Skip to content

Best Children’s & Teens’ Books of 2011

January 14, 2012

From School Library Journal:

By SLJ Book Review Editors: Trevelyn Jones, Luann Toth, Marlene Charnizon, Daryl Grabarek, Chelsey Philpot, and Joy Fleishhacker.

December 1, 2011

We are pleased to present this year’s 65 choices for the Best Books of 2011, chosen from the more than 6000 books reviewed this year. Novels were a standout, particularly those for teens, with themes of leadership, coming-of-age, and facing tough situations presented in powerful narratives with memorable characters. Fantasy and science fiction genres made a strong showing for middle grades and YA, featuring taut page-turners and selections laced with humor. And we were impressed by the number of novels with exciting visual components that enhanced the storytelling. This was a particularly fine year for nonfiction across the board, from forensic scientists tackling what George Washington really looked like to the collective power of one community to determine its source of energy to 19th-century voyagers setting out to circumnavigate the globe. Spectacularly illustrated memoirs made a great showing, including those from Claire Nivola and award-winning illustrators Allen Say and Ed Young. Stunning art appears in all genres, from Vicky White’s evocative work in Can We Save the Tiger? to Shane W. Evans’s outstanding and haunting Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom to extraordinary and highly appealing picture books from masterful veterans and exciting newcomers to the field. We think you’ll find something here to engage all of your readers and enhance your collections in all areas. The month in which the original review appeared follows each annotation.–Trev Jones

In This Article
Adult Books 4 Teens

MauriceArt_for_web(Original Import)


SLJ1112BB_WEB_Mouse_and_Lion.1(Original Import)BURKERT, Rand, retel. Mouse & Lion. illus. by Nancy Ekholm Burkert. Scholastic/Michael di Capua Bks. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-0-545-10147-9.
Gr 2-6–Skitter-scampering, deed-bragging, can-do Mouse takes center stage in this rousing rendition of Aesop’s well-known fable. Awash with sun-warmed colors and breathtaking natural details, the elegant artwork portrays the delightful dynamic between two characters–one minute and one majestic–who prove to be equals in courage and kindness. (Aug.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_mine.1(Original Import)CRUM, Shutta. Mine! illus. by Patrice Barton. Knopf/Borzoi. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-86711-8.
PreS-Gr 2–As an intrepid toddler struggles to take possession of a passel of playthings, he is keenly observed by a frolicsome pup and a winsome infant who is preparing to make her move. The characters’ spot-on body language and facial expressions create a virtuoso visual portrayal of nascent social skills. (June)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_3BySea.2(Original Import)GREY, Mini. Three by the Sea. illus. by author. Knopf. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-375-86784-2; PLB $20.99. ISBN 978-0-375-96784-9.
PreS-Gr 2–Three pals–an eye-patch-wearing black cat, a white dog, and a little gray mouse–share an idyllic existence until a foxy stranger blows ashore and subtlety sows the seeds of discontent. This tale of friendship tested and ultimately enriched unfurls with perfect pacing and comically detailed artwork in luxuriant seaside hues. (Apr.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Henkes_WhtRabb.1(Original Import)HENKES, Kevin. Little White Rabbit. illus. by author. Greenwillow. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-200642-4; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-200643-1.
PreS-Gr 1–A venturesome bunny investigates the spring countryside, wondering what it would be like to be green as the grass, tall as a fir tree, or motionless as a rock, before returning safely home to his mother. An affectionate ode to the power of imagination, lushly illustrated and lyrically told. (Feb.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_BallDaisy.1(Original Import)RASCHKA, Chris. A Ball for Daisy. illus. by author. unpaged. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-85861-1; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-95861-8.
PreS-Gr 2–A gray-and-white pup and her red ball are constant companions until a poodle inadvertently deflates the toy, taking the air out of Daisy as well. Raschka’s nuanced illustrations brilliantly depict joy, shock, disbelief, sadness–and, with the gift of a blue ball–renewed contentment. (Aug.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Blackout.1(Original Import)ROCCO, John. Blackout. illus. by author. unpaged. Hyperion/Disney. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4231-2190-9.
PreS-Gr 2–On a summer night in the city, the youngest member of a family finds that everyone is too busy to play with him. But when the lights go out, and everything shuts down, suddenly there’s time for games and impromptu street and rooftop parties. Luminous, fluid artwork, filled with visual gags that extend the charming story, glows with warmth and humor. (July)

