel's Good Day
Daniel's Good Day
Archer, Micha
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 1

A walk to his grandmother’s house gives Daniel the opportunity to ask his friends and neighbors what they need to have a good day. A happy and satisfying story with a diverse cast. 

Book cover for Did you burp? : how to ask questions ... or not!
Did you burp? : how to ask questions ... or not!
Sayre, April Pulley,
Call Number: x 425 S275

K - Grade 2

For anyone who has ever suffered through listening to “more of a comment than a question,” or a preschooler telling an endless story about their pet dog, the need for this book is obvious! Sayre presents the who, what, when, where, why, and how of asking questions, illustrated by Leeza Hernandez with funny examples that young school-age children can relate to.


Book cover for The great indoors
The great indoors
Falatko, Julie,
Call Number: xz

K - Grade 2

In a delightfully funny twist, a group of forest animals (bears, beavers, skunks, and deer) take their summer vacation in a house, relishing the ease of electricity, running water, and a full kitchen in which to make their snacks. Equal parts relaxation and party frenzy, the animals tire themselves out after a week, retreating once again to the peace and quiet of their home in the forest. Oversized, action-packed illustrations will amuse young and old alike. 

Book cover for Harold & Hog pretend for real!
Harold & Hog pretend for real!
Santat, Dan, author, illustrator.
Call Number: xz IR

K - Grade 2

Harold & Hog, an elephant and a pig, respectively, who are fans of Mo Willems’ “Elephant & Piggie” series, play pretend as their favorite book characters. It turns out, though, that carefree Harold and careful Hog are not quite the right match for their literary heroes. Readers of the original series will enjoy figuring out their solution to this dilemma. 

Book cover for How Emily Saved the Bridge: The Story of Emily Warren Roebling and the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge
How Emily Saved the Bridge: The Story of Emily Warren Roebling and the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge
Wishinsky, Frieda
Call Number: x 92 R6995Wi

Grades 2 - 4. This is a wonderfully illustrated biography about the brilliant Emily Warren, who, when her husband Washington Roebling, the chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, fell ill, almost single-handedly took responsibility for the enormous project, by learning everything she could about bridges. In her later life she went on to become a lawyer, focusing on equal rights for women.

Book cover for The important thing about Margaret Wise Brown
The important thing about Margaret Wise Brown
Barnett, Mac,
Call Number: x 92 B879Ba

K - Grade 4

There are many, many important things about this ground-breaking and truly unique author. And author Mac Barnett and illustrator Sarah Jacoby share them, with love and wonder and more than a little subversive glee.

Book cover for Just like Beverly : a biography of Beverly Cleary
Just like Beverly : a biography of Beverly Cleary
Conrad, Vicki,
Call Number: x 92 C623Co

Grade 2 -3

This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Beverly Cleary, who struggled to read as a young girl, yet who grew up to become a ferocious reader, librarian, and writer who eventually created the Ramona series. The back of the book boasts more information on Ms. Cleary's life and even includes a timeline! 

Book cover for The library of ever
The library of ever
Alexander, Zeno,
Call Number: x

Grades 4-8

A funny and inspiring book when Leonora discovers a library like no other.

Book cover for Lunch quest
Lunch quest
Kuzma, Chris, 1980-
Call Number: x GN

Grades 4 - 7

Fans of Adventure Time and Catwad will love this delightfully bizarre graphic novel. A hungry rabbit is looking for his lettuce, but instead he finds a cosmic skateboarding lesson, and a dance contest that defies the laws of physics.


Book cover for Magic Ramen
Magic Ramen
Wang, Andrea
Call Number: x 641 W246

Grades 2 - 4: This non-fiction book does an excellent job telling the story behind the creation of instant ramen. The illustrations add flavor to the joyous text!

Book cover for A Map Into the World
A Map Into the World
Yang, Kao Kalia
Call Number: xz

Grades 1 - 3: This quietly meaningful picture book traces a year in the life of a young Hmong-American girl. Through the changing seasons, and in the heart of her loving family, Paj Ntaub adjusts to life in a new house, the arrival of her twin baby brothers, and the death of an elderly neighbor. Illustrated by Seo Kim.

