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February 1, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Booklist Editors' Choice
Selected by the Books for Youth editorial staff and contributors Sally Estes and Susan Dove Lempke, these titles represent our best-of-the-year selections in fiction, nonfiction, and picture books, based on literary and artistic quality and on special appeal to older and middle readers and the young.
Almond, David. Kit’s Wilderness. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-32665-3).
Gr. 5-8. Set in an English mining town, the story of newcomer Kit Watson mixes real-life problems, like his grandfather’s fading memory, with visions of long-gone ancestors. Almond’s ruminations on life, death, and the power of love will stay with readers.
Bagdasarian, Adam. Forgotten Fire. DK Ink/Melanie Kroupa, $17.95 (0-7894-2627-7).
Gr. 8-12. Based on a true story, this powerful historical novel tells about the Turkish genocide of the Armenians. Vahan Kenderian, age 12 when his home is torn apart, sees many of his family and friends butchered before his eyes. The first-person narrative is quiet, with a haunting rhythmic voice and no sensationalism.
Clement-Davis, David. Fire Bringer. Dutton, $19.95 (0-525-46492-1).
Gr. 7-12. This grand saga centers on a herd of deer fighting the domination of a tyrannical buck and hoping the prophecy that promises a young leader will come to pass in Rannoch, who must find the courage to face his destiny. A bold, engrossing fantasy.
Coman, Carolyn. Many Stones. Front Street, $15.95 (1-886910-55-3).
Gr. 7-12. In plain words, this small, riveting novel connects the anguish in one American family with the struggle of South Africa to come to terms with its savage past. Teenager Berry doesn’t want to take a 10-day tourist trip to South Africa with her divorced dad, but her older sister was murdered there, and a memorial to her is about to be unveiled. Avoiding tourist clichés, Coman shows that both political and personal reconciliation are difficult and often incomplete. (Top of the List winner-Youth Fiction.)
Creech, Sharon. The Wanderer. HarperCollins/Joanna Cotler, $15.95 (0-06-027730-0); lib. ed., $15.89 (0-06-027731-9).
Gr. 6-8. This poignant, multilayered novel, narrated by 13-year-old Sophie and her older cousin, Cody, as they journey aboard a sailboat heading to England, invites children to watch as characters peel back the layers of family relationships and memory to bring painful but important truths to light.
Dessen, Sarah. Dreamland. Viking, $15.99 (0-670-89122-3).
Gr. 8-10. The day her sister runs away, Caitlin’s life changes. She begins a descent first into drugs, then into sex, and finally into a relationship that turns violent. Dessen’s plot is vivid, her characters are intensely real, and the subtext about dreams adds an emotional dimension as affecting as the action.
Fradin, Dennis Brindell and Fradin, Judith Bloom. Ida B. Wells: Mother of the Civil Rights Movement. illus. Clarion, $18 (0-395-89898-6).
Gr. 6 up. This excellent photo-biography portrays Wells as an outspoken journalist who never compromised and who attacked blacks and whites with equal fervor at any sign of accommodation to racial inequity. Her crusade against the horror of lynching is described in explicit, brutal accounts, illustrated with horrifying photos that make it easy to understand her rage.
Frank, E. R. Life Is Funny. DK Ink, $17.95 (0-7894-2634-X).
Gr. 7-12. In this realistic, lyrical novel, 11 teens in Brooklyn talk about their lives in voices that are painful, rough, profane, sexy, funny, fearful, furious, gentle. The distinct, heartfelt voices are great for readers’ theater.
Greenberg, Jan and Jordan, Sandra. Frank O. Gehry: Outside In. illus. DK Ink, $19.95 (0-7894-2677-3).
Gr. 7-12. This hip, beautifully designed biography is a fascinating portrait of the famous architect and his work, with high-quality photos and reproduced sketches. Sophisticated, clear, and elegant, it invites readers to think about the creative process and to look at and engage in the buildings around them.
Konigsburg, E. L. Silent to the Bone. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $16 (0-689-83601-5).
Gr. 7-10. Did the British nanny do it? Konigsburg gets behind today’s headlines with a compelling mystery that is also a moving story of family, friendship, and seduction. Everything makes you want to go back and reread the novel, not only to think about the clues but also for the wit and insight, the farce, and the gentleness of the telling.
Levine, Ellen. Darkness over Denmark: The Danish Resistance and the Rescue of the Jews. illus. Holiday, $18.95 (0-8234-1447-7).
Gr. 6-12. This thrilling narrative history, which weaves together events of the Nazi occupation of Denmark with eyewitness testimonies, is based on personal interviews with more than 20 Danish survivors, rescuers, and Resistance fighters, many of whom helped Jews hide and escape.
