Wednesday, February 04, 2009

My Best of 2008: Young People's Literature

I decided to give young people's literature its own category in my favorites, as I read so much of it this year. It's been wonderful to have two kids that enjoy books and ask me to read with them often. (I did ask Skye to help me put together a list of her top five or ten books this year, but as we looked through her 2008 book list, she couldn't choose. She loved them all!)

I am not going to include picture books here, just books for older readers, middle elementary and up.

Favorite book:

The Watsons Go to Birmingham -- 1963
Christopher Paul Curtis

How do I sum this one up? It's one of those books that makes you laugh a lot, and cry a lot. It's about so many things: what it means to be a family, where home is, racism in America. I was especially impressed with how Curtis explains the "why" of racism. That's the question every kid asks, and a question adults have a hard time answering: Why are people racist? Why do some people have such strong racist feelings that they do horrible things, hurting innocent people, even children? In the book, when the main character asks this tough question, his parents have a difficult time explaining why. It's his older brother that helps him process the sad things he's learned.

Favorite (start to a) series:

The Penderwicks and
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street
Jeanne Birdsall

Skye and I read these for our mother-daughter book club. These stories of a family with four girls are reminiscent of classic young people's literature. Jeanne Birdsall was a great reader as a child, and she says in this interview that "the first Penderwicks is really a love letter to the books I read as a child." She lists some of them: "Noel Streatfeild’s books, All of a Kind Family, Edward Eager, E. Nesbit." I love the list at the end of that interview of all the books mentioned by Jane, the biggest reader in the Penderwicks family. My daughter's online nickname here, Skye, comes from her favorite Penderwicks girl. Birdsall plans on three more Penderwicks books, and we look forward to them.

Favorite author discoveries:

Sharon Creech
One of Skye's friends always sings the praises of Sharon Creech when we talk books. In working on a Brownies Try-It badge, they were challenged to read something recommened by the other. Skye and I both read and enjoyed Granny Torrelli Makes Soup and Pleasing the Ghost, and we look forward to more Creech stories.

Ellen Raskin
This author is a re-discovery for me. Skye and I read The Westing Game and The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) for her school book club last year. I remember carrying that second one around with me in elementary school, facinated by it. I love Raskin's quirky sense of humor and creative puzzle stories.

Andrew Clements
What a great writer for kids! Frindle was Skye's choice for our first time hosting mother-daughter book club. I've read another of his since (The Landry News) and Skye's read at least two more (The Janitor's Boy and Lunch Money). We don't think you can go wrong with a Clements book. (And how cool is it that Brian Selznick does the illustrations?)

Honorable mention:

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Excellent! I missed this one as a kid, so it was a treat to read it with Skye.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Another pick from our mother-daughter book club. Beautiful writing, beautiful story.
Babymouse books by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
These comics are great! I love that a sister/brother team writes them. Check out Babymouse's neat website.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
How can you not want to read a book with a title and cover art like that? MBS did not disappoint.
Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath
This is a possible future mother-daughter book club read. Think of the food possibilities for this party! Great story; I want to read more Horvath.

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