Holy cow! How did it get to be December 31st already? I am completely unprepared to write this traditional end-of-year post but here we go.
I did not even come close to my goal of reading 515 books in 2015. I was so busy with finishing my last semester of grad school this fall that reading sort of fell off the priority list. I only read 394 books this year, 76 of which were novel-length.
Despite not making my reading goal, I have to say that 2015 was a great year for books. I didn't read much middle grade this year, but I had many YA and picture book favorites.
Waiting by Kevin Henkes
I get the sense that this
is a book the Caldecott committee is discussing at length.
It has beautiful illustrations, it bares no obvious lessons (award
committees tend to shy away from didacticism), and disguises itself as a
simple story shrouded in complexity (the Waiting for Godot of the kid lit world as Betsy Bird likes to call it). Henkes fills your heart with
affection for these sweet, quirky toys sitting on the windowsill
waiting for nothing in particular it seems...
The Moon is Going to Addy's House by Ida Pearle
doesn't always have to come in words. Sometimes poetry speaks in
pictures, movement, music, or all of these things at once. The Moon is
Going to Addy's House is a beautiful example of how poetry can be
created in the confluence of art forms. It is a book that feels both
classic and modern, both back in time and of the time.
Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
This is the story of
Millo Castro Zaladarriaga, a young Cuban girl who wanted desperately to
play the drums, but she lived in a time when only boys were allowed to
play them. This book is a gorgeous poem that celebrates the power of a
passion, which is paired beautifully with Rafael Lopez's vibrant,
This is Sadie by Sara O'Leary, illustrated by Julie Morstad
book is everything. This book is about as perfect as a book could
possibly be. This book isn't just about Sadie. This book is about us
all. We are all Sadie. Some of us just have to look harder to find her
within ourselves than others. But she is there. To quote one of my 8th graders, "Sadie represents the child within us all."
Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold The Eiffel Tower by Greg Pizzoli
is what all nonfiction should be: exciting, engaging, and page-turning.
Wow! Any guy who conned Al Capone and lived is
a guy worth reading about.
Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L Holm & Matthew Holm
was born in the very late 70s (Two months before 1980, in fact) but
despite the fact that this book takes place in 1975-1976, an incredible
sense of familiarity and nostalgia from my own childhood came creeping
into my experience of reading this book. Little details as simple as the
screen door on Sunny's house in Pennsylvania to the way the Sears logo
looked back then, Jenni and Matt Holm clearly did their research on even
the smallest of details from this time period. More importantly
though, Jenni and Matt Holm tell a heartfelt and compassionate story
about a young girl who comes to realize the torment her family is
experiencing at the hand of her brother who is overcoming substance
abuse. It is through Sunny's experience that many kids will see their
own families and the ways a family member's struggles become an entire
Displacement: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley
In this graphic memoir, Knisely, accompanies her grandparents, who are failing in health and mental faculties, on a Caribbean cruise. It is a sensitive, earnest, fatalistic look at family and mortality, yet also done somehow with a lighthearted touch.
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
This is one of the most stunning audiobooks I have ever listened to. As someone who studied classical piano for over a decade, the musical themes and accompanying soundtrack with the audiobook made this story come alive. Echo is a book for not only the readers in your life who
love music, but also for those sensitive readers who are looking for
books to be transcendent – to give you an experience beyond your
emotions, becoming almost a spiritual experience. And that is what makes
Echo more than just a heartprint book for me – it is a book that feeds my soul.
Stand Off by Andrew Smith
Ryan Dean West is my all-time favorite character in YA literature. I'm so glad Andrew Smith brought him back for a sequel to help readers heal from the sadness that occurred at the end of Winger.
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
save lives. And they change hearts and minds. This will be one of those
books. This book is in your face enough to start
conversations, but nuanced enough to make it more than a black vs.
white, us vs. them issue. This book is a great ladder to Ta-Nehisi Coates' book which is also on my list of favorite books of 2015.
Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle
Before I read Engle's memoir in verse, I had very little desire to ever visit Cuba someday. During and after reading Engle's memoir in verse, I have now very eagerly added it to my bucket list.
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
incredibly powerful and personal tale of a young man's descent into the
depths of schizophrenia. The book is a masterfully woven extended
metaphor that would benefit a close reading of certain passages because
important details are sure to be missed upon first reading.
Solitaire by Alice Oseman
Tori Spring is a modern-day female Holden Caulfield. Solitaire is a genius work of young adult fiction. It is
both literary and accessible. It's a book that I think hasn't been given
enough marketing buzz, and so I will be personally recommending it to
anyone who likes a good angsty teen drama with a whip-smart,
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
A book that will continue conversations started by All American Boys by looking further into the depths of white privilege and how black bodies are treated in this country. A book every white American should read and one that will make you uncomfortable. That's supposed to happen. And while you wade around in your discomfort, just know that many others continue to drown.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Magic is a revelation. It is a paradigm shift in how we should approach
creativity. Elizabeth Gilbert posits that we need to throw away the
trope of the tormented artist in favor of lightness, curiosity and play
in our creative work. She has definitely inspired me in how I will
approach my writing life from this moment forward.