Archive for the ‘Best Books 2013’ Category

Teens Name ELEANOR & PARK Their Favorite

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Twelve thousand teens have voted and selected their favorite 2013 books for the YALSA Teen’s Top Ten. The winners are announced in the video below, by Willow Shields (aka Primrose Everdeen of The Hunger Games). The number one title is Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (Macmillan/St. Martin’s Griffin).

The author is clearly a librarian favorite, as well. Her YA title Fangirl topped the very first LibraryReads top ten list, as a crossover title for adult readers, and the author’s adult title, Landline, (Macmillan/St. Martin’s Griffin), was on the July list.

The winners are also announced in more prosaic list form.

Voting was based on the following 25 nominees:

RUSA Awards, The Outliers

Friday, January 31st, 2014

The 2014 RUSA Notables include several titles that have already received wide recognition, such as Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Curiously, a few award winners did not make the cut, such as James McBride’s National Book Award winner, The Good Lord Bird.

More interesting are the titles that haven’t appeared on other best books lists:

Too Bright to HearToo Bright to Hear Too Loud to See by Juliann Garey (Soho Press; released in trade pbk in Nov,)

Award Annotation: “The fragmented and unsettling perspective of a man grappling with mental illness.”

Unchangeable Spots of LeopardsThe Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma (Penguin/Viking; trade pbk. coming Feb, 25)

Award Annotation: “Around the world with a charmingly unreliable narrator in this coming-of-age tale.”

Note: This was featured in our Penguin First Flights Debut Author Program  — view a transcript of our live online chat with the author here.

Year ZeroYear Zero: A History of 1945 by Ian Baruma (Penguin)

Award Annotation: “A fresh look at the aftermath of World War II challenges the traditional, heroic narrative.”

Far Away NearbyFaraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit (Penguin/Viking; trade pbk. coming in April)

“Apricots and Alzheimer’s come together in a meditation on how lives are created and sustained through story.”

RUSA also handed out awards for genre fiction, in the 2014 Reading List and for audio, in the 2014 Listen List.

The Ultimate Best Books Lists

Monday, December 30th, 2013

We’ve just posted updates to our compiled best books spreadsheets, adding picks by New York Magazine, the New York Times daily reviewers,  People magazine, Shelf Awareness and the Wall Street Journal, resulting in the following:

2013 — Best Books, Adult Fiction, Version 5
536 picks, 302 titles, 20 sources

2013 — Best Books, Adult Nonfiction, Version 4
396 Picks, 267 titles, 19 sources

2013 — Best Books, Childrens and YA, Version 3
447 picks, 283 titles, 10 sources

0d472f2-3.cachedWe are not the only ones obsessed with best books lists. The Daily Beast has also combed the lists to come up with the ultimate “best of the best” lists, the top ten picks in fiction and nonfiction (their tag line is, after all, “Read This Skip That”). They claim 40 sources (sorry to quibble, but by our count, it’s actually 32), including some British sources that we did not include.

978-0-307-26393-3The result? The top fiction titles are very similar to ours, in somewhat different order, but the nonfiction top ten is quite different. For instance, Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione Lee is tied at #4 with 6 votes. It hasn’t been released in the U.S., so wasn’t available for any of our sources to pick. Also tied at #4 with 6 votes is Gabriele d’Annunzio: Poet, Seducer, and Preacher of War by Lucy Hughes-Hallet (RH/Knopf), which was only chosen by one of the sources we tracked (the Washington Post).

Which seems to prove what we know, but sometimes forget; no matter how many heads you put together, there is no definitive way to arrive at the best books of the year and it can be more fun to make your own discoveries among the titles on the lower rungs of the lists.

Best Gift Books for All Ages

Friday, December 20th, 2013


As a judge for the National Book Awards, I read a lot of books this year. The job is an honor and a privilege, but it is also heart breaking as I regularly fell in love with books that didn’t fit the award’s very specific criteria, or wouldn’t be agreed upon by all five judges.

