Last year I decided to create a list that shines a spotlight on independent publishers. These are my favorite books for children and young adults published by indies in 2012. 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 2013 ASAP! Cheers and Happy Reading!
For All Ages
Meinderts, Koos. The Man in the Clouds. Illus. Annette Fienieg. Lemniscaat USA.
A beautifully illustrated, deceptively simple, provocative parable to be pondered and discussed.
National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!
A delightful collection of poems compiled by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated with stunning photographs that you know will be awesome because it’s, well, National Geographic. A wonderful anthology for classrooms, libraries and homes.
Serres, Alain. I Have the Right to Be a Child. Illus. Aurelia Fronty. Groundwood.
A powerful and inspiring introduction to the concept of human rights, specifically those of children as stated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is shameful that the United States is one of three UN member nations that is not party to the convention.
For Younger Readers
Davies, Nicola. Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature. Illus. Mark Hearld. Candlewick.
A beautifully illustrated collection of poems celebrating nature organized by the four seasons.
Dorémus, Gaetan. Bear Despair. Enchanted Lion.
Fun, whimsical wordless French import that reminds me of Jon Klassen’s “Hat” books but not as droll and subtle as those. The sixth and final book in Enchanted Lion’s Stories Without Words series.
Elliott, David. In the Sea. Illus. Holly Meade. Candlewick.
Another superb collaboration from the pair who created On the Farm and In the Wild. Great poems complemented with stunning woodcut illustrations.
Figley, Marty Rhodes. Emily and Carlo. Illus. Catherine Stock. Charlesbridge.
A beautifully illustrated, touching story (incorporating quotations from her verse) about Emily Dickinson and her beloved companion dog.
Hartnett, Sonya. Sadie & Ratz. Illus. Ann James. Candlewick.
This is one of the best written and most sophisticated early readers I have ever read. Hannah is a little girl who projects her anger, frustrations, and inclinations for mischief on Sadie and Ratz, the names she gives to her hands which are “wild beasts.” I am awed by Hartnett’s remarkable ability to so perfectly capture a young child’s imagination and perspective.
Lawlor, Laurie. Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World. Illus. Laura Beingessner. Holiday House.
Great introduction to Carson’s life and work. Lovely illustrations.
Leedy, Loreen. Seeing Symmetry. Holiday House.
An outstanding concept book in every way!
Markel, Michelle. The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau. Illus. Amanda Hall. Eerdmans.
A beautiful introduction to the artist and his bold, dreamy vision.
Nobelman, Marc Taylor. Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman. Illus. Ty Templeton. Charlesbridge.
Great story about the co-creator of Batman who never got the recognition or rewards he deserved until after his death. Nicely designed and illustrated.
Singer, Marilyn. A Strange Place to Call Home: The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats & the Animals That Call Them Home. Illus. Ed Young. Chronicle.
Wonderful poems, as enjoyable as they are informative, describe the extreme habitats that are home to a variety of birds, fish, mammals, and insects. Illustrated with stunning abstract collage art.
Tallec, Olivier. Waterloo & Trafalgar. Enchanted Lion.
A superb tale about the absurdity and futility of war told solely in images full of charm, humor, wit, and a wide range of emotion. An excellent title for teaching about conflict resolution and peacemaking.
Tate, Don. It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw. Illus. R. Gregory Christie. Lee & Low.
An excellent introduction to Bill Traylor, an ex-slave, sharecropper and self-taught artist who is now recognized as an important African-American folk artist. He’s also a classic late bloomer having not started drawing and painting until in his early 80s.
Tolman, Marije and Ronald. The Island. Lemniscaat USA.
A delightfully whimsical, wordless wonder.
van Hout, Mies. Happy. Lemniscaat USA.
Expressions of emotion superbly captured in images and words. A wonderful example of a concept book.
Winters, Kari-Lynn. Gift Days. Illus. Stephen Taylor. Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
Wonderful, moving story about a Ugandan girl who cannot realize her dream of an education because she must care for her younger siblings until her brother gives her “gift days” that give her time to learn.
For Older Readers
Abirached, Zeina. A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return. Lerner/Graphic Universe.
