Archive for the ‘Best Books 2014’ Category

RUSA Picks 2014 Adult Titles

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

The RUSA Reading List selections of the year’s best fiction in 8 genres, were announced at ALA Midwinter. Several titles have already received acclaim from librarians, such as the mystery selection, Murder at the Brightwell, by Ashley Weaver, (Minotaur/Macmillan), a LibraryReads pick in October.

The Science Fiction selection is The Martian by Andy Weir (RH/Crown), which also won an Alex this year and was a Feb. 2014 LibraryReads pick. It is currently being adapted as a movie, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Jessica Chasten and Kristen Wiig, scheduled for release this November.

9780765332653_57387Jo Walton, generally considered a fantasy and science fiction writer (she won both a Nebula and a Hugo in 2011 for her book Among Others) was selected in the Women’s Fiction category for My Real Children, (Macmillan/Tor). About a woman living two parallel lives, Lev Grossman, reviewing it in PW said, “My Real Children has as much in common with an Alice Munro story as it does with, say, Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. It explores issues of choice and chance and destiny and responsibility with the narrative tools that only science fiction affords, but it’s also a deeply poignant, richly imagined book about women’s lives in 20th- and 21st-century England, and, in a broader sense, about the lives of all those who are pushed to the margins of history.”

For valuable readers advisory hooks, be sure to check the list for the readalikes (and watchalikes) for each pick. In the case of My Real Children, they are:

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson, (Hachette/Little, Brown)

Sliding Doors (Miramax Films, 1998, dir. Peter Howitt)

The Time Travelers Wife,  Audrey Niffenegger (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Also released, the RUSA Notables selection of 26 titles in fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Many have already appeared on the dozens of best books lists for the year, including the one that was on nearly every list, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, (S&S/Scribner). The other top favorite, Marilynne Robinson’s Lila, however, did not make the RUSA cut.

The committee also managed to find some gems that have not appeared on other lists.

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The Enchanted, Rene Denfield, (Harper) —
“Death row inmates await escape through execution in this weirdly gorgeous tale.”

The Crane Wife, by Patrick Ness, (Penguin) —
“A thoughtful exposition of love, in all its endless varieties.”


Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris, Eric Jager (Hachette/Little, Brown)  —
“Political intrigue that starts with a murder and ends with a throne.”

Put a Bow on It: 2014 Best Books

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

The site FiveThirtyEight wrapped up the year by declaring that there are far too many best of the year lists and then wading right in to offer a fascinating analysis of consensus among them (best books lists show the least, as a result of the sheer volume of titles published — far more than the number of movies released or even TV shows aired).

We’ve wrapped up our spreadsheets of all the lists (that is, until the ALA Awards are announced):




They now include titles from several lists that squeezed in at the end of the year:

Salon Top Ten Books — 12/29

USA TodayTen Books We Loved Reading — 12/23

Booklist Editors Choice, Adult and Youth — 12/18  — Usually released in January, Booklist, like many others this year, released their lists early

Comparing our top titles to FiveThirtyEight’s, you’ll see several significant differences, because, well, we had little consensus on the lists we used.

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But to us, it’s more interesting to look at the titles that made the top of certain lists, but appeared on few others. For instance, Time magazine picked as #2 in nonfiction a book about mixed martial arts, Thrown by Kerry Howley (Sarabande Books), Booklist picked a children’s book as top of the list that isn’t on other lists, The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc, (Enchanted Lion Books) and the NYT‘s Michiko Kakutani picked as one of her ten favorites a book of short stories, The Dog by Jack Livings (Macmillan/FSG), not to be confused with another book with the same title, Joseph O’Neill’s The Dog, a Booker longlist title, picked by the NYT Book Review and a PW top ten title.

If you really want to drive yourself crazy about what you may have missed last year, check out the best overlooked books lists:

The Overlooked Books of 2014 – Slate

Overlooked Books – Huffington Post

Overlooked Books – Flavorwire

Or, just relax and enjoy Entertainment Weekly‘s picks of the 5 Worst Books of 2014.


Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

NPR’s Morning Edition reminded listeners of their new book club today (listen here), originally announced earlier this month, called appropriately, “Morning Reads.”

