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Find more Booklist Editors' Choice
Selected by the Books for Youth editorial staff and contributor Sally Estes, 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 young children.
Anderson, M. T. Feed. Candlewick, $16.99 (0-7636-1726-1).
Gr. 9–12. Both hilarious and disturbing, this story of two teens in a dystopian universe is hauntingly familiar in its barrage of greed and superficiality.
Armstrong, Jennifer and Butcher, Nancy. The Kindling. HarperCollins, $15.95 (0-06-008048-5); lib. ed., $15.89 (0-06-029411-6).
Gr. 7–10. A great team of writers sets up the new Fire-Us trilogy with this riveting survival story about kids making a home together in a ruined world.
The Body Eclectic: An Anthology of Poems. Ed. by Patrice Vecchione. Holt, $16.95 (0-8050-6935-6).
Gr. 8–12. Hand, hair, blood, breast, skin, semen, vagina, bone, and more are celebrated in this rich global anthology of poetry about love and beauty, laughter and tears, kissing and touching, body and mind.
Chambers, Aidan. Postcards from No Man’s Land. Dutton, $19.99 (0-525-46863-3).
Gr. 9–12. Part thrilling World War II love story, part edgy, contemporary coming-of-age, Chambers’ novel about a British teen in Amsterdam weaves together past secrets with compelling discoveries about love, courage, family, and sexual identity.
Clinton, Cathryn. A Stone in My Hand. Candlewick, $15.99 (0-7636-1388-6).
Gr. 6–12. Set in Gaza City in 1988, this story of a Palestinian girl and her family humanizes the daily news images of children at war. Malaak, 11, tells it with powerful immediacy in a spare narrative that captures her terror and dislocation.
Farmer, Nancy. The House of the Scorpion. Simon & Schuster/Richard Jackson, $17.95 (0-689-85222-3).
Gr. 7–10. The science is as scary as the fiction in Farmer’s riveting story of a teenage clone who discovers his special destiny in a future world.
Frank, Hillary. Better Than Running at Night. Houghton, $17 (0-618-10439-9); paper, $10 (0-618-25073-5).
Gr. 10–up. With honesty, wit, and a wild first-person narrative, this novel breaks boundaries in YA fiction as it tells about college freshman Ellie and her search for art, love, sex, and meaning.
Freymann-Weyr, Garret. My Heartbeat. Houghton, $15 (0-618-14181-2).
Gr. 8–12. The family dynamics are as compelling as the love and friendship drama, as 14-year-old Ellen discovers she loves her brother’s best friend, who loves her brother, who is scared that he’s gay. A beautiful, frank, upbeat story of teen bisexual love in all its uncertainty, pain, and joy. (x Top of the List winner—Youth Fiction. x)
Gantos, Jack. Hole in My Life. Farrar, $16 (0-374-39988-3).
Gr. 8–up. With riveting, unsparing honesty, Gantos vividly recalls how his 12 months behind bars became the impetus for his writing career and the incentive for changing his life.
Giblin, James Cross. The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler. illus. Clarion, $21 (0-395-90371-8).
Gr. 7–9. Giblin’s excellent biography examines not only what Hitler did and his twisted, contradictory personality but also his legacy—contemporary neo-Nazi movements.
Hoffman, Mary. Stravaganza: City of Masks. Bloomsbury, $17.95 (1-58234-791-3).
Gr. 7–12. Hoffman’s artful time-slip story, set in modern-day England with a parallel dimension in sixteenth-century Venice, finds a boy recovering from a devastating illness involved in mystical and political intrigue.
Koertge, Ron. Stoner & Spaz. Candlewick, $15.99 (0-7636-1608-7).
Gr. 8–12. Funny, touching, and surprising, this short, fast-moving novel tells a realistic, hopeful story about Benjamin, a 16-year-old with cerebral palsy who strikes up a startling friendship with the school’s infamous druggie.
Meyer, L. A. Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy. Harcourt, $17 (0-15-216731-5).
Gr. 6–9. There’s plenty of adventure, surprise, and rough, macho swagger when tough, smart Mary reinvents herself as ship’s boy Jacky and takes to the high seas with an all-male crew.
