Best Books 2008

Of the more than 5000 books reviewed in SLJ’s pages in 2008, the 67 books listed below stood out as having distinctive voices, singular vision, and/or innovative approaches. They include books for toddlers and preschoolers, terrific picture books and easy readers, and some highly original novels. Fantasy, historical fiction, science fiction, humor, mystery, affecting family stories, and adventure all make an appearance. It was an amazingly strong year for YA novels, several with hard-hitting, powerful themes. There’s also some spectacular science and history. Deciding among all of the books about Lincoln published this year was not easy; we selected two that we felt were the most unusual and creative. The arts fared well also, with lively titles about Alexander Calder, Mark Twain, Billie Holiday, and William Carlos Williams. We believe that there are some stellar choices here so read, enjoy, and recommend.-T.J.

Picture Books

COTTIN, Menena. The Black Book of Colors. tr. from Spanish by Elisa Amado. illus. by Rosana Faría. Groundwood. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-0-88899-873-6. K-Gr 8–This inventive concept book explores the sensory cues that colors evoke, giving youngsters the experience of “feeling” the hues through their fingertips. The raised black-line drawings set on black pages and the Braille translation invite readers to touch and linger over the images. FERN, Tracey E. Buffalo Music. illus. by Lauren Castillo. Clarion. RTE $16. ISBN 978-0-618-72341-6. K-Gr 4–When hunters decimate the West Texas buffalo population, Molly, an ornery rancher, mothers orphan calves, builds a thriving herd, and ultimately helps to save the species from extinction. Her story reverberates with a regional twang, and is enlivened by the homespun artwork. FOX, Mem. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes. illus. by Helen Oxenbury. unpaged. Harcourt. RTE $16. ISBN 978-0-15-206057-2. PreS–Effervescent infants sitting on swings and interacting together star in this winsome picture book about a perennial delight–those adorable digits. Captivating watercolors and a soothing rhyme make this picture book an instant classic. FRAZEE, Marla. A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever. illus. by author. Harcourt. RTE $16. ISBN 978-0-15-206020-6. PreS-K–During a visit to Eamon’s grandparents, two friends tough out nature camp, overload on snacks and video games, and (unintentionally) absorb the wonders of their surroundings. Summer-hued cartoons comically belie the deadpan narrative, resulting in a snicker-inducing child-pleaser. GEORGE, Jean Craighead. Goose and Duck. illus. by Priscilla Lamont. (An I Can Read! Bk.). HarperCollins/Laura Geringer Bks. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-117076-8; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-117077-5. K-Gr 2–A boy becomes a mother to a gosling, and the gosling becomes mother to a duck before both birds find their true callings. A perfect introduction to imprinting in the natural world, told simply and with hilarious art. GORBACHEV, Valeri. Christopher Counting. illus. by author. Philomel. RTE $15.99. ISBN 978-0-399-24629-6. PreS-Gr 1–Once a bunny learns to count, there’s no stopping him–boots, cups, flowers, fish–until it’s time for a single good-night kiss from his mother. Energetic cartoons illustrate this fresh take on a child’s mastery of numbers. GRAHAM, Bob. How to Heal a Broken Wing. illus. by author. Candlewick. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-3903-7. K-Gr 2–When a boy finds a wounded bird on a busy city street, he and his parents take it home and tenderly care for it, hoping that it will one day fly again. Spare text and endearing cartoon art deliver an uplifting tale. GRANT, Judyann Ackerman. Chicken Said, “Cluck!” illus. by Sue Truesdell. (An I Can Read! Bk). HarperCollins. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-028723-8; PLB $16.89. ISBN 978-0-06-028724-5. K-Gr 2–An inquisitive hen is a constant annoyance as two children try to plant pumpkin seeds but she proves her worth in the end. The deadpan text is perfect for the very funny art. GREY, Mini. Traction Man Meets Turbodog. illus. by author. Knopf/Borzoi. