Books for Great Kids
Chicago Public Library recommends the following books as the very best published for kids in 2012. For suggestions of more outstanding books available at your neighborhood library, please check out previous Best of the Best lists, the Best Stories section of the KidsCat or ask your librarian. Read, Learn, Discover!
And Then It's Spring
By Julie Fogliano, illustrated Erin E. Stead
Roaring Brook (Ages 3-7)
In this tenderly illustrated book, a boy, his dog, a turtle and a rabbit wait with patient anticipation for the brown left from winter to become the green of spring.
Bear Has a Story to Tell
By Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Roaring Brook (Ages 3-7)
Bear postpones sharing his own story as he helps his animal friends prepare for winter, but when they all awake, will he still have anything to say?
Betty Bunny Wants Everything
By Michael B. Kaplan, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
Dial (Ages 4-8)
When her family visits a toy store, Betty Bunny has a tantrum when she can’t accept that she can’t have everything when she wants everything.
Boot & Shoe
By Marla Frazee
Beach Lane (Ages 3-8)
Two dogs, Boot and Shoe, were born together, eat together, pee together and sleep together, until one day when a squirrel causes havoc and they become separated.
Boy + Bot
By Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
Knopf (Ages 2-5)
Sometimes it’s our differences that can bring us together as one young boy and his new best robot friend learn.
By Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Scott Magoon
Hyperion (Ages 4-8)
In a companion book to Spoon, two best friends are practically joined at the hip until they are separated by an accident and each must learn to stand on their own while still sticking together.
Duck Sock Hop
By Jane Kohuth, illustrated by Jane Porter
Dial (Ages 3-6)
This story, told in syncopated rhyme and tongue twisters, will set toes a-tappin’ as ducks select their socks for wearing and dancing.
By Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated E.B. Lewis
Nancy Paulsen (Ages 5-8)
Chloe regrets how she and her friends ridiculed and shunned the poor new student Maya, now realizing that as with each small kindness, the lack of kindness also goes out like a ripple into the world.
By Mac Barnett, illustrated Jon Klassen
Balzer & Bray (Ages 4-8)
When Annabelle, who lives in a sad, snowy, sooty, town, discovers a multicolored box of yarn, she knits for every person, animal, house and tree, but never runs out.
Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos
By Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Dan Santat
Bloomsbury (Ages 3-6)
Read this rapido and experience all the aspects of the important job of being a firefighter.
I Know a Wee Piggy
By Kim Norman, illustrated by Henry Cole
Dial (Ages 3-5)
Follow this wily piggy all around a colorful country fair à la I-know-an-old-lady-who-swallowed-a-fly.
Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show
By Michael Buckley, illustrated by Dan Santat
Abrams (Ages 4-7)
Marvel at daredevil preschooler Kel Gilligan, “the boy without fear,” as he accomplishes feats such as eating broccoli, dressing himself, waiting patiently until his mother gets off the phone and taking a bath with only one assistant.
A Kiss Means I Love You
By Kathryn Madeline Allen, photographs by Eric Futran
Albert Whitman (Ages 2-5)
Charming photographs of Chicagoland families depict the many ways we communicate without saying a word.
By Barbara Dacosta, illustrated by Ed Young
Little, Brown (Ages 3-7)
At the stroke of midnight, while everyone sleeps, a ninja creeps quietly through the house on a mission.
One Special Day: A Story for Big Brothers & Sisters
By Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Jessica Meserve
Hyperion (Ages 3-6)
Imaginative Spencer exhibits many raucous animal behaviors, but he also demonstrates the attribute of gentleness when he becomes a big brother for the first time.
Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons
By Eric Litwin, illustrated by James Dean
Harper (Ages 3-7)
As an introduction to subtraction, the four groovy buttons on Pete the Cat’s shirt each pop off, but he remains unflappable in knowing that stuff will come and stuff will go.
Rocket Writes a Story
By Tad Hills
Schwartz & Wade (Ages 4-8)
After gaining some important and fun literacy skills in How Rocket Learned to Read this adorable pup and his favorite teacher are back and want to tell you all about it.
Silly Goose's Big Story
By Keiko Kasza
Putnam (Ages 3-6)
Goose makes up excellent stories to act out with his friends in which Goose is always the hero, but who will save Goose from becoming a wolf’s “hero” sandwich?
