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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.
Abelove, Joan. Go and Come Back. DK Ink/Richard Jackson, $16.95 (0-7894-2476-2).
Gr. 8–10. Set in the Peruvian jungle in the 1970s, this is a story of cultures colliding. Readers see their own culture through the eyes of a teenager whose tribe is being observed by two young American anthropologists. A startling, vibrant novel full of life.
Fleischman, Paul. Whirligig. Holt, $16.95 (0-8050-5582-7).
Gr. 7–10. When Brent inadvertently causes the death of another teenager, he is sent on a journey of repentance in which the whirligigs he is building become a metaphor for movement, laughter, and, ultimately, life.
Ford, Michael Thomas. Outspoken: Role Models from the Lesbian and Gay Community. Morrow, $15 (0-688-14896-4).
Gr. 7–12. Accessible and informative as well as sensitive, Ford’s collection of interviews follows six men and women who have accepted their sexual identity after leaving the angst and turmoil of adolescence behind.
Fradin, Dennis Brindell. Samuel Adams: The Father of American Independence. illus. Clarion, $18 (0-395-82510-5).
Gr. 5–9. This attractive large-format biography introduces Samuel Adams, pointing out the man’s flaws as well as his great contribution in creating and driving the public will toward American independence.
Freedman, Russell. Martha Graham: A Dancer’s Life. illus. Clarion, $18 (0-395-74655-8).
Gr. 7–12. Written with eloquence and grace and illustrated with electrifying photographs of Graham in action, this biography reveals the art of the dancer and her revolutionary public role.
Griffin, Adele. The Other Shepards. Hyperion; dist. by Little, Brown, $14.95 (0-7868-0423-8); lib. ed., $15.49 (0-7868-2370-4).
Gr. 5–8. Griffin mixes the mystical with the commonplace in the story of two sisters who live with the legacy of their three dead siblings. A novel that shows the heights to which popular literature can rise.
Grimes, Nikki. Jazmin’s Notebook. Dial, $15.99 (0-8037-2224-9).
Gr. 6–10. Funny, tender, angry, and tough, Jazmin’s diary entries and occasional poems about growing up in Harlem in the 1960s make us share her struggle to find community and her own space.
Holt, Kimberly Willis. My Louisiana Sky. Holt, $15.95 (0-8050-5251-8).
Gr. 6–9. With a strong sense of Louisiana in the 1950s, this spare first-person novel is full of surprise as Tiger Ann discovers complicated secrets about family and responsibility. The lyrical story brings fresh perspective to the guilt and anger and caring that surround the mentally disabled.
Lawrence, Iain. The Wreckers. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-32535-5).
Gr. 5–8. It is a dark and stormy night when a merchant ship is lured onto the rocks of the Cornish coast. Part survival story, part historical fiction, this tale, narrated by one of the ship’s survivors, is a page-turner.
Lobel, Anita. No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War. Greenwillow, $16 (0-688-15935-4).
Gr. 6–12. The truth of the child’s viewpoint is the strength of this unforgettable Holocaust survivor story told with physical immediacy and no pride of victimhood. (x Top of the List winner—Youth Nonfiction.x)
Meltzer, Milton. Ten Queens: Portraits of Women of Power. Illus. by Bethanne Andersen. Dutton, $24.99 (0-525-45643-0).
Gr. 5–8. Meltzer profiles 10 queens who “held power in their hands and used it” in a book that is engagingly written and stirringly illustrated.
No More Strangers Now: Young Voices from a New South Africa. Interviews by Tim McKee. Photos by Anne Blackshaw. DK Ink/Melanie Kroupa, $19.95 (0-7894-2524-6).
Gr. 6–12. In direct, honest voices, 12 South African teens talk about their diverse experiences under apartheid and the way they see their country now. The photographs and the personal details of everyday life will engage readers in these powerful photo-essays.
Partridge, Elizabeth. Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange. illus. Viking, $18.99 (0-670-87888-X).
Gr. 6–12. Lange’s compelling black-and-white photographs, exquisitely reproduced, provide the drama in this biography of the famous artist who showed the nation the faces of individual people caught up in the great events of the time.
Paulsen, Gary. My Life in Dog Years. illus. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-32570-3).
Gr. 5–10. In a style that is poignant, open, and unpretentious, Paulsen celebrates eight memorable canines he has known and loved over the years.