In this remarkable graphic memoir, a French import, the civil war in Lebanon in the 1980s is seen through the eyes of a child. The black-and-white illustrations are reminiscent of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.
Aronson, Marc. Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies. Candlewick.
A probing, insightful examination of the life and career of a notorious and complicated individual. Aronson does an excellent job of separating the facts from the myths about Hoover. He astutely draws parallels between past and present events, and raises many provocative and challenging questions for readers to consider. Hoover emerges from this book as a tragic character, one whose insatiable craving for power and control led to corrupt and lawless acts undermining his accomplishments in crime fighting and national security.
Bausum, Ann. Marching to the Mountaintop: How Poverty, Labor Fights and Civil Rights Set the Stage for Martin Luther King Jr’s Final Hours. National Geographic.
A vivid, engrossing, and superbly researched chronicle of the events leading up to the final days of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Blake, Jon. The Last Free Cat. Albert Whitman.
A most unusual dystopian novel with a fast-paced, thrilling narrative and fascinating premise that explores big, dark ideas but also has some nice touches of humor. Gripping and provocative.
Decristofano,Carolyn Cinami. A Black Hole is Not a Hole. Illus. Michael W. Carroll. Charlesbridge.
An excellent presentation and explanation of a complicated subject. Coversational, entertaining and informative with great illustrations.
Hearst, Michael. Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of Earth’s Strangest Animals. Illus. Jelmer Noordeman. Chronicle.
A fascinating and fun collection of profiles of 50 of the oddest critters that inhabit Planet Earth. Hearst injects some great touches of humor to go along with the excellent information. Nooderman’s line drawings in washed colors are a wonderful complement to the text.
Jarrow, Gail. The Amazing Harry Kellar: Great American Magician. Calkins Creek.
Houdini is the name of a magician most people recognize but Harry Kellar is the magician Houdini idolized. Kellar was the first American-born magician to become an international celebrity and Jarrow conjures up a fascinating introduction to the man who served as the model for the Wizard of Oz. Superbly illustrated and elegantly designed.
Knowles, Jo. See You at Harry’s. Candlewick.
A brilliantly written novel, heartbreaking and beautiful.
Lanthier, Jennfier. The Stamp Collector. Illus. François Thisdale. Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
A wonderful story about political oppression, freedom of expression, and the power of stories to change lives.
Levinson, Cynthia. We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March. Peachtree.
A thoroughly informative, completely engrossing, and truly inspiring account of how the children of Birmingham saved the civil rights movement from failure in that city. Levinson’s narrative is particularly notable for chronicling the heroic actions of four young protestors. This is an excellent companion read to Larry Dane Brimner’s Black and White.
Liu, Na and Andrés Vera Martínez. Little White Duck: A Childhood in China. Lerner/Graphic Universe.
An exceptional graphic memoir about growing up in China in the 1970s. Superbly written and illustrated.
Losure, Mary. The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World. Candlewick.
The fascinating true story about how two girls perpetuated the Cottingsley Fairy hoax and kept it secret for over 60 years.
Master, Irfan. A Beautiful Lie. Albert Whitman.
An incredibly powerful, heartbreaking story set in India in 1947 in the days leading up to the partition of the country. Thirteen-year-old Bilal goes to elaborate lengths to keep his dying father from hearing the news about the imminent division of his beloved Mother India. Particularly poignant is the depiction of the unraveling social fabric as tensions between Hindus and Muslims escalate into open hostilities. An exceptional historical novel.
Micheaux, Vaunda Nelson. No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller. Illus. R. Gregory Christie. Carolrhoda.
A fascinating portrait of the pioneering and influential Harlem bookseller and literacy advocate in a wonderful mix of biography and fiction.
Rajcak, Hélène. Small and Tall Tales of Extinct Animals. Illus. Damien Laverdunt. Gecko Press.
A wonderful introduction to extinct species and subspecies from five continents. Informational text is paired with folklore or intriguing and entertaining anecdotes. A handsomely designed and illustrated book that will spark readers’ imaginations and interests to learn more about these creatures.
Rapp, Adam. The Children and the Wolves. Candlewick.
Adam Rapp once again demonstrates his mastery of raw, penetrating prose and bleak imagery. A grim, haunting story.