Best Children’s Books of 2013

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Best Childrens Books of 2013

These are some of the books that made the best books lists for younger and middle grade readers from more than one professional book review journal. The journals that selected the books for their best books lists are listed at the end of each book’s annotation.

Kathi Appelt. The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp.

When rogue feral hogs and a greedy developer threaten to wipe out Sugar Man Swamp, two raccoons know it’s time to rouse the legendary Sugar Man. (Booklist, Kirkus, and School Library Journal)

Jonathan Bean. Building Our House.

An homage to Beans back-to-the land parents, who built his childhood home in the 1970s. (Horn Book and Kirkus)

Aaron Becker. Journey.

Ignored by her digitally distracted family, a girl draws a red door on her bedroom wall and steps through. (Kirkus, Horn Book and School Library Journal)

Jennifer Berne. On a Beam of Light.

A boy who asked too many questions becomes iconic physicist Albert Einstein, whose questions changed the world.  (Booklist, Kirkus, Horn Book and School Library Journal)

Holly Black. Doll Bones.

A middle-grade fantasy dons the cloak of a creepy ghost tale to deliver bittersweet meditations on the nature of friendship, the price of growing up and the power of storytelling. (Booklist, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal)

Sage Blackwood. Jinx.

Making unusually entertaining use of well-worn elements, this series opener plops a dense but promising young wizard-in-training between a pair of obnoxious rival mages. (Booklist, Kirkus and School Library Journal)

Tonya Bolden. Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty.

A vivid depiction of the issues and tensions surrounding abolition and the development of Lincoln’s responses to them as the United States plunged into the Civil War. (Booklist, Kirkus and School Library Journal)

Peter Brown. Mr. Tiger Goes Wild.

There’s a lot to go wild for in this picture-book celebration of individuality and self-expression. (Booklist, Kirkus, Horn Book, School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly)

Don Brown. The Great American Dust Bowl.

A graphic novel account of the science and history that first created and then,theoretically, destroyed the terrifying Dust Bowl storms that raged in the UnitedStates during the dirty thirties. (Horn Book and Kirkus)

Jen Bryant. A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin.

This outstanding portrait of African-American artist Horace Pippin (1888-1946) allows Pippin’s work to shine–and his heart too. (Booklist, Kirkus and School Library Journal)

Eve Bunting. Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?

A great addition to the literature on ducks or socks! (Horn Book and Kirkus)

Ann E. Burg. Serafina’s Promise.

Eleven-year-old Serafina has a dream: to go to school and become a doctor. Yet her life outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is filled with urgent chores and responsibilities. (Kirkus and School Library Journal)

Annette LeBlanc Cate. Look Up!: Bird Watching In Your Own Backyard.

Small and accessible, this non-fiction book is jam-packed with accurate information likely to increase any potential birders enthusiasm and knowledge. (Kirkus and Horn Book)

Suzanne Collins. The Year of the Jungle.

Collins draws on her childhood memories of her fathers absence while hewas off fighting in Vietnam, in a story that manifests the uncertainties that accompany children growing up during wartime. (Booklist and Publishers Weekly)

Kate DiCamillo. Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures.

When a cynical comic-book fanatic discovers her own superhero, life becomes wonderfully supercharged. (Booklist, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal)

Brian Floca. Locomotive.

Floca took readers to the moon with the Apollo 11 mission in Moonshot (2009); now he takes them across the country on an equally historic journey of 100 years earlier.(Booklist, Kirkus, Horn Book, School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly)

Julie Fogliano. If You Want to See a Whale.

Fogliano and Stead (And Then It’s Spring, 2012) produce another tender, timid story about a boy, his animal friends (a basset hound and a bird) and practicing patience.(Booklist, Kirkus, School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly)

Russell Freedman. Becoming Ben Franklin: How a Candle-Maker’s Son Helped Light the Flame of Liberty.

An engaging biography of the man who “snatched lightning from the sky and the scepter from tyrants.” (Booklist, Kirkus, and School Library Journal)

Jan Greenburg and Sandra Jordan. The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius.

Intelligently written and beautifully illustrated, this engaging book describes the life and flamboyant personality of Mississippi potter George Ohr, whose genius was unrecognized in his day. (School Library Journal and Booklist)

Kevin Henkes. Penny and Her Marble.

Whose marble is it? (Kirkus, Horn Book and School Library Journal)

Kevin Henkes. The Year of Billy Miller.

Billy Miller’s second-grade year is quietly spectacular in a wonderfully ordinary way. (Kirkus, Horn Book and School Library Journal)

Joan Holub. Little Red Writing.

Exploding with puns, wordplay and the irrepressible desire to re-imagine “Little Red Riding Hood” one more time, Holub and Sweet bring forth some actual useful writing advice–that’s not just for beginners. (Kirkus and School Library Journal)

Mary Idle. Flora and the Flamingo.

A little girl first imitates, then annoys, then wins over, then duets with a ballet-dancing flamingo includes pull down flaps that highlight the wordless storys physical comedy and rhythmic pacing. (School Library Journal and Horn Book)

Steve Jenkins. The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest and Most Surprising Animals on Earth.

