Winter 2015’s Best Children’s Books: Goblins, and Hueys, and Foxes, Oh My!

Winter 2015’s Best Children’s Books: Goblins, and Hueys, and Foxes, Oh My!

The weather is quickly growing colder and that means more afternoons will be spent curled up under blankets inside. But before you turn on the television, you might want to check out these entertaining new reads instead. Oliver Jeffers has a new Huleys adventure for little readers who like opposites, while older readers can get lost in a Shakespearean mystery by Virginia Zimmerman. There’s also a worm wedding, a visit to the Japanese spirit world, a tale inspired by China’s one-child policy, and a young peg-legged pirate who learns the skills of bartering. So unplug this season and instead curl up with your kids, some hot cocoa, and these must-read books.


Picture Books

The Only Child

Two is better than one

Author and illustrator Guojing grew up under China’s one-child policy and knows how incredibly lonely it can be to grow up without the company of other children. She used those memories to inspire this beautiful wordless graphic novel about a child who gets lost on a trip to her grandmother’s house and runs into the woods. Instead of meeting with danger, she meets with a majestic stag who comforts her, plays with her, and eventually helps her return to her own world. This book was named one of Kirkus’ Best Books of 2015 and it isn’t hard to see why. This is a story that will bring out the compassion in both young and older readers, especially as the girl and the stag forge a tender bond and explore a fantasy world in the clouds together.

On shelves: December 1


Freedom in Congo Square

Gather round one and all

The slaves of New Orleans would spend their weeks counting down until Sunday. It was their day off, and they would spend it gathered in Congo Square (located in the Treme neighborhood). Congo Square was a safe space to dance, play music, reconnect with loved ones, and feel free for a brief moment. It was a place where they could keep their traditions and culture alive. This book captures the importance of that place and the hope that it gave to the men and women who found solace there.

On shelves: January 5


Worm Loves Worm

Here comes the worm

When two worms decide to get married, there are a lot of questions they need to answer: How will they wear the rings? Where will they find a band? What kind of cake do they want? Which worm will be the bride and which worm will be the groom? Their friend Cricket is very insistent that there can only be one bride and one groom, but the two worms think they can do things differently. They each volunteer to be both bride and groom. One worm dons a white dress and a black top hat, the other black pants, a black bowtie, and a white veil. Nearly identical, the sex of the worms is never clear and that is exactly the point! As their friends learn, nothing matters more than love, and Worm and Worm do love each other very much.

On shelves: January 5


The Hueys: What’s the Opposite?

Opposite day

Picture book readers, rejoyce! Beloved author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers is back with more adventures from the Hueys. This time around his bean-shaped characters explore opposites: high and low, happy and sad, big and small, beginning and…. hm, they seem to have trouble figuring out what the opposite of beginning is, but I’m sure they’ll figure it out before you turn the final page. Charming, playful, and funny, this is an excellent book for readers who enjoy giggling.

On shelves: January 12


Big Friends

The three musketeers

Birt and Etho are best friends. Every day they drag cardboard boxes up Sudden Hill and spend the afternoon imagining that those boxes are castles, rockets, pirate ships, submarines, and more. Their imaginative adventures are perfectly suited for two. Then another boy and box appear. Etho is welcoming to the new kid, Shu, as a friend. But Birt doesn’t like that things are changing, and decides to go home. Two was great, but he doesn’t think three can work. Birt changes his mind, though, when Etho and Shu show up with a box built for three. This is truly a tale where more is merrier.

On shelves: January 19



A lesson in bartering

A captain’s ship is in need of some serious repairs. Ships are pretty expensive, you know, and he can’t afford to fix it. Thankfully his young peg-legged shipmate is clever and thinks up a way to get all of the items they need to fix the ship. The plan is to swap things that they do have for things that they need. It starts out simply: a button for two tea cups, but soon trades grow bigger and bigger. The little mate acquires sails, anchors, a wheel, and more! Be warned though, clever young readers may try these bartering techniques on unsuspecting parents.