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-85583-2; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-95583-9. PreS-Gr 3–When clueless adults try to replace an admittedly grimy Scrubbing Brush with battery-operated Turbodog, Traction Man gets down and dirty to rescue his faithful Brush. Vibrant cartoon art and action-packed panels capture the drama and humor of a boy’s imaginative play. HARRIS, Robie H. Mail Harry to the Moon! illus. by Michael Emberley. Little, Brown. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-316-15376-8. PreS-Gr 1–Jealousy reaches new heights when a big brother cannot abide the attention showered on his new sibling. Priceless expressions that dramatically convey the boy’s feelings are paired with imaginative scenarios for getting rid of the interloper, but, as expected, all ends well. HENKES, Kevin. Old Bear. illus. by author. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-155205-2; PLB $18.89. ISBN 978-0-06-155206-9. PreS–A lumpy, lovable bear curls up in his cave and dreams of seasons past before awakening to the promise of spring. Sure, simple lines and warm, inviting colors make this a picture book for all seasons. HORSE, Harry. Little Rabbit’s New Baby. illus. by author. Peachtree. Tr $15.95. ISBN 978-1-56145-431-0. PreS-Gr 1–Little Rabbit is delighted to be a big brother, but he soon learns that keeping a trio of new siblings happy and quiet is no easy task. Soft lines and pastels perfectly capture his cozy home, the chaos caused by a rapidly expanding family, and the love that surrounds them all. HOWE, James. Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time. illus. by Marie-Louise Gay. Candlewick. Tr $14.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-3384-4. K-Gr 2–When Catina worries that a snowstorm will leave them housebound, Houndsley shows her how to savor a day spent playing, relaxing, and dreaming together. An enchanting easy reader with lovable animal friends and graceful cartoon artwork. JENKINS, Emily. Skunkdog. illus. by Pierre Pratt. Farrar/Frances Foster Bks. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-374-37009-1. K-Gr 3–A dog with no sense of smell and no playmates finds a not-so-desirable friend, but her loving family is willing to do a lot of nose holding to solidify the relationship. The beguiling narrative and bold-hued artwork abound with humor and affection. LEE, Suzy. Wave. illus. by author. Chronicle. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-8118-5924-0. K-Gr 3–Simplicity is the hallmark of this wordless book in which a child interacts with the ocean, first with trepidation and frustration and then with confidence, playfulness, and joy. Subdued charcoal drawings are a perfect match for the sparkling blue water that takes on a life of its own. MCGILL, Alice. Way Up and Over Everything. illus. by Jude Daly. Houghton. RTE $16. ISBN 978-0-618-38796-0. Gr 1-5–Elegant folk-art watercolor paintings and an understated, colloquial text capture the quiet dignity of an oppressed population whose desire for freedom expressed itself in a tradition of “flying stories.” This is the quintessential tale of enslaved people in the American South. ROHMANN, Eric. A Kitten Tale. illus. by author. Knopf. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-517-70915-3; PLB $18.99. ISBN 978-0-517-70916-0. PreS-Gr 1–Three tentative kittens anxiously contemplate winter and snow, but a fourth “can’t wait” and his boundless joy is infectious. The frolicsome felines fairly fly off the pages of this endearing picture book. ROSOFF, Meg. Jumpy Jack and Googily. illus. by Sophie Blackall. Holt. RTE $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8050-8066-7. PreS-Gr 2–A snail who is terrified of monsters has his pal check out all of the potential trouble spots, but in the end it is Googily, who looks suspiciously like a monster himself, who needs comforting. Goofy-looking characters bring reassurance and humor to this tale of a common childhood fear. SHULEVITZ, Uri. How I Learned Geography. illus. by author. Farrar. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-374-33499-4. Gr 2-5–Fleeing their war-torn country, a boy and his family find themselves in a strange and inhospitable land. His father’s gift of a colorful wall map does nothing to alleviate the child’s hunger but feeds his imagination and curiosity in immeasurable ways. Sweeping multimedia artwork transports readers for a memorable journey.


