Top 20 Children’s Books of 2011 (#15-11)
15. A Pet for Petunia by Paul Schmid [HarperCollins | Grades K-2]
I’ve read 1924 books in 2011. If you asked me to name every title, I could not. If you asked me to name the picture book I recommended to the most kids during 2011, the answer would spring from my mouth in one billionth of a second: A Pet for Petunia. Paul Schmid’s charming picture book screams to be read aloud. He makes the lives of librarians, teachers, parents, and storytellers much easier. Whenever I find Petunia in the book drop, I seek out her next reader. I tell the potential reader that Petunia desperately wants a pet skunk. Â She would do anything to get one. She delivers a rant comparable to Samâ€™s meltdown in Leonardo the Terrible Monster. That is all it takes. Sold.
If you follow me on Twitter or read my blog, you know when I get behind a book I want everyone to read it. I throw it a birthday party, hang signs in the bathrooms, and give away copies. A Pet for Petunia will make you laugh, smile, and feel an urge to share it with every child in your life.
14. When Life Gives You O.J. by Erica Perl [Knopf | Grades 4-6]
Pet ownership – sometimes it seems as if the whole of childhood existence is wrapped up in the idea of persuading a grownup to get you a dog. Such is the case with ten-year-old Zelly Fried. To get one sheâ€™ll even endure the humiliation (and humor) of proving her responsibility with an orange juice jug â€œpractice dogâ€. With a cast of indelible characters, including grandpa Ace WHO IS ALWAYS ON FULL VOLUME, this is the sort of thoughtful, human book that endears itself to readers.
13. The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True (The Knight’s Tales, Book 3) by Gerald Morris, illustrated by Aaron Renier [Houghton Mifflin | Grades 3-5]
Three books into the Knightâ€™s Tales series, we have ourselves the strongest entry yet. Expertly weaving in a retelling of The Green Knight, author Gerald Morris brings readers to a King Arthur-era world full of life-or-death vows and chivalrous deeds (both of which seem to always involve swordplay), all tempered with a healthy dose of Monty Python-esque absurdity. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to give this nearly-perfect little book to every Round Table fan within range. Delightful from start to finish.
12. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu [Walden Pond Press | Grades 4-6]
I believe I gathered enough evidence to conclude with confidence that the world adores Anne Ursuâ€™s Breadcrumbs.
- Publishers Weekly starred review
- Bulletin for Childrenâ€™s Books starred review
- School Library Journal starred review
- Kirkus Review starred review
- Book jacket blurbs written by Newbery Honor recipients Gary Schmidt and Ingrid Law
- It appears on multiple Mock Newbery lists.
- It is NPRâ€™s December Kidsâ€™ Book Club pick.
- School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Amazon named it a best book of 2011.
- Author Laurel Snyder promoted it on Twitter.
- I spend a lot of time reading in restaurants, bookshops, and coffee shops. I love when strangers ask me what Iâ€™m reading. I was eating a grilled chicken sandwich in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport when my server asked, â€œWhatâ€™s Breadcrumbs?â€ Â Donâ€™t expect two or three words when you ask a librarian about what heâ€™s reading. I told her all about the struggle between best friends Hazel and Jack, and how it is a modern-day fairy tale inspired by â€œThe Snow Queen.â€She said it sounded like a book her niece would like. I gave her my copy. Â Thatâ€™s what we do with beautifully written and captivating books, right? Â We pass them along.
- We think it’s a best book of the year.
11. Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Vicky White [Candlewick | Grades 1-4]
An author deserves a medal when he or she turns subjects like wildlife conservation and extinction into a page-turner. Thatâ€™s just what Martin Jenkins and Vicky White accomplish in Can We Save the Tiger? Â It focuses on five main endangered animals: tigers, partula snails, white-rumped vultures, American bisons, and kakapos. Between each section are fast facts about other extinct and endangered animals. Readers will feel empowered and motivated to help save these animals before it is too late. Pencil and oil paint illustrations add to the text and will appeal to children of all ages.
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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