Favorite Books for Young Readers 2011

Yup, it’s that time of year again — time to stop procrastinating and decide which books for young readers were my favorites of 2011.

Take note: these are not the most popular, most distinguished, most likely to win an award, etc.  It isn’t the list of books I’d make for librarians or teachers to purchase.  It is simply an idiosyncratic list of my personal favorites.  Fire up those library cards and read away!


  • Just ‘Cause It’s Purty Snow Rabbit Spring Rabbit by Il Sung Na
  • Fun With Graphic Design Perfect Square by Michael Hall
  • Most Clever Cleverness Press Here by Herve Tullet
  • It’s Jane Goodall as a Little Kid! Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell
  • Best Christmas Story The Money We’ll Save by Brock Cole
  • Best Novella-as-Picture-Book The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (aka “The Lady Who Wrote The Yearling”), illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon
  • Reminds Me of My Own Early Childhood In the Meadow by Yukiko Kato, illus. Komako Sakai (aka illustrator of Emily’s Balloon and other favorites)
  • You’ll “Get It” if You Read It Out Loud I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
  • Best Cartoon Family Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan, illus. Stephane Jorisch
  • Grand Prize for Stupendous Moose IllustrationThe House in the Woods by Inga Moore
  • My Kids Made Me Read It Over and Over Until I got Sick of It, So Beware Mitchell’s License by Hallie Durand, illus. Tony Fucile
  • Best Fractured Fairy Tale The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett; illus. Poly Bernatene
  • Most Likely to Cause Giggle Fits What Animals Really Like by Fiona Robinson
  • Just Plain Powerful Never Forgotten by Patricia C. McKissack, illus. Leo & Diane Dillon
  • Best Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 timeless rhymes from 50 celebrated cartoonists edited by Chris Duffy
  • I Admit That Elizabeth Is a Cool Name My Name is Elizabeth! by Annika Dunklee, illus. Matthew Forsythe
  • Put it in Your Church Bag Naamah and the Ark at Night (note: Naamah is more popularly known as “Mrs. Noah”) by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, illus. Holly Meade
  • The Japanese Can Bring the Cute When They Need To 999 Tadpoles by Ken Kimura, illus. Yasunari Murakami
  • Because There Aren’t Enough Stellar Books About Groundhog’s Day Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox by Susan Blackaby, illus. Carmen Segovia
  • Let’s Get Excited About Vegetables! Rah Rah Radishes! by April Pulley Sayre
  • Best Picture Book About Dementia (It’s a Category If I Say It Is) Grandpa Green by Lane Smith
  • The Obligatory Awesome Mo Willems Book Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator! by Mo Willems


  • Best Anti-Girly Girl Marty McGuire by Kate Messner, illus. Brian Floca (I LOVE his art!)
  • Channeling Diana Wynne-Jones, Part I (Magic Can Be Confusing)Small Persons With Wings by Ellen Booraem
  • Channeling Diana Wynne-Jones, Part II (Pranks Can Win the War) Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
  • Channeling Diana Wynn-Jones, Part III (This Time, with Jane Austen-y Antics!) Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
  • This Author Will Be Famous Someday Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby
  • Best Historical Fiction With Talking Mice The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright
  • Best Historial Fiction With a Severed Hand Caper The Trouble With May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Best Historical Fiction With Victorian Ladies Getting in GunfightsThe Year We Were Famous
  • Book With Best Crossover Appeal for Adults Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
  • That Jerk Patrick Ness Made Me Cry A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • Most Heart-Warming-y Heartwarming The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
  • Sometimes It’s Better When You Don’t Get Prince CharmingThe Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley
  • Treasure Seeking Hijinks With Cowboys and Dragons! The Dragon of Cripple Creek by Troy Howell
  • Arthurian Knights Can Be Surprisingly Deep — and Funny The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True by Gerald Morris
  • Poetry Can Make Your Head Spin Hidden by Helen Frost
  • But Will Martin Scorsese Direct the Film Adaptation? Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
  • Immigration Can Be Hard The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce
  • Best Depiction of Contemporary Africa The No. 1 Car Spotter by Atinuke
  • Immigration Can Be Hard — Especially During the Vietnam War Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
  • I Usually Don’t Like Multi-Author Anthologies But This One’s Pretty Great The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Authors Tell the Tales , illus. by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Sentient Origami Rules Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger


