Favorite Books of 2021
Children: Picture Books | Early Readers | Chapter Books
Teens: Middle School | High School
Adults: Fiction | Non-Fiction
Want to know what new books the Happy Valley Library staff has read and loved? This is the place! It is a joy to look back at the books we have read over the year and give our recommendations. We have books that are great for all ages and span a wide selection of topics and genres. Whether it’s beautiful picture books or memoirs, zany early reader stories or serious literary fiction, we’ve compiled our favorite books that came out in 2021.
Want to check any of these out? Place a hold on a title at lincc.org or give us a call (503-783-3455). For even more ideas, just ask your librarian!
Bear Wants to Sing by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Dena Seiferling
When Bear finds a ukulele in the woods, he is inspired to write his own song, but only his best friend Mouse appreciates his endeavor.
Little Wooden Robot and the Log Princess by Tom Gauld
A little wooden robot embarks on a quest to find his missing sister, the log princess, in this charming modern day fairytale.
Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor
Readers will delight in turning their book sideways and upside down to follow Mel on her journey from downward fall to triumphant flight in this tale of self-confidence and taking a leap of faith.
Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña; illustrated by Christian Robinson
Milo is on a long subway ride with his older sister, so to pass the time, he studies the faces around him and makes pictures of their lives.
Memory Jars by Vera Brogsol
Freda uses jars to save everything from a chocolate chip cookie to the full moon, just as her grandmother saves summer blueberries.
Stroller Coaster by Matt Ringler, illustrated by Raúl theThird and Elaine Bay
A quick-thinking father thwarts his daughter’s impending temper tantrum when he transforms an everyday walk outside into an exciting stroller-coaster ride through the neighborhood.
Watercress by Andrea Wang; illustrated by David Chin
Embarrassed about gathering watercress from a roadside ditch, a girl learns to appreciate her Chinese heritage after learning why the plant is so important to her parents.
We All Play by Julie Flett
Celebrate playtime and the connection between children and the natural world in Cree and English.
Beginning readers, short chapters and lots of fun
BunBun and BonBon: Fancy Friends by Jess Keating
Bunbun has it all: a delightful Bunbun nose, a cute Bunbun tail, and two adorable Bunbun ears, but Bunbun doesn’t have a friend — until Bunbun meets Bonbon.
Geraldine Pu and her Lunch Box too by Maggie P. Chang
Geraldine Pu, whose favorite part of school is lunch, must decide what to do when her lunchbox is filled with stinky tofu—and an unexpected surprise.
Tag Team by Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay
After last night’s match, the stadium is a mess! There is so much work to be done and Mexican wrestling star El Toro feels overwhelmed. Enter . . . La Oink Oink!
I’m on it! by Andrea Tsurumi
When Goat jumps on it, Frog does, too. Soon Goat and Frog are on it, along it, above it, inside it, beside it, around it, and under it, whew!
Just right for grade schoolers
Bad Sister by Cherise Harper
Charise is energetic, helpful, a model pet owner, and full of inventions, but she’s also a bad sister.
A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu, and You by Mike Barfield; illustrated by Jess Bradley.
Join the hilarious exploration of a day in the life of nearly 100 things on Earth. Find out how a Japanese knotweed destroys everything in its path, and why no two snowflakes are ever the same
The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo
When a mysterious child appears at the monastery of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing, Brother Edik nurses her back to health, but when her dangerous secret is uncovered, she is sent away into the world.
Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood edited by Kwame Mbalia
Featuring contributions from Black authors such as Jason Reynolds and Jerry Craft, this celebration of Black boyhood is told through a brilliant collection of stories, comics, and poems.
Genius under the Table: Growing up behind the Iron Curtain by Eugene Yelchin
The award-winning author and artist recounts in hilarious detail his childhood in Cold War-era Russia.
Jo-Jo Makoons: The Used-to-be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley, illustrated by Tara Audibert
Jo Jo Makoons Azure, a spirited seven-year-old on the Ojibwe reservation, is worried about making new friends at school.
