The Children’s Book Review | January 18, 2018
For that spot between picture books and young adult books, here is a wide range of wonderful literature that we feel represents the best kids books of 2017 for tweens and preteens (ages 7-12).
20 Notable Kids Books
Written by Chris Harris
Illustrated by Lane Smith
Publisher’s Synopsis: Meet Chris Harris, the 21st-century Shel Silverstein! Already lauded by critics as a worthy heir to such greats as Silverstein, Seuss, Nash and Lear, his hilarious debut poetry collection molds wit and wordplay, nonsense and oxymoron, and visual and verbal sleight-of-hand in masterful ways that make you look at the world in a whole new wonderfully upside-down way. With enthusiastic endorsements from bestselling luminaries as Lemony Snicket, Judith Viorst, Andrea Beaty, and many others, this entirely unique collection offers a surprise around every corner: from the ongoing rivalry between the author and illustrator, to the mysteriously misnumbered pages that can only be deciphered by a certain code-cracking poem, to the rhyming fact-checker in the footnotes who points out when “poetic license” gets out of hand. Adding to the fun: Lane Smith, bestselling creator of beloved hits like It’s a Book and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, has spectacularly illustrated this extraordinary collection with nearly one hundred pieces of appropriately absurd art. It’s a mischievous match made in heaven!
Ages 7-10 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | September 26, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0316266574
Written and Illustrated by Katherine Roy
Publisher’s Synopsis: The savanna is not an easy place to live, even for African elephants, the largest land animals on earth. If it’s a challenge for these 7,000-pound giants, what’s it like for their newborn babies?
An infant elephant has precious little time to learn the incredible array of skills that are necessary to keep up, from projecting her voice across a 10-octave range to using the 100,000 muscles in her trunk to stay hydrated. But this giant-to-be has the perfect classroom–a family herd made up of her mother, sisters, cousins, and aunts. With their help and protection, she’ll learn how to survive, how to thrive, and how to be an elephant.
Award-winning author-illustrator Katherine Roy’s How to Be an Elephant delves into the intricate family dynamics at play in a typical African herd. Drawing upon the latest scientific research and Roy’s own expedition to Kenya, and brimming with lush watercolor illustrations and detailed diagrams, this book vividly portrays the life and development of an elephant from an uncertain newborn into a majestic adult. As informative as it is beautiful, Roy’s unique portrait of an elephant’s life will captivate young explorers and animal lovers alike.
Ages 7-11 | Publisher: David Macaulay Studio | September 19, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1626721784
Written by Carole P. Roman
Illustrated by Mateya Arkova
Publisher’s Synopsis: From award-winning author Carole P. Roman comes a new chapter book featuring Susannah Logan, a young student having a very bad day. It all begins with homework trouble and an invitation to a sleepover that she doesn’t want to go to. Would you want to go to a sleepover in a creepy house? Rather than dealing with her problems, Susannah stuffs them into her backpack. But how much can a backpack take? Will she be able to confront her worries before the backpack bursts? Or will she just continue to hide them away? Join Susannah and her friends in this story sure to charm busy young readers everywhere.
Ages 7-10 | Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform | April 3, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1543034615
Written by Jessica Townsend
Publisher’s Synopsis: A breathtaking, enchanting new series by debut author Jessica Townsend, about a cursed girl who escapes death and finds herself in a magical world–but is then tested beyond her wildest imaginatio.
Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | Oct. 31, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0316508889
Written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Publisher’s Synopsis: Like the classic heroines of Sarah, Plain and Tall and Little Women, Ada conquers the homefront as her World War II journey continues in this sequel to the Newbery Honor–winning The War that Saved My Life.
When Ada’s clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she’s not what her mother said she was—damaged, deranged, crippled mentally as well as physically. She’s not a daughter anymore, either. Who is she now?
World War II rages on, and Ada and her brother, Jamie, move with their guardian, Susan, into a cottage with the iron-faced Lady Thorton and her daughter, Maggie. Life in the crowded home is tense. Then Ruth moves in. Ruth, a Jewish girl, from Germany. A German? Could Ruth be a spy?
As the fallout from war intensifies, calamity creeps closer, and life during wartime grows even more complicated. Who will Ada decide to be? How can she keep fighting? And who will she struggle to save?
Ada’s first story, The War that Saved My Life, was a #1 New York Times bestseller and won a Newbery Honor, the Schneider Family Book Award, and the Josette Frank Award, in addition to appearing on multiple best-of-the-year lists. This second masterwork of historical fiction continues Ada’s journey of family, faith, and identity, showing us that real freedom is not just the ability to choose, but the courage to make the right choice.
Ages 9-12 | Publisher: Dial Books | Oct. 3, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0525429203
Written and Illustrated by Allen Say
Publisher’s Synopsis: James Castle was born two months premature on September 25, 1899, on a farm in Garden Valley, Idaho. He was deaf, mute, autistic and probably dyslexic. He didn’t walk until he was four; he would never learn to speak, write, read or use sign language.
Yet, today Castle’s artwork hangs in major museums throughout the world. The Philadelphia Museum of Art opened “James Castle: A Retrospective in 2008.” The 2013 Venice Biennale included eleven works by Castle in the feature exhibition “The Encyclopedic Palace.” And his reputation continues to grow.
