HomeBooks by AgeAges 0-3Best Children’s Books of 2009 … Beyond the Half-Way Mark

Best Children’s Books of 2009 … Beyond the Half-Way Mark

The Children’s Book Review | October 23, 2009

Good books make the best books. But … what makes a good book, good?

It may be a matter of opinion, however, whether it’s non-fiction or fiction, a “good book” is one that entertains its readers and has them eager to turn the next page. The author and/or illustrator connects the reader to the characters or subject, provoking an emotional response. “Good books” are original, and often spark imagination and curiosity.

Here is our list of “good books” for 2009, thus far:

Little Oink

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (Author), Jen Corace (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 2-6

Hardcover: 36 pages

Publisher: Chronicle Books (April 1, 2009)

TCBR analysis: Amy Krouse Rosenthal is brilliant. Little Oink, along with Little Pea and Little Hoot, should be staples in any family with toddler to preschool aged children. She turns everyday battles upside-down and inside-out, helping children and parents alike to see the lighter side of these oh-so-familiar situations. Humor is a powerful tool!

Publisher’s synopsis: From the creators of Little Pea and Little Hoot comes this tidy tale of a decidedly different pig. Little Oink is a neat little fellow. Clean clean clean that’s all he wants to do. But Mama and Papa won’t have it! They say in order to be a proper pig he has to learn to make a proper mess. “Don’t come out until your room is a pigsty ” says Papa Pig. “I won’t have any child of mine going out looking so neat and clean. It’s just not acceptable ” says Mama Pig. Readers who hate to clean up will love this humorous twist on a universal dilemma.

Add this book to your collection: Little Oink

The Curious Garden

by Peter Brown

Reading level: Ages 3-7

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (April 1, 2009)

TCBR analysis: An empowering ecological fable that is classy and relevant. Just beautiful!

Publisher’s synopsis: One boy’s quest for a greener world… one garden at a time.

While out exploring one day, a little boy named Liam discovers a struggling garden and decides to take care of it. As time passes, the garden spreads throughout the dark, gray city, transforming it into a lush, green world.

This is an enchanting tale with environmental themes and breathtaking illustrations that become more vibrant as the garden blooms. Red-headed Liam can also be spotted on every page, adding a clever seek-and-find element to this captivating picture book.

Add this book to your collection: The Curious Garden


by Loren Long

Reading level: Ages 3-7

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: Philomel (September 22, 2009)

TCBR analysis: Loren Long is one of my all-time-favorite illustrators, the art in Otis does not disappoint. Each picture is gorgeous and comforting and connects young readers to an endearing little tractor. The tractor, Otis, becomes a hero — the kind of hero you want your kids to know.

Publisher’s synopsis: New York Times bestselling author/artist Loren Long creates an unforgettable children’s classic.

Otis is a special tractor. He loves his farmer and he loves to work. And he loves the little calf in the next stall, whom he purrs to sleep with his soft motor. In fact, the two become great friends: they play in the fields, leap hay bales, and play ring-around-the-rosy by Mud Pond.

But when Otis is replaced with the big yellow tractor, he is cast away behind the barn, unused, unnoticed . . . until the little calf gets stuck in Mud Pond. Then there is only one tractor—and it’s not big or yellow—who can come to the rescue. It is little old Otis who saves his friend. It is Otis who saves the day.

In a wonderful new palette, and in the tradition of classics like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Story of Ferdinand, Loren Long has crafted an unforgettable new story—and character—celebrating the power of friendship and perseverance.

Add this book to your collection: Otis

All in a Day

by Cynthia Rylant (Author), Nikki McClure (Illustrator)

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers; Library Binding edition (March 1, 2009)

TCBR analysis: Heartfelt rhyme and beautiful illustrations with classic appeal. This is a book that parents will enjoy as much as the children they read it with.

Publisher’s synopsis: This lovely book illuminates all the possibilities a day offers—the opportunities and chances that won’t ever come again—and also delivers a gentle message of good stewardship of our planet. Newbery Medal winner Cynthia Rylant’s poetic text, alongside Nikki McClure’s stunning, meticulously crafted cut-paper art, makes this picture book not only timeless but appealing to all ages, from one to one hundred.

Add this book to your collection: All in a Day

Egg Drop

by Mini Grey

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (July 14, 2009)

TCBR analysis: Mini Grey’s Egg Drop is one of the nuttiest picture books I have ever read that still manages to send its message home: err on the side of caution. It takes talent to be an author and illustrator, but with Egg Drop the real talent lies in Mini’s talent to be so shocking and still have the reader being able to see the sunny side up. A truly original tale!

Publisher’s synopsis: Now for something completely different from Mini Grey!

A mother hen tells her chicks about the egg that wanted to fly. “The egg was young. It didn’t know much. We tried to tell it, but of course it didn’t listen.” The egg loves looking up at the birds (yes, it has eyes). It climbs 303 steps (yes, it has legs) to the top of a very tall tower—and jumps. It feels an enormous egg rush. “Whee!” it cries. “I am flying!” But it is not flying, it is falling. Hold your tears, dear reader—there is a sunny ending for this modern-day Humpty Dumpty. Impossible to categorize, Egg Drop is Mini Grey at her zaniest.

Add this book to your collection: Egg Drop

The Lion and the Mouse

by Jerry Pinkney

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (September 1, 2009)

TCBR analysis: A wordless well-known fable has been turned into a masterpiece. Bravo!

