Best Books of 2017

It’s that time of year again. When I realize I’ve read one, maybe two, of the year’s “Best Books,” as decided by those lofty taste makers. It doesn’t help my cause that I’m notoriously bad at reading new books (although last year wasn’t too bad). Remember those lists I made last year of the new books I couldn’t wait to read? Well, I think I read one of them. Oops.

I do own the Goodreads book of the year, The Hate U Give, and I’m hoping to read that by the end of the year. Other winners include:

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee which I’ve heard great things about. My former mother daughter book club (which is just the mothers now, and sometimes me), is reading it for their next book, so I might tag along. (NYT)

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood which Jeff and Rebecca mention at least once a month on the Book Riot podcast. So now I’m really intrigued. (NYT)


When Dimple Met Rishi  by Sandhya Menon, which I was really excited about and I tried reading, but just couldn’t do it. I tried at least three times. (NPR)

For your own reading pleasure, I’m going to provide some links below to Best Books of 2017 lists.

New York Times Ten Best Books of 2017

School Library Journal Best Books of 2017

Goodreads Best Books of 2017

Publishers Weekly Best Books 2017



Mock Caldecott

I attended my very first Mock Caldecott discussion on the 8th (this really delayed, I know). Fortunately, I’d read most of the titles in my rush to read all the Goodreads best of picture books, and in my perusal of other “best of” lists. It’s interesting, however, to note that the actual winner (and only one of the four official honor books was included) was not discussed at all in our meeting. The titles discussed are as follows:

Medal winner: Erin E. Stead for The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas

Honor: Brendan Wenzel for The All Saw a Cat

Honor: Beth Krommes for Before Morning by Joyce Sidman

Honor: Nick Wroblewski for Wake Up, Island by Mary Casanova

Honor: Yuyi Morales for Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie

Honor: Christian Robinson for School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex

Tessa Blackham for Monday is Wash Day by Maryann Sundby

The Fan Brothers for The Midnight Gardner

Dan Santant for Are we There Yet?

Evan Turk for The Storyteller

While I don’t agree with the winner (I liked Before Morning and School’s First Day of School) much more, the process was fascinating! We each voted for four titles, with a weighted vote (our first choice gets more points etc), so there’s less of a chance for ties. We also discussed in great detail, the gutters, continuity (in School’s First Day of School a little girl draws a picture and on the next page, when it is hung up on the teacher’s bulletin board, the sun has changed locations), and whitespace. Many things I have to admit, I had not looked at before.

Hopefully next year, I can also participate in the Mock Newbery! I hope to be more on top of things this year, read the books as they come out.

Worth Reading

I’ve come across several fascinating blog posts and articles that relate to Library Land.

From Malinda Lo’s Blog:

“Should white people write about people of color?” It’s an oldie but goodie, and still so relevant, and a much needed discussion in the quest for Diverse Books.

This doesn’t mean that it’s okay to blithely write whatever the hell you want about a culture that isn’t yours. Writers who are writing outside of their culture do have to work extra hard to research that culture, because they have much farther to go to get to the kind of instinctual knowledge of it that allows someone to hear my Chinese name and feel that it sounds poetic.

From Mother Jones:

“The uncomfortable truth about children’s books”

Some diversity advocates fear that the vitriol of the internet attacks will give pause to skittish writers and publishers. “For me, the biggest issue is the chill on diversity that is happening because of the feeling that it is okay to destroy people on social media,” Taylor-Butler told me. “We have lost the perspective that these are books and they are going to be imperfect.”

This comment is particularly relevant in light of the Anti Semetic Twitter and Goodreads attacks author Laura Silverman* received for her, as of yet, unpublished book Girl Out of Water. Thankfully by now many of the comments are gone, but it sounds like Neo Nazis trolled her account spewing hateful comments and reviews and attacking authors who supported Silverman.

*It’s kind of buried at this point, but definitely worth finding.

In my Internet perusals I also came across this infographic, which I think really highlights the need for diverse books. I specifically remember reading in a storytime book for grad school about “children in animal costumes” or something to that effect. Basically, if the picture book was about a turtle or pig or mouse character (Franklin, Maisy, Olivia) children could better identify with the character as it could be anybody. While I personally don’t see a problem with animal protagonists in children’s stories (or adult for that matter) those characters should not be created at the expense of diversity. The fact that American Indians/First nations make up less than 1% of characters in children’s books is just sad.

From the BBC:

“The secret libraries of history”

This one is really cool. The history and importance of libraries is so fascinating to me (shocker, I know).

And the Winner is…

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. Now, there is another winner for Division II but I didn’t read most of those books. I almost read all of Division I and I am not surprised at all that Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library won.

It’s a great book, my review here, and the interest I saw in the library was amazing. Congrats Chris Grabenstein!

Second Place goes to The Fourth Stall (my review here) and Third Place goes to Summer of the Wolves by Polly Carson Voiles (which I did not read).

I need to start reading next year’s nominees now!

Inclusive Literature

I’m trying to be more inclusive in my reading and read books by a wide variety of authors and about a wide variety of characters. I love the movement pushing for diversity in juvenile literature.

Here is a great article that talks about inclusive books.

Books are powerful. They help kids translate and process the world around them. So, it’s important for children to not only to feel included in picture books but also for books to make visible a range of stories outside their own.

The Princess Academy

The Princess Academy was on my reading list for some time before I read it in February. Classmates of mine read it for a project in grad school, but it re-entered my thoughts when I read a blog post of Hale’s last year.

In the article, Hale talks about how her school visits are geared towards girls, whereas popular male authors are for boys and girls. She writes

“Let’s be clear: I do not talk about ‘girl’ stuff. I do not talk about body parts. I do not do a ‘Your Menstrual Cycle and You!’ presentation. I talk about books and writing, reading, rejections and moving through them, how to come up with story ideas. But because I’m a woman, because some of my books have pictures of girls on the cover, because some of my books have ‘princess’ in the title, I’m stamped as ‘for girls only.’ However, the male writers who have boys on their covers speak to the entire school.”

This is something that really sticks out to me, especially when working with children. I saw it much more in schools when I worked more closely with students. I heard a lot of peer judgement about books or toys being girl books or boy books. I even heard teachers separate between “girl” and “boy” books. 

As a public librarian, I do still hear siblings say things like “she got a Barbie book because she’s a girl” or “I got my little brother truck books. He’s a boy, he likes trucks.” 

As a professional in the public sphere how we talk about our resources and programming is important. Especially as libraries are supposed to be welcoming to everyone and patrons should be comfortable enough to ask questions of their librarians. Even if those questions are about stereotypical female interests and come from a man. Or vice versa. 

We should be inclusive with resources, programming and general interactions with our patrons. And I hope one day the division between “boy” and “girl” books disappears.