There is no shortage of lists breaking down the best books of the year, the award contenders, the bookseller favorites. And I love these lists. Some of my favorites include Minh Le's "Best Picture Books of 2017" for HuffPost, Brightly's "The Best Children’s Books of 2017, According to Kids", Jennifer Laughran's interviews with four different independent bookstores for her "the great big holiday gift guide of 2017!" episode of the Literaticast podcast, and Betsy Bird's impressive "31 Days, 31 Lists" undertaking on A Fuse #8 Production. I even made a list of the books my students considered for our mock Coretta Scott King Award. But being surrounded by all of these lists on Facebook and on Twitter and on Goodreads caused me to think more and more about those titles that weren't showing up.
There are some books that fly under the radar of bestseller and critics choice lists, but go on to become staple titles in library collections. These sleeper hits don't always follow convention and their lasting appeal to readers isn't usually as easy to articulate. Nevertheless, the reader's love for these stories persists and persists.
You can see a handful of these titles I've chosen to recognize in the image above, but I'm curious what books stand out for you as sleeper hits of 2017. Classroom teachers? Librarians? Authors and illustrators? Let's raise a noise for those books that stuck with you all year. Board books. picture books. Graphic novels. Middle grade. Young adult. You name it, I'll add it.
Leave a comment below with the name of the book you'd most loved as a sleeper hit in 2017. Provide a sentence or two describing the story or why you think it's a sleeper hit. I'll add the book to this post and include an image of the book cover in a graphic in this post.
The more folks that share, the better this list becomes. Let's make this an amazing love letter to the books that stuck with us throughout the year.
MY SLEEPER HITS OF 2017:
Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio
A crocodile wakes up, gets dressed, and sets out on the subway to work. He's surrounded by other people and animals going about their business, and I think that's where this book lands so perfectly. It handles the absurd with such unwavering acceptance that the book's final pages leave you to wonder whether you knew all along. And if you're asking, "Knew what?" you'll just have to read the book and find out. A wordless treat.
It's an opposite book about points of view because that's really how we qualify all opposite pairs, isn't it. But what's really wild is when you realize you've known this all along, but haven't ever considered it so explicitly. Check out these gorgeous lyrical gymnastics from the story's text: "Who's NEAR and who's FAR couldn't be clearer, but... does NEAR become FAR when FAR flies in NEARER." Striking illustrations to boot.
It all seems so silly, traveling around the seas with all those different types of folk in your belly. Until you really that it's you. Really you. "Remember, you are strong and piece by crooked piece you are made." Broken and beautiful. That's us.
There are books so ridiculous with characters so gosh dern lovable that you know... you just know... that it's only gonna take one read of this book to keep it in circulation the entire year long. In this story's case Steve is a horse. He doesn't want to be ordinary. He finds a beautiful gold horn and some ribbon and, suddenly, he's found a way to be exceptional. At least he things so. His friends? Not so much. This is a great pick for those overly confident kids that the whole class can't help but to love.
Lovely by Jess Hong
There's something really amazing going on in this book. Something so powerful it might be easy to overlook for how deceptively simple it is. This book calls on us to look at one another, to really look at one another, and see the things that makes us each lovely. It makes eyebrows raise. It makes chins drop. It makes kids say, "Oh, I don't know if that's really lovely" until they realize it is. Really lovely.
Rosie had a dog named Crayon. Crayon colored Rosie's world. When Crayon passed, all of the color seemed to fade from Rosie's world. There are times when stories can make us feel like we're all alone. That special kind of all alone where everything outside the book fades away and you feel, in some way, like the story is listening to you while you are listening to the story. Those kinds of books make me feel a little weepy, but in a way that the tears are giving me strength. This book is special like that.
Bunnybear by Andrea J. Loney and Carmen Saldana (Illustrator)
See? Now that's a cover to draw you in! A big brown bear squeezed into a bunny hutch, looking content as could be. Bunnybear looks one way on the outside and feels another way on the inside. And though the other bears don't get it, there is someone else in the forest who does.
Korean siblings Joon and Noona search for the missing grandmother and wander into a mystical realm inhabited by a rabbit, a tiger, some goblins, and a fox. The Konglish throughout adds an extra element for those students able to read it, and the besting of a trickster by means of a game or rock-paper-scissors or just about as universal as it gets for children. Though most of my students were not familiar with the traditional Korean folklore elements that appear throughout this book (neither was I until interviewing the author illustrator), the story manages to entrance and surprise at every turn.
Grandmother Thorn by Katey Howes and Rebecca Hahn (Illustrator)
Years have hardened Grandmother Thorn's heart, yet there is one person for whom she still shows gentle kindness. There are not many books for children featuring elderly protagonists bent on maintaining order and irate to anyone who disturbs their dominion. But there is a quiet power to this book that can assure us all that a change of heart, though never easy, can be transformative.
