16th annual Wilde Awards: Books that deserve a read
Here are the awards for longer books. I have to thank those faithful children’s books aficionados who have met all year on Friday afternoons at Flyleaf and put up with my incessant asking, “Do you think that deserves a Wilde Award?”
Short Chapter Books, ages 5-9
“Sadie and Ratz,” Sonya Hartnett (Candlewick)
Hannah’s made pets of her hands, Sadie and Ratz, she calls them. Her father says, they “behave like wild beasts.” But Hannah’s not expecting her mischievous four year old brother to blames them for his bad deeds. A slim, quirky sibling novel.
“Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot,” Anna Branford (Atheneum)
There’s unusual complexity in this book of few pages -- well-developed characters, an intriguing heroine and sophisticated feelings as this warm family forges ahead after a recent parent split-up.
“Lulu and the Duck in the Park,” Hilary McKay (Whitman)
Lulu’s love of animals includes “the hairiest unwanted spider.” She’s caring, inventive, a winning heroine in a new series just as captivating as she.
“Invisible Inkling: Dangerous Pumpkins,” Emily Jenkins (Balzer and Bray, ages 7-9)
Fourth-grader Hank Wolowitz worries that he’ll never get to invent a flavor for his parents’ ice cream store, how his older sister will scare him, but nothing compares to fears of the way his invisible bandapat ruins pumpkins. Young fantasy, funny characters, and real feelings.
Middle Grade Books, ages 8-12
“Starry River of The Sky,” Grace Lin (Little Brown, ages 7-10)
Rendi has run away from home, the moon is missing, and the whole world seems upside down. The author excels at her mix of derivations from Chinese folklore, magic, mystery, painfully real sadness, lyricism and a plot that moves!
“The False Prince,” Jennifer A. Nielsen (Scholastic, ages 9-12)
Sage is a scruffy, feisty orphan, ready for any skirmishes. And those are all skills he needs when kidnapped by Conner, a noble, who has grand plans of placing him at the head of a kingdom to replace the murdered family. This action-packed fantasy has a plot that twists, turns and surprises.
“The Seven Tales of Trinket,” Shelley Moore Thomas (FSG, ages 9-11)
Eleven-year-old Trinket, orphaned by her mother’s death, leaves her home with a friend. As she searches the bard father who left when she was six, she meets gypsies, banshees, ghosts and the faire queen. The author, like Trinket and her father, shows her gift of storytelling as she unites magic, adventure and Celtic legends, into a flowing tale.
“Summer of the Gypsy Moths,” Sara Pennypacker (HarperCollins, ages 9-11)
Continually deserted by her flighty mother, Stella loves living with her Great-aunt Louise. At least until her aunt takes in Angel, the obnoxious foster child and worse, Louise dies before the first chapter is over. Yes, the story is improbable, fantastical, but the bizarre events and the girls’ determination to pull of this ruse are humorous and touching.
“Three Times Lucky,” Sheila Turnage (Dial, ages 9 and up)
Mo LoBeau longs for her mother, but adores the couple saved her from a flood when she was a baby. This debut novel places this intriguing heroine in a colorful setting, with wacky characters. Sparkling imagery spiked with mysteries and cliff hangers make for a fast-moving plot.
“Liar and Spy,” Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, ages 9-12)
Having to leave the home he loves, George moves into an apartment and meets Safer, an odd homeschooled boy who plunges him into espionage. Emotions blend and bring readers just as much uncertainty. The surprising ending is a revelation that deepens the story. Stead’s written another book that is puzzling and intriguing, rewarding and memorable.
“Chomp,” Carl Hiaasen (Knopf, ages 10 and up)
Hiaasen’s newest fast-moving ecological tale bridges elementary and middle school audiences with more sophisticated humor, characterizations, and themes. The hero, Wahoo Cray is the son of a talented, but financially struggling Florida animal-wrangling. When Wahoo gets his father a gig for a survivalist reality show, all turns into a comedic Everglades.
