2019’s Best and Brightest: Top Titles from Lerner

by Libby Stille, Publicist

Check out this year’s Lerner titles that have garnered the most stars and awards.

Picture books

Let ‘Er Buck! George Fletcher, the People’s Champion

Let 'Er Buck! cover

Written by Coretta Scott King Award honoree Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by Caldecott honoree Gordon C. James, Let ‘Er Buck! tells the story of African American cowboy George Fletcher. After Fletcher unfairly lost the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up to a white man, the outraged audience declared him “people’s champion.”

  • ★ “[E]nthralling. . . . A distinguished depiction of men and horses, and an under-told piece of history from the Old West.”—starred, Booklist
  • ★ “James’ painterly oils swirl with energy, visible daubs creating the dusty, monumental landscape and equally monumental horses and humans. . . . A champion indeed.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews
  • ★ “[A] triumphant tale of fairness trumping prejudice for a wrangler extraordinaire.”—starred, Publishers Weekly
  • ★ “The rollicking language and gorgeous art make this a terrific read-aloud and conversation starter for older elementary students.”—starred, School Library Journal
  • Kirkus Best Children’s Books 2019
  • Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books 2019
  • Orbis Pictus Recommended Book

Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons

Lion of the Sky cover

Haiku meet riddles in this wonderful collection from Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Mercè López. The poems celebrate the seasons and describe everything from an earthworm to a baseball to an apple to snow angels, alongside full-color illustrations.

  • ★ “[T]he wonderfully evocative, vivid imagery in text and art also make this a welcome addition for poetry classroom units.”—starred, Booklist
  • ★ “Richly rewarding and clever: a visually arresting, inventive treatment of a popular subject.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews
  • Kirkus Best Children’s Books 2019
  • Parents Magazine Best Kids’ Books 2019

A Map into the World

A Map into the World cover

Kao Kalia Yang’s debut picture book features a young Hmong American girl who seeks out beauty everywhere. She then shares all she’s seen with her grieving widower neighbor and they find a true connection. Illustrated by Seo Kim, this quiet story is not to be missed.

  • ★ “Contemplative, curious, and kind.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews
  • ★ “A distinctive story that weaves together threads of family life, community and culture, the natural world, and the power of stories.”—starred, Publishers Weekly
  • MIBA Midwest Connections Pick
  • Kirkus Best Children’s Books 2019

Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature

Wait, Rest, Pause cover

Captivating photos accompany engaging nonfiction text by Marcie Flinchum Atkins to explain dormancy in nature. Featuring creatures like ladybugs, chickadees, squirrels, and even alligators, this book won’t put curious kids to sleep!

  • ★ “A refreshingly original exploration of a physical process both common and important in the natural world.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews
  • Kirkus Best Children’s Books 2019

Middle grade

Monstrous: The Lore, Gore, and Science behind Your Favorite Monsters

Monstrous cover

Could Dr. Frankenstein’s machine ever animate a body? Why should vampires drink from veins and not arteries? What body parts are best for zombies to eat? (It’s not brains.) Explore the fascinating history and science behind eight legendary creatures in this page-turning book written and illustrated by Carlyn Beccia.

  • ★ “A fantastically researched, absolutely delectable approach to science education.”—starred, Booklist
  • ★ “Informative and entertaining throughout for readers undead or otherwise.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews
  • Booklist Editor’s Choice Youth Nonfiction Top of the List 2019
  • Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books 2019
  • Kirkus Best Middle-Grade Books 2019

Sincerely, Harriet

Sincerely, Harriet cover

Harriet Flores struggles with boredom and an unrequited crush while learning to manage her chronic illness through a long, hot, 1990s summer in Chicago. Along the way, she discovers the power of storytelling in this quiet middle-grade graphic novel by Sarah Winifred Searle.

  • ★ “Searle tackles Harry’s anxiety about her illness as well as common adolescent concerns about friendships, school, and family with honesty and tenderness that will resonate with readers.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews
  • Ignatz Award Nominee
  • Kirkus Best Middle-Grade Books 2019


The American Dream? A Journey on Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur Statues, Muffler Men, and the Perfect Breakfast Burrito

The American Dream? cover

Shing Yin Khor’s graphic travelogue about driving through what’s left of Route 66 begins as a road trip and ends up more like a pilgrimage in search of an ever-shifting definition of America.

  • ★ “Khor takes that ‘feeling of desperately searching for something better, for a new start,’ and adapts it to their own ‘pilgrimage’ as immigrant and artist traveling historic Route 66 . . . in whimsical full-color detail.”—starred, Booklist
  • NPR Best Books 2019

The Dozier School for Boys: Forensics, Survivors, and a Painful Past

The Dozier School for Boys cover

Forensic scientist Dr. Elizabeth A. Murray reveals the atrocities at the Dozier School for Boys where, from 1900 to 2001, school officials tortured and killed children in their care. Meet the brave survivors and investigators who brought the crimes to light.

  • ★ “[C]ogent and chilling. . . . [T]eens interested in learning more will be well served by this thorough, informative volume.”—starred, Booklist
  • ★ “A grim, harrowing, and important read with insights into the troubled juvenile justice system.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews
  • Kirkus Best Young Adult Books 2019

Stage Dreams

Stage Dreams cover

In this queer western adventure, acclaimed cartoonist Melanie Gillman puts readers in the saddle alongside Flor and Grace, a Latinx outlaw and a trans runaway, as they thwart a Confederate plot in the New Mexico Territory.

  • ★ “[D]elves into queer history and spins a witty and extravagant yarn about a dashing duo.”—starred, Publishers Weekly
  • ★ “This charming and poignant queer romance set against a Civil War–era backdrop will resonate with readers.”—starred, School Library Journal

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