Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Here we are at the end of 2007 already. One of my goals for the year was to read 100 books (grades 4 and up--i.e. not picture books). I met that goal yesterday after reading all afternoon to finish book #100, The God of Animals, by Aryn Kyle. My favorites of the year:

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo. I know, I just posted about this one, but to reiterate: I find this reminiscent of The Velveteen Rabbit, but less abstract. A fairy doesn't appear to make Edward real, but he does realize that even after having lost everyone he loved, it is still worth it to love again. (OK, that sounds cliché, but really. It's a lovely book.) Edward Tulane is aimed at grades 4-6.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, tells the story of a German girl during World War II. The book is written from the perspective of Death, which sounds weird, but works well. Zusak writes with powerful descriptions: "A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spat blues. Murky darknesses." (and that's only the 4th page.) As he writes, "It's just a small story really, about, among other things: *A girl *Some words *An accordionist *Some fanatical Germans *A Jewish fist fighter *And quite a lot of thievery." The Book Thief has been marketed to teens, but it was one of my mom's favorite books of 2007, as well.

While we're on the subject, Tamar, by Mal Peet, is another good World War II book for teens. The story alternates between the 1940's and the present day as a girl uncovers the mystery of her grandfather's past.

The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart, is a bit hard to describe. Four children, some very tricky tests, a villain bent on taking over the world, plot twists and dry humor add up to an eminently enjoyable tale. (Grades 7-9, give or take.)

Edward's Eyes, by Patricia MacLachlan. It's a tear-jerker, I admit. But first it's a story of family and summer sun and neighborhood baseball and old family friends, with a little James Taylor thrown in. (Grades 4-6.)

Solomon Snow and the Silver Spoon, by Kaye Umansky. The first word that comes to mind to describe this book is "Dickensian," as it is set in turn-of-the-century London, with orphans and a chimney sweep and names that betray their characters' personalities (who else could Miss Starch be but a prim schoolteacher?). However, I don't think I've ever laughed out loud at a Dickens novel. I did at Solomon Snow. (Grades 4-6.)

So there you have it. (A select few of) my favorites of the grades 4-and-up books I read in 2007. What were your favorites this year?

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