Great books of 2019

All year, every year, I read like it’s my job. (It kind of is, but in case anyone still believes the myth that librarians get to read while at work, let me swiftly debunk that one for you: NO.) However, I don’t hold a candle to librarian/reviewer extraordinaire Betsy Bird, so I want to recommend her “31 Days, 31 Lists” feature for School Library Journal, which is comprehensive. There’s also no shortage of year-end lists from other sources, including but certainly not limited to:

I do read a lot of new books, so there are plenty of 2019 titles on my list(s), but there are older ones as well. Publication year is noted along with author and title. If I listened to an audiobook, I’ll note that as well with “(audio)” (if I only listened to it) or “(+audio)” (if I listened and read it in print as well). I may winnow this down to a Top Ten list later in the month (after all, the #libfaves countdown on Twitter is starting soon has already started, see below), but it’s hard to leave out books that I feel deserve more eyeballs! All of my reviews are on LibraryThing.

Picture Books (Fiction)

Lambslide by Ann Patchett (2019)
Little Taco Truck by Tanya Valentine (2019)
The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol (2019)
Red Light, Green Lion by Candace Ryan (2019)
Truman by Jean Reidy (2019)
Is 2 A Lot by Annie Watson (2019)
Penny and Penelope by Dan Richards (2019)
Here and Now by Julia Denos (2019)
Twins by Mike Ciccotello (2019)
Just Because by Mac Barnett (2019)
Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang (2019)
Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed (2019)
Don’t Touch My Hair! by Sharee Miller (2018)
Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora (2018)
The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker (2018)
Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack (2018)
Ginny Goblin Is Not Allowed to Open This Box by David Goodner (2018)
It’s Springtime, Mr. Squirrel by Sebastian Meschenmoser (2018)
Pirate Jack Gets Dressed by Nancy Raines Day (2018)
I Am Not A Fox by Karina Wolf (2018)
Waltz of the Snowflakes by Elly MacKay (2017)
I Really Want the Cake by Simon Philip (2017)
World Pizza by Cece Meng (2017)
Are You A Monkey? by Marine Rivoal (2017)
My Dog’s A Chicken by Susan McElroy Montanari (2016)
Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis (2016)
Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian (2016)
Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood (2015)
Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev (2015)
Down Here by Valerie Sherrard (2015)
Spots in a Box by Helen Ward (2015)
The Angry Little Puffin by Timothy Young (2014)
Froodle by Antoinette Portis (2014)
Fraidyzoo by Thyra Heder (2013)
I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry (2010)
Pete’s A Pizza by William Steig (1998)

Picture Books (Nonfiction)

If Pluto Was A Pea by Gabrielle Prendergast (2019)
Pluto Gets the Call by Adam Rex (2019)
Skulls! by Blair Thornburgh (2019)
The Spacesuit by Alison Donald (2019)
Magic Ramen by Andrea Wang (2019)
Just Like Beverly by Vicki Conrad (2019)
You Are My Friend by Aimee Reid (2019)
Ladybugs by Gail Gibbons (2013)

Early Readers/Chapter Books

Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems (2010)
Penny and Her Sled by Kevin Henkes (2019)
Charlie & Mouse; Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy; Charlie & Mouse Even Better by Laurel Snyder (2017, 2017, 2019)
Louise Loves Bake Sales by Laura Driscoll (2018)
The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale (2015)
Bink & Gollie; Bink & Gollie, Best Friends Forever; Bink & Gollie, Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee (2010, 2012, 2013)
Ivy & Bean by Annie Barrows (2007) (+audio)
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (2006) (+audio)
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman (2013) (+audio)
The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo by Judy Blume (1981)

Middle Grade

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorell (2019)
Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly (2019) (audio)
All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker (2019)
The Year We Fell From Space by Amy Sarig King (2019)
Sunny and Ghost by Jason Reynolds (2019) (audio)
A Tale Magnolious by Suzanne Nelson (2019)
Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy (2019)
Roll With It by Jamie Sumner (2019)
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart (2019)
For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington (2019)
The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu (2019)
Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu (2019)
Sweeping Up the Heart by Kevin Henkes (2019)
We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey (2019)
Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen (2019)
To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer (2019)
The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin (2019)
My Jasper June by Laurel Snyder (2019)
This Promise of Change by Jo Ann Allen Boyce (2019) (nonfiction)
The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon (2018)
The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller (2018) (audio)
Blended by Sharon M. Draper (2018) (audio)
The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobsen (2018)
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson (2018) (audio)
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (2005) and Princess Acacemy: Palace of Stone (2012)
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (2011) (audio)
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (2005)
Frindle by Andrew Clements (1998)
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien (1971) (audio)

