March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Best Books 2012

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SLJ Best Books, Illustration by Jon Klassen.

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Best Adult Books 4 Teens 2012

The breakdown of this year’s list reflects the realities of the publishing world—YA continues to dominate in terms of output and sheer heft, but there was a noticeable uptick in the numbers of fine middle grade novels. There were several terrific picture books with engaging characters and dynamic art. Several novels were set in well-delineated fantastical worlds, yet quite a few focused on young people grappling with war and political upheaval in the real world, in real time. Humorous titles flourished, such as Polly Horvath’s One Year in Coal Harbor, Adam Gidwitz’s In a Glass Grimmly, and Lemony Snicket’s Who Could That Be at This Hour? It was a stellar year for nonfiction; we found books that were well researched, beautifully designed, and thoughtfully presented, from exciting explorations of space, natural history, and anthropology, to a riveting account of the 1963 Birmingham Children’s March and a magnificently illustrated version of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. These books are perfect for sparking children’s interest and imagination and to supplement many aspects of the curriculum.

The month in which the full review appeared follows each annotation; SLJ subscribers can also find the reviews and more in—TJ

Picture Books

BANKS, Kate. The Bear in the Book. illus. by Greg Hallensleben. Farrar/Frances Foster. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-374-30591-8.
PreS–A gentle, rhythmic text and lush soft-focus paintings bring to life a little boy’s nighttime ritual and a tale of a bear’s preparation for winter. This story within a story celebrates the act of reading and the tenderness of a parent’s embrace. A warm and fuzzy selection that’s destined to become a bedtime favorite. (Oct.)

BARNETT, Mac. Extra Yarn. illus. by Jon Klassen. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Tr $16.99 ISBN 978-0-06-195338-5. LC 2010015945.
K-Gr 3–When Annabelle discovers a box containing a never-ending supply of wool, she knits sweaters for everyone and everything in town, enveloping her bleak surroundings in cozy colors, until an evil archduke threatens to unravel her efforts. Featuring a serenely imperturbable heroine, this perfectly crafted yarn is expertly embellished with homespun whimsy. (Dec., 2011)

BINGHAM, Kelly. Z Is for Moose. illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-079984-7; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-079985-4.
PreS-Gr 2–Zebra’s alphabetic revue is disrupted by overeager Moose, who repeatedly insinuates himself into the lineup. He is devastated when Mouse is chosen for his big moment, and misbehaves until Zebra finally finds him another spot. An uproarious A-to-Z adventure, told with snappy dialogue balloons and madcap mixed-media cartoons. (Mar.)

BUITRAGO, Jairo. Jimmy the Greatest! illus. by Rafael Yockteng. Groundwood. Tr $18.95. ISBN 978-1-55498-178-6; ebook $18.95. ISBN 978-1-55498-206-6.
Gr 1-3–In an isolated seaside village, a youngster finds direction and inspiration from a caring adult who shares his love of boxing and a carton of books and clippings about Muhammad Ali , which the boy devours and takes to heart. The energetic digital cartoon art packs a punch of its own, balancing humor, grace, and na ï ve charm. (June)

COLE, Henry. Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad. illus. by author. Scholastic. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-39997-5. LC 2011043583.
Gr 3-8–Silence, fear, and hope pervade this compelling wordless story about a Southern farm girl who discovers an escaped slave among the cornstalks in the barn. Cole’s striking pencil drawings on cream backgrounds draw readers in, leaving questions in their minds that stimulate repeated visits to these pages. (Nov.)

FLEMING, Candace. Oh, No! illus. by Eric Rohmann. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-375-84271-9; PLB $20.99. ISBN 978-0-375-94557-1. LC 2009045564.
PreS-Gr 2 –When Frog falls into a deep hole and can’t get out–and is soon followed by a series of hapless critters–Tiger prepares to pounce, but a jumbo-size rescuer rumbles up just in time to save the day. Toe-tapping rhythms, chant-along refrains, sing-it-out sound effects, and elegant antic-filled artwork make for a boisterous read-aloud treat. (Aug.)

