Top Ten Tuesday: The Best of the Semester

I cannot believe that this semester is over!  I’ve read 84 Children’s Lit books in just over 15 weeks.  I’ve read books that I have loved, and books that I have loved to hate.

For this re-cap post, I have borrowed from another KidLit meme and have created a list of my Top Ten Books of the semester.

How did I choose?

I rifled through my GoodReads shelf for Children’s Lit and realized I read a lot of amazing books.  I had no idea how to narrow this list to just ten,.  I started by sorting my GoodReads shelf by my rating.  I apparently found over 20 books 5 star worthy.

I then decided that since I have read a wonderful collection of picture books and novels, I wanted to highlight five of my favorites from each group.  I chose books that I have not stopped talking about, that I have shared with others and that I have bought for others.  I’ve also included some I knew I had to have a copy of for my classroom.

And here they are……

The Picture Books

  • The Adventures of Beekle:  An Unimaginary Friend, by Dan Santat

This is my hands down favorite picture book of the semester.  Beekle’s art style, different take on the story of an imaginary friend, and the many layers to the story make Beekle a #1 in my book.  I ended up checking it out 3 times from my local library before I bought it.  I have shared my copy with students, family friends, and other teachers.  I also have purchased this book for more than one person too!

  • The Day The Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

I had heard a lot about this book from many of my classmates’ blogs.  Everyone said it was an original book with excellent illustrations.  Well, they were right!  I checked this out from my local library and shared it with a 5th grader I was tutoring.  We both really enjoyed the illustrations that mix drawn images with photos.  The story of the crayons, and the demands they make, is a new thing to me too.  This is a great book and sparks discussion and enjoyment. 

  • Press Here, by Herve Tullett

press herePress Here is a fairly simple picture book with a simple premise.  You follow the directions and literally “press here”.  The interactive nature of the book was something I had not really experienced before.  There is no book I read that was so effective in creating reader-book interactions.  I loved the primary colors of the illustrations and the fun actions you do as you interact with the book.  This was such a fun book that my nephew will be Pressing Here all day on Christmas! 

  • So You Want to Be President?, by Judith St. George and David Small

SoYouWantToBePresidentThis is one for my history nerd self.  This book has amazing illustrations, especially some very creative images of our presidents.  This nonfiction picture book gives us all some amazing facts about the presidents of our country.  These include some of the “normal” facts as well as the crazy, unknown facts.  This book is in the top ten because it shares information and shows that history does not have to be boring!

  • Separate Is Never Equal:  Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, by Duncan Tonatiuh

SeparateIsNeverEqual-SibertThe final picture book on the list is another nonfiction picture book.  I have to say I had never heard the story of Sylvia Mendez and her fight for inclusion.  The artist’s style of illustrations were amazing.  I honestly first chose this book based on its cover!  Tonatiuh’s telling of the Mendez family’s fight for education is poignant, simply explained, and thought provoking.  This is one I will have for my classroom and one that everyone should read.

The Novels

  • The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate

IvanThe One and Only “required” novel this term was The One and Only Ivan – a Newbery winner.  This is probably my number 1 new novel I read this semester.  I laughed with Ivan and his friends, I cried with them, and I was stirred to share this amazing work with others.  I read a couple of chapters to a classroom of 8th graders and they were silent and paid attention.  If a novel can bring a group of 8th grade students to a stand still and have them be quiet for an extended period of time, it deserves a honored place in every classroom.

  • Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate

b7214-crenshaw_finalThe week we read Ivan I was surfing the KidLit-o-sphere for more information about Katherine Applegate and stumbled across reviews, interviews, and lots of praise for her new novel Crenshaw.  This story delves into the mind of its main character just as much as Ivan did.  Katherine Applegate is the master of making me cry with just a few simple words.  This book also deals with issues of poverty and homelessness.  One thing I have found interesting is the Crenshaw food drives that have been spurred by the book across the nation.  Read Crenshaw. 

  • The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis

watsons go to birminghamI expected this historical fiction novel to be amazing.  My professor recommended it, so I bought it.  The day I cracked into it, I was transported into the world of the Crazy Watsons.  I was really surprised that this Newbery book did not spend the entire novel describing and delving into the Birmingham church bombing.  Rather, Curtis creates a family like any other family, and makes us care about each member of the family.  He then pushes us to explore senseless violence and how it impacts everyone.  It definitely gives you something to think about.

  • I Survived:  The Shark Attacks of 1916, by Lauren Tarshis

ISurvivedSharkAnother work of historical fiction, this is the second book in the I Survived series.  This tells a story that centers around New Jersey shark attacks in 1916.  These sharks strayed up the river into fresh water and attacked people during the summer of 1916.  I loved this book because it allowed me to get deeper into the mind of a young boy who wasn’t quite accepted by his peers.  This book also has suspense and action.  My 5th grader (see “Crayons”) recommended this to me and she picked a great one to share!

  • Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli

This novel is one that has stayed in my mind.  Maniac Magee is a young boy who doesn’t belong on either side of town – the white side or the black side.  Spinelli crafts an intense story that examines the uneasiness we feel when faced with someone unlike ourselves  One thing that I really loved about this novel is that I often found myself forgetting what race Maniac was.  I know that sounds simple, but Spinelli crafted characters who were so true to life that their race did not matter.

There’s my list.  What did you put on your list?  Would you have picked something different off my list to highlight?  Let’s talk below….

12 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: The Best of the Semester

  1. You have several of my favorites on this list. Beekle is such a delight: I’ve shared it with everyone I know too. My face-to-face Children’s Lit class last semester did a Mock Caldecott (before the actual announcements) and I was very surprised when Beekle won. The students were very excited that they picked the real Caldecott winner!


    1. What surprised you about Beekle winning? I’ve read a lot about Dan Santat since discovering Beekle. He’s even one of the authors I researched for my Independent Learning Project site.


  2. Awesome list! Did you read much of Kate DiCamillo’s books this semester? I seemed to find some authors that continually write amazing books–Katherine Applegate, Kate DiCamillo, Mo Willems, Patricia Polacco, etc. It seems like they do no wrong!


    1. I don’t think I read ANY Kat DiCamillo books. So, while I’m adding to my TBR, I’ll add some of hers. Which one(s) is the best?


  3. I appreciate your process to narrow your books down to the Top 10! I struggled to make a decision too- there are way too many great ones out there. The Adventures of Beekle and The One and Only Ivan are the only ones I have read. After reading everyone’s Top 10 lists I am going to have a loooooong Need to Read list!


  4. I really like the variety in your list! A little bit of everything. I was surprised to see both Ivan and Crenshaw on your list. I have yet to read Crenshaw, but now I want to even more! Press here reminded me of The Book With No Pictures. Have you read it before?


    1. I never read The Book With No Pictures. Is it worth hunting down to read it?
      I had to have both Ivan and Crenshaw because I think they serve different purposes on the list. Also, I think Katherine Applegate my be my new favorite KidLit author!


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