9780374280604_abe23The first title, selected by Ann Patchett is Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories Of 33 Men Buried In A Chilean Mine And The Miracle That Set Them Free, (Macmillan/FSG; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample; Oct) by Hector Tobar. On several best books lists, it just cracked the NYT Hardcover Nonfiction list at #15. Many libraries are showing heavy holds on light ordering.

Patchett says she chose Deep Down Dark because it’s a book that “benefits from other people’s insights.”

To become a member of the club, listeners are asked to read the book and send in questions via tweets, #MorningReads, or on Morning Edition’s Facebook page.  Tobar will answer selected question on the show on January 20.

Informational Books For Kids You Don’t Know Very Well

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

lisabadgeWe’re coming down to the wire for seasonal gift giving.Continuing my series about books you can recommend, and give with confidence, we turn to kids who like books about real subjects.

For Kids Who Want to Know About Real People

9781596436039_3a02c-2  9780374380694_f9005Viva Frida, Yuyi Morales, Tim O’Meara, (Roaring Brook Press), Ages 4 to 8, Grades P to 3Morales’s stunning mixed media art captures Khalo’s life and spirit.The following video explores the creation of the illustrations.The Pilot and the Little Prince, Peter Sís, (Macmillan/FSG), Ages 5 to 8, Grades K to 3This sophisticated picture book biography explores the life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.Sis talks about his inspiration in the video below:9780802853851_f1c5eThe Right Word, Jen Bryant, Melissa Sweet, (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers), Ages 7 to 18

From the award-winning creators of A River of Words, the life of Peter Mark Roget the creator of Roget’s Thesaurus is expressed through language and collage.A masterpiece.

For Kids Who Like Trucks


Giant Vehicles, Ron Green, Stephen Biesty, (Candlewick/Templar), Ages 6 and upRemember last year’s Caldecott winner Locomotive by Brian Floca?Here is a book for a little younger crowd displaying lift-the -flap cross sections of vehicles from jumbo jets, to trains to spectacular rockets to the everyday dump trucks.

For Kids Who Are Wild About Animals 


Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents, Lita Judge, (Roaring Brook), Ages 6 and upSimple language shares facts about animal families with delicious watercolor and pencil naturalist illustrations (take a look at several here)Chasing Cheetahs: The race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats, Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop, (HMH), Ages 9 and upThe Sibert Award winning author and illustrator for Kakapo Rescue explores a species on the edge of extinction.9780763675080_4f9aaAnimalium, Jenny Broom, Katie Scott, (Candlewick/Big Picture Press), Ages 8 to 12Number one on my wish list is this oversized lushly illustrated book that is modeled on a turn of the last century natural history museum.One can imagine a family sprawled out on the carpet for hours, poring over tiny details of the fact-filled pages.

Poetry For Kids You Don’t
Know Very Well

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014


Three novels in verse stood out this year. All are great read alouds and all exhibit greatness in that intangible but essential quality. “voice.”  All three made me long to read them aloud to classes of students.

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The Red Pencil, Andrea Davis Pinkney, (Hachette/Little Brown; Hachette Audio); OverDrive Sample

The Red Pencil sets us down in the Sudan. We enter the life of young girl yearning for an education but caught in a horrific war as she finally arrives at a refugee camp. Pinkney’s spare language gives voice and a window into the cultures and lives we don’t hear or see every day.

How I Discovered Poetry, Marilyn Nelson, (Penguin/Dial Books); OverDrive Sample

Acclaimed poet, Nelson (A Wreathe for Emmett Till) reflects on her life as a child raised on army bases during the 1950’s where the only black people were her own family.

Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson, (Penguin/Nancy Paulson; Listening Library); OverDrive Sample

Winner of the National Book Award, Ms. Woodson’s memoir is more than her own story, it is the story of a generation raised in the sixties and the grounding power of family.

Gifts for Middle Grade Kids
You Don’t Know Very Well

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014


Continuing my series about books you can recommend, and give with confidence, below are some sure-fire titles published this year for middle-grade kids.

