Books for kids: Youths list favorites for 2012

Books for kids: Youths list favorites for 2012

I recently attended the Illinois School Library Media Association conference, where the 2012 Reader's Choice Awards were awarded. In 771 schools and libraries around the state, 140,858 children read a select list of books and voted for their favorites.

The Monarch Award, given to grades K-3 books, was awarded to the picture book "Shark vs. Train" (2010, Little Brown, written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Illinoisan Tom Lichtenheld). This book won handily with 32,150 votes.

Second place, with 12,862 votes, was awarded to "Duck! Rabbit!" (2009, Chronicle, written by Illinoisan Amy Krause Rosenthal and illustrated by Lichtenheld). A close third place (12,557 votes) was awarded to "Interrupting Chicken" (2010, Candlewick, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein).

I've reviewed all of these books in previous columns, and they're terrific choices.

In reading some of the other books on the list of winners, here are two I particularly enjoyed:

— Fourth place (11,368 votes) went to "Panda Kindergarten" (2009, HarperCollins, written by Joanne Ryder, photos by Dr. Katherine Feng, ages 4-8).

This nonfiction book tells the story of a class for young giant pandas at Wolong Nature Reserve in China. The book follows 16 panda cubs at the preserve as they are born, cared for, nurtured and "educated" by playing on a panda playground — wooden structures where they learn the skills they'll need to survive in the wild.

Once they've grown, some pandas will be chosen to live in the bamboo forests of China. Others will stay at the preserve.

Large, close-up photos fill the pages, showing these adorable pandas playing, eating and sleeping. It's not surprising that this book was a favorite, with its child-friendly text and endearing photos.

— "Let's Do Nothing!" (2009, Candlewick Press, written and illustrated by Tony Fucile, ages 4-8) came in sixth with 10,316 votes.

When Frankie and Sal have exhausted every fun and interesting thing to do, including painting "more pictures in a day than van Gogh did in a lifetime," playing "every sport ever invented" and baking "enough cookies to feed a small country," they decide that it's time to do nothing. They'll sit down in chairs and not move.

"Not an inch. Not a fraction of an inch. Zero movement. NOTHING."

They pretend that they're statues in the park. A full-page spread follows, in which Fucile's bold, colorful vignettes show Frankie imagining himself as a statue, slowly being covered by pigeons.

"Frankie, what are you doing?" asks Sal, as Frankie begins to fling his arms wildly.

"Shooing pigeons!!" answers Frankie.

They decide to try again, this time as giant redwood trees in a quiet grove until a little dog relieves itself on Frankie's tree. An attempt to be the Empire State Building (which has been sitting still for years and years, Sal reminds Frankie) ends with a Godzilla attack. Finally, the boys decide that it's simply not possible to do nothing.

They have a better idea: "Let's Do Something!" they yell together. And they do.

Fucile is a designer and animator who has created characters for many feature films, including "The Little Mermaid," "Finding Nemo" and "The Lion King." This is his first picture book.

Alice B. McGinty ( is the award-winning author of more than 40 books for children, as well as a writing teacher, manuscript coach and the co-regional adviser for the Illinois Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

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