Which were the best books you read this year? The children’s librarians at Parkway Central Children’s Department have all the extremely specific book awards you never knew you needed!
Miss Liz’s Awards
Elizabeth Gardiner, Acting Department Head, Children’s Department
Best Book About a Much-Loved Food Written in Philadelphia
Pizza: A Slice of History by Greg Pizzoli
Do you love pizza? Many of us do! But how much do you really know about where pizza comes from and how it became what it is today? What was the first pizza delivery like? This book answers those questions and more. Bonus: it's written by a local Philly author!
A Story that Helped Me Love Myself More
Laxmi's Mooch by Shelly Anand and Nabi H. Ali
A bit about me: I had quite a fuzzy upper lip as a kid, and I wish this book had been around back then! I'm so happy this story is being told now, so our young friends with their own mooches know they're wonderful just as they are, fuzz or no fuzz!
Book with Illustrations I Most Wanted to Fall Into
emile and the field by Kevin Young and Chioma Ebinama
I imagine a future where we become more connected to nature, and work to share the love and stewardship of wild places with those around us. This book explores one boy's love of a certain field, and his journey to appreciating the ways others relate to his special place. Bonus: it has watercolor illustrations that made me long for the beauty in each and every season.
Favorite Tale that Centers the Power of Imagination
The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López
I treasure this story because it lifts up the power of our imaginations to help us transcend our sometimes-not-so-wonderful realities. Whether it's boredom, conflict, or something else that's getting us down, this story reinforces that we possess the power to do and make beautiful and wonderful things, no matter the circumstances!
Best Hilarious Chronicle of a Recipe-Gone-Wrong
A Spoonful of Frogs by Casey Lyall and Vera Brosgol
I couldn't help but laugh out loud when I first saw my colleague Captain Scout read this at storytime! A witch set on cooking a very specific recipe encounters problems when the main ingredient isn't cooperating. The compromise at the end will satisfy most every reader, especially frog lovers!
Best Girl Power Adventure with Just a Few Hiccups
Sanity & Tallulah: Shortcuts by Molly Brooks
First, a plug for you to read the first two books in this graphic novel series! I love these stories about two young friends who live on a space station and get up to all sorts of adventures (some planned, some unplanned!). Sanity and Tallulah decide to take a shortcut in this story, and of course that leads to all manner of shenanigans and just a handful of brushes with complete disaster…
Miss Mary's Awards
Mary Westbrook, Children's Librarian
Board Books for Everyone!
Really Awesome Picture Books!
Younger Middle-Grade Novels That Still Have Pictures!
Graphic Novels That Made Me Cry!
Shout-Out to Field Teen Center with the Most Binge-able Manga Series!
Captain Scout's Awards
Scout Mayor, Children's Librarian
Best Story About Climate Change or Environmentalism
Nowhere Better Than Here by Sarah Guillory
Set on the coast of Louisiana, this book follows Jillian Robichaux as she begins to notice what rising sea levels have done to the home she loves. I loved Jillian's voice in this, and it was a compelling look at what one person can do in this kind of situation.
Runners up: Thirst by Varsha Bajaj, Little Monarchs by Jonathan Case, The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat
Favorite Book That Made Me Check Under The Bed Before Going To Sleep
The Clackity by Lora Senf
At first glance this book feels a lot like a classic fairytale - a quest through a magic land! Strange creatures who may help or hinder! Magic keys! - but the villain of the piece is so chilling and the heroine of the book is so complicated and real that it instantly sets itself apart. I read this whole book in one day and I would do it again.
Runners up: The Two Wrong Halves of Ruby Taylor by Amanda Panitch, Salt Magic by Hope Larson
Favorite Book Where Characters Deal With Trauma
Cece Rios and the King of Fears by Kaela Rivera
The sequel to one of my entries on last year's list, Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls, this one switches POV between Cece and her sister, Juana, and deals with the fallout from the first book in a way I've rarely seen in this kind of adventure story. Feelings are complicated and messy, and so is fighting an ancient evil with magic you only partially understand!
Runners up: The Golden Hour by Nikki Smith, A Duet For Home by Karina Yan Glaser, Fight + Flight by Jules Machias
Book That Got Stuck In My Brain And Won't Leave
The Robber Girl by Franny Billingsley
Grownups who are reading this list: set aside all your thoughts about how middle grade fiction is too childish for adults to enjoy and read this book. I mean, set that idea aside anyway and allow yourself to feel more joy in life, but also definitely read this book. This is the kind of book that gives you a book hangover. This is the kind of book you get so immersed in that the next book you try to read sounds weird. It's the story of a feral child who was raised by robbers, but it's also a story about finding your place in life and figuring out which voices to listen to. Also: don't trust knives, they're very inflexible thinkers.
Runners up: Dear Friends by Lisa Greenwald, The Problem with Prophecies by Scott Reintgen, Gussy by Jimmy Cajoteas
Best Complicated Family Book
Miosotis Flores Never Forgets by Hilda Eunice Burgos
Miosotis Flores' big sister has been acting strangely ever since she got engaged, and no one but Miosotis seems to worry about it enough. This book tackles a hard subject - abuse - with love and delicacy while also never shying away from the most emotionally ugly parts. And it's set just outside Philadelphia!
Runners up: Troublemaker by John Cho, Maizy Chen's Last Chance by Lisa Yee, Across the Desert by Dusti Bowling, Erik Vs. Everything by Christina Uss
Ms. Naomi's Awards
Naomi Socher-Lerner, Children's Librarian
Alternatively, Best Person Chasing an Animal on the Cover
The Wind May Blow by Sasha Clinton
This poem incorporates a re-reading of repeating words and phrases through peek-through windows in the pages, with repeated visual motifs receiving the same treatment. The illustrations are emotional and beautiful, words and pictures combining to create a message of hope and resilience. Just the message we need for 2022.
Runners up: Rabbit Chase by Elizabeth LaPensée
Tisha and the Blossoms by Wendy Meddour with Daniel Egnéus (Illustrator)
“I have done too much hurrying up.” says Tisha. What follows is a lovely family evening, enjoying being in the moment. Everyone needs a reminder to slow down, and children appreciate that slowing down sometimes more than adults do.
Runners up: Solitary Animals by Joshua David Stein, and The Golden Hour by Nikki Smith
NO! Said Custard the Squirrel by Sergio Ruzzier
Custard the Squirrel is, the illustrations show us, a duck who only says “no!” All the children I've read this to laugh uproariously. Counter-factual statements may not be humor all adults appreciate, but it tickles kids just right.
Runners up: The Stack by Vanessa Roeder, and A Spoonful of Frogs by Casey Lyall
Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation by Sylvia Liu
Most people get internet access via a brain chip starting in adolescence, but whether that's a good idea is only one of many thought provoking questions raised by this book. What would it mean to see another person's "profile" in real time? What is the goal of meditation? Who should hold power? How does generational trauma heal? And many more!
Runners up: The Robber Girl by Franny Billingsley, and Twelfth by Janet Key
Best Magical School Story
The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton
There are MANY new magical school stories, and I love them all. The Marvellers rises to the top of this category by virtue of its rich word building. The social structures are complex and appropriately problematised, and the racial and cultural groups are differentiated from one another and rooted in real traditions. And there is plenty of adventure! This is gearing up to be a great series.
Runners up: The Midnight Orchestra by Jessica Khoury, and Wildseed Witch by Marti Dumas