Friday, November 30, 2012

Characters Who Captured My Heart in 2012

As I have said many many many times: I love characters. Characters are why I love to read. As we arrive at the time of year when lists of the best books start to come, I like to take time to focus on the characters I fell in love with. I did this last year and it was a nice way to look back over the year's reading. Some of these books won't end up making my Best Reads of 2012 list, and yet I still feel the need to recognize them for making me love the characters whose stories they told.

Links are to my reviews.

Fer and Rook
There is so much to love about Winterling, but Fer and Rook make up the best part of that love for me. Particularly Rook. I always love characters who are heroic and angry about being heroic at the same time. Good stuff.

Julie and Maddie
Just typing their names made me tear up. Again. Code Name Verity is just the most beautiful story of friendship, heroism, courage, and humanity that has been written in a long time. There is a definite need to avoid spoilers of any kind about this book so that's all I'm saying. If you haven't read it yet: WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR???

I didn't think The False Prince was a perfect book by any means, but I will forgive what I see as flaws in plotting if I love a main character, and I do love Sage. I have heard him described places as a "poor man's Gen" but I think that is unfair to him and the uniqueness of his character. He is a bit like Gen but he is also very different and my affection for him is different but it is very much there. I can't wait to see what happens to him next as his story continues.

Auggie and Friends
The wonder that is Wonder is the talk of the year as far as kidlit goes. It is a great book, not a perfect book, but a great one. And it's greatness comes from the wonderful characters who are given a voice and become real to the reader in so many ways.

Aluna, Hoku, Calli, Dash
I can't even begin to say enough good things about the amazingness of this foursome. I love them all and feel very protective of all of them. Which doesn't bode well for my future peace of mind as the Above World trilogy continues I think. (I may like Dash the most. Just a little.)

Elisa and Hector
I read The Girl of Fire and Thorns last year and enjoyed it quite a bit. I liked Elisa and her story and loved the glimpses of Hector in that book. But I came just shy of falling completely in love. That changed this year with the second installment in the trilogy, The Crown of Embers.  This book made me feel it all and it was largely do to how much I came to care for both Elisa and Hector. I love them both separately and I love what they are like together.

Julia and Jason
Meant to Be is one of those fluffy romantic contemporary novels that I usually enjoy on some level, but don't spend days thinking about. I spent days thinking about this one. I loved Julia and Jason and much of that comes from how much I enjoy the sort of dynamic the two of them have.

Tori and Milo
Quicksilver doesn't come out until March 2013 (in the US) which is why that link leads you to its Goodreads page rather than my review. My review will post in February, but since I read a galley of the book this year it belongs. Mostly I'm super excited to be able to start telling everyone about it. Tori is unique in so many ways and amazing in each and every one of them. Her story is mind blowing, but what really captured me was how much of a real person she came to be to me through it. Milo is her best friend Milo is her best friend and stands by her through some stuff that...well, we'll just say they prove he is one incredible in every way.

Your turn now. What characters have you read about this year who have captured your heart?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Going Vintage

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
I am so so so excited about this book, Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt.

When Mallory discovers that her boyfriend, Jeremy, is cheating on her with an online girlfriend, she swears off boys. She also swears off modern technology. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in 1962, Mallory decides to “go vintage” and return to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn’t cheat on you online). She sets out to complete grandma’s list: run for pep club secretary, host a dinner party, sew a homecoming dress, find a steady, do something dangerous. But the list is trickier than it looks. And obviously finding a steady is out . . . no matter how good Oliver (Jeremy’s cousin) smells. But with the help of her sister, she’ll get it done.
Somehow. (from Author's Website)

Oh so many things about this have me excited. The concept. The cover art. The name Oliver. Really liking Leavitt's previous YA contemporary Sean Griswold's Head (my thoughts).  This is one that I will be pre-ordering for sure.

It's release date is March 26, 2013.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Meant to Be

Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill is a book I discovered via Bookshelvers Anonymous when she did a Cover Love post on it. (The cover is certainly deserving of love.) Then I read the synopsis and knew there was no way I was going to miss out on on reading it.