Middle Grade Graphic Novels

Sunny Rolls the Dice by Jennifer and Matthew Holm (2019)
Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke (2019)
Stargazing by Jen Wang (2019)
Guts by Raina Telgemeier (2019)
Best Friends by Shannon Hale (2019)
Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis (2019)
Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol (2018)
Princeless: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley (2014)
The Babysitters Club: Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier (2015)
Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon (2017)
New Kid by Jerry Craft (2019)
Awkward; Brave; Crush (Berrybrook Middle School) by Svetlana Chmakova (2015, 2017, 2018)

YA

The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
The Poet X and With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (audio)
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

Adult fiction

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (2019)
Famous Men Who Never Lived by K Chess (2019)
The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz (2019)
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames (2019)
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (2019)
The Swallows by Lisa Lutz (2019)
Dominicana by Angie Cruz (2019)
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (2017)
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (2019)
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey (2019)
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (2019)
Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen (2019)
Lost and Wanted by Nell Freudenberger (2019)
Normal People by Sally Rooney (2019)
The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer (2019)
Milkman by Anna Burns (2018)

Adult Nonfiction

The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West (2019)
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (2015)
Dear Ally, How Do You Write A Book by Ally Carter (2019)
Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty (2019)
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez (2019)
Wordslut by Amanda Montell (2019)
Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda (2016)
Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson (2019)
Peacerunner by Penn Rhodeen (2016)
Shakespeare by Bill Bryson (2016)

YA and Adult Graphics

March (Books 1-3) by John Lewis (2013, 2015, 2016)
Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks (2019)
Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley (2019)
Good Talk by Mira Jacob (2019)
The Unwanted by Don Brown (2019)
The Mental Load by Emma (2018)

My #libfaves19 picks so far (there are still almost three weeks left in December…)

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
The Year We Fell From Space by Amy Sarig King
Good Talk by Mira Jacob
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
Wordslut by Amanda Montell

Step Into Storytime, December 9

Today was my last storytime of 2019! It was a smaller group, and I’m on the way to losing my voice, so it was quieter too. Completely different vibe from last week! So much depends on who shows up.

  • Welcome and announcements
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Name song (“___ is here today”)
  • Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel
  • Yoga stretches
  • There’s A Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins
  • Song cube: “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” (three times through: regular speed, slow, fast)
  • I Can Only Draw Worms by Will Mabbitt: We found this book yesterday browsing at the Robbins Library. It has bright (neon!), simple illustrations which stand out well, and it also functions as a counting book (“…seven, eight, eight and a half, nine…”)
  • Stretch and wiggle
  • Mouse house game
  • Traffic light game
  • Now by Antoinette Portis: I usually save this one for the last storytime in a session, when several of the kids and their grown-ups have been coming at least semi-regularly, so when we hit the last line (“And this is my favorite now / because it’s the one I am having / with you”) there’s some feeling in it.
  • Touch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson: I requested about a dozen of these, more than enough for everyone to have a copy to read along. It’s interactive, so I wanted all the kids to be able to touch, tap, press, etc.
  • “Goodbye Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Craft: Coloring and gluing paper stars (small and large die-cut stars, markers, glue sticks)

Step Into Storytime, December 2

It snowed yesterday and last night, then the snow turned to rain, so it was a slushy mess this morning, but we still had 8 kids at the beginning of storytime, and 14 by the end! And it was a particularly great program: I tried some new books that worked out really well, and had a new movement game for the felt board that was also a success.

Song cube and stack of picture books

  • Welcome and announcements
  • “Hello Friends” with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Name song (“___ is here today”)
  • Book! By Kristine O’Connell George and Maggie Smith: I found this while browsing, and it’s a great lead-off book, especially for the younger kiddos.
  • Song cube: “Where is Thumbkin?”
  • There’s A Monster in Your Book by Tom Fletcher
  • Stand and stretch: reach up high to the ceiling, touch toes, repeat; step feet apart and touch right hand to right foot, then left hand to left foot, then (challenge!) opposite hand to opposite foot.
  • Traffic light felt boardRed Light, Green Lion by Candace Ryan: This worked beautifully, and I really wasn’t sure how it would go. I skipped some of the text, concentrating on the red and green (“red light, green li–“), which is enough of a story on its own.
  • Traffic light felt board: First I put up the traditional traffic light colors (red, yellow, green), then started introducing different colors (orange = hop on 1 or 2 feet, pink = twirl around, purple = touch toes, blue = clap hands, white = sit down). I adapted this idea from one of the ones in Rob Reid’s book.*
  • Chicken Wants A Nap by Tracy Marchini and Monique Felix: Simple text, HUGE illustrations, lots of opportunities for animal sounds (chicken, cow, etc.).
  • Song cube: “I Had A Little Turtle,” “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” (the latter four times: regular speed/volume, then quiet, fast, slow)
  • Thank You, Bear by Greg Foley: Got an audible “awwww” from the grown-ups at the end. Foley’s Bear books are so sweet.
  • “Goodbye Friends” with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Color on butcher paper with crayons

*I’ve been slowly making my way through 200 Original and Adapted Story Program Activities by Rob Reid (2018) and mining it for new book ideas, fingerplays, rhymes, and movement activities.

