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Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition. By Karen Blumenthal. illus. Roaring Brook/Flash Point, $18.99 (9781596434493). Gr. 8–12.
A sober look at an oft-sensationalized period of American history, this thoroughly researched, highly readable book traces the roots of the Eighteenth Amendment, “the most radical and ambitious social experiment ever tried.”
Flesh & Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy. By Albert Marrin. illus. Knopf, $19.99 (9780375868894). Gr. 7–10.
Marrin’s landmark study of this historic tragedy not only supplies the brutal facts but also effortlessly ropes in the surrounding issues of immigration, housing, and union rights.
Gangs. By Richard Swift. Groundwood, $18.95 (9780888999795). Gr. 8–12.
This is an eloquent, well-documented commentary with a clear point of view: “Weapons + poverty + inequality + dashed hopes = street gang violence.” Potentially controversial but fiercely intelligent.
I. M. Pei: Architect of Time, Place, and Purpose. By Jill Rubalcaba. illus. Marshall Cavendish, $23.99 (9780761459736). Gr. 7–10.
Renowned architect I. M. Pei is the focus of this handsome book, which offers a fascinating account of his life and discusses seven of his most significant projects, including the redesigned Louvre.
Little Rock Girl 1957: How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration. By Shelley Tougas. illus. Capstone, paper, $8.95 (9780756545123). Gr. 6–9.
Can a photograph change the world? The answer is a resounding yes as this title in the Captured History series shows. The picture of an African American girl trying to integrate Little Rock High School, surrounded by those determined to keep her out, became one of the most famous images of the era.
Basketball Belles: How Two Teams and One Scrappy Player Put Women’s Hoops on the Map. By Sue Macy. Illus. by Matt Collins. Holiday, $16.95 (9780823421633). Gr. 3–5.
A sprightly first-person text and fabulous in-your-face paintings energetically recall the first all-female intercollegiate basketball game between Stanford and UC Berkeley in 1896.
Drawing from Memory. By Allen Say. Illus. by the author. Scholastic, $17.99 (9780545176866). Gr. 4–7.
With a scrapbook format that includes photographs, sketchbook drawings, and comic-book-style panels, this stunning autobiography tells the story of how Caldecott Award–winning Say became an artist.
The Great Migration: Journey to the North. By Eloise Greenfield. Illus. by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. Amistad, $16.99 (9780061259210). Gr. 2–4.
Striking images and free-verse poetry, rooted in Greenfield’s personal experience, create a haunting view of a pivotal moment in U.S. history—when more than a million African Americans left their homes in the South and moved to the North.
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. By Kadir Nelson. Illus. by the author. HarperCollins/Balzer and Bray, $19.99 (9780061730740). Gr. 3–7.
Through 44 full-page paintings and a text told in the fictionalized, informal voice of an African American senior citizen looking back on her life, Nelson presents an intimate, powerful view of American and African American history, from colonial days through the civil rights movement.
The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China. By Ed Young and Libby Koponen. Illus. by Ed Young. Little, Brown, $17.99 (9780316076289). Gr. 3–5.
With inventive collage illustrations and a vivid text, this memoir recalls the artist’s childhood in Shanghai, where Young’s father protected his large family, as best he could, from the looming shadow of WWII.
Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto. By Susan Goldman Rubin. Illus. by Bill Farnsworth. Holiday, $18.95 (9780823422517). Gr. 3–6.
Quietly telling a dramatic story in words and pictures, this picture book offers a stirring tribute to a courageous young woman who rescued hundreds of Jewish children from the Nazis during WWII.
Roots and Blues: A Celebration. By Arnold Adoff. Illus. by R. Gregory Christie. Clarion, $17.99 (9780547235547). Gr. 4–8.
In short poems and prose vignettes, Adoff offers a sensory history of the blues, capturing the rhythms, sounds, and imagery that inform this uniquely American art form.
The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps. By Jeanette Winter. Illus. by the author. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (9780375867743). Gr. 2–4.
With elegantly simple language and vibrant acrylic illustrations, this exemplary picture-book biography focuses on animal advocate Jane Goodall’s life and work.
Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade. By Melissa Sweet. Illus. by the author. Houghton, $16.99 (9780547199450). K–Gr. 2.
This is an introduction to both a national event and to Tony Sarg, who loved puppets as a boy and grew up to create the fabulous creatures that are now an integral part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Careful explanations and spectacular art make this a joyous piece of nonfiction that informs and delights in equal parts. (Top of the List winner—Youth Nonfiction.)
Me . . . Jane. By Patrick McDonnell. Illus. by the author. Little, Brown, $15.99 (9780316045469). PreS–Gr. 3.
This quietly affecting picture book tells of Jane Goodall’s childhood, spent exploring the outdoors along with her intrepid stuffed animal, a chimpanzee. A pleasure from start to finish, the presentation opens with spare, tinted drawings and ends with a photo that shifts the story into another dimension. (Top of the List winner—Youth Picture Book.)
A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis. By Matt de la Peña. Illus. by Kadir Nelson. Dial, $17.99 (9780803731677). Gr. 1–3.
The story of Joe Louis’ 1938 bout with Max Schmeling shows how sports can take on a mythic weight. Nelson’s rounded artwork is in top shape, and de la Peña’s prose sets a cadenced pace.
Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature. By Joyce Sidman. Illus. by Beth Krommes. Houghton, $16.99 (9780547315836). PreS–Gr. 3.
In this mesmerizing picture book, a precisely worded, free-verse text explores spirals in nature, while strong scratchboard compositions celebrate the variety of the spiral forms around us, from curling fern heads to swirling galaxies.
Anya’s Ghost. By Vera Brosgol. Illus. by the author. First Second, paper, $15.99 (9781596435520). Gr. 7–12.
Between Shades of Gray. By Ruta Sepetys. Philomel, $17.99 (9780399254123). Gr. 7–12.
The Big Crunch. By Pete Hautman. Scholastic, $17.99 (9780545240758). Gr. 8–11.
Hautman skillfully subverts clichés in this subtle, authentic, heart-tugging exploration of first love between two perceptive teens trying to survive a long-distance relationship.
Chime. By Franny Billingsley. Dial, $17.99 (9780803735521). Gr. 8–12.
Briony, a secret witch at 17, is a force to be reckoned with in this story that explores the powers of guilt and redemption. Set in a dark and chilling yet stunning world, Billingsley’s novel is exquisite to the final word.
Guantanamo Boy. By Anna Perera. Albert Whitman, $17.99 (9780807530771). Gr. 7–12.
Island’s End. By Padma Venkatraman. Putnam, $16.99 (9780399250996). Gr. 7–10.
Infused with spirituality as well as heart-stopping action, this novel, set on a remote Indian island, addresses issues of modernity versus tradition as seen through the eyes of 15-year-old Uido, her tribe’s spiritual leader.
Karma. By Cathy Ostlere. Penguin/Razorbill, $17.99 (9781595143389). Gr. 9–12.
Fifteen-year-old Maya accompanies her Sikh father to India to spread the ashes of her Hindu mother, who committed suicide, and their arrival coincides with the assassination of Indira Gandhi. A complex clash of cultures is revealed in this fascinating novel-in-verse.
Leverage. By Joshua C. Cohen. Dutton, $16.99 (9780525423065). Gr. 10–12.
This hard-hitting novel about an unlikely fellowship between a football star and a gymnast tackles drugs, rape, violence, and the insular nature of sports programs without flinching.
Life: An Exploded Diagram. By Mal Peet. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763652272). Gr. 9–12.
Peet’s look at England’s class war and the Cuban missile crisis through the viewpoint of two star-crossed lovers is heady, sophisticated, and one of the year’s most ambitious novels.
A Monster Calls. By Patrick Ness. Illus. by Jim Kay. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763655594). Gr. 7–10.
Developing an idea left behind by the late Siobhan Dowd, Ness tells the story of a young boy who is pummeled with grief and doubt as he watches his mother succumb to cancer. A grim, fable-spouting monster visits him in the deep of night, but his own recurring nightmare holds the darkest terrors. (Top of the List winner—Youth Fiction.)
Now Playing: Stoner & Spaz II. By Ron Koertge. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763650810). Gr. 8–12.
