2012 Children’s Books

’Tis the season to give the gift of reading. We’ve combed through the picture books published this year and selected our favorites – never an easy task. Our 2012 picks appear in order of age appropriateness suggested by the publisher, but many can be enjoyed by the entire family for years to come. Our reviewers all have a love of children’s literature and ample experience reading to little ones: Felicia Barman, Julie Bookman, Sherry Crawley, Kirsten Gromatzky, Anne Nettles and Kate Wallace.

Board Books

Now I Am Big! I Can Do It Myself! by Stephen Krensky (Abrams Appleseed, ages 1-3, $6.95)
These board books celebrate various milestones of children growing older and exerting their independence. For example, children and parents alike rejoice when kids can pick out their own clothes and even blow their own noses! The simple illustrations have an old-school look and feel, and the short sentences should nicely suit beginning readers. The easygoing rhymes help tie these relevant achievements together in a clever manner. – FB

Chomp! by Heather Brown (Accord, age 2 and older, $8.99)
The “crocodile smiles,” the “leopard growls,” the “polar bear yawns.” Young kids are sure to squeal and roar with delight. With the turn of each page, the tot in a reader’s lap gets to pull a super-sturdy tab to enact the growl, the yawn, and so on. An especially fun and enjoyable effort. – JB

Preschool to Early Elementary

Blue Sky by Audrey Wood (Blue Sky/Scholastic, all ages, $16.99)
From the much-loved author-illustrator of Weird Parents and Silly Sally (among many others) comes another gem. Find a new sky splashed across each double-page spread: from a “sun sky” or “rainbow sky” to a “storm sky” or “wish sky.” Filled with joy and wonder, Wood’s mood-perfect pastel skies make for a dreamy choice at bedtime. – JB

Moonlight by Helen V. Griffith; illustrations by Laura Dronzek (Greenwillow Books, ages 2-5, $16.99)
This sweet, soothing story will be a great addition to the bedtime routine. As the rabbit settles into his burrow and prepares to sleep, “moonlight slides like butter” and covers the streams, animals and trees while melting into rabbit’s dreams. With gorgeous illustrations throughout, this lyrical, magical tale will help your child wind down for the night. – AN

ABCers by Carole Lexa Schaefer (Viking, ages 2-5, $16.99)
This is no ordinary ABC book where “A is for apple.” Instead, readers are in for a treat as a diverse group of friends, otherwise known as the “ABCers,” take us on an adventure-filled day in the life of their neighborhood. The author goes outside of the box by using fun activities to name the alphabet – like “D is for dog walkers,” “M is for monkey climbers,” or “W is for water splashers,” among other exciting neighborhood happenings. – FB

Good News, Bad News by Jeff Mack (Chronicle Books, ages 2-6, $16.99)
This adorable, funny (and adorably funny) book tells the story of an optimistic rabbit and his pessimistic mouse friend as they spend the day together on a picnic. For every bad thing that happens, rabbit finds a positive spin. Using only four words and with such hilarious illustrations, this is truly a one-of-a-kind find. – KG

No Ghost Under My Bed by Guido Van Genechten (Clavis, ages 2-6, $17.99)
Preciously illustrated and warmly told, this is the loving story of a daddy penguin trying to convince his little boy that there are no ghosts in his room. Most parents can relate to this bedtime routine in one form or another. For children listening and fixating upon the charming illustrations, they’ll be reassured that they’re not alone in their fears. – KG

One Two That’s My Shoe! by Alison Murray (Disney Hyperion, ages 2-6, $16.99)
This twist on the “one, two, buckle my shoe” ditty is a counting book that bounces along as a frisky pup heads out with his owner’s shoe: “three, four, out the door.” Will pup come back with that shoe? Oh, boy, what do you think will happen? In a lovely palette of sea blues and reds, Murray’s masterful artwork has a strong nostalgic flavor – the look and feel of a classic. – JB

Cock-a-Doodle Who? by Martine Perrin (Albert Whitman and Co., ages 3 and older, $12.99)
Filled with vibrant illustrations throughout, this clever book will likely become a family favorite. The cutouts and intricate patterns will have you and your child guessing about what lies ahead in this game of hide-and-seek on the farm. – AN

You Are My Wonders by Maryann Cusimano Love; illustrations by Satomi Ichikawa (Philomel Books, ages 3 and older, $16.99)
“I am your teacher; you are my school child. I am your welcome; you are my running wild.” So begins this sweet book from the pair behind You Are My I Love You. Brimming with stunning illustrations, this charming rhyming story honors one of the most significant relationships for a child – that with his or her teacher.  – AN

Pugs in a Bug by Carolyn Crimi; illustrations by Stephanie Buscema (Dial, ages 3 and older, $16.99)
Counting? Check. Rhyming? Check. Colorful illustrations, silly situations and loads of fun? Check! This book has it all. Six adorable dogs (pugs) go on a road trip in a green car (bug). There’s even a doggie parade! Spoiler alert: A squirrel causes some mayhem. A bright, entertaining book for kids just learning to count and read.  – SC   

