Kid Stuff Books

L.E. Phillips Librarians Share Their Fav Youth Books of 2023

Here are the Youth Services staff’s 36 fave titles from the past year!

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BOOK SMART. 36 titles recommended by local library staff for ages 0-18, spanning graphic novels, nonfiction, picture books, and more. (Photo via LE Phillips Library website)
BOOK SMART. 36 titles recommended by local library staff for ages 0-18, spanning graphic novels, nonfiction, picture books, and more. (Photo via L.E. Phillips Library website)

Take it from the local professionals, these are some of the best titles for youths ages 0-18! The Youth Services staff at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library agrees that this roundup of titles were their favorites this past year. Add these titles to your TBR list if you haven’t already read ‘em!

1. The Nose, Toes, and Tummy Book by Sally Nicholls

“This is your nose. What happens when we press it? BEEP! From fingers that tickle to bellies that need to be gobbled up, toddlers will love playing and laughing, as they learn the names of their body parts.”

2. Dragon’s First Taco by Adam Rubin

“This is your nose. What happens when we press it? BEEP! From fingers that tickle to bellies that need to be gobbled up, toddlers will love playing and laughing, as they learn the names of their body parts.”

3. Bruno Builder Bakes Bread by Nelleke Verhoeff

“Mix and match tops and bottoms of characters in this interactive split-page board book to learn about different jobs - and create fantastical ones! This giggle-inducing addition to the Mix-and-Match Series will introduce young readers to a variety of jobs while building vocabulary. The characters in the book defy stereotypes, opening up a world of possibilities for all children.”


4. The Knight of Little Import by Hannah Batsel

“Young knight Charlie cannot find a single beast to slay, until she discovers there are monsters all around, and only she knows what to do to help her town of Little Import.”


5. Woo Hoo! You’re Doing Great! By Sandra Boynton

“Whether you are learning to skate, baking a cake, or even making a mistake, this hilarious and heartfelt rhyming book reminds us that trying our best is reason to celebrate. From children trying to master new skills to adults who had a hard week at work, we all get overwhelmed sometimes and need reassurance. And who better to offer it than a chicken exclaiming: "WOO HOO! YOU’RE DOING GREAT!”"

6. Evergreen by Matthew Cordell

“To deliver her mother's delicious soup to her sick Granny Oak, Evergreen the squirrel must face her fears and make the journey, during which she meets other forest dwellers, including some who want to get their hands on her soup!”


7. Watch Out for the Lion! By Brooke Hartman

“Warning readers who dare to open the book that there is a lion hiding inside, this surprising story helps them discover what is really lurking in the pages of this interactive adventure.”


8. The Voice in the Hollow by Will Hillenbrand

“During a blizzard, Hubert takes a shortcut home from the library and finds himself in a story of his own when a mysterious woman appears to guide him.”


9. Once Upon A Book by Grace Lin

“Alice can go anywhere in the magical pages of her favorite book. So when it flaps its pages and invites her in, she is swept away to a world of wonder and adventure. But at the end of her imaginative journey, she yearns for the place she loves best of all.”


10. Bing! Bang! Chugga! Beep! By Bill Martin

“Bing! Bang! Chugga! Beep! is the latest charming tale from rhyming pair Bill Martin Jr and Michael Sampson. This old car has been everywhere from the backyard to the sky, from the hills to the water. Bouncing between the mud in the ground and the clouds up high, the old car is loved by a clever young boy…"


11. I Am Stuck by Julia Mills

“It stinks to be stuck. Turtle is stuck on their back, unable to flip over. "Try wiggling your feet," advises Duck--nope. Still stuck. "Try wagging your tail," Kangaroo suggests--nope again. Possum wonders if Turtle is playing possum, but Turtle says no. "It doesn't hurt. But I feel scared, frustrated, and alone." Possum flops over with Turtle. They smell honeysuckle. They hear a bird singing. They watch clouds together. Turtle feels a bit better, but then it rains. Now, Turtle is cold and wet..."but I don't feel stuck." Possum says, "I feel like my butt fell asleep." And the duo giggle so hard, they both flip over. They discover being stuck is not so bad when you're together.”


