Favorite Recent Books

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We’ve read a lot of great books recently (several of which I found on various end-of-year best books lists). A bonus is that some of these books take place in warm, sunny locations, which transported us momentarily away from the chilly temps in our area.

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1. One Osauraus, Two Osaurus by Kim Norman

We love Kim Norman’s trio of singing books about Arctic animals so I thought we’d also enjoy her newest book. It didn’t disappoint- it’s great rhyming fun that Finn loved. Your toddlers and preschoolers will have it memorized in no time.

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2. Field Trip to the Moon by John Hare

In general I’m not a huge fan of wordless picture books. This one, however, is so sweet and clever- we all loved it.

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3. The Midnight Fair by Gideon Sterer

This is another really delightful wordless picture book about animals that enjoy a carnival at night after all the humans have left.

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4. Paletero Man by Lucky Diaz

I wasn’t familiar with Grammy Winning musician Lucky Diaz before this book. We really loved his rhyming story about a boy in LA who walks through his neighborhood on the way to buy a paleta (Mexican frozen treat made from fruit) from the paletero man. Before reading, check out the incredibly catchy tune that goes with the book.

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5. Room for Everyone by Naaz Khan

This is a really fun rhyming book about a bus ride where more and more people keep getting on. The story takes place in Zanzibar, an island in the Indian Ocean, which is part of the East African nation of Tanzania. I was especially interested in this book, having visited Zanzibar a decade ago.

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6. Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks by Bonnie Tsui

We enjoyed the story and illustrations of this surfing story.

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7. Our Skin: A First Conversation on Race by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, and Isabel Roxas

I’ve read several similar types of books with my kids and found this to be one of the best. It’s a great read whether you’ve read similar books as well or this is the first one. It’s presented in a way that is accessible for preschool through elementary aged kids.

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8. Pluto Gets the Call by Adam Rex

Poor Pluto gets the call that he is no longer a planet. This is such a funny book that explains a lot of solar system facts in an entertaining and enjoyable way.

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9. Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery by Meeg Pincus

As a gardener and butterfly fan, I was enamored with this new nonfiction book. It explains how many people’s expertise were needed to understand and share the news in 1976 that Monarchs overwintered in the oyamel fir forests in the mountains of central Mexico: a white scientist in Canada, citizen scientists in the US, and scientists and residents of central Mexico. It doesn’t give too much background on the migration itself so this map might be a helpful reference.

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10. Super Turbo Saves the Day by Edgar Powers/ 7 book series

Charlie’s been really enjoying these silly graphic novels about class pets that have their own drama at night after the kids leave for the day. (The graphic novels are based on a beginning chapter book series of the same name).

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11. Super Sidekicks: No Adults Allowed by Gavin Aung Than/ 3 book series

This is another silly graphic novel series Charlie has been enjoying.

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12. Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott/ 3 book series

I recently read some great reviews of this 2018 slim middle grade novel and got it thinking I could read it aloud to Charlie (he loves all things magical). He saw the book in a stack of new library books and yelped, “You got Dragons in a Bag?!!” Apparently his student teacher had started reading the second book in this series to his class that very day and he was loving it. The first book (this one) hadn’t been available at the school library, hence she started with the second. He promptly brought the book in to school the next day so his teacher could read it to the class. We read the the first couple of chapters and I really enjoyed it too- so I look forward to its return when I can finish it. I’d recommend for grades 2-5 or as a read aloud for younger kids.

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13. The Secret Garden on 81st Street by Noelle Weir

Charlie and I both enjoyed this retelling of the classic. This version takes place in NYC. Besides a focus on the the rooftop garden that is brought back to life, characters explain anxiety and panic attacks in a really thoughtful way. We’ve never read the original classic, but did recently like this other graphic novel version.

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14. Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear by Trang Nguyen

This is an awesome graphic novel about a young girl’s conservation efforts in Vietnam, based on the author’s own true adventure.

