Starting with fun books for the younger set: The very top of this year's list is The Duchess of Whimsy by Randall de Seve. It's by far and away one of the best picture books I read in 2009, and it's absolutely perfect. The Earl of Norm is hopelessly in love with the Duchess of Whimsy, but can't seem to get her attention, until at last he is just himself. Beautifully charming, and of course filled with whimsy, this is a grand book.
Smitten by David Gordon. A lone mitten meets a stray sock and together they set off on many adventures, from the fun of swimming at the laundromat to the terror of the subway tracks. They discover that they are the perfect pair and definitely smitten. This is also a great gift for any age.
One True Bear by Ted Dewan. I discovered this title courtesy of Stan Steiner at Boise State University. In his words, "Surviving a little boy named Damian had been impossible until the right bear with the 'right stuffing' volunteered for service." Just a wonderful story about the friendship of a loving toy.
Love, Splat by Rob Scotton. Splat is a cat who really wants to give Kitten a very special valentine, but he just can't seem to make it happen. Rob Scotton's illustrations tell so much more than the words, you can't help but laugh your way through this picture book.
I Love You Book by Todd Parr. Perfect for pre-schoolers, this book shares the many ways that we can say "I love you." The pictures are clean and clear, and the text is simple and complete.
Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton. This chunky board book is one of the best hugs for the smallest of children. There's something wonderful about curling up with your children and then getting to laugh with them. Boynton is a master of gentle childhood humor.
For 8- to 12-year-olds, I recommend Juliet Dove, Queen of Love by Bruce Coville. Juliet comes into possession of Helen of Troy's amulet, which makes her into a boy magnet and brings all of the trials that come with it. It's kind of like "The Lightning Thief" by Percy Jackson, because it's filled with characters from Greek mythology, but the wisecracking rats with Cupid arrows definitely take this story in new and fun directions.
Now, for teens, my No. 1 pick is The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg. My daughter introduced me to this book, and she has great taste. Penny has decided that teenage boys are worthless and starts the Lonely Hearts Club for girls who won't hang their self- esteem around boys who treat them badly. The boys take exception to this treatment and trouble brews. I really liked this book about trust and empowerment (and The Beatles lyrics quoted throughout the book didn't hurt).
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. A math prodigy has been dumped by 19 Katherines in a row. Now he's on a road trip with his best friend on a quest to create the theorem of whether you're a dumper or a dumpee. Everyone on staff has enjoyed this title, and we think that you will, too.
Impossible by Nancy Werlin. This brilliant, modern fairy tale that's centered on three impossible tasks, a cunning opponent and the passion of love was a finalist for the National Book Award. One of the favorite reads from our On the Edge Book Club for Teens, this book will stay with you for years.
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