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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Bullied by classmates about his light coloring, an 11-year-old Lakota boy embarks on a road trip with his storyteller grandfather to learn about his heritage—and himself—by visiting landmarks linked to the great 19th-century Lakota leader. A vividly told, emotionally multifaceted, and eye-opening journey into American history.
Jack walks the line between good and bad, longing to extinguish his obedient, gentle, and—in his eyes—weak side. When he meets smooth Gary Pagoda, a delinquent with a penchant for pyromania, he takes a sharp turn toward what he sees as strength and masculinity. In this autobiographical novel, Gantos expertly conveys the dark, even savage elements of the coming-of-age process with an immediacy that will resonate with a variety of readers.
Best Books 2015: Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure/Perdidos en NYC: una aventura en el metro | Middle Grade
Pablo’s first day at his new school coincides with a field trip to the Empire State Building, and a series of mishaps ensue when he and his partner get separated from the rest of the class. Fun and engaging cartoon art, cutaways with above- and below-ground views, photographs, informative asides about the NYC subway system, and a map all contribute to the story of a boy learning to navigate his surroundings and find his way home.
When city girl Sophie moves to her late great-uncle’s farm, the one bright spot is a chance to raise chickens. The narrative is composed of letters to her Great-Uncle Jim and Abuelita in heaven, along with correspondence with the Redwood Farm Supply company, the source of the rather unusual fowl. In addition to the challenges of caring for super-powered chickens, Sophie handles microaggressions in a homogenous small town. A charming chapter book with humor and magic reminiscent of the works of Roald Dahl.
Sickly 12-year-old Triss wakes up after an accident with a fuzzy memory and an insatiable hunger. Once she encounters talking dolls, fairies, and letters from her dead brother, who was a casualty of World War I, she soon realizes that there are darker forces at work trying to destroy her family. A creepy tour de force, Hardinge’s novel is a rich and atmospheric exploration of identity, family, grief, and loss.
On the busy streets of an urban landscape, a little girl observes and collects colorful weeds and wildflowers from cracks in the pavement. As Dad chats on his cell, the girl lingers, secretly gifting pieces of her bouquet to those in need. On wordless, graphic novel–like panels, the mostly black-and-white cityscape slowly fills with soft washes of pastel as her not-so-random acts of kindness transform her world.