Picture Books

You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer!
Shana Corey, illus. by Chesley McLaren (Scholastic Press)
Corey and McLaren's exuberant debut introduces a true-to-life 19th-century feminist pioneer. With an irresistible blend of humor, history and panache, this tale demonstrates how one woman's fashion statement reflected the changing role of women in society.

Fishing in the Air
Sharon Creech, illus. by Chris Raschka (HarperCollins/Cotler)
Author and artist are as inextricably linked as the father and son they portray in this moving meditation on the importance of memories and tradition--in the guise of a fishing expedition. With p tic economy, Creech sets down a father's recollections of his boyhood days, as Raschka fills the canvas with a series of images that the man's words create in his son's mind.

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type
Doreen Cronin, illus. by Betsy Lewin (S&S)
Plucky barnyard denizens unite to improve their working conditions in this hilarious debut picture book from Cronin. Lewin's bold, loose-lined watercolors set a light and easygoing mood that matches Farmer Brown's predicament, as first the cows, then the rest of the farm animals, begin to bang out their demands on a typewriter.

Fairy Tales
Berlie Doherty, illus. by Jane Ray (Candlewick)
Doherty models her 12 superb retellings on the earliest available sources in fresh versions sure to captivate readers anew. Ray's gold paint and folk art motifs prevail, but she also peppers the spreads with striking silhouette-collage compositions in a sumptuously designed volume.

Ian Falconer (Atheneum/ Schwartz)
With a masterful use of black line, a minimum of details, a judicious use of the color red and a few choice words, Falconer invents an unforgettable porcine heroine. Olivia's boundless energy, deadpan humor and varied interests (not to mention fashion sense) will win her many fans along the way.

The Everything Book
Denise Fleming (Holt)
A cast of irrepressible babies introduces ABCs, 1-2-3, rhymes, body parts, seasons and more, all illustrated with Fleming's signature dyed-pulp paintings. This comprehensive introduction to all things toddler is the perfect baby gift.

Bob Graham (Candlewick)
What's a family of superher s to do when their progeny is slow to develop his flying skills? Graham answers this question handily with scenarios that will have readers laughing out loud, as Max discovers his own special qualities.

Bling Blang: Howdi Do
Woody Guthrie, illus. by Vladimir Radunsky (Candlewick)
Radunsky provides guileless visual accompaniment to the late Guthrie's whimsically cheerful lyrics to two songs. The words trip off the tongue, while the collage pictures in Day-Glo colors and amorphous shapes offer a feast for the eyes.

Wemberley Worried
Kevin Henkes (HarperCollins/Greenwillow)
Henkes adroitly juggles the main narrative, hand-lettered asides and watercolor-and-ink imagery of the young pessimist, Wemberley, and her supportive parents. He handles Wemberley's worries with uncanny empathy and gentleness.

Henry Hikes to Fitchburg
D.B. Johnson (Houghton)
It's hard to imagine making Thoreau's philosophy comprehensible and accessible to young readers, but Johnson pulls it off. For this assured economical adaptation of a passage from Walden, Johnson characterizes Henry and his friend as bears who adopt different strategies for reaching the town of Fitchburg, 30 miles away. Kaleidoscopic illustrations in variegated colors chronicle the pair's progress on each spread.

Christopher Myers (Scholastic Press)
Once again demonstrating an expert use of collage, the Caldecott Honor artist imaginatively refutes the myth of Icarus while championing the nature of the artist. An ostracized girl narrator befriends a winged boy, as Myers uses both words and pictures to demonstrate that one person, appreciating another's true qualities, makes life complete.

Big Jabe
Jerdine Nolen, illus. by Kadir Nelson (HarperCollins)
Skillfully shot through with references to the Bible, American folklore and the Underground Railroad, this strikingly original tale set in slavery times empowers readers to confront an unbearable history and come away with hope.