Note: Yes, once again it’s a short list.  I’ve grown tired of supernatural romance/gossipy frenemies/dystopian fiction, so that winnowed the playing field by quite a bit.  Plus, with the birth of Baby Katie this year, I wasn’t up for anything where anything really bad happens.    I even checked out every one of these titles from the library, kept them on my shelf, and then turned them back in.  THAT’S HOW BAD IT IS THESE DAYS.  So this year, for the first time ever — I am listing a group of books which I know are wonderful and which I know you will like, but which I am simply too wimpy to read right now.

What I Read And Thought Worthy of Sharing:

  • Best Fairy Tale Adaptation (and that’s really saying something, trust me) Entwined by Heather Dixon
  • Best Road Trip Through Europe The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson (note: this is a sequel to Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, which is also excellent)
  • When Bad Covers Happen to REALLY Good Books Chime by Franny Billingsley
  • It’s Like Seabiscuit With Legendary Irish Fairy Horses The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

What’s Probably Great But Which I Am Too Wimpy To Read:

  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (Siberian Prison Camp!)
  • Blood Red Road  by Moira Young (post apocalyptic universe! with cage fighting!)
  • All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin (dystopian future where chocolate is illegal!)
  • Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard (boy drowns at 80s prep school and it sounds way too much like A Separate Peace!)
  • The Watch That Ends The Night by Allan Wolf  (the Titanic!)
  • How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (just a sad, beautiful domestic drama!)
  • Bluefish by Pat Schmatz (bullies!)
  • Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (it’s about Thomas Jefferson’s slave children!  Also not technically YA!)
  • Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones (kidnapping!)
  • The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller (the Romanovs!  With meticulous research!)


  • Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming (go read it!)


  • The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure

9 thoughts on “Favorite Books for Young Readers 2011

  1. Thanks for the list! I look forward to sampling a few or many or all. I’ve had the ARC for “Between Shades of Gray” on my shelf for a long time and just haven’t been brave enough to read it. And I bought “Jefferson’s Sons” for my oldest this past year. Still unread, but one of us will get to it eventually.

    1. Yup — just look at the cover of Between Shades of Gray. It’s been noted that snow + barbed wire = never a good thing. I think Jonathan Hunt wrote something to the effect that that cover looks like it really, really wants to be in Oprah’s Book Club.

      Jefferson’s Sons is supposed to be good, but there’s been some quibbles over how authentic the voices are. (Would a slave child in the 1700s really say those things?) I just got burned by M.T. Anderson’s Octavian Nothing books and have been avoiding slave narratives ever since.

  2. Wow, wow, wowee, wow. That is some great list.

    Also many picture books that I have missed – but you hit some of my favorites.

    And by Patrick Ness making you cry – you mean deep ripping sobs, right? (LIke when Dumbledore died)

    You don’t need to be brave to read BLUEFISH.

    Now I need to finish my list.

    1. Yes, deep ripping, soul-bludgeoning sobs. But not like when Dumbledore died; that oddly didn’t make me feel sad at all. I think it’s because real wizard headmasters do not exist, whereas little boys whose moms die from cancer are all too real.

      Maybe I should get around to BLUEFISH — I trust you. I’m just trying to avoid the angsty-angst.

  3. Fabulous list! Thanks so much for sharing – I’m getting on the library site right now and requesting some things . . .

  4. Between Shades of Gray is fantastic, but it is definitely one of those books that left me feeling the sadness and weight of the subject.

  5. Hey, I’m candace couch’s little sister, and she sent me this, and THANK you…I’m in two separate book clubs, and we read more lame stuff than good. It’s just nice to get good recommendations and I agree…your headings help so much in the decision making. I just put a ton of the kids book on hold and can’t wait to read them with my kids, and I’m all over your historical fiction which our topic for next month’s book club. If you prefer one of the other let me know…Thanks!

    1. I’m glad you enjoy the list! For a book group of adult women, I’d go with The Year We Were Famous. It has an interesting mother/daughter dynamic in addition to a gripping story that I think could generate some interesting discussion in a group. Have fun!

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