Observe! Before your very eyes I will now beat my breast and rend my clothing (simultaneously… I’m talented like that) while wailing at a fever pitch about the books that I wish I had reviewed in 2012. You see, I give myself some pretty strict rules when it comes to reviewing. Once the second hand strikes midnight and the new year comes in, that is IT for the previous year’s titles. Not all is lost, of course. There is a chance that if any of these books win a Newbery or Caldecott I will do some last minute reviewing of them right after the award announcements. But otherwise, these are the folks who lost out and I sincerely regret it. Technically every book that appeared on yesterday’s 100 Magnificent Children’s Books 2012 list should be here, but from that I’ll select just a couple that make me particularly sad.
Without further ado, and in no particular order whatsoever . . .
H.O.R.S.E. by Christopher Myers – Gah. The ONLY reason I didn’t do this one is that the sole copy in my possession is at NYPL because we placed it on the 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing List (which ain’t a bad thing) and there it stays with the other books of the year. The book was remarkable for a lot of reasons, not least of which was the fact that it was one of the very very few contemporary picture books with African-American characters.
Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky: Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School. Edited by Timothy P. McLaughlin. Illustrated by S. D. Nelson. – The number of books written by Native Americans is small in any given year, so what was my excuse for not reviewing either Louise Erdrich’s Chickadee or this remarkable collection of poetry by the kids at the Red Cloud Indian School? Whatever it was, it wasn’t good enough.
Crow by Barbara Wright – If it really does win a Newbery this year I’m gonna feel pretty stupid for predicting its win and then never reviewing it. I just adore this description of the book on the author’s website: “The only successful coup d’etat in US history, seen through the eyes of a young boy.” Great new paperback cover too.
The Fairy Ring by Mary Losure – Funny that other folks didn’t like this one as much as I did. I really did feel it was one of the best little recaps of a successful hoax out there (though by no means the only one written in a children’s book format in 2012). Great production and design, lovely writing, a stellar project through and through.
Bomb: The Race to Build – And Steal – The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin – This one took me a long time to read since I thought it was straight YA and I don’t get a chance to look at a lot of that fare in a given year. That said, I think this is one of the rare YA titles eligible for the Newbery, and just a stellar piece of writing through and through! Sorry I missed the boat here.
Trains Go by Steve Light – I officially reviewed only one board book this year. Would that it has been two. Though you could call this a sequel of sorts (Trucks Go came out four or so years prior) this book was a magical combination of great train sounds and stellar art.
Cardboard by Doug TenNapel – And then I go and find out that it’s currently being turned into a film starring Tobey Maguire. Gah! There were so few really imaginative graphic novels this year. The sequence where the old man explains the cardboard’s sci-fi / fantasy / religious background was worth the price of admission alone.
Duck for a Day by Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Judith Rudge – Don’t count how many Candlewick books made my 100 Magnificent Children’s Books list for the year. It’s a little silly. Fortunately I was able to keep my reviews on par with the other publishers. UNfortunately, that meant not getting a chance to review stellar works like this one. A great little early chapter book it was by no means the only duck related early chapter title of 2012 (I counted at least four others) but it was, at least, the best.
Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery – Sweet jeebus it was good. Bar none the best book on autism for kids I’ve ever read. I think I missed this one because it got SO much excellent press when it first came out. Guess I felt I would be a single voice lost in the chorus. Ah well.
Duck Sock Hop by Jane Kohuth, illustrated by Jane Porter – My library’s amazing catalog (called Bibliocommons) allows us to make lists that are searchable by all the other 50+ systems that use the same system. One list I made for this year was Top Ten Picture Book Read-Alouds of 2012. And you can bet this book was prominently promoted on that list. Oh yes indeedy it was.
Deadweather and Sunrise by Geoff Rodkey – Another victim of timing. I’ll stand by my statement that it’s the funniest pirate chapter book for kids I’ve ever read. There aren’t enough humorous books in a given year anyway. May as well seek out the few that exist (and are honestly funny).
Let’s Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas – As a children’s librarian I have a natural adoration for Jan Thomas. This book really ranks up there with Rhyming Dust Bunnies, coming across as funny in all the right ways. The sole problem I have with it is that I keep misremembering the title as “Let’s Go Sleep with the Brave Cowboy” which would be a very different book (I have a similar problem with Mo Willems and his this-is-not-the-actual-title “Let’s Go Sleep with Sheep the Sheep”).
Plunked by Michael Northrup – Dang de dang de dang. I totally failed to keep up with boy sports fiction this year. So you’d think that the one really good one I read, one of the few where the hero is an actual honest-to-god jock, would have gotten some attention from me. Michael’s been coming to my KidLit Drink Nights here in NYC for years. Would have loved to give him his proper due. Ah well.
Buried Alive!: How 33 Miners Survived 69 Days Deep Under the Chilean Desert by Elaine Scott – I reviewed Marc Aronson’s Trapped on the same topic last year. Would that I had seen this first. Incredibly gripping and kid-friendly, I didn’t do right by Ms. Scott. Couldn’t get enough people to read her in time. If you get a chance, do look at this. It’s a remarkable story and the visuals in this format just POP!
Drama by Raina Telgemeier – Well, at least I got Smile in, even if it was in the Times and not on this blog. Even as I write this I come to the slow dawning horror of a realization that I’ve never reviewed Telgemeier on this blog . . . ever. Not even once. And it’s not like she churns one out a year or anything! ARG!
In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz – Oh, you should have seen the notes I wrote at the back of its galley. They were scintillating. Brilliant. Man, I was drawing comparisons between this and Starry River of the Sky that would have made your head spin. Pity it never happened. Still, I’m heartened to hear that #3 in this series (if you can call it that) is on the horizon and that it involves The Juniper Tree (amongst other things). I’m having nightmares in anticipation already.
And in the final reviewing tally, here is the complete list of the publishers I DID review in the year 2012:
Barefoot Books: 1
Blue Apple Books: 1
(TOON Books: 1)
Cuento de Luz: 1
Enchanted Lion Press: 1
Groundwood Books: 1
Harper Collins: 6
(Balzer & Bray: 1)
(Walden Pond Press: 1)
Holiday House: 1
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 4
Kids Can Press: 1
(Millbrook Press: 1)
Little Brown & Co: 2
(Roaring Brook: 5)
(First Second: 1)
Mims House: 1
National Geographic: 1
(G.P. Putnam’s Sons: 2)
Random House: 6
(Anchor Books: 1)
(Wendy Lamb: 2)
(David Fickling: 1)
Simon & Schuster: 5
(Beach Lane: 1)
(Margaret K. McElderry Books: 1)
Simply Read Books: 1
Tater Tot Books: 1
I like to alternate the big guys with the little. A couple folks are missing, so I’ll have to make sure I hit them in the new year.
Woot! 2012 OUT!