Book cover for My little book of big questions
My little book of big questions
Teckentrup, Britta, author, illustrator.
Call Number: x 100 T255

Grades 3 - 5

What will become of me? Why are we afraid of jumping when we feel so brave afterwards? Eloquent text is paired with feeling-evoking illustrations in this page turner mix of straightforward and complex questions about life and the universe that children tend to ponder. Spurs dialogue and is capable of unlocking depths of self-discovery.

Book cover for My papi has a motorcycle
My Papi has a Motorcycle
Quintero, Isabel
Call Number: xz

Grades 1 - 3: A heartfelt and beautiful picture book. Zeke Peña’s vibrant watercolors capture a special relationship between a father and daughter who bond over their love of motorcycles and their Mexican-American community in Corona, CA. An author’s note by Quintero explains more about the history of her hometown.

Book cover for The next great Paulie Fink
The next great Paulie Fink
Benjamin, Ali,
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 7

Caitlyn, newcomer to the tiny island school, is tasked with selecting the next Great Paulie Fink, in honor of the stand-out trickster and deeply missed classmate. While doing this she gets to know the other kids and herself as well. 

Book cover for One-Third Nerd
One-Third Nerd
Choldenko, Gennifer
Call Number: x

Grades 3 - 5: It takes a village, or at least a bunch of friends and family, to help would-be tennis phenom Liam, awesomely nerdy Dakota, and amazing hugger Izzy save their dog in this funny and heart-warming story.

Book cover for Other Words for Home
Other Words for Home
Warga, Jasmine
Call Number: x

Grades 4 - 8: Told in verse, this is the story of a young Syrian girl who moves to the U.S. with her mother. It's a beautiful look at cultures, family, and love.

Book cover for Peace, Love, Action!: Everyday Acts of Goodness From A to Z
Peace, Love, Action!: Everyday Acts of Goodness From A to Z
Zabinski, Tanya
Call Number: x 920 Z12

Grades 3 - 7

Kids who are looking to do good in the world meet 25 "peaceful activists," a diverse group ranging from the well-known (Martin Luther King Jr., Rachel Carson) to others whom readers may have not yet met (Autumn Peltier, Azim Khamisa, Sister Helen Prejean). Organized alphabetically by their actions, each includes a mini-bio and a set of "What You Can Do" prompts, plus resources, websites, and more at the end. 

Book cover for Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre
Denise, Anika
Call Number: x 92 B452De

K - Grade 3: Lyrical prose describes the life and work of Pura Teresa Belpre, the first Puerto Rican librarian at New York Public Library. Pura revolutionized storytime by telling stories from her native land and writing stories in Spanish for children- the first ones in the library. A warm and colorful tribute to a remarkable woman.

Book cover for Rocket Says Look Up!
Rocket Says Look Up!
Bryon, Nathan
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 2

Aspiring astronaut Rocket gets everyone in the community interested in the upcoming meteor shower, except her cool older brother Jamal. There’s nothing as sweet as sharing your hobby with everyone in your world.

Book cover for Sing a song : how Lift Every Voice and Sing inspired generations
Sing a song : how "Lift Every Voice and Sing" inspired generations
Lyons, Kelly Starling,
Call Number: xz

Grades 3 - 5

Rhythmic text with expressive illustrations, this book readily connectS today's children to the history that this hallowed song underscores. Revered as the African American Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," is charmingly renewed amid a resurgence of social injustices that fueled the Civil Rights era of the past. 

Book cover for Skulls!
Thornburgh, Blair,
Call Number: x 611 T497

K - Grade 3

A great non-fiction read-aloud that makes us think about the bones we carry inside our heads. Scott Campbell’s goofy illustrations take a peek beneath everyday faces to see the skulls beneath, while the text presents information in a straightforward and accessible way.