12. Mister Kitty Is Lost! By Greg Pizzoli

“A child and dog search for a lost pet, Mister Kitty, as the child describes what Mister Kitty looks like to the reader.”

13. Every Dreaming Creature by Brendan Wenzel

“An exploration of the sensory experiences of different animals through the perspective of dreams.”


14. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Sleigh! By Mo Willems

“The pigeon really, really wants to drive Santa's sleigh, but reconsiders once he learns how it flies.”


15. Have You Seen My Invisible Dinosaur? By Helen Yoon

“Help! This little girl has lost her best friend. He's a dinosaur (not the extinct kind). He's enormous (bigger than a panda!). He was last seen before she gave him a bath and washed off all the mud (maybe that wasn't a good idea?). She's tried to lure him with snacks and put up Lost Dinosaur posters, but nothing has helped. If only it weren't such a clear day--if only it were raining, or snowing, or the leaves were falling, or something. Would it help if she drew a picture? With delicate visual sleights of hand and an underlying sweetness, author-illustrator Helen Yoon invites us to see through a child's eyes.”


16. Dogtown by Katherine Applegate

“In Dogtown, a shelter for unwanted canine and robot dogs, an extraordinary bond develops between Chance, a longing three-legged dog, Metalhead, an empathetic robot, and Mouse, their friendly ally, as they strive to find forever homes.”


17. Henry, Like Always by Jenn Bailey

“Henry likes Classroom Ten. He likes how it is always the same. But this week, Henry's class will have a parade, and a parade means having Share Time on the wrong day. A parade means playing instruments that are too loud. A parade means this week is not like always. Join Henry as he navigates the ups and downs of marker missiles, stomach volcanoes, and days that feel a little too orange. [This] warmly funny book starring a child on the autism spectrum is a reassuring read for school-bound kids of all stripes.”


18. Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow

“Henry likes Classroom Ten. He likes how it is always the same. But this week, Henry's class will have a parade, and a parade means having Share Time on the wrong day. A parade means playing instruments that are too loud. A parade means this week is not like always. Join Henry as he navigates the ups and downs of marker missiles, stomach volcanoes, and days that feel a little too orange. [This] warmly funny book starring a child on the autism spectrum is a reassuring read for school-bound kids of all stripes.”

19. The Puppets of Spelhorst by Kate DiCamillo

“Shut up in a trunk by a taciturn old sea captain with a secret, five friends--a king, a wolf, a girl, a boy, and an owl--bicker, boast, and comfort one another in the dark. Individually, they dream of song and light, freedom and flight, purpose and glory, but they all agree they are part of a larger story, bound each to each by chance, bonded by the heart's mysteries. When at last their shared fate arrives, landing them on a mantel in a blue room in the home of two little girls, the truth is more astonishing than any of them could have imagined.”


20. The Eyes & the Impossible by Dave Eggers

“Free dog Johannes' job is to observe everything that happens in his urban park and report back to the park's three bison elders, but changes are afoot, including more humans, a new building, a boatload of goats, and a shocking revelation that changes his view of the world.”


21. Search for A Giant Squid by Amy Seth Forrester

“A choose your own path style story that guides the reader through the very real job of being a teuthologist.”


22. Leeva at Last by Sara Pennypacker

“What are people for? That's the burning question on the mind of Leeva Spayce Thornblossom. Fame! says Leeva's mom, the mayor of Nutsmore. Money! says her dad, the town treasurer. With the help of an orphaned badger, a risk-averse boy in a hazmat suit, and the town's librarians, Leeva sets off to discover her own answer--setting off a chain of events that will change Nutsmore forever.”

23. The Lost Library by Rebecca Stead

“When a mysterious little free library (guarded by a large orange cat) appears overnight in the small town of Martinville, eleven-year-old Evan plucks two weathered books from its shelves, never suspecting that his life is about to change. Evan and his best friend Rafe quickly discover a link between one of the old books and a long-ago event that none of the grown-ups want to talk about. The two boys start asking questions whose answers will transform not only their own futures, but the town itself. Told in turn by a ghost librarian named Al, an aging (but beautiful) cat named Mortimer, and Evan himself, The Lost Library is a timeless story from award-winning authors Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass. It's about owning your truth, choosing the life you want, and the power of a good book (and, of course, the librarian who gave it to you).”


