But first, two new novels that I Highly Recommend are Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George and Worth by A. LaFaye.
Dragon Slippers is a fresh fantasy adventure about an orphaned young girl, Creel, whose aunt decides that if they can get a dragon to take her, some knight will come save her, and likely marry her to boot. Creel takes matters into her own hands when she promises to prevent the knight from attacking the dragon in exchange for something from his hoard. Little did we know that dragons collect different things, not usually gold. This one collects shoes for example. Creel takes a very lovely blue pair, and sets off for the largest city in the kingdom to find her fortune. The shoes she has chosen have a strange power, however, and dragons figure largely in her future. I particularly love George's descriptive passages. From elegant gowns, to gorgeous dragons, this novel will please fantasy lovers of either gender. Highly Recommended.
From the 2008 Caudill Nominee list, I have most recently enjoyed Worth, winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. Set in the 19th century, Nathaniel is unable to help his father around the farm after he shatters his leg in a freak accident. Having lost one farm already, his father is desperate for help, and files paperwork to get an orphan from the orphan train. Having lost one child already, Nate's mother is desperate to help him recuperate and refuses to accept the orphan, John Worth, into the family. Nate, disabled forever, is forced to focus on his education. John struggles with farm life and the loss of his family from a tenement fire. All of these conflicts are brilliantly set against the background of brewing tension between farmers and ranchers. Guerrilla fence-cutters are stirring up hatred throughout the country. Nate and John work together to prevent a stampede and possibly a war. Highly Recommended.
Now for this year's favorite reads:
Alfred Kropp and the Seal of Solomon by Rick Yancey
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Bandit's Moon by Sid Fleischman
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey
Honus & Me by Dan Gutman
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
Magyk by Angie Sage
On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
The Old Willis Place: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn
Rules by Cynthia Lord
The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson
Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
What Happened to Merry Christmas? by Robert C. Baker
Worth by A. LaFaye
Yankee Girl by Mary Ann Rodman
Not all of the above books are contemporary, and many of them have sequels that should be on the list as well, I just haven't read them all yet.
The length of this list truly delights me. I was doubtful that I would find much "decent" and worthwhile literature from contemporary authors, but my experience has been to the contrary. While there was much read that was not "blog-worthy" and some "Not Recommended" books, on the whole, I hold authors of juvenile fiction in high esteem. To captivate a child and not just merely to occupy, or to entertain on some cheap level, but to tell a story and teach a reality is a gift.
To all the authors, thank you.