Now that 2012 is over, it’s time for my favorite picks for kids ages nine and older. I am sure that several of these books will be a potential Newbery winner.

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Wonder, by R. J. Palacio, is a beautifully written story that ultimately teaches acceptance, friendship and kindness. Ten-year-old August leaves homeschooling and enters public school for the first time because his parents have protected him from criticism and bullying from peers. He was born with an extreme defect that has deformed his face. But you quickly learn about his quick humor and intelligence, through his eyes and others close to him, and you grow to love and admire him. And eventually, so does the entire school.

The Boy on Cinnamon Street, by Phoebe Stone, is a powerful story about seventh grader, Louise, who lives with her grandparents and doesn’t want to do much with her dad, who lives in another town with a new family. You don’t learn what happened to her mom and why she doesn’t want to spend time with her dad until the end of the story. Louise discovers something she has had all of the time and there’s a sweet and supportive element throughout.

image 2Liar & Spy, by Newbery award winner Rebecca Stead, is full of twists and mystery. Georges has just moved into a Brooklyn apartment building where he meets another boy, Safer. Safer recruits him into his small spy club where Georges must spy on a mysterious neighbor upstairs. As the story unfolds, you’ll begin to wonder who the good guys are and who are the bad guys.

Starry River of the Sky, by Grace Lin, is actually a continuation of the Newbery Honor book: “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon”. Rendi has run away from home and finds himself stranded in a small village.  He finds work as the innkeeper’s chore boy and thus begins the most interesting tales, many of which are based on Chinese folklore. Madame Chang tells a story of such magnitude that Rendi can hardly believe it.  But the center of all is the missing moon and Rendi hears the sky’s sadness wrench through the horizon.

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, by Claire Legrand, and sprinkled with illustrations by Sarah Watts, is a spooky, eerie mystery that begins when Victoria’s friend, Lawrence, suddenly goes missing.  She suspects that perhaps he, along with other missing children, are ending up at the Cavendish Home.  So she sets out to investigate.  What she finds there will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire book!

Malcolm at Midnight, by W. H. Beck, is filled with mystery, adventure and humor! Malcolm is a small rat who has just arrived in the classroom. In the middle of the night, Malcolm escapes the cage only to find many other escaped pets engaging in a secret meeting. He’s not included and feels left out and rejected until the leader of this pet gang, an iguana, goes missing. There are many sub-mysteries running through the larger one as Malcolm attempts to locate the missing leader.  The delightful graphite drawings that are sprinkled throughout, by Brian Lies, help move the story along.

image 3Mr. and Mrs. Bunny- Detectives Extraordinaire!, by Polly Horvath, and wonderfully illustrated with ink by Sophie Blackall, is a fun and funny mystery involving two very enjoyable rabbits who have decided to take on detective work.  When Madeline gets home one day after school, she finds her parents are gone. She employs the bunnies and they soon discover the parents are being held by foxes.  Between the pictures and the story-line, this book is great fun.

Laugh with the Moon, by Shana Burg, has Clare spending time away from friends and living for two months in a remote village in Africa with her doctor dad. He’s helping the community and she can’t believe how these people live without modern conveniences. However, she learns many valuable lessons – most importantly, that of becoming friends with the kids who live there.

image 4Glory Be, by Augusta Scattergood, takes place in a Mississippi town in 1964 when great difficulties arise with segregation at a public swimming pool. This historical fiction showcases friendship which is at the heart of this well-written story. Glory is about to turn twelve but there are many problems facing her, and her best friend Frankie, now that a new girl from the North has just moved in. This eye-opening story centers on family, friendship and making the right choice.

image 5The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, is told through the eyes of Ivan, a sweet gorilla who lives in a mall. He watches his limited world through the glass that encases him and only has the friendship of an elephant, a stray dog and Julia (a young girl who comes at night while her father cleans the mall). What you learn through Ivan’s eyes are poignant, enlightening and somewhat sad. The drawings sprinkled throughout, by Patricia Castelao, are a perfect combination to the story.

The False Prince, by Jennifer A. Nielsen, is a magical story rich in complexities as fifteen-year- old Sage leaves the orphanage in the kingdom of Carthya and is to now serving Connor.  But Sage soon discovers that Connor is devising a plan to figure out which of the four orphans he has recruited can impersonate the missing prince. The story is clever with twists and turns that will make the adventures fly off the page. 

image 6May B., by Caroline Starr Rose, is set in the western Kansas prairie during the 1870’s. Eleven-year-old May has been left helping a young bride get settled as her family heads onto their homestead. But May finds herself alone during a harsh winter when the bride runs off and her husband heads out to find her. The physical drama of how May survives will keep you turning pages to the end.