The Best Kid's Books of 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The following are excerpts from the most favorable reviews of the year. Regular reviewers are identified by initials if they appear more than once.

For Children

ALL THE WORLD, by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane, $17.99). Frazee's illustrations create interconnected sun-up to sundown stories set to the rhythm of Scanlon's gentle rhyming text. -- Kristi Jemtegaard

THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS, by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tony Persiani (Charlesbridge, $18.95). Barton's crisp text and Persiani's retro illustrations explain how brotherly teamwork and creativity made for the startlingly bright and useful breakthrough of fluorescent colors. -- Abby McGanney Nolan

THE LION & THE MOUSE, by Jerry Pinkney (Little Brown, $16.99). A lush interpretation of a beloved tale in which courage and kindness conquer the king of beasts. -- KJ

MOONSHOT, by Brian Floca (Atheneum, $17.99). Forty years after "LIFT OFF!" Floca's text and illustrations recreate the historic event so powerfully that young readers will hold their breath, sharing the sense of wonder felt by that earthbound audience long ago. -- KJ

THE TREE THAT TIME BUILT, selected by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston (Jabberwocky, $19.99). More than 100 poems celebrate the quirks and glories of the natural world. Includes a CD of poets reading. -- Mary Quattlebaum

For Pre-Teens

BAD NEWS FOR OUTLAWS, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Carolrhoda, $17.95). The rare deputy U.S. marshal to have been born a slave, Bass Reeves gets a fitting tribute in Nelson's illustrated biography. -- AMN

CLAUDETTE COLVIN, by Phillip Hoose (Farrar Straus Giroux, $19.95). Before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin, a teenager who knew her constitutional rights and was willing to be arrested to prove it. -- AMN

THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE, by Jacqueline Kelly (Henry Holt, $16.99). A spirited Texas girl explores scientific interests in this vibrant portrait of small-town life in the 19th century. -- MQ

THE GREAT AND ONLY BARNUM, by Candace Fleming (Schwartz and Wade, $18.99). With its generous assortment of sidebars, photos and illustrations, Fleming's biography sometimes resembles Barnum's famed three-ring circus -- you don't know where to look first. -- AMN

HEART OF A SHEPHERD, by Rosanne Parry (Random House, $15.99). With his father deployed to Iraq, Brother, 11, does his best to keep the family ranch going in this moving novel. -- MQ

REDWOODS, by Jason Chin (Roaring Brook, $16.95). This picture book inventively intermingles engaging facts about the towering trees of California and Oregon with bright, captivating illustrations. -- AMN

A SEASON OF GIFTS, by Richard Peck (Dial, $16.99). Grandma Dowdel is still larger than life, twice as ornery and skirting every law except the law of conscience in this 1950s continuation of her award-winning saga. -- KJ

SWEETHEARTS OF RHYTHM, by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Dial, $21.99). Poems and illustrations combine vividly to tell the little-known story of an all-girl, integrated swing band in the 1940s. -- MQ

WHEN YOU REACH ME, by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb, $15.99). A likable latchkey kid pieces together clues involving a homeless man, prescient notes, her best friend and the nature of time in this remarkable novel set in late 1970s Manhattan. -- MQ

YEARS OF DUST, by Albert Marrin (Dutton, $22.99). Marrin conjures up the heat, the dust and the sorrow of the dirty '30s while also showing what led to the complicated tragedy known as the Dust Bowl. -- AMN

For Teens

CHARLES AND EMMA, by Deborah Heiligman (Henry Holt, $16.95). Doing justice to both science and faith, Heiligman's affecting narrative looks closely at how Charles Darwin's marriage and bustling family life intersected with his career and groundbreaking ideas. -- AMN

THE ETERNAL SMILE, by Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Derek Kirk Kim (First Second, $16.95). Witty graphic tales explore the way fantasy sustains (and sabotages) three very different characters. -- MQ

FIRE, by Kristin Cashore (Dial, $17.99). In this elegantly written fantasy, Fire, 17, must decide how best to use her powers when dealing with a suspicious prince. -- MQ

FLYGIRL, by Sherri L. Smith (Putnam, $16.99). Can a courageous African American girl make it as a World War II pilot? A dynamic work of historical fiction. -- MQ

MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD, by Francisco X. Stork (Arthur A. Levine, $17.99 ). A teen on the autistic spectrum takes a job at his father's law firm and uncovers a case the firm wants to hide. Part coming-of-age story, part mystery and wholly compelling. -- MQ

TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA, by Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine, $19.99). The strange beauty of the ordinary infuses 15 illustrated stories. -- MQ

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