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Best Children's Books of 2018

Our book reviewer, Sheila Welch, highlights the must-read award-reading children's books for 2018.

By Sheila Welch

hello universe bookHello Universe

This year, the Newbery Award, the highest honor for children’s literature, went to HELLO, UNIVERSE by Erin Entrada Kelly. It’s an excellent choice for readers in third grade through fifth, making it a solidly “middle-grade” novel. The story unfolds at a leisurely pace, chapter by chapter, as readers learn important information about each of the five major characters.  The suburban setting will feel like familiar territory to many readers while their attention will be captured by the various backgrounds and traits of the characters –  one is deaf, two have Japanese-American parents, one has a story-telling, live-in grandmother from the Philippines, and one is an unrepentant bully. As the plot unfolds, it offers many thought provoking  elements that will lead to questions such as: What is fate?  What role do stories play in our everyday lives? Why do people say, “There are no coincidences?”


Jason Reynolds, a relative newcomer to the field of book creators, has been called “ferociously talented,” and his most recent contribution certainly supports that description of him. Patina is the name of the main character in this second book in his TRACK series and PATINA is also its title. Told in first person, Patina’s story and voice are so real, I felt as though I knew this kid. She’s super protective of her delightful little sister, Maddy, because their father is dead and their mother physically handicapped. But some other parts of her life are almost as difficult. She’s trying to handle the challenges of a rich-kids’ school while attempting to build sincere friendships. She’s also working super hard at being an asset to the track team. This book provides a diverse group of readers with mirrors to see themselves and with windows to see beyond their own walls. The Horn Book Magazine honored PATINA as a Best Book of 2017.


Wolf in the SnowWolf in the Snow

WOLF IN THE SNOW, written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell, won this year’s  Caldecott Medal for its expressive  illustrations. Told with a minimum of text (and what is included becomes part of the pictures), preschoolers through third graders and many adults will be enthralled by this simple tale (or should I use “tail”?) of a double lost and found story. The scratchy, sketchy illustrations might inspire children to tell their own stories of snowstorms and adventures.


Big Cat, Little Cat


I was especially interested in one of this year’s Caldecott honor books, BIG CAT, LITTLE CAT  by Elisha Cooper. I checked it out of the library, read it, then I showed to one of my adult sons with the suggestion that he have some tissues on hand. Sure enough, he needed them. This is a sweet story about the lives of three cats, told in black and white with strong lines and emotions. I seldom use this phrase when recommending a book but have no qualms about calling this charmer “a book for all ages.”

P.S. Why was I eager to read that last book? Check out the title of my 2013 digital picture book in the bio below.

About Sheila

Sheila Kelly Welch is a mother, grandmother and retired teacher. She counts among her children’s fiction books LITTLE PRINCE KNOW-IT-ALL and A HORSE FOR ALL SEASONS. Sheila's novel, WAITING TO FORGET, has been selected by Bank Street College and Pennsylvania School Library Association for their lists of best-books-of-the-year. Her most recent stories, MESS-UP MOLLY and BIG CAT AND KITTEN, are published on-line by MeeGenius (