Best of 2015: Chapter Books to YA

In All, Books by Matthew Winner1 Comment

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The amazing picture books of 2015 kept us quite busy at Camp All The Wonders, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying some exceptional novels. Here are the year’s chapter books, middle grade novels, and young adult novels that we cannot stop thinking about. Check out our favorites and let us know what we missed by leaving a comment below.

Chapter Books

Dory and the Real True Friend
by Abby Hanlon

We all loved DORY FANTASMAGORY last year, and this year’s follow-up proved, amazingly, to be even more delightful.

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer
by Kelly Jones, illustrated by Katie Kath

A charming and engaging epistolary novel about family, friendship, and magical chickens.

The Terrible Two
by Mac Barnett and Jory John, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

The unbeatable team of Barnett and John bring us a hilarious romp about pranks and one-upmanship. Look for the sequel coming in 2016!

Middle Grade

Goodbye Stranger
by Rebecca Stead

Stead can do no wrong, but this book is so, so right. It lives in this beautiful space between complexity and clarity, and is exquisite in its exploration of growing-up-friendships.

The Marvels
by Brian Selznick

Selznick is a master of storytelling, with his thick and wondrous tales told through illustrations as well as text. His latest book might be his finest: a magical story of a family of actors and an anachronistic house, family and friendship. A book to be savored, kept, and discussed. Amazing.

The Question of Miracles
by Elana K. Arnold

A look a grief’s aftermath through the heart of a new friend. No easy answers, lots of hard questions, and truly lovely writing.

by Pam Munoz Ryan

Ryan’s interwoven tales of young musicians linked by a magical harmonica captivates readers in its spell from page one.

Roller Girl
by Victoria Jamieson

A highly-recommendable graphic novel with terrific characters, and all the right notes about working hard and being determined and finding yourself, without ever coming close to bonking you on the head with “messages.”

Circus Mirandus
by Cassie Beasley

This book is truly amazing and magical. A phenomenal story of magical realism, with brilliant storytelling and characters.

A Year Without Mom
by Dasha Tolstikova

This heavily illustrated memoir about being 12 in Russia while her mother has moved to the United States for the year is like having Dasha Tolstikova sit across from you, telling her story, holding your hand, cutting deep into your heart. An accessible story that carries huge big emotion.

Last of the Sandwalkers
by Jay Hosler

A band of insect researchers leave home in search of a new location to set up civilization only to realize that beetles are not the only living creature in the world. Blending narrative with scientific fact, this outstanding graphic novel feels part Jules Verne, part A Bug’s Life, and part Bill Nye the Science Guy.

The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet
by Ian Lendler, illustrated by Zack Giallongo

When the zoo closes and all the keepers head home for the night, the animals of the Stratford Zoo perform Shakespeare for one another. This time around they’re taking on Romeo & Juliet in what is nothing short of a brilliant adaptation that provides accessibility to the bard for a younger audience while at the same time honoring the source material. Plus, a rooster and a bear fall in love. Obviously.

Fish in a Tree
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Ally can’t read. She’s in 4th grade, her family has moved around a lot, and she’s found, shall we say, creative ways to fly under the radar and avoid any unwanted attention for teachers. That is until she meets Mr. Daniels, a teacher determined to help Ally have more confidence in herself and understand that dyslexia doesn’t have to rule over her life.

Young Adult

Bone Gap
by Laura Ruby

A book that has gotten a lot of hype and deserves every single bit of it. Storytelling at its finest.

The Game of Love and Death
by Martha Brockenbrough

A gorgeous book from beginning to end, Brockebrough proves herself adept at characters, history, language, and plot. And at sweeping you off your feet.

We All Looked Up
by Tommy Wallach

A coming-apocalypse story that is thought-provoking, perfectly plotted, and pulls off multiple POVs in such a wondrous way. Plus it has the best use of section dividers in a book all year.

by Julie Murphy

Oh, Willowdean. How I love you. If you’ve been looking for a YA with love, heart, Dolly Parton, pageants, and a gorgeous and fat main character who is so amazing and fun and strong you want her to be your best friend, this is for you.

by Noelle Stevenson

Noelle Stevenson gives us a story with a kick-butt heroine who, sure, might have some issues, but we can’t help but root for her. Read this if you like graphic novels that blur the line between good guys and bad guys.

Best of 2015 Selections by:

Julie Falatko is the author of Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book), illustrated by Tim Miller (Viking Children’s Books, February 2016), The Society for Underrepresented Animals, illustrated by Charles Santoso (Viking Children’s Books, 2017), and Help Wanted: One Rooster (Viking Children’s Books, 2018). She lives with her family in Maine, where she finds stories hiding under rocks and perching in trees. You can find her at and on Twitter @JulieFalatko.

Carter Higgins is a librarian at an independent school in Los Angeles. She is the author of A Rambler Steals Home (HMH, 2016) and two forthcoming picture books from Chronicle Books. She is an Emmy-winning visual effects and motion graphics artist whose career has covered all the nooks and crannies of visual storytelling. She writes about picture books and graphic design at her blog, Design of the Picture Book, and you can find her on Twitter @carterhiggins.

Matthew Winner is an elementary library media specialist in Elkridge, Maryland. He is is the co-founder and content director of All The Wonders, a children’s literature website and more, and host of the Let’s Get Busy podcast, a weekly podcast where Matthew talks to authors, illustrators, award winners, up-and-comers, and everyone in between. In 2013 Matthew was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker and was invited to the White House as part of the Champions of Change program. For more information, connect with Matthew on Twitter at @MatthewWinner or online at


  1. Great choices! I think The Marvels may have been my very favorite book of 2015, I was in tears before I finished the illustration section. What a beautiful tribute to the power of story. I missed a few of these this year and now look forward to reading them!

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