2006 booklist editors choice youth


Older Readers

Almond, David. Clay. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-73171-X). Gr. 6–9.

A strange new kid in town convinces altar boy Davie to steal the body and blood of Christ from church, which the boys use to create a golem that obeys their wishes. Rooted in the life of a small English town, this gripping story raises issues about God, creativity, and evil.

Anderson, M. T. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; v.1: The Pox Party. Candlewick, $17.99 (0-7636-2402-0). Gr. 10–12.

A young black boy in pre-revolutionary Boston experiences slavery’s monstrous horrors in this ambitious story rooted in eighteenth-century literary traditions. The masterful, archaic narrative, which shifts from diary to letter to journalism, echoes today’s vital questions about racism, power, freedom, and moral choices. (Top of the List winner—Youth Fiction.)

Bausum, Ann. Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement. National Geographic, $18.95 (0-7922-4173-8). Gr. 6–9.

Poignantly introducing the 1961 bus integration protests through specific personal histories, Bausum focuses on two participants—one black, one white. As the separate stories converge, stirring interviews and incisive archival photos speak volumes about the shocking actions of those opposed to integration, and the power of nonviolent protest. (Top of the List winner—Youth Nonfiction.)

Budhos, Marina. Ask Me No Questions. Simon & Schuster/Ginee Seo, $16.95 (1-4169-0351-8). Gr. 7–10.

Both the secrets and the family dynamics are dramatic in teenage Nadira’s first-person narrative, which reveals her mixed-up feelings about being an illegal alien as well as the diversity in her family and her contemporary Muslim community in New York.

Chambers, Aidan. This Is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn. Abrams, $19.95 (0-8109-7060-0). Gr. 9–12.

Chambers gives readers extraordinary full-dress portraits of his characters, particularly Cordelia, whose unsparingly honesty, and explicit recollections are both captivating and maddening as they explore the why of things as well as the what and the how.

Engle, Margarita. The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano. Illus. by Sean Qualls. Holt, $16.95 (0-8050-7706-5). Gr. 7–10.

In plain, stirring free verse, Engle dramatizes the boyhood of a nineteenth-century Cuban slave, who secretly learned to read and eventually wrote poetry about beauty and courage in his world of unspeakable brutality.

Freedman, Russell. The Adventures of Marco Polo. Illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $17.99 (0-439-52394-X). Gr. 7–10.

Newbery Medalist Freedman takes readers along on Polo’s journey in a glorious piece of bookmaking that is as beautiful as many of the sights the explorer observed.

Green, John. An Abundance of Katherines. Dutton, $16.99 (0-525-47688-1). Gr. 9–12.

Green’s sharp, intelligent story, full of mathematical problems, historical references, and anagrams, introduces child prodigy Colin Singleton, who faces life after high-school graduation fearing that he’ll never live up to his promise or get over being dumped by his girlfriend.

Jansen, Hanna. Over a Thousand Hills I Walk with You. Tr. by Elizabeth D. Crawford. Carolrhoda, $16.95 (1-57505-927-4). Gr. 7–10.

An important addition to Holocaust curriculums, this elemental account of perpetrators, victims, and bystanders tells the story of eight-year-old Jeanne, the only one of her family to survive the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Knox, Elizabeth. Dreamhunter. Farrar/Frances Foster, $19 (0-374-31853-0). Gr. 10–12.

Imagining a society where dreams can be harvested and sold, Knox smartly explores the ramifications of this conceit through the coming-of-age experiences of 15-year-old cousins Rose and Laura. A heady narrative, rich in turn-of-the-century detail, magical adventure, and mystery.

Larson, Kirby. Hattie Big Sky. Delacorte, $15.95 (0-385-73313-5). Gr. 7–10.

In a first-person narrative infused with the sounds, smells, and sights of the prairie in 1918, 16-year-old orphan Hattie Brooks struggles to make a place for herself as a homesteader and support new friends endangered by local anti-German sentiment.

