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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.

  • Picture Books

  • After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)

    by Dan Santat

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    A twist on the classic tale of Humpty Dumpty takes a look at how Humpty is getting along after his famous fall. He is now terrified of heights, which is not good for an avid bird watcher who likes to climb up to high places. Wit and charm mingle with important ideas about overcoming fear in this masterfully told story.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

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  • Baabwaa and Wooliam

    by David Elliott, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

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    Dental hygiene is the surprising centerpiece of this hilarious tale about friendship and the love of books. Two sheep friends, Baabwaa, who loves to knit, and Wooliam, who loves to read, meet a third sheep that turns out to be the famed wolf in sheep’s clothing. An unexpected friendship and lots of life lessons arise from their time together.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

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  • Claymates

    by Dev Petty, illustrated by Lauren Eldridge

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    Two blobs of clay transform into funny shapes and ultimately become the best of friends. A great book to inspire creativity and imagination. Warning: You will likely want to get crafty and do a hands-on project with clay immediately after reading this.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

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  • Blue Sky White Stars

    by Sarvinder Naberhaus, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

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    An inspiring and patriotic ode to America and the beauty of the American flag as a symbol of America’s history, landscape, and people. Powerful illustrations and poetic text make for an emotional story.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

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  • Her Right Foot

    by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Harris

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    This book examines a well-known symbol in American history, the Statue of Liberty, and gives fresh insights about a detail that most adults overlook. Why is her right foot lifted up as if she’s in mid-stride? This is a rare nonfiction text that is laugh-out-loud funny and simultaneously teaches new facts and opens your mind to new perspectives.
    (Ages 6 - 9)

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  • The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

    by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Adam Rex

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    Who knew you could write a whole book about this classic game used to end disputes between siblings or playground pals? Apparently Drew and Adam did because this book is simply hilarious. It relates the backstory of how rock, paper, and scissors got to be friends. I couldn’t stop laughing while reading this aloud to a group of kids.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

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  • She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World

    by Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

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    This book celebrates 13 women from American history who have showed that persistence is power. From well-known women like Harriett Tubman and Oprah Winfrey to lesser-known figures like Nellie Bly and Virginia Apgar, this book uses short vignettes to introduce readers to the inspiring real stories of women who have made a difference in our world.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

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  • Town Is by the Sea

    by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith

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    A gentle story of a boy living in a maritime mining community shares a “day in the life” experience. We follow the boy from waking up to visiting his grandfather’s grave to returning home for dinner. The illustrations are stunning and thought-provoking as we get a glimpse into a lifestyle that feels far away from the busyness of most of our lives.
    (Ages 5 - 9)

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  • We’re All Wonders

    by R. J. Palacio

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    The picture book version of the smash hit middle-grade novel and movie, Wonder, shares an earlier story of Auggie, a boy with facial deformities who navigates trying to fit in and be the uniquely special individual he is. As Mrs R. shares, “This book is perfect for readers of all ages to see the good and kind in everyone.”
    (Ages 4 - 8)

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  • Graphic & Illustrated Novels

  • 5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior

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

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    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)

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  • All’s Faire in Middle School

    by Victoria Jamieson

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    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)

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  • Brave

    by Svetlana Chmakova

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    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)

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  • Jake the Fake Keeps It Real

    by Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach, illustrated by Keith Knight

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    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)

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  • Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen

    by Debbi Michiko Florence

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    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)

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  • Real Friends

    by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

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    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)

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

    by Nathan Hale

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    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)

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  • Middle Grade Fiction

  • Amina’s Voice

    by Hena Kahn

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    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)

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  • Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker

    by Shelley Johannes

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    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)

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  • Beyond the Bright Sea

    by Lauren Wolk

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    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+)

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  • A Boy Called Bat

    by Elana Arnold, illustrated by Charles Santoso

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    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)

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  • Greetings from Witness Protection!

    by Jake Burt

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    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)

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  • The Losers Club

    by Andrew Clements

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    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)

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  • Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crown

    by Jessica Townsend

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    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)

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  • Orphan Island

    by Laurel Snyder

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    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)

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  • Refugee

    by Alan Gratz

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    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)

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  • Restart

    by Gordon Korman

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    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)

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  • The Stars Beneath Our Feet

    by David Barclay Moore

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    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+)

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  • Wishtree

    by Katherine Applegate

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    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)

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  • York: The Shadow Cipher

    by Laura Ruby

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    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)

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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.