Happy Holidays everyone. With new year fast approaching it is time to start thinking about what books might be receiving the coveted Newbery Medal. I have read a great deal over the year and I am happy to say that yet again this might be a tough one for the selection panel. (sidenote: I would love to be on that committee one day)
With that being said here are some of my selections for some of the top books of the past year. I hope you get the chance to read some of these as well.
The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban
It follows the story of Tim Macbeth, a seventeen-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is “Enter here to be and find a friend.” A friend is the last thing Tim expects or wants—he just hopes to get through his senior year unnoticed. Yet, despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “It” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, but she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone ever finds out. Tim and Vanessa begin a clandestine romance, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.
Brotherhood by Anne Westrick
The year is 1867, the South has been defeated, and the American Civil War is over. But the conflict goes on. Yankees now patrol the streets of Richmond, Virginia, and its citizens, both black and white, are struggling to redefine their roles and relationships. By day, fourteen-year-old Shadrach apprentices with a tailor and sneaks off for reading lessons with Rachel, a freed slave, at her school for African-American children. By night he follows his older brother Jeremiah to the meetings of a group whose stated mission is to protect Confederate widows like their mother. But as the true murderous intentions of the group, now known as the Ku Klux Klan, are revealed, Shad finds himself trapped between old loyalties and what he knows is right.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo and K.G. Campbell
It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry — and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart.
The Ugly One by Leanne Statland Ellis
At the height of the Incan empire, a girl called the Ugly One because of a disfiguring scar on her face, seeks to have the scar removed and instead finds a life path as a shaman.
Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now. Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.
What we Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World by Henry Clark
When River, Freak, and Fiona discover a mysterious sofa sitting at their bus stop, their search for loose change produces a rare zucchini-colored crayon. Little do they know this peculiar treasure is about to launch them into the middle of a plot to conquer the world! The kids’ only hope is to trap the plot’s mastermind when he comes to steal the crayon. But how can three kids from the middle of nowhere stop an evil billionaire? With the help of an eccentric neighbor, an artificially intelligent domino, a DNA-analyzing tray, two hot air balloons, and a cat named Mucus, they just might be able to save the planet.
Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinken
A true crime thriller — the first book for teens to tell the nearly unknown tale of the brazen attempt to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body! The action begins in October of 1875, as Secret Service agents raid the Fulton, Illinois, workshop of master counterfeiter Ben Boyd. Soon after Boyd is hauled off to prison, members of his counterfeiting ring gather in the back room of a smoky Chicago saloon to discuss how to spring their ringleader. Their plan: grab Lincoln’s body from its Springfield tomb, stash it in the sand dunes near Lake Michigan, and demand, as a ransom, the release of Ben Boyd –and $200,000 in cash. From here, the action alternates between the conspirators, the Secret Service agents on their trail, and the undercover agent moving back and forth between the two groups. Along the way readers get glimpses into the inner workings of counterfeiting, grave robbing, detective work, and the early days of the Secret Service. The plot moves toward a wild climax as robbers and lawmen converge at Lincoln’s tomb on election night: November 7, 1876.