Paulsen, Gary. Soldier’s Heart. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-32498-7).
Gr. 5–8. Based on the true story of a 15-year-old Union soldier, this plainspoken novel dramatizes the Civil War through the young man’s personal experience of battlefield brutality and its aftermath. (x Top of the List winner—Youth Fiction.x)
Potok, Chaim. Zebra and Other Stories. Knopf, $18 (0-679-85440-1).
Gr. 7 and up. In quiet, spare, intimate prose, Potok’s fine collection of stories introduces readers to six children and teens whose experiences push them one step closer to the adult world.
Springer, Nancy. I Am Mordred: A Tale from Camelot. Putnam/Philomel, $16.99 (0-399-23143-9).
Gr. 7–12. Springer humanizes Arthurian archvillain Mordred in a thoroughly captivating and poignant tale that follows Mordred as he tries to sort out his love-hate feelings for his father.
Walter, Virginia. Making Up Megaboy. Illus. by Katrina Roeckelein. DK Ink/ Richard Jackson, $16.95 (0-7894-2488-6).
Gr. 6–9. A boy takes his father’s gun and shoots an elderly storekeeper dead. Why? The combination of first-person perspectives and computer-generated graphics is riveting, and the discussion possibilities are wide open.
War and Pity of War. Ed. by Neil Philip. illus. Clarion, $20 (0-395-84982-9).
Gr. 6 and up. Poems from many times and places speak in plain words about the cruelty of war and about the courage and dignity of soldiers and civilians. The powerful scratchboard drawings show the ruin and humanity of those who died and those who came back.
Werlin, Nancy. The Killer’s Cousin. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-32560-6).
Gr. 7–12. Teens will find this tautly plotted thriller, rich in complex, finely drawn characters, an absolute page-turner.
Zemser, Amy Bronwen. Beyond the Mango Tree. Greenwillow, $15 (0-688-16005-0).
Gr. 6–12. In this moving contemporary novel about a 12-year-old American white girl in Liberia, the first-person narrative captures the loneliness—and the blindness—of the privileged expatriate in a world apart.
Burleigh, Robert. Black Whiteness: Admiral Byrd Alone in the Antarctic. Illus. by Walter Lyon Krudop. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $16 (0-689-81299-X).
Gr. 4 and up. This stunning profile of determination, stubbornness, and courage mixes lyrical prose and shimmering oil paintings to evoke the solitary vigil of Admiral Richard Byrd, who lived for months in a small underground structure in Antarctica.
Demi. The Dalai Lama: A Biography of the Tibetan Spiritual and Political Leader. illus. Holt, $16.95 (0-8050-5443-X).
Gr. 3–6, younger for reading aloud. Soaring landscapes are beautifully juxtaposed against spreads of palace pageantry and more personal scenes of the Dalai Lama’s life. A special biography.
Dillon, Leo and Dillon, Diane. To Every Thing There Is a Season: Verses from Ecclesiastes. illus. Scholastic/Blue Sky, $15.95 (0-590-47887-7).
Gr. 4–7. The Dillons take the well-known biblical verses and illustrate them with styles of art from around the world: a graphic statement of universality.
Fleischman, Sid. Bandit’s Moon. illus. Greenwillow, $15 (0-688-15830-7).
Gr. 3–6. Annyrose hooks up with a band of outlaws in this rip-roaring story told with rollicking humor and containing a strong message about bigotry.
Jackson, Ellen. Turn of the Century. Illus. by Jan Davey Ellis. Charlesbridge, lib. ed., $15.95 (0-88106-369-X).
Gr. 3–5, younger for reading aloud. Combining first-person narratives and lists of facts, this is a lively look back at children living in Great Britain and in America at the beginning of each century from A.D. 1000 through the year 2000.
Lauber, Patricia. Painters of the Caves. illus. National Geographic Society; dist. by Random, $17.95 (0-7922-7095-9).
Gr. 4–8. Beginning and ending in the Chauvet cave in southeastern France, this impressive work, rich in both art and text, explores the extraordinary paintings found on the cave walls.
Lester, Julius. From Slave Ship to Freedom Road. Illus. by Rod Brown. Dial, $17.99 (0-8037-1893-4).
