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Anita's Picks: Tops of 2012 in Picture Books, Novels, and Nonfiction

by Anita Silvey
November 14, 2012
This has been a great year for children’s books. On the Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac, I’ve been able to look at some fabulous titles in picture books, novels, and nonfiction. Below, I’ve listed a dozen 2012 books that work well in the classroom—or even as holiday gifts!

Picture Books

EXTRA YARN (Balzer+Bray, 2012) written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen
“EXTRA YARN has already won the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for picture books this year and may well receive many other accolades. It is perfect for any ‘crafty’ youngsters you know—or simply for anyone who enjoys a picture book executed with élan.”

HOMER (Greenwillow Books, 2012) written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper
“I consider this the best three-handkerchief book I have read recently. Anyone who has ever loved a senior pet will identify with this story. It is rare to find a successful picture book where the protagonist observes rather than participates in activity. Yet in the watercolor and pencil art, Homer looms as the focal point of each piece.”

AND THEN IT’S SPRING (Roaring Brook Press, 2012) written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin E. Stead
“The simple, poetic text can be read again and again, and the illustrations by Erin E. Stead will bring readers back even more times. Like many others, I wondered what Erin would do in her first foray after winning the Caldecott Medal for A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE. In AND THEN IT’S SPRING, she has the perfect text for her strengths as an artist.”

GREEN (Roaring Brook Press, 2012) written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
“With one absolutely breathtaking scene after another, Seeger explores plants, animals, concepts (faded green), color theory, and shapes in a very accessible format. The book can lead to all kinds of discussions, depending on the interests of the adult or the child.”

Novels

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN (HarperCollins, 2012) by Katherine Applegate
“Inspired by the real story of Ivan, a gorilla who lives in the Atlanta Zoo, THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN raises all kinds of issues about the appropriate treatment of wild animals in human zoos. For that reason it has already been tremendously successful in book discussion groups for readers ages eight through twelve. It also makes a fabulous book to read aloud to this age group.”

CHICKADEE (HarperCollins, 2012) by Louise Erdrich
“Chickadee proves that, indeed, small things have great power; he uses his understanding of the woods to stay alive. And in this slim volume of under two hundred pages, he keeps readers turning the pages to find out if he and his family will be reunited.”

THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK (Putnam, 2012) by Kristin Levine
“A family, school, and friendship story, the book captures the cry for social justice that erupted in the late fifties and the sixties. It shows how young people can make a difference in the political process…Kristin Levine makes the political events of the era understandable because she finds a way to view them from the eyes of a very sensitive, very appealing child.”

WONDER (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012) by R. J. Palacio
“A fabulous book for classroom sharing or book discussion groups, WONDER has already become quite popular with young readers. With a fresh voice and a fresh viewpoint, it allows for the discussion of important issues—but also makes readers care for a very special, and very endearing, young boy.”

SHADOW ON THE MOUNTAIN (Amulet Books, 2012) by Margi Preus
“Inspired by the true adventures of a wartime spy, SHADOW ON THE MOUNTAIN is set in the snowy terrain of Norway during World War II. The Nazis have invaded, and although the locals don’t have the troops to remove the invaders, they have citizens willing to risk their lives to foil the Nazi plan for Norway.”

Narrative Nonfiction/Poetry

STEP GENTLY OUT (Candlewick, 2012) by Helen Frost
“STEP GENTLY OUT not only fosters a love of poetry but also of the creatures it describes. It shows passage of time and the behavior of some of our most populous occupants of the planet. It can be used to celebrate National Poetry Month or on any day of the year. It is one of those rare picture books where the text, art, and design merge seamlessly together to create a spectacular book.”

THE GREAT MOLASSES FLOOD (Charlesbridge, 2012) by Deborah Kops
“Kops has effectively used original photographs from the event to show the story of Boston’s destruction; she scanned newspaper accounts and archival records of the trials that followed the disaster. Through these primary sources she brings readers right into the action, describing what it felt like and how it appeared to the citizens of the city.”

BOMB (Flash Point, 2012) by Steve Sheinkin
“…Sheinkin plays up the drama, develops characters, and takes readers to the heart of the action. In the process he makes the evolution of the atomic bomb seem like one of the most amazing stories ever told. But rather than ending the book with the explosion of the first bomb, Sheinkin carries the story forward to its impact on Oppenheimer and to the world in general.”

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, is an interactive website that she describes as a "daily love letter to a book or author," with each entry offering a glimpse into the story behind the story.

© 2012 Anita Silvey. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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