Top Young Adult Picks for 2012

After lots of reading in 2012 here are my my top 10 young adult books of 2012 and my top five sequels.

Cat Girl’s Day Off by Kimberly Pauley – A fine mix of mystery and fantasy with a multicultural cast of characters.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – One of the most innovative and powerful books I have read in a long time.

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonneblick – Sonneblick does it again with a heartfelt tale of a boy not only losing is passion but his beloved grandfather as well

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green – Keep a box of tissues handy for this beautiful story of a romance between two teens who have cancer.

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1) by R.L. LaFevers – A complex fantasy featuring real historical people and assassin nuns! What more could you want?

Guitar Notes by Mary Amato – Two very different teens find their love of music binds them together.

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine – You know about the Little Rock Nine, but you may not know about what happened after, this story gives you that information contained in a sweet story of interracial friendship.

Scarlet (Scarlet #1) by A.C. Gaughen – Robin Hood with a twist.

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo – There are some books that just catch you and hold you tight till the end this is one of those books with a great setting and interesting characters who face dark magic.

Welcome, Caller, This Is Chloe by Shelley Coriell – Shunned by her friends Chloe finds new friendships amongst a group of misfits.


The Girl In the Clockwork Collar (Steampunk Chronicles, #2) by Kady Cross — A steampunk standout with powerful women who wield fantastic technology.

Insurgent (Divergent #2) by Veronica Roth – An action packed ride about two teens trying to change their dystopia.

Necromancing the Stone (Necromancer, #2) by Lish McBride – Laugh out loud funny about a boy who is trying to figure out his powers as a necromancer.

Perception (Clarity, #2) by Kim Harrington – Psychic Clare gets embroiled in another mystery.

Princess of the Silver Woods (Princess #3) by Jessia Day George – A reenvisioning of Red Riding Hood where the princesses have to face an old evil.

Nonfiction Paris About Apples

Nonfiction Pairs about Apples

Nonfiction Paris offers two nonfiction titles that can be used well together in an instructional situation. In today’s pair we look at two books about apples. Both these books are focused on the younger age groups so they would make a good pairing in a K-4 setting.

Apples A to Z by Margaret McNamara illustrated by Jake Parker

An alphabet book that looks at various aspects of apples going from A to Z. The book uses correct terms and bring a lot of information to light. It’s use of personified animals to contextualize the information also makes it unique. A brief commentary in the back gives fun facts, jokes and information on Johnny Appleseed. That information as well as the subject of apples connects this book to:

Seed by Seed: The Legend and Legacy of John “Appleseed” Chapman by Esme Raji Codell and Lynne Rae Perkins

A very well done picture book about the legend and legacy of Johnny Appleseed by two well know authors.

Nonfiction Pairs About Leaves

Nonfiction Paris offers two nonfiction titles that can be used well together in an instructional situation. In today’s pair we look at two books that give us interesting perspectives on leaves. Both these books are focused on the younger age groups so they would make a good pairing in a K-3 setting.

Awesome Autumn: All Kinds of Facts and Fun by Bruce Goldstone

Talks about what happens in the autumn covering everything from animal hibernation to holidays, it does have a longer section on the changes that trees and leaves undergo, which connects to:

A Leaf Can Be … by Laura Purdie Salas illustrated by Violeta Dabija

A simple poem describes all the things a leaf can be, while the main text is simple it conveys a lot of meaning in a few words, then in the back there is a lot of information about photosynthesis and the role leaves play when they fall in the autumn.

Review: Just a Second: A different way to look at time by Steve Jenkins

Just a Second: A different way to look at time by Steve Jenkins

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books
Publication 2011
Pages: 32
Level: LE, UE
Personal Connection: 4
Literary Quality: 5
Obtained: Publisher

The trickiest part of nonfiction for children is taking a really big concept and condensing it enough to not only fit into a picture book but also to make it approachable for children. Without a doubt Steve Jenkins is one of the masters of this. He has taken lots of big concepts such as size and made it really approachable in the confines of a picture book. He does it again with Just A Second where he covers concepts of time from a second to a year. By using numerous facts to illustrate the each part of time he makes the whole very approachable even for young children. For kids how think that in the summer Christmas is so long away this book makes the fast and slow progression of time a very fascinating. The most fascinating fact for me was the fact that the fastest animal movement in the world is that of a trap-jaw ant who can snap his jaws shut in 1/800th of a second. As always Jenkins’ paper cut illustrations add depth and interest to the text. My only problem with this book (and it’s a small one) is that sometimes the curving of the text and its placement next to the pictures is hard to follow and read. Even with that inconvenience, that certainly won’t bother children, this is an outstanding book that makes the intangible real.

