Books are a great gift to give! Whether your intended reader likes animal stories, adventure, mysteries or realistic fiction, there is something for everyone on this list of our staff favorites from 2012.
This list is comprised of juvenile fiction. Our juvenile fiction collection is grades three through six; most of the titles on this list are solid fourth and fifth grade choices. A few are either a little younger and some are a little older. Ask what your intended gift recipient likes to read and choose accordingly.
Give one of the best new books of 2012 as a gift to your favorite reader this holiday!
* * *
2012 Holiday Gift Ideas:
Goblin Secrets by William Alexander
In the town of Zombay, there is a witch with clockwork chicken legs who moves her house around. She also takes in stray children; Rownie is the youngest boy in her household. Rownie’s older brother Rowan is an actor. But acting is outlawed in Zombay, and Rowan has disappeared. Desperate to find him, Rownie joins a troupe of goblins who skirt the law to put on plays. Rownie doesn’t know that the goblins also want to find Rowan—who might be the only person who can save their world. Winner of the 2012 National Book Award.
The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee by Tom Angleberger
The kids of McQuarrie Middle School are on their own— with Dwight away at Tippett School, there’s no Origami Yoda to give advice and help them navigate the treacherous waters of middle school. Then Sara is comes in with a paper fortune-teller in the form of Chewbacca. The Fortune Wookiee seems to give advice as good as Yoda’s. (even if it seems too preoccupied with romance). In the meantime, Dwight is fitting in a little too well at Tippett. Has the unimaginable happened? Has Dwight become normal? It’s up to his old friends at McQuarrie to remind their kooky friend that it’s in his weirdness that his greatness lies.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. He has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line. When he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, she makes Ivan see their home, and his art, through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life; a power that could be the key to setting their war-ravaged country free. Suddenly, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha.
Almost Home by Joan Bauer
When twelve-year-old Sugar’s grandfather dies and her gambling father takes off yet again, Sugar and her mother lose their home in Missouri. They head to Chicago for a fresh start, only to discover that fresh starts aren’t so easy to come by for the homeless. Nevertheless, Sugar’s mother has taught her to be grateful no matter what, so Sugar does her best. With the help of a rescue dog, Shush; a foster family; a supportive teacher; a love of poetry; and her own grace and good humor, Sugar comes to understand that while she can’t control the hand life deals her, she can control how she responds.
The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, singled out by teachers for a special path in life. But the Great Depression hit Gary hard, and there are no jobs for black men. When her father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her brother Jimmie go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan. Jimmie’s beautiful voice inspires him to leave the camp to be a performer, while Deza and Mother find a new home, and cling to the hope that they will find Father. The twists and turns of their story reveal the devastation of the Depression and prove that Deza truly is the Mighty Miss Malone.
Will Sparrow’s Road by Karen Cushman
In his thirteenth year, Will Sparrow, liar and thief, becomes a runaway. On the road, he encounters a series of con artists—a pickpocket, a tooth puller, a pig trainer, a conjurer—and learns that others are more adept than he at lying and thieving. Then he reluctantly joins a traveling troupe of “oddities,” including a dwarf and a cat-faced girl, holding himself apart from the “monsters” and resolving to be on guard against further deceptions. At last Will is forced to understand that appearances are misleading and that he has been his own worst deceiver
In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
Oversize plant life, eerie amphibious royalty, and fear-inducing creatures abound in a new take on some of the grimmest of Grimm tales! Follow Jack and Jill as they enter startling new landscapes that may (or may not) be scary, bloody, terrifying, and altogether true. Happily ever after just isn’t cutting it anymore! Jack and Jill explore a new set of tales from the Brothers Grimm and others, including Jack and the Beanstalk and The Frog Prince in this sequel to A Tale Dark and Grimm.
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You’ve never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, (respectively) and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know ALL of them only as Prince Charming. But this is about to change. Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Gustav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it’s up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.
Chomp by Carl Hiaasen
Wahoo Cray lives in a zoo. His father is an animal wrangler, so he’s grown up with all manner wild animals in his backyard. When his dad takes a job with a reality TV show called “Expedition Survival!”, Wahoo figures he’ll have to do a bit of wrangling himself—to keep his dad from killing Derek, the show’s boneheaded star. But the job keeps getting more complicated. Derek insists on using wild animals for his stunts. Wahoo’s acquired a shadow named Tuna—a girl who’s running from her father and needs a place to hide out. They’ve only been on location in the Everglades for a day when Derek gets bitten by a bat and goes missing in a storm. Search parties head out and promptly get lost themselves. And then Tuna’s dad shows up with a gun . . . It’s anyone’s guess who will actually survive “Expedition Survival”. . . .
Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl
Seventeen-year-old Althea is the sole support of her entire family, and she must marry well. But there are few wealthy suitors–or suitors of any kind–in their small Yorkshire town of Lesser Hoo. Then, the young and attractive (and very rich) Lord Boring arrives, and Althea sets her plans in motion. There’s only one problem; his friend and business manager Mr. Fredericks keeps getting in the way. And, as it turns out, Fredericks has his own set of plans . . . This witty take on the classic Regency–Patrice Kindl’s first novel in a decade–is like literary champagne!
Island of Thieves by Josh Lacey
“Only boring people get bored…Interesting people can always find something to be interested in.” That’s what Tom Trelawney’s father says, anyway. Tom shouldn’t have been interested in playing with matches but he was…bored. Now the shed is in ashes and strange Uncle Harvey is the only one willing to have him stay while his parents vacation. Tom soon discovers Harvey is going to South America on a treasure hunt and though nephews aren’t invited, he manages to tag along. Before it’s over he’ll drive a car, fire a gun and run for his life. Tom realizes that life may be about following the rules, but survival may be about breaking them.
Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
Rendi has run away from home and is now working as a chore boy at the village inn. He can’t help but notice the village’s peculiar inhabitants and their problems-where has the innkeeper’s son gone? Why are Master Chao and Widow Yan always arguing? What is the crying sound Rendi keeps hearing? And how can crazy, old Mr. Shan not know if his pet is a toad or a rabbit? One day a mysterious lady arrives at the Inn with the gift of storytelling, and slowly transforms the villagers and Rendi himself. As she tells more stories and the days pass in the Village of Clear Sky, Rendi begins to realize that perhaps it is his own story that holds the answers to all those questions. A companion to the much-loved Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.
Kindred Souls by Patricia MacLachlan
Jake’s grandfather, Billy, hears the talk of birds, is eighty-eight years old, and is going to live forever. Even when Billy gets sick, Jake knows that everything will go on as always. But there’s one thing Billy wants: to rebuild the sod house where he grew up. Can Jake give him this one special thing? From beloved author Patricia MacLachlan comes a poignant story about what we do for the ones we love, and how the bonds that hold us together also allow us to let each other go.
Lulu and the Duck in the Park by Hilary McKay
Lulu loves animals. When Lulu finds a duck egg that has rolled out of its nest, she takes it to class to keep it safe. Lulu isn’t allowed to bring pets to school. But she’s not really breaking the rules because it’s just an egg. Surely nothing bad will happen… will it?
A fun-filled new series for early readers and animal lovers alike.
Capture the Flag by Kate Messner
Anna, José, and Henry are complete strangers snowed in together at a chaotic Washington D.C. airport. They make friends as they encounter a mysterious tattooed man, a flamboyant politician, and a rambunctious poodle. When they catch the D.C. news and hear that the famous flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been stolen, Anna is certain that the culprits must be snowed in too. She recruits Henry and José to help catch the thieves and bring them to justice. As the snow starts clearing, Anna, José, and Henry find themselves in a race against time (and the weather!) to prevent the loss of an American treasure.
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
C ivil war is brewing in the kingdom. To unify the people, Conner, a nobleman, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well. As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layers of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.
The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver
When Liza’s brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul. She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him. To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids . . . as well as terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers’ nests, where she encounters the evil queen and must pass a series of deadly tests—or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.
August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Wonder begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.
Dodger by Terry Pratchett
When a scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors, can he stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not! Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London’s sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He’s not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl—not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England. From Dodger’s encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.
The Second Life of Abigail Walker by Frances O’Roark Dowell
Abby Walker just wants to be like everyone else, until the day that she decides it’s okay to be herself. Once she leaves the popular girls’ bullying behind, Abby realizes that there is another world to discover. Befriended by two nerdy boys, she also becomes friends with a boy whose father is recovering from PTSD after returning from Iraq. Her new friends helps her to put things into perspective and to overcome the challenges she faces. Abby doesn’t gain superhuman strength or experience a huge boost in confidence; she simply becomes free from the shackles of trying to please everyone at school.
After Eli by Rebecca Rupp
Some people die heroically, others accidentally. When Daniel Anderson’s older brother dies, he wonders which category Eli’s death falls into. In an attempt to understand, Danny creates a Book of the Dead — an old binder that he fills with details about dead people, how they died, and, most important, for what purpose. Time passes, and eventually Daniel is prompted to look up from his notebook of death and questions to make new friends and be swept into their imaginings. With gentle humor and genuine emotion, Rebecca Rupp examines the questions that arise following a profound loss and the moments that start life rolling again.
Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
Victorian London could be a magical place; of course it could also be miserable. The children in this story know both all too well. For Clara’s birthday, her parents hire a street performer to give a puppet show in their home. Grisini is so talented that he appears to be magical. His two orphaned assistants, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, are envious of Clara’s home and all its comforts. But when Clara vanishes after the puppet show, Grisini and his assistants are the prime suspects. Then Grisini disappears, and it falls on Lizzie Rose and Parsefall to seek out the missing girl, with the sinister and mysterious help of a wealthy old witch.
What Came from the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt
The Valorim are about to fall to a dark lord when they send a necklace containing their planet across the cosmos, hurtling past a trillion stars . . . all the way into the lunchbox of Tommy Pepper, sixth grader, of Plymouth, Mass. Mourning his late mother, Tommy doesn’t notice much about the chain he found, but soon he is drawing the twin suns and humming the music of a hanorah. As Tommy absorbs the art and language of the Valorim, their enemies target him. When a creature begins ransacking Plymouth in search of the chain, Tommy learns he must protect his family from villains far worse than he’s ever imagined.
“Who Could That Be at This Hour?” by Lemony Snicket
In a fading town, far from anyone he knew or trusted, a young Lemony Snicket began his apprenticeship in an organization nobody knows about. He started by asking questions that shouldn’t have been on his mind. Now he has written an account that should not be published, in four volumes that shouldn’t be read. This is the first volume. But just as with those charming Baudelaire children, the adventures roll and one can only speculate what’s around the corner. Not that it will do any good.
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Seventh grader Georges moves into a Brooklyn apartment building and meets Safer, a twelve-year-old self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer’s first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: what is a lie, and what is a game? How far is too far to go for your only friend? Like the dazzling Newbery winner When You Reach Me, this new book will keep readers guessing until the end.
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone’s business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she’s been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her “upstream mother,” she’s found a home with the Colonel–a café owner with a forgotten past of his own–and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.
* * *
And there you have it! A list of great reads and fun gifts. (And if you’re wondering about what book might win the 2012 Newbery Award in January, our top picks for that are on this list as well.) And if you already have gifts in mind…well, you can pick up one of these titles at the library to read over the Winter Break. Enjoy!