One day, the crayons quit, a bluebird befriended a boy, and a cat discovered a tiny spaceship of alien invaders. Fantasy is foremost in the top children's books of 2013. Real tales of trains, an artist, a scientist, a comedian and more also rank high. Throughout the year, a Dispatch-selected panel of judges - 25 adults, plus 31 children from Daniel Wright Elementary School in Dublin and Wickliffe Progressive Community School in Upper Arlington - tracked books in a variety of genres.
One day, the crayons quit, a bluebird befriended a boy, and a cat discovered a tiny spaceship of alien invaders.
Fantasy is foremost in the top children’s books of 2013.
Real tales of trains, an artist, a scientist, a comedian and more also rank high.
Throughout the year, a Dispatch-selected panel of judges — 25 adults, plus 31 children from Daniel Wright Elementary School in Dublin and Wickliffe Progressive Community School in Upper Arlington — tracked books in a variety of genres.
Our panel of judgesrecommended hundreds of books published in 2013 in a dozen categories: alphabet and counting, biography and history, fantasy, graphic novels, historical fiction, picture books (fiction and nonfiction), poetry, pop-up, realistic fiction, science and young-adult books.
The 20 books below were voted the best of the best.
Additional winners, organized by genre, are presented and described in the list to the left. Books not easily categorized appear where they seem best-suited. All of the works can be found at central Ohio libraries and bookstores.
Bluebird (Random House, $17.99, ages 3 to 7) by Bob Staake: In the dramatic, wordless picture book, the relationship between a boy and a bluebird becomes a parable about friendship and bullying.
Bluffton: My Summers With Buster Keaton (Candlewick, $22.99, ages 9 to 12) by Matt Phelan: At the turn of the century, a boy makes friends with a young Buster Keaton, who will grow up to be one of the most famous comedians and filmmakers.
The Dark (Little, Brown; $16.99; ages 3 to 6) by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen: Darkness becomes a character and guides young Laszlo (in blue pajamas) away from fear to a new understanding.
The Day the Crayons Quit (Philomel, $17.99, ages 3 to 7) by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers: Each color in a box of crayons has a distinct personality — and often a complaint — in the humorous picture book.
Eleanor & Park (St. Martin’s Griffin, $18.99, age 13 and older) by Rainbow Rowell: Two high-school outsiders, each dealing with difficulties at home and school, discover a mutual love of comic books — and each other.
Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (Random House, $16.99, ages 8 to 12) by Chris Grabenstein: An eccentric inventor proposes a contest for 12-year-olds at a new library. Clues, of course, include literary references.
Exclamation Mark (!) (Scholastic, $17.99, ages 5 to 8) by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld: The creators of Duck! Rabbit! turn their attention to the exuberant, expressive punctuation mark.
Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (Candlewick, $17.99, ages 8 to 12) by Kate DiCamillo: With references to superhero comics, the funny, heartwarming story follows the friendship of a girl and a flying squirrel who writes poetry.
Follow, Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems (Dial, $16.99, age 6 and older) Marilyn Singer and Josee Masse: Free-verse poems are paired with the same poem — in reverse — in the inventive picture book.
Journey (Candlewick, $15.99, age 5 and older) by Aaron Becker: A lonely girl draws herself into spectacular landscapes and adventures in the wordless picture book.
Locomotive (Atheneum, $17.99, ages 4 to 10) by Brian Floca: The beautifully illustrated picture book follows a train on the newly built transcontinental railroad in 1869.
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild (Little, Brown; $18; ages 3 to 6) by Peter Brown: A Victorian-era lion must choose between the proper city and the untamed wilderness.
Mr. Wuffles! (Clarion, $17.99, ages 4 to 8) by David Wiesner: The three-time Caldecott Medal winner delivers a humorous tale of an aloof cat who encounters a tiny alien spaceship.
Navigating Early (Delacorte, $16.99, age 10 and older) by Clare Vanderpool: In the novel, two boys embark on the Appalachian Trail seeking a mysterious third boy, Pi, named for the mathematical ratio 3.14.
On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein (Chronicle, $17.99, ages 6 to 9) by Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky: The picture book explains the scientist’s work to a young audience.
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin (Knopf, $17.99, ages 5 to 8) by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet: A portrait of the African-American painter captures his struggles, triumphs and artistic process.
Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems (Greenwillow, $17.99, ages 4 to 8) Jack Prelutsky and Carin Berger: The fun-loving poet collaborates with artist Berger to deliver rhyming, imaginary creatures.
A Tangle of Knots (Philomel, $16.99, ages 8 to 12) by Lisa Graff: In a magical version of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., everyone has a talent — including Cady, who can look at a person and determine exactly what cake he would like.
That Is Not a Good Idea! (HarperCollins, $17.99, ages 4 to 8) by Mo Willems: The saga of a predatory wolf and a gentle mama duck is upended in the darkly humorous picture book.
The Year of Billy Miller (Greenwillow, $16.99, ages 8 to 12) by Kevin Henkes: The ordinary highs and lows of a second-grader are anything but in the easy-to-read chapter book.