Best of the Year

I know one is supposed to post these in the weeks leading up to the end of the year, but I didn’t get around to it.  So, here it is, our best children’s books of the year.  For me, I only included books I read for the first time this year, which ruled out a number of wonderful rereads.

Farrar’s Top Five
(fiction only, in no particular order)


Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson
middle grades classic
I can’t believe it’s only in the last year that we read half a dozen of the Moomin books (only Moominpappa at Sea was a bust for us).  We love their weird, fantastic, nonsense world.

The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland by Cathrynne Valente
middle grades fantasy
As I said in my review, this book, with its complex language and plot blew me away.  There should be more challenging fantasy like this in middle grades.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Garcia-Williams
middle grades historical fiction
This award winner brought together so many elements without it feeling forced and managed to wrap everything up neatly while still letting the characters be messily human.  Oh yeah, I reviewed it.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
young adult contemporary fantasy
This satire was probably the best young adult book I read this year.  It was hilarious and insightful, as I said in my review.  Count me as a firm Libba Bray Devotee.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
middle grades fantasy
As I said in my review, never have I read a book for children so dark yet so appropriate.  This one continues to push my thinking even months after I read it.  I think it may be my very favorite of the year.

Mushroom’s Top Five


Dodsworth (the whole series) by Tim Egan
easy readers
These are funny.

Your Very Own Robot (Choose Your Own Adventure) by R.A. Montgomery
easy reader
In this book, there’s a kid who makes a robot and does all this crazy stuff with him.  You can make a way through the book and choose which way you want to go to, like if I say, would you like to have ice cream or soda, you can pick which one and go through the book differently, so you can read it as many times as you want.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
middle grades contemporary
This book is about a few kids who go to Arundel for vacation.  And they meet a kid named Jeffery, but his mother is evil and the person she marries is evil too.

The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
middle grades classic
This book is little like The Penderwicks but it has not as many parts with sadness or badness inside it.

You Can Cook by Anabel Karmel
A lot of the things inside here, kids can’t cook by themselves.  I love it because it has chicken tikka masala, Swedish meatballs, and burgers.  It also has lots of treats at the end.

BalletBoy’s Top Five
(BalletBoy didn’t have anything to say about his choices.  He was more concerned that I get the appropriate cover images.)


The Fog Mound: The Travels of Thelonius by Susan Schade and Jon Bueller
middle grades fantasy

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
middle grades classic

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
middle grades contemporary
BalletBoy might not have anything to say about it, but I did review it.

Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
middle grades graphic novel

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
middle grades fantasy

8 thoughts on “Best of the Year

  1. My ds (8) loved The Fog Mound and Amulet, too! He just finished Black Star, Bright Dawn and is diving into Crispin. I have held off on introducing Harry Potter, primarily because while I think the first book would be fine, I think the series advances quickly. What are your thoughts on this?

    1. There was just an online conversation about this on the Secular Homeschool Forum, actually. I think anything kids can read on their own and really want to try, unless there’s a firm reason not to, they should be able to read. They advance after the third or fourth one to some darker themes, but I think most kids can handle it. I don’t always suggest books to my kids until I think they’re ready and I don’t read them aloud unless I think they’re right – and I think it’s good to wait on some books sometimes. I haven’t done the fourth book yet and told BalletBoy he could read it himself if he wanted, but only if he read the first one (the others have been read alouds). He did, but then he decided the fourth one was too long, which I think is probably true for him.

  2. An end-of-the-year book list, excellent! I like how you included your sons’ lists as well. Lots of good choices to add to my reading list. Thanks, Farrar!

  3. We loved A TALE DARK AND GRIM, too 🙂 Had the chance to speak with Adam Gidewitz at last years AUTHORS UNLIMITED event sponsored buy our local libraries in Suffolk County. He talked about fairy tales’ powers to protect and comfort–it was really powerful. He is a teacher, too–though looking I think to become a full-time writer–so he really gets kids…particularly the kids who might not appear to be superstars at first glance…

  4. We’re the boys’ lists read-alouds by you or books they read on their own?

    I think I’ll tell HVDD what books your men liked and see if she’d like to hear them too. She’ll love the cookbook. 🙂

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