9780399252518_ab369 Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson, (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen)

For the smart kid who wants to get into the head of another, there is Woodson’s National Book Award winner, Brown Girl Dreaming, a book that sings and shouts and, with the help of the NBA judges, sends its song to an even wider universe.  Also consider her backlist, now available in paperback, including Feathers and After Tupac & D Foster.

9781419710209_c5d95El Deafo, Cece Bell, (Abrams)

This has been on the top of my lists since I read an advance copy half a year ago. It stands with the best in the repertoire of middle grade school stories. Don’t be fooled by reviewer shorthand that says this is a book about hearing loss and disability. It is about that, but even more, it is about growing and friendship, misunderstanding and secret thoughts. Bell has bravely shared her own story so that children will know they are not alone as they negotiate the mysterious trials of elementary school society.

9780312643003_8b649Rain Reign, Ann M. Martin,  (Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends; Brilliance Audio)

I am a sucker for a good story about a girl and her dog. If you have readers who want a very real story that can be a bit of a weeper, this it.

Good spoiler alert: Don’t worry, the dog doesn’t die.


9780061963810_a349aGuys Read: True Stories, John Scieska illus, by BrianFloca (Walden Pond Press)

I didn’t forget about the boys. This title should have been on the informational books list, but rules are meant to be broken especially by John Scieska. He asks our favorite informational book authors — Candace Fleming, Elizabeth Partridge, Jim Murphy, Steve Sheinkin, and Nathan Hale — to present high interest narrative non- fiction in short format.

Gifts for Young Adults
You Don’t Know Very Well

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014


Continuing my series about books you can recommend, and give with confidence, below are some sure-fire titles published this year for young adults.

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han, (Simon & Schuster; Recorded Books); OverDrive Sample

A Blind Spot for Boys, Justina Chen, (Hachette/Little Brown); OverDrive Sample

For the kids who love John Green and want some romance with complications, don’t miss these.

9781935955955_bde02Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, Isabel Gabi Quintero, (Cinco Puntos Press; Listening Library); OverDrive Sample

When I lecture to classes in creative writing, the questions I receive often have to do with what will sell. What are publishers looking for? What are you looking for? The answer is “voice,” which is frustratingly difficult to define.

Debut author Isabel Quintero nails the voice of a late teen wondering, questioning and finding her place in a world unwilling to accommodate who she really is.

See for yourself in the following clip from the audio:

SLJ blog Teen Librarian Tool Box attested to that voice,  “It’s funny, sad, honest, raw, bold, and hopeful. It’s about the many things that can go on in one’s life, great and small.”

9780385741262_c913fWe Were Liars, E. Lockhart
(RH/Delacorte; Listening Library); OverDrive Sample

On nearly all the best books lists for the year, this is a winner for the kid who is sophisticated and can handle psychological drama.


, Scott Westerfield, (Simon and Schuster; S&S Audio); OverDrive Sample

You can’t go wrong with this for the fantasy reader, but it is also a good selection for the aspiring writer. In the video made for the audio edition, Scott gives writing advice.


9780375867828_2e07aThe Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia, Candace  Fleming, (RH/Schwartz & Wade; Listening Library); OverDrive Sample

For the teen that wants something REAL. The dramatic story of the Russian royal family.

The Year’s Best Humor

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

9780062268341_76d86Ending the year with a laugh, the Washington Post offers “five highlights of the comedy book — broadly defined as funny books by funny people.”

Of course, Amy Poehler’s best seller, Yes Please, (HarperCollins/Dey Street Books; HarperAudio) tops the list, but the rest are not such obvious choices:


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No Land’s Man, Aasif Mandvi (Chronicle); OverDrive Sample

It Won’t Always Be This Great, Peter Mehlman (Bancroft Press); OverDrive Sample

Science . . . for Her!, Megan Amram (S&S/Scribner; S&S Audio); OverDrive Sample

Texts From Jane Eyre, Mallory Ortberg (Macmillan/Holt); OverDrive Sample

The Nancy Pearl Bump

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 8.11.23 PMLibrarian Nancy Pearl highlighted five under-the-radar titles on Friday’s NPR’s Morning Edition (link to listen to it), causing one of the titles to jump 2,442% on Amazon’s sales rankings.

