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Choosing our top ten titles this year (Lynn's list / Cindy's list) was so hard. Even when I cheated and added an extra title many of our favorite books were still left out. So we decided to list our top five nonfiction titles too. These are chosen for their outstanding quality and are listed alphabetically by author. We’d love to hear what nonfiction books are your favorites!
Lynn:Top Five Nonfiction 2008
Fleischman, Sid. The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West. (HarperCollins/Greenwillow) This fascinating look at Twain’s western years is delightful and packed with quotes from Twain. You won’t be able to resist reading large chunks of this to anyone nearby.
Fleming, Candace. The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary. (Random House) In my Top Ten of the year, this inviting book is the perfect blend of impeccable research, interesting design and fascinating writing.
Freedman, Russell. Washington at Valley Forge. (Holiday House) We all know Valley Forge was important but Freedman helps us really understand how and why. I couldn’t put this book down.
Nelson, Scott Reynolds. Ain’t Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry. (National Geographic) The librarian in me loves the beautifully explained research process but what I love best is the way this fascinating book reads like a mystery.
Fleischman, Sid. The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West (HarperCollins/Greenwillow) In a perfect melding of author and subject, Fleischman’s writing is as spirited and sarcastic Twain’s, and this is just as entertaining as his previous Houdini biography.
Bishop, Nic. Frogs (Scholastic) This book could easily be on my top picture book list as the photographs are so incredible and are integrated with the text beautifully. Fascinating frog information, attentive graphic design, and stunning photography combine for a remarkable read.
Stone, Tanya Lee. Sandy’s Circus: A Story about Alexander Calder (Penguin/Viking) Another book that could have been on my favorite picture book list, but I didn’t want to ignore the wonderful storytelling that illuminates Calder’s childhood and fits so well with the gorgeous artwork. If you need a graduation gift for an artistic student, this is it.
Why 13 titles? Everyone makes a top ten, and besides, Cindy and I can’t possibly narrow our favorites down that far, so we're giving you a Baker’s Dozen of 2008 favorites. Mine are here and Cindy's are in a separate post. Our first ten are selected on literary merit alone and are in alphabetic order by author. The extra three titles are some of our other favorites of the year, thrown in for free. Let us know what YOUR favorites are!
This was SO hard! Stay tuned for our Top Five Nonfiction and Top Five Picture Books coming soon.
Dowd, Siobhan. Bog Child. (Random/David Fickling) Dowd weaves multiple plot threads effortlessly in this beautifully crafted book.
Fleming, Candace. Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary. (Random) The inviting scrapbook format is perfect for either browsing or immersion in the staggering amount of fascinating information about the time, the Civil War, the important issues as well as presenting admirably complete biographies of both the Lincolns.
Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. (HarperCollins) Sweet despite real scariness, Gaiman’s story telling skills shine in this highly original tale.
Horvath, Polly. My One Hundred Adventures. (Random House/Schwartz & Wade) Horvath’s luminous writing perfectly captures those first itchy feelings of adolescence.
Lanagan, Margo. Tender Morsels (Random House/Knopf) Lanagan is one of the most original stylists writing today but this book also shines in other categories: extraordinary world-building, thematic depth and vibrant characters as well as fascinating play with fairy tale elements.
Lockhart, E. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion) Smart, funny and an oh-so-subtle exploration of gender/power struggles. Frankie is a terrific character!
Pratchett, Terry. Nation (HarperCollins) I think this is Pratchett’s best ever. The humor and word play is still joyously present but this amazing book also features a remarkable setting, richly developed characters and beautifully explored themes.
Tharp, Tim. The Spectacular Now. (Random House) Probably one of the best character studies I have ever read! Sutter will stay with me forever.
White, Ruth. Little Audrey. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Smith, Hope Anita. Keeping the Night Watch. (Henry Holt) I know this is cheating but I simply cannot chose between these two gorgeously written little gems. (It certainly IS cheating, but I'll let you get away with it since I loved them both too!--Cindy)
Lynn's three extras: This was the year of fabulous page-turners and these three were pure pleasure for me to read!
