Sunday, December 11, 2011

Staff Picks: Best Books of 2011 for Children and Teens

'Tis the season for end of the year "best of" book lists. The New York Times, School Library Journal,  Publishers Weekly - everyone has an opinion, including your Santa Clara City Library Youth Services team! We're an opinionated bunch, and we love to share our passion for great books with others. So we present to you our staff picks for the best of 2011 for children and teens. Did your favorites make our list?

Board Book:
Sklansky, Amy E. You Are My Little Cupcake
Sweet babies and yummy cupcakes. Could you get any cuter than this? Make this your go-to baby shower gift.

Picture Books:
Brown, Peter. You Will Be My Friend!
A determined (if not slightly overzealous) bear named Lucy wants to make a new friend, and nothing will stand in her way.

Cyrus, Kurt. The Voyage of Turtle Rex
The life cycle of a prehistoric turtle called an archelon is told through short, simple prose and sweeping double-page illustrations.

DiPucchio, Kelly. Zombie in Love
All of us need love - even the undead. This book does the impossible by making zombies irresistibly cuddly and child friendly.

Fisher, Valorie. Everything I Need to Know Before I'm Five
Preschoolers will love the bright colors and whimsical photographs in this book that introduces concepts such as colors, numbers, letters, and sizes.

Freedman, Deborah. Blue Chicken
An enterprising chicken attempts to help an artist paint the barnyard, and instead creates a big blue mess.

Parot, Annelore. Kimonos
Inspired by traditional Japanese dolls, this story introduces readers to the Kokeshis' kimonos and hair-dos as well as Japanese culture. The illustrations are off-the-charts adorable.

Ramsey, Calvin Alexander. Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend
In Gee's Bend, Alabama, Miz Pettway tells young Alex about the historic role her mule played in the struggle for civil rights led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ray, Mary Lyn. Stars
You can't take a star with you...or can you? Are stars only in the night sky, or can they be as close as in your pocket?

Reidy, Jean. Light Up the Night
This bedtime story told in a cumulative style reflects the different layers from outer space, right down to the little boy's bedroom.

Rodriguez, Beatrice. Rooster's Revenge
When Bear, Rabbit, and Rooster get shipwrecked on an island, Rooster spots a glowing green ball in a cave. Will following the ball lead to safety or even more trouble? The illustrations in this funny wordless book are as quirky as they are heartwarming.

Sendelbach, Brian. The Underpants Zoo
It's about animals and underpants. Really - does any more need to be said? It's a sure-fire hit.

Shea, Bob. Dinosaur vs. The Library
Dinosaur is on the loose again, and he terrorizes and defeats many on his way to the library. Can he hold his roar during storytime?

Shireen, Nadia. Good Little Wolf
This simple story with fabulous illustrations is about a good little wolf that tries to be bad, but just can't cross over to the dark side.

Srinivasan, Divya. Little Owl's Night
Little Owl loves night and twinkling stars, and loves seeing the animals in the forest. Kids and grownups will as well after reading this magical book.

Suen, Anastasia. Road Work Ahead
Young fans of construction sites, road signs, trucks, diggers, and cranes will clamor for this to be read to them over and over. Consider yourself warned.

Thompson, Lauren. Leap Back Home to Me
A little frog makes increasingly bold leaps out into the world, and then comes back to his mother after each excursion. This is a great readaloud to build confidence in children making their own first brave steps toward independence, such as starting preschool.

Vicher, Frans. Fuddles
When Fuddles the fat, spoiled cat escapes from his house and goes to explore the great outdoors, his adventure is more taxing than expected.

Wolfe, Myra. Charlotte Jane Battles Bedtime
From the day Charlotte Jane was born on a pirate ship she has had "formidable oomph." But when she succeeds in conquering sleep by staying up all night, her oomph seems to weigh anchor.

Juvenile Nonfiction:
Cardillo, Margaret. Just Being Audrey
The illustrations in this simple biography on Audrey Hepburn are as charming and stylish as the subject herself.

McClure, Nikki. To Market, To Market
Unique illustrations introduce children to the concept of a farmer's market and how food travels from the farm to the dinner table.

Sayre, April Pulley. Rah, Rah, Radishes!: A Vegetable Chant
Let's hear it for...vegetables? Yes! Photographs and rhyming text will have kids cheering for vegetables in all their colorful and tasty variety.