Julia is on a junior class trip over spring break to London. London! This is the city where her parents honeymooned. The country that gave birth to three of her favorite things: The Beatles, Jane Austen, and Shakespeare. Julia's is excited and ready to take in every piece of knowledge and experience that could be enriching. She is prepared. Julia is always prepared. She is a planner and even knows who her MTB (meant-to-be) is, Mark the boy she shared a backyard wedding with when she was in Kindergarten.  She is the sort of girl who memorizes her itinerary, never goes anywhere without a book, always has sharpened pencils (and a pencil sharpener-just in case), and carries a pocket Shakespeare with her. She is ready for anything. Except being partnered with Jason Lippincott.
Jason Lippincott who has the maturity of a seven year old and the rambunctiousness of a puppy.
Jason Lippincott who can charm his way out of most of the trouble he gets himself in.
Jason Lippincott who calls her Book Licker.
After Jason convinces Julia to attend a party with him the first night, Julia begins receiving mysterious texts from a boy she can't remember meeting. Jason steps in and agrees to help Julia track down her mysterious texter. As the two begin to explore London looking for Julia's admirer she begins to realize there is more to Jason than she originally thought.

Meant to Be has the sort of characters I love to read about, characters that are real and layered. Julia is a character I could certainly relate to. I like how Morrill made her a well rounded person. Yes, she is a book lover and enjoys school, but there is more to her than that. She has many friends and is a star swimmer. She has a life, it is just very different from the other students on the trip with her. Julia is flawed too. She is self-centered and has a tendency to make snap judgements about people before getting to know them. She is an unreliable narrator, as any of us narrating our own life would be, only seeing what she wants to and stubbornly refusing to look further. This characterization feels genuine for a 17 year old who is an only child and has lived alone with her mom for the decade since her father's death. All of this makes her more of a real person and she jumps off the page. I love how she tells her story too. She is funny and becomes more self aware as her journey continues. Jason is also a well-rounded character. It is little wonder that I liked him so much, he has many of the characteristics that I love in my heroes. He is intelligent but indifferent about school work. He is one of those who will put forth the effort if it interests him, but is unwilling to jump through the hoops the establishment sets up just to show them he can. He is a charmer, the type of guy who can talk his way into or out of anything. He will pick up a guitar and sing a Beatles song under a London bridge, and kiss a girl in a rain-soaked field. He can also be obnoxious and ridiculous. I appreciated how he came across as genuine as well. He isn't one of those super-perfect-too-mature-ridiculously-good-looking romantic heroes. There are times he does things that just scream teenage boy, and that is refreshing to see.

I really loved the chemistry that Julia and Jason have, the conversations that many people would call bickering, but is really flirting. They reminded me a bit of Ron and Hermione. Or Han and Leia. People who are very different, but in their differences make the other better. This will always be my most favorite type of love story, readers, and do you know why? Because that is the dream I'm living. And it's awesome.

I enjoyed following Julia and Jason on their trip through London. The story is mostly one that is about Julia figuring stuff out. She knows who she is, she needs to figure out what that means in relation to other people. She needs to learn to see people as they are in reality, and not as the people she has created in her head. There is a bit of drama here and there. Conclusions are jumped to. Mark-the-long-time-crush shows up at one point further complicating things, but it all worked for me. I never felt like it was too much. I loved the conclusion of the mysterious texter storyline. The only thing that bothered me a little was a couple brand name mentions, but for the most part they made sense in the narrative.

I have a feeling Meant to Be will be a novel I come back to every time I am in need of a feel-good-fun read.

This is Lauren Morrill's debut novel and I'm excited to read more of her work in the future. Her next novel is due to come out in 2014.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Capture the Flag

Fans of National Treasure type mysteries will love Capture the Flag by Kate Messner. It is a fun read that will probably make most MG readers happy indeed.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Three kids get caught up in an adventure of historic proportions!
Anna, José, and Henry are complete strangers with more in common than they realize. Snowed in together at a chaotic Washington D.C. airport, they encounter a mysterious tattooed man, a flamboyant politician, and a rambunctious poodle named for an ancient king. Even stranger, news stations everywhere have announced that the famous flag that inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner" has been stolen! Anna, certain that the culprits must be snowed in too, recruits Henry and José to help catch the thieves and bring them to justice.
But when accusations start flying, they soon realize there's more than justice at stake. As the snow starts clearing, Anna, José, and Henry find themselves in a race against time (and the weather!) to prevent the loss of an American treasure.

