Just in Time for the Holidays: Best Kids' Books of 2016 from Diesel

December 8, 2016

A Most Magical GirlThe holidays are here, and great books always make fantastic gifts for kids! Clare Doornbos, the children's book expert at Diesel bookstore in Larkspur, saves us all a lot of time and stress by highlighting her picks for best kids' books of 2016.

You can join Clare for storytime at the bookstore every Thursday morning at 10:30 am, where she reads classics, new kids' books, and hidden treasures. It's perfect for families with children 5 and under. Diesel is located in Marin Country Mart at 2419 Larkspur Landing Circle in Larkspur. For more information about Diesel and a complete schedule of events, visit www.dieselbookstore.com/larkspur or call the store at (415) 785-8177.

Younger Picture Books (ages 0–4)

Touch Think Learn ABC by Xavier Deneux
A modern graphical alphabet book with luxurious thick board pages. What makes this book so extraordinary are the cut-outs from one page which correspond with a raised part of the facing page. It's almost like a pop-up book for the very young.

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
A catchy and deceptively simple book about a cat meeting other animals as it walks through the world. The illustrations and repetition have a classic quality, but the theme of understanding differences in perception is right up to date.

There's a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins
A smug polar bear takes up all the space in a mouse's favorite chair and there's nothing the mouse can do to get the bear to move. A rhyming book with a great sense of character and a lesson about dealing with frustration.

Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz
What's better than Old MacDonald's farm? Old MacDonald's monster truck, of course. From the moment we see that on that farm he had an excavator, we know we're in for some vehicle based surprises from the detail-packed friendly illustrations.

There's a Bear in My Chair Thunder Boy Jr

Older Picture Books (ages 4–8)

The Journey by Francesca Sanna
A picture book about the refugee experience through the eyes of a child. The author interviewed many refugee and migrant worker children to create the story about leaving a happy home because of war and the journey to find somewhere safe. The art work is beautiful and strange where it needs to be. One particular sentence sticks in my heart, "The further we go...the more we leave behind."

Thunder Boy Jr by Sherman Alexie
Thunder Boy Jr, does not like his name, because it's not his. It's just his Dad's name with Jr on the end. He tries to choose a different name that better reflects who he is and in so doing he realizes how much his father loves him. A lovely father and son book with it's roots in Native American culture.

Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty
From the author/illustrator team who brought you Iggy Peck and Rosie Revere, this new book concentrates on Ada and her use of the scientific method to find the source of a disgusting smell. She may not succeed, but it's the process that's important, that and her parents' growing understanding of their daughter's passion.

Disgusting Critters by Elise Gravel
Some creatures are just disgusting; the slug, the fly, the worm and the toad are often thought to be gross. But these hilarious illustrated non-fiction books find those animals fascinating. Each book stars a different cartoon critter, telling us facts about their species in big friendly speech bubbles.

Ghosts The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Chapter Books (ages 8–10)

Frazzled by Booki Vivat
Abbie is the narrator of this cartoon illustrated chapter book. She's certain that nothing good ever comes of the middles and that includes middle school. Abbie is an instantly lovable character, a comically neurotic heroine who gets school hilariously wrong and eventually starts to get it right.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
A robot with advanced learning AI is shipwrecked on a small island inhabited only by animals. When she's accidentally switched on by some curious otters, she learns to survive from the creatures around her. A sweet and moving story about what it means to be alive.

A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee
Annabel has spent the first twelve years of her life as a young lady. She is not at all prepared when her mother suddenly goes away and leaves her with some horrible great aunts who own a magic shop. Things go from bad to worse for Annabel when she learns that a dark magician is bent on destroying London and she might be the best hope to save it. A dark and brooding fairytale quest with a healthy dose of coming-of-age and female friendship.

Ms Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson
Ms Bixby is a great teacher, Topher, Brand and Steve know this better than most. So when she gets sick, they decide to skip school and give her the kind of going away party she deserves. Their journey to the hospital is a madcap adventure, with a strong undercurrent of sadness. An excellent realistic school story about how a good teacher can change lives.

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
Cat's family are moving to a small and foggy town on the California coast because her sister Maya has cystic fibrosis and the damp air will help with her breathing. But when they get there the girls discover that the town is a portal where friendly ghosts can cross into the real world. This graphic novel from middle grade powerhouse Raina Telgemeier is funny, moving, smart and emotionally mature.

Chapter Books (ages 10–12)

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd
Emmaline lives in a TB hospital in war-torn 1940's England. Her life is dull, sad and frightening. But Emmaline has noticed that there are winged horses living in the mirrors and now they need her help. The beautiful writing and emotional depth in this book made me laugh and cry.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
There is a witch who lives in the forest, she steals babies, raises dragons and casts a gloom over the village. Or so the stories say. Effortlessly lyrical and casually dark, this story is just like all the classic fairy tales. It's perfect for young readers aged 10 and up who understand that life is not often fair and that stories are not often true.

Bounders by Monica Tesler
A middle-grade science fiction thriller where a group of kids are in training to become "bounders" a kind of space travel that requires an innate ability to deal with quantum entanglement. But their mission and their crew are not as straightforward as they first appear.

As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds
A story about two brothers staying with their grandparents in the country for the summer. Neither of them are happy to be there, but the family secrets they learn change their priorities and who they think they are. There's such depth to these characters, it's impossible not to share every part of their experiences both good and bad.

Cleared for Takeoff by Rowland White
Airforce insignia, how to skip a stone, paper airplanes, zeppelins and the history of ejector seats all feature in this thorough and fascinating book about things that fly. Great photos and quirky images illustrate short chapters each on a different aspect of flight.

My Lady Jane This Savage Song

Young Adult (ages 12+)

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Verity is a city with a monster problem. On one side of the wall the humans deal with the monsters by deadly force, on the other side, they make deals with the creatures. A Romeo and Juliet story with a complex mythology that's a meaningful reflection of the world in which we live.

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold
Vic is struggling to deal with his father's death. One night he runs out of his now claustrophobic house and into someone he barely knows, a girl called Mad. Mad takes him to meet a group of homeless kids and Vic is asked the question “do you need help?” Vic's answer leads him to better know his father, himself and the inside of a police cell. An intricately plotted story about kids with difficult lives who still have so much to live for.

My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows
The real Lady Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days in 1529. She was a political pawn and executed at the end of her reign, aged only 19. This book rewrites history into a funny and very modern tale of shapeshifters, rebellion and brainy women. There's a much happier ending too, along with an opposites-attract style romance that will leave even the most cynical readers smiling.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
The story of a romance that develops in just one day between scientifically minded Natasha and poetic Daniel. They only have one day because Natasha is due to be deported to Jamaica, while Daniel is postponing an interview that could change his life too. This book has a beautiful sense of connectivity not just between the couple, but also between the people who orbit their romance. A clever and moving book with deeply satisfying characters.