This is the most difficult post I’ll write for Books in Bloom all year. How do I narrow down the list of books I’ve loved this year to just a top ten?! Last year I skirted the issue a bit by narrowing my focus (see: Mindy’s Top 5 Teen Novels of 2012), but even that was not easy. This year I’m attempting an actual top ten of my favorite K-12 titles. Here goes nothing… Ten 2013 favorites starting with picture books.
Journey by Aaron Becker easily stands out this year with its magical story and beautiful illustrations. Tracey included it in her post featuring wordless picture books back in September, and she called it “truly delightful.” I agree! (9780763660536. Gr. 1-4)
My second picture book choice was among the books I talked about in our Camp-Read-a-Lot presentation this summer. How To by Julie Morstad will encourage readers to a sense of wonder. This is what I told the Campers in my part of the presentation: “Let’s all slow down for a moment. Our lives are so busy that sometimes we forget how to take the time to look at the stars, to smell the flowers, and see what’s around us.” Julie Morstad shows us how in this nostalgic picture book that will speak to adults as much as kids. (9781897476574. Gr. K-2)
I have a particular weakness for picture books that share a sense of wonder with the reader, so I’ll include another on my list: If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano. This delicate and lovely story offers another set of instructions. It’s all about patience and focus here, and I can’t help but smile when I read a book like this. (9781596437319. Gr. Ps-1)
Wild by Emily Hughes is a bit quirky and ultimately enchanting. This story of a girl raised by animals in the wild celebrates individuality and sends the slightly subversive message that some things just cannot be tamed. (9781909263086. Ps-2)
Middle Grade Fiction & Graphic Novels
You might remember The Big Wet Balloon from my post Rainy Day Stories in which I wrote, “This sweet sibling story that follows two little girls on a rainy Saturday is geared to emerging readers, but I have to say that I think the story will be appreciated by anyone with a sibling. Whether you were the older sibling taking the lead but sometimes making mistakes or the younger who sometimes followed and sometimes was dragged along on adventures that were sometimes fun and sometimes scary, this story is for you.” (9781935179320. Ps-3)
Sleepwalkers by Viviane Schwarz is an unusual choice for me, but it definitely makes my top ten. I tend to prefer realistic stories, and it’s rare that I pick up anything too fantastic. This graphic novel tells the story of the heroes of our dreams. The Sleepwalkers show us how to be brave in the face of our nightmares. I couldn’t help but love it, and I highly recommend it to readers young and old. (9780763662301. Gr. 2-5)
Tracey called Flora & Ulysses a “must read” in her review in back in September, and her description of the fascinating characters and wild plot had me intrigued. In the end, I had to agree. You don’t want to miss this one! (9780763660406. Gr. 3-6)
I didn’t want to read Counting by 7s. From the description, it sounded sad, and I’d hit my capacity on sad books for the year already. But the ARC had gone around the office with rave reviews from all of my colleagues, so I decided to give it a chance. There were some sad parts to this story, but it is ultimately hopeful. Highly recommended, even if you’ve hit your tearjerker capacity. This one is worth it. (9780803738553. Gr. 5-8)
I probably don’t need to say much about Eleanor & Park. There has been a lot of buzz about this book and even some controversy. Count me among the many readers who found it to be an insightful look at first love. (9781250012579. Gr. 9-12)
I am a huge fan of just about everything David Levithan does, and his latest book is no exception. Two Boys Kissing is a beautiful tribute to the progress of the gay rights movement, to love, and to family. It made me cry multiple times, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. (9780375971129. Gr. 9-12)
There are so many more titles I’d love to include here, but I’ll resist the urge to keep going. It’s been a great year for children’s books as usual!