November 26, 2015

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Best Books 2015: Sail Away | Nonfiction


Collecting and illustrating sea-themed verse by Hughes, Bryan frames the famed poet in a new light that will appeal to poetry fans and newcomers alike. The cut-paper collages pulsate with energy and life and echo the passion of Hughes’s words. A luminescent oceanic love song.

Best Books 2015: Middle Grade

Best Books 2015: All American Boys | Young Adult


Black teen Rashad is assaulted by a white police officer. White classmate Quinn, who was practically raised by the police officer, witnessed it. When a video of the brutal event surfaces, the school, city, and country explode with protests and outrage, and the two protagonists must examine who they are and what they believe. Told in alternating chapters, this timely YA novel presents a stirring account of two young men coming to grips with the racism that pervades this country and the steps they must take to turn the centuries-long tide.

Best Books 2015: Bone Gap | Young Adult


A thought-provoking look at our culture’s obsession with beauty. With echoes of the Persephone myth, this magical realism tale centers on Finn’s search for the missing Roza, his older brother’s love and the town sweetheart. Alternating chapters from his and her points of view reveal the sinister and otherworldly nature of Roza’s abductor. Ruby’s lush language, intricate plotting, and impeccable sentence-level writing make this a winning title for sophisticated teen readers.

Best Books 2015: Water Is Water | Nonfiction


Information fuses with imagination as two siblings experience the wondrous ways that water changes form, from cool summertime quaff to autumn fog, fast-skating winter ice, and springtime snowmelt. Readers will relish poring over the effervescent rhymes and winsome action-filled paintings as they soak up the science.

Best Books 2015: Beastly Verse | Nonfiction


A psychedelic collection of animal-themed poems by Lewis Carroll, William Blake, Christina Rossetti, and more. Yoon’s vibrant Pantone illustrations transport readers through a menagerie of fanciful creatures. For added fun, four of the 16 poems are presented on spreads that fold out, adding to the whimsy and playfulness of this imaginative romp.

Best Books 2015: Conviction | Young Adult


High school baseball star Braden is the only witness to the car accident that killed a police officer. His father, a Christian radio personality, was behind the wheel. When his prodigal older brother returns, Braden’s convictions about his father, their family’s past, and his faith in God waver. Alternating between the present and past, with baseball metaphors sprinkled throughout, this poignant debut shines with the hope of truth and forgiveness.

Top 10 Latin@ Books 2015


Tim Wadham, SLJ’s Libro por libro columnist, along with the members the Top 10 Latin@ Books committee, select superlative titles about the Latin@ experience.

This article was published in School Library Journal's December 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Best Books 2015: Out of Darkness | Young Adult


Set in 1937 Texas and focusing on the events leading up to and immediately following the New London School explosion—the deadliest school disaster in American history—this melancholic novel tells the ill-fated love story of Mexican American Naomi and African American Wash. Pérez’s honest prose lyrically explores racism and sexism while giving voice to those who have been marginalized within American history. A compelling tearjerker.

Best Books 2015: The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects | Nonfiction


This ambitious themed anthology traces the evolution of poetry from the Middle Ages to the present day by selecting 50 pieces from around the world written about single objects—a cat, street lanterns, manhole covers—or natural occurrences—clouds, snowflakes, a rose. The sweeping disparate selections are unified and vivified by Raschka’s dazzling watercolor interpretations. A poetic stroll through time.

Best Books 2015: Wolfie the Bunny | Picture Books


Mama and Papa Bunny are charmed by the adorable wolf cub they find on their doorstep, but wary Dot is convinced that their decision to adopt Wolfie will lead to trouble. OHora’s winsome thick-lined acrylics and Dyckman’s simple text work together to subvert expectations and seamlessly tell a humorous yet heartwarming tale of sibling bonding and the often surprising joy of family.

Best Books 2015: More Happy Than Not | Young Adult


There’s plenty that 16-year-old Aaron Soto would like to forget, including life in the poverty-ridden Bronx projects, his father’s suicide, and his own attempt to carve a smile into his wrist, but he only seriously considers a cutting-edge “memory-relief procedure” when his all-consuming friendship with Thomas turns into unrequited love. Characters with straight-up street cred, a heart-searing narrative, and a must-reread resolution provide an unforgettable look at gender identity and coming-of-age issues.

Best Books 2015: Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History | Nonfiction


Following the lives of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton from childhood to the duel that left Hamilton dead, Brown lays out the similarities and differences between the two men. Through muted yet expressive watercolors, spare yet elegant text, and a clever design that visually compares and contrasts the pair, Brown humanizes two Founding Fathers and illuminates a seemingly senseless act of violence.

Best Books 2015: Nimona | Young Adult


A rambunctious shape-shifter is in search of a supervillain to assist, and the brilliant Lord Ballister Blackheart fits the bill. As they plan to take down Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics, their not-all-that-nefarious intentions go awry and Nimona’s powers get out of control, endangering the entire kingdom. An ode to girl power, friendship, and teamwork, this vibrant full-color work, filled with witty dialogue and touching moments, charms and delights.

Best Books 2015: Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery That Baffled All of France | Nonfiction


The elegant Dr. Mesmer and his mysterious force—said to alter minds and cure illnesses—had Paris entranced in 1776, until Ben Franklin, visiting France to seek support for America’s revolutionaries, stepped in with his no-nonsense attitude and scientific method to unmask un charlatan. Playful narrative and witty artwork provide an elucidating glimpse at history.

Best Books 2015: Challenger Deep | Young Adult


Fourteen-year-old Caden Bosch lives two realities: the one where he’s a high schooler struggling with anxiety, compulsions, and the belief that people are trying to kill him; and one in which he’s part of a motley crew of pirates aboard a ship bound for the Challenger Deep, the deepest place on Earth, located in the Pacific Ocean along the Mariana Trench. A fittingly surreal and heartbreaking exploration into the mind of a teen battling mental illness.

Neal Shusterman Takes NBA Prize […]

Best Books 2015: Bird & Diz | Nonfiction


With bursts of rhythm and flashes of color, the spirit and genius of bebop artists Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie are captured in a tribute to their classic rendition of “Salt Peanuts.” Author and illustrator offer a virtuoso performance, mirroring that of the performers as text and images skit-scat and swirl between the artists, through a jazz club, and across the pages of this concertina. Dazzling.

Best Books 2015: Shadowshaper | Young Adult


Motivated by unnerving events in her Bed-Stuy neighborhood, including a weeping mural and creepy street-shuffling corpses, Sierra Santiago begins to unravel a nightmarish mystery that brings to light secrets about her Puerto Rican family’s heritage and ultimately releases the magic hidden within her soul. A comfortable-in-her-own-skin heroine, magnetic portrayals of a multicultural cast, and scintillating suspense make for a knockout thriller.

Best Books 2015: Toys Meet Snow|Picture Books


The lovable playthings from Jenkins and Zelinsky’s chapter book series (Random) head outdoors in this picture book to investigate the first snowfall of the year. Captivating characterizations, tenderly tuned text, and endearing illustrations create an affectionate ode to the marvels of nature and the cozy contentment of friendship.

Best Books 2015: The Accident Season | Young Adult


Cara’s family has learned to expect that October will bring injuries—from broken bones to fatalities. It’s a history that they haven’t questioned until the 17-year-old, her sister, and her stepbrother are confronted with family secrets. Brimming with characters and spirits both naive and nefarious and a setting steeped in mystery and myth, this haunting debut will linger long in readers’ imaginations.