Top 11 children's books of 2011


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

(Credit: Handout, 2011)


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.

(Credit: Handout, 2011)

"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.

(Credit: Handout, 2011)

"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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"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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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.

(Credit: Handout, 2011)


"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


(Credit: Handout, 2011)


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.

(Credit: Handout, 2011)


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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