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Best children’s and YA books of 2017

Liuna Virardi for the Boston Globe


A Different Pond ’’ by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui, ages 6-8 (Capstone)

In the dark before dawn, a Vietnamese boy joins his father on a fishing trip so that later, together, they can feed their family in the warm light at the dinner table.

Alfie (The Turtle That Disappeared)’’ by Thyra Heder, ages 4-8 (Abrams)

A delightfully clever tale told from two perspectives in which soon-to-be-7-year-old Nia wonders where her pet turtle, Alfie, went.

Before She Was Harriet’’ by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome, ages 4-7 (Holiday House)


This unforgettable chronicle traces a now-elderly Harriet Tubman’s life backward from suffragist to “general,’’ to Union spy, to Civil War nurse, to conductor on the Underground Railroad, and back to her childhood as Araminta.

Big Cat, Little Cat’’ by Elisha Cooper, ages 3-6 (Roaring Brook)

This quiet, reassuring story is about a lot of things (making a new friend, growing up, growing old, saying goodbye, and saying hello again), but its heart beats to a sweet, simple refrain: “big cat, little cat.”

The Book of Mistakes’’ by Corinna Luyken, ages 4-8 (Dial)

No eraser? No worries! Readers will delight in the spontaneous creations that take flight on the page every time the artist’s pen slips in this look at the creative process.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut’’ by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James, ages 3-8 (Agate Bolden)

There is so much swagger, so much that matters in this love song of a picture-book in which a young black boy is “ ‘tended to,’ treated like royalty” in the barbershop chair.

Her Right Foot’’ by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Harris, ages 6-9 (Chronicle)


By turns indignant and tender, but always conversational, Eggers urges a second look at the Statue of Liberty’s raised right heel (“This 150-foot woman is on the go!”) and what it tells us about our country’s immigrant history.

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth’’ by Oliver Jeffers, ages 3-7 (Philomel)

Equal parts philosophical argument and tender lullaby, Jeffers’s newest creation ruminates on what it means to live on and care for this planet we call home.

How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild’’ by Katherine Roy, ages 7-11 (David Macaulay Studio)

Admirers of the long-nosed pachyderm will delight in the complexity of this story of an infant elephant and the accompanying illustrations, designed to mirror the sweeping, crisscrossed lines of the elephant’s skin.

Lines’’ by Suzy Lee, ages 5-6 (Chronicle)

Like in her other books (“Wave,’’ “Shadow’’), Lee invites meditation on the boundaries between art and nature, the imagined and the real, and (this time) an icy skating pond and a blank page.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets’’ by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, ages 8-12 (Candlewick)

A better tribute to poets by poets would be hard to find, as the creators not only emulate the styles and visions of artists across centuries and continents but also encourage young readers to take inspiration from these rhythms and lines.

What Does Baby Want?’’ by Tupera Tupera, to age 2 (Phaidon)


An undeniably cheeky board book in which a fussy, pink-faced baby wants only one thing: breast milk.

When’s My Birthday?’’ by Julie Foliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson, ages 3-6 (Roaring Brook)

Robinson’s mixed-media illustrations add just the right touch of naivete to Foliano’s sprezzatura, perfectly capturing a child’s uninhibited anticipation of a birthday.

Windows’’ by Julia Denos, illustrated by E.B. Goodale, ages 3-7 (Candlewick)

Take a nighttime walk through what might be your neighborhood (Denos and Goodale are from Quincy and Somerville, respectively) and speculate on the lives lived on the other side of the windowpanes.

Wolf in the Snow’’ by Matthew Cordell, ages 2-6 (Feiwel & Friends)

This wordless (save a few desperate howls) picture book tells of a red-hooded heroine who rescues a wolf pup and is rescued by the pack in return.



#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women’’ edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale (Annick)

Reminiscent of Leslie Marmon Silko’s classic “Storyteller,’’ this impressive collection for mature middle-graders wields word and art, love and anger to narrate the diverse experiences of indigenous girls and women.

