• Anita’s Picks

Future Classics for Your Classroom

by Anita Silvey
December 16, 2013

Like every publishing year, 2013 brought some glorious new books for readers. On the Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac, I always like to remind readers of the classics, the books we shouldn’t forget. But here are some new titles that I think are good enough to become classics in the future.

Picture Books

EXCLAMATION MARK (Scholastic Press, 2013) written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
“Clever and funny, the book, of course, explores a greater truth than the appropriate use of punctuation. For anyone trying to communicate, finding your own voice often does feel like breaking out of jail. The fact that Amy Krouse Rosenthal can make readers interested in such seemingly mundane topics as spoons, chopsticks, and a form of punctuation, attests to the power of her own unique voice.”

Lucky DucklingsLUCKY DUCKLINGS (Orchard Books, 2013) written by Eva Moore and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter 
“The text, with just the right arc of a story for a picture book, has been made sublime by the artwork of Nancy Carpenter. She creates personalities for all the ducklings and develops a story for Little Joe not found in the text.  In silhouette or in full-color, her beguiling ducks steal readers’ hearts, and everyone cheers for their ultimate triumph. I love this book because it is a true picture book, with the perfect balance of art and text and pictures that embellish the story line.”

MR. WUFFLES! (Clarion Books, 2013) by David Wiesner
“Great fun from the first page to the last, Mr. Wuffles! is based on a concept that every cat owner understands. Our pets have fascinating and interesting lives that we only barely glimpse. They see and smell things to which we remain oblivious, and what we think they will like often bores them.”


FLORA & ULYSSES (Candlewick, 2013) written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by K.G. Campbell
“Although a superhero, Ulysses remains quite squirrel-like in the text. He spends an inordinate amount of his time thinking about food—that is, when he isn’t typing poetry (Ah, yes, that little detail). He writes amazing poetry. As you can see, these elements are not your usual story fare. But I fell for them—hook, line, and sinker. “Holy bagumba!” as Flora would say.”

Road TripROAD TRIP (Wendy Lamb Books, 2013) by Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen 
“In his author’s note, Paulsen sums up my own feelings about dogs brilliantly: They ‘never lie or cheat, and their default setting is love. Some may seem grumpy, but all dogs have horror, humor, and dignity, and if you’re really lucky and you pay attention, they will bring out those same characteristics in you.’ That is what my really good dog Lady did for me for more than twelve years.”

SALT(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013)by Helen Frost
“This tale of friendship and harmony lost between the settlers and the native people, recreated again and again in so many areas of the United States, is truly a sad one. I cried when I finished Salt, because finally as an adult I read a book where the history of my hometown had been given importance and meaning. While my response was deeply personal, I would recommend this book to anyone hunting for superb Midwestern historical fiction.”

THE REAL BOY (Walden Pond Press, 2013) written by Anne Ursu and illustrated by Erin McGuire
“Anne Ursu keeps readers turning the pages until the unexpected but satisfying ending of the story. Oscar makes an endearing protagonist; he struggles with his inability to interact with people and even look them in the eye. He does not understand emotional interactions and without thinking says things that hurt those around him. However, in the end he and Callie realize they may be the only ones who can save this magic-sick country from itself.”


LOCOMOTIVE (Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, 2013) by Brian Floca
“Brian’s illustrations depict the people working on the railroad and the people who ride on it. Readers learn fascinating details about steam power, how the engines were kept running, and services provided by the train. Since the toilets on early trains were only holes in the floor, it was considered rude to use it while the train sat in the station! Bridges, details of the landscape, animals that roam the plains, and the sounds of the steam engine are all integrated into the story as a young girl travels from Omaha to Sacramento.”

StardinesSTARDINES SWIM HIGH ACROSS THE SKY AND OTHER POEMS (Greenwillow Books, 2013) written by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Carin Berger 
“Prelutsky’s poetry is always fun to read aloud. But this volume is particularly spectacular in its artistic treatment. The entire book has been set up as a scientist’s specimen book or box, and many of the pages are lined as if placed on tablet paper. Set in courier type, the text looks as if it might have been created on a typewriter and then pasted in the album. For many of the creatures, Berger has created miniature dioramas from cut paper, engravings, wire, thread, wood—even beeswax! Helpful tools such as a pronunciation guide have been provided.”

THE BOY WHO LOVED MATH: THE IMPROBABLY LIFE OF PAUL ERDOS (Roaring Brook Press, 2013) written by Deborah Heiligman and illustrated by LeUyen Pham
“In the perfect end to a life devoted to numbers, Paul dies while at a math meeting. Heiligman’s author notes extend her delightful saga of his life. And LeUyen Pham’s artwork brings this wonderful weirdo to life. He jumps and leaps around the pages, with numbers appearing wherever he goes. Pham’s lengthy art notes, all too rare in picture books, extend the text and provide information about her visual interpretation of Erdös’s life. Anyone interested in visual accuracy in picture books should own this book for the footnotes alone!”

Books for Teachers

Wendell Minor's AmericaWENDELL MINOR’S AMERICA: 25 YEARS OF CHILDREN’S BOOK ART (Norman Rockwell Museum, 2013) by Wendell Minor
“The catalog exhibits the amazing scope of Wendell’s work with glorious images from these books. With so many teachers today hunting for narrative nonfiction for the classroom to fulfill the Common Core standards, Wendell Minor’s America suggests a welcome approach. It makes an ideal springboard for an artist study that brings in books from all areas of the curriculum.”

With a unique career in children's books, Anita Silvey has served both as the editor of THE HORN BOOK MAGAZINE and publisher of a major children's book imprint. She is the author of several books, including HENRY KNOX: BOOKSELLER, SOLDIER, PATRIOT and I'LL PASS FOR YOUR COMRADE: WOMEN SOLDIERS IN THE CIVIL WAR. Her latest project, THE CHILDREN'S BOOK-A-DAY ALMANAC (Roaring Brook Press, 2012), began as an interactive website. The entries serve as a "daily love letter to a book or author," with each one offering a glimpse into the story behind the story. 


1 Comment

  1. 1 Judy Moeller 16 Dec

    I cannot wait to review the Diverse and Impressive Books of 2013

    along with The Children Have Chosen!





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