San Diego County Office of Education Library Media Services Coordinator Jonathan Hunt has worked both in the classroom and in school libraries for more than two decades. In his role with SDCOE, he helps smaller districts throughout the county that don’t have librarians, consults with school officials, and helps select books for schools across the county.
When he’s not working, he’s reading. Hunt estimates that he reads about 200 children's books each year. He reviews them for Horn Book Magazine and School Library Journal. He also presents professional development seminars for the Bureau of Education and Research, teaches online classes at San Jose State University, and is a judge for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes.
Hunt shared this annotated list of his picks for top kids books of 2017.
AFTER THE FALL by Dan Santat
What happened to Humpy Dumpty after his great fall? With a poignant text and endearing illustrations, Santat provides a transcendent, uplifting story about trauma—and how we overcome it.
GRAND CANYON by Jason Chin
Chin’s visual narrative of a father and daughter traversing the Grand Canyon is complemented by rich details about the geology and biology of the famous National Park. A perfect book for budding naturalists!
HER RIGHT FOOT by Dave Eggers
In this long-form picture book, Eggers drolly shares the history of the Statue of Liberty, culminating with a focus on her right foot, raised as if in mid-stride, rushing forward to greet new immigrants.
WOLF IN THE SNOW by Matthew Cordell
A young girl saves a lost wolf pup during a blizzard and the wolf pack returns the favor. With its depiction of sacrifice and kinship amid a heightened sense of danger, Cordell’s wordless book elicits a strong emotional response.
BEYOND THE BRIGHT SEA by Lauren Wolk
Who can resist a good orphan story, especially one rife with mystery, suspense, and splendid prose? Many suspected Wolk’s first book, Wolf Hollow, might win the Newbery Medal (it won an Honor); her sophomore effort is just as good.
A FACE LIKE GLASS by Frances Hardinge
In this fantasy novel, a young girl with an expressive face is a fish out of water in her underground society. Hardinge delivers another standout novel with a twisty plot, intriguing characters, fantastic setting, and fertile imagination.
I’M JUST NO GOOD AT RHYMING by Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith
Step aside Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky, there’s a new children’s poet taking the world by storm! Harris’s debut collection displays a clever, mischievous sense of humor—just perfect for Smith’s spot illustrations.
REAL FRIENDS by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Mining her seemingly ordinary childhood, Hale has crafted a memoir about the difficulty of forming and unforming childhood friendships. Pham’s illustrations add both humor and drama to this sparkling gem of a graphic novel.
THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas
Starr lives in an urban neighborhood, but attends a posh private school. These worlds collide when the police shoot her childhood friend—and she’s the lone witness. Thomas’s debut novel lives up to the hype.
LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds
Bent on revenge for his brother’s shooting death, a teenage boy encounters various friends and family—all of whom died from gun violence—on a brief elevator ride. Reynold’s spare verse novel is eminently discussable.
STRANGE THE DREAMER by Laini Taylor
In the first book of a duology, Lazlo Strange discovers the mysterious, forgotten city of Weep—and then things get really interesting. As always, Taylor’s novel combines fantasy, romance, and horror in extremely satisfying ways.
VINCENT AND THEO by Deborah Heiligman
Vincent Van Gogh and his brother, Theo, shared not only a familial bond (which was sorely tested over their lifetimes), but also an unwavering passion for art. Drawing on their letters, Heiligman paints an intimate portrait.