Kate and the Beanstalk
Mary Pope Osborne, illus. by Giselle Potter (Atheneum/Schwartz)
In Osborne's witty and spry reworking, it's Kate instead of Jack who trades her family's cow for magic beans. The tale stars a resourceful, confident heroine who regains all that the giant stole from her family. Potter's airy gouache and watercolor illustrations sparkle with humor.

Aesop's Fables
Jerry Pinkney (North-South/SeaStar)
If there's room on the shelf for only one picture book version of Aesop, this beautifully designed and lush, oversize volume could be it. Serving up more than 60 fables, Pinkney uses detail, delicacy of line and a subtle palette to create an elegant foil for the simple parables.

Whiteblack the Penguin Sees the World
Margret and H.A. Rey (Houghton)
Appearing in print for the first time, 63 years after its conception by the creators of Curious George, this effervescent tale of a penguin who, as chief storyteller, leaves his homeland in search of new stories, stands the test of time. H.A. Rey's whimsical watercolors match the droll pitch of the narrative and recall other favorite titles of his uvre.

The Sign Painter
Allen Say (Houghton/Lorraine)
Like a 1930s cinematographer, Say pays tribute to a bygone era, incorporating images from Edward Hopper's paintings and other period icons into a brief slice-of-life story about a boy's encounter with a sign painter. Throughout the boy's journey, the author/artist subtly and ingeniously evokes a feeling of nostalgia while delivering a hard-hitting immediacy.

Peter Sís (FSG/Foster)
A universal experience of childhood (losing a first tooth) occasions a mesmerizing global tour. As Madlenka makes the rounds of her New York City block, her international neighbors show her a glimpse of their native countries through the die-cut windows of Sís's expertly designed spreads.

Little Lit
Edited by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly (HarperCollins/Cotler)
Spiegelman and Mouly's sophisticated collection, unified by a tongue-in-cheek fairy tale theme, lingers at the crossroad between kids and adults, classics and parodies. Artists from David Macaulay to David Mazzucchelli to Barbara McClintock serve as de facto instructors for a crash course in the comic-strip genre.


Kit's Wilderness
David Almond (Delacorte)
Revisiting many of the themes from Skellig, Almond offers another tantalizing blend of human drama, surrealism and allegory in this novel set in a former coal-mining town. He takes readers on a spine-tingling ride as 13-year-old Kit befriends other teens who play a game called "Death," during which some of the players possess the ability to visit the spirits of children who died in the mines.

The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold
Francesca Lia Block (HarperCollins/Cotler)
Block's novels often borrow elements from classic fairy tales; this time, the author pulls a switch. Setting out to revisit nine fairy tales, she fills them with gritty, even headline-grabbing issues. The darkness of these conflicts proves the strength of the magic she describes: the transfiguring power of love.

The Wanderer
Sharon Creech, illus. by David Diaz (HarperCollins/Cotler)
Like Creech's Walk Two Moons, this intimate novel p tically connects journey with self-discovery. When 13-year-old Sophie learns that her three uncles and two male cousins plan to sail across the Atlantic to visit her grandfather in England, she begs to go along. Creech again captures the ebb and flow of a vulnerable teen's emotional life.

Because of Winn-Dixie
Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick)
In this exquisitely crafted first novel, each chapter possesses an arc of its own and reads almost like a short story in its completeness; yet the chapters add up to more than the sum of their parts. Opal, the 10-year-old narrator, will win over readers just as quickly as she is won over by the stray dog she names Winn-Dixie. Through the love she gains from her new pet,Opal gains the courage to ask her father about the mother who abandoned them, and earns the friendship of some eccentric but likable townsfolk.

Joey Pigza Loses Control
Jack Gantos (FSG)
First introduced in J y Pigza Swallowed the Key, Gantos's hyperactive hero J y Pigza has not lost any of his liveliness, but after undergoing therapy and a stint in special ed, he now can exercise a reasonable amount of self-control--provided he takes his meds. But when his father has custody of J y for the summer, he tells J y that his pills are a crutch and summarily disposes of them. This high-voltage, honest novel mixes humor, pain, fear and courage with deceptive ease.