Why 13 titles? Everyone makes a top ten, and besides, Lynn and I can’t possibly narrow our favorites down that far, so we're giving you a Baker’s Dozen of 2008 favorites. Mine are here and Lynn's are in a separate post. Our first ten are selected on literary merit alone and are in alphabetic order by author. The extra three titles are some of our other favorites of the year, thrown in for free. Let us know what YOUR favorites are!
Collins, Suzanne. Hunger Games. (Scholastic) A rip-roaring adventure with important themes to consider.
Dowd. Sioban. Bog Child. (Random House/David Fickling) More proof that we lost this talented author too soon.
Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. (Harper Collins) Exquisite storytelling that tells a creepy story but also illuminates the journey that prepares you to leave the safety of “home” to seek your fortune.
Green, John. Paper Towns. (Penguin/Dutton) Are you a string, a blade of grass or a vessel? Quite possibly John’s best book yet.
Lanagan, Margo. Tender Morsels. (Random House/Knopf) I just started this one, but am so sure that it will make my top ten, I’m putting it there now. I’ll own up if I change my mind after I finish.
Lockhart, E. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks. (Hyperion) In a year full of fun female characters, Frankie is tops. This is a breakout book for Lockhart.
Pratchett, Terry. Nation. (Harper Collins) If Jonathan Hunt admires a survival story, you know it is something special. This is.
Scott, Elizabeth. Living Dead Girl. (Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse) Painful to read, but a haunting and searingly honest story that won’t be forgotten.
White, Ruth. Little Audrey. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) I hadn’t read this until after I saw it on Booklist’s Top of the List Editor’s Choice list. It quickly moved firmly into a place on my list too.
Cindy's extra three:
Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. (Tor) I’m now a hacker librarian with my R3AD license plate, thanks to “w1n5t0n.” Loved the technology usage in this and the cautions about privacy.
Ness, Patrick. The Knife of Never Letting Go. (Candlewick) Evil, pure evil…to leave a reader hanging so precipitously waiting for the sequel.
Scieszka, Jon. Knucklehead. (Penguin/Viking) Everyone who reads this shares a funny childhood story with me. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Lynn: 9-year-old Julia Gillian is good at so many things that she keeps a two-sided list of her accomplishments. These include making papier-mâché masks, understanding her dog Bigfoot and being skilled at the Art of Knowing. But even a masterful 9-year-old has a fear or two. Julia’s include finishing the green book when the ending is so clearly going to be sad. The dog in the story is only a year older than Bigfoot and Julia doesn’t like to even think about that. It hasn’t been a very fun summer either. Her teacher parents are taking classes and study all day, the claw machine is still unmastered and there have hardly been any picnics or trips to the water park. But as the summer wanes, Julia discovers that everyone has fears and learns to understand what her neighbor Enzo means when she says, “the only way out is through.”
I fell in love with the endearing and independent soul that is Julia Gillian right on the first page. The humor and whimsical drawings create a warm tone but don’t underestimate this book. Julia is a wonderfully rounded character full of traits that can be found in children everywhere. Alison McGhee is as observant as her protagonist and she deftly explores the issue of fears, acknowledging their very real power in the life of a child. Julia searches for answers but in the end she understands that conquering her fears is something she must do herself. McGhee’s respect and affection for young readers is clear and they will both appreciate the sensible message and smile at the satisfying ending – strawberry bubble tea and all. I’m really eager to see what happens in the next book in this new series, Julia Gillian (and the Quest for Joy) which will be published in April.
Lynn: An assassin, the Man Jack, murders three members of a sleeping family as the true target, a little boy, climbs out of his crib and toddles up the hill to the graveyard eluding the killer. A ghostly couple shields the child and then decides to raise him, naming him Nobody Owens because he looks like nobody but himself. It takes a graveyard to raise this child and Bod is the adored pet of the spectral residents whose living years spanned the centuries. As Bod begins to push at the restrictions of childhood, he once again comes to the attention of the mysterious group who seek his death.