She begins with The Diamond Lane by Karen Karbo. First published in 1991, it was reissued this fall by Hawthorne books (with an introduction by Jane Smiley). Nancy calls it a “fabulously funny satire on sisterly love, on marriage, but really, [Karbo’s] sharpest barbs are reserved for life in Hollywood.” Nancy makes host Steve Innskeep laugh heartily when she reads a section.

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 8.10.14 PMJudging from Amazon’s sales rankings, the title
that resonated most with listeners, is the final book she describes, The Unsubstantial Air: American Fliers in the First World War by Samuel Hynes (Macmillan/FSG, Oct. 2014; OverDrive Sample).

Nancy considers this one of the best of the many books that have come out recently about WWI.
“It talks about the war in terms of the young men who came from American colleges to fly and to
fight in WWI … Hynes was able to access a treasure trove of journals and of letters from these young men, many of whom had never been to Europe before … he writes in such a beautiful way … and does a wonderful job of honoring them.”

The other titles on her list:

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The Distance by Helen Giltrow (RH/Doubleday; RH Audio; Sept. 2014; OverDrive Sample)

“All the time I was reading this, I had to keep telling myself to breath because I was so caught up in the story.” She says it’s perfect for those who love Lee Child. (This was also a LibraryReads pick for September).

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer (Hachette/Mulholland; Hachette Audio, Aug. 2014; OverDrive Sample)

“A cautionary tale about the future … about a cabal of industrialists have decided to privatize information … It’s one of those books that when you’re reading it, you start feeling a little bit paranoid.”  (Time magazine also recognized this one, making it #6 on their Top Ten fiction list for the year).

Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot
by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
(HMH Books for Young Readers, Sept. 2004; OverDrive Sample).

This novel came out originally in 1988 and is written in letters between two cousins, one in London and one in Essex, in 1817. Although it is written for teens, says Nancy, it is “perfect for anyone who loves Jane Austen and doesn’t mind a little bit of fantasy.”

Gifts for Very Young Kids You Don’t Know Very Well

Thursday, December 18th, 2014


It’s that time of year when many of us are looking for just the right present for kids that we don’t see all that often, and books are a natural choice. As the nieces and nephews and godchildren gather around the tree or finish lighting the menorah, it’s great to offer each one an alternative to the inevitable pile of gadgets and software, and as the saying goes, a book really is a present you can open again and again.

But with the number of titles available, how do you choose? Not a day goes by after Black Friday that I don’t get five or six emails saying something like this:

I’d love some ideas for 5 grandsons, ranging in age from three to twelve. The ten-year-old loves to read, but the twelve-year-old only loves sports. Last year’s suggestions were very well liked!!

When you’re faced with such a plea, a little reconnaissance pays off big. How old is each recipient? Do you have a clue about likes and dislikes — particularly any subjects, toys, or themes that add up to an obsession? Even a small amount of information, will help you achieve the goal of getting a smile when the gift is unwrapped.

To aid you in your mission, I’m offering my picks from the thousands of children’s books published this year, sorted by age group, with notes to help you spot just the right book for that young reader, attempting to answer the question that plagues adult gift givers with children in their lives: “How do I buy a book for a gift for a kid I don’t know very well?”

We’ll divide this into sections.  Below, selections for the very young. In the following posts, I’ll suggest titles for early elementary and older kids.

This is more art than science, so I may have overlooked some of your favorites. Please mention them in the comments section.

For Families With A New Baby Or Toddler

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No Two Alike, Keith Baker, (Little Simon, Board Book)

Particularly appropriate for families with new twins, but it works for others as well.  Baker’s art and ear for language is pitch perfect for young children and their parents. In the book, we observe a pair of red birds making their way in the snow-covered world.

Moo!, David LaRochelle and Mike Wohnoutka, (Bloomsbury, Board Book)

This was a read aloud delight when it arrived as a picture book in 2013. There never was a more expressive story told with just one sound — “Moo.” Now available in a board book edition we can share our enthusiasm with the pre-reading set

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Honk, Honk! Baa, Baa!,  Petr Horacek, (Candlewick)

This heavy stock board book has a comforting familiarity with Horacek’s mixed media illustrations of common farm animals and the noises they emit. As we turn the die cut pages they form a black and white bovine surprise on the last spread (if you’re having trouble imagining that, watch a kid discover it for himself in this video).