Caldecott Medal winner Allen Say, author of the acclaimed memoir Drawing from Memory, takes readers through an imagined look at Castle’s childhood, allows them to experience his emergence as an artist despite the overwhelming difficulties he faced, and ultimately reveals the triumphs that he would go on to achieve.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books | Oct. 31, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0545927611
Written by Caela Carter
Publisher’s Synopsis: From rising new talent Caela Carter, author of My Life with the Liars, comes an achingly beautiful and endearing story about two foster children who want desperately to believe that they’ve found their forever home. Perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, Leslie Connor’s All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, and Sarah Pennypacker’s Pax.
Flora and her brother, Julian, don’t believe they were born. They’ve lived in so many foster homes, they can’t remember where they came from. And even now that they’ve been adopted, Flora still struggles to believe in forever. So along with their new mother, Flora and Julian begin a journey to go back and discover their past—for only then can they really begin to build their future.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | March 7, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0062385680
Publisher’s Synopsis: A Newbery Medalist and a Caldecott Honoree offer a glorious, lyrical ode to poets who have sparked a sense of wonder.
Out of gratitude for the poet’s art form, Newbery Award–winning author and poet Kwame Alexander, along with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, present original poems that pay homage to twenty famed poets who have made the authors’ hearts sing and their minds wonder. Stunning mixed-media images by Ekua Holmes, winner of a Caldecott Honor and a John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, complete the celebration and invite the reader to listen, wonder, and perhaps even pick up a pen.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Candlewick | March 14, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0763680947
Publisher’s Synopsis: Cilla Lee-Jenkins is 50% Chinese, 50% Caucasian, and 100% destined for literary greatness!
Priscilla “Cilla” Lee-Jenkins is on a tight deadline. Her baby sister is about to be born, and Cilla needs to become a bestselling author before her family forgets all about her. So she writes about what she knows best―herself! Stories from her bestselling memoir, Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire, include:
– How she dealt with being bald until she was five
– How she overcame her struggles with reading
– How family traditions with her Grandma and Grandpa Jenkins and her Chinese grandparents, Nai Nai and Ye Ye, are so different
Debut author Susan Tan has written a novel bursting with love and humor, as told through a bright, irresistible biracial protagonist who will win your heart and make you laugh.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Roaring Brook Press | March 28, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1626725515
Written by Margarita Engle
Illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Publisher’s Synopsis: Musician, botanist, baseball player, pilot―the Latinos featured in this collection come from many different countries and from many different backgrounds. Celebrate their accomplishments and their contributions to a collective history and a community that continues to evolve and thrive today!
Biographical poems include: Aida de Acosta, Arnold Rojas, Baruj Benacerraf, César Chávez, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, Félix Varela, George Meléndez, José Martí, Juan de Miralles, Juana Briones, Julia de Burgos, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Paulina Pedroso, Pura Belpré, Roberto Clemente, Tito Puente, Ynes Mexia, Tomás Rivera
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. | March 14, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0805098761
Written by Ali Standish
Publisher’s Synopsis: Life can be transformed in one moment, but does that one moment define you for life?
Lost in the Sun meets The Thing About Jellyfish in Ali Standish’s breathtaking debut. A poignant middle grade novel of friendship and forgiveness, The Ethan I Was Before is a classic in the making.
Ethan had been many things. He was always ready for adventure and always willing to accept a dare, especially from his best friend, Kacey. But that was before. Before the accident that took Kacey from him. Before his family moved from Boston to the small town of Palm Knot, Georgia.
Palm Knot may be tiny, but it’s the home of possibility and second chances. It’s also home to Coralee, a girl with a big personality and even bigger stories. Coralee may be just the friend Ethan needs, except Ethan isn’t the only one with secrets. Coralee’s are catching up with her, and what she’s hiding might be putting both their lives at risk. The Ethan I Was Before is a story of love and loss, wonder and adventure, and ultimately of hope.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | January 24, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0062433381
Written by Nanci Turner Stevenson
Publisher’s Synopsis: Perfect for fans of One for the Murphys and The Penderwicks, this poignant and moving middle grade novel tells the story of a girl who moves to a new town and meets an unforgettable family—one that will change her and her mother’s lives forever.
Magnolia Grace never wanted to leave Georgia. She never wanted to move with her mama to the farm her daddy owned before he died. But now here she is, in a tiny Vermont town where everybody sings the praises of the father Maggie never knew.
Then Maggie meets the Parker family—two moms, six kids, plus a pony. The Parkers are loud and wild, ask lots of questions, and don’t follow any of the rules Maggie grew up with in Georgia. Suddenly Maggie has questions too—questions about her father, and why Mama kept him away for so long. In her search for answers, Maggie will learn that families are like patchwork quilts, sewn together by love, and all the more beautiful for their different colors.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | May 2, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0062374578
Written by Dusti Bowling
Publisher’s Synopsis: Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.
Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books | September 5, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1454923459
Written by Elaine Vickers
Publisher’s Synopsis: From the author of critically acclaimed Like Magic comes another sweet middle grade story about friendship, family, and discovering where you fit in the world.
