Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Happy New Year and Newbery/Caldecott countdown

Happy 2011!

I don't have any new children's/YA books to review. During my holiday, I read magazines, a mindless book on the British royals (my airplane book), and started The Emperor of All Maladies on my new Nook. The description in the catalog makes it sound terribly dull; it is anything but. It is a fascinating book on the history of cancer treatment, diagnosis, etc. Did you know that The New York Times would not publish an announcement for a breast cancer support group? This was in the 1950s. Not only would they not publish the word "breast," but they would not publish the word "cancer." The society editor suggested to the would-be advertiser (and breast cancer patient) that she announce a support group for the "diseases of the chest wall." Amazing. There are also many personal stories that make for a more intimate reading experience. Don't miss it.

Now that 2010 has come and go, I'd like to tell you about my top 10 reads of the year:

1. Revolution

Brilliant writing, tough subject. Sophisticated YA.

2. The Other Half of My Heart

I adore this book. I just noticed that it's on ALSC's finalist list for the 2011 Notable Books list. I so hope that it makes the final list so that more people discover it.

3. The Birthday Ball

Short chapter books seem to be quite out of fashion these days, which is unfortunate. Thank goodness for Lois Lowry. Although a princess tale, there's enough snarky humor that a boy would enjoy it (although it might be an effort to get him to pick it up). I cannot wait for her upcoming book. It's about a group of church mice that are determined to survive the "Great X" (extermination) and the church's annual Blessing of the Animals ritual on St. Francis's feast day (a rainy day means that the pets are indoors). The leader of the mice group, Mouse Mistress Hildegarde, is tired of the mice being the only animals not blessed on St. Francis's day! I don't think I can stand it.

4. Sparky

This is an excellent and fair biography of the multi-faceted Peanuts cartoonist.

5. Smile

Anyone who's been through the trauma of orthodontics would empathize and appreciate this tale of braces, boys, and other middle/high school issues. It's a great example of outstanding storytelling through the graphic novel format. Skeptics should definitely read it.

6. After Ever After

This sequel to the memorable Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie takes a look at what life with cancer is like after the spaghetti dinner fundraisers and get-well cards have ceased. Told through the perspective of Jeff, the younger brother in DG&DP, it is an eye-opening story of the uncertainty of remission and the aftermath of cancer treatments.

7. Sellout

A terrific novel about a suburban African-American teen volunteering at a troubled girls' center in the Bronx. Realistic and moving.

8. Big Red Lollipop

This is a charmer. Although it's centered around an East Indian family, this tale of sibling issues will resonate with many children. Lovely, lovely.

9. City Dog, Country Dog

Some people were rather "meh" about this book. Not me! Although I understand that they would rather see Williams creating more books (as author-illustrator) like Knuffle Bunny and the Pigeon books, I couldn't help but love this book (I do agree that Williams's identity and charm does seem smothered).

10. I Didn't Do It

Another winner from Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest! This companion to Once I Ate a Pie is nothing but a collection of funny, cute, and tender poems (and illustrations) from puppies' points of view.

The biggest children's literary prizes will be announced this Monday, January 10. The Newbery and Caldecott will be announced, along with other awards. Whether the committee goes with a widely-predicted title (One Crazy Summer) or something from left field (???), I just hope that we already have the books, period. We shall see.

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