My Last 2009 Title and One-Sentence Reviews: 2010
This was, without a doubt, the most exciting poll I have ever done, i.e. asking my readers what one last book I should review for a coming year. Who knew it would come down to a fight ala the Jets and the Sharks? From the start, fans were lining up behind their favorite books. Quickly, however, the race turned into a battle between four leading contenders. The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner, Jane in Bloom by Deborah Lytton, Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire by Brenda A. Ferber, and Powerless by Matthew Cody. These four were neck and neck and then Lytton dove ahead. No, wait! Suddenly it was Cody. No! I take it back! Lytton.
Before long it was just Lytton and Cody battling it out. Both must have some sort of fan base, because folks were coming from all over! In the end an amazing 1,069 votes were cast in total. Ye gods!
To be frank with you, as of yesterday I had written off Lytton as the surefire winner. Striding ahead at 270+ votes, it seemed obvious. Then last night I told the poll when to close and I went to bed. And when I get up this morning . . . an upset! Cody pulled ahead with a surprise 330 votes to Lytton’s 327!!
Our winner? Powerless by Matthew Cody!
So I would like you all to give a very big round of applause to Ms. Lytton and her Jane in Bloom. It really put on a magnificent showing. And honestly, I like Shelf Elf’s review so much that I don’t think there’s much I could have added.
But next year I may have to keep the results of these polls away from your eyes, dear readers. It’s exciting to see you go head to head, but it must be stressful for somebody. Best not to know until all is said and done, I think.
I’ll include the votes of each remaining book with their one sentence review here. I should mention that getting me to say a review in a single sentence is an amusing concept. Please bear in mind that since I’m limiting my words, I can’t really go into any details about why I feel one way or another. I’m also prone to being caustically honest, so be wary. And ah-one, and ah-two . . .
Spell Hunter (Faery Rebels, #1) by R.J. Anderson – A take on the fairy genre that ultimately raised some interesting debates about feminism as it relates to fairies.
Basher Science: Rocks & Minerals by Simon Basher – Though it may primarily find itself being used in conjunction with homework assignments, I read this puppy from cover to cover and enjoyed it thoroughly in the process.
Sylvie and the Songman by Tim Binding – A strange and lyrical book, though one that does feel as if it was written by an adult author who was trying to figure out the children’s book genre.
The Princess Plot by Kirsten Boie – I wanted to like this more than I did but the heroine was just so dense that it was hard to enjoy the fine plotting and other (more interesting) characters.
Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel – A mix of fiction, fact, and comics makes this a rather notable departure from Bruel’s picture books, and one that I quite enjoyed.
All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg – I was impressed by the weight and depth of this slim, slight novel, though I agree with the fellow blogger who was baffled as to why it had to be in verse.
Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom by Tim Byrd – I appreciated how the book just leapt headfirst into the action, catching readers up after the fact, and also how I can now hand kids something when they come asking me for books "Just like Indiana Jones" (which really does happen).
The Unknowns by Benedict Carey – A friend recommended this and I was very impressed with its math-based mystery, though an abandoned plot point involving a swiss army knife kept me from going so far as to review it.
Z. Rex: The Hunting, Book One by Steve Cole – I deeply regret not getting a chance to review this book, since it was fantastic, funny, exciting, and somehow managed to make the idea of a talking, flying, invisible, super-intelligent dinosaur work.
Rissa Bartholomew’s Declaration of Independence by Lynda Brill Comerford – Definitely well written but the low-key subject matter almost made it difficult for me to get through in the end.
Candle Man, Book One: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Glenn Dakin – Quite fun, but a better high concept book in theory than in execution, I’m afraid.
Bettina Valentino and the Picasso Club by Niki Daly – This little South African early chapter book was a lot of fun in terms of effectively teaching kids about different art styles, but didn’t quite contain that extra kick it needed to become beloved.
In Memory of Gorfman T. Frog by Gail Donovan – I slap myself daily for not reviewing this, since it was one of my favorite funny early chapter book titles of the year, bar none.
The Word Snoop by Ursula Dubosarsky – Though a book about grammar sounds dull as dishwater, this was one of the sweet little surprises of the year, coming off as both engaging and interesting (despite all expectations).
Dessert First by Hallie Durand – The desserts are indeed fantastic in this book, though it’s sometimes difficult to determine how sympathetic or unsympathetic you’re supposed to find the heroine of this tale.
Fortune’s Folly by Deva Fagan – May have been a victim of its own cover ultimately, but a nice new fairy tale for kids looking for something along the lines of Gail Carson Levine.
Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire by Brenda A. Ferber – I never went to camp myself, but if I had I’m pretty sure it would have been an experience almost identical to Ferber’s amazing little microcosm as it appears within these pages.
The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice – A divisive novel amongst the librarian readership, causing some to love it, some to hate it, and some (like myself) not to feel particularly strong about it one way or another, though I did covet those chocolate covered strawberries.
