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Sleeper Hits of 2018

December 17, 2018

It's the return of the Sleeper Hits list!

If there's anything consistent about the kidlit community it's that you can bet that social media feeds will be congested with Best of The Year lists from every corner of publishing. These lists break down the best books of the year, the award contenders, the bookseller favorites. And I love these lists. 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 2018. 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. (Here's the "Sleeper Hits of 2017" list we came up with together last year for reference.)

 

DIRECTIONS:

Leave a comment below with the name of the book you'd most loved as a sleeper hit in 2018. 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 2018:

 

AN ODE TO A POEM AND TO THE JOY THAT IS THERE, EVEN AMID THE SADNESS 

 

Ode to an Onion: Pablo Neruda and his Muse by Alexandria Giardino and Felicita Sala (CAMERON)

 

AMAZON  |  INDIEBOUND

 

A poetic, beautifully illustrated picture book inspired by Ode to the Onion by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904–1973). Pablo has a lunch date with his friend Matilde, who shows the moody poet her garden. Where Pablo sees conflict and sadness, Matilde sees love and hope. The story is less a biography of Neruda and his muse, Matilde Urrutia (1912–1985), and more a simple ode to a vegetable that is humble and luminous, dark and light, gloomy and glad, full of grief and full of joy—just like life. 

 

 

AN AFFIRMATION OF ALL THAT A LIFE HOLDS IN THE BALANCE AND ALL THE REASONS THAT IS WORTH CELEBRATING

 

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina and 13 artists (PENNY CANDY BOOKS)

 

AMAZON  |  INDIEBOUND

 

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina offers a fresh perspective of young men of color by depicting thirteen views of everyday life: young boys dressed in their Sunday best, running to catch a bus, and growing up to be teachers, and much more. Each of Tony Medina's tanka is matched with a different artist--including recent Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Award recipients.

 

 

THE SWEETEST, TRUEST, PUREST DEPICTION OF CHILDHOOD INFATUATION

 

Jerome by Heart by Thomas Scotto and Olivier Tallec, Claudia Bedrick (Translator) (ENCHANTED LION BOOKS)

 

AMAZON  |  INDIEBOUND 

 

"Raphael loves Jerome. I say it. It's easy."

 

This story follows a little boy named Raphael, whose daily rhythm is steeped in his immense affection for his friend Jerome. The two boys share jokes and snacks and plan future adventures to the Himalayas. Even when Raphael's constant talk of Jerome is driving his parents crazy, he remains steadfast: "Raphael loves Jerome. I can say it. It's easy." And the truth is, when he's with Jerome, Raphael feels happy, liked, and understood-- even special. Thomas Scotto's simple, strong, and insightful prose and Olivier Tallec's delightful, expressive illustrations give much emotion and immediacy to the story.

 

 

A RECOGNITION OF A CHILD'S NEED FOR PROTECTION AND SAFETY

 

My Quiet Ship by Hallee Adelman and Sonia Sanchez (ALBERT WHITMAN & COMPANY)

 

AMAZON  |  INDIEBOUND  

 

Whenever the yelling in his house starts, Quinn runs to a special hiding place. There he becomes captain of the Quiet Ship, where he can get far, far away from the yelling that hurts his ears and makes him feel scared. But one day the Quiet Ship is broken and Quinn needs a new plan, one that requires him to be brave. A thoughtful treatment of a difficult topic, this story is for any child who faces fighting in the home.

 

 

IN AID OF SEEING THAT YOU MEAN MORE TO OTHERS (AND IN MORE WAYS THAN YOU REALIZE)

 

A Page in the Wind by José Sanabria (NORTHSOUTH BOOKS)

 

AMAZON  |  INDIEBOUND  

 

A whimsical and moving story about discovering your purpose by José Sanabria. The last little newspaper on a newsstand wonders what its life will be like until a gust of wind sends its individual pages flying. Each page travels to a different place and experiences a vastly different life—from being used to clean a mirror and line the cage of a pet to being formed into a boat by a child and sheltering a homeless person from the cold—until, at last, the final page finds it’s true calling. Sanabria’s expressive art and thoughtful story reflect many ways our lives can be touched.

 

 

FOR REMEMBERING, ESPECIALLY IN TIMES WHEN REMEMBERING IS THE HARDEST

 

The Remember Balloons by Jessie Oliveros and Dana Wulfekotte (SIMON & SCHUSTER BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS)

 

AMAZON  |  INDIEBOUND  

 

What’s Happening to Grandpa meets Up in this tender, sensitive picture book that gently explains the memory loss associated with aging and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

 

James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.

 

But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!

 

Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.

 

 

FOR THOSE WHO FIND THEMSELVES IN COMPANY AND FOR THOSE WHO LOOK AFTER THE ONES WHO NEED IT

 

Iver and Ellsworth by Casey W. Robinson and Melissa Larson (RIPPLE GROVE PRESS)

 

AMAZON  |  INDIEBOUND

 

From a factory rooftop, Iver and his good friend Ellsworth (a rooftop bear) are content to watch the busy world below. "Everyone's going somewhere," Iver says. "We can see the whole world from up here. That's enough somewhere for me." But after Iver retires, the friends must venture out in search of a new somewhere. Of course, the very best views are those you share with an old pal.