Now that it’s over and gift-giving season is here, those restrictions are lifted and I find that, as great as the books are that win prizes, they are not necessarily the ones I want to buy for my young cousin for the holiday break.

Below are the books everyone on my list will be getting this year, including several award winners.

9780544106161What The Heart KnowsChants, Charms and Blessings, Joyce Sidman, illus. by Pamela Zagarenski, (HMH)

Speak these words
to send a message to the world:
to chant for what you want,
to bless what you love,
to lament what you’ve lost,
to summon comfort and courage.

This is THE BOOK! I am not kidding.

At last count, I have bought 15. One for Nelle (don’t worry, she doesn’t read my blog) the grown-up cousin who is the keystone of the Von Drasek family, one for late twenties, Kay who taught me to drive, one for Professor Boss who lives down the block and transitioned me into University culture and the neighborhood life. One for my step-sister for her sixtieth birthday. One for my next door neighbor Krista, one of the smartest, most serene, and spiritual people who also has a terrific sense of humor, one for one of my best friends, Sharon who has been there for me for the last 23 years of my life (and quite a few others who are book people and probably do read my blog).

The best poetry speaks to us and tells us we are not alone. This collection of poems provides comfort and courage. Joyce Sidman has given everyone these gifts.

9780714862415_p0_v1_s600How to Boil an Egg, Rose Bakery, (Phaidon)

Eggs are my go-to food. Boil a half dozen on Sunday, I have lunch for a week. I adore a soft-boiled egg on top of roasted asparagus with a sprinkle of truffled salt. It’s no surprise then, that this book is on my list for all ages; I am a great believer in the benefits of families cooking together and there is nothing easier than eggs.

Cookbooks created for children often have excessive warnings (with good reason; grown ups should be asked to cut the carrots with a sharp knife) and are generic in the step-by-step way. The simple beauty of this book based on a favorite food, creates a perfect family gift.

The following have appeared on many best books lists, or were National Book Award finalists and are also on my gift lists.

9781442421080_1e1ae-2The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Kathi Appelt,. illus. by Jennifer Bricking, ( S & S/Atheneum)

This title is not only literary-prize-worthy (see my review in the NYT Book Review), it is also a fine read aloud for the entire family. It also comes in a magnificent audio version, read by Lyle Lovett (Simon & Schuster Audio; listen to a clip here).

Below, the author herself reads from it:

Flora and UlyssesFlora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, Kate DiCamillo, illus. by K. G. Campbell. (Candlewick)

I am pretty sure that I have bought over ten copies of this book to give to all the deserving  seven-year-olds and older  in my life (yes, that includes a few special adults). It is a laugh aloud delight about a cynical well-read girl and her super-hero companion, a squirrel (for a taste of Kate DiCamillo’s humor listen to her interview from Minnesota Public Radio).

F9780375849725_8d093ar Far Away, Tom McNeal, (RH/Knopf YR)

This contemporary spin on thee Brothers Grimm will, as Jennifer Brown writes in Shelf Awareness, “keep readers on the edges of their seats with its overriding sense of danger, lurking like a deep forest surrounding the town.”

9781596433595  9781596436893

Boxers, Gene Luen Yang, (Macmillan/First Second)
Saints, Gene Luen Yang, (Macmillan/First Second)

This two-volume graphic novel deserves all the praise it’s received. It tells the story of the Boxer Rebellion through the eyes of Little Bao, a Chinese peasant boy, and Vibiana, an outcast welcomed by Christian missionaries, offering an insightful look at a pivotal moment in Chinese history.

PEOPLE Magazine’s Top Ten(s)

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

peoplecover_205x273In its final issue of the year, on newsstands now, People looks at the best of the year (the cover line promising worsts isn’t delivered, unless you count the Kardashian family, picked as one of most intriguing because their “merry-go-round finally spun out of control” this year or the celebrity Feuds of The Year).