Lat. Kampung Boy. illus. Roaring Brook/First Second, paper, $16.95 (1-59643-121-0). Gr. 6–9.

Brimming with humor and affection, cartoonist Lat uses the graphic novel format to share the story of his childhood in a small Malaysian village, effectively encompassing both the universals of growing up and the specifics of a particular time and place.

Leavitt, Martine. Keturah and Lord Death. Front Street, $16.95 (1-932425-29-2). Gr. 8–11.

The romance is intense, the writing is startling, and the story is spellbinding, as difficult to turn away from as the tales beautiful Keturah tells the villagers. Then one day she uses her storytelling skills with a different audience: Death.

Levine, Gail Carson. Fairest. HarperCollins, $17 (0-06-073408-6). Gr. 7–10.

In a sophisticated, richly drawn world of fairy-tale music and magic, Asa, an innkeeper’s daughter with a beautiful voice, is blackmailed by a treacherous queen. Family secrets and Asa’s artistic growth add to the dramatic politics and thrilling romance.

McCormick, Patricia. Sold. Hyperion, $15.99 (0-7868-5171-6). Gr. 9–12.

Based on interviews and told without sensationalizing the brutality, this unforgettable account of sexual slavery as it exists now tells the story of Lakshimi, 13, who is sold into prostitution by her stepfather and ends up in a Calcutta brothel.

Nuzum, K. A. A Small White Scar. HarperCollins/Joanna Cotler, $15.99 (0-06-075639-X). Gr. 6–9.

Fifteen-year-old Will strikes out across the Colorado plains in an attempt to leave behind his job on the family ranch: looking after his twin brother, who has Down syndrome. This coming-of-age story offers adventure as well as solid emotional and family dynamics.

Pfeffer, Susan Beth. Life as We Knew It. Harcourt, $17 (0-15-205826-5). Gr. 7–10.

A meteor hits the moon, but the event is not as benign as predicted. As life goes from bad to worse, 16-year-old Miranda struggles to survive mentally and physically. What happens is terrifying and infused with honest emotion.

Philip, Neil. The Great Circle: A History of the First Nations. illus. Clarion, $20 (0-618-15941-X). Gr. 6–9.

Philip takes on a huge challenge: to present a unified narrative that explains the complex and confrontational relationships between Native Americans and whites. Solid research, an engaging writing style, and a talent for making individual stories serve the whole make this successful. Top marks, too, for the photographs.

Pratchett, Terry. Wintersmith. HarperTempest, $16.99 (0-06-089031-2). Gr. 7–10.

This rollicking, clever, and charming adventure is the third in the Discworld series for young readers who will find themselves delighted again—or for the first time—by Pratchett’s exuberant storytelling.

Stroud, Jonathan. Ptolemy’s Gate. Hyperion/Miramax, $17.95 (0-7868-1861-1). Gr. 6–9.

The concluding volume in the Bartimaeus trilogy, which is notable for its original fantasy world and the most delectably sardonic footnotes known to fiction, delves deeper into the histories and complexities of the characters, while the plot thunders along to a colossal climax.

Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. illus. Roaring Brook/First Second, paper, $16.95 (1-59643-152-0). Gr. 10–12.

With vibrant colors and visual panache, graphic novel writer-illustrator Yang introduces three characters in connected tales that touch on facets of Chinese American life. The thoughtful, powerful stories have a simple, engaging sweep as they introduce weighty subjects, such as shame and racism.

Zusak, Marcus. The Book Thief. Knopf, $16.95 (0-375-83100-2). Gr. 10–12.

Death, overwhelmed by the souls he must collect, turns his attention to orphaned Liesl, struggling to survive in Nazi Germany, who discovers horrifying cruelty as well as kindness in unexpected places.

Middle Readers

Cooper, Susan. Victory. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, $16.95 (1-4169-1477-3). Gr. 4–7.

