Spring 2017’s Best Children’s and Middle Grade Books: Strange Monsters, Smart Women, and Sharks

Spring 2017’s Best Children’s and Middle Grade Books: Strange Monsters, Smart Women, and Sharks

Is there anything more important than putting books into the hands of children? We certainly don’t think so, which is why we’re ecstatic to share this list of must-read children’s books coming out this spring. The youngest of readers will delight in reading about Victoria Turnbull’s monstrous sand castle architects and find inspiration in the tale of Margaret Hamilton, a pioneer in software programming whose work helped put men on the moon. Meanwhile, middle grade readers are sure to want to join the Lottery family from Emma Donoghue’s latest or travel to the exciting Chinese city in Faith Erin Hicksgraphic novel. Parents, clear your kids’ schedules. They’ll want to spend this spring reading.


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Picture Books

Deep in the Woods

Home is where the bear is

A little mouse finds big trouble when he opens his home to the other animals of the forest. First it’s just a rabbit, then an owl, next a frog, and soon the entire house is filled up. When a brown bear knocks on the door, the mouse doesn’t want to turn him away, but doesn’t have a room to offer. When the bear attempts to settle in on the roof, the entire house comes crashing down! Far from a villain, the bear begins to build a new home that is big enough for everyone. Author and illustrator Christopher Corr’s reimagining of the Russian folk tale “Teremok” is utterly enchanting, vividly rendered, and sure to spark readers’ imaginations.

On shelves: March 2


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All Ears, All Eyes

Things that go “hoot” in the night

As the sun sets and the world goes to sleep, the creatures of the night come alive. Owls, foxes, raccoons, and crickets emerge and begin to roam about the moonlit forest. They sing, fly, romp, and play. It’s a world that is both familiar and slightly magical in its mystery. Fans of I Spy will enjoy finding the forest creatures that are cleverly disguised in the foliage, while children who are afraid of the dark might be soothed by Richard Jackson’s gentle text and Katherine Tillotson’s calming watercolor images of a peaceful twilight world.

On shelves: March 7


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The Way Home in the Night

Quiet observations

The night is dark and the time is late, but a young bunny is wide awake on the journey home with its mother. Peering into bright windows, the bunny spots other anthropomorphic animals going about their evenings: a pie comes out of an oven, the bookstore’s displays are put away, guests are welcomed into a party. The night is tranquil but fascinating to our young narrator, and long after being tucked in, the bunny wonders about the evening’s events. Akiko Miyakoshi creates pencil and charcoal images from the narrator’s point of view, putting the reader into the bunny’s shoes and capturing the wonder of a child seeing the world at night. This Japanese import is sure to become a quiet bedtime favorite.

On shelves: April 4


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Kings of the Castle

All hail the monsters

A monster, a dog, and a sea-dragon meet on the beach. They don’t speak a word of one another’s languages, and while some might let that stop them from becoming friends, these three don’t let a lack of communication stand in the way of adventure. Together they spent the night building a sandcastle fit for a king (or three). When the tide comes in with the dawn and the castle is washed away, the friendship they built stands strong. Victoria Turnbull has not one but two wonderful books hitting shelves this spring. The second is Pandora, a moving tale about a young fox who creates a life out of the things others have left behind. We highly recommend adding both to your shelves.

On shelves: April 25


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Shawn Loves Sharks

Live every week like it’s Shark Week

In case you didn’t know, Shawn loves sharks. He loves their bottomless dark eyes, their streamlined bodies, and he especially loves pretending to be a shark at recess. He chases his classmates around the school yard yelling “CHOMP” and they scatter. No one stands in the way of a shark… except Stacy. Shawn’s class is assigned a project on predators, and Stacy pulls shark out of the bowl and Shawn pulls leopard seal. He begs and pleads, but Stacy won’t trade with him and instead treats him to a loud “CHOMP” of her own. In the end, these two rivals develop mutual respect and friendship as their passions for predators grow.

On shelves: April 25


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Margaret and the Moon

One small step for woman, one giant leap for womankind

When told to reach for the stars, Margaret Hamilton took up the challenge seriously. As a young girl, Margaret loved learning about everything from outer space to music, but her favorite topic was math. She saw that math was more than numbers on a piece of paper. It was a way to solve problems in the real world. After attending MIT, she learned about a big problem that NASA was facing: trying to fly a man to the moon. Margaret believed that she could use her skills in computers and mathematics to safely fly the astronauts there and back. This book belongs in the hands of young dreamers everywhere.