Dog In Charge by K.L. Going; illustrations by Dan Santat (Dial, ages 3 and older, $12.99)
Are you a cat person or a dog person? You might just say both after reading this adorable book. Dog’s family goes out and leaves him in charge of the house, including five pet cats. What could possibly go wrong? Let’s just say it all ends well. Little ones will have fun looking for the mischievous kitties and rooting for Dog to save the day. – SC 

When Dads Don’t Grow Up by Marjorie Blain Parker (Dial, ages 3-5, $16.99)
Goofy dads of the world will rejoice in this celebration of eternal youth. The amusing artwork plays an important role in conveying just how silly dads can be. Little ones will giggle as they see dads drinking milk through a straw, racing with shopping carts, getting stuck on playground equipment – and other such shenanigans. – FB

There Was a Tree by Rachel Isadora (Nancy Paulsen Books, ages 3-5, $16.99)
The gorgeous landscape of Africa is the setting for this entertaining and picturesque book that invites us to sing a familiar tune about “the prettiest tree that you ever did see…” The scenes are vibrant, and the lyrics are catchy enough to inspire readers to want to chime in. A note to musicians: Sheet music is included at the back of the book (so the fun can continue). – FB

How To Be Friends with a Dragon by Valeri Gorbachev (Albert Whitman, ages 3-6, $16.99)
“It’s not a good idea to play tricks on a dragon. Dragons don’t just breathe fire, they sneeze fire,” learns curious Simon, the young boy who yearns to be friends with a dragon. The adventurous story centers on the do’s and don’ts of befriending a dragon. – KW

Toot and Pop by Sebastien Braun (HarperCollins, ages 3-6, $12.99)
This sweet book tells the story of Pop, a cheerful tugboat, and Toot, an enormous new boat that arrives at the harbor one day. Toot declares he does not need help from a little boat, but when he tries to go to sea on his own, he realizes he needs Pop after all. Just right for youngsters who are eager to assert their independence.  – SC   

The Insomniacs by Karina Wolf; illustrated by the Brothers Hilts (Putnam, all ages, $16.99)
The Insomniacs move 12 time zones away and cannot adjust their body clocks. They eventually decide to embrace the mystery and beauty of nighttime and slumber during daylight hours. Alive with whimsy, the dark-toned illustrations – achieved with charcoal, pencil and computer technology by brothers who work collaboratively – are among the most original and delightful we’ve seen this year. – JB

Lemonade in Winter by Emily Jenkins and G. Brian Karas (Schwartz & Wade, ages 3-7, $16.99)
Children may discover their entrepreneurial spirit with this cute story about a brother and sister who are determined to sell lemonade – in the middle of winter. Their experience becomes an impromptu business lesson as they learn about advertising, pricing and counting money. The children eventually see how sweet it is to share the fruits of labor after a hard day’s work. There’s also a handy cheat-sheet at the back of the book where kids can learn neat ways to remember each coin. – FB

Buglette the Messy Sleeper by Bethanie Deeney Murguia (Tricycle Press, ages 3-6, $15.99)
This whimsical story follows Buglette, the tidiest of bugs with one big exception: She is the messiest sleeper. In her dreams, she rides tractors, swings on a trapeze through the air, and kicks a ball over the moon, all of which leads to one big mess of blankets and pillows in the morning. When the scary Crow pays Buglette’s family a visit, she proves that her bravery and courage extend from her dreams into her waking life. The charming illustrations and sweet story will appeal to all ages. – AN 

Mossy by Jan Brett (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, ages 3 and older, $17.99)
You can’t help but appreciate all that nature has to offer in this touching tale by the top-drawer Brett (The Mitten and many more) about a beloved Eastern box turtle named Mossy who grows an intricate, colorful garden on her shell. No sooner does she befriend another turtle named Scoot when she is suddenly captured and put on display in a nearby museum. As Mossy becomes homesick and lonely at the museum, readers will root for her return to her natural habitat where she can enjoy life as she once knew it. – FB

Oh, No! by Candace Fleming & Eric Rohmann (Schwartz & Wade, ages 3-5, $17.99)
Caldecott Medal-winning author-illustrator Rohmann and Texas Bluebonnet Award winner Candace Fleming have created a fun, suspenseful jungle tale that is a lot of fun to read aloud. First, frog falls into a hole, then mouse tries to help and tumbles in, too. More kind-hearted critters follow until they are all trapped together, with a hungry tiger staring down upon them. Eye-catching illustrations make this an especially fine experience to share with your child. – KG

If All the Animals Came Inside by Eric Pinder (Little Brown & Co., ages 3-6, $16.99)
Illustrated by Marc Brown, creator of the hit PBS Kids’ cartoon Arthur, this fun book takes the reader on the adventure of what happens when wild animals invade your house! Elephants are in the living room, octopus is in the bath, and panda is raiding the fridge. What starts out as fun quickly becomes mayhem and the children realize that maybe the pets they already have are quite enough. – KG

