New York Times Notable Children’s Books of 2012

Here are the books selected by the children’s book editor of the NYT as notable for this year.  They range from teen novels through picture books.  The covers and titles below link to GoodReads so you too can have far too long a reading list, like me!



Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green


Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

Son by Lois Lowry




Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust by Doreen Rappaport

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney


The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead


The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford

See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz


“Who Could That Be at This Hour?” by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Seth

Wonder by R. J. Palacio




Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Steven Salerno

The Day Louis Got Eaten by John Fardell


Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

A Gold Star for Zog by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler


Hello! Hello! by Matthew Cordell

I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi


King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson by Kenneth Kraegel

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

Review: Jo MacDonald Had a Garden by Mary Quattlebaum

jo macdonald had a garden

Jo MacDonald Had a Garden by Mary Quattlebaum, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant

Celebrate gardening with this cheery picture book that features Old MacDonald’s granddaughter, Jo MacDonald.  The verses here are set to the same music as the original, except this time it’s all about planting a garden rather than the animals on a farm.  In the garden there is some sun, some soil, a worm, seeds, water, animals, plants, and then food!  Watching the illustrations, children will see the garden take shape and then watch the plants grow until they are ready to be harvested. 

Quattlebaum has cleverly written verses that can be acted out by preschoolers as the book is shared.  At times, the children in the illustrations show the movements that could be done, and at other times they would be easily figured out by a savvy teacher or librarian.  I can see lots of children this spring enjoying planting imaginary gardens all together. 

Bryant’s illustrations have a wonderful sense of detail to them.  Each page has animals to glimpse in the garden, including a cardinal and a butterfly that are on almost every page.  This is a book that children will enjoy looking at and exploring.

Get your voice warmed up and be ready to wiggle like a worm with this new version of Old MacDonald!  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Dawn Publications.

Review: Colorful Dreamer by Marjorie Blain Parker

colorful dreamer

Colorful Dreamer: The Story of Artist Henri Matisse by Marjorie Blain Parker, illustrated by Holly Berry

Matisse grew up in a French town that was industrial and gray.  Despite this, he dreamed in bright colors.  He was a boy who did not do well in school, at music, or really at much of anything except dreaming.  Matisse decided to study law in Paris, but he discovered that being a law clerk was very dull, copying legal documents word for word by hand.  Due to the stress, Matisse ended up in a hospital bed for months.  It was there that he started painting to pass the time.  Now he had found exactly what he was good at.  It wasn’t easy, there were times he lacked food and money, but he worked very hard at his art.  Years later, Matisse found himself sick and in bed again in his old age.  He could no longer stand at an easel, so he turned to making cut-out collages, and those pieces turned out to be some of his most celebrated creations.

Parker vividly tells the story of a boy who grew up as a very unlikely artist.  From his colorless surroundings to the fact that he had never discovered his artistic gift, it is amazing that Matisse became what he was.  I appreciate particularly her celebration of the creative and the imaginative.  She also makes sure though that young readers know how much work it took for Matisse to reach success and that it did not come instantaneously.  It’s a book that speaks to everyone having a gift, but also the hard work it takes to achieve it.

Berry’s art plays black-and-white against brilliant color.  The gray world of Matisse’s youth is shown in intricate pencil illustrations, but pales against the radiant color of his dreams and his art.  As the pages turn, Matisse’s world becomes the same colors as the art he creates, demonstrating that he has finally found his place in the world as a whole.

Beautifully illustrated and written as an inspiration to young people looking for their own special place in the world, this is a very special look at a famous artist.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.

This Week’s Tweets and Pins

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter and Pinterest accounts this week that you might find interesting:


2012 Nerdy Book Club Award Nominations by Donalyn Miller « Nerdy Book Club Nominations open until Nov. 30. #kidlit

And if you want MORE School themed books (not just pic books): … #picturebookmonth

BIG news for Suzanne Collins fans! – it’s an autobiographical picture book next for her!

‘Lots of Lambs,’ ‘One Spotted Giraffe,’ and More New Interactive & Pop-Up Books #kidlit

The rise of the ‘Wimpy Kid’ empire – Fortune Management


Here’s Why Digital Rights Management Is Stupid And Anti-Consumer – The Consumerist

Tell your senators: ‘Don’t let ECPA threaten my electronic privacy!’


Apple’s iPad Book Ban Violates The Hippie Spirit Of Steve Jobs: Author

OUPblog » The e-reader over your shoulder


Facebook makes it official — an external advertising network is coming soon — Tech News and Analysis

How To Use Google+ As Your Social Media Dashboard To Cross-Post To Facebook, Twitter & More

Is It Time for Content Marketers to Abandon Facebook? | Copyblogger

MediaPost Publications Some Sites Reserve Right To Share Personal Data –

The Social Media Economy Explained – By The Onion [Video]

Time Spent on Social Media:


Librarian Nancy Pearl’s Picks For The Omnivorous Reader : NPR – happy to see Code Name Verity included!

Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, & Brenna Yovanoff Talk with Roger Sutton — The Horn Book #yalit

Review: Live Through This by Mindi Scott

live through this

Live Through This by Mindi Scott

Coley is living a lie.  Her life appears to be perfect on the outside.  She is popular, dances on the school dance team, and has started dating a cute guy in her class.  But that’s just the surface.  After her mother fled an abusive husband in New Zealand, she has since remarried and now has three children with her new husband.  Coley and her brother, Bryan, feel like outsiders sometimes, so many years older than the other children in the family.  And then there is the secret that Coley can’t even admit to herself.  A family member is molesting her at night.  All Coley can do is pretend that it doesn’t happen and just continue to try to live her life.  But it does happen, and it’s getting more and more difficult for Coley to pretend it away.  This is a riveting story about the cost of living a lie and the courage it takes to tell the truth.