ROHMANN, Eric.Bone Dog. illus. by author. Roaring Brook. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-150-8.
PreS-Gr 2–Gus still grieves for his beloved pet, but the two are reunited when the boy finds himself surrounded by menacing skeletons in a graveyard on Halloween and Ella–now a bone dog–turns up to save the day. A spine-shivery tale of enduring friendship told with atmospheric artwork, a pun-cracking narrative, and plenty of heart. (July)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Bumble_Ardy.1(Original Import)SENDAK, Maurice. Bumble-Ardy. illus. by author. HarperCollins/Michael di Capua Bks. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-0-06-205198-1.
PreS-Gr 2–In this cautionary tale about partying with a bunch of swine, Sendak’s rollicking rhyme records Bumble the pig’s first (and last) birthday bash at the ripe old age of nine. The sublime watercolors are expressive and expansive and the full-bleed spreads of the unrestrained revelry are priceless. (Aug.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Grandpa-Green.1(Original Import)SMITH, Lane. Grandpa Green. illus. by author. Roaring Brook. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-607-7.
K-Gr 3–A boy tells the story of his great-grandfather’s life as he gives readers a grand tour of the man’s glorious topiary garden. Verdant shades predominate but graceful pen-and-ink drawings and colorful accents lend interest and whimsy to the towering constructions. (Aug.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_LoudBook.1(Original Import)UNDERWOOD, Deborah. The Loud Book! illus. by Renata Liwska. Houghton Harcourt. RTE $12.99. ISBN 978-0-547-39008-6.
PreS-Gr 1–A look at “lots of louds,” from booming thunderstorms to spilling one’s marbles in the library to the deafening silence of parental disapproval. Liwska’s whimsically drawn animals act out the various scenarios with clever and nuanced detail. (May)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_ALongRoad.1(Original Import)VIVA, Frank. Along a Long Road. illus. by author. unpaged. Little, Brown. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-316-12925-1.
PreS-K–A bicycle rider loop-de-loops through countryside and cityscape, winding his way up, down, around, and through various landmarks before starting all over again. Part concept book and part freewheeling adventure, this visual tour de force blends succinct text with supple shapes and silhouettes and whimsical wayside wonders. (June)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Wardlaw_WonTon.1(Original Import)WARDLAW, Lee. Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku. illus. by Eugene Yelchin. Holt. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8050-8995-0.
Gr 2-5–Wide-eyed and wary, a charcoal-gray stray tells it like it is, from a stay at a shelter to adoption to settling in with a just-right boy, before finally letting down his guard and confiding his true name, Haiku. Terse verse and lithe-lined paintings reveal this feline’s foibles with winsome wit and poignant punch. (Feb.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_TwinsBlanket.1(Original Import)YUM, Hyewon. The Twins’ Blanket. illus. by author. Farrar/Frances Foster Bks. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-374-37972-8.
PreS-Gr 2–Accustomed to sharing everything, two “look-alike” sisters squabble over their now-too-small-for-both-of-them baby blanket, an incident that leads to new covers, separate beds, and the first steps toward independence. From quarrels to cuddles, simple text and impish artwork convey a heartwarmingly genuine sibling relationship. (Aug.)


