The Children’s Books We’ll Remember Most from 2016

by the Brightly Editors

As 2016 draws to a close, we asked the Brightly contributors, who spend so many of their days and nights surrounded by children’s books, to reflect back on the stories that stuck with them. Their standouts gave them hope and courage, inspired their kids, sparked the imagination, and provided hours of fun. These 2016 children’s book favorites are ones they’re sure to come back to next year and beyond.

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  • The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

    by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Frank Morrison

    I'm raising two sons and I want to do it the best I can. One little thing I do is make a point to seek out reads that feature kick-butt female main characters, and Alma, the quickest kid in Clarksville, fits the bill. A runner aspiring to Wilma Rudolph greatness, Alma's voice is contagious and her competitive spirit very relate-able for my older son, who's six and must win at everything. Both boys, including my never-sit-still 2-year-old, stayed interested in the read from start to finish, which is part thanks to the story but also due to Miller's excellently set rhythm, which hits a speedy tempo that's fun to narrate.

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  • My Friend Maggie

    by Hannah E. Harrison

    Available from:

    With My Friend Maggie, author and illustrator Hannah Harrison has created an instant classic that is both timeless and timely. Paula, a squirrel, and Maggie, an elephant, have been best friends forever. Their friendship is put to the test when Veronica, the most popular girl in school, starts paying attention to Paula, who finds her new friend hard to resist, leaving Maggie behind. But when Veronica turns on Paula, guess who comes through? Maggie, of course. Through sweet, simple language and charming illustrations, Harrison deftly shows young readers the importance of loyalty, thinking for yourself, and standing up to bullies — valuable lessons for readers of all ages.

    Also available from:
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  • Raymie Nightingale

    by Kate DiCamillo

    Available from:

    Is it possible to fall in love with an author’s voice? If so, my whole family has fallen desperately in love with just about anything Kate DiCamillo has written. She’s one of the foundational authors that my daughter’s love of reading is built upon — DiCamillo has picture books, early readers, chapter books, novels. She has something for kids of all ages. And she definitely didn’t disappoint in her new novel, Raymie Nightingale, a perceptive, heartbreaking, soul-nourishing story about friendship and loss. Stories like these exist for kids and parents to read together, so, when they’re finished, they can sit back and say “Wow” in unison. Just a wonderful book.

    Also available from:
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  • Bunny Slopes

    by Claudia Rueda

    I love a clever interactive book, and I find Claudia Rueda's illustrations to be the perfect mix of vintage and modern. This little tale of a bunny who wants to go skiing has been on repeat at our house for months — it's endlessly entertaining to shake the book to create snow, tip the pages back and forth to create slopes, and watch the hero end up back in his rabbit hole with a hot cup of cocoa.

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  • Ms. Bixby's Last Day

    by John David Anderson

    I love books that make me laugh out loud, grab for a box of tissues, or greedily turn the page to find out what happens next. This one delivers on all three. This story is told from the point of view of three sixth grade boys who are heartbroken that their favorite teacher, Ms. Bixby, will be leaving school before the end of the year. As they plan a farewell adventure for her, we learn why she means so much to each of them. This surprising, inspiring, and relatable book is perfect for boys and girls who loved Wonder and will make you fondly remember your favorite teacher.

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  • Ghosts

    by Raina Telgemeier

    Last year, Raina Telgemeier's books — Sisters, Smile, and Drama — were passed around my daughter's third grade classroom like some kind of virtuous contraband. The girls were borrowing and trading and stuffing them into backpacks. So, when I heard that Ghosts was coming out this fall, it was a no-brainer — I pre-ordered, and the minute it arrived Zoe tore right through it. Now, Ghosts is in rotation, too, being loaned, read, and re-read.

    I haven't read the book myself so I can't speak firsthand to the story or characters or whether this is better, worse, or on par with Telgemeier's other books. What makes Ghosts my favorite children's book of 2016 is the effect it had on my daughter. I watched her fall in love with an author, and could feel the excitement emanating from her over a new title. When I asked Zoe what she loved about it, she gushed, "Everything."

    "I love how it's kind of a mix," she said. "Like, when you go through ups and downs in your life. It's like that, too."

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  • What Do You Do With a Problem?

    by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom

    This year, I love Kobi Yamada’s follow-up book to What Do You Do With an Idea?, his newly published What Do You Do With a Problem? This is a story about courage, creativity, and growth. The book begins with a boy who is clearly uncomfortable because he is facing a problem. The problem is not named, which makes it easy for kids and adults to put themselves into the story and fill in the blanks for their own lives. Illustrations, gradually moving from gloomy monotone shades to the rich colors of sunrise, help us visualize the courage needed to face a hard situation. In the end, we are convinced of the absolute truth that within every challenge there is an opportunity for growth.

What were some of your most memorable books of the year? Let us know in the comments below.