Also from Horacek is Las Fresas son Rojas, (Candlewick)

This is a new Spanish language edition of Strawberries are Red a cornucopia of fruit and colors with a die cut surprise at the end.

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Pat-a-Cake and All Fall Down, Mary Brigid Barrett, illus. by LeUyen Pham, (Candlewick Press)

The familiar nursery rhymes are stretched and expanded in these delightfully silly rhyming romps. Have you ever patted a pickle cold and bumpy? A fuzzy caterpillar? Did your recitation of “Ring around the Rosie” include “potatoes in a mound, plopping green peas all around”?

For Families With Preschoolers Ages 2 To 5

This is the age when kids start to get reading ready. It important for them to explore colors, numbers, and shapes as well as concepts like up and down and in and out through pages of a book. The following will bring surprise and wonder from that most jaded of readers, the parent, who often has to read them again and again.


Countablock, Christopher Franceschelli, ills. by Peskimo, Abrams 16.95

From the team that brought us Alphablock (Abrams, 2013), this is a brick of a book weighing in at almost 1 ½ pounds of counting fun. We count from 1 to 10 as 6 balls of yarn become 6 sweaters and 7 pots of paint become seven colors of the rainbow in bold graphics that include an oversized depiction of the number then we count by 10s to read a double page spread of 100 puzzle pieces (see more interior photos here).

Circle Square Moose, Kelly Bingham,  illus, by Paul Zelinsky, (Greenwillow Books)

The creators, Z is for Moose broke down the structure and predictability of the alphabet book. Shapes are the feature of this reprise of the adventures of Moose whose enthusiasm for the subject matter exceeds his social skills. See below for


9789888240852_2afc8Number Circus: 1-10 and Back Again!,  Květa Pacovská (minedition, Dist. by IPG)

This playful, tactile volume with embossing, die-cuts, and interactive lift-the-flaps is an artistic volume that nods to the influences of modern masters such as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Joan Miró.


For Families Sick of Reading the
Same Bedtime Books Over and Over

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Thank You, Octopus,  Darren Farrell, (Penguin/Dial)

Absurdist humor seems to be a winner this year and I would give the prize to this one. The familiar structure of the children’s games “Fortunately/ Unfortunately” and “That’s Bad/ No That’s Good” are used here as a knitted cap-wearing Octopus offers what at first seems a to be typical bedtime rituals of a warm bath, bringing a “Thank you, Octopus!” But, wait, that bath is made of egg salad. “Gross! No, thank you, Octopus!” This holds up to repeated readings, as we explore the ship where the boy and the octopus reside.

Small Blue and the Deep Dark Night,  Jon Davis, (HMH)

Small Blue is white bunny. Small Blue is imagining scary creatures like gremlins and goblins when the lights are turned off at night. The grownup in the house is Big Brown, an enormous bear. Big Brown suggest imagining something fun not scary in the dark like delightful doggies riding unicycles. The bunny’s bedroom when lit is a cozy space of glowing yellow strewn with toys and books contrasting with the deep blues where the fantasy beings appear in the dark. Sure to become a favorite.

Gifts for Early Elementary School Kids You Don’t Know Very Well

Thursday, December 18th, 2014


Continuing my series of suggestions for gifts that are sure to bring smiles, below are titles for early elementary kids.

Picture Books, Ages 5 and up

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Bad Bye, Good Bye, Deborah Underwood, illus. by Jonathan Bean (HMH)

Underwood, whose Quiet Book won the Geisel Award for beginning readers, has made me see books for emergent readers in a new way. One of my favorite picture books of the year, this just happens to have easy-to-read limited rhyming text. The ink and color pencil illustrations eloquently depict a child’s unhappiness about his family’s moving to a new home and his discovery that the new place has its compensations. Not to be missed.

Pardon Me, Daniel Miyares, (Simon and Schuster)

Here is the book for the kids who couldn’t get enough of Jon Classon’s I Want My Hat Back. Parrot is content to be alone on his small island when first a heron joins him with a polite “Pardon me.” As more animals join him, the more visibly annoyed he becomes. The twist ending will delight listeners while teachers will be thinking of ways to lead a discussion on inference. A keeper.