This is Not My Hat
By Jon Klassen
Candlewick (Ages 4-8)
A tiny minnow has stolen the tiny blue bowler hat of a larger fish, and narrates his escape with reassurances, yet all the while the illustrations have a different tale to tell.
By Shane W. Evans
Roaring Brook (Ages 7-9)
With minimal words and dramatic illustrations this powerful portrayal represents the journeys of families and friends during the 1963 March on Washington.
Z Is for Moose
By Kelly L. Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Greenwillow (Ages 4-8)
Hey, Moose, this zany alphabet book isn’t all about “U”!
Folk and Fairy Tales and Poetry
The Ant and the Grasshopper
By Rebecca Emberley, illustrated by Ed Emberley
Roaring Brook (Ages 3-8)
Ant's load is made lighter by the music of grasshopper's Cajun band in this reimagining of the classic Aesop tale.
Bug Off!: Creepy, Crawly Poems
By Jane Yolen, photographs by Jason Stemple
Wordsong (Ages 5-10)
Fact-filled verse and photos of beloved (and not-so-beloved) insects will entertain and delight nature lovers of all ages.
The Elephant's Friend and Other Tales from Ancient India
By Marcia Williams
Candlewick (Ages 7-12)
Eight stories drawn from the classic Hitopadesha, Jataka and Panchantra tales have been visually reimagined in a dynamic and colorful way.
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
By Mo Willems
Balzer & Bray (Ages 4-8)
This fractured and very funny take on a familiar story shows what can happen when a poorly supervised girl comes across some hungry but forgetful dinos.
I, Too, Am America
By Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Simon & Schuster (Ages 5-10)
In homage to Pullman railway porters, the Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator shares his interpretation of Hughes' famous poem.
Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs
By J. Patrick Lewis & Jane Yolen, illustrated by Jeffrey Steward Timmins
Charlesbridge (Ages 8-11)
The U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate has teamed with Yolen to create dozens of macabre, inventive and slightly irreverent farewells to creatures such as “An Infirm Worm” and a “Really Inattentive Piranha.”
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure
By Matthew Luckhurst
Abrams (Ages 5-9)
Mama Bunyan's attempts to get Paul and Babe to eat healthy foods cause the two friends to seek their "pancake fortune" with monumental results.
Three Ninja Pigs
By Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat
Putnam (Ages 5-8)
Three little pigs call on their masterful study of the martial arts to stop the big bad wolf from destroying their village.
Too Tall Houses
By Gianna Marino
Viking (Ages 4-8)
Two animal friends build impossibly larger homes in an attempt to outdo the other until they realize that cooperation is better than competition.
The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
By Helen Ward
Templar (Ages 4-8)
Country mouse visits his glamorous cousin in the big city in this elegant Depression-era depiction of the classic tale.
Fiction for Younger Readers
Benny and Penny Lights Out
By Geoffrey Hayes
Toon (Ages 4-8)
The mouse siblings are back just in time for bed in this fourth book in this award-winning graphic novel series for beginning readers.
Bink and Gollie, Two for One
By Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Tony Fucile
Candlewick (Ages 6-9)
Is there anyone better to explore the state fair with than a best friend?
Bird & Squirrel on the Run!
By James Burks
Graphix (Ages 6-9)
Opposites attract, especially when you’re attempting to escape a common foe in this dramatic and hilarious graphic novel.
Captain Awesome to the Rescue!
Captain Awesome vs. Nacho Cheese Man
Captain Awesome and the New Kid
Captain Awesome Takes a Dive
Captain Awesome, Soccer Star
Captain Awesome Saves the Winter Wonderland
By Stan Kirby, illustrated by George O'Connor
Little Simon (Ages 5-9)
Being the new kid in town can be hard, unless you have a superhero alter-ego, a partner in crime fighting, and a mission to "stop evil from eviling." MI-TEE!
By Patricia MacLachlan
Katherine Tegen (Ages 8-11)
When his beloved 88-year-old grandfather, Billy, asks him to rebuild the sod house he was born in, Jake hesitates until Billy gets sick.
Let's Go for a Drive
By Mo Willems
Hyperion (Ages 3-8)
Gerald has everything he and Piggie need to go for a drive, except for one small item.
Lulu and the Duck in the Park
By Hilary McKay, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont
Albert Whitman (Ages 7-9)
Lulu's love of animals may get her in trouble when she brings a rescued duck egg to school after her teacher forbids more animals in the classroom.
