Each year, I read and read tons of children’s chapter books then deliberate at length about the best. (It’s so hard!) These books are my favorites for the year 2016.
Best Beginning Chapter Books 2016
New readers, ages 6 to 8, want to read engaging books. So here are my favorite beginning chapter books from 2016 your kids will love to read.
The Infamous Ratsos by Kara Lareau, illustrated by Matt Myers
I loved this book! Louie and Ralphie Ratso keep trying to do mean, tough-guy things but every time it ends up helping someone. Ultimately, both boys and their dad decide to go with kindness but before they do, their experiences are very funny.
All Paws on Deck (Haggis and Tank Unleashed #1) by Jessica Young (series)
In a word: HILARIOUS! These two dog friends with opposite personalities (and intelligences?) sail on a fun and silly pirate adventure. You will fall in love with Tank and Haggis.
Bird & Squirrel On the Edge by James Burks
You may remember that I ADORE this series — and this latest book is no exception. In this giggle-worthy story, Bird loses his memory and bravery so it’s up to Squirrel to be the brave one and help get them (and a small bear cub friend) safely out of the dangerous, wolf-filled mountains. These characters are just so lovable and funny. Paired with a terrific narrative adventure, this book has it all.
Dory Fantasmagory Dory Dory Black Sheep by Abby Hanlon
Best Chapter Books 2016
These chapter books are the best of 2016 for ages 8 to 12. And, they’ll make great gifts, too!
Edge of Extinction The Ark Plan by Laura Martin
Action from the first page! This is a crazy good story about a dangerous world where cloned dinosaurs have taken over the world. That forces Sky and her fellow humans to live below ground in “safety” with Noah as their supreme ruler. When her dad goes missing, Sky discovers a secret note with cryptic instructions on how to find him above ground. She leaves the underground city but barely outside a day, she realizes her beliefs about her community was a lie. Not only does Sky have to watch out for finding her father and deadly dinosaurs, but she must also worry about the soldiers hunting her. I couldn’t put this book down — it’s so exciting!
Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
A ghost tour outing with a neighbor boy sends Maya, Catrina’s little sister with cystic fibrosis to the hospital. Cat feels guilt and fear for her sister, knowing that her sister’s lungs will never get better and feels that it’s all her fault. But as the neighbor introduces Cat to the beautiful Day of the Dead celebration, Cat starts to see death and life differently. Beautifully written and illustrated, this best of 2016 graphic novel deftly deals with big issues in an interesting, unique way.
The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly
This is the story of three children in medieval France and tackles big issues such as faith, God, prejudice, friendship, and family. The writing, the story, the characters, and the themes all pack a big punch adding up to a compelling novel that will make you think deeply and leave you changed. (Sensitive readers: there are a few swear words and two scenes with a lot of blood.)
The Door by the Staircase by Katherine Marsh, illustrations by Kelly Murphy
I LOVED this chapter book — it’s a fantastic Baba Yaga story about a brave and smart orphan girl, Mary, who wants a home, even if it’s with Baba Yaga. She just has to figure out how to be sure Baba Yaga won’t eat her and she does so with help from her friend Jacob and MAGIC!
Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban
It would be hard as an author not to vilify this country for sending thousands of Japanese Americans to prison camps. But this author doesn’t. She just skillfully shares the evocative story of 10-year old Manami of Washington State, who is sent with her family to a dusty camp, leaving behind her beloved dog, Yujiin, and everything else they owned. Devastated, Manami stops speaking. Her story is painful, sprinkled with hope, and all too real. Please read this with your kids– it’s important.
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
This fantastic book hooked me from the first page, taking me on a coming-of-age story that was both heartbreaking and filled with hope. Perry is well-loved by his mother and her friends. . . in prison. That’s where Perry has lived since he was born eleven years ago. But in an unexpected and unpleasant turn of events, his best friend’s stepfather, the new District Attorney, forces Perry to leave the prison. Not only that, the DA tries to stall Perry’s mother’s parole hearing. Perry discovers the stories behind the inmates lives, hoping that they’ll be helpful in reuniting him with his mother. This is a story that will stay with you long after you read the last page.
The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner
One of the best books of 2016, The Seventh Wish is a magically captivating coming-of-age story filled with friendship and family challenges and . . . wishes. Charlie is struggling with her sister leaving for college and subsequent problems with drug addiction, her parent’s inattention, and trying to make sense out of her life. So when Charlie accidentally catches a wish fish while ice-fishing, she’s sure that the fish will solve all her problems. Only as we might predict, that’s not exactly what happens. This is a wonderful book — great for book clubs and bedtime readings in order to discuss what happens and why.
Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan
I adore this reimagined graphic novel about Snow White set in New York City in the 20s. Snow White’s dad is a Wall Street king, her stepmother is a Zigfield Follies star, and her seven small protectors are street kids. It’s SO interesting how Phelan uses this historical setting to animate a familiar fairy tale. The black and white illustrations set the tone for this dark story with a happy ending.
The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan
Short but filled with tenderness! When a grief-stricken dog rescues two lost children in a terrible snowstorm, he takes them to the cabin of his former friend, a poet named Sylvan who rescued him years before. Told from the dog’s perspective we watch them bond and wonder if maybe the kids have saved the dog as much as he saved them. (And the beautiful ending WILL make you cry!)
Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi
Magic and color are closely linked in her world. Only Alice has no color in her skin or hair. And her Father has been missing for years making her even more sad. She travels with a boy named Oliver to a different magical land in order to find and rescue her Father. But the rules are wildly different and the inhabitants eat people for their magic. Even though Oliver and Alice start their quest at odds, the many challenges join them in a solid friendship. Furthermore is a uniquely creative plot filled with artfully written description.
The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price by Jennifer Maschari
I read this cover to cover in one sitting, totally mesmerized. This book is a journey of grief with a tempting allegorical shadow world where Charlie and Imogene Price’s mom is “alive”. But not everything is right in this shadow world where you lose memories, especially the sad ones, to “feed” family members who have died. Charlie is afraid he’ll lose his sister, Imogene. forever to the shadow world, like he did his best friend Frank. So well-written, this is a thoughtful treatment of emotions and grief — I highly recommend it.
Ashes (Seeds of America) by Laurie Halse Anderson
Ashes is the final book of this historical fiction chapter book series about the time of the Revolutionary War as experienced through the eyes of an African-American girl named Isabel and her friend, Cuzon. Enslaved, escaped, or enlisted, these two are determined survivors but their friendship suffers when Cuzon enlists in the army. The writing is amazing and the story, captivating. I love this series.
Best YA Chapter Books
I didn’t read as many YA chapter books this year so I only have two favorites but they are AMAZING — so good!!
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Wolf by Wolf is a high-stakes journey of wits and bravery, an author’s skillful writing and imagination, and a compelling story that won’t soon be forgotten. It imagines a world in which WWII ended very differently — with the Axis powers winning. Yael, our heroine, is a death-camp medical experiment escapee who can shapeshift into other humans. She braves a motorcycle race across half the world in order to first win and second get close enough to Hitler to kill him. This is a must-read novel!