Best Children’s Books of the Year

The best aviation- and space-themed books for young readers in 2015.

This holiday season, a new crop of books about flight and space exploration offers plenty of gift possibilities for young readers from ages 2 to 14. While the age categories are suggested by the publishers, the reading level of the individual child should be taken into account.

The Flying Hand of Marco B.

(Sleeping Bear Press)

By Richard Leiter, illustrated by Shahar Kober
Sleeping Bear Press, 22 p., $15.98
An everyday car ride becomes an adventure in this rhyming tale. When Marco B. sticks his hand out the window, his imagination takes flight. The Flying Hand that swoops and soars / Beyond the windows, out the doors. / I put it up there in the sky / ’Cause only I can make it fly. Ages 5 to 7.

No, No, Kitten!

(Boyds Mills Press)

By Shelley Moore Thomas, illustrated by Lori Nichols
Boyds Mills Press, 32 p., $16.95
An orange kitten has many wants, including a basket, milk, catnip—and supplies for a trip to Jupiter. Nichols’ dip pen and ink drawings perfectly capture the exuberance of a creeping, pouncing feline. Ages 3 to 7.

Your Alien

(Sterling Children's Books)

By Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Goro Fujita
Sterling Children’s Books, 32 p., $14.95
When a small green alien crash-lands outside a little boy’s house, the two become fast friends for a day. But after a full day of school, kite flying, dinner, and bedtime, the little alien becomes homesick. Is there a way to attract his parents’ attention? Sauer’s sweet storyline about the joys of family and Fujita’s colorful and appealing art are a perfect combination. Ages 3 and up.

Special Delivery

(Roaring Brook Press)

By Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Matthew Cordell.
Roaring Brook/Porter, 40 p., $17.99
Ever wondered how to deliver an elephant to a beloved great-aunt? When the Post Office requires a wheelbarrow-full of stamps for the oversized shipment, Sadie turns to less traditional methods—like a biplane, an alligator, and a train filled with monkeys. Cordell’s fanciful pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations round out the story. Ages 3 to 7.

Space Boy and His Dog

(Boyds Mills Press)

By Dian Curtis Regan, illustrated by Robert Neubecker
Boyds Mills Press, 32 p., $16.95
Niko captains his very own spaceship with his dog Tag, and copilot, Radar. On a lunar mission to find a lost cat, Niko is irritated to discover his sister has stowed away onboard. Should he leave her on the Moon, or will they all make it back to Earth in time for supper? Ages 3 to 7. 

Faraway Friends

(Sky Pony Press)

Written and illustrated by Russ Cox
Sky Pony Press, 28 pp., $16.99
When a moving van labeled “Jupiter” takes his best friend away, Sheldon decides to build a rocket ship to visit him at his new home. Soon “Commander” Sheldon and his sidekick (and dog) Jet arrive—somewhere—only to meet a green, alien life-form and a furry black blob. Cox’s colorful illustrations and pleasing story celebrate friends both old and new. Ages 3 to 6.

Journey To the Moon

(Simon & Schuster/Little Bee)

Written and illustrated by Andy Mansfield
Simon & Schuster/Little Bee, 14 p., $12.99
Youngest readers can take a trip to the moon via rocket through a series of vibrantly illustrated pop-up pages. The pilot’s identity—revealed on the final spread—is a playful surprise. Ages 4-up.

Interstellar Cinderella

(Chronicle Books)

By Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt
Chronicle Books, 40 p., $16.99
Once upon a planetoid, / amid her tools and sprockets, / a girl named Cinderella dreamed / of fixing fancy rockets. The ever-popular heroine returns in a delightful retelling set in outer space. With a little help from her fairy godmother, Cinderella meets the prince at the Gravity-Free Ball—and leaves behind her socket wrench when the clock strikes midnight. Young readers will love this tale of a smart and spunky girl who has a gift for engineering. Ages 3 to 5.

Sun and Moon

(Simply Read Books)

Written and illustrated by Lindsey Yankey
Simply Read Books, 40 p., $16.95
After a lifetime in darkness, the Moon wants to change places with the Sun. The Sun agrees—if the Moon will spend an entire night looking closely at the Earth. What the Moon discovers is sure to bewitch young readers. Ages 4 to 8.