Books appear throughout the issue, beginning with the cover that features an actress who has appeared in several movies based on books, one of which, American Hustle comes in at #3 on the list of ten best movies of the year. At number one is the book adaptation 12 Years A Slave, with Saving Mr. Banks at #7 and Philomena, #9.

Several best TV shows are also based on books –#3 Masters of Sex, #6 Hannibal, #7 Behind the Canelabra, and #8 Orange is the New Black.

Finally, there’s the list of the Top Ten Books themselves which includes several titles that have already been declared best by many other publications, as well as one that has not, the bio of Johnny Carson at #6. UPDATE: No sooner did we say that then the NYT‘s Janet Maslin declared the Carson bio one of her favorites of the year.

People‘s Top Ten Books

1) Tenth of December,  George Saunders, (Random House)

2) The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt, Hachette/Little, Brown

3) Going Clear: Scientology, Celebrity, and the Prison of Belief, (RH/Knopf)

4) The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer, (Penguin/Riverhead)

5) The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri, (RH/Knopf)

6) Johnny Carson, Henry Bushkin, HMH

7) The Husband’s Secret, Liane Moriarty, (Penguin/Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam)

8) Wave, Sonali Deraniyagala, RH/Knopf

9) Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, (S&S)

10) The Engagements, J. Courtney Sullivan, (RH/Knopf)

New Audio Sounds

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

On NPR this morning, AudioFile founder and editor Robin Whitten selected several audiobooks from the magazine’s picks of the best of the year to showcase  ways in which producers are “expanding the envelope …with multiple narrators, sound effects and sound design, as well as a single voice just telling you a great story.” Not only books, but comics have made their way to audio (Graphic Audio has released dozens, including AudioFile Best, Marvel’s Civil War)

AudioFie’s “BEST Audiobooks and Best Voices” is available this year in a nifty new format, complete with audio samples.

AudioFile's Year in Audio 2013

Can’t Let Go of LEGO

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013


I can’t let the Best of the Year go by without highlighting LEGO books (I’ve written before about how great the DK LEGO Readers are).

The classic LEGO brick was designed by Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen in the 1940s. Christiansen began to make wooden toys after losing his job, and  soon designed an interlocking brick that would mimic the stacking ability of regular blocks, but allow for more creative building possibilities. He named his product “LEGO” after the Danish phrase leg godt, or “play well.”

LEGO has stood the test of time as a building toy with open-ended possibilities. There is no “right” way to play with LEGOs.

To add to the already strong interest, a LEGO movie is coming in February 2014.

It features some pretty great voices, including those of Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson.

Ed Note: Yes, but how could they have not used LEGO master, Eddie Izzard:

There will be tie-ins, of course.

9781465416971_31504  9781465416957_9f730   LEGO Tie-ins

Download  the  LEGO tie-ins spreadsheet.

For the holiday season, do not miss these three standouts from the LEGO “verse,” beginning with:

9780805096927Cool Creations in 35 Pieces, Sean Kenney, (Macmillan/Henry Holt YR)

The most recent volume fromrenowned LEGO artist Kenney gives kids step-by-step instructions to make robots, nutty animals and vehicles from steam engines to a jumbo jet.

And, two spectacular volumes from No Starch Press:

9781593275211   9781593275082_abd0f

LEGO Space: Building the Future, Peter Reid and Tim Goddard, (No Starch Press)

Goddard and Reid have created a coffee table book of a science fiction world completely made of LEGOs. We explore the architecture, technology and life on other planets as we enter the realm of space pirates, battle cruisers, mining camps and more.

Beautiful LEGO, Mike Doyle, (No Starch Press)

You know how those artfully arranged glossy full color shots of food lavishly displayed has been labeled “food porn” ? If I may be so rude, this is LEGO porn. Stylistically arranged LEGO creations lovingly presented to the fandom. As The Horn Book says, “Elevating the preschool building toy to high art, this book’s gorgeous photographs of hundreds of LEGO sculptures … go well beyond anything you’d see at a LEGOLAND theme park.”

#libfaves13, The Roundup

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Librarians tweeted their favorite ten titles of the year in a countdown ending Dec. 10th.

