This time of year, many people think about books as gifts. With that in mind, several local librarians who specialize in children's literature were asked to name their favorite books from 2012 for children at a variety of reading levels.
Sylvia Tag, head of the Children's Literature Interdisciplinary Collection at Western Washington University - which is open to the public - selected two favorites in the young adult fiction genre, which is suitable for older teens.
"There are many wonderful books this year, it was difficult to pick only two," Tag wrote in an email.
"If I had time to read only two books they would be "Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon," by Steve Sheinkin and "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green. Both of these books will thoroughly engage adults as well as teens - giving everyone something to talk about (really talk about!) during the long days of winter break."
"'The Fault in Our Stars' is a masterpiece," Tag wrote. "Green is fearless as he tackles terminal illness, community, true love, and trans-Atlantic travel. If you enjoy a book that makes you laugh while crying then this book will not disappoint - for grief not only changes us, it reveals us."
My 16-year-old daughter, Leah, has been raving about "The Fault in Our Stars" since it was released in January. "Bomb" was a favorite of mine, too. I could scarcely put it down, and Tag had the same experience.
"'Bomb' reads like a thriller," she wrote. "This true account weaves through espionage, international gangster school, and the workings of 'the gadget.' As Sheinkin sums up at the end, 'The making of the atomic bomb is one of history's most amazing examples of teamwork and genius. ... It's a story with no end in sight. And like it or not, you're in it.'"
"Bomb" was among the finalists for last month's National Book Award in the young people's literature category. William Alexander's "Goblin Secrets" was the winner. Other nominees were "Out of Reach" by Carrie Arcos, "Never Fall Down" by Patricia McCormick and "Endangered" by Eliot Schrefer.
For middle school readers, Tamar Clarke, teen services coordinator for Whatcom County Library System, recommends "The Last Dragonslayer" by Jasper Fforde, "False Prince" by Jennifer Neilsen and "I Funny" by James Patterson, which is due out Dec. 10.
"('False Prince' is) a fantastic, page-turner of a read," Clarke wrote in an email. It's part of a planned trilogy and online review sites recommend it for "Hunger Games" fans.
"Four orphans compete to impersonate a medieval prince, but the fast-paced twisted plot and clever main character, Sage, will keep you riveted and ready for the second book," Clarke wrote.
Clarke likes "I Funny" for its hilarious look at a junior high kid with a disability.
"Jamie, a middle schooler and stand-up comic is confined to his wheelchair in body only. Gags abound. The story really takes off when Jamie begins to question the real reasons for his paralysis and his parents' absence," she wrote.
"For those 'Harry Potter' fans looking to delve into another magical fantasy world, this is might be the one," Clarke wrote of "The Last Dragonslayer."
Finally, for younger and beginning readers, Bethany Hoglund, head of children's services at Bellingham Public Library, chose a pair of new picture books and two elementary-level chapter books (both of which were favorites of mine).
For toddlers and preschoolers, Hoglund likes "Baby Bear Sees Blue" by Ashley Wolff.
"Baby Bear wakes up from hibernation to a world full of color and discovery that he explores with Mama Bear. This is a beautiful, fun and gentle book that will inspire toddlers to explore the illustrations for small critters, as well as the real world around them," Hoglund wrote in an email.
For young animal lovers, Hoglund likes "Boot and Shoe" by Marla Frazee, a two-time Caldecott Honor winner for her illustrations.
"Boot and Shoe, the dogs, are best friends who do everything together. One day, a squirrel disrupts their routine and they lose sight of each other ... for a whole day. Will they ever see each other again? Children will giggle at how Boot and Shoe go about looking for each other and will be pleased with the satisfying ending. A story ripe for repeated readings, and retellings!"
For older elementary readers (grades 4 to 6), Hoglund enjoyed "Three Times Lucky" by Sheila Turnage. It's a murder mystery whose main character - Miss Moses LoBeau - washed ashore as a baby girl 11 years ago in the middle of a North Carolina hurricane.
"Mo is a strong, witty, precocious girl with a strong zest for life and all facets involved," Hoglund wrote.
Finally, Hoglund picked "Wonder," by A.J. Palacio.
"Ten-year-old Auggie was born with severe facial deformities and has been home-schooled his entire life. Upon entering fifth grade, he enrolls at a private middle school - an experience from which his classmates learn just as much as he does about the power of a human spirit, love, and friendship," she wrote.
"Every so often we are lucky enough to encounter characters in books who are so real that you do not want to let them go after the book is done. Mo ('Three Times Lucky') and Auggie ('Wonder') are two such characters. Auggie makes you want to laugh, cry, and just tell him he is amazing and beautiful. 'Wonder' is another of those 'must reads' for all ages - a must read and discuss type of book."
"Wonder" just might be the sweetest and most precious book for children this year. I'd recommend it for adults on your gift list, too.
- Choose from among hundreds of new children's and young adult books at a book sale from10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, on the sixth floor of Wilson Library at Western Washington University. Books are $5 for hardcover, $2 for paperbacks. Proceeds benefit the annual Children's Literature Conference.
- Friends of the Bellingham Public Library conducts its annual winter sale from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 5-8 in the basement of the library, 210 Central Ave. Books, including many children's books and young adult fiction, will be priced $2 or less. On Dec. 8, books will be $4 a bag. Details: 360-778-7250.
Michael Jaross, president of Mt. Baker Beekeepers, will discuss how to start and maintain your own beehive in a free talk from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, in the Fireplace Room of Fairhaven Library, 1117 12th St.
Jaross's talk, which will include a slide presentation and a display of beekeeping clothing, is geared for youths 12 and older. A question-and-answer session follows, and Jaross will highlight some preferred beekeeping books.
For more information, call Donna Grasdock, 360-778-7188.