Toby Alone by Timothee de Fombelle – Ultimately I liked the action and excitement of this a lot, though I absolutely despised where the book ended.
The Cats of Roxville Station by Jean Craighead George – An incredibly real look at the lives of feral cats, so hand it to a fan of the Warriors series as a wake-up call.
Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff – Aw, it’s a sweet book and definitely has stayed in my mind, though I was a little sad that the bandages and band-aids didn’t make it onto the cover.
The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz – Since I’m not a baseball person I didn’t hope to be impressed by this nine generation tale of Brooklyn and baseball, but Gratz makes fine use of the characters and time periods in this oddly compelling little book.
My Life in Pink and Green by Lisa Greenwald – A new take on the let’s-save-the-family-store tale, and may end up being one of the few books to make make-up sound desirable to child readers who couldn’t care less about it.
Emmaline and the Bunny by Katherine Hannigan – She’s an infinitely readable writer, but I found this to be just too twee to my taste.
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip M. Hoose – I never reviewed it, not because there was too little to say but because there was too much praise to possibly fit into one single review (and others have said it for me anyway).
The Secret of Zoom by Lynne Jonell – Jonell’s known for doing stories that no one else in the world could possibly think of, and this book is no exception (that’s a good thing).
Melonhead by Katy Kelly – I’ve admittedly never read a Kelly book before and I really enjoyed this one, though it was strange to read it right after finished Gorfman T. Frog since the boys in both books were remarkably similar types.
Newsgirl by Liza Ketchum – One of my favorite works of historical fiction this year, a great title with a cover that fits in particularly well in the era of Balloon Boy.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney – I read it in a single sitting, my husband read it in a single sitting, and I suspect a good 50% of child readers out there also read it in a single sitting too.
Dying to Meet You: 43 Old Cemetery Road by Kate and M. Sarah Klise – Not my cup of tea, but that’s only because I don’t (for whatever reason) particularly take to the Klise style of writing and punning.
The Flight of the Phoenix (Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist, Book #1) by R.L. LaFevers – More than a little charming, this is the perfect early chapter book to throw at the kid that is just getting into independent reading but wants a fantasy element to their books in some manner.
Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur – Practically perfect in every way and enough to make me wonder how it is that editor Wendy Lamb keeps finding these fantastic little books to publish.
Really, Really Big Questions by Stephen Law – A perfect addition to any philosophical section of a library, and not a bad starting point for kids who wonder everything from "What happens when I die?" to "Are humans basically good or evil?"
The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine – A historical novel that shoots a bit wide of its intended mark, making it pleasant if ultimately unmemorable.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look – Note to Self: Interview Lenore Look at the next possible opportunity, since she seems to have a gift for writing early chapter books that are hugely amusing, just like this one.
Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez – The very rare Hispanic girl middle grade novel where she’s happy and dealing with normal everyday girl issues should be more common, as proved by this little gem of a book.
Under New Management and Beatrice and Blossom (Runt Farm, Books 1 & 2) by Amanda Lorenzo – Early chapter books of a sweet unassuming nature.
The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival by Dene Low – It may not be particularly well known due to the sheer strangeness of the material, but Low’s book is still a hoot and a holler (and really the number one go-to source for bug eating uncles this year).
100% Wolf by Jane Lyons – This was actually a great deal of fun and it makes for an excellent booktalk as well.
Jane in Bloom by Deborah Lytton – We don’t have many recent middle grade sibling suicide titles, so Lytton’s book certainly will fill a need for many kids caught in the same situation.
Franny Parker by Hannah McKinnon – I was honestly a little surprised to see that I’d read this when going through my pile of books, but after thinking about it the slow, sweet story came back to me, and I was happier for having seen it.
Harper Lee by Kerry Madden – This book just slipped through the cracks for me, but I honestly believe it’s one of the strongest biographies I’ve ever read for kids.
Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491 by Charles C. Mann – A very effective adaptation of Mann’s adult version, and very easy to booktalk if you just tell kids that corn is a Frankenstein creation (which it is).
The Twilight Prisoner by Katherine Marsh – Marsh does some very admirable things with her Central Park history in this book, though it did feel a little superfluous after the stand alone success of The Night Tourist.
11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass – She’s one of those authors who consistently flies below the radar, but I predict that with more books like this she is bound to become very well remembered in the minds of child readers of the future.
The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner – A gentle, heartwarming tale that drills home not just a classic granddaughter/grandmother relationship, but also the basic trials of being a kid today.
City Boy by Jan Michael – This really slipped under the radar, but it was quite the remarkable book and if you haven’t read it yourself I recommend it highly.
A Savage Thunder: Antietam and the Bloody Road to Freedom by Jim Murphy – Although I greatly appreciated a book on this subject being written for kids (and better yet, by master of the form Jim Murphy) I felt that the layout didn’t break up the text adequately, and will perhaps scare off potential readers who would be interested in the subject.