We now have a ranked list of all the titles and it proves how eclectic and wide ranging librarian’s tastes are. With over 950 votes, only two titles received more than 25 and both are by the same author, Rainbow Rowell for Eleanor & Park and Fangirl (each from Macmillan/St. Martin’s Griffin; Listening Library; Thorndike).

As we noted earlier,  Eleanor & Park was also picked as one of the year’s best books by all the library sources (Kirkus, Horn Book, SLJ and PW) as well as several consumer sources (Amazon Editors Top 20, NPR Staff Picks and NYT Book Review Notable Children’s Books). Fangirl was the #1 LibraryReads pick for the inaugural, September list and was also picked by SLJ,  NYT Book Review as a Notable Children’s Books and by Amazon Editors for the best kids list.

The Human Division

One novel that ranked high with librarians, but has not shown up on other best lists is John Scalzi’s SF title, The Human Division (Macmillan/Tor; Brilliance Audio).

Librarians expressed their enjoyment, saying:

“… excellent space opera”

“Absolutely awesome SF. May be next year’s Hugo winner”

“… love his humor”

“The B team tries to save humanity!”

The real fun of the list is scrolling through to see the variety; Libfaves13. All Titles, Ranked. It’s great inspiration for readers advisors.

Thanks to Robin Beerbower, Stephanie Chase and Linda Johns for organizing #libfaves, now in its third year.

Updated Best Books Spreadsheets

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Our latest roundup of the nonfiction best books picks (downloadable spreadsheet, 2013 — Best Books, Adult Nonfiction, Version 3) adds in  titles from 6 new lists, resulting in a total of 15 sources (listed on the spreadsheet; links are at the right, under Best Books), with 396 picks for 267 titles.

Five Days At Memorial   Going Clear

Tied at #1 with 8 picks each is:

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital,  Sheri Fink, (RH/Crown; RH Audio/BOT)  — includes a LibraryReads pick and top ten picks from LJ and NYT Book Review.

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief , Wright, Lawrence.  (RH/Knopf)  — includes  PW and Washington Post top ten picks and National Book Award finalist.

Thanks You for Your Service   The Unwinding

Close behind, with 7 each:

Thank You for Your Service, David Finkel, (Macmillan/FSG/Sarah Crichton; Macmillan Audio

The Unwinding, George Packer, (Macmillan/FSG; Macmillan Audio) — (the National book award winner)

We expect the daily New York Times reviewers to weigh in next week, followed by  Booklist and the various ALA awards in January.

The latest spreadsheets to date are:

2013 — Best Books, Adult Fiction, Version 4

2013 — Best Books, Adult Nonfiction, Version 3

2013 — Best Books, Childrens and YA, Version 2

Updated Childrens and YA Best Books Spreadsheet Is Here!

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Horn Book‘s “Fanfare 2013,” the editors’ choices of the 30 best books published this year, was released today, so we’ve updated our roundup of all the children’s and teen best books list in a downloadable spreadsheet, for your use in end-of-the year ordering, displays, and to add to your ever-growing TBR lists —  2013 — Best Books, Childrens and YA, Version 2.

Eleanor & park  Mr. Wuffles!  9781596439245

The resulting list represents 435 picks for 280 titles from nine sources. The top three, with 7 picks each are:

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell, (Macmillan/St. Martin’s Griffin) — author Rowell has emerged as a huge favorite among both adult and YA librarians this year, for both this title and Fangirl, (Macmillan/St. Martin’s Griffin), which is on 3 best books lists, as well as being a LibraryReads #1 pick. Anticipation is strong for Rowell’s next adult title, Landline (Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press), coming in July.

Mr. Wuffles!, David Wiesner, (HMH/Clarion Books) — a nearly wordless book filled with sly humor. See the model for Mr. Wuffles here:

Boxers & Saints, Gene Luen Yang, (Macmillan/ First Second) — Says Hornbook, “Trust Gene Luen Yang to find the humor — as well as the adventure and historical significance — in China’s Boxer Rebellion.”