Anna, Jose', and Henry are as different as can be. Anna is a nosy budding journalist who doesn't know when to keep her mouth shut or mind her own business. But she has  good instincts and a great deal of courage. Jose' can bury himself in his books and pretend like the problems in the real world aren't happening. But he is loyal, has a great deal of common sense, and a lot of wisdom. Henry is attached to his video games to the point of obsession. But he is great with younger kids, dogs, and ideas for capturing bad guys.  Together the three of them make a fantastic team. I felt that Messner did an excellent job bringing all three kids to life with their individual personalities, quirks, and interests. They are a diverse group, literally and figuratively, and they work, play, and squabble well together.

The mystery is a fun one, contained to a 24 hour period inside an airport.  I think kids who read this will be as surprised as the kids in the book to discover the bad guys. (Adults will figure it out rather quickly.) In addition to the mystery there is the introduction of a secret society, plenty of action involving luggage carousels and shampoo, and a large heroic poodle. Kids will eat this story up and it is always great when I find a book I can recommend to nearly any kid and no that they will like. Best of all, there will be MORE. A sequel is coming soon.

Friday, November 16, 2012

What Type of Reader are You?

There has been a lot of discussion revolving around gender and books lately. A lot a lot a lot. I'm most certainly one who doesn't like it when books are divided into "girl" books and "boy" books. It drives me a little crazy actually, but many others more eloquent than I have written about why. I bring it up simply because it was a post on Heavy Medal entitled Girls vs. Boys that sent me down the road to writing this post. In the comments of the post there was an attempt to come with a different labels for what was being referred to besides "girl" and "boy". "Emotion" and "adrenaline" seem to have won the day. As Nina points out in the comments though, these are generalizations too and they don't entirely work either. My favorite books have plenty of both. I mention in one of the comments there that I am a fantasy reader. Again a generalization. And as Nina again pointed out-one that doesn't always work.

And she's right. It doesn't.

I've often said that I read for character, but that isn't entirely true either. The truth is far more complex. I have been mulling this over since the discussion occurred.  The labels are there to help us out, to find a short hand that can quickly and easily explain to others what we enjoy reading and why. The labels help us to connect with others who have similar tastes and find what we like to read. They help us find other people books they would like to read.

So when I need to use short hand I say: I read for character. Or: I love fantasy books.
My Favorite Book: The perfect combo of character/plot/setting and emotion/adrenaline. Plus it's a fantasy with political intrigue. All the reasons I love it.
What about the longer more complex version? That has been on my mind a lot since the discussion took place. What is the longer more accurate label for what sort of reader I am?

So here it goes:
I read for character then plot, setting often barely registers. I prefer fantasy over contemporary over historical. BUT: A fantasy or contemporary with stellar plotting but not so great characterization will appeal to me over a historical with great characterization. If a historical has anachronisms or inaccuracies it isn't going to matter how great the characterization or plotting is, it won't work for me. (History concentration.) The books that I love the most are books that have both wonderful characterization and plot and have emotion and adrenaline in equal measure. I don't pay much attention to setting unless something about it doesn't work for me.

Even that doesn't cover it all.

What about you? What sort of reader are you? (Feel free to comment in short hand or long version.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Mirage by Jenn Reese

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Back in July I read and fell in love (in a big way) with Jenn Reese's Above World (my thoughts). I loved the world building and the themes. Most importantly I loved the characters. All of them. But I have to admit Dash wormed his way into my heart a little deeper than the others. (That snarky charisma thing-it is my weakness.) I am sure he is going to play a prominent role in sequel as it takes place in the land he was exiled from.

