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December 9, 2014 Top 12 Books of 2014 By Brian Smith
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    The end of the 2014 calendar year means that there are "Top 10" lists coming out about everything. One of the reasons that I love the end-of-the-year lists is because it gives me a chance to relive some of my favorite moments of the year. Last year I wrote about the "Top 10 Holiday Read-Alouds," so this year I wanted to give you a top 5 list of why you should give books for gifts, as well as my top 12 picture books published in 2014. I want to add that as a teacher, I have to be really careful with the few dollars in my wallet so these books are actual books that I have purchased and used in my classroom! And, for the month of December, here is a super savings for you, my readers and friends, from the Scholastic Store. You can also download a Book Recommendation form PDF for you to fill in and give to your students to take home.



    Top 5 Reasons to Gift a Book

    Gifts5. Books are so easy to wrap that even I can do it! They are flat and rectangular, and that is so much easier to cover than robots or cheerleading pom-poms.

    4. Books don’t require batteries, so when you take them on a trip there is no drama when the batteries die.

    3. Books come in all varieties, so there is always a perfect fit for everyone on your list. Board books for the little ones, picture books, early readers, chapter books, nonfiction, or novels. There is something for everyone on your list.

    2. Books never go out of style like that leopard print skirt with purple lace around the bottom that cost $65 from the hottest store in the mall.

    1. Books expose you to places and times that are impossible to visit. Riding down the Nile or fighting in the Civil War are both possible when you find that right book.


    Top 12 Picture Books Published in 2014


    12. The Cat, the Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, the Wolf, and Grandma

    Written by Diane Fox and Illustrated by Christyan Fox

    I love this book for many reasons. The first reason is because it talks about the different components of the book. As soon as you open the cover, the two narrators, Dog and Cat, are talking about the endpapers of the book. The second reason is because it takes the story of "Little Red Riding Hood" and really verbalizes the "I wonder . . . " that kids often have when reading or listening to a story. An example is when Dog asks why Wolf doesn't just eat Little Red in the woods when they first meet. Finally, I love this line from Dog in the book, "So kindness is her special power?" What a great line! It's the perfect transition into a conversation about how important kindness is in this world.



    11. Max and the Won't Go To Bed Show

    Written by Mark Sperring and Illustrated by Sarah Warburton

    This one is the only book that wasn't published in 2014, but it needed to be mentioned because it's an extraordinarily colorful and clever story! It's about a boy who performs every "magic" trick he knows so that he doesn't have to go to bed. Not only is the story full of great vocabulary words, but when Max wants ten bedtime stories, it's almost like the author is begging you to throw in a quick math lesson!




    Beekle Cover10. The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
    Written and Illustrated by Dan Santat

    I wrote about this book in a post earlier this year. The magic that I felt when I first read it still bubbles up inside when I see the character Beekle. He is such a lovable character! The book evokes a childlike wonder in the reader. This will be a classic in my classroom, and one that I buy as a gift for birthdays and holidays for years to come. This book is near perfection!





    Big Bad Bubble Cover9. Big Bad Bubble
    Written by Adam Rubin and Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

    I love the team of Rubin and Salmieri. I love their book Those Darn Squirrels (a great book for teaching the season of autumn), and their collaboration on Dragons Love Tacos is the corner piece of literature for our day of learning about the sense of taste. Last year they presented the world with Secret Pizza Party. If I’m being honest, I was very disappointed in the lack of magic in the story. I worried that their magic was gone, but they took those fears and blew them away like a bubble in the breeze with Big Bad Bubble. I love books with monsters, and the main characters in this book are monsters. It’s also a great book to show kids how serious (and at the same time silly) that a fear can be, but then also gives a great example how to overcome your fears.