SLJ1112BB_WEB_Bedford(Original Import)BEDFORD, Martyn. Flip. Random/Wendy Lamb Bks. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-385-73990-0; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-385-90808-5; ebook $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-89855-6.
Gr 7 Up–Alex, 14, wakes up one day in the body of another teen and must adjust to a new family and surroundings while he tries to figure out what happened and how he might reverse the switch. This engaging, often funny, and at times poignant story grabs readers and doesn’t let go. (June)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Billingsley(Original Import)BILLINGSLEY, Franny. Chime. Dial. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3552-1.
Gr 7 Up–Even as the Industrial Revolution has modernized much of England, belief in the Old Ones is still deeply rooted in the isolated Swampsea community. Convinced that she is a witch, 17-year-old Briony holds herself accountable for her stepmother’s death and her twin’s injury, until she is befriended by a handsome Londoner who helps her to see her world and herself in a new light. A lush, lyrical, romantic page-turner. (Mar.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Brosgol_Anya(Original Import)BROSGOL, Vera. Anya’s Ghost. illus. by author. First Second. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-713-5; pap. $15.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-552-0.
Gr 7 Up–Anya, a Russian immigrant, just wants to blend in at her high school. She meets a ghost, who seems friendly at first, but once Emily’s secrets are revealed, things take a surprising turn. This fantastic debut graphic novel has an atmospheric palette and clean, dramatic cartoon lines. (July)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Davies_Outlaw(Original Import)DAVIES, Stephen. Outlaw. Clarion. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-39017-8.
Gr 5-8–Jake and his sister are kidnapped in Burkina Faso, where their father is the British ambassador, and must use ingenuity and their wits to survive. High technology and a modern-day Robin Hood play a part in this political thriller that exposes several social issues facing contemporary West Africa. (Nov.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Deedy(Original Import)DEEDY, Carmen Agra & Randall Wright. The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale. illus. by Barry Moser. Peachtree. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-1-56145-595-9.
Gr 5-8– A cagey cat with a penchant for cheese pretends to be a mouser at an inn overrun by rodents and frequented by a famous author with writer’s block. Rich in lofty language and vivid characterization, and artfully embellished by Moser’s expressive illustrations, this laugh-out-loud tale is one to savor. (Sept.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Edwardson_Name(Original Import)EDWARDSON, Debby Dahl. My Name Is Not Easy. Marshall Cavendish. RTE $17.99. ISBN 978-0-7614-5980-4; ebook $17.99. ISBN 978-0-7614-6091-6.
Gr 7 Up–In the early 1960s, an Inupiaq boy is sent from his home near the Arctic Circle to be educated in a Catholic-sponsored school where he struggles with homesickness and alienation as well as strange customs and an unfamiliar language. A heartrending and memorable story of a child who is thrust into a difficult and harsh environment. (Nov.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Griffin(Original Import)GRIFFIN, Paul. Stay with Me. Dial. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3448-7.
Gr 9 Up–Céce dreams of getting an education, but much of her time is consumed with working and caring for her alcoholic mom. Mack has a horrible home life, but is essentially a sweet, if troubled, teen who rehabilitates abused pit bulls. The teens fall in love, only to be separated when violence toward his dog drives Mack over the edge. A powerful and haunting look at sorrow and hope. (Aug.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Handler(Original Import)HANDLER, Daniel. Why We Broke Up. illus. by Maira Kalman. Little, Brown. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-316-12725-7; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-316-19458-7.
Gr 9 Up–A romance gone wrong, a wannabe director drama queen, and a quirky assortment of relationship mementos are all part of this wickedly clever, surprisingly soulful look at young love. Handler’s debut YA novel is smart, sophisticated, and ultimately satisfying. (Nov.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Hilmo(Original Import)HILMO, Tess. With a Name Like Love . Farrar/Margaret Ferguson Bks. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-374-38465-4.
Gr 6-8–Olivene Love, the daughter of a traveling preacher, is tired of life on the road. However, when she takes on a mission to prove that a woman accused of murder is innocent, she realizes that family is more important than a place to call home. Set in 1957 Arkansas, this thoughtful story gives a refreshingly optimistic understanding of human nature. (Oct.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Howe_Addie(Original Import)HOWE, James. Addie on the Inside. S & S/Atheneum. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-1384-9.
Gr 6-8–Seventh-grader Addie is comfortable with her outspoken self, even though she annoys and intimidates others. When she participates in the National Day of Silence in support of GLBT teens, she learns that being quiet isn’t all bad. This perceptive novel in verse captures the ups and downs of navigating adolescence while being true to oneself. (Aug.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Hubbard_PaperC(Original Import)HUBBARD, Jenny. Paper Covers Rock . Delacorte. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-385-74055-5; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-98954-4; ebook $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-89942-3.
Gr 9 Up–Alex learns about friendship, loyalty, and the burden of truth in this captivating story set in a boys’ boarding school in the 1980s. The 16-year-old is not certain what happened the day his best friend drowned, yet he feels compelled to hide his part in the tragedy even if it means destroying the career of a young female teacher. (June)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Lai(Original Import)LAI, Thanhha. Inside Out & Back Again. HarperCollins. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-06-196278-3.
Gr 4-6–Ten-year-old Hà and her family flee Saigon and struggle to make a new life in Alabama. Told in verse, the story features a spirited child who misses her homeland and faces bullies, unfriendly people, and perfectly horrid American food. A tender tale, leavened with humor and hope. (Mar.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Meloy(Original Import)MELOY, Colin. Wildwood. Bk. 1. illus. by Carson Ellis. (The Wildwood Chronicles Series). HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-202468-8.
Gr 3-7–When a flock of crows carries off her baby brother, 12-year-old Prue has no choice but to cross the bridge from her Oregon home into the Impassable Wilderness to save him. There, she and a friend become embroiled in a fantastical world of warring creatures, corrupt leaders, and peace-seeking mystics. A fresh and forthright modern fantasy. (Aug.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Ness(Original Import)NESS, Patrick. A Monster Calls. illus. by Jim Kay. Candlewick. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5559-4. LC 2010040741.
Gr 7 Up–With an absent father and a mother dying of cancer, Conor O’Malley has recurring nightmares that are becoming more and more real, until they transform into a monster that tells him three stories and demands one in return. Eerie illustrations help set the mood in this haunting tale of acceptance, letting go, and healing. (Sept.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_ResauQueenWate(Original Import)RESAU, Laura & María Virginia Farinango. The Queen of Water. Delacorte. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-385-73897-2; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-385-90761-3; ebook $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-89680-4.