With facts sure to delight readers who will be impatient to share their discoveries this spectacular book is a must-purchase for animal-loving families and most libraries. (Kirkus and Horn Book)

Catherine Jinks. How to Catch a Bogle.

Child-eating bogles infest Victorian London, providing work aplenty for Go-Devil Man Alfred Bunce and his intrepid young apprentice, Birdie. (Kirkus, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly)

Cynthia Kadohata. The Thing About Luck.

Twelve-year-old Summer and her Japanese-American family work every harvest season to earn money to pay their mortgage. But this year, they face unprecedented physical and emotional challenges (National Book Award Winner). (Booklist, Kirkus, Horn Book. Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal)

Lenore Look. Brush of the Gods.

The life of the classical Chinese painter Wu Daozi is imagined as a magical artistic adventure. (Kirkus and Booklist)

Pat Zietlow Miller. Sophies Squash.

Sophies best friend is a yellow squash named Bernice and even though Bernice is supposed to be dinner, Sophie draws a smiling face on her and convinces two very tolerant parents to let her keep the gourd as a playmate. (School Library Journal and Booklist)

Chris Moriarty. The Watcher in the Shadows.

The magic is darker in this intense sequel to The Inquisitors Apprentice. (Kirkus and Booklist)

Kadir Nelson. Nelson Mandela.

An inspirational ode to the life of the great South African leader by an award-winning author and illustrator. (Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly)

Matt Phelan. Bluffton: My Summers With Buster.

In this winsome, sparely spun graphic novel by Phelan (The Storm in the Barn, 2011), Henry Harrison gets a tantalizing taste of the outside world when a young Buster Keaton and more vacationing vaudevillians tumble into his small Michigan town. (Kirkus, Horn Book and School Library Journal)

Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney. Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song.

This vibrant picture book weaves together the stories of two giants of the American civil rights movement. (School Library Journal and Booklist)

Jerry Pinkney. The Tortoise & the Hare.

With luminous mixed media pictures, a short, carefully meted-out text and a Southwestern U.S. setting, Pinkney takes on another of Aesop’s fablesmarvelously. (Booklist, Kirkus, School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly)

Amy Krause Rosenthal. Exclamation Mark.

Punctuation with pizzazz. (Kirkus and School Library Journal)

Susan L. Roth & Cindy Trumbore. Parrots Over Puerto Rico.

An ambitious project: The text on each vibrant, double-page collage, arranged vertically, intersperses the near-extinction and slow comeback of the Puerto Rican parrot with over 2,000 years of human history. (Booklist, Kirkus, School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly)

Katherine Rundell. Rooftoppers.

“Never ignore a possible.” Sophie takes her beloved guardian’s words to heart and never gives up on finding her long-lost mother. (Kirkus and School Library Journal)

Holly Goldberg Sloan. Counting by 7s.

After her parents death, twelve-year-old Willow Chance is taken in by her new friend Mai Nguyens mother, Pattie (ne Dung). A good-hearted cabdriver, a sad-sack school counselor, and Mais surly brother round out the eclectic, multicultural cast. The ending restores readers faith in human kindness. (School Library Journal and Horn Book)

Lemony Snicket. The Dark.

Laszlo is afraid of the dark which lives in the same big, creaky house as him, until one night the dark pays him a visit. (School Library Journal, Horn Book and Publisher’s Weekly)

Tanya Lee Stone. Courage Has No Color: The true Story of the Triple Nickles: America’s First Black Paratroopers.

The fascinating untold story of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, America’s first black paratroopers. (Booklist, Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly)

Catherine Thimmesh. Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How Do We Know What Dinosaurs Really Looked Like?

Thimmesh looks at how new discoveries in paleontology require sometimes drastic revisions by paleoartists. Copious illustrations by leading artists add much appeal to the books unique approach. (School Library Journal and Horn Book)

Pamela S. Turner. The Dolphins of Shark Bay.

If dolphins learn how to use tools from their mothers, does that mean they have a culture? (Kirkus and School Library Journal)

Clare Vanderpool. Navigating Early.

Returning to themes she explored so affectingly in Moon Over Manifest (2011), Newbery Medalist Vanderpool delivers another winning picaresque about memories, personal journeys, interconnectedness–and the power of stories. (Booklist, Kirkus and School Library Journal)

David Weisner. Mr. Wuffles!

A house cat pooh-poohs most proffered toys and gets his comeuppance tangling with a tiny alien spacecraft and its penny-sized adventurers. (Kirkus, School Library Journal, Horn Book, and Publisher’s Weekly)

Rita Williams-Garcia. P.S. Be Eleven.

Readers will cheer the return of the three sisters who captured hearts in the Newbery Honorwinning One Crazy Summer (2010). (Booklist, Kirkus, Horn Book, Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal)

About Sharon Rawlins

Sharon Rawlins is the Youth Services Specialist in Lifelong Learning at the New Jersey State Library. She's a children's and teen librarian responsible for providing consulting assistance to the youth services librarians in public and school libraries in NJ.