Friday, December 30, 2011

Year in Review Post #5: Secrets & Sharing Soda's Books of the Year

Today, I’d like to present my favorite books published in 2011. I have sorted this post according to category, focusing only on those categories that I regularly review.

My criteria for selecting these books were:
  • literary quality
  • kid appeal
  • personal enjoyment of the book
  • potential use in story time (for picture books) 
Though I have made some remarks on this page, my full reviews provide more detailed reasons that these books are my favorites. Access my reviews by clicking on the titles below.

    Favorite Young Adult Contemporary Novel
    (Dutton Juvenile - Penguin Group)

    An original style, gorgeous descriptions, and an important and hard-learned lesson make this book stand out among others of the genre. Some bloggers have criticized the book’s protagonist for being too needy and modeling clingy behavior when it comes to boys, but I think this realism and emotion are precisely what make the story work so well. Readers who decide not to let main character Joy’s initial mistakes turn them off will find a well-written and wonderful story about overcoming unrequited love.

    Honorable Mention:
    Shine by Lauren Myracle (Amulet Books - Abrams)
    Past Perfect by Leila Sales (Simon Pulse - Simon & Schuster)
    Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O’Roark Dowell (Atheneum - Simon & Schuster)

    Favorite Middle Grade Novel
    (Amulet Books - Abrams)

    This quiet novel about the impact of an orange tree on a California neighborhood is filled with poetics turns of phrase and memorable characters. It’s not an action-packed novel by any means, but the artistic story telling and sensory descriptions give it a unique place in the world of children’s literature. If I could have any book win the Newbery this year, it would be this one.

    Honorable Mention:
    Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (Walden Pond Press - HarperCollins)
    Ten Rules for Living With My Sister by Ann M. Martin (Feiwel & Friends - Macmillan)

    Favorite Chapter Book

    Toys Come Home

    by Emily Jenkins
    illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
    (Schwartz & Wade - Random House)

    Carefully selected language and a warm, nostalgic tone are the hallmarks of this prequel to Toys Go Out and Toy Dance Party. A girl’s toys come to life with their many philosophical questions and concerns about their role in her life, resulting in an emotional and bittersweet tale of love, loss, and change.

    Honorable Mention: 
    The Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

    Favorite Easy Reader

    by Dana Meachen Rau
    (Random House)

    Sunny summer illustrations and simple language make this book a fast-paced and fun read for beginning readers. The dual meaning of “flip flop” as both shoes and indecisiveness works exceptionally well, and the illustrations offer so much extra detail not mentioned in the text, creating a lovely portrait of summer freedom.

    Honorable Mention:
    Aggie Gets Lost by Lori Ries, illustrated by Frank W. Dormer (Charlesbridge Publishing)
    Amelia Bedelia Makes a Friend by Herman Parish, illustrated by Lynne Avril (Greenwillow Books - HarperCollins)

    Favorite Picture Book
    Grandpa Green
    by Lane Smith
    (Roaring Brook Press - Macmillan)

    I have yet to meet a Lane Smith book I didn’t love, but this one caught me off guard by making me cry! Grandpa Green has recreated his entire life in a garden of carefully pruned bushes, which his grandson uses to help him remember his past, even as old age begins to rob him of his memories. The book strikes just the right balance between bitter and sweet and manages to capture the poignancy of aging without becoming maudlin. Just a beautiful book.

    Honorable Mention:
    Shoe-La-La by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
    Blackout by John Rocco

    Favorite Book in Graphic Format
    Nina in that Makes Me Mad
    by Hilary Knight
    (Toon Books - Candlewick Press)

    Nina gets mad in lots of different situations, which are comically drawn by Hilary Knight in a series of panels. This book is great for teaching emotional intelligence to preschoolers in an engaging way, and it also articulates different types of anger for which even an adult might not have found the proper words. This book reminds us that it’s okay to feel angry sometimes, as long as we recognize our anger, tell someone about it, and constructively work to resolve it.

    Honorable Mention: The Meaning of Life and Other Stuff  by Jimmy Gownley

    What were your favorite books of 2011?

    Check back tomorrow for my final post of the year, in which I will reveal the grand total of books I read in 2011.

    Story Time Greatest Hits 2011

    According to my shelves on Goodreads, I have read 332 different titles at story time this year. I don't know off the top of my head how many sessions that covers, since I don't have my stats in front of me, but that is an awful lot of books! And believe it or not, out of all those books, I have managed to select a top ten list of favorites for the year. These books represent my 2011 Greatest Hits - they're the tried and true titles that never let me down that will become part of my regular story time rotation in the years ahead.

