What better way to save a few dollars (let’s be honest, several, these days) than teaching your kids the richness and value of your local library? Here are some great books and authors to check out, for children and teens, published in the last couple of years. And, of course, they’re all free . . . from the library.

Preschool and Early Elementary School

  • Jon Klassen’s We Found a Hat, 2017. Two desert tortoises discover a very desirable ten gallon hat. Two turtles, one hat. Hmm . . . if you haven’t seen the other two picture books in Klassen’s “hat trilogy” you’d better find I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat, too. Delightfully subtle drama and humor with spare and appealing illustrations. Picture book for preschool and early elementary.

    We Found a Hat
    I Want My Hat Back
    This is Not My Hat
  • Kwame Alexander’s Surf’s Up, 2016. Two sporty frogs get swept away by a good book (about a certain captain pursuing a giant whale) on a day when the waves are truly gnarly. Summer reading at its finest and most perilous! Picture book for elementary schoolers. Alexander is most well-known for his award winning young adult titles Booked and Crossover—both excellent sports titles for upper elementary school readers and older.

    Surf’s Up
  • Anna Alter’s Sprout Street Neighbors: Five Stories, 2015. Oh my! This little book about all the little animal neighbors living at 24 Sprout Street couldn’t be cuter. Perfect for the first grade early chapter book reader. Don’t miss the next two in the series—A New Arrival and Bon Voyage. Move way over Magic Tree House!

    Sprout Street Neighbors: Five Stories
    A New Arrival
    Bon Voyage

For Elementary School and Middle School

  • When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for all SeasonsJulie Fogliano’s When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for all Seasons, 2016. Perfectly distilled observations of the wonder that children find in nature throughout the year. Fogliano’s. For anyone who loves poetry, and even those who don’t.
  • Worms for Breakfast: How to Feed A ZooHelaine Becker’s Worms for Breakfast: How to Feed A Zoo, 2016. Want to whip up some Platypus Party Mix or Predator Popsicles? This delightfully gross recipe book for feeding time at the zoo is just what you need—guaranteed squealing and grimacing as kids learn what animals eat (and do) at the zoo. For all ages.
  • Nice Work, Franklin!Suzanne Tripp Jurmain’s Nice Work, Franklin!, 2016. Franklin D Roosevelt used the same grit to face polio that he did to tackle America’s own debilitating illness at the time, the Great Depression. Anecdote and humor combine with sobering content to portray a strong-willed, inspirational President of the United States. Picture book biography, great for all ages.
  • A Night DividedJennifer Nielsen’s A Night Divided, 2015. The Berlin Wall cruelly divides Gerta’s family overnight. Will they be able to reunite and find their way to freedom? An important perspective of a seldom treated historical period in juvenile literature. For upper elementary, middle school and junior high school readers.
  • Wolf HollowLauren Wolk’s Wolf Hollow, 2016. Recently awarded a 2017 Newbery Honor, this historical novel set in 1943 rural Pennsylvania has created its own little buzz over the last few months—the author didn’t write it with young readers in mind, but the publisher marketed it for that audience. The plot and pace are absolutely perfect. Some readers may not be ready for the mature content (violent bullying, PTSD, prejudice), so this is best for older elementary and middle school readers. An amazing first novel. Well deserving of all the accolades. Her newly released Beyond the Bright Sea, 2017, is very close to the top of my “to reads” pile.

For Middle School, Junior High, High School and Adults

  • The Inquisitor’s TaleAdam Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale, 2016. One of the most remarkable books I’ve read in a very long time. Everything you’d think a writer for middle readers would shy away from—religious conflict, bigotry, the middle ages (yawn), brutality, death. In a magical, medieval Monty Python and the Holy Grail meets the Canterbury Tales sort of way, it totally works! Not the “dark ages” at all (and really, no yawn for 13th century French history.) This unusual tale of friendship, innocence and devotion is thought provoking, solemn and wrenchingly sad; also hilarious and very timely, considering today’s world conflicts. Another 2017 Newbery Honor book. Impeccably researched. Worth multiple reads. For strong upper elementary school readers and older.
  • The Girl in the Blue CoatMonica Hesse’s The Girl in the Blue Coat, 2016. Poignantly captures what it must have felt like to be a teenage girl growing up in WWII Amsterdam—notes to friends, crushes, first kisses and teenage mistakes with lasting consequences—amid the fear and horror that enveloped every day and night. With shadows of Anne Frank throughout the novel. For middle school, junior high and high school students.
  • Elizabeth Wein’s The Pearl Thief, 2017. Designated a “prequel” to Wein’s literary masterpiece, Code Name Verity, 2012, this is the back story for that novel’s main character, Julie. A compelling story, that stands on its own, of one fateful teenage summer at her ancestral family home in the Scottish highlands. Home from boarding school, Julie not only becomes uncomfortably aware of her privilege, and her naiveté, but also her courage and her genuine affections—all crucial character traits of the Julie we meet in Code Name Verity. Brilliant. However, I would still read Code Name Verity first. And then, perhaps, the loosely connected sequel Rose Under Fire, and then The Pearl Thief. By that time, you may want to start all over again. I recommend these books most often to older teens and adults.

    The Pearl Thief
    Code Name Verity
    Rose Under Fire