Here's the third -- and final -- installment of our Best Books for Kids 2008. This list focuses on non-fiction, graphic novels, folktales and poetry, and some re-issued classics.
There should be something for every reader on one of these lists!
Karen MacPherson, children's and teen librarian
NON-FICTION FOR KIDS
__ Bodies From the Ice (Houghton Mifflin, $17). It’s not a book for everyone, but many kids will be interested in how global warming has uncovered treasures buried for centuries. Among the finds noted by author James Deems is a 5,300-year-old body discovered in the Austrian Alps. (Ages 8-12).
__ Boys of Steel (Knopf, $16.99). With the explosion of interest in graphic novels for kids these days, this engrossing book about the creators of Superman comes along at a perfect time. Author Marc Tyler Nobleman and illustrator Ross MacDonald do a wonderful job at showing how two such mild-manned young men from Ohio developed the idea for the world’s first superhero. (Ages 5-10).
__ Fartiste (Simon & Schuster, $16.99). At first glance this book looks like the latest in a series of lowest-common denominator kids’ books focused on flatulence. But there’s the difference: this book, written by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer and illustrated by Boris Kulikov, is true. As a result, this offbeat picture book biography about a Frenchman with an unusual skill, is sure to be a hit with both kids and adults. (Ages 4-8).
__ Frogs (Scholastic, $17.99). Author/photographer Nic Bishop showcases the amazing variety of frogs in this book filled with interesting facts and photographs about everything from a strawberry dart poison frog to a red-eyed tree frog. (Ages 4-8).
__ Helen’s Eyes (National Geographic, $17.99). In this photobiography of Annie Sullivan, author Marfe Ferguson Delano captures the joy, anguish and courage of the woman who opened the world to Helen Keller. (Ages 8-12).
__ How I Learned Geography (FSG, $16.95). Caldecott Medalist Uri Shulevitz tells how his father’s decision to buy a map instead of bread one day changed his life. Shulevitz’ simply-worded picture book can be read to preschoolers, but it packs an emotional punch that will resonate with older readers and even adults. (Ages 4-8).
__ Knucklehead (Viking, $16.99). Jon Scieszka, the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, is a master at making reading fun for kids, as he proves once again in this book. In 38 short, photo-filled chapters, Scieszka vividly details what it was like to grow up with five brothers (he was the second oldest) who were always getting into some sort of trouble. This hilarious book is great for reading aloud. (Ages 8 up).
__ Our White House (Candlewick Press, $29.99). More than 100 of the nation’s best known authors and illustrators for children provide their own unique view of America’s most famous address. This book, filled with poems, stories, photos and illustrations, should attract the interest of even reluctant readers, including adults. (Ages 8 up).
__ Pale Male (Knopf, $16.99). In a plethora of recent books about the hawk who took New York City by storm, this picture book stands out, both for the clarity of Janet Schulman’s text and the beauty of Meilo So’s watercolor illustrations. (Ages 7-10).
__ Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum (Simon & Schuster, $16.99). Author/illustrator Robert Andrew Parker recounts how jazz great Art Tatum embraced music the minute he could reach the keys of a family piano by standing on tiptoes. This inspiring picture book biography features beautiful watercolor and ink illustrations. (Ages 4-8).
__ Planting the Trees of Kenya (FSG, $16.95). Written and illustrated by Claire A. Nivola, this picture book tells the inspiring story of Wangari Maathai, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work in convincing her fellow Kenyans they could help restore the environment simply by planting trees. (Ages 5-10).
__ Sandy’s Circus (Viking, $16.99). Best known for his oversized sculpture and mobiles, artist Alexander Calder also liked to work on smaller pieces as this entertaining book by Tanya Lee Stone demonstrates. The illustrations by Boris Kulikov add further energy and color to this picture book biography. (Ages 4-8).
__ Science Warriors: The Battle Against Invasive Species (Houghton Mifflin, $17). In this latest entry from the excellent “Scientists in the Field” series, author Sneed B. Collard III highlights the way scientists are battling such invasive species as fire ants and zebra mussels. (Ages 8-14).
__ She Touched the World (Clarion, $18). Laura Bridgman, a deaf and blind girl who lived in early 19th century America, learned to read and write with the help of some talented and inspiring teachers. In fact, as husband-and-wife author team Robert Alexander and Sally Hobart Alexander show, Bridgman’s accomplishments laid the groundwork for Helen Keller’s success 50 years later. Although she was a world-wide celebrity in her day, Bridgman is now all but forgotten, something that this excellent biography should remedy. (Ages 10-14).
__ Sisters & Brothers (Houghton Mifflin, $16). The sibling relationship may be the longest of our lives, but it also can be fraught with challenges. Here author Robin Page and her husband, artist Steve Jenkins, detail the various ways animal siblings interact. Jenkins’ collage illustrations bring further color and energy to a subject of inherent interest to most young readers. (Ages 4-8).
