This week concludes my list of favorite books from last year. Except for the last book, which is best suited for ages 16 through adult, all of these books are good for ages 9 and up.
12 Kinds of Ice, by Ellen Bryan Obed, and beautifully illustrated with pen and ink by Barbara McClintock, is written from the perspective of the author’s childhood in upstate Maine. Ms. Obed has captured the anticipation of ice in this smallish-size book as it begins to form in early winter; thus youngsters await their skating fun to begin. Each chapter ends with another type of ice as it leaves you hanging to see what that ice will entail. This is a perfect read-aloud during long ice-cold nights!
Super, by Matthew Cody, is actually the second book in a series, but it’s not necessary to read the first one to enjoy this story. Daniel is surrounded by super-powered friends. When an evil force comes to town, Daniel finds that he can borrow some of his friends’ abilities to help save the day. But does he really need these powers? Kids will really enjoy this adventure.
Brixton Brothers: Danger Goes Berserk, by Mac Barnett, along with illustrations sprinkled throughout by Matthew Myers, is another interesting and humorous story in this exciting mystery series. Twelve-year-old Steve Brixton must go deep into the ocean to recover a stolen surfboard. But he soon discovers that there’s much more going on out in this water besides surfboards.
Eight Dolphins of Katrina: A True Tale of Survival, by Janet Wyman Coleman, and illustrated by Yan Nascimbene, is told through vivid photos and drawings as you seem to live through this amazing miracle of these dolphins surviving Hurricane Katrina. The tidal wave that crashed into the Marine Life Oceanarium in Mississippi split the large pool open that held these dolphins. When the trainers returned after the winds had subsided they found their precious dolphins, that they helped raise from birth, gone. The chance of their survival was only slight. But dolphins are very intelligent and they figured out survival and where to go.
The Inventor’s Secret, by Chad Morris, is an exciting mystery when twins, Abby and Derick, find that their inventor grandfather, and their parents, have gone missing. The year is 2074 and their grandfather has invented an amazing device that allows the students to actually relive history and partake in activities far beyond the confines of the school – where they can even become animals through an avatar device. The problem is they don’t know whom they can trust as they begin their search. The history that these twins experience becomes real throughout the story making it all come to life for the reader.
Sophie’s War: A Tale of the Revolution, by Avi, is a historical fiction that centers on twelve-year-old Sophie as she lives in New York City. Her city has recently been taken over by the British and she decides to become a spy by becoming a maid in the household of the British commander. There she learns many events that help the Patriots and George Washington win the war. This story follows the history accurately and the glossary found at the back of the book includes eighteenth-century terminology. Don’t miss the author’s interesting note about writing this book.
Pi in the Sky, by Wendy Mass, is an exciting book full of science, the universe and even physics. But this book works these concepts into a great story. Joss is just the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord and subsequently his only job is to deliver pies to hold the universe together. He thinks it’s boring compared to his brothers’ jobs until one day Earth goes missing. And now the adventure begins!
The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, by Kathi Appelt, is a richly told tale that seems to sway to the rhythms of the bayou. Bingo and J’miah are two rambunctious raccoons that officially scout Sugar Man Swamp to help keep their land safe. But life becomes topsy-turvy when a group of feral hogs are about to destroy the tenuous canebrake sugar that grows wild. At the same time, twelve-year-old Chap Brayburn is trying to keep a “Gator World Wrestling Arena and Theme Park” from developing on this precious land he loves so much. The chapters are short, succinct and folksy, so it would be great fun to read out loud.
Of Giants and Ice, by Shelby Back, finds Rory has just begun another after-school program called “Ever After School”. But this school is extremely different! This is a school for “characters-in-training” who are taught by fairytale stars, such as Rapunzel and Hansel and Gretel, to fight the evil forces in tales. This is the first book in a planned series. The second book, “Of Witches and Wind”, was recently published and looks to be just as good.
My Name Used to be Muhammad: The True Story of a Muslim Who Became a Christian, by Tito Momen, with Jeff Benedict, is enlightening with the information it gives concerning growing up in Nigeria in a religious community where life was completely connected to religious training and scripture study. The author portrays his life with an even flow that goes from early life being immersed in Islam. Then on to his introduction to Christianity and becoming imprisoned because of his change of beliefs. This imprisonment lasted for fifteen years and was filled with abuse and extremely difficult persecution while in prison. But this experience, which ended just recently, didn’t dishearten him; rather his strong testimony gave him continual hope. This is a page-turner!