A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness - This is what I wrote when I first finished the book: "Wow! Wow! What a heart-wrenching/breathtakingly beautiful book. Ness has created a brilliant tribute to Siobhan Dowd." I read this book on the recommendation of John Schu (@mrschureads on Twitter). He was right. It is truly a moving and powerful story. A story about a boy who must answer the call of the Monster who comes at the same time each night. Conor is trying to cope with his mother's illness and struggles with repeated nightmares. But just as Conor wants something from the Monster who comes each night, the Monster expects something in return. Will Conor be able to answer the Monster and in return answer his own questions? This is one book that moves beyond being for a specific age level. Instead, we all must answer the call. Read this one with a box or two of tissues.
And if you haven't seen this picture book, I tend to consider it in the same category as A Monster Calls.
The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic, Illustrated by Olivier Tallec - I had no clue what this book was truly about. The cover shows a little boy with what appears to be an injured knee. As I flipped open this book, and started to read, I immediately had to reach for tissues. The Scar deals with loss. The loss of a mother and how one young boy seeks to cope with his loss. Maybe if I had read this book in any other year, I might have just thought of it as a good reference for children who had lost a parent. One of those books that you include in your library for just that situation. However, I believe that the timing of this book - coming on the heels of A Monster Calls - made it even that more powerful. A must read, but don't forget the tissues.
and to leave us on a happier note - Early Chapter Books
Lastly, for a category that gets lost often among picture books, and middle grade novels...the hard to write for Early Chapter Books. If you haven't read these three books, then you need to read them and add them to your library. My second and third graders love these three books.
Marty McGuire by Kate Messner - Writing for children in grades 1 to 3 is not easy. Kate Messner has created magic with Marty McGuire. A character who is funny and far from annoying. Messner connects with her readers because she knows them and knows what they will love. My second and third graders adore Marty and are thrilled that there will be more books in the series. This one makes a great read aloud and a wonderful book to recommend to both girls and boys.
Trouble With Chickens by Doreen Cronin - This year, there wasn't just one great new early chapter book but several. Cronin, a master picture book writer, has made a successful transition to chapter books. And any book with chickens on the front of it will typically indicate that laughter will be involved. Cronin mixes great characters with a Noir style mystery. And great news...there will be more of JJ and the chickens.
Frankie Pickle: The Mathematical Menance by Eric Wight - Frankie Pickle books are what I have affectionately called hybrids. Part graphic novel and part chapter book. These books are super popular with my second and third graders. They are fun to read and also have a message that is meaningful. In this third book in the series, Frankie must overcome his fear of math, and he does it in typical Frankie style.
Happy New Year and may 2012 bring many more wonderful books to read and share!