Bookcase Bizarro: Children’s Book Reviews December, 2022

Bookcase Bizarro Header, Kids Reading Books in a Line Along the Bottom Edge.

Children’s Book Reviews by a Children’s Writer

Table of Contents:
Picture Books
The Doug and Sheila Browne Books to Grow Into Selection
Middle Grade Graphic Novel
Middle Grade Novel
Middle Grade Audiobooks

Welcome to the December edition of Bookcase Bizarro!

For me, the end of the year is a time for self-reflection…and big decisions. After reading about some truly depressing and unfair contract conditions leveled at first time authors like myself, I’ve decided to self-publish (AKA indie publish) at least some of my work through my own publishing company. I’ve been an entrepreneur for most of my adult life (and a rebel for all of my life), so working creatively, thinking for myself and learning new things is part of my DNA. Good thing, because there is a lot to learn, all the time, with indie publishing. I’ve joined ALLi: The Alliance of Independent Authors to help me navigate this brave new world. I’m currently querying my middle grade novel, Shadow Apprentice, and have received some interest in it so I’m reluctant to pull the plug on my agent search prematurely. However, I won’t be signing any contract that forces me to give away world English rights for the life of copyright – a deal breaker for me and a very common clause in many traditional publishing contracts. But enough about me…

This month, we round up our favourite picture book and middle grade reads of the year. I’ve linked to previously written reviews of our recommended titles and all of the books but one are available at (where else?) the Toronto Public Library. (Note: I’ve linked to category headings (ie. middle grade fiction, middle grade graphic novels etc.) so you may have to scroll down a bit to find the review of a particular book.)

So put away those snowshoes, stop shoveling and join us as we dig into the top titles of 2022.

A quick note to new readers: books that are available from the Toronto Public Library will be marked #TPL, because books don’t have to be new or owned in order to be loved.

Picture Books

Our favourite picture books of the year are:

Like, by Annie Barrows. Illustrated by Leo Espinosa. (Chronicle Books, 2022.) #TPL
Birdsong, by Julie Flett. (Greystone Kids, 2019.) #TPL
The World Belonged to Us, by Jacqueline Woodson. Illustrated by Leo Espinosa. (Nancy Paulsen, 2022) #TPL
48 Grasshopper Estates, by Sara de Waal. Illustrated by Erika Medina. (Annick Press, 2021) #TPL

The Doug and Sheila Browne Books to Grow Into Selection

Books to Grow Into is a Browne family tradition. When I was young, my parents put books that were too hard for me to read in a special place on my bookshelf. These books occupied an honoured position on the top left-hand corner of the shelf until the day came when I discovered that I could read them – a thrill all by itself.

Each month, I select a Book to Grow Into in honour of my parents, Doug and Sheila Browne. This year’s top picks are:

The Sour Cherry Tree, by Naseem Hrab. Illustrated by Nahid Kazemi. (Owlkids, 2021) #TPL
She Stitched the Stars: A Story of Ellen Harding Baker’s Solar System Quilt, by Jennifer Harris. Illustrated by Louise Pigott. (Albert Whitman and Company, 2021) #TPL
On the Trapline, by David A. Robertson. Illustrated by Julie Flett. (Tundra, 2021) #TPL
The Lady with the Books: A Story Inspired by the Remarkable Works of Jella Lepman, by Kathy Stinson. Illustrated by Marie Lafrance. (Kids Can Press, Toronto, 2020) #TPL

Alphabet Street, by Jonathan Emmett. Illustrated by Ingela P. Arrhenius. (Nosy Crow, Somerville MA, 2019)

An older board book, perfect for 3-5 year olds.

Middle Grade Graphic Novel

Our faves:

Doodleville, by Chad Sell. (Knopf, 2020) #TPL
Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson. (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015) #TPL

Middle Grade Novel

As a middle grade writer, I freely acknowledge my bias in this category. Can I help it if we’re amazing?

Starfish, by Lisa Fipps. (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen, 2021) #TPL

Middle Grade Audiobooks

And for those long car rides….

The Patron Thief of Bread (Audiobook), by Lindsay Eager. Narrated by Moira Quirk. (Listening Library, 2022) #TPL
The Keeper, by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. (Harper Audio, 2022) #TPL

Thanks for being a Bookcase Bizarro reader! We’ll be back with more great reads in January. See you then!


#IMWAYR is a weekly blog hop hosted by Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts. Its focus is to share the love of KIDLIT and recommend KIDLIT books to readers of all ages.

Greg Pattridge also hosts weekly MG blog hop MMGM every Monday at his website, Always in the Middle.

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