Thirteen-year-old Molly, who longs to return to England, and 11-year-old Sam, an eighteenth-century lad pressed into service on the HMS Victory, provide compelling alternating narratives that find Molly making a choice that honors Sam’s life while bringing her own into balance.

Grimes, Nikki. The Road to Paris. Putnam, $15.99 (0-399-24537-5). Gr. 4–7.

Grimes’ beautiful story of family, friendship, and faith unfolds from the viewpoint of biracial Paris, nine, who searches for a home in a harsh world. Her foster brother tells her to keep God in her pocket, something she never forgets.

Gutman, Dan. The Homework Machine. Simon & Schuster, $15.95 (0-689-87678-5). Gr. 4–6.

Four classmates forge an unlikely alliance after one reveals that he has programmed his computer to do his homework. This fast-paced story has something for everyone: ethical underpinnings, convincing characters, and every child’s dream machine.

Jaramillo, Ann. La Línea. Roaring Brook/Deborah Brodie, $16.95 (1-59643-154-7). Gr. 5–8.

In a heart-wrenching contemporary survival story, a brother and sister undergo a harrowing journey from Mexico across the border to join their parents in California. Told without romanticism, the harsh facts are gripping and immediate.

Kadohata, Cynthia. Weedflower. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $16.95 (0-689-04937-4). Gr. 5–8.

Creating beautifully individualized characters, Kadohata brings a little-known part of World War II history to the fore, introducing 12-year-old Sumiko, who is relocated with her family to a desert internment camp on an Indian reservation.

Lin, Grace. The Year of the Dog. Little, Brown, $14.99 (0-316-06000-3). Gr. 3–5.

The child of Taiwanese immigrants, Lin captures the soul and the spirit of girlhood stories like those of Hayward and Lovelace, reimagining them through the lens of her own experience while transforming them into something new for today’s readers.

Matthews, L. S. A Dog for Life. Delacorte, $14.95 (0-385-73366-6). Gr. 4–7.

John and his brother, Tom, share a special bond with their dog Mouse: they can read one another’s thoughts. When Tom’s illness forces Mouse from the house, the three come up with a plan. This is a little gem––part adventure and part heartfelt family story dusted with magic realism.

Montgomery, Sy. Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea. Illus. by Nic Bishop. Houghton, $18 (0-618-49641-6). Gr. 5–8.

This beautifully designed entry in the Scientists in the Field series follows a grueling expedition in Papua New Guinea to study a rare tree kangaroo. The detailed text and exemplary photographs give a strong sense of the place, its people, and the exciting demands of fieldwork.

Myers, Walter Dean. Jazz. Illus. by Christopher Myers. Holiday, $18.95 (0-8234-1545-7). Gr. 3–5.

The father-son Myers team puts together an absolutely airtight melding of words and pictures that makes jazz perfectly accessible to a young audience.

Paterson, Katherine. Bread and Roses, Too. Clarion, $16 (0-618-65479-8). Gr. 5–8.

With connections to contemporary issues about immigrants, the stirring story of a mill workers’ strike, as witnessed by 12-year-old Rosa, melds with the tale of a mean foster kid who finds kindness from a tough, needy man, still suffering from a tragedy in his own life.

Stanley, Diane. Bella at Midnight. Illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline. HarperCollins, $15.99 (0-06-077573-4). Gr. 5–8.

Stanley subtly twists strands of the Cinderella story until it’s something new and fine. Her version, dotted with jeweled descriptions and anchored by strong values, helps readers understand nobility, not in the sense of aristocracy but as it signifies dignity and decency.

The Young

Barrows, Annie. Ivy and Bean. Illus. by Sophie Blackall. Chronicle, $14.95 (0-8118-4903-1). Gr. 1–3.

The deliciousness is in the details as two new friends come together after a shaky beginning. Blackall’s artwork captures the girls’ spirit and extends the story’s many giggles.

