January 3, 2013
Hello Picture Book friends! I hope you had a magical holiday and that 2012 held many happy memories for you. May 2013 be filled with peace and love and lots of reading to your little ones!
As many of you know, reading is my passion. Nothing excites me more that an anticipated newly released book! I love the feel and the smell of books!! I know many of you can relate to this. Many of you also know that I work in a bookstore and that I read all different genres of books… not JUST picture books all the time. Friends have been asking me what my favorite books were that I read last year and for good recommendations, so I decided to just add a little bonus post to my picture book blog. Some of these books are considered to be Young Reader or Young Adult genres, but I promise that adults will love them too! This is always a difficult task for me to narrow down… but definitely; these have stayed in my heart that I would say were my favorites of 2012. Soooo… here you go…
(this is in “somewhat” order… sometimes a book finds us at just the right time that we’re supposed to read it and perhaps that is why often they touch my heart so deeply at that exact time)
OH! And I will be publishing a new PICTURE BOOK blog edition sometime in the next week or so… be looking for some of the great new ones I have come across so far in 2013!!
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
LOVED, LOVED, LOVED!!!
Auggie Pullman was born with severe facial deformities-no outer ears, eyes in the wrong place, his skin “melted”-and he’s learned to steel himself against the horrified reactions he produces in strangers. Now, after years of homeschooling, his parents have enrolled him in fifth grade. In short chapters told from various first-person perspectives, debut author Palacio sketches his challenging but triumphant year. Though he has some expectedly horrible experiences at school, Auggie has lucked out with the adults in his life-his parents love him unconditionally, and his principal and teachers value kindness over all other qualities. While one bully manages, temporarily, to turn most of Auggie’s classmates against him (Auggie likens this to becoming the human equivalent of “the Cheese Touch,” a clever Diary of a Wimpy Kid reference), good wins out. Few first novels pack more of a punch: it’s a rare story with the power to open eyes-and hearts-to what it’s like to be singled out for a difference you can’t control, when all you want is to be just another face in the crowd. Ages 8-12. Agent: Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Trident Media Group.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Another beautiful book by one of my favorite authors!
TIME Magazine’s #1 Fiction Book of 2012! “The Fault in Our Stars is a love story, one of the most genuine and moving ones in recent American fiction, but it’s also an existential tragedy of tremendous intelligence and courage and sadness.” —Lev Grossman, TIME Magazine
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.
Every Day by David Levithan
So cool… so different… loved!
Is it possible to disregard someone’s exterior to see—and love—that person’s true, interior self? That’s just one of the provocative questions Levithan (Every You, Every Me) asks in a novel that follows “A,” who takes over the body of a different person each day at midnight. Right around A’s 6,000th day on the planet, A meets Rhiannon—girlfriend of current host body Justin—and falls in love. A is careful not to disrupt the lives of the bodies he/she inhabits (A doesn’t identify as male or female), but that starts to change as A pursues Rhiannon. Levithan sets up the rules of this thought experiment carefully: A only hops between the bodies of teenagers (who all live fairly near each other), and A can access their memories. As a result, the story unfolds smoothly (the regular shifts between bodies give the novel a natural momentum), but it’s also less ambitious. Despite the diverse teens A inhabits, A’s cerebral, wiser-than-thou voice dominates, in much the same way A directs the lives of these teens for 24 hours. Ages 12–up. Agent: Bill Clegg, William Morris Endeavor. (Aug.)
The Age Of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
This is not your average dystopian-type read. I was riveted from page one! Loved!