Lion of Mars by Jennifer Holm
Bell has spent his whole life–all eleven years of it–on Mars, but he’s still just a regular kid–he loves cats, any kind of cake, and is curious about the secrets the adults in the US colony are keeping.
The Outdoor Scientist by Temple Grandin
From the renowned scientist and autism spokesperson, comes a book about exploring the world around us, asking questions, and making sense of what we see, includes 40 projects for kids.
Stuntboy, In the Meantime by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Raúl theThird
Portico Reeves’ superpower is making sure all the other superheroes, like his parents and two best friends, stay super and safe, but no one knows he’s actually Stuntboy!
Just right for 6th-8th graders, everything from comics to historical fiction to fantasy
Amber and Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz
After a curse is put on the ghost of a privileged girl killed by lightning, she comes to the aid of an enslaved boy living in Ancient Greece.
Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh
Junie is motivated by an act of racism at school to learn about her ancestral heritage and her grandparents’ experiences as lost children during the Korean War.
Flood City by Daniel Jose Older
A boy from the Earth’s last inhabitable city and a young space soldier questioning his leaders’ genocidal orders become unlikely partners in an effort to stop a war and save the planet.
Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood by Gary Paulsen
Beloved author Gary Paulsen tells his own survival story through a series of life altering moments from his childhood.
Green Lantern: Legacy by Minh Lê, illustrated by Andie Tong
When thirteen-year-old Tai Pham inherits his grandmother’s jade ring, he soon finds out he has been inducted into a group of space cops known as the Green Lanterns.
Starfish by Lisa Fipps
Bullied and shamed her whole life for being fat, twelve-year-old Ellie finally gains the confidence to stand up for herself, with the help of some wonderful new allies.
Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff
Bug is grappling with grief, friendships, and gender identity in the summer before middle school, and their eerie old house is being haunted by a ghost.
Drama, heartbreak, and finding your voice
Fallout: Spies, Superbombs, and the Ultimate Cold War Showdown by Steve Sheinkin
A gripping account of Cold War games between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the world’s close call with the third—and final—world war.
Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
Daunis, who is part Ojibwe, defers attending the University of Michigan to care for her mother and reluctantly becomes involved in the investigation of a series of drug-related deaths.
Game Changer by Neal Schusterman
Transported into other dimensions by a seemingly random hit, a young football player visits alternate worlds that evolved differently in accordance with respective belief systems.
Last Night At the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
When Lily realizes she has feelings for a girl in her math class, it threatens Lily’s friendships and even her father’s citizenship status, set in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the 1950s.
Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee
Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem; all the stories are fake.
Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He
In a near future when life is harsh outside of Earth’s last unpolluted place, Cee tries to leave an abandoned island while her sister, STEM prodigy Kasey, seeks escape from the science and home she once trusted.
Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim
After unleashing forbidden magic, being banished by her stepmother and unable to speak or her brothers will die, Shiori’anma must find a way to save them with the help of a paper bird, a mercurial dragon and the very boy she fought so hard not to marry.
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
Hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library, Belle de Costa Greene becomes one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she keeps.
Black Water Sister by Zen Cho
A reluctant medium is visited by the ghost of her estranged grandmother who is determined to settle a score against a business magnate who has offended a god in the latest novel in the series following The True Queen.
The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton
At the end of the 19th century, reporter Grace Harrington and a courier secretly working for Cuban revolutionaries in Havana free “The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba” who has been unjustly imprisoned — a mission that forces them all to fight for their freedom as war looms on the horizon.
Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto
Kumiko’s sweet life is shattered when Death’s shadow swoops in to collect her. With her quick mind and sense of humor, Kumiko, with the help of friends new and old, is prepared for the fight of her life. But how long can an old woman thwart fate?
Matrix by Lauren Groff
Cast out of the royal court, 17-year-old Marie de France, born the last in a long line of women warriors, is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey where she vows to chart a bold new course for the women she now leads and protects.