Gr. 5–10. The combination of history, art, and impassioned commentary will draw kids in to the questions raised by Brown’s narrative paintings that show what it was like to be a slave—the suffering, anger, defiance, endurance, and rebellion under unspeakable conditions.
Morgenstern, Susie. Secret Letters from 0 to 10. Tr. by Gill Rosner. Viking, $15.99 (0-670-88007-8).
Gr. 4–7. Translated from the French, Morgenstern’s story of 10-year-old Ernest, whose joyless life changes when he meets outgoing Victoria and her huge family, is a sparkling, unusual offering laced with humor.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $16.95 (0-590-35340-3).
Gr. 4–7. A first novel, brilliantly imagined and written, incorporates elements of traditional British school stories while never sacrificing the fantasy element as orphan Harry Potter learns he is a wizard.
Stanley, Diane. Joan of Arc. illus. Morrow, $16 (0-688-14329-6); lib. ed., $15.93 (0-688-14330-X).
Gr. 4–8. The glorious artwork echoes medieval illuminated manuscripts in this vivid picture-book biography that sets Joan’s life against the politics and the battles in France and England in her time.
Van Laan, Nancy. With a Whoop and a Holler: A Bushel of Lore from Way Down South. illus. Simon & Schuster/Anne Schwartz, $19.95 (0-689-81061-X).
Gr. 3–6, younger for reading aloud. Including lively rhymes, folktales, superstitions, and riddles from the South, this exceptional, high-spirited collection is great for reading aloud, storytelling, or personal reading.
Wick, Walter. Walter Wick’s Optical Tricks. illus. Scholastic/Cartwheel, $13.95 (0-590-22227-9).
Gr. 3–6. Using mirrors, lighting, shadows, and simple props, Wick’s crystal-clear photographs create a series of scenes that fool the eye and the brain, while the accompanying text gives hints about how the tricks are done.
Wilson, Jacqueline. Double Act. illus. Delacorte, $14.95 (0-385-32312-3).
Gr. 3–6. In a story of family angst that is also very funny, twins Ruby and Garnet (identical on the outside, but quite different on the inside) record their unhappiness when their father forces them to leave everything they know and move to a country village with his girlfriend.
Books for the Young
Ahlberg, Allan. Mockingbird. Illus. by Paul Howard. Candlewick, $16.99 (0-7636-0439-9).
Ages 1–4. With freshness and humor, this beguiling picture-book of the old folk song “Hush, Little Baby” captures the warmth and the security of the enduring favorite.
Bodnár, Judit Z. Tale of a Tail. Illus. by John Sandford. Lothrop, $16 (0-688-12174-8); lib. ed., $15.93 (0-688-12175-6).
Ages 4–7. Ideal for reading aloud, this sparkling, original story about Silly Bear, who unwittingly gets the best of a stingy fox, has the feel of a traditional folktale. Fine artwork adds to the fun.
Bodkin, Odds. The Crane Wife. Illus. by Gennady Spirin. Harcourt/Gulliver, $16 (0-15-201407-1).
Ages 5–9. In keeping with the tale’s mystery and tragedy, Spirin’s paintings take their inspiration from Japanese art, placing the human drama against a background of nature that is changeable, mysterious, and hauntingly beautiful.
Fonteyn, Margot. Coppélia. Illus. by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. Harcourt/ Gulliver, $17 (0-15-200428-9).
Ages 5–8. The story that inspired the ballet is magnificently illustrated by impressionistic paintings that use fabric to heighten the effect of this rich visual interpretation.
George, Kristine O’Connell. Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems. Illus. by Kate Kiesler. Clarion, $15 (0-395-87611-7).
Gr. 2–6. Warm oil paintings beautifully complement the original poems in this lovely, simple collection celebrating trees.
Gerstein, Mordicai. The Wild Boy. illus. Farrar/Frances Foster, $16 (0-374-38431-2).
Ages 6–8, older for reading alone. The true story of a wild child found in France is told with narrative strength and through haunting, dramatic illustrations.
Harper, Dan. Telling Time with Big Mama Cat. Illus. by Barry Moser and Cara Moser. Harcourt, $15 (0-15-201738-0).
Ages 3–7. With a foldout flap of a clock with movable hands, Harper’s affectionate picture book follows Big Mama Cat through a day with her family, playing games, napping, and making mischief from 6 a.m. till midnight.