The Secret Chicken Society
By Judy Cox, illustrated by Amanda Haley
Holiday House (Ages 7-9)
The third grade science project turns into a secret club when Daniel's favorite "hen" turns out to be something else entirely.
A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse
By Frank Viva
Toon (Ages 5-7)
Mouse finds many things one can and can't do on a trip to the bottom of the world and keeps asking, "Can we go home now?"
Tua and the Elephant
By R.P. Harris
Chronicle (Ages 8-12)
After rescuing an abused elephant from a Taiwanese market, Tua must find a safe home for her new friend before being captured.
Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad
By Henry Cole
Scholastic (Ages 7-10)
A young girl makes the difficult choice to help when she finds a runaway slave in her family’s corn crib.
Fiction for Older Readers
By Joan Bauer
Viking (Ages 10-13)
Coming to Chicago for a fresh start after being evicted from her house, sixth-grader Sugar finds the support she needs in a foster home and from caring adults, while keeping her sense of humor, determination and beloved puppy.
The Brixen Witch
By Stacy DeKeyser
Margaret K. McElderry (Ages 9-12)
Inspired by the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, this intriguing feat of storytelling is filled with witches, rats, and bravery.
The Cabinet of Earths
By Anne Nesbet
HarperCollins (Ages 10-13)
It’s a game of wits for 13-year-old Maya when her family moves to Paris and her father is busy with the Society of Philosophical Chemistry, her mother is dealing with cancer, and she’s pulled into a magical, mysterious, and unexpected world.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again
By Frank Cottrell Boyce
Candlewick (Ages 8-13)
Buckle up for the much anticipated companion to the beloved story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and ride along with the Tooting family in their aerial adventures across the globe.
By Adam Rex
Balzer & Bray (Ages 9-13)
Dive into this big bowl of adventure, fantasy, mystery, and laughs mixed together with smart kids, at least one missing parent and an eccentric leprechaun.
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Crush: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Love
By Gary Paulsen
Wendy Lamb (Ages 11-13)
It’s completely obvious to eighth-grader Kevin that he’s perfect boyfriend material for Tina, but he may have to harness the power of science to convince her of that.
Deadweather and Sunrise
By Geoff Rodkey
Putnam (Ages 10-13)
Launching the great new “Chronicles of Egg” series, this follows 13-year-old Egg on a captivating and pirate-infested journey from poverty to wealth and back again on the way to hidden treasure.
By Raina Telgemeier
Graphix (Ages 10-13)
Callie juggles all the drama surrounding her middle school musical in this humorously realistic graphic novel.
By Eliot Schrefer
Scholastic (Ages 12 and up)
Living with her mother on a bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 14-year-old Sophie learns more than she ever expected about sacrifice, survival, and the bond between humans and animals.
The False Prince
By Jennifer A. Nielsen
Scholastic (Ages 10-13)
In this opener to the exciting “Ascendance” trilogy, an orphan thief must compete in a lethal contest where the future of the land may rest with someone who is not really what he appears.
Freaky Fast Frankie Joe
By Lutricia Clifton
Holiday House (Ages 9-12)
Frankie, a tween now living with his unfamiliar blended family in Illinois, is trying everything he can to get back to his mother in Texas, but those actions may be just what it takes to make his new home into the place where he truly belongs.
By Cornelia Funke
Little, Brown (Ages 9-12)
Sent off to boarding school, 11-year-old Jon continues his journey from modern England to a medieval battlefield with humor and eeriness.
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom
By Christopher Healy
Walden Pond (Ages 9-12)
Finally, here is the other (hilarious) side of the story as four Princes Charming team up to defeat a witch . . . but who really needs rescuing?
The High-Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate
By Scott Nash
Candlewick (Ages 9-11)
Treasure Island meets Wind in the Willows in this appealing yarn about a band of bird pirates and their swashbuckling exploits.
Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure
Horten's Incredible Illusions: Magic, Mystery & Another Very Strange Adventure
By Lissa Evans
Sterling (Ages 8-13)
At the start of summer vacation, Stuart Horten (also unfortunately known as “Shorten”) encounters an “unexpected, strange, dangerous story” in his new town and sets off to solve the magical mystery.
In a Glass Grimmly
By Adam Gidwitz
Dutton (Ages 10 and up)
These gruesomely good reinventions of well-loved folk and fairy tales are sure to delight readers who loved A Tale Dark and Grimm as well as new fans, too.
