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Best Books of 2018: Children’s and YA

By December 21, 2018May 13th, 2021The Kerlan Blog

MPR Holly and Me

Lisa and Holly at MPR

For 4 years now, Holly Weinkauf and I have been digging through our piles to recommend books for giving. Here is the link if you want to hear us. MPR BEST BOOKS FOR KIDS

And for the list of titles that we talked about.

And every year people call in and ask questions and Holly always remembers the titles and I often remember the publisher. Weird huh?

Here are the books with their information that I remembered either during the show or after.


Our host Marianne Combs started us off by asking if we were seeing any trends.

I couldn’t stop seeing the cover of Mary’s Monster.

Cover of Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge

A novel of spare verse, richly illustrated gives us the life of teenaged Mary Shelly who invented Frankenenstein’s monster.

“Both timely and terrifying.” —Gregory Macguire, New York Times–bestselling author of Wicked

Illustration from Mary’s Monster.

Just as compelling was Catherine Reef’s The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator Mary Shelly.

Cover of A Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator Mary Shelly

We Jumped To Board Books

Especially looking for titles that exhibited diversity.

The bilingual Spanish language series that I was thinking of published by Cincos Puntos Press. Click here for the round up.

But Then…

Marianne asked why bother with board books. And both Holly and I jumped on that. We talked about early learning, hearing sounds, hand-eye coordination. But I don’t think we talked about the joy of reading aloud and discovery. But we chorused Sandra Boynton. 

More about Sandra Boynton here

And for the readers of Harry Potter

I blanked on the author Diana Winn Jones. 

Start with the Chrestomanci series

But then we were talking about diversity. And I couldn’t get the words out fast enough.

Diane Duane. So You Want to Be a Wizard series

From Entertainment Weekly

“Long before J.K. Rowling rescued Harry Potter from his cupboard under the stairs, Diane Duane was writing about Nita and Kit, a couple of kid wizards who join the forces of good in their fight against the Lone Power, an entity hellbent on speeding up entropy in the universe.” 

The protagonists are Christopher “Kit” K. Rodriguez and Juanita “Nita” Louise Callahan who begin their magic adventures with the discovery of a magic book.

Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men series is a delight and also available in a terrific audio edition.


And for YA fantasy

I said for the readers of NnediOkorafor,  Akata Warrior.  

Readers shouldn’t miss, Tomi Adeyemi. Children of Blood and Bone

It was a book that I couldn’t put down. Read about that here.

A break out novel from Justina Ireland, Dread Nation

Alternative History crossed with zombies, what could be better?

Me book talking Dread Nation

on Read this Book.

ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter

Cover of The ABC of It

Don’t forget that people can preorder at The University of Minnesota Press here

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Kathleen Odean says:

    You really know your books! Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett are timeless. Love your YA picks–two of the best books of the year without a doubt.

  • Gretchen Wronka says:

    This lively conversation was a good start to the week! I ended up supplementing my recent Red Balloon purchases with several of your suggestions!

    Next to Betsy Tacy and Tib, All of a Kind Family was my favorite series. A good intro to a different culture for an Irish Catholic girl growing up in small town Iowa in the 50’s. Now my 7 year old German/Irish/Norwegian granddaughter will have the pleasure of being introduced this week to Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte and Gertie via the Jenkins/Zelinsky edition. I can’t wait to share the original series with her, too.

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