    10.
    The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear
    The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry,
    and The Big Hungry Bear
    (1984)
    by Audrey and Don Wood
    Read at Baby/Toddler Story Time on 3/15/11.
    This book is just as much fun to read aloud now as it was to hear my mother read it as a child. The tone of the story is perfectly suited to really hamming it up and getting into character.

    9.
    We are in a Book!
    We Are in a Book! (2010)
    by Mo Willems
    Read at a class visit on 6/2/11
    A true crowd pleaser for all ages, We Are in a Book breaks the fourth wall and highlights in a very funny way the best aspects of Gerald's and Piggie's personalities.

    8.
    The Foggy, Foggy Forest
    The Foggy, Foggy Forest (2008)
    by Nick Sharratt
    Read at Preschool Story Time on 11/7/11.
    The illustrations in this book are gorgeous, and the feel of the paper very appealing to young kids. Preschoolers love to guess at what each shadow represents and are surprisingly good at guessing even the most difficult ones!

    7.

    The Babies on the Bus
    The Babies on the Bus (2011)
    by Karen Katz
    Read at Baby/Toddler Story Time on 8/16/11, 8/23/11 & 12/6/11.
    Read at Baby Lap Time on 8/19/11, 10/19/11 & 10/20/11.
    This song has been a story time favorite for my groups since I started here, and this book makes it go down easier (for me) than the long-winded recording we have. Karen Katz is one of the best illustrators for babies and toddlers, and the fresh take on the song keeps everyone engaged, even those (like me) who are sick of it.

    6.
    A Good Day (2007)
    by Kevin Henkes
    Read at Baby/Toddler Story Time on 2/22/11 & 10/4/11.
    Read at Baby Lap Time on 5/27/11.
    This is such a feel-good story, and the simplicity of the text and boldness of the illustrations are just perfect for babies and toddlers. I think of it mainly as a Spring book, but also included it in the Fall because of the squirrel.

    5.
    Big Fat Hen
    Big Fat Hen (1994)
    by Keith Baker
    Read at Baby Lap Time on 4/8/11, 9/28/11, and 9/29/11.
    Keith Baker's huge illustrations make this a perfect book for babies. They are drawn to the thick, bold lines, and since their parents know the nursery rhyme (One Two, Buckle My Shoe) it often becomes an interactive experience for everyone.

    4.
    Baby Faces (Look Baby! Books)
    Baby Faces (1998)
    by Margaret Miller
    Read at Baby Lap Time on 7/29/11.
    Who can resist these adorable baby faces? Not any of my lap time babies, that's for sure! This will make a re-appearance at lap time in just a couple of weeks!

    3.
    Princess Hyacinth (The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated)
    Princess Hyacinth, the Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated (2009)
    by Florence Parry Heide, illustrated by Lane Smith
    Read during a class visit on 2/12/11.
    Read at family story time on 3/14/11.
    I am not a princess girl, or even a fairy tale girl, but I adore this book. I like  the spunky tone of voice, the fact that the happily ever after ending isn't saccharine-sweet, and most of all, I love the universal appeal of the story. Boys and girls of all ages love this story.

    2.
    Bark, George
    Bark, George (1999)
    by Jules Feiffer
    Read at Tales for Twos and Threes on 1/26/11 & 8/26/11.
    I think of this book as my secret weapon. When I feel story time getting out of control, or when a crowd is larger than usual, or when I'm just feeling cranky, this is the book that snaps me out of it. No matter how times I read it, it still gets laughs, and it incorporates all the animal sounds that kids love to make.

    1.
    Monkey and Me
    Monkey and Me (2007)
    by Emily Gravett
    Read at Baby Lap Time on 4/8/11.
    Read at Baby/Toddler Story Time on 8/16/11 & 12/6/11.
    This book takes the number one spot because it's not just perfect for story time, it's also a perfect picture book. The text is basic and repetitive - a girl and her monkey go to see various animals - but each illustration hints at what's to come on the following page, which is a wonderful visual way to help kids follow the action. I love seeing the girl pretending to be a penguin, an elephant, and of course, a monkey! The element of surprise also makes this book really exciting for toddlers,who love the anticipation before finding out which animal the girl and monkey went to see next. Bad grammar aside (it should be Monkey and I), I still love this book and plan to share it many more times in 2012.
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