December 05, 2008

Best Kids Books 2

Here's the second installment of our listing of Best Kids Books of 2008. This list focuses on books for beginning readers, novels for middle grade readers (those ages 7-12), and teen novels.

Part 1: Board books and picture books
Part 3: Non-fiction, graphic novels, folktales and poetry, and some re-issued classics.

Happy Reading!
Karen MacPherson, children's and teen librarian



__ Annie and Simon (Candlewick, $15.99). Author/illustrator Catharine O’Neill spotlights the special relationship between two siblings in this delightful book for beginning readers. (Ages 6-8).

__ Dodsworth In Paris (Houghton Mifflin, $15). Dodsworth, a debonair mouse, takes to the streets of the City of Lights with his duck friend in this comic sequel to “Dodsworth in New York,” written an illustrated by Tim Egan. (Ages 5-8).

__ Hooray for Fly Guy (Scholastic, $5.99). Author/illustrator Tedd Arnold tells what happens when Fly Guy makes the football team in this guffaw-producing addition to a popular series for beginning readers. (Ages 5-8).

__ Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time (Candlewick, $14.99). Author James Howe and illustrator Marie-Louise Gay bring readers the latest adventures of this lively dog/cat duo, who already are justly popular with beginning readers. (Ages 5-8).

__ I Will Surprise My Friend!, I Love My New Toy! and Are You Ready To Play Outside? (Hyperion, $8.99 each). Author/illustrator Mo Willems brings his signature humor and artwork to this series featuring best friends Elephant and Piggie. While designed as early readers, these books also work well as read-alouds to younger children. (Ages 4-7).

__ Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig (Candlewick, $12.99). Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo recounts the latest adventures of the irrepressible Mercy, a pig who just can’t stop eating. As usual, the stylized illustrations by Chris Van Dusen top off the humor nicely. (Ages 6-8).

__ Ms. Wiz Spells Trouble and In Stitches With Ms. Whiz (Marshall Cavendish, $12.99). Her students love Ms. Whiz, but parents sometimes wonder about her methods in these entertaining books written by Terence Blacker and illustrated by Tony Ross. (Ages 6-10).


__ Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things (Random House, $15.99). Alvin Ho finds the world – particularly his school -- a pretty scary place. Author Lenore Look offers a humor-filled look at a second grader who’s torn between his desire to be a superhero and his fear of talking in school. (Ages 7-10).

__ Bird Lake Moon (Greenwillow, $15.99). The multi-talented Kevin Henkes (he's won the Caldecott Medal for Kitten's First Full Moon and a Newbery Honor for Olive's Ocean , now offers a beautifully-written novel about two boys who become friends as they deal with family crises. The subject matter -- divorce and a sibling death -- is grim, but Henkes' humor and compassion lighten the load of this memorable book. (Ages 9-12).

__ The Cabinet of Wonders (FSG, $16.95). Petra Kronos heads to Prague to recover her father’s magical eyes (he can move metal with his mind) in this debut novel by Marie Rutkoski that combines fantasy with history in an intriguing new way. (Ages 10-14).

__ Chicken Feathers (Putnam, $16.99). Author Joy Cowley tells a story reminiscent of Robert McCloskey’s small town tales in this story of a boy named Josh who has a talking chicken named Semolina. But Semolina talks only to Josh and gets him into hot water with his father and grandmother before things can be resolved. Cowley’s book is filled with humor, which is extended by the comical line drawings by David Elliott. (Ages 7-10).

__ The Diamond of Drury Lane (Roaring Brook, $12.50). Both mystery lovers and historical fiction fans will enjoy this book by Julia Golding that features an orphan named Cat Royal who lives in the Theater Royal. Golding brings alive Cat’s 18th century world as she shows how the feisty, red-haired girl fends of one of London’s worst gang leaders in this book that won Britain’s prestigious Smarties prize. (Ages 8-12).

__ Dolphin Song (Dial, $16.99). Martine has the amazing ability to communicate with animals. As author Lauren St. John shows, Martine’s talent is crucial when she and several classmates are stranded on a desert island and must rescue 21 dolphins who have been stranded on the beach. Fans of Martine’s first adventure, The White Giraffe, will particularly love this new book. (Ages 8-12).

__ “Julia Gillian (Scholastic, $15.99). Author Alison McGhee presents the first of a planned trilogy about a girl with two first names and her interesting life in Minneapolis. In this first book, Julia learns to overcome her fear of scary and sad stories with the help of her parents and two quirky young adult siblings who live in her apartment building. (Ages 7-10).

__ Keena Ford and the Second Grade Mix-Up (Dial, $14.99). Keena Ford mistakenly reverses the numbers of her birthday and then has to figure out what to do when the class plans a celebration for the wrong day. Author Melissa Thompson’s story will ring true with young readers. (Ages 7-10).

__ The London Eye Mystery (Random House, $15.99). Author Siobhan Dowd asks readers to solve a type of “locked room” mystery in this intriguing story set in a London of the near future. The protagonist is a boy named Ted who has an Asberger-type disorder that sometimes makes it difficult for him to connect with people. But Ted often can make other types of connections and this ability may help him and his sister find their missing cousin Salim before it’s too late. (Ages 10-14).

__ Masterpiece (Henry Holt, $16.95). An unlikely friendship between a lonely boy and a beetle is the focus of this delightful novel by Elise Broach. With echoes of such classics as Charlotte’s Web and The Borrowers, the story recounts how James and his beetle friend Marvin team up to determine who stole a priceless Durer drawing from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Ages 8-12).

__ Nathan Fox: Dangerous Times (Feiwel and Friends, $16.95). Fans of the Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz will love this action-filled spy story set in Elizabethan England and starring 13-year-old Nathan Fox. Author L. Brittney’s book is the first of a series starring the impulsive, courageous and likeable Nathan Fox. (Ages 10-14.).

