If I were in charge of picking Newbery Honor books for 2017, I would have chosen the following five books. Look, the ones chosen were nice, but these ones. These ones were a cool breath of air in the midst of a neverending Arizona summer. Stick-your-head-in-the-ice-cream- freezer-at-Ralphs-on-a-120-degree-day kind of refreshing.
I loved them all dearly. Was it a spectacular year for children’s books or what?
1. The Best Man by Richard Peck
The children’s librarian in charge of the New York Public Library’s Best Books For Kids List said this was her favorite children’s book in 2016 and she immediately started reading it again after she finished. That was enough recommendation for me, and I, too, found myself mesmerized by this story of family, ultimately. I love when children’s literature writes really loving, supportive, complex, human, wonderful families. So often in middle grade or young adult literature families are absent or dumb, but this family was solid and warm and caring. I need to read it again.
2. Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson
If you have ever been a teacher, or know someone who is a teacher or wanted to be a teacher you should read this book. If you haven’t ever been a teacher and don’t know someone who is a teacher and have never wanted to be a teacher I still recommend it completely. I guess I recommend all of these completely so that isn’t exactly the best measure.
3. It Ain’t So Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
Very…real. I don’t know how else to describe it. It was based on the author’s experiences growing up Iranian in Newport Beach in the 1970s during the Iranian hostage crisis. It’s the universal middle school story of being uncomfortable in your own skin, with the backdrop of political and social turmoil. NYPL named it as one of their most recommended books of last year after I had already come to this conclusion so I felt 1) validated 2) ahead of the times, which are my two best feelings.
4. All Rise For the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
Perry grew up in a minimum security prison and is removed from this home by a well-meaning member of the community to go into foster care. Heart freaking warming and breaking and feeling. I tweeted this out to Rainbow Rowell as a recommendation, that’s how strongly I felt! (She was not even asking for recommendations!)
5. Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Jason Reynolds is The Man. He is able to capture characters and experiences so well and Ghost just might be my favorite thing he’s written. It’s the story of a young boy on a track team. There’s more to it, obviously, but it begins there. A young, scared, cocky, kid on a track team.