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The Best Children’s Books of 2017, According to Kids

by Kari Ness Riedel

With over 30,000 new children’s books published each year, it’s hard to know which ones your child MUST read. I am constantly scanning awards lists, review journals, local bookstore picks, and online reviews to figure out what to add to my “to be read” pile.

But, to put together this Best Books of 2017 list, I went straight to the most important people. I polled kid readers on Bookopolis.com, a social network and book discovery tool for young readers, and their educators and parents to find out what books young readers love so much that they recommend them to their friends. Their picks for 2017 range from magical adventures to sad and compelling historical stories to funny and poignant realistic fiction.

  • Graphic & Illustrated Novels

  • 5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior

    by Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel, illustrated by Xanthe Bouma,‎ Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun

    Three unlikely heroes — clumsy fighter Oona Lee, poverty stricken An Tzu, and beloved athlete Jax Amboy — embark on an epic quest as they try to save the Five Worlds. This “'Star Wars' meets 'Avatar'” tale takes readers on a wild sci-fi ride. Luis, 9, declares, “I read this three times in a row. It was that good.”
    (Ages 8 - 12)

  • All’s Faire in Middle School

    by Victoria Jamieson

    Eleven-year-old Imogene leaves the comfort of being homeschooled by her parents, who work at the local Renaissance Faire, to attend the public middle school. She must navigate new friends, mean kids, and fitting in while being true to herself. Claire, 13, raves that this heartwarming book, “teaches you different lessons about bullying, popularity, and how to deal with siblings.”
    (Ages 8 - 12)

  • Brave

    by Svetlana Chmakova

    Jensen is a hero in his own mind, but reality is a different story. He wants to be an astronaut, but he is not very good at math. He wants friends, but he’s often bullied. Things change when he finds a tribe that gives him the support he needs to be brave. Izzie, 13, says this book was one that I “absolutely would never forget. It shares the lesson to be brave and to stand up for what you truly believe in and also that you're never really alone.”
    (Ages 10 - 13)

  • Jake the Fake Keeps It Real

    by Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach, illustrated by Keith Knight

    Jake is neither a musician nor an artist but has somehow faked his way into the elite Music and Art Academy. He must use his quick wit and skills as a master of deception to get himself out of this situation. Kayla, 8, gives this book five stars. “Jake is a funny boy. Can he stay in school and not get kicked out? Read to find out!”
    (Ages 8 - 12)

  • Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen

    by Debbi Michiko Florence

    Eight-year-old Jasmine is free-spirited and rambunctious and longs to be able to do something before her older and calmer big sister, Sophie, gets to do it. When Jasmine is not allowed to work with the older women in her Japanese-American family to roll the traditional mochi balls, she makes a plan to be able work with the men to pound the rice used for the mochi. Comedic hijinks, relatable sibling rivalry, and a sassy main character make this a lovable new series.
    (Ages 6 - 9)

  • Real Friends

    by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

    Every kid (and adult) can relate to the author’s experience of struggling to find a true friend amidst the drama of elementary school relationships. Shannon and Adrienne were best friends until Adrienne started hanging out with the most popular girls in school. Now Shannon never knows how her old friend will treat her. “This book should be five stars because it talks about how you can get real FRIENDS!” says Ella, 9.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

  • Raid of No Return (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales)

    by Nathan Hale

    This nonfiction story tackles World War II and focuses on the Doolittle Raid that occurred after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is a highly engaging way to learn about history and a great choice for kids who love nonfiction. Andrew, 11, reports, “I love the action and adventure. This is the best book of the Nathan Hale series.”
    (Ages 8 - 12)

  • Middle Grade Fiction

  • Amina’s Voice

    by Hena Kahn

    Amina, a Pakistani-American Muslim girl, struggles to blend in at school while also upholding her family’s culture. She loves to sing but must fight through her stage fright to share her gift. This book is moving and provides insight into the Islamic faith in a tender and approachable way. Zoe, 10, read this in one sitting and raves, “It is so good, one of the most thoughtful and inspiring stories I’ve ever read.”
    (Ages 8 - 12)

  • Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker

    by Shelley Johannes

    Beatrice is a unique and spunky girl who thinks outside of the box. At the end of second grade, she and her best friend, Lenny, make a plan to wear ninja suits and start a top-secret operation when they return for the first day of third grade. But, when Lenny shows up in cool new clothes and hangs with the cool new girl, Beatrice must figure out how to be a good friend and stay true to herself. Ms. C., K-5 reading teacher, recommends it as a great read-aloud. “L-O-V-E Beatrice. I love her freedom to be who she is — and how she wrestles with doubt when everyone can't accept that.” This book is also great for younger or reluctant readers based on its shorter length and approachable vocabulary.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

  • Beyond the Bright Sea

    by Lauren Wolk

    Crow is a 12-year-old orphan who lives on a tiny, isolated island off the coast of Boston with Osh, the man who rescued and raised her since the day she mysteriously showed up on a boat as a baby. Crow finds herself on a dangerous quest to discover her own history in this moving and captivating story that makes you think about the meaning of family. Anna, 10, shares, “This book was AMAZING!!!! It's full of action and mystery. Note to self: Reread this book.”
    (Ages 10+)