Book Covers

FYLEMAN , Rose. Mice. illus. by Lois Ehlert. S & S/Beach Lane. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-5684-6; ebook $12.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-5686-0.
PreS-Gr 1–The mischievous subjects of the classic poem scamper, caper, and cavort through the night in this refreshing reinterpretation. Comprised of bits of vibrantly colored-paper cutouts and string on a pitch black background, these mice are strikingly original and endearing. The revelation of the narrator adds a totally unexpected twist. (Dec.)

HARTNETT, Sonya. Sadie and Ratzillus. by Ann James. Candlewick. Tr $14.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5315-6; ebook $14.99 ISBN 978-0-7636-5990-5.
Gr 2-4–Hannah’s hands–named Sadie and Ratz–behave like rampaging beasts, particularly when her annoying four-year-old brother is nearby, but when mysterious mishaps occur and Baby Boy blames the destructive duo, Hannah resolves to prove their innocence. Expressive charcoal artwork enlivens this beginning-chapter-book look at sibling discord and imaginative play. (Apr.)

HENKESKevin. Penny and Her Doll. illus. by author. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Tr $12.99. ISBN 978-0-06-208199-5; PLB $14.89. ISBN 978-0-06-208200-8. LC 2011030043.
PreS-Gr 1–Penny absolutely adores the doll that Gram has just sent her, so she must pick the perfect name for her new playmate. Pairing inviting text with buoyant spring-hued artwork, this easy reader stars a charmingly childlike mouse whose emotions and actions ring true. (Oct.)

HILLS, Tad. Rocket Writes a Story. illus. by author. Random/Schwartz and Wade. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-375-87086-6; PLB $20.99. ISBN 978-0-375-97086-3.
PreS-Gr 2–A book-loving pup is determined to author his first work, collecting interesting words, searching for inspiration, and finally settling on a topic that brings him success…and a new friend. Packed-with-personality paintings and an entertaining text communicate the creativity, perseverance, and sense of satisfaction that define the writing process. (July)

KLASSEN, Jon. This Is Not My Hat. illus. by author. Candlewick. RTE $15.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5599-0.
PreS-Gr 1–The absurdity begins with a fish wearing a hat, not his hat, but one that he pilfered from a big, sleeping fish. The thief acknowledges his wrongdoing, but is convinced that he’ll evade the consequences and rationalizes his bad behavior. The brilliantly spare digital artwork conveys a parallel narrative with tiny telling details revealing that crime does not pay. (Sept.)

LOGUE , Mary. Sleep Like a Tigerillus. by Pamela Zagarenski. Houghton Harcourt. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-64102-7.
PreS-Gr 1–A little girl’s parents relate the sleeping habits of various animals, from tiny snails to majestic tigers, in order to lull their reluctant youngster to sleep. The calming, rhythmic language and the detailed, textured mixed-media paintings on wood create a soothing, gentle story sure to inspire sweet dreams. (Dec.)

WILLEMS, Mo. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs: As Retold by Mo Willems. illus. by author. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-210418-2.
PreS-Gr 3–This recasting of the traditional tale features a trio of hungry-for-human villains, a comically clueless heroine, giant bowls of ready-to-eat pudding (an essential ingredient for “delicious chocolate-filled-little-girl bonbons”), and loads of over-the-top humor. A ferociously funny romp, told with exuberant language and masterfully mirthful artwork. (Aug.)

WOODSON, Jacqueline. Each Kindness. illus. by E. B. Lewis. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-24652-4.
Gr 2-5–A child learns a painful lesson when she and her classmates purposefully exclude a new girl and ignore her overtures of friendship. Rich, impressionistic watercolor paintings and lyrical, understated text create a moving, bittersweet story that offers food for thought for youngsters still learning to navigate their social circles. (Sept.)


ANDERSON, Jodi Lynn. Tiger Lily. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-200325-6; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-211461-7.
Gr 8-11–Anderson gives voice to the other woman in Peter Pan’s tale. Tiger Lily, the adopted daughter of a Sky Eater shaman, is misunderstood and feared by her people. When she rescues a white man from a shipwreck, her life, and the lives of the villagers, is forever changed. A reimagining of Neverland, the novel grapples with a gamut of themes, from colonization and betrayal to first love and sacrifice. (July)

APPLEGATE, Katherine.The One and Only Ivan. illus. by Patricia Castelao. HarperCollins/Harper. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-199225-4; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-210198-3.
Gr 3-7A gorilla ekes out a dull, predictable existence as a roadside attraction until a baby elephant forces him to see his life as a prison and to envision a way out. A poignant, quietly powerful tale that sheds light on animal cruelty. (Jan.)