9781419705182_7bac8100 things that make me Happy, Amy Schwartz. (Abrams)

Amy Schwartz in my mind is one of the overlooked geniuses of children’s books today. She quietly produces perfect books without fanfare that reflect the everyday lives of children with a subtle subversive flair. Her Bea and Mr. Jones was selected for the first Reading Rainbow list and is as fresh and funny today as it was the year it was published, 1982 (give yourself a treat with this flashback to the great Madeline Khan reading it on the show) and there is not a better book about friendship for kindergartners than her 2001 book, The Boys Team.

That said, in her newest creation, Schwarts presents rhyming pairs of word phrases — curly hair…teddy bear, mermaid…lemonade. This is an illustrated catalog, a counting book, an easy reader, as well as delicious word play. The rhythm of the words and page turns slows down and speeds up as we follow a diverse population of children and their adults displaying the author’s favorite things from the simple “polka dots…forget-me-nots” to the sublime “city lights…starry nights” Families will be inspired to move off the page and observe their own world and list the 100 things that make them happiest.

A New Baby In The Family


The Baby Tree, Sophie Blackall, (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen)

For those who already own Robie Harris’s Its Not The Stork, this is the next perfect book for explaining where babies come from. The narrator receives bits of information from various sources — his babysitter, his grandfather, his teacher, and the mail carrier — but until his mom explains the biological information in plain language, none of it makes much sense.

Gifts for Beginning Readers You Don’t Know Very Well

Thursday, December 18th, 2014


Continuing my series of suggestions for sure-fire gifts, below are titles for kids who are starting to read on their own, plus a couple of suggestions for family readalouds.

For those who like their easy-to-read books in a traditional format there are some new books with favorite characters:

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Drop it Rocket!, Tad Hills, (PRH/Schwartz and Wade)

Rocket (of the best selling Rocket Learns to Read) is back in what may be the first book a child reads to herself. With very few words on the page, the pictures give clues to the words and most importantly there is a good story. This kind of book is very hard to find. More please.

Waiting Is Not Easy, Mo Williams. (Disney/Hyperion)

Although this is another in the Elephant and Piggie series, it is not just another series book. Librarians sometimes joke that the ALA’s easy-to-read award, The Geisel, should just be given to Mo Willems every year. It’s hard to argue with that. Yet I have to say, as familiar as we are with Willems’s work, this one is amazing and surprising. To say any more would raise spoilers, so ,just trust me on this.

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Ling & Ting: Twice as Silly, Grace Lin, (Hachette/ Little Brown)

Introduce your newly fluent early chapter book readers, the ones who are speeding through Henry and Mudge, to the silly sisters, Ling and Ting. Lin’s comic timing is exquisite in these six short chapters that capture the young girls’ imaginative adventures.

Cock-a-Doodle Oops!,  Lori Degman, illus.  by Deborah Zemke, (Creston, Dist. by Perseus/PGW)

Rhythm, rhyme and repetition combine in this absurdist barnyard tale of a rooster who goes on vacation and delegates his wake up duties to the other animals. This sleeper is a winner.

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Ballerina Dreams: from Orphan to Dancer, Machaela and Elaine DePrince,  illus. by Frank Morrison. (Random House)

The autobiography of an orphan from Sierra Leone, who, encouraged by her adoptive American family, became a ballerina, this is for the kids who are reading independently and want a real story. Also available now for ages 12 and up is Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina (RH/Knopf)

The Whale Who Won Hearts: And More True Stories Of Adventures With Animals, Brian Skerry, (National Geographic)

In this short chapter autobiography we follow Brian Skerry, a National Geographic photojournalist specializing in marine wildlife and underwater environments. For a taste of his amazing photos (and his journalistic drive), take a look at this National Geographic video. For even more, see his TED presentation.

Family Read Alouds

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The family with younger children, around 4 to 6, who have enjoyed Kate DiCamillo’s six Mercy Watson books, will want her new early chapter book Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (Candlewick), set in the same world and a hoot.