“The One and Only Ivan,” Katherine Applegate (Harper, ages 9 and up)
It’s not easy being a caged silverback gorilla living at Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, especially when you’ve made a promise to a dying friend. The author writes from the gorilla’s point of view in a voice that’s convincing, lyrical, and compelling.
“Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick: Ginny Davis’s Year in Stuff,” Jennifer Holm, illustrated by Elicia Castaldi (Random House, ages 9-12)
In this graphically playful sequel we see a story in Ginny’s stuff—from the thrill of making the Cougars cheerleaders to the shifts caused by her stepfather’s job loss. Holm’s careful selection of images tells a poignant story.
YA Novels (age 12-adult)
“Curveball, The Year I lost My Grip,” Jordan Sonneblick (Scholastic, ages 12 and up)
Peter Friedman’s broken arm means he’s washed up as a pitcher, but his life is far from over. He finds first love, discovers a passion for photography, and cares for his grandfather who’s descending into Alzheimer’s. Strong feelings and a fast-moving plot make this book a sure hit.
“The Fault in Our Stars,” John Green (Dutton, ages 14-adult)
Green’s wit, timing, and unique characters make for a fresh view the love story of two cancer patients. The mix of humor and tenderness misses maudlin by miles in this engrossing story.
“Ask The Passengers,” A.S. King (Little Brown, ages 14 and up)
Astrid Jones hasn’t been happy since her parents moved the family from New York to small town Unity Valley. Astrid is bright and aware enough to know that her mother’s loves her little sister more, that her father’s smoking pot, and no one’s going to be happy that she’s crushing on a girl. The author adds even more depth to this complex story by using Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to describe Astrid’s bouts with truth and appearance.
“The Theory of Everything,” JJ Johnson (Peachtree, ages 12 and up)
Sarah’s BFF Jamie has died in a bizarre accident leaving her guilt-filled, horrified, and unable to deactivate her overactive snark box and refind her real self. A curious new accident opens her path to healing. This book’s strong visual and text voice will captivate YA readers.
“Crow,” Barbara Wright (Random, ages 10 and up)
Twelve-year-old Moses Thomas reveals the racial instability of 1898 Wilmington, NC. The story’s more horrific moments are balanced by beautiful writing and the solid, compelling, well-developed characters of Moses’ family.
“Code Name Verity,” Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion Books, ages 14 and up)
Non-stop action, suspense, and two amazing heroines in this historical WWII novel. Julie, a wireless operator caught in France, is tortured by the Gestapo. British pilot and her best friend, Maddie, reveals the heart-breaking ending. Readers are buoyed through the rawness by a cheeky voice that makes one want to cheer.
“The Girl is Trouble,” Kathryn Miller Haines (Roaring Brook, ages 12 and up)
It’s WWII and the heroine, Iris, has some difficult mysteries to resolve—primarily, what really happened to her mother? Bloody murder photos in her PI father’s files reveal it wasn’t suicide as she’d been told. The more she digs, the more questions she unearths. The mystery converges with issues of anti-semitism and Iris’ search for her identity. The voice and era feel authentic as the tension.
“Seraphina,” Rachel Hartman (Random House, ages 11 and up)
Sixteen-year-old Seraphina is a gifted musician, teacher to the princess, a motherless young woman coming of age … and, as she discovers, in an unbidden vision, half-dragon. This is not a good situation when the 40 years of peace between the dragons and humans is at risk. Inventive and intriguing world building with a mix of mystery, complex love, political strains and an ending that sets up for a sequel recommend this book.
“The Raven Boys,” Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic, ages 12 and up)
Four wealthy prep school boys and, Blue, the Townie daughter of a psychic, explore the woods of Virginia for enchanted “ley lines.” Time stops, trees begin to talk, menace lurks and readers will be immersed in this addictive read.
