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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
A funny and inspiring book when Leonora discovers a library like no other.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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."
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.
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!
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.