ARNOSKY, Jim. Wild Tracks! A Guide to Nature’s Footprints. illus. by author. Sterling. PLB $14.95. ISBN 978-1-4027-3985-9. Gr 2-6–With unabashed enthusiasm for outdoor exploration, Arnosky explains how to interpret the “ancient language” of animal tracks. Striking portraits of North American critters are paired with species facts, pencil sketches, and life-size footprint foldouts. BISHOP, Nic. Nic Bishop Frogs. photos by author. Scholastic. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-439-87755-8. Gr 3-5–Red, blue, speckled, or transparent–all kinds of frogs jump, stare, and pose in luminous, close-up photographs that inspire wonder. An engaging text clearly shows what makes these creatures unique. BRADLEY, Timothy J. Paleo Bugs: Survival of the Creepiest. illus. by author. Chronicle. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-8118-6022-2. LC 2007018174. Gr 3-7–A plated body, five eyes, and a tubular appendage terminating in a spiny jaw describe one of the amazing arthropods introduced in this spellbinding journey back in time. Absorbing facts accompany close-up renderings of fantastic creatures swimming, crawling, and sailing through otherworldly landscapes that will mesmerize readers. BRYANT, Jen. A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams. illus. by Melissa Sweet. Eerdmans. RTE $17. ISBN 978-0-8028-5302-8. LC 2007049347. Gr 3-6–This gorgeous collage of words and images reveals bits and snatches of Williams’s life–an ordinary childhood, a love of science and nature, a busy medical career, and a quiet obsession with poetry. The writer’s words are incorporated into the colorful multimedia artwork, creating a lively, lyrical picture-book biography. CHERRY, Lynne & Gary Braasch. How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming. Dawn. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-1-58469-103-7. Gr 4-8–Dynamic text describes how data is gathered across the globe, interpreted by researchers, and used to understand climate change. Blending clearly presented concepts with you-are-there photos, this inviting volume emphasizes efforts made by young “citizen scientists” and empowers kids to take positive action. D’ALUISIO, Faith. What the World Eats. photos by Peter Menzel. Tricycle. Tr $22.99. ISBN 978-1-58246-246-2. Gr 6 Up–This adaptation of the adult book Hungry Planet takes readers on an intimate, cross-cultural journey that focuses on the typical food choices of families in 21 countries. Splendidly illustrated with crisp color photographs of proudly displayed fare and filled with thought-provoking facts, this work is an eye-opener to savor. DELANO, Marfé Ferguson. Helen’s Eyes: A Photobiography of Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller’s Teacher. National Geographic. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-1-4263-0209-1; PLB $27.90. ISBN 978-1-4263-0210-7. Gr 4-7–The name Annie Sullivan has long been synonymous with the brilliant breakthroughs in the education of her famous pupil. This biography, profusely illustrated with sepia-tint photos, recounts the story of the dedicated teacher who overcame enormous obstacles in her own life and whose achievements and persistence matched those of her celebrated student. DENENBERG, Barry. Lincoln Shot: A President’s Life Remembered. illus. by Christopher Bing. Feiwel & Friends. RTE $24.95. ISBN 978-0-312-37013-8. Gr 5 Up–A journalistic recounting of the beloved president’s death–and life–in the format of a 19th-century broadsheet. Sepia pages with an antique typeface feature articles on the impact of Lincoln’s presidency and assassination on a stunned populace. Period maps, posters, engravings, and advertisements illustrate this awesome, and moving, production. EVANS, Dilys. Show & Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children’s Book Illustration. Chronicle. Tr $24.99. ISBN 978-0-8118-4971-5. Gr 7 Up–An armchair conversation about the growth and development of 12 distinctive artists, this beautifully designed, thought-provoking paean is chockablock with analyses, quotations, and quality color reproductions. Stimulating and inspiring, the volume sparks understanding of what makes an illustrated book a work of art. FLEISCHMAN, Sid. The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Tr $18.99. ISBN 978-0-06-134431-2; PLB $19.89. ISBN 978-0-06-134432-9. Gr 5-9–With wry humor and punctilious language, Fleischman provides insight into