The best fiction books from 2022 will be in two installments. The first installment is best for ages eight and up unless otherwise indicated. Some are great to read out loud to all ages and all are great for families to enjoy. Also, the highly anticipated 2023 Newbery and Caldecott awards have recently been announced. The Newbery Medal award for best chapter book is Freewater by Amina Luqman-Dawson. The honor awards are Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango, The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontomvat, and Maisy Chen’s Chance by Lisa Yee. The Caldecott Medal award for best picture book is Hot Dog by Doug Salati. The honor awards are Ain’t Burned All the Bright, illustrated by Jason Griffin and written by Jason Reynolds; Berry Song, illustrated and written by Michaela Goade; Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights, illustrated byJanelle Washington, written by Angela Joy; and Knight Owl, illustrated and written by Christopher Denise.

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief, by A. F. Steadman, is an adventure unlike many I’ve read recently. This is a story about thirteen-year-old Skandar who has been hoping to be chosen to go to a secret island where he can raise a wild unicorn, train it and ride it. However, when he reaches the island, he discovers it’s entirely different than he ever imagined. The secrets buried here are rich with excitement and danger. There are layers of mysteries to unravel, and the protagonist is portrayed with precise detail making the story wrap around your mind like a thriller movie.

A Spoonful of Murder, by Robin Stevens, is a mystery full of twists and turns navigating the reader through the entire book in search of the culprit. The setting is the 1930’s making this more like a historical mystery. Two very close friends, Daisy and Hazel, are off to visit Hazel’s ancestral home in Hong Kong. What they find waiting there sets their sleuth skills in motion. Upon arrival, Hazel discovers her little brother has gone missing. With a kidnapping and worse, the girls immediately set out to investigate. This mystery is woven masterly to a surprising climax. One great thing about this book is that it’s the newest mystery in this outstanding series.

Spineless, by Samantha San Miguel, is an exciting historical fiction adventure that incorporates the best elements of a book taking you to a far distant place and ignites your imagination. The book is set in the late 1800’s in the Florida swamplands. Alvie’s life is about to make a major change as he has recently arrived in this Florida wetlands and come close to drowning while recusing an octopus. Why this animal was found in the swamp and what Alvie and his new-found friends encounter will take you on an adventure that won’t let up until the end.

Hummingbird, by Natalie Lloyd, is a realistic fiction with a hint of magic sprinkled throughout. Olive was born with a rare bone disease and is confined to a wheelchair. She has been homeschooled until recently as her mother has finally relented to allow her to go to the public school. When Olive hears about a magical hummingbird that bestows wishes on a few, she sets out to find it. Perhaps this bird would be the solution to her troubles. The intricate and elegant setting and character development along with the wonderful storyline makes this book a great read-out-loud for all.

The Sheep, the Rooster and the Duck, by Matt Phelan, is an extraordinary story about these three animals with phenomenal abilities. This is a blend of history back in 1783 that includes Benjamin Franklin, spies and how these three animals rode in a hot air balloon. Phelan is a renowned artist and it shows with his glorious graphite drawings found throughout the story. He showcases these three animals in a series of exciting events that include chases, ambushes and even rescues. Here is another terrific read-out-loud.

The Elephant Girl, by James Patterson and Ellen Banda-Aaku with Sophia Krevoy, is a wonderful story based on true events of a girl living in Kenya and trying to protect elephants. Twelve-year-old Jama loves to go visit the nearby watering hole after school where she can observe the elephants as they drink. She eventually befriends a cute little elephant named Mbegu. But there are poachers nearby waiting to kill the elephants for their tusks. This is an inspiring and informative book that will be hard to put down.

Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra, by Stuart Gibb, is the third book in this mystery thriller series. Charlie Thorne is a genius and is about to attempt to solve the hardest mystery yet. Cleopatra left a treasure for her children to have. However, she left difficult coded clues that need to be solved. Charlie is out to do her best to figure out these codes but there are other seekers; very cold-blooded enemies that are attempting to get to the treasure first. There is much to learn about Cleopatra along the way as you will likely be turning the pages as quickly as possible.

Quest Kids and the Dragon Pants of Gold, by Mark Leiknes, is a magical story rich of mythical creatures including dragons who desire to wear golden pants and kids on a quest full of adventure and humor. This is the perfect book for your reluctant reader. There are comical illustrations on every page moving this fun, adventurous and hilarious story through to the end. Hopefully there are more books like this from the author!

Cress Watercress, by Gregory Maguire and gorgeously illustrated digitally with color sprinkled throughout by David Litchfield, is a beautifully told story about a family of rabbits and other woodland animals perfect for a family read-out-loud. Cress is the main bunny the story centers on and from her you learn about how her Papa never returned from a nocturnal outing. The animals Cress meets when her Mama decides they must move to safety, are full of unique character traits that become endearing. What a joy to read as well as the beauty of the pictures.

The Last Mapmaker, by Christina Soontornvat, is an extraordinary fantasy and adventure book. This book just won the Newbery Honor award for 2023. Twelve-year- old Sai is the assistant to the renowned mapmaker which greatly helps raise her status in her world. However she’s hiding secrets about her life that will hinder her future and cause get sadness. When she receives a chance to sail on a charting expedition, she jumps at the chance. What she soon discovers about the destination, which includes dragons and treasure trove, her trepidations are great. This page turner would be a terrific classroom read aloud.