This isn’t a list of books necessarily published in 2012—it’s just a list of my favourite books that I read last year. They are all over the map in terms of age range and genre, but I recommend them all. I ranked them from bottom to top, but that was pretty hard work; they are all amazing!
10. The Blackhope Enigma, by Teresa Flavin
When fourteen-year-old Sunni sees her stepbrother Dean disappear inside a painting, she follows after him, only to find herself being sucked deeper and deeper into the art’s hidden layers—and hidden worlds. Fans of magic and mystery are sure to love this book by debut author Teresa Flavin. This tale has a strong art history connection and makes a great read before a trip to the local art museum.
9. The Secret of the Fortune Wookie, by Tom Angleberger
The third book in the Origami Yoda series, this book introduces my favourite Star Wars character—Chewbacca—in paper form. This is not just a book for fans of Star Wars, for it perfectly captures middle school life and all the problems that go with it. Told from several different points of view and filled with interesting cartoon illustrations, this book has something to offer for a wide range of readers.
“Now, for those of you who know anything about blind children, you are aware that they make the very best thieves.” So begins this captivating tale of a blind ten-year-old orphan who steals a box of magical eyes, sparking a marvelous adventure full of swashbuckling action. Told in a classical style, this story is for those who love fairytales and fantasy, but with an enchanting depth of detail and description.
7. Kenny and the Dragon, by Tony DiTerlizzi
Kenny is a rabbit who must figure out a way to save his best friend—who just so happens to be a dragon! This wonderfully illustrated book rifts off the classic Kenneth Graeme book, The Wind in the Willows, using strongly-developed animal characters to tell a light-hearted story that deals with the serious subject of prejudice.
6. The Flask, by Nicky Singer
The cover of this book kept calling me every time I walked into my local bookstore, so I finally just picked it up without bothering to read the flap. I was not disappointed. The emotional readiness of this book and its touch of fantasy make this a great candidate for more advanced readers who are looking to sink their teeth into something a bit deeper. This book captures a moment in the life of twelve-year-old Jess, when her beloved aunt has just passed away and her mother is about to give birth to conjoined step-brothers. It’s truly a remarkable book, filled with gentle wisdom and spirituality.
5. The Considine Curse, by Gareth P. Jones
This book breathes some life into the otherwise tired-genre of lycanthropy. When fourteen-year-old Mariel visits her family in England she discovers some surprising secrets about her family. What really makes this book stay with the reader is the ending. As I asked my students, is it satisfying and sad, or disappointing and happy?
4. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
Because I’ve been doing more workshops for teens, I’ve been reading more YA books recently. This one is at the top of the pile. It tackles the heavy subject of cancer, but does so with compelling characters that ooze raw and realistic honesty. Sixteen-year-old Heather has terminal cancer, but gains a new lease on life when she meets Augustus at her support group. Together the two share a romance that takes an unlikely twist.
3. The Search for WondLa, by Tony DiTerlizzi
Eva Nine is not your usual twelve-year-old girl. She’s been raised by a robot—Muthr—and has never seen another human. However, when Eva’s sanctuary is destroyed by a marauder, Eva is forced to enter the outside world, where she embarks on a quest to find more of her own kind. Along the way she meets both friend and foe and learns hard lessons about growing up. A combination of fairytale and science fiction, this book is beautifully illustrated, featuring bizarre and interesting characters. It is sure to attract young readers who are fans of Star Wars and other fantasy stories.
2. This Dark Endeavor, by Kenneth Oppel
This book chronicles the youth of Victor Frankenstein, laying the foundation of his compulsion to build his famous monster as told in the Mary Shelley classic. The book has one of the best first chapters I’ve ever read—it instantly hooks the reader and lures them into the dark labyrinth of Frankenstein’s psyche. Sprinkled with the right amount of fantasy and romance, this is sure bet for teen and advanced readers.
1. Liesl & Po, by Lauren Oliver
When an alchemist’s apprentice named Will accidentally loses a box holding great magic, he is forced to flee his wicked master. He soon finds himself in the company of a peculiar pair, the grieving girl Liesl and the mysterious ghost named Po. This beautiful book, told in a classical style, deals with the delicate subject of death. Golden language and compelling characters help separate this book from the rest.