Gr 9 Up–A seven-year-old indígena goes from her family in the Ecuadoran Andes to be a servant in an urban home, where she is abused verbally and physically. As a teenager, she knows she must escape–but where can she find refuge. A heartbreaking, ultimately uplifting, tale of a young woman who takes her life in her own hands. (June)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Roth_Divergent(Original Import)ROTH, Veronica. Divergent. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-202402-2.
Gr 9 Up–In a futuristic Chicago, the populace is divided into distinct factions, each devoted to a particular virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. At 16, Beatrice parts ways with her family and chooses her own path, only to find that the highly structured society isn’t as perfect she’s been led to believe. A dystopian thriller filled with secrets, suspense, and romance. (June)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Ryan_Glow(Original Import)RYAN, Amy Kathleen. Glow. Bk. 1. (Sky Chasers Series). St. Martin’s/Griffin. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-312-59056-7; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4299-9842-0.
Gr 9 Up–Two ships are hurtling through the heavens on their way to colonize New Earth. After a violent attack that kills most of the adults, teen lovers Waverly and Kieran are separated and called upon to galvanize and rescue the traumatized younger kids and crews on their respective ships. Weighty issues of power and leadership, compassion and religion fuel this high-stakes, jet-propelled dystopian space opera. (Sept.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Schmidt(Original Import)Schmidt, Gary D. Okay for Now. Clarion. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-15260-8; ebook $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-53417-6.
Gr 6-9–A forced move from Long Island to upstate New York in the late 1960s leaves Doug Swieteck on his own to deal with his reprehensible dad and bad-boy older brothers. His salvation comes largely from kind strangers who help to nurture his talents and his humanity. Schmidt’s masterful characterization and balance of humor and pathos make this coming-of-age novel so memorable. (Apr.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Sedgwick_White(Original Import)SEDGWICK, Marcus. White Crow. Roaring Brook. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-594-0.
Gr 9 Up–Rebecca’s vacation with her father in a small English coastal village takes a dark turn when a strange local girl befriends her. This chilling, compulsive read switches back and forth from the teens’ stories to that of an 18th-century rector obsessed with communicating with corpses. (Aug.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_SmellsLikeTrea(Original Import)SELFORS, Suzanne. Smells Like Treasure . Little, Brown. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9787-0-316-04399-1.
Gr 3-7–Aspiring treasure hunter Homer Pudding is thrilled when an invitation to join the Society of Legends, Objects, Secrets, and Treasures (L.O.S.T.) arrives at his family’s goat farm. However, when an opponent challenges him for the slot, Homer sets off on a madcap mission, accompanied by his treasure-sniffing basset hound, to prove his mettle. Zany episodes and fantastic characters add to the fun. (Sept.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Selznick(Original Import)SELZNICK, Brian. Wonderstruck . illus. by author. Scholastic. Tr $29.99. ISBN 978-0-545-02789-2.
Gr 4-8–Young Rose and Ben, both deaf, find themselves at the American Museum of Natural History on similar quests though 50 years apart. Their parallel stories, one told in prose and the other in pictures, eventually intersect, but until they do readers are left hoping that Ben will find a family to love and Rose a place where she belongs. A warm, magical tale done in Selznick’s signature style. (Aug.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Sepetys(Original Import)SEPETYS, Ruta . Between Shades of Gray . Philomel. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25412-3.
Gr 8 Up–When teenager Lina and her family are ripped from their home in 1940s Lithuania, it’s only the beginning of a terrible journey that will take her to a labor camp in Siberia as part of Stalin’s forced relocation program. Moving, edifying, and quietly beautiful, Sepetys’s well-researched novel is an exquisite look at a devastating atrocity. (Mar.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Silvey_Jasper(Original Import)SILVEY, Craig. Jasper Jones. Knopf/Borzoi. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-86666-1; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-96666-8; ebook $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-89678-1.
Gr 9 Up–Town outcast Jasper Jones shows 14-year-old Charlie Bucktin his terrible discovery–the body of Jasper’s friend Laura hanging from a tree–and the boys know they must hide her or Jasper will be blamed. A nail-biting tale told with wit and featuring two memorable teens who face difficult and life-altering decisions. (June)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Stiefvater_Sco(Original Import)STIEFVATER, Maggie. The Scorpio Races. Scholastic. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-22490-1; ebook $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-38827-6.
Gr 8 Up–When the carnivorous capaill uisce, or water horses, rise from the sea each year, the island men prepare to prove their brawn and courage by outrunning the deadly beasts. And now, Kate, the first girl to enter the race, is determined to win it, facing fierce competition from Sean, to whom she is strangely attracted. Intense action, riveting suspense, and two determined protagonists make this a competition to remember. (Nov.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_DaughterSmokeB(Original Import)TAYLOR, Laini. Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Little, Brown. 2011. Tr $18.99. ISBN 978-0-316-13402-6; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-316-19214-9.
Gr 9 Up–An art student in Prague who was raised by demons, 17-year-old Karou has many questions about her past. The appearance of a gorgeous male angel to whom she feels connected adds to her confusion and propels her on a quest to find answers about her heritage, rescue her demon family, and understand where she belongs. A romantic, action-filled fantasy. (Nov.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Ursu(Original Import)URSU, Anne. Breadcrumbs. HarperCollins/Walden Pond. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-201505-1; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-204924-7.
Gr 5-8–When Hazel’s best friend suddenly stops talking to her, she’s devastated. Nonetheless, after Jack is taken by a witch into the woods, she plunges into an icy world filled with people, creatures, and elements that echo the books she loves to rescue him. Imaginative and brave, Hazel is a memorable and feisty heroine. (Nov.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Wynne-Jones_bl(Original Import)WYNNE-JONES, Tim. Blink & Caution. Candlewick. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-3983-9; ebook $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5455-9.
Gr 9 Up–Caution is hiding from her drug-dealer boyfriend and reeling over her brother’s death. Blink is a street kid who stumbles on what looks like a kidnapping, drawing him into a complicated political plot. When the teens’ paths cross, they decide to help each other, keeping readers on edge the entire way. A masterful noir. (Feb.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Zarr(Original Import)Zarr, Sara. How to Save a Life. Little, Brown. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-316-03606-1; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-316-19291-0.
Gr 8 Up–An abused, pregnant teen works her way into the home of a widow bent on adopting her baby despite the misgivings of the woman’s teenage daughter, who is adamantly opposed. How these individuals cope with their feelings and affect one another is an emotionally compelling story of loss, renewal, and the permutations of family. (Dec.)