Iris and Walter
Elissa Haden Guest, illus. by Christine Davenier (Harcourt/Gulliver)
Four gracefully paced chapters, stylish illustrations and a design that allows plenty of breathing room add up to a knockout kickoff to a beginning reader series, about a girl who moves from her beloved Manhattan to the country. The author's economic eloquence is in perfect sync with Davenier's elegant watercolor and ink drawings of the blossoming friendship that eases Iris's transition.

Year of the Griffin
Diana Wynne Jones (HarperCollins/Greenwillow)
Infused with all manner of enchantments, this sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm is a boisterous spoof of the campus novel, reading like a cross between David Lodge and a particularly buoyant incarnation of J.R.R. Tolkien. One grand adventure follows the next all the way to the pleasing conclusion; this is great good fun.

Silent to the Bone
E.L. Konigsburg (Atheneum/Karl)
This middle-grade novel combines a plot loosely based on the Louise Woodward/ Matthew Eappen case with a taut psychological mystery. The two-time Newbery Medalist inlays the story with tantalizing facts and peoples it with her hallmark idiosyncratic characters. She also investigates the dynamics of step-families, preadolescent sexuality and other knotty subjects--and joins every element seamlessly.

Ghost Boy
Iain Lawrence (Delacorte)
In Lawrence's lyrical novel, an albino boy runs off to join the circus. Although the premise may be familiar, there is nothing conventional about the author's portrayal of this taunted hero. The narrative probes the isolation and alienation of 14-year-old Harold, better known as "Ghost Boy." Depicting the circus as a microcosm of society, the author effectively conveys the universal desire for acceptance and approval; he invites readers to look beyond others' outer appearances and into their souls.

Pharaoh's Daughter
Julius Lester (Harcourt/Silver Whistle)
Lester creates a captivating story of a Moses torn between two cultures, from his discovery in the bulrushes to his solo flight to Midian, as seen through his sister's eyes. The author imagines a titillating paradise within the pharaoh's palace walls--appealing to all five senses--and makes a compelling case for a young man caught between the faith of his Hebrew mother and his adoptive family's aesthetics and beliefs.

The Doll People
Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, illus. by Brian Selznick (Hyperion)
Martin and Godwin inventively spin out their own variation on the perennially popular theme of toys that secretly come to life, injecting their tale with a lively dose of action and suspense. The Doll family has lived in the same dollhouse for 100 years, but everything changes with the arrival of the modern, plastic Funcraft family--and with young Annabelle Doll's determination to solve a 45-year-old mystery.

Judy Moody
Megan McDonald, illus. by Peter Reynolds (Candlewick)
This comical novel introduces the entertainingly mercurial third-grader Judy Moody, who devises intriguing solutions to her various dilemmas. Her relationship to her best friend Rocky and her second-grader brother, Stinky, propel the plot in diverting directions, and the dialogue is spot-on. It's hard to imagine a mood that Judy couldn't improve.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
J.K. Rowling (Scholastic/Levine)
The fourth Harry Potter adventure, centering on an inter-school competition, boasts details that are as ingenious and original as ever. Surely catching readers off-guard must get more difficult with each successive volume, but somehow Rowling plants the red herrings, the artful clues and tricky surprises that disarm the most attentive audience. A spectacular climax will leave readers breathless.

Esperanza Rising
Pam Muñoz Ryan (Scholastic Press)
With a hint of magical realism, Ryan's robust novel set in 1930 captures a Mexican girl's fall from riches and her immigration to California. The author weaves into Esperanza's narrative the girl's growing awareness of Mexico's post-revolution tensions, the arrival of Oklahoma's Dust Bowl victims in California and the struggles between the U.S. government and Mexican workers trying to organize for better living conditions.

