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February 1, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Booklist Editors' Choice
Selected by the Books for Youth editorial staff, these titles represent our choices, based on literary and artistic quality and on special appeal to youth, of the past year’s best fiction and nonfiction published for older and middle readers and the young.
Abner, Allison and Villarosa, Linda. Finding Our Way: The Teen Girls’ Survival Guide. illus. HarperPerennial, paper, $13 (0-06-095114-1).
Gr. 8–12. A groundbreaking growing-up guide: candid, comprehensive, current, and cognizant of issues related to race and current trends.
Avi. Beyond the Western Sea: The Escape from Home. Orchard/ Richard Jackson, $18.95 (0-531-09513-4); lib. ed., $19.99 (0-531-08863-4).
Gr. 6–10. Great for reading aloud, this pulsing 1850s emigrant adventure is packed with action and a huge cast of villains and heroes in the Liverpool slums, all desperate to get on a ship bound for America.
Dessen, Sarah. That Summer. Orchard/Melanie Kroupa, $16.95 (0-531-09538-X); lib. ed., $17.99 (0-531-08888-X).
Gr. 7–12. In this funny, touching novel about growing up female, 15-year-old Haven feels tall and lost, unlike her sister, Ashley, who is popular and perfect, and about to be married.
Fleischman, Sid. The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer’s Life. illus. Greenwillow, $16 (0-688-14859-X).
Gr. 5–12. How many writers traveled the country as a magician? Or panned for gold? Or spent World War II on a destroyer escort ship? Fleischman’s autobiography is as lively as any of his novels—and that’s saying a lot. (Top of the List winner—Youth Nonfiction.)
Freedman, Russell. The Life and Death of Crazy Horse. illus. Holiday, $18.95 (0-8234-1219-9).
Gr. 6–12. This biography is a bloody war story, filled with fighting, massacre, brave resistance, and raging grief; Freedman tells it without sensationalism, true to the modest spirit of the great Oglala Sioux warrior.
Macy, Sue. Winning Ways: A Photohistory of American Women in Sports. illus. Holt, $15.95 (0-8050-4147-8).
Gr. 7–10. Reflecting meticulous research and filled with truly amazing anecdotes, Macy’s fascinating history of women’s sports from the 1880s bicycle craze to modern times will be an inspiration to today’s athletes.
Matas, Carol. After the War. Simon & Schuster, $16 (0-689-80350-8).
Gr. 6–10. For younger YAs, this Holocaust escape story about young Jews trying to reach Palestine after the war combines the excitement of adventure with the grim truth about what the few survivors were fleeing.
Paterson, Katherine. Jip, His Story. Dutton/Lodestar, $14.99 (0-525-67543-4).
Gr. 5–9. In a story of an orphan boy in Vermont in the 1850s, Paterson has taken the old foundling story and made it new. The simple sentences lay bare the dark historical truth about slavery juxtaposed against the transforming light of love.
Pullman, Philip. The Golden Compass. Knopf, $20 (0-679-87924-2).
Gr. 7–12. With a wholly developed universe, an ever-more-resilient young hero named Lyra, an amulet that can answer questions, companion daemons, kidnapped children, formidable armored bears, witch clans, and more, this compelling and intricately plotted fantasy will leave readers clamoring for its planned sequels. (Top of the List winner—Youth Fiction.)
Stevens, Leonard A. The Case of Roe v. Wade. Putnam, $16.95 (0-399-22812-8).
Gr. 8–12. A lively, fascinating perspective on history in the making, replete with the names and the stories of the people associated with the landmark decision.
Wynne-Jones, Tim. The Maestro. Orchard/ Melanie Kroupa, $16.95 (0-531-09544-4); lib. ed., $17.99 (0-531-08894-4).
Gr. 6–8. Fleeing his brutal father, 14-year-old Burl ends up at the wilderness cabin of the Maestro, a gifted musician who bewilders and enchants him and gives him shelter. Far more than exciting adventure, this original story has intriguing, three-dimensional characters and a compelling portrayal of the conflicts that drive Burl toward his destiny.
Anderson, Joan. Cowboys. Illus. by. George Ancona. Scholastic, $16.95 (0-590-48424-9).
Gr. 4–6. Crisp color photos bursting with energy combine with a text that is both well detailed and humorous as Anderson follows the Eby family (including 13-year-old Leedro and his younger brother) on their annual spring cattle roundup.
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. Growing Up in Coal Country. illus. Houghton, $15.95 (0-395-77847-6).
Gr. 5–8. With stirring black-and-white photographs of children at work in the coal mines of northeastern Pennsylvania about 100 years ago, this handsome photo-essay includes heartfelt memories of long hours, hard labor, and extremely dangerous working conditions, as well as lighter accounts of spirited rebellion, mischief, and bonding.