SLJ1112BB_WEB_Adoff(Original Import)ADOFF, Arnold. Roots and Blues: A Celebration . illus. by R. Gregory Christie. Clarion. RTE $17.99. ISBN 978-0-547-23554-7.
Gr 5 Up–This aptly named collection honors the tradition of blues music and its foundation in African-American history. The rhythmic poems take readers on a melodious journey from a slave ship in “Chained” to a Chicago train station in “Muddy Waters Steps Down.” The accompanying vibrant paintings are in turn joyful and affecting. (Feb.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Blumenth(Original Import)BLUMENTHAL, Karen. Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition . Roaring Brook/Flash Point. Tr $18.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-449-3.
Gr 7-10–Social reformers thought the 18th Amendment would curtail drunkenness, but it inadvertently created a culture of crime. This enthralling text traces the nation’s relationship with alcohol from our earliest settlers to contemporary crusaders against drunk driving, creating a rich portrait of a volatile and fascinating chapter of American history. (July)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Brown_AmerAtta(Original Import)BROWN, Don. America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell. illus. by author. Roaring Brook. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-694-7.
Gr 2-4–The events of that fateful September day are told through solid factual reporting and stylized watercolors. Brown’s art vividly conveys the devastation and horrific loss, as well as the selfless heroism and valor of the responders and everyday citizens in this moving, accessible account for young readers. (Sept.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_DeLaPena_Natio(Original Import)De LA PEÑA, Matt. A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis. illus. by Kadir Nelson. Dial. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3167-7.
Gr 3-5–Stirring verse and incandescent oil paintings trace Louis’s childhood and career, culminating with his historic 1938 matchup against Max Schmeling. Solidly set in Jim Crow America, this story tells how one individual, through courage and determination, transcended long-entrenched social boundaries and united a nation. (Feb.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Denenberg(Original Import)DENENBERG, Barry. Titanic Sinks!: Experience the Titanic’s Doomed Voyage in This Unique Presentation of Fact and Fiction. Viking. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0-670-01243-5.
Gr 3-8–Designed as a “special edition magazine,” this arresting work covers the ship’s construction, voyage, and catastrophic fate. Photographs, sepia-toned oversize pages, and an eye-catching format offer readers an unusual approach to a historical tragedy. The informative text raises important questions, such as those about the fates of so many third-class passengers. (Nov.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Drummond(Original Import)DRUMMOND, Allan. Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World. illus. by author. Farrar/Frances Foster Bks. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-374-32184-0.
Gr 2-6–On a windy island off the coast of Denmark where oil tankers once docked, today’s visitors will find turbines, solar panels, biomass furnaces, and electric cars. Breezy watercolor panels filled with amusing details tell the story of an indefatigable teacher (and a storm) that convinced the community to move from nonrenewable fuel sources to energy independence. (Mar.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Evans(Original Import)EVANS, Shane W. Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom . illus. by author. Roaring Brook/A Neal Porter Bk. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-538-4.
PreS-Gr 3–In this visual tour de force, darkness becomes a protective blanket, hiding “passengers” on the Underground Railroad as they huddle, crawl, and flee to safety. The family members’ fear and determination are palpable as is the warming glow of the sun at journey’s end. (Jan.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Fleming(Original Import)FLEMING, Candace. Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Random/Schwartz & Wade Bks. Tr $18.99. ISBN 978-0-375-84198-9; PLB $21.99. ISBN 978-0-375-94598-4.
Gr 4-7–This captivating biography of a brave, talented, and savvy celebrity examines both the myths (some Earhart perpetuated herself) and the facts about a woman whose boundless ambition fueled her determination to fly around the world. This riveting look at an aviatrix who soared high in pursuit of her dreams is solidly grounded by impeccable scholarship, insightful writing, and well-chosen period photos. (Mar.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_George_EmmaDil(Original Import)GEORGE, Kristine O’Connell. Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems. illus. by Nancy Carpenter. Clarion. RTE $17. ISBN 978-0-618-42842-7.
Gr 1-4–From room-wrecking trespasses and secrets tattle-told to shared giggles and hand-holding moments of comfort, Jessica conveys the frustrations and delights of being older sibling to an exasperating but loving preschooler. The slice-of-life free-verse poems and sherbet-colored illustrations shine with playful humor and heartfelt emotion. (Feb.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Tiger(Original Import)JENKINS, Martin. Can We Save the Tiger? illus. by Vicky White. Candlewick. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-4909-8.
PreS-Gr 2–Telling the stories of several critters on the verge of extinction, Jenkins clearly indicates how the actions of humans can cause the demise–and sometimes conservation–of a species. With conversational text and majestic pencil and oil-paint illustrations, this handsome picture book eloquently brings the plight of endangered animals home to young readers. (Mar.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Jurmain_Worsto(Original Import)JURMAIN, Suzanne Tripp. Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the True Story of an American Feud. illus. by Larry Day. Dutton. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-525-47903-1.
Gr 2-4–“As different as pickles and ice cream” people said, and they were. But these passionate proponents of American independence were also the best of friends until they disagreed–mightily–on the powers of the new nation’s president. Inviting pencil-and-watercolor artwork, filled with humorous touches, illustrates this lively tale of two men whose bonds outlived their barbs. (Nov.)