Hasset, John and Hassett, Ann. Cat up a Tree. illus. Houghton/Walter Lorraine, $15 (0-395-88415-2).
Ages 4–7. No one will help Nana Quimby rescue cats up a tree—not even when the total climbs to 35. The cumulative amusement is heightened by the book’s inventive art.
Kvasnosky, Laura McGee. Zelda and Ivy. illus. Candlewick, $15.99 (0-7636-0469-0).
Ages 4–7. Kvasnosky catches the nuances of the big sister–little sister relationship in three delightful vignettes. Tinged with sly wit, both text and art will make siblings nod knowingly.
Lindbergh, Reeve. The Circle of Days. Illus. by Cathie Felstead. Candlewick, $15.99 (0-7636-0357-0).
Ages 4–9. St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun is beautifully adapted and illustrated here. An excellent choice for both environmental and religion shelves.
Martin, David. Five Little Piggies. Illus. by Susan Meddaugh. Candlewick, $16.99 (1-56402-918-2).
Ages 1–5. With slapstick action and nonsense wordplay that will delight preschoolers, this picture book expands each line of the old finger rhyme into a messy family scenario with five little piggies screaming for attention.
Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. Snowflake Bentley. Illus. by Mary Azarian. Houghton, $16 (0-395-86162-4).
Ages 5–8. The crisp, engaging text and the strong, sure woodcut art work perfectly together in this introductizn to the life of the man who first photographed snowflakes.
Pinkney, Andrea Davis. Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra. Illus. by Brian Pinkney. Hyperion; dist. by Little Brown, $15.95 (0-7868-0178-6).
Ages 5–8. The joy in Ellington’s music, and the joy his musicians felt playing it, is apparent on every page of this swinging introduction to the life and music of the Duke.
Poole, Josephine. Joan of Arc. Illus. by Angela Barrett. Knopf, $18 (0-679-89041-6); lib. ed., $19.99 (0-679-99041-0).
Ages 5–8. The text mixes the high adventure of Joan’s crusade with the maiden’s most personal reactions to the dramatic events engulfing her life, and the beautiful illustrations are alternately pastoral, celestial, and spirited.
San Souci, Robert D. Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella. Illus. by Brian Pinkney. Simon & Schuster, $16 (0-689-80668-X).
Ages 4–8. This vital rendition of the Cinderella story, set on the island of Martinique, is particularly vibrant, both in its melodious language and its spirited art.
Simmons, Jane. Come Along, Daisy! illus. Little, Brown, $12.95 (0-316-79790-1).
Ages 2–4. A simple, sympathetic story about a little duck who gets separated from her mother, this will speak clearly to preschoolers’ simultaneous drives for independence and belonging. The whimsical pictures are just right for storytimes. (xTop of the List winner—Youth Picture Book.x)
Shulevitz, Uri. Snow. illus. Farrar, $16 (0-374-37092-3).
Ages 2–4. In pictures that combine shtetl folk-art and urban contemporary, Shulevitz captures the small child’s joyful vision, which can see a world in a snowflake and feel the exhilaration in a snowfall that transforms the world.
Steig, William. Pete’s a Pizza. illus. HarperCollins/Michael di Capua, $13.95 (0-06-205157-1).
Ages 3–5. In one of the most joyously appealing books Steig has done in years, he uses one of his own family games to show a father cheering up a child by pretending to turn him into a pizza.
Stevenson, James. Popcorn. illus. Greenwillow. $15 (0-688-15261-9).
Gr. 2–5, younger for reading aloud. With a physical immediacy and a casual voice, Stevenson’s poems capture quiet, intensely moving moments of daily life in a small seaside town, and his exquisite, understated watercolors extend the concrete particulars of the words.
Wells, Rosemary. Yoko. illus. Hyperion; dist. by Little, Brown, $14.95 (0-7868-0395-9); lib. ed., $15.49 (0-7868-2345-3).
Ages 3–7. Yoko is devastated when the kids jeer at her favorite sushi lunch, but then she makes a friend. Wells is at her best in the tender, funny pictures of an active preschool classroom.
Winter, Jeanette. My Name Is Georgia. illus. Harcourt, $16 (0-15-201649-X).
Gr. 2–4, younger for reading aloud. This picture book for older children portrays O’Keeffe through words as clear, spare, and rhythmic as the painter’s compositions.
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