Giving books? 2013 Recommendations Here.

Book lists are hard.  There is no one-size-fits-all list that suits everyone.  What I LOVE to do is recommend books for a specific person, as in, “my nephew is 3 and obsessed with cars and trains.” (I’m Fast by Kate and Jim McMullan).  “My 10-year-old daughter refuses to read but I am determined to give her a book anyway.” (Amelia Rules graphic novel series by Jimmy Gownley).  “My grandson has already read every book by JK Rowling and Rick Riordan and I would love him to branch out.” (Queen’s Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner).  “My daughter just started reading chapter books, but I am sick of sassy girl characters.”  (Rainbow Street Shelter series by Wendy Orr).  “Are there any teen books out there that aren’t about plagues, wars, and vampires?” (This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer Smith).

I could do that all day.  In fact, I DO do that all day.

But there are so many more books out there than I manage to review in a year, so I am going to give a few general lists of my recent favorites.

ImBoredFrontCover-300Recent Picture Books

  • The Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea.  Terrifically humorous book about friendship and difference.  Classic theme, executed flawlessly.
  • The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty .  Celebrates the love of reading at bedtime.  Cute and rhyming to boot.
  • Ribbit by Rodrigo Fogueira.  Sweet book about being open minded and making new friends.
  • Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses by James Dean.  Pete the Cat continues to be cool without being snarky or dark.  Why is it that publishers think that preschoolers need any snarky or dark at all?  They have the rest of their lives for that.  Stick with Pete, and everything will be groovy.
  • Xander’s Panda Party by Linda Sue Park.  Wicked fun to read out loud, and you learn something about animals to boot.
  • I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black.  Okay, this came out in 2012, but I MISSED IT.  And it’s great.  Kids love the antics as a girl summons all her creativity to show a bored companion (who happens to be a POTATO–what could be more boring than THAT?) that kids are fun.

will in scarlet 2Recent Middle Grade Fiction

  • Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan.  Deeply moving novel with characters that you’ll remember for a long time to come.  Good choice for fans of The Penderwicks.
  • Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody.  Terrific historical fiction about the Robin Hood Legend.
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.  Deserving of the 2013 Newbury; an empathetic and poignant book about the friendship between a gorilla and his fellow inmates at a low-budget zoo.
  • A Tale Dark and Grimm (series) by Adam Gimwitz.  Skillful twisted fairy tales based quite accurately on Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
  • Horten’s Miraculous Mechanism and Horten’s Incredible Illusions by Lissa Evans.  Puzzles, mystery, and magic realism will please fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society.
  • The False Prince and The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen.  A clever fantasy series set in the days of swordplay with a particularly lovable main character.
  • Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.  I once lived in Jackson, Mississippi, and have a soft spot for Southern tales.  This is a good one, about a girl solving a mystery and finding her family all at once.

this is what happy looks likeRecent Teen Fiction

I don’t love fantasy, steam punk, and the paranormal, so those books are definitely underrepresented here.  Luckily they have plenty of a web presence and don’t need my help.  Here are the teen books I DID love this year.

  • Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland. A thinking-girl’s page-turner of a summer romance.
  • Proxy by Alex London.  This dystopian thrill ride was good enough to overcome my fatigue with this genre.  Couldn’t put this one down.
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  Love. This. Book.
  • This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith.  How about this for a premise: the guy on the other end of your accidental email correspondence (he mistyped the address for his pet sitter) turns out to be a Hollywood teen heart throb.  But before you knew he was famous you poured out your heart and soul, and he fell for you, because all he really wants is a normal girl without all that Hollywood glamor.  Any takers?

So many books out there, so little time to read.  Good luck!






  1. Jenny,

    As always I get great ideas from your recommendations. I have already reserved I’m Fast and The Thief for my nephews and am sure I will discover more I will want to give as I read along. This blog guide could not have come at a better time! Thank you!

    Happy Holidays to you and your family-


    • So glad it was helpful! Best to you, too, Katie.

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