Macaulay, David. Building Big. illus. Houghton/Walter Lorraine, $30 (0-395-96331-1).
Gr. 7 up. The building principles behind the world’s most impressive domes, tunnels, skyscrapers, bridges, and dams, deconstructed and rendered in Macaulay’s trademark sketches and succinct text, are celebrated in this exceptional companion book to the PBS series.
Paulsen, Gary. The Beet Field. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-32647-5).
Gr. 9-12. This unforgettable, uncompromising coming-of-age story about a boy’s sixteenth summer is told in language that is as clean as bleached bones. But beneath the quiet, direct telling swirls every earthy emotion.
Peck, Richard. A Year down Yonder. Dial, $16.99 (0-8037-2518-3).
Gr. 6-10. Sharp, overbearing Grandma Dowdel may scare the dickens out of just about everybody in her small town, but her heart of gold peeks through enough for her 15-year-old granddaughter to find and appreciate it. Wit, gentleness, and outrageous farce dovetail beautifully in this stand-alone sequel to Peck’s Long Way from Chicago (1998).
Rennison, Louise. Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson. HarperCollins, $15.95 (0-06-028814-0); lib. ed., $15.89 (0-06-028871-X).
Gr. 6-9. Fourteen-year-old Georgia sounds like a teenage Bridget Jones, and the hilarious, manic misadventures she describes in her diary-appearing at a party dressed as a stuffed olive, attempting to win Sex God Robbie’s attention-will endear her to young readers.
Sills, Leslie. In Real Life: Six Women Photographers. illus. Holiday, $19.95 (0-8234-1498-1).
Gr. 7-12. Imogene Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, and Carrie Mae Weems are among the twentieth-century artists featured in this outstanding collective biography, which is illustrated with beautifully reproduced photographs and also offers ways to approach all visual art.
Trueman, Terry. Stuck in Neutral. HarperCollins, $14.95 (0-06-028519-2); lib. ed., $14.89 (0-06-028518-4).
Gr. 6-10. Everyone thinks that cerebral palsy victim Shawn McDaniel is a vegetable. But inside the prison of his body, Shawn is a genius, and he knows full well that his father is considering killing him. A powerful book that raises issues not only about life and death but also about the meaning of freedom and the responsibility that comes with love.
Whelan, Gloria. Homeless Bird. HarperCollins, $14.95 (0-06-028454-4); lib. ed., $14.89 (0-06-028452-8).
Gr. 6-9. Set in India and beautifully told, this lyrical, moving story follows 13-year-old Koly from her arranged marriage to a sickly young husband, who dies and leaves her homeless, to a new life of independence, artistic accomplishment, and love.
Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: A Commemorative Pop-Up. Illus. by Robert Sabuda. Simon & Schuster/Little Simon, $24.95 (0-689-81751-7)
All ages. Sabuda, a master of paper engineering, outdoes himself here. Cyclones spin, balloons rise, and a glorious Emerald City pops up when you open the center spread. A wonderful way to celebrate Oz’s one-hundredth birthday.
Bishop, Nic. Digging for Bird-Dinosaurs: An Expedition to Madagascar. illus. Houghton, $16 (0-395-96056-8).
Gr. 4-6. Text and stunning photographs follow paleontologist Cathy Forster on a dig to Madagascar and back to New York, where she studies the possible evolutionary links between birds and dinosaurs. An engaging personal story that makes the science exciting and accessible.
Cline-Ransome, Lesa. Satchel Paige. Illus. by James E. Ransome. Simon & Schuster, $16 (0-689-81151-9).
Gr. 2-4. Cline-Ransome’s rollicking narrative is complemented by oil paintings that capture legendary baseball pitcher Paige’s larger-than-life presence with great immediacy.
Gantos, Jack. Joey Pigza Loses Control. Farrar, $16 (0-374-39989-1).
Gr. 4-7. Kids will want to go back and read Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key 1998) after following hyperactive Joey’s struggle to balance his personal needs with his deep love for his equally “wired” father. A skillfully paced, poignant novel with characters who are hard to forget.
Gherman, Beverly. Norman Rockwell: Storyteller with a Brush. illus. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $19.95 (0-689-82001-1).
Gr. 4-7. Attractive full-color reproductions and engaging text present Rockwell’s life and art, from his nostalgic Saturday Evening Post covers to his controversial work in the 1960s. Vintage photographs enhance this appealing introduction to a classic American artist.
Henderson, Douglas. Asteroid Impact. illus. Dial, $16.99 (0-8037-2500-0).