Neville by Norton Juster (Schwartz & Wade, ages 3-6, $17.99)
By the author of The Phantom Tollbooth, here’s the story of a little boy forced to move to a new neighborhood. Neville is miserable and worried about starting at a new school and making new friends. His mom tells him to take a walk around the new neighborhood and see what there is to see. He begins walking and calling out his name – and good things start to happen. – KG

Apple by Nikki McClure (Abrams Appleseed, ages 3-6, $12.95)
One season turns gently to the next as we consider the life course of an apple. A single word appears every two pages – words such as “sneak,” “forget,” “plant.” McClure today is a prominent paper-cut artist with a focus on environmental stewardship. Her masterful black-and-white scenes (only the apple is bright red) convey a depth of feeling. This is a long-awaited hardbound edition of a handmade book the artist self-produced (just 200 copies) when just embarking on this amazing craft in 1996. Starting with the sly and subtle expressions on the faces of the children, there’s plenty for lap listeners to ponder in each scene. – JB

Rat and Roach: Friends to the End  by David Covell (Viking, ages 3-6, $12.99)
Why might folks want or need to stick together even when they drive each other crazy? So it is with Rat and Roach, who live together under Avenue A. They bug each other constantly. Example: “Rat makes a mess and Roach makes things too pretty.” Still, they can’t imagine not being best buds. The playful text is witty and refreshingly gutsy at times. The illustrations are quirky, whimsical, terrifically original – oh, and hysterical. A standout of the season. – JB

Pre-K to Elementary School

Red & Yellow’s Noisy Night by Josh Selig (Sterling Children’s Books, ages 4-7, $14.95)
The Red and Yellow characters are family favorites among those who’ve seen their animated shorts on the Nick Jr. channel. These beloved creatures who share their home with Olive Tree always have a problem to solve. In this story, they struggle to come to an agreement over Red’s loud musical instrument while Yellow is trying to sleep. See how they work together in harmony to come up with a solution. – FB

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems (Balzer & Bray, ages 4-8, $17.99)
Fans of Mo Willems (Knuffle Bunny) won’t be disappointed with his latest kooky foray into classic fairy tales as we follow precocious Goldilocks on her latest adventure. Of course, he puts his own comical spin on the girl’s fate as she encounters the home of three dinosaurs, who seem to anticipate her arrival. The detailed illustrations give parents plenty to wink about, and the text is open to unexpected interpretation. – FB

My Brave Year of Firsts by Jamie Lee Curtis; illustrated by Laura Cornell (HarperCollins, ages 4-8, $16.99)
There’s a first time for everything indeed as we’re given a delightful peek into a year in the life of adorable Frankie. The detailed, comical illustrations go hand in hand with the witty rhyme scheme as Frankie experiences many “firsts” – some good, some not so good – throughout her life. Young readers and parents will enjoy the full spectrum of events, from riding a bike to telling a lie for the first time. Also appreciated are the central messages in this lighthearted tale: Don’t be afraid to try new things, and remember that everything has a consequence. – FB

I’m Not Tired Yet! by Marianne Richmond (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, ages 4 and older, $16.99)
Six-year-old Ralphie knows all the tricks in the book in his attempts to stay up later and later past his bedtime. Little does Ralphie’s mom know that these delay tactics are just an excuse for him to spend more quality time with her. He uses his imagination to sneak in one last hug, tickle, cuddle and good-night kiss from his good-natured mom. – FB

C.R. Mudgeon by Leslie Muir; pictures by Julian Hector (Simon & Schuster, ages 4-8, $15.99)
Variety is not the spice of life for C.R. Mudgeon, a prickly hedgehog who prefers his no-nonsense routine over change. How in the world can he tolerate the energetic squirrel who moves in next door? Paprika plays loud music, likes to dance and eats spicy foods. Unexpectedly, C.R. Mudgeon grows to appreciate his new neighbor and finds that a little change may be OK after all. – AS

Return of the Library Dragon by Carmen Agra Deedy; illustrated by Michael P. White (Peachtree Publishers, ages 4-8, $16.95)
Book lovers will relish this latest tale from beloved Atlanta-based performance storyteller Deedy. Longtime librarian (and dragon) Miss Lotty is set to retire until she discovers that Mr. Mike Krochip has removed all the books to make room for a cyber-library filled with high-tech gadgets and gizmos. Miss Lotty’s library dragon erupts, spewing fire and gobbling up smartboards and other devices that cross her path. The dragon is tamed when she realizes that her replacement, none other than her former pupil, will return the books and create a library that balances traditional books with the latest technology. – AS

Everything Goes on Land and Everything Goes in the Air Written and illustrated by Brian Biggs (Balzer & Bray, ages 4 and older, $14.99 each)
My son, 3, excitedly read one of these books on his own for almost an hour. Enough said. These large books are jam-packed with bright-as-can-be illustrations, informative graphics and short, funny text. Everything Goes On Land chronicles a trip into the city to pick mom up from the train station. In the Air is about going to the airport to ride on a plane. There’s even a big foldout section in the back of each book – magic! – SC    