Picture books on storytime chair

 

Step Into Storytime, November 25

Craft materials on top of picture books

Thanksgiving is later this week, but I didn’t lean hard on a Thanksgiving theme. Grace Lin’s beautiful, simple Dim Sum for Everyone is about sharing food, however, and I prepared a craft to go with it. Usually the craft is a collaborative one, but this was an individual project kids could take home, and they did such interesting things with the choices! I also heard one grown-up say, “I don’t think she’s ever used a glue stick before…” and that’s great – the library can be a place for kids to encounter new art supplies and tools for the first time. Experimenting with crayons, markers, glue sticks, scissors, etc. all improves fine motor control.

  • Welcome and announcements
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Name song (“___ is here today”): We started with eight kids, two more came in during the song, and two more after that
  • Stretch
  • Sophie Johnson, Unicorn Expert by Morag Hood: This is probably better for an older group or one-on-one, as so much of the humor depends on the illustrations.
  • Tyrannosaurus Wrecks! by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen: There is always at least one dinosaur fan in the audience. I think there was also a kid for whom the “WRECKS!” part was too loud; she moved to a grown-up’s lap.
  • Song cube (I Had A Little Turtle, I’m A Little Teapot, If You’re Happy and You Know It)
  • Just Add Glitter by Angelia DiTerlizzi (“sprinkling” glitter with our hands, and feeling the glittery pages at the end of the book)
  • What sounds do birds make? (Cheep, peep, whoo-whoo, coo, quack, etc.)
  • Froodle by Antoinette Portis: The librarian at the Fox Branch Library in Arlington read this book at storytime a few weeks ago and it was a hit. It definitely got one kid today giggling too.
  • Song cube (Itsy-Bitsy Spider, Zoom Zoom Zoom), Where is Thumbkin?
  • Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin
  • “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”: One time at a regular pace, one time fast, one time slow. They liked the different speeds!
  • Mouse House game: They are nuts for this! Children’s librarians and teachers, I need your help: How do you get them to sit down?? Otherwise it becomes a mosh pit very quickly, which is why I moved it from the middle of storytime to the end.
  • “Goodbye Friends” with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Clean up mats
  • Dim Sum craft: Each kid got a mini paper plate and a glue stick. I scattered different colored paper shapes on the floor so they were spread out. Most kids assembled a little plate of “dim sum,” but two used the shapes to make a face with arms, legs, and even eyebrows instead! Very creative.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Step Into Storytime, November 18

Last week the library was closed on Monday for Veterans’ Day, and last weekend was quite cold, so today’s group was large and squirrelly! I used all my quiet down and redirection strategies and it was still pretty rowdy (although to be fair, it was mostly the four in front; there were several in the back who were sitting pretty quietly and could have listened to more books).

  • Welcome and announcements (please fill out our community survey if you have 5-10 minutes!)
  • “Hello Friends” with ASL (Jbrary)
  • “The More We Get Together” with ASL
  • Pom Pom Panda Gets the Grumps by Sophy Henn (everyone can say “Harumph!” together)
  • Will Ladybug Hug? by Hilary Leung (this is a board book, but they really seemed to enjoy it, and I think the message about consent is a good one to fit in before the holidays, when kids are likely to see some family members and family friends they might not know very well).
  • Song cube: “Wheels on the Bus” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It”
  • Roly Poly Pangolin by Anna Dewdney: They liked this one a lot, actually; I’m not sure whether that’s because it’s in rhyme or because they were sympathetic to the main character’s shyness. It also has big, bold illustrations that are easy from anywhere in the room.
  • The mouse house game (“Little mouse, little mouse, are you in the ____ house?”) They react to this game the way that Stones fans react to Satisfaction. The same three kids kept shouting out colors so I asked to hear from some of our quieter friends in the back to try to ensure everyone got a turn.
  • Want to Play Trucks? by Ann Stott and Bob Graham: This is usually a great storytime book for this group, but their attention span was completely gone at this point.
  • “Shake Your Sillies Out” with egg shakers
  • Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett: We stayed on our feet for this book so we could do the animal impressions; with the repeated “monkey and me” singsong part, it’s equal parts movement activity, song, and story.
  • “Goodbye Friends” with ASL
  • Clean up mats; reminder about surveys
  • Art: coloring with markers and crayons on brown butcher paper with a tape shape on it. (On reflection, the markers were not a good choice for today, and I got less help from grown-ups than last time with putting the caps back on. But the tape shapes were a hit! And there were so many kids I added a second paper and shape, because there wasn’t enough room around the first paper.)

