Once again, it's our pleasure to bring you our picks for the titles of 2010 that combined literary merit with kid appeal. That's the secret sauce that makes a child or teen want to pull it off the shelf (or download it onto their gizmo of choice) and not move/eat/sleep/breathe until the last page is turned.
After the jump you'll find the complete list of winners, along with the judges' reasonings. If you like our choices, please thank one of our judges by visiting their blogs. Links can be found on the sidebar if you scroll down a bit.
Winners, elementary & middle grade
Fiction Picture Books
by David Ezra Stein
Nominated by: Lenore Appelhans
As Little Red Chicken interrupts her Papa's bedtime stories to create her own endings for classic fairy tales, children are immersed in the possibilities of their imaginations. Through an enthusiastic character, relatable situation and strikingly bold illustrations, children are transported to an evening bedtime ritual that becomes more than your average reading. Interrupting Chicken is a picture book that will have children and parents alike laughing all the way to the last page, making it a perfect bedtime and group reading story.
Nonfiction Picture Books
The Extraordinary Life of Mark Twain (According to Susy)
by Barbara Kerley
Nominated by: Jennifer Donovan
This is a frank biographer and an honest one; she uses no sandpaper on me.
--Mark Twain on his daughter’s biography
Who better to write a biography of your life than your daughter? Kerley weaves the story written by 13-year-old Susy Clements with the tale of the biography itself, revealing, in a new way, the life of Twain. Children presented with this beautiful nonfiction picture book reveled in the point of view of another child, a portrait of the funny, serious, absent-minded, cat-loving, billiard-playing, philosophical papa -- the extraordinary Mark Twain. The illustrations include actual excerpts from Susy’s biography as small mini-books inserted within the book. They reflect the delightful spirit of Twain’s writings and capture the feel of the time period.
We Are in a Book!
by Mo Willems
Nominated by: Eric Carpenter
Exquisite use of limited language? Check. Laugh-out-loud humor? Check. Meets new readers on their level but doesn't condescend to them? Check. Intertextual connections? Yes, indeed. Mo manages to create a developmentally appropriate book about characters who are IN a book! He also pays homage to the classic Sesame Street There is a Monster At The End of This Book.
Short Chapter Books
Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off
by Jacqueline Jules; illustrated by Miguel Benitez
Albert Whitman & Co.
Nominated by: Eric Carpenter
Zapato Power fills a large void in the early chapter book category. Freddie Ramos is a Hispanic character growing up in a single-parent family. He lives in an apartment building where his community acts as his extended family. Students reading Zapato Power find a character they can relate to. Plus he's got super-powered shoes that let him run really really fast. What's not to love?
Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse
by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josée Masse
Penguin Young Readers
Nominated by: Maggi Idzikowski
Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3856 Story Possibilities.
by Jason Shiga
Nominated by: Liz Jones
This exceptionally innovative graphic novel gives the reader the power to take the story in different directions by choosing which tube to follow at points where the story splits. It's like a choose-your-own-adventure story where you start by choosing an ice cream flavor and find yourself playing with a scientist's mad devices including the "killitron," which has "the power to kill every living human in the universe." There's a lot on the line in this book. You might find happiness or the END OF THE WORLD. The mad scientist's machines allow the reader to play with time travel, memory transfer between people and the multiple worlds theory of particle physics. It's a fun ride of a graphic novel. This isn't a book you read once. You read it over and over. One judge commented that reading Meanwhile was like watching the movie Groundhog Day where you repeat the story again and again trying for that perfect possibility. The judges agreed none of us had ever seen another graphic novel like this one.
The Books of Elsewhere, Vol. 1
by Jacqueline West
Nominated by: Sandra Stiles
Who wouldn't want to explore a house haunted by paintings that won't come off the walls and three colorful talking cats that slink in and out of attics as well as other dimensions? When Olive Dunwoody moves into a strange old house with her absent-minded mathematician parents, she falls headlong into the mysteries of the past and the dangers of the painted worlds. The judges especially liked the clear kid appeal created by The Shadows' humor, pacing and suspense, but they also admired the small-scale world-building and the metaphor-rich, well-crafted language in this fantasy novel from first-time author Jacqueline West. A book any teacher, librarian, or parent could easily sell to reluctant readers and skilled readers alike.