“Safekeeping: A Novel of Tomorrow,” Karen Hesse (Feiwel & Friends, ages 12 and up)
The author sets her story in a not-so-distance future and describes an oh-so-possibly reality. While Radley’s aiding the devastated children of Haiti, the radical American People’s Party have wrested power and Radley returns to a changed world. She walks from the New Hampshire airport to her home in Vermont, only to find her parents are missing. Hesse illustrates Radley’s scary world with 90 haunting photographs.
“Grave Mercy,” Robin LeFevres (Houghton Mifflin, ages 14 and up)
History and fantasy merge when 17 year old assassin-trained Ismae is sent to court to protect a duchess. The author’s understanding of fantasy, history and excellent writing are all apparent.
YA Fantasy Sequels Well Worth Reading: “Because It Is My Blood” (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, ages 14 and up), Gabrielle Zevin; “Bitterblue” (Dial, ages 14 - adult), Kristin Cashore; ); “Black Heart” (Margaret McElderry, ages 14 and up), Holly Black; “Crown of Embers” (Greenwillow, ages 14 and up), Rae Carson; “Insurgent,” Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen, ages 14 and up); “The Drowned Cities” (Little Brown, ages 14 and up), Paolo Bacigalupi; “Froi of the Exiles” (Candlewick, ages 14 - adult), Melina Marchetta; “Matched” (Speak, ages 14 and up), Allie Condie; and “Son” (Houghton Mifflin, ages 11 and up), Lois Lowry.
“Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World,” Sy Montgomery (Hougton Mifflin, ages 10 and up)
Intensive research, careful interviews, and narrative skill illuminate the story of a woman who turned her autism into a gift, using her image-based vision to interpret, imagine, and improve how the world might become more humane to animals.
“Bomb: The Race to Build – And Steal – The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon,” Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook, ages 11 and up)
Suspense, adventure, a morality tale? No, it’s the fast-paced, intensity-laden nonfiction story of the building of the atom bomb. The author views the subject with complexity, revealing the experiences of scientists, Communist spies, Norwegian espionage agents who stop the Germans, and more.
“We’ve Got A Job: the 1963 Birmingham Children’s March,” Cynthia Levinson (Peachtree, ages 11 and up)
There’s much to compel young adult readers—among them the portraits of four children activist from nine to 15, the way 4,000 children rescued civil rights efforts when they were failing. The author beautifully unites individual and more general views of civil rights.
“Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies,” Marc Aronson (Candlewick Press; ages 12 and up)
Does government protect, or harm? A good question to ask when reading the biography of J. Edgar Hoover. Aronson tells all—Hoover’s secret hoarding, persecution of Jews, Communists, Gays and Blacks, his stranglehold on the FBI…and the irony of his own secrets. Emotionally strong in tone, intriguing in viewpoint, compelling in material and clearly well-researched.
“Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War,” Deborah Ellis (Groundwood, ages 10 and up)
Two dozen boys and girls from ten to seventeen, still living in war, speak up about their lives in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. Their truths and courage bring a power and reality when delivered through their very personal voices, making real a situation most American children have a hard time imagining.
“Titanic: Voices from the Disaster,” Deborah Hopkinson (Scholastic, ages 10 and up)
The author synthesizes the views of the passengers, reconstructs the events, punctuates with pictures, clearly organizes information and does so all this with a tone that flows and grips.
Of Particular Interest to Adult Aficionados:
“Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version,” edited by Philip Pullman (Viking)
Pullman celebrates 200 years of Grimm tales, by retelling 50 tales with verve and originality and including insightful commentary.
“Listening for Madeline: A Portrait of Madeline in Many Voices,” Leonard Marcus (FSG)
Marcus interviewed 50 people to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “A Wrinkle in Time.” He blends them into an amazing narrative, describing the famed writer in terms of her growing up, writing, and as a matriarch, mentor, friend and icon. Her quotes and the diversity of views do justice to the complex writer.
Read more at Susie Wilde’s website, ignitingwriting.com.