Saturday, January 02, 2016

Favorite Books of 2015

Happy New Year! I hope you read some amazing books in 2015. With the Youth Media Awards announcements being only nine days away, there's no better time to talk about my favorite reads of the previous year (the last time my #1 favorite read won a medal was when The One and Only Ivan won the Newbery in 2013, so I don't have a great track record).  Without further ado, here are my top five reads in a variety of categories. Since there are 31 titles (I allowed six for adult fiction/nonfiction because it is a combined category), I'm just going to list each title and briefly discuss my top choice.

Picture Books: 

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich

If You Plant a Seed 

My Pen 

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay


Top choice: This was very hard to choose, since all five are fantastic. But The Bear Ate Your Sandwich is so funny and has such a fabulously delightful ending that rivaled no other picture book I read last year.

Children's Novels: 

The Empire Strikes Back: So You Want to be a Jedi?

A Handful of Stars 

Tiger Boy

Top choice: It was a tough decision between Echo and A Handful of Stars, but minor quibbles with thematic details with Echo make me choose Cynthia Lord's latest impeccable novel. It's a deeply moving and beautifully rendered  book about two unlikely friends against the backdrop of rural migratory life.

Children's Nonfiction:

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Petersen and the Churchill Club

Earmuffs for Everyone: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs

Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution

Mahalia Jackson: Walking With Kings and Queens 

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

Top choice: All five are brilliant portrayals of inspiring people, but The Boys Who Challenged Hitler absolutely blew me away with its depiction of a group of very brave teenage boys who protested against the evil regime of Nazi Germany.

Young Adult: 

I Am Princess X


Red Girl, Blue Boy

Scarlett Undercover

These Shallow Graves

Top choice: Very close between I Am Princess X and These Shallow Graves, but Jennifer Donnelly's latest is pretty pitch-perfect in every way: the murder mystery investigation, the atmospheric setting of 19th century aristocratic New York and the seedy underworld that co-existed, the dramatic romance ...this is why Jennifer Donnelly doesn't churn out YA novels year after year. Her books exist in a high stratosphere.

Graphic Novels (children's, young adult, and adult):


Lost in NYC

March: Book Two 

Roller Girl

Sunny Side Up

Top choice: It's not fair to have adult, YA, and children's graphic novels lumped together, but I didn't read enough adult graphic novels to justify separating them. Sunny Side Up is my choice; it is a sensitive and honest account of how a family struggles when an older child gets into serious trouble, but told in an age-appropriate manner. Although it's quite serious at times, the friendship between the two main young characters (who bond over their love of comics) is charming and heartwarming.

Adult Fiction/Nonfiction:

Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield

Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity

In the Unlikely Event

Something Must be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, A Virginia Town, A Civil Rights Battle

The Wright Brothers

Top choice: Very difficult, because I am very choosy about the adult fiction/nonfiction that I read. If I am not enthralled right away, I won't finish it. Therefore, every one of these books is an  extraordinary read, in my opinion. However, Ashley's War was quite incredible from beginning to end (and absolutely heartbreaking, but definitely worthwhile). You'll hear more about Ashley's War in the near future; Reese Witherspoon's production company bought the film rights.

We're not quite done with 2015 books! The ALA Youth Media Awards (including the Caldecott and Newbery medals) will be announced on January 11 at 8 AM EST.

In the meantime, get an early start on your 2016 reads by checking out this week's Wowbrary. Some last-minute 2015 additions to our children's and young adult collections, in addition to some spectacular early 2016 titles will be included in this edition. Subscribe to Wowbrary to be among the first to know about new additions to our collection.

Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library 

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