A couple of weeks ago Jenn revealed the cover and synopsis and I nearly swooned. As if I wasn't excited enough already:
The desert is no place for ocean-dwelling Kampii like Aluna and Hoku, especially now that Aluna has secretly started growing her tail. But the maniacal Karl Strand is out to conquer the Above World, and the horselike Equians are next on his list. Aluna, Hoku, and their friends — winged Calli and Equian exile Dash — race to the desert city of Mirage, intent on warning the Equians and forming an alliance. 

Unfortunately, Strand’s clone Scorch has gotten there first. Now the Equian leader has vowed to take all his people to war as part of Strand’s army. Any herd that refuses to join him by the time of the desert-wide competition known as the Thunder Trials will be destroyed.

To have any chance of defeating Scorch and convincing the Equians to switch sides, the four friends must find a way to win the Trials. The challenge seems impossible. But if they fail, the desert — and possibly all of the Above World — will be lost to Karl Strand forever.

That cover is gorgeous. Bright and beautiful. But the synopsis-gah! That's what really got me. Words can not express the level of anticipation I feel...

Mirage will be released March 12, 2013 from Candlewick. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Boneshaker

I read The Broken Lands (my thoughts) by Kate Milford a couple months ago and loved it. Loved it so much I nominated it for the Cybils. Loved it so  much I immediately bought a copy of The Boneshaker, Milford's previous novel to which The Broken Lands is a prequel. Despite being a companion novel to The Broken Lands and having some of the same characters it is a very different book. And just as awesome.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Thirteen year-old Natalie Minks loves machines, particularly automata—self operating mechanical devices, usually powered by clockwork. When Jake Limberleg and his traveling medicine show arrive in her small Missouri town with a mysterious vehicle under a tarp and an uncanny ability to make Natalie’s half-built automaton move, she feels in her gut that something about this caravan of healers is a bit off. Her uneasiness leads her to investigate the intricate maze of the medicine show, where she discovers a horrible truth, and realizes that only she has the power to set things right.

Natalie is a true heroine. Her character is fleshed out so well that whenever the third person omniscient narration switched to a scene she wasn't in I was jolted hard in to remembering the book wasn't being narrated by her. She has such a strong voice and presence,  while not actually telling the story herself. That is a well drawn character. She is smart, curious, gutsy, loyal, and  determined. She is also afraid, and at times allows that fear to overwhelm her and step back from doing things she knows she should. Very realistic. She is one of those hero's whose "special", singled out for a purpose. However, Milford handled this in a way that was not tired or cliche. Natalie is being Natalie and, while she knows there is something different about her, she doesn't really realize what or begin to understand it. She does what she does because of the sort of person she is, not because of her abilities. The whole cast of supporting characters is wonderful as well. (Tom. Simon. Miranda. To name but a few.) I loved the characterization of Dr. Limberleg. He is the villain, but there is so much more to him than that. And of course he is not the ultimate villain. 

The story here is a combination of folklore, mythology, historical fiction, and magic. I love how Milford combines all of these elements and the things she does with them. This is truly a thrilling-spine-tingling tale. I appreciate that it is creepy without being gory. I love the struggle between good and evil and the hope that the characters find even in their darkest moments. 

Kate Milford spins great stories from beginning to end. All of the elements are put together just right. I'm so excited to have discovered her books this year. I am now desperate to read The Kairos Mechanism which takes place in Arcane before this story and is about Natalie too (yay!). 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

2012 Recommended Lists

Every year I start getting requests around the beginning of November from friends, relatives, parents of students asking me what new books are out there that would make good Christmas gifts. So last year I made a master list with Picture Books, MG Books and YA books. This year I made the master list AND boards on Pinterest for each category. Also, this time I compiled it as I read throughout the year rather than waiting until the day I needed it. Go me! So today I'm sharing it with the world in the hopes that it will be beneficial to someone somewhere. In order to make the lists I had to give the book at least 3 stars on Goodreads. I have made note of my favorites in each category though.

I obviously haven't read all the books that came out this year and I still have some I'm waiting to get to. I will continue to update the lists as I read more books. The Pinterest boards will probably be updated more regularly as they are easier.

