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Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 11 years, 1 month ago

22 December 2001 The Best of 2001


2001 has been one more year in which I have relished my involvement with children's and young adult literature. The golden age of children's literature continues...


2001 Paperback of the Year:

SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson, Puffin

Before SPEAK was published in 1999, I wrote that it was the YA of the year and that every eighth-grader in the country should get to read it. As some of you know, I've spent this fall reading books aloud to Shari's eighth grade English classes. Three class sets of SPEAK in the new paperback edition is how we spent her discretionary funds for the year. I didn't know that I could possibly love this book any more than I already did, but to see the reactions of the kids to Melinda's story and to see them mine the book's rich text to learn a dozen literary devices has been an unforgettable experience. When we started SPEAK, we had the students pick slips of paper with the book's chapter headings. (We didn't have a caved-in globe, so they reached into a plastic Viking helmet.) They used these terms as the basis for writing poems and stories, and we were absolutely blown away by their inspiration.


The Best and The Best of 2001

THE LAND by Mildred D. Taylor, Phyllis Fogelman Books

THE MISFITS by James Howe, Atheneum


I reviewed THE LAND in February and it became the yardstick against which I measured the rest of the year's releases. I still think that it is the masterpiece of 2001 and deserves any award for which it is eligible. Since we have no more money this year, we've applied for a grant to buy a class set. Either way, I'll be reading this one aloud beginning around MLK Day.

Last year I wrote that the message of GIVE A BOY A GUN--that there be zero tolerance for name calling--should be immediately adopted in schools, beginning at the lowest grades. After finishing GUN I wished for an appropriate book to teach younger readers about the serious harm caused by name-calling. In my July review of THE MISFITS, I spoke of how it was the book I'd been looking for.

The week after September 11th, I began reading THE MISFITS to Shari's classes. A month later it was stunning to read the heartfelt and articulate letters that the students wrote to James Howe about how they were affected by the story, how they'd been affected in the past by name-calling, and how so many saw themselves as the fifth member of the Gang of Five. The book's impact continues--we expect to have a school districtwide No-Name Day in the spring.


Best Kick-Ass Contemporary YA Stories of 2001:

YOU DON'T KNOW ME by David Klass, Farrar Straus Giroux

RAZZLE by Ellen Wittlinger, Simon & Schuster

WHALE TALK by Chris Crutcher, Greenwillow


I'll never forget Shari and me returning to the DC Hostel after the first day of ALA Midwinter and squishing into the bottom bunk so that I could read her the beginning of YOU DON'T KNOW ME before dinner. Absolute genius; totally unique, hilarious, and terrifying. It's so much fun to read this aloud that I've created "Storytime at Lunch" in order to perform it for a bunch of kids, a chapter per day.

RAZZLE is absolutely memorable and was another joy to read aloud to Shari. (Yes, I fear this one is a bit too much for reading to middle schoolers, even at lunchtime.) I was totally taken with Kenyon and Razzle, amused by the sometimes over-the-top supporting cast, and irked by the two mothers and their insensitivity.

WHALE TALK, the long-awaited book from Chris Crutcher, has some of the same things going for it as does THE MISFITS, particularly the freedom that the seven guys develop to be themselves when they're together on the bus. A taut plot, lots of issues...and, hey, I was the guy who lost the student council presidency to the glamor boy of the football team, so I always love it when the "jocks" get their comeuppance.


Best YA Fantasy, 2001

SECRET SACRAMENT by Sherryl Jordan, Harper Collins

Yeah, it kept me up all night, and it made me cry. Somehow, it took five years from publication in New Zealand until publication here, but I guess they 're on the other side of the International Date Line...This was the spring title which I was so gratified to see that the BBYA Teen Panel wouldn't shut up about.


Best Children's and Young Adult Historic Novels of 2001:

WITNESS by Karen Hesse, Scholastic Press

WITCH CHILD by Celia Rees, Candlewick Press

CORAM BOY by Jamila Gavin, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

FAIR WEATHER by Richard Peck, Dial

WITNESS is another book that is going to make its way into Shari's classroom this year--we've gathered enough copies to perform it as reader's theater. Karen Hesse is one of today's most beloved authors with good reason.


Reading WITCH CHILD was the first time I've ever been truly captivated by the Salem witch trial topic; I loved the Native American twist. The book left me begging for the sequel.


I am surprised by the lack of attention that the splendid CORAM BOY seems to have gotten in the US after winning the Whitbread last year in Britain. In June, I said "...How the pieces of this gripping story fall into place had me reading breathlessly throughout the night. There are characters to totally adore, to utterly hate, and those in-between, whom you'll wonder about for days afterward."


In FAIR WEATHER, Richard Peck's ability to allow me to see, smell, and taste the enormity, magnificence, and even the dust of the World's Columbian Exposition (the setting for yet another rollicking tale with unforgettable characters) leaves me yearning to have been there.


Best Hormones and Frequencies, 2001:

WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN'T KNOW by Sonya Sones, Simon & Schuster

SEEK by Paul Fleischman, Cricket Books

Back in June, I characterized WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN'T KNOW as "...captivating, witty, tender, and sexy." Perhaps not every guy will dig this "girl book" but I sure did.


SEEK is a love story about radio, as well as the story of Rob Radkovitz. There are some great fall-on-the-floor laugh-out-loud moments mixed into the many poignant recollections of the boy who has never met his father.


Best Girl-And-Her-Dog Tale, 2001:

Rookie of the Year, 2001:

NOTES FROM A LIAR AND HER DOG by Gennifer Choldenko, Putnam

This is a wonderfully funny and deceptively complex story of a young girl whose lack of trust causes her to continually take matters into her own hands; also a fascinating mother-daughter relationship.


Best Hell'va Good Book, 2001:

VICKY ANGEL by Jacqueline Wilson, Delacorte Press

VICKY ANGEL is (excuse the pun) a haunting story about the ups and downs of the friendship between two girls. Together since nursery school, a tragic and fatal accident in ninth grade cannot keep the domineering Vicky from continuing her control over Jade's life.


So You Wanna Be An Author, 2001:

THE SCHOOL STORY by Andrew Clements, Ill. by Brian Selznick, Simon and Schuster


Best Two I Didn't Review (Yet), 2001:

JUST ASK IRIS by Lucy Frank, Simon and Schuster

Whether it's her personal crusade to get her much-needed first bra, or her campaign to save the "cat lady" upstairs, this fun and poignant story will teach kids about persistence and community.


COUNTDOWN TO INDEPENDENCE A Revolution of Ideas in England and Her American Colonies: 1760-1776 by Natalie Bober, Atheneum

Best YA Nonfiction, 2001. Bober shows us what was happening in Britain and the Colonies; she transforms the players--from KingGeorge III to Dr. Joeph Warren--into real people.


Richie Partington

Richie's Picks


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