The Horn Book has selected its choices for the best books of 2014. Here they are:
The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall
Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash
Draw! by Raúl Colón
The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee
Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Christian Robinson
My Bus by Byron Barton
Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Jon Klassen
Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, with photos by Tim O’Meara
Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire
The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos
The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis
My Heart Is Laughing by Rose Lagercrantz; illustrated by Eva Eriksson; translated from the Swedish by Julia Marshall
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki; illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye; illustrated by Betsy Peterschmidt
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
West of the Moon by Margi Preus
Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya; illustrated by Susan Guevara
Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko; illustrated by Melissa Sweet
How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson; illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm; illustrated by Molly Bang
El Deafo by Cece Bell
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell; illustrated by Christian Robinson
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant; illustrated by Melissa Sweet
The Story of Buildings: From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond by Patrick Dillon; illustrated by Stephen Biesty
The winners of the GoodReads Choice Awards have been announced. The awards are voted on by GoodReads users. Here are the winners in the youth categories:
MIDDLE GRADE & CHILDREN’S
The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems
YOUNG ADULT FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION
City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
YOUNG ADULT FICTION
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle
This is a delightful wintry follow-up to Flora and the Flamingo, a book that stole my heart when it came out. With clear connections to the ballet of the first book, this second book has Flora on ice skates swirling with a penguin. Flora puts on her skates and the penguin climbs out of the water and the two glide together across the page, through different flaps to lift, landing synchronized jumps side-by-side. But then the penguin disappears back into the water and Flora is left skating alone. The penguin returns with a fish for Flora, but Flora tosses it back into the water. The penguin is entirely angry and dejected, so Flora figures out how to repair the budding friendship.
Idle tells so much in her wordless books. Who knew that a penguin could communicate so very clearly with the tip of its head, the tilt of its wings and the set of its shoulders. Flora too communicates her feelings clearly on the page to great effect. It’s a book that explores friendship, dance and the joy of winter play.
The illustrations are top notch, they invite the reader to glide along with them. The flaps on different pages are ingenious ways to have readers participate, culminating in one amazing jump the two characters do together. They amazingly leap right off the page, or perhaps it’s the book that leaps out to catch them. Beautiful, icy and pure joy.
Another magnificent offering by Molly Idle, this book will be embraced by fans of the first and will make a great holiday gift. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.
Winter Candle by Jeron Frame, illustrated by Stacey Schuett
The residents of the apartment building at Juniper Court celebrate a variety of holidays in the winter months. It begins with Nana Clover at Thanksgiving who somehow forgot to get candles for her Thanksgiving table. The building super finds her a lumpy candle and she uses it for her centerpiece. Two weeks later, the Danziger family needs a havdalah candle for Sabbath. Nana Clover gives them the lumpy candle she used. A few days later, Kirsten needs one more candle for her Saint Lucia crown. In winter, Donte’s little brother has chewed up one of the Kwanza candles. Later in the winter, a new family has moved into the apartment building. While they are waiting for their father to come back, the power goes out. Guess which little candle helps light their night along with that of all the residents!
Filled with a strong sense of community and diversity, this picture book is about more than a litany of different traditions. Using the small lumpy candle as a symbol, the book speaks to the power of shared moments as a family, the importance of a larger and supportive community, and the beauty of differences. In each case, the candle is not what the family is looking for. It’s the wrong color, the wrong shape, and the wrong size. But it also works in all of its lack of perfection. The writing in the book is weaves the various stories together, moving the candle from family to family and creating strong bonds.
The illustrations have a traditional feel. They capture the power and beauty of the candle light as it shines in each family’s apartment. In the final story, that light leads the father back home and thanks to the illustrations we believe that its power is more than one candle, more than the darkness, and as strong as the community around it.
Ideal for celebrating winter holidays in a way that is not Christmas centered, this picture book is a welcome addition to library shelves. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
As promised, Kirkus released their list of the top teen books of the year yesterday. Many of my favorites made the list, and there are so many here that I haven’t managed to read yet. Wow! Anyone see any of their favorites that I simply must read before the end of the year? Silly to ask with the size of “To Be Read” pile that I already have!
Love Is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson
The author of The Summer Prince returns with another wild ride of a book. Emily attends a prestigious prep school in Washington, DC. Her parents have raised her not to ask questions and to show respect at all times. She has her entire life under control: she’s part of the top group of girls at school, she has the ideal boyfriend, and she’s headed for Stanford in the fall, one of the small ways in which she is defying her mother. But when she meets Roosevelt, a government agent, at a party, her entire life changes. She wakes up days later with missing memories of that night, knowing only that her boyfriend helped get her into a car, took her away from the party, and that another boy, Coffee, desperately tried to stop them. Meanwhile, the entire United States is caught in a viral disaster with many people dying. Even Emily’s parents are trapped on the other side of the quarantine. Now Emily is left to put the pieces of her memory back together and figure out the truth of why the government is interested in a high school senior.
Johnson writes with an elegant looseness here, along for the ride of the story arc with the reader. There is a lot going on here, from budding romances to breakups to government agents to worldwide plagues to harsh parenting. Yet somehow, amazingly, it holds together into a book that is an astonishing pleasure to read. Well suited to the world of teens caught in a viral outbreak, the free flowing nature of this novel allows those teens space to breath, moments to connect, and a fairly rule-free environment to explore.
This is not a mystery where the pieces click together at the end into a satisfying result. Rather it is an exploration of a theme with one great protagonist at the center, a girl who struggles with female friendship, refuses to fall in love with the boy she clearly connects with, and who battles her mother’s control even from afar. Emily reinvents herself in this new world she finds herself in, and that is the story and the point. This is a refreshing read that defies the expectations of dystopian fiction and creates something new.
A dystopian fantasy with an African-American heroine, this teen novel will appeal greatly to some readers who enjoy a lively, loose and wild read. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.