Favorites From Best Books of 2023

Each year, we enjoy looking through the lists of best books of the year, looking to see which opinions we agree with (or not), and checking to see which gems we might have missed ordering earlier in the year. We rejoice when we discover many of the books already in our collection, although we always do end up finding a title or two to order. Read on to see which books on the “Best of 2023” lists were our favorites this year.

Raquel’s Favorite 2023 Best Picture Book:

Remember by Joy Harjo & Michaela Goade
Library Catalog

“As the modern world propels forward at a breakneck pace, the complexities of the universe can be easily forgotten. Every living creature is beholden to the cycles of nature—day and night, birth and death, growth and decay. Harjo, a member of the Mvskoke Nation and the U.S. Poet Laureate, urges young readers to remember that they are of the earth, both indebted to and intertwined with the natural world. In an economy of perfectly chosen words, Harjo conveys the ancient Indigenous reverence for nature and the passage of time. Caldecott winner and Tlingit tribe member Goade interprets the text in otherworldly watercolor illustrations that are nothing short of a masterclass in visual storytelling. Each scene incorporates icons of Northwest Coast art rendered with beautifully graduated color. Goade and Harjo’s creative synergy produces an important cultural artifact and testimonial to their Native heritage.” – School Library Journal

Raquel’s Favorite 2023 Best Easy Reader:

Elena Rides by Juana Medina
Elena Monta en Bici/Elena Rides by Juana Medina
Library Catalog

“She’s eager, she’s resilient, she has a two-wheeler and a red feathered friend—but Elena, the enthusiastic purple elephant star of this early reader, still has a ways to go to polish her cycling skills. As the view zooms in, capturing Elena’s look of expectant pleasure at donning a green cycling helmet, Medina (’Twas the Night Before Pride) kicks off the elephant’s on-the-move story with maximum verve: ’Elena wants to ride./ Elena buckles her helmet.’ Rhythmic couplets and plenty of action verbs reveal what happens next as Elena takes off, tongue sticking out—’she pushes,/ she pedals!// She wobbles,/ and bobbles…’—and meets the first of several disasters: ‘KA-BANG!’ She gets up and tries again, but a second fall hits harder: ‘Elena cries!/ She bawls!’ (Her bird friend puts small wings around Elena’s leg.) The next ride gets Elena a little farther, her trunk sticking triumphantly out as she ‘goes, goes, goes,’ but there’s more action and drama to come before, in a moment of victory, ‘Elena rides!’ Medina captures substantial emotional highs and lows in this inspiring tale of persistence, one that’s just right for those taking on another learning curve: reading. A dual English/Spanish edition publishes simultaneously.” – Publishers Weekly

Raquel’s Favorite 2023 Middle Grade Fiction:

Ellie Engle Saves Herself by Leah Johnson
Library Catalog

“A seventh grader doing her best to navigate middle school, a secret crush, and new family dynamics wakes up with a life-altering superpower. Elliot “Ellie” Engle, a 12-year-old Black girl, has always been fine fading into the background with her comic books. Best friend Abby Ortega, who is cued as Latine, always seems to have the spotlight. Following an earthquake during a sleepover at Abby’s house, Ellie wakes up feeling weird. She returns home to find her beloved pet, Burt the Betta Fish, has died. While giving his eulogy, Ellie touches Burt, and, to her disbelief, he bounces back to life. Superhero-loving Ellie’s first thought is to keep her new abilities a secret or risk being shipped off to some institution like the X-Men’s Xavier Institute. But she tells Abby—incidentally her crush and therefore the object of her other big secret. Together, they attempt to test her powers, until an unfortunate incident on frog dissection day in science class throws Ellie’s life into a tailspin. Ellie must come to terms with hard truths, but along the way she learns she doesn’t have to live her life in the shadow of others and that true friends will support you through everything. This fast-paced, humorous novel will have readers racing to the end as they fall in love with Ellie’s quirky and authentic personality. Johnson deftly explores identity and responsibility to ourselves and others in this joyful coming-of-age story. Marvelous.” – Kirkus Reviews

YA Fiction Favorites:

A Door in the Dark by Scott Reintgen
Library Catalog

“This dark fantasy duology opener has a magic school, a death, and five students who find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Ren Monroe is a promising student wizard at Balmerick, a private school in the city of Kathor. Along with her best friend, Timmons, Ren is one of the few welfare students attending on a scholarship, and despite being one of the most accomplished people at the school, finding a placement in one of the top houses is proving difficult and is a hurdle in the way of the secret mission Ren has set out to accomplish. When a portal spell goes awry and Ren, Timmons, and four other students from different walks of life are thrown together into the Dires, an uncharted land where the last dragons lived, one of them ends up dead and the rest need to learn to work together to make their way back home before they succumb to the harsh environment or the terrifying revenant following them.” –Kirkus Reviews

Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli
Library Catalog

“Imogen Scott is many things—animal lover, vision board expert, future Blackwell College student, and an amazing ally to the queer community. But Imogen herself is totally, completely straight—obviously. When Imogen spends a weekend at Blackwell with her best friend, Lili, who recently came out as pansexual, and all of Lili's amazing new friends (who also happen to be queer), things start to become a little less obvious. As Imogen participates in an array of typical college student activities, like eating the best dining hall grilled cheese, thrifting outfits for theme parties, and hiding weird objects in someone's dorm room, she quickly hits it off with Lili's friend Tess—but Imogen is straight, so they're obviously just friends. Imogen continues talking to Tessa after going home, though, and it starts to feel like more than friendship. Imogen has always liked boys and always identified as straight. So, is it even possible that Imogen isn't so straight after all?” –Kirkus Reviews

Imposter Syndrome and Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim by Patricia Park
Library Catalog

“Senior year of high school is bad enough, but for Alejandra Kim, there is extra drama, and not just dealing with her misunderstanding mother. She is also dealing with microaggressions for her traditional Spanish first-name and very Korean face and last name, grieving her father's death, and feeling like she doesn't fit in with her clueless white ‘woke' classmates. On Alejandra's first day of school, a teacher comments about how she will have no problem getting into college. While she lets it slide, her friend, white Laurel, takes action and thrusts Alejandra into a spotlight she never wanted in a school where she feels like she doesn't belong. Alejandra's dream is to escape the city and head to college, but along the way, she will discover who she is and where she fits.” –School Library Journal

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