Burn My Heart by Beverly Naidoo – A fantastic antidote to those insipid middle grade books that can’t take historical complexity into account, this was one of the more heart wrenching books of the year (and I certainly hope she writes a sequel to it).
Herbert’s Wormhole by Peter Nelson – Darn it, I really did mean to review this one, since it’s almost impossible to find good boy-friendly partially cartoony fiction containing alien invaders who wear bad toupees and fake moustaches and talk like Australians.
Sunny Holiday by Coleen Murtagh Paratore – I’d love to discuss this early chapter book in a group setting with a bunch of other people, since the author seems to pull the entire endeavor off without slipping into stereotype, and I’d like to figure out how exactly she did it.
Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry – A notable debut leading readers to believe that we will be seeing great things out of Ms. Parry in the coming years.
Marching for Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don’t You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge – One of the best covers of the year on one of the best books of the year, and I appreciated the length in particular.
Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron – A sweet sequel but suffers from the Newbery sequel dilemma a lot of books face (Small Steps, Crispin: At the Edge of the World, etc.) in that it cannot quite live up to its predecessor.
Mudshark by Gary Paulsen – Started off well enough and I had dreams of it being a whole new early chapter book series, but then the ending sort of fell apart and I was left feeling a bit cheated.
A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck – Honestly after reading the massive conversations about this book over at Heavy Medals, maybe it’s better that I didn’t review this, particularly since my response was to be pleased but not overly thrilled.
Daddy’s Little Angel by Shani Petroff – Does a delicate balancing act when it comes to creating a lighthearted story about the girlspawn of Satan himself, but if there are any problems it would be in the concept, not the writing.
Slob by Ellen Potter – I actually had a great deal of fun reading this, and I thought the whodunit twist worked very well, though I did have some small issues here and there with the final product.
Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh – When I first read the book I felt relatively blase about it, but as time went on I looked back on the title and grew more and more impressed with what Raleigh was able to pull off.
Mothstorm by Philip Reeve – Admittedly it’s probably the least memorable of the three books in this remarkable steampunk-for-kids series, but that still makes it heads and tales better than a lot of the sci-fi titles we’re seeing set in space today.
Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run by Sam Riddleburger – A timeslip novel that bravely attempts a lot of very tricky historical maneuvers, so it should be commended for not losing its head at any point.
Calvin Coconut: Trouble Magnet by Graham Salisbury – Yay, say I, to this fun early chapter book series set in Hawaii.
Secret Subway by Martin W. Sandler – A very cool look at a little known subway, though I did wish it was a little longer at the end (there was a bit of an abrupt finish involved).
The Little Secret by Kate Saunders – I think the problem with this book wasn’t the writing, which was nice but not particularly gripping, so much as the extremely unfortunate illustrations which caused me to repeatedly cringe while reading.
The Georges and the Jewels by Jane Smiley – I was determined not to let this horsey book win me over since I loathed and despised horsey books when I was a child, only the darn thing charmed me when I wasn’t looking and I inadvertently became a fan.
Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder – Probably the most authentic tip of the hat to Edward Eager I’ve ever seen a middle grade novel attempt (though admittedly I never read Magic By the Book by Nina Bernstein).
The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline (Enola Holmes Mysteries #5) by Nancy Springer – Only the fact that it’s in a series kept me from reviewing this book in what is currently my favorite mystery series of the moment.
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone – Debates about intent and message aside, I thought Stone did a stand up job telling a story that few know and fewer still have ever heard, and in an engaging way at that.
Spellbinder by Helen Stringer – Just a touch longer than it need to have been, but there are a couple of ideas here that were fun to consider.
Lucy Long Ago: Uncovering the Mystery of Where We Came From by Catherine Thimmesh – Every time Ms. Thimmesh writes a new book my heart goes pitter-pat, and this book was no exception with its fantastic length, great pictures, and superb research.
Wishworks, Inc. by Stephanie Tolan – An early chapter book that also happens to be a dog story that I can really understand (and while I’m not a horse person, I’m DEFINITELY not a dog person either).
Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker – There was a great deal to enjoy about this book, but the technical definitions were way too far above the heads of 12-year-olds (and maybe even 18-year-olds) so that makes it a better book for assignments than reading for fun.
The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams – I really regret not reviewing this since I found it entirely engaging, with the possible exception of the too-cute-to-be-realistic twist ending involving the villain of the piece.
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld – Actually not a bad explanation of WWI for kids, though they’ll probably just love it for the augmented beasties and metal contraptions.
Mirrorscape by Mike Wilks – A lot of original ideas were at work here, though it went on much longer than it needed too, I’m afraid.
Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams – Sometimes I don’t review books because I just can’t figure out what to say about them and this novel, strong as it was, was difficult to pin down review-wise.
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
SLJ Blog Network