Top Ten Tuesday: Books Most Enjoyed This Year

Top Ten Tuesday

Janet

Now is the time to pull out my trusty reading list (title, author/illustrator, comments). The only trouble is that I don’t record dates, so I’m not sure what I read when. For this list I will include only books that I had not read before this year.

There are still too many. I will have to fit them in by categorizing. Steph, you set the precedent for this, so I have an excuse! Ha ha.

Fairy Tales and picturebooks  – (See? I’m being clever by fitting two categories into one!) I read a lot of fairy tales this past year, some for class and others because as soon as I wander into the Neville Scarfe (aka Education) library, where the children’s books are, well, they just jump off the shelf and ambush me. And either I spend an hour standing in the stacks, reading them all, or I brake my back (and my bike) trying to carry them all home. Or both. Sometimes it is necessary to read them right there AND take the ones I haven’t read home. Also the ones that I want reread, because they were just that beautiful. Here are the ones that stood out the most.

  • Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. So lovely and so different.
  • Otter and Odder by James Howe, illustrated by Chris Raschka. Otter falls in love with Myrtle. Myrtle is a fish. The illustrations are beautiful! I never expected to admire crayon drawing so much, but I fell in love with this book at the ALA, so much so that certain very kind friends gave it to me shortly afterward 🙂
  • Saving Sweetness by Diane Stanley, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. A sweet, funny book which is a wonderful example of how pictures and text can tell two different tales that make one very satisfying whole story.
  • Iron John retold by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Technically, I’d read this before, but this past year I got to write a paper comparing and analyzing picturebook versions of this tale, and this one was my favourite. I admire Hyman’s illustrations immensely, and Kimmel’s retellings are always worth looking for.
  • Raisel’s Riddle retold (or told? I forget) by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Susan Gaber. A lovely Jewish Cinderella story, with a protagonist who is as clever as she is kind and beautiful – and who wins a husband to match.
  • Beauty and the Beast retold by Max Eilenberg, illustrated by Angela Barrett. I am very fond of the version by Marianna Mayer and illustrated by Mercer Mayer, but Eilenberg and Barrett’s version knocked me completely off my feet. I love so many versions, and this one astonished me by its beauty and depth.
  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan. Enchanting.
  • The Storytelling Princess by Rafe Martin, illustrated by Kimberly Root.
  • Curse in Reverse by Tom Coppinger, illustrated by Dirk Zimmer. An old witch curses those who mistreat her, and curses those who are kind to her, and in both instances, the results are unavoidable and very wonderful.
  • The Minstrel and the Dragon Pup
  • short story collections such as The Maid of the North and Tatterhood by Ethel Johnston Phelps. Phelps collected folk and fairy tales featuring active female protagonists and retold them as short stories, emphasizing mother-daughter relationships as well as sister-brother, sister-sister, and woman-suitor relationships.

Graphic novels and books for middle readers:

  • Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki. This was a good introduction to graphic novels, especially after the crash-course that was Skim.
  • Zita the Spacegirl and sequel(s) by Ben Hatke. Zita is a fantastic hero; more on her in a few months.
  • Avatar: The Last AirbenderThe Promise (books 1, 2, and 3) and The Search (book 1). I’d never seen or read anything Airbender-related before, and this was a delightful discovery.
  • Hereville: How Mirka… series by Barry Deutsch. Mirka, an Orthodox Jewish girl, wants to go on adventures and slay dragons… and she gets into rather a lot of trouble on her quest to be a hero.
  • Drama by Raina Telgemeier.
  • Skellig by David Almond. Exceptionally beautiful.
  • The Several Lives of Orphan Jack by Sarah Ellis contains wordplay and imaginative use of language and brought a smile to my face the whole way through.
  • Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman is underestimated, in my opinion.
  • Bad Girls by Cynthia Voight. I’d not read this before, and was startled and delighted by two very bad girls in fifth grade.

Medieval setting – because I love well-written historical books.

