Tracey’s Favorite 2016 Fiction
So many books, so little space in a blog post!
These are my favorite fiction titles from 2016, which makes this a highly personal list. I like to read books in almost every genre, set in almost every historical period, both those in prose and in verse. The one quality that ties all of my choices together is how much fun I had reading them—and I think most of your readers will find something here to enjoy, too.
What titles would you add to this list?
2016 ELEMENTARY FICTION
The Cat Who Came In off the Roof by Annie M.G. Schmidt. 9780553535037. 2016. Gr 3-6.
Mr. Tibble likes cats, but his editor has warned him to start writing about NEWS, not cats. When he rescues a young woman from a tree, and brings her home when he realizes she has nowhere to go. She had been a cat until some strange food made her human, and now her cat friends pass neighborhood news through her to Tibble. There’s a mystery (an unexpected person has evil plans), and a quandary (should the lady change back to a cat) and a warning: Be careful what you say in front of your cats!
Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holmes. 9780553510379. 2016. Gr 4-6.
Ten-year-old Beans Curry, a member of the best marble playing gang in Depression-era Key West, Florida, engages in various schemes to earn money while “New Dealers” from Washington, D.C., arrive to turn rundown Key West into a tourist resort. Holm wrote this book after she read Turtle in Paradise to her son, who said he wanted to know more about Beans. Though a prequel, Full of Beans can stand on its own.
Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley. 9780374302610. 2016. Gr 3-5.
When Gertie’s mother decides to move away, leaving Gertie with her father and Great-Aunt Rae, Gertie comes up with a plan—she’ll be the best fifth grader in the universe. But her plan doesn’t come without road blocks—one being Mary Sue Spivey, who wants to be the best fifth grader, too. But that won’t happen if Gertie has anything to do with it.
The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LaReau. 9780763676360. 2016. Gr 2-5.
Big Lou Ratso tells his sons, Louis and Ralph, that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who are tough—and “softies.” And, of course, they don’t want to be softies! They decide to pull mean pranks on their classmates, but are horrified when their efforts backfire and look like good deeds instead! What will Big Lou think? And why do these three think they need to be so tough? Readers will find a lot to laugh at, but also a lot to ponder in this story about dealing with grief.
Moo by Sharon Creech. 9780062415257. 2016. Gr 4-6.
When Reena’s family moves from a big city to a small town in Maine, she is NOT prepared to deal with an ornery cow when her dad volunteers her to help an equally ornery elderly woman with chores, including trying to put a halter on Zora, the cow. This is going to be a long summer! But attitudes change all around—even Zora’s? Creech’s use of both prose and verse, her compelling characters, and the combination of everyday problems in a fairly unfamiliar setting makes this a great choice for reading aloud in class.
Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson. 9780062338174. 2016. Gr 4-6.
Ms. Bixby is one of the Good teachers, and friends Topher, Brand, and Steve all have special reasons for knowing this. When she can’t finish the school year, they plan a special party for her last day. Before the day arrives, however, a substitute teacher shows up and explains that Ms. Bixby won’t be back to school—at all. Though plans have changed, the determined boys head out on a quest to give her one special day in this funny, touching, and heart-breaking story.
Nine, Ten : A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin. 9781442485068. 2016. Gr 4-6.
A few days before September 11, 2001, four diverse middle schoolers in different parts of the country are going about their lives. Then, on that fateful day, their lives are affected by the terrorist attacks in ways they never expected.
Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce. 9781442473553. 2016. Gr 3-6.
Billy’s favorite toy is Ollie, handmade by Billy’s mother, so when Ollie disappears, Billy sets off to find him. But Ollie has been kidnapped by the evil Zozo, who with his evil Creeps steals favorite toys and locks them up until they forget their children. The adventure is on as Billy tries to find Ollie before he loses his memories?
The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner. 9781619633766. 2016. Gr 4-6.
Charlie sometimes feels that she is less important than others in her family. She catches a fish that promises to grant her seven wishes if she’ll release it back into the water, but every wish she makes only makes matters worse. And when it’s revealed that her older sister is battling a heroin addiction, Charlie worries that using a wish to solve the problem could backfire.
Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban. 9780544598171. 2016. Gr 1-4.
Third-grader Max pursues neighborhood adventures with his dad as they both adjust to recent changes in their family…and Max learns that there is more than one way to think about home.
2016 MIDDLE SCHOOL FICTION
The Best Man by Richard Peck. 9780803738393. 2016. Gr 4-7.
All through elementary school, Archer has looked to his grandpa, dad, and Uncle Paul as role models, but now a fourth has joined their ranks—his teacher, Mr. McLeod. However, now middle school has started with its many changes, and the changes are not all for the better. Surprised to be named best man in two of his role models’ weddings, he will have to figure out how to become the best Archer he can be.
Catching a Storyfish by Janice N. Harrington. 9781629794297. 2016. Gr 4-7.
Keet has always been knows as talkative—until she and her family move from Alabama to Illinois, where she is made fun of for her southern accent. But when Keet’s grandfather tells her about her “storyfish,” the voice that lives inside her, Keet becomes determined to make a place for herself in this novel in verse.
Ghost by Jason Reynolds. 9781481450157. 2016. Gr 4-8.
When basketball player Castle Cranshaw—nicknamed Ghost—challenges an elite sprinter to a race and wins, he finds himself on the radar of an Olympic medalist track coach who wants to nurture his raw talent. But Ghost’s anger and determination to outrun his past could stand in the way of him making good use of his natural ability.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. 9781616205676. 2016. Gr 4-7.
Each year, the people of the Protectorate think they must sacrifice an infant to Xan, the witch who lives in the forest. Xan rescues these babies and finds them good homes. One year, she accidentally gives one baby moonlight, imbuing her with magic, and decides to raise baby Luna by herself. Just before Luna’s thirteenth birthday, her magic starts to emerge. Not realizing this, Xan goes to gather the next baby as a young man arrives to kill her and end the sacrifices.
Pax by Sara Pennypacker. 9780062377012. 2016. Gr 4-7.
Peter rescued Pax when it was a baby. Now he is forced to abandoned the fox after his father goes to fight in the war and Peter is sent to live with his grandfather. Heartbroken, Peter runs away, setting out at night to travel the 300 miles back to his home, hoping to find Pax. Meanwhile, Pax has set out on his own journey to find the boy he loves amidst the dangers that rage around him and the wildness of nature he’s never known.
Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. 9780763681173. 2016. Gr 5-8.
After her father runs off with a dental hygienist, Raymie decides it is up to her to repair her family. She plans to win the baton-twirling competition for the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest so her father will see her picture in the paper and come home. However, Raymie has two competitors, one who also wants to win the pageant and one who wants to sabotage it.
To Stay Alive : Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party by Skila Brown. 9780763678111. 2016. Gr 6-8.
In this beautiful novel in verse, Mary Ann Graves tells the shocking story of the Donner expedition and tragedy and how she was able to survive.
Unbound : A Novel in Verse by Ann E. Burg. 9780545934275. 2016. Gr 4-8.
After Grace gets called from the slave cabins to work in the Big House, she sees how truly heartless and hateful Master and Missus are, and for the first time, she can’t hold in her pain and anger about the way she lives. Fleeing for their own safety, Grace’s family find themselves deep in the wilderness in a hidden community called the Great Dismal Swamp, unsure if they’ll ever reach freedom.
When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin. 9780803738164. 2016. Gr 5-8.
Life has been difficult for Ben and he doesn’t make friends easily, so he spends most of his time with his science fiction books. After rescuing a scruffy mutt, the dog (now named Flip) leads Ben to befriend Halley, a girl who dresses in crazy colors. Ben nicknames her “Rainbow Girl,” and together they decide to write a novel. In doing so, Ben’s life unravels. If he wants to keep his new friend, he will have to figure out what friendship really means.
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk. 9781101994825. 2016. Gr 5-7.
