10. Step Gently Out by Helen Frost; photographs by Rick Leider [Candlewick Press | Grades PreK-2]
It’s all deceptively simple. A spare, beautiful poem about noticing your surroundings, combined with remarkable images. While photography often strives for accuracy above all, Leider makes beauty his first priority, using dramatic lighting and unexpected focus choices to create photos that look like nothing else you’ll find in 2012.
9. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale [Amulet | Grades 3-6]
Nathan Hale has created something that scores of stiff historical graphic novels have utterly failed to do – make the past engaging for young readers. With lesser (see also: boring) nonfiction there’s some “take this, kid, it’ll do ya some good” force feeding. Not here. Nathan Hale (yes the author and main character share the same name) has been captured and is about to be hanged at the hands of the Redcoats. Hale is sly, however, and puts off his execution by telling the true stories of American history. It’s full of humor, but also packed with breathtaking historical action. This is an inventive historical graphic novel you can add to your collection with pride.
8. Bink & Gollie: Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee; illustrated by Tony Fucile [Candlewick Press | Grades K-2]
Enthusiastic teachers, librarians, authors, professors, and parents met on Twitter to discuss Bink and Gollie: Two for One. Did everyone love these hilarious friends? Of course!
Here are some comments from the meeting:
*”I rejoiced and did a happy dance when Candlewick Press announced a second Bink and Gollie book.” –John Schu
*”I think Bink and Gollie: Two for One is better than the first one…if that is possible.” –Niki Barnes
*”Yeah, Bink and Gollie! I just want to carry this book around everywhere. Makes me laugh!” –Holly Mueller
*”I love that book.” –Ame Dyckman
*”It exceeded my expectations. Well done, Dicamillo, McGhee, and Fucile!” –John Schu
*”Can I just say-I love Bink! Thought she would bounce right off the page!” –Barb Keister
*”If possible, I loved Bink and Gollie’s second book more than the first.” –Katherine Sokolowski
*”I think book two is just as awesome as book one.” –Colby Sharp
*”I have Bink and Gollie as my desktop picture on my school laptop. I LOVE THEM! And I think I liked the second one even better!” –Erin Broderick
“I was so happy when the second one came out. I love these two characters. It’s go a Beezus and Ramona vibe that I adore.” –Renee Grassi
*”Bink and Gollie: Two for One has such rich vocabulary. My first graders and I had several in-depth conversations.” –John Schu
*”I love the ‘sureness’ of their friendship. They know they are for each other. Exemplified by the last page.” –Katherine Sokolowski
7. Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead [Wendy Lamb Books | Grades 5-7]
In the span of just three novels – only 736 pages – Rebecca Stead has established herself as one of the best children’s authors going. This rep is earned, in part, because the woman trusts her audience. In Liar & Spy, Stead again refuses to pander, opting instead for a slow burn. When Georges meets Safer and becomes his spy recruit, the pair begin tracking mysterious neighbor Mr. X. But nothing is as it seems – with Mr. X, Safer, and, in a final surprising twist, Georges himself. Stead again weaves a complex tale that will leave readers reeling.
6. BOMB: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin [Roaring Brook Press | Grades 5 and Up]
Hold on. Wait. This is nonfiction? The spies? The espionage? The secret missions to blow stuff up and sabotage the enemy? All true? Dang. Simply calling this a book about the Manhattan Project does it a disservice. Sheinkin spans the globe, looking at the race to build the first atomic bomb from a variety of angles. Featuring one of the best prologues in recent memory, BOMB stands with the most exciting and thought-provoking books of 2012 – genre be damned.