Gr. 3-5, younger for reading aloud. In dramatic words and paintings, this fascinating story describes the trillion-ton asteroid that probably struck Earth 65 million years ago, causing a huge dust cloud that blocked the sun and destroyed a number of plant and animal species, including dinosaurs.
In Every Tiny Grain of Sand: A Child’s Book of Prayers and Praise. Ed. by Reeve Lindbergh. illus. Candlewick, $21.99 (0-7636-0176-4).
Gr. 3-6, younger for reading aloud. With art by four well-known children’s book illustrators (Christine Davenier, Bob Graham, Anita Jeram, and Elisa Kleven), this marvelous collection of poems and prayers of quiet comfort and joyous celebration reflects the experiences of children from many faiths and cultures.
Jarvis, Robin. The Dark Portal. illus. North-South/SeaStar, $17.95 (1-58717-021-3).
Gr. 5-8. The first episode in the Deptford Mice trilogy introduces a community of mice who leave their comfortable home in a London borough for a terrifying underworld of sewers, populated by cutthroat rats and their evil gods. Humor and mysticism balance the horror in a lively tale sure to interest Redwall fans.
Jennings, Richard. Orwell’s Luck. Houghton/Walter Lorraine, $15 (0-618-03628-8).
Gr. 4-7. A 12-year-old girl nurses an injured rabbit back to life and names him Orwell. Then the magic begins. Never didactic, always captivating, the story is filled with quiet humor and seamless invention.
Lowry, Lois. Gathering Blue. Houghton/Walter Lorraine, $15 (0-618-05581-9).
Gr. 5-8. Lowry once again transports readers to an alternative civilization and introduces a young person who will be entrusted to pass on its history--and its future. The story is rich in characterization as well as imagery.
Pinkney, Jerry. Aesop’s Fables. illus. North-South/SeaStar, $19.95 (1-58717-000-0).
Gr. 2-4. With subtle, witty text and beautiful, dynamic illustrations, Pinkney reinterprets 60 of Aesop’s traditional tales in a stunning collection sure to stand the test of time.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $25.95 (0-439-13959-7).
Gr. 5-8. The fourth installment of the beyond-popular series finds a more mature Harry involved in the Triwizard Tournament, which leads him straight to his enemy Voldemort. The writing is layered, embellished, and heroic, and Harry remains as noble and delightful as ever.
St. George, Judith. So You Want to Be President? Illus. by David Small. Putnam/Philomel, $17.99 (0-399-23407-1).
Gr. 3-5, younger for reading aloud. No stodgy portraits of presidents here. With Small providing wonderfully droll, sometimes hysterical illustrations, St. George humanizes the men behind the title while conveying a sense of the significance and dignity of the office. A book children and adults can enjoy and talk about together. (x Top of the List winner--Youth Nonfiction. x)
Stanley, Diane. Michelangelo. illus. HarperCollins, $15.95 (0-688-15085-3); lib. ed., $15.89 (0-688-15086-1).
Gr. 5-8. Stanley puts a new twist on some venerable art by using computer images. The text, which recounts her subject’s life, is as strong as Stanley’s own pictures, but rather than trying to re-create Michelangelo’s art, she inserts images of his work into the spreads for an effective change of pace.
Sturtevant, Katherine. At the Sign of the Star. Farrar, $16 (0-374-30449-1).
Gr. 4-8. In this vibrant historical novel, 12-year-old Meg, strong-willed and smart, sees her inheritance slip away when her father remarries. Meg may be growing up under the constraints of the seventeenth century, but she represents independent, thoughtful young women throughout history.
Adler, David A. America’s Champion Swimmer: Gertrude Ederle. Illus. by Terry Widener. Harcourt/Gulliver, $16 (0-15-201969-3).
Gr. 2-4, younger for reading aloud. This triumphant picture-book biography introduces swimmer Gertrude Ederle, capturing the energy of her early life and her 1926 record-breaking swim across the English Channel in both the strong pictures and the sure text.
Banks, Kate. The Night Worker. Illus. by Georg Hallensleben. Farrar, $16 (0-374-35520-7).
Ages 3-7. A young boy spends the late shift at a construction site with his father. Simple, poetic language combines with beautifully composed scenes of a father and son and of the night world.
Burleigh, Robert. Messenger, Messenger. lus. by Barry Root. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $16 (0-689-82103-4).
Ages 4-8. Vibrant paintings and kinetic, rhyming text describe a day in the life of a bike messenger, from his early morning in a spare urban apartment and his free-flying day on the run, to a final delivery, where he views the city lights from a skyscraper. A beautiful, energizing picture book about urban life.
Casanova, Mary. The Hunter: A Chinese Folktale. Illus. by Ed Young. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $16.95 (0-689-82906-X).
