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2012 Children’s Room Favorites – For Older Readers

Everybody’s putting together their ‘best of 2012’ lists and so, not to be left out, we in the Children’s Room have put together our lists of favorites. This week, we’re looking at books for older readers and we’ll be looking at nonfiction next week. We picked our favorites for younger readers last week.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Callie loves theatre and is excited to be the set designer for her school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi. However the theatre department is not the only place where Callie finds drama. Telgemeier’s newest graphic novel showcases Callie’s crazy experiences working on the play as well as her personal relationships with friends old and new. By relying on each other, Callie and her friends swim through the on- and off-stage drama of their middle school. Drama is a fun and heart-warming story of middle school life and how hard navigating through relationships can be. I read this book in one sitting — Telgemeier’s art and character and wonderfully addicting.  (Grades 5 -8)
– Serianna

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
My favorite sort of narrator is snarky, charismatic and unreliable – and Sage is all of those! He’s a 15 year old orphan who, along with three other boys, gets involved in a desperate plot to prevent civil war breaking out in the fantasy medieval country of Carthya. The plot is packed with adventure and intrigue, and includes several surprises along the way before reaching a satisfyingly action-packed conclusion. (Grades 5-8)
– Hayley

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Rebecca Stead won the Newbery Award for her terrific fantasy book, When You Reach Me. Liar & Spy is also set in New York City but is a realistic fiction story about an outcast middle schooler, with a bit of mystery thrown in. Georges, named for Georges Seurat, moves into a new apartment and sees a sign on the basement door for a Spy Club. In this way he meets Safer, a weird kid in the building, and together they spy on the mysterious Mr. X. This mystery, combined with a thoroughly believable and wonderful take on getting through middle school in one piece, makes this my favorite book of the year. (Grades 5 – 8)
– Lauren

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine
The Lions of Little Rock dramatizes the devastating consequences of high school closures in Little Rock, Arkansas in the wake of classroom integration (think Little Rock Nine) and the notorious “lost year” of public education that followed. I found the stories of Liz and Marlee, two middle school students who are caught in the crossfire, gripping and was inspired to find out more about what really happened during this stormy chapter of civil rights history. Levine’s fictional account makes the sometimes violent struggle for equality accessible for middle grade readers, and lucky for us, the excellent nonfiction book Little Rock Girl 1957 by Shelley Tougas was published in 2012 to help fill in the gaps. (Grades 5 -8)
– Yolanda

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Ivan, a silverback gorilla, has been a mall attraction at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall for many years and is used to his domain (don’t call it a cage).  He has found art as a way to make his life better, while the mall manager sees it as profit and sells it in the mall gift shop.  When Ivan promises the elder elephant, Stella, that he’ll find a better life for baby elephant, Ruby, the mall’s newest attraction, it becomes his singular purpose. The One and Only Ivan, which is based on a true story, is sweet and poignant, and also sheds light on our cruelty to animals.  I admit that I enjoy books that make me cry – this one will do that and much more.  (Grades 3 – 6)
– Jessica

The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford
It’s the summer before roller derby fanatic Minty starts middle school, and she discovers a tree in the woods by her house that has all of her friends’ and neighbors’ secrets written inside, only no way to know which secret belongs to whom. The Secret Tree covers a lot of the unkind things people do to each other, but keeps the story light, age appropriate and manages to give all of the characters a satisfying, and for the most part a happy ending as well. It also made me want to join a roller derby team. (Grades 5 – 7)
– Shannon

Wolf Story by William McCleery; illustrated by Warren Chappell
In this charming tale-within-tale, a father tells his son a bedtime story about a hen named Rainbow and the wolf dubbed Waldo who is hot on her tail feathers. With many (many, many, many) interruptions and additions and demands from the young listener, the story is one of the most amusing I’ve read in a long time. Almost perfectly crafted, it hits just the right pitch of gentle humor and surprising turns. As a parent, I particularly love the way McCleery captures the dad’s joyous experience of telling his son the story, and the acute need he sometimes has to say, “Enough! I don’t want to hear the name “Rainbow” for the next 45 minutes!” (Grades 1 – 4)
– Molly

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