Best of 2016: Chapter Books to YA

In Books by Matthew Winner1 Comment

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The novels we loved this year brought readers hope, challenged their perceptions, and illuminated experiences in ways both lasting and affecting. Our chapter book and novel features included Dory Fantasmagory, Raymie Nightingale, and Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, but there were many more we loved throughout 2016.

Enjoy our list of the best novels of 2016 and check out our other Best of 2016 book lists posting throughout the week.


Chapter Books

Dory Fantasmagory: Dory Dory Black Sheep
by Abby Hanlon

Dory’s whole class is learning how to read, but she’s having quite a lot of trouble with it. And things start to get interesting when one of the book’s characters comes to life. We celebrated the Dory Fantasmagory series as a whole because we fully love Dory and all of her adventures. Explore all the wonders of Dory Fantasmagory, our October 2016 feature book.


Hamster Princess: Of Mice and Magic
by Ursula Vernon

This second installment of Vernon’s rodent-filled fairy-tale re-tellings is every bit as witty and wise as the first. An appealing balance of text and illustration will draw in even reluctant readers, while Princess Harriet’s willingness to break tradition (and fairy tale tropes) will keep them coming back for more. This Hamster Princess version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses is filled with humor, surprises, and affirmation that being true to yourself is royally rewarding.


The Infamous Ratsos
by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Matt Myers

Based on the author’s family stories about her grandfather and his brother, this sweet, funny chapter book stars Ralph and Louie Ratso who do their best to be tough…but somehow turn out to be kind and helpful every time.


Into the Wild: Yet Another Misadventure
by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin

The Chicken Squad series delivers “yet another” winner for chapter book readers. When our fluffy detectives discover a new, mysterious cage in the yard, they set out to uncover the truth—armed with the latest surveillance gear (and plenty of marshmallows.) Hilarious illustrations, barnyard humor, snappy pacing and cliff-hanger situations make Into the Wild a true page-turner.


Weekends With Max and His Dad
by Linda Urban, illustrated by Katie Kath

A peek into the changes to home and hope that come with establishing a new two-family life. This duo builds a life on small strings of adventures, weekend to weekend.


Middle Grade

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook
by Leslie Connor

Perry has resided with his mother in a minimum-security prison since he was born, and considers the residents his family. But when the arrangement is interrupted, Perry finds himself grappling with life outside the walls he’s always known. A deeply moving story about the families we’re born into and the ones we make for ourselves.


Beautiful Blue World
by Suzanne LaFleur

When war comes to the fictional country of Sofarende and the military begins recruiting children for a secret mission, 12-year-old Mathilde is chosen for a surprising task that calls on her deep well of compassion. Beautiful Blue World is a thoughtful examination of war, the power of the stories we are told, and the hope born of empathy.


Counting Thyme
by Melanie Conklin

A potentially life-saving cancer trial for her little brother catapults eleven year-old Thyme and her family into a whirlwind of changes. New city, new neighbors, new school, new friends—new hopes and new worries. Counting Thyme is at once the incredibly sensitive, insightful, and personal account of the ups and downs of a family dealing with a child’s cancer treatment and the coming of age story of a young woman you won’t soon forget.


Finding Perfect
by Elly Swartz

Finding Perfect is the story of Molly Nathans, a girl who finds perfection in the number four, her perfectly-aligned glass ornaments, and the words on a page of poetry. But when Molly’s mom takes a job in another town, Molly’s perfectly-ordered world spins out of her control, and she must find the courage to seek answers to questions she is afraid to ask.


The Girl Who Drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill

Themes of love, magic, deceit, frailty and inner strength weave together in this magical tale featuring a kind-hearted witch, a poetic swamp monster, a positively tiny dragon with enormous potential, and a baby girl whose staged sacrifice sets in motion a cascade of events that change the face of the world.


