Last week we unveiled the picture book winners of the sixth annual Wilde Awards (see Columnist's choices"). This week, News & Observer children's book columnist Susie Wilde and her team of experts pick the year's best novels and works of nonfiction.
Best Middle Grade Novels
"The Talented Clementine" by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Hyperion, $14.99, ages 7-10)
The irrepressible third-grader stars in her second adventure and her class talent show.
"Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told in Stuff" by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Elicia Castaldi (Atheneum, $12.99, ages 10-12)
See Ginny's rough seventh-grade year through her scrapbook, which includes everything from her mother's fridge notes to her meatloaf haikus.
"The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznick (Scholastic, $22.99, ages 9-12)
History, graphic novel and adventure meld in the story of a 12-year-old boy who lives by himself in a 1931 Paris train station where he fixes mechanical objects and sometimes people's lives.
"Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat" by Lynne Jonell, illustrated by Jonathan Bean (Holt, $17.95, ages 8-11, review by librarian Deb Bolas)
Follow the struggles of Emmy as she frees herself and her parents from the evil clutches of her money-hungry nanny with the help of delightful rodent friends.
"The New Policeman" by Kate Thompson (Greenwillow, $16.99, ages 10-13)
J.J. Liddy's music-loving family is not what it seems when he learns the fairies of Tir na n'Og (the Land of Eternal Youth) are involved.
"Book of a Thousand Days" by Shannon Hale (Bloomsbury, $17.95, ages 10-13)
A Grimms tale is revived with an Asian setting and a spunky serving girl who keeps a lively journal when she and her mistress are imprisoned in a tower for seven years.
"Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art" by the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (Philomel, $30; ages 7-up)
Experience the many moods and styles of illustrative greats.
"Emi and the Rhino Scientist" (Houghton, $18; ages 10-up) by Mary Kay Carson
Enter a remote Sumatran jungle and the life of a scientist devoted to saving this endangered species.
"Holocaust: The Events and Their Impact on Real People" by Angela Gluck Wood (DK Publishing, $29.99, ages 11-up)
Detailed descriptions, a multitude of photographs and evocative personal stories make an impact.
"We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin" by Larry Dane Brimner (Boyds Mills, $17.95; ages 10-12)
Pictures and text tell of the organizer who stood in the background during the civil rights era, but worked alongside more well-known heroes to make change.
"What's Eating You?" by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Neal Layton (Candlewick, $12.99, ages 8-11)
Lively writing and playful pictures describe the behaviors of tapeworms, lice and ticks.
"Who Was First" by Russell Freedman (Clarion, $19, ages 10-up)
A readable examination of the evolution of the many theories of America's early explorers.
Best Historical Fiction
"Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion and Betrayal" by Mal Peet (Candlewick, $17.99; 12-up, review by Beth Gerall, book editor)
Fifteen-year-old Tamar learns about her namesake and the secrets of her grandfather's life as a resistance fighter in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation in a tense mystery that will have readers turning the pages.
"Elijah of Buxton" by Christopher Paul Curtis (Scholastic, $16.99, ages 9-up)
The first free black child born in a Canadian settlement, who as a baby threw up on Frederick Douglass, doesn't feel that he measures up. The book would be improved by some editing, but there's a balance of humor and horror, a peppering of gorgeous dialect, surprising perspectives and an admirable main character.
Best Contemporary YAs
"Twisted" by Laurie Halse Anderson (Viking, $16.99, ages 12-up)
One summer's work turns Tyler Miller, an average nerd in an average dysfunctional family, into a hard-bodied seeming bad boy. Becoming suddenly popular is only Tyler's first twist.
"Red Glass" by Laura Resau (Knopf, $15.99, ages 11-up)
Sophie is full of fears until she travels with her Bosnian aunt, an orphaned Mexican child and two Guatemalans who have lost everything. Poetry, languages and cultures mix as she becomes Sophie la Fuerte (the Strong).
"Dramarama" by E. Lockhart (Hyperion, $15.99, ages 12-up, review by writer Luli Gray)
Stage-struck Sadye Paulsen and her best friend Demi are complete misfits in Brenton, Ohio, where "committing suicide would be redundant." Professional summer theater camp changes the lives of these bright, original, passionate kids.
"What They Found: Love on 145th Street" by Walter Dean Myers (HarperCollins, $15.99, ages 12-up)
Fifteen intertwining short stories show life, love and community that circles around Harlem's Curl-E-Que beauty shop.
Best Adventure Story
"The Mysterious Benedict Society" by Trenton Lee Stewart (Little Brown, $16.99; ages 9-12, review by librarian Karin Michel)
Four gifted children form a covert team charged with a secret mission: to infiltrate the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened and save the world from a nefarious plot by a criminal mastermind. Plot twists and humor make pages turn fast. Great for precocious readers, or as a family read-aloud.
New Teen Classic
"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie (Little Brown, $16.99, ages 11-up, review by librarian Karin Michel)
Alexie draws from his own adolescence to craft a teen novel that's funny, bawdy and painfully real. Arnold Spirit, a geeky young Spokane teen living on the reservation, makes a decision to transfer to the public school "off res" and finds he no longer fits in either place. Cartoon illustrations are sprinkled throughout this powerful coming-of-age story.
"Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood" by Ibtisam Barakat (FSG, $16, ages 11-up, review by writer-illustrator Clay Carmichael)
Three-year-old Ibtisam Barakat, wearing only one shoe, is separated from her family at the start of the 1967 Six Days' War. This is a vivid, immediate evocation of Barakat's bittersweet childhood in exile and under occupation that brings home the precariousness of Palestinian life. Spare, beautifully realized, for children and adults.
Most Satisfying Sequel
"The Titan's Curse" by Rick Riordan (Miramax, $17.95, ages 10-up)
Breakneck action doesn't get much more intense than when hero Percy Jackson, half-blood son of Poseidon, fights off skeleton warriors, a manticore and Atlas in the third popular contemporary-myth merger.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic, $34.99, ages 10-up, review by librarian Carolyn Parker)
Rowling brings together the themes and characters from the other six books in the series, weaving a long but very satisfactory conclusion to the Hogwarts tale.
"Thirteen Reasons Why" by Jay Asher (Listening Library, $35, ages 14-up, read by Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone)
Before committing suicide, Hannah Baker sends a tape to 13 people instrumental in her death, including her friend Clay Jenkins, who comments. The novel makes a perfect audio translation.
Best Bet for Adults
"Your Own, Sylvia: a Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath" by Stephanie Hemphill (Knopf, $15.99, ages 13-up)
Superb research and elegant poems form a biography of Plath in the words of those who knew her.