Introducing Oak Park’s Best of 2021, a librarian-curated selection of titles, featuring some of the titles most requested and checked out by Oak Parkers! See our kids and picture books favorites on this page or browse more using the links below.
Amari & the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
Why you should try it: "A mixture of Harry Potter and The Matrix. Sci-fi has never been sweeter! In this tween/teen tale, Amari searches for her missing brother at a private school for the magically-inclined!"—Beronica, Children's Services Librarian
Description: Amari Peters has never stopped believing her missing brother, Quinton, is alive. Not even when the police told her otherwise, or when she got in trouble for standing up to bullies who said he was gone for good. So when she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet, containing a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she's certain the secretive organization holds the key to locating Quinton—if only she can wrap her head around the idea of magicians, fairies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures all being real.
Candidly Cline by Kathryn Ormsbee
Why you should try it: "Cline, a queer girl who wants to be a musician, is such an endearing, bighearted character. Also, this book definitely inspired me to listen to some old-school women country musicians."—Jenna, Collection Management Librarian
Description: Born in Paris, Kentucky, and raised on her gram's favorite country music, Cline Alden is a girl with big dreams and a heart full of song. When she finds out about a young musicians' workshop a few towns over, Cline sweet-talks, saves, and maybe fibs her way into her first step toward musical stardom. But her big dreams never prepared her for the butterflies she feels surrounded by so many other talented kids—especially Sylvie, who gives Cline the type of butterflies she's only ever heard about in love songs.
Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani
Why you should try it: "I have always loved oldies music and wibbly wobbly timey wimey time travel, and this is the perfect mashup. The art is glorious and colorful and adds so much depth to the wonderful characters and story."—Shelley, Children's Services Librarian
Description: A mysterious jukebox, old vinyl records, and cryptic notes on music history, are Shaheen's only clues to her father's abrupt disappearance. She looks to her cousin, Tannaz, who seems just as perplexed, before they both look at the jukebox which starts...glowing? Suddenly, the girls are pulled from their era and transported to another time!
A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll
Why you should try it: "It's incredibly rare to find an authentic story about an autistic character that doesn't get stuck in the one narrow view of autism that many books, movies, and TV shows perpetuate. Addy and her sister are both autistic, in ways that are both similar and different. This is a stellar read for autistic and allistic people alike."—Shelley, Children's Services Librarian
Description: When she discovers that her small Scottish town used to burn witches simply because they were different, a neurodivergent girl who sees and hears things others cannot refuse to let them be forgotten.
Nina: A Story of Nina Simone by Traci N. Todd
Why you should try it: "Beautiful story and illustrations about the one and only, Nina Simone."—Megha, Children's Services Library Assistant
Description: A biography of Nina Simone, an acclaimed singer whose music gave voice to the struggle for racial equality during the civil rights movement.
Ophie's Ghosts by Justina Ireland
Why you should try it: "There are all sorts of ghosts in the world, and I loved seeing Ophie learn to navigate a house and world full of them. A handful of chapters are from the perspective of objects like trains, buildings, and the neighborhood itself, which adds a level of fun and mystery to the whole thing."—Shelley, Children's Services Librarian
Description: Discovering her ability to see ghosts when a cruel act ends her father's life and forces her to move in with relatives in 1920s Pittsburgh, young Ophelia forges a helpful bond with a spirit whose own life ended suddenly and unjustly.
Saving Sorya: Chang & the Sun Bear by Trang Nguyen
Why you should try it: "A heartfelt, true story about loving animals and conservation!"—Megha, Children's Services Library Assistant
Description: When endlessly curious and tenacious Chang discovers a bear bile farm near her home in Vietnam, she decides to do everything she can to save wild animals—by becoming a conservationist!
Secrets of Camp Whatever by Chris Grine
Why you should try it: "This is a delightful adventure for kids who love camp—or love to hate it. There are a lot of spooks and scares and supernatural beings everywhere! Bonus points for a deaf protagonist who won't put up with an annoying head of camp who thinks shouting at her will help her understand him."—Shelley, Children's Services Librarian
Description: Eleven-year-old Willow doesn't want to go to her dad's weird old summer camp any more than she wants her family to move to the weird old town where that camp is located. But her family—and fate itself—seem to have plans of their own. Soon Willow finds herself neck-deep in a confounding mystery involving stolen snacks, suspected vampires, and missing campers, all shrouded in the sinister fog that hides a generation of secrets at Camp...whatever it's called.
Witches of Brooklyn 2: What the Hex? by Sophie Escabasse
Why you should try it: "This sequel to Witches of Brooklyn is an amazingly adorable story about a budding witch and her daily problems!"—Megha, Children's Services Library Assistant
Description: Effie just wants to have fun being a witch, but her life in Brooklyn is complicated with friend problems and the hard work of learning magic.
The Bedtime Book by Todd Parr
Why you should try it: "Read this book! It's super cute and will sway you to sleep!"—Megha, Children's Services Library Assistant
Description: It's time for bed! But, no one is ready for bed. The raccoon has the hiccups. The narwhal needs to take her bath. And the bear is hungry. With his signature humor and heart, Todd Parr puts a twist on the traditional bedtime story with all the animals sharing why they aren't quite ready to go to sleep.
Don't Hug Doug (He Doesn't Like It) by Carrie Finison
Why you should try it: "Doug is a hoot of a narrator, and his easy way of explaining how he likes YOU but not hugs will help kids set and understand boundaries and consent wonderfully. High fives for Doug!"—Shelley, Children's Services Librarian
Description: Doug doesn't like hugs. He thinks hugs are too squeezy, too squashy, too squooshy, too smooshy. He'd much rather give a high five—or a low five, a side five, a double five, or a spinny five. Yup, some people love hugs; other people don't. So how can you tell if someone likes hugs or not? There's only one way to find out: Ask! Because everybody gets to decide for themselves whether they want a hug or not.
Fatima's Great Outdoors by Ambreen Tariq
Why you should try it: "While delivering books to schools this year, there were a lot of requests for books about camping—which is how I first came across Fatima and her family! This is a beautiful picture book that explores connecting to the outdoors as well as the people in your life."—Jenny, Community Engagement Coordinator
Description: Excitedly joining her family for an outdoor camping trip in a Midwestern state park, Fatima Khazi helps set up a tent, build a fire, and fend off a daddy longlegs before settling down to sleep surrounded by the near-magical sounds of the forest.
A Home Under the Stars by Andy Chou Musser
Why you should try it: "The art in this story about experiencing a life change is absolutely stunning and magical."—Jenna, Collection Management Librarian
Description: When his family moves to the city, Toby misses seeing stars, but soon he meets some wild animals who all need the North Star to show their way home.
Ten Ways to Hear Snow by Cathy Camper
Why you should try it: "This book—it's just magical! It explores family, connectedness, curiosity, and mindfulness. It came out in October of 2020, however, I first read it in 2021—and so far, it's my favorite book of the year. When the first big snow falls, let's all go outside to listen, okay?"—Jenny, Community Engagement Coordinator
Description: Walking to her grandmother's home to help make warak enab, Lina discovers many ways to hear snow, from the scrape of a shovel on a sidewalk to the quiet pats of snowman-building.
We All Play by Julie Flett
Why you should try it: "A joy to share with kids—you can see the wheels turning as they connect how they play just like the cute animals on the page. Rich vocabulary building is also combined with a Cree glossary."—Genevieve, Children's Services Librarian
Description: Animals and kids love to play! This wonderful book celebrates playtime and the connection between children and the natural world.