Wild About You! by Judi Sierra; illustrated by Marc Brown (Knopf, ages 4 and older, $17)
From the team behind Wild About Books comes a tribute to new life and motherhood. Most (though not all) of the zoo animals have just given birth: “Some hatched from their mamas. Some hatched out of eggs. Some walked right away on their long, wobbly legs.” When an endangered egg is delivered to the zoo, who will be its mother? Brown created the richly detailed illustrations on wooden panels with watercolor, gouache and extraordinary colored pencil work. The scenes are big, bold, bright – and bursting with love. – JB

Jangles, A Big Fish Story Written and illustrated by David Shannon (Scholastic/Blue Sky, ages 4 and older, $17.99)
From the author of No, David! and several other award-winning children’s books comes this captivating yarn. When a boy snags a giant fish that was only rumored to exist, he learns that doing the right thing is more important than bragging rights. His good choice is rewarded in the end, and young readers will learn respect for nature and the allure of magic in this fishy fantasy.  – SC   

The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson (Penguin Young Readers, ages 4 and older, $20)
Peter Rabbit is 110 years old (see page 33). Here, Peter Rabbit sneaks into Mr. McGregor’s garden, finds a yummy-smelling picnic basket, and hops in to investigate. Full and cozy, he falls asleep and later awakens to find himself bumping along a country road in a wagon and on his way to Scotland! – KG

The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool (Random House, ages 4-8, $16.99)
This is a beautiful book with an important message about greed, our planet’s resources, and the impact that human choices have on the environment. A little village boy weaves a scarf from the clouds using just what he needs and no more. The greedy king admires the boy’s scarf and demands he make the longest ever for him, the king. The boy explains that the king doesn’t need such a long scarf, that it would be wasteful, but the king won’t hear of it and also demands a cloak and dresses for the queen and princess. Pretty soon all of the clouds are gone and the village suffers a drought; with no clouds, there can be no rain. – KG

Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? And Other Notorious Nursery Tale Mysteries by David Levinthal and John Nickle (Schwartz & Wade, ages 4-8, $17.99)
This humorous take on traditional fairy tales boasts incredibly detailed illustrations. Follow Officer Binky on his investigations to learn what really happened in some favorite fairy tales. Did Humpty Dumpty really fall – or was he pushed? What happens when Hansel and Gretel are questioned about the disappearance of the witch in the deep, dark woods? And plenty more to ponder. – KG      

The Word Collector by Sonja Wimmer (Cuento de Luz, ages 5 and older, $14.95)
Celebrating the power of words, this beautifully illustrated and cleverly penned story will enchant young and old alike. An exceptional girl who lives in the sky, Luna loves words and collects them like stamps. When she realizes that words are beginning to disappear and lose their significance, she sets off on a journey across the world to share her words with the people who need them most. This unique tale will have readers linger as they piece together the story and ponder the author’s meaningful message. – AN

Puss In Boots by Jeff Pinkney (Dial Books, ages 5 and older, $17.99)
Caldecott Medal winning writer/illustrator Jerry Pinkney has beautifully retold and illustrated this classic story of ingenuity and trickery. The vivid watercolor illustrations on each page are a joy to look at with your child. Pinkney’s version is the first literary retelling of Puss In Boots since Fred Marcellino’s version published in 1991. – KG

Cold Snap by Eileen Spinelli; illustrated by Marjorie Priceman (Knopf, ages 5 and older, $17.99)
The newspaper headline shouts “Cold Snap!” and the folks in Toby Mills are chilled to their bones. As temperatures plunge lower, the pastor takes his afternoon nap with hot water bottles taped to his feet. Priceman’s gouache-on-watercolor paper illustrations burst with personality and swirling energy.  – JB

Welcome to Cuckooville by Susan Chandler; illustrations by Delphine Durand (Sky Pony Press, ages 5 and older, $16.95)
Do you speak Gobbledygook? Well, here’s your chance to learn. This wonderfully silly book with funny illustrations can help children see that it is our differences that make us stronger. When a misunderstood citizen, Mrs. Gobbledygook, saves the day – with the help of an observant little boy – the people of Cuckooville learn to love her for her uniqueness, and you will, too. – SC   

Molly, by Golly! by Dianne Ochiltree (Calkins Creek, ages 6 and older, $16.95)
History buffs will be enlightened by this action-packed story about Molly Williams, the first known female firefighter in America. We are transported back to the 1800s, when Molly, a talented cook for New York City Fire Company No. 11, must answer the call of duty and help put out a massive fire. Molly’s heroism is admirable, especially during a time when there were no sophisticated ways to fight fires and no women firefighters to follow. – FB

