Monday, June 7, 2010

Top 10 Essentials of 2010

In an effort to swell my already healthy ego, my colleagues have requested that I put out a monthly list of the top 10 ten essential new books for our collections. It’s kind of like asking me to finish off that last piece of chocolate cheesecake. (Oh please, if you insist). Upon reflection what I think I’d like to do is a little of this, a bit of that, and some of the other. Meaning I will divide up the top ten into picture books, fiction novels, and books that will go to live in the Dewey section. I will admit, here in this most private and obscure format, that my weak point is going to be non-fiction. Today I will be fudging on that area by recommending books that are not strictly speaking the facts and nothing but the facts, but nonetheless sport a Dewey Decimal number.

Also essential is a relative word in our case. In my district our budgets are based on the number of students we have in our schools, which ranges from just over 300 to over 1000. For those of you who are walking calculators you can see that what might be a must have in one case would easily be a luxury in the other. I plan to qualify what I believe each purchase would bring to our libraries.

1. Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities by Shiga, Jason. Not since the moment Reese combined chocolate and peanut butter have two more complementary companions met in a completely luscious result. Thats right folks it's a choose-your-own adventure mixed in with a graphic novel. We are talking reluctant reader bait in epic proportions. This nifty little package sports maze like paths that lead the reader to the proper tabs that will end in either scientific discovery or certain death. Its durability remains to be seen. I had my copy in circulation for the last three months and so far it has fared just dandy. The pages are some sort of sturdy plasticy substance and the binding seems to be holding its own. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to hold out for library bindings but I’m glad mine is in circulation.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: I would say Very High for those of you who like giving kids books that will keep them enthralled.

2. Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer. There are always two sides to every story and this clever book of poetry takes the view that in every fairy tale there is more than one story that needs to be heard. Using a technique which has been coined reverse verse (if it hasn't already been coined, then I am claiming credit) many of our standard fairy tales are told from the point of view of two different characters, leaving the reader to reevaluate previously held assumptions.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: I would say Fair to Middling. Although this book was the first of the 2010 crop to get the coveted 5 stars, poetry does tend to get reviewed very well and if we are not careful the 800s could soon take over our entire Dewey sections. However, if you, by chance, happen to be planning to do a fairy tale theme over the next year, then this would indeed be an excellent choice.

3. Extraordinary Mark Twain (According To Susy) by Barbara Kearly, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. From the team that brought you What to do about Alice we get this whimsical bio of the master storyteller, told from his daughter point of view. The quotes from the source are deadly funny. Add that to the device of having a child’s journal mixed in the great Fortheringham art and you’ve got an amalgam of witty wonderfulness.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: I will also give this a Fair to Middling rating. This brief volume will not fulfill any required biography assignment. (For that, turn to Sid Fleischman’s, Trouble Begins at Eight). But it is a great read aloud and a lovely introduction to one of our great authors. Also if you want to get a head start on possible Caldecott winners for next year I won’t steer you wrong.

4. The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz. I like to call those ubiquitous Rainbow Magic fairy books, little girl heroine. Once they get started they can’t seem to stop. I have frantic mothers coming in begging me to give their little ones something, anything, that won’t trigger their own gag reflex during nightly reading time. Newbery award winner Schlitz has given us a great detox with this luscious little fairy book. The illustrations are intoxicating, the language is musical, the story is divine, and the end papers glitter. Win, win, win, win.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: Very High. You will have no shortage of readers for this, from precocious 1st graders on up to starry eyed 6th graders. I do think it just might be gender specific.

5. Countdown by Deborah Wiles. It is hard to count all the ways this particular book appeals to me. It is historical fiction done like no other. The reader is dropped into 1962 body, soul, and soundtrack. The pages are filled with graphic depictions from the time we live through the October week of the Cuban Missile crises with 11-year-old Franny, who is also feuding with her best friend and living through her first crush.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: Quite High. You will want to give this to all your little historical fiction fans. Failing running into any of those elusive creatures, give them to all the girls who adore Frances O’Roark Dowell's The Secret Language of Girls and The Kind of Friends we Used to Be.

6. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. Let’s go back to the 60’s again. Sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are going to spend their summer with a mother who doesn’t want them in a place that is as foreign as a different county – Oakland, California. Thank goodness The Black Panthers are there to provide child care.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: Quite High. This front runner for the Newbery is just darn great writing. The story and the characters are gripping. You will need to do a bit of selling to get it in the right hands, but once there they will be grateful.

7. Pigs to the Rescue by John Himmelman. If you have ever read this book’s predecessor Chickens to the Rescue during a story time you are already heading to the nearest book store to shore up your storytelling cred. Himmelman amps up the hilarity once again with this barnyard tale of good deeds. Spoiler alert: porcine are not nearly as helpful has poultry.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: Quite high. I would say it is a no brainer if you have the first book, but you might need a little selling if you are unfamiliar with this level of silliness. If you are looking for a concept reason for purchasing this, it covers every day of the week.

8. Born Yesterday: The Diary of a Young Journalist by James Solheim, illustrated by Simon James. This amusing account of the narrator’s first year is a laugh a second. Fans of Baby Brains will delight once again at infantile hi-jinx.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: Quite High. This is story time gold, and the perfect baby shower gift.

9. What If? By Laura Vaccaro Seeger. The queen of concept books is at it again. This time with a simple depiction of the rudimentary but tricky social skills of sharing and friendship. Wave this in front of your school counselor’s face and watch her drool with hunger.

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: Fair to Middling. It’s not the best Seeger to come along but it defiantly fills a need, and the kid appeal will be high.

10. Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonathan Winter.  Based on a true story this comical portrayal of a refuge piled boat looking for a harbor is a visual and literary treat. It is illustrated by a studio, using cast off knick-knacks and other junk. Winter is at his best in the telling of this story using phrasing which make it hard to keep a straight face while reading, such as, “Full-speed backwards!”

• LEVEL OF NECESSITY: Very High. A great addition for Earth Day and other environmental needs.

1 comment:

  1. This is a GREAT idea -- please make it a regular feature! I need to get Pigs to the Rescue, STAT.