Thursday, October 13, 2011

Top 10 Children's Books of 2011

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1.  Tumford the Terrible, by Nancy Tillman
Tumford isn’t really a terrible cat. He just has a way of finding mischief—tracking dirt into the house, knocking over breakable things, and disrupting fancy parties. But even though he feels bad, he has a hard time saying, “I’m sorry.” Will the fact that his owners love him, no matter what, help Tummy say the magic words?

Three cheers for The Loud Book! The delightful duo that created The Quiet Book have once again brought their bestselling talent to bear, as Liwska’s adorable animals perfectly express Underwood’s boisterous text. From "last slurp loud" and "walking-to-school song loud" to "belly flop loud", this playful picture book is bound to elicit the sounds of “read it again!” loud.

Tullet's brilliant creation proves that books need not lose out to electronic wizardry; his colorful dots perform every bit as engagingly as any on the screen of an iPad. "Ready?" the voiceover-style narration asks on the first page; it shows a yellow dot on a plain white background. "Press here and turn the page," it instructs. When the page is turned, there's a second yellow dot beside the first one. "Great!" it says. "Now press the yellow dot again." A third yellow dot appears beside the first two. "Perfect," the narrator continues. "Rub the dot on the left... gently." On the next page, voila!—that dot is now red. "Well done!" the book congratulates. The fun continues as the dots proliferate, travel around the page, grow and shrink in response to commands to clap, shake, or tilt the book, etc. The joy is in the tacit agreement between artist and reader that what's happening is magic. Shh! Don't tell. All ages.

A lush, haunting story that brings together a grandmother and her grandchild. When Suhaila ask her mother, "What was Grandma Annie like?" the answer comes, "She was like the moon . . . full, soft, and curious." And that night a ladder to the moon appears with Grandma Annie waiting to take Suhaila to the sky. Together they listen to moon songs, but then they hear other voices: swimmers struggling against high waves, and sisters in two swaying towers. All are invited to come and rest and drink "sweet moondew from silver teacups." These experiences, especially observing so many on earth praying to "make the fighting stop," have an effect on Suhaila, who now knows "more than she had known before." Once home, Suhaila realizes she has changed, having helped others learn and heal. Soetoro-Ng, sister of Barack Obama, has written this story of compassion as a tribute to their mother. Not every listener will understand the particulars or references, but the evocative words will wash over them, and they will respond to the expressed feelings of empathy and love. It's hard to imagine a more perfect illustrator for this text than Morales, whose rounded shapes, sunset colors, and softness and strength mirror the words. Morales captures the luminosity of both the sky and the people on earth striving and straining to make the world a better place. The endnotes by author and artist add insight into a book meant to be discussed.

One bright spring day a little white rabbit sets out from home on an adventure. What does he find? Look! Everything is new. Anything is possible…

Top 10 Children's Books of 2011

Eight-year-old Billy gives a flamboyant show-and-tell presentation, reciting for the class and his hapless teacher Mrs. Krupp, all the professions he has in mind for his future. From master snail trainer to dinosaur-dusting museum curator, the possibilities he imagines are seemingly endless. Billy’s great-grandfather is his inspiration, having had many different jobs and who, at age 103, still doesn’t know what he wants to be. Billy’s carefree enthusiasm is contagious, and the bubbling rhythm of When I Grow Up makes it a lively read-aloud.

When Betty Bunny eats chocolate cake for the first time, she declares, "I am going to marry chocolate cake." She loves it so much that she takes a piece to school with her in her pocket and refuses to eat anything else. Mommy tells Betty that she has to eat healthy food first, and have patience because cake is for dessert, not pockets. But Betty doesn't want to have patience; she wants to have chocolate cake!

In this hilarious and spot-on tribute to the chocolate lover (and picky eater) in all of us, a new kindred spirit to Olivia, Eloise, and Ladybug Girl makes her stand.

When Rose wakes up one morning feeling royal, she dons her necklaces, bracelets, and crown. Soon the Queen of France emerges to survey her domain, disapproving of Rose’s mother’s thorny gardening choices and asking Rose’s father where the Royal Physician may be found. The odd thing is, when Rose returns to look for the Queen of France, she’s nowhere to be seen. And when the imperious queen comes back, she’s curious to know what Rose’s parents would think if she traded places with their little girl? With charming illustrations by Kady MacDonald Denton and a humorous tale by Tim Wadham, here is a sweet homage to the easy affection between parents and an imaginative child.

In I’m Not. two friends with very different personalities and talents celebrate the activities they each do well, and the one that matters most--being a true blue friend. Without becoming cliché, I'm Not. demonstrates that whether we are shy or outgoing, good at art or good at spelling, everyone brings something special to a friendship.

Ant and Grasshopper picks up Aesop’s well-worn fable, The Ant and the Grasshopper, and gives it an added twist. Day in and day out, Ant meticulously counts the beans, raisins, and other goodies he's been saving for the winter, while outside Grasshopper plays his fiddle, sings his songs, and extols Ant to come enjoy the summer sunshine. As in Aesop's, when the cruel winter comes Grasshopper begs Ant to save him for he has not prepared food or shelter. This is where the stories diverge. In Luli Gray’s version, after shutting the door on Grasshopper, Ant has a dream that awakens an appreciation for Grasshopper's musical bounty and he rushes to Grasshopper's rescue. While the original moral message about working hard and planning ahead still comes across, Ant and Grasshopper also reminds readers that valuing others' talents and showing compassion brings the greatest reward of all--friendship.

Those were the Top 10 Children's Books of 2011, please check out my other lists for more great reads.

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