Nasty Bugs Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins; illustrations by Will Terry (Dial, ages 6 and older, $17.99)
Who knew you could teach iambic pentameter and fun facts about termites at the same time? This book of just-gross-enough poems is a great way to learn about creepy crawlies among vibrant illustrations. Did you know that lice have been found on Egyptian mummies? Or that bedbugs are nocturnal? Eww! Look forward to more fun facts like these after your kids read this icky but fascinating book. – SC 

Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed; illustrations by Barbara McClintock (Houghton Mifflin, ages 6 and older, $16.99)
In a series of 20 thoughtful vignettes, we learn there are many kinds of ice, from the first ice (so thin it breaks in your hand), to frozen-garden ice, to the last ice. We can’t wait for the perfect ice that’s thick enough to skate upon: “no holes, no bumps, no ruts, no scratches.” Even though it’s about something quite chilly, this sweet little book warms hearts in a wonderful way, as do McClintock’s charming pen-and-ink illustrations. – JB

Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole (Scholastic, ages 7-10, $16.99)
In this wordless, moving and suspenseful story, a young girl helps the runaway slave hiding in her family’s barn. There’s much going on and even more to imagine and contemplate in the nicely detailed pencil-on-charcoal paper scenes. – JB


For Older Kids

Big thanks to Laura Kamenitsa, Inman Middle School media specialist, and Terri Kaplan, librarian at The Westminster Schools. They coordinated these reviews of new chapter books by students at their respective schools. More than 25 students came through for Atlanta Parent. Kaplan and fellow Westminster librarian Tara Quilitzsch also pitched in with the writing.
All of these titles are appropriate for middle school readers, but many are also suitable for upper-elementary students. The suggested age recommendation is noted with each title. 
Editor’s note: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, is among the standout young adult novels this season. It is recommended for high school students due to subject matter such as cancer; the Inman Middle 7th-grader who read it liked it immensely.

Reviews from The Westminster School:

About Average by Andrew Clements (Atheneum, ages 8-12, $16.99)
Jordan. Yep. Just Jordan. That about sums it up. Well, at least that’s what sixth-grader Jordon Johnson thinks. She feels alone in a sea of talented kids. Nothing special about her; she’s hardly a movie star or a kid genius or the next Picasso. But things are about to change. One hot summer day could change how others see her – and how she sees herself. The author of Frindle brings us another uplifting book. As the story began to unfold, I was instantly hooked. I definitely recommend this!
– Emily Henegar, 7th grade

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire! by Polly Horvath (Schwartz & Wade Books, ages 8-12, $16.99)
Madeleine, 11, lives a good life on the small island of Hornby, but her life is dramatically changed when her parents are discovered missing and only a mysterious note is left behind. The perpetrator leaves one clue – finger food! She meets the quirky Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, detectives whom she hopes can help find her parents. I enjoyed Madeleine’s unusual take on life. I loved her imagination and relished her bravery and courage. The book was funny, with just enough seriousness and mystery. Two years ago I read Horvath’s  Everything On a Waffle, and this book is just as awesome, creative and engrossing.
– Isabella Pu, 6th grade

Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (Bloomsbury, ages 12 and older, $16.99)
Welcome to the world of Emily March, a modern-day teen who reads Little Women for a school assignment and gets stuck in the book. As in, she is literally in the book as one of the March sisters. Emily slowly adjusts to life as a member of the March family when one of the sisters tells her that she knows Emily doesn’t belong and can help Emily get out of the book – if Emily will take her with her! But Emily March is no fool. She knows she is in Little Women for a reason. This is a very interesting and clever tale spun by a good author. One thing, though; read the original Little Women first! There may be a couple of spoilers if you don’t.
– Emma Bussey, 6th grade

Safekeeping by Karen Hesse (Feiwel & Friends, ages 12 and older, $17.99)
The American People’s Party (the APP) has overthrown America, and all protesters have been apprehended and killed. Seventeen-year-old Radley Parker-Hughes was volunteering at an orphanage in Haiti but flies home after hearing about America’s troubles. Radley believes her biggest problem will be the fact that she left her phone charger in Haiti, but she is wrong. She soon comes to realize that the easy life she once knew in America no longer exists. This is a story of survival in a land of deathly circumstances. Homelessness, a journey filled with starvation, and a friendship forged out of desperation create a tale that is introspective, humbling and exciting.
– Tara  Quilitzsch, librarian, The Westminster Schools

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielson  (Scholastic, ages 10 and older, $17.99)
Four orphans, strikingly similar in age and appearance, are rescued from their orphanages by Connor, a member of the King’s Court. They soon find themselves in a deadly competition to see which one can secretly double as the long lost Prince of Carthyia, believed killed by pirates years ago. The winner will rule Carthyia, but the others will almost certainty die – unless they can work together to outfox Connor and his henchmen. A fast-paced story with entertaining characters and a plot that twists and turns throughout, The False Prince will have you reading well past your bedtime!
– Terri Kaplan, librarian, The Westminster Schools

Reviews from Inman Middle School students:

