Miss Megan’s Five Star Favorites, Part I

I’m a pretty critical reader. I guess that’s because I read a lot of things, so inevitably I start to feel a little jaded. But when a special book crosses my path, one that jolts me out of my stupor with its originality or voice or what have you, I get very excited.

For this reason, I love Goodreads. Not only can I keep track of what I’ve read, but I can organize books based on how I rated them. And at the tippy-top of the list is my handful of five star picks, the books that I think are just plain extraordinary.

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen; Candlewick Press; 15.99; Ages 3-adult

Opening line: “This hat is not mine. I just stole it.”

For fans of: I Want My Hat BackI’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean

Also, it’s this year’s Caldecott medalist.

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illus. by Adam RexHyperion (HarperCollins); 16.99; Ages 3-8

Opening line: “This is me, Mac. I’m the author of this book.”

For fans of: The Three PigsOh, No!: or How My Science Project Destroyed the World

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland by Catherynne M. ValenteSquare Fish (Macmillan); 6.99; Ages 9-adult

Opening line: “Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents’ house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog.”

For fans of: The Chronicles of NarniaAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Breadcrumbs by Anne UrsuHarperCollins; 6.99; Ages 9-adult

Opening line: “It snowed right before Jack stopped talking to Hazel, fluffy white flakes big enough to show their crystal architecture, like perfect geometric poems.”

For fans of: Peter PanLiesl and Po

Okay for Now by Gary SchmidtClarion (Houghton Mifflin); 16.99; Ages 10-adult

Opening line: “Joe Pepitone once gave me his New York Yankees baseball cap. I’m not lying. He gave it to me. To me, Doug Swieteck. To me.”

For fans of: The Wednesday WarsAl Capone Does My Shirts

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy SchlitzCandlewick Press; 17.99; Ages 10-adult

Opening line: “The witch burned. She tossed in a sea of blankets, dizzy with heat. It was fever, not fire, that tormented her, fever and the nightmares that came with it.”

For fans of: Charles DickensCatherine, Called Birdy

And it’s a 2013 Newbery Honor Book!

Want to read more from any of these awesome titles? Call us and we’ll put them on hold! (703) 548-4092.

Read on, readers!

Miss Megan

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And the Award Goes To…

Earlier this morning, the American Library Association announced the Youth Media Awards. We selected our picks for Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz a couple of weeks ago, and now the committees have spoken! Behold.

indarkness (3)Michael L. Printz Award

Winner: In Darkness, Nick Lake, Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children’s Books

Honors: Aristotle and Dante Discover the UniverseBenjamin Alire Saenz, Simon and Schuster; Code Name VerityElizabeth Wein, Hyperion Books (staff pick & Megan’s pick); DodgerTerry Pratchett, HarperCollins; The White BicycleBeverley Brenna, Red Deer Press

ThisIsNotMyHat_thumbCaldecott Medal

Winner: This Is Not My HatJon Klassen, Candlewick Press (staff pick & Megan’s pick)

Honors: Creepy CarrotsAaron Reynolds, illus. by Peter Brown, Simon and Schuster; Extra YarnMac Barnett, illus. by Jon Klassen, Balzer & Bray/Harperteen (staff pick & Megan’s pick); Green, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Roaring Brook Press; One Cool FriendToni Buzzeo, illus. by David Small, Dial Books; Sleep Like a TigerMary Logue, illus. by Pamela Zagarenski, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

9780061992254Newbery Medal

Winner: The One and Only IvanKatherine Applegate, Harper (Megan’s pick)

Honors: BombSteve Sheinkin, Flash Point (Roaring Brook Press); Splendors and GloomsLaura Amy Schlitz, Candlewick Press (staff pick & Megan’s pick); Three Times LuckySheila Turnage, Dial Books for Young Readers (staff pick & Megan’s pick)

Stop by the store and check out these wonderful titles for yourself! Give us a call to check availability–we’ve got a bunch of award darlings on order just for you!

Miss Megan’s Newbery Picks

Newbery choices are tough. There are so many great books to choose from, so many rules and various criteria to consider, so many helpful opinions to process. But, in the end, I have to stick with the books that have left the greatest impression on me this year.

True, the Newbery committee doesn’t always pick the same titles I do, but I really think they should. Fingers crossed for 2013!

13531021Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy SchlitzCandlewick Press; 17.99; Ages 10-16

I’m rooting for this book so hard! Code Name Verity is my favorite book of the year, but this one’s a close second. Baltimore librarian and previous Newbery medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz dazzles with lush descriptions, hilarious dialogue, and an utterly engrossing setting. I didn’t want this book to end. Brilliantly done.

Liar-and-SpyLiar and Spy by Rebecca Stead; Random House; 15.99; Ages 9-13

A classic mystery in so many ways, but it feels fresh. And disagree if you like, but I prefer this title to Stead’s previous Newbery medal winner, When You Reach Me. The plot flows effortlessly, the characters are endearing and engaging, and the storyline has layers of poignancy and emotion that are handled with just the right amount of restraint. A strong contender for the medal!

jeppJepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine MarshHyperion Books; 16.99; Ages 14-adult

The rules for the Newbery dictate that books written for readers up to the age of fourteen can be considered. In that case, Jepp has to be part of the discussion. The title character’s voice was one of the strongest I’ve read this year, and Marsh’s ability to make period fiction feel both historically accurate and fresh for a modern reader is commendable. This one’s a wild card for me, as it’s also a strong choice for the Printz Award, which recognizes achievement in young adult literature.

