Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Best children's books, 2009, from the New York Times

From the editors of the Sunday New York Times Book Review, here are some outstanding children's books of 2009, featuring a selection of history, adventure, fiction and fairy tales. Locate copies using the World Catalog and Amazon search boxes here on BookBag.

Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales, written and illustrated by Lucy Cousins (Candlewick) Ages 3 and up In “Yummy,” the superbright palette of Lucy Cousins (of “Maisy” fame) meets the art of the fairy tale. Along with the wolves, hens and little girls in primary colors, outlined by the artist’s characteristic black brush strokes, the jaunty humor irresistibly pulls you in.

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith, by Deborah Heiligman (Holt) Ages 12 and up The unlikely, and happy, marriage of Charles Darwin and Emma Wedgwood comes to life in Heiligman’s intelligent and fast-moving book. Emma, a devout Christian but a sympathetic editor, helped make the arguments in On the Origin of Species airtight. Meanwhile readers can almost effortlessly absorb Darwin’s ideas and the culture in which they developed, along with a portrait of Victorian everyday life.

Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Ages 4 to 8 Through a magical use of cut paper, Jenkins takes the reader on a voyage to the deepest part of the ocean. Multilayered and multi­colored, bizarre creatures almost seem to move on the page: flying squid, cold-eyed mackerel and lacy, bioluminescent siphonophores (lighted up like Broadway bulbs). Helpful descriptions both inform and entertain.

The Last Olympian: Perry Jackson & the Olympians,
Book 5, by Rick Riordan (Disney Hyperion) Ages 10 and up In Riordan’s universe, Greek mythology — along with its vividly imagined heroes and monsters — is alive and well in New York City. Percy, short for Perseus, here concludes his adventures (for the moment) with great humor and inventiveness, not to mention nearly world-ending mayhem.

Marcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic. Ages 12 and up This brisk and brilliant novel tells the story of Marcelo, who knows he’s different, but not “abnormal or ill” (for people who need labels, he says his condition resembles Asperger’s). A summer job his father forces him to take in the “real world” plunges him into a legal mystery, a moral dilemma and a deepening friendship with his boss, the beautiful Jasmine.

The Vast Fields of Ordinary, by Nick Burd (Dial Books). Ages 14 and up Set among the fields of Iowa, what could have been a standard last-summer-before-college drama is instead packed with insights and memorable characters you want to know better, chief among them a young gay protagonist who plays against type in gratifying ways. Burd’s nuanced storytelling and metaphor-rich writing lift his debut novel far above the ordinary.

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb/Random House) Ages 9 to 14 Stead’s novel is a thrilling puzzle: a complex mystery, a work of historical
fiction and a story of friendship, with a theme of time travel running through it. After Miranda’s apartment key disappears and strange notes begin appearing, clues pile up on the way to a moment of intense drama. From then on it is nearly impossible to stop reading.

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