BRAY, Libba. The Diviners. Little, Brown. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0-316-12611-3; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-316-21464-3.
Gr 10 Up–This epic series opener combines the mystery of the occult with the glamour of the 1920s. When spirited flapper Evie O’Neill moves to New York City, she meets other people who also have supernatural abilities. The teen becomes involved in helping her uncle solve a number of gruesome murders, which involve a dangerous cult and an evil spirit set on destruction. A gripping and dazzling read. (Sept.)

COATS, J. Anderson. The Wicked and the Just. Houghton Harcourt. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-68837-4; ebook $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-68883-1.
Gr 6-9–In 13th-century Wales, a spoiled English girl is forced to live with people she considers below her status, particularly Gwinny, whose proud family is now living in poverty. The hatred between the English and the Welsh is palpable in this multilayered story about two very different teens learning about compassion. (May)

DANFORTH, Emily M.The Miseducation of Cameron Post. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-202056-7; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-210196-9.
Gr 10 Up–In this stunning coming-of-age debut, Montana teen Cameron Post must come to terms with her sexuality in the wake of her parents’ deaths. Her brief romance with her female best friend causes her staunchly religious aunt to send her to a Christian outreach center to be “cured” of her homosexuality. Instead, she discovers the strength to choose her own life. (Mar.)

ELLIS, Deborah. My Name Is Parvana. (Breadwinner Series). Groundwood. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-1-55498-297-4; ebook $14.95. ISBN 978-1-55498-299-8.
Gr 6-10–Found in a bombed-out Afghan school, 15-year-old Parvana is being held as a suspected terrorist but refuses to speak to or even acknowledge her American interrogators. To keep up her spirits and maintain her resolve, she recalls all that she and her family members have endured during the war. A compelling and honest look at the physical and emotional toll such a conflict has on civilians. (June)

FARISH, Terry. The Good Braider. Amazon. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-7614-6267-5; ebook $7.99. ISBN 978-0-7614-6268-2.
Gr 9 Up–Viola and her family journey through war-torn Sudan, impoverished Cairo, and finally strange and alien Portland, Maine, trying to escape the horrors witnessed and experienced back home. As she crosses borders, the teen must learn to straddle two cultures, holding on to her Sudanese traditions while embracing the possibility of a new start. With its vivid imagery and honest portrayal of the refugees’ struggles, this stirring novel in verse will haunt readers. (Sept.)

GIDWITZ, Adam. In a Glass Grimmly. Dutton. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-525-42581-6.
Gr 3 Up–Mistreated and misunderstood, cousins Jack and Jill run away from home and embark on a do-or-die quest to find a magic mirror and earn their true hearts’ desires. Once again embellishing upon a fairy-tale tapestry, Gidwitz’s hilarious and hair-raising companion to A Tale Dark & Grimm (Dutton, 2010) features a mélange of malicious villains, gruesome details, and fun-to-root-for heroes. (Oct.)

GREEN, John. The Fault in Our Stars. Dutton. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-525-47881-2.
Gr 9 Up–Given a brief reprieve from a terminal diagnosis, Hazel, a stalwart teen, has been encouraged by her parents to embrace her life. When she meets Gus at a Cancer Kid Support Group, they embark on a poignant, whirlwind romance. Readers come to know and love these bright, vibrant characters through their crackling dialogue, gallows humor, and tenuous hopes and dreams. (Feb.)

HARTMAN, Rachel. Seraphina. Random. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-375-86656-2; PLB $20.99. ISBN 978-0-375-96656-9; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-375-89658-3. LC 2011003015.
Gr 7 Up–In the kingdom of Goredd, humans and dragons have forged a fragile alliance, with the super-rational creatures assuming human form to serve as ambassadors and teachers. Seraphina, a gifted court musician, must hide the truth about her mixed heritage and call upon all of her abilities to investigate a royal murder that threatens to undermine a generation of peaceful accord. Brilliantly realized high fantasy at its fire-breathing best! (Aug.)

