“Once there was a girl / an all-alone girl / in her own little bed / in her own little room / in her own little castle / who didn’t have a dragon for a friend.”
This is going to be the saddest list ever. Nonetheless, here are the books for kids and teens that floated like jetsam past my desk this year....
Disclaimer: other more recent chapter books are embargoed because they are being considered for the CLA Book of the Year for Children and, as such, I cannot comment about them at this time.
- Lovabye Dragon by Barbara Joosse: a lonely dragon with an overbite? What's not to love? See above.
- Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (she of Duck! Rabbit! fame)
- Sam et Julia dans la maison des souris by Karina Schaapman: This gem of a book is too beautiful to miss, even if you can't read the text. If you, like me, spent a childhood enraptured by dollhouses (my two favourites were the real-life one in Windsor Castle and the one in Beatrix Potter's The tale of two bad mice), this book is for you.
- Oh No, Little Dragon! by Jim Averbeck: do I have a dragon thing? Perhaps! Little Dragon loses his fire-breathing ability when playing in the bathtub. Will he get it back? The suspense is killing me!
- The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce: I did make a vague effort to stay current with international book awards news, and as a result read this winner of the Guardian children's fiction prize. An intriguing mix of Polaroids of unknown origin and a story about a mysterious immigrant family who are being pursued by a demon.
- Howl by Karen Hood-Caddy: This book, and the next one on the list, are my under-appreciated underdogs from the 2012 CLA BOYCA reads. Howl actually appeared on our shortlist last year: this is a nuanced portrait of a young girl learning to cope with grief after the death of her mother, and a whole family's story of coming together to make something meaningful out of loss. Here's a review from Q&Q.
- Saving Armpit by Natalie Hyde: In a world in which quality middle grade books are often few and far between, this is an overlooked solid Canadian title about a letter-writing campaign undertaken by a group of small-town children in order to save their local post office (and thus the postmaster, coach of their local baseball team).
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green: again, the hype penetrated my consciousness, and I had to pick this one up. Friends and colleagues disagree over this one: someone pointed out that teens don't talk like they do in this book (fair enough!) and someone else, like me, found this book both hilarious and tragic. For those who grew up with Lurlene McDaniel (oh yes, I went there!), this is how a book about a kid with a terminal illness was meant to be written. Green knocks it out of the park.
- Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin, Book 1 by Robin LaFevers: Meet your new Katniss.
- Monoceros by Suzette Mayr: Technically published as an adult novel, but I am including it here because I feel it has a real audience with teens, especially as a year filled with truly tragic stories of teen suicides due to bullying draws to a close. This book has a passage, narrated by the victim's mother, of such utter beauty that I think it might well be one of my favourite scenes ever. As a truly Canadian story of a teen suicide, told from different perspectives, this is another under-appreciated title. Read a review here.
Previous favourite children's book lists: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008.
Previous favourite teen book lists: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008.