December 02, 2010

Best Kids' Books

Itís that time of year Ė a time to assess the best childrenís and teen books of the year. Hereís my initial post, drawn from the reviews Iíve written in 2010 in my weekly childrenís book column for Scripps Howard News Service. Iíll also continue to add posts about more books through the end of the year.

__ If you want a board book that's sure to be a hit with your little one, look for ones written and illustrated by Leslie Patricelli. In her latest board books, Potty and Tubby. One of the best things about Patricelli's books is that adults don't mind reading them repeatedly; with her wry sense of humor, she has the Sesame Street knack for entertaining both kids and adults. In Potty, for example, Patricelli portrays both the baby's exuberance and the parents' relief at a successful trip to the toilet, while in Tubby, she concludes the bathtub scene by writing: Mommy dries me. Daddy dries the bathroom. Don't forget to check out previously published board books by Patricelli, including Quiet Loud, Yummy Yucky, "Binky and Blankie. (Ages 6 months-3).
__ Check out new board-book editions of some classic children's books, all perfect for ages 1-3. There's the marvelous Ten Black Dots by author/illustrator Donald Crews; and the hilarious Sheep books written by Nancy Shaw and illustrated by Margot Apple: Sheep in a Jeep; Sheep Trick or Treat; Sheep out to Eat; Sheep in a Shop; and Sheep on a Ship.

__ With his brilliant new book, Art & Max, author/illustrator David Wiesner has a chance of winning an unprecedented fourth Caldecott Medal. The annual award honors excellence in children's book illustrations. In Art & Max, Wiesner offers a humor-infused, quirky story focused on the friendship between two lizards: a pompous painter named Art and his rowdy friend Max, who wants to try his own hand at art. Things quickly get out of hand as Max takes Art's suggestion -- "You could paint me" -- and proceeds to put his own spin on it by literally plastering his friend with paint. When Max attempts to wash off the colors, Art becomes a mere outline -- a la Harold and the Purple Crayon -- until Max uses his creativity to bring his friend back to vibrant life. (Ages 4 up).
__ Combining a spare text with exquisitely evocative watercolor illustrations, City Dog, Country Frog offers readers a story of a friendship filled with joy, loss and change. The book blends the talents of two Caldecott Honor-winning picture-book creators: author/illustrator Mo Willems, best known for his books Knuffle Bunny and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, and Jon Muth, author and illustrator of Zen Shorts. (Ages 4-7)

__ Author/illustrator Mo Willems offers beginning readers ages 4-7 a brilliant new series featuring a cast of characters with simple and silly names: Cat the Cat, Hound the Hound, "Duck the Duck, etc. The books are slightly larger than traditional books for beginning readers and have bold colors and an easy-to-read font. But the best thing about this new series is how funny the stories are. Books in the series so far are: Cat the Cat, Who Is That?; Letís Say Hi to Friends Who Fly!; Whatís Your Sound, Hound the Hound?; and Time To Sleep, Sheep the Sheep.

__ In Countdown, author Deborah Wiles has created a fascinating new type of hybrid book -- a documentary novel. The book is set in 1962, when the Cold War had kids learning to duck and cover under their desks in case of a nuclear attack. But Wiles doesn't just tell her story, she shows it, using a combination of text, photographs and documents (such as a reproduction of a brochure listing the materials needed to build a fallout shelter.) Readers will be glad to know that Countdown is the first in a planned Sixties Trilogy. (Ages 9-12.)

__Rita Williams-Garcia effortlessly blends history and fiction in One Crazy Summer. Williams-Garcia, whose teen novel Jumped was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award, turns her talents to middle-grade readers as she tells the tale of three young sisters who spend a summer in California in the late 1960ís with the mother who abandoned them several years before. While in California, the girls attend a summer camp run by the Black Panthers, getting an inside look at a group that seems very different from what's reported in the news. This book is regarded by many childrenís book experts as a front-runner for the 2011 Newbery Medal, given to the best written childrenís book of the year. (Ages 8-12.)

__ Big Nate: In a Class By Himself, details a day in the life of middle-schooler Nate Wright, an 11-year-old who believes that he is " destined for greatness". Author/illustrator Lincoln Peirce has based this hybrid book (and its sequel, Big Nate Strikes Again) on characters from his popular daily comic strip. Kids will natural enjoy this book, but parents also will get a laugh from this humorously realistic look at the world of middle school. (Ages 8-12.)

__ It's June 1942 and Evelyn, a wealthy and motherless young girl, is forced by her newly remarried father to summer with her bohemian, dilettante Aunt Lia in New York City. Evelyn is desperately unhappy until she meets Tony, whose dad manages the swanky apartment building where Evelyn is staying. In The City of Spies, authors Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan detail how Evelyn and Tony eschew class distinctions as they work together uncovering a Nazi spy ring right in their neighborhood. (Ages 9 up.)

__ Perhaps only Louis Sachar, author of the Newbery Medal-winning Holes, could construct a novel around the game of bridge and make it interesting to teens. But his new book, The Cardturner, features such an engaging set of characters that it actually could spark more teen interest in bridge. Sachar's story revolves around the unlikely friendship that develops between a self-deprecating high-school senior named Alton Richards and his gruff great-uncle Lester, a bridge master who's blind and needs someone to be his "cardturner". As it turns out, Alton himself has a knack for playing bridge, which becomes vitally important when tragedy strikes. (Ages 12 up.)
__ Will Grayson, Will Grayson, featuring alternating chapters written by two stars of the young adult lit world: John Green and David Levithan. Their book follows two main characters -- each named Will Grayson and living in the Chicago area -- as they try to navigate life and love during one crucial high school year. Mr. Green's Will Grayson is straight, and Mr. Levithan's is gay, but the characters' sexuality is only one of many aspects explored in this entertaining, profane and incredibly thought-provoking novel. (Ages 14 up).

Posted by at December 2, 2010 03:39 PM
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