Happy New Year, kids! 2018 is almost over, and it’s time to look back at some of my favorite books of the year. I didn’t start this blog until May, and I didn’t always post as regularly as I wanted to, so I didn’t get a chance to read as many books as I think I should have. (But if I’m being honest, I probably never will read as many books as I think I should!)
I have read some incredible books this year, though, so let’s take a look at some of my favorites!
I’m going to start with Honorable Mentions. First up are some older books that I reviewed this year. They don’t qualify for my Best of 2018 list, but I loved them so much that I had to give them just one more shout-out:
Honorable Mentions — Backlist Books
5. At the Old Haunted House – Nate Wragg’s vibrant paintings steal the show in this delightful Halloween counting book.
4. Ghosts in the House! – Here’s another Halloween picture book, but it could not be more stylistically different from the previous entry. Kazuno Kohara’s manga-esque illustrations are adorable and hilarious; this book is a new favorite of mine.
3. The Thief of Always – A touching middle grade classic from horror master Clive Barker. This is a great read for Halloween, but it’s even better for Christmas.
2. Los Gatos Black on Halloween – My original review called this moody, ominous picture book “a Halloween masterpiece.” I stand by that statement.
1. Little Witch’s Zoomin’ Broom – If Mary Blair handed you a piece of cotton candy in heaven, this board book is what it would taste like.
Next up we have some beautiful children’s books that were so exceptional, I was able to forgive their lack of spookiness and feature some of them in a special post. I won’t do it terribly often, because I like to keep things pretty spooky around here, but I will do posts like that every now and then.
Honorable Mentions — Non-Spooky Books
6. Megabat – This is a sweet, funny, and at times heartbreaking story about a boy and his bat. There’s something in this chapter book for everyone, but I would especially recommend it for new students or kids struggling to make friends. Megabat is sure to be a favorite character, and you’ll never look at Star Wars or smooshfruit the same way again!
5. Aquicorn Cove – Katie O’Neill’s beautiful middle grade ode to magic, environmentalism, and queer representation was a breath of fresh air that I didn’t know I needed.
4. The Night Dragon – This book will break your heart and put it back together again, and it will teach children that they are beautiful and wonderful just exactly as they are.
3. Meet Yasmin! – I’m so excited about this new early reader series. Yasmin is a bright, creative little girl whose imaginative and compassionate solutions to everyday problems will inspire and entertain kids and provide much-needed representation for Muslim readers.
2. A Boy and a House – This wordless story celebrates the joy of discovery and the odd little mysteries that you can find if you just pay enough attention. Maja Kastelic’s illustrations are full of wonder and magic.
1. Time for Bed, Miyuki – This book is simply breathtaking. I can’t praise it enough; you just need to pick it up and see for yourself how wonderful it is. Go get it. Now.
Best of 2018
Now for the main event! These are my favorite spooky kidlit reads of the year. I’ve combined all genres and age ranges. I’ve taken coffin ratings into consideration, but ultimately I’ve based the rankings on my subjective feelings. These are all fantastic books, so if you’re looking for something for you and/or the kids in your life to read in the new year, here are 16 recommendations!
16. The Loch Ness Lock-In – This clever, funny chapter book follows young cryptozoologists as they solve a mystery surrounding the famous Loch Ness Monster. Kids will love the quirky humor and cartoony illustrations.
15. Hotel Fantastic – A picture book made of pure imagination, this story will have kids and adults alike wanting to read it over and over again.
14. Me and My Fear – This sweet picture book manages to tell the very specific tale of a young refugee acclimating to life in a new country and the universal tale of the fears we carry with us on a daily basis.
13. How to Cook a Princess – With dry, dark humor, this “cookbook” is for kids who live on the spooky side of the street.
12. Monster ABC – If you want to brush up on your monster lore and indoctrinate the spooky youth of tomorrow, pick up a copy of this cute abecedarian board book.
11. It Came from the Basement – This hilarious horror book is infinitely re-readable, and there’s room in the back for budding young artists to sketch their own tentacled creations.
10. The Night Monster – Speaking of infinitely re-readable…this picture book is absolutely gorgeous. The text and art are in perfect harmony, telling a sweet, beautiful story that lingers in the mind and in the heart.
9. Undead Girl Gang – I’m going to quote my original review: “Undead Girl Gang is the spooky, intersectional teen girl drama of my dreams.” If you haven’t read it yet, you must correct that forthwith.
8. City of Ghosts – There are few things I love more than a middle grade ghost story, and City of Ghosts is one of the best I’ve ever read. I need Book 2 in this series like I need oxygen.
7. The House with Chicken Legs – When I heard that this middle grade novel was about Baba Yaga, I was expecting spooky evil witch fun. I was very happy to be wrong, because what I got instead was a complex, bittersweet tale about family, love, and devotion.
6. Small Spaces – In addition to having the best cover of the year, courtesy of Matt Saunders, this is easily the scariest kids’ book I’ve read this year. If you include adult fare, this is probably the second scariest book I’ve read this year, period; and for that I say THANK YOU, Katherine Arden. Giving people the creeps is what it’s all about.
5. The House in Poplar Wood – Deep, rich, and magical, the world created by K. E. Ormsbee is one I never wanted to leave. This is a truly special book. I really hope that you’ll give it a chance.
4. Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom – I hereby throw my hat into the ring as President of the Buttercup Sunshine Fan Club. This book is perfection. I can’t wait to gobble up future entries in the series. Kids will love this book just as much as zombies love brains.
3. Sheets – Brenna Thummler’s original graphic novel debut marks her as an exciting new voice in comics. This sweet, mournful story shows that she can speak to middle grade audiences about difficult subjects with grace and empathy.
2. The Good Demon – I struggled with whether to place this at #1, but the next entry ultimately won out. A brilliant Southern Gothic story about loneliness, faith, and addiction, The Good Demon resonated with me in a way that few books ever have. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
1. Begone the Raggedy Witches – The first book in the Wild Magic Trilogy, Begone the Raggedy Witches is officially my Best Book of 2018. Celine Kiernan’s prose is so lovely, and she surprised me at every turn with fresh takes on familiar tropes. Just like the young heroine Mup, I felt like I was seeing magic for the first time, and I was left completely charmed and delighted. If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favor and pick it up before the second book comes out. And if you have read it…well, read it again before the second book comes out. I certainly will.
Thank you so much for reading, kids. Your follows, comments, and support in 2018 have meant the world to me. I’ll do my best to bring you consistent reviews, features, fun, and surprises in the new year. Let’s make 2019 even spookier!