KIRKPATRICK, Katherine. Mysterious Bones: The Story of Kennewick Man. illus. by Emma Stevenson. Holiday House. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-2187-9.
Gr 6-9–The discovery in 1996 of a 9500-year-old, nearly complete skeleton set in motion a nine-year legal battle between forensic anthropologists and the Native American community. Source notes, informative sidebars, maps, and clear color photos and paintings support this engrossing study that poses important questions about cultural identity and responsibility. (July)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_McClaff(Original Import)MCCLAFFERTY, Carla Killough. The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon. Carolrhoda. RTE $20.95. ISBN 978-0-7613-5608-0; ebook $15.71. ISBN 978-0-7613-7157-1.
Gr 6 Up–A fascinating, start-to-finish account of why and how specialists from numerous disciplines came together at Mount Vernon in 2005 to create three full-size statues of Washington at different stages of his life. McClafferty blends thoughtful narration with superb color photographs for a fully absorbing read. (May)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Marrin_FleshBl(Original Import)MARRIN, Albert. Flesh & Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy. Knopf/Borzoi. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-86889-4; PLB $22.99. ISBN 978-0-375-96889-1.
Gr 6 Up–Social history at its best, this is a powerful account of the devastating 1911 New York City factory fire that defined the workers’ rights movement. Marrin places the event in the context of its time and draws parallels with sweatshops in developing countries today. (May)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Napoli_TreaGrk(Original Import)NAPOLI, Donna Jo. Treasury of Greek Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes & Monsters. illus. by Christina Balit. National Geographic. Tr $24.95. ISBN 978-1-4263-0844-4; PLB $33.90. ISBN 978-1-4263-0845-1.
Gr 5-9–Wise, witty, and thoroughly entrancing, this collection showcases 25 tales sumptuously illustrated with luminous, jewel-toned paintings. At once eloquent and elemental, poetic yet contemporary, these deftly written selections gloriously regale the characters’ legendary adventures while vivifying them with personality. (Oct.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Nelson(Original Import)NELSON, Kadir. Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. illus. by author. HarperCollins. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0-06-173074-0.
Gr 5 Up–An unnamed narrator of a collection of family stories relates stirring accounts of relatives who fought by George Washington’s side, worked in fields and factories, and marched with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Electrifying portraits shed light on the triumphs and tragedies of our nation’s history as reflected in the faces of its people. (Sept.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Nivola_Fathers(Original Import)NIVOLA, Claire A. Orani: My Father’s Village. illus. by author. Farrar/Frances Foster Bks. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-374-35657-6.
Gr 2-5–The sights, sounds, and sensations experienced during childhood vacations in Sardinia are evoked in this stunning illustrated memoir. From sweeping mountaintop vistas to intimate domestic interiors, Nivola paints a picture of life in a village where small and large events mingled–lively meals with family, a fledging rescue, and three-day-long weddings–and children were part of them all. (June)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Phelan(Original Import)PHELAN, Matt. Around the World. illus. by author. Candlewick. Tr $24.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-3619-7.
Gr 3-8–In the late 19th century, adventurous individuals felt inspired to circumnavigate the globe on a tight timetable: via bicycle (Thomas Stevens), by steamer and train (Nellie Bly), or on a 36-foot sloop (Joshua Slocum). In this graphic novel, Phelan deftly records these remarkable journeys in expressive artwork and paneled sequences that capture the travelers’ personalities and propel them toward the next horizon. (Sept.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Ross_IntoTheUn(Original Import)ROSS, Stewart. Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air. illus. by Stephen Biesty. Candlewick. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-4948-7.
Gr 4-8–From Pytheas the Greek to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren, Ross recounts the stories of daring expeditions undertaken by men and women through the ages. An accessible text and superb visuals–foldout diagrams and spectacular physical maps and cross-sections–guarantee hours of enjoyment. (May)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Say_DrawingFro(Original Import)SAY, Allen. Drawing from Memory. illus. by author. Scholastic. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-17686-6.
Gr 4 Up–Say traces his lifelong love of comics and tells of those who disparaged and those who nurtured his talents, including one of Japan’s most famous cartoonists who became his mentor and spiritual father. This captivating and seamless melding of words and brilliant pictures provides the lens of memory and inspiration. (Sept.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Schanzer_witch(Original Import)SCHANZER, Rosalyn Witches!: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem. illus. by author. National Geographic. 2011. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-1-4263-0869-7; PLB $27.90. ISBN 978-1-4263-0870-3; ebook $16.95. ISBN 978-1-4263-0888-8.
Gr 7-9–With text that flows like a dramatic novel, Schanzer brings readers into the famous Salem trials, asking them to ponder the motivations of the accusers and the tribulations of the accused. Black-and-white ink prints with red accents are wonderfully evocative and set an appropriately horrific tone. (Dec.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Sidman_Swirlby(Original Import)SIDMAN, Joyce. Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature. illus. by Beth Krommes. Houghton Harcourt. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-31583-6.
PreS-Gr 3–Simple science and stunning artwork spell success in this sensational look at a shape found fairly frequently in nature. From the shell of a snail to the starry arms of a spiral galaxy, the colorful scratchboard spreads capture these micro and macro worlds in show-stopping style. (Sept.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Silverstein_Ev(Original Import)SILVERSTEIN, Shel. Every Thing On It. illus. by author. HarperCollins. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0-06-199816-4.
Gr 4 Up–The titular poem of this posthumous collection recites all the ridiculous things that come on a hot dog ordered with the works (including a flag, a wristwatch, and a frog). Such is the deliciously absurd spirit of this delightful romp. Silverstein’s illustrations are inseparable from the fantastic poems that move seamlessly between humor and profundity. (Sept.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Warren_Dickens(Original Import)WARREN, Andrea. Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London. Houghton Harcourt. Tr $18.99. ISBN 978-0-547-39574-6.
Gr 5-8–Abject poverty, an unresponsive government, and an indifferent upper class left thousands of homeless children on the streets of London during the 18th and 19th centuries. Archival images and absorbing prose document the efforts of a few individuals, including a brilliant writer and his sympathetic portrayals of victimized youth, to change a nation’s attitude and galvanize a reform movement. (Aug.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Young(Original Import)YOUNG, Ed. The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China. as told to Libby Koponen. illus. by author. Little, Brown. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-316-07628-9.
Gr 3-8–In this exquisitely designed and illustrated memoir, Young describes his family and the haven his father built in Shanghai for his wife and children but later opened up to refugees fleeing the horrors of World War II. The dynamic, mixed-media art is constructed with inventive foldouts, vibrant color, and layered collage. (Sept.)