Butterworth, Chris. Sea Horse: The Shyest Horse in the Sea. Illus. by John Lawrence. Candlewick, $16.99 (0-7636-2989-8). K–Gr. 2.

In an accomplished entrée to early science topics, vinyl engravings masterfully capture the delicate textures of undersea habitats, while a dynamic narrative provides information about sea horses’ unusual survival strategies and life cycles.

Chodos-Irvine, Margaret. Best Best Friends. illus. Harcourt, $16 (0-15-205694-7). PreS–K.

When Mary’s birthday merits queen-for-a-day treatment, her jealous pal, Clare, picks a fight—though the kids are soon “best best BEST” friends again. In gaily patterned linocuts, Caldecott Medalist Chodos-Irvine shows children working through conflict in a way that preschoolers will instantly recognize.

Cruise, Robin. Little Mama Forgets. Illus. by Stacy Dressen-McQueen. Farrar/Melanie Kroupa, $16 (0-374-34613-5). PreS–Gr. 2.

Little Mama is losing her memory. But, as Lucy explains, there are still many things that make her grandmother’s life joyful. Swirls of movement and color are the happy backdrop for a story that might have been sad.

DiCamillo, Kate. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline. Candlewick, $18.99 (0-7636-2589-2). Gr. 2–4.

DiCamillo tucks important messages into this handsomely designed book about a china rabbit who loses his way in a story that plumbs the mysteries of the heart––or, in this case, the heartless.

Henkes, Kevin. Lilly’s Big Day. illus. Greenwillow, $15.99 (0-06-074236-4). PreS–K.

Even though Lilly won’t be a flower girl in her teacher’s wedding, she still finds a way to share the spotlight in a book that catches the hopes and dreams of children along with their stubborn belief that the world will turn the way they push it. With so many clever, captivating touches in each scene, there’s always something new for children to look at.

Isaacs, Anne. Pancakes for Supper! Illus. by Mark Teague. Scholastic, $15.99 (0-439-64483-6). PreS–Gr. 2.

In this winning tall tale, a girl bargains off her winter wardrobe to a crowd of overproud forest animals. Teague’s dynamic paintings, reminiscent of 1930s American popular art, are just as funny as the comedic dialogue.

Landstrom, Lena. Boo and Baa Have Company. Illus. by Olaf Landstrom. Farrar/R & S, $15 (91-29-66546-9). PreS–Gr. 2.

Intrepid sheep Boo and Baa are raking leaves when they hear a cat above them, sitting on a tree limb and afraid to climb down. With an economical text and body language worthy of a classic silent-film comedy, this Swedish import proves that some humor really does translate.

Manushkin, Fran. Shivers in the Fridge. Illus. by Paul Zelinsky. Dutton, $16.99 (0-525-46943-5). PreS–Gr. 1

A family is freezing––but who are they, and how did they get stuck in the cold? The clever story is matched by Zelinsky’s inventive artwork, which picks up on the sly wit of the text.

McClintock, Barbara. Adéle & Simon. illus. Farrar/Frances Foster, $16 (0-374-38044-9). K–Gr. 3.

To his sister Adèle’s consternation, Simon is always losing his possessions. But who can blame him considering the distractions the children see in Paris. McClintock’s meticulous double-spread artwork may picture a time gone by, but it’s so dynamic that there’s plenty for contemporary children to discover.

McMullen, Kate. I’m Dirty! Illus. by Jim McMullen. HarperCollins/Joanna Cotler, $16.99 (0-06-009293-9). PreS–Gr. 2.

A swaggering backhoe loader describes his day on the job and provides many counting opportunities as he moves piles of objects. The boasting voice and energetic bold-lined illustrations transform the machine into a fully anthropomorphized character.

Raven, Margot Theis. Night Boat to Freedom. Illus. by E. B. Lewis. Farrar/Melanie Kroupa, $16 (0-374-31266-4). Gr. 1–3.

