Occasionally, I can predict one or two books that the American Library Association judges will select because those books took everyone's breath away.
When I rooted for Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret in 2008 and David Wiesner's Flotsam in 2007 for Caldecott Medals and both won the top prize, it was exciting, but not surprising.
They were the A+ projects everyone knew were leagues ahead.
But this year, like most years, I am at a loss to predict whether any of my favorites will come close to winning. So instead of trying to predict, I've decided to list the books that stood out most for me.
Whereas my Holiday Gift Guide focused on fall/winter books that fit the spirit of the season, this list covers the entire year and includes books that came out before and after that list was posted, and books that aren't necessarily a light read.
Though I agree that any award-winner must be well-crafted, in the end, for me, it's not so much about the technical merits of the book, but how the words and pictures made me feel when I reached the last page.
Even if none of these books make the award lists on Nov. 10, they'll still be some of the best things I've read all year.
Which are your winners?
Which are your winners?
A few of my selections are so new that I haven't yet written reviews, and several were series enders. Those were good on their own but also were chosen because the series as a whole was spectacular.
Picks for Best Illustrations:
Dust Devil, by Anne Isaacs, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, Schwartz & Wade.
Instructions, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Charles Vess, HarperCollins.
Shadow, written and illustrated by Suzy Lee, Chronicle.
On a Windy Night, by Nancy Raines Day, illustrated by George Bates, Abrams.
Art & Max, written and illustrated by David Wiesner, Clarion.
Palazzo Inverso, written and illustrated by D.B. Johnson, Houghton Mifflin.
Flora's Very Windy Day, by Jeanne Birdsall, illustrated by Matt Phelan, Clarion.
The Garbage Barge, by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Red Nose Studio, Schwartz & Wade.
The Legend of the Golden Snail, written and illustrated by Graeme Base, Abrams.
Oh No! by Mac Barnett, illustrated Dan Santat, Hyperion.
The Quiet Book, by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska, Houghton Mifflin.
The Heart and the Bottle, written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, Philomel.
Cloud Tea Monkeys, by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, illustrated by Juan Wijngaard, Candlewick.
Bag in the Wind, by Ted Kooser, illustrated by Barry Root, Candlewick.
Mirror, written and illustrated by Jeannie Baker, Candlewick.
Elsie's Bird, by Jane Yolen, illustrated by David Small, Philomel.
Picks for Best Stories:
The Dreamer, by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Peter Sis, Scholastic.
Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool, Delacorte Press.
Chaos Walking: Book 3 of Monsters of Men, by Patrick Ness, Candlewick.
Factotum: Part 3 of The Foundling's Tale, by D. M. Cornish, Putnam.
Ultimate Magic: Book 3 of Merlin's Dragon, by T. A. Barron, Philomel.
Forge, Laurie Halse Anderson, Atheneum.
The Memory Bank, by Carolyn Coman, illustrated by Rob Shepperson, Arthur A. Levine.
On the Blue Comet, by Rosemary Wells, Candlewick.
Word After Word After Word, by Patricia MacLachlan, Katherine Tegen Books.
Zora and Me, by Victoria Bond & T.R. Simon, Candlewick.
Scumble, by Ingrid Law, Dial.
The Sable Quean: Book 21 of Redwall, by Brian Jacques, Philomel.
The Night Fairy, by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Angela Barrett, Candlewick.
Pegasus, by Robin McKinley, G.P. Putnam's Sons.
The Chestnut King: Book 3 of the 100 Cupboards, by N.D. Wilson, Random House.
Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl, by Daniel Pinkwater, Houghton Mifflin.