For the past few weeks, fellow elementary school librarian John Schumacher (he of Watch. Connect. Read.) and I have been busy preparing our annual Top 20 Books time capsule. You should see the size of the hole we had to dig. Looking back on 2012, these are the books we love. The books we love to share. And over the next few days, we’ll be sharing them with you.
20. Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson [Nobrow Press | Grades 3-6]
Hilda’s life in a picturesque valley is beautifully normal – until she discovers she’s not alone. Why does a colony of elves want her and her mother to move? And what’s the story with the mysterious giant that visits in the night? Initially published in the UK in 2011 before coming to the US in 2012, Luke Pearson merges the mundane and magical to create one of the best graphic novels of the year. It seems odd to say that a book which contains flying cat things and a hidden elf civilization is authentic, but there’s something about Hilda and her relationship with her mother ground it all in real emotion. Large in format and creativity, this is a character to watch.
19. Here Come the Girl Scouts! by Shana Corey; illustrated by Hadley Hooper [Scholastic Press | Grades K-3]
Every day I send a mental thank-you note to Shana Corey for editing Babymouse, Squish, Turtle in Paradise, and Junie B. Jones. She has a keen eye for what today’s young readers will devour. Today, let’s pause to celebrate and publicly thank Shana for writing an enthralling and well-researched picture-book biography, Here Come the Girl Scouts!
Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low might not be a household name, but most people have heard of her Girl Scout Promise and Girl Scout Law. Why did she start the Girl Scouts? Why did she believe that “to get the full benefit of actual contact with Nature it is absolutely necessary to camp out…”? Thanks to Shana’s words and Hadley Hooper’s unique illustrations, young readers can answer these questions and better understand Daisy’s adventurous spirit, see her commitment to diversity, and perhaps feel inspired to follow in the footsteps of famous Girl Scouts like Hillary Clinton, Natalie Merchant, Lucille Ball, and Gloria Steinem.
18. Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger [Roaring Brook Press | Grades PreK-2]
First graders pick it up because it stands out on a shelf. Second graders pore over each page. Third graders point out the creative cutouts and re-read it multiple times. Fourth graders tell other schools via Skype that they’re simply blown away by its gorgeous and original illustrations. Fifth graders debate whether it is the most distinguished illustrated book of 2012. Every reader agrees on one thing: Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s Green will stay with you for a long, long time.
17. Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead; illustrated by Erin E. Stead [Roaring Brook Press | Grades PreK-2]
Husband-and-wife team Philip and Erin Stead wowed us in 2010 with their Caldecott Medal winner A Sick Day for Amos McGee. In someone’s strange imaginary world, Las Vegas bookies accepted bets on whether Philip and Erin’s second book would be as gentle, heartwarming, and superbly illustrated as their first book. Guess what? If you had gotten in on that betting action, you would have walked away with a boatload of money – Bear Has a Story to Tell is equally wonderful. In a mere thirty-two pages, it reminds us of the importance of friendship, the power of story, and the beauty of the natural world. Thank you, Philip and Erin, for another perfect picture book.
16. hello! hello! by Matthew Cordell [Disney/Hyperion Books | Grades K-3]
Lydia and her family are living in the haze of technology-saturated lives. But when she steps outside, everything changes. While Matthew Cordell tackles the theme of modern isolation, don’t think for a second that this is a somber affair. The story is sweet, offbeat, and funny. And hello! hello! has picture book craft in spades, with thoughtful artwork that goes from small grey spot illustrations to vivid two page spreads to match Lydia’s story. It’s a beautiful, relevant, unexpected book.