Children’s Lit Corner

I don’t write nearly as many checks as I used to before they came out with debit cards, so I find that it always takes me quite awhile to train myself to write the next year when I jot down the date. But 2013 is here, whether we’re ready or not.

It is nice, though to take some time to reflect about 2012. For me, I especially like to think about my favorite children’s books of the year. These may or may not be the most popular books, but they are the ones I’ve liked the best.

One of my very favorites is a book that was only published in November. It is Twelve Kinds of Ice, written by Ellen Bryan Obed and illustrated by Barbara McClintock. This lyrically written book describes how one family looks forward to the winter and how each stage of ice, from First Ice (a skim so thin it breaks when it is touched) to Second and Third Ice (each a bit harder and thicker than the one before) to the time when the family can flood their harvested vegetable garden and turn it into a neighborhood ice rink. Now I am not a very good or avid ice skater, but my family does like to go cross-country skiing, and as the author described the final stage of ice, Dream Ice, I thought of the nights preceding or following an annual ski trip when one or another of my sons will announce that they were skiing in their sleep. What a feeling! Ellen Bryan Obed captured so much beauty and memory in her book. I recommend it highly.

How enchanted we all were while reading Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale, back in 2005! It was exciting to imagine a building made of linder that would carry the thoughts and feelings of the occupants back through the bones of the hills to one’s own home and love. So the exciting sequel, Palace of Stone, that came out in August was also a favorite.

A favorite series of mine is the Casson family chronicles by Hilary McKay. The last book of that series, as delightful as the rest, is Caddy’s World. The eccentric Casson family is made up of four children: Cadmium Rose, Saffron, Indigo, and Permanent Rose. Each child has a book about the world from his or her point of view, beginning with Saffy’s Angel. The books follow the children as they grow older and older (as children do), but this final book is a prequel of sorts, telling about Cadmium while she is just a little girl, getting ready for a new baby sister and trying to keep her own world together when that baby sister arrives much earlier than expected.

Okay, this last book was not published in 2012, but it is such an exciting and adventurous book that I couldn’t resist. Nancy and Plum was written by Betty MacDonald, who you may know as the author of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books, among others. Nancy and Plum are orphan sisters who live in a terrible orphanage. But they are plucky, and decide to change their lives. A chicken helps “mail” a letter, the kindly gardener becomes involved, and the girls, well, you’ll just have to read it to find out what happens!

Here is a very short list of some of the other very popular and exciting children’s books that were published last year. Of course there are many more. What else have you read and enjoyed? Comment and let us all know.

Albrek’s Tomb, by Mark Forman

Ambush, by Obert Skye

Big Nate Goes for Broke, by Lincoln Peirce

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, by Frank Cottrell Boyce

The Council of Mirrors, by Michael Buckley

Earwig and the Witch, by Diana Wynne Jones

Kindred Souls, by Patricia MacLachlan

The Last Hope, by Erin Hunter

Seeds of Rebellion, by Brandon Mull

The Serpent’s Shadow, by Rick Riordan


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5 Responses to Children’s Lit Corner

  1. Wm says:

    I enjoyed Palace of Stone.

    And I really need to pick up Diana Wynne Jones. I haven’t ready any of her work. Anybody have suggestions on where to start?

    • Jonathan Langford says:

      Wow. That’s really hard to say. I’ve read a few of her books, but not nearly as many as I should — and they’re all good in different ways, and not necessarily all that similar to each other.

      And I need to read Shannon Hale. And Megan Whalen Turner. The latter, by mid-February, since she’s the guest of honor at this year’s LTUE (which I will be attending…)

    • C. M. Malm says:

      I’d try out either the Chrestomanci books (if you’re more interested in children’s fantasy) or my personal favorite, Deep Secret (if you’re more into wacky sci-fi). The trilogy that starts with Howl’s Moving Castle is another good option. I’ve found some of her stand-alone books to be hit and miss, although the only one I ended up earnestly disliking was Fire and Hemlock (which is a YA deconstruction–and in my opinion an unsuccessful one–of the myth of Tam Lin). But she’s well worth reading, even when she doesn’t pin the landing.

  2. Th. says:


    I wish I’d found her as a kid; I think I would have really taken to her.

    As an adult, all I’ve read was Howl, but I read it right after watching the Miyazaki film so I don’t know much about how it stood on it’s own, only the points of difference.

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