Oates, Joyce Carol. Big Mouth & Ugly Girl. HarperCollins, $16.95 (0-06-623756-4); lib. ed., $16.89 (0-06-623758-0).
Gr. 8–12. An awkward friendship between two self-styled misfits is at the center of this thought-provoking, character-driven drama about the climate of hysteria created by school violence in America.
Partridge, Elizabeth. This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woodie Guthrie. illus. Viking, $21.99 (0-670-03535-1).
Gr. 6–12. Tender and unflinching, this comprehensive biography of a free-spirited American artist reveals Guthrie’s complex, freewheeling talent and troubled life through intimate stories and archival images.
Pearsall, Shelley. Trouble Don’t Last. Knopf, $14.95 (0-375-81490-6); lib. ed., $16.99 (0-375-91490-0).
Gr. 5–10. Pearsall’s powerful novel of the Underground Railroad is a thrilling escape story, but it’s also harsh and realistic—not only about the brutal effects of slavery but also about the hardship the runaways encountered on their journey to freedom.
Salisbury, Graham. Island Boyz: Short Stories. Random/Wendy Lamb, $16.95 (0-385-72970-7); lib. ed., $18.99 (0-385-90037-6).
Gr. 7–12. Poignant, exciting stories set in Hawaii follow teenage boys through pivotal moments complicated by fear, cultural identity, thrill-seeking adventure, and confusion over what it really means to be a guy.
Tolan, Stephanie S. Surviving the Applewhites. HarperCollins, $15.99 (0-06-623602-9); lib. ed., $17.89 (0-06-623603-7).
Gr. 6–9. A familiar plot turns into a delicious screwball comedy when a tough kid is exposed to a manic household and people who are willing to let him change.
Delaney, Michael. Birdbrain Amos. illus. Putnam/Philomel, $14.99 (0-399-23614-7).
Gr. 3–5. Delaney’s Droll cartoon drawings are a perfect match for his laugh-out-loud story about a gentle hippo who learns how to take a stand from a pesky tickbird.
Fine, Anne. Up on Cloud Nine. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-73009-8); lib. ed., $17.99 (0-385-90058-9).
Gr. 5–7. Stolly, a special boy whose parents are too busy for him, falls (jumps?) out of a window. His best friend finds illumination and meaning in recounting his relationship with Stolly, who has always had a precarious hold on life.
Greenberg, Jan and Jordan, Sandra. Action Jackson. Illus. by Robert Andrew Parker. Millbrook/Roaring Brook, $16.95 (0-7613-1682-5); lib. ed., $22.90 (0-7613-2770-3).
Gr. 2–5. In this picture-book biography of Jackson Pollack, energetic pen-and-watercolor illustrations and clear, evocative prose imagine how this “athlete with the paintbrush” made one of his most famous works.
Griffin, Adele. Hannah, Divided. Hyperion, $15.99 (0-7868-0879-9).
Gr. 4–7. A math whiz as well as being obsessive-compulsive, Hannah leaves her one-room schoolhouse to study for a scholarship in Philadelphia. Griffin does a great job of getting inside Hannah’s head as she turns what could have been a problem novel into a celebration.
Grimes, Nikki. Talkin’ about Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman. Illus. by E. B. Lewis. Scholastic/Orchard, $16.95 (0-439-35243-6).
Gr. 2–5. This many-sided verse portrait of the first African American aviatrix is great for reading aloud and readers’ theater, and Lewis’ full-page watercolors reflect the spirit of the poetry through telling details and sensitive, impressionistic portrayals.
Jenkins, Steve. Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution. illus. Houghton, $16 (0-618-16476-6).
Gr. 3–6. The unimaginable becomes easier to grasp in this large-format science book that uses eye-catching paper-cuts and easy-to-understand language to condense the whole of evolution into a 24-hour day.
Kalman, Maira. Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey. illus. Putnam, $16.99 (0-399-23953-7).
Gr. 2–6. The story of a small fireboat becomes a metaphor for the courage displayed on September 11. Inventive illustrations that sweep across the pages match a text grounded in sad reality—and hope. (x Top of the List winner—Youth Picture Book. x)
Marsden, Carolyn. The Gold-Threaded Dress. Candlewick, $13.99 (0-7636-1569-2).