Review: unBEElievables: honeybee stories and paintings by Douglas Florian

unBEElievables: honeybee stories and paintings by Douglas Florian

Publisher: Beach Lane Books
Publication 2012
Pages: 32
Level: LE, UE
Personal Connection: 4
Literary Quality: 5
Obtained: Publisher

Lately we have seen lots of picture book nonfiction that pairs poetry with interesting tidbits of knowledge usually centered around a certain subject. One of the latest editions to that genre is unBEElievables: honeybee stories and paintings by Douglas Florian. Florian has always been one of my favorite poets and the poems in this book don’t disappoint. Every poem in the book is delightful and well crafted, something I don’t often find with these nonfiction poetry books since many people try to force the poetry to fit a predetermined mold that will convey their information. This is not a fault of this book and all the poems are simple and fun. My favorite is Bees Buzz which uses the onomatopoeia of the bees “Buzz” to play with the uzz sound. A very delightful play on rhythm and language. In addition to the poem on each page is a bee fact that connects to the poem. These facts are brief and interesting and elaborate on the theme of the poem. The poems and facts are also organized very nicely progressively building on each other until you have a whole picture of the life of bees. The great majority of children’s nonfiction is interesting and delightful to read, but when poetry is skillfully used to convey information the interest and delight is heightened. Add in the raw illustrations done in a folk art style this book is a wonderful example of nonfiction at its best.

Newbery, Caldecott and Printz Picks

Anticipation is running high with the announcement of the American Library Association Awards from Dallas, Texas on Monday. Speculation is at its height right now, and while I’ve never been on target with any of my picks here is what I think should win the major awards next week:

Newbery: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu – beautifully written with endearing characters.

Caldecott: Where’s Walrus? By Stephen Savage – the illustrations pop off the page.

Printz: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – finely crafted with an interesting world and characters.

Now we wait……….

Seventh Biennial Dolly Gray Award Winners Announced

The Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award will be presented on January 19, 2012 at the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (DADD) international conference in Miami Beach, Florida. The intermediate/young adult award will be presented to Kathryn Erskine, author of Mockingbird and Beverley Brenna, author of Waiting for No One. In the picture book category, the awards go to Rebecca Elliott, author/illustrator of Just Because, and Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete (authors) and Shane W. Evans (illustrator) for My Brother Charlie.

The Dolly Gray Award recognizes high quality fiction/biographical books for children, adolescents, and young adults that authentically portray individuals with developmental disabilities. Special Needs Project, a worldwide leader in the distribution of books related to disabilities, co-sponsors this award.

Fran Prezant, disability consultant, author, presenter, and Dolly Gray Award panelist notes, “Engaging books that feature people with disabilities as individuals with personalities, strengths and talents as part of the story line, have the exponential power to change attitudes and promote inclusion in education, jobs and community life. These are important, not only for young readers with and without disabilities, but for parents and teachers who read books to them and model societal attitudes through words and actions. This year, it is wonderful to see so many positive contributions to the literature choices compared to a decade ago when people with disabilities were rarely featured in positive ways if at all, in children’s books. The Dolly Gray Award has been a positive vehicle to call attention to this and authors and progressive publishers should be commended and encouraged to put more of these books into the hands of readers.”

A list of all books eligible for the award, procedures, and submission guidelines are available on the DADD website:

2011 Top Picks

Heading into award season and with the change of years it is time to state for the record my favorites from my 2011 reading. While this does not represent everything I loved this year, her are two books in each category that I found particularly good this year. 2011 was a great year for all kinds of books, who knows what 2012 will bring.


Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom by Sue Macy. This is a unique take on women’s liberation and how one simple thing can effect social change.

Around the World by Matt Phelan. An amazing nonfiction graphic novel that has connects to the classic Around the World in 80 Days.

Picture Books:

Zorro Gets an Outfit by Carter Goodrich. Okay I’m one to love dog books no matter what, but this story is so unique and the expressions on the dog’s face are outstanding.

When I Grow Up by Al Yankovic illustrated by Wes Hargis. Celebrity books don’t always make the grade, but Al has such a way with language that this book is a hit.

Middle Grade Novels:

The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone. Don’t let the cover fool you this is a simple and finely crafted historical story.

Death Cloud (Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins #1) by Andy Lane. Sherlock Holmes was one of my favorite reads as a child and it still fascinates me, the updating of the story from a teenage Holmes point of view is great fun.

Young Adult Novels

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride. This book had me from the title and kept me through every word, a funny, interesting pick for older young adults.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. This is a book I would have read over and over when I was a teen, a perfect love story for older young adults.

2012 Reading Challenges

A new year seems like a good time for a new challenge and here are a few I’m going to try and meet this year.

Young Adult Debut Authors Challenge