Friday, December 11, 2015

Listapalooza: Acclaimed 2015 MG!

2015 has been an incredible year for middle grade literature. There have been so many amazing middle grade books published, so many incredible stories that we got to savor and devour and share.

It's really been an embarrassment of riches and, honestly, sometimes a bit overwhelming. As an elementary teacher-librarian, as a dad of a middle grader, and as a middle grade author, I try to keep up with the industry, try to read as much of the best new middle grade as I can each year. Reading what's out there is the best way to keep your finger on the industry's pulse and the best way to reflect on your own craft and make it better. So, yeah, I try to keep up. But this year? I was adding books to my bedside to-read pile way faster than I could read them. So. Many. Great. Books.

So after a year like this, if someone wanted a quick list of the 2015 middle grade books they "should" read to keep up with the market, where would I possibly begin? (This is not hypothetical question, by the way...this blog post came about in part due to me being asked that actual question. Twice.)

Luckily, this is the time of year when all those website and publications and journals start announcing their "Best Of" lists. I know you've seen them. And, of course, I checked them out. What amazed me was how different they were...how some books were on some lists but not on others, and how some books might make one list but be totally left off all the others. In a year with so much great kid lit, there didn't seem to be any consensus on what the "best" middle grade books of the year really were.

So, I did some aggregating. I looked at five of the most circulated, reputable lists...from review journals (School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus),  from reader sites (Goodreads), and from the commercial market (Amazon). My original plan was to list here every book that made any of the lists...but to my amazement there was such little list overlap that I ended up with 51 different books from those five lists! Way too many to list. So, I narrowed my list down to just books that were featured on at least TWO of the lists.

And here they are. The 15 middle grade books of 2015 that made at least two of the "Best of the Year" lists. It's not perfect, but it's not a bad place to start if you're looking to sample the best of what 2015 had to offer the world of middle grade literature.

Important Note #1: I do feel kind of icky about boiling down the richness of kid lit to a list of lists. Please remember this was just kind of a playful exercise. There were tons of great books that made "only" one list, and tons of spectacular books that didn't make any list. Truly. So this is just for fun. Because you know what? The best middle grade book of 2015 was whichever one YOU liked the best.

Important Note #2: I included the list from a gigantic online retailer because they are a massive force in the market, but if you decide to purchase any of these fine books, I encourage you to buy them from your local indie bookstore. They are great places, staffed by great people, full of great books. I don't want them to go away.

Semi-Important Note #3: Just FYI, I put an asterisk by the books on this list that I have read (so far...I've got the rest waiting for me in that to-read pile, with 2016 already breathing down my neck!). If you're interested, you can take each of those asterisks as a recommendation; there's not a single one of them that I didn't totally dig.

Oh, and I'd love to see your comments! Which of these books were YOUR favorites? Which 2015 MG books would you add to this list?

So, here you go...the List of Lists of Best Middle Grade Books of 2015!

FOUR LISTS
Dial Books, 2015

The Thing About Jellyfish* (SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, AMAZON, GOODREADS, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY) by Ali Benjamin

The War that Saved My Life* (AMAZON, GOODREADS, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, KIRKUS) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

George* (SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, GOODREADS, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, KIRKUS) by Alex Gino



THREE LISTS


Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015
Lost in the Sun* (SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, AMAZON, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY) by Lisa Graff

Fish In a Tree* (SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, AMAZON, GOODREADS) by Linda Mullaly Hunt

Roller Girl (SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, AMAZON, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY) by Victoria Jamieson

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer* (SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, AMAZON, KIRKUS) by Kelly Jones, illus. by Katie Kath

The Nest* (SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, AMAZON, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY) by Kenneth Oppel, illus. by Jon Klassen

The Marvels (AMAZON, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, KIRKUS) by Brian Selznick

Goodbye Stranger* (SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, AMAZON, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY) by Rebecca Stead

TWO LISTS

Scholastic Press, 2015

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse* (SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, KIRKUS) by Joseph Marshall III

Echo* (AMAZON, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY) by Pam Munoz Ryan

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (AMAZON, GOODREADS) by Rick Riordan

Harriet the Invincible (PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, KIRKUS) by Ursula Vernon

Gone Crazy in Alabama* (SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, KIRKUS) by Rita Williams-­Garcia

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing! More books to add to my list!

    ReplyDelete
  2. We've read and not-read almost the same books! Goodbye Stranger is a fabulous offering from Rebecca Stead, especially for readers in middle school who maybe aren't as interested in MG reads anymore but aren't ready for YA.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh, thanks. I needed to get my 2016 books to read list together!

    ReplyDelete