On shelves: February 9


Middle Grade

The Rosemary Spell

I put a spell on you

Rosie, Adam, and Shelby used to be thick as thieves, but lately, Shelby (Adam’s older sister) has been spending her time with her boyfriend and at play practice. Left to their own devices, Rosie and Adam begin exploring Rosie’s home, which used to belong to a poet named Constance Brooke. In a locked cabinet, they discover a mysterious book whose blank pages fill with writing before their eyes. They don’t understand the magic of the book, but it seems to be making Shelby vanish from their lives and memories. The only person they can turn to for help is Constance Brooke herself, who is in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer’s. With their memories of Shelby fading quickly, Rosie and Adam have to find a way to break the spell or risk losing Shelby forever. With plenty of Easter eggs for fans of William Shakespeare, this book is ideal for older middle grade readers who love adventure and solving a good puzzle.

On shelves: December 1


Paper Wishes

Girl’s best friend

When Pearl Harbor is attacked, Manami’s parents, grandparents, and brother are rounded up and sent to live in a Japanese-American internment camp. Ten-year-old Manami tries to sneak in her dog, Yujiin, underneath her jacket, but is caught and forced to abandon him. Wracked with guilt, Manami feels her throat close up and her tongue go dry. She stops speaking entirely, and must instead use paper given to her by her teacher to draw pictures for Yujiin, hoping that he’ll find his way back to her. This is a moving tale of historical fiction that is ideal for sophisticated readers.

On shelves: January 5


The Night Parade

A spirited adventure

Saki’s family is dragging her to her grandmother’s mountain village for the festival of Obon, a celebration honoring the spirits of the dead. She’d much rather be in Toyko with her friends, but when some of the local kids invite her out with them, she can’t resist the opportunity. Saki gets more than she bargained for, though, when she is dared to ring a sacred bell and accidentally invokes a death curse! For three nights, Saki is dragged to the spirit world to meet with ghostly guides that can help her break the curse now upon her family. This adventurous story perfectly mixes Saki’s tech-savvy tendencies with ancient Japanese customs, nicely illustrating the connections between the past and the present.

On shelves: January 5

The Goblin’s Puzzle

Once upon a time…

In this fairy tale world, four unlikely characters must come together to stop an evil plot to take over the kingdom. There’s the boy, a nameless slave on the run who wonders if destiny is predetermined or if he can take it in his own hands. Then there’s the goblin, a tricky creature who spews riddles. And finally, there are two girls who are both named Alice. One is a peasant called Plaine Alice who has been mistaken for the other Alice and kidnapped by a dragon! The other Alice is a princess and she’s got troubles of her own—she’s trying to avoid marrying the villainous Duke Geoffrey. Clever and witty, this is a story that will surprise even the most dedicated of fairy tale readers.

On shelves: January 19


To Catch a Cheat

Spy kids

Eighth grader Jackson Greene doesn’t take blackmail lying down. An incriminating video surfaces and it seems to show Jackson and his friends flooding the school gym. The blackmailers want Jackson to give them a copy of the school’s toughest exam or they’ll send the video to the principal. The dastardly blackmailers are pretty smart, but Jackson and his best friend Charlie are smarter. To clear their names they set a trap for the students trying to frame them. Oh, and Jackson’s also trying to impress Gaby, Charlie’s twin sister. With any luck, they’ll catch the bad guys and he’ll score his first kiss before the end of the novel. Though this is the second installment in Varian Johnson’s Great Greene Heist series, it can easily be read as a stand-alone novel.

On shelves: January 26


Homeward bound

After his family is killed, Pax the fox is rescued by a boy named Peter, who just lost his mother. Peter’s father is closed off and cold, so Peter seeks comfort and companionship in Pax. The two support each other for years until Peter’s father enlists in the army. Peter agrees to leave Pax behind when he’s sent to live with his grandfather, but he regrets it immediately. This novel alternates between Pax and Peter, as they set out to find each other once again. A timeless and powerful story, readers will want to pick up this book over and over again.

On shelves: February 2



Leave a Reply