Jerry Spinelli (Knopf)
Part fairy godmother, part outcast, part dream-come-true, the star of Spinelli's novel shares many of the mythical qualities as the protagonist of his Maniac Magee. Ever respectful of his audience, Spinelli poses searching questions about loyalty to one's friends and oneself and leaves readers to form their own answers.

Shiva's Fire
Suzanne Fisher Staples (FSG/Foster)
If not for references to modern technology, this tale set in India might defy chronology; the folkloric narrative, primal settings and universal themes confer a timeless quality. Parvati, the heroine, is born with mystical talents that bring her under the auspices of a gurukulam (a traditional school run by a great teacher) and she learns to dedicate herself to dance. The author p tically expresses the sorrows and joys of the spiritual life as well as the life of the artist.


Sir Walter Ralegh and the Quest for El Dorado
Marc Aronson (Clarion)
Demonstrating the same keen passion for his subject as in his Art Attack, Aronson examines the life of a complex Elizabethan figure. This provocative profile of "the first modern man" reveals Ralegh as a person of wit and magnetism with all-too-human shortcomings. The author expands his narrative beyond the details of a single life to draw a nuanced portrait of the times.

Building Big
David Macaulay (Houghton/Lorraine)
If ever a book were destined to inspire a future generation of engineers and designers, this companion volume to the PBS series of the same name is it. Macaulay circles the globe and spans the centuries to provide a fascinating peek at the inner workings of bridges, tunnels, skyscrapers, domes and dams.

Anne Frank: A Hidden Life
Mirjam Pressler, translated by Anthea Bell (Dutton)
While the life of Anne Frank has elsewhere been carefully documented, this astonishing biography delivers new insights. Rather than highlighting Anne's idealism, the author examines the tensions in her diary, performing a critical reading of Anne's descriptions of herself and others, and analyzing how Anne reworked her diary in hopes of postwar publication. Pressler's work could serve as a model for how to read a subjective narrative.

So You Want to Be President?
Judith St. George, illus. by David Small (Philomel)
This lighthearted roundup of anecdotes and trivia is cast as a handbook of helpful hints to aspiring presidential candidates. St. George delivers diverse, tongue-in-cheek tidbits and colorful quotes from her subjects, while Small's caricatures (often in the spirit of a roast) amplify the playful tone.

LIFE: Our Century in Pictures for Young People
Edited by Richard B. Stolley (Little, Brown)
Adapted by Amy Sklansky from the adult bestseller LIFE: Our Century in Pictures, this stellar collection of carefully chosen images with pithy captions captures the global and local events, people and culture that shaped the last 100 years. A visual treasure trove readers will enjoy for the next century.

Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss and What I Learned
Judd Winick (Holt)
In this poignant volume--part graphic novel, part memoir--professional cartoonist Winick pays tribute to his Real World housemate and friend Pedro Zamora, an AIDS activist who died of the disease in 1994. The format strikes just the right balance of cutting-edge design and forthright tone. Zamora emerges as a vital force and a tireless teacher.


Joy to the World: A Family Christmas Treasury
Edited by Ann Keay Beneduce, illus. by Gennady Spirin (S&S/Atheneum)
St. Nick himself would probably want a copy of this exquisite anthology. Presenting a host of Christmas classics (and some off-the-beaten-track-type entries too), Beneduce balances the historical, the religious and the secular aspects of the holiday. And Spirin works magic: whether conjuring an old-world Christmas or the Annunciation, his interpretations seem definitive.

Gershon's Monster: A Story for the Jewish New Year
Eric A. Kimmel, illus. by Jon J Muth (Scholastic Press)
This presentation of a Hasidic legend has everything a reader could want: a suspenseful story, an insightful lesson and brilliantly conceived, airy pictures that accelerate the delivery of both. While especially appropriate for Rosh Hashanah, its cross-denominational approach makes it welcome at any time of year.