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15 January 2015 @ 10:32 am
Seeing Stars  
I love that Publisher's Weekly'd Elizabeth Bluemle provided a year end wrap up of starred reviews here: http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/shelftalker/?author=2.

For those folks who want a place to begin making sure they read some of the best books from the past year, this is something to use. Start with the 4 books that received 6 stars each. I have read these, and I must agree that they are stellar. We have a novel in verse (BGD), nonfiction (TFR), magical realism (GOB) and a GN (TOS). Here, then, is the range of excellence we are seeing in books.

Brown Girl Dreaming. Jacqueline Woodson. Penguin/Paulsen, $16.99

Family Romanov, The: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia. Candace Fleming. Random House, $18.99

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. A.S. King. Little, Brown, $18

This One Summer. Mariko Tamaki, illus. by Jillian Tamaki. First Second, $21.99 hc, $17.99 pb

Five stars is not too shabby, either. We have poetry, textless, fantasy, realism, traditional lit, and so much more.

100 Sideways Miles. Andrew Smith. Simon & Schuster, $17.99

Blue Lily, Lily Blue. Maggie Stiefvater. Scholastic Press, $18.99

Draw! Raul Colon. Simon & Schuster/Wiseman, $17.99

Farmer and the Clown, The. Marla Frazee. S&S/Beach Lane, $17.99

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems. Paul B. Janeczko, illus. by Melissa Sweet. Candlewick, $16.99

Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, The. Sheila Turnage. Dial, $16.99

Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza, The. Jack Gantos. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.99

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy. Karen Foxlee. Knopf, $16.99

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty. Christine Heppermann. Greenwillow, $17.99 Rain Reign. Ann M. Martin. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99

Revolution (Sixties Trilogy 2). Deborah Wiles. Scholastic Press, $19.99

Right Word, The: Roget and His Thesaurus. Jen Bryant, illus. by Melissa Sweet. Eerdmans, $17.50

Sisters. Raina Telgemeier. Scholastic/Graphix, $10.99 pb

We Were Liars. E. Lockhart. Delacorte, $17.99

West of the Moon. Margi Preus. Abrams/Amulet, $16.95

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold. Joyce Sidman, illus. by Rick Allen. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99

Now, one cautionary note. Books lacking stars are still worthwhile reads. And they do from time to time win awards. WHERE THINGS COME BACK won both the Morris for outstanding debut novel and the Printz for distinction in YA literature without a single starred review. AND, conversely, books receiving tons of stars have not gone on to win any major awards. But with the 6000+ books published each year for K-12 readers, this might be a good place to begin.

One more note: show your students some of the reviews for these books. Let them see how reviews are written (else how can they review and evaluate?) and what reviewers note about books. I would suggest dong this AFTER reading (I avoid reviews until I have finished reading and writing my own blog or review post). You can also ask kids to review the review. Does the reviewer get it right (they do not always get it right IMHO)? What would they note, include, exclude? Then, kids can move on to writing reviews of other books more readily.

I love seeing the stars (as I am sure do authors and editors and publishers). BUT I know stars are not the only measure of the quality of a book.
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