  • A Boy Called Bat

    by Elana Arnold, illustrated by Charles Santoso

    Bixby (nicknamed Bat) doesn’t like surprises, but when his veterinarian mom shows up with a baby skunk, he’s excited to prove to her why he should get to raise the skunk. Bat appears to be autistic, although it’s never explicitly stated in the book. This sweet and thoughtful novel chronicles Bat’s experiences and challenges at school with friends and teachers and at home with his sister and divorced parents. Sophie, 9, loved his book that was “full of heart and made me more aware of how other people see the world.” This book is shorter than many other middle grade books and offers a lot of white space that makes it approachable for younger or reluctant readers while still delivering a powerful and thoughtful story.
    (Ages 6 - 10)

  • Greetings from Witness Protection!

    by Jake Burt

    Nicki is an orphan and a highly skilled pickpocket who wishes more than anything to be reunited with her family. She also happens to be the answer to the U.S. Marshals’ need to hide a family who has turned on the worst crime family in the U.S away in the Witness Protection program. Ms. A., a fifth-grade teacher, says, “This book is full of mystery, heart, and humor, but it was the well-crafted characters that kept me turning the pages.”
    (Ages 10 - 14)

  • The Losers Club

    by Andrew Clements

    Sixth grader Alec gets in trouble at school because he reads too much. Out of desperation to find time to just sit and read, he forms an after-school club called The Losers Club. He hopes that the name will not attract too many people so he can read in peace. The club starts him on an experience that teaches him even more than the books he reads, if that’s possible. Ernest, 10, says, “I really wish this was a series because this book has everything: drama, a bit of romance, and humor. Good job, Andrew Clements!”
    (Ages 8 - 12)

  • Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crown

    by Jessica Townsend

    Whenever something bad happens in town, unlucky and cursed Morrigan is blamed. Part of her curse is that she is fated to die on her eleventh birthday. But, she is whisked away right before her birthday to Nevermoor, a magical city, where she competes in four trials with other magical kids. Beck, 10, says, “I was hooked on page one of this great adventure story. I love how sassy and vulnerable Morrigan is.” This is a great choice for fans of fast-paced, magical adventures.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

  • Orphan Island

    by Laurel Snyder

    This is a unique and compelling story about nine children who live with no adults on a mysterious island. Once a year, a boat appears from the mist with a new child and takes away the eldest child. Daily life on the island is difficult yet beautiful as the elder kids take care of the younger ones and pass down the lessons of life and survival exactly as they have been taught. It is an almost poetic story about growing up, accepting change, and how to endure the hardest moments in life. Maggie, 10, relates that it is “so sad and heartbreaking. Anyone who has ever been scared of leaving their family will love this book.”
    (Ages 8 - 12)

  • Refugee

    by Alan Gratz

    Three unique stories of immigrant children and their families that span time and geography are woven together to form a beautiful and heart-wrenching novel. Readers feel intense empathy as we get to know Josef, a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany; Isabel, a Cuban girl living with riots and unrest in 1994; and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy living in 2015 where his homeland is torn apart by violence and destruction. All three kids embark on dangerous but hope-filled journeys in search of refuge. Abigail, 11, says, “I recommend this book to people like me that like war books. If you want to read about what other people have to go through, then you should read this book.”
    (Ages 9 - 12)

  • Restart

    by Gordon Korman

    Chase is a bully who makes other kids fear and hate him. When he falls off a roof and suffers a head injury, he wakes up and can’t remember his past. As he returns to school after his accident, he realizes that he might not have been the nicest guy and must see if it’s possible to have a full restart with his classmates. “This is an amazing book showing you that you can change, even if it looks like you can't,” shares Nathalie, 11.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

  • The Stars Beneath Our Feet

    by David Barclay Moore

    Twelve-year-old Lolly tries to make sense of his life in his Harlem neighborhood after his older brother’s death. The fear and lure of gang life, divorced parents, and new friendships are just a few of the obstacles that Lolly faces. His mother’s girlfriend gives him a gift — a huge bags of Legos — that becomes his escape to deal with his brother’s death and the stress of daily life. This story celebrates the power of creativity, the importance of adult role models, and the value of empathy that can help bridge the seeming differences between us. David, 11, a Lego fanatic, loved the use of Legos in this book and felt that “this story was so good. It let me walk in someone else’s shoes for a little while.”
    (Ages 10+)

  • Wishtree

    by Katherine Applegate

    Red, an ancient oak tree, has stood silently as many have tied pieces of cloth with their hopes and dreams to her branches. When a new family from another country moves in, someone carves a very mean message into Red, and the tree must decide whether to stay silent or take a stand. This nuanced story is funny, touching, and can spark deep conversations about how we treat newcomers and how we treat nature. While accessible to newly independent readers, this book is equally as powerful for middle grade and even YA readers. Gracie, 13, praises, “You will laugh, you will cry reading this wonderful novel about the many stories of a tree and its friends. This book made me want to find a tree, plant it, sit under it, and reread this wonderful book.”
    (Ages 8 - 12)

  • York: The Shadow Cipher

    by Laura Ruby

    Tess, Theo, and Jaime are on an epic mission to solve one of the greatest mysteries of their time. The Old York Cipher is rumored to be a citywide puzzle designed in the 1800s by enigmatic architects in New York City that leads to a fabulous treasure. The kids must solve the puzzle before a real estate developer destroys the architects’ original buildings and their home and the treasure is lost forever. Tessa, 11, highly recommends it, “I loved this book. It is full of twists and turns.”
    (Ages 8 - 12)

What were your favorite books of 2017? Share in the comments below.

Looking for Young Adult book ideas? Check out The Best YA Books of 2017, According to Teens.

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