Best children’s books of 2011

December 9, 2011
PICTURE BOOKS

BONE DOG

By Eric Rohmann (Roaring Brook, $16.99)

An eerie sweetness permeates this comic tale of a young boy whose pet is reincarnated in the form of a skeleton dog on that spookiest of all nights, All Hallows’ Eve. — KEJ

PERFECT SQUARE


‘Perfect Sqaure’ by Michael Hall (Greenwillow Books)

By Michael Hall (Greenwillow, $16.99)

In this perfectly square book, a perfect square transforms itself into a fountain, a garden, a park, a bridge, a river, a mountain, a window . . . and ultimately, a story that combines the days of the week, the colors of the rainbow and the unspoken joy of breaking boundaries. — KEJ

STARS

By Mary Lyn Ray. Illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane, $16.99)

From tiny white strawberry blossoms in the spring to snowflakes in the winter, from the tip of a wand to the points of a sheriff’s badge, from the shape you make when you turn a cartwheel to the twinkling night lights in the sky, stars are all around us. We only have to look, this dreamy book tells us. — KEJ


‘Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku’ by Lee Wardlaw; illustrated by Eugene Yelchin (Henry Holt & Co.)

SWIRL BY SWIRL: Spirals in Nature

By Joyce Sidman. Illustrated by Beth Krommes (Houghton Mifflin, 16.99)

Whether describing spider webs or galaxies, Sidman’s poetic text (“A spiral is a snuggling shape”) and Krommes’s lushly tinted scratchboard illustrations reveal our world as an intricately patterned and glorious wonder. — KEJ

WON TON: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku 

By Lee Wardlaw. Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin (Henry Holt, $16.99)

Sinuous and sassy, a homeless feline wiggles his way out of the shelter and slips into your heart. “Letmeoutletme / outletmeoutletmeout. / Wait — let me back in!” — Kristi Elle Jemtegaard

NONFICTION

AMELIA LOST: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart

By Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade, $18.99) Ages 9 and up.

Delving into Earhart’s accomplishments and showmanship, Fleming resurrects the aviator and the times in which she flew. — Abby McGanney Nolan

AMERICA IS UNDER ATTACK: The Day the Towers Fell

By Don Brown (Roaring Brook, $16.99)

Ages 9-12

Brown’s crisp illustrations convey the shocks and heroics of Sept. 11, 2001, and his text offers children a straightforward introduction to that sorrowful day. — AMN

HEART AND SOUL

By Kadir Nelson (Balzer & Bray, $19.99) Ages 9 and up

Bringing African American history close to home, author-illustrator Nelson depicts great struggles and landmark events as part of a family story. Heroes such as Martin Luther King Jr. are presented as beloved elders. You may even want to frame Nelson’s portraits, such as the one of Rosa Parks in profile, a picture of dignity. — AMN

INTO THE UNKNOWN: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea and Air

By Stewart Ross. Illustrated by Stephen Biesty (Candlewick, $19.99) Ages 9-12

Spanning history as well as great heights and depths, this guide to 14 breakthrough explorations features Ross’s clear, engaging narratives and Biesty’s very cool cross-section illustrations. — AMN

WHEELS OF CHANGE: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom

By Sue Macy (National Geographic, $18.95) Ages 12 and up

In this well researched and wonderfully illustrated history, Macy conveys the profound effects of the two-wheeler on the late 19th-century American woman, from feminine fashion and fitness to religion and politics. — AMN

FICTION

DEAD END IN NORVELT

By Jack Gantos (Farrar Strauss Giroux, $15.99) Ages 10-14

Oddball characters and offbeat riffs on history inform this darkly comic semi-autobiographical tale of small-town doings in 1962. — Mary Quattlebaum

INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN

By Thanhha Lai (Harper Collins, $15.99) Ages 8-12

This vivid novel in poems, a 2011 National Book Award winner, follows a feisty girl named Ha as she escapes with her family from Vietnam and takes on the strange food, school bullies and quirky language of her new American home. — MQ

MY NAME IS NOT EASY

By Debby Dahl Edwardson (Marshall Cavendish, $17.99) Ages 12 and up

An Alaskan boarding school of the 1960s is a crucible of change for the Eskimo and American Indian students whose lively voices infuse this powerful novel — a National Book Award finalist — with anger, determination and hope. — MQ

WONDERSTRUCK

By Brian Selznick (Scholastic, $29.99) Ages 9 and up

This superbly paced illustrated novel brings the parallel adventures of two deaf children, separated by 50 years, to a surprising, deeply satisfying close in New York City. — MQ

SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS

By Ellen Booraem (Dial, $16.99) Ages 10-14

Help! Hundreds of mischievous fairies are doomed unless 13-year-old Mellie can discover the secret that links her family’s fate to theirs. This sprightly contemporary fantasy brims with surprises, including a giant frog and a tech-savvy Prince Charming. — MQ

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