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!

Quick Lit: Recent Middle Grade and Young Adult Reads

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

Picked this one because of the author’s great first name. 😉 While that may be a bad way to pick a book, it worked out for me this time – it’s a delightful read. Beautiful language, appealing characters, and a storyline that works for upper elementary readers looking for books with a little more depth, but still on the gentler side. Recommended.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads


Touch BlueTouch BlueTouch Blue by Cynthia Lord by Cynthia Lord

Quiet book that introduces some of the challenges foster children face, in a gentler way that makes it more appropriate for younger readers. It feels a little unrealistic in its resolution, but that may just be me as an adult recognizing that real life doesn’t generally have such happy endings. Easy to read, and a good reminder to me to try others by Lord. Recommended.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads


Saint MazieSaint Mazie: A NovelSaint Mazie: A Novel by Jami Attenberg by Jami Attenberg

I wanted to love this book – I expected that I would. It’s based on a real individual, and she sounds like a fascinating woman. Plus it’s told in part via diary entries, and I do love that format. However, I was left underwhelmed. Mazie is mostly just … stuck in that cage selling tickets, and her voice in the diary didn’t always seem believable. The framing of the story also didn’t work for me. A heads-up as well: it’s a bit more graphic at times than I was expecting (or appreciated), so be aware of that before handing it over to younger readers or even teens, depending on their age and maturity. My complaints aside, the books gotten some rave reviews, so clearly it’s working for plenty of other readers, including a good friend of mine who adored it. Not recommended.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads


If I StayIf I StayIf I Stay by Gayle Forman by Gayle Forman

Here’s where I sound heartless: I felt like the entire book was written in an attempt to make the reader cry, and no. I was not moved to tears by this book. (I was also reading it while traveling to my brother-in-law’s funeral, so I was perhaps especially untouched by the fictional heart-string-tugs). My cranky reading meter was also set off by a couple of ridiculous scenes in the book, and the too-good-to-be-true parents. Possibly just a case of “the wrong book at the wrong time,” and if it hadn’t been a book club pick I’d have never finished it. Not recommended.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads


Where She WentWhere She WentWhere She Went by Gayle Forman by Gayle Forman

Also a book club pick, or I’d have certainly never read the sequel to If I Stay. It’s fine if you liked the first one, and you’ll probably enjoy following the story. I was less annoyed by specific scenes in this one, but more annoyed by a couple of major plot points. Not one I’d recommend, but it still might mostly be bad timing on my part to read this sort of story.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads


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

Quick Lit September 2015

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Quick Lit: Recent Christian Reads
Two years ago: Quick Lit: Recent Christian Reads