Courtesy of the ReadKiddoRead Foundation
Maurice Sendak once said that one of the best things about being a maker of children’s books was that his audience kept being born. It’s true, of course: The great books from years past are brand new to today’s children and teens. But let’s take a moment at year’s end to recognize the books being published now for our young people. Here’s a roundup of a dozen highlights of 2012.
(For more, visit ReadKiddoRead.com and check out our reviews.)
Llama Llama Time to Share
By Anna Dewdney
For ages 2-5
When the doorbell rings, Mama Llama welcomes the neighbors: the Gnus. While Mama and Nelly have tea, their two toddlers are left with a boxful of toys to play with and share. All goes well…for a while—until that Gnu girl decides to play with Llama’s treasured Fuzzy Llama doll. Llama’s not ready for that much sharing! In the heat of the moment, Fuzzy Llama comes apart. Now what? Mama comes to the rescue, not only with needle and thread, but also with some Mama wisdom.
For ages 4 and up
Jasper Rabbit loves carrots, especially the ones that grow at Crackenhopper Field. He eats them every chance he gets, until the day the carrots start following him— or are they? This gently spooky, funny picture book will please youngest fans of scary tales while it delivers a subtle message about being greedy.
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
As Told by Mo Willems
For ages 4 up
There were once three hungry Dinosaurs: Papa, Mama, and a Dinosaur who was visiting from Norway. So begins this fresh and funny take on the well-known classic folk tale—with jokes in the telling and in the illustrations. Children who know the story well—and their parents—are sure to find plenty to laugh at together.
Bink & Gollie: Two for One
By Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee; Illustrated by Tony Fucile
For ages 6-8
In this amply-illustrated easy reader, Bink and Gollie go to the State Fair, have some fiascos and learn their future from a fortune-teller: They will always be friends. The book’s three short chapters feature brief text and plenty of comical illustrations. Throughout, the art sets the pace, providing youngsters with the clues they need to decipher the text as well as opportunities to rest and enjoy the action as it unfolds. This tale of friendship will resonate and succeed with new readers.
Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth
For ages 7-9
Children who have moved on from picture books don’t have to leave their favorite picture-book star Fancy Nancy behind: She’s got a brand new early chapter-book series. Nancy is a detective now—trench coat and all. What’s more, she—along with her best friend Bree—has a case. Something belonging to one of her classmates is suddenly, unexplainably missing. Nancy digs out the clues, follows the trail, and will not stop until she solves the mystery.
The One and Only Ivan
By Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao Costa
For ages 8-10
“The Ape at Exit 8” is Ivan, a mighty Silverback Gorilla, who lives in a circus-themed shopping mall. Based on a true story, but told in Ivan’s own voice using simple language and short chapters, this is the story of how Ivan uses his talent for drawing to rescue the other animals. For children ready to take their first steps into “real” novels, this tells a moving, and ultimately joyful story with wonderful characters (both animal and human) and the empowering message that one being can affect momentous change. A terrific read-aloud for younger children, a perfect transitional book for newly-independent readers, and simply a great feel-good story for stronger readers.
Three Times Lucky
By Sheila Turnage
For ages 8-11
Mo (Moses) floated into Tupelo Landing as an infant, carried by hurricane flood waters. Luckily, the Colonel found her. The only problem: He was an out-of-towner, too, who lost his memory during the storm. With an unclaimed baby, one suitcase (rumored to be full of cash) and no other plans that he could remember, the Colonel was taken in by Miss Lana. The threesome has made an odd family since then. Now, a murder—the first ever in Tupelo Landing—and another hurricane will bring the past to light. With this new storm brewing, Mo has to move fast to save the only family she’s ever known.
I Funny: A Middle School Story
By James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein; Illustrated by Laura Park
For ages 9-12
Jamie Grimm talks right to readers—his honesty and his humor making full impact on each of us—putting us firmly in his fan club. A good place to be. Not just because Jamie Grimm is one of the most entertaining and likable characters you’ll ever meet in a book, but mostly because he’s a terrific kid, facing a lot of tough stuff, and he needs us rooting for him—even though he’d never ask! Jamie wants to be a stand-up comic. (And, yes, he does see the humor in this, since he is in a wheelchair.) Jamie’s studied jokes from the best and readers get to enjoy them as he practices his delivery. Hilarious throughout and tender in turns, I Funny offers kids a reading experience that will be enjoyed all the way and then warmly remembered.
By R.J. Palacio
For ages 9-12
August Pullman, now 10, was born with a deformed face. He lives in Manhattan, where’s it’s hard to hide, so even though he’s been homeschooled, he’s felt the stares, heard the whispers, and walked away when the boldest jerks called him Freak or Freddy Krueger. Now his parents have decided that it’s time for Auggie to meet the wider world, enrolling him in a private school for fifth grade. Though Auggie mostly succeeds at Beecher Prep, there are a few bad apples. In short chapters, Palacio skillfully sketches the ups and downs of his year. The “wider world” doesn’t only test his courage; it also takes the measure of everyone he comes in contact with. This is a rare book that just might open a closed heart. It could make the world a better place.
(Ages 12 and up)
Nevermore: The Final Maximum Ride Adventure (Book 8)
By James Patterson
The final book in the Maximum Ride series begins in the midst of the sad state of affairs where Angel left off: Angel is missing, and Fang has parted ways with Max and the rest to start his own gang. Meanwhile, a political uprising is gaining momentum. A group called the Ninety-nine Percenters is calling to purge the earth of the human race to make way for the growing, genetically-enhanced hybrid population.
There’s never a dull moment in Nevermore, as in the rest of the series, as each page zips from one charismatic character’s brush with death to the next. Add this to the bubbling tensions that come with the series’ descriptions of the ethically-shady genetic experiments, along with an impending apocalypse, and this conclusion certainly does Patterson’s well-loved series justice.
The Obsidian Blade
By Pete Hautman
For ages 12 and up
The Obsidian Blade is heart-stopping, both literally and in its frenetic pace. The actual blade is used by a robed priest to stab the protagonist through his heart. And that horrifying scene is just one tiny piece of the breakneck action that swirls through shifting alliances and constant travel to destinations in the ancient past and the frightening future.
Tucker is a preacher’s kid in a small town. Both the boy and his hometown of Hopewell seem unlikely candidates for other-worldly adventure. Then, one ordinary day, Tucker’s dad mysteriously disappears, and Tucker’s life begins to veer off into totally uncharted territories. Time travel is just the background for the multiplying mysteries surrounding Tucker. Ghosts, mega-maggots, futuristic medicine, and futuristic weapons add paranormal science fiction to the mix in this pageturner of a read.
The Fault in Our Stars
By John Green
For ages 13 and up
It’s not hard to wrench emotion out of a story featuring two teens battling cancer; it’s much harder to produce a novel on such a heavy topic that manages to be as funny as it is heartbreaking.
Hazel Lancaster dropped out of school at 13 to concentrate on getting well. Now 16, she reluctantly agrees to attend a weekly support group with other teen cancer patients. It is there she meets Augustus Waters, a former basketball player who’s lost a leg to cancer. Their connection is instantaneous; both banter with razor-sharp wit as if it’s second nature.
Green skillfully uses their lives to ask the biggest questions there are—Why me? Why now? Why risk love? What does being alive mean?
Check out other great book picks on the ReadKiddoRead Foundation's website.