By Noelle, Librarian Extraordinaire
We have talked about the the hottest toys for the holidays, and in Part 1 of this series we focused on picture books and beginning readers, but now we’ll talk about books for older kids and teens, including graphic novels.
While some of these are widely considered to be the best books of the year by many, others make my list simply because they are a very good story in their genre. Either way, here are some of my favorites!
1. Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm
This is a terrific historical fiction adventure about a girl named Turtle who gets shipped off in 1935 to the family she’s never met in the Florida Keys when her mother’s employer doesn’t like kids around. Turtle falls in with her boy cousins running the Diaper Gang (a babysitting service), finds a grandmother she never knew, and even discovers an actual treasure map. In turns it is funny and an adventure, and it is always well-written. One of my top picks of the year.
2. Keeper by Kathi Appelt
Keeper has inadvertently ruined everyone’s special blue moon night. To make things right, she decides to sneak out at midnight in the dinghy to try and find her mermaid mother who left her years ago—she’ll certainly know how to fix things if she can find her. There is a dog, a pet gull, unique characters and a touch of magic woven through this charming book, which in the end, is about family being what you make it. I will not be surprised if this is an award-winner this year and I absolutely loved it.
3. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
This is the second book in a series of what has been termed “steampunk.” What may that be? Basically taking a real historical event, in this case the beginning of World War I, and creating an alternative history including some futuristic elements. This story takes the son of the murdered Archduke Ferdinand and puts him on the run from the German “Clankers” who want to murder him and believe in the wonders of machinery and have stuff like Star Wars type Walkers. Then enter Deryn, a British girl posing as a boy so she can be in the air force. The Brits are all Darwinists—meaning Darwin figured out early how to splice animal genes, so British technology is all hybrids of animal and machine. Of course, Deryn and Alek meet up and help each other out. The story is compelling, fascinating and has plenty of adventure. Pick up the first book, Leviathan, and then add this one, because your kid will want it. More for an advanced and/or teen reader.
4. Million Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica
Sportswriter Lupica has gotten his sports story heart tugging down to a science. Star kid quarterback Nate gets a once in a lifetime shot to throw a football through a tiny hole at halftime during a Patriots game and win a million dollars. A million dollars that his unemployed parents could use to save their house, or perhaps his best friend who is slowly going blind. But the pressure might make this money shot a big loser as Nate slowly falls apart as the big day nears. Sports story with a heart; you just can’t beat it. Plus a cameo of Tom Brady in the story, which definitely works for me.
5. The Boy Who Climbed Into the Moon by David Almond
I can only say this is one of those quirky, illustrated , easy to read chapter books that thinks outside of the box. Way outside of the box. When a boy in a basement apartment decides to go to the top of the building to touch the sky, he meets a wacky and wise group of neighbors on the way who introduce him to an entirely new way of thinking and encourage him to test his theory that the moon is just a hole in the sky. Probably one of the most interesting reads of my year, and perfect for that child just graduating to chapter books.
6. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
The final book in the Hunger Games trilogy packs one more powerful punch. If you haven’t read this bleak view of the future where child tributes are sent to fight each other to their deaths on a yearly basis as a way for the Capitol to keep its districts in line, you are missing out. For Katniss Everdeen unintentionally brews rebellion after her appearance in the Games and throughout the series, and in this last book, she must lead the war she started against the President. Yes, buy The Hunger Games and Catching Fire to read first. Warning: this is violent and compelling and psychological stuff, so your child should be able to handle more mature content or be a teenager. But man, is it good.
7. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
This hilarious book features the collected stories of a bunch of kids in Tommy’s school who took advice from the origami Yoda finger puppet the very weird Dwight carries around. How is one of the geekiest and most clueless kids in school able to give such wise advice through a finger puppet? Filled with random cartoon drawings and notes, your kid will chuckle their way through this extremely enjoyable book to find out the truth of Origami Yoda by the end. May the Force be with you when you buy this book. Kids on the younger side of chapter book reading will enjoy this one as well as older readers.
8. Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher by Wendelin Van Draanen
I am actually going to simply recommend that if your kid likes mysteries, to pick up a Sammy Keyes one. This happens to be the latest, but the entire series is well worth checking into, particularly the very first award-winning title, Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief. Sammy is a feisty, funny 8th grade protagonist, and your kids will enjoy both the continuing character plot elements along with each new mystery. Good stuff!
9. Halt’s Peril by John Flanagan
Looks like I’m on a series kick! The Ranger’s Apprentice series is at book 9 with this one, and I highly recommend it. I mentioned the series before in my Fantasy book list, but it is worthy of another call out for the holidays. Start with The Ruins of Gorlan and let your kid work their way through. It is the camaraderie and great characters that keep you coming back more than the adventure filled, happy ending plotlines, but who cares? I have enjoyed every single one of these (so far), and I have yet to hear someone disagree.
10. The Boneshaker by Kate Milford
This is one of the most interesting, inventive, tad bit creepy stories I read this year. Take a small town and weave in a traveling medicine show and then add all of those stories about meeting the Devil at the crossroads and you’ve got a hint about the plot of this book. And you still probably won’t have enough of the pieces put together until you’ve gotten to the end of this pageturner. It is a feat to keep me guessing through an entire book, and this one did it. If you have a kid who loves to read something out of the ordinary, this would be a perfect choice.
And Just One Book Out of the Ordinary…
Ubiquitous by Joyce Sidman
What is this book? Is it poetry? Because it has poems. Is it a science book? Because it gives a lot of information about different species of plants and animals who have successfully adapted over time. Does it have supercool illustrations? Yes. All together, it is a feast for your brain. So if you have a kid who likes science whatsoever, they are going to find this book cool. And so will you.
If a Book has Graphics, Does it Count as a Novel?
One thing I run up against a lot with parents is the difference between a graphic novel and a comic book. A graphic novel can be defined as a novel whose narrative is related through a combination of text and art, often in comic-strip form. Key word is novel. It isn’t a cliffhanger, waiting for the next issue to resolve it. It is a complete story in one book. Graphic novels are being published at an amazing rate, and many classics are now available in graphic novel form. And they actually involve quite a bit of reading.
So why am I going on about graphic novels? Because they are a fun way to read a book, and if you have a reluctant reader at home, it is a great way to tip a few classics or some new stories in him or her. Look at Diary of a Wimpy Kid (see our list of other books you kid will love if the like Wimpy Kid), which is a hybrid between a graphic novel and a regular chapter book—why is it so popular? Because it doesn’t feel like you are reading a big long book. Many parents look at these “comics” and dismiss them as not “real” reading. But reading is reading, regardless of format. I know that we do want our kids to read actual chapter books without pictures, but there are still some very good reads out there available as graphic novels, and here are a few!
1. The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier
Pirates! Sea-witches! A cursed skull! Boy inventor Walker Bean has adventure on the high seas in this highly lauded tale.
2. Amelia Rules! Series by Jimmy Gownley.
Take a big dose of school humor and you’ve got the Amelia Rules series. Lots of fun to be had in these pages!
3. Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom by Eric Wright
Frankie’s mom tells him he never has to clean his room again, and so Frankie gets a little out of control. Now he DOES have to clean up the mess, but can he conquer the Closet of Doom?
4. Babymouse series by Jennifer & Matthew Holm
Babymouse lives two lives: her real one and then the ones she imagines up. We get to read about both in this humorous series. Big hits with the 2nd grade and up crowd!
5. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes adapted by Vincent Goodwin
Get your kids into the classics. Try out Sherlock Holmes! These are easy to read and it is helpful to see all the clues—well, kind of. I still can’t figure the mystery out, but your kids might have better luck.
There you have it! Now get buying!
Hopefully this list will have given some great new ideas for book gift giving both for the holidays and into the future. Or just for pleasure reading from the library. As always, feel free to drop me a line if you want more suggestions!
|Noelle has been a children’s librarian for over 15 years. She’s also been a student teacher, worked as an online account manager, worked in a pet shop and as a supermarket checkout clerk, and as a dishwasher and fry cook. She is the proud mom of a beautiful daughter. You can read more of Noelle’s book reviews at Rave Reviews Log
Noelle can be reached at “Noelle @ DadDoes.Com”
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