Top 20 Books of 2014: 10-6
10. Sisters by Raina Telgemeier [Graphix (Scholastic) | Grades 3-6]
Raina Telgemeier is to today’s middle school readers what Elvis was to teens in 1956. Her fans are loyal, passionate, and proud of the number of times they’ve read Smile and Sisters. Raina’s graphic memoirs show young readers that everyone has a story to tell. She gives them permission and the courage to tell their stories and express themselves through art and words. Thirty years from now, when we reflect back on the books published during this decade that had the biggest impact on our students, Sisters will be one of the first titles we remember.
What will pop into our heads? How about…
*the bright yellow faces on the cover?
*the laughter that erupted while reading it?
*the snake scene??
*the way it made us think about a relationship with a sister, a brother, or a parent?
*the smell of the paper? (Doesn’t it smell incredible?)
Thank you, Raina, for sharing your stories with us. We’re grateful for you and your mad skills.
9. Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate [Clarion (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) | Grades K-4]
Ivan’s story and Katherine Applegate’s capacious (thank you, Kate DiCamillo) heart have impacted my life unlike any reading experience before or since the publication of The One and Only Ivan. I always carry a copy in my car because you never know when someone might need one. You never know when Ivan’s next reader might enter your life. It is a forever book. One I will forever recommend; one I will forever hold in a special place inside my heart.
I stood next to Anne Hoppe, Katherine’s amazing editor, while reading Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla for the first time. Tears streamed down my face. I could not find the right words to express how deeply it touched me. All I could do was hug Anne. All I can do right now, dear reader, is encourage you to put Ivan’s nonfiction book into your students’ hands. Ivan’s story will live on because of Katherine and you.
8. Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo [Clarion (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) | Grades PreK-1]
Author Kate Messner recently posed this question on Twitter: “Author-friends, do you have illustrator crushes? Sometimes, I just sit & think ‘What could I write that Lauren Castillo might want to draw?’” Yes! Yes! Yes! I wanted to favorite this tweet 1,000 times. Lauren Castillo’s illustrations are filled with warmth, passion, and love.
You already know I have a soft spot for elephants and mice in children’s literature, but did you know I have a soft spot for grandmothers, too? Nana, the star of Nana in the City, is a hip, fun-loving grandmother who loves living in the city. Her grandson doesn’t share her enthusiasm for city life. “I love my nana, but I don’t love the city,” he tells us. He finds the city scary and overwhelming. Nana knows exactly what he needs to help him feel brave: a special red cape. With his cape wrapped around him, he is able to face his fears and appreciate the marvels of New York City. This sweet story beautifully shows the special bond between a grandmother and a grandson.
7. The Scraps Book by Lois Elhert [Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster) | Grades K and Up]
If I were able to stretch time to my whim, one thing I would do is watch every commentary track included on the DVD of every movie I love. There’s a reason “behind the scenes” is such an oft-used phrase – people like knowing how the things they love are made. With The Scraps Book, picture book legend Lois Elhert gives us the DVD commentary track of her career. But rather than a “just for fans” affair, Elhert’s reflection on her life and work turns out to be a book for everyone.
6. Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon [Dial (Penguin) | Grades K-2]
When we talk about authenticity in children’s books, we often look to those writers who can show the meaning in seemingly small or mundane (to an adult’s eyes) actions or words. We don’t often talk about the fact that kids are also authentically weird. In Dory Fantasmagory, Abby Hanlon brings the authentic weird better than any other book in 2014. A brother and sister team up to scare the crap out of their annoying little sister Dory. It inhabits a child’s head in a way that will make perfect sense to young readers, while making everyone laugh.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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