Favs of 2013

SO many great books released in 2013.  Here are my favorites of the year:

Picture Books

The Day the Crayons Quit
by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Hilarious collection of letters from the crayons who have had enough!  Overworked, ignored, or misunderstood, they quit!  This clever story is perfectly drawn with Jeffers' charming artwork and lettering.  Innovative and witty, The Day the Crayons Quit is a must for every picture book shelf.   

Exclamation Mark
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Ted Lichtenheld
Exclamation Mark is different and is trying to find his place in the world.  Funny and perfectly PUN-ny, this little book has a simple but important message for readers of all ages. Particularly for those who appreciate humor, word play, and a brilliant blend of text and illustration.   

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
written & illustrated by Peter Brown
Mr. Tiger doesn't really like his prim, proper world and goes a little ... wild.  He learns some things in the wilderness as do his prim friends while he is away.  Another riotous romp from Peter Brown, complete with his detailed, whimsical, perfectly hand-crafted illustrations. His use of line and color (ORANGE!) are pure genius. 

Paul Meets Bernadette
written & illustrated by Rosy Lamb 
Paul swims around and around in circles in his fish bowl ... until Bernadette arrives. Bernadette sees things differently and shows Paul a whole new way to view the world.  The artwork, created with broad strokes reminiscent of Monet or Matisse, adds to the charm and beauty of this gentle book celebrating the impact one individual can make on the world ... even one as small as a fish bowl. 

Flora and the Flamingo 
written & illustrated by Molly Idle
This wordless interactive book is a pure delight.  Plump little Flora, in a pink swimsuit and bathing cap, imitates the moves of her friend the flamingo.  Although not quite as graceful, her efforts result in pure fun.  Young readers will want to flip the pages again and again ... and likely mimic the dance!  Created by a former DreamWorks animator, this duo begs to star in an animated short, whether it's on the screen or in the reader's mind.   

Middle Grade

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures 
by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell 
Another Flora! ... and equally as endearing.  Flora Belle Buckman, a self-described cynic, steps in to help a squirrel in a tangle with a vacuum cleaner.  The squirrel (AKA Ulysses) survives and emerges a superhero with special powers and a penchant for poetry.  DiCamillo has woven another quietly brilliant tale with her exquisite word choice, endearing characters, and trademark charm.

Counting by 7s
by Holly Goldberg Sloan 
Willow Chance is a 12-year-old genius.  She has an amazing knowledge of nature and medical conditions, but knows very little about getting along with others.  When tragedy hits, Willow must learn to exist in a new reality and makes an unexpected impact on those around her.  The writing is impeccable, and Willow a true gem.  This tragic, but ultimately hopeful tale is one-in-a-million.  

P.S. Be Eleven 
by Rita Williams-Garcia 
Delphine and her sisters are back!  Returning home from time spent with her estranged mother, Delphine must reconcile what she has experienced and her newly found independence with her grandmother's old ways, the changes happening in her family (her father is dating!), and the trials of 6th grade. Rita Williams-Garcia has created an excellent sequel to an excellent book.   I can't wait for #3! 

Star Wars: Jedi Academy 
by Jeffrey Brown 
This little book completely surprised and delighted me!  Roan dreamed of entering the Pilot Academy, like his father and older brother before him.  He doesn't get in, but instead is invited to the mysterious Jedi Academy.  Told through journal entries, clippings, report cards, doodles, and letters, Star Wars: Jedi Academy tells the ups and downs of Roan's first year at the Academy.  The book is clever and entertaining, but also surprisingly perceptive as it addresses topics such as bullying, making friends, not giving up, and handling new situations. It has huge reader appeal and makes you want to pull out your old collection of Star Wars action figures (yes, I've got 'em.. even the Land Rover!) and maybe even start your own journal.  Read it you must, love it you will. ;

Young Adult

One Came Home  
by Amy Timberlake 
It's 1871 in Wisconsin, and Georgie's sister has disappeared.  The town assumes the worst, but Georgie, armed with only her sharpshooting skills and pure determination, sets out insistent on finding her.  Part adventure, part mystery and wholly original, One Came Home is a True Grit for tweens & teens (and 40-somethings!), immediately transporting readers to a different time and into the heart of a plucky unforgettable heroine.  Funny, smart, and insightful. 