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15. Act by Kayla Miller/ 4 book “Click” series 

I’m not sure how I had missed these graphic novels before. This one tells the story of sixth graders running in a school election. It’s a sweet book I’d recommend for fans of Raina Telgemeir’s graphic novels.

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16. Paradise on Fire by Jewell Parker Rhodes

I read this middle grade novel in a sitting. The slim book tells the story of Adaugo (Addy) who goes with other NYC area Black youth to a summer camp in California and a forest fire that threatens them at the end of their camp stay. It was on the list of Best of the Best 2021 Booklist for K-4th grade put out by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. I’d recommend for kids in 4th grade through middle school.

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17. Strange Birds by Celia C. Perez

This is an entertaining middle grade novel I read myself about four girls who become friends one summer and form their own club. They want to do something helpful and decide to make it their mission to get the Floras, the local Scouts, to stop using an old hat made from bird feathers. Again, I’d recommend for 4th grade through middle school. 

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18. The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla

This is another contemporary fiction book for kids in 4th grade through middle school that I enjoyed myself. It’s the story of an autistic boy who takes a cross-country road trip from his home in San Diego to Virginia with his three siblings and a new caretaker to see their father who is being treated at a hospital there for a brain injury. He and his dad had created a list of birds they wanted to see someday and the family ends up searching for the birds along the way. 

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19. The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag

This is a really sweet graphic novel about a teen girl who stumbles across a selkie- a half human sea creature similar to a mermaid. It’s a coming of age story where the main character learns to share with her family and friends that she has romantic feeling for girls. It’s marketed for grades 7 and up due to the few kissing scenes but would be appropriate for any upper elementary aged kids who are into romances.

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20. How to Be Ace: A Memoir of Growing up Asexual by Rebecca Burgess

I read this YA graphic memoir by Burgess, who identifies as autistic and asexual, in one sitting. She conveys her inner worlds really well.

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21. History Smashers: Women’s Right to Vote by Kate Messner/ 5 books in History Smashers series

I think this book is AMAZING. It’s part of a series geared towards kids ages 8-12, but I’d recommend for all adults to read too. It’s such a clear, thorough, entertaining explanation of women’s suffrage, including white and Black women’s groups, from the founding of our country through to today.  Messner has created the History Smashers series to do just that- smash the myths. In her writing she is very direct about the racist positions held by many white women suffrage leaders throughout history. I learned a ton in a really enjoyable way (the book has a conversational tone and lots of graphics). I HIGHLY recommend.

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22. This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

This award-winning memoir in verse is so powerful. It’s the story of the Clinton 12, the 12 Black students who were the first to desegregate a high school in Tennessee in 1956, before other desegregation efforts that involved the Little Rock Nine and Ruby Bridges. It’s aimed at ages 10 and up but I definitely recommend for adults again as well. If you read and loved Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, you’ll love this one also.

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23. From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement by Paula Yoo

I also learned a ton from this book about Vincent Chin, who was murdered in 1982 in Detroit by two white men who were never found guilty of their crime. Again it’s a YA book that is shelved in both the YA and adult sections of my library, which makes it a really accessible and fast book to read.

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24. In Waves by AJ Dungo

I found this graphic memoir, written by Dungo about his love who passed away from cancer at a young age, really moving. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking all at once.

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25. Smile: The Story of a Face by Sarah Ruhl

Ruhl is an accomplished writer and playwright who experienced Bell’s palsy after the birth of her twins. This memoir is the ten years after and how she slowly regained control of the muscles in her face. As a fan of memoirs, I enjoyed the peek into her life and recovery.

*Final note: Some of these books I found from Betsy Bird’s School Library Journal Blog, which I started following last year. She has an amazing round-up of 31 lists of best books that she posted every day in December. The ones I’ve combed through most are 2021 Rhyming Picture Books and 2021 Comics and Graphic Novels. If you scroll to the bottom of her posts you can see links to all the lists.

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