Monday, November 22, 2010

Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of 2010

Earlier this month, Publishers Weekly released their Best Children’s Books of 2010. The annual list includes not only picture books, but also highlights fiction and non-fiction. Below are some of the highlights of their list. If you would like to place a hold on a certain book, simply click on the title.

Picture Books

The Boss Baby
Marla Frazee (S&S/Beach Lane)
"From the moment the baby arrived, it was obvious he was the boss." Frazee takes a sublime metaphor for the havoc that a baby can wreak, and runs with it; new parents and siblings will be laughing every step of the way (most likely through exhausted tears). Those who question whether child care is a full-time job, "with no time off," will quickly have their answer.

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)
Barbara Kerley, illus. by Edwin Fotheringham (Scholastic Press)
Based on the 130-page biography of Twain that his 13-year-old daughter Susy wrote, Kerley's superb study of Twain's life presents aspects of the writer seldom seen, as Susy describes his "fine" and "not-so-fine" qualities alike ("Papa uses very strong language"). Fotheringham's visual flourishes, as well as the inclusion of "journal" booklets of Susy's writing, complete this entertaining behind-the-scenes account.

Bunny Days
Tao Nyeu (Dial)
This trio of stories is as silly as it is subversive, as a group of hapless bunnies have unfortunate run-ins with mud, a vacuum cleaner, and a pair of scissors. Despite the shock of seeing "bunnies without tails and tails without bunnies," Nyeu's cartoon world is always comforting and warm. In each instance, Bear is able to set things right thanks to a washing machine, fan, and sewing machine, so that in the end, "Everyone is happy."

It's a Book
Lane Smith (Roaring Brook)
Via a hilarious conversation between a technophile and a booklover, Smith delivers a pitch-perfect and timely ode to the tenuous relationship between printed words and those that appear on-screen. Smith's message is as much for parents as it is for kids, yet children will readily recognize the absurdity of, say, trying to translate Treasure Island to textspeak. And in case Smith's stance isn't clear: this one's not available as an e-book.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Philip C. Stead, illus. by Erin E. Stead (Roaring Brook/Porter)
What goes around comes around, in the best possible way, in this story of a zookeeper who gently tends to the animals in his care (playing chess with the elephant, reading stories to an owl), then gets similar treatment when he falls ill. As depicted in Erin Stead's delicate and precise illustrations, the friendship is made all the more poignant by inclusion of an elderly protagonist, an underrepresented demographic in picture books.

Knuffle Bunny Free
Mo Willems (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)
Willems's conclusion to his Knuffle Bunny trio is as heartfelt and emotionally true as its predecessors, bringing Trixie's relationship with her stuffed rabbit to a moving conclusion that feels inevitable in the best of ways. Willems writes with respect, honesty, and empathy for Trixie, as her inner confidence (very) gradually takes the place of the external comfort Knuffle Bunny has unfailingly provided.


Bink and Gollie
Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illus. by Tony Fucile (Candlewick)
DiCamillo, McGhee, and Fucile introduce two iconoclastic—and instantly iconic—heroines who turn striped socks, an imagined mountain-climbing expedition, and an "unremarkable" goldfish into friendship-testing (and strengthening) experiences. Bink and Gollie would call this trio of stories a "bonanza," and they'd be right.

Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same!
Grace Lin (Little, Brown) Over the course of six blithe, slice-of-life stories, two Chinese-American twins demonstrate that while they share much, they are unquestionably individuals, too, despite the assumptions of others. The stories exude a timeless charm, and while twins will appreciate the validation, Ling and Ting's message will hit home with all children who have felt dismissed or misunderstood.

Frank Cottrell Boyce (HarperCollins/Walden Pond)
In a story that's equal parts Willy Wonka and Big, Boyce offers a hilarious yet moving exploration of what it means to be a man and, in particular, a dad (whether on Earth or in outer space). Twelve-year-old Liam's extraterrestrial journey, as he masquerades as a friend's father, will have kids rethinking the notion that adulthood is a breeze.

They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group
Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Houghton Mifflin)
A powerful study of the development of the Ku Klux Klan, from its formation to the present day, Bartoletti's accessible and chilling work makes use of letters and other writings of some of the group's founders, as well as her own firsthand research, including a visit to a Klan gathering. A searing examination of fear, hate, violence, and an organization that, despite progress, persists to this day.

To view the entire list, click here!

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