24. Things in the Basement by Ben Hatch

“It was supposed to just be a normal basement--some storage boxes, dust, you know, the usual basement stuff. But when Milo is sent by his mother to fetch a sock from the basement of the historic home they've moved into, Milo finds a door in the back that he's never seen before. Turns out that the basement of his house is enormous. In fact, there is a whole world down there. As Milo travels ever deeper into the Basement World, he meets the many Things that live in the shadows and gloom...and he learns that to face his fears he must approach even the strangest creatures with kindness.”


25. Squished by Megan Wagner Lloyd

“Eleven-year-old Avery Lee loves living in Hickory Valley, Maryland. She loves her neighborhood, school, and the end-of-summer fair she always goes to with her two best friends. But she's tired of feeling squished by her six siblings! They're noisy and chaotic and the younger kids love her a little too much. All Avery wants is her own room--her own space to be alone and make art. So she's furious when Theo, her grumpy older brother, gets his own room instead, and her wild baby brother, Max, moves into the room she already shares with her clinging sister Pearl! Avery hatches a plan to finally get her own room, all while trying to get Max to sleep at night, navigating changes in her friendships, and working on an art entry for the fair. And when Avery finds out that her family might move across the country, things get even more complicated.”


26. Batcat by Meggie Rams

“Batcat loves being all alone in their home on Spooky Island. Up in their tree house, they pass the time playing video games and watching TV. But when Batcat suddenly finds themself haunted by an annoying, ice cream-stealing ghost, they visit the local Island Witch for a spell to remove their ghastly guest permanently! With their Ghost-B-Gone spell in hand, Batcat travels across Spooky Island to gather ingredients--to the Cavernous Caves where the bats tell them they're too round to be a bat, and to the Whispering Cemetery where the cats will help only if they commit to being a true cat. But Batcat is neither and that's what makes them special, right?”


27. A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat

“Dan's always been a good kid. The kind of kid who listens to his teachers, helps his mom with grocery shopping, and stays out of trouble. But being a good kid doesn't stop him from being bullied and feeling like he's invisible, which is why Dan has low expectations when his parents send him on a class trip to Europe. At first, he's right. He's stuck with the same girls from his middle school who love to make fun of him, and he doesn't know why his teacher insisted he come on this trip. But as he travels through France, Germany, Switzerland, and England, a series of first experiences begin to change him--first Fanta, first fondue, first time stealing a bike from German punk rockers... and first love. Funny, heartwarming, and poignant, A First Time for Everything is a feel-good coming-of-age memoir based on New York Times bestselling author and Caldecott Medal winner Dan Santat's awkward middle school years. It celebrates a time that is universally challenging for many of us, but also life-changing as well.”

28. The Mona Lisa Vanishes by Nick Day

“A narrative nonfiction about how the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre, how the robbery made the portrait the most famous artwork in the world--and how the painting by Leonardo da Vinci should never have existed at all.”


29. What’s Inside A Caterpillar Cocoon by Rachel Ignotofsky

“Have you ever wondered what happens inside a caterpillar cocoon? Or how moths and butterflies are related? Or what the difference is between a cocoon and a chrysalis? Wonder no more as Racehl Ignotofsky reveals the mysterious and magical life cycle of butterflies and moths.”


30. Great STEM Projects by Jack Challoner

“Presents over fifty science activities demonstrating such scientific properties as forces and motion, liquid and reactions, shapes and structures, and light and sound.”


31. Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli

“mogen Scott may be hopelessly heterosexual, but she's got the Worlds Greatest Ally title locked down. She's never missed a Pride Alliance meeting. She knows more about queer media discourse than her very queer little sister. She even has two queer best friends. There's Gretchen, a fellow high school senior, who helps keep Imogen's biases in check. And then there's Lili--newly out and newly thriving with a cool new squad of queer college friends. Imogen's thrilled for Lili. Any ally would be. And now that she's finally visiting Lili on campus, she's bringing her ally A game. Any support Lili needs, Imogen's all in. Even if that means bending the truth, just a little. Like when Lili drops a tiny queer bombshell: she's told all her college friends that Imogen and Lili used to date. And none of them know that Imogen is a raging hetero--not even Lili's best friend, Tessa. Of course, the more time Imogen spends with chaotic, freckle-faced Tessa, the more she starts to wonder if her truth was ever all that straight to begin with…”