Publisher’s synopsis: In award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney’s wordless adaptation of one of Aesop’s most beloved fables, an unlikely pair learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted. After a ferocious lion spares a cowering mouse that he’d planned to eat, the mouse later comes to his rescue, freeing him from a poacher’s trap. With vivid depictions of the landscape of the African Serengeti and expressively-drawn characters, Pinkney makes this a truly special retelling, and his stunning pictures speak volumes.

Add this book to your collection: The Lion and the Mouse

Pigs Make Me Sneeze!

by Mo Willems

Reading level: Ages 4-8

Hardcover: 64 pages

Publisher: Hyperion Book CH (October 6, 2009)

TCBR analysis: A charismatic, knee-slapping fun take on a recognizable friendship. One of my favorite series for beginning readers.

Publisher’s synopsis: Mo Willems’ award-winning Elephant and Piggie series continues to charm readers. Featuring two lovable and funny characters — an optimistic (and sometimes reckless) pig and a cautious, pessimistic elephant — these books make reading irresistible to the beginning readers.  Children who sat on their parents’ laps to have Pigeon read to them will eagerly take the plunge with these books to start reading on their own.

Each book has been vetted by an early learning specialist (and many adorable early learners).

In Pigs Make Me Sneeze!, Gerald believes he is allergic to his best friend! Will he have to stay away from Piggie forever?

Add this book to your collection: Pigs Make Me Sneeze!


by Ellen Potter

Reading level: Ages 8 -12

Hardcover: 208 pages

Publisher: Philomel (May 14, 2009)

TCBR analysis: This is a book for everyone: smart,devious, overweight, underweight, shy, courageous and everyone in between.

Publisher’s synopsis: Twelve-year-old Owen Birnbaum is the fattest kid in school. But he’s also a genius who invents cool contraptions— like a TV that shows the past. Something happened two years ago that he needs to see. But genius or not, there is much Owen can’t out-think. Like his gym coach, who’s on a mission to humiliate him. Or the way his Oreos keep disappearing from his lunch. He’s sure that if he can only get the TV to work, things will start to make sense. But it will take a revelation for Owen, not science, to see the answer’s not in the past, but the present. That no matter how large he is on the outside, he doesn’t have to feel small on the inside.

With her trademark humor, Ellen Potter has created a larger-than-life character and story whose weight is immense when measured in heart.

Add this book to your collection: Slob

The Magicians elephant

by Kate DiCamillo

Reading level: Ages 9-12

Hardcover: 208 pages

Publisher: Candlewick; 1 edition (September 8, 2009)

TCBR anaylsis: An enchanting, tall story that will linger in the heart of its readers. Magical!

Publisher’s synopsis: In a highly awaited new novel, Kate DiCamillo conjures a haunting fable about trusting the unexpected — and making the extraordinary come true.

What if? Why not? Could it be?

When a fortuneteller’s tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchene knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her? The fortuneteller’s mysterious answer (an elephant! An elephant will lead him there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that you will hardly dare to believe it’s true. With atmospheric illustrations by fine artist Yoko Tanaka, here is a dreamlike and captivating tale that could only be narrated by Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo. In this timeless fable, she evokes the largest of themes — hope and belonging, desire and compassion — with the lightness of a magician’s touch.

Add this book to your collection: The Magicians elephant

Tales from Outer Suburbia

by Shaun Tan

Reading level: 12+

Hardcover: 98 pages

Publisher: Templar Publishing (March 2, 2009)

TCBR anaylis: A poetic look at human nature through 15 imaginative and abstract tales that create a mysterious, yet philosophical, world.

Publisher’s synopsis: An exchange student who’s really an alien, a secret room that becomes the perfect place for a quick escape, a typical tale of grandfatherly exaggeration that is actually even more bizarre than he says… These are the odd details of everyday life that grow and take on an incredible life of their own in tales and illustrations that Shaun Tan’s many fans will love.

Add this book to your collection: Tales from Outer Suburbia

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

by Jacqueline Kelly

Reading level: Young Adult

Hardcover: 352 pages

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); 1 edition (May 12, 2009)

TCBR analysis: An original story with charming qualities that will hook any reader with an imaginative and inquisitive  mind.

Publisher’s synopsis: Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones.With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.

Debut author Jacqueline Kelly deftly brings Callie and her family to life, capturing a year of growing up with unique sensitivity and a wry wit.

Add this book to your collection: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Going Bovine

by Libba Bray

Reading level: Young Adult

Hardcover: 496 pages

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (September 22, 2009)

TCBR analysis: A fantasy rich in absurdity. Pulchritudinous!

Publisher’s synopsis: Can Cameron find what he’s looking for?

All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school—and life in general—with a minimum of effort. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: he’s sick and he’s going to die. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.

Add this book to your collection: going bovine


by Maggie Stiefvater

Reading level: Young Adult

Hardcover: 400 pages

Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1 edition (August 1, 2009)

TCBR analysis: The adventure and the romance created by Stiefvater’s strong characters make this a compelling and well written story for fans of the supernatural.

Publisher’s synopsis: For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf–her wolf–is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human–or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

Add this book to your collection: Shiver

 When You Reach Me

by Rebecca Stead

Reading level: Young Adult

Hardcover: 208 pages

Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (July 14, 2009)

TCBR analysis: A wondrous amount of mystery and fantasy, not to mention the superb intensity of drama, will have readers turning page after page after page. A winning novel!

Publisher’s synopsis: Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:

I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.

Add this book to your collection: When You Reach Me

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The Children’s Book Review, named one of the ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) Great Web Sites for Kids, is a resource devoted to children’s literacy. We publish reviews and book lists of the best books for kids of all ages. We also produce author and illustrator interviews and share literacy based articles that help parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians to grow readers. This article was written and provided by one of TCBR's regular contributors.


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