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen (Alfred A. Knopf, ages 10 and older, $16.99)
A boy named Wahoo lives on an animal ranch in the Florida Everglades with his father, an animal wrangler. The star of a fake reality show that uses tame animals decides to film an episode using real wild animals. Imagine the crazy complications. Chomp is a great book and makes you feel like you are really there. It is very funny and gives you a different perspective of Florida. Animal lovers will love this, and even if you’re not into animals, you’ll probably like it a lot, too.
– Ruth Payne, 6th grade

True Legend by Mike Lupica (Philomel Books,  ages 10 and older, $17.99)
Drew Robinson sees a ghost. A basketball ghost. This ghost can dunk, pass and shoot in a way Drew has never seen before. Drew isn’t your average teenager. He plays basketball so well that ESPN talks about him. Drew is so good that people call him True – and he knows only the stars get nicknames. The colleges want to sign him, but his mother disagrees. She thinks he needs to work on school more than basketball. One midnight he goes out to learn more about basketball from the ghost. Drew is smart, but he doesn’t use his head for school, just basketball. Drew taught me some things while I was reading this book, such as maybe I need to keep my mind on sports, but also on life. I think readers will enjoy True Legend and learn from it.
– Max Palickar, 6th grade

The Wednesdays by Julie Bourbeau (Alfred A. Knopf, ages 8 and older, $16.99)
This is a book about a village that is normal six days of the week. On Wednesdays, however, peculiar things happen, like a cat getting stuck in a vacuum cleaner. Max investigates and finds mischievous characters who are actually called The Wednesdays. There’s so much detail to this plot, you have no choice but to keep reading. I have never read anything quite like this. I’m a sucker for fun books like this one. I felt like this story helped me connect to my 7-year-old self again!
 – Zoe Bach, 7th grade

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis (Wendy Lamb, ages 9 and older, $15.99)
The Malone family is very talented. Deza Malone is a very bright student and an excellent author. Her brother Jimmie sings like an angel, and when he does, people stop to listen. The family lives in Gary, Indiana, which is hit hard by the Great Depression. After Mr. Malone leaves home in search of work, Deza, Jimmie and their mother set out to find him. This story by the award-winning author of Bud, Not Buddy has many twists and turns. I liked this book because it relates to real-world crisis. Many families today can identify with similar financial struggles. I recommend this book for older kids because of its mature perspective on real world events.
– Gracie Dunn, 7th grade

Theodore Boone: The Accused by John Grisham (Dutton, ages 8 and older, $16.99)
This is a fantastic novel about a young boy who wants to become a lawyer. He is interested in the trial of a murder suspect, but then he is wrongly accused of a robbery. He and his friends must team up to prove that he is innocent and save his reputation. I recommend this book to those who love mysteries and enjoy novels that keep them on the edge of their seats.
– Kelley Downes, 6th grade

The Yawning Rabbit River Chronicle by Janine Layton Kimmel (Spring Tree Press, ages 10-14, $17.99)
The animals living in the forest call for an emergency meeting because of a water shortage. Sean the jackrabbit has a plan to race Violet the river goddess so that when he wins, the river will come to the forest. This book is truly amazing. The author described the characters and creatures so well and made it easy for readers to follow the story every step of the way. There’s always something exiting going on. I recommend this book for older kids, for there is some mild violence.
– Jacob Salomon, 7th grade

A Diamond in the Desert by Kathryn Fitzmaurice (Viking, ages 10 and older, $16.99)
This is a great book about a Japanese-American family after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Tetsu and his family go to a concentration camp because his pop was arrested for turning on and off their storage light during the night, which might have looked like he was sending Morse code signals to the Japanese. Tetsu loses his dog, and his sister gets very sick. He and some friends create a baseball field where they play. He has a Mel Otis baseball glove, which is great for catching. If you like books about Japanese-Americans, this book is for you. It is a heartwarming tale of friendship, courage, and living up to your heritage. I really like this intriguing story and hope Fitzmaurice will write another one.
– Nicholas Simon-Brecke, 7th grade

One Year In Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath  (Schwartz and Wade, ages 9-12, 2012)
From the author of the award-winning Everything on a Waffle comes another wonderful book. This one is about a young girl, an only child, named Primrose Squarp. Her father is a fisherman, her mother works at a bed and breakfast. Primrose copes with loss, the troubles of not having a best friend, and she also attempts to encourage a romance between Uncle Jack and Kate. This is a thoroughly enjoyable book; I strongly recommend it for kids in upper elementary school! 
– Grace O’Gara, 6th grade

Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel (Simon & Schuster, ages 12 and older, 2012)
Kenneth Oppel has written several prominent books including the well-known Silverwing trilogy and the popular fantasy novel Airborn. In this series, Oppel leads us back in time to the childhood of Victor Frankenstein, the famouss scientist who gave life to a monster created through his experimentation. In this second book in the new series, Victor  has lost his twin brother Konrad, to an illness Victor had tried to cure in book No. 1.  While exploring  the family’s castle, Victor discovers a way to communicate with the dead. This starts a chain of events, which ultimately ends in Victor finding a way to actually transport his spirit into the world of the dead. Along with his two friends, Victor uncovers a plot that is as old as the house itself.
If you enjoy a good mystery complete with secret passageways, exciting plot twists, and just a hint of romance, this book is for you!
–  Faizan Boghani, 8th Grade

In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz (Dutton, ages 10 and older, $16.99)
This is a companion story to the same author’s popular A Tale Dark & Grimm (2010), and it’s another twisted take on well-known fairy tales. The main characters here are Jill  (granddaughter of Gretel) and Jack (grandson of Hansel), and a talking frog named Frog. “Once upon a time . . . they were tired; they were hungry; they were thirsty; and they were sick to death of walking.” If you like twisting up fairy tales in strange ways and don’t mind “horrible” stuff happening, then this is a really good book for you.
– Khalil Muhammad, 7th grade

Kaspar the Titanic Cat by Michael Morpurgo (Harper, ages 8 and older, $16.99)
Kaspar the Titanic Cat is the story of a boy whose life is changed by a cat named Kaspar.  Johnny Trott works in the Savoy Hotel in England.  When a woman with a cat dies, Johnny ends up hiding her cat away in his room. When it is time for a girl named Lizziebeth to sail on the great ship Titanic, Johnny gives her Kaspar to take on her journey, then he ends up being a stowaway on the ship himself – having no idea of the trouble in store. 
This book is interesting historical fiction.  It shows some history about the Titanic and pictures help bring the experience to life.  I especially recommend it for kids in elementary school. 
– Sophie Rivard, 7th grade

Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg (Delacorte, ages 10 and older, $18.99)
This is a very well written, emotional story with adventure, action, and tragedy.  Clare is only 13 when her mother dies.  Soon after, her father uproots her to Africa so he can conduct research.  Clare is a fish out of water in a place where everyone else has known one another since they were born. This story inspires you to root for Clare and her journey in her new life.  Burg’s unique style of writing made me want to read this book forever.  She made the pages come to life in front of my eyes.  I felt like I was just another character in the book, watching Clare and her struggles and breakthroughs – as she learns to laugh with the moon.
– Olivia Podber, 7th grade

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann (HarperCollins, ages 9 and older, $16.99)
The Peculiar is a remarkable novel.  It is a tale about the medieval powers of changelings – or Peculiars – and faeries and how faeries and humans shun changelings.  As a result, changelings such as Bartholomew and his sister Hettie must hide out from both humans and faeries.  When medieval powers and mysterious people begin to reveal themselves, the changelings begin to emerge into public view. This suspenseful story, told from two points of view, unfolds with twists, turns and leaps that I didn’t expect – and suspense.  I give this book five stars and highly recommend it to fiction lovers.
– Sahana Parker, 6th grade

Penelope Crumb by Shawn K. Stout (Philomel Books, ages 7 and older, $14.99)
This book is about a girl named Penelope Crumb, who loved art class more than anything. When she turned 12, her uncle and cousin told her that she had a big nose; their goal was to get her to take her mind off of drawing.  She thought they were lying until she looked at her face. She wanted to cry.  I like this book a lot because you follow the story of a girl who follows her dream.
– Aniya Culpepper, 7th grade

The Secrets of Shakespeare’s Grave by Deron R. Hicks (Houghton Mifflin, ages 9 and older, $16.99)
When Colophon hears one day that her dad might lose the family business,  she also meets a long-lost cousin and goes on a search for the family treasure, while her brother stays home to secretly help his father try to keep the family’s publishing company. The story has a nice balance of humor and mystery and (based on the age of the main character) is especially recommended for fourth and fifth graders.
– Emma Green, 7th grade

The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver (HarperCollins, ages 8 and older, $16.99)
Have you ever imagined a human-sized spider sneaking into your room?  Well, Liza Elson has.  A Spindler (a type of spider) does exactly that:  it sneaks into your room and steals your soul!
When Liza’s brother’s soul is stolen by the Spindlers, she embarks on an adventure of a lifetime.  After she enters the land of The Below that’s filled with new life and scary mysteries, her life is turned upside-down. With the help of a clothed rat named Mirabella, Liza hopes they can save her brother before it’s too late. I felt a strong connection to this book because Liza has an imagination that stretches as far as mine.  The Spindlers is one of a kind, and I enjoyed reading it.  Author Lauren Oliver includes great detail in her writing so that I felt like I was actually “there.”
– Angelora Castellano, 6th grade

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan (Random House, ages 12 and older, $18.99)
All her life, Kami thought that the voice inside her head was just that, a voice.  Never did she think that anything exciting could happen to her in her boring town, Sorry-in-the-Vale.  However, that all changes when a new family moves to town.  As Kami gets to know the two new Lynburn step-brothers, she uncovers some dangerous secrets. This exciting story is filled with adventure, mystery, love, and heartbreak.  Kami is a smart and independent character that is hard not to love.  Her humorous and sarcastic personality only adds to all the wonders this book has to offer.  This is a great book that certainly won’t disappoint you.
– Jac Hamilton, 7th grade

