Sunday, November 27, 2011

Favorite Books of the Year

I thought now would be a good time to share my favorite books of the year!  After reading over 200 books in the last six months, I have to say that a select few stand out above the rest.  These are the books that touched me the most.  These characters have stuck with me, and they are the books that once I started, I could not put them down.  I can say that none of them particularly appealed to me before I picked them up, which says the most about how the authors got me to care about characters that were not engaging to me at the start.

I hope your children will enjoy them as much as our family has.  If I were allowed to give out a Newbery, these would be my finalists - hands down!  I wouldn't be surprised to see any of them winning this award.

Title:          True (...sort of)
Author:     Katherine Hannigan
Target:     Grades 4-7
What this book is about:

The main character Delly is always getting into trouble, so much so that her uniqueness and shine are fading and being replaced by a new reality, that she is a bad kid.  When she decides she needs to change, Ferris Boyd comes into her life.  Ferris doesn’t speak and can’t be touched, but Ferris and Delly forge a deep bond that saves them both.  I must disclose that abuse by a parent is taking place in this book, but the details are handled in a vague and delicate manner and it will not unduly scare the target reader.  Please don’t let that dissuade you from reading it!

Why I love it:

All the descriptions I read didn’t really inspire me to pick up this book, they sounded a bit odd, but I am telling you that it is so worth the read.   What got me to eventually pick it up was the smaller petite size of the book, which intrigued me, and the title.  Delly and Ferris are unlike any characters I have encountered before and Hannigan's writing is sooooo good that you will love these characters as much as I did, in spite of yourself.

Who this book is for:

I am still trying to decided what type of child will love this book as much as I did!  It is not an action book, it is a character and a relationship driven book, so I was actually surprised that my 7th grade son enjoyed it as much as he did.  It took a little pushing to get him started, but once he was into the story, he didn’t put it down.  However, in the end, I still think it will appeal more to girls than boys.
Final thoughts:
True:  Delly is a unique and quirky character that will stay with you long after you finish the book.
True:  You will be very happy you read it!

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here: True (. . . Sort Of)

Title:          Okay for Now
Author:      Gary D. Schmidt
Target:       Grades 6-10
What this book is about:

Doug is an eighth grade boy whose family has just moved to “the dump.”   His father is abusive, his brother is suspected of robbery and his oldest brother returns from Vietnam in a fragile state.  Still Doug finds refuge in the library, not with books but a set of Audubon prints, he gets involved in the community with his Saturday delivery job (where he is known as Skinny Delivery Boy) and finds a teacher who understands that he is not his family, but his own person.

Why I love it:

Wow, I was blown away by this story.  The writing is superb and I was thoroughly invested in this character.  This book made me laugh, it made me cry - sounds silly I know but it is just that good!  I could not put it down.

Who this is for:

I am really hoping that boys will love this book!  It is absolutely fabulous and draws you in pretty quickly, with a middle school boy facing family strife during the Vietnam era.  It is a character driven book and not action focused which makes me nervous, but I am hoping that this character is so compelling that boys will also get lost in the story, since this story is written for them.   However, don’t be afraid to give it to a girl.  It is just that well done, that both genders will get caught up in this amazing story.
I would recommend that children wait until sixth grade to read this book.  While there is minimal violence and no sexual content, the issues of abuse, coming home from war and the subtleties of the relationships are not appropriate for a younger age.  
Final thoughts:

Ok for Now is better than ok (too punny?)  

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here: Okay for Now

Title:          The Flint Heart
Authors:   Katherine and John Paterson
Target:       Grades 3-6
What this story is about:

In the Stone Age, a tribesman, unsatisfied with his position in the tribe, has a flint heart made which hardens his heart and allows him to draw on uncontionable power to take control of the tribe.  The heart resurfaces thousands of years later to take control of an amiable farmer, a badger and a fairy creature. With the help of the Zagabog, the smartest creature in the universe, our hero and heroine attempt to rescue others from this cruel talisman.   
Why I love it:

The Flint Heart is a retelling of the story written by Eden Phillports in 1910. I am in no way familiar with the original story, but this current version is absolutely magical!  Top that off with the fact that it is downright funny, which I was not prepared for!  The language the authors use is advanced but approchable so it added to the story instead of making it feel too difficult.  There are interesting and quirky characters and great life lessons on point of view and where hapiness comes from.  The true story of the tortoise and the hare was one of my favorites!
Who is it for:

The full delight of this book is probably best experienced read aloud, but really any child can get caught up in this story.  There is no way to adequately describe the humor and the offbeat characters you will meet (a talking water bottle make in Germany?) so it is for children who love getting caught up in a good book.
My final thoughts:

Read this book, it will absolutely surprise you!

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here: The Flint Heart

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