#libfaves13 — Day Ten

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Below is our Storified version of the final day of #libfaves13.

The list of top picks is on BiblioCommons.

Others have created their own lists of favorites.

The Best Informational Books To Give Kids You Don’t Know Very Well

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013


Continuing our seventh annual best “books to give to kids you don’t know” round-up (see the first installment, here), we’re focusing on books that appeal to kids who are more interested in real things; real animals and real people, real places and real history. These are the kids who love to quiz their friends with questions like:

Did you know that basketball was invented by a guy from the YMCA?

…that Ben Franklin’s experiment with a kite and a key in a thunderstorm determined that lightning and electricity were one and the same?

…that turtles have a mouth with a hard beak but no teeth? Here are my favorites grouped by interest.


Hoop Genius

Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball, John Coy (Lerner/Carolrhoda, Ages 5 and up).

In this book, we discover how James Naismith took a group of energetic young men and created a safe, exciting indoor game. Did you know that the original basket in basket ball was one for peaches and that every timea basket was made, play had to stop while someone climbed a ladder to retrieve the ball?

Below, author John Coy at the Celebration of Minnesota Children’s Authors and Illustrators, held September 21 in Red Wing, Minnesota.

A REAL hoop

Nelson Mandela, Kadir Nelson

Nelson Mandela, Kadir Nelson, (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegan Books, Ages 6 and up).

Mandela’s recent death has brought more attention to this great man’s life. We are grateful to have the artwork of award winning artist, Kadir Nelson in this stirring biography. Shining a light on a person who inspires us to improve ourselves, our family and community, this book is a perfect Kwanzaa gift.


Becoming Ben Franklin: How a Candle-Maker’s Son Helped Light the Flame of Liberty , Russell Freedman, (Holiday House, Ages 10 and up)

Russell Freedman is a national treasure. His meticulously researched and engagingly written narrative brings new life to one of the most written about American Revolutionary figures.

When Stravinsky

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky: Two Artists, Their Ballet, and One Extraordinary Riot, written and illus. by Lauren Stringer, (Harcourt, Ages 7 and up).

Stringer expressive volume explores the sometimes fraught but always exciting collaboration of two of the most innovated artists of the previous century. In 1913, the avant-garde composer Igor Stravinsky composed The Rite of Spring (in French, Le Sacre du printemps) to be choreographed by the internationally renowned dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The collaboration was so shocking at the time that the debut performance ended with the audience rioting.

Be sure to also check out Stringer’s fascinating description of her research and creative process on her website.


The Flight of the Honey Bee

The Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber, illus. by Brian Lovelock, (Candlewick, Ages 6 and up).

Huber’s fact filled sentences and lyrical style are a perfect match for Lovelock’s sweeping watercolor, acrylic and colored pencil illustrations of bees dancing, working and in flight.


Bugs: A Stunning Pop-up Look at Insects, Spiders, and Other Creepy-Crawlies, George McGavin, Jim Kay, (Candlewick, Ages 5 and up).

Gorgeous, magnificent, exquisite, superb, and, yes, stunning … there aren’t enough adjectives to describe this pop-up books about bugs. Formatted to appear as a historic exhibit with a naturalist’s handwritten notes and period illustrations, it offers all the facts a young scientist could want and this wonderfully creepy pop-up of a scorpion ready to attack:

Bugs -- interior spread

More Kid-Favorite Topics 


Locomotive, Brian Floca, (S&SAtheneum, all ages).

Floca’s words echo the rhythm of a train wheels on the track as we journey west on the steam engine and his generous use of onomatopoeia creates a text that sings. Readers will revel in the historical accuracy of the detailed paintings and find themselves swept back in time by the extensive spreads.


