Jessica Green is a book addict and library card holder since the age of 3. She’s a librarian at the Ottawa Public Library and currently the Apartment613 Librarian-in-Residence, sharing a compendium of literary thoughts and tips.
It’s that time of the year where I share the gems I have come across in my reading. I have split it once again into two parts with picture books and children’s fiction coming in part one and then teen and adult reads in part two. It’s always quite difficult to figure out what should make the list, as there seems to be more titles than space, but here are some gems that you may have missed.
It Came in the Mail, by Ben Clanton
Like many of us, Liam loves getting mail but never receives any. He writes to his mailbox asking to get something big in the mail. The mailbox sends him a fire-breathing dragon which begins a series of wacky objects and creatures arriving in his mailbox. Liam is at first thrilled to receive everything but it gets a little old…A fun story about mail and sharing.
Ooko, by Esme Shapiro
Ooko is a fox looking for a friend, but she isn’t having much luck finding one until she spots a dog with a human, and decides that she will become friends with these Debbies (as she thinks the two legged furless foxes are called). Ooko finds that trying to become friends with the Debbies is harder than she thinks. This story is really sweet and funny with great illustrations.
Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, by Josh Funk
Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast set out to beat each other in the race to get the last drop of maple syrup. They race all over the refrigerator, overcoming multiple obstacles, only for a twist ending where they both learn a valuable lesson. This would be great to read out loud as it is written in rhyme.
Thunder Boy Jr, by Sherman Alexie
One of the most anticipated titles this year, Thunder Boy Jr did not disappoint. Thunder Boy Jr is named after his dad but he doesn’t just want to be Little Thunder. He’d much rather have a name that tells something neat about him, like “Full of Wonder”, or “Old Toys are Awesome”. The drawings are perfectly suited to the text and it is a lovely story about the relationship between a son and his father.
Playing From the Heart, by Peter H Reynolds
Raj is intrigued by the family piano and after his dad spots him playing around with the keys, Raj takes lessons and eventually becomes an accomplished musician. But as Raj becomes more skilled, he begins to dislike playing the piano and abandons it as he grows up. When his dad becomes ill, he asks Raj to play for him like he used to, but Raj is unsure if he can. This book will pull on your heartstrings.
Life is Magic, by Meg McLaren
Monsieur Lapin is a fantastic magician, and he has a talented assistant, his rabbit, Houdini, who loves being in the spotlight and who is also great at keeping the team together. Houdini accidentally changes Monsieur Lapin into a rabbit one evening, and takes over the show to bring bigger tricks to audiences. The thrill of performing wears off and Houdini notices he has neglected his friends. Fabulous illustrations really add to this story.
Teeny tiny Toady, by Jill Esbaum
Teeny Tiny Toady is sitting by the pond with her mama when Mama is picked up and put into a bucket. Teeny runs off to find her older brothers for help, but after ignoring and co-opting her suggestions, all her brothers end up in the bucket as well. Teeny saves the day through being brave and coming up with a plan, despite having the odds stacked against her. I loved the illustrations from Keika Yamaguchi, and the rhyming text was fun to read.
Alan’s Big Scary Teeth, by Peter Jarvis
Alan the alligator is very scary and goes out of his way to terrorise the other animals in the jungle. But he has a secret – his teeth are false! When they go missing one day, Alan is no longer scary, but funny, and all the bullied animals laugh at Alan’s predicament. Alan is heartbroken over the loss of his teeth, so the other animals take pity on him, but also have rules on how he can use his teeth in the future.
Hector and Hummingbird, by Nicholas John Frith
Hector and Hummingbird are best friends, but Hummingbird is getting on Hector’s nerves as he is always around Hector, copying him and doing everything Hector does. Hector gets angry with Hummingbird and chases him off, only to discover that things are more fun when they are shared with friends. The illustrations are really unique here with a mid-century like palette.
Whoops!, by Suzi Moore
Another rhyming text tells the story of a cat who can’t meow, a mouse who can’t squeak and a dog who can’t bark who all decide to see a old lady with magic powers to fix them. Each spell the old lady casts seems to make things worse rather than better! Fantastic for reading aloud.
Dylan the Villain, by K.G. Campbell
Dylan is the pride and joy of the Snivels who tell him over and over that he is the greatest super villain. When Dylan goes to school at Astrid Rancid’s Academy for the Villainous and Vile, he meets his match in Addison Van Malice who may be more clever and evil. The competition is fierce between these two who give as good as they get. The illustrations really remind me of cartoons like the Incredibles, so it’s a very fun story.
Worm Loves Worm, by J.J.Austrian
Worm and Worm love each other and their friends are thrilled to help them get married. Their bug friends share advice about wedding traditions and help with cake, the rings, and the officiant, but they are stumped when asked which worm is the bride and which is the groom. Both Worms say they can be both, since things don’t always have to be the way they have always been. Quietly brilliant.
Children’s Fiction and Graphic Novels
Feathers, by Jorge Corona
Poe is a boy covered in feathers who leads a lonely life as he wanders around the city. When he runs into Bianca, who is the Captain of the Guards daughter on the run from her chaperones, they make an unlikely pair but become fast friends. Bianca and Poe look into why children seem to be vanishing all over the city, which also reveals more on Poe’s mysterious origins. This is easily one of the best graphic novels I have read this year.
Pick Your Poison, by Lauren Child
The penultimate novel in the Ruby Redfort series has Ruby Redfort trying to figure out what is going on at Spectrum 8, the secret spy agency she works for, since there’s a mole that is giving out big secrets. There also further problems around mysterious drinks, bullies, and poisonous animals. With a cliffhanger ending, this is a fitting set-up for the last book in the series.
Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Willow Chance is a 12 year old genius who really likes plants. She has just started at a new school, where no one believes that she could have finished the state test with a perfect score and gets referred to the guidance counsellor, Dell Duke. It’s the start of Willow meeting a cast of friends that help her out when her parents are killed in a car accident. A really great story about being yourself, finding your community and dealing with loss.
Three Thieves: Book one – Tower of Treasure, by Scott Chantler
This is the thrilling start of a great graphic novel series that follows Dessa, a 14 year old acrobat, Topper, a juggler and thief, and Fisk, a strongman, as they search for Dessa’s brother, while emptying the royal treasury. There have been six adventures so far, and they are all fun reads with plenty of action and great characters.
Neil Flambé and the Duel in the Desert, by Kevin Sylvester
I think I have mentioned one of the Neil Flambé books in every year end wrap-up but they’re really fun novels. Neil and his cousin Larry travel to Arizona in their new food truck to participate in a legendary contest but discover the Salsa Verde Ranch is being foreclosed. With the treasure map in hand, they go off in search of a legendary treasure that could save the ranch. It’s another solid entry into the series.
The Unmapped Sea, by Maryrose Wood
The Incorrigible Children are off on another adventure to the seaside for a holiday and Penelope is still searching for a cure to the wolfish curse that hangs over the family, especially since the Ashtons are expecting another sibling for the Incorrigibles. Like the other books in the series, it’s silly and has many jokes, but now we have to wait to see how the series will be resolved.