Shannon Hale, the Newbery Honor winning author of The Princess Academy (also a great read aloud) presents The Princess in Black, (Candlewick),  a grand adventure about a proper pinkish princess who has a secret life battling big blue monsters and rescuing goat herding boys.

PEOPLE Does Best Books

Friday, December 12th, 2014

People magazine cut back their review coverage this year, so we wondered if they were going to do a best books list this year.

Those fears were unfounded. This week’s year-end roundup includes People’s picks of the Top Ten Books. This late in the game, most of the titles have already received multiple best books nods, but with a few differences.

Roz Chast gets her first #1 pick for her National Book Award finalist, the graphic novel, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

9780374280444_2ea69At number two is a book of essays that has been on only one other list, The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, by Meghan Daum. Published in mid-November, it has received significant but belated attention this week . It is reviewed in Wednesday’s New York Times, and in the upcoming NYT Book Review. It is #10 on  Entertainment Weekly’s 10 Best Nonfiction list. The reviews universally praise Daum’s lead essay on her mother’s death, “Matricide.” An edited version is available in The Guardian.

The full list:

1)   Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Roz Chast(Macmillan/Bloomsbury)

2)  The Unspeakable : And Other Subjects of Discussion, Meghan Daum, (Macmillan/FSG; Dreamscape Audio)

3) Not That Kind of GirlA Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”, Lena Dunham, (Random House; RH Audio)

4) Redeployment, Phil  Klay, (Penguin Press; Penguin Audio)

5)  Love, NinaA Nanny Writes Home, Nina Stibbe (Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio) — a LibraryReads pick, it did not appear on other  best books lists

6)  All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr (S&S/Scribner, May 2014; Audio exclusive from Midwest Tape)

7)  The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters, (Penguin/Riverhead; BOT, read by Juliet Stevenson)

8)  What if? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Question , Randall  Munroe, (HMH; Blackstone Audio)

9)  Nora Webster, Colm Toibin, (S&S/Scribner)

10)  Big Little Lies, (Penguin/Putnam/Einhorn; Penguin Audio; Recorded Books; Thorndike)

#LibFaves14 — The Votes are In!

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

For the past ten days librarians have been doing their own year-end roundup of the best books by tweeting their favorites. The votes have now been tallied and EarlyWord can exclusively announce the results (eat your heart out, Entertainment Weekly!).

There were over 1,000 total votes for over 600 titles, just another indicator of how widely librarians read. As opposed to other best books lists, the titles on this list reflect librarians’ appreciation for the genres, particularly science fiction, and Young Adult titles.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry  9780804139021_6602f

With the number of titles, there was little overlap, but the number one title, also the number one LibraryReads Favorite of Favorites, is Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, (Workman/Algonquin Books; Highbridge Audio, OverDrive Sample) a book librarians embraced early on. Close behind it is a book that began as a self-published science fiction title and has since made its way to on multiple best books lists,  The Martian, Andy Weir, (RH/Crown) OverDrive Sample.

But the real fun of exploring this list is the amazing range of titles (how many have you even heard of, yet alone read?).

Thanks to the librarians who started this project three years ago, Stephanie Chase, Robin Beerbower and Linda Johns, it has now grown by leaps and bounds. And thanks to the people who helped with the vote counting, Janet Lockhart, Vicki Nesting, Melissa Samora and Gregg Winsor.

We urge you to take a look at  the full list to make your own discoveries (please let us know about them in the comments section); #LibFaves14 — Full List

To see the actual tweets, with some great 140 character recommendations, e.g., “WOMEN IN CLOTHES. I want 2 roll around in the book like it was money & I was Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal,”, check our Storify transcripts:

Days 1 through 7

Day 8 

Day 9

Day 10

New Best Books Lists

Monday, December 8th, 2014

If you need an antidote to all the best books list, check Entertainment Weekly‘s Worst Books of 2014.

We’ve updated our downloadable spreadsheet, 2014-Best-Books-Adult-Fiction-V-5 with the following,

Entertainment Weekly, Top Ten

National Public Radio Staff Picks

New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books

Time Magazine, Top Ten, Fiction

Meanwhile, two more best books lists have arrived. We’ll update our Nonfiction and Children’s lists with those titles this week.

Horn Book Fanfare

Kirkus Best Nonfiction