The Whispering House by Rebecca Wade (HarperCollins, ages 8-12, $16.99)
What if you learned that your new house had secrets, secrets that have been hidden for a hundred years?  That is what happens to Hannah when she moves into an old Victorian house.  First she finds the mysterious doll with bruise spots on it, then something else . . .   The Whispering House is a wonderful book with a creepy chill. The story also reminds us that  teamwork can often help us accomplish our goals. While Hannah, with friend Sam, learns about the sad life of Maisie Holt, you can’t help but feel as if you too are experiencing this story.  Do you believe in ghosts?
– Avery Welty-Green, 7th grade

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb, ages 9 and older, $18.99)
Liar & Spy is a book about a lonely boy named Georges (pronounced sh-or-jes).  In this story, he makes new friends and tolerates bullies in a calm, non-violent way.  Georges joins a Spy Club run by his friend Safer, who wants him to track  Mr. X, a mysterious man who lives in his apartment building.
This is a spectacular book.  I loved it because it had three plots braided together. In the end, the plotlines come together in a way the reader could never have imagined. Liar & Spy has numerous themes that will stick with you. For example,  the idea of trying something new because it might turn out to be a good thing . . . or the reminder to put yourself in someone else’s shoes now and then.  All in all, I loved this book and recommend it to anyone who loves a good story.
– Magda Dumitrescu, 7th grade

Sammy Keyes and the Power of Justice Jack by Wendelin Van Draanen (Alfred A. Knopf, ages 10 and older, $18.99)
This a great book.  Justice Jack wants to be a crime fighter, but Sammy really solves the mysteries.  You can never predict what might happen next or what Samantha Keyes has to go through.  There are so many jokes flying around that it was hard to put this book down.  I would encourage middle school students to read this book. Trust me: they’ll like it! 
– Victoria Hardy, 6th grade

The Wondrous Journals of Dr. Wendell Wellington Wiggins by Lesley M. M. Blume, illustrated by David Foote (Alfred A. Knopf, ages 8-12, $16.99)
The same author and illustrator also produced Modern Fairies, Dwarves, Goblins and Other Nasties in 2010, so you already know you’re in for something unusually creative. The story is told through journal entries Dr. Wendell made while exploring the world in search of strange and supposedly extinct species.  Along his journey, he finds a strange little creature named Gibear that he keeps; its fur from black to green, then to silver, and finally to gold. Other weird creatures he encounters include the 
Amazonian whispering vine; bunny fluffs; ice-world daredevils; cloud-dwelling hummingbird people; diva opera ostriches; and rainbow-spitting cobras.  The book is amazing and humorous.  I would recommend it for all ages – especially those who enjoy reading fantasy.
Santiago Galvis, 7th grade

Katerina’s Wish by Jeannie Mobley (Margaret K. McElderry Books, ages 9-14, $15.99)
Katerina’s family moves to a coal-mining town in 1900.  They hope to buy a farm, but her father has to work in the mine and her mother has to take in laundry.   Katerina remembers an old folktale and makes a wish.  I will not tell you if the magic works or not, because I don’t want to spoil what the author has in store. I enjoyed this story: its unique setting, the characters and time period, and most of all, the author’s ability to describe things so well.  When Mark (one of Katrina’s great friends) gets hurt, I had to skip a page because the author described the pain almost too well. At other times, I found myself angry at specific characters, angry enough that I felt like jumping into the book to resolve the problem on my own.
– Walden Jones, 7th grade

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Dutton, ages 14 and older, $17.99)
Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old girl with terminal cancer, was pulled out of school at age 13 and rarely socializes with people her age.  She usually spends most of her time reading Peter Van Houten’s An Imperial Affliction, about another girl who has cancer.  One day, when she goes to her support group for kids with cancer, she meets Augustus Waters, a 17-year-old boy who is very much into quotes and poetry.  They become great friends, and she soon makes him read An Imperial Affliction.  He loves it!  The only problem is that the book ends in the middle of a sentence.  Puzzled by this mystery, they go on a crazy adventure to Amsterdam to try to find the author.  What happens there?  That’s for you to find out!
Honestly, this novel was one of the best books I’ve ever read.  At first, when I saw the title, I thought it would be boring.  As soon as I started reading it, though, I couldn’t stop!  Page after page, I would stay up late at night just to keep reading it.  The reason I liked it so much was that it was very descriptive and interesting.  It describes the life of a cancer patient, what they have to go through every day and their thoughts.  Throughout the book, I cried, smiled with joy, frowned with anger, and really felt what it was like to be in Hazel Grace Lancaster’s feet.  I would definitely recommend this book to people looking for a good book to read.
Grace Hodgson, 7th grade