5. Beaver is Lost by Elisha Cooper [Schwartz & Wade]
What a year for Elisha Cooper. While his very deserving Farm has received more attention (including some from this list, where it landed at #15), he has created another book, Beaver is Lost, that quietly reaches even greater heights. And I do mean quietly. This nearly-wordless gem tells a story any child can relate to – getting lost in the big world. The story of a beaver’s round-trip journey to the city – from log to crane to truck to town and back – is as unlikely as it is charming, with Cooper’s gracefully understated watercolor illustrations carrying the adventure. Most children’s lit creators are four-leaf-clover-lucky to craft one great book in a year; in 2010, Elisha Cooper went two for two. –Travis Jonker
4. Smile by Raina Telgemeier [Graphix]
Smile rarely takes a nap on the shelf. Hardcore fans browse libraries and bookshops, waiting to tell unsuspecting patrons about Telgemeier’s graphic memoir. I recently witnessed a 5th grader put it in a friend’s hand, guide her toward the circulation desk, and, in a loving manner, yell: YOU MUST CHECK THIS OUT NOW AND TELL ME YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE MORNING!
The uniqueness of Smile is its ability to be two different books to two different readers. To those who choose Smile knowing it is a memoir, it’s a riveting tale of Raina Telgemeier’s life. To those who do not realize it is a memoir, Smile is a fascinating tale of Raina, written by an author who, coincidentally, shares the same name. A perfect, well-crafted story. –John Schumacher
3. One Crazy Summer by Rita Willams-Garcia [Amistad]
No singular element of writing can connect reader to story as much as voice, and Once Crazy Summer‘s protagonist, 11-year-old Delphine, is the voice of the year. This is a testament to the skill of author Rita Willliams-Garcia, who endows Delphine with humor, honest emotion, and authentic perspective. Readers will never question her credibility as a kid. The story ain’t too shabby either. It’s 1968 and Delphine and her two sisters have been sent to Oakland, California to spend the summer with their estranged mother, Cecile, who may have ties to the Black Panther party. Upon arrival it is apparent that Cecile is not happy to see her children. Delphine and her sisters struggle to find their way (and their mother’s acceptance) during this volatile time in American history. With a crystal-clear voice, One Crazy Summer announces itself as one of the year’s best. –Travis Jonker
2. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead [Roaring Brook]
Amos McGee, a gentle zookeeper, arrives promptly at work every day. The animals enjoy his company and depend on him. He plays chess with the elephant, runs races with the tortoise, sits with the penguin, lends a handkerchief to the rhino, and reads stories to owl. What will the animals do when Amos wakes up sick? Take care of him, of course! Erin Stead’s awe-inspiring illustrations convey the importance of friendship and have a calming effect. Let’s hope Philip and Erin Stead continue to make books together. Add this future classic to your must-read list. –John Schumacher
1. Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo & Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile [Candlewick]
It’s only three chapters – three short stories – but over the course of those pages readers will come to love Bink and Gollie. These spunky gals turn even the most mundane tasks, such as sock shopping, into amusing experiences. The book itself mirrors the characters. The refined Gollie would approve of the sophisticated vocabulary and depth of emotion on display. Boisterous Bink would give a hearty thumbs-up to the subtle rule-breaking of the format, which is longer than most easy readers, yet more picture book-like in layout. Don’t be fooled – although it may appear short, Bink and Gollie’s banter keeps even the advanced reader engaged and entertained.
Tony Fucile’s expressive illustrations depict a quiet, whimscal world, while providing humor when the story calls for it. Students, children, grandchildren, nieces, mail carriers, and, most importantly, YOU, need to read Bink & Gollie – our top title of 2010. –Travis Jonker & John Schumacher