Katie and Ana are the kind of friends who share everything with each other. But there are some things you can’t even share with your best friend.
Katie has always known she was adopted, but recently she’s been wondering about her birth parents and her birthplace. She worries that saying this out loud—even to her best friend—could mess up the perfect family she has now.
Ana’s family has been falling apart ever since her dad left, and it’s up to her to hold it together. But Ana fears no matter how hard she tries, her family may never be whole again.
At a time when they need each other the most, the links between the girls are beginning to break. Before they lose each other, they must work through the tangles of secrets to the shining truth underneath: friendship, just like family, is worth fighting for.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | October 17, 20177 | ISBN-13: 978-0062414342
Written by Celia C. Pérez
Publisher’s Synopsis: From debut author and longtime zine-maker Celia C. Pérez, The First Rule of Punk is a wry and heartfelt exploration of friendship, finding your place, and learning to rock out like no one’s watching.
There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school—you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malú (María Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.
The real Malú loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malú finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!
Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.
Ages 9-12 | Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers | August 22, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0425290408
Written by Corabel Shofner
Publisher’s Synopsis: A heartfelt debut about a spunky girl determined to save her family and find her way home.
Twelve-year-old Ruby Clyde Henderson’s life changes the day her mother’s boyfriend holds up a convenience store, and her mother is wrongly jailed for assisting with the crime. Ruby and her pet pig, Bunny, find their way to her estranged Aunt Eleanor’s home. Aunt Eleanor is an ornery nun who lives in the midst of a peach orchard on Paradise Ranch. With a little patience, she and Ruby begin to get along, but Eleanor has secrets of her own―secrets that might mean more hard times for Ruby.
It’s not going to be easy for Ruby Clyde and Eleanor to heal old wounds, face the past, and learn to trust each other. But with enough little pieces of love, they might be able to bring their family together again, and learn that paradise isn’t a place―it’s the feeling of being home. Corabel Shofner’s ALMOST PARADISE is a funny and heartfelt story of determination, belonging, and the joys of loving one another.
Ages 10-12 | Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux | July 25, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0374303785
Written by Katherine Applegate
Publisher’s Synopsis: Trees can’t tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .
Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree”―people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood.
You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.
Funny, deep, warm, and nuanced, Wishtree is Newbery Medalist and New York Times–bestselling author Katherine Applegate at her very best―writing from the heart, and from a completely unexpected point of view.
This book has Common Core connections.
Ages 10-14 | Publisher: Feiwel & Friends | September 26, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1250043221
Written by Fanny Britt
Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Publisher’s Synopsis: In this powerful new graphic novel from Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault, we meet Louis, a young boy who shuttles between his alcoholic dad and his worried mom, and who, with the help of his best friend, tries to summon up the courage to speak to his true love, Billie.
A beautifully illustrated, true-to-life portrayal of just how complex family relationships can be, seen through the eyes of a wise, sensitive boy who manages to find his own way forward.
Ages 10-14 | Publisher: Groundwood Books | October 3, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1554988594
Written by Carter Higgins
Publisher’s Synopsis: Garland, Derby, and Triple Clark spend each season traveling highways and byways in their Rambler—until summer, when small-town Ridge Creek, Virginia, calls them back. There they settle in, selling burgers and fries out of Garland’s Grill after each game the Rockskippers play in their battered minor-league baseball stadium. Derby’s summer traditions bring her closer than she’s ever been to a real home that isn’t on wheels, but this time, her return to Ridge Creek reveals unwelcome news. Now the person Derby loves most in town needs her help—and yet finding a way to do so may uncover deeply held stories and secrets.
Told in Derby’s unforgettable voice, this warm-hearted debut novel is about taking risks, planting roots, and discovering the true definition of home.
Ages 10-12 | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | February 28, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0544602014
Publisher’s Synopsis: In 1945, in a now-famous piece of World War II archival footage, four-year-old Michael Bornstein was filmed by Soviet soldiers as he was carried out of Auschwitz in his grandmother’s arms. Survivors Club tells the unforgettable story of how a father’s courageous wit, a mother’s fierce love, and one perfectly timed illness saved his life, and how others in his family from Zarki, Poland, dodged death at the hands of the Nazis time and again with incredible deftness. Working from his own recollections as well as extensive interviews with relatives and survivors who knew the family, Michael relates his inspirational Holocaust survival story with the help of his daughter, Debbie Bornstein Holinstat. Shocking, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, this narrative nonfiction offers an indelible depiction of what happened to one Polish village in the wake of the German invasion in 1939.
This thoroughly-researched and documented book can be worked into multiple aspects of the common core curriculum.
Ages 10-14 | Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux | March 7, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0374305710
If you enjoyed this article, The Best Picture Books of 2017, you can find more of the best new books for kids and teens by following along with our articles tagged with Best Kids Books Of 2017.
We may receive a small commission from purchases made via the links on this page. If you discover a book or product of interest on this page and use the links provided to make a purchase, you will help support our mission to 'Grow Readers.' Your support means we can keep delivering quality content that's available to all. Thank you!