Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Best Books of 2010?

Amazon sends me these lists occasionally -- mainly because I spend enough there to support a small, third-world village -- and occasionally I find those lists helpful and interesting. More often, though, I find them to be shameless plugs for the endless spinoffs and sequels that dog the children's book industry.

Yesterday I got another one entitled Best Books of 2010. These are Amazon's editors' picks for best kids books of 2010. Again, it's a list that looks like a mixture of careful consideration and marketing strategy. There are three entries that are sequels, so only 70% of the list is new stuff, some by established authors and some by relative newcomers.

Here's my humble take on it:

Art and Max, by David Wiesener: Yes. Wiesener's artwork makes this one a good choice. He's an established author with really innovative illustrations. Love the lizards, love the focus on art, love the gorgeously illustrated story. Deserves a spot on the list.

Olivia Goes to Venice, by Ian Falconer: I loved the first Olivia book. I liked the second, I liked the third, I liked, mildly, the Christmas book, and then I got a little saturated with Olivia and have had no real desire to learn more about her exploits. There's been so much Olivia that this one doesn't really break new ground or offer anything in the way of freshness. Sorry. This one's a Shameless Marketing Plug (SMP)

The Quiet Book, by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska: Yes, Yes, Yes! This is a sweet, achingly simple (in the best possible way) book that shows different kinds of quiet. From "Sleeping sister quiet," to "First look at your new hairstyle quiet," this one is beautifully complimented by Liwska's soft paintings. Excellent for toddlers and young children.

City Dog, Country Frog, by Mo Willems, illustrated by Jon Muth: Here's a pair of established writer/illustrators collaborating on a lovely story about a dog and a frog that become friends. Later, when frog is gone (read: dies) dog remembers him and befriends another. It's for younger kids and may offer a nice way to talk about emotional losses with children as they identify with the animals in the story. Deserves to be on the list.

A Bedtime for Bear (Bear and Mouse) by Bonnie Becker: This one is a sequel to Becker's A Visitor for Bear, but I think it deserves a spot on the list for two reasons. One, it's only the second book in the series and has not reached the point of over-saturation like Olivia, and Two, the chracter of Bear cracks me up. I love that he states things so firmly, so categorically, and that his firmness masks a lot of insecurity. He is pitch-perfect, as is his funny relationship with Mouse, who sees through the insecurity and helps Bear navigate his fears.

This post is so long, that I am going to review the second half of the list in my next post. Stay tuned!

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