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books, 26-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel is hired until she after a string uncomfortable events, is elevated to Office Darling, leaving Nella in the dust.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Cynical August starts to believe in the impossible when meets Jane on the subway, a mysterious punk rocker she forms a crush on, who is literally displaced in time from the 1970s and is trying to find her way back.
The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner
Moving to early 20th-century San Francisco to escape New York tenement life, an Irish mail-order bride uncovers transformative secrets involving a silent child and two other women before her precarious existence is upended by the great earthquake of 1906.
Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
In 1970s Mexico City, Maite, a secretary with a penchant for romance novels, searches for her missing neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, which leads her to an eccentric gangster who longs to escape his own life, and together, they set out to discover the dangerous truth.
Three Sisters by Heather Morris
After surviving years of imprisonment in Auschwitz, three Slovakian sisters travel to Israel where the battle for freedom takes on new forms as they face the ghosts of their past and secrets they have kept from each other to find true peace and happiness.
Bewilderment by Richard Powers
A widowed astrobiologist and single father to a troubled son contemplates an experimental neurofeedback treatment that trains the boy on the recorded patterns of his mother’s brain in the new novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Overstory.
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
In June of 1954, 18-year-old Emmett Watson, released after serving 15 months for involuntary manslaughter, discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car and have hatched a different plan for Emmett’s future.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
The sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission to save both humanity and the earth, Ryland Grace is hurtled into the depths of space when he must conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
A furniture salesman in 1960s Harlem becomes a fence for shady cops, local gangsters and low-life pornographers after his cousin involves him in a failed heist.
The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel
A comics and cultural superstar delivers a deeply layered story of her fascination, from childhood to adulthood, with every fitness craze throughout the years, from Jack LaLanne in the 60s to the existential oddness of present-day spin classes.
Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile
Evocative and piercingly honest, Broken Horses is at once an examination of faith through the eyes of a person rejected by the church’s basic tenets and a meditation on the moments and lyrics that have shaped the life of a creative mind, a brilliant artist, and a genuine empath on a mission to give back.
Mooncakes & Milk Bread: Sweet & Savory Recipes Inspired by Chinese Bakeries by Kristina Cho
A popular food blogger, focusing exclusively on Chinese bakeries and cafes, presents simple, easy-to-make interpretations of classic recipes for the modern baker, including sweet and savory baked buns, steamed buns, Chinese breads, unique cookies, juicy dumplings and more.
The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl
The legendary American musician, singer, songwriter and documentary filmmaker offers a collection of stories, written by his own hand, that focus on the memories of his life, from his childhood to today.
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe
The award-winning author of Say Nothing presents a narrative account of how a prominent wealthy family sponsored the creation and marketing of one of the most commonly prescribed and addictive painkillers of the opioid crisis.
Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain
Co-edited by the National Book Award-winning author of How to Be an Antiracist, a 400-year chronicle of African-American history is written in five-year segments as documented by 80 multidisciplinary historians, artists and writers.
I Hate Running and You Can Too: How to Get Started, Keep Going, and Make Sense of an Irrational Passion by Brendan Leonard
Filled with wisdom, humor, attitude, tips and quotes, this guide to the love-hate relationship most runners have with the sport delivers a powerful message of motivation from a truly relatable mentor.
The Weekday Vegetarians: 100 Recipes and a Real-life Plan for Eating Less Meat by Jenny Rosenstrach
Offering more than 100 recipes, the creator of the highly popular website Dinner: A Love Story shows how she and her family have adopted “weekday vegetarian” mentality—eating a vegetable-based diet during the week and saving meaty splurges for the weekend.
Stranger Care: A Memoir of Loving What Isn’t Ours by Sarah Sentilles
The author shares what she learned from fostering a newborn — about injustice, about mistakes, and about how to better love and protect people outside of our immediate families.