I’m always getting requests from friends who are looking for fun YA and kidlit fare to read. After quite a bit of deliberation, I chose my personal favorites from last year, took them down to my Secret Chamber of Bibliophilia, and asked the Elven Book-smiths to forge them into one powerful gleaming Super List of reading pleasure.
First off, if you haven’t done so before, take a gander at the ALA Youth Media Winners and the National Book Award winner*. They’d be on this list, if it weren’t such a gimme. It isn’t always that I look at these big-award winners and say, “Yeah, those are the books that deserved the awards.” But this time around, they did. Here are my favorites out of all the winners:
- Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz (Newbery Winner) — Yup. Probably the best contribution to children’s theater in, like, ever.
- The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (Newbery Honor) — It’s like reading a really long episode of The Wonder Years. With Shakespeare.
- Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis (Newbery Honor) — Where did ecaping slaves go once they got off the Underground Railroad? A funny, heartbreaking tale of a boy growing up in a settlement of ecapees.
- Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (Newbery Honor) — The legendary Book That Cannot Be Described. Is that enough of a pitch for ya?
- The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis (Siebert Winner AND a Caldecott Honor) — How many picture books can YOU name about Communism, Art, and the Beach Boys? Eh? Eh?
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (Caldecott Winner) — The only novel to ever win this award (it traditionally goes to picture books), and my #1 most-recommended book of last year. Heck, it was a featured part of the family Christmas letter.
- Let It Shine: Three Spirituals by Ashley Bryan (King Illustrator Winner) — Rainbow-riffic pics; great songs. “He’s got the whoooooole wor-ld / In his haaaaands!
- Nic Bishop Spiders by Nic Bishop (Siebert Honor) — Nic Bishop’s photography chops can make anything look swimsuit-calendar-worthy, even hairy spiders. The arachnids look GOR-GE-OUS.
- The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean (Printz Winner) — Take note: Antarctica will kill you. Especially if you’re taking a pleasure-trip there with your mad, mad uncle. And your imaginary boyfriend. (Beware: this book merits a serious PG-13 rating. Read it in July, where the cold can’t find you.)
*Those of you who stumble across this page from The Brookeshelf, please keep in mind that I am creating this list for my friends and family, most of whom are not kidlit geeks like you and me. Many are not aware of who won the big book awards of the year. In fact, a few of them probably do not even know they have been given out (gasp!). So don’t roll your eyes about how this is Old News. That’s right, I saw you do it.