 

 

FOR THOSE WHO SEE THROUGH THE NOISE AND TROUBLE

 

Being You by Alexs Pate and Soud (CAPSTONE EDITIONS)

 

AMAZON  |  INDIEBOUND

 

Award-winning author and professor Alexs Pate delivers a message of hope and self-discovery in a time of uncertainty in our world. BEING YOU is a beautiful picture book celebrating every readers' individuality and talents. With an authentic voice, BEING YOU's poetic message of love and optimism for the future speaks directly to today's children. BEING YOU helps us to see the wonder and light within each of us.

 

 

IN THE MOMENTS WHEN YOU JUST WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE, BUT DON'T WANT ANYONE TO LEAVE

 

I Hate Everyone by Naomi Danis and Cinta Arribas (POW!)

 

AMAZON  |  INDIEBOUND

 

"I hate everyone." In your worst mood, it's a phrase you might want to shout out loud, even if, deep down, you don't really mean it. Set at a birthday party, this disgruntled, first-person story portrays the confusing feelings that sometimes make it impossible to be nice, even--or especially--when everyone else is in a partying mode. A gorgeous, poetic contemplation, sure to elicit a reaction from readers. A worthy successor to Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

 

 

A LOOK INTO A LIFE BENT TOWARD ILLUMINATING THE LIVES AT OUR FEET

 

Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez and Felicita Sala (KNOPF BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS)

 

AMAZON  |  INDIEBOUND

 

Back in the days of long skirts and afternoon teas, young Joan Procter entertained the most unusual party guests: slithery and scaly ones, who turned over teacups and crawled past the crumpets.... While other girls played with dolls, Joan preferred the company of reptiles. She carried her favorite lizard with her everywhere--she even brought a crocodile to school.

 

When Joan grew older, she became the Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum. She went on to design the Reptile House at the London Zoo, including a home for the rumored-to-be-vicious komodo dragons. There, just like when she was a little girl, Joan hosted children's tea parties--with her komodo dragon as the guest of honor.

 

With a lively text and vibrant illustrations, scientist and writer Patricia Valdez and illustrator Felicita Sala bring to life Joan Procter's inspiring story of passion and determination.

 

 

WHEN WORDS WON'T COME, BUT FRIENDS WOULD NEVER LEAVE

 

Tim's Goodbye by Steven Salerno (FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX)

 

AMAZON  |  INDIEBOUND

 

Margot is sad because her beloved pet, Tim, has died.

 

She and her friends band together to give him a proper sendoff. Melinda brings her French horn. Vincent brings balloons. Otto wears his best hat. When all gather together, they celebrate Tim's beautiful, simple life as they send him on a surprising farewell journey to a special place above the mountains and beyond the clouds.

 

And Margot has a feeling that Tim is happy once again.

 

 

AN AFFECTIONATE EXPRESSION, DENYING ANY IMPULSE TO ADMIT TO ANYTHING BEYOND AN ACT OF KINDNESS

 

This Is Not a Valentine by Carter Higgins and Lucy Ruth Cummins (CHRONICLE BOOKS)

 

AMAZON  |  INDIEBOUND

 

This book is not a valentine. It doesn't have lacey edges or sugary hearts. But it is full of lucky rocks, secret hiding spots, and gumball machine treasures. This is a book about waiting in line and wishing for cinnamon buns. About recognizing that if you care so much about someone not thinking you care, maybe you really do. But wait--isn't that exactly what love is about? Maybe this book is sort of a valentine after all. A testament to handmade, wacky, bashful, honest love--sure to win over the hearts of all readers--this offering from debut picture book author Carter Higgins and children's book veteran Lucy Ruth Cummins is the perfect gift to celebrate every relationship, from parent to child, sibling to sibling, partner to partner, crush to crush.

 

 

FOR THE WONDERS OF THE SEA AND FOR BEING A PART OF IT ALL

 

Off & Away by Cale Atkinson (DISNEY-HYPERION)

 

AMAZON  |  INDIEBOUND

 

How would you get mail if you lived in the middle of the sea? It's Jo's dad's job to deliver it, taking bottles wherever they need to go. He always comes home with exciting stories to tell-but Jo is far too afraid to go out on the ocean herself. Until Dad gets a bad sea cold, that is. With no one but Jo to deliver the bottles, she must find her courage and set sail alone. As she embarks on her mission, her fears just might be replaced with new friendships . . . and grand stories of her own.

 

With beautiful, atmospheric art and endearing new characters by author-illustrator Cale Atkinson, this picture book is a treasure.

 

 

OKAY, don't forget to  comment below with the name of the book you'd most loved as a sleeper hit in 2018. 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 2018:

 

(to be added)

*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. 

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