The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog
by Adam Gidwitz, illuminations by Hatem Aly

Mix the structure and irreverence of the Canterbury Tales with a large dose of magic, an introspective look at religious tolerance, and an epic adventure and you have only just begun to describe The Inquisitor’s Tale. This illuminated book brings elements of fantasy and humor to 13th-century French history in a completely original and enjoyable read.


Ms. Bixby’s Last Day
by John David Anderson

Ms. Bixby is one of those special teachers that comes along only once in long while. And when Ms. Bixby unexpectedly announces to her class that she won’t be able to finish the school year, Topher, Brand, and Steve set out crafting the greatest goodbye party imaginable to honor their beloved teacher. But first they’ll need to skip school and travel about town gathering the necessary resources. Our week-long celebration of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day originally posted in July 2016.


Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story
by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Nora Raleigh Baskin delivers an emotional and inspirational novel about the day America changed forever. nine,ten weaves together the stories of four middle school students from different faiths, cities, and upbringings who cross paths in the days before September 11th. A thought-provoking read for students who grew up in a “post-9/11 world” and a bold response to tragedy and pain.


Pax
by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen

“What does war cost?” This is the question at the heart of Pax, and the answers are found in the story of friendship between Peter and his rescued fox, the war that tears them apart, and their journeys to reunite that change them both forever.


Raymie Nightingale
by Kate DiCamillo

It all rests on a plan. If Raymie enters the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition and wins, they’ll publish her name in the paper. And if her dad happens to read that paper and see Raymie’s name, maybe he’ll realize all he left behind and he’ll come back home for Raymie. Performing good deeds and demonstrating skill at twirling the baton will improve her chances of winning, but she’ll still have to win out over Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski, each with their own intentions for ill or better in the competition. Our week-long celebration of Raymie Nightingale originally posted in April 2016.


Some Kind of Happiness
by Claire Legrand

A magical story balanced on that blurry line in childhood where make-believe becomes real. In order to save her fantasy world, the Everwood, Finley Hart must face her fears and her family, each stranger and stronger than ever.


The Voyage to Magical North
by Claire Fayers

A hilarious, sweeping adventure that contains all the best ingredients: orphans, pirates, an evil magician, sea monsters, and a reclusive society of librarians. Brine Seaborne is a heroine to be reckoned with.


When the Sea Turned to Silver
by Grace Lin

The Emperor seeks the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Pinmei sets out to find and return her grandmother, the storyteller. She is joined by Yishan, a mysterious boy with his own secrets. Their adventure sets them before the sights of legend.


The Wild Robot
by Peter Brown

Crates of robots splash from a ship and crash upon the rocks of a deserted island. Powered on by accident (and some curious otters), Roz must learn to adapt to her environment by observing the animals around her. The Wild Robot explores the meanings of family, life and friendship through a unique perspective.


Wolf Hollow
by Lauren Wolk

“The year I turned twelve, I learned to lie.” From the opening pages of Wolk’s debut novel to its heartbreaking end, Annabelle’s voice rings honest and true. Set in rural Pennsylvania in the years following World War I, Wolf Hollow tells the story of a small town faced with escalated bullying and assault, false accusations, and a search for justice. It is a story of courage in the face of a bully, compassion for a misunderstood outsider and determination to bring the truth to light.


Young Adult

The Girl From Everywhere
by Heidi Heilig

Nix is the center of this sweeping fantasy, an epic that travels between Honolulu in the 1800s and present day New York City. A perfect book for readers looking for adventure and escape but maintaining roots in modern times.


The Serpent King
by Jeff Zentner

Honest and gutsy and gritty, this book takes a close look at friends and families and what it’s like to grow up in the Bible belt.


The Sun Is Also a Star
by Nicola Yoon

Observable Fact: When you combine dark matter, Noraebang (Korean karaoke), the evolution of the human eyeball, subway evangelism, immigration law and A Raisin in the Sun, you have the ingredients of a YA love story for the ages. Natasha and Daniel will stay with you long after you close the pages of this book.