Graphic Novels:
Friesen, Ray. Pirate Penguin vs. Ninja Chicken: Troublems with Frenemies
Enjoy the hilarious adventures of best friends and worst enemies Pirate Penguin and Ninja Chicken as they encounter spaceships, monsters, and evil koalas.

Young, J.E. Twisted Journeys: Horror in Space (Vol. 18)
As the hero of this graphic novel, the reader is a space colonist who must rescue a spaceship from saboteurs and aliens by making choices that determine the outcome of the story. This adventure series is a great choice for reluctant readers.

Juvenile Fiction (Chapter Books):
Angleberger, Tom. Darth Paper Strikes Back
The sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda continues the winning formula of Star Wars, middle school angst, and zany antics. Fans of the Wimpy Kid books will love it.

Barnett, Mac. It Happened on a Train
Seventh-grader Steve Brixton finds himself pulled back into sleuthing when during a train trip down the California coast he uncovers a mystery involving a fleet of priceless automobiles.

McMann, Lisa. The Unwanteds
Hunger Games meets Harry Potter in this dystopian novel where strong, regimented children are prized while creative ones are executed.

Selznick, Brian. Wonderstruck
Twelve-year-old Ben leaves his Minnesota home in 1977 to seek the father he never knew in New York City and meets there Rose, who is also longing for something missing from her life. Ben's story is told in words; Rose's in pictures. Selznick is an award winning author/illustrator who also wrote The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Skye, Obert. Wonkenstein: The Creature from My Closet
Twelve year old Rob has a messy closet stuffed to the brim with books and old science experiments. When a creature emerges from the closet to wreak havoc on him and his friends, Rob is forced to do horrible things like - gasp! - visit a library to set things right.

Ursu, Anne. Breadcrumbs
Hazel and Jack are best friends until an accident with a magical mirror and a run-in with a villainous queen find Hazel on her own, entering an enchanted wood in the hope of saving Jack's life. Many critics predict that this modern retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen will be on the short list for the Newbery Award next month.

Juvenile Audiobook:
Stephens, John. Emerald Atlas
This fast-paced fantasy has likeable characters, feisty dwarves, and time travel twists delivered with theatrical flair by the acclaimed narrator Jim Dale.

Young Adult Fiction:
Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker. Jefferson's Sons
Imagine a founding father and a former president being both your master and your father. This impeccably researched work of historical fiction looks at the last years of Thomas Jefferson's life through the eyes of three of his slaves - two of which were his sons by his slave Sally Hemmings.

Delaney, Joseph. Rage of the Fallen
Tom Ward, now 14, tries to win his battle against the Beast in this eighth installment of the popular The Last Apprentice series.

Eulberg, Elizabeth. Prom and Prejudice
This retelling of the Jane Austen classic is completely modern and witty, while still honoring the essence of the original work.

Flanagan, John. Ranger's Apprentice: The Lost Stories
This satisfying eleventh installment of the Ranger's Apprentice series quenches fans' thirst for answers concerning the identities of Will's parents, Halt's mentor, and Will's relationship with Alyss.

Forman, Gayle. Where She Went
Adam, now a rising rock star, and Mia, a successful cellist, reunite in New York and reconnect after the horrific events that tore them apart when Mia almost died in a car accident three years earlier. This sequel to If I Stay provides a fulfilling conclusion to Mia and Adam's story.

Northrop, Michael. Trapped
Remember the movie The Breakfast Club? Add the snowstorm of the century, and you get this incredible survival story of teens trapped in their high school. You could read this book on the hottest day of the year, and still find yourself shivering and reaching for a sweater. Truly chilling - pun intended.

Pierce, Tamora. Mastiff
Having just lost her fiance in a slaver's raid, Beka is able to distract herself by going with her team on an important hunt at the queen's request but is unaware that the throne of Tortall depends on their success. Unexpected plot twists and a stunning conclusion wrap up this trilogy in a satisfying way.

Schmidt, Gary. Okay for Now
As a 14 year old who just moved to a new town with no friends and an abusive father, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him until he finds an ally in Lil Spicer. Together they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon's birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage. Doug is a memorable character readers will rally behind. This companion book to The Wednesday Wars made the "best of" lists of three of our staff members.

posted by SPB with input from Youth Services Staff