The annual “Best Of” list is always the most difficult list we make. There are so many differing opinions regarding what makes a good piece of juvenile literature. Is it the story, the illustrations? Is a book one that contains meaningful themes, teaches important principles or makes children think and learn? Is it a book that has garnered critical acclaim from established sources? Can a great book just be silly and fun?
With the many conflicting notions of what makes a “good” children’s book, we just tend to go with our gut. If a book, when opened or read for the first time possesses an allure or compels an unexpected emotion, it’s one that we will read again and again to see what it is about the book that makes it different or distinct.
The year known as 2013 was a good one for juvenile literature. There were so many superb books released from both new and well-established authors and illustrators. The year brought us many books that push the envelope in terms of art and writing. We saw many books that made us think and laugh. We also saw many that made us scratch our heads wondering what publishers were thinking when then sent the book to print–that’s another list.
Now, with no further adieu, the list of books that were OUR favorites for 2013–in no particular order:
This is a book that made us laugh and laugh hard. The main character, Leon the chameleon has to, well, poo. When he does, he is beset with a common problem, no paper. The way he solves his problem, which is done with little regard for another, makes for a great beginning to the story. The way Leon resolves his offense teaches a beautifully masked lesson in being considerate. Unlike many other books that might deal with potty humor, this one is direct without being gross. The illustrations are superb and add to the text to bring life and body to the story and the life-lesson it contains.
The book itself is a beautiful piece. The interior pages are printed on card stock and the covers are heavy boards. This is a book that will last a long time and thousands of readings.
This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
I know, it seems easy to pick the 2013 winner of the Caldecott Medal. But, this book is really good. The genius in this and other books by Klassen is the interplay between the words and the illustrations. In this book, the main character, a very small fish, has stolen the hat of a very large fish. As he swims from page to page, he justifies and dismisses his crime while the illustration shows that his bad deed will not go unrecognized or dismissed.
It is a wonderful little story that young children identify with. As the little fish swims along telling the story, his words are in conflict with everything that is happening around him. This is Not My Hat is a wonderful piece of art that engages the mind and delights the reader.
Journey by Aaron Becker
We have a stated weakness for wordless books. The ability to tell a coherent and interesting story using pictures only is high art as far as we’re concerned.
This debut book from Aaron Becker is a beautiful story of a girl who takes an incredible journey through fantastic places when she engages her red marker.
The illustrations are beautiful and the story has many layers that allow each reader to come up with his or her own interpretation. We wrote a full review that you can read by clicking here. Needless to say, no family will ever regret having this book in their home.
Well, that’s it. Our list of favorite books for 2013. This list is subject to change–if there is another great book released before the end of the year. Please comment below if you think we have left off a book that you think ought to be included.