Brewster, Hugh. Anastasia’s Album. illus. Hyperion; dist. by Little, Brown, $17.95 (0-7868-0292-8).
Gr. 5–12. The youngest daughter of the last czar of Russia is introduced in this handsome volume. The book not only offers insight into the character of a girl whose life was filled with lavishness and treachery but also sets her against a turbulent historical milieu.
Bunting, Eve. Train to Somewhere. Illus. by Ronald Himler. Clarion, $14.95 (0-395-71325-0).
Gr. 2–5. A heartbreaking picture book tells the story of the nineteenth-century Orphan Train in the voice of the plain girl nobody wants. Himler’s beautiful, understated paintings show the train steaming across the prairie and the children trying to smile and look their best, hoping that someone will adopt them.
Byars, Betsy. My Brother, Ant. Illus. by Marc Simont. Viking, $11.99 (0-670-86664-4).
Gr. 1–3. With economy of line and language, a great illustrator and a great storyteller are at their very best in this tender, funny beginning chapter book in which a boy talks about his younger brother, Ant. The family situations are elemental, and there’s not a trace of condescension.
Cushman, Karen. The Ballad of Lucy Whipple. Clarion, $13.95 (0-395-72806-1).
Gr. 5–8. With zest and wit, Cushman gives us the domestic side of the western frontier adventure in Lucy’s first-person story of how she hates being stuck out in the wilderness with her bossy, widowed mother.
Dickinson, Peter. Chuck and Danielle. illus. Delacorte, $14.95 (0-385-32188-0).
Gr. 3–6. This clever episodic story set in England introduces Danielle and her dog, Chuck, whose funny worldview forms the basis for many laugh-out-loud scenes.
Dorris, Michael. Sees Behind Trees. Hyperion; dist. by Little, Brown, $14.95 (0-7868-0224-3); lib. ed., $14.89 (0-7868-2215-5).
Gr. 3–6. Although partially sighted young Walnut cannot prove his manhood with a bow and arrow, he demonstrates that he can do something even better by seeing “what cannot be seen.” Set in sixteenth-century America, this is a richly imagined, gorgeously written rite-of-passage story with the gravity of legend.
Fleisher, Paul. Life Cycles of a Dozen Diverse Creatures. illus. Millbrook, lib. ed., $17.90 (0-7613-0000-7).
Gr. 4–8. Fleisher introduces the life stages of 12 animals, from the oyster to the emperor penguin, in a handsomely illustrated presentation that is clear, to the point, and infused with an appreciation of the importance, kinship, and interdependency of all species.
Freeman, Suzanne. The Cuckoo’s Child. Greenwillow, $15 (0-688-14290-7).
Gr. 5–8. With her parents lost at sea, Mia moves from Beirut to Tennessee, where she must make peace with her new life. Despite its serious themes, this is a story full of love, hope, and humor.
Jennings, Patrick. Faith and the Electric Dogs. illus. Scholastic, $15.95 (0-590-69768-4).
Gr. 3–6. A book with a dog as the narrator is likely to be full of surprises. This story, in which a faithful Mexican pooch sticks by a sad little girl, is poignant, wonderfully comic, and delightfully unexpected.
Lowry, Lois. See You Around, Sam! Illus. by Diane de Groat. Houghton, $13.95 (0-395-81664-5).
Gr. 3–6. In this funny, touching novel, four-year-old Sam is running away to Alaska. Lowry tells the story from the viewpoint of a child who is both very smart and very naive.
Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. Shiloh Season. Simon & Schuster/ Atheneum, $15 (0-689-80647-7).
Gr. 4–8. This gripping, tautly plotted sequel to Shiloh (1991) not only can stand on its own but also extends the first book as 11-year-old Marty Preston finds himself and Shiloh in danger from the dog’s loathsome former owner and learns that decisions don’t necessarily get easier as you get older.
Out of the Dump: Writings and Photographs by Children from Guatemala. Ed. by Kristine L. Franklin and Nancy McGirr. 56p. illus. Lothrop, $19 (0-688-13923-X); lib. ed., $18.93 (0-688-13924-8).
Gr. 4–8. Life in a Guatemala City garbage dump that is home to about 1,500 people, many of them children, is poignantly portrayed in large, powerful black-and-white photographs taken by the children and accompanied by their unsparing descriptions of their lives in poetry and prose.
Prelutsky, Jack. A Pizza the Size of the Sun. Illus. by James Stevenson. Greenwillow, $18 (0-688-13235-9); lib. ed., $17.93 (0-688-13236-7).