Wordplay by Adam Lehrhaupt and Jared Chapman (Illustrator)
This book nods to Schoolhouse Rocks cartoons in both its design and it's concept. Parts of speech hang out at the playground, but soon Noun and Verb challenging one-another in a series of one upmanship The block coloring is eye-catching, but the kid appeal is something I can't quite articulate. As an adult, I love the, well... wordplay and the way the character design feels like it's paying homage to those 1970's cartoon character. Plus, it asks us to drop who we're trying to be and just be comfortable with the person you already are.
This graphic novel is hands-down on of the funniest books I've read all year. It's completely ridiculous. There's an evil cyborg porcupine menace piloting a disco-encrusted mech suit. It's the kind of story you immediately wish was already part of a 10-book series.
Charlotte's got a big family and not enough room for scientific experimenting. That is until she comes up with an experiment to make more space (aka getting rid of her brothers and sisters). I marvel at this book for being so readable and rereadable. The story's text flows smoothly and the humor lands every time. That and the design of each of the bunnies makes this book just such a treat to read. There aren't many books that come along in a year that have such quiet strength. Such unassuming draw. Makes me smile a big smile every time a kid asks for "the science book with the bunnies."
OKAY, don't forget to comment below with the name of the book you'd most loved as a sleeper hit in 2017. Provide a sentence or two describing the story or why you think it's a sleeper hit. I'll add the book to this post and include an image of the book cover in a graphic in this post. Here's what we've got so far:
YOUR SLEEPER HITS OF 2017:
The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin Renner SUBMITTED BY Mel Schuit
Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years by Stacy McAnulty and David Litchfield (Illustrator) SUBMITTED BY Camille Andros
Windows by Julia Denos and E. B. Goodale (Illustrator) SUBMITTED BY Camille Andros
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall SUBMITTED BY Marcie Flinchum Atkins
A Different Pond by Bao Phi and Thi Bui (Illustrator) SUBMITTED BY Jan Carr
Bear and Chicken by Jannie Ho SUBMITTED BY Marcie Colleen
I Am Not a Chair! by Ross Burach SUBMITTED BY Marcie Colleen
On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna SUBMITTED BY Rachel Anderson McInnes
Pax and Blue by Lori Richmond SUBMITTED BY Drew Sheneman
Life on Mars by Jon Agee SUBMITTED BY Lori Richmond
Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko and Dan Santat (Illustrator) SUBMITTED BY Angie Moore
The Perfect Siesta by Pato Mena SUBMITTED BY Liz Huessy Porter
Shelter by Celine Claire and Qin Leng (Illustrator) SUBMITTED BY Angie Moore
Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver by Lorri Horn and Agnieszka Grochalska (Illustrator) SUBMITTED BY Bryan Sanders
Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen (and series) by Debbi Michiko Florence and Elizabet Vukovic (Illustrator) SUBMITTED BY Mia Wenjen
A Crack in the Sea by H. M. Bouwman SUBMITTED BY Erin Murphy
If I Weren't with You by Rosie J. Pova and Philip Martineau (Illustrator) SUBMITTED BY Jennifer Mannone Broedel
Joe and Sparky, Party Animals! by Jamie Michalak and Frank Remkiewicz (Illustrator) SUBMITTED BY Anika Denise
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline SUBMITTED BY Erin Murphy
Starring Carmen! by Anika Denise and Lorena Alvarez Gomez SUBMITTED BY T.J. Shay
Someone Like Me by Patricia MacLachlan and Chris Sheban (Illustrator) SUBMITTED BY Minh Lê
Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz and Brian Floca (Illustrator) SUBMITTED BY Susan Hood
Escargot by Dashka Slater and Sydney Hanson (Illustrator) SUBMITTED BY Martin Segal
Bunny's Book Club by Annie Silvestro and Tatjana Mai-Wyss (Illustrator) SUBMITTED BY Tracy Nordquist Babler
Sam & Eva by Debbie Ridpath Ohi SUBMITTED BY Darlene Jacobson
The Fog by Kyo Maclear and Kenard Pak (Illustrator) SUBMITTED BY MaryJo Wagner
The Thing Lou Couldn't Do by Ashley Spires SUBMITTED BY Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic
I Dare You by Reece Wykes SUBMITTED BY Brian McLachlan
Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez SUBMITTED BY Nancy Meyers
Barnaby Never Forgets by Pierre Collet-Derby SUBMITTED BY Cathy Breisacher
Superstar by Mandy Davis SUBMITTED BY Julie Segal Walters
*This post contains affiliate links. Any purchases made through these links will support the costs of maintaining the podcast, webcomic, and other materials associated with this site.