HORVATH, Polly. One Year in Coal Harbor. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-86970-9; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-96970-6; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-375-98536-2.
Gr 5-7–Wise, witty, and loaded with pizzazz, Primrose Squarp of Everything on a Waffle returns with an update about life in her small Canadian town. She is back with her mother and father, who had been presumed lost at sea, but her attachment to her foster parents is as keen as ever. Lonely no more, she has a best friend at last, and high drama has arrived with loggers and a plan to clear-cut trees on Mendolay Mountain. Quirky, funny, and unforgettable. (Aug.)

KINDL, Patrice. Keeping the Castle. Viking. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-670-01438-5.
Gr 7 Up–Young and beautiful Althea Crawley adroitly navigates the social terrain of Regency England in order to procure a wealthy husband and save her family home from ruin. A perceptive and determined heroine, witty banter worthy of Jane Austen, and a Gothic castle setting make this historical romance at its finest. (June)

KING, A. S. Ask the Passengers. Little, Brown. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-316-19468-6; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-316-21453-7.
Gr 10 Up–Astrid has so much love to give, and she pushes it toward the passengers in the airplanes flying overhead. It’s an exercise far easier to accomplish than sharing her feelings with her emotionally absent mother, stoned father, and closeted best friends. Coworker Dee offers the love that Astrid is seeking, but is pressuring the teen to define herself before she’s ready. King’s latest is an honest portrayal of how love connects people in tiny—and–astronomical ways. (Oct.)

LAFEVERS, R. L. Grave Mercy. Houghton Harcourt. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-62834-9; ebook $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-82241-9.
Gr 9 Up–Under the tutelage of the nuns of St. Mortain, former outcast Ismae Rienne, 17, becomes a skilled assassin. Her abilities, loyalty, and heart are tested when she receives a mission to infiltrate the Breton high court. The more deeply she becomes immersed in the intrigue, the more she doubts whom she can trust. This page-turner has it all: action, suspense, and, of course, romance. (Apr.)

LEVITHAN, David. Every Day. Knopf. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-307-93188-7; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-97111-2; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-307-97563-8.
Gr 9 Up–Each morning, A inhabits a different body and has learned not to get too involved in or possessive of the host’s life. All that changes when the 16-year-old wakes up as a blowhard teen and falls for the boy’s sweet, but much-maligned girlfriend. A tender and surreal exploration of identity, personal responsibility, and love. (Sept.)

LOWRY, Lois. Son. Houghton Harcourt. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-547-88720-3; ebook $17.99. ISBN 978-0-547-92851-7.
Gr 6 Up–Claire has been the assigned the role of Birthmother by her seemingly utopian community. But unlike the other Vessels, she grows attached to her son and will stop at nothing to be reunited with him when he’s taken from her. This long-awaited conclusion to “The Giver” quartet traverses different worlds and dangers and seamlessly ties together the lives of Kira, Jonas, Gabriel, and Claire. A story of love, endurance, and sacrifice. (Sept.)

MCCALL, Guadalupe Garcia. Summer of the Mariposas. Lee & Low/Tu. RTE $17.95. ISBN 978-1-60060-900-8.
Gr 7-9–A Mexican-American retelling of Homer’s Odyssey, this novel focuses on the bonds among five sisters who resolve to return a man’s corpse to his hometown. Odilia the eldest, is guided by Malintzin–the mythical mother of Mexico–across the Texas border where the girls encounter legendary creatures, witches, and the stark truth of their father’s abandonment. Sprinkled with Spanish words and Aztec traditions, this lyrical tale of magical realism and adventure will resonate with readers. (Nov.)

MCCORMICK, Patricia. Never Fall Down. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-173093-1; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-211442-6; PLB $18.89. ISBN 978-0-06-173094-8.
Gr 8 Up–In Cambodia in 1975, an 11-year-old ‘s life takes a nightmarish turn when Khmer Rouge soldiers march the people to the countryside, where they are made to grow rice. Soon separated from his family, Arn manages to stay alive amid brainwashing, starvation, and wholesale killing by suppressing his emotions and learning to play an instrument. This unforgettable and devastating survival story is based on the experiences of human-rights activist Arn Chorn-Pond. (May)

MARTÍNEZ, Andrés Vera & Na Liu. Little White Duck. illus. by Andrés Vera Martínez. Lerner/Graphic Universe. RTE $29.27 ISBN 978-0-7613-6587-7; pap. $9.95. ISBN 978-0-7613-8115-0; ebook $21.95 ISBN 978-0-7613-7963-8.
Gr 4 Up–This captivating graphic memoir includes several vignettes about Liu and her little sister growing up in Wuhan, China, following the death of Chairman Mao in 1976. Child-focused episodes and engaging, varied artwork incorporate traditional symbols and cultural details with the realities of modern urbanized life. A perfect blend of pictures and narrative. (Sept.)