Gr. 3–5. Shy Oy, who is from Thailand, mistakenly thinks that her beautiful ceremonial dress will win her acceptance by her classmates. A sensitive, well-told story for the outsider in every child.
Martin, Ann M. A Corner of the Universe. Scholastic, $15.95 (0-439-38880-5).
Gr. 5–8. In this fully realized, emotional roller-coaster ride of a novel, Hattie’s world turns upside down when she learns that her uncle’s mental problems are more than either of them can handle.
McKay, Hilary. Saffy’s Angel. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, $16 (0-689-84933-8).
Gr. 4–7. When 13-year-old Saffron discovers that she’s adopted, she leaves her deliciously eccentric English family behind and sets out to find her roots. Through spot-on details and witty dialogue, McKay finds the joy and struggle in everyday life.
O’Connor, Jane. The Emperor’s Silent Army: Terracotta Warriors of Ancient China. illus. Viking, $17.99 (0-670-03152-2).
Gr. 4–7. O’Connor’s enticing book takes readers to China where the discovery of 1,000-year-old terra-cotta soldiers has provided both excitement and thought-provoking questions. Engagingly written and wonderfully illustrated with color photographs. (x Top of the List winner—Youth Nonfiction. x)
Sayre, April Pulley. Secrets of Sound: Studying the Calls and Songs of Whales, Elephants, and Birds. illus. Houghton, $16 (0-618-01514-0).
Gr. 4–7. In simple language and sharp color photographs, these profiles of bioacousticians—scientists who study the sounds made by living things—introduce a fascinating subject and show the thrill of scientific discovery up close.
Sloan, Christopher. Bury the Dead: Tombs, Corpses, Mummies, Skeletons & Rituals. illus. National Geographic; dist. by Simon & Schuster, $18.95 (0-7922-7192-0).
Gr. 5–8. Crisp, gripping photos pull readers right into a fascinating, readable book that has the ring of authority and the look of quality on every page.
Smith, Charles R. Perfect Harmony: A Musical Journey with the Boys Choir of Harlem. illus. Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, $15.99 (0-7868-0758-X).
Gr. 4–7. Illustrated with striking color photographs of the Boys Choir of Harlem, these strong, playful poems celebrate music’s power while explaining basic terms.
Stanley, Diane. Saladin: Noble Prince of Islam. illus. HarperCollins, $16.99 (0-688-17135-4); lib. ed., $18.89 (0-688-17136-2).
Gr. 5–8. Stanley’s latest picture-book biography recounts the life of a twelfth-century Islamic warrior known for his civility. The vigorous telling is more than matched by glorious paintings that mirror Islamic artwork of the time.
Wallace-Brodeur, Ruth. Blue Eyes Better. Dutton, $15.99 (0-525-46836-6).
Gr. 4–6. A gripping family drama, this small, beautiful novel, rooted in hard fact, is true to 11-year-old Tessa’s experience after her older brother is killed in a drunk-driving accident.
Woodson, Jacqueline. Hush. Putnam, $15.99 (0-399-23144-5).
Gr. 5–8. As part of the witness protection program, 12-year-old Toswiah must move with her family and become “Evie,” a new girl in a new place and a new school. A quiet coming-of-age story about leaving home.
Child, Lauren. That Pesky Rat. illus. Candlewick, $15.99 (0-7636-1873-X).
K–Gr. 3. Wacky collage art adds a wonderful carnival atmosphere to this delightfully goofy story about a rat who is tired of the traditional rat race.
Fleming, Denise. Alphabet under Construction. illus. Holt, $16.95 (0-8050-6848-1).
PreS–Gr. 2. In a series of sparkling, joyful pictures, an industrious mouse works to build the alphabet one letter at a time, from “airbrushing A” to “zipping up Z.”
Hindley, Judy. Do Like a Duck Does! Illus. by Ivan Bates. Candlewick, $14.99 (0-7636-1668-0).
