Best of 2018 Books

December 27th, 2018 by

It’s hard to believe that the year is almost over. Only a few more days to enjoy hot cocoa and build snowmen before it’s back to school (or work, in our cases). Excuse us while we shed a single tear in a very dignified manner like the adults we are… WAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!

Okay, back to the book business at hand: With only a few days left in 2018, now’s the perfect time to get your To Read list ready for 2019 — and here are some recommendations to get you started! We went through a bunch of “Best of 2018” lists from our favorite sources around the interwebs (such as School Library Journal), and we compiled a list of the best of the best. See below for titles that came up over and over again, making them good bets for a bright start to the new year!

Our compiled list: Top 15 of 2018

Listed in alphabetical order. Official descriptions from the publishers.

amal-unboundAmal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when — as the eldest daughter — she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens — after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt. Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal — especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

be-preparedBe Prepared by Vera Brosgol
In Be Prepared, all Vera wants to do is fit in ― but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range ― Russian summer camp. Vera is sure she’s found the one place she can fit in, but camp is far from what she imagined. And nothing could prepare her for all the “cool girl” drama, endless Russian history lessons, and outhouses straight out of nightmares!

blendedBlended by Sharon M. Draper
Eleven-year-old Isabella’s parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week: One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves. Because of this, Isabella has always felt pulled between two worlds. And now that her parents are divorced, it seems their fights are even worse, and they’re always about HER. Isabella feels even more stuck in the middle, split and divided between them than ever. And she’s is beginning to realize that being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. Her dad is black, her mom is white, and strangers are always commenting: “You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?” She knows what they’re really saying: “You don’t look like your parents.” “You’re different.” “What race are you really?” And when her parents, who both get engaged at the same time, get in their biggest fight ever, Isabella doesn’t just feel divided, she feels ripped in two. What does it mean to be half white or half black? To belong to half mom and half dad? And if you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole? It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again — until the worst happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired.

dactyl-hill-squadDactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older
It’s 1863 and dinosaurs roam the streets of New York as the Civil War rages between raptor-mounted armies down South. Magdalys Roca and her friends from the Colored Orphan Asylum are on a field trip when the Draft Riots break out, and a number of their fellow orphans are kidnapped by an evil magistrate, Richard Riker. Magdalys and her friends flee to Brooklyn and settle in the Dactyl Hill neighborhood, where black and brown New Yorkers have set up an independent community — a safe haven from the threats of Manhattan. Together with the Vigilance Committee, they train to fly on dactylback, discover new friends and amazing dinosaurs, and plot to take down Riker. Can Magdalys and the squad rescue the rest of their friends before it’s too late?

front-deskFront Desk by Kelly Yang
Mia Tang has a lot of secrets. Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, 10-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests. Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they’ve been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed. Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language? It will take all of Mia’s courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?

harbor-meHarbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
It all starts when six kids have to meet for a weekly chat — by themselves, with no adults to listen in. There, in the room they soon dub the ARTT Room (short for “A Room to Talk”), they discover it’s safe to talk about what’s bothering them — everything from Esteban’s father’s deportation and Haley’s father’s incarceration to Amari’s fears of racial profiling and Ashton’s adjustment to his changing family fortunes. When the six are together, they can express the feelings and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world. And together, they can grow braver and more ready for the rest of their lives.

ivy-aberdeens-letter-to-the-worldIvy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake
When a tornado rips through town, 12-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm — and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing. Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks — and hopes — that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?

martin-risingMartin Rising: Requiem for a King, written by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
In a rich embroidery of visions, musical cadence, and deep emotion, Andrea and Brian Pinkney convey the final months of Martin Luther King’s life — and of his assassination — through metaphor, spirituality, and multilayers of meaning. Andrea’s stunning poetic requiem, illustrated with Brian’s lyrical and colorful artwork, brings a fresh perspective to Martin Luther King, the Gandhi-like, peace-loving activist whose dream of equality — and whose courage to make it happen — changed the course of American history. And even in his death, he continues to transform and inspire all of us who share his dream.

merci-suarez-changes-gearsMerci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
Merci Suárez knew that 6th grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren’t going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what’s going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.