On shelves: May 16


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Middle Grade

Hello, Universe

Lost and found

An unlikely friendship forms when a middle grader goes missing. Erin Entrada Kelly’s latest shifts between the points of view of Virgil Salinas, Valencia Somerset, Kaori Tanaka, and Chet Bullens. The last person Virgil ever wants to run into is Chet, a bully who torments Virgil daily. When Chet pulls a vicious prank that goes awry, Virgil ends up trapped at the bottom of a well, with only his pet guinea pig for company. Kaori is a self-proclaimed psychic, but it isn’t her supernatural intuition that alerts her to the danger. Virgil had a meeting with her that he failed to show up for. Kaori enlists the help of Valencia, a deaf classmate, to track down Virgil. The shared viewpoints help to illuminate the hopes, fears, and insecurities of each member of the cast, offering the reader a variety of relatable experiences. This is an inspiring tale about friendship and strength.

On shelves: March 14


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The Lotterys Plus One

The lucky ones

When a lesbian couple and a gay couple win the lottery, they decide to use the money to start a family. Their foursome quickly evolves to include biological and adopted children and a variety of pets. The first rule of this blended family is acceptance, which is why the reappearance of Grumps (the estranged father of the parents and grandparent to the seven Lottery children) causes such a stir. Grumps is suffering from dementia, and 9-year-old Sumac is asked to help him adjust to living in their sprawling 32-room mansion. Sumac isn’t thrilled about this turn of events, since it involves giving up her bedroom to Grumps. But she considers herself to be the “good girl” of the brood and takes it upon herself to help Grumps understand everything about her family, from young Brian’s gender fluid identity to her family’s healthy eating habits. Emma Donoghue’s middle grade debut serves as a passionate reminder that families are built on love and understanding.

On shelves: March 28


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Speed of Life

Signed, Worried Woman-in-Training

Losing a mother is hard at any age, but it’s especially challenging for 14-year-old Sofia Wolfe, who can’t imagine talking to her gynecologist dad about things like puberty and sex. Becoming a woman without having a woman to look up to is intimidating, so she goes on the hunt for a female role model and finds Dear Kate, an advice column in a teen magazine. Finally, Sofia has someone who understands her fears, anxieties, and hopes about growing up, as well as the grief that feels never-ending. She feels like Kate is someone she can confide anything in… until she realizes that Kate is Katherine Baird, her dad’s new girlfriend. Carol Weston’s novel takes place over the course of a year, allowing readers to see how much Sofia changes as time goes by.

On shelves: April 4


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The Stone Heart

Consent of the governed

Faith Erin Hicks picks up where she left off in The Nameless City, with our heroes reeling after saving the General of All Blades from an assassination attempt. After being rescued by Rat, a native of the city, the Dao General agrees that all of the city’s people (not just the conquering Dao) deserve a voice. Kaidu, a Dao and Rat’s close friend, is pleased that their actions seem to have a positive impact, but Rat remains cautious, having seen how promises from powerful leaders can be broken without a thought. As one character says, “It’s hard to undo hundreds of years of hostility.” This is a novel that never underestimates its reader’s intelligence and doesn’t shy away from complex topics. Fans of Avatar and The Legend of Korra will want to get their hands on this Chinese-inspired adventure.

On shelves: April 4

A Face Like Glass

Conceal, don’t feel

Originally published in the U.K., Frances Hardinge’s latest is certain to thrill fantasy lovers. Facial expressions are rare in the underground city of Caverna. The renowned Facesmiths are the only ones who can teach citizens, for a price, how to contort their faces to convey emotions such as anger, joy, or fear. Each expression serves a calculated purpose. But 12-year-old Neverfell is different. Her face is not an unsmiling mask; it’s wildly expressive. Her every thought is conveyed, and so she wears a mask to protect herself, lest she unsettle those around her. What’s more is that her expressions are genuine, fully realized and felt rather than crafted for deception. Her gift makes her a target, but it also makes her the perfect person to lead a revolution.

On shelves: May 9


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The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts

Take from the wrecked, give to the poor

Oliver Cromwell Pitts wakes one morning to find his father gone and his seaside town damaged by a dangerous storm. Without money or food, he takes to the streets and spies a wrecked ship on the beach. It’s 1724 and illegal to steal from a shipwreck, but Oliver is desperate and decides the risk is worth it. He isn’t quite as stealthy as he hoped, and soon he’s on the run to London in the hopes of finding his father, evading the law, and hopefully finding a decent meal. With orphanages, menial labor, and pickpockets, the comparisons to Charles Dickens write themselves. Kirkus agrees. In a starred review Kirkus says, “Avi’s examination of the plight of the desperately poor is worthy of Dickens.” If that isn’t high praise, we don’t know what is.

On shelves: May 16

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