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Monday, October 19, 2009

The Children's Hour

One librarian's take on the best children's books of 2009 (so far). Don't just buy them for the kids in your life--dip into the stories yourself. You'll come up smiling and amazed.

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg, by Rodman Philbrick

Civil war fiction for the faint-of-historical heart. The characters are vivid, the high jinks scrape the sky, and the history is completely engaging. Think Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, but for kids.

Dandelion Fire, by N.D. Wilson
Second in a fantasy trilogy, this book follows the tale begun in 100 Cupboards. Boy, does Nate Wilson know the beauty of a paradox, of uncommon language, of truth and depth in a two-sided story, black-soil humor, hidden layers, twists that glow green and gold in the hollows of your mind, as they connect with true faces from Old Stories.

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead
Suffice it to say, if you love L’Engle, Stead’s novel will satisfy. Maybe you won’t realize the satisfaction until the last paragraph, or the last sentence, but at that moment, you will nod and murmur—this is a good. book.

A Season of Gifts, by Richard Peck
Despite being yet another companion book to A Long Way From Chicago, this novel stands on its own two feet. Grandma Dowdel returns, not rehashed, but larger than before, with even more to reveal about herself and the people around her.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly
Reading is like life: you can’t pick out the pieces you like and leave the rest. There are flies in The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, and I can’t ignore them--mindless adoration of Charles Darwin--but there is also delight in this story, and I can’t ignore it, either. A great novel to read aloud and discuss.

Any Which Wall, by Laurel Snyder
Snyder, who calls her story an Edward Eager tribute/ripoff, has followed in the footsteps of the master. It’s not a watered down flingback to classic storytelling. It’s a tale to endear the “light and tasty" fantasy genre to a whole new generation of readers.

Noel De Vries is a youth librarian percolating her second novel, a YA märchen set in 17th-century Holland. Visit Noel at Never Jam Today.


  1. Thanks for the list, Noel. I'll check some of these out.

  2. Noel

    This is a great list. We needed to find some great YA fantasy -- and your recommendations were right on the mark. Thanks for your help; you have great taste in books.


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