How the Sun Got to Coco’s House

(Candlewick Press)

Written and illustrated by Bob Graham
Candlewick Press, 40 p., $17.99
As Coco sleeps, the Sun travels across the globe—shining softly on polar bears, a whale’s eye, a child traveling by plane to visit his grandmother. When the Sun finally reaches Coco’s street, there’s time to stop and watch the little girl and her friends make a snowman. Graham’s engaging ink and watercolor illustrations capture the delight of winter’s sun and everyday experiences. Ages 4 to 6.

The Adventures of Miss Petitfour

(Tundra Books)

By Anne Michaels; illustrated by Emma Block
Tundra Books, 144 p., $17.99
“Miss Petitfour always traveled by tablecloth, that is to say, by air.” On windy days she takes her 16 cats out for an airing: Minky, Misty, Taffy, Purrsia, Pirate, Mustard, Moutarde, Hemdela, Earring, Grigorovich, Clasby, Captain Captain, Captain Catkin, Captain Clothespin, Your Shyness, and Sizzles. Readers join Miss Petitfour and her fancy felines on a series of five aerial adventures in this magical tale. Ages 6 to 9.

Bright Sky, Starry City

(Groundwood Books)

By Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Aimée Sicuro
Groundwood Books, 32 p., $17.95
Phoebe and her father hope to look at the stars, but neon signs and street lights make the night sky dull. When a thunderstorm briefly knocks out the power, it gives Phoebe a chance to see sparkling constellations and planets moving in their orbits. An appendix about the Solar System, telescopes, and light pollution round out this lovely book. Ages 6 to 9.

Alien Invasion In My Backyard

(Andrews McMeel Publishing)

Written and illustrated by Ruben Bolling
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 107 p., $12.99
When 11-year-old Stuart Tennemeier forms the EMU Club (short for Exploration-Mystery-Unbelievable) with his best friend Brian Hrznicz—and his 8-year-old sister, Violet—their first task is to find a missing video game controller. When this mundane item turns out to hold the key to an alien takeover of our planet, the kids set out to save the world. Hand-written reports, maps, and photographs add to this charming mystery. Ages 7 to 10. 

Willy Maykit in Space

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

By Greg Trine, illustrations by James Burks
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 202 p., $13.99
Normally his school doesn’t allow fourth-grade field trips outside the solar system, but Willy Maykit’s class is heading to Planet Ed, and Willy couldn’t be more excited. But Willy wanders off from the group and he, along with his classmate Cindy, are left behind. Soon it’s nightfall, when monsters begin to roam. Can Willy and Cindy—along with an alien named Norp—stay safe until their spaceship returns? Ages 7 to 10.

Full Cicada Moon

(Dial Books)

By Marilyn Hilton
Dial Books for Young Readers, 400 pp., $17.99

It’s 1969, at the height of the Apollo program, when Mimi Oliver and her family move from Berkeley, California, to a small town in Vermont. Mimi struggles to fit in with her classmates and neighbors—the town doesn’t know what to make of a mixed Black and Japanese family and a young girl who dreams of becoming an astronaut. Over the course of a year, Mimi learns to stand up for herself and her beliefs, making friends along the way. Ages 8 to 12.

First Flight Around the World: The Adventures of the American Fliers Who Won the Race

(Abrams Books for Young Readers)

By Tim Grove
Abrams, 96 p., $21.95
In 1924, the U.S. Army Air Service sent eight men around the world in an attempt to be the first to circumnavigate the globe by air. Airmen from five other countries had the same goal, so the effort soon became a race. Author Tim Grove—a program developer at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum—has written a mesmerizing account of their five-month adventure. Interested readers can see one of the original aircraft and many archival items at the Museum. Ages 10 to 14.

Black Dove, White Raven

(Disney Book Group)

By Elizabeth Wein
Disney Book Group, 368 pp., $17.99

Wein, author of the acclaimed Code Name Verity, delivers another fine novel. It’s the early 1930s, and best friends Delia and Rhoda are raising their children together, making a living with their barnstorming act, the Black Dove and White Raven. But when a bird strike kills Delia, Rhoda must decide where to raise their children—not in the U.S., where a white woman raising a black adopted son is seen as a threat. Rhoda takes her family to Ethiopia, where the trio finds happiness, and both kids learn to fly. But their lives are threatened when Italy and Ethiopia go to war, and the family is drawn into the conflict. Ages 12-up.

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