The Best Kids Books (I Read for Myself) in 2015

Last week I shared my favorite books from 2015, and this post was originally going to feature all of the best children’s books I read in 2015 – board books, picture books, readalouds, and the ones I read for myself.

Except 2015 was a knockout year with great kid lit, and I needed to split it up so it’s not completely ridiculous.

So, today is all about the books I picked and read for myself. Not books I read to a child or three – these were my reads.

The Year of Miss AgnesThe Year of Miss AgnesThe Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill by Kirkpatrick Hill

A reread in preparation for the online kids book club I’m doing with Jessica (Quirky Bookworm). I adored this book the first time I read it, and suggested it for our Arctic theme. Then I was scared that it wouldn’t hold up well to rereading, or what if people hated it?

Well, so far everyone who has commented about it has said they’ve enjoyed it (yay!) and I loved it just as much the second time through. It’s heartwarming and inspiring, and all around a lovely read.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Where the Mountain Meets the MoonWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
by Grace Lin

Also read when it was a possibility for that book club (we ended up not selecting China as a theme this year). It’s gorgeously written, and charmingly illustrated – go for the print version, not the electronic as I did, or you’ll miss out on some of the illustration details. Loved, loved, loved it.

The War that Saved My LifeThe War that Saved My LifeThe War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

An uplifting look at World War II evacuees, and how being sent away from London ended up being the best thing to happen to one girl. It’s heart-rending but ultimately hopeful. Because of the descriptions of abuse that Ada suffers I wouldn’t advise it for younger readers, but for those emotionally ready to read it, it’s a fantastic book.

Inside Out and Back AgainInside Out and Back AgainInside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai by Thanhha Lai

A heartbreaking account, beautifully written in verse that manages to make the semi-autobiographical story emotionally easier to read. Well-deserved winner of the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor Book.

Listen SlowlyListen, SlowlyListen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai by Thanhha Lai

Yes, a second book by the Thanhha Lai. Unlike Inside Out and Back Again, this is written in prose, and she is just as adept in that form. It’s a captivating story, with lots of appealing characters, that brings contemporary Vietnam to life.

Sparrow RoadSparrow RoadSparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor by Sheila O’Connor

Relationship-focused middle grade book with beautiful language and appealing characters. I like how it’s got a bit more depth in the content than some books I’d recommend to early elementary readers, while still being gentle enough for all but the most precocious of readers.

Goodbye StrangerGoodbye StrangerGoodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead by Rebecca Stead

Precocious reader alert: because of some of the topics addressed (including bullying and sexting), this isn’t one you’ll want to hand off to younger readers, but it’s a wonderfully written tale for those old enough for the content. It’s not as amazing as Stead’s When You Reach Me, but it’s still a solid book.

The ThiefThe ThiefThe Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1) by Megan Whalen Turner by Megan Whalen Turner

(a reread)

It still is one of my favorites, and I gave away my copy this year and may need to replace it soon so I can read it another time. 🙂 If you’re new to this series, don’t give up on this one – it has a slow start – but ultimately it is so good. Vaguely historical in feel, with some fantasy elements as well, and flashes of humor add up to a winning read.

When You Reach MeWhen You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me (Yearling Newbery) by Rebecca Stead by Rebecca Stead

(A reread for book club)

Possibly even better as a reread, as you know what’s going to happen, and can appreciate the clues Stead weaves throughout the text. No more details, lest I slip and give spoilers, but READ THIS BOOK.

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Goodbye StrangerGoodbye StrangerGoodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead by Rebecca Stead

Rebecca Stead is a phenomenal storyteller. Her Newbery winner When You Reach Me is amazing, and Goodbye Stranger stands up to the lofty comparisons that are sure to arise. While not quite as layered as When You Reach Me (for reasons which would involve spoilers for When You Reach Me so I’m not going to detail them), it’s still much more layered and thoughtful than the stereotypical middle grade book.

There is plenty of meaty content in the book, but it’s never explicit, and I wouldn’t hesitate to share this book widely. It would be easy for the book to become harsh with the topics and themes it addresses, but Stead manages to keep it more gentle almost.

I think this works as a middle grade or young adult book. It opens up many avenues of discussion with children who read it – the nature of friendship, bullying, cell phone use and abuse (including sexting), the challenges of growing up (especially the perils of 7th grade), and more.

Despite my praises and saying it’s surprisingly gentle considering the content, I’d still be careful before giving the book to super precocious readers. Know your readers and what they can handle!

