Each December, my Twitter feed is buzzing with Top 10s and Top 20s, and I AM A SUCKER. FOR ALL OF THEM. I have an incredible online professional network, and I love hearing about the books that have inspired and excited my teaching friends from all over the world. I find some of the best titles from these “Best Of” lists, and they often shape my reading journey for the next year. For years, I have been an enthusiastic consumer of these lists, but I have never had the guts to make one myself. Until now.
In case you need some background, I’m not a professional book reviewer. I work a full-time job (with a couple of side hustles), often teach and coach after school, and have a busy personal life. I don’t receive Advanced Readers Copies and have to wait in library hold lines just like everybody else. I haphazardly read old and new books, and my selection criteria makes no sense (unless “OH this one is close to my hand and I like the cover” is part of a scientific process that I don’t know about). I provide these disclaimers because I know that there are fabulous new books that I missed out on this year, and that some of these books are old news. If I’m missing anything great, please, fill me in!
Another note: My timeline is a bit messy. I review and snap photos of books as I read them, but because I try not to post more than twice a day, it can take anywhere from one to four months for the photo to make it to my Instagram (I mean, those cute photos of kids reading and #brianthecat are not going to post themselves). To fit my 2-3 posts a week format on the blog, it’s another three to five months before most Insta reviews make it here. To give you some context, that review of Piecing Me Together I just published this week? Featured on Instagram in July; actually read in April. For this list, I’ll be selecting from the titles published on the blog during 2017. To get a sneak peek of the best books coming your way soon, check out the list at the bottom of this post.
Let’s do this! My favorite reads from 2017, in no particular order, are after the jump.
Ghost, by Jason Reynolds
Castle “Ghost” Crenshaw has been running for as long as he can remember. It isn’t until he accidentally joins the school’s track team that he learns the difference between running toward something and running away. Full disclosure: I had to read Ghost twice before I really got it. It was worth it.
Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson
One of my favorite girl-power graphic novels ever. I said it best in my original review: “Nimona is a hero, a villain, brave, terrifying, and a personification of humanity, all wrapped into one pierced, tattooed, and spiked package. It’s time to teach our girls to be strong and loud; to take up space and make noise without apology. Nimona is ready to help.”
Al Capone does my Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko
Character-driven historical fiction that touches on big young adult themes with the lense of living with, and loving, someone with special needs. Fabulous.
Towers Falling, by Jewell Parker Rhodes
My first read that features 9/11 as historical fiction. Hard to believe. Deja’s character is big and heartwrenching and lovely and is still with me, even to this day.
A Boy Named Queen, by Sara Cassidy
Written with all the conciseness and eloquence of a short story, this novella made me proud to be a weirdo. Because despite all of the labels we get as we go through this life, its what we are on the inside that counts.
Anya’s Ghost, by Vera Brosgol
This graphic novel is consistently described by my middle schoolers as “creepy but awesome.” I agree.
Small as an Elephant, by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
This peek into the life of a child with a parent struggling with mental illness is a quick read, an empathy builder, and a great conversation starter.
Moo, by Sharon Creech
Sharon Creech + novel in verse + farm animals. Done deal.
Wolf Hollow, by Lauren Wolk
Historical fiction that doesn’t read like historical fiction (in the best way). A dark, haunting story that makes you consider the power of your words and actions. Also, that cover!
Better Nate than Never, by Tim Federle
Nate’s hilarious and endearing coming-of-age tale will have you wishing you could be best friends in real life. I dare you not to root for this underdog.
Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli
Did you not see the author? It’s Jerry Spinelli. I don’t need to say anything else. How I went so long without reading this one, I have no idea.
The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt
My love for Gary D. Schmidt kept going strong in 2017. I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and other Natural Disasters, by Lenore Look with pictures by LeUyen Pham
One of my only lower-grade reads to make the list, Alvin Ho is funny, curious, and a great role model for young boys. Wonderfully, this is one in a series.
Pax, by Sarah Pennypacker
Can’t talk about Pax yet. Still crying. I got so into this one, it almost made me forget that I was laid up on my couch with a back injury.
The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown
The book so beloved, it inspired an entire Tech-mas season. Roz the robot’s exciting and heartfelt journey will engage readers of all ages. I can’t wait for the sequel.
We are Growing, by Laurie Keller
One of my favorite read-alouds of the year. Quirky and funny with a great message, my kindergarten and first graders still ask for it weekly.
Drowned City, written and illustrated by Don Brown
And thus began my love affair with non-fiction graphic novels. A chilling and important retelling of the events of Hurricane Katrina.
Piecing Me Together, by Reneé Watson
Almost a year after reading, Jade’s question still sticks with me – “Why am I only seen as someone who needs and not someone who can give?” Some books change you. Piecing Me Together was one of those for me.
*Some of the best titles that I read this year won’t make it to the blog until 2018. Keep an eye out for these favorites:
- Amina’s Voice, by Hena Khan
- The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
- Becoming Naomi Leon, by Pam Munoz Ryan
- American Street, by Ibi Zoboi
- One Half from the East, by Nadia Hashimi
- Same Sun Here, by Silas House and Neela Vaswani
- The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon
- The Selection, by Kiera Cass
- The Only Road, by Alexandra Diaz
- Noggin, by John Corey Whaley
- The Seventh Wish, by Kate Messner
- When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandyha Menon
Plus many, many more that haven’t made it to Instagram yet – and many of those were excellent. (To give you an idea, I have a backup of about 65 reviews. I know! I’m working on it.)
I hope that your 2017 was as exciting and fulfilling as mine. Here’s to another year of stories, sharing, and learning in 2018!