Thursday, March 22, 2012

Looking Forward to 2012

So I understand how silly this post seems, now that we're turning the page on March and almost heading into April, but I haven't yet begun my reading of "newly" published books, so I feel like I can still write about the books I'm looking forward to reading this year.

I'm going to list my Top 10, and start with number one to alleviate any sort of suspense, and then even round out with some honorable mentions. The books I am putting in my Top 10 are books that I am bound and determined to read at all costs this year. The books in honorable mention, I will get to if I can. So without further ado, the top 10 children's books, that I am most looking forward to in 2012 . . .

LIAR & SPY by Rebecca Stead. The Newbery Medal winning author of WHEN YOU REACH ME is back and I'm not sure I can wait until August to get my hands on her latest. The world has been waiting patiently to see how she would respond to the success of WHEN YOU REACH ME. At the end of summer, we shall find out. There's not another book I'm looking more forward to. Everything else on this list pales in comparison. LIAR & SPY is a book of two friends, attempting to spy on a mysterious older man living in their apartment building.

THE INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE: THE UNSEEN GUEST by Maryrose Wood. I love these books. They are a guilty pleasure of mine. They probably will not be discussed thoroughly on Heavy Medal come Newbery Season, but this third installment (which I believed to be the final, but am now not so sure), will be a book I will drop other books to read. They remind me of the beloved SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS. I think I have an idea where the plot is heading now, after book 2, but I'm ready to be surprised. THE UNSEEN GUEST comes out next week, so I will not have to wait long to find out. 

IN A GLASS GRIMMLY by Adam Gidwitz. The man who brought us A TALE DARK AND GRIMM is back, and this time he's brought Jack and Jill along with him. The book's tagline promises more fractured fairy tales (maybe The Frog Prince, maybe Jack and the Beanstalk) and I couldn't be more excited. This book doesn't come out until late-September though. Ugh. If it's anything like A TALE DARK AND GRIMM, it will be a hit amongst myself and my students, and worth the wait. I love the fact that Gidwitz is a teacher too. Behind LIAR AND SPY, probably the book I'm looking forward to the most!

INVASION OF THE DOGNAPPERS by Patrick Jennings. My Pal Patrick . . . After meeting him last year I became an instant fan . . . According to the man himself, Mr. Jennings finished the final draft of his latest novel while sitting in one of my own personal favorite local coffee shops (Cup of Joe), while staying in Cedar Falls, IA as the featured author of our annual Cedar Valley's Youth Read event. I became an instant fan of Jennings upon meeting him and am excited for his newest book. Jennings has a real knack for understanding kids. He runs a kid's writing group out of his own home and learns a lot from them. My students thoroughly enjoyed his novels GUINEA DOG and LUCKY CAP. This comes out at the end of April. 

WONDER by R.J. Palacio. This book appears to have an early leg up in terms of Newbery buzz. It is about a boy with sever facial deformities, going to a public school for the first time. It was released already in February and has people comparing it to OKAY FOR NOW, which as some of you know, was my favorite novel of last year. That's a comparison worth getting excited over! Blogger Betsy Bird featured it in her Spring Predictions and traditionally, she usually gets at least one title right. This is a book I want to be ready to discuss on Heavy Medal in the Fall.

THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer A. Nielsen. I've recently become hooked on Game of Thrones. Not the books. The television series. The medieval era has always been an interest of mine, and I've read comparisons of this book to Megan Whalen Turner's magnificent THE THIEF. THE FALSE PRINCE kicks off The Ascendance Trilogy . . . could this be the next big thing among some of Turner's avid fanbase? Or will it fail to live up to the bar Turner set so high? This book isn't officially published until April, but for some reason a paperback was offered in a Scholastic book order, so I snatched it up.

THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE by Christopher Paul Curtis. Another man that I have had the honor of meeting, thanks to Cedar Valley's Youth Read. Another man, kind enough to spend a week in our community, among our students, talking about his books and his craft. I met Christopher Paul Curtis fresh off his Newbery win for BUD, NOT BUDDY and the man was as genuine as they come. BUD, NOT BUDDY was fantastic and so was ELIJAH OF BUXTON so why wouldn't THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE be? Plus, for some reason, that striking cover is one of my favorites of the bunch. Miss Malone looks to come with an abundance of sass. I've already purchased this book and can't wait to read it.

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate. Another book receiving lots of early Newbery buzz. That buzz is perhaps the only reason it's on this list. I'm envisioning some discussions built around it on Heavy Medal and want to be prepared. Applegate's novel is written in verse and follows Ivan, an easy going gorilla, trapped behind glass, under the watchful eyes of humans, befriending an elephant and a dog. Applegate's novel promises to touch on deeper themes of friendship, courage, and hope in a kid-friendly way, in the vein of Emily Jenkins' TOYS series. This one was released already in January, yet I've failed to get my hands on it.