MATSON, Morgan. Second Chance Summer. S & S. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-9067-3; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4391-5752-7.
Gr 8 Up–After Taylor Edwards, 17, learns that her father has terminal cancer, she and her family head to their lake house in the Poconos for a final summer together. Once there, Taylor grows closer to her siblings, rekindles relationships with an ex-friend and her first love, and prepares for the day she’ll have to say goodbye to her staunchest champion. A moving novel with heart and depth. (May)

NELSON, Vaunda Micheaux. No Crystal Stair: A Novel in Documents, Based on the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Booksellerillus. by R. Gregory Christie. Carolrhoda Lab. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-0-7613-6169-5; ebook $12.95. ISBN 978-0-7613-8727-5.
Gr 7 Up–Michaux was street smart and book-learned and nobody could dissuade him when he decided to open a bookshop in Harlem in the 1930s. Nelson chronicles the life of her legendary great-uncle through the voices of characters both real and imagined, while the illustrations and photos complete the portrait of this unfettered, feisty icon of African American intellectual life. (Feb.)

O’CONNOR, Barbara. On the Road to Mr. Mineo’s. Farrar/Frances Foster. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-374-38002-1; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-374-35656-9.
Gr 3-6–Mr. Mineo’s one-legged pigeon flits about a small, Southern town, landing on a garage roof, rafters, and a kid’s head instead of returning home. This rapscallion brings consternation to its owner and adventure and purpose to young Stella, who longs for a pet. How the elusive bird evades capture over a week’s time makes for a suspenseful, tenderhearted tale. (Nov.)

OLIVER, Lauren. The Spindlers. illus. by Iacopo Bruno. HarperCollins/Harper. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-197808-1; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-219025-3.
Gr 4-6–Liza’s little brother has always been slightly annoying, but when she wakes up one morning to find him a sulky, soulless shell, the spunky heroine bravely sets off to rescue him. She encounters a host of characters, including a lovably flamboyant talking rat and the evil Queen of the Spindlers, spiderlike creatures that strike fear in all underground dwellers. This pitch-perfect middle-grade fantasy will strike a chord in adventurers’ hearts. (Sept.)

PALACIO, R. J. Wonder. Knopf. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-375-86902-0; PLB $18.99. ISBN 978-0-375-96902-7; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-375-89988-1.
Gr 4-7–It’s always hard being the new kid, but 10-year-old Auggie has severe facial deformities that make his transition from homeschooling to a fifth-grade classroom particularly trying. Palacio tells the boy’s story from a number of perspectives (including his sister’s and friends’), and readers will root for him as he experiences cruelty and kindness and makes friends. (Feb.)

ROSSI, Veronica. Under the Never Sky. HarperCollins/Harper. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-207203-0; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-207205-4.
Gr 7 UpAria has lived inside the domed-city of Reverie with her geneticist mother all of her lifeuntil she’s cast out by its security chief for daring to speak against his unstable son. Perry is the Outsider who saves her in a world filled with energy storms, tribes of roving cannibals, and starvation. Despite their differences, the teens learn to rely on each other, and fall in love. Rossi’s debut crackles with powerful dialogue, fast-paced intrigue, and gasp-inducing drama. (Mar.)

SÁENZ, Benjamin Alire. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. S & S. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-0892-0; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-0894-4.
Gr 9 Up–Ari is a solemn, angry Mexican American teen. A loner by choice, he remains enshrouded in his family’s tragic past and silent ways until Dante offers to teach him how to swim. The boys become fast friends, bonding on an intellectual and emotional level. This is a gorgeously written, deeply satisfying coming-of-age novel about identity, soulful secrets, and opening oneself to the possibility of love. (Feb.)

