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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Notable Children’s Books of 2015

From The New York Times

November 30, 2015

The best in picture books, middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction, selected by the children’s books editor of The New York Times Book Review.

Picture Books

ASK ME. By Bernard Waber. Illustrated by Suzy Lee. 40 pp. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $16.99. This posthumous book by the great Waber (“Lyle, Lyle Crocodile”) features a long, leisurely, lovely conversation between a father and daughter out taking an autumn walk.

FINDING WINNIE: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear. By Lindsay ­Mattick. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 32 pp. Little, Brown. $18.Written by a great-­granddaughter of the Canadian soldier who bought a bear cub from a trapper and took her to Europe in World War I, this delightful account of the story behind A.A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh” is also a family history.

LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET. By Matt de la Peña. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. 32 pp. Putnam. $16.99. In this wise, moving story, C.J. is full of complaints as he and his peppery grandmother take a bus ride, but Nana helps him see the other side of things, especially after they arrive to help at a soup kitchen.

THE MENINO: A Story Based on Real Events. Written and illustrated by Isol. Translated by Elisa Amado. 53 pp. Groundwood/House of Anansi. $19.95.Our reviewer, Samantha Hunt, praised “the humor and the poetry” of this original take on the strangeness of babies — the alien sounds they make, the odd way they move — from the point of view of an older sibling.

IS MOMMY? By Victoria Chang. ­Illustrated by Marla Frazee. 30 pp. Beach Lane. $15.99. Children mischievously answer a question about their mommies on each page in this buoyant, refreshing look at ­parent-child love.

POOL. Written and illustrated by JiHyeon Lee. 56 pp. Chronicle. $16.99. A wondrous, wordless tale of a girl and boy and the magical world they discover once they brave the depths of a pool.

THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT. Written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell. 32 pp. ­Little, Brown. $15.99. This playful, extraordinarily charming bedtime book features a girl whose stuffed rabbit hosts a surprise sleepover party.

TOYS MEET SNOW. By Emily Jenkins. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. 40 pp. Schwartz & Wade. $17.99. The three toys from the “Toys Go Out” chapter book series get their own picture book, a transporting look at the wonders of snow.

WAITING. Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes. 32 pp. Greenwillow/HarperCollins. $17.99. Five toys wait on a window ledge, each for something different, in this profound and beautiful take on patience and perspective from the matchless Henkes.

Middle Grade

CIRCUS MIRANDUS. By Cassie Beasley. ­Illustrated by Diana Sudyka. 292 pp. Dial. $17.99. An orphaned fifth grader, falling under the spell of his dying grandfather’s tales of a magic circus, attempts to cash in a deferred wish in this shimmering debut novel.

ECHO. By Pam Muñoz Ryan. 592 pp. Scholastic. $19.99. Muñoz Ryan’s enchanting novel sends a harmonica traveling across years and over continents and seas to touch, and possibly save, the lives of three music-obsessed children, each facing serious struggles.

FIRSTBORN. By Tor Seidler. 227 pp. Atheneum. $16.99. In this artful and affecting novel, a solitary magpie travels with and becomes attached to a family of wolves who are repopulating the remote Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park.

GOODBYE STRANGER. By Rebecca Stead. 289 pp. Wendy Lamb. $16.99. A seventh grader recovering from a near-fatal accident navigates changes in herself and her tight group of friends in this moving novel, which our reviewer, Meg Wolitzer, called “masterly.”

LISTEN, SLOWLY. By Thanhha Lai. 260 pp. Harper/HarperCollins. $16.99. The funny, gently heartbreaking story of a 12-year-old Vietnamese-American girl who travels reluctantly to Vietnam with her grandmother and learns to love the fractured country and culture her family came from.

THE MARVELS. Written and illustrated by Brian Selznick. 665 pp. Scholastic. $32.99. Half wordless illustrated tale, half prose narrative, this captivating hybrid novel set over several centuries follows a family of theater legends who may or may not have really existed.

MOST DANGEROUS: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War. By Steve Sheinkin. Illustrated. 370 pp. Roaring Brook. $19. A riveting and remarkably effective account of Ellsberg’s life, his release of the Pentagon Papers and America’s tragic history in Vietnam.

NIMONA. Written and illustrated by ­Noelle Stevenson. 266 pp. HarperTeen/­HarperCollins. $17.99. A shapeshifting girl becomes a sidekick to a would-be villain in this winning, genre-convention-busting graphic novel that charts the terrain between magic and science.

ROLLER GIRL. By Victoria Jamieson. 240 pp. Dial. $20.99. In this spiky, winning graphic novel, a summer at roller-derby day camp helps a 12-year-old girl learn to rechannel her anger and let go of her former, more uncertain self.

STELLA BY STARLIGHT. By Sharon M. Draper. 320 pp. Atheneum. $16.99. An African-American girl in the Jim Crow South, a budding writer, witnesses a frightening Ku Klux Klan event and decides to fight with her family for change in this stirring, heartfelt novel.

THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH. By Ali Benjamin. 343 pp. Little, Brown. $17.A shattering debut novel about a grieving, lonely girl, stung by the treachery of middle-school social alliances, who tries to use the scientific method to explain her former best friend’s death by drowning.

Young Adult

THE HIRED GIRL. By Laura Amy Schlitz. ­Illustrated. 387 pp. Candlewick. $17.99.Set in 1911, this transcendent novel features a literature-loving teenage narrator, raised poor and Catholic, who flees an abusive home and gains acceptance and worldly knowledge working as a servant for a Jewish family.

SHADOWSHAPER. By Daniel José Older. 297 pp. Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic. $17.99. “Magnificent,” our reviewer, Holly Black, called this sharp urban fantasy set in Brooklyn, about a young muralist — a shadowshaper, able to channel friendly spirits into art — facing an assortment of dangers.

SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad. By M. T. Anderson. Illustrated. 456 pp. Candlewick. $25.99. A gripping, thoroughly researched biography of the Russian composer that illuminates the horrors of World War II along with the eternal hope music can provide.

SIX OF CROWS. By Leigh Bardugo. 465 pp. Holt. $18.99. This crackling first book in a new series by the author of the Grisha Trilogy assembles a team of outcasts who must band together to pull off a heist in order to save the Grisha, a tribe with magical powers.

BECOMING MARIA. Love and Chaos in the South Bronx. By Sonia Manzano. Illustrated. 262 pp. Scholastic. $17.99. In prose that shines brightly, the “Sesame Street” star recounts her path from a poor Nuyorican family ravaged by her father’s alcoholism to a scholarship at a prestigious college theater program.

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