FAKE MUSTACHE by Tom Angleberger. I have recently been catching up on some reading that I feel I am far behind the world of children's literature on. Primarily the work of one Sara Pennypacker, Mac Barnett, and Tom Angleberger. I zipped through Pennypacker's CLEMENTINE series and loved them. I read Mac Barnett's BRIXTON BROTHERS series with my 5th grade students and we laughed hysterically. And I've caught up with Tom Angleberger's ORGAMI YODA, DARTH PAPER, and HORTON HALFPOTT books. Nevertheless, I am thoroughly stoked for his latest, FAKE MUSTACHE to come out on April Fool's Day.

JAKE & LILY by Jerry Spinelli. Speaking of guilty pleasures, Jerry Spinelli is another one of mine. I can't think of a book I've read of his, that I haven't enjoyed, and seen brilliance in. MANIAC MAGEE remains one of my all-time favorites and recent books like EGGS and SMILES TO GO are books I feel have been overlooked. It feels as if the children's literature world is bored of Mr. Spinelli. But I am not. JAKE & LILY is the story of two twins in the midst of a falling-out of sorts. Spinelli is always emotional and always effective and I'm rarely let down by his work. JAKE & LILY comes out in May.

Others that I am looking forward to and hope I have the time to read . . .
  • THE LEGEND OF DIAMOND LIL by Doreen Cronin. This is the followup to her much beloved early chapter book, THE TROUBLE WITH CHICKENS.
  • SUMMER OF THE GYPSY MOTHS by Sara Pennypacker. The author takes a break from her CLEMENTINE series.
  • WHAT CAME FROM THE STARS by Gary D. Schmidt. A science-fiction/fantasy adventure. Not sure if I can imagine a Gary D. Schmidt sci-fi adventure, but I'm excited to see what it's like.
  • THE HUMMING ROOM by Ellen Potter. Nina over at Heavy Medal was a huge advocate for Potter's THE KNEEBONE BOY. I've read some buzz over her latest and would like to give it a try.
  • SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS by Laura Amy Shlitz. A DROWNED MAIDEN'S HAIR was one of the best children's books I've read in recent years. I was not a fan of THE NIGHT FAIRY. But I'm willing to give anything she writes a chance thanks to A DROWNED MAIDEN'S HAIR. Plus, I hear this is a full fledged novel, her first since A DROWNED MAIDEN'S HAIR.
  • TWELVE KINDS OF ICE by Ellen Obed. Not really sure what this is about, but Betsy Bird insists, it will be big. We shall see.
  • IRON HEARTED VIOLET by Kelly Barnhill. The Minnesota author showed her chops with her debut novel THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF JACK last year. While I found it to be semi-flawed, the lady undoubtedly has potential. This appears to be another work of fantasy.
  • THE CASE OF THE DEADLY DESPERADOS by Caroline Lawrence. I'm not sure I've read any good westerns for kids. I'm not sure I've ever wanted to exactly. But this promises to be one. A unique genre untouched by many kidlit authors.

One Round in the Bag

Over at Battle of the Kids Books, Round One officially wrapped up this morning, with WONDERSTRUCK overtaking OKAY FOR NOW (stupid Jeff Kinney and your stupid wimpy books) . . . making my total a whopping 5 out of 8.



I'm still a little stung that THE CHESHIRE CHEESE CAT lost because of a coin toss. I threw a mini hissy fit over judge Lauren Myracle's rationale behind choosing LIFE: AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM over A MONSTER CALLS. And I really, really, really don't like WONDERSTRUCK.

Looking ahead to my initial picks, I still have three of my next four picks alive: BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE, and DRAWING FROM MEMORY. I had A MONSTER CALLS going to the final round though, so that one hurt. My overall winner however, DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE (which I am currently reading and thoroughly enjoying), is still going strong. Possibly paired in the most intriguing battle of the second round, against CHIME.

As for what I now think will happen in the second round . . . I'm not as confident about BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY being chosen over AMELIA LOST, seeing Marc Aronson as the judge, and would actually change my pick if I could. But I can't. I'm sticking with BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY but wouldn't be surprised to see AMELIA LOST.

I've gotta believe that DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE will prevail against CHIME, although the style and feel of the two books are sooooooooooo similar.


And I now think LIFE: AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM will overtake WONDERSTRUCK. LIFE would appear to be a "writer's" book. One that I, the casual reader, may struggle to make sense of (the abundance of metaphors), but that fellow writer's and peers would eat up.