What Are the Best Books of 2015…So Far?

BestBooksSure, it’s only July, but the SLJ review editors are already starting to think about the December issue, aka our Best Books issue. We typically start with our long list of starred reviews (though we do maintain┬áthe prerogative of “besting” titles we didn’t star) and whittle it down from there.

So, what have been your top titles this year so far? What do you think has award potential?


  1. larrysgirllarrysgirl says

    MOONPENNY ISLAND, by Tricia Springstubb —
    Springstubb has beautifully captured the feel of the small Lake Erie islands off the northwestern Ohio coast, along with the close-knit bonds of their residents — all members of a larger ‘island family’. And she has creatively and instinctively grasped the essence of 11-year-old Flor through her uncanny descriptions of the child’s thoughts and behavior, and her very believable concerns about her own family and her best friend, who has been sent to school on the mainland. Flor and her story will stay in the minds of readers for a long time.

  2. rforbes says

    Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter. All of the Manga Classics have breathed new life into the classics. These are often school-required readings, so when a quality adaptation comes around that not only remains true to the source, but is a brilliant example of the format, and interesting to the audience, it is something special. The Scarlet Letter, so far, is the best. You can read the original book and basically match it line-by-line to the panels. The art is stunning too.

    The other I would recommend is Little Robot by Ben Hatke, an absolutely charming story of a friendship between a dark-skinned little girl and a robot that looks like a trashcan. The text is sparse, but this means we can better “feel” the atmosphere. To save her friend, this little girl uses her wrench to solve problems, but even she needs some help from her new friends. One cute feature is how each robot speaks and emotes in a manner similar to the robots in Wall-e. As usual Hatke has created a wonderful heroine.

    There are so many others that are worthy of consideration: Wild Ideas by Elin Kelsey, Otter in Space by Sam Garton, Snow White and the 77 Dwarves by Davide Cali, Rook by Sharon Cameron, The Queen’s Hat by Steve Antony, are just a few I’ve picked up at my library.

    It’s been a good year for books, so I wish you all good luck!

  3. Martha Simpson says

    I just reviewed Tucky Jo and Little Heart by Patricia Polacco, and I hope you agree with me that it deserves to be a starred review.
    I also reviewed Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas and thought it was excellent.
    I picked up George by Alex Gino at BEA and think it’s a wonderful, groundbreaking book, sensitive with many humorous touches, about an important topic.

  4. hwebbhwebb says

    I’m pulling for “Roller Girl”, “Echo”, “The War That Saved My Life” and “Circus Mirandus” to bring home some awards this year. They have all been favorites among staff and patrons at my library.

  5. tsaarinen says

    I enjoyed so far

    Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan. A fun read, w/ great character, mystery, and family Tragedy.

    Behold the Dung Beetle-I seriously have new respect for these bugs, and it’s one of those books with basic, the more complex sentences so you can read to younger or older kids.

    The Penderwicks in Spring-It’s fun to have the girls and family grow, and the story is told from the younger kids perspective, w/ Batty being the main narrator and torn by a huge amount of guilt.

    Gone Crazy in Alabama-Loved it! Finished it yesterday and was crying at the end. Delphine feels her family is all falling apart, but a tragedy brings them together. The sisters learn tons about their family from 2 warring 1/2 sisters, and the author touches on the variety of mixed race families, and provides a cool family tree at the back.

    Blackbird Fly was good. It dealt w/ weird parents, racism, and cliques in a small town. The ending w/ the school plot line was a bit twee, but the rest was well-written. I feel most tween/teen girls can relate to the sudden changes in friendships.

    RollerGirl-like Blackbird Fly it deals w/ changing friendships and interests during adolescence, w/ strong female characters and great graphics.

    I started the Bullies of Wall Street and haven’t had a chance to finish it yet, but it explained the whole “too big to fail” in a way I could understand. Hope to finish it at some point this year.

    Loved a Woman in the House (and Senate)-The history of women getting the vote and into office was great, and they didn’t sugarcoat the fact some of these women were bigots, or didn’t believe in feminism, but didn’t demean their accomplishments either. Great book for girls.