Liar & Spy
By Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb (Ages 11-13)
The latest book by this Newbery Medalist is a realistic, yet mysterious, tale of the heart and community that seventh graders, like bullied only child Georges—and everyone—can find in their own big city community.
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By Alma Flor Ada
Atheneum (Ages 8-11)
When her abuelita dies unexpectedly, sixth-grader Amalia discovers connections which she didn’t expect with those still around her, while still honoring the many memories she and the wise, older woman shared of music, food and family.
The Mighty Miss Malone
By Christopher Paul Curtis
Wendy Lamb (Ages 9-12)
Miss Deza Malone, from Bud, Not Buddy and the smartest girl in her class, is “on a journey to a place called Wonderful” with her family during the difficult days of the Great Depression.
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The One and Only Ivan
By Katherine Applegate
Harper (Ages 9-12)
This story of hope, humor, friendship and heart is narrated by a silverback gorilla living in captivity named Ivan.
The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano
By Sonia Manzano
Scholastic (Ages 9-13)
This first novel by “Maria” from “Sesame Street” is set in the 1960s and shares a special perspective on the Civil Rights movement through the eyes of a young Puerto Rican teen.
Ruby Redfort Look Into My Eyes
By Lauren Child
Candlewick (Ages 11-13)
With lots of electronic gadgets and tons of smarts, Ruby is the ultimate (and definitely the coolest) undercover code breaker around.
See You at Harry's
By Jo Knowles
Candlewick (Ages 11-13)
Fern is frustrated by her family, but when bad things happen, that is when they need each other the most in this sensitive and powerful story.
By Lois Lowry
HMH (Ages 10 and up)
At long last, here is the stunning conclusion to the tale that Lowry began in the Newbery Medal-winning The Giver.
Starry River of the Sky
By Grace Lin
Little, Brown (Ages 8-12)
In the style of her Newbery Honor-winning Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Lin weaves elements of Chinese folklore into a beautifully written and artfully illustrated story about a boy learning how to grow up.
The Templeton Twins Have an Idea
By Ellis Weiner
Chronicle (Ages 10-13)
With a helpful narrator, tounges-in-cheek and copious illustrations, these two 13-year-olds put their ingenuity to the test in defeating the ubiquitous bad guy.
Who Could That Be at This Hour?
By Lemony Snicket
Little, Brown (Ages 9-12)
Lemony Snicket is back with the first volume of his strange and wryly hilarious “autobiography”.
By R.J. Palacio
Knopf (Ages 8-12)
Auggie doesn’t look like other kids, which makes starting fifth grade in a new school a tough prospect, yet he and his classmates have a supportive and thought-provoking year.
Informational Books for Younger Readers
The Beetle Book
By Steve Jenkins
HMH (Ages 4-8)
Young coleopterists are sure to be fascinated by these amazing cut-paper dissections of all kinds of beetles from all over the world.
The Camping Trip That Changed America
By Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein
Dial (Ages 6-9)
Learn how President Theodore Roosevelt and the naturalist John Muir influenced the fate of the American landscape in this tale of history, politics and companionship.
Dreaming UP: A Celebration of Building
By Christy Hale
Lee & Low (Ages 5-9)
This unique book makes inspiring connections between imagination, play, and groundbreaking architecture.
Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington
By Jabari Asim, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Little, Brown (Ages 7-10)
Beautiful words and amazing illustrations bring this insightful look into a special young man’s determination and strength to life.
By Beverly Gherman, illustrated by Julie Downing
Clarion (Ages 7-10)
Presidents have moms, too, and here are many fun and surprising facts about each of them.
Freedom Song: The Story of Henry "Box" Brown
By Sally Walker, illustrated by Sean Qualls
HarperCollins (Ages 6-9)
Rich language and powerful illustrations tell this amazing story of a man on his journey to freedom.
I Have a Dream
By Martin Luther King, Jr.; illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Schwartz & Wade (Ages 7-10)
Nelson, a Coretta Scott King Book Award winner, is the perfect choice to visually and stirringly depict Dr. King’s famous speech, the audio of which is included on CD.
By Nicola Davies, illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino
Candlewick (Ages 5-9)
With beautiful watercolors and interesting facts, this story follows a little girl’s observation of ducks in the city.