Picture Book Pinterest Board

MG Book Board

YA Book Board

All three in list format

And if you are looking for even more the Cybil's nominations lists are always a good place to find great titles. And they have lists for Book Apps and Non-Fiction and more as well.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Starry River of the Sky

Starry River of the Sky  is the companion novel to Grace Lin's Newbery Honor winning Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Just like its predecessor the book is a work of visual art, and this time I think the narrative is even more well done.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
The moon is missing from the remote Village of Clear Sky, but only a young boy named Rendi seems to notice! Rendi has run away from home and is now working as a chore boy at the village inn. He can't help but notice the village's peculiar inhabitants and their problems-where has the innkeeper's son gone? Why are Master Chao and Widow Yan always arguing? What is the crying sound Rendi keeps hearing? And how can crazy, old Mr. Shan not know if his pet is a toad or a rabbit?
But one day, a mysterious lady arrives at the Inn with the gift of storytelling, and slowly transforms the villagers and Rendi himself. As she tells more stories and the days pass in the Village of Clear Sky, Rendi begins to realize that perhaps it is his own story that holds the answers to all those questions.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a good old fashioned quest story where the characters are on a journey and go to many places. Starry River of the Sky takes place in one small village and all the stories center around it and the people living there. Rendi is the main character and he is on a journey. While running away he is marooned in the Village of Clear Sky. He hates the place and all its inhabitants. He looks down his nose and scoffs at them. Rendi is teachable though and with the arrival of Madame Chan and the stories she tells he begins to become more sociable and makes friends with those who surround him. I loved Rendi as the prickly stuck up snob and I loved Rendi as a great friend and hero. His journey from one to the other is a wonderful story. Rendi's relationship with all the characters around him and the changes to them is also delightful.

As in the first book, Starry River of the Sky depends on the art of storytelling. Rather than having several narrators the stories here are mostly all told by the same two, the mysterious Madame Chang and Rendi. Lin wove the stories of both together with the story of the missing moon to create a beautiful narrative. The story is interesting and put together piece by piece just right. Just as in the first book the narrative is accompanied by Lin's gorgeous art, but I feel like the story in this one is great enough on its own and the pictures are just an added bonus.

If you enjoyed Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, you will most assuredly like this companion. If you haven't read either, you should. And it doesn't really matter which one you read first. They are not dependent on each other.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Enchanted by Alathea Kontis is a fairy tale reworking combining several fairy tales, most notably "The Frog Prince". And "Cinderella". And "Sleeping Beauty". And "Jack and the Beanstalk".  Yes, all of them. And that is only the beginning.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
It isn't easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.
When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.
The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past - and hers?

"The Frog Prince" is a difficult tale to adapt because one of the characters is a frog. And this frog is supposed to be the romantic hero. It complicates things. It complicates things further when the author tries to throw a bunch more tales into the mix of the plot. In addition to those tales mentioned above, other tales woven into the story in different ways include "The Princess and the Pea", "Rumpelstiltskin", and "The Red Shoes." Also the nursery rhymes "The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" and "Jack Sprat Could Eat No Fat, His Wife Could Eat No Lean" (okay that last one may have just been me making assumptions). Too much? Yes. It is. Waaaay too much. Because of all the other story elements, the development of Sunday and Grumbol-the-frog's relationship was rushed so there was not much depth there. We are told they have deep feelings of love and devotion and have to go with it. Then it turns into a rather complicated "Cinderella" meets "Sleeping Beauty" story wherein the good fairy vs the evil fairy thing is messing with Rumbold's plan to win Sunday's heart at the balls. Then there is the strange stuff the King is up to...Honestly, it was not too hard to follow I just couldn't figure out why Kontis felt including all of it was necessary and much of it was absurd.

