Gr 5-8–Eleven-year-old best friends Owen and Sean are excited to spend the summer in their Cape Cod town. Unfortunately, Sean’s mom insists on getting him a babysitter; he has diabetes and needs injections. When Sean confesses to Owen that his sitter has been sexually abusing him, Owen doesn’t know if he can find the courage to seek help after Sean threatens to harm himself if Owen reveals his secret. Raw and unflinching, Abbott’s story confronts a brutal reality with empathy.
Gr 4-6–When a number of local kids go missing, Corinne La Mer, who is part jumbie and the target of unjust suspicion, sets out on a dangerous journey to find them. Baptiste continues to deepen the already rich and complex world presented in The Jumbies and unites conversations on community, prejudice, and the legacy of chattel slavery with an unforgettable cast of characters. An instant classic.
Gr 4-7–Everyone sees Sputnik as an adorable pooch, but Prez knows him as a mind-reading little alien dressed in a kilt who has arrived in northern England to make a list: 10 reasons why Earth should be saved. The duo’s rowdy romps are light as air, but the mates are believably grounded as they discover the meaning of home. Heartwarming and hilarious.
Gr 5-8–Running off in the dead of night, two half sisters take a bumpy, boisterous road trip to their former hometown to fulfill their late mother’s request: scatter her ashes. Dooley offers a sensitive and nuanced depiction of Southern hospitality (and hostility) and a family with two moms, set a decade before nationwide marriage equality.
Gr 5-8–In 1965, 12-year-old Sophie moves to a new neighborhood in Los Angeles, where she’s the only black girl in a sea of white faces. As she experiences individual micro- and macroaggressions because of her race, she also bears witness to the colorism at play in her own home and the escalation of the Watts riots. A relatable coming-of-age tale that sheds light on an important but little-studied event.
Gr 4-6–Even after unpopular loner Nick saves her from the mean kids, Frank’s not sure she really wants to be his friend. But the intoxicating music coming from his basement intrigues her, and the two slowly open up to each other and share a precious secret. This UK-set story of bullying has a touch of the surreal, buoyed by Pinfold’s atmospheric drawings.
Gr 3-7–Introverted Virgil Salinas is tricked by the appropriately named Chet Bullens into falling down a well, with only his guinea pig (and a few ghostly voices inspired by his grandmother’s folktales) for company. Meanwhile, readers meet Kaori Tanaka, a take-charge psychic-for-hire; her little sister Gen; and Virgil’s crush, Valencia Somerset, who is Deaf and no shrinking violet. An uplifting and funny tale, with a lovable cast of characters (even the bully gets thoughtful treatment).
Gr 4-6–Ten best-selling authors—including Matt de la Peña, Jacqueline Woodson, and Tim Tingle—each pen an eminently readable short story in this stellar partnership with We Need Diverse Books. A variety of genres and narrative formats will keep readers returning to these pages. With a wealth of curricula tie-ins, this book deserves a special spot in classroom libraries, too.
Gr 3-6–Zine-making, dress code–defying Malú embodies the spirit of punk, to the delight of her father and the dismay of her mother, who is Mexican and wishes the girl would take more pride in her Hispanic heritage instead. A move to Chicago gives Ramones fangirl Malú the opportunity to embrace both sides of herself in this bold, warm, and funny novel about carving out identity.
Gr 5-8–In this companion to Ghost, Reynolds proves that his gift for crafting authentic and complex characters is not limited to male protagonists. Rising track star Patty is running from her complicated family history, the responsibilities weighing her down, the pressures of her fancy private school, and the ways she isolates herself from peers. Overcoming a stunning loss and being forced to trust her teammates propel her to grow in unexpected ways.
Gr 4-8–Johnny is given seeds that help him talk to animals, and he sets out on an adventure to search for a missing prince. Completing a recently discovered, unfinished story Twain wrote for his daughters, the Steads infuse this fairy tale with their signature themes of kindness, compassion, and empathy. Imagined conversations between Twain and Philip Stead add an intriguing complexity, while Erin Stead’s poignant images elevate the work to instant-classic status.
Gr 4-6–Clayton’s grandfather teaches him to play the blues harmonica and jam with his band in Washington Square Park. When Cool Papa dies unexpectedly, the bereft 11-year-old’s mother hustles him back to school and sells Cool Papa’s belongings, including those promised to the child. Frustrated and grieving, Clayton runs away to find the Bluesmen and sets into motion this richly realized story of family, loss, and forgiveness.
Gr 5-8–An atmospheric novel set on the tiny island of Cuttyhunk in the 1920s. Crow has grown up in a loving but unconventional adoptive home, but she’s shunned and feared by the islanders, who assume she has come from the nearby leper colony. As she matures, Crow is determined to locate her birth family and find out who she really is. This heartrending story features a well-realized setting, lyrical writing, and fully fleshed-out characters.
BEST OF 2017 SPONSOR
BEST OF 2017 SPONSOR
Want a hard copy? Just fill out the form below to download a printable PDF version of the full Best Books 2017 list: