Susan Bloom's Best Children's and Young Adult Books of 2010
Simmons Associate Professor Emeritus Susan P. Bloom makes an annual list of her picks for the "Best Children's and Young Adult Books" of the year. If you're doing some last minute shopping for the holidays, these make for great gifts. Here is her list for 2010:
1. Wiles, Deborah. Countdown.
Countdown takes place during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. 11-year-old Franny Chapman lives just outside of Washington, D.C., near Andrews Air Force Base. As the world holds its breath during this intense time in our history, Franny is also dealing with her own family drama; A fight with her best friend, a chain-smoking mother, a college-student activist sister, and an absent pilot father. The story tells of a radical change in American history. Read the book review on Kirkus.
2. Teller, Janne. Nothing.
Pierre Anthon, a seventh grader at Tring School, has an existential crisis, climbs a tree, and refuses to come down to go back to school. "Determined to prove to Pierre Anthon that life has plenty of meaning, the students embark on a dire quest. Over the course of months, each student is required to give up something full of meaning, something chosen by the previous sacrificing student." Read the review on Kirkus.
3. Dogar, Sharon. Annexed.
Dogar writes a historical fiction about Peter Van Pels, Anne Frank's companion while hiding in the Annex. Peter deals with his feelings towards Anne, which range from annoyance to fascination, his sexuality, and loss of faith. Dogar follows his life after the Annex is raided and through to the concentration camp. Read the review on Kirkus.
4. Freedman, Russell. The War to End All Wars: The First World War.
Freedman uses his signature photo-essay format to examine the first modern world war. He explains what led up to an event which took the lives of so many people, and how the first use of modern weapons changed battle. Read the review on Kirkus.
5. Bartoletti, Susan. They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group.
A book about the rising of the KKK. "On a May evening in 1866, in Pulaski, Tenn., six men lounged about a law office. 'Boys, let us get up a club or society,' John Lester said. And they did. Two of the men suggested that they call themselves 'Kuklos,' the Greek word for 'circle' or 'band,' but that wasn't mysterious enough, so they made up a variation: Ku Klux Klan, which literally means 'circle circle.'" Susan Bloom says this book is thoroughly researched with powerful archival images. Read the review on Kirkus.
6. Bond, Victoria and T.R. Simon. Zora and Me.
A fictionalized account of the childhood of author Zora Neale Hurston. Even as a child, she is considered a great story-teller, but she is also known as the town liar. Susan Blooms says this story has "a spirit of kindness and safety and almost mystery and magic." Read the review on Kirkus.
7. Ryan, Pam Munoz. The Dreamer.
Another fictional account of a literary hero. Ryan writes the story of the young Pablo Neruda as he embarks on simple adventures. Bloom says the book "honors the spirit of the award winning poet's shy, yet spirited determined personality." Ryan's "evocative pose poetry" highlights his dealings with his stepmother's love, affectionate siblings and disapproving father. Read the review on Kirkus.
8. Sidman, Joyce. Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature's Survivors.
Sidman arranges her "survivors" in chronological order beginning with bacteria and mollusks and ending with humans. Each spread features a poem and an informative paragraph with details about the celebrated survivor. Bloom says, "There's something so soundly rooted about Becky Prang's artwork. It's fresh. It's vital. It's alive." Read the review on Kirkus.
9. Hill, Laban Carrick. Dave the Potter.
Bloom goes into great detail about Collier's artwork in this book, discussing how a tree trunk "is made out of photographs of black faces." She admires Hill's poetic tribute saying how he writes with respect for his subject and a need to tell his story. Read the review on Kirkus.
10. Stead, Phillip. A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Bloom exclaims the illustrator, Erin Stead, "starts her magic from the beginning with subdued colors that enhance the story line." Amos McGee is a character who most people wouldn't notice. During his job he visits the zoo and the animals, but when he is out sick the animals travel from the zoo to visit Amos at his home instead. Read the review on Kirkus.
11. Isaacs, Anne. Dust Devil.
Isaacs and Zelinsky take the character from their Caldecott Honor winning Swamp Angel and tell more of her hilarious adventures. After outgrowing Tennessee, Angelica Longrider moves to Montana where she meets a wild dust-devil horse. Bloom says this story has "over the top humor" and a "multilayered narrative." Read the review on Kirkus.
12. Greenberg, Jan and Sandra Jordan. Ballet for Martha.
Bloom says Greenburg and Jordan's Ballet for Martha "serves as a fine model to showcase three great artists," who came together to create the Appalachian Spring, the modern dance that celebrates the wedding of a Pioneer Woman and her Husbandman. The dance choreography was done by Martha Graham, music by Aaron Copland, and sets by Isamu Noguchi, the Japanese-American sculptor. Bloom says with the use of the present tense, the book "tells the story through movement and music and beautifully captures the process of artistic creation." Read the review on Kirkus.
13. DiCamillo, Kate and Alison McGhee. Bink and Gollie.
Three short stories tell of an unlikely friendship between two opposing personalities, Bink and Gollie. Bloom says it is a "tale of friendship that spans across three chapters of zippy dialogue. 'Don't You Need a New Pair of Socks?,' 'P.S. I'll Be Back Soon' and 'Give a Fish a Home'-- are "pure fun" and "illustrate all one needs to know about friends and compromise." Read the review on Kirkus.
14. Lin, Grace. Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same!
Newbury Honor author, Grace Lin, writes six short stories about identical Chinese-American twins who are only similar in appearance. Bloom says the writer distinguishes the two down to the tiny details. "Even the subtle inclusion of a band-aid on one's knee reflects they are not the same." Read the review on Kirkus.