  • The Pagan Chronicles and Babylonne by Catherine Jinks. The middle ages were not dull. Be ready with a hanky or two.
  • The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein. I’d read Sunbird before, and this year also read her highly acclaimed WWII novels. She clearly likes to write about protagonists pushed to the very edge of their limits, physical and psychological/emotional. I liked it, although I probably won’t reread it for a while.
  • Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke, who is fabulous (except for the Inkheart books, which were just depressing). This could go in the middle readers section, but it does have a medieval knight ghost, although the setting is modern.
  • The Runaway Princess by Kate Coombs. Middle reader too, probably, and very funny. Princess Meg is horrified to hear that she is the prize offered to any prince who can rid her parents’ kingdom of a witch, a dragon, and a band of bandits, and she decides that it is her duty to rescue said witch, dragon, and band of bandits.
  • Merrie Haskell’s books, which are fabulous, and about which I have written enough elsewhere.
  • Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Gorgeous.
  • The Castle Corona by Sharon Creech. A story involving storytelling and lovely illuminations.
  • Margaret Frazer’s Dame Frevisse mysteries. (Also the Joliffe the Player mysteries.) Not children’s literature, but I would have loved them if I’d known about them as a teen. Intimately researched down to the weather patterns in England in the 1400s, the facts of life buoy up rather than bog down the story. The medieval thoughts and attitudes feel wonderfully different, utterly foreign and accessible at the same time. Inspiring.

Books about writing, and miscellaneous

  • The Wand in the Wood – Leonard Marcus interviewed a number of extraordinary children’s fantasy authors, including Diana Wynne Jones, Brian Jacques, and Jane Yolen, and this is the result. Well worth reading.
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I have never read a novel by Stephen King and was highly skeptical about this book, which a creative writing professor recommended to me. Worth reading for the anecdotes alone, never mind the valuable advice. Also inspiring.
  • The Young Writer’s Companion by Sarah Ellis. Aimed at young writers, I found this stimulating – and it lengthened my to-read book list!
  • The Girl in Glass and other love poems by William Jay Smith. I didn’t care for all of these, but the ones that I did like were worth all the rest.
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Terrifying and very good.
  • Across the Great Barrier and The Far West by Patricia C. Wrede. I’ve read Wrede’s books for years and with these final two books in the Frontier Magic series she comes into her own as a writer. (The first is Thirteenth Child.) The greatest comparison I can draw is to L. M. Montgomery’s Anne books. In both series the reader sees the young girl protagonist grow, change, make mistakes, learn – and we see the people around her change and grow as well. Effie Rothmer is a young woman I look up to and would be glad to emulate. I would keep these books not only for my own pleasure but for my (theoretical) children to read as they grow up, too. Effie was easy to identify and empathize with, and her virtues – particularly her perseverance, hard work, consistent deep thinking and consideration of situations, and her clear headedness – shine through her flaws. She is a character I would be very glad to have around the house, whose perspective – like that of Dame Frevisse’s – I would be glad to keep in mind, informing my own thinking.

Yash

Okay, I am way too lazy to follow through with this madly meticulous categorizing. I am, of course, suitably impressed with Janet, her organization, and the sheer amount that she has read. As for me, I’ve reviewed most of the stuff I’ve read (and liked) over the year. Stuff that I haven’t been able to talk about here includes:

  1. The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner: I’ve listened to the audiobook, narrated by Tom freaking Hiddleston. Most enjoyable- and not just for the reason you imagine! I would really like to “read” the sequel, even if it isn’t Hiddleston who is telling me the story.
  2. Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: A new favourite book by Gaiman.
  3. On Beauty by Zadie Smith: It is just perfect, okay?
  4. Aya (Volumes 1 & 2) by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie: The art is incredible. The story is enjoyable. And each and every one of the characters jump off the pages- they feel so real. I love this one.
  5. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel: Listen, the Bechdel test is hers. Obviously, I had to read this. I really enjoyed it. I didn’t like Are You My Mother? quite as much, though.

Steph

We are only getting lazier. I, like Yash, will not categorize, and I will also not put a book on this list that I have already put on a list or otherwise posted about… which means there aren’t many to mention. What I can think of that I really enjoyed…

1. Ocean at the End of the Lane and Fortunately the Milk – by Neil Gaiman

2. Cardboard – a wonderfully imaginative graphic novel by Doug TenNapel

3. Lost Thing – by Shaun Tan. Just go to the library and check out everything by Shaun Tan, the images will astound you but the simplicity with which the words work with the images is even more remarkable. This text in particular resounds with my dystopian soul.

4. Singing away the Dark – by Caroline Woodward and with illustrations by Julie Morstad, published by Vancouver’s own Simply Read books. It’s a picturebook and I truly enjoy it because it reminds me of growing up on the prairies. ^_^

5. Genesis – an interesting dystopia.. or maybe anti-utopia text by Bernard Beckett – we had a guest post on this text by Chris Owen which I recommend you check out.

6. Ecocriticism – this is a critical text by Greg Garrard from 2006, and it is incredibly interesting, kind of funny, very gloomy and super useful! It’s also only about 150 pages, so if you want to get down and dirty with a little ecocrit, it’s a great read.

Nafiza

I speak at length about my favourite books of 2013 here and here. I can’t find the energy to do so again. Just know that there were many.

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