Betsy Regretsy: Books I Most Regret Not Reviewing in 2014
Babies. They just sorta throw the whole reviewing machine into a tizzy. When I first started blogging I was actually able to do a review a day. That was crazy. Then kiddo #1 was born and that slowed to 2-3 reviews a week. Manageable. This year (2014) kiddo #2 made his debut and now I feel inordinately accomplished if I can get one review out a week.
All this is to say that there’s a whole host of fabulous children’s books out there that I missed my chance to review in 2014. I have a tendency to only review books within their current publishing year. So, with a tip of my hat and a shuffle off the stage, here are the books of the year that I jolly well would have LOVED to have reviewed. These are the best books I’ll never tell you about. Cue “Thanks for the Memories” and . . .
The Big Bad Bubble by Adam Rubin, ill. Daniel Salmieri – Because there are monsters and there are bubbles and combining the two? It just makes good clean sense.
Big Bug by Henry Cole – Finding really simple texts in picture books can be hard. This fits.
A Dance Like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey, ill. Floyd Cooper – So incredibly good. Floyd Cooper at his best.
Dragon’s Extraordinary Egg by Debi Gliori – The ultimate blended family tale. Why do all the best stories about different kinds of families involve penguins?
Elsa and the Night by Jons Mellgren – I just loved the art in this one, as well as the metaphor at work. What was the metaphor? Darned if I know. But if I’d reviewed it, maybe I could have pinned it down.
The Farmer’s Away! Baa! Neigh! by Anne Vittur Kennedy – Have you read this one aloud to a large group yet? It takes a bit of practice but once you’ve got the rhythm down there’s really nothing to compare.
Here Comes Destructosaurus! by Aaron Reynolds, ill. Jeremy Tankard – To my mind, this is one of the best metaphors for toddler/preschooler destruction I’ve ever seen. And you get to see someone destroy NYC!
I Wish I Had a Pet by Maggie Rudy – I wish I had more books like this.
A Piece of Cake by LeUyen Pham – This one has a slow burn. Read it the first time and missed a LOT of the details. Subsequent readings (my kiddo’s a fan) revealed just how clever it really is.
Sticks n’ Stones n’ Dinosaur Bones by Ted Enik, illustrated by G.F. Newland -From a small small publisher but a lovely little book. Look for it!
Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales – GAH! Why didn’t I do this one? There’s so much to love here.
Early Chapter Books
Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman – The most underrated early chapter book of 2014. Seriously, if you haven’t read it, run, don’t walk, to your nearest library and check it out.
Jim’s Lion by Russell Hoban, ill. Alexis Deacon – When I compare this to the original version there simply isn’t any comparison. It’s amazing. I had some issues with the Magical Black Friend aspects, but otherwise this reinterpretation was jaw-dropping. I must now find everything Deacon has ever done.
Pinocchio by Kate McMullan, ill. Pascal LeMaitre – By some weird lick of fate, this book ended up the very first chapter book my daughter was able to listen to all the way through. Maybe it’s the episodic nature of the text. Maybe the pictures. Whatever it is, it works.
Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, ill. LeUyen Pham – It’s a female Zorro. Nuff said.
Fairytales & Folktales
My Grandfather’s Coat by Jim Aylesworth, ill. Barbara McClintock – I know everyone’s crazy about the other McClintock book out this year (Where’s Mommy?) but for me she’s doing her best work with this title. And just look at that cover? Nothing compares.
The Princess Who had no Kingdom by Ursula Jones, ill. Sarah Gibb – Has a wry sense of humor you wouldn’t necessarily associate with a princess tale.
The Six Swans by the Brothers Grimm, ill. Gerda Raidt – Keeps close to the original material without getting all icky with the accusations of cannibalism. Oddly child-friendly (if that makes sense).
You Can’t Have Too Many Friends! by Mordicai Gerstein – So weird that I fell in love with it instantly. Maybe I’m alone, but this book took some serious risks. Risks that paid off!
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander – Arg! I wish I’d gotten to this. The language, man, the language.
Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Shulz – This was actually the next on my pile to review. *sigh*
File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents by Lemony Snicket – Because I always had a weakness for those “10 Minute Mystery” books that were popular when I was a kid.
The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos – Don’t know if it really stands on its own (if you’ve read the other books in the series it makes a lot more sense) but the writing is abso-friggin’-lutely amazing.
The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud – And if you haven’t read this then you need to relieve yourself of that personal flaw. The most fun you will have this year. Go on. I can wait.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood: A World War I Tale by Nathan Hale – The only reason I didn’t review it was that I’d already done other books in the series before. But Hale really goes all out in this. Tricky subject matter handled with a twist that actually works.
Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner – Initially I found it off-putting but as I got into it I really began to love what Faulkner was doing with the material.
Princeless 1: The Arduous Business of Getting Rescued by Jeremy Whitley, ill. M. Goodwin – Probably one of the most popular graphic novels in my library branches right now. A pity there are only two in the series thus far.
Greek Mythology by Ken Jennings, ill. Mike Lowery – Initially I’d disregarded the book as a marketing gimmick. Then I actually read it and found out how amazing it is. Lowery’s art does a lot to help as well.
Guys Read: True Stories edited by Jon Scieszka, ill. Brian Floca – So so good. So so gross. Hope you like maggots!
Edward Hopper Paints His World by Robert Burleigh, ill. Wendell Minor – There is no other artist living today who could have pulled off what Minor is doing here.
Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray, illustrated by Kenard Pak – Pak is one to watch. A little bit of picture book nonfiction that a kid could actually use in their day-to-day lives.
Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914 by John Hendrix – Hendrix could probably illustrate IRS statements and I’d read them. So it helps when the subject matter is this interesting.
Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond Between a Soldier and His Service Dog by Luis Carlos Montalvan with Bret Witter, photos by Dan Dion – I know it’s just a younger version of an adult tale, but it’s so sweetly done. Making PTSD understandable to a young audience is so tough, only a book like this could pull it off.
Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman, ill. Rick Allen – Of all the books I review, poetry is the most difficult. This book was rather perfect and perfect does not make for a good review. Maybe I was right not to do it then. Hm…
Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole by Bob Raczka, ill. Chuck Groenink – Anytime you see a new collection of Raczka poems, that is cause enough for celebration. This book is good above and beyond the Christmas season, by the way. It’s just straight up awesome.
For a similar post to this one (that came out first) check out Travis Jonker’s piece 7 Picture Books I Loved (But Didn’t Review) in 2014.
Filed under: Best Books, Best Books of 2014
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.
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