Step Into Storytime, November 4

Stack of picture books

Storytime today started with a small enough group (just 8 kids, plus an infant) that I swapped the name song in for “The More We Get Together.” I always like to do the name song if there are ten kids or fewer, because (a) it helps me learn the kids’ names and (b) some of them really love being the center of attention! Usually we have more than ten kids, though, so the name song would take up too much time. Today some more came in throughout storytime, and we ended up with about 11.

  • Welcome and announcements (I remembered – I’m very proud of myself – that next Monday is a holiday and the library will be closed, so my next storytime after this is in two weeks)
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Name song (“___ is here today” x3 “we all clap our hands, ___ is here today”)
  • Three short poems from The Frogs and Toads All Sang by Arnold Lobel
  • Are You A Monkey?: a tale of animal charades, by Marine Rivoal, translated/adapted by Maria Tunney. This is a much longer book than I’d usually use for a group of 2-3-year-olds, but it has so many opportunities for participation (animal sounds and motions) that it worked as a lead-off book…
  • …provided we did “Shake Your Sillies Out” with egg shakers right afterward!
  • And we kept our egg shakers for The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett. I would have liked to have Monkey and Me in the lineup instead, but it was checked out, and The Odd Egg worked well with the shakers – I asked the kids to shake on page turns or when we said the word “egg.”
  • Mamasaurus by Stephan Lomp: This is a “where’s my mother?” plot, but with dinosaurs. It’s not my most favorite picture book of all time, but I thought the dinosaurs might appeal. It seemed to hold their attention well enough.
  • The mouse house game! They love this. We played three times.
  • “Where is Thumbkin?” song/fingerplay
  • A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes: I have felt elephants for this, but didn’t use them today; we just counted, marched, and made elephant sounds.
  • “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”
  • “Goodbye Friends” with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Put away mats, color with markers(!) and crayons on butcher paper (This is the first time I put out markers. I did ask the grown-ups to help make sure the caps got on the markers when they were done, and they did!).

“Little mouse, little mouse, are you in the orange house?”

The final lineup of picture books read today
The Odd Egg, The Frogs and Toads All Sang, Mamasaurus, Are You A Monkey?, A Parade of Elephants

Step Into Storytime, October 28

Sign language flash cards (more, book, thanks)
Baby Sign Language flash cards for “more,” “book,” and “thanks”

After missing the last two Mondays (for Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the NELA conference), it was so nice to be back at storytime! And I was able to bring two new elements to storytime today, another song with ASL from NELA and a mouse house felt board game from the Belmont Public Library storytime earlier this month.

  • Welcome and announcements
  • “Hello Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
  • “The More We Get Together” song with signs for “more,” “together,” “happy,” “be,” and “friends” (hat tip to the Chelmsford children’s librarians at NELA!)
  • The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson and Helen Oxenbury
  • My Name Is Elizabeth by Annika Dunklee and Matthew Forsythe
  • “Shake Your Sillies Out” with shaker eggs
  • Shh! We Have A Plan by Chris Haughton
  • “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”
  • The mouse house game: “Little mouse, little mouse, are you in the [color] house?” We played it three times, with me switching the houses and mouse location each time (I made six houses, but only four fit on the felt board at one time).
  • Not A Stick by Antoinette Portis
  • “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” standing in star position and rocking side to side
  • Spots in a Box by Helen Ward
  • “Goodbye Friends” song with ASL (Jbrary)
  • Clean up mats, put down paper for spots craft (using glue sticks to stick colored spots to the butcher paper)

The new song and game went well. Lately I’ve been feeling like six books is too many – most other storytimes I’ve been to for this age group usually do only three or so – and five is still plenty.

I always sketch an outline of my plan for storytime, and it always changes a little bit. This time I switched the order of two books (Not A Stick and Shh! We Have A Plan), switched the order of two movement songs (“Shake Your Sillies Out” and “Twinkle,” because one kid saw the shaker eggs and got very excited), and added a song (“Row Row Row,” because there is paddling in Shh! We Have A Plan). The baby sign language cards pictured above I ended up taking down before storytime started (they’re great up close, but hard to see from farther away). I also had A Parade of Elephants and several other books available as options, but did stick with my original lineup. Next week, elephants! (And dinosaurs.)

Left: stack of storytime books. Right: the final lineup of five books on the storytime chair.