    Naked! Cover8. Naked!
    Written by Michael Ian Black and Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

    I am a pushover for a book that will get my kids to laugh, and the top two ways to get them to laugh are anything restroom related or the word naked. These two literary devices will get a belly laugh every time. This book is about a boy running around the house naked after a bath. The illustrations are such a great match for the feel of the book that it really makes it one of the best books of the year. If you give this book as a gift make sure to buy a red cape to go along with it! It would make any child extremely happy — maybe not their parents though!




    Hooray for Hat!7. Hooray for Hat!
    Written and Illustrated by Brian Won

    I mentioned this amazing book in my post about companion text for classics. Won wrote a winner when he created this imaginative story that shares the joys of giving to others. As the end of the year is approaching, this book is the perfect example to share why we give to others. I love teaching the "7 Habits of Happy Kids" to students (part of The Leader In Me), and this book is a perfect example of a win-win situation. When you give to someone else, you both feel good.





    Sam and Dave Dig a Hole6. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole
    Written by Mac Barnett and Illustrated by Jon Klassen

    I am a huge fan of Klassen’s books, and I love it when I see that he illustrates for others. His illustrations give the incredible Barnett’s simple story just the right edge. Sam and Dave want to find something spectacular, so they pack some chocolate milk and animal cookies, and go on a dig. Each page builds the edge-of-your-seat suspense until the end. I love how this book easily translates to goal setting and following through on the set objective.






    What Do You Do With an Idea?5. What Do You Do With an Idea?
    Written by Yobi Yamada and Illustrated by Mae Besom

    In my humble opinion, this book is absolutely unbelievable. I was blown away the first time that I read this story. Yamada’s book is perfect for any “big personality” or “outside-the-box” child. It reinforces that their ideas are special and important, and while the world may not always understand or appreciate their ideas, there is value in their uniqueness, and that uniqueness can change the world. It truly encourages imagination! This post from last year is full of other books that also encourage imagination.





    Coming Home Cover4. Coming Home
    Written and Illustrated by Greg Ruth

    Read this beautiful 18-word book with a box of tissues handy. Ruth has created a picture book that will be my staple for introducing the idea of Veteran’s Day. The twist ending will put a lump in the throat of every adult reader, and give every child a window into the world of the children of the armed forces. This book is a triumph of visual artistry and one to be shared for generations to come.




    Louise Loves Art Cover3. Louise Loves Art
    Written and Illustrated by Kelly Light

    Louise is a wonderful artist who adores creating and sharing her art. My favorite line in the whole book is, “I love art! It’s my imagination on the outside.” Light has created a character that students who love to draw can fall in love with because Louise is so relatable. She comes across as a kid you would have in your class, or maybe even one who lives in your house! Louise gives attention to every detail and will inspire budding artist. I can only hope that there will be more adventures with Louise, her little brother Art, and that awesome cat and all his “cat-ness.”





    Going Places Cover2. Going Places

    Written and Illustrated by Paul A. Reynolds and Peter H. Reynolds

    If you want to read a book that will reinforce everything that you have taught your students or child about imagination and creativity, then this book is a must for your bookshelf. It’s a true original story that is an inspiration to everyone who reads it. Peter Reynolds, famed illustrator and author of The Dot, Ish, and other classics, has topped all his previous work with this collaboration with Paul Reynolds.



    The Book With No Pictures Cover1. The Book With No Pictures

    Written by B.J. Novak

    Brilliant is the only word for this book. Wordless picture books are nothing new but a picture-less picture book is an innovative idea. There isn’t much more that needs to be said about a book that made a 2-year-old and a 13-year-old laugh at the same time. But I was a witness to this wonderful scene. Novak, from the TV shows The Office and The Mindy Project, has created a truly original bestselling book that should be on everyone’s bookshelf before you start 2015.




    Leave a comment letting me know if your favorite is on the list or if you think I missed a fantastic book from 2014.

    Let’s connect on Pinterest and Twitter.

    I can’t wait to see you next week for a look at how to create a red-carpet event that will get your students super excited about new books.


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