In This Article
Best Books 2011

The “Adult Books 4 Teens” blog is designed to replace the “Adult Books for High School Students” print column. It launched on the School Library Journal website in October 2010, and has offered four or five book reviews each week ever since. The purpose of AB4T is to help librarians learn about the best books published for the adult market that also have appeal to teen readers, including books in all genres and formats. Books are chosen for review through attendance at publisher previews, trade shows, and conferences; reading advanced reviews and catalogs; and by keeping one eye on twitter and the other on well-known authors whose works have exhibited crossover appeal in the past.

Currently, nearly 20 librarians review for the blog. All work with teens in either public or school libraries, in a variety of settings across the country, and participated in the selection of the Best list. The year of 2011 has been a particularly strong one for adult books with appeal to young adult readers. It was a challenge to narrow down our list to the titles displayed here. Genre fiction is well-represented, as are debut authors and literary fiction, likely to appeal to the most ambitious of teen readers. Full reviews can be found on SLJ’s website at


SLJ1112BB_WEB_Birch(Original Import)BIRCH, Carol. Jamrach’s Menagerie. Doubleday. Tr $26.95. ISBN 978-0-385-53440-6.
Jaffy leaves behind his life on the streets of 19th-century London for an adventure to the Pacific Islands aboard a whaling ship in search of a mythical–yet far too real–dragon in this enormously satisfying novel of friendship, survival, and redemption. (June)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_OnceUponARiver(Original Import)CAMPBELL, Bonnie Jo. Once Upon a River. Norton. Tr $25.95. ISBN 978-0-393-07989-0.
Sixteen-year-old runaway Margo Green creates a new life on the river. Guided by a biography of Annie Oakley and an astounding ease with the natural world, Margo struggles to navigate the perils of human nature while she searches for the mother who abandoned her long ago. (July)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Cline(Original Import)CLINE, Ernest. Ready Player One: A Novel. Crown. Tr $24.95. ISBN 978-0-307-88743-6.
Imagine if Willie Wonka had been a video-game designer. Now imagine a world in which most people spend their time as avatars in a virtual reality. The founder of this virtual reality leaves his fortune to the first to win a contest, comprised of puzzles and tasks based on 1980s popular culture. Three teens compete to win against an evil conglomerate. (Aug.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_The-Maid(Original Import)CUTTER, Kimberly. The Maid. Houghton Harcourt. Tr $26. ISBN 978-0-547-42752-2.
This thrilling, visceral retelling of the life of Joan of Arc follows the rise of a poor, abused, illiterate girl who leaves her family and follows fervent belief and conviction to victory in battle and renown. Readers will yearn for a different story this time, to avoid the betrayal, abandonment, and death at its end. (Oct.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Diffenb(Original Import)DIFFENBAUGH, Vanessa. The Language of Flowers. Ballantine. Tr $25. ISBN 978-0-345-52554-3.
Alternate chapters weave Victoria’s past as a foster child and her present as a semi-homeless 18-year-old in Diffenbaugh’s moving debut. Victoria finds her first job in a florist shop, putting to use the language of flowers she first learned from her only real family, the foster mother she lost 10 years earlier. (Aug.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Grant(Original Import)GRANT, Helen. The Glass Demon: A Novel. Bantam. pap. $15. ISBN 978-0-385-34420-3.
In this creepy gothic novel, Lin’s family moves to a German village so her father can study the legend of the Allerheiligen Glass–medieval stained-glass windows said to have been cursed by a demon, bringing death to those who gaze upon them. A brilliant combination of horror, fairy tales, mystery, and romance. (June)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Grossmn(Original Import)GROSSMAN, Lev. The Magician King. Viking. Tr $26.95. ISBN 978-0-670-02231-1.
Fillory is a magical utopia. With little for a monarch to do, Quentin goes on a quest. Alternating chapters relate his old friend Julia’s backstory. While the king enjoys life at Brakebills, Julia learns magic on the streets. Her journey is powerful and horrifying in this follow-up to The Magicians (2009). (Sept.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Bliss(Original Import)HARRINGTON, Laura. Alice Bliss: A Novel. Viking. Tr $25.65. ISBN 978-0-670-02278-6.
Alice’s idyllic small-town life is interrupted when her father’s army reserve unit is called up for active duty in Iraq. After he is declared missing in action, she turns to her best friend, the boy next door, for support. (June)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Henderson_TenT(Original Import)HENDERSON, Eleanor. Ten Thousand Saints. HarperCollins. Tr $26.99. ISBN 978-0-06-202102-1.
It begins with the drug-fueled last day in the life of 15-year-old Teddy McNicholas, and spirals from there into the lives of those who were closest to him. Henderson’s depiction of late-1980s New York is impressive–from the Straight Edge scene to the gay community’s grappling with HIV. (June)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Howrey(Original Import)HOWREY, Meg. Blind Sight. Pantheon. Tr $24.99. ISBN 978-0-307-37916-0.
When he is invited to live with his biological father for the summer, 17-year-old Luke is amazed to discover that the man is a famous television star. Chapters begin with the teen’s wonderfully witty college application essays, which reflect a new understanding of family dynamics and the workings of the human brain. (Mar.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Jordan(Original Import)JORDAN, Hillary. When She Woke. Algonquin. Tr $24.95. ISBN 978-1-56512-629-9.
Reproductive freedom, racism, and the separation of church and state are only a few of the issues explored in this character-driven dystopian novel that bears parallels to The Scarlet Letter. (Oct.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_MORGENS(Original Import)MORGENSTERN, Erin. The Night Circus. Doubleday. Tr $26.95. ISBN 978-0-385-53463-5.
Le Cirque des Rêves appears without warning on the outskirts of cities around the world. Only open at night, it is filled with magic and theater, each tent a sensory experience, manipulated and sustained by two young people locked in a mysterious competition. (Sept.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_OBREHT(Original Import)OBREHT, Téa. The Tiger’s Wife. Random. Tr $25. ISBN 978-0-385-34383-1.
In a war-torn Balkan country, a young doctor remembers her grandfather and tells a series of interlinked tales both historical and magical featuring the tiger’s wife and the deathless man. In this account of love, loss, and war in the modern world, Obreht’s vivid writing creates unforgettable visions of unique settings. (Mar.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Russel(Original Import)RUSSELL, Karen. Swamplandia! Knopf. Tr $24.95. ISBN 978-0-307-26399-5.
Mere months after their mother dies, the Bigtree family’s alligator-wrestling theme park and cafe, Swamplandia!, goes out of business, sending the abandoned siblings on individual perilous journeys away from home in this dazzling, affecting, funny novel. (Feb.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Solomon(Original Import)SOLOMON, Anna. The Little Bride. Riverhead. pap. $15. ISBN 978-1-594-48535-0.
In late-19th-century Russia, Minna, a 16-year-old servant, wishing for a new life in America, signs up with Rosenfeld’s Bridal Service. She is sent to the hardscrabble South Dakota Territory where both her devoutly Orthodox husband-to-be and his crude one-room dugout fall far short of her dreams. (Sept.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Venditti(Original Import)VENDITTI, Robert & Mike Huddleston. Homeland Directive. Top Shelf. pap. $14.95. ISBN 978-1-603-09024-7.
This tightly plotted thriller of a graphic novel probes the fine line between government protection and privacy invasion. The United States has determined that its residents can be investigated for suspicious activities by mining everyone’s data DNA, the sum of each person’s online transactions and activities. (June)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_WALTON(Original Import)WALTON , Jo. Among Others. Tor. Tr $24.99. ISBN 978-0-7653-2153-4.
As she recovers from the confrontation with her mother that killed her twin sister, Mori keeps a journal permeated by a love of reading in this mesmerizing fantasy novel. Sent to a boarding school where she is desperately lonely and abandoned by the fairies who once kept her safe, Mori finds refuge in books, which are her instruction manuals and her joy. (Jan.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Wilson(Original Import)WILSON, Daniel H. Robopocalypse. Doubleday. Tr $25. ISBN 978-0-385-53385-0.
In this artificial intelligence blockbuster, the heroic actions of a handful of characters are told in the form of briefing reports recovered after the Robot Wars that nearly exterminated humanity. This format with its emphasis on survival in battle and full-throttle action will appeal particularly to those who enjoy science-gone-wrong thrillers. (June)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Wooding(Original Import)WOODING, Chris. Retribution Falls. Spectra. pap. $16. ISBN 978-0-345-52251-1.
Captain Darian Frey loves the Ketty Jay, his airship, and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep flying. After he and his crew of misfits take on a job that goes horribly awry, they find themselves aligned against a conspiracy and trying to save the day in this action-filled, steampunk adventure. (Apr.)


