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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Welcome to the Holiday Season!


I am so happy that NaNo is over, because I am getting to sleep a little earlier and now I only have one novel in my head.:) During NaNo I tried not to think about what I was writing. After all, it doesn't matter as long as you get the words down on the page. So now I can concentrate on my WIP again and I'm excited to finish it. I can feel the finish line coming soon, but I still have no real idea of how I am going to end it.:)

It's starting to feel a little bit like the holidays with all the towns and cities dressing up their streets with Christmas decorations. They use holly and lights and generic symbols like wreaths and snowflakes, but it's Christmas decorations. Chanukah comes next week and this year I doubt that except for lighting the candles we will do much about presents. It's even tighter tha
n last year economically, but when I light the candles it feels like a holiday. Also, the candles are what the holiday is really all about. More about this as the time comes closer. Stay tuned.

In honor of Chanukah I am going to give away a present a day here. I haven't decided what, but it will probably be a book.:) Or it may be something you can use on your website or blog. I have to decide. So in the honor of Chanukah I will be blogging every day. :)

This is completely different, but when I got my PW Daily in the email today they had a link to the Best Children's Books for 2009. So I thought maybe you might want to see them if you are looking for a gift for a child. I always feel that you can't go wrong with a good book. Of course you need to take into account the age of the child for which you are buying. It has been my experience that children over the age of nine or ten don't really go for picture books. However, there are exceptions, especially if there is a lot of text and the book has a lot of scientific or historic information. Children ages ten and up usually like chapter books only and a mature ten or eleven year old might enjoy young adult or YA.

The PW Daily list I am including here has a wide array of genres and authors from which to choose. On my radio show we had a discussion about their Best Adult Books of 2009 and one of my guests was very disturbed that there were no women authors included in the top 10 books. That is not the case here and you will see several authors that are familiar, and in my case, may even be Facebook friends.:) I'm always excited when I see my friends' names on the best of lists.:) But congratulations to all the authors and illustrators who made the list. I know this is only one of many that will come out before the new year, but enjoy it.:) I will point out books I have read and authors I know too.:) Some of these I read in galley form from BEA last year.

PW Best Children's Books of 2009

Picture Books

The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story o
f Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors
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.

The Curious Garden
Peter Brown (Little, Brown)
With humor and some showstopping spreads, Brown offers a green fable about the rebirth of a city, without a hint of preachiness.

Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales
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
, and six other beloved stories.

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 Brown: His Fight for Freedom
John Hendrix (Abrams)
Hendrix's powerful, exaggerated imagery in this picture book biography is ideally suited to the life of this controversial American abolitionist.

Stagecoach Sal
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.
* I didn't read this one, but I have read another one of her books and they are delightful.

The Lion & the Mouse
Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown)
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.

Crow Call
Lois Lowry, illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline (Scholastic Press)
Newbery Medalist Lowry's first picture book, drawn from a childhood story about her father's return from war, is poignant and quietly moving, with a timely resonance.

Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World
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.

Duck! Rabbit!
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.

All the WorldLiz Garton Scanlon, illus. by Marla Frazee (S&S/Beach Lane)
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.:)

Going Bovine
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.

Catching Fire
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.

If I Stay
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.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
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.

Purple Heart
Patricia McCormick (HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray)
This timely and provocative thriller, with a teenage American soldier at its center, is a nuanced exploration of war, heroism, and morality.

The Ask and the Answer
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.

A Season of Gifts
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.

When You Reach Me
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.

Marcelo in the Real World
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.

Tales from Outer Suburbia
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.

Lips Touch: Three Times
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.

The UninvitedTim Wynne-Jones (Candlewick)
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.


The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremen
dous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum
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.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
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.
* I read about this book and thought of how brave this girl was to do this.

Marching for Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary
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.


You can see from this list that there are a wide variety of authors, women and men, experienced and inexperienced. Children's writing allows for this kind of diversity. Unfortunately aside from just a few exceptional women who break through the barriers, adult writers who are recognized are still very much male and mostly middle aged. The adult best of lists ought to think about including women next year. After all we are half of the population.:)

Do you agree with these choices? Leave a comment here and let me know. Which books would you have chosen?

Until the next time welcome to the new readers who have decided to follow my meanderings and thank you to all the readers who have been with me. I appreciate all of you and hope that you enjoy the gifts I will be giving starting on December 11th.

One other thing before this ends. I hope that all of you have been listening to my radio show, Red River Writers Live Tales from the Pages, which is on once a month. December's show will be on Tuesday, December 22nd and will feature the writing of the members of Milspeak, which is a group of service people who enjoy writing. They have a book published with their writings and it is edited by Sally Drumm. Sally and Milspeak are going to be my only guests on this very special Holiday show. Please join me and enjoy the writing of this unusual group of writers.


  1. Can't wait for the third book of the Hunger Games series which comes out, August 24th 2010. Can't wait


  2. Eric,
    Thank you for visiting and I just went to the Scholastic website. They have the announcement there with a video. I have to confess I haven't read any of them yet, so when the sequel comes out I will start reading them from the beginning.:) That's how it was with The Dresden Files.

    Good books are like M & M's. You can't read just one book of a series, especially when there are more waiting for you.:)

  3. This is great Barbara! I'm constantly searching for good books for my kids. I know a lot of the classics from being a school teacher, but it's nice to get some help with the new ones.

    Thanks for visiting THE GUYS. Nice to see you again!

    Happy Holidays. All the Best to you and yours!!!

    "ONE of THE GUYS"

  4. One of the Guys,
    Thank you for viisitng.

    I am so happy that this post helped you! It can get very confusing around the holidays when you want to get a good book for a child. So many of them look good, but you are also looking for a well written story. So I'm glad the list helped you.:)

    Happy Holidays to you and it was a pleasure reading your blog. I am going to put you on my blog roll.

  5. Oh, duh, referring to my last post, I realized afterward that I already have The Guys' Perspective on my blog roll.:) I was thinking about your post about Mickey Mouse and magic too.


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