Best Kids' Books of 2014

The year's top picks, from picture books to middle grade fiction to young adult novels. By Regan McMahon
Best Kids' Books of 2014

Strong stories and original ideas distinguish our picks for best books of the year. From a picture book with no pictures to a memoir told in poetry to a fantasy with people-eating trees, these selections for little kids, tweens, and teens are captivating reads. 

The Book with No Pictures, age 3+. This giggle-provoking book uses big, bold, and colorful type to instruct the reader to say all sorts of silly things, proving that a book with only words can be as fun and entertaining as one with images. A fantastic choice as a read-aloud.​

Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar, age 4+. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards' fond, heartfelt memoir of his granddad, Gus, portrays their close relationship, their fun adventures in London and the countryside, and the key moment when Gus gave him his first guitar and taught him how to play. An engaging, moving story. 
 

Little Elliot, Big City, age 4+. A doughy little polka-dotted elephant lives in an unnamed "big city" (recognizable as New York, circa 1940) and feels isolated until he meets a mouse who helps him reach the counter to buy a cupcake -- and feel less alone. Sweet story, striking retro art. 

 

This Is a Moose, age 4+. Zany, hilarious story of a movie shoot that turns to mayhem when the frustrated director, a duck, insists that his subject, a moose, act like a moose. But he really wants to be an astronaut. A clear message to follow your dreams.​

 

Nuts to You, age 8+. Four intrepid young squirrels try to save their friends, family, and homes from being destroyed by humans with chain saws who are cutting back trees nearby. The fast-moving plot, zippy wordplay, and cute, clever illustrations ​will hook young kids as well as parents who read it aloud.

 

Brown Girl Dreaming, age 10+. Jacqueline Woodson's memoir in verse depicts growing up in different places during the turbulent 1960s, from the Jim Crow South to hard-edged New York City. Woodson captures childhood in all its color and shades of gray, and parents and kids alike will fall in love with her language.​
 

Dreamwood, age 10+. This fantasy has everything going for it: a fearless heroine, a scary forest, angry ghosts, and plenty of twists and turns to keep the pages turning. Lucy, who's searching for her father, is a fabulous strong girl character: determined, brave, smart, confident, and independent. 

 

Egg & Spoon, age 10+. This beautifully written, wildly imaginative fantasy is like a sweeping Russian epic with elements of a Grimm-style fairy tale: kids in peril, scary witches, and menacing wild animals. Yet there are plenty of laughs to go with the thrills.  

 

Noggin, age 13+. Realistic teen fiction meets science fiction in Noggin. It's about a dying teen boy's head that's cryogenically frozen and reanimated five years later when it's attached to another young man's decapitated body. This unique coming-of-age tale should appeal to both boy and girl readers.

 

Belzhar, age 14+. A coming-of-age novel about teens coping with trauma, Belzhar shows how you can work through tragedy with friends' support and by keeping a journal. Though it has fantasy elements, it's a better choice for realistic fiction lovers.​

 

I'll Give You the Sun, age 14+. This brilliant, emotional, complex novel is told in two voices: that of artistic Noah at age 13 and of his daredevil twin sister, Jude, at 16. The two narratives collide in artful, touching, and revelatory ways in this tale of betrayal, remorse, and forgiveness. 

 

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About Regan McMahon

Regan has been reviewing children's books for more than a decade. A journalist and former book editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, she cites as one of her toughest assignments having to read and review the 784-page... Read more

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