SLJ1112FT_BBYA_Brown.1(Original Import)BROWN, Mike. How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming. Spiegel & Grau. Tr $25. ISBN 978-0-385-53108-5.
Brown gives a charming account of the astounding series of discoveries that result in the downgrading of Pluto from planet status. The combination of engaging humor, accessible science, and personal anecdote makes for a lively glimpse into an extremely successful career in
astronomy. (Jan.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_LittlePrinces(Original Import)GRENNAN, Conor. Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal. HarperCollins/Morrow. Tr $25.99. ISBN 978-0-06-193005-8.
What was intended to be a 90-day experience working in an orphanage became much more on the day Grennan learned that many of his young charges were actually the victims of a child trafficker. In this adventurous, funny, and even romantic book, he dedicates himself to reconnecting the children with their families in remote Nepalese villages. (Jan.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_GirlsLikeUs(Original Import)LLOYD, Rachel. Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself. HarperCollins/Harper. Tr $24.99. ISBN 978-0-06-158205-9.
Lloyd began working in the sex industry at age 17 (dancing in a club). In her memoir, she expands the narrative of her personal decisions into an understanding of the larger societal issues involved in women’s choices. (Apr.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Ottaviani(Original Import)OTTAVIANI, Jim. Feynman. illus. by Leland Myrick. First Second. Tr $ 29.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-259-8.
Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman was a researcher, professor, civilian scientist at the birth of the atomic bomb, and famed lecturer. His quirky personality and his passion for physics and for fun are presented in energetic, colorful images, as are his more important scientific theories. (Sept.)

SLJ1112BB_WEB_Tran(Original Import)TRAN, GB. Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey. illus. by the author. Villard. Tr $30. ISBN 978-0-345-50872-0.
In this intriguing graphic memoir, Tran, born and raised in the United States, returns to Vietnam to research his family’s history, especially their experiences of the Vietnam War and then adapting to life as immigrants living in the United States. (Jan.)

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: