Wondering about this Year's Best Books? Discover Our Librarians’ Opinions
Our Sinai Akiba Academy librarians discuss the award-winning titles and their personal favorites children's books from the last year.
Arguably the most anticipated day of the year for librarians and other children’s literature enthusiasts is the annual ALA (American Library Association) Awards, which include the Caldecott Medal for best picture books, Newbery Medal for best children’s literature, and the Sydney Taylor Award for best Jewish children’s books. As the 2019 ALA awards were announced on the morning of January 28, Sinai Akiba Academy librarians Martha McMahon and Alex Quay were eagerly viewing the live feed.
“Naturally, Ms. McMahon and I have strong opinions about what titles deserve these honors, as do most librarians who blog, banter, and predict all year long,” said Ms. Quay, “but there never fail to be surprises and a few professional quarrels over the committees’ selections.”
Ms. McMahon noted, “Personal taste is bound to play a role in making the declaration ‘best children’s books of the year,’ but the awards committees are charged with making selections based on very specific criteria. On a personal level, once you fall in love with a book, it can be heartbreaking to see it overlooked. Likewise, it is so exciting when our favorites receive the highest recognition.”
Sinai Akiba Academy’s librarians are particularly invested in the Caldecott, Newbery and Sydney Taylor winning titles because of the annual reading incentive programs they conduct for 1st - 5th graders.
“Each year, our 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders have an opportunity to participate in the Caldecott Club, which involves reading award-winning picture books from January through May,” explained McMahon.
“Our 4th and 5th graders can participate in the Newbery/Sydney Taylor Club, reading those respective award-winning titles,” added Quay, “and at the end of the program, all participants are invited to celebrate their reading accomplishments with reading-themed festivities.”
So what are the year’s “Best Children’s Books?” Official ALA results aside, here are Ms. McMahon and Ms. Quay’s personal favorites from the last year:
Top 5 Picture Books 1. Dreamers by Yuyi Morales 2. We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins 3. Grace for Gus by Harry Bliss 4. Lovely Beasts by Kate Gardner 5. The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
Top 5 Chapter Books 1. Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo 2. Front Desk by Kelly Yang 3. Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster by Jonathan Auxier (Also this year’s Sydney Taylor gold medal winner!) 4. The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin 5. Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
Top 5 Graphic Novels 1. Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell 2. Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri 3. Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka 4. Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol 5. Amulet #8: Supernova by Kazu Kibuishi
Top 5 Young Adult Fiction 1. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi 2. The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis 3. Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman 4. Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo 5. The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weisman (Also a 2019 Sydney Taylor Award silver medal winner!)