Favorite Children's Books of 2016 (Blog Link Up Party)

I am SO excited to welcome an AMAZING group of authors and bloggers today to Pickle Corn Jam as we all discuss our favorite children's books of 2016! Each of us have written about one book; simply follow the links included at the bottom of each of our posts to see the remaining recommended list! Who is playing along? Cate Berry, Charnaie GordonDanna Smith, Eileen ManesHenry L. Herz, Karen SanthanamKell Andrews, Keyosha AtwaterLiz Garton Scanlon and Vanessa Roeder! You can find more about who we are at the bottom of this post. But be sure to click through all the links to see our top 10 picks for the year so far! 

Without further ado, I present my pick for Favorite Children's Book of 2016!

Antoinette Portis
Roaring Brook Press

That sure does look fun, right? A book set on another planet, with tadpole-like aliens (Tadpoliens? I'll go with it.) and made up words? Yes, please.

But...I do know better than to judge a book by its cover. So I read it and giggled (and what's better than a middle-aged woman, standing alone in the kid's section of a bookstore, giggling to herself, I ask you?). Then I bought it, read it to the kiddo and giggled some more. We read it together about 672 more times, giggled a bunch, and added it to our 2016 faves list.

Best frints "Yelfred and Omek have been best frints since they were little blobbies." They live on planet Boborp, use their teef, eat yunch and play with spossips. Much in the same way that kids are able to "magically" tell you the next line of text in a book with a repetitious structure, kids will automatically understand that frints are friends and blobbies are babies, who eat lunch with their teeth and play with spaceships. But now, they'll also feel like they've been let in on a secret - like they are little secret agents who suddenly understand the language of ALIENS. Emember-ray ow-hay eat-gray ig-pay atin-lay as-way?

When Omek takes Yelfred's spossip for a spin, even though Yelfred said no, and accidentally shmackles it, Omek and Yelfred need to find a way to fix more than just the spossip. They also have to fix their frintship. By hiding a message (sharing, working together to fix a problem, regrowing friendships) within fun language, kids can decode and understand the message without feeling like they are reading a message-y book.

If I have to have a complaint, it is that there is a teeny, tiny lack of consistency in the alien "language." Yelfred and Omek "flixed" the spossip after it was broken, but when Omek comes up with the idea, he says they can FIX it rather than FLIX it. But perhaps it only becomes "flix" in the past tense because the Boborpian language of Tadpoliens is difficult and tricky..."not like here on planet Earth."

Our favorite books of 2016 list is a pretty amazing list, filled with beautiful, thought provoking books, about nature and life and following your dreams. Best Frints in the Whole Universe isn't the prettiest book of 2016. It's not the deepest book of 2016. It isn't even about following your dreams (though Omek does get to take the spossip for a spin). But it is fun. And it is unique. And it has a whole lot of heart (and games of "eye ball in the peedle pit").

And sometimes, that is just what I want for my kiddo (well, maybe not games of eye ball).

Ready for the rest of our 2016 recommendations? Just follow the links! 

So...who the heck are these suggestion-making people? 

Cate Berry is a writer and performer based in Austin, Texas. She attends Vermont College of Fine Arts, Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA program. Her debut picture book, Penguin and Tiny Shrimp Don't Do Bedtime (Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins), arrives in Spring '18. She loves SCBWI, The Writing Barn and all things KidLit.

Charnaie Gordon, a computer programmer by trade and a Distinguished Toastmaster, is the blogger behind the popular Here Wee Read blog, where you'll find tips and suggestions for finding the best children's books, and be inspired to make the most of your read aloud time, however much that is.

Danna Smith is the author of many books for children, including her most recent fiction titles, Swallow the Leader and Arctic White, as well as numerous non-fiction titles, such as Balloon Trees and the forthcoming The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry (Candlewick, 2017).

Eileen Manes is a writer, an artist and the blogger behind Pickle Corn Jam, a blog about books and writing for children of all ages. She was recently nominated as a finalist for the SCBWI-Austin Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award, and her current projects include picture books, a middle grade novel and a novel for adults, all in various stages of completion.

Henry L. Herz is the author of numerous books for children, including Mabel and the Queen of Dreams, Little Red Cuttlefish and the forthcoming Dinosaur Pirates (Sterling, 2017). He's a regular panelist at conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon, and has been a guest blogger on several blogs, including Tara Lazar's amazing Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) and Angie Karcher's Rhyming Picture Book Month (RhyPiBoMo).

Karen Santhanam is a writer, an artist, a blogger and host of the popular Storybook Spotlight podcast. Storybook Spotlight is about reading with kids, children’s books and family fun, including interviews with children’s books authors, illustrators, librarians, teachers, preschool folks and friends. She was also recently nominated as a finalist for the SCBWI-Austin Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award.

Kell Andrews writes novels and picture books for children and nonfiction for adults. A little bit of magic helps with both. Her first novel, Deadwood, was published in 2014 and her debut picture book, Mira Forecasts the Future, came out this year (2016, Sterling).

Keyosha Atwater is an avid reader, Instagramer and blogger. When she isn't reading to her own kiddos or reviewing books on Instagram @weebooklovers, you'll find her working on her brand new blog, Wee Book Lovers, where she'll be reviewing even more books and suggesting the best of the best kid-tested, mom-approved books to try with your own family.

Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of numerous beloved books for young people, including the highly-acclaimed, Caldecott-honored picture book, All the World, and her debut novel for middle grade readers, The Great Good Summer. She's also a poet, a teacher and a frequent, popular presenter at schools, libraries and conferences.

Vanessa Roeder (Nessa Dee) is an illustrator, painter and self-proclaimed crafty mess-maker. She's worked as a muralist and made art for magazines, children's books and homes around the world. She's taught art, writes stories, has been featured in Highlights Magazine and on Apartment Therapy and was the grand prize winner in the Austin SCBWI 2016 portfolio contest.


  1. Great post - I haven't heard of your 2016 pick so I'll have to check it out!

    1. Thank you! I'd be interested to hear your thoughts once you've read it! With so many great books this year, it was really tough to pick just one!

  2. She's clever, Antoinette, isn't she? This is such a cute book -- and I love the way you talked about the language!

    1. Thank you so much! And I just realized there is another book of hers that we haven't checked out yet - A Penguin Story. Yay!

  3. Thanks so much for hosting and introducing me to all the participants and the chosen books!

    1. Of course! I am so excited you could join us.

      And folks, go check out my previous review on Kell's picture book, here: http://www.picklecornjam.com/2016/06/the-well-read-review-mira-forecasts.html

  4. We thought this was a funny book too! The girls were running around for a few days speaking the language of the frints!!!! Thank you so much for hosting such an awesome blog link up party Eileen!!!

    1. If you lived closer, I'd take you to yunch. :) Congrats on a fantastic blog launch, Key!

  5. I definitely need to check this one out! Sounds like a hilarious read aloud!

    1. Yes! And for even more fun, pair it with Bitty Bot by Tim McCanna and The Bot That Scott Build by Kim Norman!

  6. Also, thanks for the lovely comment on my blog, and for hosting this party! This was so fun and inspiring!

  7. Thanks again for hosting this fun blog hop party...great book selection too!

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