This my effort to look back at the reading that I did this year and determine which books are going to stay with me. It is a highly subjective look at books that I think I will remember and re-read in 2017 and subsequent years. I could not begin to determine which books I read are really “the best”. Other groups would do a much better job, and several of these books were not published in 2016, but I did read all of them this year. The list is meant to entertain and maybe shed a tiny light on some great books for you to read.
In no particular order, here are my favourite picture and early chapter books of 2016 (Warning, heavy amount of cheating on the number 16 ahead).
1. The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton is a book that I have enjoyed reading myself, to my children and to students in the library. At school we enjoyed it last year, and when it popped up at our recent Scholastic Book Fair this school year, several students said, “Oh. Yah! The farting pony book.” A hilarious story with heart too.
2. The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale are also titles that I have been able to enjoy with my own kids and with students at school. My youngest daughter in particular (currently 6) is very in love with this character and the illustrations by LeUyen Pham as well. I read the first in 2015, and the second and third installments this year. We loved the “nosy old lady” that visits Princess Magnolia in book two and the “cute” bunnies in book three with their Puss-in-Boots from Shrek/Posessed stare. I have been catching it around the house for not having book four, The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation. It will be read in my house in 2017 for sure.
3. Andrea Beatty’s three science based picture books are fabulous odes to creativity. My students and children have particularly enjoyed the links between the books, the wit and the illustrations by David Roberts. One of the science teachers at my school has quite enjoyed borrowing them to use with students.
4. The Mercy Watson series and The Tales from Deckawoo Drive represent the worst bit of cheating on this list as 8 books are being given 1 spot. There is one Decawoo Drive book missing, as like Princess in Black our library is behind on buying hardcovers right now (the Budget Police arrived early this school year!!). However, a primary aged reading group and my youngest really enjoyed Mercy Watson. We could see those endings coming a mile away but the journey with the lovable Mercy was more important than the destination. The Deckawoo books have given us a glimpse into some of the secondary characters of the Mercy series. Next for us, would be the latest from Deckawoo Drive, with Where are you Going Now, Baby Lincoln? at some point in 2017.
5. Yak’s Yak: Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park with illustrations by Jennifer Black Reinhardt was a great read aloud for my students in the library. They loved seeing the double meanings of the word pairs and looking for hidden details in the illustrations. The section at the end with the word etymology was interesting for older readers too. This one had something for everyone and was a great follow up for my fans of Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier
6. Elise Gravel’s Disgusting Critters series are hilarious, non-fiction titles that will give you crazy and essential facts on your fave (or least fave) critters. These are two I read this year, and they are likely my favourite. The head lice one in particular, especially if you have ever had to deal with that critter, is laugh-out-loud funny.
7. This title is part of the Ghosthunter series by Cornelia Funke, a writer my children have really enjoyed for her Inkheart trilogy and other titles. A colleague of mine has been reading this title with a group of late primary students and then successfully pushing the sequels on them. The sequels have been challenging for us to find in the quantity we need at school. What a great problem to have and it shows how engaging these books have been. My own children seem to want to argue over whether the ghost facts of these books are true (“Dad, on Goodreads, give Ghosthunters as much stars as you can give it”- over my shoulder as I type) or if Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood and Co. series has the more true account. I see a clear progression for the ghost fans in my house from Ghosthunters to Lockwood and Co. to the Jackaby series by William Ritter. My youngest just got Leo the Ghost story by Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson for Christmas too. A good year for ghosts around here.
8. Anything, literally, by Josh Funk. We were first introduced to Josh Funk with the screamingly funny rhymes in Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, a race through the world of fridge that contains only a drop of syrup. We were fortunate enough to Skype with Josh, and he is so engaging that if you ever have the chance to let your students talk to him you must. We learned that he had not one, but two books coming out in the fall and he was kind enough to read one, Pirasaurs, to us. We all got his catchy book trailer for Pirasaurs stuck in our heads in May and June (especially my 5/6 class) and after what seemed like eternity we were able to read this one for ourselves in the fall. Not long after, our library groups got to enjoy the letter writing, alternate perspective gem that is Dear Dragon. Quite a year for Josh Funk and it ended with the trailer for the next Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast title, The Case of the Stinky Stench. It is catchy, and book is highly anticipated at my school.
9. Doreen Cronin’s series is a spin-off or sorts of the J.J. Tully mysteries. My youngest loves the personalities of each of the chickens in this series. I have long felt that if I was looking for a book to do Reader’s Theatre with for late primary students that this early chapter series would work well. A funny addition to the early chapter collection I have been trying to build.
10. How awesome would it be if the writer of one my favourite all-time MG novels, Sherman Alexie (not the title of this silly little blog) wrote a picture book? Thunder Boy Jr. is the answer. I think it was one of the more talked about and dissected picture books as well. There was some good discussion around educating readers about the cultural traditions around naming that is included, and it is great to educate oneself about this before sharing this book with students. That being said, I really loved the positive message about the search for one’s own self-identity in the book as well as the illustrations by Yuyi Morales.
11. Anything by Ame Dyckman, especially if it is illustrated by Zachariah OHora, was really well received in my house and in my library this year. We really loved the message and humour of Wolfie and Horrible Bear. They have been repeated reads for many of our students. Boy + Bot also is a great tale of friendship gone right, and Tea Party Rules reminds me of the best and worst of watching my daughters play. We are eagerly awaiting the next Dyckman/Ohora collaboration in the fall of 2017, Read the Book, Lemmings! I thought this one was out in 2018 but Ame Dyckman tweeted that the date has been moved up.
12. These new titles by Cale Atkinson have such cute illustrations that my students are really drawn to both. I really loved the dual perspectives in Explorers of the Wild, which allowed it to pair well with Dear Dragon. My little readers loved the cute animal characters in Maxwell the Monkey Barber and looking for the differences between them in the pictures. The rhyming and repetition of Maxwell really worked well too. I will be reading more of his work in 2017 for sure.
13. Who Broke the Teapot by Bill Slavin is a really fun mystery picture book that students loved to guess along with. There was lots of great discussions as students shared their theories on who was responsible and the conclusion did not disappoint. Several of my students wanted to read this shortly after I read it to them to look for clues they may have missed in the pictures. I really enjoyed sharing this book with students.
14. One of the most beloved characters in our library was the grumpy title character of these two books by Ryan Higgins. Bruce is a classic grumpy I-don’t-want-any-little-kids-around adult with a twist. In the first book there are hilarious tales of the grump “mothering” some geese, and the next one is filled with funny disputes with other local wildlife. We were happy to see Ryan Higgins tweeting some sketches that look like future Bruce adventures.
15. This is likely, the funniest picture book I read this year. Watching my nine year old laughing with her little sister over the epic failures that took place in this book was memorable. This one “accidentally” ended up making the trip from the library back to our house for a second reading. One of the science teachers in my school enjoyed sharing it with her classes as it actually helped with some teachings around the scientific process along with being a crowd favourite for the humour. Similar to Jenny Offill’s 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to do Anymore, but even better.
16. School’s First Day of School was as advertised, a great book for the first week of school. The unexpected perspective of the school by Adam Rex made this a unique addition to first week collections. The illustrations by Christian Robinson were also excellent. I liked some of the other characters as well including the janitor and they sparked some conversations with students who I shared this book with.
2016 was a great year for picture books and early chapter books, so great I had to cheat to include more of the books I wanted to have represent my year in reading. Feel free to include your own in the comments section. Thanks for reading!