5. Oh, No! by Candace Fleming; illustrated by Eric Rohmann [Schwartz & Wade | Grades PreK-2]
Can a librarian tell you about an outstanding picture book by answering eight important questions? Oh, yes!
Q1: Does it star a brave frog, a mean tiger, a helpful mouse, a slow-moving loris, a large bear, an enthusiastic monkey, and a loud elephant?
A1: Oh, yes!
Q2: Is it a cumulative tale?
A2: Oh, yes!
Q3: Are Caldecott Medalist Eric Rohmann’s illustrations a perfect match for Candace Fleming’s words?
A3: Oh, yes!
Q4: Are the illustrations relief prints?
A4: Oh, yes!
Q5: Does it work well as a read-aloud?
A5: Oh, yes!
Q6: Will anyone reading or listening to the story start shouting ,“Ribbit-oops! Pippa-eeek! Soo-slooow! Grab on! Wheee-haaa! Slop-slurp! BA-BOOM!”
A6: Oh, yes!
Q7: Could you easily adapt it for a readers theatre?
A7: Oh, yes!
Q8: Will kids find it boring?
A8: Oh, No! Oh, No! Oh, No!
4. Unspoken by Henry Cole [Scholastic | Grades 1-4]
Henry Cole’s Unspoken is the most breathtaking and suspenseful wordless book of the year. Set during the Civil War, an unnamed girl discovers a runaway slave hiding in her family’s barn. Startled and confused, she darts back to the house. Soldiers arrive, her family is questioned, and the young girl must decide what is the right thing to do. Her decisions show that a young child is capable of making a difference with the simplest of gestures.
A wordless winner from endpaper to endpaper.
3. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Jon Klassen [Balzer + Bray | Grades K-2]
It’s funny, it’s touching, it’s weird. And there’s magic. And an archduke from distant lands. And a pickup truck wearing a sweater. But once the story starts, you don’t think about any of those seemingly incongruous things. Barnett and Klassen use everything but the kitchen sink, but it doesn’t feel gaudy – it feels classic.
2. Wonder by R.J. Palacio [Random House | Grades 4-6]
If any book crossed over in 2012 it was R.J. Palacio’s debut novel about August Pullman, a fifth-grader with severe facial deformities about to enter school for the first time. The hype was big – billboards, bestseller lists, and a national campaign that caught on. Teachers were talking about it. So were parents. Students too. And everyone was reading it. At the center of it all was a book that deserves the attention – full of authentic struggle and joy.
1. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate [Harper | Grades 3-6]
Did Ivan know? Did he know his story was out in the world? When the real life Ivan, Silverback gorilla and the inspiration for Katherine Applegate’s spare, moving novel passed away in Zoo Atlanta in August, it seemed like a sign.
In a story that channels Charlotte’s Web, Ivan is at the center. The reader sees the world through his steady eyes. Doomed to an existence amusing tourists at a roadside mall, Ivan has given up. Until Ruby arrives. The young elephant breaks Ivan’s malaise and reminds him that there’s a much bigger world out there. If he can just reach it.
Although the real-life Ivan is no longer with us, his story lives on because of this, the best book of 2012.
-John Schumacher & Travis Jonker