    Revolution by Wiley was great. Scary, but honest account of the Freedom Summer from the perspective of a white girl and black boy. Parts of it were wrenching to read. Eagerly awaiting the 3rd book in this trilogy.

    Unstoppable Octobia May was fascinating. Between her over active imagination, murders and mysteries, and her Aunt’s struggles as a single woman and business owner, it was hard to put down. Octobia May was pretty much fearless, and most of the characters, were written in shades of grey, even the bad guys.

    Loved Mr. Ferris and his Wheel. It’s a good one to use for classroom STEM activities.

    We got a great wordless book in today, about a girl walking and picking dandelions, but I forgot the title.

    For picture books-We Dig Worms; Families, Families, Families; In Her Hands: Wangari Maathai; Won Ton and Chopstick; Queen of the Diamond: The Lizzie Murphy Story; My Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth.

  6. chelseasc says

    I’ll second MOONPENNY ISLAND and THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE. These two have lingered with me since I read them earlier this year. Such impressive characterization and evocation of place in both cases. MURDER IS BAD MANNERS by Robin Stevens and CASTLE HANGNAIL by Ursula Vernon are by far the most enjoyable titles I’ve read this year. Outstanding entries in the mystery and fantasy genres, respectively. Both bring all the best traits of the genre but still feel fresh and interesting.

    I was blown away by Hannah Harrison’s expressions in BERNICE GETS CARRIED AWAY. She is an artist to watch for sure (and not just because I also loved EXTRAORDINARY JANE last year). RUDE CAKES by Rowboat Watkins is the best picture book on manners I’ve encountered in years. Creative and just loads of fun.

    For teens, I just read the second volume of the MS. MARVEL graphic novel, and it was probably one of the best teen titles I’ve read all year in any genre or format. Witty, thought-provoking writing along with plenty of action and a kick-butt heroine who just gets more and more interesting in every volume. I also can’t forget Holly Black’s THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST or Laura Ruby’s BONE GAP, two completely original and memorable fantasies with lots of depth.

    I haven’t read much nonfiction this year, but STONEWALL by Ann Bausum was outstanding. Illuminating and engaging, it really placed the event in the greater context of American history in a way that was accessible and fascinating.

  7. says

    ALL THE RAGE by Courtney Summers: A heartbreaking story of a high school girl who was raped at a party. Romy Grey, who already has a strike against her because she’s from the wrong side of town, is believed to be lying when she accuses Kellan Turner, who happens to be a policeman’s son.

    DREAM A LITTLE DREAM by Kerstin Gier: A group of English teenagers are able to visit each others dreams. I was completely drawn in; read it in one sitting, and upon finishing was a little startled, as if I’d emerged from the dream world myself.

  8. mwinne2 says

    So many exceptional books have come across my plate already, but the ones I can’t stop talking about, recommending, Vining, tweeting, and putting in the hands of kids and parents alike so far include:

    – TRICKY VIC by Greg Pizolli
    – THE LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET by Matt Day la Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson
    – HOME by Carson Ellis
    – TO THE SEA by Cale Atkinson
    – YARD SALE by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
    – THE UNDERGROUND ABDUCTOR (Hazardous Tales #5) by Nathan Hale
    – THE TERRIBLE TWO by Jory John and Mac Barnett
    – GEORGE by Alex Gino
    – SUNNY SIDE UP by Jenni Holm and Matt Holm
    – CRENSHAW by Katherine Applegate

    Such an outstanding year for children’s literature! (And we’re only halfway through!)

  9. MKozikowskiMKozikowski says

    I enjoyed Lisa Lewis Tyre’s “Last in a Long Line of Rebels”. It’s a well-put together package of historical fiction, strong writing (loved the imagery of Lou’s house “breathing” when wind blew curtains in and out) and characters that were unique without being conspicuously quirky. I admit to a soft spot for debut novelists when it comes to award consideration.

    From a master storyteller: Kate DiCamillo’s “Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon” may be only 112pages but accomplishes a lot. By the end of chapter one, setting, character, her backstory and the plot crisis are firmly in place and the reader is hooked. Chris VanDusen’s illustrations are drawn from unusual perspectives that truly enhance the narrative and characters.

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