Mitten is given to the best picture book of the year and the Thumbs Up goes to the top teen book (as you can see they all have cheesy references to Michigan). The YouPer is awarded to the most exceptional middle-grade chapter book as determined by a group of Michigan youth librarians (including yours truly). Before 2014 the Mitten and the Thumbs Up were the only awards given. The Mitten encompassed both children's chapter books and picture books. Obviously, this created a substantial and widely varied pool from which to choose the winner. Eventually, the powers that be decided to split the Mitten into two awards, hence, the creation of the YouPer.
It was incredibly exciting to be on the committee that chose the very first YouPer Award winner, which was The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson. You can read about this spectacular autobiography by the youngest survivor on Schindler's list in one of my previous posts here.
|The 2014 YouPer Winner!|
And these are in no particular order.
1. The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
Kenneth Oppel is the author of the hugely popular Silverwing Trilogy, which also happen to be one of my son's favorite series. For those of you terrified by creepy crawlies, I promise that there are no migrating bats in The Boundless. It does, however, revolve around the migration of people during the late 1800s via the Canadian Trans-Continental Railroad.
As the son of the head engineer, Will Everitt has the privilege of traveling first class across Canada on the maiden voyage of The Boundless, the largest and most luxurious passenger train ever built. With help from Maren, a tight-rope walker with a traveling circus, Will must thwart thieves from robbing the funeral car of railroad baron, Cornelius Van Horne.
What really sets The Boundless apart is how Oppel sprinkles some fantasy in with the historical fiction. The incorporation of Sasquatch, wendigo, and a fascinating spin on The Picture of Dorian Gray make the story completely unique and a spellbinding reading.
2. The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
When Piper finds an unconscious girl with a Dragonfly tattoo, she knows that she may be rewarded by the king. Without any money, though, the only way to reach the king in the Dragonfly territories is to stow away aboard the old 401 train. Will Piper be able to get sneak past the strange, green-eyed boy who guards the 401?
Full of non-stop action and memorable characters, The Mark of the Dragonfly is a thrilling adventure that will have readers clamoring for more books about the world of Solace. Personally, I cannot wait to read the two companion books the author has planned, The Secrets of Solace and Journey of the Iron Glory, which will come out in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
3.The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
Just this month Jonathan Auxier announced on his website that Disney has purchased the rights to The Night Gardener. Obviously, it may be years (or never) before The Night Gardener hits the big screen, but if it does I will definitely be in line to watch. Especially since Auxier will be adapting the book for the screenplay.
4. The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham
Life in Village Drowning has become harder than ever. It is against the law for girls to read, books about the history of the village are banned, people are being arrested or fined for nonexistent crimes, and bog noblins, mythical monsters thought to be extinct, are threatening the village once more. Will the Luck Uglies, the mysterious bandits that defeated the bog noblins before, return from exile to save Village Drowning again?
Durham's debut novel is a witty adventure with a highly detailed setting and enchanting characters. I cannot imagine any reader not falling in love with young troublemaker, Rye O'Chanter and her two friends, Folly and Quinn.
5.The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher can be a little bit too predictable at moments, but it is overall a lighthearted and enjoyable reads. You will fall in love with the Fletcher boys and their unique quirks.
6. The Greenglass House by Kate Milford
The setting and atmosphere created by Milford is spectacular; I want to spend a week or two snowbound at the Greenglass House. The story is equally intriguing and since my kids love Dungeons and Dragons, I particularly enjoyed how Milo and Meddy brought their role playing game characters to life.
7. Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
Usually books that are being "written" by a child narrator lack authenticity. Adult authors write with considerably more sophistication than the average child. Unless the young narrator who is supposedly writing the books is extremely precocious the reader is not going to buy it. I found Rain Reign to be a wonderful exception. As a reader I never questioned that Rose Howard, a fifth grader girl with autism, was the author of her own story.
Overall, Rain Reign is a beautiful story that will have you laugh, cry, and shout for joy.
8. The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare
The Iron Trial tells the story of a young outcast who is sent to a school for magic, so it is sure to draw the Harry Potter comparisons. In my opinion, though, The Iron Trial can hold its own and I was mesmerized by the story and characters after the first chapter. I don't want to give any spoilers, but I will tell you that the twist ending of The Iron Trial left me completely flabbergasted.
9. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
If you want to read more about the amazing Kwame Alexander check out my earlier blog post: Basketball and a Jazz-Loving Rooster.
10. Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi by Susan Goldman Rubin
I highly recommend Freedom Summer to readers in upper elementary, middle school, high school, and adults too. Considering recent events involving police and racism; I think that it is imperative for young people to understand the history of the civil rights movement. Sadly the tragic events of Freedom Summer were not that long ago and this book helps to explain why there continues to be distrust between the African American and law enforcement communities.
The horrendous murder of three civil rights workers during the summer of 1964 is also dramatized in the 1988 film, Mississippi Burning, starring Willem DaFoe and Gene Hackman. Word of caution: Mississippi Burning is a graphic movie that is not appropriate for younger viewers.
Kids who read Freedom Summer may also be interested in reading a biography about the remarkable, Fannie Lou Hamer, who was an indefatigable warrior for civil rights in Mississippi. Hamer was fired, beaten, and lost her home just for registering to vote yet she continued to fight for equal rights for all Americans.
11. Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I's Bravest Dog by Ann Bausum
Is it just me or is there considerably more books, movies, tv, documentaries, etc. about WWII than there are about WWI? The story of Stubby is so engaging and moving that kids will enjoy learning about the first World War. The books includes amazing photographs and also sketches drawn by Stubby's handler, Corporal Robert Conroy.
I find this to be both fascinating and creepy, but when Stubby died in 1926 a plaster cast was made of his body and his preserved skin was placed on top of it. You can see Stubby and his jacket today at the Smithsonian Institute.