15. Island: A Story of the Galápagos by Jason Chin [Roaring Brook Press | Grades K-4]
In an explain-off, my money’s on Jason Chin. In each of his three releases to date, Chin takes the complex and makes it engaging for young readers. Island takes a wide view of one of the most unique places on earth, starting millions of years ago with a volcanic eruption. Along the way he explains how the island grew, changed, and became home to some of the most remarkable wildlife in existence.
14. The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis [Wendy Lamb Books | Grades 3-6]
It’s time for a little pop quiz. Are you ready?
Christopher Paul Curtis won a…:
a. Newbery Medal for Bud, Not Buddy
b. Newbery Honor for The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963
c. Newbery Honor of Elijah of Buxton
d. Coretta Scott King Author Award for Bud, Not Buddy
e. Coretta Scott King Author Honor for The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963
f. All of the Above
Give yourself a big pat on the back if you answered “F.”
Now that we’ve established that Christopher Paul Curtis has many prestigious awards on his mantelpiece and some mad writing skills, we can discuss his latest middle-grade novel, The Mighty Miss Malone.
The Mighty Miss Malone is one of those books that you start reading and before you know it the characters, setting, and rich sentences have such a firm grip on you that your to-do list finds itself in the garbage disposal, you order a pizza, and settle in for an evening with the Malone family. When you reach the end of the book, you wipe the last tear from your eye, give the cover a nice pat, make a list of the kids who you’ll booktalk it to in the morning, and place Post-it notes next to lines that will give your students a taste of Deza’s memorable voice.
“‘Once upon a time…’ If I could get away with it, that’s how I’d begin every essay I write.”
“That’s the only bad thing about dictionaries. You start by looking up one word and end up having to look up seven others to understand the first one.”
“I don’t like to be unhumble, but anyone could see I have great taste in picking my friends.”
“It isn’t the way of the Malones to come right out and tell anybody anything, so I had to think up a way to surprise her.”
The full list is too long to include in this post, so you’ll have to locate a copy and mark your own memorable lines.
13. Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman; illustrated by Dan Yaccarino [Alfred A. Knopf | Grades K-2]
Boy + Bot and Ame Dyckman (@AmeDyckman) dominated Twitter in 2012. Fine folks expressed their love for this hilarious and sweet friendship story using the hashtags #bookaday, #kidlit, #SharpSchu, #tlchat, #nerdybookclub, #titletalk, and once a hardcore hashtagger used #AmeDyckmanDeservesAnAwardForBeingTheMostPostivePersonOnTwitter
12. And Then it’s Spring by Julie Fogliano; illustrated by Erin E. Stead [Roaring Brook Press | Grades PreK-2]
To be a kid is to wait. Wait until you’re older, bigger, more mature. While everyone goes through it, that doesn’t make it less of a struggle. But there’s also excitement in what’s to come. The poetic And Then It’s Spring captures this sense of anticipation better than any picture book this year. A boy plants seeds in a brown world, with nothing but hope and hard work to carry them through. In the end we discover – the wait was worth it.
11. Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin [Little, Brown | Grades 3-6]
Grace Lin’s Starry River of the Sky is a companion novel to her Newbery Honor-winning Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (2009). Although it stands alone, admirers of the first book will recognize similar themes and will likely clap when they encounter the first story within a story.
A library that organizes books by genre might have a difficult time agreeing on a spot for Starry River of the Sky. Librarian A announces, “I think we should put it in the Fantasy section. Case closed.” Librarian B thinks it would circulate more if they placed it in Adventure. Librarian C’s brilliant idea of buying three copies and placing one in Fantasy, one in Adventure, and one in Mystery creates the biggest disagreement in the history of libraries. Librarian D, who was helping a patron, breaks up the fight. After calming down his colleagues, he says, “It does not matter where we shelve Starry River of the Sky. All that matters is that we give it to the right reader. We know that when a child opens it up he will meet a fun cast of characters who will take him on an adventure. We can only hope that he will place himself in Rendi’s shoes and think about what he would do if the Moon disappeared from the sky.”
Lyrical and exquisite, Starry River of the Sky belongs in every elementary and middle school collection.