__ The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (Knopf, $15.99). Sequels can be tricky – it’s hard to recreate the magic of a much-loved first book. But author Jeanne Birdsall shows she is more than up to the task in this book, which outlines the further adventure of four sisters determined to guide their widowed father as he begins dating again. (Ages 8-12).

__ Playing With Fire (HarperCollins, $16.99). Skulduggery Pleasant may be the most interesting detective around – he’s a skeleton. In this sequel to his first book, Skulduggery Pleasant, author Derek Landy relates the further adventures of Skulduggery and his teenaged sidekick, Valkyrie as they work to save the world from evil. (Ages 10-14).

__Steinbeck’s Ghost (Feiwel and Friends, $17.95). As thirteen-year-old Travis Williams joins the battle to prevent the closure of the library in his Salinas, Calif. hometown, he begins to see what appear to be characters from the books of John Steinbeck – and he’s not the only one. Author Lewis Buzbee offers readers an unusual tale of magical realism that will be a big hit with kids who really love to read. (Ages 8-12).

__ The Totally Made-Up Civil War Diary of Amanda MacLeish (FSG, $16.). Amanda MacLeish loves doing the U.S. Civil War diary assigned to her fifth-grade class; as a child whose parents are going through a separation, she’s all too familiar with what it feels like to live in a situation where battle lines are drawn. Author Claudia Mills blends history, reality and a bit of humor in this book that will resonate with young readers. (Ages 8-12).

__ The Willoughbys (Houghton Mifflin, $16). Two-time Newbery Medalist Lois Lowry spoofs classic children’s books in this tale of four children who want to become orphans to get rid of their neglectful, mean-spirited parents. (Ages 8-12).


__ The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves (Candlewick Press, $22.99). The first volume of this epic story of a Revolutionary War-era slave named Octavian Nothing won the 2006 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Now, M.T. Anderson completes the tale in this second volume that finds Octavian fighting for the British in the hopes of winning his freedom. Like the first volume, this book offers a wonderfully rich reading experience for teens (and adults) who love history and densely-written novels. (Ages 14 up).

__ Chains (Simon & Schuster, $16.99). Thirteen-year-old Isabel and her younger sister Ruth were promised freedom upon the death of their mistress. Instead, they become the property of a cruel family loyal to King George. Desperate to gain her freedom, Isabel becomes a spy for Gen. George Washington’s rebel troops, but as author Laurie Halse Anderson shows in this well-researched novel, freedom for slaves isn’t at the top of anyone’s agenda in the Revolutionary War. (Ages 12 up).

__ The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion, $16.99). Frankie Landau-Banks, a student at an exclusive boarding school, loves her boyfriend, but she hates the fact that the secret society of which he is a member excludes girls. In this comic novel, author E. Lockhart recounts what happens when Frankie – under a male alias – takes over the leadership of the secret society. (Ages 12 up).

__ Graceling (Harcourt, $17). This is author Kristin Cashore’s debut novel, but you’d never know it because of the author’s assured storytelling and ability to create memorable characters. Cashore’s romance-and-action-filled tale centers on Lady Katsa whose Grace – or special ability – is killing, and who must learn how to harness that skill to effectively battle an evil king whose Grace hides his true nature. (Ages 13 up).

__ The Hunger Games (Scholastic, $17.99). Author Suzanne Collins provides a chilling look at a world where tends compete against each other to the death on live TV. It sounds grim, but Collins hooks readers with her page-turning plot and characters – especially 16-year-old Katniss – who will really resonate with tends. (Ages 14 up).

__ Nation (HarperCollins, $16.99). Best known for his Discworld books, author Terry Pratchett has crafted a quirky, richly complex tale of how two tsunami survivors work together to create a new world despite the ruin around them. Vivid scenes from this thought-provoking book will long linger with readers. (Ages 13 up).

__ Paper Towns (Dutton, $17.99). John Green's first book, Looking For Alaska won the Printz Award, the equivalent of the Newbery Medal for teen books. His second book, An Abundance of Katherines, won a Printz Honor. Green's latest book also is Printz material, as he details a teen's search for his charismatic neighbor, who has disappeared. (Ages 13 up).

__ The President’s Daughter, White House Autumn, Long Live the Queen, and Long May She Reign (Feiwel and Friends, $9.99 each for the first three titles, $15.95 for the last). In this compulsively readable quartet of books, author Ellen Emerson White details the life of Meghan Powers, an athletic, likeable teen whose life is turned upside down when her mother becomes the first woman President. (Ages 12 up).

__ Princess Ben (Houghton Mifflin, $16). Author Catherine Murdock crafts a wonderfully rich twist on fairy tales in this book starring a rebel princess who must learn a bit of self-discipline as she works to save her kingdom – and herself – from the enemy. Readers will readily identify with Ben's rebellion against her cruel aunt, and cheer her refusal to be forcibly transformed into well-mannered young lady. (Ages 12 up).

__ Sunrise Over Fallujah (Scholastic, $17.99). Award-winning author Walter Dean Myers offers a gut-wrenching, thought-provoking look at the Iraq war. Myers focuses on how an idealistic young soldier named Robin Perry (nephew of Richie Perry, the protagonist of Myers’ earlier novel Fallen Angels) deals with the horrors of a war whose mission is a moving target. (Ages 12 up).

__ What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic, $16.99). This dark-edged novel by Judy Blundell won this year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. In this heady brew of romance, history and intrigue, Blundell tells the story of 15-year-old Evie, whose family is caught in a web of lies after her stepfather returns from World War 2. (Ages 12 up).

Posted by at December 5, 2008 04:46 PM
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