Gr. 3–6. Prelutsky uses verbal sleight of hand to create another magical anthology of light verse that ranges from a display of elegance and wit to a delight in wordplay, all finding perfect visual expression in Stevenson’s witty ink drawings.
Silverstein, Shel. Falling Up. illus. HarperCollins, $16.95 (0-06-024802-5); lib. ed., $16.89 (0-06-024803-3).
Gr. 3–6. Well worth the wait, this great new collection of poems tickles the funny bone while it slips in some food for thought.
Simon, Seymour. The Heart: Our Circulatory System. illus. Morrow, $16 (0-688-11407-5); lib. ed., $15.93 (0-688-11408-3).
Gr. 4–6. Simon’s succinct and direct text makes the details of the human circulatory system understandable without losing the sense that the whole process of circulation is “strange and wonderful.” The striking pictures include many computer-enhanced photos as well as diagrams and highly enlarged images made possible by electron microscopes.
Stanley, Diane. Leonardo da Vinci. illus. Morrow, $16 (0-688-10437-1); lib. ed., $15.93 (0-688-10438-X).
Gr. 4–7. Well researched, intelligently written, and beautifully illustrated with sketches from the artist’s notebooks as well as Stanley’s own paintings, this is the best of the many children’s books on Leonardo, bringing both the man and his times to life.
Wisniewski, David. Golem. illus. Clarion, $15.95 (0-395-72618-2).
Gr. 3–6. Extraordinary cut-paper collages show and tell the stark, terrifying legend of the giant monster of sixteenth-century Prague, who was created by a rabbi to protect his people in the ghetto against racist persecution.
Books for the Young
Bannerman, Helen. The Story of Little Babaji. Illus. by Fred Marcellino. HarperCollins/ Michael di Capua, $14.95 (0-06-205064-8); lib. ed., $14.89 (0-06-205065-6).
Ages 3–6. Bannerman’s beloved Little Black Sambo is restored to children for their delight in this retelling that replaces the ugly stereotypes and offensive names with clear, funny pictures and the original simple words.
Buehner, Caralyn. Fanny’s Dream. Illus. by Mark Buehner. Dial, $14.99 (0-8037-1496-3); lib. ed., $14.89 (0-8037-1497-1).
Ages 6–9. The Cinderella story is retold with a twist in this ebullient mix of storytelling and art from a husband-and-wife team with a fine sense of humor.
Cooney, Barbara. Eleanor. illus. Viking, $15.99 (0-670-86159-6).
Ages 5–8. This biography of Eleanor Roosevelt gets to the heart of a young girl. Children will respond viscerally to young Eleanor, who feels homely and unloved, and they will be uplifted by her eventual realization of her own special talents.
Gregory, Nan. How Smudge Came. Illus. by Ron Lightburn. Orca, $15.95 (0-88995-143-8).
Gr. 2–4. In this remarkable book, a universal pet story is told from the viewpoint of a young woman with Down syndrome. Lightburn’s realistic pictures in soft-toned colored pencil complement the story’s beautiful sense of fragility, steadfastness, and connection.
Grimes, Nikki. Come Sunday. Illus. by Michael Bryant. Eerdmans, $15 (0-8028-5108-8); paper, $7.50 (0-8028-5134-7).
Ages 4–8. In a book that is bursting with joy, it’s Sunday, and Latasha is heading off to church. Both the short poems and the watercolor art capture the jubilation and more solemn moments of a spirit-filled African American church.
Harris, Robie H. Happy Birth Day! Illus. by Michael Emberley. Candlewick, $16.99 (1-56402-424-5).
Ages 3–7. Art and text capture the sweet joy and physicality of a newborn’s first day in the world in a touching book that speaks with delight and wonder to young children and their parents.
Heinz, Brian J. The Wolves. Illus. by Bernie Fuchs. Dial, $15.99 (0-8037-1735-0); lib. ed., $15.89 (0-8037-1636-9).
Ages 5–8. A creature much maligned in fiction and folklore is powerfully and realistically presented in a picture book that rings with deep understanding of and reverence for the natural world.
Henkes, Kevin. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. illus. Greenwillow, $15 (0-688-12897-1); lib. ed., $14.93 (0-688-12898-X).
Ages 4–6. Lilly, the delightful mouse-girl, has started school, and as usual Henkes gets everything just right. Both art and text are lovingly layered to express the mixed emotions that all of us experience when what we want conflicts with the expectations of those we love. (Top of the List winner—Youth Picture Book.)
Hest, Amy. Baby Duck and the Bad Eyeglasses. Illus. by Jill Barton. Candlewick, $16.99 (0-56402-680-9).
