I know end-of the-year best lists are abundant now, so why add to the deluge? I wanted to create a list that shines a spotlight on independent publishers. These are my favorites published by indies in 2011. My only criteria is that I find these books beautiful and/or brilliant and I want everyone to read them. Clicking on the titles will take you to further information about the titles on Goodreads. If you are not yet a member of Goodreads, resolve to join in 2012 ASAP! Cheers and Happy Reading!
For Younger Readers
Atinuke. The No. 1 Car Spotter. Illus. Warwick Johnson Cadwell. Kane/Miller. 112p.
A delightful, fun story set in contemporary Africa by the author of the Anna Hibiscus stories.
Dowson, Nick. North: The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration. Illus. Patrick Benson. Candlewick. 56p.
A stunning and inspiring nature book!
Henrichs, Wendy. I Am Tama, Lucky Cat: A Japanese Legend. Illus. Yoshiko Jaeggi. Peachtree.
I have always been fond of this tale and this is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the Japanese legend of Maneki Neko.
Jenkins, Martin. Can We Save the Tiger? Illus. Vicky White. Candlewick. 56p.
Absolutely stunning! Troubling but hopeful. Pair this title with J. Patrick Lewis’s Swan Song: Poems of Extinction (Creative Editions, 2003).
Kimura, Ken. 999 Tadpoles. Illus. Yasunari Murakami. North South. 40p.
In this totally delightful Japanese import, 999 young frogs and their parents demonstrate amazing resourcefulness as they escape predators on their way to a new home.
Klassen, Jon. I Want My Hat Back. Candlewick. 40p.
A delightfully droll picture book.
Lund, Darrin. After the Kill. Illus. Catherine Stock. Charlesbridge. 32p.
An excellent, realistic portrait of predators, prey, and scavengers on the plains of East Africa.
Lyon, George Ella. Which Side Are You On?: The Story of a Song. Illus. Christopher Cardinale. Cinco Puntos. 40p.
A great story about Florence Reece, the wife of a coal miner, who wrote the classic union song in the midst of the bloody confrontation between a company’s hired guns and miners trying to organize in Harlan County, Kentucky.
Moundlic, Charlotte. The Scar. Illus. Olivier Tallec. Candlewick. 32p.
A powerful, deeply touching story about a young boy grieving for his recently deceased mother.
Paterson, Katherine. Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Illus. Pamela Dalton. Chronicle.
A beautiful and reverent “reimagining” of St. Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of the Creatures.”
Roth, Susan L. and Cindy Trumbore. The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families. Lee & Low. 40p.
The delightful and inspiring true story of the remarkable Dr. Gordon Sato, a scientist who enriches people’s lives and the environment with mangrove trees.
Schubert, Ingrid and Deiter. The Umbrella. Lemniscaat. 40p.
This Dutch import is a delightful wordless wonder. I love everything this couple has done. They are superb picture book creators.
Tullet, Hervé. Press Here. Chronicle. 56p.
Awesome interactive fun!
Werner, Sharon and Sarah Forss. Bugs by the Numbers. Blue Apple. 56p.
From the people who created the fabulous Alphabeasties is this visually stunning, informative and fun book about all sorts of creepy crawlies.
For Older Readers
Arni, Samhita. Sita’s Ramayana. Illus. Moyna Chitrakar. Groundwood. 152p.
A stunning graphic novel version of the Ramayana from Hindu mythology.
Deedy, Carmen Agra and Randall Wright. The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale. Illus. Barry Moser. Peachtree. 228p.
A cat and a mouse form an unlikely alliance in this clever, fun and utterly delightful tale.
Jacobson, Jennifer Richard. Small as an Elephant. Candlewick. 275p.
Jack’s mom leaves him all alone on a campsite in Maine. Can the eleven-year-old find his way back to Boston before the authorities realize what happened? A beautifully written, moving, spirited story.
McClafferty, Carla Killough. The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential. Carolrhoda. 128p.
A fascinating look at the many disparate ways artists have portrayed George Washington, and the painstaking work of a group of experts to create “authentic” representations of him in different stages of life.
Ness, Patrick and Siobhan Dowd. A Monster Calls. Illus. Jim Kay Candlewick. 215p.
An exceptional, extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss.
Perera, Anna. Guantanamo Boy. Albert Whitman. 352p.
A chilling and harrowing story of a young victim of a profound injustice brought about by paranoia, prejudice, and an appalling disregard for human rights. This novel left me angry and disgusted. It should be widely read and discussed.
Powers, J.L. This Thing Called the Future. Cinco Puntos. 202p.
A poignant, realistic story with supernatural elements set in an AIDS-ravaged South Africa shantytown. A beautifully written, honest, engrossing story that provides a window into a fascinating world.
Ross, Stewart. Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air. Illus. Stephen Biesty. Candlewick. 96p.
Absolutely stunning! The engaging, informative text chronicles exciting adventures by daring explorers. Biesty’s huge, fold out, cutaway cross-section illustrations are remarkably detailed. A handsomely designed visual experience.
Vernic, Shirley Reva. The Blood Lie: A Novel. Cinco Puntos. 141p.
Inspired by a real blood libel that took place when a small girl disappeared from Massena, New York, in 1928, and an innocent Jewish boy was called a murderer, this is a chilling story of anti-Semitism.
Wallace, Jason. Out of Shadows. Holiday House. 272p.
A superb debut novel centered in an elite private boys school that begins in the early 1980s when Rhodesia has become Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe has taken power as Prime Minister. A riveting story that explores deeply and thoughtfully a host of compelling themes and subjects: colonialism, racism, guilt, bullying, inequality, justice, revenge, and much more. A richly layered, gripping story!
Wolf, Allan. The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic. Candlewick. 480p.
So much has been written about the Titanic, it’s hard to imagine an author finding a fresh perspective but Allan Wolf pulls it off and quite brilliantly. The voices of the captain, crew members, passengers from all three class, the shipboard rats, the embalmer searching for bodies floating among the wreckage, and even the iceberg are brought vividly to life in verse. Like his New Found Land, this is unique, engrossing historical fiction.