SCHLITZ, Laura Amy. Splendors and Glooms. Candlewick. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5380-4; ebook $17.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-6246-2.
Gr 4-8–Orphans Lizzie Rose and Parsefall befriend lonely, wealthy Clara after they perform with the conniving master puppeteer Gaspare Grisini at her 12th birthday party. When Clara disappears soon after, Lizzie and Parsefall must outwit the evil Grisini, face a witch, and come to understand the dark powers of the magical fire opal in order to save their friend and themselves. A rich, evocative Victorian fantasy. (Aug.)

SNICKET, Lemony. Who Could That Be at This Hour? Bk. 1. illus. by Seth. (All the Wrong Questions Series). Little, Brown. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-316-12308-2.
Gr 4-7Young Lemony Snicket’s mysterious apprenticeship to a secret organization will hook readers, who will appreciate the 13-year-old’s obvious superiority over his clueless mentor and be searching for hints to the overarching mystery within the text and Seth’s fitting illustrations. A playful noir-esque tone aligns perfectly with the colorful cast of characters that populates the waning, sea-less town of Stain’d by the Sea. (Dec.)

STEAD, Rebecca. Liar & Spy. Random/Wendy Lamb. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-385-73743-2; PLB $18.99. ISBN 978-0-385-90665-4; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-375-89953-9.
Gr 5-8–Bullied at school, reeling from changes in his family, and adjusting to a new apartment, seventh-grader Georges hopes that he’s found a kindred spirit in Safer, a 12-year-old loner who wants his help spying on a suspicious neighbor. Then their efforts become increasingly daring, and Georges feels pushed to the boundaries of friendship. Filled with memorable characters, authentic humor and heartache, and thought-provoking dilemmas. (Sept.)

STIEFVATER, Maggie. The Raven Boys. Bk. 1. Scholastic. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-42492-9; ebook $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-46979-1.
Gr 8 Up–Blue Sargent is the only one in her household of women without psychic abilities. However, when she becomes involved in a quest with four students from Aglionby Academy to locate a ley line in her rural Virginia community and awaken a legendary “sleeping” Welsh king, she learns about her unique talents. Stiefvater spins an engrossing tale of suspense, mystery, magic, and romance. (Oct.)

WEIN, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. Hyperion/Disney. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4231-5219-4; ebook $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4231-5325-2.
Gr 9 Up–Scots-born Julie Beaufort-Stuart, aka Verity, is being held captive in France and interrogated by the Gestapo. Her only chance of survival is to record her story, come clean about her mission, and give up classified codes. All the while, her best friend Maddie, the pilot who flew her behind enemy lines, risks everything to try to save her. A taut espionage thriller and a heartrending tale of friendship. (July)


ASIM, Jabari.Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington. illus. by Bryan Collier. Little, Brown. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-316-08657-8.
Gr 2-4–Born into slavery, toiling in a West Virginia coal mine after emancipation, always scrimping and saving, and steadfastly passionate about learning, 16-year-old Washington walked 500 miles to pursue an education. A poetic narrative and luminous collage artwork tell the story of this inspiring American. (Oct.)

BISHOP, Nic. Nic Bishop Snakesphotos by authorScholastic. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-20638-9.
Gr 3-5–These “strange, secretive, and surprising” predators are introduced via stunning up-close photos that showcase their physical characteristics and behaviors and their breathtaking beauty. Accessible and engaging, the text enhances the crystalline images with a plethora of awesome facts. (Oct.)

CHIN, Jason. Island: A Story of the Galápagos. illus. by author. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-716-6.
Gr 3-6–Harking back to its lava-spewing birth six-million years ago, Chin recounts the “life” of a volcanic island, chronicling the arrival of plants and animals, eons of gradual climate change, the evolution of endemic species, and its eventual sinking below the waves. Realistic, color-drenched artwork and an absorbing text imbue this island’s natural history with clarity and drama. (Aug.)