In Walker’s stunning debut, a young California girl coming of age in a dystopian near future confronts the inevitability of change on the most personal level as life on earth withers. Sixth-grader Julia, whose mother is a slightly neurotic former actress and whose father is an obstetrician, is living an unremarkable American middle-class childhood. She rides the school bus and takes piano lessons; she has a mild crush on a boy named Seth whose mother has cancer; she enjoys sleepovers with her best friend Hanna, who happens to be a Mormon. Then one October morning there’s a news report that scientists have discovered a slowing of the earth’s rotation, adding minutes to each day and night. After initial panic, the human tendency to adapt sets in even as the extra minutes increase into hours. Most citizens go along when the government stays on a 24-hour clock, although an underground movement of those living by “real time” sprouts up. Gravity is affected; birds begin to die, and astronauts are stranded on their space station. By November, the “real time” of days has grown to 40 hours, and the actual periods of light and dark only get longer from that point. The world faces crises in communication, health, transportation and food supply. The changes in the planet are profound, but the daily changes in Julia’s life, which she might be facing even in a normal day, are equally profound. Hanna’s family moves to Utah, leaving Julia without a best friend to help defend against the bullies at the bus stop. She goes through the trials and joys of first love. She begins to see cracks in her parents’ marriage and must navigate the currents of loyalty and moral uncertainty. She faces sickness and death of loved ones. But she also witnesses constancy and perseverance. Julia’s life is shaped by what happens in the larger world, but it is the only life she knows, and Walker captures each moment, intimate and universal, with magical precision. Riveting, heartbreaking, profoundly moving.
Pandemonium (Delirium, #2) by Lauren Oliver
Normally I don’t like the second in a series nearly as much as I enjoyed the first book (Delirium). Pandemonium, however, was that rare gem of a book for me! My daughter and I are obsessed with this series and love the writing. We are twisting in anticipation at #3 coming out March 5, 2013!!
It’s been six months since readers first met 17-year-old Lena Haloway, desperately in love in a world that considers such feelings an infection to be permanently and irrevocably “cured.” This much-anticipated sequel to Delirium (2011) picks up right where the first novel left off, with Lena and Alex’s only partially successful attempt to escape to “the Wilds.” Lena, alone, heartbroken and near death, must reach deep within herself to find the strength and the will to survive. “Step by step–and then, inch by inch,” she is reborn. The story of Lena’s new life as a rebel Invalid, determined to honor the memory of Alex by fighting for a world in which love is no longer considered a capital offense, is told through a series of flashbacks and present-day accounts that will leave readers breathless. The stakes only get higher when Lena realizes she has feelings for someone new. The novel’s success can be attributed to its near pitch-perfect combination of action and suspense, coupled with the subtler but equally gripping evolution of Lena’s character. From the grief-stricken shell of her former self to a nascent refugee and finally to a full-fledged resistance fighter, Lena’s strength and the complexity of her internal struggles will keep readers up at night. (Dystopian romance. 14 & up)
October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman
Mere words cannot express the beauty of this book… read it!!
School Library Journal:
Gr 9 Up—Matthew Shepard, a gay college student, died nearly 14 years ago, of wounds inflicted during a violent beating. Just before his brutal attack, he and other students had been planning a Gay Awareness Week; Newman was the keynote speaker at this event, which took place a week after the assault. Through 68 poems, she captures facets of the event that were likely never uncovered before. The poems’ fictitious narrators, ranging from Matthew’s cat to hateful frat boys at nearby Colorado State to the fence on which Shepard was abandoned, appear and then return later as the narrative unfolds. What impact will the depiction of such an event have on today’s teens, many of whom were just born at the time of its occurrence? Put simply-a tremendous impact. Newman’s verse is both masterful and steady-handed. Each poem is beautiful in its subtle sophistication. The overarching narrative will be appreciated most by readers who have read a brief overview of what happened to Matthew, but those who haven’t will certainly be inspired to do so immediately following. Many teens will see how very far we’ve come, while others will see how far we still have to go. Either way, the book will be a valuable addition to poetry and fiction collections. Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ
See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles
A sad story, so be prepared… but there are so many tender sweet family moments that it’s worth it. Thanks for recommending it to me Laurie P.!
Sit back in a comfortable chair, bring on the Kleenex and cry your heart out. Seventh grader Fern, in pitch-perfect present tense, relates the dual tragedies of her family. Her high-school–freshman older brother Holden has come to the place in his life where he’s acknowledged that he’s gay and is taking the first painful, unsteady steps out into a less-than-fully-accepting world. Fern offers him support and love, but what she can give is not always what he needs. Their older sister, Sara, spending a frustrating gap year after high school supposedly helping with the family restaurant, makes life hard for everyone with her critical eye and often unkind comments. And then there’s 3-year-old Charlie, always messy, often annoying, but deeply loved. Fern’s busy, distracted parents leave all of the kids wanting for more attention–until a tragic accident tears the family apart. The pain they experience after the calamity is vividly, agonizingly portrayed and never maudlin. Eventually there are tiny hints of brightness to relieve the gloom: the wisdom of Fern’s friend Ran, the ways that Sara, Fern and Holden find to support each other and their thoughtfully depicted, ever-so-gradual healing as they rediscover the strength of family. Prescient writing, fully developed characters and completely, tragically believable situations elevate this sad, gripping tale to a must-read level. (Fiction. 11 & up)
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
I don’t even know how to exactly explain this book… it takes unexpected twists and turns. The story kept me riveted to the end and I loved it. This was also a Laurie P. recommend, so THANKS L.P.!
Fourteen-year-old June is a loner whose favorite activity is going to the woods in her lace-up boots and Gunne Sax dress and pretending she’s a medieval falconer. It’s the 1980s, and the only person who understands June is her gay uncle Finn, a famous artist dying of AIDS. June’s visits with him in New York listening to Mozart and exploring the city have made her older sister Greta jealous. A popular girl with a starring role in the school musical, Greta treats June cruelly, hiding her devastation that they are no longer best friends. In the end, Finn’s final creation, a portrait he painted of June and Greta, along with his secret lover, Toby, serve to unite the sisters. VERDICT Brunt’s debut novel is both a painful reminder of the ill-informed responses to a once little-known disease and a delightful romp through an earlier decade. The relationship issues with parents and siblings should appeal to YA audiences, but adult readers will enjoy the suspenseful plot and quirky characters.—Joy Humphrey, Pepperdine Univ. Law Lib., Malibu, CA
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
This book was recommended to me from a bookseller at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, IL. I don’t usually enjoy animal stories… they are often too emotional for me. But this one really stuck with me and I am so happy that I gave it a chance!
Inspired by a true story, Applegate (Home of the Brave) offers a haunting tale told from the perspective of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who has been confined to a small “domain” of concrete, metal, and glass for 27 years. Joining Ivan at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade are Stella, an aging elephant, and Bob, a feisty stray dog. While other animals perform, Ivan makes art, watches TV, and offers melancholy assessments of their situation. When Ruby, an inquisitive baby elephant, arrives and Stella dies from neglect, her dying wish is for Ivan to help Ruby escape. The brief chapters read like free-verse poetry, the extra line breaks between paragraphs driving home the contrast between Ivan and humans, who in his opinion, “waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot.” As is to be expected, there’s significant anthropomorphism, but Applegate is largely successful in creating a protagonist who can understand humans yet feels like a gorilla. Although Ivan’s role in the events leading to their rescue reads as too human, readers will be left rethinking our relationship to animals. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (Jan.)
The Cool Part Of His Pillow by Rodney Ross
This is a bonus book because I can’t really classify it into my list… it is really just too special to me. You see, the author is a dear friend… we’ve been friends since Junior High when he used to distract me in band by striking me with his bass drum mallet (I was a bad clarinet player in the last row, just in front of percussion!) As I read the book, it was like hearing Rodney’s words telling me a story… with many cultural references thrown in that struck a reminiscent cord within me. At its core, it’s a love story. And, well, I simply loved it! And I love, my friend, the author!
The midforties are that time in a gay man’s life when his major paradigm shifts from sexy to sensible. But when Barry Grooms’s partner of twenty years is killed on Barry’s forty-fifth birthday, his world doesn’t so much evolve as it does explode.
After navigating through the surreal conveyor belt of friends and family, he can’t eat another casserole or swallow much more advice, and so, still numb, he escapes to Key West, then New York. He embraces a new mantra: Why the hell not? He becomes so spontaneous he’s ready to combust. First, he gets a thankless new job working for a crazy lady in a poncho, then has too many drinks with a narcissistic Broadway actor. Next, it’s a nude exercise class that redefines flop sweat, and from there he’s on to a relationship with a man twenty years his junior, so youthfully oblivious he thinks Karen Carpenter is a lesbian woodworker.
Yet no matter how great the retreat from the man he used to be, life’s gravity spins Barry back to the town where he grew up for one more ironic twist that teaches him how to say good-bye with grace.