Number of books read: 401 (including picture books)
Genre you read the most from: Picture Books and Graphic Novels
Best Book You Read in 2018?
I intentionally didn’t rank my 18 favorites this year because I didn’t want to try to figure out the very best. But when pressed to choose just one favorite, I’m going with Amor Towles’s A Gentleman in Moscow.
Book You Were Excited About and Thought You Were Going to Love More But Didn’t?
I actually started Miles Morales at the end of 2017 and read at it here and there throughout 2018, finally finishing on December 26. It’s just over 250 pages, so it really, really shouldn’t have taken so long. But I was often so very bored by the story. Nothing happened, and the characters were uninteresting. I love Jason Reynolds and I just knew I was going to love his version of Spiderman. But no.
Most surprising (in a good way or bad way)?
I’ll be honest: I was expecting this graphic novel adaptation of Anne of Green Gables to be a slog. I find the original novel quite tedious (I know, I know), and I wasn’t wild about Brenna Thummler’s debut graphic novel, Sheets. But I was so surprised (in a good way) by this adaptation–because I really, really liked it and because it’s got the craziest pastel color palette and because so many scenes are rendered in wordless panels. An adaptation that honors what fans of the novel love about it and that has the power to bring new readers to the story.
Book you pushed the most people to read (and they did)?
I book talk between 1 and 10 titles every class period, so I pushed A LOT of books on people this year. One of my most successful book pushes was Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess, which nearly every student in my spring Children’s Literature course ended up reading.
Best series you started in 2018?
I read the first books in a lot of great graphic novels series this year, but Sleepless really stands out to me with its strong world-building, gorgeous color palette and art, and intriguing storyline. Plus, there’s a cliffhanger! I HAVE to know what happens next.
Favorite new author you discovered in 2018?
I read several excellent children’s books written by Richard Van Camp this year, and I’m pleased to discover that he has books for grownups too!
Best book from a genre you typically don’t read?
I’d always thought there was no point in reading board books, since I don’t know any babies and board books don’t fit the K-12 parameters of the courses I teach for pre-service teachers. But Leslie Patricelli’s delightful board books helped me see that board books can be for everyone. This is one funny book.
Most action-packed, thrilling, unputdownable book of the year?
I like quiet books. Words like “action-packed” or “thrilling” or “unputdownable” are not words I want to attach to my reading. But Grand Theft Horse was pretty thrilling, especially if you like a little courtroom drama, which it turns out that I do. This is the true story of Gail Ruffu’s fight to protect the racehorse she partly owned from the rest of its unscrupulous owners. I knew nothing about horse racing before I picked up this book, and I was thoroughly appalled by almost everything I learned in this book.
Book you read in 2018 that you would be most likely to reread in 2019?
I will likely reread a few dozen of the picture books I read in 2019 to prepare for an upcoming mock Caldecott unit and as read-alouds in my classes. I am most eager to revisit Yuyi Morales’s Dreamers, which I intend to read slowly so that I can attend more carefully to the art and page turns.
Favorite cover of a book you read in 2018?
Zachariah Ohora’s cover for Niblet and Ralph makes me smile every time I see it.
Most memorable character of 2018?
That’s so easy! Murderbot! I read all four of Martha Wells’s novellas about Murderbot, the A.I. gone rogue, and I’d read as many more as she cares to write. (The news that she’s working on a full-length novel about Murderbot was the second best book news I heard all year.) (The very best book news is that the final book in Meghan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series will be published in March.)
Most beautifully illustrated book?
There were plenty of beautiful picture books in 2018, but I think the most stunning and beautiful to me was Gianna Marino’s If I Had a Horse. I’ve never seen anyone do with watercolor what she does in this book.
Most life-changing book of 2018?
Florence Williams’s The Nature Fix is a fascinating look at the research that supports regular outings in nature as a cure for much of what ails us. I committed to weekly hikes after reading it, and I know I was happier, healthier, and more well-adjusted as a result.
Book you can’t believe you waited until 2018 to read?
And I waited until the last week of 2018 at that. Given how much I loved the first two books in the March trilogy, it’s kind of silly that I didn’t read this the day it came out. But it was totally worth the wait.
Favorite book you read in 2018 from an author you’d read previously?
I loved how Eugenia’s unexpected package softened her rather hard heart. I also love that my fifteen-year-old son still gets excited about a new Tale from Deckawoo Drive.
Best book you read solely based on a recommendation from an online resource?
As obsessed as I am with all things Modern Mrs Darcy, I will admit that Anne Bogel and I are not reading twins. We actually have fairly different taste in books. But I will keep trying her recommendations because sometimes, it’s exactly the right book for me at the right moment, and A Gentleman in Moscow was one of those reads.
Best 2018 debut?
The Poet X is just so, so good. I can’t wait for Elizabeth Acevedo’s next book.
Most vivid setting/best world-building?
The wintry world Naomi Novik creates in Spinning Silver actually made me physically cold. Such an interesting world–really, worlds, since there are several different believably rendered settings.
Book that put a smile on your face?
Steve wants to be exceptional and thinks he’s on the right path when he finds a gold horn that he proceeds to tie to his head. So many laugh-out-loud illustrations here, especially the one where Steve’s horn shifts under his chin and when his animal friends all decide to tie weird things to their own heads.
Book that made you cry?
But not until the Author’s Note at the end. The fate of Krosoczka’s mother shouldn’t have been a surprise but somehow it was. But what really got me were the sweet words about his wife and children and the healing that came from starting his own family. And of course the story behind that wonderful orange that’s used throughout.
Hidden gem of the year?
Now that it’s on the Cybils Graphic Novels shortlist, hopefully more readers will find their way to Sebastian Kadlicek’s wholly delightful Quince, about a girl who gets superpowers for her quinceanera. Funny scenes with the family and friends, a satisfying romance, an awesome grandma, and plenty of Buffy-style action and humor.
Book that crushed your soul?
Troublemakers is a devastating portrait of the dysfunctions and emotional abuses of the American school system. The only thing that saved me was knowing that the book was opening the eyes of many readers and that perhaps some children will have a more humane path through school as a result.
Most unique book you read in 2018?
Mapping Manhattan is a slender book of hand-drawn maps of Manhattan. The author walked the length of Broadway, passing out blank map templates to tourists, newcomers, and long-time residents of New York and inviting them to write and draw the stories of their Manhattan. The results are by turns funny, charming, poignant, sad, and surprising.
Most maddening book?
Terese Marie Mailhot captures the experience and effects of generational trauma so well in Heart Berries. This is a very hard book to read and often totally maddening. I wanted better for her on every page, but there she is, saving her life through writing.
Most fun read?
An amusement park that serves as a portal to hell, various snarky/scary demons, a talking pug who saves the world repeatedly, and LBGTQ-positive characters and storylines, all done in splashy colors. So much fun.