CLOSE, Chuck. Chuck Close: Face Book. illus. by author. Abrams. RTE $18.95. ISBN 978-1-4197-0163-4.
Gr 4-8–The heart of this inventive autobiography is a series of 14 self-portraits by Close (who has a condition that makes it difficult for him to remember faces), in various mediums and styles. Pages are divided into thirds that can be manipulated in any number of ways. Questions posed by fifth graders about the artist, his work, and his methods, and Close’s candid responses (“Art really saved my life”), conclude this stunning volume. (June)

DECRISTOFANO, Carolyn Cinami. A Black Hole Is NOT a Hole. illus. by Michael Carroll. Charlesbridge. RTE $18.95. ISBN 978-1-57091-783-7; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-1-60734-073-7.
Gr 5-7–Trillions upon trillions of miles beyond our solar system lie zones with a gravitational pull so strong that nothing can escape them, including light. In short chapters, supported by lucid definitions, sure analogies, and heaps of helpful illustrations, the author explains a complex phenomenon that has confounded many a student. (Apr.)

DEEM, James M. Faces from the Past: Forgotten People of North AmericaHoughton Harcourt. Tr $18.99. ISBN 978-0-547-37024-8.
Gr 5 Up–From 10,500-year-old mummified remains found in Nevada’s Spirit Cave to buried Chinese miners in Wyoming (1881), Deem considers the fates of often-unknown individuals and the information that their remains has yielded about them and the times in which they lived. Instructive black-and-white photos document the painstaking work of forensic specialists, and the repatriation efforts to honor these men, women, and children. (Dec.)

FERN, Tracey. Barnum’s Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World. illus. by Boris Kulikov. Farrar/Margaret Ferguson. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-374-30516-1.
Gr 3-5–They said he was able to sniff out fossils, but it took years of traipsing around the Montana badlands before this adventurous bone collector associated with the American Museum of Natural History unearthed his greatest find–a new species called Tyrannosaurus rex. Pen-and-watercolor artwork filled with unusual perspectives and fanciful vignettes adds humor to the mix. (June)

FREEDMAN, Russell. Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship. Clarion. Tr $18.99. ISBN 978-0-547-38562-4.
Gr 5-10–In alternating chapters, readers meet these national heroes in their youth, travel with them as they mature into potent political figures, and witness their eventual, long-anticipated encounter at the White House. In lucid prose accompanied by archival photos, Freedman shines a light on some of the complex issues facing our nation during the 19th century and two of the men who embodied them. (May)

HOOSE, Phillip. Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95. Farrar. Tr $21.99. ISBN 978-0-374-30468-3.
Gr 6 Up–Hoose chronicles the travels of one particularly stalwart rufa red knot, the efforts of scientists to map and protect stopover sites along his circuitous route from the Canadian Arctic and Tierra del Fuego, and the commitment of average citizens trying to ensure the survival of shorebirds. Captivating photographs and maps help to introduce young people to this fearless flyer’s sweeping and dynamic story. (Oct.)

JENKINS, Steve. The Beetle Book. illus. by author. Houghton Harcourt. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-68084-2.
Gr 4-7–“Line up every kind of plant and animal on Earth…and one of every four will be a beetle.” Depicting a sampling of astonishingly diverse species of Coleoptera with both realism and artistry, Jenkins’s exquisitely illustrated, vividly written, fact-filled overview will mesmerize budding naturalists. (Apr.)

KALMAN, Maira. Looking at Lincolnillus. by author. Penguin/ Nancy Paulsen Bks. RTE $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-24039-3.
Gr 2-5–He loved his family, his dog Fido, vanilla cake, truth and justice, and his country. But he despised slavery, and when he was able to do something about it, he did. A poignant text and bold paintings awash in bright pinks, greens, and blues, illuminate the life of America’s beloved 16th president. (Jan.)

KING, Martin Luther, Jr. I Have a Dreamillus. by Kadir Nelson. w/CD. Random/Schwartz & Wade. Tr $18.99. ISBN 978-0-375-85887-1; PLB $21.99. ISBN 978-0-375-95887-8; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-375-98772-4.
Gr 2 Up–An excerpt from this iconic speech is gloriously illustrated with regally composed oil paintings. Still eloquent and relevant, Dr. King’s words are interpreted through close-ups of the speaker, expansive overviews of the 1963 gathering before the Lincoln Monument, and affecting portrayals of handholding harmony. (Nov.)

LEVINSON, Cynthia. We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March. Peachtree. Tr $19.95. ISBN 978-1-56145-627-7.
Gr 7 Up–A dramatic account of the thousands of children and teens who marched down the streets and into the jails of racially charged Birmingham, Alabama, in May 1963. Focusing on four of the protestors, the in-depth interviews, extensive source notes, and powerful photos tell the inspirational story of young citizens willing to sacrifice their freedom for their basic rights. (May)

NELSON , S. D., retel. Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story. illus. by reteller. Abrams. RTE $19.95. ISBN 978-1-4197-0355-3.
Gr 3-6–This graceful retelling is based on stories a Native American woman told about her 1830s childhood in Like-a-Fishhook Village, a farming community overlooking the Missouri River. Luminous paintings, delicate drawings, and archival photographs embellish the accessible narrative. (Nov.)

NIVOLA, Claire A. Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle. illus. by author. Farrar/Frances Foster Bks. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-374-38068-7.
Gr 1-5–By age 12, Earle, already a naturalist, “lost her heart to the ocean.” In fluid prose, Nivola immerses readers into the watery world in which the marine biologist and spokesperson spent much of her long and illustrious career. Artwork bathed in blue tones offers a peek at this vast biome, brimming with colorful life-forms large and small. (Feb.)

RUSCH, Elizabeth. The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity. (Scientists in the Field Series). Houghton Harcourt. RTE $18.99. ISBN 978-0-547-47881-4.
Gr 7-9–When two small robots successfully landed on Mars in 2003, NASA personnel celebrated–and then hoped–that they would be able to retrieve at least three months of data and images from the machines. Enduring dust storms, mechanical failures, deep craters, frigid temperatures, the intrepid duo has, to date, supplied scientists nine-plus years of information. A thrilling story, profusely illustrated. (July)

SANDLER, Martin W. The Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure. Candlewick. RTE $22.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5080-3.
Gr 5 Up–In an 1897 mission, plagued by blizzards and the pressure of time, the Overland Relief Expedition set out on a harrowing, thousand-mile-plus trek for Point Barrow, in northern Alaska, to save some 300 crew and eight icebound whaling ships. Supported by lengthy, primary-source quotations and a wealth of archival photographs, this “celebration of the human spirit” places readers at the center of an extraordinary undertaking. (Sept.)

SHEINKIN, Steve. Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-487-5; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-861-3.
Gr 5 Up–The scientists were recruited; the site was selected; and as World War II was gaining momentum, the United States embarked on the development of what was euphemistically called “the gadget.” Chock-full of extensive quotes–from spies for the allies and the enemies alike–this thrilling, suspenseful narrative is filled with historical detail and unrelenting intrigue. (Oct.)

TOUGAS, Shelley. Little Rock Girl 1957: How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration. (Captured History Series). Compass Point. PLB $33.99. ISBN 978-0-7565-4440-9; pap. $8.95. ISBN 978-0-7565-4512-3.
Gr 5-9The role of the media as an impetus to social action is as timely a topic today as it was 55 years ago when a photograph of a scene outside an Arkansas school shocked the world. Striking black-and-white images document this defining event, while quotes by those present bring the tumultuous era and fight for integration into sharp focus. (Jan.)

WALKER, Sally M. & Douglas W. Owsley. Their Skeletons Speak: Kennewick Man and the Paleoamerican WorldCarolrhoda. RTE $22.95. ISBN 978-0-7613-7457-2; ebook $17.95. ISBN 978-1-4677-0001-6.
Gr 8 UpA startling discovery in 1996 of ancient remains provided scientists with clues about Paleoamerican culture. Engrossing color photos and a fascinating, layered text take readers onsite and into laboratories as archaeologists, anthropologists, and geologists sift through evidence, construct theories, and reexamine them in the light of new information. (Oct.)




  1. Looks like a really good list. Since these are books for children and younger folks, the , it would be nice to include images of all the book covers next to the book descriptions.

  2. Beverly Wrigglesworth says:

    I was somewhat appalled that the Fiction section had 21 teen fiction titles listed and only 10 titles for younger readers. Those that chose the fiction titles seem to have some disdain for fiction for the elementary school age child.

  3. I found TIGER LILY to be problematic for several reasons, starting with the names Anderson gives to the characters, and the parts about the shaman, and English language described as “a gift.” My complete review is at my site:


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