Best Books 2017: The MPR Edition

 Last year around this time, Holly Weinkauf, the owner of the Red Balloon Bookshop in Saint Paul and I recommended titles for giving on Minnesota Public Radio.

Looking back, I see that we did a darn good job. And we will be back today at 10:00 AM Central time.


It is so hard to choose among the thousands of children’s books published each year.

There is a maddening game one finds played out in bookstores every holiday season. It is called “stump the book seller” The giving of a book is one of the most intimate of offerings. The best of these unassuming, neatly wrapped rectangles displays evidence of the giver having some knowledge of the recipient. Of course, finding books for an adult of consistent preferences is not rocket science. My stepmother, for example, loves to get lost in a mystery — specifically, a historical mystery, not a police procedural.

It is considerably more challenging to select a book for a child, particularly if one only sees the boy or girl few times a year. It is insulting to the core to present a book to a ten-year-old that is developmentally appropriate for an eight-year-old. The rewards for getting it right are amazing: Were you the aunt who had the foresight to give a young reader a copy Because of Winn Dixie when it was brand new, before all the other kids saw it? Yes, I was.

Out of the thousands of children’s books published each year, how do we wade through them to put the right book in the right kid’s hands?  Your librarian and your bookseller are here to help.

I am spreading my picks for best books of 2017 over a  number of blog postings starting with the very young. I am advising to Watch out for gender bias, nothing would have made me happier than a book about a dump truck when I was four.

Yesterday, I called out great read alouds in Best Books 2017: Read Alouds

Lets Get Started- For twos, threes, and fours: When there’s a niece or nephew in the picture who loves vehicles, we can’t go wrong with picture books about planes, busses, and diggers. Steven Savage of Super Truck fame explores the world of the sky writing plane with Little Plane Learns to Write. Kate and Jim McMullan continue their series that began with I Stink! that has been transformed into an animated series, The Stinky and Dirty Show. It is easy to dismiss simple language and photographs, but this series by Kathryn Clay includes the greatest hits of vehicles. Dump Trucks, Bulldozers, Cranes, and Backhoes are all available at an affordable price in paperback are quite the deal for kids who only want books about real things.






A little off topic but not by much, I will be doing a round up of biographies that will include Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton who wrote the classic Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel (Houghton Mifflin, 1939) The holidays are the perfect time to revisit our favorites and share with family and friends.

 For the family with young children terrific volume for family story time is Once There Was a Story: Tales from Around the World, Perfect for Sharing by Jane Yolen illustrated by Jane Dyer.

This is a delicious compendium featuring familiar tales to the English speaking listener like the The Little Red Hen. Who can hear that title without hearing the refrain, “Who will help me bake my bread?” “Not I,” said the pig, “Not I” said the duck, “Not I” said the dog.

Yolen retells stories gleaned from volumes by Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps, Irish tales gathered by folklorist Henry Glassie as well as classic like the Golden Goose, Magic Porridge Pot, and the Frog Prince. (Brothers Grimm) Yolen has provided a bibliography of source material for those readers who wish to explore further.  

Although not new this year, my favorite family gift book for young children is Jane Yolen’s Here is a Little Poem (Candlewick, 2007)


This anthology includes Andrew Fusek Peters’ The No-no Bird  and the delightful sibling plaint I Had a Little Brother (National Poetry Foundation) by Children’s Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman with delightful watercolor illustrations by Polly Dunbar

Interior from Polly Dunbar’s Website

Coming Soon

Best Fiction 2017 Ages 9 to 11
Best Informational Books 2017  Ages 9 to 11
Best Fiction 2017 Ages 9 to 11
Best Informational Books 2017  Ages 9 to 11
Best Young Adult 2017 Ages 12 to 14
Best Young Adult 2017 Ages 12 to 14
Best Easy to Read and Early Chapter Books of 2017
Best Illustrated Books of 2017 All ages
Best Graphic Format 2017 All Ages
Best Information Books of 2017  Ages 3 to 6
Best Information Books of 2017  Ages 5 to 9.
Best Books of 2017 for Teachers, Parents, and Other Grown Ups
Links to Best of the Year Lists that I Like.



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