Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Best of 2009

Again, it has been a fantastic year for children and young adult literature. There dozens of worthy books to gift the special boy in your life this holiday season. Here is a look at my favorite boy books from the past year. In most years, I generally find pleasure in discovering for myself books from new or relatively unknown authors. This year, though, you’ll notice mostly A-list authors.

Young Adult
Paper Towns – John Green (Dutton)
Angry Management – Chris Crutcher (Greenwillow)
Leviathon – Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse)
The Maze Runner – James Dashner (Delacorte)

Middle Grade
The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins)
The Magicians Elephant – Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick)
A Season of Gifts – Richard Peck (Dial)
The Last Olympian – Rick Riordan (Disney Hyperion)

Picture Books
Otis – Loren Long (Philomel)
How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? – Jane Yolen (Blue Sky Press)
The Curious Garden – Peter Brown (Little, Brown)
Skippyjon Jones, Lost in Space – Judy Schachner (Dutton)

Thursday, November 19, 2009


This year doesn’t bring the big-ticket names of recent years (Laurie Halse Anderson, M.T. Anderson) or the buzz of a breakout novelist (Sherman Alexie) or that blockbuster book every teen wants to read (E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks). However, this year’s nominees for Young People’s Literature harkens back to the 2004 awards. Like those of five years ago, this list contains very thoughtfully crafted books that from the outside seem quiet (see Luna J.A. Peters, Godless P. Hautman).

This year’s nominations are very personal books from the exquisitely fashioned relationship in Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith to Hoose’s account of the teen who first defied bus segregation in Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, this year's winner.

Only one of this bunch could be lapelled anything close to a boys book -- David Small’s work done in graphic novel style -- Stitches, a harrowing childhood memoir.

All of these books are deserving of the recognition, and despite it being labeled a ‘down year’ for teen literature, I look forward to seeing how these books will be remembered in 5 years and beyond.

UP NEXTMy Christmas list, top books of 2009 for the naughty and nice boys on your Christmas List.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Beyond the Grave (The 39 Clues – Book #4) – Jude Watson – Ages 9-12

All of the authors in this series face a tricky situation. The 39 Clues is a series of 10books with each book written by a different author than the one before. The series needs to avoid seeming generic and formulaic from book to book and include the authentic voice of each writer.

Trickier yet for Jude Watson is having to follow three of the best (and three of my favorite) middle-grade adventure writers - Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson series), Gordon Korman (Kidnapped series), Peter Lerangis (Spy X series).

A final tricky dilemma for these authors is writing from the point of view not only of main character Dan, an eleven-year-old adrenaline freak with a photographic memory, but also from the point of view of his older sister, Amy. That’s where many boy readers would just say NO. But with the 39 Clues series, these same readers are treated to a humorous look at themselves and the goofy things a boy might do that Dan actually does.

This series – along with the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series – is a can’t miss as a read-together with my two school-age children. With Beyond the Grave (Scholastic Inc, 2009), we were not disappointed at all with Watson’s turn at the adventure following the two young Cahill’s in their around-the-world quest for the ultimate prize. And it doesn’t hurt that the primary locale is Egypt. From secret rooms and an underwater Nile expedition to being trapped in an ancient ruin, Watson keeps the speed of the chase at a high level, rarely letting his foot off of the pedal. When he does let up a bit, he does it subtly, primarily to bring in back story of the children’s grandmother whose will sends the pre-teens off on this adventure of a lifetime.


UP NEXTA look at the National Book Award Finalists:
• David Small’s Stitches (Norton, 2009)
• Deborah Heiligman for Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Holt, 2008)
• Phillip Hoose for Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Farrar, Straus, 2009)
• Laini Taylor for Lips Touch: Three Times (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2009)
• Rita Williams-Garcia for Jumped (HarperTeen, 2009)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

PICTURE BOOK REVIEW: Dinosaur Versus Bedtime – Bob Shea – Ages 4-6

It is so important to get kids – boys and girls – loving books as early in life as possible. So that is how we’ll start, focusing on the earliest readers and the so-to-be readers. And what better way to launch a site dedicated to books for boys than with the ultimate boy book?

Dinosaur Versus Bedtime (Hyperion) by Bob Shea is a story that truly gets the mind of a 4 year old boy. Every boy imagines himself a superhero or a monster with a world of challenges before him. Here as a spunky red dinosaur, the main character tackles the everyday life of a kid with nothing that can defeat him. From a pile of fall leaves to the big slide, celebrates his victories until he finally must face his biggest challenge – bedtime.

With simple crayon-style illustrations reminiscent of the oh-so-popular Mo Willems pigeon series, Shea brings a simple, yet energetic life to this dinosaur story. The repetitive and anticipatory text is perfect for engaging a youngster and a wonderful way to end the day for the active little explorers in your life.


MIDDLE GRADE REVIEW: Beyond the Grave (39 Clues Series – Book #4) – Jude Watson – Ages 9-12