15. Stork, Francisco X. The Last Summer of the Death Warriors.
After Pancho's 20-year-old mentally disabled sister is killed, he meets D.Q. who is dying of a rare cancer. Pancho takes care of D.Q. while he undergoes extensive chemotherapy with gruesome side-effects. D.Q. knows of Pancho's plans to find and kill his sister's murderer and tries to teach him the way of the "Death Warrior: only when you love do you truly live." Read the review on Kirkus.
16. Erskine, Kathryn. Mockingbird.
Caitlin is a fifth-grade girl with Asperger's syndrome. Caitlin's guidance counselor is trying to teach her how to empathize, and after her brother is tragically killed in a school shooting, she truly discovers what the word means. Read the review on Kirkus.
17. Draper, Sharon. Out of My Mind.
Melody is diagnosed with cerebral palsy and cannot walk or talk, despite her magnificent mind. In preparation for a trivia competition, a computer opens up Melody's lines of communications and allows her to reveal her intelligence to the world. Read the review on Kirkus.
18. Williams-Garcia, Rita. One Crazy Summer.
Three sisters fly from New York to Oakland, California to spend a summer with a mother who is completely uninterested in her daughters. The sisters are sent off to a day camp where Delphine, the eldest pitch-perfect sister, finds herself taking care of her two siblings and having to make the best of their situation. Read the review on Kirkus.
19. Bacigalupi, Paolo. Ship Breaker.
Bloom says author, Paolo Bacigalupi, is a "sci-fi person to pay attention to." The story takes place in a futuristic post global-warming America, in which once great American cities, like New Orleans, are left in ruins. 15-year-old Nailer works on a "light crew" as a ship breaker and lives with a father who routinely beats him. When he discovers the wealthy and attractive Nina, a survivor of a shipwreck, he runs away with her and finds her loyalty gives him hope. Read the review on Kirkus.
20. Mavor, Salley. Pocketful of Posies.
Mavor illustrates 64 rhymes. Bloom says Pocketful of Posies is "like a rich bouquet that is plucked from the garden, a sensory pleasure. In a day where contemporary children are starved for nursery rhymes, this is a good one." Read the review on Kirkus.
21. Baker, Jeannie. Mirror.
Bloom says, "I think this may be for my money, the most innovative book of the year." This original book portrays two families from very different countries living their day to day lives. The story is in English from left to right and in Arabic from right to left. The two stories mirror each other on opposite sides of the book. "It's the essential shared families that shrink the world," says Bloom. Read the review on Kirkus.
22. Lee, Suzy. Shadow.
A little girl starts to play with shadows in her attic. The shadows take on a life of their own and malicious shapes are formed. But, friendships are also formed and all is right in the end. The wordless story is "meticulously designed and narrated," says Bloom. Read the review on Kirkus.
23. Nelson, Marilyn. Snook Alone.
Bloom says, "This is the most accessible thing [Marilyn Nelson] has ever written." Abba Jacob is a monk living on an island faraway with his companion dog, Snook. The two set out on a journey and become separated. Snook finds himself alone trying to survive and reconnect with his master. Read the review on Kirkus.
24. Nyeu, Tao. Bunny Days.
"Each tale is told in a distinct pallet," says Bloom. "Each spread is silkscreened with water-based ink." The three chapters; "Muddy Bunnies," "Dusty Bunnies," and "Bunny Tails," deal with six bunnies who's domestic lives are disrupted by two goats using modern appliances. Read the review on Kirkus.
25. Willems, Mo. Knuffle Bunny Free.
Bloom says the third Trixie book is "wonderfully satisfying. If you don't know the previous two Trixie books you must and should." Trixie and Knuffle Bunny set out to visit Oma and Opa, but Knuffle Bunny gets left on the plane. The story tells of the search for Trixie's favorite bunny, and demonstrates to readers how she is maturing. Read the review on Kirkus.
26. Graham, Bob. April and Esme Tooth Fairies.
April and Esme are tooth fairies going on their first trip, however, their parents are reluctant to release them to the world. Bloom says, "Bob Graham makes the ridiculous both believable and whimsical." Read the review on Kirkus.
27. Smith, Lane. It's a Book.
Bloom says, "Lane Smith has a lot of fun with this one." This hilarious story pins book against technology. A donkey is confused at a monkey's strange possession. "What do you have there?" "It's a book." "How do you scroll down?" "I don't. I turn the page. It's a book." Read the review on Kirkus.
28. Hills, Tad. How Rocket Learned to Read.
An adorable story about how a teacher can inspire learning. Rocket is a dog that likes to get dirty and has no interest in reading until a yellow bird appoints herself his teacher. She inspires Rocket's desire to learn, and he becomes passionate, even continuing to teach himself on his own. Read the review on Kirkus.
29. Burningham, John. There's Going to Be a Baby.
"I call this a perfect picture book." says Bloom. "Take a tired subject and put it in the hands of genius and out pops a classic." The story goes through the musings of a single pregnant mother and her preschooler's hesitation about the addition to the family. The beautiful ink drawings are digitally colored in flat, muted hues. Read the review on Kirkus.
30. Gravett, Emily. The Rabbit Problem.
The story plays of off medieval mathematician Fibonacci's "rabbit problem." It illustrates how bunnies rapidly reproduce at a specified rate, ending with a page over-flowing with pop-up bunnies. Read the review on Kirkus.