Ages 3–6. A delightful story with just-right artwork shows the love between a grandfather and a grandchild and the virtues of looking on the bright side
Jackson, Isaac. Somebody’s New Pajamas. Illus. by David Soman. Dial, $14.99 (0-8037-1570-6); lib. ed., $14.89 (0-8037-1549-8).
Ages 4–8. In a warm story of family and friendship, words and pictures personalize that universal childhood experience of entering the intimacy of someone else’s home and discovering that daily things you took for granted can be different.
Kleven, Elisa. Hooray, a Piñata! illus. Dutton, $15.99 (0-525-45605-8).
Ages 4–7. Clara’s party plans are tempered with sadness when she realizes her beloved piñata dog is to be sacrificed at her own birthday party. There’s not a wrong note in this upbeat picture book, which has sparkling artwork guaranteed to enthrall even the most distractible child.
Krull, Kathleen. Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman. Illus. by David Diaz. Harcourt, $16 (0-15-201267-2).
Gr. 2–5, younger for reading aloud. Krull skillfully demonstrates that in achieving her historic Olympic triple victory, Wilma Rudolph also triumphed not only over a normally crippling illness but also over racism and sexism. Diaz’s richly colored, stylized illustrations help celebrate an inspiring life.
Lester, Julius. Sam and the Tigers: A New Telling of Little Black Sambo. Illus. by Jerry Pinkney. Dial, $15.99 (0-8037-2028-9); lib. ed., $15.89 (0-8037-2029-7).
Ages 3–8. Bannerman’s story about the child hero who can outwit tigers is retold here in an expansive black storytelling voice that’s folksy and contemporary, funny and fearful. Pinkney’s paintings capture the sunlit idyllic community and the boy’s confrontation with tigers that are both powerful and ridiculous.
McBratney, Sam. The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. Illus. by Ivan Bates. Candlewick, $15.99 (1-56402-640-X).
Ages 3–6. Three little mice want to go to the dark at the top of the stairs to see the monster, but one “meow” has them running. The appealing artwork extends the simple text, which begs to be read aloud.
My Very First Mother Goose. Ed. by Iona Opie. Illus. by Rosemary Wells. 108p. Candlewick, $19.99 (1-56402-620-5).
Ages 1–4. Gentle nonsense and sly mischief characterize the verses and the illustrations in this large-size nursery-rhyme collection for reading aloud and chanting and singing to the very youngest child. With the play and the farce, there’s such tenderness in these selections; the words sing, and everyone is safe at home.
Pilkey, Dav. The Paperboy. illus. Orchard/Richard Jackson, $14.95 (0-531-09506-1); lib. ed., $15.99 (0-531-08856-1).
Ages 3–6. A boy leaves his warm bed and, accompanied by his dog, heads out to deliver newspapers. An evocative mood piece that captures the dreamy feeling of being outside before dawn.
Rodda, Emily. Power and Glory. Illus. by Geoff Kelly. Greenwillow, $15 (0-688-14214-1).
Ages 4–7. Family interruptions interfere with a boy’s attempts to play his new video game, Power and Glory; each time he restarts the game, he goes through all the stages and a little further, creating a compelling cumulative story within a story. The stylized artwork is remarkable for its tremendous energy, coherence of composition, and attention to detail.
Sabuda, Robert. The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Pop-up Celebration. illus. Simon & Schuster/Little Simon, $19.95 (0-689-80865-8).
Ages 5–10. This beautiful version of the familiar song is imaginatively conceived, strikingly designed, and intricate in its paper engineering.
Schaefer, Carol Lexa. The Squiggle. Illus. by Pierr Morgan. Crown, $17 (0-517-70047-6).
Ages 3–6. A little Chinese girl picks up a piece of red string she spies on the sidewalk, and suddenly she’s holding a big scaly dragon, a tightrope for a circus acrobat, and all manner of special things. A beguiling celebration of creativity and the delight children find in the most common things.
Shannon, George. Tomorrow’s Alphabet. Illus. by Donald Crews. Greenwillow, $16 (0-688-13504-8); lib. ed., $15.93 (0-688-13505-6).
Gr. 1–3. For children already familiar with the sounds of the alphabet, this is a witty concept book about process and creation. Crews’ clear, fluid watercolors have a vitality that is the essence of the book.
Stanley, Diane. Saving Sweetness. Illus. by G. Brian Karas. Putnam, $15.95 (0-399-22645-1).
Ages 4–8. A few great villains, an endearingly foolish sheriff, and a resourceful, loving heroine are the ingredients in a fresh and funny western tale, written in a folksy narrative style.
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