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Top 20 Children’s Books of 2010 (#20-16)

Warning! This is gonna be a love fest.

Over four days, fellow school librarian John Schumacher and I will bring you our Top 20 children’s books of the year. The list contains books for the Kindergarten through sixth grade reader, but other than that, anything goes. You’ll see picture books mingling with graphic novels and chapter books elbowing nonfiction. Five titles a day, presented in countdown fashion.

These are our favorite books of 2010.

#20-16 | #15-11 | #10-6 | #5-1

20. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger [Amulet]

Few 2010 releases made as memorable a first impression as The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. The cover, featuring the iconic Star Wars character in paper form, brandishing his lightsaber is the definition of shelf appeal. But what makes this book truly stand out as one of the year’s best is its uniquely authentic portrayal of the humor, awkwardness, and first crushes of 6th grade life. –Travis Jonker

19. Art & Max by David Wiesner [Clarion]

Am I Beezus or Ramona? Frog or Toad? Mary Richards or Lou Grant? Now, thanks to  three-time Caldecott Medal winner David Wiesner, you’ll ask yourself: Am I Art or Max?
Art and Max are lizards. Arthur is serious, while Max is impulsive and bubbling with energy. The opening spread shows Art painting a portrait while listening to Pink Floyd. (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi would say Art is experiencing “flow”.) Max charges into the story, nearly crashes into Art’s easel, announcing, “I can paint too, Arthur!” While Art finds this news ridiculous, he eventually concedes and lets Max join, so long as he doesn’t get in the way. This decision takes readers on a colorful journey through watercolor, acrylic, pastel, and India ink. Kids will gasp at Wiesner’s bold illustrations. An eight-year-old responded, “It felt like Art was going to leap from the page. I was afraid my clothes would get covered in paint.” –John Schumacher

18. How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page [Houghton Mifflin]

Rarely do children’s literature team-ups generate the amount of success enjoyed by the duo of Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. It’s become so common for this pair to create outstanding work, that their excellence sometimes slips by without much fanfare. Well, it’s Vuvuzela time, folks, because How to Clean a Hippopotamus ranks among the year’s best. An eye-catching informational powerhouse examining unexpected animal alliances that deserves to be nonfiction section standard-issue. –Travis Jonker

17. Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein [Candlewick]

In today’s content-creating culture, where kids are crafting their own stories through an endless stream of tech whoziewhatzits, it makes sense that 2010 would bring a book to capture this sentiment in picture book form (albeit in a no-tech fashion). Every time Papa reads a classic children’s tale, little rooster inserts herself into the story to save the day. A meta masterpiece for meta times. –Travis Jonker

16. The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz [Candlewick]

Newbery Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz (Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!) introduces us to Flory, a tenacious night fairy struggling to make sense of her new surroundings. Although bossy and manipulative, Flory shows the importance of determination, compassion, and ultimately, forgiveness. This short novel has a wider audience than most fairy stories. Aficionados, who can name every book in the Rainbow Magic series, will spring across the room to pick it up. But even those with an aversion to fairy books will be drawn into Flory’s world and appreciate its beauty. –John Schumacher

#20-16 | #15-11 | #10-6 | #5-1

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. So far I’m totally with you guys. Except for your philosophical dilemma of Mary Richards or Lou Grant. Lou Grant? Really? How in your collective knowledge of years and experience have you not heard of one Ms. Rhoda Morgenstern? THAT’S the age old question: Am I the Mary or the Rhoda. (Fun fact: I’m a Rhoda. Perhaps that’s why I find your use of Lou to be so insulting.)

    Anyway, solid list so far. I haven’t gotten to The Night Fairy yet, but it’s definitely at the top of my list now.

    Best regards,

  2. Chris. Thank you for the laugh! I orginally had Mary and Rhoda, and changed it because I’m a Lou Grant fan. :)

  3. I think The Night Fairy is definitely deserving. I was sucked into this book even though I originally thought “Oh no, a fairy book.” I can’t wait to finish my current read aloud so I can share the story of Flory with my students.

  4. Interrupting Chicken! David Ezra Stein is brilliant, I tell you. That man’s gonna win a Caldecott one day, I keep saying. Maybe this year? Who knows. Wouldn’t it be nice? I’m not in charge of the award, sadly.

  5. I’m trying to select books for my 4 year old grandson. I would have been nice if the recommendations suggested an appropriate age.

    • I agree Dennis – that is a good idea. I’ll go back and add age ranges when I get a chance.

  6. Great list guys! I disagree with the order on some but I admire your willingness to step up to the challenge and rank your favorites. Some of us weasel out and just list a top 5 or top 10 alphabetically ;-)


    • You have to name some names now! Any particular titles you thought were too high? Too low? Thanks for your comments Lynn – the ranking was tricky, but also a lot of fun. I enjoyed putting everything K-6 into one pot. I’ll be looking forward to your best-of list at Bookends!


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