Toilet: How It Works, David Macaulay, Sheila Keenan, illus. by David Macaulay, (My Readers Series, Macmillan/Roaring Brook/David Macaulay Studio, Ages  5 and up)

Longtime fans of Macaulay have always appreciated his attention to detail. Booktalking librarians take great delight in pointing out the toilets that appear in his previous works. This time, the toilet stars in its own easy reader and it is with glee that I recommend it to you now.

Defies Category

Go Chip Kidd

Go: A Kidd’s guide to Graphic Design, Chip Kidd, (Workman, Ages 10 and up — all the grown ups that you know)

Okay, even as I write this, I know I sound crazy. There are two books I want to give to all my family and friends who are over ten years old. This is one. Chip Kidd who changed the face of book cover design in a humorous, easy-going personal narrative explains what design is and how we are all capable of making intelligent design choices. Although Kidd is writing for kids, this volumes accessibility to anyone with an interest of how the world looks and how it got that way won’t be able to put it down.

#libfaves13 — Today is the Final Day!

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Did the organizers of #libfaves13 realize that today, the final day of librarians tweeting their favorite ten titles of the year is ALSO the title of a book on many best lists —  George Saunders’ Tenth of December, (Random House)?

Don’t let your favorites go unrecognized. Even if you haven’t joined in so far, it’s not too late. Use hashtag #libfaves13 to tweet your one favorite book of the year (meaning you read it this year, not necessarily the pub date), or write ten tweets for each of your ten favorites. Please include authors (last name is fine to save space), so the compilers can identify the correct titles. It also helps if you write the titles in all caps.

We’ve enjoyed seeing the range of titles and the creative ways librarians describe them (many would be great models for RA training). As one librarian noted, this “Reminds me I went into the right field.” Another, Claire S., @readerpants, showed how effective these 140 character readers advisories can be, by snapping her TBR pile and asking, “Think I’ve been following #libfaves13?” —

#libfaves TBR pile

We’ve put together each day’s tweets on (search #libfaves13). This year, the library marketers joined in with their own version, so also check out #LibMKTGfaves13.

Thanks to Robin Beerbower, Stephanie Chase and Linda Johns for organizing #libfaves, now in its third year.

We’re looking forward to this year’s roundup (check out last year’s here).

More Fiction Best Books Lists

Monday, December 9th, 2013

As much fun as best books list are, so many more have rolled in since our last roundup that we are feeling a bit of “list fatigue,” as NPR labels it. Theirs is so bad that they claim to not be doing a best books list this year (see “The Top 5 Reasons We’re Taking A Break From Lists“).

Don’t believe them. Despite what they say,  they’ve published a “non-list” of 200 titles from 2013, calling it a “book concierge.”

The NPR “staff picks” of 59 titles looks like a best books list to us, so we’ve added their picks to our latest roundup (downloadable spreadsheet here 2013 — Best Books, Adult Fiction, Version 3).

Here’s the top 5 reason why we’re ignoring NPR’s claim that this isn’t a list:

Cat Sense   9781250014696

5) Their interactive format is fun.

4) They’re the only ones so far to include a book that is surely on every librarian’s to give or to get list, John Bradshaw’s Cat Sense (Basic Books).

3) If dogs are more to your taste, they’re also the only ones to include David Rosenfelt’s Dogtripping (Macmillan/St. Martin’s).

2) Theirs is the 9th pick for George Saunders’ Tenth of December (Random House), sending it to the top of our tally of total picks, allowing us to again quote one of our favorite #libfaves13 tweets, from Andrea Cough, “try one a day for lunch” (even though she used it for a different book of short stories). UPDATE: Just a few hours after we wrote this, USA Today released their top ten, scrambling everything up again. We’re updating the list.

1) NPR’s coverage generates more holds than any other source.

In addition to the NPR Staff Picks, our updated fiction spreadsheet (Version 3) adds the following:

New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books of 2013 (43 fiction)

New York Times Book Review Top Ten (5 fiction)

Slate Book Review Top Ten (6 Fiction)

Time magazine Top 10 Fiction

Time magazine Top 10 Comics & Graphic Novels (7 fiction)

That’s a total of 487 picks for 290 titles, from 14 sources. We’re expecting this to the the final fiction roundup until Booklist and ALA produce their lists. By the end of the week, we will complete the nonfiction update (including the Kirkus NF list just posted today). The updated children’s list will be posted shortly.