Ben (with his cerebral palsy) and Colleen (with her lingering drug problems) continue their wholly believable on-again, off-again relationship in this fast, funny, and furious sequel.
Okay for Now. By Gary D. Schmidt. illus. Clarion, $16.99 (9780547152608). Gr. 6–9.
This companion to The Wednesday Wars (2007) focuses on Doug Switek’s tough home life and connection to Audubon’s portraits of birds, which serve as a plausible and moving catalyst for strength and growth.
Paper Covers Rock. By Jenny Hubbard. Delacorte, $16.99 (9780385740555). Gr. 9–12.
Many books are compared to A Separate Peace, but Hubbard’s finely crafted novel about a boarding-school death and its fallout earns that comparison to John Knowles’ classic with its elegance and urgency.
The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic. By Allan Wolf. Candlewick, $21.99 (9780763637033). Gr. 9–12.
Wolf’s expertly researched masterpiece of free-form poetry tells the haunting, sweeping story of the Titanic disaster through a multi-octave chorus of two dozen real-life voices.
Why We Broke Up. By Daniel Handler. Illus. by Maira Kalman. Little, Brown, $19.99 (9780316127257). Gr. 9–12.
Structured around the objects being returned after a breakup, this girl-meets-boy story rises far above par due to Handler’s deft depiction of the couple’s alternately gushing and halting emotions.
You Killed Wesley Payne. By Sean Beaudoin. Little, Brown, $16.99 (9780316077422). Gr. 9–12.
Clever doesn’t begin to cover this hard-boiled send-up riddled with wise-guy wit, as Dalton Rev trods the mean streets of a high school’s labyrinthine complex of cliques in search of a killer.
Around the World. By Matt Phelan. Illus. by the author. Candlewick, $24.99 (9780763636197). Gr. 4–7.
Phelan offers lightly fictionalized graphic-format accounts of three nineteenth-century adventurers whose inner journeys displayed as much hardiness, courage, and resilience as their globe-trotting exploits.
Brother Sun, Sister Moon. By Katherine Paterson. Illus. by Pamela Dalton. Chronicle, $17.99 (9780811877343). Gr. 2–5.
Paterson, a Newbery Medalist and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, writes from her own abiding faith as she adds her careful embroidery to Saint Francis’ canticle. Dalton takes her paper-cutting talents to an extraordinary level here.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. By Catherynne M. Valente. Illus. by Ana Juan. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (9780312649616). Gr. 5–8.
As much an homage to classic children’s stories as a fantastic yarn in itself, Valente’s richly worded story sends a girl with bottomless wells of pluck on a voyage into a strange, scary, and silly world.
Inside Out and Back Again. By Thanhha Lai. Harper, $15.99 (9780061962783). Gr. 4–8.
Written in accessible, short free-verse poems, this is the moving story of 10-year-old Hà, who is forced to flee war-torn Vietnam with her family, eventually becoming a refugee struggling to shape a new life in Alabama.
Lost & Found. By Shaun Tan. Illus. by the author. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $21.99 (9780545229241). Gr. 5–12.
This collection of three picture books, originally published in Australia, displays a sense of deep melancholy and wide-eyed wonder as it showcases Tan’s indelible imagery and storytelling.
Mo Wren, Lost and Found. By Tricia Springstubb. Illus. by Heather Ross. HarperCollins/Balzer and Bray, $15.99 (9780061990397). Gr. 4–6.
This sequel to What Happened on Fox Street (2010) follows sisters Mo and Dottie through a family move. Springstubb captures the emotions of loss that come with leaving all that’s familiar as well as the first stirrings of hope when it seems as if things just might work out.
My Name Is Mina. By David Almond. Delacorte, $15.99 (9780385740739); lib. ed., $18.99 (9780375989643). Gr. 4–7.
Both form and language bring Mina to life in this prequel to Almond’s award-winning Skellig (1998). This novel very much stands alone, but the sense of wonder that pervades the smallest details of Mina’s story remains familiar.
Never Forgotten. By Patricia McKissack. Illus. by Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $18.99 (9780375843846). Gr. 4–8.