Ages 4-8. Young’s spare, sweeping brush strokes capture the dignity and spirit of Casanova’s retelling of a poignant but ultimately uplifting Chinese folktale in which a hunter must sacrifice himself to save the people of his village. There’s never a wasted line or word.
Cole, Brock. Buttons. illus. Farrar, $16 (0-374-31001-7).
Ages 5-8. When portly Papa pops the buttons holding up his pants, it’s left to his three bold daughters to find replacements. How they proceed is the deliciously funny stuff of this clever story, with sparkling language and translucent watercolors that catch all details of the period costumes, the action, and the comedy. (Top of the List winner--Picture Book.)
Corey, Shana. You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer! Illus. by Chesley McLaren. Scholastic, $16.95 (0-439-07819-9).
Ages 5-8. Lively, winning text and wildly patterned art tell the story of the bombastic woman behind the liberating, history-making garments that bear her name. Important figures in the suffragette movement are introduced along the way.
Falconer, Ian. Olivia. illus. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $16 (0-689-82953-1).
Ages 3-5. Welcome, Olivia! This delightful little pig is an Everychild, and kids will recognize themselves in her. The oversize pictures, executed in charcoal with dollops of red, are bright, strong, clever--and lots of fun.
Hamilton, Virginia. The Girl Who Spun Gold. Illus. by Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon. Scholastic/Blue Sky, $16.95 (0-590-47378-6).
Ages 4-8. In immediate, colloquial style, Hamilton retells a West Indian version of the universal little-man (Rumpelstiltskin) folktale. The Dillons’ exquisite illustrations, both lavish and intricate, express the romantic pageantry of palace and prince and also the subversive presence of the sharp-toothed demon who lurks everywhere.
Jocelyn, Marthe. Hannah’s Collections. illus. Dutton, $14.99 (0-525-46442-5).
Ages 3-5. When Hannah is invited to bring one of her collections to class, which should she share? She considers her 153 buttons and her 19 feathers, but her surprise solution will make children cheer. The fresh, eye-catching collages, made from real materials, offer opportunities for young ones to practice a variety of skills.
Johnson, D. B. Henry Hikes to Fitchburg. illus. Houghton, $15 (0-395-96867-4).
Ages 5-8. Handsome, lovingly detailed illustrations with an art-deco feel are an inviting match for this splendid story that works on several levels: as a glimpse at Henry David Thoreau and his times and as a clever story about a bear convinced that he can get to Fitchburg faster by foot than his friend can on the train.
Kajikawa, Kimiko. Yoshi’s Feast. Illus. by Yumi Heo. DK Ink, $15.95 (0-7894-2607-2).
Ages 4-8. Fan maker Yoshi and his neighbor Sabu can’t agree on much. It’s only after their feud escalates to hilarious absurdity that they can reconcile. This humorous retelling of a traditional Japanese tale is illustrated by dazzling collages made of handmade paper and paint.
Lester, Mike. A Is for Salad. illus. Putnam/Grosset, $9.99 (0-399-23388-1).
Gr. 1-4. You could call this fractured alphabet book both parody and farce. Each wicked picture, in bright acrylics and thick, black lines, is a riotous animal scenario that tells an outlandish story. Not for kids learning the alphabet, this is for grade-schoolers who will get the jokes and love the irreverent nonsense.
Myers, Christopher. Wings. illus. Scholastic, $16.95 (0-590-03377-8).
Ages 4-9. Myers’ beautiful cut-paper collages drive this retelling of the Icarus myth. Ikarus Jackson, the new boy on the block, can fly over the crowd, but he nearly falls from the sky because bullies in the schoolyard and repressive adults don’t like his being different.
Oppel, Kenneth. Peg and the Whale. Illus. by Terry Widener. Simon & Schuster, $16.95 (0-689-82423-8).
Ages 5-8. This jaunty, action-packed tall tale, inspired by an old sea chantey and the biblical story of Noah, centers on a youngster determined to leave her mark on the world. Deeply colored double spreads, bursting with humor and character, show just how she does it.
Osborne, Mary Pope. Kate and the Beanstalk. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $16 (0-689-82550-1).
Ages 4-8. This delightful version of “Jack and the Beanstalk” features a plucky heroine who is shown off very well in the oversize format. The folk-art-style illustrations are immediate and innovative. Fee, fi, fo--fun!
Yolen, Jane. How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? Illus. by Mark Teague. Scholastic/Blue Sky, $15.95 (0-590-31681-8).
Ages 4-6. The text is lively yet simple, just right for the whimsical artwork that takes dinosaurs out of their usual habitat and plunks them into bed, complete with a catalog of familiar bedtime woes. A delight from start to finish.
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