Assassination-of-Brangwain-SpurgeThe Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin
Uptight elfin historian Brangwain Spurge is on a mission: survive being catapulted across the mountains into goblin territory, deliver a priceless peace offering to their mysterious dark lord, and spy on the goblin kingdom — from which no elf has returned alive in more than a hundred years. Brangwain’s host, the goblin archivist Werfel, is delighted to show Brangwain around. They should be the best of friends, but a series of extraordinary double crosses, blunders, and cultural misunderstandings throws these two bumbling scholars into the middle of an international crisis that may spell death for them — and war for their nations. Witty mixed media illustrations show Brangwain’s furtive missives back to the elf kingdom, while Werfel’s determinedly unbiased narrative tells an entirely different story. A hilarious and biting social commentary that could only come from the likes of National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson and Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin, this tale is rife with thrilling action and visual humor… and a comic disparity that suggests the ultimate victor in a war is perhaps not who won the battles, but who gets to write the history.

cardboard-kingdomThe Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell
Welcome to a neighborhood of kids who transform ordinary boxes into colorful costumes, and their ordinary block into cardboard kingdom. This is the summer when 16 kids encounter knights and rogues, robots and monsters — and their own inner demons — on one last quest before school starts again. In the Cardboard Kingdom, you can be anything you want to be — imagine that! The Cardboard Kingdom was created, organized, and drawn by Chad Sell with writing from ten other authors: Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Manuel Betancourt, Michael Cole, Cloud Jacobs, and Barbara Perez Marquez.

journey-of-little-charlieThe Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis
Twelve-year-old Charlie is down on his luck: His sharecropper father just died and Cap’n Buck — the most fearsome man in Possum Moan, South Carolina — has come to collect a debt. Fearing for his life, Charlie strikes a deal with Cap’n Buck and agrees to track down some folks accused of stealing from the cap’n and his boss. It’s not too bad of a bargain for Charlie… until he comes face-to-face with the fugitives and discovers their true identities. Torn between his guilty conscience and his survival instinct, Charlie needs to figure out his next move — and soon. It’s only a matter of time before Cap’n Buck catches on.

night-diaryThe Night Diary By Veera Hiranandani
It’s 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders. Half-Muslim, half-Hindu 12-year-old Nisha doesn’t know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it’s too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can’t imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together. Told through Nisha’s letters to her mother, The Night Diary is a heartfelt story of one girl’s search for home, for her own identity… and for a hopeful future.

parker-inheritanceThe Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
When Candice finds a letter in an old attic in Lambert, South Carolina, she isn’t sure she should read it. It’s addressed to her grandmother, who left the town in shame. But the letter describes a young woman. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding its writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle. So with the help of Brandon, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert’s history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets. Can they find the fortune and fulfill the letter’s promise before the answers slip into the past yet again?

the-truth-as-told-by-mason-buttleThe Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor
Mason Buttle is the biggest, sweatiest kid in his grade, and everyone knows he can barely read or write. Mason’s learning disabilities are compounded by grief. Fifteen months ago, Mason’s best friend, Benny Kilmartin, turned up dead in the Buttle family’s orchard. An investigation drags on, and Mason, honest as the day is long, can’t understand why Lieutenant Baird won’t believe the story Mason has told about that day. Both Mason and his new friend, tiny Calvin Chumsky, are relentlessly bullied by the other boys in their neighborhood, so they create an underground club space for themselves. When Calvin goes missing, Mason finds himself in trouble again. He’s desperate to figure out what happened to Calvin, and eventually, Benny. But will anyone believe him?

Happy reading and happy new year from Kidsmomo!

