PW Best Children's Books of 2009
Chris Barton, illus. by Tony Persiani (Charlesbridge)
The unlikely subjects of this fascinating picture book biography exemplify ingenuity and dedication to chasing one's dreams.
With humor and some showstopping spreads, Brown offers a green fable about the rebirth of a city, without a hint of preachiness.
Lucy Cousins (Candlewick)
Moving beyond the geniality of Maisy, Cousins expertly draws out the primitive emotions at the core of Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs
Chris Gall (Little, Brown)
Few things are more kid-pleasing than trucks and dinosaurs—put them together in a raucous, prehistoric hybrid and you have picture-book gold.
John Hendrix (Abrams)
Hendrix's powerful, exaggerated imagery in this picture book biography is ideally suited to the life of this controversial American abolitionist.
Deborah Hopkinson, illus. by Carson Ellis (Disney-Hyperion)
Blithe storytelling and slyly humorous art give this story of an utterly confident, quick-thinking 19th-century heroine plenty of pioneer spirit.
Not a single word from Aesop's fable of friendship appears in Pinkney's version, set in the Serengeti. This isn't a problem since the lovingly detailed interplay between the protagonists says it all.
Loren Long (Philomel)
Long's story of the friendship between a tractor and a young calf exudes a comforting sense of nostalgia and a gentleness of spirit.
Lois Lowry, illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline (Scholastic Press)
Marilyn Nelson, illus. by Jerry Pinkney (Dial)
Gloriously evocative poetry and paintings create a stirring tribute to an all-female swing band that made spirits soar during an era of war and prejudice.
Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illus. by Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle)
A simple, fixed design and two combative, off-screen voices make this book and its central optical illusion—is that animal a duck or a rabbit?— a delight.
A subtle undercurrent of interconnectedness and a spare elegance make this picture book more than just a gentle ode to families of all shapes, sizes and kinds (which it assuredly is).
Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking)A powerful exploration of anorexia, dysfunction and death, Anderson's story of a friendship ripped apart is moving and haunting.
*I didn't read this one, but she is such a great author. She is also my Facebook friend.:)
Libba Bray (Delacorte)
An angel, a dwarf, cults, wormholes and mad cow disease all factor into the surreal cross-country road trip that teenage Cameron takes, in a satirical story that's as memorable as it is funny.
Kristin Cashore (Dial)
Introducing Fire, a human “monster” with psychic abilities, this companion novel to Graceling expands the scope of Cashore's fantasy world and offers twists, intrigue and romance aplenty.
Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press)
This much-awaited sequel to Collins's dystopian bestseller, The Hunger Games, doesn't disappoint; it's immersive, voracious reading as the ramifications of Katniss's actions in that book spread.
Gayle Forman (Dutton)
Masterful characterizations make the tragedy at the core of this novel all the more devastating, as narrator Mia weighs the decision to live or die.
*The main character in this story has to make a very painful decision. The courage of this girl is amazing and I feel this is a story for an older teen.
Jacqueline Kelly (Holt)
With a detailed, evocative setting and an authentic, relatable protagonist, this turn of the century coming-of-age novel teems with humor, spirit, and energy.
Patricia McCormick (HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray)
Patrick Ness (Candlewick)
Set on a planet colonized by men and now wracked with strife, Ness's sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go entwines themes of sexism, terrorism, genocide and human nature, while bringing the action to a fever pitch.
Richard Peck (Dial)
The singular Mrs. Dowdel from A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago brings humor and heart to this holiday story; as ever, Peck's writing has a comforting, evergreen quality.
* I had the honor of meeting Richard Peck at a conference and listening to him speak. Reading any of his books is a treat.
Rebecca Stead (Random/Lamb)
Every syllable feels rich with meaning in this atmospheric mystery involving a girl, her former best friend, and her mother, set in 1970s New York City.
*Here is yet again another Facebook friend. I am so excited for all of them. I haven't read this either, but it's on my list.
Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic Press)Lyrical and thoughtful, this paranormal romance between a girl and a werewolf offers wit, an intriguing mythology, and dual (but equally honest and compelling) narratives.
Francisco X. Stork (Scholastic/Levine)
Artfully crafted characters form the heart of this riveting novel about a 17-year-old with Asperger's syndrome, who grapples with issues of ethics, love, and other real-life conflicts.
Shaun Tan (Scholastic/Levine)
Tan proves that his prose is every bit as hypnotic as his artwork in this wondrous collection that reveals the banality and strangeness of the suburbs.
Laini Taylor, illus. by Jim Di Bartolo (Scholastic/Levine)
In lush prose, Taylor offers three utterly captivating stories, each centered on a kiss; comic book–style prequels from Di Bartolo, her husband, add to the enchantment.
In this thriller about a college student uncovering twisted family secrets, Wynne-Jones expertly draws his characters and setting while ramping up the tension and the creepiness.
Candace Fleming, illus. by Ray Fenwick (Random/Schwartz & Wade)
This illuminating biography reveals Barnum as a complex, infinitely clever figure and delineates his triumphs as well as his failures.
Phillip Hoose (FSG/Kroupa)
Colvin's memories of fighting for civil rights in the 1950s—including refusing to give up her bus seat as a teenager in Montgomery, Ala. (before Rosa Parks)—make for a searing true-life story of courage.
Elizabeth Partridge (Viking)
Arresting photography and firsthand memories from those who participated, as children, in the 1965 march to Montgomery make for a haunting and inspirational read.