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Richie's Picks: THE BEST OF 2010


All we are saying is give peace a chance.


CAT THE CAT WHO IS THAT? by Mo Willems, Balzer + Bray.  In compiling this "Best of" list on the 30th anniversary of the tragic passing of the guy who taught me from a really young age to believe in peace, love, and a better world, I give the early reader CAT THE CAT my own "Give Peace a Chance" Award. 


Three other exceptional books from 2010 that promote understanding and acceptance are:



MIRROR by Jeannie Baker, Candlewick. Some of the world's children read left to right and others read right to left.  They do other things different, too, but they are all still kids.  Different but the same.



STAR IN THE FOREST by Laura Resau, Delacorte.  Once again, why might it be better to refrain from making judgements before getting to know someone?


TELL US WE'RE HOME by Marina Budhos, Atheneum.  As I wrote at the time, this is a story of the American Dream in the Twenty-first century.  It is a story about status and entitlement and those who are not so well-entitled. 

(You might want to google "Meg Whitman's maid.")


Picture Books (Part I):

"'Got sock?  Foot cold.'" -- from SOCKSQUATCH by Frank W. Dormer, Henry Holt 


In my Best quest, I seek picturebooks that are distinguished AND are the ones I believe that children's librarians, school librarians, and early childhood educators will be regularly reading aloud twenty years from now -- and not just because they've won an award.


There are many truly outstanding picturebooks this year, but no other one does it for me like CITY DOG, COUNTRY FROG by Mo Willems and Jon Muth, ill., Hyperion DBG.  I still crack up thinking about how dang far that frog can throw the stick (while playing fetch) or when, near the end, the dog smiles that unforgettable froggy smile. 


The very Best of the rest are ART & MAX by David Wiesner, Clarion; THE QUIET BOOK by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska, ill.Houghton Mifflin; MOONBEAR by Brenda Z. Guiberson and Ed Young, ill., Henry Holt, and CLEVER JACK TAKES THE CAKE by Candace Fleming and G. Brian Karas, ill., Schwartz and Wade.


Picture Books (Part II: Informational Picturebooks):


UBIQUITOUS: CELEBRATING NATURE'S SURVIVORS by Joyce Sidman and Beckie Prange, ill., Houghton Mifflin. This beautiful, lyrical, informational book does so many outstanding things at the same time -- great poetry, interesting prose, excellent illustration,  and accurate science -- that it is my pick for the Heisman AND the Cy Young AND the John R. Wooden awards.


SIT IN: HOW FOUR FRIENDS STOOD UP BY SITTING DOWN by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney, ill., Little Brown   "All they wanted was some food.  A doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side."  Want to learn how to change the world?  Here's how it was done when I was a little kid.


IT'S A BOOK by Lane Smith, Roaring Brook.  Very instructive and, (as Artie Johnson used to say on Laugh In), "verrry interesting."


(other) Early Readers:


BINK AND GOLLIE by Kate DiCamillo, Alison McGhee, and Tony Fucile, Candlewick.  I keep describing this as snarky -- a stand-out, illustrated, friendship-with-an-edge story for early readers and not-so-early readers.


Children's Fiction:


ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia, Harper Amistad.  I just love when I learn the history of my own lifetime through an unforgettable piece of children's historical fiction. 


THE DREAMER by Pam Munoz Ryan and Peter Sis, ill. Scholastic Press.  This illustrated dramatization of the childhood of the boy who would grow up to be known as Pablo Neruda is at the same time distinguished writing and an unforgettable story. 


COSMIC by Frank Cottrell Boyce, Walden Pond Press.  I grew my fan base this year by repeatedly recommending this crack-up of a story to middle school boys.


WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET by Tricia Springstubb, Balzer + Bray.  A story I absolutely loved about two young girls and a summer of changes.  "Being a thinker was a various thing.  Sometimes you felt like a turtle, with a nice, private built-in place to shelter.  Other times, it was like having a bucket stuck on your head, making the world clang and echo and never stop." 



STUCK ON EARTH by David Klass, Farrar, Straus & Giroux.  This is absolutely epic --  David Klass at his best -- the scene in which the slug-like alien named Kechvar, who has come to Earth to evaluate whether Mankind should be eradicated for the sake of the universe, and has invaded the body of teenager Tom Filber (entering through Tom's nostril), is reporting back to the Federation:

"It is now two in the morning and I am online and wearing earphones.  I have now listened to every song in Tom Filber's extensive music collection.  These fall into three genres: hip-hop, punk, and industrial.  As I write this, I am listening to a gangster rapper named Shorty D. Long singing about putting a cap in his ho.

"One can draw a straight line from the epics of Homer to this rap song by Shorty D. Long.   All of human art seems dedicated to the glorification of violence and the romanticization of the impulse to procreate.  The first is frequently called warfare and the second is known as love..."


KEEPER  by Kathi Appelt, Atheneum.  I love Kathi's writing, and KEEPER has that same wonderful feel (Think WINN-DIXIE and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK) of a child being raised by a memorable collection of neighborhood characters.


WOODS RUNNER by Gary Paulsen, Wendy Lamb Books. This Revolutionary War tale is the latest great evidence for my advocacy of trade books in the classroom.  As is... 


FORGE by Laurie Halse Anderson. Atheneum.  I so often I don't bother finishing the second book in a trilogy, no matter how good the first book is.  But FORGE (which follows CHAINS) is the exception.  


ALCHEMY AND MEGGY SWANN by Karen Cushman, Clarion. Cushman is at her top form in this Elizabethan-era tale of a young girl which will be perfect for interesting young people in Shakespeare and Ren fairs.


BLANK CONFESSION by Pete Hautman, Simon & Schuster. Great storytelling about a veteran cop and a self-confessed teen murderer.


A MILLION SHADES OF GRAY by Cynthia Kadohata, Atheneum.  Engaging historical fiction AND a heartbreaking elephant story. 


Young Adult:

THE LAST SUMMER OF THE DEATH WARRIORS by Francisco X. Stork, Arthur A. Levine Books.  Francisco Stork, one of my absolute favorite new writers, goes two-for-two.


BRAIN JACK by Brian Falkner, Random House.  I've been hearing from teens who have been hearing from other teens about this techno-thriller.


JUMP by Elisa Carbone, Viking. A boy, a girl, and some of the most breathtaking corners of America. 

"Can I help it if they're the most amazing bunch of idiots I've ever met?  I mean, this drop-dead cute girl is actually begging for someone to run away with her, and they've all got better things to do.  Not that she's a damsel in distress -- she's got a stance like a bulldog when she's angry, which she is right now, and all I can do is wait to see if she either says 'fine' or slugs me."


Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/

FTC NOTICE: Richie receives free books from lots of publishers who hope he will Pick their books.  You can figure that any review was written after reading and dog-earring a free copy received.  Richie retains these review copies for his rereading pleasure and for use in his booktalks at schools and libraries.

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