Raised on a Kentucky plantation by Granny Judith, who was captured as a child in Africa, Christmas John is persuaded to help slaves escape across the river to freedom. Words and handsome pictures work perfectly together to tell a moving story of courage and love.

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse. Cookies: Bite Size Life Lessons. Illus. by Jane Dyer. HarperCollins, $12.99 (0-06-058081-X). PreS–Gr. 1.

Cookies provide the framework, but the focus is really on life lessons. Arranged as a dictionary of sorts, the book has an appealing design and delightful, endearing illustrations.

Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. Black? White! Day? Night! illus. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter, $16.95 (1-59643-185-7). PreS–Gr. 2.

Bold colors, carefully placed cutouts, and full-page lift-the-flaps make this much more than just another concept book about opposites. Thick, shiny pages add to the richness as children investigate 18 opposites that stretch the imagination.

Shulevitz, Uri. So Sleepy Story. illus. Farrar, $16 (0-374-37031-1). PreS.

Shulevitz adds thrilling animation to a sleepy nighttime scene in which everything comes alive in a boy’s moonlit bedroom––from the dishes to the smiling musical notes that drift through a window and start a ruckus.

Sidman, Joyce. Meow Ruff: A Story in Concrete Poetry. Illus. by Michael Berg. Houghton, $16 (0-618-44894-2). Gr. 1–3.

In a clever introduction to concrete poetry, a tale about a cat and dog trapped in a rainstorm develops through poems that pull double duty as features of the landscape. Children will be eager to write their own picture-poems after encountering this eye-catching title.

Slater, Dashka. Baby Shoes. Illus. by Hiroe Nakata. Bloomsbury, $15.95 (1-58234-684-4). PreS.

Gleeful after buying new shoes, Baby leads Mama on a merry chase. Looping lines of rhymed couplets give way to staccato sections and a refrain. Airy watercolor illustrations show an increasingly scruffy toddler and his tired but resilient mother.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Moon. Illus. by Tracey Campbell Pearson. Farrar, $16 (0-374-35046-9). PreS–Gr. 1.

In this mesmerizing, contemporary interpretation of Stevenson’s famous poem, a father and his child set out on a quiet nighttime boat trip across a cove and back again. The luminous ink-and-watercolor illustrations create a vivid, visual counterpoint to the poetry, which flows as magically as an incantation. (Top of the List winner––Youth Picture Book.)

Stringer, Laura. Winter Is the Warmest Season. illus. Harcourt, $16 (0-15-
204967-3). PreS–Gr. 1

Winter? Cold? It’s all in the way you look at things as this imaginative book makes clear. The words are a linguistic rhapsody, and the artwork uses fascinating perspectives to prove its point.

Tokuda, Yukihisa. I’m a Pill Bug. Illus. by Kiyoshi Takahashi. Kane/Miller, paper, $7.95 (1-929132-95-6). PreS–Gr. 2.

In an easy-to-follow, conversational style, a pill bug narrates this fascinating account of life among his humble fellows. Handsome cut-paper collages re-create the pill bug’s world in a realistic yet simplified manner.

Weisner, David. Flotsam. illus. Clarion, $17 (0-618-19457-6). PreS–Gr. 2.

Masterfully painted, wordless panels tell the story of a boy who finds a waterproof antique camera on the beach. After he develops the film, he discovers fantastical undersea scenes and connections with kids from other times and places.

Winter, Jonah. Dizzy. Illus. by Sean Qualls. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $16.99 (0-439-50737-5). Gr. 2–4.

Winter gets children interested in trumpet revolutionary Dizzy Gillespie, and they’ll want to learn more about his music. Qualls translates the story into shapes and colors that undulate and stream across the pages with a beat and bounce of their own.

Awards Won

Title Year
Booklist Editors' Choice: Books for Youth
Committed to providing a broad selection of outstanding books that mixes popular appeal with literary excellence, the Books for Youth editorial staff has chosen the titles below as best-of-the-year fiction, nonfiction, and picture books.
2006 - Selection(s)