Book cover for Song for a Whale
Song for a Whale
Kelly, Lynne
Call Number: x

Grades 5 - 8. 12-year-old Iris, born deaf, is a genius at technology. Since she’s the only deaf girl in school and feels cut off from her peers, she spends her time fixing radios—something she can do just by feeling the vibrations! When Iris learns about a real whale who has trouble communicating with other whales through his own songs, and therefore has no pod of his own, Iris comes up with a way to sing a song suited just for him. Follow Iris as she goes on a journey to discover herself, connects with another being that is disconnected, and ultimately find her place in life.

Book cover for A Stone Sat Still
A Stone Sat Still
Wenzel, Brendan
Call Number: xz

K - Grade 1: If you loved Mr. Wenzel's They All Saw A Cat, you'll enjoy A Stone Sat Still, a poetic contemplation on the big and small life enjoyed by a stone that has served many different creatures and plants, but now, many years later, sits still under the water. Especially fun to look at are the large, expressive eyes on the cute animals in this book.

Book cover for This Was Our Pact
This Was Our Pact
Andrews, Ryan
Call Number: x GN

Grades 4 - 7: A unique graphic novel that is beautifully written and illustrated with pencil drawings. You wonder if you are in a dream, surrounded by lanterns, water, fish and stars, as two boys set out on a quest during the Autumn Equinox to find out where the lanterns sent down the river end up. Along the way they run into a series of magical creatures including a bear that is very particular about his scarf. This is a story about the true meaning of friendship.

Book cover for We Are the Change: Words of Inspiration From Civil Rights Leaders
We Are the Change: Words of Inspiration From Civil Rights Leaders
Call Number: x 323 W3615-1

Grades 2 - 6. Sixteen children’s book artists, including Selina Alko, Alina Chau, Lisa Congdon, Emily Hughes, Molly Idle, Juana Medina, Innosanto Nagara, Christopher Silas Neal, John Parra, Brian Pinkney, Greg Pizzoli, Sean Qualls, Dan Santat, Shadra Strickland, Melissa Sweet, and Raúl the Third, illustrate the words of civil rights leaders who inspired them and talk about why. Deeply inspirational.

Book cover for When Sadness is at Your Door
When Sadness is at Your Door
Eland, Eva
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 2: “Sometimes sadness arrives unexpectedly," is the opening sentence of this book. Simple illustrations depict Sadness as a large blue squishy that shows up on a child’s doorstep, takes up a bunch of space, and follows the child around. There are gentle suggestions about how to help a child deal with this feeling: give it a name; ask where it comes from and what it needs; draw some pictures; take it for a walk. This book embraces sadness (literally, when the child gives Sadness a hug) as readers are encouraged not to fear this emotion, but instead, get to know it a bit. “Maybe all [Sadness] wants is to know is that it is welcome.”

Book cover for Where Are You From?
Where Are You From?
Mendez, Yamile Saied
Call Number: xz

Grades 1 -2: In this moving story, an abuelo answers his beloved granddaughter when she asks, "Where am I from?" His reply is lyrical and tender, drawing from the natural beauty of their homeland. Ultimately he tells her she is "from my love and the love of all those before us."

Book cover for Who Wet my Pants?
Who Wet my Pants?
Shea, Bob
Call Number: xz

Pre-K - Grade 2: Someone has wet Reuben's pants! Which is odd, because he's the only one who's worn them all day. As Reuben tries to find the culprit, he learns about embarrassment, compassion, and the fact that accidents can happen to anyone.

Book cover for Why?
Rex, Adam,
Call Number: xz

Grades 2 - 4

A supervillain is about to unleash havoc at a shopping mall when he meets a little girl who keeps asking "why?" at his every statement. He does some soul searching, until he is not sure why he is doing what he is doing, and leaves. A smart and funny read for adults and kids alike!


Book cover for ¡Vamos! Let's Go to the Market
¡Vamos! Let's Go to the Market
Raul the Third
Call Number: xz

Grades 1 - 3: With his usual attention to detail, Raúl the Third has created a marvelous bilingual world of market vendors in a Southwest desert town. Attentive readers can pore over each densely-drawn page to find visual jokes, silly puns, and plenty of new words to learn in Spanish.