The Fire Horse Girl 
by Kay Honeyman 
Jade Moon is born under the worst sign of the Zodiac for Chinese girls ensuring that she is willful and stubborn, traits not desirable in young girls.  While her grandfather worries about marrying her off, she dreams of a different future.  Her chance comes when a distant adopted cousin arrives with an opportunity to go to America.  But, admittance to this new country is not easy for the Chinese in 1923 and detainment at Angel Island is almost unbearable.  Jade Moon's strength and will turn out to be just what she needs to survive. This well-researched novel gives readers an authentic view into Chinese immigration as well as a strong, feisty teen to root for as she navigates her new world.  

Going Vintage 
by Lindsey Leavitt 
I am a sucker for romance, quirky, loveable characters, and books that make me laugh... Lindsey Leavitt creates all three superbly!  When Mallory's boyfriend "cheats" on her with an online girlfriend, she swears off all technology.  Armed with a to-do list her grandmother made as a teen in 1962, Mallory decides to "go vintage," to return to a simpler time, and to try to accomplish her grandmother's goals.  The challenge proves to be a little more than she expected (How does she run for pep club secretary when her school doesn't even have a pep club??).  Through it all, Mallory makes many new discoveries about herself, her family, and those around her.  Reviewers have claimed Linsdsey Leavitt's books have "humor and heart." I wholeheartedly agree and can't wait for the next one!   

by Andrew Smith
Ryan Dean West is the youngest in his junior class at an elite boarding school on the West Coast. He is a frequent target for bullies, but his wits, determination, and prowess on the rugby field help him rise above.  This year he is set on making Annie, his best friend and love of his life, see him as more than a friend and a younger boy.  But the year brings more than anyone anticipated.  This honest look into the mind and heart of an insecure, hormonally-charged 14-year-old boy is a true achievement. It's wickedly funny, intelligent, surprising, and absolutely heartbreaking.  

And my two very favorites of the year ...  

All the Truth that's In Me
by Julie Berry 
Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared.  Her friend's body was found in the river; Judith returns to town two years later, mutilated and unable to speak.  Viewed as cursed and ignored by the town and her family, Judith silently pours her heart out to Lucas, the boy she has loved since childhood.  With echoes of The Scarlet Letter and Speak, All the Truth That's in Me is an exquisite, completely captivating novel.  Readers are immediately pulled into Judith's silent world and compelled by the mystery surrounding her disappearance.  This quiet but determined girl grabs hold of your heart as she searches for answers, for hope, and for her lost voice.  References to Joan of Arc, emphasizing sacrifices for love, and the use of the Psalms as a mode of healing are brilliant.  This rich, beautifully executed story stays with the reader long after the final page is turned.

by Rainbow Rowell 
Cath and twin sister Wren have been inseparable for years.  They share a love for the fantasy series Simon Snow and the world of fanfiction surrounding the beloved stories.  But, as they prepare to go away to college, Wren seems to be pulling away from Simon and from Cath.  Wren has always been the more confident, extroverted sister and trying to navigate college without her is a big challenge for reserved, socially-awkward Cath.  But, the year is full of surprises, new friendships, trials and triumphs, and unexpected love. Is it possible for Cath to leave the boy wizard's magical world behind and fully embrace her own reality?  This novel is simply outstanding.  The characters are real, complicated, and funny; the dialogue quick and unforgettable (I have read the conversations over and over, treasuring the humor, originality, and emotion). This is a story that wedges into your heart and never leaves. It is pure magic.  

NOTE:  I LOVED Rowell's Eleanor & Park, also released this year; but I decided to select just one to spotlight in this list and Fangirl won out. The deciding factor? Levi ;) I am head-over-heels for this guy! 

These were the standouts for me from a year of many excellent reads. What were your 2013 favs?   

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