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 provides professional learning and networks around best practices in school libraries. He also serves as the librarian of record for 17 districts in 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 writes for School Library Journal. He has judged the Newbery Medal, the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards.
Hunt shared this annotated list of his picks for top kids books for 2019.
A BIG MOONCAKE FOR LITTLE STAR by Grace Lin
Forbidden to eat the mooncake she helps make, a young girl sneaks out and nibbles a little bit more each night — a visual metaphor for the phases of the moon. This new story has a classic feel, not to mention vibrant, luminescent artwork.
DRAWN TOGETHER by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat
A young boy and his grandfather both speak different languages, but find they share a common bond when it comes to drawing. With vivid color and exuberant compositions, this nearly wordless book celebrates art, imagination, and family.
DREAMERS by Yuyi Morales
A mother and her young child immigrate from Mexico to the United States where they find a magical place that allows you to borrow books for free. This heartwarming story of immigration and assimilation has striking mixed-media illustrations.
SLEEPY, THE GOODNIGHT BUDDY by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Scott Campbell
Roderick hates going to bed and has an endless supply of tricks to thwart his parents, but a new stuffed animal turns the tables on him. The author of The Day the Crayons Quit delivers the funniest bedtime book of the year.
FRONT DESK by Kelly Yang
By day, Mia is a 6th-grader. By night, she works the front desk at the motel her parents manage for their mean landlord. Life as a Chinese-American immigrant isn’t easy, but it’s hard not to root for one of the most endearing characters of the year.
LOUISIANA’S WAY HOME by Kate DiCamillo
A memorable character from Raymie Nightingale gets her own story here as she is forced to leave her beloved home and friends. In a wry, humorous voice, Louisiana details all the things that befall her next and all the ways that she copes with them.
THE SEASON OF STYX MALONE by Kekla Magoon
Two young brothers are captivated by an older teenage foster boy who moves in next door. Styx Malone is the epitome of cool and together they have a lot of fun over the summer. Funny, poignant, and uplifting.
SWEEP by Jonathan Auxier
Nan Sparrow climbs chimneys in Victorian London in order to clean them. When she gets stuck in a dire situation, she is miraculously rescued by her own personal golem made of soot and ash. Best middle-grade fantasy of the year.
BOOTS ON THE GROUND by Elizabeth Partridge
This history of the Vietnam War adroitly balances a political overview with eight personal vignettes. Additionally, Partridge has assembled an impressive array of more than 100 haunting, black-and-white photographs.
HEY KIDDO by Jarrett Krosoczka
Mom is a drug addict. Dad is AWOL. So Jarrett is raised by his grandparents. While it’s not the typical upbringing, Jarrett navigates his youth with humor and aplomb. A wonderful marriage of comics and memoir that will warm your heart.
POET X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Xiomara, a teenage Latina in New York City, comes of age and finds her voice in slam poetry. The audiobook is read by the author, who is also a slam poet, and is not to be missed.
THUNDERHEAD by Neal Shusterman
Corruption and greed have run amok in the future and two teenagers use their wits to fight villains. Read Scythe first, but the second volume in this action-packed, science fiction trilogy is easily the best thing the genre has offered up in years.