bestof2013

20 Of The Best Children’s Books Of 2013

From picture books to nonfiction to young adult thrillers, there is a Best of 2013 children’s book for readers of every age.

Colby Sharp and Donalyn Miller, from the Nerdy Book Club blog, sum up a fantastic year of children’s and young adult literature. Enjoy this list of outstanding 2013 books that your children (and you) will love to read.

PICTURE BOOKS

1. Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Matthew Myers

Think about what would happen if you gave a Little Golden Book and a Sharpie to Rambo. Battle Bunny is what you’d get. The book starts out as a sweet story about a bunny celebrating his birthday…then Jon, Mac, and Matthew start crossing out and changing words and adding doodles to transform the book into Battle Bunny, a story of a bunny bent on world destruction. It’s the perfect book for kids that are into building or destroying (or both).

Suggested age: 5–9

2. Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

Mr. Tiger’s life is pretty drab. What happens when he learns to live on the wild side? Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is the perfect book for the young eccentric reader or uptight dreamer.

Suggested age: 3–7

3. Journey by Aaron Becker

If you combined Harold and the Purple Crayon with The Never-Ending Story and shot it up with steroids, out would pop Aaron Becker’s Journey. This amazing wordless picture book will take readers on a journey that will show them that all things are possible with a little imagination. Please, please, please buy this for the kid who is always saying they are bored.

Suggested age: all ages

4. Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animals’ Lives by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

Did you know that caribou sprout up to 10 pairs of antlers in a lifetime? This marvelous book uses biology and math to explain the amazing things animals accomplish. A delightful read for the little future park ranger or mathematician in your life.

Suggested age: 4–8

5. The Story of Fish & Snail by Deborah Freedman

Fish lives life on the edge. Snail is timid and nervous. But, not wanting to be left behind, Snail must face his fears and decide whether or not he is ready to come out of his shell. The Story of Fish & Snail has been used in classrooms across the county to help empower students to be brave. Looking for a book that both the wild and mild child will enjoy? The Story of Fish & Snail has got you covered.

Suggested age: 3–7

MIDDLE-GRADE FICTION

6. The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

In a magical world where the magic is fading, the unlikeliest hero may need to step in and save the day. The Real Boy shows us that it is possible to find magic in the most unlikely places. Best for children who lean toward the fantastical.

Suggested age: 8–12

7. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

When the only family she has ever known dies in a tragic car accident, 12-year-old genius Willow Chance teaches us to believe in a broken yet magical world. Counting by 7s is a great book for readers young and old who are looking to see the beauty in a messy world.

Suggested age: 10 and up

8. Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

In this fractured fairy tale, Liesl Shurtliff shows us her “truth” behind the popular story of Rumpelstiltskin. Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin is a wonderful book for the child in your life who likes to make up their own rules.

Suggested age: 8–12

9. Doll Bones by Holly Black

What if our childhood games and fantasies were real? When is childhood over? Three best friends, Poppy, Zach, and Alice — on the edge of adolescence — set off on one last adventure in answer to a dead girl’s wishes. Beautifully written, Doll Bones makes a riveting read for the child you know isn’t scared of being a little scared.

Suggested age: 10–14

10. The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt

Two raccoon swamp scouts, Bingo and J’Miah, must wake the ancient Sugar Man when danger threatens their home. Kathi Appelt’s lighthearted tone and playful language will delight readers who hold a special place in their heart for the swamps of Texas and the creatures who live there.

Suggested age: 8–12

11. The Center of Everything by Linda Urban

Ruby Pepperdine believes that she can right a terrible wrong if she makes a wish during the annual Bunning Day Parade. Urban understands that kids have lots to worry about in their lives, and this book will make a great read for any child trying to make sense of life.

Suggested age: 9–12

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

12. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park, two high school misfits, fall in love one song lyric and comic panel at a time in this relatable and honest book. It’s set in 1986, so parents and teenagers alike will recognize the pop-culture references — but will most likely need a Kleenex bookmark too. The perfect book for young, music-loving romantics.

Suggested age: 14 and up

13. Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Haunted by the ghost of Jacob Grimm, Jeremy and his daring friend, Ginger, investigate the strange disappearances of local children in their town, Never Better. Rich with allusions to classic tales with a modern horror twist, Far Far Away is the perfect read for the young teen who spent their childhood reading The Brothers Grimm.

Suggested age: 12 and up

14. Scowler by Daniel Kraus

Assisted by his imaginary friends, Mr. Furrington, Jesus, and Scowler, Ry Burke saved his mother and younger sister from his abusive father years ago. When his monstrous father escapes from prison and heads for the family farm seeking revenge, Ry must call on his childhood protectors to help him once again. Horrifying and dark, Scowler is reminiscent of Stephen King at his best — making it the perfect fit for a teenager looking for a well-written story that is ultimately hopeful in spite of the murder and mayhem.

Suggest age: 16 and up

15. Winger by Andrew Smith

After a stupid stunt last school year, 14-year-old Ryan Dean West is assigned to Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers at the exclusive Pine West boarding school. Brutally honest, funny, and heart-wrenching in turn, teens will connect with Ryan Dean and his classmates as they struggle with self-identity and moving into young adulthood. Winger is for the young scrapper with a heart of gold.

Suggested age: 14 and up

NONFICTION

16. The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest — and Most Surprising — Animals on Earth by Steve Jenkins

A tour de force for Jenkins and a must-own for animal lovers. Beautifully illustrated with Jenkins’ signature cut paper art, The Animal Book includes an encyclopedia of animal facts — grouped into categories like “Defenses” and “Animal Extremes.” It includes pages of additional animal facts, a glossary, and a fascinating timeline of Jenkins’ writing process; little botanists and artists alike will fall in love.

Suggested age: 6–9

17. Courage Has No Color, The True Story of the Triple Nickles: America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone

Tanya Lee Stone recounts the little-known story of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, an all-black paratrooper unit that fought during World War II while enduring racism and segregation. Well-researched and engaging, this book will be a fascinating read for history buffs of all ages.

Suggested age: 10 and up

GRAPHIC NOVELS

18. Squish 5: Game On! by Jennifer L. and Matt Holm

Everyone’s favorite amoeba is back, and this time he’s caught video game fever. Will video games take over his life? You’ll have to read Game On! to find out. If you’re looking for the best book to buy the Call of Duty–obsessed reader in your life, Squish 5: Game On! is the book you’re looking for.

Suggested age: 7–10

19. Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown

Have you ever wondered how Star Wars characters spent their middle school years? Jeffrey Brown has answered that question for you in Star Wars: Jedi Academy. The humor and awkwardness that you’ll find in the pages perfectly captures middle school life for any young Jedi.

Suggested age: 8–12

20. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale

We’ve all heard the story of the Donner party and their insane (and doomed) trip across the country in the 1840s. Nathan Hale manages to tell the tale in a way that will captivate, educate, and gross out middle-grade readers. A splendid choice for picky eaters everywhere.

Suggested age: 8–12

Donalyn Miller is a teacher in Fort Worth, Texas. She is the author of The Book Whisperer (Jossey-Bass, 2009) and Reading in the Wild (Jossey-Bass, 2013). Donalyn co-hosts the monthly Twitter chat #titletalk (with Nerdy co-founder Colby Sharp) and facilitates the Twitter reading initiative #bookaday. You can find her on Twitter and her website, or under a pile of books somewhere —happily reading.

Colby Sharp is a third-grade teacher in Parma, Mich. He blogs at Sharpread and helps out at Nerdy Book Club.

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