PreS–Gr. 1. Mama Duck bests the wily fox in witty fashion in a story that shines as a read-aloud and has adorable pictures, too. Fun and supremely satisfying in every way.
Lindbergh, Reeve. On Morning Wings: Adapted from Psalm 139. Illus. by Holly Meade. Candlewick, $15.99 (0-7636-1106-9)
PreS–Gr. 1. Capturing the spirit of the verse and the beauty of the natural world, this handsomely illustrated, reassuring poem addresses God from the child’s point of view.
Mak, Kam. My Chinatown. illus. HarperCollins, $16.95 (0-06-029190-7); lib. ed., $16.89 (0-06-029191-5).
Gr. 2–4, younger for reading aloud. Photo-realistic paintings and spare, free verse poems tell a quiet, powerful story about a young Chinese boy’s adjustment to New York City’s Chinatown.
McMullan, Kate. I Stink! Illus. by Jim McMullan. HarperCollins/Joanna Cotler, $15.95 (0-06-029848-0); lib. ed., $15.89 (0-06-029849-9).
PreS–Gr. 2. In a swaggering, first-person voice, a macho garbage truck conducts a tour of his nightly rounds, as hilarious, expressive paintings follow him roaring and burping through urban streets.
McPhail, David. The Teddy Bear. illus. Holt, $15.95 (0-8050-6414-1).PreS–Gr. 2. Beautiful, soft-toned watercolors with crosshatched details illustrate this elemental story of shelter and love, as told from the perspective of a child who reaches beyond himself to help a homeless man.
Osborne, Mary Pope. New York’s Bravest. Illus. by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. Knopf, $15.95 (0-375-82196-1); lib. ed., $17.99 (0-375-92196-6).
K–Gr. 3. This gloriously illustrated story of 1840s firefighter Mose Humphreys plays on the events of September 11 but has a mythic power all its own.
Ryan, Pam Muñoz. When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson. Illus. by Brian Selznick. Scholastic, $16.95 (0-439-26967-9).
K–Gr. 3. The lush, operatic style, passionate words, and beautifully detailed, sepia-tone pictures fit the subject of this picture-book biography about the great vocalist’s triumph in the face of the vicious segregation of her time.
Shannon, David. David Gets in Trouble. illus. Scholastic/Blue Sky, $15.95 (0-439-05022-7).
PreS–Gr. 1. David is back and full of excuses for doing what he’s not supposed to do. As before, the humor is in the huge, full-color paintings that show the chaos and catch the snaggletoothed scamp’s ever-changing expressions.
Sis, Peter. Madlenka’s Dog. illus. Farrar/Frances Foster, $17 (0-374-34699-2).
PreS–Gr. 1. Irrepressible Madlenka circles the block to share her imaginary dog with a cast of international neighbors. Sis’ simple story and fantastical art beautifully capture the pleasure and power of make-believe.
Tarpley, Natasha Anastasia. Bippity Bop Barbershop. Illus. by E. B. Lewis. Little, Brown/Megan Tingley, $15.95 (0-316-52284-8).
PreS–Gr. 1. There’s a strong sense of place in Tarpley’s warm story of an African American boy’s first haircut, which is as much about fathers and sons as it is about new experiences.
Teague, Mark. Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School. illus. Scholastic, $15.95 (0-439-20663-4).
K–Gr. 3. Ike LaRue is off to a canine academy, but Ike paints the place as a prison in letters home. The hilarious juxtaposition between real life and the correspondence makes for a good story, well told and delightfully illustrated.
Vail, Rachel. Sometimes I’m Bombaloo. Illus. by Yumi Heo. Scholastic, $15.95 (0-439-08755-4)
PreS–Gr. 2. Vail gets right inside a kid’s psyche, and Heo’s inventive artwork reflects a kaleidoscope of emotions as the young narrator lets her anger out and goes “bombaloo.”
Wong, Janet S. Apple Pie Fourth of July. Illus. by Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Harcourt, $16 (0-15-202543-X).
PreS–Gr. 2. A young Chinese American girl is first embarrassed and then proud when she must help her parents sell Chinese food on the Fourth of July. Spare, lyrical words and vibrant, uncluttered images reinforce the message that Chinese food is also American.
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