The first is Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison. This is my favorite picture book of 2015 and easily now one of my most favorite picture books. I loved it so much I bought a copy for myself, to share with anyone who will make time. Jane is a little dog whose family make up part of a circus. They all have special talents, and although Jane tries to find something she excels at, she is not very successful. The owner of the circus, however, sees many beautiful qualities in Jane: she is loyal, a good friend, hard working. She is a good dog, and that is enough. This book always brings tears to my eyes and makes my heart knot up.
The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau. Everything about this book, from the language to the cover and layout, is magical. Please view my full review at School Library Journal.
The Finishing School Series by Gail Carriger. This series finished up last year with Manners & Mutiny, and it is one of my most favorites. An alternate Victorian London, steampunk technology, spy academies, a quirky protagonist named Sophronia and her lovable mechanimal Bumbersnoot, and wit and cleverness are all part of this series. Highly recommended, especially for those who have read the Enola Holmes series and the Incorrigible Children series and loved them.
I am constantly looking for graphic novels my nieces would love, and these two are some of my absolute favorite from last year. Baba Yaga's Assistant is full of life and folklore, with beautiful artwork by Emily Carroll, who released Through the Woods in 2014. This graphic novel is perfect for fans of folklore and legends. Roller Girl, winner of the 2016 Newbery Honor, is bright and colorful and full of life. Astrid navigates the beginning of her life in roller derby as well as middle school, she finds herself growing apart from her best friend. A very fast and interesting read which (hopefully) will have a sequel!
Another great 2015 graphic novel is Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm which, like Roller Girl, deals with problems children and teen face with humor and strength.
If I was choosing books for awards, these would definitely receive a Paws label.