With January coming to an end, and New Year’s Resolutions going along with it, last year’s best-of lists are officially in.
Let’s take a break from 2016 and look back on some of last year’s favourites. Here is our definitive list of books that were included in the best-of lists of 2015.
Buddy and Earl
by Maureen Fergus
illustrated by Carey Sookocheff
“The best thing about Buddy and Earl though, is how it demonstrates that a story that is silly can also be smart. This is one of those titles that grown-ups will love as enthusiastically as their kids.” — 49th Shelf
Buddy does not know what is in the box that Meredith carries into the living room. But when the small, prickly creature says he is a pirate — and that Buddy is a pirate too — the two mismatched friends are off on a grand adventure.
In this first book in the Buddy and Earl series, a dog who likes to play by the rules meets a hedgehog who knows no limits.
by Martine Leavitt
Included in Shelf Awareness 2015 Best Books of the Year.
“Leavitt creates a character who is representative of many forms of being “different;” his aching desire for normalcy is universal” — Quill & Quire
In the town of Leamington, Ontario, a seventeen-year-old boy is suddenly stricken by a schizophrenic episode and wakes up in hospital. The boy’s name is Calvin, and he is plagued by hallucinations.
As the hallucinations persist, Calvin comes to believe that the answer lies in performing one grand and incredible gesture. And so he decides to walk across Lake Erie. In January. The temperatures have been below freezing for weeks. The ice should hold…
I Don’t Live Here Anymore
by Gabi Kreslehner
translated by Shelley Tanaka
Included in Kirkus Best Books of 2015 (YA).
“An immersive, believable portrait of how adolescents cope, or not, with divorce, drawn from an inside view. Powerful and deeply resonant.” — Kirkus
Charlotte’s life is changed forever when her parents’ marriage breaks up, and Charlotte has to leave her beloved house and her old life behind. Then two very different boys cross her path, and a new emotion creeps into her sadness and anger — an emotion that is both confusing and sweet.
written and illustrated by Isol
translated by Elisa Amado
The Menino was included in Brain Pickings Best Children’s Books of 2015.
“The poetic, the philosophical, and the practical converge into a love letter to the unfolding of new life, so mysterious and mystifying to the surrounding adults who, after all, were once babies themselves.” — Brain Pickings
A book for babies and parents about the whole new world that they both encounter when baby arrives.
When the new baby arrives, both the baby and the parents are in for a steep learning curve. In this book, born out of personal experience, internationally renowned author/illustrator Isol brings us a dual narrative and guide.
by JonArno Lawson
illustrated by Sydney Smith
Sidewalk Flowers was included in 13 best of lists including the New York Public Library Best 100 Books for Sharing, Brain Pickings Best Children’s Books 2015, Quill & Quire Kids’ Books of the Year, National Post NP99, the Globe 100, 49th Shelf’ Favourite Picture Books of 2015, Kirkus Best Books of 2015 (Picture Books), School Library Journal Best Books 2015, Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2015, Horn Book Fanfare: Best Books of 2015, Huffington Post Picture Books from a Stellar 2015, and the ALA Notable Books for Young Readers.
“The magic of the story is its openness, the possibilities implied by the wordlessness—this is a book about generosity that is so generous in itself ” — 49th Shelf
In this wordless picture book, a little girl collects wildflowers while her distracted father pays her little attention. Each flower becomes a gift, and whether the gift is noticed or ignored, both giver and recipient are transformed by their encounter.
Some Things I’ve Lost
by Cybele Young
“Through minimal text and tiny paper sculpture illustrations, she invites readers young and old to imagine mundane belongings transforming into ethereal sea creatures.” — National Post
An introduction describing the frustration we feel when we lose something is followed by a catalogue of misplaced objects. Each item is shown first in its original form and then, through a gatefold spread, is shown in the process of transforming into a marvelous and mysterious sea creature. At the very end of the book, we see these transformed objects in their new, watery habitat, a conclusion which will leave readers astonished by the distance they — like the lost objects themselves — have travelled.
Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox
written and illustrated by Danielle Daniel
“At first glance, this is an uncommonly beautiful book about making connections between animals, one’s own identity and feelings, but it’s also an introduction to the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals.” — 49th Shelf
In this introduction to the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals, young children explain why they identify with different creatures such as a deer, beaver or moose. Delightful illustrations show the children wearing masks representing their chosen animal, while the few lines of text on each page work as a series of simple poems throughout the book. In a brief author’s note, Danielle Daniel explains the importance of totem animals in Anishinaabe culture and how they can also act as animal guides for young children seeking to understand themselves and others.
Strange Light Afar
by Rui Umezawa
illustrated by Mikiko Fujita
Included in the CBC Best Books of the Year.
“These tales would serve as an effective antidote to the glossy allure of movies and screens, and could, potentially, open a child’s eyes to worlds we are in peril of losing.” — Starred Review, Quill & Quire
A bitterly jealous brother, a samurai who makes the ultimate sacrifice, a cold-hearted husband, a monk who mistakes desire for piety, a fraudulent merchant who meets his match in a supernatural river otter — the motives underlying these traditional Japanese folktale characters are explored with haunting results.
Prompted by the sometimes illogical and perplexing actions of folktale characters (Why doesn’t the wolf kill Little Red Riding Hood right away?), master storyteller Rui Umezawa revisits eight popular Japanese folktales, delving beneath their sometimes baffling plot lines to highlight the psychological motivations behind the characters’ actions.
Tales of addiction, bravery, sex, greed, abuse and control — these stories take their inspiration from the great Japanese storytelling traditions, as well as from Noh and Kabuki. Sometimes laced with ironic humor, sometimes truly horrifying, these stories of the strange and supernatural will appeal to readers of all ages, but they particularly speak to teenagers.
Evocative and haunting illustrations by the stunningly talented Mikiko Fujita add to the eerie beauty of this collection. A detailed afterword outlines the author’s storytelling approach and provides source material for each tale.
Two White Rabbits
by Jairo Buitrago
illustrated by Rafael Yockteng
translated by Elisa Amado
“A masterpiece of understatement. In leaving readers with much to wonder about, the book packs the most powerful of punches.” — Kirkus
In this moving and timely story, a young child describes what it is like to be a migrant as she and her father travel north toward the US border.
They travel mostly on the roof of a train known as The Beast, but the little girl doesn’t know where they are going. She counts the animals by the road, the clouds in the sky, the stars. Sometimes she sees soldiers. She sleeps, dreaming that she is always on the move, although sometimes they are forced to stop and her father has to earn more money before they can continue their journey.
As many thousands of people, especially children, in Mexico and Central America continue to make the arduous journey to the US border in search of a better life, this is an important book that shows a young migrant’s perspective.