GypsyMothCover-231x350Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker; Balzer & Bray/Harperteen (HarperCollins); 15.99; Ages 9-12

Pennypacker weaves a story that packs a hefty emotional punch without feeling manipulative or forced. She handles an often overused theme in middle grade fiction—the “unlikely friendship”—in a way that is natural and engaging. I couldn’t get this novel out of my head after I read it. I still can’t! Gypsy Moths is a Newbery dark horse that I’d like to see get some (much deserved) recognition.

9780061992254The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate; Harper; 16.99; Ages 8-12

A moving story of a silverback gorilla’s quest to find a better life for the baby elephant that arrives at his dilapidated zoo. Applegate handles the themes of conservancy and animal welfare with a deft hand, and it is to her credit that she writes both her animal and human characters without judgment. Even the “bad guy,” we discover, has a tender side. What could have been a heavy handed sermon is, instead, a lovely exercise in control.

556133_292317964185422_272218639528688_667024_412677593_nThree Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage; Dial Books for Young Readers; 16.99; Ages 9-12

Like Liar and Spy, this is a mystery that’s more than just a formula. Hilarious prose and a small town full of wonderfully zany folk make this one of the most entertaining middle grade picks this year. The Newbery committee doesn’t always go for humor, but I think they should give it a go this time around. Turnage’s story is utterly fantastic.

Others to watch: Wonder, The Lions of Little Rock, The Great Unexpected

What are your picks for Newbery? Comment and let me know which titles I missed!

Our 2013 Newbery Shortlist!

We love to read middle grade books, so we’re very excited about the upcoming Newbery awards ceremony on January 28th! Here are the books that we, as a staff, think are strong contenders!

Liar and Spy by Rebecca SteadWendy Lamb Books; 15.99

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin LevinePutnam Publishing Group; 16.99

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy SchlitzCandlewick Press; 17.99

Wonder by R.J. PalacioKnopf Books for Young Readers; 15.99

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara PennypackerBalzer & Bray/Harperteen; 15.99

Three Times Lucky by Sheila TurnageDial Books for Young Readers; 16.99

What’s on your Newbery list? Comment and let us know!

Miss Megan’s Favorite Books of 2012

2012 was a good year to be a reader! Ask me my favorite book and I’ll probably hem and haw before making a decision—but if I have to choose, I’ll choose from this list.

(Instead of giving you a long discussion of the merits of each book, I’m limiting myself to a Twitter-style 140-character summary for each. Here goes!)

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illus. by Adam RexHyperion Books (HarperCollins); 16.99; Ages 3-8

This discussion of author/illustrator collaboration hilariously breaks the fourth wall. Lots to look at, lots of laughs. Top Caldecott pick.

This Is Not My Hat by Jon KlassenCandlewick Press; 15.99; Ages 3-7

A little fish steals a big fish’s bowler hat. Text follows little fish, art follows big fish. Mayhem ensues. Klassen is a comic genius.

A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy DoyleAmulet Books (Abrams); 16.95; Ages 9-adult

Poignant generational story about mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers. Just the right length, great emotional impact.

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara PennypackerBalzer & Bray (Harperteen); 15.99; Ages 9-12

This novel about an unlikely friendship is also a novel about two kinds of family: the kind we’re born into, and the kind we choose.

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy SchlitzCandlewick Press; 17.99; Ages 10-16

A Dickensian orphan story with a magical twist. Hilarity abounds. Schlitz is the queen of engaging, descriptive prose. Top Newbery pick.

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine MarshHyperion Books; 16.99; Ages 12-adult

A young court dwarf in the Spanish Netherlands journeys on a quest to find his fate. Fantastic storytelling. Marsh is a DC author!

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse AndrewsAbrams Publishing; 16.95; Ages 14-adult

A story of unlikely friendship without the usual cliches. A fresh voice that is hysterical and engaging. You will laugh and cry.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth WeinHyperion Books; 16.99; Ages 14-adult

Part spy thriller, part friendship story, with twists you’ll never see coming. Begs to be reread. Top Printz pick. Best book of the year.

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz

This is quite possibly my #1 middle grade gift recommendation going into the holiday season. (Though I’ve got a lot of love for The Spindlers, too!)

Told from various perspectives, Splendors and Glooms is a Dickensian tale that pretty much has it all: magic, adventure, humor, plucky orphans, dastardly criminals, street urchins—the list goes on. Set mainly in Victorian London (though we take some notable detours), the story follows orphans Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, assistants to the sinister puppeteer Gaspare Grisini.

In contrast to the shabby, hand-to-mouth existence of Lizzie and Parse, young Clara Wintermute lives in the lap of luxury. But even with her warm home and fancy toys, Clara’s life is clouded by sadness and guilt. When Grisini and company are hired to perform for Clara’s birthday party, Lizzie and Parse are immediately drawn to the strange, winsome little girl. But after the party, disaster strikes: Clara disappears, and Grisini is the main suspect.

Haunted by the birthday girl’s hesitant attempt at friendship, Lizzie and Parse set out to solve the mystery of her disappearance. What they find will astonish and amaze them. Don’t worry, readers with delicate constitutions! There’s a happy ending here—for everyone who deserves it, that is.

Baltimore librarian and Newbery medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz (her Victorian thriller A Drowned Maiden’s Hair is another of my favorites) dazzles with lush descriptions, hilarious dialogue, and an utterly engrossing setting. I didn’t want this book to end, and that’s saying something, since it’s almost 400 pages. But those pages flew by! All I wanted to do was curl up in a warm blanket, grab a mug of cocoa, and get lost in this brilliant read.

But don’t take my word for it—check out Cecilia’s glowing review here!

Read on, readers!

—Miss Megan

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Candlewick Press; 17.99; Ages 10-adult