Our 2019 Children’s Books of the Year stand out from an increasingly troubling crowd
Culture Children's Books
Louisiana’s Way Home
Louisiana Elefante, whom Kate DiCamillo fans will remember from Raymie Nightingale, is on the run with Granny, a questionable caregiver battling demons from her past. They land in a small Georgia town where Louisiana soon discovers she’s not who she thought she was. As she struggles to come to terms with her unfolding life, trustworthy new friends help her see that amid a lifetime of lies she can still choose forgiveness and decide who she wants to be in this world. This poignant story of loss echoes with themes of hope and redemption and hints at how we find belonging and true identity in Christ alone. (Ages 10 & up)
Rosetown, the latest release from Henry and Mudge author Cynthia Rylant, is a slow-paced story set in 1972 that chronicles the everyday life of 9-year-old Flora Smallwood. As the tumultuous Vietnam War drags on, sensitive Flora is looking for confidence and consistency after her fourth-grade year begins a bit chaotically. Although the book opens with Flora’s mother and father separating, it portrays engaged parents and strong friendships and happily ends with a restored family. Along the way, Flora learns that even though life will be marked with unexpected disappointments and uncomfortable changes, it can also produce surprising delights. (Ages 8-12)
Survivor Diaries: Lost!
Terry Lynn Johnson
Survival expert and conservation officer Terry Lynn Johnson weaves survival tips with zoology and ecology in the fourth installment of her Survivor Diaries series. When Carter and Anna get lost while hiking in the Costa Rican jungle, they must rely on each other and their survival smarts to make it out alive. Although the story suffers from poor plot development and forced dialogue, it displays teamwork and shows how one character overcomes anxiety and fear. The book, which will likely appeal to boys who are reluctant readers, also includes tips for creating your own survival kit. Note: The plot mentions Mayan legends and spirits. (Ages 7-9)
Black Rock Brothers
Book 5 of the Adventures of Wilder Good series opens with 12-year-old Wilder making plans for a quest into the wilderness to find and replace a family heirloom. Wilder sees a solo journey as an opportunity to prove his manhood, but his parents require that he take along his best friend and a foster kid who’s struggling to fit in. Although the trip gets off to a rough start, by the end the boys have proved—to themselves and each other—that they are stronger and more resourceful than they knew. The story will hook adventure-loving boys while delighting parents with its character-building plot. (Ages 9-14)
In The World Is Awake (Zonderkidz, 2018), author Linsey Davis reminds children to celebrate the everyday blessings God has given them. The rhyming picture book (“The world is awake—it’s a wonderful place, alive with God’s power and glad with His grace”) follows two children as they admire God’s creation first in their backyard and then at the zoo. The colorful and whimsical illustrations will appeal to young children while featuring another of God’s good gifts: racial diversity.
The illustrations of The Marvelous Mustard Seed (Flyaway Books, 2018) also feature ethnic diversity. In this picture book, authors Amy-Jill Levine and Sandy Eisenberg Sasso focus primarily on the remarkable things that can come from tiny beginnings. Parents may be disappointed that the text does not explain the mustard seed parable and only includes one reference to God: Instead the endnotes suggest the story serve as a springboard to further discuss the parable’s meaning. —K.C.