32. The Isles of the Gods by Amie Kaufman

“Selly has salt water in her veins. So when her father leaves her high and dry in the port of Kirkpool, she has no intention of riding out the winter at home while he sails off to adventure. But any plans to follow him are dashed when a handsome stranger with tell-tale magician's marks on his arm commandeers her ship. He is Prince Leander of Alinor and he needs to cross the Crescent Sea without detection so he can complete a ritual on the sacred Isles of the Gods. Selly has no desire to escort a spoiled prince anywhere, and no time for his entitled demands or his good looks. But what starts as a leisure cruise will lead to acts of treason and sheer terror on the high seas, bringing two countries to the brink of war, two strangers closer than they ever thought possible, and two dangerous gods stirring from centuries of rest…"


33. Beholder by Ryan La Sala

“Athanasios "Athan" Bakirtzis has made it far in life relying on his charm and good looks, even securing an invitation to a mysterious penthouse soiree for New York City's artsy elite. But when he sneaks off to the bathroom, he hears a slam, followed by a scream. Athan peers outside, only to be pushed back in by a boy his age. The boy gravely tells him not to open the door, then closes Athan in. Outside the door, the party descends into chaos. Through hours of howls, laughter, and sobs, Athan stays hidden. When he finally emerges, he discovers a massacre where the corpses appear to have arranged themselves into a disturbingly elegant sculpture--and Athan's mysterious savior is nowhere to be found. Athan--the only known survivor--is now the primary suspect. In a race to prove his innocence, Athan is swept up in a supernatural mystery, one of secret occult societies and deadly eldritch horrors with rather distinctive taste. Something evil is waking up in the walls of New York City, and it's compelling victims toward violence, chaos, and self-destruction…”


34. The Fall of White Rivera by Crystal Maldonado

“Could you plan the Fall Formal with your (hot) nemesis? Whit Rivera is about to find out. Frenemies Whit and Zay have been at odds for years (ever since he broke up with her in, like, the most embarrassing way imaginable), so when they're forced to organize the fall formal together, it's a literal disaster. Sparks fly as Whitney -- type-A, passionate, a perfectionist, and a certified sweater-weather fanatic -- butts heads with Zay, a dry, relaxed skater boy who takes everything in stride. But not all of those sparks are bad... Has their feud been a big misunderstanding all along?”

35. Hockey Girl Loves Drama Boy by Faith Erin Hicks

“It should have been a night of triumph for Alix's hockey team. But her mean teammate Lindsay decided to start up with her usual rude comments and today Alix, who usually tries to control her anger, let it finally run free. Alix lashes out and before she knows it, her coach is dragging her off Lindsay, and the invitation to the Canada National Women's U18 Team's summer camp is on the line. She needs to learn how to control this anger, and she is sure Ezra, the popular and poised theater kid from her grade is the answer. So she asks for his help. But as they hang out and start get closer, Alix learns that there is more to Ezra than the cool front he puts on. And that maybe this friendship could become something more.”


36. Impossible Escape by Steve Sheinkin

“It is 1944. A teenager named Rudolph (Rudi) Vrba has made up his mind. After barely surviving nearly two years in the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, he knows he must escape. Even if death is more likely. Rudi has learned the terrible secret hidden behind the heavily guarded fences of concentration camps across Nazi-occupied Europe: the methodical mass killing of Jewish prisoners. As trains full of people arrive daily, Rudi knows that the murders won't stop until he reveals the truth to the world--and that each day that passes means more lives are lost. Lives like Rudi's schoolmate Gerta Sidonová. Gerta's family fled from Slovakia to Hungary, where they live under assumed names to hide their Jewish identity. But Hungary is beginning to cave under pressure from German Nazis. Her chances of survival become slimmer by the day. The clock is ticking. As Gerta inches closer to capture, Rudi and his friend Alfred Wetzler begin their crucial steps towards an impossible escape. This is the true story of one of the most famous whistleblowers in the world, and how his death-defying escape helped save over 100,000 lives.”