Gaiman’s storytelling abilities shine here as he riffs on Jungle Book, nursery rhymes, and vampire lore in a truly unique coming of age story. Humor lightens the somewhat melancholy tone of the book that perfectly matches the memorable characters - living and dead. The ghouls are totally awesome too! For audio book fans, the audio of this book is wonderful with Gaiman doing the narration. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Cindy: I've been following the debate on the Adbooks listserv about whether this is a teen book or not. Bod is young, but the story starts out with the murder of his family and ultimately, the story leads up to Bod's preparation to set out on his own "to seek his fortune" and see the world without the aid of the ghouls who have raised him. The gorgeous writing and the successful construction of each chapter that can be read as a stand alone short story creates a novel that can be enjoyed by 4th grade through adult. After coming to that conclusion I visited Gaiman's website to see if there was something I could link to for fun, and found a blog entry of Gaiman's with his opinion about the audience for the book. It's always a pleasure to know that Neil has your back....
Lynn: Turning thirteen is a big milestone for most people but in the Beaumont family it is truly life changing. Thirteen is when the Beaumont savvy appears. Each person’s savvy is different. There is Fish who causes hurricanes, Rocket who generates electricity and Great Aunt Jules who time-travels every time she sneezes. Mississippi (Mibs) thinks she knows what her savvy is and it couldn’t be more important. Mibs’ father lies in a coma in the hospital after a car accident and Mibs is sure her savvy is to wake things up. Somehow she has to travel the ninety miles to Salina to help Poppa. It seems like such a good idea to sneak aboard the pink bible bus but nothing is ever simple when it comes to the Beaumonts!
I have a great weakness for books with quirky characters and Law’s delightful cast is that in spades - and endearing as well. Debut author Law manages her imaginative confection with a sure hand, utilizing folksy dialog deftly and steering clear of the easy ending. Mibs’ fresh voice will go straight to the hearts of teens who share her struggle to navigate adolescence. I admit to reaching for a tissue at the conclusion and wishing we all could have a savvy of our own. I can’t wait to see what Ingrid Law does next!
Cindy: I made my first trek through Central Park just six months prior to the Gates installation and longed to return to see the saffron banners waving against the black trees and white snow. What a treat that must have been for the local folks to see their park transformed for a few short weeks. For those of us who missed it in person, this fabulous book by art biographers Greenberg and Jordan will more than do. The husband and wife team of Christo and Jeanne-Claude (born on the same day and year in separate countries) are the epitome of perseverance, working decades to get the necessary permission for their imaginative and original public art created on a truly grand scale. The book design is perfect, many photographs letting the art speak for itself as its creators do, and a fold-out spread helps to show the magnitude of the installations. As much as I would love a piece of that saffron fabric, I love the care the artists put into preserving the environments they are creating in, and recycling their materials as opposed to crass commericialization. Always controversial artists, you can put me in the fan column. I may have missed the Gates, but I'm sorely tempted to plan a family vacation to raft the Arkansas in Colorado in 2012 under the silvery fabric panels. Want to join me? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Lynn: When Cindy first wanted to find this book I was lukewarm. I knew it was Greenberg and Jordan whose books I really admire but I admit to not knowing much about Christo and Jeanne-Claude. I had a sort of vague negative impression gained from often scornful commentators and grainy newspaper photographs. Boy was I wrong! This book knocked my socks off and opened my eyes to these amazing artists. The stunning cover leads into a series of beautiful photographs that capture the amazing scale and impact of the art. The accompanying text is fascinating and conveys both the philosophy behind the art and the artists’ admirable perseverance and attention to detail. I had no idea that the artists fund their own work nor was I aware that they recycled all project materials. If this book has been in your maybe file, move it up to must buy! It is gorgeous, inspiring - and mind-changing.
The DNA testing has not been run, but we are certain we must be twins separated at birth. And like genetic twins, we know what each other is thinking at all times, but we don't always agree.
Our passion for teen lit is almost older than the genre itself! We are middle school librarians who have chaired both ALA's Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature. (Lynn's on the left, Cindy on the right in the banner photo--and it is our combined ten Printz winner books from 2007 & 2008 between our heads!)