Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2013 Chapter Book Roundup

Now that I have posted my Picture Book Roundup, let's take a look at middle-grade fiction and my top five favorites for this year's Newbery Medal.  (Nonfiction, poetry, etc. are eligible for the Newbery, but I have not read any really standout books from those fields this year.)  Last year I mentioned Newbery Honor book Splendors and Glooms in my top five, and included Medal winner The One and Only Ivan as an honorable mention, but that's no guarantee that I will have similar luck this year!

Here are my 2013 picks:
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu (my review) -- Love the magic system, love the characters, love the plot twists. Not everybody loves this book as much as I do, but it's my favorite of the year, just edging out...
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal (my review) -- This is at the top end of the Newbery age spectrum, but it does what it does so well that I feel it's definitely deserving of praise.  It blends fairy tale and suspense in a way that is surprisingly true to the original tales.
Jinx by Sage Blackwood (my review) -- This is starting to look like a "best juvenile fantasy" list, and I must admit that I am biased toward that genre. Fantasy has been particularly strong this year, and I love it when I have a whole slew of titles I can really get behind.  I'm just hoping that there are a few fellow fantasy-lovers on the Newbery committee who feel the same way!  This particular book, with its Diana Wynne Jones sensibilities, was a delight to read.
Doll Bones by Holly Black (my review) -- And, yes, another book that at least contains fantastical elements, though there's certainly room for interpretation as to whether the doll bones in questions ever actually do anything fantastical, or not.  But what I love about this book is they way it looks at growing up and friendships and what happens to imagination when one leaves childhood behind.
The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata (my review) -- Finally, realistic fiction!  The characters in this book really shine, and it's definitely deserving of its National Book Award win.  Will it add a second shiny sticker to its lackluster cover? (Seriously, what were they thinking? I blame the cover design as to why this is such a hard book to "sell" to young readers.)

Those are my top five, but I can't limit myself to those without at least a few honorable mentions:

The Water Castle by Megan Fraser Blakemore -- Great science fiction; it has its issues but it still manages to stick in my mind even though it was one of the books I read fairly early in the year.

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool -- This book has a lot going on (maybe too much) and won't appeal to everyone, but I was surprised at how much I liked it.

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia -- The book is strong in voice and dialogue and lots of fun to read.  I think it's getting a lot of love from people who felt One Crazy Summer was robbed of the medal the year it came out.

I could keep going, but I'm going to stop here!  What about you, readers?  Any favorites this year?

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