Highly, highly recommended. I finished it and then immediately wanted to re-read it, to better appreciate the way Stead wove the story together.

Publisher’s Description:
Bridge is an accident survivor who’s wondering why she’s still alive. Emily has new curves and an almost-boyfriend who wants a certain kind of picture. Tabitha sees through everybody’s games–or so she tells the world. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. Can it get them through seventh grade?

This year everything is different for Sherm Russo as he gets to know Bridge Barsamian. What does it mean to fall for a girl–as a friend?

On Valentine’s Day, an unnamed high school girl struggles with a betrayal. How long can she hide in plain sight?

Book Details

Title: Goodbye StrangerGoodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Author: Rebecca Stead
Category: Fiction
My Rating: 5 Stars
Buy the book: Print | Kindle | Audible

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Book Club Choices for 2015

2015 Book Club Selections

Parnassus on WheelsJanuary
Parnassus On WheelsParnassus On Wheels by Christopher Morley by Christopher Morley

Why did we pick it? Anne recommends it, and it fits the requirements for a January book (short and easy-to-read! There’s not much reading time post holiday craziness before our early-in-the-month meeting).

A Prayer for Owen MeanyFebruary
A Prayer for Owen MeanyA Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel by John Irving by John Irving

Why did we pick it? It’s a modern classic. And February is a good month to fit in a long book like this one.

The Road from CoorainMarch (tea party)
The Road from CoorainThe Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway by Jill Ker Conway
(I’ll be facilitating this discussion)

Why did we pick it? Because I pushed for it a tiny bit, both because I think it’s a great book, and because I think one memoir or biography a year is good for our reading mix.

Friday the Rabbi Slept LateApril
Friday the Rabbi Slept LateFriday the Rabbi Slept Late by Harry Kemelman by Harry Kemelman

Why did we pick it? To round out the type of fiction selected for the year, and because a previous Kemelman pick was a popular one. That was before my time with the group, so I’m excited to try one by him.

HeidiMay
HeidiHeidi by Johanna Spyri by Johanna Spyri

Why did we pick it? May is bring your little reader month, and this seemed like a good fit for the kids and grownups.

SeabiscuitJune (picnic)
Seabiscuit: An American LegendSeabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand by Laura Hillenbrand
(I’ll be facilitating this discussion)

Why did we pick it? Because I pushed for it a bit – I’ve been holding off on reading this one on the assumption that it would be a good book club choice. I loved Hillenbrand’s book Unbroken, but think this will be a better fit for our group. Plus June is a good time to read a longer book.

PossessionJuly
PossessionPossession by A.S. Byatt by A. S. Byatt

Why did we pick it? It’s on a lot of lists for great books, including The Well-Educated MindThe Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer, and it helps provide variety to our selection for the year.

Princess BrideAugust (book & a movie)
The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High AdventureThe Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman by William Goldman

Why did we pick it? It’s been on our list of books to consider for ages, and it finally is getting its chance. Plus the movie is fun too.

Northanger AbbeySeptember (dinner party)
Northanger AbbeyNorthanger Abbey by Jane Austen by Jane Austen

Why did we pick it? We’ve read every other book by Austen, so why not complete them all?

When You Reach MeRules of CivilityThe Great Bridge

October (book flight at retreat)
When You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead by Rebecca Stead
Rules of Civility: A NovelRules of Civility: A Novel by Amor Towles by Amor Towles
The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn BridgeThe Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough by David McCullough

Why did we pick them? We are going for a theme of “New York” for the book flight, and wanted a young adult, fiction, and nonfiction pick. I loved When You Reach Me and encouraged it to be picked. The Great Bridge is another one I read and loved, and also felt like it was a good choice especially since last year’s Eiffel’s Tower was pretty popular. Rules of Civility fit the theme, and gave further variety to the time periods being featured in the flight.

A Good Man is Hard to FindNovember
A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other StoriesA Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'Connor by Flannery O’Connor

Why did we pick it? Variety – we haven’t read any short stories for awhile, and we’ve never read anything by O’Connor.

84 Charing Cross RoadDecember (Christmas party)
84, Charing Cross Road84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff by Helene Hanff
(I’ll be facilitating this discussion.)

Why did we pick it? I pushed for it a bit because I love it. We always try for something light and easy in December, both because reading time is limited for most of us, and because the December meeting and party don’t lend themself to much discussion time. I think this will be a perfect way to end the year, with a fun epistolary title.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!