__ The Trouble Begins at 8 (Greenwillow, $18.99). Newbery Medalist Sid Fleischman gives readers a rip-roaring look at how Samuel Clemens transformed himself into master storyteller Mark Twain. Fleischman is a master storyteller himself, infusing even further humor into this look at one of the nation’s comic geniuses. (Ages 10-14).
__ The Way We Work (Houghton Mifflin, $35). Caldecott Medalist David Macaulay offers readers a meticulously-research, humor-filled look at the human body. Anyone interested in biology will love the way Macaulay clearly explains everything from the respiratory system to bile ducts. (Ages 10 up).
__ We Are the Ship (Hyperion, $18.99). Author/artist Kadir Nelson hits a homerun in this sumptuously illustrated book about the Negro Leagues. Nelson uses the voice of an elderly everyman ballplayer to related the achievements of players like Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson and other athletic giants who rose above racism to play baseball that was fast, flashy and often dangerous. (Ages 8 up – adult baseball fans also will love this book).
__ What to Do With Alice? (Scholastic, $16.99). Kids will love how this book, written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, highlights how the unruly Alice Roosevelt drove her father – President Theodore Roosevelt – to distraction. (Ages 6-10).
__ The Bill Martin Jr. Big Book of Poetry (Simon & Schuster, $21). This treasury of great children’s poetry was the brainchild of Bill Martin Jr., known for books like Brown Bear, Brown Bear. After Martin’s death, Michael Sampson completed editing the volume, which also showcases eye-catching illustrations by well-known children’s book illustrators. (All ages).
__ The McElderry Book of Greek Myths (Simon & Schuster, $21.99). Author Eric Kimmel and illustrator Pep Monteserrat take an old subject and make it new again in this captivating collection. (Ages 7-12).
__ Trick of the Tale (Candlewick, $18.99). Young readers will learn about tricksters from around the world in this wonderful collection of tales retold by John and Caitlin Matthews. (Ages 8-12).
__ Chiggers (Aladdin, $9.99). Author/illustrator Hope Larson explores the ups and downs of summer camp life in this hard-to-put-down graphic novel. (Ages 10 up).
__ Ellie McDoodle: New Kid In School (Bloomsbury, $11.95). Written and illustrated by Ruth McNally Barshaw, this is another hybrid graphic novel. The second in the series staring a likeable but imperfect middle schooler, this book details Ellie’s trials and tribulations in having to move and subsequently make new friends. (Ages 8-12).
__ Monster Mash (Random House, $5.99). Feisty Babymouse wants to have the best Halloween ever. But, as usual, there are obstacles as author Jennifer Holm and illustrator Matthew Holm detail in this latest volume in the popular Babymouse graphic novel series.
__ Rapunzel’s Revenge (Bloomsbury, $18.99). Author Shannon Hale twists the oft-told tale into a new story in which Rapunzel uses her hair to rescue herself from the tower before setting out to find her true mother. Nathan Hale’s colorful illustrations add further zip to this entertaining graphic novel. (Ages 8 up).
__ Roderick Rules (Amulet, $12.99). This book, another hybrid graphic novel that features both lots of text and lots of pictures, is the second in the wildly popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series written and illustrated by Jeff Kinney. Many kids have read this book, but it’s still a good gift if they don’t own it. If you want to make your young reader really happy, promise him or her a copy of the next book in the series, The Last Straw, due out January 13th. (Ages 8-12).
__ Simon’s Dream (Simon & Schuster, $16.99 hardback, $8.99 paperback). In this hybrid book – part graphic novel and part regular novel, Thelonius Chipmunk and his friends discover a time machine. Written by Susan Schade and illustrated by Jon Buller, this is the third novel in the Fog Mound series. (Ages 7-12).
__ The Austin Family Chronicles (Square Fish/Macmillan, $6.99 each). Newbery Medalist Madeleine L’Engle is most famous for her science fiction/fantasy books, such as A Wrinkle In Time. But she also was a master of the realistic novel, as evidenced in her quintet of books about the Austin family. These books really deserve to be much better known than they are. The books’ main character, Vicky Austin, is a deeply nuanced character whose teenage difficulties will readily resonate with young readers. The books in the series are: Meet the Austins, The Moon By Night, The Young Unicorns , A Ring of Endless Light (a Newbery Honor book), and Troubling a Star.
__ The Blossom Family books (Holiday House, $6.95 each). Twenty-two years ago, Newbery Medalist Betsy Byars began publishing a quintet of books about the Blossom family; now Holiday House has re-issued them with new covers. Kids will be entertained by this family, which consists of a rifle-toting grandpa named Pap, a mother who’s away on the western rodeo circuit, three children who somehow attract trouble, plus a dog named Mud who’s always in the middle of everything. Kids who like humorous books will love the Blossom family series. The books in the series are: The Not-Just-Anybody Family, The Blossoms Meet the Vulture Lay, The Blossoms and the Green Phantom, A Blossom Promise, and Wanted… Mud Blossom. (Ages 8-12).Posted by at December 5, 2008 06:14 PM