Tracey’s Top 10 (or so) Books of 2011

One of my nieces not only loves to read, but she loves to TALK about reading. (Hi Stephanie!  I hope you like the books I sent!)  I visited my sister and her family in Michigan a few years ago when Stephanie was ten, and we talked books all the time.  On one of my last nights there, I was reading on the couch when Stephanie plopped herself down by me and said, “So, Aunt Tracey, what’s your FAVORITE book ever?”

Now I don’t know about all you readers out there, but, to me, that is the most difficult question ever.  Maybe when I was ten, like Stephanie, I might have had one favorite.  But after a few more decades of reading, there is no way I can choose just one. When Stephanie lobbed that question at me, I think I compromised by telling her my favorite genre.

So when one of my fellow bloggers came up with this great idea to post our ten favorite books of 2011, I was a bit worried—but then I figured that we could pick TEN books from just ONE year, so that should be easy, right?  And I would schedule my list for last, so I would have plenty of time to whittle my list down.  But now it’s midnight on Christmas night, and I still have to cut six titles…and my list posts in the morning!

So I’m going to cheat at bit.

  • Since several of the titles on my list are also on my fellow bloggers’ lists, I won’t talk about them, but just list them at the end.
  • And I’m ignoring picture books entirely…until tomorrow, which is when I will post a list of my favorite picture books.

So here are my top 10 (or so) books from 2011 (alphabetically by author):

How They Croaked : The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg (ill. Kevin O’Malley).  While most books about famous people give plenty of information about their lives, they do not give much detail about their deaths.  This book changes all that, highlighting the interesting and often disgusting ways in which 19 famous historical people, from King Tut to Albert Einstein, spent their final days.  (Gr 5-8)

The Trouble with Chickens : A J.J. Tully Mystery by Doreen Cronin.  J.J. Tully has just retired from seven years as a search and rescue dog, and wants only to have a quiet life in the country…until a mother hen shows up, begging for his help in finding her two lost chicks.  Retirement is neither relaxing or simple as J.J. Tully realizes that there is fowl play involved.  (Gr 3-5)

Requiem : Poems of the Terezin Ghetto by Paul B. Janeczko.  The Nazis promoted Terezin as a haven for artistic Jews, but in reality it was merely a lay-over for those headed to the extermination camps.  In this free verse novel, Janeczko gives voice to all the players—the imprisoned Jews, the commandant and his soldiers, and the townspeople.  The poems are illustrated with artwork by the Jewish artists, found after the war. Both words and pictures are stunning and chilling.  (Gr  7-12)

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy.   This exciting historical fantasy fiction adventure follows a young American girl whose family has fled the U.S. during the McCarthy era, and the son of a London apothecary who wants to become a spy.  These two end up in grave danger when they discover that the apothecary is much more than he seems, and they must help to save the world from destruction. (Gr 5-8)

Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck.  When the upstairs Cranston family travels across the ocean to try to find a husband in Europe for their older daughter, the downstairs Cranston family (four mice siblings) stow away to help. This story is complete with adventure, perils, romance, surprises, and lots of humor. (Gr 3-5)

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt.  OK, Schmidt’s latest book is also on Kristin’s list, but I just couldn’t leave it off mine.  Okay for Now is my most favorite book of 2011, and several mock Newbery groups have given high praise to it as well.  Click here to read my full review. (Gr 5-9)

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.  This is a great horse race story and a wonderful romance combined with folk tale creatures that I had never heard about before.  Click here to read my full review.  (Gr 9-12)

Hound Dog True by Linda Urban.  Mattie and her mother have just moved—again!—and she must start a new school.  But this time they have moved in with Uncle Potluck, who is the school custodian.  Mattie hopes that if she helps him out, he will let her be his apprentice during lunch hours and recesses…because those are the hardest times during the school day for a painfully shy new girl.  (Gr 3-6)

The Watch That Ends the Night : Voices from the Titanic by Allan Wolf.  The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is coming up in April, and this novel in poems tells the story of the Titanic, giving voice to 24 people and objects that were affected by this terrible tragedy. Click here to read my full review. (Gr 9-12)

Science Ink : Tattoos of the Scientifically Obsessed by Carl Zimmer.  Many people are passionate about tattoos, but when I think tattoos, I don’t necessarily think of scientists.  (In fact, I shocked nearly all of my friends when I got my first tattoo.)  Science Ink shows how scientists from all areas have creatively used tattoos to express their passion and dedication.  The tats are beautiful (and totally appropriate), and Zimmer’s essays are fascinating.  (Gr 10-Adult)

And, as promised, here is the list of my favorites that were duplicates:

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. (read full review) (Gr 7-12)

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin. (Gr 5-7)

The Cheshire Cheese Cat : A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright. (Gr 5-8)

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. (read full review) (Gr 7-12)

Sparrow Road by Sheila O’Connor. (read full review) (Gr 5-8)

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