Machines Go to Work in the City
By William Low
Holt (Ages 2-8)
Vrooom! Crack! Beep! The dynamic illustrations in this book will get young readers excited about the machines and workers that keep a busy city running.
By Nic Bishop
Scholastic (Ages 6-10)
Amazing photographs of 20 different kinds of snakes are matched with fascinating facts that explain how they are “strange, secretive and surprising.”
Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs
By Michaela Muntean, photographs by K.C. Bailey and Stephen Kazmierski
Scholastic (Ages 5-10)
This is a colorful and charming story of a dedicated circus performer-turned-trainer and his loveable abandoned dogs.
Zero the Hero
By Joan Holub, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Holt (Ages 5-10)
Cheer on the underdog Zero the Hero as humorous cartoon characters explain why his number is so important and how it saves the day.
Informational Books for Older Readers
Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship
By Russell Freedman
Clarion (Ages 10 and up)
Freedman returns to his famous subject with a handsomely illustrated recounting of the brief but intriguing friendship between a black abolitionist spokesman and a president.
Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust
By Doreen Rappaport
Candlewick (Ages 11 and up)
More than twenty harrowing, yet inspiring, stories of Jewish resistance are told in this thoroughly researched and expertly documented work.
A Black Hole is NOT a Hole
By Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, illustrated by Michael Carroll
Charlesbridge (Ages 9-13)
This fun and readable book is able to take complex scientific concepts about astronomy and physics and make them accessible and humorous.
Bomb: The Race to Build--And Steal--The World's Most Dangerous Weapon
By Steve Sheinkin
Flash Point (Ages 11 and up)
Told in the style of a fast-paced cinematic thriller, this book shines a light on the creation and design of the first atomic bomb and the global espionage surrounding the project.
The Book of Blood: From Legends and Leeches to Vampires and Veins
By H.P. Newquist
HMH (Ages 10-14)
Covering everything from tales of vampires, medieval practices and Mayan rituals, to its scientific and physiological aspects, this is a gory yet intriguing overview of the subject.
Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America
By Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Hyperion (Ages 10-14)
With a distinct focus on childhood influences, this magnificently illustrated volume captures the amazing life stories of ten of the giants of African American history.
Ice!: The Amazing History of the Ice Business
By Laurence Pringle
Calkins Creek (Ages 9-13)
It didn’t always just come out of a refrigerator, and this wonderfully designed and illustrated book gives a fascinating account of the early ice business with science, engineering, history and geography all essential elements of this remarkable story.
Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure
By Jim Murphy & Alison Blank
Clarion (Ages 10-14)
Murphy, author of American Plague, teams with Blank for another intriguing and shocking historical survey of an illness that has been infecting humans since time immemorial.
The Main Event: The Moves and Muscle of Pro Wrestling
By Patrick Jones
Millbrook (Ages 9-14)
Entertaining even for nonfans, this title is a thoughtful and well-written history of the spectacle and an introduction to its major personalities.
Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies
By Marc Aronson
Candlewick (Ages 13 and up)
This is a powerful, detailed, and even-handed portrait of Hoover and the tumultuous period in U.S. History which his tenure as head of the F.B.I. encompassed.
Robotics: Discover the Science and Technology of the Future with 20 Projects
By Kathy Ceceri, illustrated by Sam Carbaugh
Nomad (Ages 8-12)
Step into the field of robotics with this awe-inspiring and educational look at the design, building and operation of various types of robots with clever projects to create.
Their Skeletons Speak: Kennewick Man and the Paleoamerican World
By Sally M. Walker & Douglas W. Owsley
Carolrhoda (Ages 11-14)
This engrossing historic and archaeological account illuminates the lives and origins of the Paleoamericans, the earliest human inhabitants of North America.
We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March
By Cynthia Levinson
Peachtree (Ages 11 and up)
Tracing the story of four young protesters between the ages nine and 15, this book highlights the role of young people in the Civil Rights movement and gives a riveting overview of the era.
By Rebecca Johnson
Millbrook (Ages 10-14)
With science writing and photographs packed with kid appealing ick-factor, this title introduces the various wasps, worms, fungi and viruses that can invade and zombify their victim’s bodies.
Zora!: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston
By Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin
Clarion (Ages 9-12)
This accessible and well-documented biography about the life and times of brilliant African American folklorist and author Zora Neale Hurston follows her through her many setbacks and incredible achievements.