A Face Like Glass’’ by Frances Hardinge (Amulet)

In this wildly inventive fantasy, a girl with no past threatens the established hierarchy of Caverna, an underground city built on lies and treachery, whose warring factions are in desperate need of the gift only she possesses — her facial expressions.


Clayton Byrd Goes Underground’’ by Rita Williams-Garcia, illustrated by Frank Morrison (Amistad)

Unlike he and his mother, Clayton and his grandfather, the bluesman Cool Papa Byrd, have always had “harmony,” so when the older man dies, Clayton must learn anew how to make music of his life.

Harry Miller’s Run’’ by David Almond, illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino (Candlewick)

In this small but profound story, an elderly man called Harry recounts a perfect day in 1938 when he and his boyhood friends ran 13 miles, just because they could.

Silent Days, Silent Dreams’’ by Allen Say (Arthur A. Levine)

Say’s brilliant homage to James Castle — a deaf, autistic, self-taught artist — skillfully explores the power of art to transform lives, even the most challenged.

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth’’ by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Walden Pond)

Boyce’s newest is a laugh-out-loud adventure with a sci-fi spin in which a foster kid named Prez and the oddly-attired extraterrestrial (or is he a dog?) Sputnik compile a list of things about Earth to make it worth saving from Planetary Clearance, which is in charge of “pan-galactic decluttering.’’

The Stars Beneath Our Feet’’ by David Barclay Moore (Knopf)

After his adored older brother is fatally shot during a drug deal, 12-year-old Lolly struggles to decide whether to seek revenge or build a completely new life for himself in this unflinching, powerful look at choices and their unexpected consequences.


The War I Finally Won’’ by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Dial)

The sequel to “The War that Saved My Life’’ may be quieter, but it is just as wonderful as the first for when the horrors of World War II come to the English countryside, the courageous, resilient Ada, who fled London amid the German Blitz, will again see herself and her family through.

When My Sister Started Kissing ’’ by Helen Frost (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

With trademark poignancy, Frost’s spare verse captures the rivalry and affection of two siblings, 10-year-old Claire and 13-year-old Abi, during a pivotal family summer at the lake.


All’s Faire in Middle School’’ by Victoria Jamieson, ages 10-12 (Dial)

In this graphic novel, 11-year-old Impy tackles two quests at once: to be an honorable squire at the Renaissance Faire, where she and her family have lived all her life, and to survive middle school.

Life on Surtsey: Iceland’s Upstart Island’’ by Loree Griffin Burns, ages 10-16 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

From the “Scientists in the Field’’ series comes a fascinating look at how life takes hold: Surtsey, an island off the coast of Iceland, emerged from the ocean after a volcanic eruption in 1963 and is now home to a handful of scientists who are studying the arrival of insects and other species.

Where’s Halmoni?’’ by Julie Kim, ages 7-9 (Sasquatch)

In Korean folklore-inspired comics, two siblings look for their missing grandmother but find a candy-gobbling hare, a tricksy nine-tailed fox, and a fierce tiger instead.

Wishtree’’ by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Charles Santoso ages 8-12 (Feiwel & Friends)

It’s not often that a red oak “wishtree’’ on which visitors tie their written wishes tells a story about human intolerance, so listen up: She’s got a lot to say, and it’s not all “tree humor.”



Landscape With Invisible Hand” by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick)

Adam, an aspiring artist, must determine just how far he’ll go to please the vuvv, an advanced alien species who gradually take over the global economy, in this hilarious and provocative title from one of YA’s greatest creatives.

The One Memory of Flora Banks” by Emily Barr (Philomel)

A forbidden kiss and an impromptu adventure set 17-year-old Flora Banks on a journey to discover the true reason she lost her short-term memory years ago.

Far From the Tree” by Robin Benway (Harper)

Grace has always known she was adopted, but it’s not until she gives her own baby up that she decides to go in search of her two biological siblings, who, it turns out, also “needed to be tethered to someone again.”

Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green (Dutton)

Sixteen-year-old Aza has obsessive compulsive disorder, and when she agrees to help her best friend search for a missing billionaire she learns through love and loss what her limits are as well as her strengths.

We Are Okay” by Nina LaCour (Dutton)

Marin left California for college in New York without telling her best friend, but now Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin needs to explain why she ran away and why she broke Mabel’s heart.

Genuine Fraud” by E. Lockhart (Delacorte)

Lockhart’s dark thriller centers on striver Jule West Williams, a contemporary Tom Ripley who’s determined to get the life she wants at any cost.

All the Wind in the World” by Samantha Mabry (Algonquin)

Sarah Jac Crow and James Holt’s love and plans for the future are threatened by the brutal desert heat, a plantation owner’s cruelty, and the appearance of a romantic rival in this dystopian tale of redemption.

You Bring the Distant Near” by Mitali Perkins (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

This epic story explores family, immigration, love, and identity through the lives of five women from the Das family, each of whom must decide for herself what it means to be Bengali and American.

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage” by Philip Pullman (Knopf)

In this high-adrenaline prequel to Pullman’s brilliant “His Dark Materials” trilogy, 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead braves flood waters, outsmarts faeries and ghosts, and challenges the all-powerful Magisterium to protect a special baby named Lyra.

Long Way Down” by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy)

Fifteen-year-old Will steps into an elevator with a gun tucked in his waistband and vengeance in his heart; can a succession of ghostly passengers change his mind before the elevator reaches the ground floor?

The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray)

Thomas examines race, violence, and grief through the eyes of 16-year-old Starr Carter, who must make difficult and potentially life-changing decisions after she witnesses the shooting death of her best friend by a police officer during a traffic stop.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by Erika L. Sánchez (Knopf)

Despite the tragedy at the heart of Julia’s story (her older sister was recently killed in a bus accident), the Mexican-American teen’s narration of her search to discover whether her sister was really the person she seemed is as witty as it is heartfelt.

Saint Death” by Marcus Sedgwick (Roaring Brook)

Arturo lives quietly in an impoverished Mexican border town, but when he agrees to help a desperate friend who faces the wrath of the narcos, he becomes immersed in a merciless cartel-run world of drugs and violence.

Strange the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown)

Ever since he was a child, librarian Lazlo Strange has dreamed about Weep, a magical city that vanished without a trace, and when he joins a band of warriors determined to find Weep, Lazlo’s dream becomes an adventure.

American Street” by Ibi Zoboi (Balzer + Bray)

Fabiola Toussaint and her mother immigrate from Haiti to Detroit looking for une belle vie, a good life, but when immigration authorities in New York detain her Manman, Fabiola must navigate the complexities and contradictions of American life on her own.


Wonder Woman: Warbringer” by Leigh Bardugo (Random House)

Bardugo, the best-selling author of the “Shadow and Bone” trilogy, mixes mythology and action movie thrills in this coming-of-age story about a girl named Diana, princess of the Amazons, who would become the hero known as Wonder Woman.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by Maurene Goo (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Korean-American teen Desi Lee believes that you can accomplish anything with persistency and a plan, but when she pursues the new guy at school with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” hilarity and unexpected results ensue.

Warcross” by Marie Lu (Putnam)

After hacking into Warcross, a hugely popular immersive game, bounty hunter Emika Chen is hired by the game’s creator to go undercover at a championship tournament to resolve a “security problem.”

Wires and Nerve, Volume 1” by Marissa Meyer, illustrated by Douglas Holgate (Feiwel & Friends)

Meyer’s first graphic novel extends her “Lunar Chronicles” series and gives android Iko, who normally plays a sidekick role, her moment in the spotlight as she hunts down the leader of a pack of wolf-hybrid rebels.

Spill Zone” by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Alex Puvilland (First Second)

A wealthy art collector offers photographer Addison Merrick $1 million for pictures from deep inside the Spill Zone, a haunted and mysterious wasteland, and by accepting Addison breaks her own rules of survival.


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