Accessible free verse and dramatic acrylic-and-watercolor illustrations combine in this unique perspective on the Middle Passage, told from the point of view of a blacksmith whose son becomes one of the Taken.
No Ordinary Day. By Deborah Ellis. Groundwood, $16.95 (9781554981342). Gr. 4–7.
Valli flees her home in Jharia, India, only to find herself alone and afflicted with leprosy. Valli’s humor and fearlessness make this a surprisingly inspirational read.
The Silver Bowl. By Diane Stanley. Harper, $16.99 (9780061575433). Gr. 5–8.
Blessed, or perhaps cursed, with visions and voices foretelling the future, a young scullery maid proves her mettle in this historical fantasy, which combines unusually fine narration and dialogue with wonderfully vivid characters.
Sparrow Road. By Sheila O’Connor. Putnam, $16.99 (9780399254581). Gr. 5–8.
In this story told with a spare tenderness, 12-year-old Raine tries to figure out why her mother has taken a job away from home at an artists’ colony. As secrets are revealed, Raine’s fears and dreams often mirror those of the book’s fascinating assortment of adult characters.
A Storm Called Katrina. By Myron Uhlberg. Illus. by Colin Bootman. Peachtree, $17.95 (9781561455911). Gr. 1–4.
The terror and emotional impact of Hurricane Katrina are on display in this forceful picture book for older children about Louis Daniel, who, along with his family, finds both shelter and heart-wrenching fear at the Superdome.
The Wikkeling. By Steven Arntson. Illus. by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini. Running Press, $18 (9780762439034). Gr. 5–8.
Now here’s a different sort of dystopia. In a world where children are coddled by a rigidly safeguarded society, Henrietta discovers a window to the past even as she’s haunted by a lurching, questioning bogeyman. A complex and eerie fable from the future.
Wonderstruck. By Brian Selznick. Illus. by the author. Scholastic, $29.99 (9780545027892). Gr. 4–8.
This beautifully crafted, kid-friendly mystery combines two parallel stories set 50 years apart—one told in text, the other solely in illustrations—which eventually intertwine into a deeply satisfying conclusion.
999 Tadpoles. By Ken Kimura. Illus. by Yasunari Murakami. North-South, $16.95 (9780735840133). PreS–Gr. 3.
When Mother and Father Frog lead their 999 offspring in search of a new home, looming tragedy turns to triumph. The amusing story and illustrations combine to create a memorable picture book.
Lola’s Fandango. By Anna Witte. Illus. by Micha Archer. Barefoot, $16.99 (9781846861741). K–Gr. 3.
At heart (and it has lots of heart), this story about young Lola learning the fandango when she finds a pair of dance shoes touches on two important points: the good part of sibling rivalry, which pushes a child to find her own talents, and the way the arts can create new worlds.
Mouse & Lion. By Rand Burkert. Illus. by Nancy Ekholm Burkert. Scholastic, $17.95 (9780545101479). PreS–Gr. 2.
Graceful prose lends warmth and accessibility to the familiar Aesop tale of a tiny mouse who trips over a sharp-toothed lion and has to plead for his freedom. The exquisite naturalistic watercolors capture the beauty and majesty of Namibia’s Aha Hills.
Mudkin. By Stephen Gammell. Illus. by the author. Carolrhoda, $16.95 (9780761357902). PreS–Gr. 1.
This gleeful, dirt-worshipping reverie sends a young girl off with an onion-shaped glob of mud who speaks in smudges and leads the girl into his gloriously mucky kingdom after a rainstorm.
No Two Alike. By Keith Baker. Illus. by the author. Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane, $16.99 (9781442417427). PreS–Gr. 2.
Two little birds in a snowy countryside observe things around them that are similar yet different. The verse reads aloud beautifully, while the pictures create an irrepressible, childlike sense of joy.
Stars. By Mary Lyn Ray. Illus. by Marla Frazee. Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane, $16.99 (9781442422490). PreS–Gr. 2.
The winning combination of Ray and Frazee crystallizes the idea that stars are everywhere into a near-perfect picture book with airy illustrations and a lyrical text, which encourages children’s minds to wander and wonder.
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