Book lists designating top books start appearing at the end of a year—or the beginning of the next. School Library Journal and Kirkus have recently published their choices for best fiction for last year. Here are just two of the many books that I think stood out in 2011:
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherine M. Valente is a little like the Oz books, a little like Carroll’s Alice books and unlike anything you’ve ever read before.
September, blown by the Green Wind into Fairyland, makes friends with a Wyvern named A to L, a dragon who is half library. She meets the evil Marquess, who has enacted strict rules including locking creatures’ wings.
September saves a blue-skinned Marid boy from enslavement. She is forced to travel Fairyland’s seasons and islands in search of the Marquess’ sword. On her way, she becomes a tree, invades a bicycle stampede and samples some very curious fairy food – although she’s been warned to taste none of it.
The ending is satisfying and as unique as everything that leads up to it. You’ll be glad you joined September circumnavigating Fairyland.
Three friends: bossy Leandra, thoughtful Ali and sensitive Bunny spend One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street in a book by the same name by Joanne Rockland. They all have ties to the last remaining orange tree on their street. So does a boy who wants to make magic, a retired teacher who remembers the past with loving detail but is growing hazy about the present and a mysterious man who recalls a childhood tragedy.
Loss or the fear of loss, the importance of a supportive community, of family and love are explored in this quiet, hopeful book that will appeal to third to fifth graders.
– Glorious Read