the life of this “Missouri mischief maker,” from Samuel Clemens’s misadventure-filled youth to his rebirth at age 30 as America’s “resident wit.” A rousing reverie, illustrated with noteworthy 19th-century photographs and reproductions. FLEMING, Candace. The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. Tr $24.99. ISBN 978-0-375-83618-3; PLB $28.99. ISBN 978-0-375-93618-0. Gr 6 Up–Through sound scholarship and engaging storytelling, Fleming presents side-by-side portraits of the famous first couple, combining telling anecdotes and large and small details to reveal aspects of the Lincolns’ personalities and temperaments. Primary sources and high-quality archival photos and reproductions add significantly to this impressive American scrapbook. FREEDMAN, Russell. Washington at Valley Forge. Holiday House. Tr $24.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-2069-8. Gr 4-8–In fluid prose Freedman explains how the bedraggled Continental army, plagued by inadequate shelter and severe shortages of food and clothing, emerged from its winter encampment stronger and ultimately victorious against the British. Vivid profiles of the personalities, plentiful period quotes, and reproductions of paintings and engravings enliven this stellar history. KERLEY, Barbara. What to Do About Alice? illus. by Edwin Fotheringham. Scholastic. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-439-92231-9. Gr 2-4–This vivacious romp through history introduces Teddy Roosevelt’s “small problem,” a high-spirited daughter whose outlandish antics captivated the public–and drove her father barmy. Alice’s joie de vivre is trumpeted through tongue-in-cheek text, snappy quotes, and dynamic artwork. KUKLIN, Susan. No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row. Holt. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8050-7950-0. Gr 9 Up–Kuklin presents portraits of four young men convicted of violent crimes and the family of a victim to show what went wrong and to document the devastation of the lives of all of the involved parties. The haunting and well-researched narratives put a human face on these individuals and take a hard look at the justice system and how we treat young offenders. LAIDLAW, Rob. Wild Animals in Captivity. Fitzhenry & Whiteside. Tr $19.95. ISBN 978-1-55455-025-8. Gr 5-8–The confinement and treatment of animals in public, private, and roadside zoos all too rarely show respect for the creatures’ lives. Through measured prose and clear color images, the author considers the educational value of zoos, the challenges of caring for certain species, and the sale of exotic animals around the globe. MACAULAY, David, with Richard Walker. The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body. illus. by David Macaulay. Houghton/Walter Lorraine Bks. Tr $35. ISBN 978-0-618-23378-6. Gr 6 Up–Macaulay begins with a single cell, travels through the major body systems, and explores the advent of a new life on this guided tour of the “most remarkable” piece of engineering most us will ever encounter. Large, colored-pencil illustrations filled with touches of humor offer a spectacular seat on a magnificent excursion. NATIONAL CHILDREN’S BOOK AND LITERACY ALLIANCE. Our White House: Looking in, Looking Out. Candlewick. RTE $29.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-2067-7. Gr 3-8–This handsome compendium is rich with excerpts, poems, and other writings about the historic residence, many of them personal in tone and subject. With artwork as eclectic as the text, the book offers glimpses into the presidents, their concerns, their families, and the mansion itself. NELSON, Kadir. We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. illus. by author. Hyperion/Jump at the Sun. RTE $18.99. ISBN 978-0-7868-0832-8. Gr 3 Up–Before 1947, African-American ballplayers were banned from Major League Baseball and only allowed to play in the Negro Leagues. With its breathtaking paintings, this account of a group of men who wouldn’t be denied their dreams is as satisfying as a game-winning grand slam. NYE, Naomi Shihab. Honeybee. HarperCollins. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-085390-7; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-085391-4. Gr 7 Up–This rich collection of poems and essays is perfect for “dipping and diving.” While the subject matter extends broadly into the human realm and problems that people have inflicted on our world, Nye looks to the honeybees’ sense of communal purpose and industry for inspiration in finding solutions. A soul-nurturing treat. SCHULMAN, Janet. Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City. illus. by Meilo So. Knopf/Borzoi. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-84558-1; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-94558-8. Gr 3-6–When a handsome redtail settled in Central Park in 1991, he quickly became the apple of Manhattan’s eye. Vivid text and awe-inspiring watercolors detail Pale Male’s urban lifestyle and the community’s efforts to save his high-rise Fifth Avenue aerie. STONE, Tanya Lee. Sandy’s Circus: A Story About Alexander Calder. illus. by Boris Kulikov. Viking. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-670-06268-3. Gr 2-4–A slice-of-life portrait of an imaginative child who crafted bits of wire and found objects into playthings, and grew up to become an innovative sculptor and artist. The lucid prose and slightly surreal, arresting paintings convey the intensity and excitement of the creative process. THOMAS, Peggy. Farmer George Plants a Nation. illus. by Layne Johnson. Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek. RTE $17.95. ISBN 978-1-59078-460-0. Gr 3-5–Accessible text, diary quotes, and descriptive oil-on-canvas paintings detail Washington’s day-to-day life at Mount Vernon, accentuate the experiences and abilities that made him a successful agriculturist, and parallel his skill at nurturing freedom in a newly seeded country. WINTER, Jeanette. Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa. illus. by author. unpaged. Harcourt. RTE $17. ISBN 978-0-15-206545-4. LC 2007034810. K-Gr 4–A picture-book profile of the environmentalist who engaged local women in planting trees and started the Green Belt Movement in her homeland, Kenya. Evocative prose and folk-art-like paintings in subtle colors tell the inspiring story.


AVI. The Seer of Shadows. HarperCollins. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-000015-8; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-000016-5. Gr 4-6–In 1872 New York City, a struggling portrait photographer enlists his unwitting teenage apprentice in a shady, get-rich scheme to capture the images of spirits on film. An eerie and evocative historical thriller from a master storyteller. BLUNDELL, Judy. What I Saw and How I Lied. Scholastic. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-439-90346-2. Gr 9 Up–A 15-year-old revels in the attentions of an older man who is really interested in her mother; when her stepfather is accused of his murder, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Set in 1947 Florida, this riveting coming-of-age story delves into the heart of a naive teen coming to terms with her own perceptions, those of the adults around her, and the prejudices of the larger society. CASHORE, Kristin. Graceling. Harcourt. Tr $17. ISBN 978-0-15-206396-2. LC 2007045436. Gr 8 Up–Katsa is “graced” with a gift for fierce fighting, which comes in handy when she must defy her brutal uncle and save the grandfather of the king of a neighboring kingdom, another graceling who proves to be her match. Danger, mystery, and adventure abound in this exciting fantasy/romance. COLLINS, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-439-02348-1. Gr 7 Up–In reality TV run amok, an annual, government-run competition pits two dozen teens against one another in a fight to the death, and 16-year-old Katniss must hold her own against stronger and more ruthless players. A compelling and often-poignant portrait of young people forced to deal with unspeakable evil. CONNOR, Leslie. Waiting for Normal. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-06-089088-9; PLB $16.89. ISBN 978-0-06-089089-6. Gr 6-8–When her kindly stepfather leaves and takes her half sisters with him, Addie is left alone to cope with her mother’s increasingly erratic behavior. This tough yet tender story stars a caring father figure and a resilient protagonist who is ultimately able to embrace a new life. DOCTOROW, Cory. Little Brother. Tor. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-0-7653-1985-2. Gr 10 Up–After a terrorist attack, 17-year-old Marcus and his friends find themselves victims of abuse and, along with the rest of San Francisco’s residents, under constant surveillance. This exciting techno-thriller asks readers to think about tough topics and to question authority. DOWD, Siobhan. The London Eye Mystery. Random/David Fickling Bks. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-375-84976-3; PLB $18.99. ISBN 978-0-375-94976-0. Gr 5-8–Two siblings, one who is an ace at deduction and the other who is a whiz at reading emotion, pool their talents after their cousin disappears. A thrilling mystery with well-delineated characters and an exciting clue-laden plot. GAIMAN, Neil. Coraline: Graphic Novel. adapt. & illus. by P. Craig Russell. HarperCollins. Tr $18.99. ISBN 978-0-06-082543-0; PLB $19.89. ISBN 978-0-06-082544-7. Gr 6-8–After her parents are kidnapped and taken to an alternative world, Coraline sets off on a dangerous mission to rescue them. This gripping adaptation of Gaiman’s novel is all the more horrific in a stunning graphic-novel format. GREEN, John. Paper Towns. Dutton. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-525-47818-8. Gr 9 Up–Quentin has been in love with Margo for years, so when she includes him in a madcap night of escapades and then disappears, he feels compelled to search for her and to learn why she is so unhappy. This suspenseful and emotionally taut story of self-discovery and compassion is laced with smart-aleck humor and graceful prose. HARDINGE, Frances. Well Witched. HarperCollins. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-088038-5; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-088039-2. Gr 4-7–When three children take coins from a wishing well, the old hag who lives in it forces them to fulfill all of the wishes made on them—no matter how evil or hateful. A creepy, sinister fantasy that’s as riveting as it is clever and thoughtful. HORVATH, Polly. My One Hundred Adventures. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-84582-6; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-95582-2. Gr 4-7–Twelve-year-old Jane longs for adventure, but gets more than she bargained for when she is tricked into babysitting for five messy, incorrigible children. Quirky characters, exquisite writing, and subtle humor make this coming-of-age story a standout. IBBOTSON, Eva. The Dragonfly Pool. illus. by Kevin Hawkes. Dutton. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-525-42064-4. Gr 5-8–It’s 1939 in London, and Tally, a high-spirited 11-year-old, reluctantly leaves home for a progressive boarding school where she makes a cadre of loyal friends and initiates a daring plan to help the 12-year-old prince of nearby Bergania escape the Nazis. A thrilling tale of compassion and heroism peopled with unforgettable characters. LANAGAN, Margo. Tender Morsels. Knopf. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-84811-7; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-94811-4. Gr 9 Up–This powerful and lyrical novel, a reworking of the Grimm Brothers’ “Snow White and Rose-Red,” explores the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of human behavior and the lengths to which a woman is willing to go to protect her daughters from the devastating emotional traumas to which she was subjected. A complex and multilayered fantasy spun by a superlative storyteller. LOCKHART, E. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Hyperion. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7868-3818-9. Gr 7 Up–Frankie is gutsy and smart and brave, and when she infiltrates an all-male secret society at her elite boarding school, none of the boys catches on to her pranks. Readers will be fascinated by and fearful for her, wondering just what will happen when the time comes for her inevitable downfall. MURDOCK, Catherine Gilbert. Princess Ben: Being a Wholly Truthful Account of Her Various Discoveries and Misadventures, Recounted to the Best of Her Recollection, in Four Parts. Houghton. Tr $16. ISBN 978-0-618-95971-6. Gr 6-10–When her parents and uncle are attacked and presumed dead, 15-year-old Princess Benevolence is rudely and reluctantly groomed to rule. Her chance discovery of magic within the castle’s walls helps to boost her confidence and allows her to prove her mettle as a strong and capable leader. An action-packed fantasy leavened with humor and magic. MUSSI, Sarah. The Door of No Return. S & S/Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-1550-8. LC 2007018670. Gr 8 Up–AfterZac’s grandfather is murdered, the teen’s investigation of his family history takes him to Ghana, where he learns about his royal ancestors and British government betrayal, and puts his own life at risk. A gripping tale of the present, and a harrowing story of the past, masterfully told. MYERS, Walter Dean. Sunrise Over Fallujah. Scholastic. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-439-91624-0. Gr 8 Up–Seen through the eyes and emotions of a Harlem-bred enlistee in 2003, this is a sobering view of a Civil Affairs unit as it makes its way into the Iraqi War. Well-delineated characterization and torn-from-the-headlines action create a riveting and affecting read. NUZUM, K. A.The Leanin’ Dog. HarperCollins/Joanna Cotler Bks. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-06-113934-5; PLB $16.89. ISBN 978-0-06-113935-2. Gr 4-7–Traumatized by the death of her mother in a snowstorm, a lonely 11-year-old who is afraid to venture beyond the porch of her Colorado cabin befriends a stray dog that is wary of being indoors. A tender, quiet story of a transcendent, healing relationship. PEARSON, Mary E. The Adoration of Jenna Fox. Holt. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8050-7668-4. Gr 8 Up–When Jenna, 17, wakes after a yearlong coma, she doesn’t recognize anyone or anything, least of all herself. Slowly, memories begin to resurface and she realizes that her parents are keeping a terrible secret. Part dystopian tale, part medical thriller, and part coming-of-age novel, this page-turner has it all. PENNYPACKER, Sara. Clementine’s Letter. illus. by Marla Frazee. Hyperion. RTE $14.99. ISBN 978-0-7868-3884-4. Gr 2-4–Feisty Clementine’s beloved teacher has a chance to go on an archaeological dig for educators, and his class has been asked to write letters of recommendation. Should she wish for his success or think only of herself? Easy to read, with a spirited heroine and an angst-causing situation, this easy chapter book has kid-friendly charm, wit, and lots of laughs. PRATCHETT, Terry. Nation. HarperCollins. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-143301-6; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-143302-3. Gr 7-10–A tsunami has hit Mau’s island home and washed away everyone he has known. Daphne is from the other side of the globe and is the sole survivor (or so she thinks) of a shipwreck on the island. The two come together and each of them brings wisdom, intelligence, and a sense of humanity to the dire situation. An absorbing novel of survival and discovery liberally infused with Pratchett’s trademark wit. REEVE, Philip. Here Lies Arthur. Scholastic. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-09334-7. LC number unavailable. Gr 8 Up–In this version of the legend, Arthur is a petty tyrant whose band of thugs raid villages and “protect” the populace from Saxon invaders for a price. It is Myrddin the bard and trickster who spins his lord’s exploits into the stuff of legend and spreads his fame across the land. A rich and nuanced exploration of the power of story and its role in people’s lives. SMITH, Hope Anita. Keeping the Night Watch. illus. by E. B. Lewis. Holt. RTE $18.95. ISBN 978-0-8050-7202-0. 872-0. Gr 5-8–When their absent father returns home, C.J.’s younger siblings are ecstatic but the 13-year-old seethes with anger and resentment as the man tries to regain the family’s trust. Told in affecting free verse and complemented by distinguished watercolor-and-ink paintings, C.J.’s road to forgiveness is hard and heartrending. WEATHERFORD, Carole Boston. Becoming Billie Holiday. illus. by Floyd Cooper. Boyds Mills/Wordsong. RTE $19.95. ISBN 978-1-59078-507-2. LC number unavailable. Gr 8 Up–Through narrative poems that take their titles from Holiday’s songs, Weatherford tells her subject’s story, from “Why Was I Born?” to “Strange Fruit,” revealing stark biographical details along with the artist’s emotional journey. Cooper’s haunting, hyperrealistic images provide snapshots of a time and place, and one woman’s metamorphosis from a poor neglected child of the streets into the one and only Lady Day. WERLIN, Nancy. Impossible. Dial. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3002-1. Gr 9 Up–This modern fairy tale revolves around a family curse: 17-year-old Lucy is destined to go mad at 18 unless she can perform three impossible tasks described in the ballad “Scarborough Fair.” There is plenty of darkness in this compelling story–rape, teen pregnancy, madness–but, in the end, love, logic, and family ties prevail.

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