Okay, so I know I haven’t really reviewed that many kids books here before, but I get asked (by relatives, by children, by parents of children) for recommendations for kid’s books ALL THE TIME!!!
And I mean, I will not tell a lie, I ADORE telling people what to read—you know, sharing books that I think are great and important. I especially love recommending books to kids, I want them all to read all the fun books that I read when I was young(er) and fragile/stupid/vicious/whatever that made me feel confident and introduced me to crazy and entrancing worlds that made me know who I am and could be. So basically, yes, I am full of IDEALISM.
Anyway. In case you were interested in some nostalgic reading, or need books to recommend to children, here are my favorite kids books from 2012.
Wonderful Juvenile Young Readers:
Just so you know, when I say Juvenile Young Readers, I mean books for children ages 7-12. And there are TONS of great ones out in the world, and practically one for every kind of kid and each of their interests. So that’s the spiel on that. All that said, I didn’t get to read all of the new juvie fic from this year. But here are my two favorites.
Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon
Okay, so this is a series written and drawn by Ursula Vernon, the creator of the amazing webcomic Digger. Dragonbreath features Danny Dragonbreath—the only mythical reptile at his school—and his iguana friend, Wendell. And they go on some crazy—and even educational—adventures. For example, an adventure under the sea leads to knowledge about some of the inner workings of sea cucumbers (both super gross AND super cool), squid of various kinds, and sea serpents (that last one is less educational). These books are really funny. Part comic, part novel, Vernon’s Dragonbreath series is intelligently written and full-on awesome.
Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley
The Sister’s Grimm series is great. Think of Once Upon A Time—yes, the ABC Disney fairytale nightmare—now imagine if Once Upon A Time were actually good. I know—unimaginable. But that is sort of what Sisters Grimm is like. The story features two sisters—left alone when their parents mysteriously disappear—who are adopted by their estranged grandmother, who drops a bit of a bomb on them—they are actually descended from the famous Brothers Grimm, and the fairytales are real. The Sisters Grimm soon find themselves solving all kinds of enchanted mysteries—including the most important one: what happened to their parents. The sisters are funny, well-drawn, and utterly endearing, and the fairytale characters are wonderfully reinterpreted. Basically, it’s amazing.
My Most Favorite Picture Books:
People may ask you less for recommendations on picture books, but they are awesome, and these ones are particularly well worth knowing about.
We Are In a Book, by Mo Willems
Um. I love this book. No shame. It’s very simply illustrated—line drawings of the aptly-named Elephant and Piggie—but the writing is superb. I mean it. It’s meta and funny and sweet. In short: Elephant and Piggie discover that they are in a book! They are quite pleased until they think of a problem—books end! What will they do? In the end they realize a simple solution, they will just ask the reader to start the book again when it’s over. The first page of the book features Elephant and Piggie sitting back-to-back and saying “Thank you.” If you’ve ever done a storytime type of deal for kids, the “Again! Again!” phenomenon is just going to happen anyway, so it’s best to have a book that rewards the tendency.
Soonchild, by Russell Hoban
Soonchild is one heck of a picture book. It is long for a picture book, and complicated—set in “The North,” it’s the story of Sixteen-Face John, who needs to give his unborn child the songs of the world. It’s a strange journey to find the world songs, but it’s just a gorgeous as it is strange, luxuriating in charcoal illustrations that are nothing short of beautiful. If you’re looking for something that’s equal amounts picture book and art book, this is it.
Dragons Love Tacos, by Adam Rubin
I love dragons, I love tacos, and I love this book. Basically, it’s about how dragons love tacos (and they really, really, really love tacos). It also includes useful instructions on how to throw a taco party for dragons (mainly, do not involve hot salsa—it makes them breathe fire. Clean up can be rough). I did tell you that I love this book, right? It’s just pure fun. Side effects may include a desire for tacos.
Chloe and The Lion, by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex
This is another meta book. The main characters are supposed to be Chloe and a lion, but once the author and the illustrator start fighting, anything can happen. Thankfully, sensible Chloe is there to help mend fences. It’s a gorgeous book (before the author commands the dragon to eat the illustrator, Mr. Rex does a really good job), as well as fun and intellectually engaging. I love this book. Read it.