Middle Grade Fiction
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
By Tom Angleberger
Nominated by: Sarah Stevenson
Ultra-nerd Dwight wears a small finger puppet and uses a funny voice. But oddly enough, his Origami Yoda doles out advice that seems much wiser that Dwight. "The big question: is Origami Yoda real?" Tommy has a lot riding on the question: he's desperate to know if he can trust Yoda's advice about a certain girl. So he and his friends set out in search of scientific evidence, gathering anecdotes from everyone who's ever consulted the paper oracle.
Angleberger deftly pens authentic voices, and depicts the humorous way middle schoolers become hooked on a weird idea, build on it, believe it and talk about it endlessly. This story is, in essence, about kids trying to figure out how to be social. We love the creative premise, the clever dialogue and the surprising way it unfolds. But in the end, it's the humor and the heart of this book that make it so great.
Winners, young adult
The Secret of the Yellow Death: A True Story of Medical Sleuthing
by Suzanne Jurmain
Nominated by: Trisha
"As a reader, you can cheer for the doctors and celebrate their findings," one judge said about this well-researched and documented book by Suzanne Jurmain. Set in Cuba in the early twentieth century, The Secret of the Yellow Death tells the story of an ace team of U.S. Army doctors headed by Walter Reed. Along with Cuban physician Carlos Finlay and many brave volunteers, Reed worked to find the cause of yellow fever and methods to prevent its spread. "It's not easy to make science and medicine come alive for any audience, especially middle graders, and this text really worked," another judge remarked. The panel cited an interactive design and fine use of photographs, in addition to the suspenseful narrative.
Yummy; The Last Days of a Southside Shorty
by G. Neri, illustrated by Randy duBurke
Lee & Low Books
Nominated by: Natasha Maw
Although the story unfolds in gritty black & white illustrations, Yummy is a heartbreaking colorful story told through the eyes of a young boy named Roger. Blending truth and fiction to the tragic true story of 11-year-old Robert "Yummy" Sandifer and his accidental killing of a neighborhood girl, Shavon Dean, the Chicago set tale grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. Hoping to discover a reason for the senseless violence, Roger finds that there is no clear-cut answer. To many, Yummy was a monster created by his environment. To others, Robert Sandifer was a sweet boy who was misunderstood. Although you know the ending of the book from the beginning, Neri still packs a punch that leaves the reader thinking for days, once the book has been put down. Yummy is a historical story with a timeless sensibility that will take your breath away.
Fantasy & Science Fiction
Rot & Ruin
by Jonathan Maberry
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Kristie Winks
Despite a few unearthly groans at the idea of another zombie book, we were all delighted by this action-packed, original interpretation of zombie mythology. Benny doesn’t remember life before the dead rose fourteen years ago, but he blames his brother Tom for their parents’ death. Too bad the rest of Mountainside worships Tom as a zombie-hunting hero. When Benny reluctantly apprentices himself to Tom, he learns that the family zombie-hunting business is not what he expected, and all is not as it seems beyond their town in the great Rot & Ruin.
We loved Benny’s growth as a person, though his deep hatred of Tom at the beginning seemed forced. We appreciated the casual racial diversity of the characters, and the way two strong female characters get their own chances to shine. That's right, this isn’t just a boy book! Both boys and girls will love the well-paced suspense and humor. There’s plenty of violence -- it is a zombie novel, after all -- but it has a cinematic feel that never gets too disgusting, and a strong sense of morality that adds depth to the story, only rarely feeling heavy-handed. We challenge you to put this book down before its heart-pounding conclusion (which leaves room for a sequel, of course). Rot & Ruin will leave everyone, zombies or not, hungry for more.
Young Adult Fiction
by Swati Avasthi
Nominated by: EI
Split focuses on Jace's journey towards healing after years of abuse at the hands of his father. Forced to leave his mother and friends behind, Jace abruptly relocates half-way across the country in an attempt to reconnect with his estranged brother Christian; who, as a boy, escaped years earlier to save himself from similar circumstances. A realistic portrayal of abuse, Split is filled with complexities that force the reader to feel the full effects of uncertainty as Jace and Christian struggle to escape the emotional and physical threat that their father continues to hold over them. Tightly-written in the first person point of view, Avasthi's prose and straight-forward dialogue leaves no detail to the imagination. Fear, torment, hope, and loathing fill the pages of Split as you root for these young men to find their way to discovering how to be a family again.