With World War II raging overseas, Toby, a shell-shocked WWI veteran, patrols the hills outside of Wolf Hollow, Pennsylvania, and no one knows why. Everyone is scared of him, except for twelve-year-old Annabelle. When Betty, the new girl, tries to take Annabelle’s money, Toby comes to her rescue and makes the bully leave. To retaliate, Betty accuses Toby of a crime he didn’t commit, so Annabelle vows to clear Toby’s name.
2016 HIGH SCHOOL FICTION
Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel. 9781481464161. 2016. Gr 9-12.
In the late nineteenth century, a budding romance develops between Rachel and Samuel. The two teenagers are from rival families of fossil hunters that are heading out to the badlands in search of a rare dinosaur skeleton.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston. 9781101994580. 2016. Gr 9-12.
Hermione plans to make her senior year of high school—and final season as the captain of her small town’s popular cheerleading team—legendary. But when she is drugged and raped at cheerleading camp, her life changes forever. Now the school’s star cheerleader is also the pregnant girl, but Hermione refuses to let the assault or the resulting pregnancy define her.
Four-Four-Two by Dean Hughes. 9781481462525. 2016. Gr 9-12.
Forced into an internment camp at the start of World War II, eighteen-year-old Yuki enlists in the Army to fight for the Allies as a member of the “Four-Four-Two,” a segregated Japanese American regiment.
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse. 9780316260602. 2016. Gr 9-12.
Hanneke lives in Amsterdam in 1943 in the midst of World War II. She juggles the dangers of secretly securing and selling goods on the black market with hiding her work from her parents. She is also grieving the death of her boyfriend at the hands of the Nazis. But life becomes even more harrowing when a woman convinces Hanneke to find a missing Jew that she had been hiding in her home.
Heartless by Marissa Meyer. 9781250044655. 2016. Gr 8-12.
Catherine may be the favorite of the King, but her real dream is to become a baker with her own shop. At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets Jest, and her feelings for him are undeniable. Determined to control her own fate, Cath and Jest enter into a secret courtship that could cost them both their lives.
The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry. 9780451469922. 2016. Gr 7-12.
Dolssa, a young gentlewoman, has a gift—and now an obsessed friar has labeled her a heretic. On the run to escape being executed, Dolssa is taken in by wily peasant girl Botille, who with her sisters runs a tavern in a French seaside town. Dolssa’s extraordinary healing power comes in useful, but the Friar Lucien is close to tracking her down.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. 9780399160301. 2016. Gr 7-12.
As World War II draws to a close, four teens converge aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a cruise ship that will give them passage out of Prussia before the Russians overtake the retreating German troops. The cruise ship, built to hold 1,500 passengers, is laden with over 10,000 desperate people. Will any survive when a Russian torpedo slams into the ship? Based on the real-life tragedy of the greatest—and least known—maritime disaster in history.
Scythe (Book 1) by Neal Shusterman. 9781442472426. 2016. Gr 10-12.
In the future, science has eliminated the threat of death from disease. In an effort to control population growth, a society has been created to “glean” a certain number of people each year—and only those people gleaned by a Scythe stay dead. Teens Citra and Rowan have been apprenticed to a master in the society, but only one will become a Scythe. Shusterman’s characters ponder disturbing questions about the nature of life without fear of death and, as in his Unwind series, there is no shortage of danger and excitement.
Spindle by E.K. Johnston. 9781484722282. 2016. Gr 9-12.
I am always amazed at how different authors can start with the characters and plot of a simple, familiar fairy tale and go in so many directions with it. This retelling of “Sleeping Beauty” is told from the point of view of the character modelled after the prince, but I enjoyed its definite feminist slant and its diverse characters. E.K. Johnston is one of my favorite authors, and she has done a remarkable job with this clever tale.
A Taste for Monsters by Matthew J. Kirby. 9780545817844. 2016. Gr 7-12.
Scarred by her work in a matchstick factory, Evelyn finds a new position in London Hospital as maid to Joseph Merrick, also known as Elephant Man for his disfigurement. It is 1888, and when news of the murders of several girls is announced, Evelyn and Joseph find themselves haunted by Jack the Ripper’s victims.
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