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"Three by the Sea"

More complex yet is the small society of dog, cat and mouse who keep house together in Mini Grey's "Three by the Sea" (Knopf, ages 4 to 8). When a mysterious stranger sows the seeds of strife among the friends, questions are raised that will give readers of all ages plenty to think and talk about.

Top 11 children's books of 2011

Eleven releases -- from picture books to young adult novels -- that made our year.
Compiled by Sonja Bolle

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"Bumble-Ardy"

Maurice Sendak cuts loose for the first time in years with a birthday party gone wild in "Bumble-Ardy" (HarperCollins, ages 4 to 8), a feast of Sendakian rhyme and tumbling pictures.

Read a review of Bumble-Ardy.

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"Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator"

Mo Willems has a genius for appreciating a child's life before reality and imagination have parted company. In the set of short stories, "Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator!" (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, ages 4 to 8), we learn that stuffed animals are no less complicated than flesh-and-blood friends.

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"My Rhinoceros"

Jon Agee explores another complex relationship, that of child and pet, as a boy seems to have acquired a most disappointing companion in "My Rhinoceros" (Scholastic, ages 3 to 8). The author's matchless humor provides a happy ending that will thrill over and over again.
Read a review of My Rhinoceros

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(Credit: Handout, 2011)

"Three by the Sea"

More complex yet is the small society of dog, cat and mouse who keep house together in Mini Grey's "Three by the Sea" (Knopf, ages 4 to 8). When a mysterious stranger sows the seeds of strife among the friends, questions are raised that will give readers of all ages plenty to think and talk about.

(Credit: Chris Ware, 2011)

"Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans"

Kadir Nelson channels the voice of a wise grandmother in "Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans" (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, ages 9 and up), telling what needs to be told with love and fierceness. His paintings, as always, astonish.
Read a review of Heart and Soul

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"Dead End in Norvelt"

In "Dead End in Norvelt" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ages 10 to 14), Jack Gantos tells, with trademark humor, of a boy grounded for the summer but having the time of his life serving as scribe for an aged, arthritic obituary writer.

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"Wonderstruck"

In "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," Brian Selznick experimented with a new way of novel writing, telling a story in alternating passages of text and illustration. With "Wonderstruck" (Scholastic, ages 9 and up) he hits his stride.

Read a review of Wonderstruck.

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"Starcrossed"

"Starcrossed," by Josephine Angelini (HarperTeen, ages 12 and up), has a romantic lead (think "Twilight's" Edward Cullen) who turns out to be a member of a clan of supernatural heroes from the Greek epics.
Read a review of Starcrossed

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"Divergent"

The strictly controlled society of Veronica Roth's "Divergent" (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books, ages 14 and up) sorts teenagers based on character. Our heroine, raised to be selfless, chooses instead to join the intimidating Dauntless faction.

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"Legend"

Marie Lu's "Legend" (Putnam, ages 12 and up) is set in a futuristic, wild-west Los Angeles that must have been inspired by film -- maybe the cities of "Star Wars" or "Blade Runner." The characters -- Robin Hood and Lady Marian types, but nicely balanced as equals -- have only begun their story, so "Legend" feels wide open for development.

(Credit: Chris Ware, 2011)

"All These Things I've Done"

Gabrielle Zevin's "All These Things I've Done" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ages 12 and up) may be set in a near future when chocolate and coffee are controlled substances, but the imagined world is only backdrop to a cast of compelling characters, headed up by the daughter of a slain mob boss. "All These Things" is billed as first in the "Birthright" series, but is satisfying by itself.
Read a review of All These Things I've Done

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