Kidsmomo 2011: Behind the Scenes

January 3rd, 2012 by

Last week, Nancy posted a great Top 11 list of our past year at Kidsmomo. I thought it would be fun to take you behind the scenes to see what was really happening in some of those moments…

Guys Read: Thriller Video

I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow this video shoot ended with our friend, Taylor, shaking tree branches all around his head while Nancy (and the camera) looked up his nose.

taylor-guys-read

I suppose I could have helped by doing the shaking for him, but I was too busy snapping this photo and laughing in the background.

Halloween Tale of Terror

I purchased the teddy bear for this feature, and I got kind of attached to his cute little face and soft, cuddly body. So I forced Nancy to do the decapitating when it came time.

teddy-bear-decapitation

But my fondness for the little guy certainly didn’t stop me from taking photos as Nancy cut off his head and later artfully arranged his stuffing in the bathtub (lit beautifully by our friend, Connie, holding Nancy’s desk lamp).

stuffing-bathtub

LeakyCon Antics

We posted about a gazillion bazillion photos from LeakyCon right after we got back, but here are a couple we didn’t share:

nancy-funnel-cake

The very first thing we did when we got into the Universal theme park that night? Nancy bought funnel cake, immediately cut it up into little pieces, and then gobbled those pieces as we raced to Hogwarts.

nancy-jumping

This is a version of the photo we incorporated into our review of Deathly Hallows, Part 2. Believe me, it took many many many MANY tries to get this…

As you can see, we have lots of fun behind the scenes of Kidsmomo… but we’d be nothing without you guys! Keep those book reviews and comments coming — here’s to a fantastic 2012!

— Karen

Karen’s favorite experience of 2011 was definitely attending LeakyCon. In 2012, she hopes to visit the Harry Potter movie studios in England. And then in 2013, she will find Hogwarts. For real.

More about Karen »

Kidsmomo Top 11 of 2011

December 31st, 2011 by

It’s New Year’s Eve! Are you ready for the countdown? I decided to reminisce a little and pick out my Top 11 Kidsmomo posts from the past year:

#11: Karen sings Christmas carols.
This one barely made it under the wire, but I’m glad it did!

#10: I obsessively nitpick over the Throne of Fire cover.
I did it in 2010 and I did it in 2011… Hopefully illustrator John Rocco and author Rick Riordan release the cover for the last book in the trilogy in 2012 so we can continue the tradition!

#9: We meet Origami Yoda.
Karen reviewed The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger and insisted I read it, too… and it totally made our YEAR better. Seriously. Any time either of us talk about Origami Yoda, we smile!

#8: I get the heebie-jeebies on camera.
With the help of our friend Taylor, we discussed the excellent anthology Guys Read: Thriller on camera — and my ridiculous (but very real) fear of bugs and lizards.

#7: Karen composes some poetry.
Karen thinks I don’t read her posts, but I totally do! (Most of the time.) I especially liked this one, in which she’s written odes to some of her favorite books.

#6: Quidditch World Cup V.
An afternoon spent talking about Harry Potter, watching Muggle Quidditch, and also meeting a giant koala mascot. Need I say more?

#5: An awesome review submitted by a reader.
We love getting book reviews, especially like this one submitted by Ayra, age 11! Send in a review of a book you liked or disliked and it may be featured in our next podcast.

#4: We replay how bad we are at Kidsmomo-ing.

Go on and listen, but don’t judge. Just laugh.

#3: Author Aaron Starmer visits from outer space.

His video started an awesome new trend of authors sending Kidsmomo wonderful, funny, and sometimes musical videos.

This was, hands down, one of my favorite blog posts to put together for Kidsmomo this year. Creepy photos of dolls? Check. Decapitating teddy bears? Check. An awesome story written by a 12-year-old? CHECK!

#1: We laughed, cried, danced, read, watched, lived and breathed Harry Potter for a week.

Leaky Con 2011! Deathly Hallows Part 2 screening! Potter-ful discussions! Costumes galore!

So that was just a glimpse of 2011. I can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store for Kidsmomo! Thanks for visiting, happy holidays, and tune in next time! 🙂

— Nancy

Nancy’s been practicing for the countdown: 10, 9, 8, 6, 5, 4… wait a minute, that’s not right…

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