THE NIGHT GARDENER
by Terry and Eric Fan
This book was SO CLOSE to being added to our best books of the year list. It is one of my favorite books from the year. In fact, if you want to know just how much I love this book; take a look at my blog post from it back in March of 2016. It is about a boy who notices a gardener who trims trees at night—which cause quite the response the next day since the trees turn into owls, dragons, and other fun creatures. The story is good, but the pictures are amazing! The subtle changes from what the street feels and looks like before the night gardener comes to afterward is just amazing—to the point that by the end it is hard to think that life wasn’t so bright and happy throughout the whole book. Honestly, this is one book that will not soon be forgotten, and it is one that almost (ALMOST!) made it onto my best books list this past year. If I could have added one more picture book, this would have been it!
NATHAN HALE’S HAZARDOUS TALES: ALAMO ALL-STARS
by Nathan Hale
I love the Hazardous Tales graphic novels! They are clever, full of fun facts, and well done. The only reason that this did not make the list is that it is the 6th book in the series. I figured that many people already knew about the Hazardous Tales (and how amazing they are). So this almost made the list…but I opted to add the new graphic novels that were the first in a series instead. So this particular tale tells about the heroes that lived and died at the Alamo (and those who escaped or fought against the Alamo which is why we know so much about that event). There are bits of backstory mingled with humor and jokes (and readers can still laugh at the Provost and the Hangman). Seriously, such great non-fiction put together in one happy package. ALAMO ALL-STARS, if I had one more spot you would have been on the best books list!
WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER
By Grace Lin
I loved this book. Absolutely loved it. The reason this book did not make our final list is because there were just too many exceptional middle grade novels this year (as if there can ever ACTUALLY be too many). This is the story of the Storyteller’s granddaughter – Pinmei. After the Tiger Emperor kidnaps her grandmother, Pinmei must journey to find the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night – the only thing that might persuade the Emperor to change his mind and release his prisoner. When the Sea Turned to Silver is the third installment in a story that began with WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON but can easily stand alone. This is not usually the type of book that I would choose for myself - I was definitely reading out of my comfort zone – but I loved this beautiful story even more because of it! I fell in love with the magical and yet familiar world that was crafted in this novel and the way the story weaved together and revealed itself at the end. This book is for everyone to read and enjoy while it warms you like a fuzzy blanket. Too many good books is a problem I like to have but, unfortunately, it means this book just barely missed our best books list.
ANIMALS BY THE NUMBERS: A BOOK OF ANIMAL INFOGRAPHICS
By Steve Jenkins
When I was a kid, I don’t remember that there were an excess of really well done informational books. So, I was as surprised as anyone to realize how tight the competition for best non-fiction would be this year. Let me just say, leaving this book off my final list was not a decision I came to easily. ANIMALS BY THE NUMBERS graphically shares all kinds of interesting facts and figures about all kinds of different animals. This book is seriously informative with very simple, straightforward, “good to know” infographics. The minimalist illustrations make the book even more user friendly and they are, frankly, unbelievably striking. If I had space for anymore informational books, this one would be included – no doubt. In the end, ANNIMALS BY THE NUMBERS was beaten out by some very stiff competition.
THE THANK YOU BOOK
By Mo Willems
Easy Readers have come a long way recently, mostly thanks to Mo Willems. So, Mo, THANK YOU! This book was left off the final list in part because this is the last in a series and I was hoping that everyone would already know and love Elephant & Piggie. Unfortunately, this book was nudged off the list is because even though it is Mo Willems being excellent, it is not quite as excellent as Mo Willems can be. (We hold him to his own standard). Elephant Gerald & Piggie say goodbye and thank you to their friends, the reader, and each other in this very sweet book that fans of the series will love. If our list for best books could be even one book longer, THE THANK YOU BOOK would be a part of it!