Meanwhile, be sure to add your picks to the list of librarian favorites — #libfaves13. And. don’t let “list fatigue” prevent you from  nominating 2014 titles for LibraryReads.

The Best Preschool and Family Books To Give Kids You Don’t Know Very Well

Friday, December 6th, 2013


Welcome to the seventh annual best “books to give to kids you don’t know” round-up [links to the previous six years  are available here].

If you don’t recall how we play this game, let me give you a refresher.

Every year librarians and booksellers are challenged with requests such as:

“I need a book for my five-year-old niece who I only see once a year.”

“I always like to give books but now that the kids are voracious readers, I can’t keep up with what they have already read.”

“I want to give a book but this kid isn’t really a reader.”

We accept this challenge, nay we welcome the opportunity to show off our expertise and vast reading insight. Let the games begin.

Please join in. Tell us your favorite recommendations in the comments section below. Remember, titles should meet the criteria of being sure-fire for reluctant as well as voracious readers. To avoid books that are already owned by kids in the latter category, they should be published this year and be less well-known or sleepers (it kills us, but that requirement means we did not include Jerry Pinkney’s gorgeous new picture book, The Tortoise & the Hare).

This post contains titles for the youngest; see the next post for more picture books.

For Families with Toddlers or New Babies

Giggle!Giggle , Caroline Jayne Church (Scholastic)

This interactive board book is complete with a giggle button that is sure to cascade little ones and their grown ups into fits of delight.



Hush Little Polar BearHush Little Polar Bear, Jeff Mack, (Macmillan/Roaring Brook)

A board book reissue of the perfect bedtime story told in gentle rhythm and rhyme. “Hush little polar bear, sleep in the snow, dream of the places where sleeping bears go” will remind readers of the lullaby “Hush Little Baby.” It is irrisistably singable too.

For Twos, Threes, and Fours

Charley Harper's ABCsKnow any hipsters with preschoolers? Ammo Press has produced the lovely Charley Harper’s ABCs by Gloria Fowler with striking graphic mid-century modern images of birds, insects and mammals created by one of the fathers of modern design. (NOTE: Harper’s work was the inspiration for our EarlyWord bird. We wanted to ask him to design our bird, but he passed away a few months before EarlyWord began. In tribute, we named our bird Charley).

Below is a video of Charley Harper talking about his silk screen technique.

Animal OppositesAnimal Opposites, Petr Horacek, (Candlewick, ages 3 and up)
This pop-up concept book by award winning illustrator Horacek contrasts big/ little, slow/fast, heavy/light as well as more complicated opposites like smooth/prickly with lift-the-flap surprises and pop-up wonders.

Turn the pages, lift the flaps and see animals of all shapes and sizes bring to life the world of opposites. From slow snail to fast cheetah, heavy hippo to light butterfly, smooth frog to prickly porcupine, Petr Horacek’s pop-up animals encourage early literacy, language and communication. With its amusing illustrations and interactive pages – learning has never been so much fun!

See how it works here:

.Frog Trouble

Frog Trouble: . . . And Eleven Other Pretty Serious Songs, Sandra Boynton, (Workman)

Taking advantage of the rule that rules are made to be broken, I’m including this title, even though Sandra Boynton hardly fits the “sleeper” criteria. There will never be enough awards for this rockstar of rhythm, rhyme and repetition. This  joyous, toe-tapping collection of original songs includes a CD sung by Mark Lanegan (yes, of Queens of the Stone Age) Josh Turner, Fountains of Wayne, Ryan Adams, Linda Eder, and quickly rising country star Kacey Musgraves — all accompanied by Nashville’s finest instrumentalists.

Here is Dwight Yoakam singing, I’ve Got a Dog:

Continues on next post