Scott’s writing is all the more powerful because of all she leaves out.  Readers know from the very first pages that Coley is being sexually assaulted at night, but Scott doesn’t reveal who it is in her family.  This builds the tension tremendously, making the book impossible to put down until that mystery is solved.  Scott depicts the abuse itself with an unflinching honesty that makes it all the more sinister.

Scott powerfully captures the character of a girl who is working as hard and as fast as she can to stay in denial about what is really happening.  Coley is a complex person, a loving and warm girlfriend and daughter on the surface, but there is so much fear and self-loathing underneath.  Coley also carries a large amount of guilt with her, because of her reaction to the abuse.  Scott does not shy away from the difficult emotions here, while always making sure that readers understand who is truly at fault.

A powerful, wrenching novel for teens that tackles incest and survival.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

Review: The Bear in the Book by Kate Banks

bear in the book

The Bear in the Book by Kate Banks, illustrated by Georg Hallensleben

A little boy sits in bed reading a book with his mother.  It’s a book about a bear getting ready to sleep for the winter.  The boy and his mother share the story together, talking about the pictures and the bear.  The bear eats and eats, getting ready to hibernate until he finally curls up and falls asleep.  Then the snow comes, and the little boy can almost feel the cold from the page of the book.  He looks closely at the pictures and finds hidden animals in the snowy landscape.  The snow continues and the boy snuggles in closer, the bear sleeps on.  As spring nears, the boy gets sleepy.  Just as the bear is about to wake up, the boy falls asleep for the night.  Now it’s his turn to sleep long and deep in a cozy bed.

This book is pure joy.  It celebrates both the written word and the art of the picture book.  Even more so though, it celebrates the connection built by sharing a book right before bed.  Just as the boy could feel the winter emanating from the page, here you can feel the warmth and coziness.  With my librarian hat on, I am delighted to see a book that models what reading aloud to a small child should look like.  There should be conversations about the pictures, questions and answers about what is happening in the story, looking at the colors on the page, finding hidden animals, and much more activity than simply reading a story aloud. 

Hallensleben’s illustrations have a gorgeous rough texture to them.  The paint is lovely and thick, resulting in rich colors that add to that feeling of warmth and home.  They also bridge the connection between the book and the family reading together, flowing seamlessly back and forth, uniting as an entire story.

Highly recommended, this is a book that will have you curled up and sharing it with your own little one immediately.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Amazon’s Best Books of 2012–Picture Books

Amazon offers several annual best books lists.  These are their 20 Best Picture Books of 2012:


The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare by Sam McBratney

Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin Stead

Big Mean Mike by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Scott Magoon


The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer and Elizabeth Zunon

The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool, illustrated by Alison Jay

Crafty Chloe by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Heather Ross


The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce and Joe Bluhm


I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr., illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Llama Llama Time to Share by Anna Dewdney

Nightsong by Ari Berk, illustrated by Loren Long


Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean and Eric Litwin


Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen


This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers

Those Darn Squirrels Fly South by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

Z Is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky

Review: I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr.

i have a dream

I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., illustrated by Kadir Nelson

The power of Martin Luther King’s words meet the beauty of Nelson’s art in this luminous picture book.  Using lines pulled directly from the latter part of King’s famous I Have a Dream speech, Nelson shows young readers how history was made that day.  From King himself standing before the Lincoln Memorial to the seas of people listening, people of all colors standing side-by-side.  Kadir moves back and forth between capturing the magnificence of King and his speech to images of what the world being dreamed of would look like.  There are beautiful skin tones shown together as well as impressive vistas of the nation.  Pure celebration, this is a picture book that truly captures the heart of King’s speech in a way that children will be able to understand.

Nelson’s art has already won him a Caldecott Honor.  Here he has the courage to take on a famous man at his more memorable moment.  But he doesn’t just show us the history, he illuminates it.  King shines with light, stands with power, and beams with faith.  There is a humanity to him too, somehow Nelson has captured what is beneath the skin too.  Beautifully.

One of my favorite images of the book is the pair of white and black hands joined together.  Against a plain white background, the hands are such a powerful symbol.  Kadir paired those joined hands with a section about faith, so the two joined together become a prayer of their own too. 

This book belongs in every library, both for the historical power of the moment being captured, but also for its exceptional beauty and art.  Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade Books.

Review: Unspoken by Henry Cole


Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

Every now and then an illustrator takes an amazing risk and it works so beautifully that it’s a masterpiece.  That’s what Cole has done in this remarkable picture book.  Don’t expect to see the bright colors of his work in books like Moosetache or even the more subtle but equally bright And Tango Makes Three.  Instead Cole has turned to the medium of simple paper and pencil to create a book that is wordless and powerful.  It’s the story of a farm girl who discovers a runaway slave in their barn soon after seeing a group of men on horseback.  She is startled and unsure, but over the course of the evening decides to help him.  It is a story of gifts given and also received.

Cole’s delicacy of line and details are notable here.  He keeps the illustrations very child-friendly, but they are also mysterious, shaded in darkness.  He plays with light, as you can see from even the cover image.  These wordless pages build tension and roll like a film before your eyes.  I’m thinking that the skill shown with simple materials and the strength of this book could mean a Caldecott consideration.

This is a profound book that speaks volumes about the importance of personal courage and the difference that one individual can make.  This is not a wordless book for preschoolers.  It’s more appropriate for ages 7-9 who will understand the history better.

Reviewed from library copy.