The character development is the true victim of this complex web of plotting, which is probably why I had a hard time connecting with this story at all. We all know how I love my characters. Sunday spends a great deal of time feeling sorry for herself and grumbling. She is not at all proactive and though she is supposed to be special as a seventh daughter she never actually does anything. Rumbold was far more interesting. He has a past as a wild boy, but he can't remember it at all. He is trying to find his place in a home he can't remember while trying to rewin the heart of the girl he loves and this was the most interesting part of the story to me. I loved his relationship with his two best friends (his cousin and a guard). Their camaraderie and banter were what actually kept me reading to the end. 

When compared to most other retellings, this one falls far short for me. As a retelling of "The Frog Prince" it can't come anywhere near to what Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier is. (I don't think I'll ever love another frog the way I loved Gogu. And he couldn't talk.)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Favorite Picture Books of 2012

November is Picture Book Month! This is the one time of year I do anything about picture books on this blog. The MG/YA scene is more my thing. Still I read a lot of picture books every year too and this is the perfect time to share my favorites. I said last year and I'll say again, the only criteria used for this list is that I and my test subjects thoroughly enjoy the books.

My test subjects (at Boo in the Zoo):

And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
This is a story of the changing of the seasons and the cycle of life-and the patience and waiting involved in both-as seen through the eyes of a young child. Fogliano's prose are spare and to the point and Stead's art is a perfect match down to every detail.

Chopsticks by Amy Krause Rosentha, illustrated by Scott Magoon
This one is a big hit, I and the kids all prefer it to Spoon. (And we like Spoon quite a lot.) It is "Not exactly a sequel to Spoon. More like a change in place setting." Bit read it on her own before I got to it, chortled all the way through, then demanded I read it aloud immediately. The humor in the book and the double meanings were perfect for her. Little Man didn't get all the humor entirely but he still loves the story and the pictures.

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri
This book makes the list for being one of the funniest books of the year. It makes both my kids laugh hysterically. They adored the idea that you can make friends with dragons by throwing them a taco party. When the young hero accidentally feeds his guests spicy salsa things really heat up. The first time we read it the surprise of that particular spread had the kids rolling on the floor in mirth. Then they had to read it again and again and again.

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems
Little Man is a bit of Mo Willems fanboy. Okay. Not a bit. He's a huge fanboy. The shelf with the pigeon books and the shelf with the Elephant and Piggie books are his first two stops at the library every week. His love for this book (he has own copy) is great and wide. We also very much enjoyed the newest additions to Elephant and Piggie this year, Listen to My Trumpet and Let's Go for a Drive. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs was also a big hit here, but that was more of a Bit book as it went over Little Man's head. 

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Extra Yarn is a book for the older savvier reader. Little Man doesn't get it, but he likes the pictures. Bit loves everything about it (and so do I). It is rather difficult to describe so you will just have to trust me and read it. 

A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead
This is a beautiful book with a quirky story. And my kids love it. Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat made our list last year and continues to be one of Little Man's favorites. There is just something about Stead's words and pictures that speaks to the hearts of  young children. He released a second book this year, Bear Has a Story to Tell (illustrated by Erin Stead), which is also delightful.

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
The follow up to last year's surprising I Want My Hat Back, this is not a sequel despite the similar title. Different setting. Different perspective. Same theme. Still hilarious, if less surprising.

Water Sings Blue by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Meilo So
Water Sings Blue is a book of ocean poems accompanied by amazing and gorgeous water color illustrations. From beginning to end it is a beautiful treasure. The poetry is as good as it gets. The imagery. The figurative language. The poems capture both the light fun and the dark power of the ocean and its creatures. The illustrations reflect the poetry, sometimes bright and colorful, sometimes subdued and calm, sometimes dark.  It is one of Bit's favorite books ever. She has read it multiple times since receiving it for her birthday and takes it in the car just to be able to reread her favorites when we are running errands around town. Her favorite poem in the book is "Oarfish"
Dragon doesn't hide her magic
in a crooked mountain cave.
She dwells down deep and deeper
where the sea feels like a cave.
 What more could I possibly add?

Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Z is for Moose is the funniest alphabet book of all time. No question. Little Man's copy is already falling apart and we've only had it for 5 months. It was not cheaply put together, it is read multiple times a day.

Here is my Pinterest Board with all the recommend 2012 Picture Books I've read so far on it.